« EdellinenJatka »
by exercising, upon their non-observance, severities adequate to the evil. The lawfulness therefore of punishing such criminals is founded upon this principle, that the law by which they suffer was made by their own consent; it is a part of the original contract into which they entered, when first they engaged in society; it was cal culated for, and has long contributed to, their own security.
This right therefore, being thus conferred by universal consent, gives to the state exactly the same power, and no more, over all its members, as each individual member had naturally over himself or others. Which has occasioned some to doubt, how far a human legislature ought to inflict capital punishments for positive offences; offences against the municipal law only, and not against the law of nature since no individual has, naturally, a power of inflicting death upon himself or others for actions in themselves indifferent. With regard to offences mala in se, capital punishments are in some instances inflicted by the immediate command of God himself to all mankind'; as in the case of murder, by the precept delivered to Noah, their common ancestor and representative," whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." In other instances they are inflicted after the example of the Creator, in his positive code of laws for the regulation of the Jewish republic; as in the case of the crime against nature. But they are sometimes inflicted without such express warrant or example, at the will and discretion of the human legislature; as for forgery, for theft, and some. times for offences of a lighter kind. Of these we are principally to speak; as these crimes are, none of them, offences against natural, but only against social rights; not even theft itself, unless it be accompanied with violence to one's house or person: all others being an infringement of that right of property, which, as we have formerly seen, owes its origin not to the law of nature, but merely to civil society. (2)
The practice of inflicting capital punishments, for of fences of human institution, is thus justified by that great m Book II. c. 1.
1 Gen. ix. 6.
(2) See Vol. II. p. 10. n. 2.
and good man, sir Matthew Hale: " "when offences grow enormous, frequent, and dangerous to a kingdom or state, destructive or highly pernicious to civil societies, and to the great insecurity and danger of the kingdom or its inhabitants, severe punishment and even death itself is necessary to be annexed to laws in many cases by the prudence of lawgivers." It is therefore the enormity, or dangerous tendency, of the crime that alone can warrant. any earthly legislature in putting him to death that commits it. It is not its frequency only, or the difficulty of otherwise preventing it, that will excuse our attempting to prevent it by a wanton effusion of human blood. For, though the end of punishment is to deter men from of fending, it never can follow from thence, that it is lawful to deter them at any rate and by any means; since there may be unlawful methods of enforcing obedience even to the justest laws. Every humane legislator will be therefore extremely cautious of establishing laws that inflict the penalty of death, especially for slight offences, or such as are merely positive. He will expect a better reason for his so doing, than that loose one which generally is given; that it is found by former experience, that no lighter penalty will be effectual. For is it found, upon farther experience, that capital punishments are more ef fectual? Was the vast territory of all the Russias worse regulated under the late empress Elizabeth, than under her more sanguinary predecessors ? Is it now, under Catherine II. less civilized, less social, less secure? And yet we are assured, that neither of these illustrious princesses have, throughout their whole administration, inflicted the penalty of death: and the latter has, upon full persuasion of its being useless, nay even pernicious, given orders for abolishing it entirely throughout her extensive dominions. But indeed, were capital punishments proved by experience to be a sure and effectual remedy, that would not prove the necessity (upon which the justice and propriety depend) of inflicting them upon all occasions when other expedients fail. I fear this reasoning would extend a great deal too far. For instance, the damage done to our public roads by loaded waggons is universally
n 1 Hal. P. C. 13.
• Grand instructions for framVOL. IV.-PART I.
ing a new code of laws for the Russian empire, § 210.
allowed, and many laws have been made to prevent it; none of which have hitherto proved effectual. But it does not therefore follow that it would be just for the legislature to inflict death upon every obstinate carrier, who defeats or eludes the provision of former statutes. Where the evil to be prevented is not adequate to the violence of the preventive, a sovereign that thinks seriously can never justify such a law to the dictates of conscience and humanity. To shed the blood of our fellow-creature is a matter that requires the greatest deliberation and the fullest conviction of our own authority: for life is the immediate gift of God to man; which neither he can resigu, nor can it be taken from him, unless by the command or permission of him who gave it; either expressly revealed, or collected from the laws of nature or society by clear and indisputable demonstration.
I would not be understood to deny the right of the legislature in any country to enforce its own laws by the death of the transgressor, though persons of some abilities have doubted it; but only to suggest a few hints for the consideration of such as are, or may hereafter become, legislators. When a question arises, whether death may be lawfully inflicted for this or that transgression, the wis dom of the laws must decide it; and to this public judgment or decision all private judgments must submit; else there is an end of the first principle of all society and government. The guilt of blood, if any, must lie at their doors, who misinterpret the extent of their warrant; and not at the doors of the subject, who is bound to receive the interpretations that are given by the sovereign power.
2. As to the end or final cause of human punishments. This is not by way of atonement or expiation for the crime committed; for that must be left to the just determination of the Supreme Being: but as a precaution against future offences of the same kind. This is effected three ways: either by the amendment of the offender himself; for which purpose all corporal punishments, fines, and temporary exile or imprisonment are inflicted: or, by deterring others by the dread of his example from offending in the like way, "ut pana (as Tully expresses it) ad paucos, metus ad omnes, perveniat ;" which gives rise to all igno
P pro Cluentio. 46.
minious punishments, and to such executions of justice as are open and public: or lastly, by depriving the party injuring of the power to do future mischief; which is effected by either putting him to death, or condemning him to perpetual confinement, slavery, or exile. The same one end, of preventing future crimes, is endeavoured to be answered by each of these three species of punishment. The public gains equal security, whether the offender himself be amended by wholesome correction, or whether he be disabled from doing any farther harm: and if the penalty fails of both these effects, as it may do, still the terror of his example remains as a warning to other citizens. The method however of inflicting punishment ought always to be proportioned to the particular purpose it is meant to serve, and by no means to exceed it: therefore the pains of death, and perpetual disability by exile, slavery, or imprisonment, ought never to be inflicted, but when the offender appears incorrigible: which may be collected either from a repetition of minuter offences; or from the perpetration of some one crime of deep malignity, which of itself demonstrates a disposition without hope or probability of amendment: and in such cases it would be cruelty to the public to defer the punishment of such a criminal, till he had an opportunity of repeating perhaps the worst of villanies.
3. As to the measure of human punishments. From what has been observed in the former articles we may collect, that the quantity of punishment can never be absolutely determined by any standing invariable rule; but it must be left to the arbitration of the legislature to inflict such penalties as are warranted by the laws of nature and society, and such as appear to be the best calculated to answer the end of precaution against future offences.
Hence it will be evident, that what some have so highly extolled for its equity, the lex talionis, or law of retaliation, can never be in all cases an adequate or permanent rule of punishment. In some cases indeed it seems to be dictated by natural reason; as the case of conspiracies to do an injury, or false accusations of the innocent: to which we may add that law of the Jews and Egyptians, mentioned by Josephus and Diodorus Siculus, that whoever without sufficient cause was found with any mortal poison in his custody, should
himself be obliged to take it. But, in general, the difference of persons, place, time, provocation, or other circumstances, may enhance or mitigate the offence; and in such cases retaliation can never be a proper measure of justice. If a nobleman strikes a peasant, all mankind will see, that if a court of justice awards a return of the blow, it is more than a just compensation. On the other hand, retaliation may, sometimes, be too easy a sentence; as, if a man maliciously should put out the remaining eye of him who had lost one before, it is too slight a punishment for the maimer to lose only one of his and therefore the law of the Locrians, which demanded an eye for an eye, was in this instance judiciously altered by decreeing, in imitation of Solon's laws, that he who struck out the eye of a oneeyed man, should lose both his own in return. Besides, there are very many crimes, that will in no shape admit of these penalties, without manifest absurdity and wickedness. Theft cannot be punished by theft, defamation by defamation, forgery by forgery, adultery by adultery, and the like. And we may add, that those instances, wherein retaliation appears to be used, even by the divine authority, do not really proceed upon the rule of exact retribution, by doing to the criminal the same hurt he has done to his neighbour and no more; but this correspondence between the crime and punishment is barely a consequence from some other principle. Death is ordered to be punished with death; not because one is equivalent to the other, for that would be expiation, and not punishment. Nor is death always an equivalent for death: the execution of a needy decrepid assassin is a poor satisfaction for the murder of a nobleman in the bloom of his youth, and full enjoyment of his friends, his honours, and his fortune. But the reason upon which this sentence is grounded seems to be, that this is the highest penalty that man can inflict, and tends most to the security of mankind; by removing one murderer from the earth, and setting a dreadful example to deter others: so that even this grand instance proceeds upon other principles than those of retaliation. And truly, if any measure of punishment is to be taken from the damage sustained by the sufferer, the punishment ought rather to exceed than equal the injury: since it seems con
q Pott. Ant. b. 1. c. 26.