HC Deb 05 March 1840 vol 52 cc914-46
Mr. Ewart

rose, pursuant to his notice, to move for the entire Abolition of the Punishment of Death. He confessed he did not rise to make the proposition without emotion. Nor would he have ventured to make the attempt but for two reasons; in the first place, on account of the deep conviction which he entertained on the subject; and in the second place, because he knew that, in making it, he was supported by many of the best, and by some of the wisest, persons in the community. In approaching this question he should discard the religious view of the subject; he held that religion was too sacred a topic to be profaned by the heats and animosities of a political assembly. He should also discard the abstract view of the question. Those who wished to pursue it in a theoretical point of view might be referred, on each side of the question, to the writings of Beccaria and Filangieri, with their commentators, Benjamin Constant and Voltaire. The simple position which he should assume was this; that society had a right to inflict such an amount of punishment as was necessary to its safety and preservation, but no more. The necessary amount of punishment changed at different periods of society. It was a varying term. The question, therefore, now before the House was, whether the punishment awarded in extreme cases was any longer necessary for the safety and existence of society. He would then at once proceed into the practical and statistical view of the subject; and he would first endeavour to show that, by the mitigations which had taken place in the criminal law, crime had not increased, and that in almost all cases it had been diminished. Hon. Gentlemen who looked back to a period of ten years would find, that in the ten years preceding that period, in this capital alone, 221 persons had been sacrificed to the sanguinary laws then in existence; on the other hand they would find that, in the ten years which had elapsed since, instead of 221, only twenty-one persons had fallen victims to the law; yet persons and property were safe, and society was more tranquil in the latter period than before. The first evidence which he should adduce to show that a diminution of crime had been the consequence of the abolition of capital punishments was derived from returns having reference to England and Wales, recently laid before the House. Hon. Gentlemen would recollect that a great abolition of capital punishments took place about the year 1833. The number of executions in the five years ending at the close of the year 1833, amounted to 259; the number of executions for the five years ending at the end of the year 1838, amounted only to 99, being a diminution in the two corresponding periods of no less than 160 executions. Yet so far was crime from increasing, that the commitments for crimes which were capital at the beginning of the two periods, were 650 less during the years of mitigation, than during the years of capital punishment. The fact could not be disputed. The next proof he would bring forward to show that the abolition of capital punishments led to a diminution of crime, was derived from the criminal returns for London and Middlesex. In the statistics for London and Middlesex, as in those for England and Wales, the executions had greatly diminished from 1830 to 1836. The executions in three years, ending with 1830, were 52. In three years, ending with 1836, for London and Middlesex, there were no executions; yet the convictions for crime, heretofore capitally punished, were less in the latter period by 127, showing thus a remarkable diminution of crime consequent upon the abolition of capital punishment. In the three years after the abolition of capital punishment there was not a single execution. He would now refer to a later period, after the bill effecting a considerable abolition of capital punishments had been introduced in 1837, by the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud. It would be seen that, though executions had greatly diminished, in consequence of this change, crime had also diminished. During the three years previous to the passing of the bill, there were 85 executions. During a similar period, after the passing of the bill, there were but 25 executions, yet the commitments of the latter period for offences which were capitally punished were less by 115 than the commitments of the period when capital punishments were in existence. In these statements he had shown that the abolition of capital punishments had tended towards the diminution of crime, and he would now proceed to prove that commutation of punishment produced, in an equal ratio, a diminution of crime. This would principally apply to murder, that being nearly the only crime to which the penalty of death was virtually retained. In a certain number of years, when capital punishments were inflicted, the average was 15 executions for murder. In a similar number of years, when mitigated punishments were substituted, the yearly average was only seven. The average of crime was thus less, in a considerable ratio, during the period of mitigation. This statement applied to England and Wales; but the returns for London and Middlesex would further show that crime had diminished one-fourth in a relative period, after the law had been mitigated. Those returns had been laid before the House a few days ago, and they afforded a most satisfactory confirmation of the truth of his assertion—that the commutation of the punishment of death led to a diminution of crime. The returns showed that during five years the commutations amounted to 39, and that, in no single instance, was commutation attended with an increase of crime, but, on the contrary, that a decrease had taken place. It appeared that the year after the commutation the commitments were reduced from 83 to 33, thus affording a gratifying proof of the consequences attendant on commutation of capital punishments. The effect then of mitigation had been the same as the effect of the abolition of capital punishment. He had hitherto confined himself to this point, that both the abolition of capital punishment and the mitigation of punishment had been followed by a diminution of crime. He would now proceed further, to show that the mitigation had been followed by a greater certainty of punishment. This was the rule laid down by Beccaria, Blackstone, and Romilly, that the mitigation of the punishment increased the certainty of the punishment. He would take four species of of crime which had been much mitigated by the bill of 1837, as an evidence of the truth of his position. The crimes were burning, attempt to murder (such as cutting and maiming), robbery, and burglary. He would take the proportion of commitments of the twenty years previous to the mitigation, and compare it with a like period after the mitigation had been conceded. The proportion of the convictions to the committals would prove that the abolition of the punishment of death had rendered the substituted punishment more certain. During the period while capital punishments remained, there were between 2,000 and 3,000 acquittals, so that in reality impunity of crime was the offspring of the punishment of death. Those therefore who advocated the continuance of the punishment of death were the real encouragers of the impunity of crime, and not those who wish to abolish capital punishments. The next proof he should bring forward was from the returns furnished in the present week. By those returns the fact would be proved that in a given period since 1837 a larger number of convictions had taken place than in a corresponding period before the abolition of the punishment of death. The executions before the abolition, in such given period, were eighty-five; in a similar period after the abolition, only twenty-five, showing thus a diminution of sixty. Yet, after the abolition of capital punishments the convictions increased in the stated period from 1,536 to 1,788. A great increase of convictions had thus occurred, proving, that punishment had become more certain, since the punishment of death had been abolished. The mitigation of the law had thus ensured a greater certainty of punishment. He would now proceed to show, that in cases of murder, such crimes became fewer as the punishment was made milder. In twenty-six years, ending with 1835, the executions for murder were fifteen yearly, and the proportion of persons convicted was twenty-five. In three years ending with 1838, there were only seven executions yearly, a diminution of more than one-half; but the convictions amounted to twenty-nine. The ratio of twenty-nine to twenty-five proved, even in the case of murder, that the certainty of the punishment was increased, although the penalty of death was diminished. In the returns for England and Wales the same results would be found. In twenty-one years, before 1830, the executions were thirty-eight, and the proportion of convictions eighteen. In eight years, ending with 1838, the executions were seven, but the proportion of convictions was thirty-two. In the proportion of thirty-two to eighteen had the convictions increased since the law had been mitigated. These returns, which he had necessarily condensed, placed the subject in a clear light before the House and the country. He might have made more copious extracts from them; but his object had been to afford a distinct, and yet a comprehensive view of the subject. A reference to foreign countries would also show that a diminution of crime was followed by a greater certainty of punishment. In France a result similar to what had occurred in England had taken place. The present king of the French had early in his reign declared himself an enemy to capital punishments. When M. Lucas, the celebrated jurist, headed a deputation from the Société de Morale Chrètienne, he received this assurance from the sovereign; and the reign of Louis Philippe had been marked by a diminution of the punishment of death. In cases of murder in France the same result had occurred as in England, as would be seen from the Government tables. In two years before 1827, the number of capital punishments was 124. In two years, before 1837, the executions amount to but thirty-three. Yet the crimes of assassination fell from the number of 434 to 407, while on the other hand the convictions increased in the second term over the first term in the proportion of sixty-eight to fifty-eight. Here again it was proved, that mitigation had at once diminished crime, and increased the certainty of punishment. He who consulted the French returns would find that a still stronger case could be made out with respect to the crime of poisoning in France. The present very enlightened sovereign of Belgium was also the avowed enemy of capital punishments. They would find that in Belgium also, with the diminution of capital punishment for murder the crime of murder diminished, and that too in times of great excitement. In the four years ending in 1829 there were executed seventeen persons. In the four years ending in 1834, none. Yet the number of murders tried fell from forty-five to forty-one, and they had the authority of an eminent Belgic jurist, M. Ducpetiaux, for the fact that certainty of punishment was increased (as in France) by the mitigation of penal legislation. This experience was not of modern origin. Need he remind the House of the testimony of Leopold, Duke of Tuscany, and cite his celebrated Edict? With the utmost satisfaction to our paternal feelings we have at length perceived that the mitigation of punishment, joined to a most scrupulous attention to prevent crimes, and also a great despatch in the trials, together with a certainty and suddenness of punishment to real delinquents, has, instead of increasing the number of crimes, considerably diminished that of the smaller ones, and rendered those of an atrocious nature very rare.

An Hon. Member—

But the punishment of death was afterwards introduced.

Mr. Ewart.—

It was introduced after the French revolution, but he had a high authority for saying, that the crime of assassination was more rare before the re-introduction of the capital punishment than afterwards. This testimony was given by Berlinghieri, who expressly stated that "assassination of all sorts had been much less frequent during the period of mitigation than since capital punishment had been revived."

On the important subject now before the House he was of opinion the experience gained in our distant possessions ought not to be overlooked. They would show the successful result of the remission of capital punishment. He would advert to that period when Sir J. Mackintosh presided at Bombay. During the seven years that Sir J. Mackintosh presided as Judge of the Supreme Court of Bombay, there was no capital execution whatever. Yet crimes very considerably diminished. And Sir J. Mackintosh thus concluded his farewell address to the grand jury at Bombay:— This small experiment has been made without any diminution of the security of the lives and properties of men. Two hundred thousand men have been governed for seven years without a capital punishment, and without any increase of crimes. In another part of India also the abolition of capital punishment had been accompanied with a diminution of crime. In his communications from India, Sir C. Metcalfe, the government officer at Delhi, in the year 1815, said, that in that district they never punished with death. He added his belief that it was not necessary for the good of the community. Even in the case of murder (he added), the certainty of severe punishment operated more severely than the possibility of capital punishment. "Capital punishment," (he continued) "is the least certain of any. He had thus briefly gone over several of the statistics and details derivable from our own and from foreign countries. He should feel that he had not dealt justly with the subject if he did not allude—as nearly all the petitions before the House had alluded—to the demoralising and degrading effects produced on those before whom the awful exhibition of an execution took place. Could it, he would ask, possibly take place without violating the feelings, and tainting the principles of the spectator? Such scenes were scenes of profligacy and impiety; the ribald jest—the profane oath-—this was almost the only language heard at what he would call the Salurnalia of the gallows. Nor was it only on the guiltless spectator that this bad effeet was produced—the effect was equally pernicious on the minds of criminals themselves. He had before him the unexceptionable evidence of a respectable clergyman, who stated that he had attended 167 persons doomed to execution; that he positively ascertained how many of them had themselves witnessed executions before. He found that out of the 167, 164 had repeatedly been present at executions. On stating this fact to Mr. Wontner and Mr. Cotton, at Newgate, they assured him that it was very rarely that any one suffered the penalty of death there who had not seen the same punishment repeatedly inflicted. So far from such spectacles diminishing crime, they appeared to augment it. With these facts as well as these figures before them, he asked the House on what grounds they retained capital punishment in their tables of criminal legisla- tion? He ventured to ask hon. Gentlemen how many they could find, if they searched, among all, that were most distinguished in the annals of this country, who were friends of capital punishment? Had not Dr. Johnson, who was the last man to adopt any speculative theory; had not Mr. Burke, Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Pitt, Mr. Canning, Sir J. Mackintosh, Sir Samuel Romilly, the enlightenment of whose understandings were equal to the benevolence of their hearts, advocated the discontinuance of capital punishment? With these figures, with these facts, with these authorities before them—he maintained that on those who insisted upon the continuance of these inflictions lay the onus probandi of justifying them, not upon him, who had shewn that they had failed, not upon him and those who with him asked for their extinction. He called upon the House to say why, with this primâ facie case against them, they retained such a form of punishment unsupported at once by evidence and by opinion? Why, having abolished capital punishment in other cases, did they retain it in the case of murder? They had abolished it in other cases because public opinion had made its way into that House, and demanded that abolition for which the enlightened few had so long pleaded in vain. But if they had conceded so much to public opinion, would not that same public opinion be now still more disinclined from executions, when, instead of being frequent as formerly, they had become much more rare? Would the public patiently endure this contrast between obsolete usages and modern feelings? The effect of the rarity of capital punishments would be to render them more intolerable to the people. Public opinion would act with still greater force in demanding their repeal than when such punishments were more frequent and consequently less revolting. But let him be permitted to ask, were we not in a better state to abolish capital punishments than we had been some years ago? We had now an improved police, an improved system of prison discipline, and the extended benefits of general education. These were so many safeguards of person and property—so many securities against violence and disorder. If ever there was a period when the Legislature could afford to put this great experiment to a trial, it was now, when go many more securities against crime existed, than when they first commenced their career of mitigation. Let him be permitted to ask why, above all, capital punishment should be retained in the case of murder, which might almost be said to be the only case in which it was now inflicted? The man who committed that dreadful crime did so either from calculation made beforehand, or from the impulse of a moment. It might generally be attributed to impulse, but he would take either point of the dilemma. If a man committed murder from calculation, it was quite clear that capital punishment had not the power of restraining him, because he had calculated all results beforehand, and proceeded wilfully to commit the act. In that case, therefore, capital punishment was not effectual. On the other hand, if he acted from impulse, he overlooked the consequence, and here again capital punishment was found to be of no avail. In the one case, the criminal acted from forethought, and deliberately despised the punishment; in the other he acted upon impulse, and overlooked it. If the arguments used against capital punishment had any weight in common cases, they were infinitely stronger in cases of murder, where impulse predominated, and swayed the criminal far more than in other crimes. He saw the right hon. Member for Cambridge smile, but he could assure him that the argument which he treated so lightly, was supported by one of the most eminent writers at present in existence. He (Mr. Ewart) expected that the old apology would make its appearance, that before we got rid of the punishment of death, we ought to be prepared with some efficient substitute. He (Mr. Ewart) did not think such a consideration ought to stand in the way of the great principle of the abolition of capital punishment. We had already imprisonment and transportation to the penal settlement as substitutes. They were punishments as strong as any which existed in many foreign countries. But it was idle to say that we could not immediately find more severe punishments than these. It could be easily and briefly done. This, therefore, he considered an insufficient argument. But then it was contended that if we abolished the punishment of death, the consequence of our reform must be the immediate substitution of a punishment still more severe than death. It was not, however, the severity of capital punishment, but its peculiar nature which prohibited its infliction. It was the responsibility which attached to it—it was its irrevocability if it should happen to be unjust, at which mankind paused, shuddered, and recoiled. The same jury which hesitated at pronouncing a man liable to the punishment of death, would have no scruple to inflict a punishment which some might deem justly more severe; since it was the nature of the punishment, not the degree of its severity, which caused the dislike, the resistance, and the horror of the public. But it was not only the jury, (so justly denominated the conscience of society) Which, by its repugnance to this mode of punishment, uttered a faithful echo to the voice of the public. Consult the whole course of our criminal proceedings, from their commencement to their termination, it would be found that, from the commitment of an offender to his conviction, and even beyond it, a constant action of public feeling against capital punishment was prevailing which repelled the power of the law from the dale of the indictment to the period of execution. It had often been said that the prosecutor might be unwilling to prosecute, the witnesses to give evidence, the jurors to convict. Any one of these obstacles was sufficient to denote the general feeling of society, and to suspend the execution of the law. But there were other impediments besides. The judge himself might be scrupulous in awarding an irrevocable punishment. But, even then, the resistance to capital punishment did not cease. The Home Office was besieged with applications for mercy, petitions were poured into the House of Commons (they had just seen it done in the case of the Monmouthshire insurgents), and in the last resort the Crown was appealed to for pardon. The opposition to capital punishment thus dictated by public opinion acted in every stage of our criminal proceedings; and in every stage it tended to enfeeble justice and embolden crime. But if public opinion were brought to work in favour of the punishment decreed by law, we should then have crime suppressed, not only by the force of the law, but also by the weight of public opinion coming in support and sanction of the law. He entreated the House to consider the advantages which would arise from bringing public opinion to co-operate with, instead of counteracting, the law of the country. Justice would then act steadily and uniformly; it would move in its prescribed orbit undisturbed by that centifrugal force which now constantly controlled its movements, and disinclined it from its course of consistency and truth. Consider, too, that the maintenance of capital punishment was the maintenance of the old principle of revenge—the lex lalionis—for which we were substituting repentance and reform. The ancient system had been one of vindictiveness and retaliation, while our more modern system was one of prison-discipline and amendment. Could they continue a system, involving a principle contradicted by their own recent practice? Whatever difference of opinion might prevail as to the extent to which the modern and more merciful principle ought to be carried, it could not be denied that the principle of revenge was recognised by the existing law: In spirit, though not in extent, it sanctioned the retaliatory, the vindictive, the sanguinary principle—soon, he trusted, about to be exploded— The lifted axe, the agonising wheel, Luke's iron crown, and Damien's bed of steel. He could not conceive a duty more important in a Legislature, than to impress upon the people the sacred inviolability of human life; nor a duty more imperative upon it, than to set an example of regard for that inviolability in its acts of legislation. How could we expect the people to turn from scenes of horror and blood while they were legalised and sanctioned by the laws of the land? Let us abolish such dreadful inflictions, and we should diminish crime. Let us humanise our punishments, and we should humanise our people. He had ever thought that the people should be imbued with a horror of scenes of bloodshed, and that it was the duty of the state, in the words of our own immortal Milton, "to imbreed and cherish in a people the seeds of civility and public virtue; to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune." Laws which should have the effect of disusing the people from the contemplation of sanguinary punishments, while they were the best safeguards against despotism and tyranny, would also be the best security against crime and disorder. A nation disused to the sight of blood would be the less disposed to engage in enterprises which might lead to its effusion when scenes of disorder or anarchy arose. The people would shrink from exhibitions of horror and bloodshed, and the Legislature would thus give an additional guarantee for the execution of justice in mercy, the preservation of the good order and peace of society, and the extension of feelings of benevolence and justice. Hitherto, only for short intervals, and in smaller states, the abolition of capi- tal punishment had been tried. He confessed he wished that ours should be the first of modern nations entirely and lastingly to abolish it. Such a course would be worthy of the fame, the intelligence, and the Christianity of our country. Impressed with these reasons, impelled by these feelings, he called upon the House to assent to the proposition which he now laid before them, and to resign the awful attribute of dispensing with human life into the hands of Him who gave it. The hon. Gentleman concluded, by proposing a resolution for the entire abolition of the punishment of death.

Lord J. Russell

said, that paying, as he was ready to pay a tribute of respect to the motives of the hon. Gentleman in bringing forward this motion, and to the ability with which he had introduced it—he could not admit that, with that object in view, the hon. Member had adopted the proper course in submitting a resolution on the subject. It appeared to him that if a matter of this grave importance was to be decided by that House, it ought to be according to the ordinary forms and proceedings. Leave ought to have been asked to bring in a bill, and if the House recognised the principle so far as to allow of the bill being brought in, it might have been discussed in its subsequent stages, and the attention of the House would have been fully called to it. If the hon. Member had moved for a bill, and had obtained the permission of the House to introduce it, that would have been so far a recognition of the principle; if, on the contrary, the House did not assent to the introduction of the measure, there would still have been a decision of the House against it; but proceeding by resolution might be productive of this inconvenience, that a certain principle would have been affirmed by that House, while the judges and the executive, presiding over the administration of the law, would be bound to act upon a different principle. The resolution, if carried, might have a very popular effect, while, at the same time, neither the judges nor the executive would feel themselves authorised by the letter of the law in acting upon a resolution of that House. He, therefore, thought that the hon. Gentleman ought not have proceeded by way of resolution, but ought to have adhered to the ordinary course in seeking an alter- ation of the law. With respect to the motion itself, he (Lord J. Russell) was unwilling to enter into a discussion against the arguments in favour of the abolition of the punishment of death, because, when capital punishments were more frequent, he had entertained the opinion that those punishments ought to be inflicted with less frequency, and the number of capital crimes constituted by our penal code ought to be lessened, and he could not help feeling that many of the arguments advanced when he had the honour of acting upon a committee, of which Sir Jas. Mackintosh was the chairman, and when he had the honour of voting with Sir Samuel Romilly on this subject, were in accordance with the spirit with which the hon. Gentleman now brought forward this motion. With regard to those arguments, and in the first place the statistical details submitted to the House, they must be so far satisfactory and consolatory to the House, as they showed that what had hitherto been done, had not been imprudently or unsuccessfully done—that it had not the effect of increasing crime, or of rendering less certain the punishment of crime when proved. On the contrary, the changes which had been made, had tended to diminish the general amount of crime, and where crime was brought before a court they ensured conviction in cases where it ought before to have taken place, but where a sentiment of humanity had induced juries, not certainly in conformity with their oaths, but with an overpowering feeling, to acquit those who were accused before them. But, while the hon. Gentleman's statistical details, proved this much, he did not think they entitled the House to infer that if they ventured to make a similar change with regard to other and graver crimes—more especially with regard to that one which the hon. Gentleman said was the only one to which, in practice, the punishment of death was applied—the effect would be similar. It should be observed, in the first instance, that many of the crimes to which the punishment of death had formerly been affixed, such as sheep stealing and stealing in a dwelling-house, were not considered crimes of such horror that they ought to be punishable with death, and therefore a sympathy was excited in favour of those who suffered that extreme visitation of the law; but with regard to murder, the crime itself created the greatest horror. If any dreadful and atrocious murder were committed, it excited in the public mind a feeling very different from that which was excited by the circumstance of a sheep being stolen, or a larceny being committed in a dwelling-house. The former offence naturally excited a very great degree of horror. The hon. Gentleman said, that the crime of murder was one of calculation, and, if so, he argued that the very existence of the crime showed that the laws were not effectual. That argument was, in his opinion, not good; for the same argument might be used in reference to any species of crime. It might be said of those crimes to which the slightest punishment was apportioned, that the existence of those crimes proved that the punishment was not sufficient. Taking into consideration all the circumstances, he thought they could not lead one to the supposition that the punishment of death should be abolished, for it appeared that the hon. Gentleman was not prepared to propose a substitute, by means of which murder would be at once done away with, for if not at once done away with, the same argument might be used against his proposition, for it might be said, that it had failed in its effect, as the crime still existed. The real question was, whether a number of persons, besides those who actually committed the crime, were not deterred from committing it by the existence of the punishment of death. His opinion was, that there were a greater number of persons deterred from the crime by the fear of this punishment than would have been deterred by the fear of any punishment of a minor character. This was a matter certainly which was incapable of proof; but those who committed the crime well knew that they could have no expectation that these cases would excite the sympathy of the public, or that they could escape by the sympathy of the jury. He would take some atrocious case of murder—that, for instance of Greenacre. Was there any feeling of sympathy in the public mind towards him?—or that it was thought the punishment of death at all disproportioned to the enormity of his offence. He was aware that there was a portion of the community which conceived that there should be no such punishment as that of death, but the great mass of the public was of opinion that murder was properly punished by death, in order to deter others from the crime. He wished it were possible to frame a law to separate the atrocious cases from those of a more mitigated nature, for such cases as the latter came frequently before him, when it became his painful duty to investigate their character. There were many cases where great provocation was given, and which involved a very different offence from that of wilful murder; but, on the other hand, there were murders arising from revenge, from malignant passions, and from the hope of gain, and from deliberate plots of plunder. He should be glad, indeed, if he could come to the conclusion that society would be sufficiently protected by not taking the lives even of such offenders as these; but he thought the risk was sufficient to induce him not to assent to the proposition, conceiving it to be the paramount duty of the Government to protect the innocent and unoffending portion of the community. There had been already an immense change with respect to the mitigation of the criminal law. By the last tables laid before the House, the number of persons executed in 1818, was ninety-seven; in 1828 fifty-nine; and in 1838, only six; being about one-tenth of the number in 1828, and one sixteenth of the number in 1818. That was an immense change in the law in the course of a few years in favour of humanity and improved legislation; and when the hon. Gentleman said, that the spectacle of an execution brutalised the people who witnessed it, he thought the objection was removed by the change already made in the number of executions. The frequency of these executions might be said to harden and brutalise the people, but when the number of executions were small, he thought the effect would be greater, as being the solemn award of justice in cases of grave and atrocious crime. The hon. Member had said that the persons who went to these executions indulged in the most reckless gaiety and unconcern. He agreed with the hon. Member that such might, in some instances, be the case, but he did not think that that effect was produced by witnessing the execution; for if that feeling had not been manifested in that way it would be in some other equally objectionable. This, then, was his opinion as to the total abolition of the punishment of dealh; but he was far from saying that he did not indulge hopes that the condition of society would become yet so far improved, that the aversion to the shedding of blood would gain such strength, that, without danger to the innocent and unoffending, the abolition of death as a punishment might be effected. Such, however, was not the state of society at the present period, and if the punishment of death were abolished, he feared the effect would not correspond with their wishes. He would ask the House to consider the great peril of an unsuccessful attempt to abolish the punishment of death. Hon. Gentlemen must know, that as far as they had hitherto gone, the friends of humanity had no reason to complain; but if they were entirely to abolish the punishment of death, and if some cases of revolting offences should occur, a revulsion of public feeling might take place in the public mind, and instead of hastening the permanent abolition, they might have to admit that they had gone too far, and be forced to go back further than where they now stood. For these reasons he could not at once agree to the abolition of capital punishment. He regretted to have come to that decision, but he differed in opinion from a large portion of the community, and he thought it prudent to pause, rather than at once to decide upon the entire abolition of capital punishment.

Sir Stephen Lushington

agreed with the noble Lord that nothing could be more detrimental to the due course of justice than that the House should agree to a resolution that capital punishments ought to be abolished without taking any steps towards legislating on the subject, leaving the Home-office to carry out the laws under the ban of an expressed opinion of the House. The course of the hon. Member ought to be to move for leave to bring in a bill, and it was his intention, in order to remove that objection, to move, as an amendment to the motion, that leave be given to bring in a bill. Having had no intention of taking any share in the discussion, he yet felt himself constrained to make some observations upon the arguments adduced by his noble Friend. A considerable number of persons in the kingdom were of opinion that punishment by death is contrary to the law of God. The theological part of the argument he would not meddle with—his argument to the House of Commons would be upon, a very different and a very distinct principle. He knew no reason why there should be any punishment save for the prevention of offences or for the reformation of the offender. With respect, then, to the prevention, he would say, that if he thought capital punishments were necessary in order to prevent crime, they should hear from him no argument against the lawfulness of such punishments. The prevention of the offence was the very question at issue, and what had his noble Friend said in reference to this point? The chief part of his argument rested upon the readiness of juries to convict, and he quite agreed with him as to the fact, but he drew a very different inference. He believed, if a crime of atrocious character—if a horrible murder—were displayed before a jury, there would be always a disposition to convict whatever might be the testimony. He remembered having been told by an eminent judge of the present day, Mr. Baron Gurney, that in proportion to the atrocity of the crime was the facilty of conviction. This was the very matter which alarmed his mind. There may be cases in which conviction might be obtained on other than conclusive evidence. Though this disposition to convict was the feeling of juries, yet it was not the feeling of witnesses. No witness ever went into the box who did not endeavour to weaken and modify his testimony. He knew that the life of man was dependent upon his words, and he, in consequence, was apt to hesitate and doubt about matters of which he was previously certain, lest he should be mistaken, and be thus the occasion of death to a fellow-creature. Let them, also, consider what must be the feelings of the judges who had such an awful responsibility upon them. A judge well knew, that upon his summing up depended the life of a fellow-creature, and he therefore displayed a laudable astuteness in searching out those points which were calculated to acquit the prisoner. Would this be so if the punishment were less than death—if time were left for subsequent investigation? The judge well knew, that when sentence was once passed, it was quickly executed, and there was then an end to all human power of examination into the testimony. To prove that cases happened in which convictions improperly took place, he would mention, that he had known two cases in one sessions, in which free pardons were given after conviction; and yet, in the face of such facts, and looking at the uncertainty of all human evidence, would they shut the door against all subsequent inquiry, by executing on such convictions as those to which he had referred. Let them not say to him, that it was indispensable for the safety of society, that they should be under the painful necessity of occasionally sacrificing an innocent life. Where was their proof of any such necessity? They had evidence to the contrary. When he first commenced his examination into the criminal laws, some twenty-five years back, the scaffolds throughout the country were reeking with blood. Since that period, by very slow degrees—far, far too slow—they had in many cases abolished capital punishments, and he would ask them boldly, had that experiment failed? or rather, had it not been attended with the most signal success? They had prevented impunity for crime—they had protected the interests of society, and they had saved the country the spectacle of such a vast number of executions. In the midst of their power and authority they had one limit, and that limit was prevention of crime, and the reformation of the criminal. If they attempted to punish guilt, they stepped beyond those limits, and were trespassers on the authority of him who said "Vengeance is mine." His noble Friend had said that there might be a change of public opinion, and that such change might be adverse to the views of those who sought the entire abolition of capital punishments; but it should be remembered that they had originally fought up against public opinion. The bankers and merchants of London were all against them originally, and yet now that capital punishments for forgery are done away with, he asked a most eminent banker, a few months since, as to the effect of the mitigated punishment, and the answer was, that they knew nothing of forgery in the city of London now. The reason was obvious—it was, because every offender was prosecuted, and every witness spoke the truth without hesitation, for he was no longer terrified with the idea of consigning a fellow-creature to the scaffold. While they endeavoured to accomplish what was proposed by his amendment, or by the object of the present discussion, they made a great experiment in favour of humanity, upon the good feelings of the people of England, which hitherto had upborne them in their efforts in this respect; and as they now experienced the benefit of the abolishing of the punishment of death for some crimes to which it had previously been attached, it was not likely that the people of England would turn round upon them then, and oppose them in their further efforts to ameliorate the penal criminal code of this country. Not a single execution now ever took place in a provincial town in England, that every respectable individual resident in it, or its neighbourhood, did not remove their wives and daughters and families, lest they might be disgusted by that horrible and awful exhibition of the extreme penalty of the law. He would call upon them to consider the crime of murder, then, horrible and atrocious and revolting as it might and should be deemed, but he begged of them not to fall into the fallacy of supposing that the frequency of an offence was a cause for continuing the punishment attached to it. They could not deny but that the commission of some crimes heretofore adjudged in the highest degree penal, had been rendered more infrequent by the abolition of the punishment of death. He believed even should more murders unfortunately follow, the abolishment of the present punishment, that their commission might result more from circumstances over which they could have no control—from circumstances by which weak, erring humanity, was likely to be influenced—than from the cause that others might assign—namely, the removal of the legal punishment hitherto attached to that crime. But then another totally different question here arose, and that was, whether it were not the more fitting duty—and this he would wish to impress upon them—whether it were not the more legitimate object of the House of Commons to look more to the prevention of crime than its punishment. Would it not be more deserving for that House to endeavour to improve the general moral condition of the people at large to educate them, to impress upon their minds the great doctrines of the Christian religion, the great social obligations they had to perform, and the final future consequences of departing from those great principles which the Author of that religion inculcated. Much had been given to man for his redemption; and much they might do in ameliorating his condition by explanation, example, and instruction; but it could hardly be denied, that the fear of punishment went but a very small way in preventing the increase of guilt. His opinions differed from much that had fallen from his noble Friend near him; but he agreed in that particular part of his noble Friend's speech where allusion had been made to the dreadful and brutalising effects upon the minds of the community produced by the frequency of public executions. He agreed, and they all should agree, that these public executions—these exhibitions of scaffolds and human blood pouring forth—did debase, and lower, and brutalise the public morals, and the public mind. But the noble Lord had gone on to argue, that, because now the number of those executions had been considerably diminished, the mischief arising from them was not so great. Now, for his own part, be did not agree with his noble Friend in that proposition, but thought that the mischief was proportionally greater in consequence of the executions being fewer. He thought, that if one hundred executions in a year brutalised the public mind, six would do so in a twenty-fold greater degree. What was the case now if an execution was to take place in any part of the country? Why crowds, thousands of the lowest, and almost entirely the lowest order of people, from the most remote and distant parts hurried them to witness it. There might, indeed, be a few amongst whom the depraved curiosity to witness the death of a fellow-creature brought there, but by far the greater number was composed of the lowest classes, who were thus familiarised with the sight of blood, and thus was made known to them the very last extent of human suffering; and that sort of awful feeling which God had spread over the face of death, was, in some degree, abolished by such an exhibition as a public execution. He would ask them to remember the last execution in London. A short time subsequent to that an unfortunate and wretched woman had appeared to sustain a false accusation against some person. She had alleged, that she had been ill-used in some barracks, but on subsequent examination she had been discovered to have foresworn herself; and it had turned out, that on the morning of the very day on which she had falsely stated the offence to have been committed, she had been to witness the public execution he had alluded to. Thus it appeared, that the very fact of having seen that exhibition had been a sort of inducement or temptation to her to commit the crime of perjury; or, at least, it had not deterred her from that guilt. He could tell his noble Friend, that the people became more depraved and hardened from the sight of public executions, and would tell him, that during the time that executions for forgery had occurred he had himself known an instance where a young man of previously good character and unimpeachable morals, who having for the first time attended one of those executions, had committed the offence of forgery within forty-eight hours after. They might depend upon it, that so long as human life was at stake, and the likelihood of considerations being entertained for the ordinary failings which actuated the criminal by jurors, so long would there be a strong objection to find a verdict of guilty. And he addressed himself, then to every individual in that House, and called upon them to answer the question upon their honour as men, would they not, as jurors, require in such a case longer time for deliberation and more complete evidence before they came to a verdict when the life of a human being was at stake than when the punishment was simply transportation? He conceived he had in some degree demonstrated to them, that capital punishments were injurious to the public mind, and interfered with the course of justice, because the latter was frequently not so fully carried into effect, because jurors did not while considering the consequences of their verdict, wish to torture their minds by the danger of hereafter considering the possibility that they had in some degree been instrumental in causing the innocent to suffer. He would, without trespassing any longer on the attention of the House, implore it earnestly not to look at the present question merely with a view of saving the lives of a few innocent persons, though he was sure that was a most important and worthy consideration, but he besought it to keep most particularly in view the necessity of protecting the minds of so large a portion of the community as formed the then innocent part of it, from the contamination and the brutalizing and demoralising effect of public executions. He concluded by moving, as an amendment upon Mr. Ewart's motion, that leave should be given to bring in a bill, which would have for its object the abolition of capital punishments.

Mr. Ewart

had no objection to withdraw his motion, as the amendment would fully meet his views; his principal wish having been to bring on a discussion on this matter, and test the opinion of that House concerning it.

Mr. Goulburn

said, although by the form of the motion as it then stood, one of the chief objections which the noble Lord opposite had urged against it might have been removed, yet he could not avoid addressing a few words to the House on the present question. In much that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, he fully agreed. He entirely agreed with that right hon. Gentleman that the real and true questions to be then considered were, whether by the proposed alteration of the laws, they should lessen the quantity of guilt, whether by doing away with the punishment of death, they should diminish the frequency of the crime of murder. He (Mr. Goulburn) could not avoid saying, however, that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to him to have mixed up two questions in his speech upon the present matter, and that he had led away the feelings of the House most particularly in favour of that one, which did not, perhaps, belong legitimately to the present consideration. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the bad effects resulting from public executions, and had contended that these bad effects were increased by the fewness of the number of those executions. That was a proposition in which he confessed he could not acquiesce. That was an argument which he did not think sustained the motion before the House, or rather the principle contended for by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Might not the punishment of death he inflicted in a mode otherwise than that calculated to produce those effects which were condemned as so injurious to the public mind? He was not for a moment going to say that secret punishment was not objectionable, and would, perhaps, be considered generally unpopular; but if they found that the punishment of death could not be dispensed with in the case of the commission of murder, and if it was ascertained that public executions had those evil effects on the public mind which had been ascribed to them, it was possible to have the punish- ment inflicted in a different manner. For his own part, as far as he could come, after most serious consideration, to a conclusion upon the question, he confessed, that having made the fullest inquiry he could into this matter, his opinions were in accordance with those that had fallen from the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary for the colonies. The right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had told the House that he agreed with the noble Lord that murder stood in a manner apart, stood in a higher distinction, a more prominent position of guilt than any other crime. He had also told them that juries were not generally so unwilling to convict in such cases as in any other description of crime. He had also told them that in proportion to the aggravating circumstances of the offence was their readiness to convict the offender. He argued that persons were more frequently convicted in such cases than in those of minor atrocity. He had told them, however, immediately after, that the judges themselves were so affected by their fears of the consequences of conviction that they even endeavoured to strain a point to turn the scale in favour of the prisoner. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the witnesses came on the Table not so much with feeling a horror of the crime of murder, or commiseration for the family of the victim, as a strong preception of the fate of the murderer if convicted, and that generally they gave their testimony in a manner that denoted their doubts of their own recollection and memory as to the facts which they had seen. It appeared to him that there was some considerable degree of inconsistency in those several allegations, and for his part he could not conceive how the right hon. Gentleman could come to the conclusions which he had come to upon this matter. He thought if he was in the place of a juror, and was called upon to decide in a criminal matter of the description alluded to, that he should be, perhaps, even more cautious in coming to a final opinion upon the question before him, and more careful in weighing the evidence, than he would be as a witness in giving it. The right hon. Gentleman had even said that the judges themselves would act somewhat in such a manner as it might be calculated jurors ought to act in serious cases; and that on the whole matter, capital convictions were calculated to produce an improper influence on the public mind. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to make an experiment in favour of human life. He thought that was begging the question. He thought that the favourableness of the proposition to humanity depended entirely upon the success of the experiment; and if it was not successful, it would, perhaps, have quite a contrary effect from that mentioned. Instead of being an experiment which would be favourable to human life, it might turn out one exceedingly injurious to it, by removing the re straint and the dread of such a punishment as was now attached to murder. He had at that moment fully before his mind all the arguments used on a former occasion for the remission of capital punishments in offences of a minor description, and he thought all those arguments fully supported the principle that for the crime of murder the punishment of death should be continued. When it had been contended that the punishment of death should be removed as the consequence of the crime of burglary, it had been argued that they held out an inducement, as the law then stood, to the housebreaker to commit murder, in order to prevent himself from the consequences of his offence in case of detection and prosecution. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, would not his own argument tell, then, in an opposite direction? It appeared to him that, by the adoption of the principle proposed, they held out an inducement to the robber to commit murder, when the penalty attached to both crimes was only the same. By doing this, they destroyed the distinction between crime, and they took away one of the most natural feelings of mankind—natural because inculcated from the highest authority—namely, that when blood had been shed, blood should be shed in return, if it were carried out on a proper and just principle. It was briefly for these reasons that he was induced to coincide in the views of the noble Lord; not, indeed, from any desire to maintain a sanguinary code of laws, but from a firm conviction that by removing the punishment of death from the crime of murder they ran the greatest possible risk, not only of inducing the commission of that crime, but, perhaps, of creating its repetition under circumstances of a considerably aggravated character.

Mr. Hobhouse

said, in rising to second the motion of his right hon. Friend, the only difficulty he felt was, that the subject had been so exhausted by its mover, that very little remained for him to add to what had been already said. He could not forbear, however, making some comment upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who had just sat down. That right hon. Gentleman had observed, indeed, that there were inconsistencies in the speech of Dr. Lushington, bat while he animadverted upon those alleged inconsistencies, the right hon. Gentleman had been guilty of some inconsistencies himself. He entirely agreed with those who had said, that it was better to approach the consideration of the present matter on grounds totally unconnected with religious feelings; that it would have been more advisable to leave scriptural allusion out of that debate; but as the right hon. Gentleman opposite had stated, upon the authority of Scripture, that "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," he would only ask the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to that observation, were there not many circumstances under which that precept could not be fully acted upon or borne out; and he would also beg to remind him of the punishment that awaited the first murderer. The right hon. Gentleman had also told them, that in cases of robbery there would not be greater punishment than in cases of murder. He had yet to learn that there were not various gradations of imprisonment; and it seemed to him, that the only punishment in which there were no gradations, was that of death. As to what the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had said with respect to the willingness of juries to convict in cases of murder, he (Mr. Hobhouse) was sorry to say, that he entertained altogether a different opinion. He believed, that the severity of the punishment tended to prevent conviction. The hon. Gentleman then went on to refer to a number of statistical returns, before the House shewed, that in all cases where the severity of punishment had been mitigated, the number of convictions had increased, and the amount of crime diminished. This applied even to cases of manslaughter and murder. If any one considered the nature of the punishment of death, and looked at the impression made upon the throng assembled round the scaffold, he believed it would uniformly be found that the feeling that obtained there was not one of horror, not one of fear, but a feeling by which the multitude became hardened, and literally acquired a taste for blood. Was this a desirable state of things?—was it one likely to tend to the prevention or the diminution of crime? There was another view which had not been taken of this subject, but which he wished briefly to impress upon the consideration of the House. If the Legislature did not punish murder capitally, it would show, by the example of the state, the inviolability, the sacred estimation in which it held human life, He believed, that this would operate most beneficially. In his opinion the question before the House was-, not whether murder merited the punishment of death, but whether the taking away of a man's life was the best and only means of preventing that horrid crime. That the crime of murder did merit the highest degree of punishment, he did not for a moment question, but he greatly questioned the effect produced by public executions upon the minds of all those who, whether it were by accident or whether it were by choice, became the spectators of these bloody scenes. The lesson afforded by history was in favour of the course which he advocated. The time for putting it into full force was most opportune, inasmuch as the public, being wholly unaccustomed to the frightful exhibition of an execution, would gladly witness the adoption of a principle of legislation, by which the recurrence of such scenes of bloodshed would for ever be put an end to.

Mr. Plumptre

said, that he had voted with the hon. Gentleman in 1837, though he owned, with some doubt and difficulty, when he proposed that death should cease to be the punishment for all crimes, except murder; but, as he now proposed, that capital punishment should be abolished for murder also, he differed from him, and felt bound to vote against his motion.

Mr. Muntz

observed, that it had been forcibly and truly stated by a moralist, that the worst use to which a man could be put, was that of hanging him, and he fully agreed in the truth of this axiom. The great excuse urged by those who advocated the punishment of death for murder, was, that the Mosaic law commanded that blood should be the forfeit for blood; but if that reasoning were adopted, the punishment of death ought to be awarded to adultery, and many other crimes as the same law declared that to be the penalty of such offences. The fact, however, was, that all such pleas or defences, for the perpetration of the infliction of death were wholly and totally without any scriptural foundation. Society was framed altogether under a different dispensation from the Mosaic code of laws, and the principles of the Gospel upon which our religion is founded were to return good for evil. But there was another consideration to be taken into account, which was the question whether death was the greatest punishment that could be inflicted; and of this he entertained the very strongest doubts. What else could prompt men to commit suicide if death were the greatest of all evils? Suicide proved, that there was a fear that was greater than the fear of death, the fear, namely, of life; and a man often committed suicide because he feared, not death, but the evils which he apprehended a further existence would entail upon him. In many cases the punishment of imprisonment, or of transportation, would prove infinitely more insupportable than the extinction of life, and experience showed this to be the case. There was one other argument which he should just touch upon before he concluded, and that was to ask the House how it could be reconciled to the belief of the doctrines of Christianity to sanction any longer the commission of an act whereby the individual put to death was for ever deprived of an opportunity for seeking pardon by repentance and prayer of an offended Deity for the crime committed by him, although he required time for such repentance more than others did. He for one could not reconcile to his mind the doctrines of Christianity and a future state, with the practice of putting criminals to death for their offences, and he should, therefore, warmly espouse the motion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Fitzroy

was of the same opinion; as that entertained by the hon. Member for Kent. He believed, that they were only fulfilling their duty in obeying the command conveyed in the text of scripture already quoted, that "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." The only course which he could conscientiously pursue was to oppose the motion.

Mr. Brotherton

would ask the hon. Member who had last spoken if he were to carry out his principle where it would end. He had risen for the purpose of recording his sentiments in favour of the abolition of capital punishment, as he held it as a principle that no man had a right in any case to take away the life of his-fellow man. Therefore, when he saw laws enacted for the purpose of carrying into effect a punishment so shocking to the feelings of society, he could not help entering his protest against them as being in contradiction to every principle of humanity and sound policy. It had been shown that capital punishment did not prevent crime, and that crime had not increased in consequence of the mitigation of the severity of the law, and therefore he believed, that they were bound to show how sacred they held human life in their estimation by not daring, under any circumstances, to take it away. If the object were to prevent crime, let them instruct the people in their duty, and teach them the true principles of religion, which would ever be found in accordance with justice, humanity, reason, and common sense. The law of God was simple; it said plainly, "Thou shah not kill," and until the clergy and Bishops turned their attention to this subject, so as to instruct the people according to right principles, they would never produce that effect which they ought to produce. The Mosaic law had been quoted in support of this vindictive and retaliatory punishment, but the same law said, if an ox should gore a man or a woman, the owner of the ox, should suffer death.—["No, no."] He said—Yes, yes—and he said what was true; but that punishment in such a case might be commuted by the owner being mulcted in a sum of money, and that showed that the Scripture in this instance did not bear the usual interpretation; and he stated, on the authority of Mr. Bellamy, who had devoted fifty years to the study of Hebrew, and from whom he had presented a petition two years ago, on the subject of the new translation of the Scriptures, that that interpretation was not in accordance with the original Hebrew. He therefore thought they were called upon, by every principle of religion, of reason, of humanity, and of sound policy, to abolish the punishment of death.

Sir R. Inglis

was not one of those who were disposed to take away the life of one human being more than was necessary for the protection of others. The single question before the House was, in what cases could the infliction of death as a punishment be safely dispensed with most securely to the lives and properties of other men. That wonderful ameliorations had taken place in this respect he was sure he need not remind the House; for within the memory of many hon. Gentlemen who heard him, a case had happened where a woman was sentenced to be burnt alive for the offence of coining, and she only escaped this horrible death by the hazardous mercy of he public executioner, who dexterously strangled her ere he set fire to the wood around the stake; but, as far as the spectators were concerned, the law which sentenced her to be burnt to death was complied with, for, at the distance at which they were from the spot where she was executed, the observers could not distinguish whether she were dead or alive whilst being consumed, the belief being, that the law was actually and literally enforced. This fact, melancholy as it was, would show how very much public feeling had been improved since that period; and this very improvement in the state of public feeling, which rendered such scenes alike impossible and revolting, would also, in his apprehension, render it inexpedient to abolish the punishment of death by a sweeping measure, which, whilst it deprived the crown of one of its dearest and most distinguished prerogatives, that of mercy, would also take away from the executive power all possibility of awarding an appropriate punishment to crimes of an extraordinary magnitude, which unhappily for the credit of humanity, did occasionally protrude themselves on public attention to the general horror of mankind. During the last twenty years executions had decreased in the proportions of ten to one; yet there had been no alteration in the law; the change had been entirely effected by the modification public opinion had undergone, or rather double change—one in the public mind, by which human life was rated at a higher value, the other in the administration, on the ground that the great mass of capital punishments had been found ineffectual. Upon the influence of public opinion he thought the House might safely rely. He trusted the motion of the hon. Member for Wigan would be resisted; and as hon. Members opposite had referred to other countries, he would remind them that there was no instance of a state, with one single exception, in which the punishment of death was entirely abolished. As the hon. Member for Salford had referred to the words of the sacred scriptures, he could not but think that whatever construction might be put upon these words, and though it might be stated that the Almighty did not personally inflict the punishment ex- pressed by these words, still it could not be denied that in the code which he had prescribed, there was such an instruction as to the infliction of the punishment of death as must for ever exclude from censure any legislation which should make it a foundation for their laws.

Mr. O'Connell

did not think the right hon. Baronet opposite had paid himself any great compliment, when he said, that when it was not necessary be would not be for putting a man to death. He should wish to know who it was that would? He would submit to the hon. Baronet, that he could have no right to put a man to death unless it were absolutely necessary, for if he did it would be murder. Now, what the noble Lord, and the right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. Baronet, had to prove was, that it was necessary to put a man to death for murder—the burden rested on them. They ought to be able to demonstrate its necessity, if it were demonstrable; for those who were for the motion had already shown that every modification of the law of capital punishments had been followed by a diminution of crime. Now that was a consolatory fact. The only proofs admissible were from experience to probabilities, that those things which had happened would occur again. And what had happened already? Why in every country in which punishment by death had been diminished, that every crime, including murder, had also decreased. And with these diminutions had also diminished the disposition of the human mind to commit murder, for thus you mitigated the heart of man; the more you legislated in a spirit of humanity, the more you induced mankind to respect each other, and to spare each other's blood. The right hon. Gentleman had argued, that though they had been so far successful, that was no reason they should expect to succeed if they abolished capital punishments. But they had experience entirely on their side, and this fact authorized them to assume that the probabilities were also with them. References had been made to texts from Scripture. He did not consider this a fit arena for such discussions; for there were in that House men of different persuasions, who had been taught to put different constructions upon the same passages. Moreover, those Gentlemen who referred to those Scriptures were inconsistent, for according to those, one life must be taken for another, and thus the prerogative of mercy must be entirely taken away from the Crown, and they should bring in a bill to take away the distinction between murder and manslaughter. This would be the result of the argument of the hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Lewes. But even in the Scriptures themselves they would fail to find uniformity. Was not Uriah murdered under circumstances of great atrocity? And yet his murderer did not suffer death. But now we did not live under the stern rule of the Old Testament. We now lived under a more charitable dispensation, in which the principle of revenge was abolished, and that of brotherly love was inculcated above all. Such, therefore, should be the principles that should guide our legislation—the benevolence of Christian charity, not the harsh feelings of the Jewish code. Let them remember, when they argued for the continuation of capital punishment, that when once they put an individual unjustly to death, there was no room for repentance or reparation. A remarkable instance had occurred within his own experience. A man was committed at the Limerick assizes and left for execution. He was by accident enabled to procure from Mr. Justice Burke, the judge who tried him, a respite for a week. Before the week had elapsed it was proved that the man was as innocent as the judge. But if he (Mr. O'Connell) had not obtained that week, the man would have been executed. Would they risk the chance of committing such murders? What reparation could have been made if that man had been executed a week before the day fixed for his death? Did the House forget the remarkable case that lately occurred at Monmouth? Three gipsies were seen in company with a pensioner, who shortly after, on the same day, was robbed, and so severely beaten, that he was left for dead. The gipsies were tried, and convicted of the robbery, and transported to New South Wales, but the Home-office soon found that they were innocent, and had them brought back. Now, if the pensioner had died, the gipsies would have been executed, and then the House would have been the murderers. As for leaving it to judges to mitigate sentences, this would be but throwing dice for the chances of human life. One judge might be severe from a sense of duty, and another might have a serious objection to the sentencing of a criminal to die. Both would be equally conscientious, yet the chances of a man's life or death would frequently depend upon the temperament of those individuals. They should, therefore, put it out of the power of a judge to tamper with human life. Experience had shown them that they should not stop in their course of mitigation. But if it should turn out that one step more would be dangerous to the State, surely, they might in one night pass a bill through both Houses to remedy it. In the name of justice and humanity, he entreated them to agree to the motion for leave to bring in a bill.

Mr. John Jones

thought there would be found great difficulty in devising a secondary punishment for the crime of murder, if the punishment of death were to be abolished. It happened to him to be at one time detained at a foreign port while the ship was performing quarantine, when he took the opportunity of watching the galley slaves. Observing that one of them, after a few days, was absent, he inquired into the cause, and he was told that the man had been guilty of murdering two of his fellow-convicts. He then, inquired what was the first offence of that man, when he was informed that while acting in the capacity of a servant to a monk at Rome, he murdered his master. Now, in Tuscany, the punishment of death had been abolished; this murderer, consequently, could not be more severely treated after his second offence than he was for his first. This constituted with him the difficulty he experienced. He certainly was willing to give his vote for the abolition of the punishment of death in every case, except that of murder.

Lord Worsley

was afraid that the punishment of transportation was not sufficiently dreaded by that class of persons in this country who were likely to be guilty of great offences; he, therefore, thought that the total abolition of the punishment of death would, in the present state of the education of the people, be attended with danger.

Mr. Ewart

replied. It appeared that, in the returns laid before the House, there were recorded thirty-nine cases, in which sentence of death was commuted; yet, this commutation did not induce the relatives of the murdered parties to take vengeance on the perpetrators. However, without dwelling further on such facts, he would beg of those who would oppose his motion to support that of his right hon. Friend, and then they might discuss whatever alterations they wished to propose in committee.

The House divided on Sir S. Lushington's motion:—Ayes 90; Noes 161:—Majority 71.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. James, W.
Aglionby, Major Jervis, S.
Ainsworth, P. Kelly, F.
Alston, R. Leader, J. T.
Archbold, R. Lister, E. C.
Bainbridge, E. T. Lushington, C.
Baines, E. Melgund, Visct.
Barnard, E. G. Milnes, R. M.
Barron, H. W. Muntz, G. F.
Barry, G. S. Muskett, G. A.
Boldero, H. G. O'Connell, D.
Brabazon, Sir W. O'Connell, J.
Bridgeman, H. O'Conor, Don
Briscoe, J. I. Paget, F.
Brotherton, J. Pattison, J.
Bulwer, Sir L. Pechell, Captain
Busfeild, W. Rice, E. R.
Castlereagh, Visct. Roche, W.
Clive, E. B. Rundle, J.
Craig, W. G. Salwey, Colonel
Currie, R. Sanford, E.A.
Dennistoun, J. Scholefield, J.
Divett, E. Smith, J. A.
Duke, Sir J. Smith, B.
Easthope, J. Stanley, M.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Ellis, W. Stewart, J.
Fielden, J. Stock, Doctor
Fenton, J. Strickland, Sir G.
Finch, F. Tancred, H. W.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Thornely, T.
Fort, J. Turner, E.
Freshfield, J. W. Turner W.
Greg, R H. Vigors, N. A.
Greig, D. Villiers, hon. C. P.
Hall, Sir B. Wall, C. B.
Hawes, B. Wallace, R.
Hayter, W. G. Warburton, H.
Hill, Lord A. M. C. Ward, H. G.
Hinde, J. H. White, A.
Hindley, C. Williams, W.
Hobhouse, T. B. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Hodges, T. L. Wood, B.
Hodgson, R. Yates, J. A.
Humphery, J. Ewart, W.
Hutchins, E. J. Lushington, rt. hon. S.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Baillie, Colonel
A'Court, Captain Baker, E.
Alsager, Captain Baring, right hn. F. T.
Attwood, W. Barrington, Visct.
Bagge, W. Berkeley, hon. C.
Bewes, T. Howard, Sir R.
Blackett, C. Howick, Visct.
Blair, J. Hurt, F.
Blake, W. J. Hutton, R.
Bolling, W. Ingestrie, Visct.
Bowes, J. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Broadley, H. Jones, J.
Brocklehurst, J. Kemble, H.
Brodie, W. B. Knight, H. G.
Brownrigg, S. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Bruges, W. H. L. Law, hon. C. E.
Burrell, Sir C. Lemon, Sir C.
Clay, W. Liddell, hon. H. T.
Clerk, Sir G. Loch, J.
Clive, hon. R. H. Lockhart, A. M.
Collier, J. Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.
Copeland, Mr. Ald. Mackenzie, T.
Corbally, M. E. Mc Taggart, J.
Courtenay, P. Mahon, Visct.
Cripps, J. Martin, J.
Curry, Mr. Serjeant Maxwell, hon. S. R.
Darlington, Earl of Mildmay, P. St. John
Davies, Colonel Miles, P. W. S.
Denison, W. J. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Morpeth, Visct.
Dowdeswell, W. Morris, D.
Dugdale, W. S. Neeld, J.
Duncombe T. Nicholl, J.
Dundas, F. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Egerton, W. T. Ord, W.
Eliot, Lord Packe, C. W.
Evans, W. Pakington, J. S.
Farnham, E. B. Palmer, R.
Feilden, W. Palmer, G.
Filmer, Sir E. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Fitzalan, Lord Peel, J.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Pemberton, T.
Fremantle, Sir T. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Pinney, W.
Goddard, A. Plumptre, J. P.
Gordon, R. Polhill, F.
Gordon, hon. Captain Powerscourt, Visct.
Gore, O. J. R. Praed, W. T.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Price, R.
Graham, rt. hon Sir J. Protheroe, E.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C. Pusey, P.
Grimsditch, T. Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.
Grimston, Visct. Richards, R.
Grimston, hon. E. H. Rickford, W.
Halford, H. Round, C. G.
Hamilton, Lord C. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Harcourt, G. G. Rushout, G.
Harcourt, G. S. Russell, Lord J.
Harland, W. C. Rutherfurd, rt. hon. A
Hastie, A. Sheppard, T.
Hawkins, J. H. Shirley, E. J.
Heathcote, Sir W. Smith, A.
Hector, C. J. Smith, R. V.
Heneage, G. W. Smyth, Sir G. H.
Henniker, Lord Somerset, Lord G.
Herbert, hon. S. Spry, Sir S. T.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Stanley, Lord
Hodgson, F. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Hope, G. W. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Houldsworth, T. Stuart, Lord J.
Howard, hon. E.G. G. Strutt, E.
Howard, F. J. Sturt, H. C.
Style, Sir C. Williams, R.
Sugden, rt. hon. Sir E. Wood, C.
Surrey, Earl of Wood, Sir M.
Sutton, hon. J. H. T. M. Wood, Colonel T.
Teignmouth, Lord Worsley, Lord
Troubridge, Sir E. T. Wyse, T.
Tyrell, Sir J. T. Young, J.
Vere, Sir C. B. TELLERS.
Vernon, G. H. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Wakley, T. Parker, J.