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tolerable injustice as attends the impressing comnta“ seamen. In order to be better understood, I would premise two things; First, that voluntary seamen may be had for the service, if they were sufficiently paid. The proof is, that to serve in the same ship, and incur the same dangers, you have no occasion to impress captains, lieutenants,' second lieutenants, midshipmen, pursers, nor many other officers. Why, but that the profits of their places, or the emoluments expected, are sufficient inducements! The business then is, to find money, by iinpressing, sufficient to make the sailors all volunteers, as well as their officers; and this without any fresh burthen upon trade.-The second of my premises is, that twenty-five shillings a month, with his share of salt beef, pork, and pease-pudding, being found sufficient for the subsistence of a hard-working seaman), it will certainly be so for a sedentary scholar or genileman. I would then propose to form a treasury, out of which encouragements to seamen should be. paid. To fill this treasury, I would impress a number of civil officers, who at present have great salaries, oo, blige them to serve in their respective offices for twenty five shillings a month with their shares of mess provisions, and throw the rest of their salaries into the seamen's treasury. If such a press-warrant were given me to execute, the first I would press should be a Recorder of Bristol, or a Mr. Justice Foster, because I might have need of his edifying example, to show huw m:.ch impressing ought to be borne with ; for he would certainly find, that though to be reduced to twenty-five shillings a month might be a private mischief, yet that, agreeably to his maxim of law and good policy, it ought 10 bc borne with patience, for preventing a national calanity. Then I would press the rest of the Judges: and, opening the red book, I would press every civil officer of government from 501. a year salary up to $0,0001. which would throw an immense sum into our treasury: and these gentlemen could not complain, since they would receive twenty-five shillings a month,
and their rations; and this without being obliged to fight. Lastly, I think I would impress ***,
On the Criminal Laws, and the practice of
March 14th, 1785. MY DEAR FRIEND,
AMONG the pamphlets you lately sent me, was one, entitled Thoughts on Executivo Justice. In return for that, I send you one on the same subject, Observa. tions concernant l' Exécution de l’ Article 11. de la Decla. ration sur de Vol. They are both addressed to the Judges, and written, as you will see, in a very different spirit. The English author is for hanging ull tlieves. The Frenchman is for proportioning punishments to offences.
If we really believe, as we profess to believe, that the law of Moses was the law of God, the dictate of divine wisdom, infinitely superior to human ; on what principles do we ordain death as the punishment of an of fence, which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a restitution of four fold? To put a man to death for an offence which does not deserve death, is it not a murder? And, as the French writer says, Doiton punir un delit contre la societe par un crime contre la nature?
Superfluous property is the creature of society. Sim. ple and mild laws were sufficient to guard the property that was merely necessary. The Savage's bow, his hatchet, and his coat of skins, were sufficiently secured, without law, by the fear of personal resentment and retaliation. When, by virtue of the first laws, part of the society accumulated wealth and grew powerful, they enacted others more severe, and would protect their
property at the expenes of nu nanity. This was abus. mg their power, and convencing a tyranny. If & savage, b:fore ne cillure l into soci ty, mai bien told " Your ncighbor, by t: is means, inay becointe owner of « an hundra (leer; but if your brother, or your soi, or 6 yourself, having no dizer of your own, ani bin nune gry, should kill one, an famous death must be the " consequence:" he would probibiy have preferred is liberty, and his com Non rigni of killing any deer, to il} the advantages of society tirut migat be proposed 10 hiin.
That it is better a hundred guilty persons should use tape, than that one innocent de l'son should sutter, is a maxim that has been long and generally approved; nes Ver, that I know of, controveried. Even the sanguinary author of the Thoughis agrees to it, aciding well, that 66 the very thought of liljured innocence, and much a inore that of sifiring innocence, must awaisen all 62 our tenderest and most compassionate ftelings, and at
® the same time raise our highest indignation agamse - « the instruments of it. But (he adds) there is no dalle 66 ger of eithir, from a sirict auberence to the laws.”_ Really! Is it then impossible to make unjust laws? and if the law itself be uolust, may it not be the very 64 instrument" which ought to raise the author's, and " every body's highest indignation ?" I see, in the last newspapers from London, that a woman is capilally convicted at the Old Bailey, for privately stealing out of a shop some gauze, value fourteen shillings and three-pence: Is there any proportion between the injury done by a theft, value fourteen shillings and threepence, and the punishment of a human creature, by death, on a gibbet? Might not that woman, by her labour, have made a reparation ordained by God, in paying four-fold ? Is not all punishment inflicted be. yond the merit of the offence, so much punishment of innocence? In this light, how vast is the annual quantity, of not only injured but suffering innocence, in modo most all the civilized states of Europe
But it seems to have been thought that this kind of innocence may be punished by way of preventing crimes. I have read, indeed, of a cruel Turk in Barbary, who, whenever he bought a new Christian slave, ordered him immediately to be hung up by the legs, and to receive a hundred blows of a cudgel on the soles of his tet, that the severe sense of the punishment, and fear of incurring it thereafter, might prevent the faults that should merit it. Our author himself would hardly ap. prove entirely of this Turk’s conduct in the government of slaves; and yet he appears to recommend something like it in the government of English subjects, when he applauds the reply of Judge Burnet to the convict horsestealer; who being asked what he had to say why judgment of death should not pass against him, and answering, that it was hard to hang a man for only stealing a horse, was told by the Judge, “ Man, thou art not to be hanged only for stealing a horse, but that horses may not be stolen." The man's answer, if candidly examined, will, I imagine, appear reasonable, as being founded on the eternal principle of justice and equity, that punishments should be proportioned to offences, and the judge's reply brutal and unreasonable, though the writer « wishes all judges to carry it with them whenever they go to the circuit, and to bear it in their minds, as containing a wise reason for all the penal statutes which they are called upon to put in execution. It at once illustrates (says he) the true grounds and reasons of all capital punishments whatsoever, namely, that every man's property, as well as his life, may be held sacred and inviolate." Is there then no difference in value between property and life? If I think it right that the crinie of murder should be punished with death, not only as an equal punishment of the crime, but lo prevent other murders, does it follow that I must ap. prove of the same punishment for a little invasion on my property by theft? If I am not so barbarous, so bloody-minded and revengeful, as to kill a fellow crta. ture for stealing fron me fourteen shillings and three
pence, how can I approve of the law that does it? Montesquieu, who was himself a judge, endeavours to impress other maxims. He must have known what humane judges feel on such occasions, and what the effects of those feelings; and, so far from thinking that severe and excessive punishments prevent crimes, he . asserts, as quoted by our French writer, that
« L'atrocite des loix en empeche l'execution.
« Lorsque la peine est sans mesure, on est souvent oblige * de lui preferer l'impunite,
“ La cause dės tous les relachements vient de l'impunite « des crimes, et non de la moderation des peines."
It is said by those who know Europe generally, that there are more thefts committed and punished annually in England than in all other nations put together. If this be so, there must be a cause or causes for such depravity in our common people. May not one be the deficiency of justice and morality in our national gov. ernment, manifested in our oppressive conduct to subjects, and unjust wars on our neighbors ? View the long-persisted in, unjust, monopolizing treatment of Ireland, at length acknowledged! View the plundering government exercised by our merchants in the East-Indies; the confiscating war made upon the American colonies; and, to say nothing of those uponFrance and Spain, view the late war upon Holland, which was seen by impartial Europe in no other light: than as a war of rapine and pillage ;, the hopes of an. immense and easy prey being its only apparent, and probably its real motive and encouragement, Justice is as strictly due between neighbor nations as betweenneighbor citizens. A highwayman is as much a robber when he plunders in a gang, as when single ; and a nation that makes an unjust war is only a great gang. After employing your people in robbing the Dutch, is it strange that, being out of that eniploy by peace, they still continue robbing, and rob one another? Piraterie, as the French call it; or privateering, is the universal bent of the English nation, at home and abroad, wherg