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THE MOST NOTORIOUS CHARACTERS
WHO HAVB BBEN CONVICTED OF OUTRAGES ON
The Laws of England
SINCE THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY;
OCCASIONAL ANECDOTES AND OBSERVATIONS,
SPEECHES, CONFESSIONS, AND LAST EXCLAMATIONS OF SUFFERERS.
The penal laws of the British empire are, by foreign writers, charged with being too sanguinary in the cases of lesser offences. They hold that the punishment of death ought to be inflicted only for crimes of the highest magnitude; and philanthropists of our own nation have accorded with their opinion. Such persons as have had no opportunity of inquiring into the subject will hardly credit the assertion that there are above one hundred and sixty offences punished by death, or, as it is denominated, without benefit of clergy. The multiplicity of punishments, it is argued, in many instances defeat their owo ends; for the object is alone the prevention of crimes.
The Roman empire never flourished so much as during the era of the Portian law, which abrogated the punishment of death; and it fell soon after the revival of the utmost severity of its penal laws. But Rome was not a nation of commerce, or it never could, under such an abrogation, hate so long remained the mistress of Europe. In the present state of society it has become indispensably necessary that offences which, in their nature, are highly injurious to the community, and where no precept will avail, should be punished with the forfeiture of life: but those dreadful examples should be exhibited as seldom as possible; for while, on the one hand, such punishment often proves inadequate to its intended effect, by not being carried into execution ; so, on the other, by being often repeated, the minds of the multitude are rendered callous to the dreadful example.
The punishment awaiting the crime of murder, from the earliest ages of civilized nations, has been the same as that inflicted by the laws of the British empire, varying alone in the mode of putting the sentence into execution. We find the murderer punished by death in the ancient laws of the Jews, the Romans, and the Athenians; in nations of heathens and idolaters. The Persians, worshipping the sun as their deity, press murderers to death between two stones. Throughout the Chinese empire, and the vast dominions of the East, they are beheaded; a death in England esteemed the least dishonourable, but there considered the most ignominious. Mahometans impale them alive, where they long writhe in LE
agony before death comes to their relief. In Roman Catholic countries the murderer expiated his crime upon the rack.
Several writers on crimes and punishments deny the right of man to take away life, given to us by God alone ; but a crime of the dreadful nature of that now before us, however sanguinary they may find our laws in regard to lesser offences, unquestionably calls loudly for death.
Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed,' saith Holy Writ; but with the life of the murderer should the crime be fully expiated? The English law on this head goes still further : the effects of the murderer revert to the State—thus, as it were, carrying punishment beyond the grave, and involving in its consequences the utter ruin of many a virtuous widow and innocent children, who had looked up alone to it for support. Yet we may be thankful for laws, the dread of which affords us such ample security for our lives and property, and which we find administered with rigorous impartiality, award. ing the same punishment for the same offence, whether the culprit be rich or poor, humblé in life or exalted in rank. In proof of this we peed only refer our readers to the cases of Laurence Earl Ferrers, Doc. tor Dodd, the Perreaus, Ryland, and many others, whose lives are recorded in these pages.
It is the opinion of an able commentator on our criminal laws that punishment should succeed the crime as immediately as possible, if we intend that, in the rude minds of the multitude, the picture of the crime shall instantly awaken the attendant idea of punishment: delaying which, serves only to separate these two ideas; and thus affects the minds of the spectators rather as a terrible sight than the necessary consequences of a crime. The horror should contribute to heighten the idea of the pu. nishment.
Next to the necessary example of punishment to offenders is to record examples, in order that such as are unhappily moved with the sordid passion of acquiring wealth by violence, or stimulated by the heinous sin of revenge to shed the blood of a fellow-creature, may have before them a picture of the torment of mind and bodily sufferings of such offenders. In this light THE NEWGATE CALENDAR must prove highly acceptable to all ranks and conditions of men ; for we shall find, in the course of these volumes, that crime has always been followed by punishment; and that, in many instances, the most artful secrecy could not screen the offenders from detection, nor the utmost ingenuity shield them from the strong arm of impartial justice.
THE REV. THOMAS HUNTER, EXECUTED FOR THE MURDER OF TWO CHILDREN, SONS OF MR. GORDON.
The criminal recorder has too of his own pupils, the sons of his often to detail the atrocity of am. benefactor !—the soul recoils with bition, the malignity of revenge, horror, and we shudder at the want and the desperation of jealousy; of religious principle evinced in the but the perpetrators are generally deed; for this criminal subsequentconfioed to the abandoned and irre- ly avowed himself an Atheist. Jigious—the illiterate and intempe- The Rev. Thomas Hunter was rate. Their follies or former crimes born in the county of Fife, in Scot. account in some measure for their land, and was the son of a rich fardelinquency, and we lament their mer, who sent him to the Univerwant of virtue and education ; but, sity of St. Andrew for education. when we meet in the criminal cata. When he had acquired a sufficient logue with a culprit like the pre- share of classical learning he was sent-a man of education and a mi. admitted to the degree of Master of nister of the Gospel-guilty of a Arts, and began to prosecute his premeditated murder !-the murder studies in divinity with no small de