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in which the numerous sectaries of this city perfectly agree. The ceremony begins about sunset, and continues till about ten or eleven at night. It is very difficult for a stranger to walk the streets on those evenings; he runs a continual risk of having a bucket of dirty water thrown against his legs; but a Philadelphian born is so much accustomed to the danger that he avoids it with surprising dexter-, ity. It is from this circumstance that a Philadelphian may be known anywhere by his gait. The streets of New York are paved with rough stones; these, indeed, are not washed, but the dirt is so thoroughly swept from before the doors that the stones stand up sharp and prominent, to the great inconvenience of those who are not accustomed to so rough a path. But habit reconciles everything. It is diverting enough to see a Philadelphian at New-York; he walks the streets with as much painful caution as if his toes were covered with corns, or his feet lamed with the gout: while a NewYorker, as little approving the plain masonry of Philadelphia, shuffles along the pavement like a parrot on a mahogany table.
It must be acknowledged that the ablutions I have mentioned are attended with no small inconvenience; but the women would not be induced, from any consideration, to resign their privilege. Notwithstanding this, I can give you the strongest assurances that the women of America make the most faithful wives and the most attentive mothers in the world; and I am sure you will join me in opinion, that if a married man is made miserable only one week in a whole year, he will have no great cause to complain of the matrimonial bond.
I am, &c.
ON THE CRIMINAL LAWS AND THE PRAC.
TICE OF PRIVATEERING.
Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, Esq.
March 14, 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 a French one on the same subject, Observations concernant l’Exécution de l'Article II. de la Déclaration 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, that the law of Moses was the law of God, the dictate of Divine wisdom, infinitely superior to human, on what principle do we ordain death as the punishment of an offence which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a restitution of fourfold? 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 délit contre la société par un crime contre la nature ?*
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 vir
* Ought we to punish a crime against society by a crime against nature ?
tue 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 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 sanguinary author of the Thoughts 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 feelings, and, at the same time, raise our highest indignation against the instruments of it. But,” he adds, “there is no danger of either from a strict adherence to the laws." Really! is it then impossible to make an unjust law? and if the law itself be unjust, may it not be the very ment” which ought“ to raise the author's and everybody's highest indignation ?" 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 fourteen 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 labour, 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 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 his feet, that the severe sense of 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 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, 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 punishinent 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 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 quoted by our French writer, that “L'atrocité des loix en empêche l'exécution.
“Lorsque la peine est sans mesure, on est souvent obligé de lui préférer l'impunité.
La cause de tous les relâchemens vient de l'impunité des crimes, et non de la modération des peines."*
It is said by those who know Europe generally, that there are more thefts committed and punished annually in England than in all the other nations put together. If this be so, there must be a cause or causes for such depravity in our common people. May not one be the deficiency of justice and morality in our national government, manifested in our oppressive conduct to subjects, and unjust wars on our neighbours? View the long-persisted-in, unjust, monopolizing treatment of Ireland, at length acknowledged! View the plundering government exercised by our merchants in the Indies; the con
* The extreme severity of the laws prevents their execution
Where the punishment is excessive, it is frequently neces sary to prefer impunity.
It is the exemption from punishment, and not its moderation which is the cause of crime.