Capital Punishment Capital Punishment has been an issue of arguments for centuries. This topic was even of more importance during the 1700’s than the present, because the quantities of punished people were significantly larger than now. In that time it was easy for an individual to loose his life for a small crime. In this research paper we will examine the views of two different types of people on this subject. The first person is a reverend from 18th century London, and the other is an American doctor from the same period.
In the arguments of both gentlemen we can find similarities that lead us to understand the sentiment toward the issue during the 17th century. Revered E. Gillepsy begins his sermon with the definition of the meaning of being virtuous. He states that some one with good virtue will wish for world happiness. That person is to apply that wish through actions.
These actions will be rewarded in both the present life as in the future one. Another strong point that Rev. Gillepsy presents is that the laws of nations should be made according to religion. They should obey God instead of man. Even if the rules of man justify taking away lives, this does not mean that God agrees with such laws. He means that the feelings taught by religion should overrule feelings extracted from political affairs.
Rev. Gillepsy also talks about the sentiment of the people. He claims that is mankind was influenced entirely by the spirit of Christianity, they would never seek the death of another human being. People should see themselves in the shoes of other people, Do on to others as you would like done upon you. Man should never have to fall under a human executioner. Instead he should care for the criminal and give mercy. Rev.
Gillepsy has many thoughts on the punishments that follow criminal apprehension. He says that the system does a poor job in the prevention of crimes. He also mentions that if the system is not changed, there is a risk of revenge from heaven. His worries on capital punishment are related with the little proportion between crime and punishment. He provides the reader with examples of some crimes that have been punished with death.
One of those is the stealing of property. Amounts as low as 12-Pence have been seen as enough to kill a man. Other crimes include: breaking a fish pond, causing the fish to die; cutting a tree in a garden; associating with gypsies; witchcraft; sorcery, charm and enchantments. He cannot understand how society can possibly think that the life of fish or a tree can be seen as equal to the life of a human being. Rev. Gillepsy states that sanguinary laws are sign of disorder in a state.
For example, the laws of the Romans Decemuiri were full of cruel punishments. Then there were the partion law which exempted all citizens from death sentence and they flourished. Under the emperors severe punishments were delivered and their empires fell. Gillepsy asks how capital punishment can be seen as an act of prudence, when the greatest act of prudence is preserving life. They are acting criminally by destroying life.
Rev. Gillepsy also expresses a sentiment of possession. He says that God gave man the Earth for him to rule. He also gave him control over all things on Earth, but he did not give him control over each other. Therefore, God does not permit to ultimately control each other by taking away the lives of those facing punishment.
Some alternatives to the death sentence are also given in the sermon. He says that a convicted felon should be forced to work until he repays what he owes. He sees this alternative as very effective because it restores property, employs the culprit and it answers to al ends of justice and society. However he suggests that the price of labour be less than the price of regular labourers and their diet be poorer. All these in order to deter people from committing crimes.
Another alternative to capital punishment should be the exile of criminals. By sending the accused to another part of the world he is returning to duty of a community and he also becoming a useful and helpful member of society. Rev Gillepsy also critiques the organisation and availability of the laws. He states that there are too many laws and that one cannot expect all subjects to understand them all. He backs that statement by saying that not all people have enough money to afford buying a copy of the laws and others do not have the time to read them carefully. Also if one had the money and time to study them, chances are that they might find them complicated to understand.
Rev. Gillepsy also sees a great danger in carrying on with capital punishment. He claims that this behaviour disobeys the Deity. The Deity can punish us by forfeiting their protection. Our punishment would lead to numerous punishments being set loose upon us.
We could visualise the presence of a thousand ghosts and apparitions, which exists in our mind. This punishment will not happen to the virtuous and innocent. The Deity inflicts the punishment by making our conscience our greatest torment instead of our greatest comfort. Benjamin Rush was a medical doctor in Philadelphia. His views have been regarded world wide as very influencing.
In 1793 he wrote a document about capital punishment. Comparing both the Rush and Gillepsy documents is quite interesting because one is able to find similarities and contrasts between two people, a scientist and a religious leader. Benjamin Rush begins his document with several arguments against the existence of capital punishment. He says that because there have been several death sentences, this will lessen the horror of taking a life away. The people are likely to become desensitised to murder and this can lead to an increase of murderers. He also says that capital punishment produces more deaths, even if it criminals being killed. People of good morals might be reluctant to report a criminal because they would be afraid of being the cause for another death.
If the punishment was long confinement and/or hard forced labour, this would seen good enough and everybody in society would be a ‘watchman’ and they would be glad to apprehend a murderer and bring him/her to justice. Another argument by Rush is that capital punishment goes against universal justice: to prevent murder and take care of every living person. Rush says that it has been proven that the opposite of capital punishment is ideal for society and it brings happiness and order. For example the Empress of Russia, the King of Sweden, the Duke of Tufany have all reduced murder from their regions by punishing murderers by having them do beneficiary acts towards society and by reforming the criminal who disrupt the peace. Rush claims that capital punishment also goes against divine revelation.
Religion commands the people to forgive thy neighbour and to love thy enemy. The powers above never authorised punishment by death. Revenge is mine. I will repay. Religious beliefs also lead to other point of views by Rush. Rush gives his reader some insights on the reasons why there is capital punishment in society.
He says that from the beginning people misunderstood the law of Moses. He that killeth a man shall be put to death. The ignorance and cruelty of man in addition to the misapplication of this text of scripture has so for years seen the religion of Jesus Christ as one of folly and revenge. Man has a criminal nature and they could not comprehend that Moses meant that man was to be put to death by the creator himself, not by another creation. There is no argument that proves a justification for capital punishment, instead there is plenty argument against it. Rush gives some arguments that lead one to believe that the laws of Moses were misinterpreted.
Death punishment is contrary to reason. God wants man to love one another, not the opposite, killing a criminal cannot be accepted by God. The order and happiness of society is the will of God. Capital punishment destroys order and happiness of society; therefore, capital punishment destroys the will of God. There is proof that the laws of Moses were given to the ignorant and hard-hearted Jews; the divine legislator states, I gave them status that were not good and judgements where by they should not live.
Examples of this are the law of divorces and the law of retaliation. Rush states that there are several messages in the church that tells us that death punishment is not allowed by heaven. He says that it is believed that the Deity has a way of punishing murderers. The punishment is the horrors of a guilty conscience. His guilty conscience will lead to restoration of his wrong doings, Let him live to suffer the reproaches of a guilty conscience, let him live, to make compensation to society for the injury he has done it, by robbing him of a citizen, let him live to maintain the family of the man he has murdered; let him live.
Clearly we see the point that Rush send through, he strongly beliefs that there are other ways of pursuing justice to avoid the shedding of more blood. Rush provides the reader with examples from the bible that argue the existence of capital punishment. The heavens do not punish Cain for killing his own brother by taking away his life. Also his father, Adam, does not inflict the punishment of death when he finds out his tragedy. Not even God acts as a judge nor executioner but he exiles him from society and fixes in his mind a ‘dying worm.’ God subject Cain to the need of labour; to make sure that his punishment lasts, God places a mark of prohibition upon him that prevents other people from killing him.
Whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. Another example from the bible is when the whore is about to be stoned to death, Jesus saves her from her. Also, when Peter attacks a servant of the high priest, Jesus quickly regretted that action and he healed the wounded man. Rush wishes that the following phrase became the motto of humankind: The son of man is not come to destroy man’s lives, but to save them. Both documents by Rev. Gillepsy and Benjamin Rush provide with clear points in discouraging capital punishment.
They both use references to religion and beliefs. It is clear to see that the main battle in society at this time was the reasoning between religion and law. Both conflict in many ways. One is sanguinary and the other is forgiving. They both have similarities in suggesting alternatives for the deadly sentence. However, they lecture on some unique points that the other might be lacking.
Studying both authors does an effective role in understanding the sentiment felt during this era of tragic punishment. Both men tried to change their country’s brutal ways, especially in a time when the price of a life was relatively low. Bibliography Unavailable.