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Most authors, I imagine, regard the introduction of the firstfruits of their pen to public notice with feelings akin to timidity: they are apt to view with too much self-complacency the literary edifice, as it grows up into fair proportions beneath their daily superintendence; they dread the shock of hostile criticism, which may dash down and crumble into dust their fondest and most cherished anticipations, and the fear they experience is exalted in proportion as the sense of the worth of their formance is developed in themselves. The author of this Essay wishes for no other merit than that of presenting a correct picture of a condition of things which claims to be remedied on its own intrinsic evidences of injustice and importance, and which must be patent to all who will take the trouble to examine for themselves dispassionately into the details of the matter. He therefore hopes that criticism will in his case have regard rather to the points of interest discussed, than to the manifold imperfections of the writer.
UNSOUNDNESS OF MIND
IN RELATION TO RESPONSIBILITY FOR CRIMINAL ACTS.
WE remember to have read of the celebrated magician, wishful to discover the successor to a great and mighty empire, whose reigning monarch was far advanced in years, tracing in sand the letters of the alphabet, into each of which he placed a few barley grains, and muttering some mysterious incantation, turned loose a cock, who picked out the seed from four places, 0, €, o, d; the despot, as the story tells, on being informed of the circumstance, and the result of the experiment, caused many individuals to be put to death, for no other reason than that their names began with these letters. Fortunately for us, however, we live in a different era ; and thanks in part to our age of progress and civilization, and to our country with its free constitution and glorious laws, it is improbable we shall ever be called upon to sustain so gross and
wanton a violation of our privileges and rights as
Nevertheless, excellent howsoever upon the whole, our laws may be, still they are but human institutions, and as such, liable to imperfection : theoretically, we know we ought not to expect perfection in such, practically that we cannot attain it ; and hence it is found, that ever and anon, cases of individual hardship come before us, arising out of the penalty due to the infringement of these regulations under peculiar circumstances or contingencies which it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide against; and if we examine the subject attentively, we see such a labyrinth to wade through, such a mass of conflicting interests to consider, that the mind bewildered, shrinks in despair from the attempt to rectify, and solaces itself by the reflection, that if much good results from any instrumentality, some evil is almost sure to accrue. Acts, really as indefensible and unjust as those of this blood-stained Grecian autocrat, are occasionally in this manner, under the garb of necessity," the tyrant's plea,” perpetrated with the sanction and under the time-honoured name of law. Now, though, as I have before said, it cannot be expected that any system should be devised free from exception to meet all emergencies, I shall presume it conceded that, a necessity for amendment in any regulation being shown, and the possibility and practicability of a means of improvement demonstrated, reason and humanity alike demand