« AnteriorContinuar »
where the outrage was perpetrated, and through a village where dwelt his aged Father, who would witness the spectacle with an excruciating agony!— This so affected him, that he maintained a great reserve both to the magistrates and clergy of Norwich, who visited him. My friend, who first saw him from a principle of curiosity, pitied his condition, and was desirous of administering consolation. The poor wretch listened with eagerness; and among other topics of conversation, he inquired, “Is a Mr. Richards of Lynn alive f” Upon inquiry, it was answered in the affirmative; when his eye glistened with tears, and he exclaimed, “Being a boy on a visit to an aunt at Lynn, she took me to hear Mr. Richards, and something he said of a religious mature has ever since left an impression on my mind!” The criminal was conveyed to Lynn— lodged in the prison during the night—and executed the next day in the presence of an immense multitude 1 Mr. Richards, who had been immediately sent for, consoled the repentant culprit, and thus resigned, he was launched into etermity The manner in which Mr. Richards treated this youthful victim to the laws of his country, was the subject of general commendation. Painful must have been the task, but it was executed with mildness and fidelity. No trace of this event is found in Mr. Richards's papers; but it is recorded in his list of remarkable events at the close of his History at Lynn, and thus in the body of the History itself—“Before we quit the year 1783, we may just observe, that a most atrocious robbery was then committed on a Jew lad, about sixteen years old, of the name of Isaac Levi, on the road between Lynn and Westwinch, by one Robert For, who so ill-treated the poor Jew as to leave him apparently dead, for which the robber was some time after (Sept. 7th) hanged on Hardwich Common, near the place where the villainous and shocking deed had been perpetrated.” Here is no allusion to the service rendered on the melancholy occasion. MR. Richards thought, that where repentance is discovered, though at the last hour, and in the most notorious offenders—yet this ought not to be emblazoned, as on many modern occasions it is, to the annihilation of the terrors accompanying a PUBLIC ExECUTION | A violent death is intended to alarm and amend the morals of the lower classes of the community. When crimes multiply rapidly, as they have done in these last few years, care should be taken that capital punishments strike every possible awe into the minds of transgressors. It is true, God is merciful, nor should that MERCY be abridged on such occasions. Let the hapless culprit be urged to repentance, and the cheering tidings of forgiveness, through the mediation of Christ, be accepted by him. But let none on this account have it in their power to insinuate that Religion, by an untimely interference, as well as by an injudicious treatment, counteracts the laws of our country. The thief on the cross, and at the eleventh hour, was repentant and forgiven; but E
though there be one to prevent despair, justly has it been said, there is only one to forbid presumption Capital punishments are too numerous in this Christian country. To near two hundred crimes is the penalty of death attached. Far better would it be were these diminished. Let punishment be righteously adjusted to the demerit of the several crimes; and where the sentence fell, there let the law never cease to take its course with a decisive and wholesome severity. With the exception of MURDER, capital punishments might be altogether abolished. This is the case in some of the United States of America, especially in Pennsylvania, founded by Penn, of sagacious and pacific memory. America is indeed a rising empire; but from this quarter the oldest European kingdoms may derive salutary lessons without any impeachment of their virtue or discernment. The indescribable blessing of existence is too precious to be thrown away on slight occasions. George the Second never signed a death warrant without a tear! And, indeed, who can reflect on the numerous victims immolated to the puinitive justice of their country without horror and dismay Law void of sanctions is a mere nonentity. But the greatest vigilance should be exercised in the enactment of statutes affecting life, and the utmost tenderness shewn whenever the penalty is put into execution. To the idle and the profligate, to wicked and hardened transgressors, there are punishments worse than DEATH. The awful change they know, awaits all, and sooner or
later is to them a subject of no concern! But to drag out existence in hard labour—to subsist on coarse and scanty food—to be withdrawn from society into dreary solitude—would have, in most cases, a salutary effect on the prisoner, and render a far greater benefit to the community.
Let not the reader deem these remarks irrelevant to my subject. No effort, however humble, is lost. I take leave of the painful topic, by recommending the attentive perusal of Mr. Montague's pamphlet, entitled, “Some Inquiries respecting the Punishment of Death for Crimes without Violence.” There will be found a long and glorious list of names of great men, philosophers, legislators, and statesmen, from Coke and Bacon down to the lamented Romilly and the enlightened Mackintosh, all enrolled in the cause of suffering humanity! Indeed, I have often thought that were ALL who have fallen a sacrifice to the laws of their country assembled together on one spot, where would be the plain capacious enough to contain them : And with what emotions would the IMMOLATED MULTITUDE be contemplated Let that truly eminent judge, Lord Coke, be heard on this awful subject. “What a lamentable case is it (says he) to see so many Christian men and women strangled on that cursed tree, the gallows; insomuch as if in a large field a man might see together ALL the Christians that but in one year, throughout England, came to that untimely and ignominious death—
if there were any spark of grace or charity in him, it would make his heart to bleed for pity and compassion But the consideration of preventing justice were worthy of the wisdom of PARLIAMENT, and in the mean time of expert and wise men to make preparations for the same, as the text saith— Ut benedicat eis Dominus. Blessed shall he be that layeth the first stone of THE BUILDING—more blessed he that proceedeth in it—most of all that finisheth it—to the glory of God and to the honour of our king and nation * !” Through the whole course of his Ministry M.R. Richa RDs inculcated upon his hearers a profound attachment to the Sacred Writings. Much to the praise of the Church of England—the Scriptures are so interwoven with her public services, that the leading parts of the Old Testament are read once—and those of the NEw TESTAMENT twice in the year. It was his desire, therefore, that the contents of Holy WRIT should be made familiar to the minds of all Professors—calculated as it is to make the man of God perfect, ready to every good word and work. MR. RICHARDs for this purpose drew up, about this time, the following excellent ADDREss, and had it printed in the English and Welsh languages.