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John Howard and Elizabeth Fry have effected a similar reform for Prisons.Their labors have led to a more gentle treatment of prisoners, and better management of prisons. Even the most brutal have been softened by kind treatment. The amelioration in our criminal code has been attended with results equally pleasing. But we want more than this. Hitherto every thing seems to have been done by society to foster crime. The thousands of young
unprotected children prowling thrö our streets, are a proof of it. Misery and crime have been allowed to florish in the dark districts of our large cities. They thrive abundantly, and cast abroad their ripened seeds to germinate, producing still deeper depravity in each succeeding generation. The poor have been left without education, to welter in wretched hovels and stinking lanes, and, notwithstanding their miseries and privations, every facility has been afforded them by licensed gin shops and beer houses to gratify the love of intoxication. The law, it is true, has taught them its stern lessons. For crime we have built prisons, for poverty workhouses. But little has been done to investigate the causes of either, much less to supply remedies. Above one hundred thousand criminals pass thrö our gaols every year. One out of every ten of our population is a pauper. Our voluntary efforts, tho well intentioned, are often ill judged, and are too desultory to afford any material relief. We give the people soup and coals, and lend them blankets. We drop halfpence into the hands of the passing beggar, and cheat ourselves into the belief that we are benevolent and kind. We erect institutions to meet every casualty, and to supply every temporary necessity. We do much by these appliances to destroy the feelings of self-dependence, and weaken the motives to exertion. If, after all the neglect of our first duties, and the exercise of our mistaken charity, the people become idle, intemperate, and vicious—and such is the fruit of neglect and profuse eleemosynary aid—we threaten them with gaols and with punishment! Such has been our system. We leave crime to grow, and then try to frighten the criminal into respect for the lawr. We profess great regard for human life, and as a means of inculcating that sentiment in the minds of the multitude, we build scaffolds, and employ a hangman to strangle the man who has destroyed the life of a fellow creature. This is the law teaching by example.
The spirit of the times is favorable to an entire change. Wise men begin to see that the law should not teach vengeance. They ask, why should the hangman survive the pillory, the rack, the whipping post, and the ducking chair? All attempts to reduce our jurisprudence to system will be unavailing, so long as the law retains any vindictive element. The dark shadow of the gallows hangs heavily upon the minds of men. We want some broad, well defined principle on which to base a system of law. Men generally blunder because they err on first principles. The present question is one of doubt and difficulty, because they stand between the present and the past, laboring to reconcile two things which have nothing in common,--Retaliation, which is the spirit of ancient law, with the Reformation of the offender, which is the spirit of the gospel. It is impossible to take the New Testament, and under its sanction, pass a vindictive sentence. Ancient jurisprudence is therefore resorted to—they refer us to Moses rather than Christ-to the old dispensation, and not the new. The age, however, demands reforms appropriate to its intelligence. It refuses to submit its theology or
jurisprudence to the authority of an earlier age in our history-an age of ignorance and barbarism. It demands that our practice should be in accordance with our profession.
The problem forced upon us is most important. What is the object of Law? Clearly, to throw protection over life and property. What, then, are the means to secure such an end ? This is the language of good policy and sound expediency. Every act of coercion that is not justified by urgent necessity, is a blunder and a fault. A solemn question grows out of this : Has man a right to punish ? He is bound to protect himself by every righteous means, from the lawless and the vicious. He makes Laws for that purpose. These should be established for defence and not for vengeance. Man has no right to usurp the
power, unless he can prove that he has the wisdom, of God. If it can be proved, then, that capital punishments do not shield human life,—if it can be shown that there are numerous instances where death punishments have been repealed without any increase, nay with an actual diminution, of the crime of murder,--s there not sufficient ground to debate the propriety of the law which pronounces death for any crime? The present Home Secretary has already declared it to be a question of pure expediency. What follows? If there is any reasonable doubt that death punishments do not answer the end for which they are designed, they ought to be suspended until that doubt is removed, -until they are proved to be demanded by stern necessity.
But the proofs are clear and conclusive, that every relaxation in our criminal code has been followed by favorable results. Some writers have attempted to prove the converse of this to show that society was getting worse, and that crime was steadily increasing. This view of the case is not sustained by figures. Those who write on the subject, generally look at the gross amount of committals, and make no allowance for an improred police, for increase of population, and other concurrent causes which swell the calendar without any actual augmentation in the ratio of crime. A careful consultation of the evidence shows that a relaxation of our criminal code has in every instance been attended by two results-a greater certainty of conviction and an actual diminution of offences. Crime has decreased both in intensity and amount.
The ameliorations have not been effected without much difficulty. Sir Samuel Romilly and Sir James Macintosh had a powerful opposition to contend with, and none more formidable than that of Lords Eldon and Ellenborough. The language of the latter was most emphatic. Sir S. Romilly had obtained leave in 1810 to bring in Bills for the abolition of capital punishment for the following offences. Ist. For stealing to the value of five shillings in shops and warehouses. 2nd. For stealing to the value of forty shillings in a dwelling house. 3rd. For stealing to the value of forty shillings on navigable rivers. These were rejected, but in the following year were introduced again, with another bill for abolishing the punishment of death for stealing from bleaching grounds. The first three were rejected. The fourth and last passed into a law. As it passed thrö the Lords it was opposed by Lords Eldon, Ellenborough, and Liverpool. This was the language of Lord Ellenborough :-“These bills went to alter laws which a century had proved necessary, and which were now to be overturned by speculation and modern philosophy." Similar opposition was made to the efforts of
Sir James Macintosh, Sir Robert Peel, and Lord John Russell, to abolish other capital offences. In every case humanity has ultimately triumphed, and with a sensible and satisfactory effect upon the amount of crime. The following extract from an article in the Eclectic Review is very instructive.
“The death-penalty for coining, horse, sheep, and cattle stealing, forging and uttering. and stealing in dwelling-houses above the value of five pounds, was removed in 1832, and for house-breaking in 1833; and it will be seen by the subjoined table, that while at this period non-capital crimes were increasing at the rate of 10 per cent., and capital crimes at the rate of 31 per cent., the crimes which were made non-capital as above, actually diminished 9 per cent. on the removal of the extreme penalty:
The same article is full of illustrations from ancient and modern times derived from foreign and native sources. The following, in relation to the crime of murder, must suffice for present quotation.
On this table a cotemporary a remarks :
“The government doctrine, is—That executions for murder prevent murder. If that doctrine be true, how is it that the figures do not prove it ? How is it that under the benign influence of 122 executions, so many as 444 murders were committed, while under the malign influence of only 50 executions, so few as 351 murders were committed ?"
Magazine of Capital Punishments.
Capital Punishments bave failed in their object. They cannot create a respect for life, on which alone its security depends. They familiarize the mind with images of death. They feed the passions of the multitude. They teach a lesson of retaliation and revenge. They very often create a false sympathy for the guilty. They are founded upon an assumption proved by all listory to be false that men are deterred from crime by the fear of punishment, or the terror of death. The supporters of stringent penal laws lose sight of the fact that crime is the result of a certain condition of society. To eradicate it, the causes must be understood, and removed. The conditions must be altered which are proved favor. able to its development. It is a strange mistake to attempt to protect life by the exhibition of the scaffold. The excellent ordinary of Newgate, Dr. Forde, in a letter to Mr. Bentham in 1783, said "Strange it is that our religion is so mild and our laws so sanguinary! Instead of sparing the life of a criminal in order that he may turn from his wickedness and live for ever, our criminal code nips him in the first bud of sin, cutting off all hope of reformation, and destroying the possibility of atonement to the injured party. I hear some one say, 'What is to be done with criminals? Would you execute none ?' NONE: square the Punishment to the several degrees of transgression, and plead the mild laws of God in your favor."
Remarks on the Confessions of a Convert from Teetotalism to Tipling. By JABEZ
INWARDS. London, Horsell, 13, Paternoster Row, 1849. Stockport Mercury, Nov. 1849. Art. The Two-wine Fable of ultra-Teetotalism, etc.
By L. SIMMS, Manchester, author of 'Hours of Solitude.' Manchester Spectator. Same Articles repeated. By SPEC. 1849.
(HE first of the productions before us is of too loose a texture, and too
uncritical a character, to be accepted as the representative of what Mr. Sims
is pleased to call “Ultra-Teetotalism.' IIad Mr. Sims been possessed of a truly honest desire to test the soundness of the critical basis whereon consistent (or if he prefer the phrase, ultra) Teetotalism reposes, he would have resorted to the accredited and professedly critical expositions that have been so long before the public. * Views that have been winning acceptance amongst the pious and Icarned for many years—which have, in their main principles, been sanctioned by such men as Mr. Buckingham, Prof. Stuart, Dr. Smith, Prof. Eadie, President Nott, and Archdeacon Jeffreys,—which have been systematically expounded by various writers since the year 1831,-these long heard of and gradually progressing views, are quietly overlooked by Mr. L. Sims, who doubtless feels more at home in assailing what he calls “the unheard of extravagancies” of Mr. Inwards's “silly book.” This procedure, we regret to say, indicates much more of craft than of candor, yet, after all, the critic violates the honest principles of controversy to very little purpose, -since he falls into far more foolish fallacies and blunders than those of which he accuses another.
Furthermore, as tho he had little faith in the simple power of his after-proofs, he begins by representing the views he has to demolish, as a 'fable’-and an 'airy-erection ?!-i.e. he seeks to introduce prejudice and feeling into the public panel, and thereby gain a verdict by other means than fair evidence. Let us, however, examine what evidence he has.
1. The Case of Noah. We were not aware, before Mr. Sims intimated the fact, of any difference of opinion concerning the intoxicating nature of the wine that intoxicated Noah ! Here, then, we have ‘Wine No. 2.' Mr. Inwards states no theory of the agency by which the wine became intoxicating; the case may be explained after Dr. Pye Smith's manner, by supposing that the Patriarch did not know of the change which had gradually come over the m’yayin, or 'expressed wine of the cluster—'Wine No. 1'--and was thus unconsciously prostrated by the subtle poison generated in fermentative decay. While Mr. Sims, however, repudiates our theory, he says that according to “Mr. Inwards' dogma, the patriarch degenerates into a deliberate manufacturer” of alcoholic wine! This charge fairly falls back upon his own notion-for he affirms that “Noah must have been aware of the nature of fermented wine,”—and if so, it is quite clear, he must have got drunk
· For example, Tirosh lo Yayin (1841); Dr. Lees's Standard Temperance Library, and Strong Drink Question (1842); Articles Noah and Wine in Dr. Kitto's Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature (1845); Prof. Eadie's Biblical Cyclopædia; Mearn's volume on the Olive, Vine, and Palm; Burne's Concordance of Science and Scripture (1847); and Prof. Stuart's Letter on the Wine Question, etc.