Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

intention. Cases not unfrequently occur in which the judge offers a decided opinion of the incompleteness of the evidence, yet that evidence has convinced the jury, they have returned the prisoner guilty, and he has afterwards confessed the crime. There occurred recently the case of a young woman who had poisoned both her parents in one cooking ; she was tried for the murder of her father, but the evidence appearing to admit of some slight shades of doubt she was acquitted, and after some months proceeded against on the same evidence for the murder of her mother, and declared guilty; she afterwards confessed to the poisoning of them, and gave as inducements the very circumstances which had been adduced on both her trials as circumstantial evidence of her intention of the crime, and also confessed to the murder of her child. Now although the vigilance with which she was followed up occasioned her to reap at last the seed she had sown, yet how many cases occur in which the evidence almost amounts to certainty in the breasts of a jury, yet they say we have a shade of doubt and 99

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

cannot bring our minds to send the criminal
to the gallows; yet were any punishment short
of that allowed they would unanimously yield
him up to it; and be it remembered that
by many ruffians the punishment of solitary
confinement would be more dreaded than
death, and still more would it be dreaded
if once a-year they were allowed to tell their
comrades how they liked it; besides, some
few who have been executed have afterwards
been unquestionably proved innocent, generally
by the confession of the real criminal; and
there would be this advantage in solitary
confinement, over hanging, that one could
always be remedied, the other never.
The crime of rape has frequently turned of

the degree of resistance of the victim, and if the ravisher could bring forward some comrade to swear that he was near and did not hear her scream stoutly, she has been deemed more or less of a consenting party, and the ruffian is turned loose on society, encouraged by a judge and jury of his country to join the devil in deceiving his own heart by persuading it to divide the guilt between

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

late upon

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

himself and the forlorn creature whose happiness and character he has blasted, and whose delicacy of honour and sentiment he has withered in outraging; yet because there is no intermediate or scale of punishment he goes free, though that he is innocent of a great crime in the sight of the ALMIGHTY, as well as the laws of his country, is perhaps not imagined by any one.

A large portion of the greater crimes hinge thus upon shades of extenuation as to the malignancy, and shades of probability as to the fact, which very details of extenuation themselves generally fix the party with various degrees of guilt; but for want of the aforesaid scale to meet shades of probability and shades of malignancy with shades of punishment, he is turned adrift, a living and strongly exciting encourager of crime with his associates by being thus hardened in villany, and his associates are reminded even by the sight of him that committal and conviction are very different affairs, by no means necessarily connected.

As to damage of all sorts to property by removal, injury or destruction, may we venture

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

to recommend, out of the means or earnings of the criminal, restoration of the value to the sufferer, and four-fold to the fund for support of the police, and if much malice were apparent, compensation to the fund might extend to eight-fold, and if judiciously and vigilantly followed up might be rendered pretty effectual; but when the earnings, or means of payment, are unequal to the task, transportation appears far preferable to turning the prisoner loose again in the mother country, either after long or short terms of imprisonment.

It would be well for this distinction to be kept in mind, that when a criminal has been compelled to make satisfaction to the sufferer and to society, it is a bona fide satisfaction; but where it is sought in the sufferings of the criminal it is in some sort the satisfaction of revenge, although for example sake, and justice is said to be satisfied; but justice does not reach the person robbed, neither is society remunerated the expense she has been at in the process of holding the rod of terror over the criminal, and all others who may happen to be so disposed.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

CHAP. III.

CIVIL JURISPRUDENCE.

CONSIDERING that the lawyers have gotten us Englishmen in their clutches agreeably with their unjust and needlessly true maxim, that “possession is nine points of the law,” may we not honestly or sincerely say to them, “as the pleasure you derive from the oppression and terror in which you hold us can by no means equal the misery you inflict upon us, we entreat you, if you hope for mercy yourselves, to show a little towards us.”

In a thoroughly well ordered community would there be any class but such as were useful; may we not venture to say, a blessing to the rest ? but is it so with the lawyers ? No; but rather that they have been the bane

« ZurückWeiter »