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knows to be popular with certain classes of the community. Such unhallowed influences have played their part before now in the work of legislation. Such miserable mountebanks have climbed up into high places and pretended to utter in the ears of a nation truth that had been sought in the patience and earnestness of love, when they have really had in mind only the advancement of their own private interests. The public can receive no valuable instruction from such men; for though, through a fortunate combination of the public good with their private aims, it should happen that their teachings, in some particular case are true, they will be wanting in the simple sincerity which marks those who only are qualified to teach, who in searching after truth have waited at the posts of her doors, and watched long at her temple gates. But the want of this sincerity may arise from other causes than dishonesty, and we are glad to believe that in Mr. O'Sullivan it has a different origin. He may belong to that class of men who seem to labour under an infirmity of mind, natural or acquired, which disqualifies them from seeing more than a small part of any subject at His temperament may be such as to place his reason too much under the command of his feelings. The weakness of compassion may have led him to shrink from the idea of putting a man to death even for the most horrid crime. Under the influence of this feeling he may have taken up the belief that it was wrong for human justice ever to become the minister of death, and then tasked the talent which he evidently possesses to defend this belief. But whatever may be the cause, the incompetency of any man to discuss and decide great questions in jurisprudence or morals, is evident the moment that he makes it manifest that the belief which he avows and inculcates rests upon other grounds than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Mr. O'Sullivan's opinion is for this reason deprived of all weight as authority. His arguments do not furnish, in all respects, the true reasons for his own belief; inasmuch as it is impossible for any man to cherish the reverence which he professes to entertain for the sacred writings as a revelation from God, and at the same time look upon the Hebrew code as the work of Moses aided by his pagan father-in-law, Jethro; or to believe that imprisonment for life should be substituted for the punishment of death, because being more mild it is more in accordance with the benevolent spirit of Christianity, and being more severe it will
be a more effectual restraint upon crime. But we propose to examine the arguments which he has produced to see what weight they ought to have with other minds. We shall confine our remarks chiefly to Mr. O'Sullivan's report, because it contains the substance of Mr. Rantoul's, and much more besides.
We do not propose to give a full exposition of the reasons for capital punishment, any farther than these shall be brought out in reply to the objections urged against it. propose no new measure. We advocate no untried experiment. He who comes forward with a novel theory respecting the best mode of preserving human life, should come prepared with the amplest defence of its grounds and the clearest exposition of its tendencies. But in maintaining an institution which has received the assent of all civilized nations from the days of Noah until now, we do all that can be reasonably required of us, when we show the insufficiency of the reasons alleged in behalf of any proposed change.
Mr. O'Sullivan attempts, in the first instance, to invalidate the argument for capital punishment derived from the sacred scriptures. In this he shows his wisdom; for if, as he states, the opinion that the punishment of murder by death. has not alone the sanction but the express injunction of divine wisdom, is the basis of nine-tenths of the opposition still to be encountered, in current society, to its abolition, he could not expect to accomplish any good end by his argument until he had first shown the erroneousness of this very general impression. He confesses for himself that if he considered the question under discussion as answered by a divine command, he would not attempt to go farther to consult the uncertain oracles of human reason; and rightly supposing that there is, through the great mass of the community a like reverence for what is esteemed a divine command, his first effort is to expose the popular error on this subject. This is the weakest, and in every way, the least respectable part of his essay.
He attempts, in the first place, to set aside the argument for a divine command enjoining capital punishment for murder, drawn from the Mosaic code. This code he contends was framed for the government of a people ungovernable beyond all others "a nation who at that time probably exceeded any of the present hordes of savages in the wilds of Africa or Tartary, in slavish ignorance, sordid vices,
loathsome diseases and brutal lusts"-and who could only be restrained therefore by institutions of the sternest and most sanguinary character. If the provisions of this' Draconian code' in relation to the punishment of murder are binding upon us, in the altered state of society as it now exists, then do they equally bind us to inflict capital punishment upon many other offences. Such is his argument. And though we have strong objections to the statements which he makes, copied chiefly from Mr. Rantoul, considered as an exposition of the true character and intent of the Mosaic code, yet we are perfectly willing to admit the force of his argument as an answer to those, if any such there be, who rest the defence of capital punishment upon the statutes of this code. Nor was it at all necessary, in order to give his argument upon this point its full force that he should stigmatize the laws of Moses as containing so many "crude, cruel and unchristian features," and then to cover this rabid violence, reduce these laws, with the exception of the ten commandments, to a level, so far as the Divine agency was concerned in their enactment, with "any other system of laws which the Supreme Governor of the universe has at different times allowed to be framed and applied to practice among nations, by law givers whom we must also regard as the mere instruments in his hands." It is true that in relation to the distinction which is here drawn between the divine origin of the decalogue, and the other parts of the Jewish code, the effect of which is nothing less than to make Moses an unprincipled impostor, Mr. O'Sullivan states that the committee consider it incumbent on them to present it, though they refrain from expressing their opinion respecting it. If Mr. O'Sullivan believes in the justness of this distinction why did he not frankly and fearlessly say so? If he does not believe in it why seek to avail himself of its help? We would as soon confide in a man as our adviser and guide, who would burn down his house to warm his cold hauds by, as in one who to gain a small fraction of aid in establishing a favourite conclusion would not scruple to make use of arguments, not sincerely believed, the effect of which is to destroy the credibility of no small portion of divine revelation.
We have never met with an argument which professed to derive the obligation to punish murder with death from the Hebrew statutes to that effect. We are perfectly willing to admit that these statutes are of no farther weight in the ar
gument than as a revelation of the will of God that at that time and among that people murder should be thus punished. They constitute a full and sufficient answer to those who deny the right of society to take away life in punishment of crime, but, taken by themselves, they do not prove that it is our duty now, as it was that of the Jews, to punish murder with death, nor even that it is expedient for us thus to punish it. Did the Bible shed no other light upon this question, we should take the fact that among the Jews murder was, by the divine command, punished with death, only as one element in the argument by which we should seek to prove that it was expedient for us to inflict upon it the same penalty.
But there is another statute upon this subject, given long anterior to the Mosaic law, which Mr. O'Sullivan finds it much more difficult to dispose of in accordance with his wishes, though he flatters himself that he has not only "destroyed all its seeming force as an argument in favour of capital punishment, but transferred its application to the other side." We allude, of course, to the directions given to Noah, recorded in the fifth and six verses of the ninth chapter of Genesis.
"And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man."
Mr. O'Sullivan's comment upon this passage strikes us as an extrordinary specimen of reasoning.
"The true understanding of this important passage is to be sought in the original Hebrew text, and in a comparison of its terms with the adjacent context. Such an examination will be found to reverse directly the sense in which it is usually received, and to show that our common English version is a clear mistranslation, founded on an ambiguity in the original, which ambiguity has been decided by the first translators, and so left ever since, by the light, or rather by the darkness, of their own preconceived views on this subject-views derived from the established barbarian practice of their time. The word in the Hebrew, (sho-phaich) which is here rendered whoso sleddeth,' is simply the present participle shedding,' in which, in the Hebrew as in the English, there is no distinction of gender. And the word which is rendered his,' (damo,) there being no neuter in that language, may with equal right be rendered its.' The whole passage is therefore fully as well susceptible of the translation, whatsoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall (or may) its blood be shed,’— as of that which has been given to it, from no other reason than the prejudice of a' foregone conclusion.' Several of the most able commentators on the scriptures give the words virtually the same intepretation; and that profound and learned critic, Michaelis, of Göttingen, in his Commentaries on the laws of Mo
ses, (ch. iv. § 3, art. 274.) says expressly the sixth verse must be rendered, not whosoever, but, whatsoever sheddeth human blood.'
"The propriety of this correction of our common English version of the passage in question will appear very clear, when we collate it with both the preceding and the following words. In the preceding verse, after having alluded to that mystic sanctity of blood, as containing the essential principle of animal life, which we afterwards find so strikingly to pervade the Mosaic system, the covenant proceeds:
“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
"Whoso (whatsoever) sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his (its) blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.'
"The very reason here given for the prohibition of the shedding of the blood of man, is the defacement of the image of its Creator, in the 'human form divine.' Does this high and sacred principle lose its force or its application, because the criminal may himself have been guilty of a previous outrage upon its sanctity? Can that afford any justification for a repetition of the same outrage upon the same 'image of God'? Where is the authority for any such assumption? The distinction here drawn is plain. The beast that sheddeth man's blood, by man' may its blood be shed; but when man's blood is shed by man's brother, ‘I' will require it at his hands—by penalties, into the nature of which it is not for us to attempt to penetrate. The object of the whole passage is, clearly, to establish, on the most solemn basis, the great idea of the holiness of the principle of life, and especially human life. The destruction of animal life is permitted for 'meat,' being prohibited by implication for any other wanton purpose; while its being thus declared forfeited in atonement for the destruction of the life of man, can have no other reason-the brute being incapable of moral guilt-than to strengthen and deepen the idea of the sanctity of that life, in the minds of the human race itself. What can be more absurd than an interpretation which, by authorizing the practice of public judicial murder, in the most deliberate coldness of blood, is directly and fatally subversive of the very essential idea which constitutes the basis of the whole passage! Surely, then, instead of any sanction being afforded by this passage to the infliction of the punishment of death for any human crime-to this defacement and outrage of the image of God,' in the person of man-it passes against that very practice a far more awful sentence of condemnation than any which human reason could have framed, or human lips uttered."
The Hebrew scholar may form from the remark upon "damo" a judgment of Mr. O'Sullivan's fitness to dogmatize so confidently respecting the mistake made by our English translators of the Bible. These translators, however prejudiced they may have been in favour of any barbarian practices of their time, were at least men who knew the difference between a Hebrew noun, and its pronominal suffix. Mr. O'Sullivan quotes the authority of Michaelis for substituting "its" in place of "his" in this passage. It is true that Michaelis advocates this change, but not in the sense for which Mr. O'Sullivan contends. Mr. O'Sullivan's argument requires that the pronoun should be neuter, to the exclusion of the masculine. Michaelis was too profound