« ForrigeFortsett »
regular or determinate method of rating the *quantity of punishments
**15 for crimes by any one uniform rule, but they must be referred to the will and discretion of the legislative power: yet there are some general prin. ciples, drawn from the nature and circumstances of the crime, that may be of some assistance in allotting it an adequate punishment.
As, first, with regard to the object of it; for the greater and more exalted the object of an injury is, the more care should be taken to prevent that injury, and, of course, under this aggravation the punishment should be moro severe. Therefore treason in conspring the king's death is by the English law punished with greater rigour than even actually killing any private subject. And yet, generally, a design to transgress is not so flagrant an enormity as the actual completion of that design. For evil, the nearer we approach it, is the more disagreeable and shocking; so that it requires more obstinacy in wickedness to perpetrate an unlawful action, than barely to entertain the thought of it: and it is an encouragement to repentance and remorse, even till the last stage of any crime, that it never is too late to retract; and that if a man stops even here, it is better for him than if he proceeds: for which reason, an attempt to rob, to ravish, or to kill, is far less penal than the actual robbery, rape, or murder. But in the case of a treasonable conspiracy, the object whereof is the king's majesty, the bare intention will deserve the highest degree of severity; not because the intention is equivalent to the act itself
, but because the greatest rigour is no more than adequate to a treasonable purpose of the heart, and there is no greater left to inflict upon the actual execution itself.
Again: the violence of passion, or temptation, may sometimes alleviate u crime; as theft, in case of hunger, is far more worthy of compassion than when committed through avarice, or to supply one in luxurious excesses. To kill a man upon sudden and violent resentment is less penal. than upon cool, deliberate malice. The age, education, and character of the offender: the repetition (or otherwise) *of the offence; the time, the place, the company, wherein it was committed; all these, and a thousand other incidents, may aggra
[*16 vate or extenuate the crime.(t)
Further: as punishments are chiefly intended for the prevention of future crimes, it is but reasonable that among crimes of different natures those should be most severely punished which are the most destructive of the public safety and happiness;(u) and, among crimes of an equal malignity, those which a man has the most frequent and easy opportunities of committing, which cannot be so easily guarded against as others, and which therefore the offender has the strongest inducement to commit; according to what Cicero observes,(V) "ea sunt animadvertenda peccata maxime, quæ difficillime præcaventur." Hence it is, that for a servant to rob his master is in more cases capital than for a stranger; if a servant kills his master, it is a species of treason ;' in another it is only murder; to steal a handkerchief, or other trifle of above the value of twelve pence, privately from one's person, is made capital;10 but to carry off a load of
(9 Thus, Demosthenes (in his oration against Midins) publicly, before strangers as well as citizens; and that in finely works up the aggravations of the insults he had the temple, whither the duty of my office called me." received:-" I was abused," says he, " by my enemy, in cold blood, out of malice, not by heat of wine, in the morning, () Pro Sexto Roscio, 40.
(*) Beccar. c. 6.
* This is no longer law. By 9 Geo. IV. c. 31, s. 2, repealing 25 Edw. III. st. 5, c. 2, respecting petit treason, it is enacted “that every offence which before the commencement of that act would have amounted to petit treason shall be deemed to be murder only, and no greater offence; and that all persons guilty in respect thereof, whether as principals or accessaries, shall be dealt with, indicted, tried, and punished as principals and accessaries in murder.” See 1 Hawk. P. C. 6th ed. 105. 5 Burn's J. last ed. 551.CHITA.
10 This is altered by 7 & 8 Geo. IV. c. 29, s. 6, which enacts “that if any person shall steal any chattel, money, or valuable security from the person of another, or shall assault any other person with intent to rob him, or shall with menaces or by force demand any such property of any other person with intent to steal the same, he shall be guilty of felony, and liable to be transported for life, or for not less than seven years, or to be corn from an open field, though of fifty times greater value, is punished with transportation only. And in the island of Man this rụle was formerly carried so far that to take away a horse or an ox was there no felony, but a trespass, because of the difficulty in that little territory to conceal them or carry them off; but to steal a pig or a fowl, which is easily done, was a capital misde. meanour, and the offender was punished with death.(w)
Lastly: as a conclusion to the whole, we may observe that punishments of unreasonable severity, especially when indiscriminately inflicted, have less effect in preventing crimes and amending the manners of a people than such as are *17]
more merciful in general, yet properly intermixed with due *distinctions
of severity. It is the sentiment of an ingenious writer, who seems to have well studied the springs of human action,(x) that crimes are more effectually prevented by the certainty than by the severity of punishment. For the excessive severity of law (says Montesquieu) (y) binders their execution : when the punishment surpasses all.measure the public will frequently, out of humanity, prefer impunity to it. Thus also the statute 1 Mar. st. 1, c. 1 recites in its preamble " that the state of every king consists more assuredly in the love of the subjects towards their prince than in the dread of laws made with rigorous pains; and that laws made for the preservation of the commonwealth without great penalties are more often obeyed and kept than laws made with extreme punishments." Happy bad it been for the nation if the subsequent practice of that deluded princess, in matters of religion, had been correspondent to these sentiments of herself and parliament in matters of state and government! We may further observe that sanguinary laws are a bad symptom of the distemper of any state, or at least of its weak constitution. The laws of the Roman kings, and the twelve tables of the decemviri, were full of cruel punishments : the Porcian law, which exempted all citizens from sentence of death, silently abrogated them all. In this period the republic flourished; under the emperors severe punishments were revived; and then the empire fell.
It is moreover absurd and impolitic to apply the same punishment to crimes of different malignity. A multitude of sanguinary laws (besides the doubt that may be entertained concerning the right of making them) do likewise prove a manifest defect either in the wisdom of the legislative or the strength of the executive power. It is a kind of quackery in government, and argues a want of solid skill, to apply the same universal remedy, the ultimum supplicium, to every case of difficulty. It is, it must be owned, much easier to extirpate than (*) 4 Inst. 285. (*) Beccar. c. 7.
(v) Sp. L. b. 6, c. 13.
imprisoned for not exceeding four years; and, if a male, to be once, twice, or thrice publicly or privately whipped.”—Chitty.
11 The most admirable and excellent statute ever passed by the English legislature is the 1 Edw. VI. c. 12. In the preamble it states, in a beautiful and simple strain of eloquence, that “ Nothing is more godly, more sure, more to be wished and desired betwixt · a prince, the supreme head and ruler, and the subjects whose governor and head he is, than on the prince's part great clemency and indulgency, and rather too much forgiveness and remission of his royal power and just punishment, than exact severity and justice to be showed; and, on the subjects' behalf, that they should obey rather for love, and for the necessity and love of a king and prince, than for fear of his strait and severe laws. But as in tempest or winter one course and garment is convenient, in calm or warm weather a more liberal case or lighter garment both may and ought to be followed and used, so we have seen divers strait and sore laws made in one parliament (the time 80 requiring) in a more calm and quiet reign of another prince by the like authority and parliament taken away,” &c. It therefore repeals every statute which has created any treason since the 25 Edw. III. st. 5, c. 2. It repeals “all and every act of parliament concerning doctrine or matters of religion.” It repeals every felony created by the legislature during the preceding long and cruel reign of Henry VIII. It repeals the statute 31 Hen. VIII., " that proclamations made by the king's highness, by the advice of his honourable council, should be made and kept as though they were made by authority of parliament." It repeals also the extraordinary statute de bigamis, (4 Edw. 1. st. 3, c. 5,) which enacted that if any man married a widow, or married a second wife after the death of the first, he should be deprived of the benefit of clergy if he was con• victed of any clergyable felony whatever.-CHBISTIAN.
to amend mankind; yet *that magistrate must be esteemed both a weak and a cruel surgeon who cuts off every limb which, through ignorance or
L*18 indolence, he will not attempt to cure. It has been therefore ingeniously proposed, (2) that in every state a scale of crimes should be formed, with a corresponding scale of punishments, descending from the greatest to the least; but, if that be too romantic an idea, yet at least a wise legislator will mark the principal divisions and not assign penalties of the first degree to offences of an inferior rank. Where men see no distinction made in the nature and gradations of punishment, the generality will be led to conclude there is no distinction in the guilt. Thus in France the punishment of robbery, either with or without murder, is the same;(a) hence it is that though perhaps they are therefore subject to fewer robberies, yet they never rob but they also murder. In China murderers are cut to pieces, and robbers not; hence in that country they never murder on the highway, though they often rob. And in England, besides the additional terrors of a speedy execution and a subsequent exposure or dissection, robbers have a hope of transportation, which seldom is extended to murderers. This has the same effect here as in China; in preventing frequent assassination and slaughter.
Yet, though in this instance we may glory in the wisdom of the English law, we shall find it more difficult to justify the frequency of capital punishment to be found therein, inflicted (perhaps inattentively) by a multitude of successive independent statutes upon crimes very different in their natures. It is a melancholy truth, that among the variety of actions which men are daily liable to commit, no less than a hundred and sixty have been declared by act of parliament(b) to be felonies without benefit of clergy; or, in other words, to be worthy of instant death. So dreadful a list, instead of diminishing, increases the number of offenders. *The injured, through compassion, will often forbear to prosecute; juries, through compassion, will sometimes forget their
[*19 oaths, and either acquit the guilty or mitigate the nature of the offence; and judges, through compassion, will respite one-half of the convicts, and recommend them to the royal mercy. Among so many chances of escaping, the needy and hardened offender overlooks the multitude that suffer: he boldly engages in some desperate attempt to relieve his wants or supply his vices, and it, unexpectedly, the hand of justice overtakes him, he deems himself peculiarly unfortunate in falling at last a sacrifice to those laws which long impunity has taught him to contemn.
OF THE PERSONS CAPABLE OF COMMITTING CRIMES.
Having in the preceding chapter considered in general the nature of crimes and punishments, we are led next, in the order of our distribution, to inquire what persons are or are not capable of committing crimes; or, which is all one, who are exempted from the censures of the law upon the commission of those acts which, in other persons, would be severely punished. In the process of which inquiry, we must have recourse to particular and special exceptions; for the general rule is, that no person shall be excused from punishment for disobedience to the laws of his country, excepting such as are expressly defined and exempted by the laws themselves.
() See Ruffhead's index to the statutes (tit. Felony) and
(*) Beccar. c. 6.
the acts which have since been made.
12 This is not now the law of France. By the present Criminal Code, founded on the Code Napoleon, robbery without murder has ceased to be a capital offence. And the result mentioned by the learned judge has ceased also: nothing is more common now than instances of robberies without murder in France.-Cutty.
All the several pleas and excuses which protect the committer of a forbidden act from the punishment which is otherwise annexed thereto may be reduced to this single consideration, the want or defect of will. An involuntary act, as it has no claim to merit, so neither can it induce any guilt: the concurrence of the will, when it has its choice either to do or to avoid the fact in question, *21]
being the only thing *that renders human actions either praiseworthy or
culpable. Indeed, to make a complete crime cognizable by human laws, there must be both a will and an act. For, though, in foro conscientiæ, a fixed design or will to do an unlawful act is almost as heinous as the commission of it, yet, as no temporal tribunal can search the heart or fathom the intentions of the mind, otherwise than as they are demonstrated by outward actions, it therefore cannot punish for what it cannot know. For which reason, in all temporal jurisdictions, an overt act, or some open evidence of an intended crime, is necessary, in order to demonstrate the depravity of the will, before the man is liable to punishment. And, as a vicious will without a vicious act is no civil crime, so, on the other hand, an unwarrantable act without a vicious will is no crime at all. So that, to constitute a crime against human laws, there must be, first, a vicious will; and, secondly, an unlawful act consequent upon such vicious will.
Now, there are three cases in which the will does not join with the act: 1. Where there is a defect of understanding. For where there is no discernment there is no choice, and where there is no choice there can be no act of the will, which is nothing else but a determination of one's choice to do or to abstain from a particular action: he, therefore, that has no understanding can have no will to guide his conduct. 2. Where there is understanding and will sufficient residing in the party, but not called forth or exerted at the time of the action done; which is the case of all offences committed by chance or ignorance. Here the will sits neuter, and neither concurs with the act nor disagrees to it. 3. Where the action is constrained by some outward force and violence. Here the will counteracts the deed, and is so far from concurring with, that it loathes and disagrees to, what the man is obliged to perform. It will be the business of the present chapter briefly to consider all the several species of defect in will, as they fall under some one or other of these general heads: as infancy, idiocy,
lunacy, and intoxication, which fall under the first class ; misfortune and
ignorance, which *may be referred to the second; and compulsion or necessity, which may properly rank in the third.
I. First we will consider the case of infancy, or nonage, which is a defect of the understanding. Infants under the age of discretion ought not to be punished by any criminal prosecution whatever.(a) What the age of discretion is, in various nations, is matter of some variety. The civil law distinguished the age of minors, or those under twenty-five years old, into three stages: infantia, from the birth till seven years of age; pueritia, from seven to fourteen; and pubertas, from fourteen upwards. The period of pueritia, or childhood, was
again subdivided into two equal parts: from seven to ten and a half was ætas infantiæ proxima; from ten and a half to fourteen was ætas pubertati proxima. During the first stage of infancy and the next half-stage of childhood, infantiæ proxima, they were not punishable for any crime.(6) During the other half-stage of childhood, approaching to puberty, from ten and a half to fourteen, they were indeed punishable, if found to be doli capaces, or capable of mischief, but with many mitigations, and not with the utmost rigour of the law.(c) During the last stage, (at the age of puberty, and afterwards,) minors were liable to be punished, as well capitally as otherwise.
The law of England does in some cases privilege an infant under the age of twenty-one, as to common misdemeanours, so as to escape fine, imprisonment, and the like: and particularly in cases of omission, as not repairing a bridge, or a highway, and other similar offences ;(d) for, not having the command of his fortune till twenty-one, he wants the capacity to do those things which the
() Ff. 29, 5, 14, 50, 17, 111, 47, 2, 23. Inst. 3, 20, 10.
(d) 1 Hal. P. C. 20, 21, 22.
(a) 1 Hawk. P. C. 2.
law requires. “But where there is any notorious breach of the peace, a riot, battery, or the like, (which infants, when full grown, are at least as liable as others to commit,) for these an infant, above *the age of
[*23 fourteen, is equally liable to siffer as a person of the full age of twenty-one.
With regard to capital crimes, the law is still more minute and circumspect; distinguishing with greater nicety the several degrees of age and discretion By the antient Saxon law, the age of twelve years was established for the age of possible discretion, when first the understanding might open ;(e) and from thence till the offender was fourteen it was ætas pubertati prožima, in which be might or might not be guilty of a crime, according to his natural capacity or incapacity. This was the dubious stage of discretion: but under twelve it was held that he could not be guilty in will, neither after fourteen could he be supposed innocent, of any capital crime which he in fact committed. But by the law, as it now stands, and has stood at least ever since the time of Edward the Third, the capacity of doing ill, or contracting guilt, is not so much measured by years and days as by the strength of the delinquent's understanding and judgment. For one lad of eleven years old may have as much cunning as another of fourteen; and in these cases our maxim is, that "malitia supplet ætatem.” Under seven years of age, indeed, an infant cannot be guilty of felony, (f) for tben a felonious discretion is almost an impossibility in nature; but at eight years old he may be guilty of felony.(g) Also, under fourteen, though an infant shall be prima facie adjudged to be doli incapax, yet if it appear to the court and jury that he was doli capax, and could discern between good and evil, he may be convicted and suffer death. Thus a girl of thirteen has been burned for killing her mistress: and one boy of ten, and another of nine years old, who had killed their companions, have been sentenced to death, and he of ten years actually hanged; because it appeared, upon their trials, that the one hid himself, and the other hid the body he had killed, which hiding manifested a consciousness of guilt, and a discretion *to discern between good and evil.(h) And there was an instance in the last century where a boy of eight years
old was tried at Abingdon for firing two barns; and, it appearing that he had inalice, revenge, and cunning, he was found guilty, condemned, and hanged accordingly.(i) Thus, also, in very modern times, a boy of ten years old was convicted on his own confession of murdering his bedfellow, there appearing in his whole behaviour plain tokens of a mischievous discretion; and, as the sparing this boy merely on account of his tender years might be of dangerous consequence to the public by propagating a notion that children might commit such atrocious crimes with impunity, it was unanimously agreed by all the judges that he was a proper subject of capital punishment.(1) But, in all such cases, the evidence of that malice which is to supply age ought to be strong and clear beyond all doubt and contradiction.'
II. The second case of a deficiency in will, which excuses from the guilt of crimes, arises also from a defective or vitiated understanding, viz., in an idiot or a lunatic. For the rule of law as to the latter, which may easily be adapted also to the former, is, that "furiosus furore solum punitur." 'In criminal cases,
(%) 1 Hal. P. C. 26, 27. Mirr. c. 4, & 16. 1 Hal. P. C. 27.
LL. Athelstun. Wilk. 65.
(9) Dalt. Just. c. 147.
() Emlyn on 1 Hal. P. C. 25.
1 Where an act is made felony or treason, it extends as well to infants, if above the ago of fourteen, as to others, (see Co. Litt. 247. Hal. Hist. P. C. 21, 22 ;) and this appears by several acts of parliament, as by 1 Jac. I. ch. 11, of felony for marrying two wives, where there is a special exception of marriages below the age of consent, which in females is twelve and males fourteen; so that if the marriage were above the age of consent, though, within the age of twenty-one years, it is not exempted from the penalty. See Bing. on Inf. 99, 190. So, hy the 21 Hen. VIII. c. 7, concerning felony, by servants that embezzle their masters' goods delivered to them, there is a special proviso that it shall not extend to servants under the age of eighteen, who certainly would have been within the penalty if above the age of fourteen, though under eighteen years, unless thus excluded by a special proviso. Hale, Hist. P. C. 22. So the 12 Anne, c. 7, for punishing robberies in dwelling-houses, excepts apprentices under the age of fifteen who shall rob their masters from the act.-Chitty.