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near two thousand years ago, my readers will see, that if a degenerate polite Roman were to rise and appear in London, his behaviour would not seem awkward to us; and that he might, without inquiring into our customs, either get a place at court, or make as good an interest to serve in parliament for London or Westminster, as any of the present representatives. What I have to observe farther to my worthy country. men (as a moral to the whole) is, that this brave people, who, while they preserved their homebred simplicity, gave laws to mankind, did not long maintain their greatness, their virtue, nor their liberties, after they became so excessively complaisant and well-bred.
FREE-TUINKER, No. 25, June 16, 1718.
I HAVE as just a veneration as any man living for the laws of my native country: they are generous, mild, and gentle, built on equal foundations of justice and mercy; and, to say all in a word, they are such as every freeman would wish to be governed by. I am so far from denying them the reverence they deserve, that I have always read with pleasure the most elaborate and strained encomiums, with which the gentlemen of the robe fill their writings on this subject.
But since it is the most desirable, among all the advantages of liberty, to think and speak freely; it cannot, I hope, be offensive, if I declare myself not well satisfied with any arguments I have yet heard in defence of capital punishment for certain crimes, which are low and frequent, and which carry, methinks, no proportion, in comparison with others of a much blacker complexion; to which, notwith
standing, they seem paralleled by the equality of their sentence.
The life of a man is so infinitely of more value than his beast or his moveable, that whenever I see the sufferings of pinched and hunger-starved wretches under the agonies of an execution, for having robbed perhaps to avoid famishing; I find myself oppressed by a grief, which nothing mitigates but this reflection
-that their lives were exposed to such extremities of want and misery, that their death should be a comfort. And yet, the long-protracted gazings, the paleness, the tremblings, and the ghastly distorted faces, of the poor departing strugglers (who die with strong reluctance, and linger and lengthen out their last painful moment), make it evident to the beholders, that, unfriendly as the world was to them, they are not willing to forsake it.
I am convinced that if it were possible to see, on some such plain as that of Salisbury, under one assembled prospect, the whole number of men and women who have been executed for theft only, in all the counties of this kingdom, within the memory of any person of but a moderate advance in years; such a dreadful demonstration of the waste which is made by this sweep
of the sword of justice, would be a
startling inducement to those, whose province it is known to be to weigh with pity and deli. beration, whether punishments more adequate, and more politic too, than death, might not easily be appropriated to a number of petty crimes, which ever were, and ever must be, unavoidably frequent in all peopled places; being the necessary consequences, either of the wants, or the depravity, of the lowest part of the human species.
One evening, very lately, all my neighbourhood, in Barbican, were in an uproar on a sudden; and I was disturbed in my meditations by the shrieking of a woman, the mixed cries of children, and a growing hum of concourse, that seemed close under my window.—I threw aside my pipe, and hastening to look out, saw the street entirely filled by a group of dismal faces, that had gathered themselves into a tumult about a house directly opposite, and appeared to be touched, as strongly as common natures are capable, with a mixture of surprise and sorrow. It seems, the husband of a laborious poor creature, who was mistress of this house, had been condemned at the county assizes, in one of the late circuits, for stealing a horse; and a letter had just now been delivered to his wife, which the criminal himself had written the very morning he was executed.
His relations and acquaintance had depended on a reprieve; for the man was universally beloved among his neighbours; and, though always very poor, and unfortunate in his dealings, had been remarkable for his industry, of a sober disposition, and never known before te have been guilty of the least dishonesty. He had six children alive, and the eldest but eight years old. His mother, who lived in the same little house, had been disabled by sickness for several months past : so that, perceiving it beyond his power to subsist his family any longer, and not daring to stay in town by reason of some debts he had contracted, he went down to try his friends, who lived in good circumstances in the country. But, instead of meeting with assistance, he only spent in this journey all the little he had carried with him; and not being able to support the thoughts of returning without bread to a family in such want of it, he rode away with a horse which he found tied to a gate; and being pursued and overtaken, was tried, condemned, and hanged for it.
This history was loudly given me by the good