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Page I74. "I hardly admit," &c.—(Paragraph o). When this author speaks of impressing, page 158, he diminishes the horror of the practice as much as possible, by presenting to the mind one sailor only suffering a " hardship" (as he tenderly calls it) in some "particular cases" only; and he places against this private mischief the inconvenience to the trade of the kingdom.—But if, as he supposes is often the case, the sailor who is pressed and obliged to serve for the defence of trade, at twenty-five shilling a month, could get three pounds fifteen shillings in the merchants' service, you take from him fifty shillings a month; and if you have 100,000 in your service you coli this honest industrious part of society and their poor families of 250,000I. per month, or three millions a year, and at the same time oblige them to hazard their lives in fighting for the defence of your trade; to the defence of which all ought indeed to contribute (and sailors among the rest) in proportion to their profits by it: Irit this three millions is more than their share, if they do not pay with their persons; but when you force that, methinks you should excuse the other.
But, it may be said, to give the king's seamen merchants' wages would cost the nation too much, and call for more taxes. The question then will amount to this: whether it be just in a community, that the richer part should compel the poorer to fight in defence of them and their properties, for such wages as they think fit to allow, and punish them if they refuse? Our author tells us that it is " legal." I have not law enough to dispute his authorities, but I cannot persuade myself that it is equitable. I will, however, own for the present, that it may be lawful when necessary; but then I contend that it may be used so as to produce the same good effects—the public security, without doing so much intolerable injustice as attends the impressing common seamen. In order to be better understood I would premise two things:—First, That voluntary seamen may nei had for the service, if they were sufficiently paii *he proof is, that to serve in the same ship, and injui the same dangers, you have no occasion to im
press captains, lieutenants, second lieutenants, midchipmen, pursers, nor many other officers. Why, but that the profits of their places, or the emoluments expected, are sufficient inducements? The business then is, to find money, by impressing, sufficient to make the sailors all volunteers, as well as their officers: and this without any fresh burden upon trade. The second of my premises is, thai twenty-five shillings a month, with his share of the salt beef, pork, and peas-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 this 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 share of mess provisions, and throw the rest of their salaries into the seamen's treasury. If such a press-warrant were given me to execute, the first I would press should be a Recorderof Bristol, or a Mr. Justice Foster, because I might have need of his edifying example, to show how much impressing ought to be borne with; for he would certainly find, that though to be reduced to twenty-five shillings a month might be a "private nuschief," yet that, agreeably to his maxim of law and good policy, it "ought to be borna vyith patience," 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 50I. a year salary up to 50.000L which would throw an immense sum into our treasury: and these gentlemen could not complain, since they would receive twenty-five shillings a month, and their rations; and this without being obliged to fight. Lastly, I think I would impress * * *
OH THE CRIMINAL LAWS AND THE PRACTICE OF PRIVATEERING.
Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, Esq.
March, I4, I785
1iV DEAH FRIEND,
Among the pamphlets you lately sent me was one, entitled, Thoughts on Executive Justice. In return for that, I send you a French one on the same subject, Observations concernani I'Execution de f Article II. de la Declaration sur le Vol. They are both addressed to the judges, but written, as you will see, in a very different spirit. The English author is for hanging all thieves. The Frenchman is for proportioning punishments to offences.
If we really believe, as we profess to believe, tha / the law of Moses was the law of God, the dictate of Divine wisdom, infinitely superior to human; on what principles do we ordain death as the punish .ment of an offence, which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a restitution of fourfold? Ti
Sut a man to death for an offence which does not deserve death, is it not murder? And as the French writer says, Doit-on pvnir un. dcht contre le socieU far uii crime contre la nature! i Superfluous property is the creature of society. Simple and mild laws were sufficient to guard the property that was merely necessary. The savage'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, and would protect their property at the expense of humanity. This was abusing their power, and commencing a tyranny. If a savage, before he entered into society, had been told—" Your neighbour, by this means, may become owner of a hundred deer; but if your brother, or your son, or yourself, having do «r of your own, and being hungry, should kill pni, in infamous death must be the consequence," he would probably have preferred his liberty, and his ccmmnn right of killing any deer, to all the advamage. of society that might be proposed to him.
That it is better a hundred guilty persons should escape, than that one innocent person should suffer, is a maxim that has been long and generally approved; never,that I know of, controverted. Even the sanguinary author of the Thoughts agrees to it, ad tling well, "that the very thought of iniured inno tence, and much more that of suffering innocence, .trust awalen all our tenderest and most compassionate feelings, and at the same time raise our high ast indignation against the instruments of it. But/' he adds, "tliere ts no danger of either, from a strict adherance tc the laws."—Really !—is it then impossible to make at: unjust law; and if the law itself be unjust, may it not be the very "instrument" which ought "to raise the author's and every body's highest indigna'uop!" I see in the last newspapers from London, that a woman is capitally convicted at the Old Bailey, for privately stealing out of a shop some gauze, value fo irteen shillings and threepence. 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 l&four, have made the reparation ordained by God in paying fourfold? 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 almost all the civilized states of Europe!
But it seems to have been thought, that this kind of innocence may be punished by way ofpreventing 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 legs, and to receive a hundred blows of a cudgel on the soles of his feet, that the severe sense of the punishment, and fear of 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 for the government of English subjects, when he applauds the reply of Judge Burnetto the convict horse-stealer; who, being asked what he had to say why judgment of death should not pass against him, and answering, that it was hard to hang a man for only stealing ahorse, 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 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 of 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 in 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 inflicting the same punishment for a little invasion on my property by theft? If I am not myself so barbarous, so bloody-minded, and revengeful, as to kill a fellow-creature for stealing from me fourteen shillings and threepence, how can I approve of a law that does it t Montesquieu, who was himself a judge, endeavours to impress other maxims. He must have known what humane judges feel on such occasions, and what the effects of those feelings; and, so far from thinking that severe and excessive punishments prevent crimes, he asserts, as c lOMd by our French writer, that