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God. Let him be instructed tenderly, but faithfully, that he is the victim, not so much of the law he has broken, as of the crimes he has committed; that though to sincere repentance the gospel promises forgiveness, yet he owes to the community he has injured, and to his country, whose justice he has provoked, the example of that penitence; that if, in the mercy of God, the joy of salvation is reserved for him, its triumphs are to begin in heaven, and not on earth. In fine, he should remember, that it becomes him to die, not as a martyr in a glorious cause, but with the meekness and humiliation of a malefactor; not exulting in the anticipations of glory, but humbly supplicating, while he is encouraged to hope for pardon.
The exhibition of religious ceremony, which was witnessed at a late execution in this city, must have been sufficient, if, as we believe, it has been correctly reported, to satisfy every reflecting mind of the worse than uselessness of such performances. Whatever respect or indulgence is due (and, to any reasonable extent, who would not cheerfully yield them?) to the opinions and rites of any church, or to the feelings of any class of Christians, they should in no instance interfere with the salutary influences, which public justice contemplates in this last solemn exercise of its power., Nor is it reasonable, that the executive officers of the law, who must preside at these sad spectacles, should find superadded to the burden of their painful, but indispensable duties, the perplexity of forbidding or of enduring a parade of ceremonies not less unprofitable to the unhappy victim, than to those who from necessity or choice are the witnesses of his fate.
We have already too far exceeded the limits we proposed, to leave us room for some reflections, which the facts we have exhibited obviously suggest, both on the influence of public executions, and the efficacy of the punishment of death in deterring others from crime. We are not ignorant of the practical difficulties attending the great subject of capital punishments, or that there are those who even question the right of any earthly tribunal to inflict them. We therefore approach it with caution and diffidence, aware of the diversities of judgment respecting it among enlightened and philanthropic minds, whose professional experience and observation entitle their opinions to high regard. We pre
sume, that no one among ourselves at this day, will be disposed to vindicate the sanguinary code of England, written, though it is not executed, in blood; and suited by its theory to convey to a stranger the most unjust ideas of the character of the people.* Happily, in this country we have no such laws. The punishment of death is limited to very few of fences; and in this Commonwealth to six. The question of the total abolition of it is occupying the attention of our Legislatures, as it has long the speculations of humane and enlightened individuals. Whether there be not crimes, as murder, for which no other punishment is adequate, or minds at once profligate and superstitious, whom no other fear will move; whether the security of society, therefore, does not require such a sanction; or whether, in fine, the apparently milder system of imprisonment and labor for life, with despair of pardon, may safely be substituted in its place, — these questions, with others connected with them, of great practical moment, as we are not called to determine, we cheerfully leave to the judgment and mercy of those who are.
At the moment that the last paragraphs of this article are passing the press, we learn, that a Report on Capital Punishment is already before the Legislature of this Commonwealth, prepared by a Committee of the House of Representatives, appointed at a former session for this object. We have been favored with a copy of this judicious and interesting document, in which the Committee take into special consideration the penal code of the Commonwealth, 'in cases where the punishment of death may be inflicted.' And having adverted to some general principles, from which a
* A traveller from the Continent, while in London, having been invited on a certain morning to witness the execution of eleven criminals at Newgate, all of whom were to suffer for offences committed without violence, asked, if it were really true, that such a number of persons were to be thus put to death. And on being assured that it was indeed so, 'Then,' said he, 'the English people are the most barbarous of all the civilized nations of the world.'
†These are murder, treason, rape, arson, with burglary, and robbery on the highway, when the offender uses a deadly weapon.
The gentlemen composing this Committee are, Hon. William Sullivan, Robert Rantoul, Thomas Kendall, Oliver Holden, and John B. Davis, Esqrs.
judgment on this important subject may be formed, and briefly stated the arguments, both of those who maintain and of those who deny the political right of putting men to death for crime'; having also presented it as their deliberate opinion, that it would tend to save life, if no law demanded life, when no life was taken; and that the law should never consign any one to public execution for the destruction of property,' unless it involved also the destruction of life, they present the result of their views in three distinct propositions, which are embodied in separate bills, recommending either the total abolition of the punishment of death, or the limitation of it to the single crime of murder; and further propose, that all executions shall in future be in private, or within the walls of the prison, in the presence only of a competent number of official, or specially authorized witnesses.
Before the time for the publication of this journal, this Report may have undergone the decision of the Legislature, and possibly we may find ourselves anticipated in some of the remarks we have been suggesting. We shall not, therefore, at present, indulge in any further speculations of our own. But, considering the importance of the subject, and the diversity of opinion and feeling relating to it among men of unquestionable judgment and humanity, we rejoice with a writer in one of our weekly journals, that it has been committed to able hands, and will undoubtedly receive from the whole Legislature an impartial examination.
ART. II. Plain Letters on Important Subjects. By JoNATHAN FARR. Boston. Leonard C. Bowles. 1831. 18mo. pp. xxii. 230.
PLAIN enough, in all conscience, these letters are; sometimes, we think, a little too plain. Important subjects' should certainly be treated with plainness. On this point our mind is made up. We respect not the apothegm, however we may respect him who uttered it, that a man may have
his hand full of truths, and only feel justified in lifting up his little finger.' To every man who has got a handful of truths we would say, Open your hand. And yet we should not feel particularly gratified, if, instead of simply opening his hand, and giving us an opportunity of examining what there was in it, he should, with a significant jerk, throw its contents, hard and direct, into our face and eyes. The plainness which we like, which we always like, is openness, manliness, sincerity, the love of truth and of freedom overcoming the fear of man and of prescription. The plainness which we do not always like, and can very seldom approve, is bluntness, the saying a thing dogmatically and rudely which might better have been said modestly and gently. It is the latter kind of plainness which we would characterize as being too plain. It is so plain as to be ugly. Now, while the true and manly kind of plainness pervades the volume before us, the other kind is its occasional blemish. Mr. Farr is a favorite with us; and we wish to be understood as meaning no more than we said at first, that his letters are sometimes a little too plain.
Take, as an instance, the following very decisive reply to some one whose wife had left his own place of worship to join the Calvinists, and who wished Mr. Farr to converse with her and endeavour to bring her back. 'I am persuaded,' Mr. Farr answers, 'it will do no good. Your wife is an ignorant woman, not a scholar nor a theologian. "What is not reasoned in, cannot be reasoned out."-We question not the truth of this assertion. We doubt not that the woman was indeed an ignorant woman. What we do question is the propriety of telling her husband so, in just those words. We think the same wholesome truth might have been communicated, by letter, to one who had taken the lady for better, for worse,' in other and more comforting terms. If the gentleman became more attached to his minister, after such a piece of consolation, he was a most unprejudiced husband, and a most teachable parishioner.
Nevertheless, as we are inclined to believe that the letter from which we have made the above quotation is one of those which was not actually sent' by the writer, and may be considered as addressed to a class rather than to an individual, we will even copy the whole of it, for the sake of its humor, as well as the good and serious advice with which it closes. It
VOL. XII. N. S. VOL. VII. NO. I.
is numbered, by mistake, Letter 'xl.' It should have been
'You told me of your troubles with a heavy heart. Your domestic peace is spoiled by your artful and obtrusive "orthodox" neighbours. Your wife has left your place of worship and has gone to the Calvinists. You wished to have me converse with her and endeavour to bring her back. I am persuaded it will do no good. One who had never seen a college, nor studied divinity would probably have more influence with her. Your wife is an ignorant woman, not a scholar nor a theologian. "What is not reasoned in, cannot be reasoned out." I could bring her such arguments against the trinity and Calvinism, and in favor of Unitarian sentiments, as have satisfied the largest and best minds, and the purest hearts. But they would have no effect on her. You remember the Roman Catholic servant girl. Let all the professors and doctors of Andover Institution go and converse with her on the absurdities, errors, superstitions, and abominations of Popery; do you think they would easily make a proselyte and Protestant of her?
'Your wife has given her faith and confidence to some religious guide. It is probably will, feeling, persuasion, enticement, that has drawn her away to another altar. You wish to have me resolve her cases of conscience; I suspect they might be resolved into something worse. You wish to have me remove her doubts; to clear up difficult passages of Scripture; to explain doctrines. My dear sir, she has no doubts. Some partizan and zealot has told her that if she pursues such a course, she is safe, and will arrive in heaven; and she has determined to believe and trust that person, and let consequences take care of themselves. As to explaining Scripture, I might as well explain to her Pindar or Horace. As to the doctrines of either one denomination, or another, she knows but little more about them than the child, that was baptized yesterday. She has got an impression, or formed a resolution, that such are right and all the rest are wrong. She could not state the doctrines of the church where she has gone, nor of the church she has deserted. I might remind her of her marriage vows; of those duties of subordination and respect, which nature points out. I might direct her to the Old and New Testament to the case of Vashti to what was done to prevent the evil of her example. I might read to her the 30th chapter of Numbers - and many plain passages elsewhere-the instructions of Paul and Peter, who both wrote concerning the duties of wives to their husbands;