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found in common minus the gradations of iniquity, and incite to the commission of a greater crime to prevent the detection of a less. If only murder were punished with dcath, very few robbers would stain their hands in blood ; but when by this last act of cruelty no new danger is incurrel, and greater security may be obtained, upon what principle shall we bid them forbear*?"
It may be objected by those narrow-minded politicians, who violently oppose every attempt at public improvement, how disinterested soever it may be, and to whom the very name of reform implies something subversive of government and state; -by these, I say, it may be objected as altogether vain and useless, to endeavour to effect any alteration in our penal laws, which having been welded together by time, are (they will add) so tightly riveted in the British constitution, as to defy our strongest efforts to repeal. But with the glorious example of the abolition of the Slave Trade before our eyes, which will arm us with perseverance, and prevent us from falling into despair through the failure of first attempts, we shall surely despise as futile and unimpressive such reasoning as this, which resists all innovation as dangerous to the community, and represents every attempt at iinprovement as ineffectual to answer the desired ends. It may be well for these persons to reflect, that had it not been for a glorious Reformation, the enlightened sons of Albion might have remained even to this day involved in darkness and superstilion, while the iron sceptre of papal supremacy had been triumphantly swayed over a prostrate land. May improvement in la:ws and manners uniformly keep pace with enlargement of mind, and extension of knowledge! And how cautious soever we may be of unnecessary innovation, let us never adhere to customs which we may deem improper, merely because they are old. Other opposers will probably arise, who, while they can but admire the purity of the motives, and the beauty of the plans for effecting the reformation in question, will nevertheless be ready to deride them as perfectly irreducible to practice, and will assert that we are endeavouring to moralize mankind by building castles in the air which can never be realized.
To such as these we can triumphantly reply, that we are not building upon a sandy foundation, that we are not atteinpting to raise a superstructure upon the flimsy basis of theoretical speculation ; since the ex; e:iment has been fairly and fully tried, and attended with the happiest effects. That there is
now in existence in the state of Pennsylvania a system of jurisprue'ence worthy the imitation and adoption of the whole world ; in which fine, imprisonment, and hard labour are substituted for death in the punishment of crimes ; and where there is but one capital offence, which is for premeditated murder. To conclude : from what has been premised, I sincerely hope that such benevolent persons as possess a due regard for the rights of humanity will not withhold their assistance from :ie present cause; the object of which is, to proportion punishant to off nces*; to make such an example of offenders as is Pihely to deter others from commitiing similar injuries, aid thereby to prevent the frequency of crimes; and lastly, in& ad of hurrying headlong to destruction, by the punishment of the giliows, those depraved beings who are the objects of correction, to give them an opportunity, by solitary confinement, 66 to turn from their evil
and live. Brighton.
Remarks on a late Execution at Shrewsbury,
As one object of The PHILANTHROPIST is to diffuse knowledge
respecting capital punishment, it nay, perhaps, afford a place for the following particulars.
At the last Shrewsbury assizes, George Taylor, aged 43, William Turner, aged 33, Abraham Whitehouse, aged 23, James Baker, aged 19, and Isäac Bichman, aged 19, were, convicted of burglariously breaking into a dwelling-house, and stealing some bunk notes and other articles of value. They were all left for death. The three first were considered as old offenders. The two others, however, were understood to have borne a good character; their parents were said to be respectable ; the otixe, as far as appeared, was the first they had committed ; and they were only nineteen. A general persuaşion therefore prevailed, that these unfortunate youths would
As punishment should be ever proportioned to crimes, so the highest punishment die 1o the highest crime should not be intlicted for a minor offence. If the death of the murderer be the highest penalty he can pay for the murder he has committed, then the infliction of this punishment for any minor off:nce is injustice and cruelty; and serves only to confound the claims of justice, the difierent degrees of moral turpitude and vice, and to render the prolligate desperate."'. Dr. Adam Clark's note on Genesis, ch. ix. ver. 6.
be permitted to live. Under this impression, it seems, some kind-hearted person, a stranger to them, climbed to the top of the wall overlooking the press yard behind the Shire-ball, where the prisoners were waiting on the day of their condemnation, and cried out, “ You are all condemned, but only three of you will suffer.” The poor young fellows eagerly embraced the assurance. They knew how often mercy was extended to persons under sentence of death, and could not sup
they should be selected as tit objects of peculiar severity. While they were comforting themselves in confinement with the daily hope of a reprieve, the time appointed for the execution drew near. Two days before that time, one of them received a message from his mother, intended to console hiin under the expectation of a miserable death, that she would send to fetch away his body! Not till then, had they given themselves up for lost. But from that moment all hope was over. From that moment they had but two days,-two days of consternation and despair,-to fit themselves for death and eternity. Those two days, the shortest they had ever known, were but too soon gone. The morning of execution came. On that day, the tive prisoners, even the two lads of nineteen, were all hanged! The two poor fellows who were executed together, immediately as the drop fell from under them, caught hold of each other's hands, and expired in a mutual embrace! What a feeling has pervaded the county, among all who could feel, hardly need be described.
The extraordinary circumstance of five men being executed at once, for one offence, attracted vast multitudes of people, of the lower order, from all parts of the country. To see five of their fellow creatures hanged, was as good as a horse-race, a boxing-match, or a bull-baiting: If nothing was intended but to amuse the rabble, at a great loss of their time and a considerable expense, the design was undoubtedly effected. If a public entertainment was not the object, it may be asked, What benefit has a single individual derived from bebolding the destruction of these miserable victims? Perhaps that question may be answered by stating, that many of the spectators immediately afterwards got intoxicated, and some cried out to their companions, with a significant gesture in allusion to the mode of punishment, “ It is but a ten minutes job!” If such is the sentiment excited on the very spot, it cannot be supposed to be more salutary at a distance; and not withstanding ihe sacrifice of these five men, the people of Shropshire must still fasten their doors.
308 Confession of John Brien executed for Nurder in Ireland.
But if, on the other hand, in time to come, a compassionate Shropshire jury should rather acquit some unhappy young culprit, when charged with a capital felony, and suffer hinu to go unpunished, rather than cousign him to the executioner, -if house-breakers should learn to think lightly of human life, and adopt the precaution of committing a murder tlie next time they commit a robbery, since the danger of detection would be less, and the punishment no greater, --what will the inhabitants of the county have to thank for it, but this very Bpectacle !--a spectacle which cannot soften one heart, but may harden many; which confounds moral distinctions, and draws away public indignation from the guilt of the offender, to turn it against the severity of the law.
Confession of John Brien executed for Murder in Ireland.
From the Clonmel Advertiser, it appears that John Brien, alias Captain Wheeler, was found guilty of murder at the late asizes for the county of Waterford. Previous to his execution he made the following confession :
“ I now again most solemnly aver, in the presence of that God by whom I will soon be judged, and who sexs the secrets of my heart, that only three, viz. Morgan Brien, Patrick Brien, and my unfortunate self, committed the horrible crimes of murder and burning at Ballygarron, and that the four une fortunate inen who have before suffered for them, were not in the smallest degree accessary to them. I have been the cause for which they have innocently suffered death. I have con tracted a debt of justice with them and the only and least restitution I can make them is thus publicly, solemnly, and with death before my eyes, to acquit their memory of any guilt in the crimes for which I shall deservedly sufler!!!”
No comment is needed.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS TO CORRESPONDENTS. Several interesting topics suggested by our Correspondents, could not be brought forward in the present Number, but we purpose to advert to them soon.
Persecution of Infidelity.
So far am I from being afraid of exposing christianity, by “ submitting it to the test of reason ; so far am I from judging .this a trial, wbich it is by no means fitted to endure, that I “think, on the contrary, the most violent attacks that have been " made upon the faith of Jesus, have been of service to it. Yes: “ I do not hesitate to affirm, that our religion hath been indebted "to the attempts, though not to the intentions, of its bitterest “ enemies. They have tried its strength indeed, and, by trying, “they have displayed its strength ; and that in so elear a light, “as we could never have hoped, without such a trial, to have “ viewed it in. Let them therefore write, let them argue ; and “ when arguments fail, even let them cavil against religion as “much as they please : I should be heartily sorry, that ever in “ this island, the asylum of liberty, where the spirit of christi“anity is better understood (however defective the inhabitants “ are in the observance of its precepts) than in any other part of " the Christian world ; I should, I say, be sorry, that in this “ island so great a disservice were done to religion, as to check “ its adversaries, in any other way, than by returning a candid " answer to their objections. I must at the same time acknow“ ledge, that I am both ashamed and grieved, when I observe “any friends of religion betray so great a diffidence in the good
ness of their cause (for to this diffidence it can only be im* puted) as to show an inclination for recurring to more forcible " methods *.”
Thus wrote the most celebrated and successful defender of christianity against the most acute, as well as the most insidious and insinuating, and hence the most formidable enemy, perhaps, that christianity ever had. That the sentiments, here so nobly delivered, are truly evangelical, truly christian, as well as
* Campbell's Dissertation on Miracles; (containing an examination of the principles advanced by D. Hune, Esq. in an Essay on Miracles), conclusion, VOL, II.