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his sins from their burial places in the bosom, to show unspiritual, unregenerate man to himself, as odious, guilty, lost. We are to present the Saviour, to depict his noble character, to paint his dreadful sufferings, to tell the story of his love. We are to hold up Christ, to recommend him, to draw sinners to him. We are to heal broken hearts, to rebuild the ruined temples of humanity, to lift up degraded man to companionship with Jesus, to a rest in the bosom of God. We are to transform society, till it becomes a second Eden, whose trees are all trees of life, and around whose branches no serpent coils.
Men have been eloquent in the senate and on the field of battle; there are also Homers and Miltons and Shakspeares in the world; but there is an inspiration which neither patriotism nor blood can furnish, which Urania and Melpomene never felt; it is the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. This is the nerve, the energy, the soul of the true Christian orator. Its influence will often come upon him, and while he utters the Spirit's truth, as revealed in the holy word, he will preach with the Spirit's demonstration and the Spirit's power; for it is not he that speaks, but his Father that speaketh in him. Let him not be discouraged, then, by the greatness of his work. The germ of eloquence is in him. Meditation, study, prayer, will develop it. Great emotions, excited by great subjects, will give it vent. Wisdom will make it perfect. He who devotes some attention to Christian oratory every day, and has the soul of a true man within him, can scarcely fail to become eloquent at length.
By Daniel R. Goodwin, Professor of Languages, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Me.
OUR readers will not be surprised at meeting the title of this Article in a Theological Review; for they must have observed that almost all, whether clergymen or laymen, who have hitherto discussed the subject proposed, have given it more or less of a theological aspect. The principles involved in the range which the discussion has taken, are fundamental in Christian as well as political ethics. We shall, therefore, offer no apology for introducing the subject here.
Our Course of Argument defensive.
Yet we cannot dissemble that we have found it a most painful subject to reflect upon. So repulsive is the very thought of inflicting an ignominious death upon a fellow-being; so invidious is the position of defending penal severity, however just and necessary, against the claims of professed philanthropy, however mis. guided or mis-called; and such are the perfect chaos and furious mêlé in which this question of capital punishment has become involved-old landmarks abandoned, first principles disputed, almost every assertion or argument which is put forth with confidence on one side, challenged and disputed with equal confidence on the other that our readers will give us credit for sincerity in saying, that the writing of the following pages has been to us not only no pleasant duty, but no easy task. Perhaps there is no subject in whose treatment flippancy, denunciation and personalities are more rife, or more entirely and grossly out of place. Should we be tempted to indulge in them, in any case, we humbly crave pardon of those who may feel thereby aggrieved.
The term "capital punishment," as generally used in the following pages, will be understood to refer to the penalty of death for murder only. With the infliction of this penalty for other crimes, we are not at present concerned. As to its infliction for murder, our position is affirmative; but, at the same time, our general course of argument will be defensive.
It is proper that it should be so. Here is something which is assailed. Suppose no sufficient reason can be given for its abolition; shall it, then, be abolished? The question is not whether capital punishment shall be instituted. It is instituted. The question is, shall it be abolished? A law exists, has existed these four thousand years. Shall it be abrogated? This is the action which is called for. The abolitionists, therefore, (of course we use the word in its relation to the subject in hand,) have the aggressive, and their opponents the defensive side. On the former, therefore, the burden of proof must practically lie.
We say this, not for the purpose of getting any advantage in the argument by any logical trickery or technicality. Practical questions are not to be settled by logical figures or formulas or weather-gages, or lines of vallation or circumvallation, or any ruse de guerre. Our opponents are at perfect liberty to use what form of argumentation they please; and so are we. We wish it, therefore, to be understood once for all, that, though we shall freely employ positive arguments-for all such arguments are also nega.
tive, so far as they are made good-our main business at present is defensive, apologetic.
This question of capital punishment naturally and ordinarily divides itself into two parts, that of right, and that of expediency. But if these two branches are recognized at all, they must be understood in such a sense as not to involve one another, and should be kept clearly separate in the management of the discussion. Each must be considered as being capable of proof, independently of the other; so that we may not infer the right or wrong of capital punishment from its expediency or inexpediency, nor, on the other hand, its expediency or inexpediency from its being right or wrong; still less may we prove, as the abolitionists often attempt to do, in the first place, that it is wrong because it is inexpedient, and, in the second place, that it is inexpedient because it is wrong. It is true that, if, by appropriate evidence, we prove it to be a duty, or prove it to be wrong, though even then the question of its expediency or inexpediency, so far as that question depends upon independent evidence, may not be settled, yet, for us as moral beings, it is not worth while to inquire further. The absolute authority of reason must prevail over all conclusions from sensible appearances. But if the point of expediency or inexpediency should be established so far as it can be by experience and observation, the question of right or wrong will still remain not only undecided, but in the highest degree important.
Of course we fully admit that practical right is always coincident with absolute expediency; if indeed absolute expediency is not a contradiction in terms. But if we would distinguish the right from the expedient at all, (and it is plain men do ordinarily consider them distinct,) we must attach to them a meaning and assign to them a derivation and a direction consistent with such a distinction. Right is theoretical; expediency is practical. Right (or rather duty) commands; expediency advises. Right is to be ascertained by deduction from authority, intuition, or, in general, from some higher principle whether of reason or revelation; expediency is to be ascertained by an induction from facts. However, therefore, right and expediency may coincide in their last analysis and ultimate result, they yet differ essentially in their mode of proof. And the difference is important in this particular, that while the deduction of the right may be complete demonstration, the induction of the expedient can at best but approximate the absolute character of perfect proof.
The Ground of penal Inflictions.
That a certain procedure might appear to be expedient-might be proved to be expedient, so far as the proper appeal (that, namely, to facts) could ascertain the point, and yet might be found forbidden by the highest authority, that is to say, might be wrong, we suppose will be admitted. But duty and not mere right is the absolute antithesis to wrong; therefore, on the other hand, a certain procedure may be proved to be theoretically and generally right and yet be found practically inexpedient under given circumstances; or, in other words, an individual or a government may have a right, which nevertheless it may not be expedient to exercise. For example, it might be perfectly right legally to compel men to pay their debts of more than six or twenty years' standing, and yet not be expedient. On the other hand, however expedient it might seem, on grounds of mere utility, to kill off the insane, the infirm and the aged, and thus rid society of their burden, no Christian man could be brought to believe such a course to be right.
In our present investigation, therefore, the general question of right comes first, and after that the particular question of expediency. We do not propose to prove that the infliction of capital punishment is a duty; we shall defend it from the charge of being wrong; and thus, its rightfulness being established, its expediency will be left to be settled by its own proper, independent evidence-an appeal to facts. So far as any may choose to consider the right and the expediency necessarily interdependent, we may state our projected course of argument thus; to show, 1st, that capital punishment is right if it is expedient; and 2nd, that it is expedient if it is right.
But here we are met at the threshold by two opposing parties in the philosophy of jurisprudence, each of which claims for itself the entire field. The one party seems to maintain that the pri mary, if not the whole business of penal law is the simple execution of justice, that punishments are inflicted simply on account of the intrinsic demerit of crime and consequently that their ground and reason lie only in the past. The other party seems to maintain that the sole ground of human punishments is expediency, the good of society; and consequently that the reasons for them are to be sought in the future without any regard to the merit or demerit of him who suffers them; in short, that moral guilt is in no sense the ground of punishment.
Now the truth seems to us to be on both sides mixed with just so much of error as prevents the two parties from coalescing.
The causa sine quâ non and the causa finalis have long been distinguished. The general, rational ground of a proceeding and its particular, practical end are two things. In our view, the idea of just punishment does involve, as its ground, the idea of crime-of crime as such. And this notion of ours is founded not upon the mere etymology of the word; which we readily admit to be a fallacious basis of reasoning, though not destitute of all pertinency -and they who urge it, do not urge it as their only reason; but upon sheer common sense, upon the general opinion and feeling of mankind. In our view, too, the idea of crime involves the idea of moral delinquency, demerit. We maintain therefore, that delinquency, demerit, moral guilt, are the indispensable condition, the rational or fundamental ground of just punishment. Without the assumption of this ground, there can be no proper punishmeut, though it may be falsely assumed, and then the punishment is misapplied.
It is in this point of view alone that human punishments can be brought into contact with the human conscience. Men who suffer punishment do not feel, ought not to feel or be taught to feel, that they suffer, either as benefactors of mankind, simply for the public good; or as victims of society, simply by the right of the public power;2 or finally as victims of fate, simply in consequence of an unfortunate natural or social organization. And when the doctrines of some of our modern philanthropists shall have so far succeeded in undermining the moral basis of our social fabric, that such shall come to be the general feeling of criminals, we cannot help thinking that the ground of punishment will be so far slipped away from under it, that it will hardly stand much longer.
Should any think to demolish our position, and prove that expediency is the true ground and norma of human punishments, by the acknowledged maxim, that no unjust punishment can be expedient; we answer that such a maxim, so far from demolishing our position, does utterly demolish all antagonist positions. It
This article was written before we saw, in a late number of the Biblical Repository, an able article by Dr. Lewis, in which he explains and defends his former positions and makes essentially the same distinctions which are made above. We have not thought it best to alter or omit anything in consequence of such coincidences.
2 “Osservate, che la parola diritto non è contradittoria alla parola forza, ma la prima è piuttosto una modificazione della seconda, cioè la modificazione più utile al maggior numero.”—Beccaria, delle Pene, sez. 2. Such are the ethics of cold-blooded utilitarianism!