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d to last for all time,--a command which was so imperative that all governments, in all circumstances, were to be obliged to obey it,--would He not have stated it so that its meaning might be plainly understood? Some say it means whatsoever. Dr. Kraitsir, one of the most eminent living philologists in the world, undertook to show in his lectures, only two years ago, that it only forbids cannibalism,--the eating of men; and perhaps, on a question of language, there is no single name in all Christendom that has the weight of Dr. Kraitsir at the present moment. Whosoever sheds man's blood, his blood shall be shed. That is the whole sentence; by man is an interpolation. That is the whole literal interpretation of the words; we have got to make out the rest. Some say it is a prophecy, Whosoever taketh the sword, shall perish by the sword; and so of all the different meanings. I do not go into them, because it is utterly immaterial to my argument which is the best. The simple fact
Charles Lamb (search for this): chapter 10
sed 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 throa
Rufus Choate (search for this): chapter 10
rding to this interpretation, resting on each man, to kill whoever had killed his nearest relative. You know that all through the Pentateuch you have frequent references to the old right, before government existed, of each man to kill the person who had taken the life of his nearest of kin. This command then is addressed to individuals,--it is a command to the nearest of kin to kill whoever slays his relative. If this is a command of God, it is addressed to you and to me. Suppose that Mr. Rufus Choate, or some other eminent lawyer, should procure the acquittal of a murderer, and that the brother of the person murdered should seek out and shoot down the murderer; and when he is brought before the court for sentence, suppose that he should say to the judge: Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. Every pulpit in Massachusetts interprets that as a command of God. I believe that it is a command of God addressed to individuals. God has never taken it back. It
is addressed to the whole race, represented by Noah. Suppose we waive aside our objection, and consider it as a covenant with the race, through Noah. If this is a covenant, if it is a law of God,is addressed to individuals. When God spoke to Noah, there was no government. The address was to iIt is addressed to me, then, just as much as to Noah; there is no time with the Almighty. He is speat seatence now just as much as in the time of Noah. You say the jury had acquitted the man; but wme of murder. We draw the line; in the time of Noah it was not drawn. Is this legislature ready tobe punished with death, under the covenant with Noah? If they will not, what right have they to comntire change of circumstances since the time of Noah. Indeed! But Dr. Cheever can interpolate circu, all the verses are. Here is the covenant with Noah, and this is one of the articles of that covenau that go to show this: That this covenant with Noah is one not binding on this legislature; or if i[1 more...]
Livingston (search for this): chapter 10
schools; we are a people with a high moral tone; we have a homogeneous population; it is easy to get a living here, and poverty, therefore, does not drive to crime, as in some other places,--our circumstances are all favorable to morality. We are in a better condition to try such an experiment than Michigan, far better than Belgium, Tuscany, or Russia; yet they tried it and were successful, and why will not we try it also? All the great lights of jurisprudence are on our side,--Franklin, Livingston, Rush, Lafayette, Beccaria, Grotius, -I might mention forty eminent names, all throwing their testimony against the gallows. Lafayette said, I shall demand the abolition of the penalty of death, until you show me the infallibility of human testimony. He thought it was enough to discredit the gallows, that men might be hung by mistake. There have been two or three scores of such cases in the history of jurisprudence. Now, with all this experience on our side, with the fact that we are
gh it, we can drive the abolition of the gallows through it. Then, gentlemen, as to the necessity of it. The whole current of legislation is to give it up. We have given it up in almost all cases, and we are safer than we were. No State that has abolished it has ever taken a backward step voluntarily. It was re-established in Tuscany by a foreign power, and is not executed even-there. I understand that the Grand Duke of Tuscany promised his sister never to obey the law forced upon him by Napoleon, and you see murderers walking in their parti-colored dress along the streets of Leghorn and Florence; yet Tuscany is the most moral and well-behaved country in Italy. So it is with our States. All experience points one way. The old barbarous practices have gradually given place to others more humane and merciful. Once a prisoner was not allowed to swear his witnesses; then they would not allow him counsel. Now he may swear his witnesses, and is entitled to counsel; yet the government i
Robert Rantoul (search for this): chapter 10
ause, if it is, it is a per. mission to commit suicide. You have got to upset the American idea of government before you can even exercise it as a permission. Mr. Rantoul, in one of his exceedingly able reports on this subject, fourteen years ago, placed this before the legislature in the most unanswerable light. You must argue nce of the example, for the gallows; there is no necessity for it. Experience proves that there is not. Gentlemen, I would not weary you with details; but take Rantoul's reports, and you will find my statement fully confirmed. It is proved by English history that just so fast as you take the death-penalty from a crime, the crim 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 of
is another point. If this idea of hanging men, for example, is correct, then why do you not make your executions as public as possible? Why do you not hang men at the centre of the Common? Our fathers did it. They hung their people under the great tree. They hung them for example, and of course they wished everybody to see it. They hung men upon the Neck, and crowds went out to see it. If example is the object, the sight of punishment would seem to be essential to its full effect. Why, Homer tells us, two thousand years ago, that a thing seen has double the weight of a thing heard. Everybody knows that a child will recollect what he sees ten times as well as what he hears. You know that in old times (not to make a laugh of it), in Connecticut, they used to take the children to the line of the town, and there give them a whipping, in order that they might remember the bounds of their township by that spot. Now, there are fourteen States in the Union that have made executions
o be obeyed in its full spirit, to the extent of it. Is not that proper? The opponents of capital punishment, gentlemen, are perfectly willing to obey this statute, with the gentlemen who support the gallows, if they will obey it to the letter, entirely. How long could any legislature that obeyed that command, in its full spirit, sit in any Christian country? Let us see. In the first place, you will remark that this is but a single line of Hebrew text. If you will look into our friend Spear's book, or Dr. Cheever's book, or any book on this subject, on either side, you will find that there are as many as twelve different interpretations of it. No two of the great lights of Oriental learning and the Hebrew language have been able to agree upon an interpretation. One says that it means one thing, and another, another thing; and from Calvin and Luther down to our own day, there has been no unanimous agreement among scholars as to the meaning of this sentence. Is it not rather si
He instituted cities of refuge, where the individual offender should be safe; but if he left the city, he was liable to be killed. I contend, gentlemen, that in this issue between the parties, it is we who are upholding the Old Testament, not those who defend the gallows. We say, God did not mean to prescribe a law for civil government in all time,--that was not his object; or, if he did, this was permissive merely, you may take life, if you wish to. This is my proposition, gentlemen: Grant that to be a statute; if it is a statute, interpret it like any other statute; and when you have done that, then we will say these gentlemen are sincere and consistent, if they sup. port and obey it. But until they do, we are not willing to have them interpolate as much as they choose into it, and then require us to obey it. If you will show me a man who rigidly obeys the other verses of the covenant, then I will show you a man who really supports the gallows because he thinks the sixth ver
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