HC Deb 06 April 1815 vol 30 cc354-6
Mr. M. A. Taylor

rose, in pursuance of his notice, to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the Abolition of the punishment of the Pillory. He did not conceive it necessary, in introducing this motion, to enter into any discussion of the origin of crimes and punishments. The authors who had written upon this subject were already in, the hands of most of the members of that House; it would be sufficient for him, therefore, to make a few general observations upon the legitimate objects of punishments, as the ground upon which his motion was founded. The first end of punishment was the reformation of the offender; and the next was, when the crime committed was of so deep a die as not to admit of a hope of amendment, to punish the criminal by death; and at the same time, by the severity of his punishment, to afford an example to deter others from the commission of similar offences. With this view of the subject, he was at a loss to imagine under what head to class the punishment of pillory. It could not be called a reforming punishment, because it rather tended to deaden the sense of shame than to have any other effect. Besides, it appeared to him as contrary to law, because the culprit was left to meet the fury of the populace. It was not attended with any good to the spectator, because it only gave rise to the assemblage of a tumultuous rabble, who either contravened the sentence of the Court by exalting the criminal, or violated the law by an outrageous attack upon him. It was therefore evidently a punishment of a very unequal nature. As illustrative of this remark, he begged to cite a few cases. In the year 1759, doctor Shebbeare was sentenced to be pillored for a libel of a political description—and in what manner was that punishment executed? Why, when he arrived at the pillory he mounted it in full dress, attended by a servant in livery, who held an umbrella over his head and the under-sheriff, who participated in the popular feeling, instead of calling upon him, as usual, to place his head in the pillory, was satisfied to let him simply rest ins hands on the machine, and in that way he underwent his sentence. Then again, in the case of Daniel Isaac Eaton, who two years back was pillored for a religious libel, this man, instead of being regarded, as might have been expected, with indignation, was treated with, respect, and viewed with silent pity. There were other cases, however, in which a different course was pursued. He alluded particularly to the case of four men who were pillored in four different parts of the metropolis, for conspiring to take a man's life away upon a charge of robbery, for the sake of the reward. He did not mean to say, that if the law directed such offenders to be punished by death, that they did not deserve it; but unless the law did direct such a sentence, he thought they ought not to be exposed to the risk of that fate—one of these men was actually killed, while the other three escaped with difficulty. This was a species of violence which, he thought, ought to be avoided. There was another case, where the caprice of the public on such occasions was strongly demonstrated. Two men were pillored at Brentford, one for compromising a Dui Tam action, and the other for a crime of a detestable nature, not less atrocious; and yet such was the indignation felt towards the informer, that he was nearly killed, while his companion in suffering escaped unhurt. The punishment, he insisted, was unequal: to a man in the higher walks of life, it was worse than death: it drove him from society, and would not suffer him to return to respectability; while, to a more hardened offender, it could not be an object of much terror, and it could not affect his family or his prospects in the same degree. To show the severity with which legal punishments pressed upon persons in the higher walks of life, he adverted to the case of Dr. Dodd, who had been justly sentenced to die for forgery; a crime, with respect to which the law could permit no variation in the sentence. Before he received sentence of death, Dr. Dodd addressed the Court, and set forth the circumstances of his former life. He stated, that many who had been among his hearers had become better men from hearing him in the pulpit, that he had thus been the means of rescuing others from vice, and he added these words, "Condescend to reflect, my lord, if these considerations aggravate my offence, how much they must imbitter my punishment." The hon. gentleman concluded with, saying, that it was grating to his feelings to leave such a punishment as that of the pillory in the hands of a court, who might treat the admirable author of Junius, if he were discovered, in the same manner as the most atrocious criminal. The punishment of the pillory was the remnant of a barbarous age, and the cruel instrument of Star-chamber authority. He then moved and obtained leave to bring in a bill "to abolish the punishment of the pillory."