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ery. Under such an arrangement, interest to the attention of our coun. the following advantages would be trymen, of every party, of every realized. First, instead of news. employment, in every part of the papers being put into the mails wet Union. We commend it especially from the press, they would be dried to the consideration of those whom at the printing-office, and the mails it immediately concerns—such as would no longer groan with a su- all sorts of business men in the perfluous weight of water. Next, commercial cities—manufacturers newspapers, designed for circula- every where—banking and insurtion by mail, would be printed on a ance companies-literary and scismaller and lighter sheet than at entific men, whose postage taxes present; and thus the weight to be are the more onerous to them, intransported would be farther dimin. asmuch as their correspondence, ished. Then, again, the privilege bringing them no pecuniary returns, of diminished postage being con
is less for their own benefit than for fined to those copies of the work that of learning and science, and which come regularly in bundles thus of their country and of manfrom the publishing office, the mails kind at large-teachers and students would be rid of all those papers in colleges and professional schools and pamphlets sent by individuals, — directors and executive agents of which are generally substituted for benevolent societies—ministers of letters, cheaper indeed to the re- the Gospel, who are burthened, ceiver than letters, under the pres- more perhaps than any other class ent system, but more expensive to of men, with the payment of postthe department, in the cost of trans- age out of a small income, for that portation. And, finally, the post- which concerns other people as offices would be no longer filled with much as them. We ask that this newspapers and pamphlets, which necessary reform may be discussed. the persons to whom they are di- Let others who think with us, do as rected, refuse to receive, and which we have done, commending the are therefore a dead loss to the matter, as they have opportunity, to department. These considerations the attention of the public. And, make it probable that men practi- on the other hand, if the scheme is cally familiar with the business, essentially chimerical—if there is would easily arrange a system, by some necessity in the nature of which periodicals might be convey things for taxing the correspondence ed in the mails at no greater cost of the whole country, in order to on the whole, to the purchaser, aid a few metropolitan newspapers, than now. If this is so, the inters and to enlarge the compensation of est of even the great newspaper members of Congress and of other publishers, against reform, is for government functionaries, let some the most part immediate and appa- man who understands the princi. rent, rather than ultimate and real. ples and the details of the subject,
We commend this great public make that necessity appear.
We have here a pamphlet con- we that such men will ever desist taining three discourses on Capi- from their attempts to break down tal Punishment, delivered by the the power of the State to restrain author during the session of the their licentiousness ? Legislature of Connecticut at New In the first of these classes are Haven in May, 1842. A bill for comprehended those insane men, the abolition of capital punishment who have method enough in their had passed the lower branch of madness, to carry out their princi. the Legislature in 1841; and it ples consistently to their legitimate was feared by many of the friends results. They accordingly denounce of good government, that the meas- all punishments as unauthorized and ure would now be carried through barbarous. They do not punish both houses, it having received for their children for filial disobedience; the first time, the recommendation nor allow their schoolmasters to use of the Governor. At this critical the rod. They believe in no other juncture, Mr. Thompson, who had divine punishments than such as previously delivered a single dis- conscience and the laws of nature course on the subject to his own inflict on the disobedient. Hence, people, was prevailed upon by the it is in perfect keeping with their solicitations of several of his fellow whole system, to regard the laws of citizens to bring the subject in three the State as unwarrantable restricsuccessive evenings before the whole tions on human liberty. The abocommunity. Many gentlemen of lition of capital punishment is a the Legislature were present, and it dear object to them, for they have would be an aspersion on their un. the sagacity to perceive, what some derstandings to suppose, that the of their coadjutors overlook, that views of such as had previously if they can succeed in convincing leaned to the abolition of capital the people that this mode of punishpunishment, were not materially ment is unlawful, in other words, modified. The result was, that the that human life is inviolable, the tovote in the House of Representatives, tal subversion of civil government stood about two to one in favor of must follow as a consequenee. the existing laws, in opposition to the Were we to go into a philosophic views of his Excellency.
inquiry into the causes of this hostili. We do not however consider the ty to capital punishment, we should question as put to rest. There is a have to refer to all these classes of class of men intent on this change men. But as persons of their views from motives of misguided philan. and character have never been wantthropy, who of course are not easily ing, we must look deeper for the to be diverted from their purpose; exciting causes, into the spirit of the and there is another class still more age, which has brought persons of numerous and determined, men of such opposite principles into this dissolute habits and violent passions, strange alliance. This peculiar spirand far more hostile to punishments it of the age is change ; let us say, ihan crimes. What prospect have reform. In obedience to this spirit,
the most surprising improvements * The Right and Necessity of infict- have been made in the penal codes ing the Punishment of Death for Murder. of many countries, particularly in By Joseph P. Thompson, pastor of the Chapel Street Congregational Church, Europe. Numerous barbarous punNew Haven, Conn.
ishments have been wholly abolish
ed; and others which were once that men of virtuous principles will inflicted for many trivial offenses continue to advocate the abolition of are now confined to the higher class capital punishment. The subject, of crimes.* This mitigation of the however, needs a more extended penalties for crime, it is acknowl, and thorough discussion than it can edged on all hands, has been atten. properly receive from the pulpit. ded by a corresponding diminution And we are therefore happy in beof offenses, and by a far more intel- ing able to promise in a future numligent respect in the public mind for ber such a discussion, from the pen the laws of the land. It is not won- of a distinguished member of the lederful that such facts should bring gal profession. In that article the under discussion the policy of every question of a gradation of punishinstitution and regulation of human ments, and all that bears on the polsociety.
Time-honored abuses and icy of capital punishment, are to be wrongs are fated in this age to be considered. In the mean time, we summoned into the light of day; take this opportunity to make a few and with them must come forth for observations on the moral and reliexamination the fundamental princi- gious aspects of the subject. ples of all good order and social The position is boldly taken by happiness. With eager inquisitive. many persons, that no man or body ness every thing is questioned-ev- of men has a moral right to deprive ery thing is made to answer why it a human being of life. This denial was made and what it is. So prom- is made on various grounds. inent a feature of the penal code as Some maintain that the right to capital punishment, it was not to be life is a reserved right, a right which expected, would escape this general we did not surrender to society inquisition. There are too many when the civil compact was formed. who would gladly slip their necks Thus, Mr. Rantoul, in a report to from danger, and too many who are the Legislature of Massachusetts, earnest for every possible alleviation January, 1837, says:
" When we of human suffering, to leave this pen- surrendered to society the smallest alty any chance of slumbering among possible portion of our liberty, to usages of unquestionable propriety. enable us the better to retain the
This country has reason to thank aggregate of rights which we did Mr. Thompson for the promptness not surrender, did we concede our and ability with which he met and title to that life with which our Creanswered this question at a time of ator has endowed us? In no inperil. Wherever his discourses may stance can this preposterous sacri. be read, we have little apprehension fice be implied. The right of life
remains among those reserved rights The extent of the recent changes in
which we have not yielded up to mitigation of the criminal laws of England society.” This argument rests on and Wales, is strikingly exhibited by the the figment of a social compact, as fact that bad the offenses tried in 1841, the basis of society--a notion which of eighty capital sentences, the number it surprises us to see gravely adwould have amounted to two thousand vanced in a report to the legislature one hundred and seventy two. By an of the most cultivated State in the act passed in the first session of Parlia. Union. But it is more surprising ment in 1841, but which did not take ef. fect until after the conclusion of the assi: that it should not be seen at a zes, at which the above eighty sentences glance, that a social compact neceswere passed, capital punishment was abol sarily implies a surrender to society ished for rape and felonious riots, which, of all the rights and powers which ducing the number of capital sentences are indispensable to its own preser, annually to between forty and fifty. vation, among which the right of taking life is undeniable. What case of conviction, and nearly an power can there be in a State to equal probability that an error once restrain and coerce turbulent citie committed will never be detected, zens, or to punish in any manner this argument goes to the abolition those who are guilty of an infrac- of all penalties, or to the annihilation of the laws, if the lives of tion of civil government-an absuch are sacred and inviolable? A surdity which broadly exposes the State without an army, without an falsity of the premise on which it armed police, what can it do? It resis.
rests. It is also worthy of notice, is powerless. Every band of ruf- that the very severity of the punfians, every individual ruffian, is ishment of death affords the best too strong for such a government. safeguard against the conviction of We presume Mr. Rantoul did not the innocent, since it leads to a most enter either expressly or tacitly into rigid scrutiny of the evidence, sea compact with such a society, to cures to the accused the full advanenable him the better to retain his tage of every doubt, and lays the rights.' If it is necessary to the strongest hold on the conscience very existence of society with pow. and sympathy of the court and witer to protect individuals, that socie- nesses. ty should have the right to destroy Others rest their denial of the life in certain contingencies, then in moral right of capital punishment forming society, the individual must on the fact, that it cuts the criminal be supposed to yield up to society off from any farther opportunity of so far forth a right to his life. He repentance. They deny the right cannot otherwise the better retain of man to abridge the life of a felthe aggregate of rights for which he low creature, and force him, persurrendered to society the smallest haps unprepared, into the presence possible portion of his liberty.' No of his Judge. They seem to oversociety can exist, much less protect look the reflection which their arits members, on the basis of a com- gument casts on the providence of pact which reserves to every indi. God, who daily summons multitudes vidual the right of life in all contin. into eternity, with as little warning gencies. The right of life, there- and preparation as fall to the lot of fore, is not reserved.
the subjects of capital punishment. Others deny the lawfulness of Whoever supposes the cases are capital punishment, because an un- different, because sudden death, in just infliction admits of no remedy. the ordinary course of nature, is to This argument is founded on an es- be regarded as an act of God, who sential imperfection of civil govern- has a right to take the life which ment. Human tribunals are not in- He gives, forgets that capital punfallible. The corruption of wit- ishment is, in our view, a divine innesses and jurors, and even their stitution. He begs the question, by mistakes, may lead to the convic- assuming that it is destitute of dition of the innocent. But this is vine authority. Whatever society equally true, whatever penalty may is obliged to do in order to accombe affixed to the crime. It would plish the ends of society, it may be impossible adequately to repair rightfully do; and in all such acts the injury, if a person falsely con. of society, God himself, in an imyicted of a crime, should be im- portant sense, acts; that which is mured in a prison for the greater done, is done by His authority and part of his life, before the error appointment. It should also be reshould be discovered, especially if collected, that capital punishment is it should never be discovered. And supposed to preserve more lives as there is liability to error in every than it destroys. The execution of
a few murderers preserves the lives punishment. The nature of reof thousands, who would otherwise venge does not lie in the amount of be murdered. The question for the evil inflicted. We
may revenge legislator to decide is, whether, in ourselves, contrary to the precepts view of the retributions of the of Christianity, by a light blow with future world, he ought to leave the the hand, by a significant shake of community in such a defenseless the finger, by a sneer. state, that multitudes of people will therefore, that these precepts are be suddenly hurried into eternity, addressed to the State as well as to by the hand of violence; or, on the the individual citizen, is laying the other hand, prevent most of these axe at the root of civil government. sudden deaths, by the capital pun. It is even a plain denial of the right ishment of the murderer. And he of God to govern His creatures, by should reflect, too, that death by the the infliction of evil for evil; for if hand of the executioner, is, in this society cannot punish a wrong doer country, less sudden than most oth without malice, neither can God. er deaths. It has no claim to be But there is manifestly no incomcalled a sudden death. When the patibility between the infliction of murderer is arrested and bound civil penalties and a spirit of kindover for trial, he has his first warn- ness, of good will, of lively coming to prepare for eternity; when passion toward the criminal, on the he is convicted and sentenced to part of the makers and administrators be executed, he receives another, of the law. Benevolence is not a which points him forward to a de. blind impulse, but an intelligent refinite period when he must die, gard for happiness. It impels us affording him ample opportunity, in to inflict evil for a greater good, not the interval, for every religious otherwise attainable ; it steadies the duty. It is hence far from evident hand of the surgeon; it gives firm. that imprisonment, which is propo- ness, in a just war, to the voice of sed as a substitute for death, is command which may extinguish more favorable than capital punish- the lives of thousands; it presides ment, to the spiritual interests of in the discipline of the family; it is the criminal. The contrary seems “ a terror to evil doers” in the State ; to be the fact, judging both from it shines most luminously in the observation and from the nature of retributions of eternity. man. Who that knows his own lence looks to the good of all, to heart, can doubt that, if he were the greatest good, and perceiving condemned to death for the crime that the peace and security of the of murder, he would address him- community at large will be sacriself to a preparation for another ficed to the violence of a murderer, world, with more serious earnest- unless he is cut off, it calls for his ness, than under a sentence of mere blood. And if it should be inquired, imprisonment?
what then is the meaning and appliAnother objection of a moral and cation of the precepts against renderreligious nature, against capital pun- ing evil for evil, the answer is, they ishment, is founded on the duty of are not meant to apply to the cogni. forgiving injuries. The precepts zance which society takes of crimes, which inculcate this duty, are said nor to seeking redress for injuries to be binding on society as well as before tribunals of justice; but are on individuals. Society must not, directed solely against the intolerable it is contended, return evil for evil. evil of that state of society in which But it is obvious that if this class of each individual presumes to be judge, precepts forbid capital punishment, jury and executioner, in all cases to they forbid also every other kind of which he is a party ; and they also