« EelmineJätka »
not be stolen." The man's answer, if candidly examined, will, I imagine, appear reasonable, as being founded on the eternal principle of justice and equity, that punishments should be proportioned to offences; and the judge's reply brutal and unreasonable, though the writer "wishes all judges to carry it with them whenever they go to the circuit, and to bear it in their minds, as containing a wise reason for all the penal statutes which they are called upon to put in execution. It at once illustrates," says he, “the true grounds and reasons of all capital punishments whatsoever, namely, that every man's property, as well as his life, may be held sacred and inviolate." Is there then no difference in value between property and life? If I think it right that the crime of murder should be punished with death, not only as an equal punishment of the crime, but to prevent other murders, does it follow that I must approve of inflicting the same punishment for a little invasion on my property by theft? If I am not myself so barbarous, so bloody-minded, and revengeful, as to kill a fellow-creature for stealing from me fourteen shillings and three pence, how can I approve of a law that does it? Montesquieu, who was himself a judge, endeavors to impress other maxims. He must have known what humane judges feel on such occasions, and what the effect of those feelings; and, so far from thinking that severe and excessive punishments prevent crimes, he asserts, as quoted by our French writer, that
L'atrocite des lois en empeche l'execution.
“Lorsque la peine est sans mesure, on est souvent oblige de lui preferer l'impunite.
“La cause de tous les relachemens vient de l'impunite des crimes, et non de la moderation des peines.”
It is said by those who know Europe generally, that there are more thefts committed and punished annually in England, than in all the other nations put together. If this be so, there must be a cause or causes for such a depravity in our common people. May not one be the deficiency of justice and morality in our national government, manifested in our oppressive conduct to subjects, and unjust wars on our neighbors? View the long-persisted in, unjust, monopolizing treatment of Ireland, at length acknowledged ! View the plundering government exercised by our merchants in the Indies; the confiscating war made upon the American colonies; and to say nothing of those made upon France and Spain, view the late war upon Holland, which was seen by impartial Europe in no other light than that of a war of rapine and pillage; the hopes of an immense and easy prey being its only apparent, and probably its true and real, inotive and encouragement. Justice is as strictly due between neighbor nations, as between neighbor citizens. A highwayman is as much a robber when he plunders in a gang, as when single; and a nation that makes an unjust war is only a great gang. After employing your people in robbing the Dutch, is it strange, that, being put out of that employ by peace, they still continue robbing, and rob one another! Piraterie, as the French call it, or privateering, is the universal bent of the English nation, at home and abroad, wherever settled. No less than seven hundred privateers were, it is said, commissioned in the last war! These were fiited out by merchants, to prey upon other merchants, who had never done them any injury. Is there probably any one of those privateering merchants of London, who were so ready to rob the merchants of Amsterdam, that would not as readily plunder another London merchant, of the next street, if he could do it with the same impunity? The avidity, the alieni appetens is the same; it is the fear alone of the gallows that makes the difference. How then can a nation, which among the honestest of its people, has so many thieves by inclination, and whose goverument encouraged and commissioned no less than seven hundred gangs of robbers; how can such a nation have the face to condemn the crime in individuals, and hang up twenty of them in a morning! It naturally puts one in mind of a Newgate anecdote. One of the prisoners complained, that in the night somebody had taken nis buckles out of his shoes. “What the devil !” says another, “have we then thieves amongst us? It must not be suffered. Let us search out the rogue, and pump him to death."
There is, however, one late instance of an English merchant who will not profit by such ill-gotten gain. He was, it seems, part owner of a ship, which the other owners thought fit to employ as a letter of marque, which took a number of French prizes. The booty being shared, he has now an agent here inquiring, by an advertisement in the Gazette, for those who have suffered the loss, in order to
make them, as far as in him lies, restitution. This conscientious man is a quaker. The Scotch presbyterians were formerly as tender; for there is still extant an ordinance of the town council of Edinbugh, made soon after the Reformation, "forbidding the purchase of prize goods, under pain of losing the freedom of the burgh for ever, with other punishment at the will of the magistrate; the practice of inaking prizes being contrary to good conscience, and the rule of treating Christian brethren as we would wish to be treated; and such goods are not to be sold by any godly man within this burgh.” The race of these godly men in Scotland are probably extinct, or their principles abandoned, since, as far as that nation had a hand in promoting the war against the colonies, prizes and confiscations are believed to have been a considerable motive.
It has been for some time a generally received opinion, that a military man is not to inquire whether a war be just or unjust; he is to execute his orders. All princes, who are disposed to become tyrants, must probably approve of this opinion, and be willing to establish it; but is it not a dangerous one ? since, on that principle, if the tyrant com. mands his army to attack and destroy not only an unoffending neighbor nation, but even his own subjects, the army is bound to obey. A negro slave, in our colonies, being coinmanded by his master to rob or murder a neighbor, cr do any other immoral act, may refuse; and the magistrate will protect him in his refusal. The slavery then of a soldier is worse than that of a negro! A conscientious officer, if not restrained by the apprehension of its being imputed to another cause, may indeed resign, rather than be employed in an unjust war; but the private men are slaves for life, and they are, perhaps, incapable of judging for themselves. We can only lament their fate, and still more that of a sailor, who is often dragged by force from his honest occupation, and compelled to imbrue his hands in perhaps innocent blood. But, methinks, it well behoves merchants (inen more enlightened by their education, and perfectly free from any such force or obligation) to consider well of the justice of a war, before they voluntarily engage a gang of ruffians to attack their fellow merchants of a neighboring nation, to plunder them of their property, and perhaps ruin them and their families, if they yield it; or to wound, maim, and murder them, if they endeavor to defend it. Yet these things are done by Christian merchants, whether a war be just or unjust; and it can hardly be just on both sides. They are done by English and American merchants, who, nevertheless, complain of private theft, and hang by dozens the thieves they have taught by their own example.
It is high timne, for the sake of humanity, that a stop were put to this enormity. The United States of America, though better situated than any European nation to make profit by prirateering (inost of the trade of Europe with the West Indies, passing before their doors) are, as far as in them lies, endeavoring to abolish the practice, by offering, in all their treaties with other powers, an article, engaging solemnly, that, in case of future war, no privateer shall be commi ssioned on either side; and that unarnied merchant ships, on both sides, shall pursue their voyages unmolested.*
This will be a happy improvement of the law of nations. The humane and the just cannot but wish general success to the proposition. With unchangeable esteem and affection,
* This offer having been accepted by the late King of Prussia, a treaty of amity and commerce was concluded between that mon. arch and the United States, containing the following humane, phi. lanthropic article; in the formation of which Dr. Franklin, as one of the American plenipotentiaries, was principally concerned, viz.
ART. XXIII. If war should arise between the two contracting parties, the merchants of either country, then residing in the other, shall be allowed to remain nine months to collect their debts and settle their affairs, and inay depart freely, carrying off all their ef. fects without molestation or hinderance; and all women and chil. dren, scholars of every faculty, cultivators of the earth, artisans, manufacturers, and fishermen, unarmed, and inbabiting unfortified towns, villages, and places, and, in general, all others whose occu. pations are for the common subsistence and benefit of mankind, shall be allowed to continue their respective employments, and shall not be molested in their persons, nor shall their houses or goods be burnt, or otherwise destroyed, nor their fields wasted by the armed force of the enemy into whose power, by the events of war, they may happen to fall; but if any thing is necessary to be taken from them for the use of such armed force, the same shall be paid for at a reasonable price. And all merchants and trading vessels employed in exchanging the products of different places, and thereby rendering the necessaries, conveniences, and comforts of human life more easy to be obtained, and more general, shall be allowed to pass free and unmolested : and neither of the contracting powers shall grant or issue any commission to any private armed vessels, empowering them to take or destroy such trading vessels, or interrupt such commerce.
I am, my dear friend,
REMARKS CONCERNING THE SAVAGES OF
NORTH AMERICA. SAVAGES we call them, because their manners differ from murs, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs.
Perhaps if we could examine the manners of different nations with impartiality, we should find no people so rude as to be without any rules of politeness; nor any so polite as not to have some remains of rudeness.
The Indian men, when young, are hunters and warriors; when old, counsellors; for all their government is by the counsel or advice of the sages: there is no force, there are no prisons, no officers, to compel obedience, or inflict punishment. Hence they generally study oratory; the best speaker having the most influence. The Indian women till the ground, dress the food, nurse and bring up the children, and preserve and hand down to posterity the memory of public transactions. These employments of men and women are accounted natural and honorable. Having few artificial wants, they have abundance of leisure for improvement in conversation. Our laborious manner of life, compared with theirs, they esteem slavish and base; and the learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous and useless. An instance of this occurred at the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the government of Virginia and the Six Nations. After the principal business was settled, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburgh a college, with a fund, for educating Indian youth; and if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sous to that college, the govern.