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other necessaries, is no offence: for the crime imputable to this species of accessory is the hindrance of public justice, by assisting the felon to escape the vengeance of the law. To buy or receive stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, falls under none of these descriptions; it was therefore at common law a mere misdemesnor, and made not the receiver accessory to the theft, because he received the goods only, and not the felon:" but now by the statutes 5 Ann. c. 31. and 4 Geo. I. c. 11. all such receivers are made accessories (where the principal felony admits of accessories"), and may be transported for fourteen years; and in the case of receiving linen goods stolen from the bleaching-grounds, are by statute 18 Geo. II. c. 27. declared felons without benefit of clergy. In France such receivers are punished with death: and the Gothic constitutions distinguished also three sorts of thieves, “ unum qui consilium daret, alterum qui contractaret, tertium qui receptaret et occuleret ; pari pœnæ singulos obnoxios." ×

The felony must be complete at the time of the assistance given; else it makes not the assistant an accessory. As if one wounds another mortally, and after the wound given, but before death ensues, a person assists or receives the delinquent: this does not make him accessory to the homicide; for, till death ensues, there is no felony committed.y But so strict is the law where a felony is absolutely complete, in order to do effectual justice, that the nearest relations are not suffered to aid or receive one another. If the parent assists his child, or the child the parent, if the brother receives the brother, the master his servant, or the servant his master, or even if the husband relieves his wife, who have any of them committed a felony, the receivers become accessories ex post facto." But a feme-covert cannot become an accessory by the receipt and concealment of her husband; for she is presumed to act under his coërcion, and therefore she is not bound, neither ought she, to discover her lord.a

4. The last point of inquiry is, how accessories are

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to be treated, considered distinct from principals. And the general rule of the ancient law (borrowed from the Gothic constitutions") is this, that accessories shall suffer the same punishment as their principals: if one be liable to death, the other is also liable: as, by the laws of Athens, delinquents and their abettors were to receive the same punishment. Why then, it may be asked, are such elaborate distinctions made between accessories and principals, if both are to suffer the same punishment? For these reasons: 1. To distinguish the nature and denomination of crimes, that the accused may know how to defend himself when indicted: the commission of an actual robbery being quite a different accusation from that of harbouring the robber. 2. Because, though by the ancient common law the rule is as before laid down, that both shall be punished alike, yet now by the statutes relating to the benefit of clergy a distinction is made between them: accessories after the fact being still allowed the benefit of clergy in all cases, except horse-stealing and stealing of linen from bleaching-grounds: which is denied to the principals, and accessories before the fact, in many cases; as, among others, in petit treason, murder, robbery, and wilful burning. And perhaps if a distinction were constantly to be made between the punishment of principals and accessories, even before the fact, the latter to be treated with a little less severity than the former, it might prevent the perpetration of many crimes, by increasing the difficulty of finding a person to execute the deed itself; as his danger would be greater than that of his accomplices, by reason of the difference of his punishment.h 3. Because formerly no man could be tried as accessory till after the principal was convicted, or at least he must have been tried at the same time with him: though that law is now much altered, as will be shewn more fully in its proper place. 4. Because, though a man be indicted as accessory and acquitted, he may afterwards be indicted as principal: for an acquittal of receiving or counselling a felon, is no acquittal of the felony itself:

b See Stiernhook, ibid.

c 3 Inst. 188.

d Pott. Antiq. b. 1. c. 26. e Stat. 31 Eliz. c. 12.

f Stat. 18 Geo. II. c. 27

8 1 Hal. P. C. 615.

h Beccar. c. 37.

but it is matter of some doubt, whether, if a man be acquitted as principal, he can be afterwards indicted as accessory before the fact; since those offences are frequently very near allied, and therefore an acquittal of the guilt of one may be an acquittal of the other also. But it is clearly held, that one acquitted as principal may be indicted as an accessory after the fact; since that is always an offence of a different species of guilt, principally tending to evade the public justice, and is subsequent in its commencement to the other. Upon these reasons the distinction of principal and accessory will appear to be highly necessary; though the punishment is still much the same with regard to principals, and such accessories as offend before the fact is committed.



In the present chapter we are to enter upon the detail of the several species of crimes and misdemeanors, with the punishments annexed to each by the law of England. It was observed in the beginning of this book," that crimes and misdemesnors are a breach and violation of the public rights and duties, owing to the whole community, considered as a community, in its social aggregate capacity. And in the very entrance of these commentaries it was shewn, that human laws can have no concern with any but social and relative duties, being intended only to regulate the conduct of man, considered under various relations, as a member of civil society. All crimes ought therefore to be estimated merely according to the mischiefs which they produce in civil society: and, of consequence, private vices, or breach of mere absolute duties, which man is bound to perform, considered only as an individual, are not, cannot be, the object of any municipal law, any

i Hal. P. C. 625, 626. 2 Hawk. P. C. 373. Foster. 361.

a See pag. 5.
b See Vol. 1. pag. 139.
c Beccar. ch. 8.

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farther than as by their evil example, or other pernicious effects, they may prejudice the community, and thereby become a species of public crimes. Thus the vice of drunkenness, if committed privately and alone, is beyond the knowledge, and of course beyond the reach of human tribunals: but if committed publicly, in the face of the world, its evil example makes it liable to temporal censures. The vice of lying, which consists, abstractedly taken, in a criminal violation of truth, and therefore in any shape is derogatory from sound morality, is not however taken notice of by our law, unless it carries with it some public inconvenience, as spreading false news; or some social injury, as slander and malicious prosecution, for which a private recompence is given. And yet drunkenness and malevolent lying are in foro conscientiæ as thoroughly criminal when they are not, as when they are, attended with public inconvenience. The only dif ference is, that both public and private vices are subject to the vengeance of eternal justice; and public vices are besides liable to the temporal punishments of human tribunals.

On the other hand, there are some misdemesnors, which are punished by the municipal law, that have in themselves nothing criminal, but are made unlawful by the positive constitutions of the state for public convenience; such as poaching, exportation of wool, and the like. These are naturally no offences at all; but their whole criminality consists in their disobedience to the supreme power, which has an undoubted right, for the well-being and peace of the community, to make some things unlawful, which are in themselves indifferent. Upon the whole, therefore, though part of the offences to be enumerated in the following sheets are offences against the revealed law of God, others against the law of nature, and some are of fences against neither; yet in a treatise of municipal law we must consider them all as deriving their particular guilt, here punishable, from the law of man.

Having premised this caution, I shall next proceed to distribute the several offences, which are either directly or by consequence injurious to civil society, and therefore punishable by the laws of England, under the following general heads: first, those which are more immediately injurious to God and his holy religion; secondly, such as

violate and transgress the law of nations; thirdly, such as more especially affect the sovereign executive power of the state, or the king and his government; fourthly, such as more directly infringe the rights of the public or commonwealth; and, lastly, such as derogate from those rights and duties, which are owing to particular individuals, and in the preservation and vindication of which the community is deeply interested.

First, then, of such crimes and misdemesnors, as more immediately offend Almighty God, by openly transgressing the precepts of religion either natural or revealed; and mediately, by their bad example and consequence, the law of society also; which constitutes that guilt in the action, which human tribunals are to censure.

I. Of this species the first is that of apostacy, or a total renunciation of christianity, by embracing either a false religion, or no religion at all. This offence can only take place in such as have once professed the true religion. The perversion of a christian to judaism, paganism, or other false religion, was punished by the emperors Constantius and Julian with confiscation of goods; to which the emperors Theodosius and Valentinian added capital punishment, in case the apostate endeavoured to pervert others to the same iniquity. A punishment too severe for any temporal laws to inflict upon any spiritual offence: and yet the zeal of our ancestors imported it into this country; for we find by Bracton,' that in his time apostales were to be burnt to death. Doubtless the preservation of christianity, as a national religion, is, abstracted from its own intrinsic truth, of the utmost consequence to the civil state: which a single instance will sufficiently demonstrate. The belief of a future state of rewards and punishments, the entertaining just ideas of the moral attributes of the Supreme Being, and a firm persuasion that he superintends and will finally compensate every action in human life, (all which are clearly revealed in the doctrines, and forcibly inculcated by the precepts of our saviour Christ,) these are the grand foundation of all judicial oaths; which call God to witness the truth of those facts, which perhaps may be only known to him and the party attesting: all fl. 3. c. 9.

d Cod. 1.7.1.

e Ibid. 6.

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