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deliberately put to death in the course 6 f text cjays ! Monstrous 1 And of these fourteen , victims , fpur of them for forgery and ^ jthe . lesser offence of uttering forged r notes i What , Mr . Editor , is become of the " Committee appointed , to consider pf f so \ much of the Criminal Laws as rejiates to Capital Punishments for Felonies" ? I believe
they have recommended ; the substitution of some other penalty in the place of the uliimum supplicium in cases of forgery , or at least of the uttering of forged notes . If so , why is it not attended to ? If our rulers will persist in hanging up , by the dozen and the score , their fellow-ereatures . upontheir
heads let the blood light . / The people ? have no hand in it ; they disclaim such an infernal system ; they are no less hostile to the Draconian code , that condemns to an equal punishment the stripling who passes a forged bill for 20 s . and the midnight assassin who bathes himself in the blood of his
victim , than those great and good men of the past and present century , Beccaria , Montesquieu , Blackstone , Johnson , Goldsmith , Romilly , Mackintosh , Buxton , &c . What can induce those in whose hands rests the dread but
unenvied power of life and death , thus pertinaciously to adhere to a practice so revolting to the Creator and the creature , and , as is proved by the multiplicity of examples , ineffectual as a preventive of crime—the great , the sole object of punishment ? And why is it inefficacious ? Why does it fail of its aim ? Let us hear what that able
writer and distinguished philanthropist above quoted says . on this , subject : " In proportion as punishments become more cruel , the human mind , which , like fluids , rises to a level with
the surrounding objects , becomes hardened ; and , the force of the passions still y continuing , after a century of cruel punishments , the igheel terrifies no more than formerly did the prison "
I shall give no opinion on the subject of crimes accompanied with violence , tfiough 1 am disposed to think that offenders of this sort might be prevented from inmrmg society in
future , Nbe made ^ s ^ uljtp the ^ tate , and eve ^ eventua ^ y ^ eclajuned , if , we were i ^ s rea ^ y j ^' - ' ^ Kri ^^ , w # aye to launch thezp , into ete , rn % 5 mv business is , at present , as \ ye \\ yvxih the crimen JTalsi as with what may be
broadl y termed theft . That good man ami \ distinguished moralist , Johnson , in the CXIVth Number of the Rambler , ( a paper which I earnestly recommend : to the , perusal of those who advocate the cause of justiceV and humanity , but more particularly to the attentive considerati 6 n of such persons as , from ah erroneous idea of the
necessity of sanguinary inflictions , have hitherto opposed all amendment of our criminal code , ) thus speaks of the confusion of crime : " The frequency of capital punishments , therefore , rarely hinders the commission of a cr ime , but naturally and commonly
prevents ltls detection , and is , if we proceed only upon prudential principles , chiefly for that reason to be avoided . Whatever may be urged by casuists or politicians , tne greater part of mankind , as they can never think that to pick the pocket and to pierce
the heart is equally criminal , will scarcely believe that two malefactors so different in guilt can be justly doomed to the same punishment ; nor is the necessity of submitting the conscience to human laws so plainly evinced , so clearly stated , or so
generally allowed , but that the pious , the tender and the just will always scruple to concur with the community in an act which their private judgment cannot approve . " When the Dr . wrote
the above , the absurdity , the wickedness of the doctrine of equal penalties for unequal offences , was not go generally admitted , nor had the public sympathy for poor wretches , the victims of a code " the reproach of
neighbouring states , " been so generally excited as it has of late years . It is not so now . Englishmen , Sir , I repeat , renounce a code that is at once an outrage on their feelings and their
judgment ; a code that condemns to an equal penalty a Maddon and a Nesbitt . If the arguments of those celebrated p hilosophers and philanthropists betore mentioned , and others on this side of the question , are
unsound ; if either their premises are false . or their deductions erroneous , let them be refuted , let the "" Mighty Mother" in Threadneedle Street , and her mammon-worshiping children , sit down and subvert the reasoning : of ' their opponents ,, which , indeed , they must do , by arguments it priori , since they cannot appeal to experience , in favour
VOL . XVI . f ?
Capital Punishments . 9
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1821, page 9, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2496/page/9/