Whether the punishment of death should be abolished in any of the few cases to which it is now applied [the capital penalty of robbery and burglary had been done away with in 1839] has often been a subject of legislative inquiry. It does not belong to me to enter upon an argument that is nearly exhausted; but I deem it within my province in this connection respectfully to submit to the legislature that, in the present state of society, it is no longer an abstract question, whether capital punishment is right, but whether it be practicable; and that there is good reason to believe that punishment for crime would more certainly follow its commission if the legislature should further abrogate the penalty of death. As the law now stands in this respect, its efficiency is mostly in its threatenings; but the terror of a trial is diminishing, and the culprit finds his impunity in the severity which it denounces.
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