others from like offences?
Will the taking of the man's life deter others from following in his steps?
That is the only question that remains.
When we look at the gallows — what is it?
It is the taking of human life.
There are three questions which present themselves in connection with this subject: 1.
Have we a right to take it?
2. Are we obliged to take it. 3.
Does it do any good to take it?
In other words,--the right, the obligation, and the necessity.
With regard to the matter of right.
If the Massachusetts Declaration
of Rights is of any authority in this hall, if the first page of your Constitution is of any authority here,--then it would be hard to show where you get the power to take life.
“The body politic,” says the Preamble to the Constitution
, “is formed by a voluntary association of individuals; it is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people.”
That is the republican theory of government; it is the theory of this country, as you know, ever since the Declaration of Independence
It is a compact between individuals to be governed in a certain form.
Society, therefore, can have no rights higher than those the individual has to give to it. If you will read the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution
, you will see that our form of government is a partnership of the individuals composing the body politic, and of course, a partnership cannot have any property except what the individual members give to it. Now an individual man has no right over his own life,--suicide is sin. If government is a compact, a partnership of rights which we individually surrender, where do you get the right to take life?
The parties that make the compact have not got it, and therefore they cannot give it to the government.
Your legislature, according to that Constitution, has no rights