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ok the life of anybody who killed his relative; and in the second place, it shows, what I have stated to you, that there is no distinction in this passage between murder and manslaughter. Moses institutes a distinction, and says that if a man has committed homicide,--has killed a man unawares,--and shall go to a city of refuge, and shall stay in this city a year and a day, he is not to be punished. The two statutes interpret each other. That second statute, which makes a limitation on the first, shows what the first meant, and shows that Moses thought that, according to this passage in Genesis, the blood of the murderer (whether the act were committed with malice aforethought or not) should be taken by the nearest of kin of the murdered person. Gentlemen, that is what a lawyer would call an interpretation from contemporaneous practice. Here is the practice of fifteen hundred years under that statute, and the man who commits murder, with aforethought or unawares, is to be slain b
it is not safe for an individual to kill the murderer, perhaps they have changed so much that you and I can get rid of the gallows altogether. Suppose you had made a statute for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; suppose you had passed the Maine Liquor Law, and six months afterwards the authorities in some town in the Commonwealth should refuse to execute it, should make exceptions to it, and when they were remonstrated with they should say, Yes, certainly, those were the circumstances in March, but in November they have changed, and we are going to change the statute, the legislature would undoubtedly like to have it done, --what would you think of their reasoning? If this is a statute at all, it is a statute until God alters it. If one man has a right to say that circumstances have dispensed with one half of it, another individual has a right to say that circumstances have dispensed with it altogether. Mr. Jefferson, you know, cut out all the parts of the New Testament to whi
for an individual to kill the murderer, perhaps they have changed so much that you and I can get rid of the gallows altogether. Suppose you had made a statute for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; suppose you had passed the Maine Liquor Law, and six months afterwards the authorities in some town in the Commonwealth should refuse to execute it, should make exceptions to it, and when they were remonstrated with they should say, Yes, certainly, those were the circumstances in March, but in November they have changed, and we are going to change the statute, the legislature would undoubtedly like to have it done, --what would you think of their reasoning? If this is a statute at all, it is a statute until God alters it. If one man has a right to say that circumstances have dispensed with one half of it, another individual has a right to say that circumstances have dispensed with it altogether. Mr. Jefferson, you know, cut out all the parts of the New Testament to which he objected,
n a report made, I think, in 1843, to give up capital punishment, because it did not restrain murder. Remember, this is Attorney-General Austin,--a man not suspected of any exceeding humanity, a man who did not look at this subject from any sentimental point of view, but simply as a lawyer. Here is what he said:-- 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 s
rmed. It is proved by English history that just so fast as you take the death-penalty from a crime, the crime diminishes. Experience is all that way, and not the other. I hold that you cannot oblige us to show that taking away the gallows is better than to keep it. It is acknowledged that as regards the prevention of crime the gallows is a failure. You do not prevent crime by hanging the criminal,--it increases. Attorney-General Austin asked the legislature, in a report made, I think, in 1843, to give up capital punishment, because it did not restrain murder. Remember, this is Attorney-General Austin,--a man not suspected of any exceeding humanity, a man who did not look at this subject from any sentimental point of view, but simply as a lawyer. Here is what he said:-- 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
Capital punishment (1855) Plea before a Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature, March 16, 1855. I have not been able, Mr. Chairman, to attend any of the hearings of this Committee, and therefore I cannot be said to know accurately the ground taken by those who have supported the proposition that the gallows should be retained; but I presume I know it in general, and therefore, a general reply will not wander far from the points which the committee would like to have treated. I have always found that before the House of Representatives this subject had, in fact, but two points of difficulty, and, indeed, one was of far more importance to the committee than the other. The first point is, the authority for capital punishment; and the second, the necessity or expediency of preserving it. I will say a few words on both. In the first place, Mr. Chairman, what is the object of all punishment, in a civil community? Of course, it is not to revenge any act committed. The idea
March 16th, 1855 AD (search for this): chapter 10
Capital punishment (1855) Plea before a Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature, March 16, 1855. I have not been able, Mr. Chairman, to attend any of the hearings of this Committee, and therefore I cannot be said to know accurately the ground taken by those who have supported the proposition that the gallows should be retained; but I presume I know it in general, and therefore, a general reply will not wander far from the points which the committee would like to have treated. I have always found that before the House of Representatives this subject had, in fact, but two points of difficulty, and, indeed, one was of far more importance to the committee than the other. The first point is, the authority for capital punishment; and the second, the necessity or expediency of preserving it. I will say a few words on both. In the first place, Mr. Chairman, what is the object of all punishment, in a civil community? Of course, it is not to revenge any act committed. The idea
you cannot oblige us to show that taking away the gallows is better than to keep it. It is acknowledged that as regards the prevention of crime the gallows is a failure. You do not prevent crime by hanging the criminal,--it increases. Attorney-General Austin asked the legislature, in a report made, I think, in 1843, to give up capital punishment, because it did not restrain murder. Remember, this is Attorney-General Austin,--a man not suspected of any exceeding humanity, a man who did not lAttorney-General Austin,--a man not suspected of any exceeding humanity, a man who did not look at this subject from any sentimental point of view, but simply as a lawyer. Here is what he said:-- 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
Henry Ward Beecher (search for this): chapter 10
ce of God, of the sublimest authority in the universe (according to the upholders of capital punishment), commanding us to execute our fellow-men; and yet, in all civilized society, Mr. Chairman, the man who executes that law — the hangmanis not esteemed fit for decent society. In Spain, the man who has hung another runs out of the city in disgrace, and if he were to appear again, the mob would tear him in pieces. To call a man a hangman is the greatest insult you can cast upon him. Dr. Beecher (interrupting).--I suppose that is because he has touched sin and been polluted. Mr. Phillips.--But the mob does not pelt the clergy-. man who takes the man's hand only the moment before he is executed! [This retort excited great merriment, the audience loudly applauding.] No, Mr. Chairman, it is a very remarkable circumstance that in all time the man who did his duty in obeying this statute has been infamous. Then here is another very important fact. That statute--one line of
nferences would be drawn from it, the efforts of physicians and of men of jurisprudence have been to find out the easiest mode of taking life. The French claim that the guillotine is the easiest, and therefore they adopt it. If you can come down one step, if you can give up the rack and the wheel, impaling, tearing to death with wild horses, why cannot you come down two, and adopt imprisonment? Why cannot you come down three, and instead of putting the man in a jail, make your prisons, as Brougham recommends, moral hospitals, and educate him? Why cannot you come down four, and put him under the influence of some community of individuals who will labor to waken again the moral feelings and sympathies of his nature? Who knows how many steps you can come down? We came down one when we gave up burning at the stake; we came down another when we gave up the tearing of the body to pieces with red-hot pincers; we came down another when we gave up the torture of the wheel. You cannot t
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