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me that I have been abetting an act of frightful wickedness and violence, performed by a set of men against one of their fellows; and I pray God that it may soon be out of the power of any man in England to witness such a hideous and degrading sight. Forty thousand persons (say the Sheriffs), of all ranks and degrees, — mechanics, gentlemen, pickpockets, members of both Houses of Parliament, street-walkers, newspaper-writers, gather together before Newgate at a very early hour; the most part of them give up their natural quiet night's rest, in order to partake of this hideous debauchery, which is more exciting than sleep, or than wine, or the last new ballet, or any other amusement they can have. Pickpocket and Peer each is tickled by the sight alike, and has that hidden lust after blood which influences our race. Government, a Christian government, gives us a ast every now and then : it agrees that is to say, a majority in the two Houses agrees — that for certain crimes it is necessary that a man should be hanged by the neck. Government commits the criminal's soul to the mercy of God, stating that here on earth he is to look for no mercy ; keeps him for a fortnight to prepare, provides him with a clergyman to settle his religious matters (if there be time enough, but Government can't wait); and on a Monday morning, the bell tolling, the clergy man reading out the word of God, “ I am the resurrection and the life,” “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," — on a Monday morning, at eight o'clock, this man is placed under a beam, with a rope connecting it and him; a plank disappears from under him, and those who have paid for good places may see the hands of the Government agent, Jack Ketch, coming up from his black hole, and seizing the prisoner's legs, and pulling them, until he is quite dead — strangled.
Many persons, and well-informed newspapers, say that it is mawkish sentiment to talk in this way, morbid humanity, cheap philanthropy, that any man can get up and preach about. There is the Observer, for instance, a paper conspicuous for the tremendous sarcasm which distinguishes its articles, and which falls cruelly foul of the Morning Herald. “Courvoisier is dead," says the Observer ; "he died as he had lived — a villain ; a lie was in his mouth. Peace be to his ashes. We war not with the dead.” What a magnanimous Observer! From this, Observer turns to the lIerald, and says, “ Fiat justitia ruat cælum.” So much for the Herald.
We quote from memory, and the quotation from the Observer possibly is, - De mortuis nil nisi bonum ; or, Omne ignotum pro magnifico; or, Sero nunquam est ad bonos mores via ; or, Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes emollit mores nec sinit esse feros : all of which pithy Roman apophthegms would apply just as well.
“ Peace be to his ashes. He died a villain,” This is both benevolence and reason. Did he die a villain? The Observer does not want to destroy him body and soul, evidently, from that pious wish that his ashes should be at peace. Is the next Monday but one after the sentence the time necessary for a villain to repent in? May a man not require more leisure a week more
six months more before he has been able to make his repentance sure before Him who died for us all ? for all, be it remembered, not alone for the judge and jury, or for the sheriffs, or for the executioner who is pulling down the legs of the prisoner, but for him, too, murderer and criminal as he is, whom we are killing for his crime. Do we want to kill him body and soul ? Heaven forbid! My lord in the black cap specially prays that heaven may have mercy on him; but he must be ready by Monday morning.
Look at the documents which came from the prison of this unhappy Courvoisier during the few days which passed between his trial and execution. Were ever letters more painful to read ? At first, his statements are false, contradictory, lying. He has not repented then. His last declaration seems to be honest, as far as the relation of the crime goes. But read the rest of his statement, the account of his personal history, and the crimes which he committed in his young days, – then “how the evil thought caine to him to put his hand to the work,” — it is evidently the writing of a mad, distracted man. The horrid gallows is perpetually before him; he is wild with dread and remorse. Clergymen are with him ceaselessly; religious tracts are forced into his hands; night and day they ply him with the heinousness of his crime, and exhortations to repentance. Read through that last paper of his; by heaven, it is pitiful to read it. See the Scripture phrases brought in now and anon; the peculiar terms of tract-phraseology (I do not wish to speak of these often meritorious publications with disrespect); one knows too well how such language is
learned, - imitated from the priest at the bedside, eagerly seized and appropriated, and confounded by the poor prisoner.
But murder is such a monstrous crime (this is the great argument), when a man has killed another it is natural that he should be killed. Away with your foolish sentimentalists who say no — it is natural. That is the word, and a fine philosophical opinion it is - philosophical and Christian. Kill a man, and you must be killed in turn; that is the unavoidable sequitur. You may talk to a man for a year upon the subject, and he will always reply to you, “It is natural, and therefore it must be done. Blood demands blood."
Does it? The system of compensations might be carried on ad infinitum, - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as by the old Mosaic law. But (putting the fact out of the question, that we have had this statute repealed by the Highest Authority), why, because you lose your eye, is that of your opponent to be extracted likewise ? Where is the reason for the practice? And yet it is just as natural as the death dictum, founded precisely upon the same show of
Knowing, however, that revenge is not only evil, but useless, we have given it up on all minor points. Only to the last we stick firm, contrary though it be to reason and to Christian law.
There is some talk, too, of the terror which the sight of this spectacle inspires, and of this we have endeavored to give as good a notion as we can in the above pages. I fully confess that I came away down Snow Hill that morning with a disgust for murder, but it was for the murder I saw done. As we made our way through the immense crowd, we came upon two little girls of eleven and twelve years : one of them was crying bitterly, and begged, for heaven's sake, that some one would lead her from that horrid place. This was done, and the children were carried into a place of safety. We asked the elder girl - and a very pretty one — what brought her into such a neighborhood ? The child grinned knowingly, and said, “We've koom to see the mon hanged !” Tender law, that brings out babes upon such errands, and provides them with such gratifying moral spectacles !
This is the 20th of July, and I may be permitted for my part to declare that, for the last fourteen days, so salutary has the impression of the butchery been upon me, I have had the man's face continually before my eyes; that I can see Mr. Ketch at this moment, with an easy air, taking the rope from his pocket; that I feel myself ashamed and degraded at the brutal curiosity which took me to that brutal sight; and that I pray to Almighty God to cause this disgraceful sin to pass from among us, and to cleanse our land of blood.