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MURDERING BY LAW. No. II. TO THE YOUTHFUL READERS OF THE PRINCIPALITY." There is, probably, no other country in the world in which so great a variety of actions are panÜhablewith the loss of life -as in England."—SIR SAMUEL HOMILLY. DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS,—I address YOlt more immediately, though I hope others in more advanced life will peruse my letters. A large proportion of the dwellers in these isles have been nurtured up and established in the thought that it is an act of uncotn promising justice to take away the life of a man who stands guilty of shedding the blood of a fellow- creature. My mind has been pained by seeing the multi- tude manifesting such feverish anxiety to be witnesses at the barbarous scenes of legal strangulations, and more especially 'by hearing exoressions of disappointment from those who had forsaken their daily employ, and had travelled many miles with the hope of gratifying the lowest taste, in which the most ignorant—the unfeelingly callous-tlio wretchedly stupid can possibly indulge. Yes, disappointment, because her generous Majesty may feel disposed now and then to re- prieve, during her pleasure, some under sentence of death, on whose behalf a palliating plea is instituted. Let all pre- judice be dismissed out of the mind, and we will examine the pleas of those who advocate capital punishment. The first plea is founded upon some kind of feeling, which some persons would most probably call a humnne feeling They will tell us that a brutal murder has been perpe- trated, and that transgressors against nature, as well as against the positive laws of God and man, should inevitably be put to death." The earth should not be left to groan be- neath the feet of one who stands convicted of staining his hands in human gore. I admit the strength of feeling's plea, nor will I urge anything to palliate the crime of the villain who, in the midst of robberies, will shed blood to prevent identity, to save himself from immediate capture. Again, the advocates of capital punishment will take the Bible into their hands, and say, By this we are willing to abide." Never let it be said, that the advocates of a more merciful code of laws turn the Bible aside. The Mosaical law declared that the murderer shall surely die." But it should not be forgotten that the same law enjoined the death of the idolater and adulturer, the Sabbath breaker, and even the disobedient child but these offences are now committed with the utm ost impunity in our kingdom. And why? Are not all the laws of Moses equally binding ? What right have we to abandon some of those enactments, while we cleave to others with a pertinacious grasp ? Besides this, it is evident that our law departs widely from some merciful provisions in the law of Moses. I believe that the testimony of one wit- ness, with some circumstantial evidences, would be admitted as valid in our courts of law; and, if I am not mistaken, cir- cumstantial evidences are considered by our judges some- times as the most satisfactory, whereas the law of Moses insisted, on a plurality,of witnesses in all cases of transgres- sion. So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings, whoso killeth any person the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses, but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die;" Num. xxxv. 29 and, One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin in any sin that he sinneth. At the intuth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established;" Dent. xix. 15. If we put aside the law of Moses in the case of idolators, adulterers, Sabbath breakers, and disobedient children, I should like to know what right have we to maintain one of its stringent enactments while we discard others ? If the ad- vocates of capital punishment were called upon to enforce the law of Moses in all the above cases, and in every other minutiae, it would, I believe, be rather difficult sometimes to find men to throw the first stone at those who might be de- tected in those offences. We are not llnfrequently re- minded of what is called the law of nature on this subject as laid down by the Sovereign Disposer of all events in the ninth chapter of Genesis. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man." The argument for capital punishment, founded upon this law, appears at first sight to be very plausible but I ask, Is this a command to take away the life of a malefactor ? or is it not a declaration of consequences ? Is it not similar to that passage of Holy Writ found in Math. xxvi. 52, "Then said Jesus to him, Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword." If the portion quoted from Genesis be not a command to shed the blood of a mur- derer, it falls to the ground as an argument for the unnatu- ral custom of strangulation. But there is one plea again put in with a great deal of confidence by those who advocate the present state of the law. They argue that the murderer is not put to death by any spirit of revenge, nor is death awarded merely as a punishment to the wretched culprit, but as a preventative of further crime. This motive is good, and the idea is tinged with some degree of benevolence. The question now to be examined is, does the practice accomplish the design ? Is the murderous hand stayed? Alas! facts answer, no! Stubborn facts teach us continually that the only effect of capital punishment is to prevent that individual to perpe- trate a similar act. And all must admit that as an act to prevent others it is a most decided failure. Those who gloat their eyes on the hangman and his victims are most likely to be amoiagst the number that will ascend the scaffold on some future dav. The infliction of death by law is an outrage on all human feelings, and a moral stain upon our noble and philanthropic institutions. The practice took its rise in the midst of bar- barism-superstitiori-ignorance-selfishiiess-a,.id cruelty Having thus very briefly noticed the arguments for capi- tal punishment, I intend in my next letter to give a descrip- tion of some of the laws on the subject, with a few remarks on the times in which they were enacted. T Yours, &c., B. PRICE, CYMRO BACH.


(Selected for the PRINCIPALITY.)