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and often to do what we can, rather than attempt what we wish. Nevertheless, he must say, after the trial that has been given to the Abolition Law, he was now prepared to go much further, and to declare that the Slave Trade should be at once made felony.-(Hear! hear! hear!) When he considered how easily laws were passed, declaring those acts evea capital offences, which had heretoa fore been either permitted, or slightly punished; when scarce a Session ended wishout some 'such extension of the criminal code ; when even capital offences were among the most numerous progenies of our legislative labours; when he saw that difficulty experienced by an Honourable and Learned Friend of his (Sir S. Romilly) in doing away the capital part of the offence of stealing five shillings; when it was remembered that Lord Ellenborough, by one act and he honoured him for it), had created somewhere about a dozen capital felonies; wher, in short, so many comparatively trivial vitences were so severely visited, could one, who knew what Slave Trading meant, hesitate in admitting that it ought at length to be punished as a crime? Adverting, again, to the Record before mentioned, he found that the vessel, ready ficred oui for the Slave Coast, had sold for about 11,0001. including guns, tackle, cargo, and all; but making allowance for seamen's wages, wear, and tear, &c. de calculated the whole expense of carrying 800 Slaves over to America, ai 20,0001. and as they would sell for 1001. a-head, the net profits would be near 60,0001. Was this to be stopped by a pecuniary penalty ? If one such speculation, in four or five, succeeded, They were safe ; there was even a temptation to engage in many speculations, because the adventurer thus insured against the risk of capture, and became his own underwriter against the chance of detection, which he could in no other way insure against. If an inhuman being of this class fitted out ten or twelve such ships, and escaped with three or four, his vile profits were enormous; but it should be recoilected, that all his vessels, those which escaped as well as those which were taken, spread devastation over the African Continent; and even a single cargo was the utter ruin of whole villages. To this case, more than to any other that could be fancied, pecuniary checks were peculiarly inapplicable. While you levied your pence, the wholesale dealers in blood and torture pocketed their pounds, and laughed at your twopenny penalıy. He next adverted to the 10th of Geo. II. for regulating watermen between Gravesend and Chelsea. If a person of this description carried above a certain oumber of per. sons, although no accident happened, he forfeited the use of the șiver; and if by accident any one was drowned, the boatman who had so overloa ied was transported for seven years as a felon. How did we treat those who overloaded their vessels with miserable negroes, so as knowingly and wilfully to ensure the death of many, and the torments of all? Why, the Slaye Carrying Bill, which is somewhat similar to the statute of George' ll. in its object, did not even deprive such offenders of the use of the sea, which they had so perverted and polluted by their crimes; far less did it transport for seven years, even where the death of hundreds on board of such vessels happened not by accident, but as a necessary consequence of the overloading. He made no reflection on the statute of George II. but its provisions appeared somewhat more applicable to the slave-trader, than the boatman. What had the divine Legislator said on this subject? There was a most false and unfounded notion, that the 'sacred writings were silent upon it: he should prove the contrary : “ Whosoever (says the Scripture) stealeth a man, and selleth him, or, in whose hands he shall be found, sball surely be put to death." And what was our gloss of application on this divine text? Whosoever (says the English law) stealeth a man, and tortureth him, and killeth him, or selleth him into slavery for all the days of his life, shall surely-pay twenty pounds!"-(Hear / hear !) He trusted that this grievous incongruity would at length bę dupe away, and pledged himself to bring in a Bill to that effect early in the ensuing Session : but he earnestly hoped, that in the mean time the House would leave nothing unattempted which might tend to diminish the great evils complained of, and give effect to one of the most holy of our laws. He moved, VOL. I.
« That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, representing to His Majesty, that this House has taken into its serious consideration the papers whích His Majesty was graciously pleased to cause to be laid before this House upon the subject of the African Slave Trade.
“ That while this House acknowledges with gratitude the endeavours which His Majesty has been pleased to use, in compliance with the wishes of Parliament, to induce foreign nations to concur in relinquishing that disgraceful commerce, this House has to express its deep regret that those efforts have been attended with so little success.
« That this House does most earnestly beseech His Majesty to persevere in those measures which may tend to induce his allies, and such other foreign states as he may be able to negociate with, to co-operate witlf this country in a general Abolition of the Slave Trade, and to concur in the adoption of such measures as may assist in the effectual execution of the laws already passed for that purpose:
“That this House'has learnt with the greatest surprise and indignation, that certain persons in this country have not scrupled to continue in a clandestine and fraudulent manner the detestable traffic in slaves.
“And that this House does most humbly pray His Majesty that he will be graciously pleased to cause to be given to the Commanders of His Majesty's ships and vessels of war, the officers of His Majesty's Customs, and the other persons in His Majesty's service, whose situation enables them to detect and suppress these abuses, such orders as may effectually check practices equally contemptuous to the authority of Parliament, and derogatory to the interests and the honour of the country.”
The remainder of the Debate, and the Resolution adopted by the House in consequence, will be given in our next.
On the Penal Law of England, with respect to Capital
Punishments, and as connected with the Transportation and Penitentiary Systems.
Dr. Johnson, at the commencement of the 114th number of the Rambler, (an Essay, which, in the fewest words and most comprehensive language, contains the strongest argu. ments for such an alteration in the criminal law of England as has lately been contended for by some of the most distinguished members of our legislative assembly), says, “A slight perusal of the laws by which the measures of vindictive and coercive justice are established, will discover so many disproportions between crimes and punishments, such capricious distinctions of guilt, and such confusion of remissness and severity, as can scarcely be believed to have been produced by public wisdom, sincerely and calmly studious of public happiness. The Essay to which I now refer, was written in the year 1751, that is, sixteen years previous to the publication of that celebrated Treatise, knowa under the name of its supposed author, the Marquis Beccaria, which has since been productive of essential changes in the laws of many nations on the continent, has essentially contributed towards a much more important revolution in the ancient codes of the American States, and even in this country (although the peculiarities of our civil constitution, aided perhaps by those of our moral character, have hitherto prevented the adoption of any extensive plan of reform) has at least led the way to so much of reflection and argument on the subject, among the thinking part of men, as cannot fail of producing in the end those practical results which it is now become the sincere wish of many serious and benevolent characters to promote and encourage.
It is the doctrine of a proportion between crime and punishment, unfolded in that excellent Essay of Dr. Johnson's, upon which the writer, who calls himself Beccaria, has proceeded as the foundation of his argument. It is that doctrine, which has been treated as dangerous by some, as chimerical by many, and as more beautiful in theory than substantially useful in practice, by all of those whom we have seen during the three last sessions of Parliament opposing themselves to the gradual and preliminary changes recommended by Sir Samuel Romilly to be introduced into the law of England. But it is impossible that the gentlemen who have taken such pains to stigmatize, as the dream of a visi.' onary reformer, a doctrine which the wisest and best men of the last century adopted and established, can have paid half the same degree of attention to the mode of proof upon which that doctrine has been supported, and by which it has been connected with immediate and practical expediency. The process by which this union is effected is easy and simple, We have only first to consider what are the principles, the practical, moral, and undeniable principles of criminal justice.
There is no man, I believe, at the present day, who con tends for the principle of revenge either public or private ; no reflecting man *, who considers retribution as the proper measure of human decisions, or ventures to arrogate to a sublunary tribunal the privilege and attribute of Almighty God, to reward and punish in that sense which is alone
I say, no reflecting man-but the same sort of language is too often em: ployed, eveu now, without reflection. In a late debate in the House of Commons on this subject, it was contended, that cases of theft in dwelling-houses might well be imagined in which confidence might be so violated as to deservo the scverest punishment.” I quote from “ the Times”- May 3rd. 1810.
applicable to the decrees of eternal justice. I believe that all men are agreed, that they are forced to agree about the legitimate objects of human judgment, and that these are reducible to four: the incapacitation of the offender from renewing his offence; the example, to deter others from the commission of the same or a similar injury ; the compensation of the party injured, and the reformation of the guilty person. A fifth, which has been sometimes added to these four, is not, strictly speaking, referrible to the ends, but rather to the means of justice-I mean public economy. Wherever it is possible to unite all these purposes together in the object to be attained, in those cases liuman justice will have acquired its greatest measure, its ultimate limit of perfection ; and in proportion as these, or some of these purposes fail to be consulted, in so much will justice be imperfect, and punishment fall short of its aim.
It is evident that two only of the ends here mentioned are attainable by capital punishment, and that these are, the incapacitation of the offender, and the example of his suff-ring; for (excluding the principle of revenge, which barbarous nations only acknowledge) his death affords no compensation either public or private, and it shuts out the very possibility of reformation. It follows then, with even mathe. matical precision and clearness, that if the two latter objects, or either of them, can be kept in view without compromising the two former, the design of justice will be essentially promoted by an alteration of the mode of punishment.
With regard to the first, the incapacitation of the offender, it is certain that death is absolutely and irrevocably effectual; and the only point therefore to be considered, is, whether any other mode may not be so nearly equal in its effects, as that the advantage to be derived from admitting the two latter purposes of justice may not be allowed by all to compensate for the sacrifice of some portion of that absolute and irrevocable security. Imprisonment, so long as it lasts, is a security hardly less effectual than death itself against the commission of any possible injury to society; the chances of escape being small indeed in a well organized place of confinement. But humanity, it has been said, (and said perhaps truly), would gain little from the change of death into perpetual imprisonment: and therefore perpetual imprisonment ought no more than di ath itself to be in the contemplation of the legis. lator, except, perhaps, (but only perhaps) in some ertreme cases of guilt, which from their unnatural atrocity, exclude
the sympathy of our fellow creatures and the bope of reformation. With respect to such offences, (if any such there are*,)-with respect, for instance, to the crime of murder attended with the aggravations of deliberate cruelty, black ingratitude, and inveterate malice-it may still remain a question (perhaps, not a very important one), for casuists to dle. cicle, wh ther the incapacitation of perpetual confinement, or that of death itself, be the instrument employed to rid society of a monster whose existence in it is absolutely incompatible with its security and welfare. But in all, except in such ex. tre.ne cases, it is the reformation of the criminal that should be looked to as the ultimate object of his temporary deprivation of liberty, and as that which, to all moral purposes, will answer the end of incapacitation as securely as death itself. For, grant the possibility of effecting the reformation of a guilty person by a process of expiatory discipline, and there is no more danger in restoring to society one so refyr ned, than in suffering the most innocent person to walk abroad at liberty.Nor do I see upon what ground (except upon public example, which I propose to discuss hereafter) the death of any person whom it is possible to reform, can be
* " Who shall say that the most hardened villain may not repent? Youth, health, ignorance, bat companions, may le id a man to perpetrate the greatest crimes. Bat a time may come, when he looks back with horror, on his past transgressions, and repents in dust and ashes. Execute him, and ; ou deprive him of all chance of salva ion." Letter from Dr. Forde, the Ordinary of Newgate, to Mr. Bentham. Far be it from me to contend, in opposition to this benevolent argiment against all capital punishments, that any offender is certainly and absolutely incorrigible. Nor do I at all mean to assert that the sanction reserved for the highest in the scale nf offences against society; must nece-sarily be that of death, or even perpetual imprisonment. But I think that this is a question which must be argued on other grounds than those I am now persuing, and therefore pass it over for the present. It is, however, contrary to all my r«ligious impressions, to suppose that it is possible for any act of man to exclude another from eternal salvation: wbich, without that act, might have been merited.
+ This, it may be said, is carrying the argument too far. A felon, when the term of his imprisonment is expired, cannot be consiłered in the light of one who has never forfeited his liberty. His character is gone, and his necessities force him back into his old courses even against his inclinations. So it is, most undoubtedly, under the present system : but it must not be forgotten that to connteract this is one of the principal objects of the p«nitentiary pl ni an object, without which, indeed, it could not even hold together at all. The design of that pliin is not only gradually to restore the forfeited character, by the publicity of the felon's gnod conduct during the term of his confirmement, but to put him in possession of such a competence (the fruit of his own industry) at the moment of his dismissal, as may insure tbe continuance of that good conduct, or at least leave him without excuse for deviating from it on the ground of necessity.