Gambar halaman

inal has the feelings of the community enlisted in his behalf; not because they suppose him to be guiltless, but because they do not perceive a due proportion between the guilt and the punishment; a state of things, which very much diminishes the good effects, which might otherwise follow. Under these circumstances, the criminal, notwithstanding the unquestionable atrocities of his life, is often let loose upon society without any punishment at all. It is perhaps best in the existing state of things, that he should be; but it would undoubtedly be better, if the punishment were of such a nature as to render the pardon unnecessary. VI,

-Another evil attending capital punishment is, that it is especially liable to be abused and perverted by unprincipled men to purposes of revenge and tyranny. Let a man, or a body of men, usurp the government of their country, (such men as Sylla, Marius, Henry the Eighth, Robespierre, Francia, and others that might be named,) and they will be likely to find means of applying the criminal code to the persons of their enemies. And if the system of capital punishments exists as a part of that code, the greatest and best of men will be likely to fall under it. Is it necessary to say, that the whole history of the world is a confirmation of this statement ? How many men, in refined and civilized, as well as in barbarous countries, have fallen in consequence of the rejection of the doctrine of the inviolability of human life! How many individuals in all ages of the world, whose only crime was their patriotism, learning, and virtue, have been hurried out of life, because they happened to stand in the way of some usurping tyrant, or of some dominant religious or political faction ! Socrates, Cicero, the Gracchi, Seneca, More, Sydney, Coligni, Vane, Russel, Barnevelt, Louis the Sixteenth, Lavoisier, Baillie, Malesherbes, a countiess host of martyrs

in the canse of religion, John the Baptist, Stephen, the Apostle Paul, Peter, the blessed Savior himself; these are some of the names, dear to literature, to patriotism, and the great cause of humanity, that have suffered under this sanguinary system.

In conclusion we would remark, that the subject of crimes and punishments, has been but imperfectly understood. Men have too often measured the influence of punishment by the degree of suffering alone. They think the harder the blow, the more good is done ; and that the good result will be precisely in proportion to its severity. This is too limited a method of estimating this matter. In estimating the influence and anticipated results of any proposed punishments, it is necessary to take a combined view, on the one hand, of the suffering ; and on the other, of the character of the person, on whom it is inflicted. A light punishment will have more effect on a man of high character, than a severe one will have on a man of low and abandoned character. The great object of punishments, stated in a single sentence, is to secure a compliance with the wholesome laws of society. In order to secure this object perfectly, it is necessary not only to provide for inflicting suffering on offenders, but to make provision also for raising the standard of character through the community generally. The more you raise the standard of character in the community, the more you can lower the scale of penal enactments. A mild criminal code will assuredly answer in a well-informed and virtuous community; and no legislature is at liberty to adopt a severe one, until it has tried every means to diffuse intelligence and uprightness. As an illustration, a very large proportion of the crimes of the community are owing to intemperance; punishments undoubtedly tend to check these crimes ; but sound policy will undoubtedly dictate, that every ef

fort should be made to put an end to the degrading vice, which is the cause of them. Again, numerous crimes are owing to ignorance. Let every effort, therefore, be made by the legislature and by private individuals to diffuse knowledge among the people.

Men have long enough acted on the principle of trampling upon and destroying each other; let them reverse the maxims of their conduct, and seek to bind up the wounds of their fellow-men, and to save them. Here is a great work to be done ; a work honorable as it is great ; a work, which aims at the renovation of society, not by the inefficacious methods of the block, the gallows, and the guillotine ; but by the nobler methods of moral culture; by purifying the fountain of good and evil in the youthful breast; by planting the seeds of knowledge and virtue, which shall afterwards spring up and incorporate the strength of their branches and the beauty of their flower and foliage in the mature life and action of the man.




« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »