Gentlemen, for one hundred years, the progress of all legislation has been to throw away these extreme penalties; and in proportion as it has done so, crime has diminished.
That shows that society does not need the gallows for protection; and if it does not need it for protection, it has no right to it. These gentlemen will not contend, of course, that society has a right to take life from caprice, from whim, from taste, but only from necessity.
If we show you that when it has been withdrawn from a crime, that crime has diminished, then,--I say, we show you a competent and sufficient argument why it should be abolished.
We have got outside of the Bible
now; we have got the experience of two hundred years in England
, that every crime from which the penalty of the gallows was taken off has diminished; we have got the experience of Russia
, of Tuscany
, of Belgium
, of Sir James Mackintosh
, where they have given up the death penalty, yet murder did not increase.
You say, these experiments were local, and for a short time; true, but they were all one way. Society has never tried the gallows but to fail.
Now, all we ask of Massachusetts
is, that when she has tried the one and not succeeded, she shall now try the other.
We used to punish highway robbery with death.
Then that crime was frequent; but things got to such a state that, as Robert Rantoul
said, a man was more likely to be struck by lightning, sitting in his parlor in any town of the Commonwealth
, than to be hung for highway robbery.
We took off the penalty of death, and then highway robbery diminished; there were more cases before than since.
In the States that have abolished the death penalty, the result has been entirely satisfactory; and every humane man must rejoice at it. Take Michigan
, and those States that have rescinded the penalty; they were