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natural and religious means of strengthening his conviction, to impress upon his mind such a sense of the divine presence, as may overpower the blandishments of secular delights, and enable him to advance from one degree of holiness to another, till death shall set him free from doubt and contest, misery and temptation.

What better can we do than prostrate falll

Before him reverent; and there confess

Humbly our faults, and pardon beg, with tears
Wat'ring the ground, and with our sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeign'd and humiliation meek?

No. 114. SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 1751,


Nulla unquam de morte hominis cunctatio longa est.

-When man's life is in debate,


The judge can ne'er too long deliberate.-DRYDEN.

OWER and superiority are so flattering and delightful, that, fraught with temptation and exposed to danger as they are, scarcely any virtue is so cautious,

or any prudence so timorous, as to decline them.3 Even those that have most reverence for the laws

1 " What better can we do than to the place

Repairing where he judg'd us, prostrate fall," etc.

2 Juvenal, Satires, vi. 220.

-Paradise Lost, x. 1087.

3 "There are few minds," wrote Johnson, "to which tyranny is not delightful; power is nothing but as it is felt, and the delight of superiority is proportionate to the resistance overcome."-Piozzi Letters, ii. 67.

of right, are pleased with shewing that not fear, but choice, regulates their behaviour; and would be thought to comply, rather than obey. We love to overlook the boundaries which we do not wish to pass; and, as the Roman satirist remarks, he that has no design to take the life of another, is yet glad to have it in his hands.1

From the same principle, tending yet more to degeneracy and corruption, proceeds the desire of investing lawful authority with terror, and governing by force rather than persuasion. Pride is unwilling to believe the necessity of assigning any other reason than her own will; and would rather maintain the most equitable claims by violence and penalties, than descend from the dignity of command to dispute and expostulation.

It may, I think, be suspected, that this political arrogance has sometimes found its way into legislative assemblies, and mingled with deliberations upon property and life. A slight perusal of the laws by which the measures of vindictive and coercive justice are established, will discover so `many disproportions between crimes and punishments, such capricious distinctions of guilt, and such confusion of remissness and severity, as can scarcely be believed to have been produced by public wisdom, sincerely and calmly studious of public happiness.


"Et qui nolunt occidere quemquam
Posse volunt."-Juvenal, Satires, x. 96.
"All wish the dire prerogative to kill ;

Even they would have the power who want the will."


The learned, the judicious, the pious Boerhaave relates, that he never saw a criminal dragged to execution without asking himself, "Who knows "whether this man is not less culpable than me? "1 On the days when the prisons of this city are emptied into the grave,2 let every spectator of the dreadful procession put the same question to his own heart. Few among those that crowd in thousands to the legal massacre, and look with carelessness, perhaps with triumph, on the utmost exacerbations of human misery, would then be able to return without horror and dejection. For, who can congratulate himself upon a life passed without some act more mischievous to the peace or prosperity of others, than the theft of a piece of money?

It has been always the practice, when any particular species of robbery becomes prevalent and common, to endeavour its suppression by capital denunciations. Thus one generation of

1 Johnson thus recounts this anecdote in his Life of Boerhaave:-"When he heard of a criminal condemned to die he used to think, 'Who can tell whether this man is not better than I; or, if I am better, it is not to be ascribed to myself, but to the goodness of God?'"-Johnson's Works vi. 291. Romilly, writing in the year 1783, says: "The laws of our country may indeed be said to be written in blood; and we may almost apply to ourselves the words of Montaigne, 'Il n'est si homme de bien qu'il mette à l'examen des loix toutes ses actions et pensées, qui ne soit pendable dix fois en sa vie."-Life of Romilly, ed. 1840, 1. 279.

2 Fielding, in his Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers, published in 1752, describes how "many cart-loads of our fellow-creatures are once in six weeks carried to slaughter."-Fielding's Works, ed. 1806, x. 467.

malefactors is commonly cut off, and their successors are frighted into new expedients; the art of thievery is augmented with greater variety of fraud, and subtilized to higher degrees of dexterity, and more occult methods of conveyance. The law then renews the pursuit in the heat of anger, and overtakes the offender again with death. By this practice, capital inflictions are multiplied, and crimes, very different in their degrees of enormity, are equally subjected to the severest punishment that man has the power of exercising upon man.

The lawgiver is undoubtedly allowed to estimate the malignity of an offence, not merely by the loss or pain which single acts may produce, but by the general alarm and anxiety arising from the fear of mischief, and insecurity of possession: he therefore exercises the right which societies are supposed to have over the lives of those that compose them, not simply to punish a transgression, but to maintain order, and preserve quiet; he enforces those laws with severity that are most in danger of violation, as the commander of a garrison doubles the guard on that side which is threatened by the enemy.

This method has been long tried, but tried with so little success, that rapine and violence are hourly increasing, yet few seem willing to despair of its efficacy, and of those who employ their

1 Romilly sixty-seven years later brought in a Bill to repeal the Act of William III., which punished shop lifting with death. "I noticed," he says, "the bad effects produced by frequent executions, particularly in the case of forgery.

speculations upon the present corruption of the people, some propose the introduction of more horrid, lingering, and terrific punishments: some are inclined to accelerate the executions; some to discourage pardons ; 1 and all seem to think that For that crime the sentence was seldom remitted; and yet, under this excessive severity, the crime was rapidly increasing. A week ago two women were hanged in London for forgery; and on this day [Feb. 25, 1818] two boys were to have been executed for the same crime, and were saved by a discovery made only two days ago that they had been employed to commit the offence by a villain, who afterwards gave information against them, and caused them to be apprehended."-Life of Romilly, iii. 332.


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1 "Here therefore I beg to direct myself only to those persons who are within the reach of His Majesty's sacred I hope too much good nature will transport no nobleman so far as it once did a clergyman in Scotland, who, in the fervour of his benevolence, prayed to God that he would graciously be pleased to pardon the poor devil. To speak out fairly and honestly, though mercy may appear more amiable in a magistrate, severity is a more wholesome virtue. . . The danger and certainty of destruction are very different objects, and strike the mind with different degrees of force. It is of the very nature of hope to be sanguine, and it will derive more encouragement from one pardon than diffidence from twenty executions. . . . The execution should be as soon as possible after the commission and conviction of the crime; for if this be of an atrocious kind, the resentment of mankind being warm would pursue the criminal to his last end, and all pity for the offender would be lost in detestation of the offence. Suppose then that the court at the Old Bailey was at the end of the trials to be adjourned during four days; that against the adjournment day a gallows was erected in the area before the court; that the criminals were all brought down on that day to receive sentence; and that this was executed the very moment after it was pronounced in the sight and presence of the judges."-Fielding's Works, x. 458, 465.

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