« ZurückWeiter »
Bigland's Letters on French History
Blunt's sirat.ger's Guide to the City of New York
Fearon's Sketches of America
103. 199. 299 491.506.6:0
Panishment of Death in the case of Forgery; its lojustice maintained
Roby's Lectures on the Principal Evidences of Revealed Religion
100, 196, 296, 399, 504, 609
201, 316, 488
Thomson's Discourses on the Young warned against the Enticements of
FOR JANUARY, 1819.
Art. I. 1. Speech of the Marquis of Lansdowne in the House of Lords,
June 3, 1818, on moving for certain Information relative to the State of the Prisons in the United Kingdom. Published by the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline, and for the
Reformation of Juvenile Offenders. 8vo. pp. 16. price 6d. 1818. 2. Some Inquiries respecting the Punishment of Death for Crimes
without Violence. By Basil Montagu, Esq. 8vo. pp. 120. London,
1818. 3. The Punishment of Death in the Case of Forgery; its Injustice and
Impolicy maintained. 8vo. pp. 32. price ls. 1818.
the only infallible source of political prophecy, the predominent opinions of men in general between twenty and thirty, no event may with more confidence be predicted, than some speedy legislative reformation of our penal code. Such a measure has long appeared highly desirable, not simply on the ground of bumanity, but because the multiplicity of capital punishments bas of itself necessitated a partial repeal of the sanctions of our criminal law, introducing by this means an uncertainty into the administration of justice, which defeats the very intention of the legislature. The alarming increase of offences has tended to strengthen this opinion, and to awaken at the same time a suspicion as to the efficacy of penal severities in deterring from the commission of crime. * Imperfect,' remarked Dr. Colquhoun, in a work published nearly twenty years ago, 'must be either 'the plan, or the execution, or both, of our criminal code, if crimes are found to increase.' Crimes have increased, and those crimes especially have increased, upon which the laws denounce the punishment of death. At the same time, it has been found impracticable to push further the system of severity. The relaxation of the laws bas accordingly almost kept pace with the multiplication of offences. Punishment has become VOL. XI. N. S.
more uncertain, in proportion as the laws bave grown more severe, or as the field for the application of their severity has extended. The example made of the sufferer is, under these circumstances, deprived of its beneficial influence, inasmuch as the crime which is the ground of his sentence, is not the real cuuse of bis suffering that sentence. Those selected for execution, at the discretion of the judge, endure the penalty, not because they are condemned to die, but because they are excluded from the general respite. The magistracy has, in fact, been thie great innovator: in this extensive exercise of its discretional powers, it has anticipated those changes to which it has now become the business of the legislature to give permanence. It is the judges of our criminal courts wbo are chargeable with beginning the desired reform; they have made the rule the exception, and the exception has become the rule.* Nor does there exist any disapprobation of this systematic lenity. Among all the expedients devised for checking the progress of delinquency, no individual has been found hardy enough to propose the remedying of the discrepancy between the law and the practice, by making the punishment of death even generally consequent upon the sentence. But still, this discrepancy is felt to be an evil; and if the practice cannot be brought nearer to the standard of the law, it is natural to inquire whether the law might not without danger be reconciled with the practice. A very high judicial authority (Sir W. Grant) has argued, that as they cannot both be right, the question is,
which is wrong, and where the remedy is to be applied.' Now I think,' added that learned and highly respected individual, on the occasion alluded to, the pructice is right.' The public at large seem now prepared very generally to second this decision. The conduct of a recent London Jury, though attributable, in great measure, to dissatisfaction with the nature of the evidence before them, has spoken pretty loudly the prevailing reluctance to place the life of an offender at the discretion of a judge. In fact, the question is now before the country, and it becomes the indispensable duty of the great
* Sir Samuel Romilly stated before the House of Commons, that out of 1872 committed to Newgate within the seven years preceding 1810, charged with the capital offence of stealing in dwelling houses and shop-lifting, only one was executed. Again : it was stated on the 25th March, 1818, that during the preceding twelve years, 655 persons had been indicted for privately stealing, of which number 113 had been capitally convicted, and of those 113 not one had been executed ; 365 of the 655 had been found guilty of simple larceny only; that is to say, 365 persons had either been improperly charged with a capital offence, or were acquitted of the capital part of the charge, by the juries, in violation of their oaths.