to show, if Dr. Cheever
's theory is correct, that, like the individual, before she raised her hand, she retreated as far as she could,--she ran and hid herself, got out of the way, and when she could do nothing else, then she took the life of the individual.
But now, how is it?
Who are the men that are hung?
Are they the rich, the educated, the men that are cared for by society?
No, that is not the class that supplies the harvest for the gallows.
The harvest of the gallows is reaped from the poor, the ignorant, the friendless,--the men who, in the touching language of Charles Lamb
, “are never brought up, but dragged
up;” who never knew what it was to have a mother, to have education, moral restraint.
They have been left on the highways, vicious, drunken, neglected.
Society cast them off. She never extended over them a single gentle care; but the first time this crop of human passion, the growth of which she never checked, manifests itself,--the first time that ill-regulated being puts forth his hand to do an act of violence, society puts forth her hand to his throat, and strangles him!
Has society done her duty?
Could the intelligence, the moral sense, and the religion of Massachusetts
go up and stand by the side of that poor unfortunate negro who was the last man executed in this Commonwealth, and say that they had done their duty by him?
He had passed his life in scenes of vice; he had never known what it was to have a human being speak to him in a tone of sympathy.
Had society done her duty?
Had she retreated to the wall?
He never landed in our city but the harpies of licentiousness and drink beset him, and the churches never rose up in their majesty to forbid it. Steeped to the lips in vice for thirty years, when society found him guilty of an act of violence, the natural result of such a life, did society take him and say, “God gave this man to me an innocent ”