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VOICES OF THE TRUE - HEARTED.
childish dream has come true, and that she is really, bloom but once in a hundred years,—this vast and an enchanted princess, and her milkpans are forth. divine genius in his songs and his unequalled sonnets, with changed to a service of gold plate with the (which are but epic songs, songs written, as it were, family arms engraved on the bottom of each, the de- for an organ or rather ocean accompaniment), shows vice being a great heart, and the legend, God gives, all the humbleness, and wavering, and self-distrust, man only takes away. Her taste in dress has grown with which the weakness of the flesh tempers souls wonderfully more refined since her betrothal, though of the boldest aspiration and most unshaken selfshe never heard of the Paris fashions, and never had help, as if to remind them gently of that brothermore than one silk gown in her life, that one being hood to assert and dignify whose claims they were her mother's wedding dress, made over again. Reu. sent forth as apostles. ben has grown so tender-hearted, that he thought there might be some good even in « Transcendenta- The true way of judging the value of any one of lism," a terrible dragon of straw, against which he the arts is by measuring its aptness and power to had seen a lecturer at the village Lyceum valorous- advance the refinement, and sustain the natural dig. ly enact the St. George,-nay, he goes so far as to nity of mankind. Men may show rare genius in think that the slavewomen (black though they be, amusing or satirizing their fellow-beings, or in raisand therefore not deserving so much happiness), ing their wonder, or in giving them excuses for all cannot be quite so well off as his sister in the facto. manner of weakness by making them believe that, ry, and would sympathize with them if the consti- although their nature prompts them to be angels, tution did not enjoin all good citizens not to do so. they are truly no better than worms,-but only to But we are wandering;- farewell, Reuben and Dor- him will death come as a timely guide to a higher cas! remember that you can only fulfil your vow of and more glorious sphere of action and duty, who being true to each other by being true to all, and be has done somewhat, however little, to reveal to the sure that death can but unclasp your bodily hands soul its beauty, and to awaken in it an aspiration that your spiritual ones may be joined the more towards what only our degradation forces us to call closely
an ideal life. It is but a half knowledge which The songs of our great poets are unspeakably pre- sneers at utilitarianism, as if that word may not cious. In them find vent those irrepressible utter- have a spiritual as well as a material significance. ances of homely fireside humanity, inconsistent with He is indeed a traitor to his better nature who would the loftier aim and self-forgetting enthusiasm of a persuade men that the use of anything is proportiongreat poem, which preserve the finer and purer sened to the benefit it confers upou their animal part. sibilities from wilting and withering under the black If the spirit's hunger be not satisfied, the body will frost of ambition. The faint records of flitting im- not be at ease, though it slumber in Sybaris and pulses, we light upon them sometimes imbedded feast with A picius. It is the soul that makes men round the bases of the basaltic columns of the rich or poor, and he who has given a nation a truer epic or the drama, like heedless insects or tender conception of beauty, which is the body of truth, as ferns whieh had fallen in while those gigantic crys- love is its spirit, has done more for its happiness tals were slowly shaping themselves in the molten and to secure its freedom, than if he had doubled its entrails of the soul all a-glow with the hidden fires defences or its revenue. He who has taught a man of inspiration, or like the tracks of birds from far-off to lcok kindly on a flower or an insect, has thereby climes, which had lighted upon the ductile mass ere made him sensible of the beauty of tenderness toit had hardened into eternal rock. They make the ward men, and rendered charity and lovingkindness lives of the masters of the lyre encouragements and so much the more easy, and so much the more helps to us, by teaching us humbly to appreciate necessary to him. To make life more reverend in and sympathize with, as men, those whom we should the eyes of the refined and educated, may be a noble else almost have worshipped as beings of a higher ambition in the scholar, or the poet, but to reveal to order. In Shakspeare's dreams, we watch with awe the poor and ignorant, and degraded, those divine the struggles and triumphs, and defeats which seem arms of the eternal beauty which encircle them lovalmost triumphs, of his unmatched soul :-in his ingly by day and night, to teach them that they songs we can yet feel the beating of a simple, warm also are children of one Father, and the nearer haply heart, the mate of which can be found under the first to his heart for the very want and wretchedness homespun frock you meet on the high road. He, which half-persuaded them they were orphan and who instead of carefully plucking the fruit from the forgotten, this, truly is the task of one who is greattree of knowledge as others are fain to, shook down er than the poet or the scholar, namely, a true Man, whole showers of leaves and twigs and fruit at once; --and this belongs to the song-writer. The poet as who tossed down systems of morality and philoso- he wove his simple rhymes of love, or the humble phy by the handful; who wooed nature as a superior, delights of the poor, dreamed not how niany toil. and who carpeted the very earth beneath the deli- worn eyes brightened, and how many tyrant hearts cate feet of his fancy with such flowers of poesy as softened with reviving memories of childhood and
OF THE TRUE-HEARTED.
innocence. That which alone can make men truly | without bitterness; but to-day, I cannot love them; happy and exalted in nature, is freedom; and free on my soul, I cannot. dom of spirit, without which mere bodily liberty is We were to have had an execution yesterday; but vilest slavery, can only be achieved by culti- but the wretched prisoner avoided it by suicide. vating men's sympathy with the beautiful. The The gallows had been erected for several hours, and heart that makes free only is free, and the tyrant with a cool refinement of cruelty, was hoisted bealways is truly the bondman of his slaves. The fore the window of the condemned; the hangman longing of every soul is for freedom, which it gains was already to cut the cord; marshals paced back only by helping other souls to theirs. The power and forth, smoking and whistling; spectators were of the song-writer is exalted above others in this, waiting impatiently to see whether he would die that his words bring solace to the lowest ranks of game.' Printed circulars had been handed abroad men, loosing their spirits from thraldom by cherish. to summon the number of witnesses required by ing to life again their numbed and deadened sympa- law : You are respectfully invited to witness the thies, and bringing them forth to expand and purify execution of John C. Colt.' I trust some of them in the unclouded, impartial sunshine of humanity. are preserved for museums. Specimens should be Here truly is a work worthy of angels, whose bright- kept, as relics of a barbarous age, for succeeding ness is but the more clearly visible when they are generations to wonder at. They might be hung up ministering in the dark and benighted hovels of life, in a frame; and the portrait of a New Zealand Chief, and whose wings grow to a surer and more radiant picking the bones of an enemy of his tribe, would strength, while they are folded to enter these hum. be an appropriate pendant. blest tenements of clay, than when they are out- This bloody insult was thrust into the hands of spread proudly for the loftiest and most exulting some citizens, who carried hearts under their vests, flight. The divinity of man is indeed most wonder- and they threw it in tattered fragments to the dogs ful and glorious in the mighty and rare soul, but and swine, as more fitting witnesses than human how much more so is it in the humble and common beings. It was cheering to those who have faith in one, and how far greater a thing is it to discern and human progress, to see how many viewed the subreverence it there. We hear men often enough speak ject in this light. But as a general thing, the very of seeing God in the stars and flowers, but they will spirit of murder was rife among the dense crowd, never be truly religious till they learn to behold which thronged the place of execution. They were him in each other also, where he is most easily, yet swelling with revenge, and eager for blood. One most rarely discovered. But to have become bless- man came all the way from New Hampshire, on ed enough to find him in anything, is a sure pledge purpose to witness the entertainment; thereby of finding him in all, and many times, perhaps, some showing himself a likely subject for the gallows, snatch of artless melody floating over the land, as if whoever he may be. Women deemed themselves under the random tutelage of the breeze, may have not treated with becoming gallantry, because tickets given the hint of its high calling to many a soul of admittance were denied them; and I think it which else had lain torpid and imbruted. Great showed injudicious partiality; for many of them principles work out their fulfilment with the slight can be taught murder by as short a lesson as any est and least regarded tools, and destiny may chance man, and sustain it by arguments from Scripture, as to speak to us in the smell of a buttercup or the ably as any theologian. However they were not music of the commonest air.
admitted to this edifying exhibition in the great school of public morals; and had only the slim comfort of standing outside, in a keen November wind,
to catch the first toll of the bell, which would anCAPITAL PUNISHMENT.
nounce that a human brother had been sent strug. gling into eternity by the hand of violence. But while the multitude stood with open watches, and
strained ears to catch the sound, and the marTo-day, I cannot write of beauty ; for I am sad shals smoked and whistled, and the hangman walked and troubled.
Heart, bead, and conscience, are all up and down, waiting for his prey, lo! word was in battle-array against the savage customs of my brought that the criminal was found dead in his bed! time. By and by, the law of love, like oil upon the He had asked one half hour alone to prepare his mind waters, will calm my surging sympathies, and make for departure ; and at the end of that brief interval, the current flow more calmly, though none the less he was found with a dagger thrust into his heart. deep or strong.
But to-day, do not ask me to love the tidings were received with fierce mutterings governor, sheriff or constable, or any man who de- of disappointed rage. The throng beyond the walls fends capital punishment. I ought to do it; for were furious to see him with their own eyes, to be genuine love enfolds even murderers with its bless. sure that he was dead. But when the welcome news ing. By to-morrow, I think I can remember them'met my ear, a tremendous load was taken from my
BY LYDIA MARIA CHILD.
VOICES OF THE TRUE-HEARTED.
heart. I had no chance to analyze right and wrong ; | nature rose up against the sanguinary spirit manifor over all thought and feeling flowed impulsive fested toward him. The public were, moreover, joy, that this · Christian community were cheated divided in opinion with regard to the legal construc. of a hanging. They who had assembled to commit tion of his crime; and in the keen discussion of legalized murder, in cold blood, with strange confu- legal distinctions, moral distinctions became wofulsion of ideas, were unmindful of their own guilt, ly confused. Each day hope and fear alternated; while they talked of his suicide as a crime equal to the natural effect of all this was to have the whole that for which he was condemned. I am willing to thing regarded as a game, in which the criminal leave it between him and his God. For myself, I might, or might not, become the winner; and every would rather have the burden of it on my own soul, experiment of this kind shakes public respect for the than take the guilt of those who would have execut-laws, from centre to circumference. Worse than ed a fellow creature. He was driven to a fearful all this was the horrible amount of diabolical pasextremity of agony and desperation. He was pre- sion excited. The hearts of men were filled with cisely in the situation of a man on board a burning murder; they gloated over the thoughts of venship, who being compelled to face death, jumps into geance, and were rabid to witness a fellow-creature's the waves, as the least painful mode of the two. agony. They complained loudly that he was not to But they, who thus drove him to walk the plank,' be hung high enough for the crowd to see him. made cool, deliberate preparations to take life, and • What a pity !' exclaimed a woman, who stood near with inventive cruelty sought to add every bitter me, gazing at the burning tower; they will have drop that could be added to the dreadful cup of ven- to give him two hours more to live.' geance.
feel so, if he were your son ?' said I. Her counteTo me, human life seems so sacred a thing, that nance changed instantly. She had not before realizits violent termination always fills me with horror, ed that every criminal was somebody's son. whether perpetrated by an individual or a crowd; As we walked homeward, we encountered a depuwhether done contrary to law and custom, or ac. ty sheriff; not the most promising material, certaincording to law and custom. Why John C. Colt ly, for lessons on humanity; but to him we spoke should be condemned to an ignominious death for an of the crowd of savage faces, and the tones of hatred, act of resentment altogether unpremeditated, while as obvious proof of the bad influence of capital pun. men, who deliberately, and with malice afore- ishment. I know that,' said he ; but I don't see thought, go out to murder another for some insult- how we could dispense with it. Now suppose we ing word, are judges, and senators in the land, and had fifty murderers shut up in prison for life, instead favorite candidates for the President's chair, is more of hanging 'em; and suppose there should come a than I can comprehend. There is, to say the least, revolution; what an awful thing it would be to have a strange inconsistency in our customs.
fifty murderers inside the prison, to be let loose At the same moment that I was informed of the
upon the community! - There is another side to death of the prisoner, I heard that the prison was on that proposition,' we answered ; for every crimifire. It was soon extinguished, but the remarkable nal you execute, you make a hundred murderers coincidence added not a little to the convulsive ex- outside the prison, each as dangerous as would be the citement of the hour. I went with a friend to look one inside.' He said perhaps it was so; and went at the beautiful spectacle ; for it was exceedingly his way. beautiful. The fire had kindled at the very top of As for the punishment and the terror of such dothe cupola, the wind was high, and the flames rushings, they fall most keenly on the best hearts in the ed upward, as if the angry spirits below had escap- community. Thousands of men, as well as women, ed on fiery wings. Heaven forgive the feelings had broken and startled sleep for several nights prethat, for a moment mingled with my admiration of ceding that dreadful day. Executions always exthat beautiful conflagration Society had kindled cite a universal shudder among the innocent, the all around me a bad excitement, and one of the in- humane, and the wise-hearted. It is the voice of fernal sparks fell into my heart. If this was the God, crying aloud within us against the wickedness effect produced on me, who am by nature tender of this savage custom. Else why is it that the in. hearted, by principle opposed to all retaliation, and stinct is so universal ? by social position secluded from contact with evil, The last conversation I had with the late William what must it have been on the minds of rowdies and Ladd made a strong impression on my mind. While desperadoes ? The effect of executions on all he was a sea-captain, he occasionally visited Spain, brought within their influence is evil, and nothing and once witnessed an execution there. He said but evil. For a fortnight past, this whole city has that no man, however low and despicable, would been kept in a state of corroding excitement, either consent to perform the office of hangman; and whoof hope or fear. The stern pride of the prisoner ever should dare to suggest such a thing to a decent left little in his peculiar case to appeal to the sym- man, would have had his brains blown out. This pathies of society; yet the instincts of our common I feeling was so strong, and so universal, that the only VOICES OF THE TRUE - HEARTED.
way they could procure an executioner, was to offer ciferously then as they now do, that it was not safe a condemned criminal his own life, if he would con- to have the law changed. Judge McKean, governor sent to perform the vile and hateful office on another. of Pennsylvania, was strongly opposed to the aboliSometimes executions were postponed for months, tion of death for stealing, and the disuse of the pil. because there was no condemned criminal to perform lory and whipping-post. He was a very humane the office of hangman. A fee was allotted by law man, but had the common fear of changing old custo the wretch who did perform it, but no one would toms. " It will not do to abolish these salutary run the risk of touching his polluted hand by giving restraints,' said the old gentleman; it will break it to him; therefore, the priest threw the purse as up the foundations of society.' Those relics of barfar as possible ; the odious being ran to pick it up, barism were banished long ago : but the foundations and hastened to escape from the shuddering execra. of society are nowise injured thereby. tions of all who had known him as a hangman. The testimony from all parts of the world is in. Even the poor animal that carried the criminal and variable and conclusive, that crime diminishes in his coffin in a cart to the foot of the gallows, was an proportion to the mildness of the laws. The real object of universal loathing. He was cropped and danger is in having laws on the statule-book at varimarked, that he might be known as the “Hang- ance with the universal instincts of the human heart, man's Donkey. No man, however great his needs, and thus tempting men to continual evasion. The would use this beast, either for pleasure or labour ; evasion, even of a bad law, is attended with many and the peasants were so averse to having him pol. mischievous results; its abolition is always safe. lute their fields with his footsteps, that when he was In looking at Capital Punishment in its practical seen approaching, the boys hastened to open the bearings on the operation of justice, an observing gates, and drive him off with hisses, sticks, and mind is at once struck with the extreme uncertainty stones. Thus does the human heart cry out aloud attending it. The balance swings hither and against this wretched practice!
thither, and settles, as it were, by chance. The A tacit acknowledgment of the demoralizing in strong instincts of the heart teach juries extreme fluence of executions is generally made, in the fact reluctance to convict for capital offences. They that they are forbidden to be public, as formerly. will avail themselves of every loophole in the evi. The scene is now in a prison yard, instead of open dence, to avoid the bloody responsibility imposed fields, and no spectators are admitted but officers of upon them. In this way, undoubted criminals the law, and those especially invited. Yet a favour- escape all punishment, until society becomes ite argument in favour of capital punishment has alarmed for its own safety, and insists that the next been the terror that the spectacle inspires in the victim shall be sacrificed. It was the misfortune breast of evil doers. I trust the two or three hun- of John C. Colt, to be arrested at a time when the dred singled out from the mass of New York popu- popular wave of indignation had been swelling lation, by particular invitation, especially the judges higher and higher, in consequence of the impunity and civil officers, will feel the full weight of the with which Robinson, White, and Jewell had escaped. compliment. During the French Revolution, public The wrath and jealousy which they had excited executions seemed too slow, and Fouquier proposed was visited upon him, and his chance for a merciful to put the guillotine under cover, where batches of verdict was greatly diminished. The scale now a hundred might be despatched with a few specta- turns the other way; and the next offender will tors. Wilt thou demoralize the guillotine?' asked probably receive very lenient treatment, though he Callot, reproachfully.
should not have so many extenuating circumstances That bloody guillotine was an instrument of law, in his favour. as well as our gallows; and what, in the name of Another thought which forces itself upon the all that is villanous, has not been established by mind in consideration of this subject is the danger law? Nations, clans, and classes, engaged in fierce of convicting the innocent. Murder is a crime struggles of selfishness and hatred, made laws to which must of course be committed in secret, and strengthen each other's power, and revenge each therefore the proof must be mainly circumstantial. other's aggressions. By slow degrees, always This kind of evidence must be in its nature so pretimidly and reluctantly, society emerges out of the carious, that men have learned great timidity in barbarisms with which it thus became entangled. trusting to it. In Scotland, it led to so many terIt is but a short time ago that men were bung in rible mistakes, that they long ago refused to convict this country for stealing. The last human brother any man of a capital offence, upon circumstan. who suffered under this law, in Massachusetts, was tial evidence. so wretchedly poor, that when he hung on the gal. A few years ago a poor German came to New lows, his rags fluttered in the wind. What think York, and took lodgings, where he was allowed to do you was the comparative guilt, in the eye of God, his cooking in the same room with the family. The between him and those who hung him? Yet, it husband and wife lived in a perpetual quarrel. One was according to law; and men cried out as vo-day the German came into the kitchen with a clasp
VOICES OF THE TRU E-HEARTED.
knife and a pan of potatoes, and began to prepare witness the horrible deed. Some little incident them for his dinner. The quarrelsome couple were excited the suspicion of Burton, and he induced her in a more violent altercation than usual; but he sat to confess to him the whole transaction. It was with his back toward them, and being ignorant of obvious enough that suspicion would fasten upon their language, felt in no danger of being involved him, the well-known lover of her who had been so in their disputes. But the woman, with a sudden deeply injured. He was arrested, but succeeded in and unexpected movement, snatched the knife from persuading her that he was in no danger. Circumhis hand, and plunged it in her husband's heart. stantial evidence was fearfully against him, and he She had sufficient presence of mind to rush into the soon saw that his chance was doubtful; but with street, and scream murder. The poor foreigner, in affectionate magnanimity, he concealed this from the meanwhile, seeing the wounded man reel, sprang her. He was convicted and condemned. A short forward to catch him in his arms, and drew out the time before the execution, he endeavord to cut his knife. People from the street crowded in, and throat; but his life was saved for the cruel purpose found him with the dying man in his arms, the of taking it away according to the cold blooded knife in his hand, and blood upon his clothes. The barbarism of the law. Pale and wounded, he was wicked woman swore, in the most positive terms, hoisted to the gallows before the gaze of a Christian that he had been fighting with her husband, and had community. stabbed him with a knife he always carried. The
The guilty cause of all this was almost frantic, unfortunate German knew too little English to un when she found that he had thus sacrificed himself derstand her accusation, or to tell his own story to save her. She immediately published the whole He was dragged off to prison, and the true state of history of her wrongs, and her revenge. Her keen the case was made known through an interpreter ; sense of wounded honour was in accordance with but it was not believed. Circumstantial evidence public sentiment, her wrongs excited indignation was exceedingly strong against the accused, and the and compassion, and the knowledge that an innoreal criminal swore unhesitatingly that she saw him cent and magnanimous man had been so brutally commit the murder. He was executed, nowith-treated excited a general revulsion of popular feelstanding the most persevering efforts of his lawyer, ing. No one wished for another victim, and she John Anthon, Esq., whose convictions of the man's
was left unpunished, save by the dreadful records innocence were so painfully strong, that from that
of her memory. day to this, he has refused to have any connexion
Few know how numerous are the cases where it with a capital case. Some years after this tragic event, the woman died, and, on her death-bed, suffered instead of the guilty. Yet one such case in
has subsequently been discovered that the innocent confessed her agency in the diabolical transaction; but her poor victim could receive no benefit from an age is surely enough to make legislators pause this tardy repentance ; society had wantonly thrown before they cast a vote against the abolition of
Capital Punishment. away its power to atone for the grievous wrong.
Many of my readers will doubtless recollect the But many say the Old Testament requires blood tragical fate of Burton, in Missouri, on which a
for blood.' So it requires that a woman should be novel was founded, which still circulates in the li. put to death for adultery; and men for doing work braries. A young lady, belonging to a genteel and on the Sabbath; and children for cursing their pavery proud family, in Missouri, was beloved by a rents; and · If an ox were to push with his horn, young man named Burton; but unfortunately her in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, affections were fixed on another less worthy. He and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed left her with a tarnished repntation. She was by a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and his nature energetic and high-spirited, her family were
owner also shall be put to death. The commands proud, and she lived in the midst of a society which given to the Jews, in the old dispensation, do not considered revenge a virtue, and named it honor. form the basis of any legal code in Christendom. Misled by this popular sentiment, and her own ex
They could not form the basis of any civilized code. cited feelings, she resolved to repay her lover's If one command is binding on our consciences, all treachery with death. But she kept her secret so
are binding; for they all rest on the same authority. well, that no one suspected her purpose, though she
They who feel bound to advocate capital punishpurchased pistols, and practiced with them daily. ment for murder, on account of the law given to Mr. Burton gave evidence of his strong attachment Moses, ought, for the same reason, to insist that by renewing his attentions when the world looked children should be executed for striking or cursing most coldly upon her. His generous kindness won
their parents. her heart, but the softening influence of love did not " It was said by them of old time, an eye for an lead her to forego the dreadful purpose she had eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you reformed. She watched for a favorable opportunity, sist not evil.' If our eyes were lifted up,' we and shot her betrayer when no one was near, to should see, not Moses and Elias, but Jesus only.