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tempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification from the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?
PUBLIC AFFAIRS. It is wonderful how preposterously the affairs of this world are managed. Naturally one would imagine that the interests of a few particulars should give way to general interest. But particulars manage their affairs with so much more application, industry, and address than the public do theirs, that general interest most commonly gives way to particular. We assemble parliaments and councils to have the benefit of their collected wisdom, but we necessarily have at the same time the inconvenience of their collected passions, prejudices, and private interests. By the help of these, artful men overpower the wisdom, and dupe its possessors ; and if we may judge by the acts, decrees, and edicts all the world over for regulating commerce, an assembly of wise men is the greatest fool upon earth.
ON THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH FOR THEFT.
If we really believe, as we profess to believe, that 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 punishment of an offence, which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a restitution of four fold ? To put a man to death for an offence which does not deserve
death, is it not a murder? And, as the French writer* says,
“ Doit on punir un delit contre la société par un crime contre la nature ?”
Superfluous property is the creature of society. Sim. ple 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 hu. manity. 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 no deer of your own, and being hungry, should kill one, an infamous death must be the consequence ;” he would probably have preferred his 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 person should suffer, is a maxim that has been long and generally approved; never, that I know of, controverted. Even the san. guinary author of the “ Thoughts” of agrees to it; adding well, “ that the very thought of injured innocence, and much more that of suffering innocence, must awaken all our tenderest and most compassionate
* The author of “ Observations concernant l'execu. tion de l'article II. de la declaration sur le vol.” ·† “ Thoughts on Executive Justice,"
feelings, and at the same time raise our highest indig-
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 legs, and to receive a hundred blows of a cudgel on the soles of the feet, that the severe sense of the punishment, and fear of incurring it there.. after, 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 ap
plands 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 him, and answering, that it was hard to hang a man for only stealing a horse, was told by the judge, “ Man, thon 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 of all capi. tal 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 ? Montesquieu, who was him. self 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 quoted by our French writer, that
“ L'atrocité des loix en empeche l'execution.
“ Lorsque la peine est sans mesure, on est souvent obligé de lui preferer l'innpunité.
“ La cause de tous les relachemens vient de l'impunité des crimes, et non de la moderation des peines."
PROPER MODE OF READING. I would advise you to read with a pen in your hand, and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious, or that may be useful ; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready, either for practice on some future occasion, if they are matters of utility; or at least to adorn and improve your conversation, if they are rather points of curio sity. And as many of the terms of science are such as you cannot have met with in your common reading, and may therefore be unacquainted with, I think it would be well for you to have a good dictionary at hand, to consult immediately when you meet with a word you
do not comprehend the precise meaning of. This may at first seem troublesome and interrupting; but it is a trouble that will daily diminish, as you will daily find less and less occasion for your diction. ary as you become more acquainted with the terms, and in the mean time you will read with more satisfaction, because with more understanding.