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proceedings in criminal courts than he to be spared—for life was valuable. kad ; but after thirty years' experience, Such had ever been the case, and if he had not known six instances where, the judges were not so to run a race of bad he been of the jury, he should not humanity with the prosecutors, their bare felt himself bound to determine carriage wheels would be so obstructprecisely as the jury had determined. ed that they would be unable to move. But after they had brought in their It had the happiest effects, it commuverdict, they were like other men, ac- nicated mercy to those who merited it, cessible to pity. The doors of the ju. while the law was to be called into acrymen might afterwards be crowded tion against greater offenders. The by the daughters, the sons, or the severity of the law was not too much mothers of those who had been convict. for some cases ; for the utmost rigour ed, praying their interference. They was sometimes called for out of mercy would admit the justice of the convic. to society. He should not detain the tion, they would acknowledge the of. House longer on the present occasion ; fence of their relatives ; but they he had now addressed them for the sole would add—“ you cannot wish them purpose of doing away that prejudicial to expiate their crimes with their impression which might be made on the lives you cannot desire that they public mind, had the statement of Sir should be hanged; think, then, on our S. Romilly gone forth to the world feelings for those who, we believe, may without some observations being made be saved if you will petition the Prince upon it.” Regent. You will not refuse to sign On the 26th of March, when the this paper-life is valuable to the third reading of the bill was proposed, meanest being that crawls !". Thank Sir S. Romilly entered upon a review God! few Englishmen could with- of the objections which had been staied stand such an appeal as this ! The pe. to the measure. “To those members," tition was signed under those circum. he said, “ who had not before heard him stances, and was forwarded to the foun. on this subject, it would afford satisfactain of mercy, where it would always tion to hear that his was not theory; and bave due effect if a fair case were made though the gentlemen who opposed the out.-While assisting the judges of present bill obliged him by bestowing assize it was once unfortunately his on him the appellation of a theorist, duty to pass sentence of death on six they themselves were in reality the individuals, some of whom he could theorists. It would be some relief to not leave for execution, and of course those who objected to him, that he Do such order was left. But such

was accustomid to indulge in anci. feelings of mercy as he had in his own ful theories, when he assured them that mind towards the unhappy individuals he would now cautiously abstain from could not be communicated to them. obtruding on their attention any thing The consequence was, when he was of that kind ; at the same time he could about to leave the town the carriage not help observing, that this charge, so wheels were beset; and there were oud frequently preferred against him, was prayers calling on him “ for God's by no means well founded ; on the con. sake, not to leave the criminals for exe. trary, he had the satisfaction of think. cution!” Those who were offering ing that those who were most forward up the petitions so fervently were ac. in accusing him, were themselves adtually the prosecutors ; and they ad- dicted to the practice they condemned. mitted the justice of the sentence, but He really was not conscious that he said that the poor men's lives ought had attempted to support any measures such as those which formed the object ficted till within the reign of hi of the present bill by theoretical argu. present majesty; and the frequency ments; he had always, in endeavour. with which it had been inflicted ing to recommend them to the House, could be ascertained from Howard relied principally on facts, and he had book on prisons. From this it appear very diligently laboured to put the ed, that from the year 1749 to 1771 th House in possession of those facts. number tried was 250, of whom 109 These practical men, as they would or nearly one half, were convicted have themselves supposed, however, Within the last five years, on the othe who resisted the bill, had brought for hand, in London alone, there had beer ward no facts in support of their opi. tried for similar offences 188, of whon nions. They disdained even to have were convicted only 18, being only one recourse to those facts bearing on the in ten of those indicted, and of the 18 subject which they had before them. convicted not one had been executed He was sorry not to have heard the Now, he asked how the disparity be sentiments of his honourable and learn tween the number tried and the num ed friend (the Solicitor General) on ber convicted was to be accounted for this measure, considering how gratify- on any other principle but the unwil ing it must have been to the House to lingness of the jury to find the properlearn the opinion of a learned gentle ty stolen to be of the value required by man of his great experience on the sub- the act – He asked, could any strong ject.-The simple question now at is- er argument against an existing law be sue was, whether a law, enacted in the conceived, than that crimes not only reign of William III., which made increased but multiplied under it? Of robbery to the amount of more than could any thing be more absurd than five shillings, without any aggravated that the punishment of death should circumstances, a capital offence, should continue to be held out as applicable remain on the statute book. Without to offences of a trivial nature, when it at all alluding to the changes procured was perfectly well known that 'such by lapse of time, and even to the change punishment would never be inflicted : in the opinion of the judges since the It was said that the bill repealing the time of King William, an honourable capital part of the punishment for pri and learned friend of his (Mr Wethe. vately stealing from the person had rall) called on the House to adhere to had the effect

of increasing that crime. the ancient system of our criminal law, He denied that that crime had increas. and for information on that head re: ed since the passing of the act repealferred them to a work of Dr Paley. ing the capital part of the punishment ; This, however, was a work not found. but if the fact was so, it remained to ed on an enquiry into the ancient sys. be shewn that the alteration in the tem of our criminal law, but into the law had been the cause of it. For if nature of that law as it had been prac- crime in general had increased, it would tised in modern times. Now, he would be rather too much to hold that the remind the House, that for a considera. increase of it in this particular instance ble time the judges had, without being had been caused by the alteration in charged with indulging in theories, the law. The increase of crime in ge. seen occasion to swerve in their prac. neral would be apparent from the retice from the spirit of legislative en- turns before the House; and could with actment ; a spirit, which, by the way, fairness be attributed in a great dehad not been always dormant, as the gree, only to the uncertainty of the punishment in question had been in. punishment, or rather to the certainty

that no such punishment as that pro- not the number of offences ; and that sided for the offence would be indict. the number of prosecutions would be ed. The whole committals in the year greater in proportion to the number of 1805, throughout the kingdom, for of. offences, was what had been foreseen

fences of this kind, amounted to 980- and foretold as the consequence of 2 in 1806 to 890—in 1807 to 1017—in passing this act. In 1805 there were

1808 to 1110min 1811 to 1242_and 23 persons indicted for this offence,

in 1812 to 1484. So that in those six and only one convicted ; and in 1806, + years the committals had increased up. 31 persons tried, and one convicted;

wards of 500. Now, in order to see in the next year, 37 indicted, and three what alteration had been effected, it convicted, and in 1808, from January was necessary to enquire what number till June, when the capital part of the of persons had been executed for those punishment was abolished, there were crimes since the latest of the periods 31 persons indicted for stealing pri. mentioned. There had not been one. vately from the person. Such was the -He had been accused of ringing the progressive increase of this crime bechanges on impracticable theories, but fore his bill had passed, although the be bad never dealt in theories ; he had increase had been considered as the ef. supplied the House with factshe fect of the passing of that bill. So proceeded on facts, plain demonstra- little attention did these gentlemen who tive facts; but something very much talked against theory pay to facts.

like theory had been arrayed against They were so taken up with their zeal op him. But the act of 1809 had pro- about practical men, and the great suO duced unhappy results. A noble and periority of experience over specula

I learned Lord (Ellenborough, was re- tion, that they never once condescend. & ported to have said, that the alteration ed to look at the returns laid upon bi in the law as to privately stealing from the table.--As to the terror held out

person had caused an increase of by these unexecuted punishments, on that offence; but he denied that the which so much stress had been laid, it mere increase in the number of com- was purely chimerical,--they had no mittals for that offence proved the as. effect. Let the House for a moment

sertion, as the increase might be attri- remember how vast a difference there * butable to the increase of crime in ge- was between the great number of inneral

, and also to the fact, that since dictments and the small number of conthe alteration in the law, parties were victions which formerly took place, a less disinclined to prosecute. The opi. and the nearer proportion between the

aion of the Lord Chief Justice had convictions and indictments which was been often referred to, but that emi- now observed. The fact was, that neat person had declared the same opi- juries were not to be found who would

nion, that the crime had increased in find guilty on such sanguinary laws. 11

1808, before the passing of the act. He Before the passing of the former bill; did not know why the authority of the within a specific period 30 were iño Lord Chief Justice should be singled dicted, but

only one was found guilty; out as superior to every other. 'He and after the bill became a law, within did not try so many criminal causes as the same period 99 were indicted, and the other judges ; nor was it possible 45 out of that number were convictfor any judge officially to ascertain ed. The reason of this evidently was, whether the crime had really increased that the law being less sanguinary, the or not. The number of prosecutions juries did not hesitate to convict men at any period it was easy to ascertain, when evidence had proved them to be


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guilty. To keep these sanguinary his account of the Cape of Good acts standing on the statute-books, as Hope. When he arrived there, the threats, was much worse than useless ; law still ordered breaking on the wheel for they in effect often prevented men and torture for certain offences ; and from being convicted when they really when it was proposed to repeal those were guilty. Many instances could be laws, all the lawyers exclaimed loudly adduced to shew, that in consequence against the repeal ; they said, that of the laws regarding some particular though never put in force, these puoffences being so very sanguinary, men nishments were necessary in terrorem, who had been guilty of those offences, and that simple strangling with a cord even in an aggravated degree, were would not have any effect. The judges not even proceeded against. This ap- were of the same opinion. The laws plied particularly to bankrupts. How were however repealed, and the conse. many bankrupts have been guilty of quence was, that an application was those offences which the law made pu. soon afterwards made by the hangman nishable with death, such as secre- to have a pension assigned him, as, ting their property, and not appearing owing to the diminution of the numto their commission, and yet were ne- ber of criminals, his place was become ver proceeded against, such was the worth nothing to him. Strangling, terrible severity of the law? Its terri- putting on the rack, and beheading, ble severity was such, that no one were punishments which were still encould be found to prosecute, for there forced there by the letter of the law. were but very few creditors who could The statesmen saw that they were ever think of proceeding against a never enforced, in fact, and that the bankrupt, however deeply that bank- continuance of the law was detrimenrupt might have injured them, when tal rather than otherwise. They apsuch proceeding was to endanger the plied for the repeal of them ; but the man’s life. Though those offences continuation of the laws was defended were extremely common, as must be on the ground of their being valuable well known to those who had any as a terror. They were repealed, and thing to do with bankruptcies, yet had the consequence was, that the poor there only been four prosecuted within executioner petitioned the government half a century! But was it surprising for a pension, offering, at the same that such a law remained a mere dead time, to give up his fees of office !letter on the statute-book? If those with respect to the authority of the offences were punishable by transport. judges in favour of the present law, it ation, or by imprisonment for a term should be remembered that' till 1771 of years, would not many bankrupts they had executed that law, and their be justly prosecuted for secreting their present practice was an innovation on property from their creditors, or for the law, which was no longer any not appearing to the commission ? thing more than a mere theory. A Where then was the boasted benefit learned serjeant (Best) had said, that resulting from holding out in terrorem if any case could be found in which what was not carried into execution ? the sentence ought to be executed, Men who referred to facts, who did this would be a sufficient justification not indulge in theories, were well con- of the law. But he would suppose a vinced of this. Some gentlemen were case of assault so aggravated as to de. fond of facts, and he would appeal, by serve a capital punishment ; as for in. way of illustration, to an instance given stance, if a son should cruelly and by a respectable traveller, Barrow, in wantonly assault a kind and most in.

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dulgent father, was the honourable tence must lose much of its efficacy. od and learned gentleman, therefore, pre. He knew of but one way; and as the he pared to say, that he would make an prisoner remained ignorant of any in

asaalt capital in all cases whatever? tention to lessen his punishment, the

If so, he must bring in an entirely new pronouncing of the sentence must have se code of laws, and he would advise the all the effect it would have if the sen. i karned serjeant to inscribe them with tence were really to be inforced. The

the name of Draco. The learned mem- only form he knew of, was that where ber bad quoted the maxim, Nolumus, the judge concluded with solemnly

leges Anglia mutari. But he must pronouncing, · And the Lord have Mbeg leave to remind him when and mercy on your soul!' He had witet how those words were applied. They nessed the awful effects which the de

were used by the barons when they livery of this sentence had on the cri.

resisted the attempt to overturn the minals ; and in some instances, where a whole system of our laws, and to in- it was the intention not to execute, he

troduce the old Roman for the com- had seen the judge, after the sentence mon law of the land. If they were to had been pronounced, send to the pri

be quoted against all alterations in the soners, such was their dangerous state, : existing laws, why then the learned to assure them that the sentence was 3 serjeant would have appealed to them not to be executed ! What benefit

when it was first proposed, in the time could result from such a proceeding?

of Queen Anne, to have witnesses and what advantages resulted from #. examined in favour of the prisoner; or placing a judge in such situations?

when it was proposed to extend the He was for reducing the theory to be benefit of clergy to women as well as the practice of the law, and for enactD. med; or when it was determined to ing such punishments for offences as F: disregard clerical accomplishments, were not of that sanguinary character be which were so long the criterion that which would induce juries to acquit ed precluded capital punishment in cer- altogether, even where some punishletain cases. Such must have been the ment was due. He would conclude d effect of applying the learned serjeant's in the words of the Master of the

zotions during all times. With re. Rolls, whose absence he deeply respect to the sentence of death, it had gretted, that when the law was such been said that there were different

as to be no longer executed, from its ways' of pronouncing it,-one way repugnance to the manners and sentiwhen the criminal was really to be ments of the community, the time was banged, and another when it was in- come to repeal that law, and to subtended that he should be respited. But stitute another for it, more mild and be knew nothing of these different more effectual.” pays' of pronouncing a sentence of The bill passed the House of Com. death ; for if there were any such mons by a considerable majority, practices, the pronouncing of the sen

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