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ships better, and render them not so easy to be taken; they go also more under the protection of convoys.— Thus, while the privateers to take them are multiplied, the vessels subject to be taken, and the chances of profit, are diminished so that many cruises are made, wherein the expences overgo the gains; and, as is the case in other lotteries, though particulars have got prizes, the mass of adventurers are losers, the whole expense of fitting out all the privateers during a war being much greater than the whole amount of goods taken.
Then there is the national lossof all the labour of s» many men during the time they have been employed in robbing; who besides spend what they get in riot, drunkenness, and debauchery; lose their habits of industry; are rarely fit for any sober business after a peace, and serve only to increase the number of highwaymen and housebreakers. Even the undertakers who have been fortunate, are, by sudden wealth, led irrlo expensive living, the habit of which continues when the means of supporting it cease, and finally ruins them: a just punishment for having wantonly and unfeelingly ruined many honest, innocent traders and their families, •whose substance was employed in serving the common interest of mankind.
ON THE IMPRESS OF SEAMEN.
Notes copied from Dr. Franklin's writing in pencil on the margin of Judge Foster's celebrated Argument in favor of the Impressing of Seamen....published in the folio edition of his works.
Judge Foster, p. 158. "Every Man."—The conclusion here from the whole to a fwrt, does not seem to be good logic. If the alphabet should say, Let us all fight for the defence of the whole; that is equal, and may therefore be just. But if they should say. Let A, tolerable injustice as attends the impressing cimnil seamen.—In order to be better understood, I wouH premise two things; First, that voluntary seamen may be had for the service, if they were sufficiently paid. The proof is, that to serve in the same ship, and incur the san^e dangers, you have no occasion to impress captains, lieutenants, second lieutenants, midshipmen, pursers, nor many other officers'. Why, but that the profits of ihtir places, or the emoluments expected, &re sufficient inducements! The business then is, to find monev, by impressing, sufficient to make the sailors all Volunteers, as well as their officers; and this without any fresh burthen upon trade.—The second of my premises is, that twenty.five shillings a month, with his share of salt beef, pork. and pease.pudding, being found sufficient for the subsistence of a hard-working seaman, it will certainly be so for a sedentary scholar or gentleman. I would then propose to form a treasury, out of which encouragements to seamen should be. paid. To fill thjs treasury, I would impress a number of civil officers, who at present have great salaries, oblige them to serve in their respective offices for twenty five shillings a month with their shares of mess provisions, and throw the rest of their salaries into the stamen's treasury. If such a press-warrant were given me to execute, the first I would press should be a Recorder of Bristol, or a Mr. Justice Foster, because I mi^ht have need of his edifying example, to show h•'V m:.ch impressing ought to be borne with; for he would certainly find, that though to be reduced to twenty-five shillings a month might be & private mischief, yet that, agreeably to his maxim of law and good policy, \i ought to be borne luit/i fiatience, for preventing a national calamity. Then I. would press the rest of the Judges: and, opening the red book, I would press every civil officer of government from 501. a year salary up to i0,0001. which would throw an immense sum into our treasury: and these gentlemen could not complain, since they weuld rcceiv' twenty-five shillings a month, U
and their rations; and this without being obliged (a fight. Lastly, I think I would impress ***.
On the Criminal Laws, and the practice oj
Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, Esq.
March 14th, 1785.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
AMONG the pamphlets you lately sent me, was one, entitled Thoughts on Executive Justice. In return for that, I send you one on the same subject, Observations concernant I' Execution de I'Article 11. dc la Dec.'a. ration tur de Vol. They are both addressed to the Judges, and written, as you will see, in a very different spirit. The F.nglish author is for hanging all thieves. The Frenchman is for proportioning punishments to offences.
If we really believe, as we profess to believe. that the law of Moses was the law of Cod, the dictate of divine visdom. infinitely superior to human; on what piiuciples do we ordain death as the punishment of an offence, which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a restitution of fouifolii? To put a man te death for an offence which does not deserve death, is it rot a murder i And, as tht French writer says, Doiton ifmnir un delit contre la societe par un crime conlre la, fiature?
Superfluous property is the creature of society. Simple and mild laws were sufficient to guard theptopeity that was merely necessary. The savi^je's bow, his hatchet, and his coat of skins, were sufficiently secured, without law, by the fear of personal resentment and retaliation. When, by virtue of the first laws, part of the society accumulated wealth and grew powerful. they enacted others more severe, uud. uguiu protect thcj/> property at the expenes of rumranity. This was abusing tiii.ii. power, and com.nencing a tyranny. lf a savage, b". fore ne entered into soi i ty, had b'cn told — "*our neighbor, by ti is means, may become owner of "an hundted fleer; but if your brother,or your so:., or rt yourseif, having no deer of your own, and being uun"gry, should kill on", an infamous death must be the "consequence:" lie ivould pobibly have preferred »is liberty, and his common right of killing any deer, to all the advantages of society that might be proposed to him.
That it is better a hundred guilty persons should escape, than that one innocent p..rson should sutler, is at maxim that has been long and generally appioved; never, that 1 know of, controverted. Even the sangumaty author of the Tlrjuglus agtees to it, adding well, "that "the very thought of injured innocence, and much tt more that of suffering i.moceuce, must awaken all « our tenderest and most compassionate feelings,and at * the same time raise our highest indignation agamst . <4 the instruments of it. Bui (he adds) there is no dan«ger of either, from a strict adherence to the laws."—•
ReaUy 1 Is it then impossible to make unjust laws J
and if the law itself be unjust, may it not be the very « instrument" which ought •' to raise the author's, and t' every body's highest indignation V I see, in the last newspapers from London, that a woman is capitally convicted at the Old Bailey, for privately stealing out cf a shop some gauze, value fourteen shillings and three-pence: Is there any proportion between the injury done by a theft, value fourteen shillings and threepence, and the punishment of a human creature, by death, on a gibbet.' Might not that woman, by her labour, have made a reparation ordained by Cod, in paying four.fold? Is not all punishment inflicted beyond the merit of the offence, so much punishment of innocence? In this light, how vast is the annual quantity, of not only injured but suffering innocence, in vir jfaost all the civilized states oi" buroge V
But it seems to have been thought that this kind of Innocence may be punished by way of preventing crimes. I have read, indeed, of a cruel Turk in Barbary, who, whenever he bought a new Christian slave, ordered him immediately to be hung up by the lags, and to receive a hundred blows of a cudgel on the soles of his Jfeet, that the severe sense of the punishment, and fear •1 incurring it thereafter, might prevent the faults that should merit it. Our author himself would hardly approve entirely of this Turk's conduct in the government of slaves; and yet he appears to recommend something like it in the government of English subjects, when he applauds the reply of Judge Burnet to the convict horsestealer; who being asked what he had to say why judgment of death should not pass against liim,' and answering, that it was hard to hang a man for only stealing a horse, was told by the Judge," Man, thou art not to be hanged only for stealing a horse, but that horses may not be stolen." The man's answer, if candidly examined, will, I imagine, appear reasonable, as being founded on the eternal principle of justice and equity, that punishments should be proportioned to offences, and the judge's reply brutal and unreasonable, though the writer " wishes all judges to carry it with them whenever.they go to the circuit, and to bear it in their minds, as containing a wise reason for all the penal statutes, which they are called upon to put in execution. It at once illustrates (says he) the true grounds and reasons •f all capital punishments whatsoever, namely, that every man's property, as well as his life, may be held sacred and inviolate." Is there then no difference hi value between property and life? If I think it right that the crime of murder should be punished with death* not only as an equal punishment of the crime, but to .prevent other murders, does it follow that I must approve of the same punishment for a little invasion on my property by theft? If 1 am not so barbarous, so bloody-minded and revengeful, as to kill a fellow creature for stealing from me fourteen shillings and three