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their exposure to depredation, and the difficulty attendant upon the detection of this class of depredators; and considering how much the sustenance and clothing of the people depend upon this useful animal, I cannot but think that whatever alterations may be introduced in other parts of our law, sheep-stealing should still continue to be punished capitally.” Notwithstanding this learned dissertation in support of the policy of the sanguinary punishment for theft of this nature, the proved inefficacy of the statute, not merely to repress the crime, but to prevent its increase, and the outrage done to reason and humanity by the vindictive spirit of the law, have caused the public feeling to revolt against the penalty of blood. The sentence to which Princes and Parliaments must bow, has gone forth; and the legislation, founded upon false calcu. lations of inhuman cupidity, and supported by the vicious refinements of sophisticated science, perishes in the masculine grasp of enlightened public opinion.
To say nothing of the Forgery bill, which has become law since we wrote on this subject before, and which sweeps off at once (with two exceptions, introduced by the Lords, of which more at another time) the capital punishment as applied to about forty distinct offences, Mr. Ewart's act alone gets rid of that punishment in reference to four separate classes of crime, of which sheep-stealing is one. When, to repeal only one of those, namely that relative to privately stealing in the dwelling-house to the amount of forty shillings, Romilly introduced a bill into the House of Commons, in the year 1810, to which we have above alluded, Mr. Spencer Perceval being then Prime Minister, it caused the most grave and solemn imputations of a revolutionary attempt upon the good old system of established justice to be levelled at that sincere, though truly cautious reformer, by the Lord Chancellor, the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, the placemen and minions of the Government of that day. Nothing, indeed, could exceed their surprise and alarm, on finding that he meant to follow up that bill, if successful, by some other measures for the amelioration and improvement of the criminal law. On the division, the bill was lost by a majority of 35 to 33. Had the philosophic Mr. Davies Gilbert voted on the side of reason and humanity, the numbers would have been equal ; and had the metaphysical Mr. Wyndham voted on the same side, the conservators of the “ vested rights” of the executioner would have been beaten; but those “ intellectual gentlemen conceived that the career of improvement which Romilly commenced was likely to be too extensive, and so they stopped him, as soon as he had fully revealed his dangerous intentions of actually preventing the law from visiting with the same punishment the offender who stole forty shillings in the dwelling-house as it awarded to him who robbed the house and murdered the family!
Of the 35 who, on that occasion, opposed so small a reform of the sanguinary law, 22 were actually members of the existing Government, or holding office under it ; so that in reality the decision upon this question, not connected with politics, but being a question of public morals affecting human life, was procured by the direct influence of Government. The most powerful arguments of reason and experience in favour of the superior efficacy of humanized justice, were beaten only by the venal votes which official corruption called to the aid of legislative barbarity.
The House of Commons, however, which rejected the bill for repealing the penalty of death, as applied to the offence of stealing in the dwelling-house, did so far relent, touching the sanguinary system, as to pass the bill to repeal that punishment as applied to the offence of stealing in a shop, warehouse, &c., to the amount of five shillings. On that bill going up to the House of Lords, it had to encounter, in all its renewed vehemence of invective, the venerable terror of “innovation,” which had been, pro hanc vice, hushed into repose in the Lower House. Lord Ellenborough, the then Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, led on the “ Conservatives ” with a vigour and determination which clearly shewed his opinion of the deadly blow struck at our “ unrivalled constitution,” by an attempt to abolish a statute which estimated the life of a human being at the Parliamentary price of five shillings ! It was necessary that this attempt should be promptly and signally defeated, or there was no saying how far the “ standard of value” for human life, might, in course of time, be altered. As Mr. Canning, in opposing reform in Parliament, said he would take up his position within the lines of Gatton and Old Sarum, to defend the integrity of the constitution, so Lord Ellenborough entrenched himself behind the five-shilling shop-lifting act, to defend the integrity of our incomparable system of criminal justice. He said, on moving that the bill be read a second time that day six months, “ Though I feel it ungrateful to oppose the wishes of those who are attempting to introduce this innovation into the criminal law of the country, and with all my deference to them for the purity of their intentions, and giving them every credit for the ingenuity of their speculations, yet I trust your lordships will pause before you assent to an experiment pregnant with danger to the security of property, and before you repeal a statute which has been so long found ne.. cessary for public security, and which I am not conscious has produced the smallest injury to the merciful administration of justice.” Now the law was either executed, or it was not. If executed, is it not astonishing that any being in the shape of a man, not to speak of a senator and the chief judge of a civilized and Christian land, could venture to say in the face of the world, that to deliberately strangle a fellow-creature on the scaffold for stealing five shillings, was part and parcel of a merciful administration of justice? If, on the other hand, the law was not executed, why should an enactment, at the same time so barbarous and so ineffective, remain on the statute book a single moment, to testify against the Legislature for carrying its cruelty to so absurd an extreme as to render it impracticable ?
But to show more clearly what Lord Ellenborough meant by the “merciful administration of justice," let us take the instance of the application of this law, mentioned by the intelligent and humane Sir William Meredith. It cannot be too generally known at a time when ministers of the crown who had co-operated with Romilly, when circumstances were much more adverse to the reform of the criminal law than at present, profess a profound veneration for the opinions of judges, touching any proposed alterations of our penal jurisprudence. Speaking of the shop-lifting act, Sir William Meredith said, “ Under this act, one Mary Jones was executed, whose case I shall just mention. It was at the time when press-warrants were issued, on the alarm about Falkland Islands. The woman's husband was pressed, their goods seized for debt, and she, with two small children, turned into the streets a-begging. 'Tis a circumstance not to be forgotten that she was very young (under nineteen) and most remarkably handsome. She went to a linen-draper's shop, took some coarse linen off the counter, and slipped it under her cloak. The shopman saw her, and she laid it down. Her defence was,
" that she had lived in credit, and wanted for nothing, until a press-gang came and stole her husband from her ; but since then she had no bed to lie on, nothing to give her children to eat, and they were almost naked ;' and perhaps she might have done something wrong, for she hardly knew what she did. The parish officers testified to the truth of this story. But it seems there had been a good deal of shop-lifting about Ludgate. hill; an example was thought necessary; and this woman was hanged for the comfort and satisfaction of some shopkeepers in Ludgate-street. When brought to receive sentence, she behaved in such a frantic manner as proved her mind to be in a distracted and desponding state; and the child was sucking at her breast when she set out for Tyburn gallows !” Here is an instance of what Lord Ellenborough, the Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, described, as “not being of the smallest injury to the merciful administration of justice !” Why, it was a scene more fit to be enacted among fiends than among beings whom God had en. dowed with the gift of reason, and whose reason he had further assisted by the light of a religion of mercy! Here the law creates the crime and then punishes it. The infamous law of impressment deprived the poor woman of her stay and protector. This law committed a greater robbery than that which can be committed upon a little property : it committed a robbery of the person. When the woman whom it made destitute of the honest means of subsistence for herself and children, impelled by the cries of nature, and the desperation of want, attempted to commit a paltry theft, the circumstances which drove her to it were left out of consideration. What the law of impressment had begun, the shop-lifting law completed. The one drove her of necessity into crime, the other strangled her on the scaffold, for yielding to the temptation : how affecting to see, in the horrors of her situation, the maternal feeling prevail over every other; and the child, the fatherless child, clasped to her bosom, while the friendless outcast victim of merciless oppression sustained its little life amid the expiring agonies of her own!
But of what degree of “hoar antiquity was that statute, which, in the opinion of Lord Ellenborough, could not be repealed, in order to substitute one of a more moderate character, without causing a “dangerous innovation” upon the criminal law? It had no existence before the reign of William III. ; that is, it had been a part of the law during a little more than a century out of the ten centuries during which the monarchy of England has endured. The offence had been punishable as a simple larceny, until this statute made it a capital crime. We need scarcely add that such a statute was, like most other of our sanguinary. laws for offences against property, the result of that calculating and inhuman cupidity which accounted not human blood, nor even the immortal destinies of a living soul, of the least value when put in competition with a little pelf. It was, in short, one of those laws, which, in punishing a violation of the eighth commandment, was itself a violation of the sixth. For most assuredly the eternal decree, “ Thou shalt do no murder” was addressed to man in his collective, as well as his individual capacity, to princes and legislators, as well as to every human being subject to their dominion.
THE MAD TORY'S SONG,
Tuis sweet madrigal was brought to our office by one of our devils, who picked it up in the street. He thinks it fell from the pocket of a wobegone elderly gentleman, who came out of Mr. Blair's Committee Room, and seemed to be making a variety of evolutions to avoid the approaches of a messenger-at-arms, who had been seen lurking for some time about the doors of that conclave of eminent patriots.
I bought myself a good freehold,
Down in the west countree :
My vote was worth to me.
And buttermilk and ale, And dinners and civilities
From great l.ord Dunderdale. My vote! 'Twas blankets for my bed,
'Twas generous cups of wine : My earthly prospects all have fled
With that good vote of mine!
How can I e'er forget ?
Perhaps a coronet.
Judge Dick, and Sheriff Ned; Lord Grey has stolen the leaven from
My children's promised bread.
For me are yawning wide;
And chains of Morningside.
Even till the morning grey,
With hip, hip, hip, hurra!
Walk'd up and drank with me,
Was right good company. He spoke of English politics,
Of great Duke Arthur's fall, The price of stocks, the shares of Styx,
And Acheron canal. Then told he bow, by naphtha light,
He wiled his hours away,
With Viscount Castlereagh.
The envious moon had ta'en ;
To fetch it back again.
A seizin was the steed;
With comet's meteor speed.
The milky way was deep and rough ;
I nearly miss'd a fall; 'Twas new Macadamised with stuff
Froin dear old Sarum's wall. At me the starry lion roard,
His fangs grim Cancer spread;
His slop-pail on my head.
My own, I saw it plain,
To curl thy grisly mane!
Swore it was deeply hid
Beneath a pyramid.
Came o'er my boiling brain : 'Twas madness all,—my heart's blood
hiss'd, And sparkled like Champaign. Away! ye vampires, and ye gowls !
Avaunt! ye creeping things !
At me, your wicker wings!
Against our cause combine;
A vote as good as mine.
With stiff and surly air,
To vote for Mister Blair.
When our good thirty-three
In peace and jollity.
The town was calm and still;
All clamorous for the Bill.
And golden days they were
King, And Pitt, Prime Minister, On well-greased wheels our empire rolled,
As smooth as smooth could be; But now I've lost my good freehold,
Down in the west countree.
Deep in the dust our kingdom's trod,
While I am mourning thus ;
Our glory's gone from us!
Before this sun shall set,
Into a bayonet.
Thine arms must set us free!
Some modern Braxfield in divan,
With some revived Eskgrove,
Direct to Sydney Cove.
We'll make them weep and wail ;
The Earl of Lauderdale
Our great Jack Ketch of State:.
Blood-dyed, aloft will bear.
I drag from place to place;
My worn and hectic face.
For me are yawning wide ;
And chains of Morningside!
Thine aid-ile-camp to lead us on,
To free this labouring earth,
In foeman's blood our hands we'll wet ;
We'll tear them limb by limb; To try our prisoners, we will get
Some Rhadamanthus grim;
THE IRISH COUNSELLOR.
Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se
There is no place in Ireland which indicates more strongly the peculiarities of the Irish character than the hall of the Four Courts in Dublin. Go into it, any day in term; and you will, if you are a stranger, be horrified at the noise, the buzz, and the clatter of tongues which salute your ears from every side of its extensive area. You will be astonished, at first sight, to perceive the extreme number of powdered wigs, and flaxen coifs, as compared with those heads which appear undecorated by any extraneous ornament. To every client there appear to be three counsellors; and for every attorney thirty lawyers. We shall not, at this moment, investigate what may be the various subjects of conversation amongst the multifarious groups into which the multitudinous mass is separated: but there they are; the care-worn client and the shrewdlooking solicitor enveloped and almost smothered up by the Tory law. yers who are out, and the Whig lawyerlings who are expecting to get in.
How comes it to pass, that, in a country which is impoverished, which is nearly destitute of trade, and almost solely devoted to agriculture, there should be such numbers educated to a profession completely dependent for its existence upon the complicated arrangements of society, and particularly the extent of its commercial transactions ? Every matter connected with land can be arranged in the Court of Chancery, or by a trial at the assizes. It is well known, that in the Courts of King's Bench, and the Exchequer, there are not, on an average, each term, fifteen actions on bills of exchange. As to the Court of Common Pleas, since it was deserted by the facetious and remorseless Norbury, the situation of a judge is, from the paucity of business, a complete sinecure.