Imatges de pÓgina

the purpose of his murderer when he sprang upon him, begged his life, offered his money, and promised secrecy; but murder was easier than compassion to the youvg ruffian, and he went unhesitatingly and remorselessly through his work of blood. For this Bell suffered death, after a full confession. Abhorrent to the sentiment of society, as the punishment of death undoubtedly is, we believe it is generally agreed, that for murder this extreme retribution should be reserved, and that to murder it should be confined. Consistently with this opinion of the most humane, we do not see how an exception from the rule could be reasonably claimed for this boy, on the score of his age. A weekly newspaper, however, is in agonies of horror, and a frenzy of indignation at the idea of the young cut-throat's execution. The writer mentions several circumstances which, in his judgment, appear to have conferred on Bell the privilege of murder. First, he was fourteen ; secondly, his education had been neglected, (he was a tramper's son); and these two circumstances together are said to have placed him out of the class of accountable beings :-nay, it is added, that, had he been much older, he could hardly have been regarded as accountable; thirdly, (we quote “ The Spectator's” words,)“ it does not appear, from any thing that transpired at the trial, or after it, that be felt any greater qualm in killing Taylor, than he would have done in killing the rabbit to whose squeak the dying shriek of the child was with horrid reality compared by the brother of the slayer;" fourthly, he had chubby cheeks ; fifthly, he had flaxen hair. Now, considering these circumstances, severally or mixed together, we are at a loss to perceive any ground for conceding to them the privilege of murder, without the consequence of the gallows. As for age, it is not to be received as positive evidence of understanding; and where there is ingenuity enough to plot crime, there is ingenuity enough to make the contriver accountable to justice. The sang-froid with which Bell murdered his victim, would certainly not have reconciled us to letting him loose again on society in any part of the world. He would appear to have been one born to murder. For whom is the example of the execution ? asks the weekly writer: we answer by another question, What would have been the example of declaring, that lads of fourteen years of age, or less, should be free to commit murder without the consequence of the capital punishment which the law allots to the deed of blood ? It will be agreed, that a worse case of youthful criminality than that of the boy Bell, could not be imagined; and, therefore, had he been taken out of the pale of law, to the crime of no other youth could the rule of law with justice have been asterwards applied. Thus there would have been appointed an age when murder should have allowance, and an age within which cruelty has its most active 'existence, and the viudictive tendencies require a strong curb. But “The Spectator" asks :

“ Are our children and schoolboys already murderers in intention, that we should offer them such an example (as the execution of the unaccountable being with chubby cheeks and faxen hair); or was it our grown-up men that we sought to deter from crime by so revolting a specimen of punishment?” As well, on the execution of Mrs. Brownrigg, might it have been asked, whether our mothers and grandmothers were already murderers in intention, that we should offer them such an example. On the execution of Catherine Hayes for the murder of her husband, a spectator would have asked, “ Are our wives murderers in intention, that we should offer them such an example ?" It is shocking to execute women; it is shocking to execute boys; it is shocking to execute men ; but, so long as the law awards the punishment of death to the crime of blood, it cannot grant indulgence to sex or youth. If it did so, such excepted sex or youth might be made the instrumenis of assassination. Policy would forbid the exception; and the sentiment that would extend pardon to beinous ctimes of youth is erroneous. A boy of fonrteen years of age, that would mur"der another without any greater qualm than he would feel in killing a rabbit, could never grow into any other character than that of a ruthless barbarous man. To cut him short early, was to cut short a life that; in all human probability, would have been a course of crime and injury to society. It was crushing a

venomous reptile. But, says “The Spectator," Little Bell,” (who had only committed a little murder of a little boy, for a little plunder,)“ was hanged to satisfy the brute sentiment of revenge for violated humanity." Had the writer studied the important subject of the motives of punishment, in ignorance of which (and with only very crude notions of one or two stray principles of jurisprudence) he writes, he would have perceived that the vindictive sentiment is of such subtlety that it cannot be excluded from the operation of justice; for, wherever there are the natural sympathies with the injured, there will be the natural antipathies against the injurer; and wherever there are not these things, justice soon loses the main spring to its practical application. Further, among the motives of punishment, is the removal of a person dangerous to society. It may be very questionable whether the proper removal is by death, but the removal must be hy the severest punishment provided by the laws, which with us is death; and, until another means is substituted, that must be employed. We think it much more humane, however, that an unaccountable being, aged fourteen, with chubby cheeks and flaxen hair, should be hung, than that be should, after a term of confinement, be let loose to cut the throats of people who have their value to those about them and the world. We acknowledge to feeling more sympathy with society than with criminals, especially when they are assassins. Still, the removal of dangerous criminals from the opportunities of mischief, might be effected by other means than the repugnant extremity of taking life. Perpetual imprisonment would suffice, and to perpetual imprisonment we would rather have seen Bell sentenced than to death. But it is not recognized in law; and the extreme punishment, such as it is, in lieu of a wiser, was, therefore, his just lot.

Parisian Gaming Houses.-"Impossible as it has been found to restrain these hells, the matter seems 'ordered better in France ;' for the Government derives from them an annual income of nearly four and half million of francs, with which are borne the following items of the public expenditure: Secret services (police); Royal Hospital for the Blind; succour to the former colonists of St. Domingo; general succours to charitable institutions and others, and aids to the royal theatres. This is certainly turning an uncontrollable evil to some advantage, while in London we have the hells without the profit to our charities, &c."-Standard.

This is what Rowland Hill called turning the Devil's arms against himself; but, instead of turning the Devil's arms against himself, we fortify him in his strong-holds. The most desirable thing would undoubtedly be to prevent gaming; but if that cannot be done, the next best thing is to regulate it so as to abate its mischiefs as much as possible, and to extract any benefit it can render to society, in exchange for its evils. This the French system does by making the profits of the gaming-houses contributary to the support of charities.

What is the effect of the strict laws against gaming-houses in London ? Do they prevent the vice? No. There is actually more play in London than in Paris. The effect of the law is merely to make the Hells guarded places, to which none but accomplices and victims are admitted. An extraordinary and encouraging degree of privacy is thus procured for the gamblers. In Paris, if a father desires to know whether his son plays, or a merchant wishes to know whether his clerk or partner plays, he takes a round of the houses, or he makes inquiries among their visitors, and he soon ascertains the fact. In London there are no such means of discovery. The youth just touched with the pernicious passion, indulges in it without fear of discovery or interruption. The law has made the den of vice a fortress against those interested in saving the victims. Taylor, a well-known keeper of a Hell, had gone through the usual course of being pigeon before he became crow; and when he first commenced play, he was a chief clerk, or partner, in a banking-house, and continued so for several years after he had turned gambler, without discovery: and, indeed, at last, he himself disclosed the fact to the principals, fearing, as he said, that the house might be injured by his practices. * Publicity would prevent such cases, which are too numerous : but publicity is prevented by the impolitic prohibitions of the law, which only give the worst mode of practice to the vice they cannot stifle. ,

. [Accident having raised the question of America between us and a citizen of the United States, we addressed a few queries to our friend on the subject, and have received his answer, with a permission to render it public. We give his letter, in his own words. ]

“ You have asked me,” says our correspondent, “what answer I can give, in particular, to the opinions and facts contained in the recent work of Mr. Basil Hall on my own country? As to the former, I feel no disposition to make any reply whatever. The opinions of this writer, so far as they are supported by good reasons, are superior to any rejoinder; and so far as they are not, I am quite willing to refer the matter at issue to the good sense of the world. I never had any susceptibility on the subject of the opinions which foreigners might entertain of the United States; for I very well know how difficult it is for an European to get even an approach to a right knowledge of our institutions, or of the nature of our social organization. Of all the foreigners that I have met in America, I do not remember one who appeared to me to understand the first principles of the Government; and all have betrayed such a confusion of thought, in reference to society, that I have always been more diposed to laugh at their comments than to get angry. One comes among us with crude notions of the simplicity of a young republican nation, and of the extraordinary degree of virtue that is necessary to what is called “selfgovernment;' and because he finds rogues in the prisons and prostitutes in the streets, he shrugs his shoulders, and exclaims with a French friend of mine, who actually used the expression, "Voila un peuple pourri, avant d'être mur!' Another thinks we are all sages, so many Diogenes in their tubs; and because we laugh, and that too with no very light vivacity, he is ready to swear we are no philosophers at all. A third, who has been educated in contrary ideas, expects to see sans-culottes in every drawing-room; ladies going to balls in ox-carts; and citizen Tom, the Tinker, squirting his saliva into the face of citizen Peter, the rich proprietor; and because he sees society jogging on much as it does in other civilized countries, he lays a fin

nose, and runs back with the mare's-nest, that the Yankees are leaning to aristocracy, and have already secret emissaries in Europe looking out for a spare Leopold. I do assure you there is no very great caricature in this statement. Were I to write what I have actually heard and witnessed of this nature, I do not think the different speakers and actors would recognise their own folly; for it is when such opinions are laid plainly before us on paper, that we begin most sensibly to see and to feel their absurdity. We are not free from cant in America, and we have done a good deal, by our own abuse of terms, towards leading the rest of the world into their egregious errors.

“ The term “self-government,' is constantly in our mouths. Nothing is more common than to hear how necessary it is for a people who are self-governed' to be simple, and how absolutely requisite it is for a republic to be virtuous. One would not wish to quarrel with this doctrine if it produce fruits, for every nation is the better for its virtue; but the smallest examination will show that, of all forms of


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government, our own is, perhaps, the one in which private vice is the least likely to injure public interests. Self-government it is, in the broad meaning of the term; but so far as individuals are concerned, it is strictly each man governing his neighbour. The whole secret of our institutions, and I think of our success, is to be found in the double fact, that the mass will not submit to laws which impose unnecessary restraints, and that the responsibility of every agent is constant, direct, and severe. We often say among ourselves, 'What matter's it who is president, or governor ?--he cannot do any harm.' Now, 'rely on it, if there were any self-government in the case, he could do a great deal of harm. So tremendously efficacious is public opinion, and so constant and sudden the action of popular will, that I do believe a man might be taken from a penitentiary and put into the presidential chair, and (provided he could be kept from stealing the spoons and absconding) it should be found that he would maintain a tolerably clean life and a reasonably dignified deportment. I need not tell you that there are rulers in Europe, of ancient lineage, who hardly consider this self-denial necessary. The effect of such a system is to make men seem virtuous if they are not so; and dress a man in fine clothes, his behaviour will begin to improve. I have no doubt that the effect of républican institutions is to make a nation more moral, and I should prescribe the incessant and severe responsibility which accompanies such a form of government as the most certain and speedy cure of the very corruption which is said to disqualify so many people in this hemisphere from enjoying its benefits.

“We have not been discriminating in the use of political terms, and have greatly misled other people in consequence of our misnomers.' You shall have proof of what I say. The first great division of parties in the United States, was on the degree of power to be conceded to the General or Federal Government. This is, after all, the only question that can ever seriously divide the minds of the people, for every thing connected with personal privileges has already been obtained. Those who were in favour of the Union as it now stands, were called Federalists; and those who were disposed to leave more power in the States, were called Anti-Federalists, because they preferred the Confederation to the Union. The Federalists prevailed on the vote of adopting the Constitution, and soon 'obtained an immense majority of the nation. The beaten party chose, however, to act together as an Opposition; and they abandoned a name that was unpopular, affecting to call themselves Republicans, or greater lovers of liberty than their opponents, whom they chose to stigmatize as Aristocrats. Thus you will perceive that the party which cartied the present institutions of the States were called Aristocrats. Desirous of getting rid of so ill-sounding a name, the Federalists made an effort to be called Federal Republicans; but it did not succeed, since it had not the merit of originality. They then turned the tables on their adversaries, whom they termed Democrats, or men who, like the French of that period, cut the throats of women and priests. I very well remember the time when a Democrat was held in pious horror, in the good and religious State of Connecticut for example, which was an ultra-Federal, and by implication, an ultra-Aristocratical státe. You may wish to know something of this knot of seceders, in a coun

try as truly democratical as ours. Here is its history. Connecticut was settled in 1633, by colonists from Massachusets ; the latter enjoying at the time a government as democratical as that of Unterwalden. For the first years of its separate existence, Connecticut was a pure democracy, the people meeting in primitive assemblies. In 1665, Charles II. granted a charter to Connecticut. By this charter the people named their own Executive annually; their Council, or Upper House, for the same period, and their Assembly twice a-year. Every major (with immaterial and necessary exceptions) voted; and the other institutions were of the most popular character. This charter continued to be the sole constitution of Connecticut until 1818, when it was changed for purposes of convenience, as connected with the Government of the United States. It is unnecessary to show you how thoroughly terms are confounded, when a people who have lived for two centuries under such a system deny their democracy. No community on earth is more jealous of its rights, or more attached to its institutions, than that of Connecticut; and yet the people are, even now, a little tender of being called Democrats, not having got over their reluctance to being confounded with those who cut the throats of priests and women! I have often had occasion to observe the mistakes which this confusion, or perversion of terms, has led Europeans to adopt, and I am quite willing to admit that my countrymen have no one to censure but themselves in this particular. Captain Hall intimates that he had a difficulty in understanding the language of America. I am told this gentleman is a Scotchman, and if he has the Scotch peculiarities of speech, this may be literally true; but if he speaks, as one has reason to infer from his rank in life, as well as he writes, it is quite absurd, unless he alludes to their abuse of terms. Nothing is more certain, than that in many things, as in politics, morals, religion, and taste, we use the same terms as the English, meaning very different things, or at least very different degrees of the same things. Something of this misconception exists between the people of all nations, until one has travelled and corrected his vocabulary by actual observation; but it peculiarly exists between the English and the Americans, in consequence of the identity of the language and the dissimilarity of the institutions and habits.

“ There is a strong disposition in most of the European Governments to represent the condition and character of the Americans in a false light. One is jealous of the example of their institutions : (I might have said, most have this jealousy;) another is apprehensive that her artisans, may carry the knowledge of their crafts into the New World, and change a customer into a rival; while a third is desirous of making its own subjects believe there is no nation freer or happier than their own. I traced this jealousy even in Switzerland; the good Avoyers and their councils fearing that too much emigration would let the glaciers get the better of them. That communities, like individuals, should not look with a pleased eye at their thriving competitors, is perfectly natural, and is a weakness to be mourned over; but when either has recourse to malicious invention in order to defeat a success it cannot equal, it becomes a proper subject of censure rather than of pity. I have no wish to dilate on this point, but a mass of evidence lies before me that may one day be produced; for

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