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In availing myself of your permission to inscribe to you this little work, I shall neither offer the incense of adulation nor invoke your auspices to what you have already so much distinguished. I will merely in a few words express the gratitude I feel, in common with my fellow members, for your luminous opinions on the nicest points of legal enquiry; opinions as learned as they are sound and elegant.

And though it may appear equally presumptuous and unpardonable for me either to approve or condemn what emanates from so high a source—such exalted authority—so much and various learning, yet the peculiarly complimentary tenor of your decision, induces me to distrust, for once, the infallibility of your judgment or the seriousness of your praise. For it is a question, whether my greatest friend in this matter has been your wisdom or your bias; the intrinsic merit, or the mere moral strain of the work, Under an imposing sense of obligation,

I have the honour to be,
with profound respect and
gratitude, yours, &c. &c.




The penal code of this state, marking the progressive melioration of punishments up to the year 1794, has been deemed a proper subject for dissertations, at this crisis, by the very learned Faculty of the Law Academy of Philadelphia. At their instance the following pages were written, and by a resolution of the Academy, are now, with great diffidence, submitted to the public.

As a history of the criminal jurisprudence of Pennsylvania, they may be esteemed defective by the exclusion of most of the minor offences. But as an indiscriminate review of these, including a classification and notice of the long catalogue of injuries contra bonos mores, would add little to the cause of penal improvement, and were not necessary to an exhibition of the general state of penalties, they were discarded as alien to the objects of the essay.

Egregious arrogance may be ascribed to one, who, destitute of experience in the operation and effects of criminal laws, assumes the boldness and audacity of suggesting alterations in the penal system. For these suggestions, whenever they shall occur, the author seeks his excuse in the circumstance of their being only obvious inductions from sound premises or incontestible facts.

He has not been ambitious of learned display or the splendour of elegant writing, humbly content with the unostentatious expression of his meaning, without the aid of fanciful embellishment, or the frippery of meretricious ornament. The fault, imputed by Horace to Telephus and Pelus, he has endeavoured to avoid :

“Projicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba."


In accuracy of relation and diligence of research, consist the primary duties of an historian. So far as the following sheets are historical, the writer has attempted the former, but though, in this respect, he is not sensible of errors, yet dares not claim exemption from defect. In relation to the latter, he feels deficiency, though, as will be seen, some labour has been employed. Indulgence is invoked, especially for the paucity of facts displayed on a subject, in reference to which, sufficient industry might accumulate so many; but it must be remembered that this industry is incompatible with the time and attention, due by a student to other and more ab

however, must be the lot of an essay, brought forward in the rustic garb of an almost unaltered exercise, prepared during the summer recess, without, at the time, the most distant view to publication,

Philadelphia, January 4, 1827.

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