Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

73

the guilty innocent, lest they should be the means of perpetrating a far greater crime than that for which the criminal stands before them to be judged.

Englishmen carry on the concerns of trade and manufacture with more judgment and success than any other nation, and find that common sense and common honesty, with assiduity and prudence, always work best in the long run ; they also far outstrip other nations in benevolence, and almost every virtue that adorns the heart or the understanding of human nature ; in short, where is the branch of useful science, or philosophy, in which, as a nation, we have ever been equalled, except upon a very few solitary points? And are we to suppose, that such a nation is made up of such fools, that no laws, , but the contradictory hocus-pocus of English jurisprudence, can be made tangible to their wants, and combat their differences and crimes ? Is it to be supposed, that good laws would find in juries or judges nothing in

common, to amalgamate with them? What is the reason that our laws need to be hooped

[ocr errors]

round with sophistry, and lies, and ridiculous distinctions and repetitions, but that, having introduced some of the senseless jargon, we need more to guard it, lest legal attempts at nice disquisition shall yield a loop-hole for escape, unless guarded by some more stuff of the same school ?

For instance, if a person be identified with a crime, what odds is it whether the name of the party be rendered correctly (not but that it is desirable)? Is it his name that has committed the crime? Is it his name that suffers hanging, or transporting ?

Again, how ridiculous to go into a long string of minutiæ, which have no bearing on the fact, or on the malignancy of the crime.

Thus a stage-coachman drives so furiously that every one but himself expects mischief; well, a fellow-creature falls a victim to the man's barbarous indifference to humanity and justice; and the lawyers run on with a nonsensical rigmarole about how many horses there were to the coach, and on the trial it turns out that they are mares and geldings; and the judge, though we will suppose a wise

man in the main, exhibits, as they all do, in such cases, a foolish, and worse than childish vanity, in showing a carefulness that the prisoner should have the benefit of all legal blunders out of legal nonsense, and they turn the ruffian loose on society again, more hardened and more depraved, by the sample of utter injustice and folly which has opened the door to his acquittal, conveyed through the medium which he is taught to venerate as an abode of truth, honour, and dignity; but permit us to ask, if a man is to be run down by a coach and killed, what difference does it make to him whether horses, or geldings, or dogs, or cats, draw the coach ? Is he the less killed, or the coachman less blameable, because of all this ridiculous minutiæ ? Oh, it is worse than childish nonsense; and whatever lawyers may say, plain practical men can see, that, if lawyers were got rid of, there would not be the least necessity for it.

But it is lamentable to observe, how the fine minds of the judges seem sometimes half spoiled by legal technicalities, which have no capacity for producing any effect but that of diverting justice, and consequently inflicting persecution on those who afterwards become the victims of the criminal, as well as encouraging him to the repetition and increased malignancy of crime, by taking the impunity of the past as a guarantee of the impunity of the future; and not the less so for the solemn manner in which the judge warns him to let his escape be a lesson to him. Yes, yes ; it will be a lesson to him ; much he cares for sentimental reasoning; he might have learned it once, before his feelings were blunted by cruelty and selfishness.

A few months ago, about the same time as the case just alluded to, a man cut off the head of his child, (at least it was his wife's child,) and left the head of the little innocent set up on the table, so that the fixed glare of the eyes should meet those of the mother, as she entered at the door; this wretch escaped punishment, because, though convicted on proof beyond the shadow of a doubt, they failed to show whether any, or what was the name of the little victim: how utterly foolish

and abominably wicked, the jargon that would support the escape of a monster, under such circumstances.

Some months after, a man was proved to have stolen a piece of ordnance from the Essex side of the river, opposite Woolwich, and to have broken it up, and had it melted in Whitechapel ; this man would, it appears, have been got off by his counsel, had the other failed to prove that bit of Essex ground to have been a part of Kent: now let us ask, what bearing on his guilt could this circumstance possibly have, that, many centuries ago, a bit of Essex should have been declared a portion of the county of Kent, because possibly it had the same proprietor as the Kentish land in that neighbourhood ?

Corder, the selfish wretch recently executed, was declared by the grand jury to have committed ten distinct murders on the body of Maria Marten, and if any one of the declarations was true, the other nine must evidently have been untrue; yet twelve Englishmen, whom we have a right to suppose of unquestionable honour, declare him

« VorigeDoorgaan »