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“ [98] soul, and I have let him grow up into this monster, and now I will take him and restrain him; I will throw around him moral influences, and see if I cannot make a human being of him?” Did society retreat to the wall? Did she try to save that man? No; she inflicted on him the severest punishment,--she took away his life. “Society is an instrument of good,” said one of your members a few days ago. Then she is bound to educate the man thrown into her hands.

This is a very broad theory, that society gets the right to hang, as the individual gets the right to defend himself. Suppose she does; there are certain principles which limit this right, to which she is bound. Besides, when society has got the man completely in her power, what is she to do with him? Suppose a man attacks me to-day; according to Dr. Cheever, I have the right to take his life. But the law says: “No; if you can restrain him, you must do so, and not kill him.” Society has got the murderer within four walls; he never can do any more harm. You can put him in a jail from whence he can never escape; where he can never see the face of his kind again. Has society any need to take that man's life to protect herself? Has she retreated to the wall? If society has only the right that the individual has, she has no right to inflict the penalty of death, because she can effectually restrain the individual from ever again committing his offence. Suppose a man should attempt to kill me in the street, and I should take his life, and when I was brought before Chief-Justice Shaw, and asked how I killed him, I should say: “I overcame him; I threw him on the sidewalk; I bound him hand and foot; and then I killed him,” --would that be justifiable? No, I should be imprisoned for manslaughter. Society takes the murderer; she shuts him up in jail; she keeps him ninety days, or longer; she tries him before

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Lemuel Shaw (1)
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