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in the walls of the city. It was often violated both by the people and their magistrates. Add to all these facts that the times antecedent and immediately subsequent to its enactment were the most virtuous times of the Roman State. Qui tunc pudor hominum erat! exclaims Livy. The severe laws of the twelve tables had educated a race of men of sterner and stricter mo. rality, of more solid and masculine virtue, than the world has elsewhere seen. This hoasted law was introduced; the State continued to flourish externally; but morals and virtue went on decaying, till the privileged descendants of those same noble old Romans had sunk to a depth of corruption and moral degradation which we find described in its true and appalling colors in the first chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans;-an abyss and a loathsomeness of moral pollution from which, not only not the now necessary restoration of capital punishment, but not even the introduction of Christianity itself, could save them. The insinuation that the restoration of this penalty was the cause of the very degradation which it failed to remedy is on a par with Gibbon's insinuation that the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire were owing to the introduction of Christianity. The abolitionists are welcome to all the strength they can get from the example of the ancient Romans.1
From statistical tables of the results of the criminal administration of various countries, they undertake to prove that “the frequency of executions has constantly occasioned a corresponding frequency in the commission of capital crimes; and a diminution in the number of executions has constantly occasioned a corres. ponding diminution in the frequency of murders and of all crimes formerly punished capitally."
Now we might reasonably set aside all such argumentation as being a most palpable and, coming as it does from intelligent men, a most amazing invasion or perversion of the relation of cause and effect. We might say, the frequency of crimes has not been owing to the frequency of executions, but the frequency of executions has been owing to the frequency of crimes; and so in the case of the alleged corresponding diminution. This is manifestly true when identical times are taken. And if the immedi
"As to the experiment of Sir James Mackintosh in India, it is enough to say that his successors, wise and practical men as well as he, have not seen fit to follow it up. The probability is, that Mackintosh reaped the harvest which his predecessors had sown; and his successors have been obliged to return to the sowing again.
Abolition of Capital Punishment in Belgium.
ately subsequent years are taken in each of the cases, it does not much affect the soundness of their reasoning, for moral effects do not so suddenly follow from external causes. And finally, when they take long periods for comparison,-as they rarely do with a fair statement of the premises, i. e. without mixing up the executions for all offences capital in one time and place with the executions for murder only in another time and place,-we say, when they take long periods for comparison, they seem to forget the natural result of increasing civilization accompanied with the elevation and increasing comfort of the masses, and ascribe everything to the simple effect of the penal administration.
We might further object that, strange as it may seem, statistics are easily made the most deceptive basis for argument, that can possibly be invented. Let a man pick and pack his facts to suit himself and he can prove from statistics anything he pleases.
But, for the sake of argument, we will waive both these objections. We will admit, since our opponents are pleased to assume it, that the whole effect, in the phenomena of crime, whatever it be, is to be ascribed to the actual administration of the penal law; and we will take their own selection of statistical tables just as they have given them to us. Even then we think we can show, that their own facts not only do not establish their conclusions, but fairly considered, do unanswerably refute them.
In order to restrain this inquiry within reasonable limits, we shall take from among the multitude of statistical statements and reports which they have published, six letters of the Hon. Robert Rantoul, jr. addressed in February, 1846, to the governor and legislature of Massachusetts. Considering Mr. Rantoul's high character and standing as a lawyer and a gentleman, and the fact that he has shown a larger and more devoted interest in this subject than perhaps any other man in New England, we presume the selection will not be objected to. If anywhere we can find a strong case made out for the abolitionists we may expect to find it here.
But even while confining ourselves to Mr. Rantoul's documents we shall be obliged to content ourselves with noting but few of the many cases in which his facts point directly against him.
In his third letter he instances the case of Belgium, where capital punishment was abolished in 1829, and his statistics extend to 1834. We might fairly set this case entirely aside, inasmuch as Mr. Ernst, the Belgian minister of justice, who may be assumed to know something about the matter, in his official report for 1835, VOL. IV. No. 15.
declared himself against the expediency of the abolition judged by its practical results. It is true the abolitionists disputed his views and inferences; still we might fairly reject the case as remaining yet sub lite. But let us take Mr. Rantoul's facts as he presents them.
His tables extend over a space of thirty-nine years, from 1795 to 1834. If we divide this time into periods of ten years each, (nine years for the first period,) it will appear by these tables that, taking Belgium exclusive of Limbourg and Luxembourg, the average annual convictions for all capital crimes, in passing from the first period to the second, diminishes 111 per cent. ; in passing from the second period to the third, it diminishes 100 per cent; and in passing from the third period to the last, it remains without any diminution at all, exactly stationary. In the midst of this last period capital punishment was abolished; in the first period it was executed with the greatest rigor. And if we confine one side of our comparison exclusively to the period subsequent to the abolition, and select the last of the five years, (which is perfectly fair on Mr. Rantoul's own principles of reasoning, we find that the number of capital convictions in 1834 compared with the annual average during the fifteen years next preceding the abolition was as 23 to 13.7; compared with the average for the first four years subsequent to the abolition, it was as 23 to 9, and within the same time the annual average of murders had increased from 3.2 to 7. How much has abolition protected the sanctity of human life, according to all this?
But it is boldly asserted that the most gratifying result of the gradual and constant diminution of crime during the thirty-nine years preceding 1834, which the table covers, was owing to the diminished frequency of executions; and the case is put thus : " After the period ending 1799, the annual average of] executions increase thirteen, the annual average of the convictions for murder increase four. In all the following periods they (both averages) decrease."
Now let us look the facts straight in the face. During the five years immediately subsequent to 1799, there was a great increase in the severity of the criminal administration and an accompanying increase in the frequency of murders. This is just what we should expect. But as men do not commit crimes because they have themselves been hung for it, but rather are hung because they have committed the crimes; if we would not totally pervert the relation of cause and effect, we should look to a subsequent 1847.]
Penal Laws in Massachusetts.
period—to the next five years, if you please for the consequences of this increase of severity. And what do we find? Why, we find that in the next five years the annual average of convictions for all capital offences fall off from seventy-one to thirty; and for murder, from thirty to sixteen! From which it would appear that, on the very basis of reasoning assumed by our opponents, the execution of thirteen felons per annum during one five years, saved the lives of fourteen innocent persons per annum during the next five years. And what is more, deterred fourteen miserable men each year from bringing upon their souls the unutterable gnilt of imbruing their hands in the blood of their fellow creatures. And even this makes the case too favorable for the aboli. tionists, for at least one third, (and probably one half,) of the exe. cutions, during that period of great severity, were for other crimes than murder. Such was the aspect of facts in 1809. Now a priuciple of reasoning that was good in 1834 was equally good in 1809; and suppose we planted ourselves at this last date, we ask if the beneficial, protective effects of capital punishment are not fully demonstrated—we mean, on our adversaries' own principles ? So much for the experiment in Belgium.
In his fourth letter, Mr. Rantoul takes up the case of Massachusetts, and finds that in a period of sixty-five years from 1780 to 1845, sixty per cent. of all the convicts for capital crimes have been executed; and this he denominates “a stern and unrelenting rigor not elsewhere known in Christendom.” It will be remembered that other abolitionists complain of the remission of the penalty in any case, if it is inflicted at all, calling such remissions “caprice, injustice, bold and cruel mockery.". But what is one man's food is another's poison. It would seem impossible to satisfy all demands. We will follow Mr. Rantoul.
"In Massachusetts," says he, with less executive clemency than in any other State or nation of which I have read, for the nineteenth century, murder seems to have increased. For if we divide our period of sixty-five years into three periods of twenty years each, and place by itself the last period of five years, we have the following result. From 1780 to 1800 convicted for murder 7 in 20 years. 1800
" 1820 1820 1840
13 1840 " 1845
5 “ 5 years or the rate of
1 See North American Review.
“ Convictions then," he adds, are about three times as frequent as they were fifty years ago."
So far Mr. Rantoul. He seems to have forgotten that he has made his period actually consist of eighty instead of sixty-five years. But let us follow him quietly. He says murders have nearly trebled. But if you take the comparative population at the dates compared, (and it must be remembered he stops his average not at 1845 but at 1860,) that also will have more than trebled; and after all that can be said about temperance reformation and so on, it can hardly be supposed that the strictness or general prevalence of virtue and morality has increased in Massachusetts in the last sixty-five years. But we omit this. In order to obtain his result he has averaged the last five years over fifteen years to come, thus dooming fifteen poor fellows yet un. known, to commit murder in Massachusetts before the year of grace 1860. This seems to us, to use a homely proverb, counting his chickens before they are hatched. We suppose it will be admitted that if such averaging is fair for one period of twenty years it is equally fair for another. Let us try it, by the aid of another table he has furnished in which the whole period is divided into lustra.
We find that from 1825 to 1830, there were six convictions for murder, which would give an average, for the period of twenty years from 1820 to 1840 of twenty-four murders ;—the actual number was thirteen. We find also that from 1795 to 1300, there were no convictions for murder at all-what average would this give for the next fifteen or even 100 years? And suppose in the year 1800 some excellent philanthropist had proposed to introduce into Massachusetts the abolition of capital punishment, which had already been enacted in Tuscany and, as is said, with the happiest results; and suppose some defender of capital punishment, in that same year 1800, reasoning on Mr. Rantoul's principles of statistical comparison, had undertaken to show that capital punishment had already succeeded to absolute perfection in repressing the crime of murder, not a solitary instance of conviction for that crime having occurred within the last five years ? And suppose the abolitionist had replied : “ Nay, but on the contrary, the facts demonstrate the truth of my theory; for you see, as soon as you stopped your executions entirely, murders ceased entirely. There are no murders because there are no executions ;"'I then we should have had one of Mr. Rantoul's principles
There was one execution, of a convict of the former period; so that our abolitionist is not exactly right with his facts. But that is nothing strange.