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superiority, and from other society, by the following marks or characters.-1. The bulk of the given society are in a habit of obedience or submission to a determinate and common superior: let that common superior be a certain individual person, or a certain body or aggregate of individual persons. 2. That certain individual, or that certain body of individuals, is not in a habit of obedience to a determinate human superior.” p. 199.
What shall be said to amount to a habit of obedience in the determinate political superior, or what to a habit of obedience in the bulk of the given society; what number or proportion of the members of the society, for instance, must render obedience, and how often and how long they must render it, in order that their obedience may be styled habitual, are questions of extremely difficult solution. The Saxon government, for example, although yielding occasional obedience to the dictates of the Holy Alliance, may properly be styled sovereign or supreme, and its community an independent political society. But in case these commands and this submission were somewhat more numerous and frequent, we might find it difficult to determine the class to which this community ought to belong. Again, in England, during the height of the conflict between Charles the First and the parliament, where could the sovereignty be said to reside ?
“ These difficulties," says our author, “ often embarrass the application of those positive moral rules which are styled international law.*
“For example: when did the revolted colony, which is now the Mexican nation, ascend from the condition of an insurgent province to that of an independent community? When did the body of colonists, who affected sovereignty in Mexico, change the character of rebel leaders for that of a supreme government ? Or (adopting the current language about governments de jure and de facto) when did the body of colonists, who affected sovereignty in Mexico, become sovereign in fact ? -And (applying international law to the specific or particular case) when did international law authorise neutral nations to admit the independence of Mexico with the sovereignty of the Mexican government?
“Now the questions suggested above are equivalent to this :- When had the inhabitants of Mexico obeyed that body so generally, and when had that general obedience become so frequent and lasting, that the bulk of the inhabitants of Mexico were habitually disobedient to Spain, and probably would not resume their discarded habit of submission?
“Or the questions suggested above are equivalent to this :—When had the inhabitants of Mexico obeyed that body so generally, and when had that general obedience become so frequent and lasting, that the inhabitants of Mexico were independent of Spain in practice, and were likely to remain permanently in that state of practical independence ?
* International law, as wanting the distinguishing characteristic of positive law, viz. the being set by political superiors to persons in a state of subjection, our author treats as a branch of positive morality only : as part of the law set by opinion.
“ There are laws (he says, p. 146), which regard the conduct of independent political societies in their various relations to one another : or, rather, there are laws which regard the conduct of sovereign or supreme governments, in their various relations to ohie another. And laws or rules of this species, which are imposed upon nations or sovereigns by opinions current amongst nations, are usually styled the law of nations, or internas tional law.”
“At that juncture exactly (let it have arrived when it may), neutral nations were authorised, by the morality which obtains between nations, to admit the independence of Mexico with the sovereignty of the Mexican government. But, by reason of the perplexing difficulties which I have laboured to explain, it was impossible for neutral nations to hit that juncture with precision, and to hold the balance of justice between Spain and her revolted colony with a perfectly even hand.” pp. 213-15.
After examining the definitions of sovereignty and independent political society, which have been given by different writers of celebrity, our author proceeds to examine the various possible forms of supreme government; the real and imaginary limits which bound, or are supposed to bound, the power of sovereigns; and the origin of government and of political society, or, the causes of the habitual obedience which is rendered by the bulk of subjects, and from which the power of sovereigns to compeł and restrain the refractory is entirely or mainly derived. We find it quite impossible to follow him through this part of his lecture. To examine it adequately (and it well merits a minute examination) would require an article devoted to itself. We can only, therefore, commend it to our readers as well worthy of their perusal, and as abounding in remarks at once deep and original. We cannot help adverting, however, to an elaborate note upon Hobbes (in that part of the lecture where the writer is discussing the nature of civil and political liberty, and the supposed differences between what are called free and despotic states), in which he expounds the true principles and main design of that profound philosopher, in his political writings; and endeavours to remove some portion of the odium which has been cast both on the writings and the man, by the combined hostility of the three great denominations of priests, the Roman Catholic, the high church of England, and the genuine presbyterian. There is also, in the same note, a short exposition of the system of the party of French philosophers of the middle of the last century, called the Economists. The whole is extremely curious and valuable.
We have as yet said nothing of our author's style. Of the language of detached portions of the lectures our readers will form some judgment from the passages which we have selected, some of which are, we think, perfect in their kind. But of the completeness with which the various parts of his subject are handled, an adequate notion can be obtained only from a perusal of the work itself. To those who are little used to metaphysical investigation, and who have not been led to consider the exactness of expression which inquiries of the nature of those pursued in these lectures demand, their style will appear sometimes unnecessarily elaborate, and even operose; and although we cannot concur in this criticism, we think that there is occasionally something more of repetition than was necessary in printed lectures. This fault, if it be one, has arisen, no doubt, from the author's practice of writing his lectures for delivery, and from his having published them very much in the form in which they were delivered. There is an austerity of manner about our author, and an intrepidity of judgment, conscious of its own strength, that we exceedingly admire; and which make us readily overlook the slight expressions of contempt for the opinions of others in which he occasionally (though we must say rarely) indulges; a tone which, however natural, and almost necessary to sincerity, and however admissible in the warmth of oral delivery, is, in a work deliberately prepared for the press, better subdued. On the whole, we think, the subject considered, the style of these lectures approaches more nearly to perfection than anything of the kind which has, in recent times, fallen under our observation. And we cannot better express our opinion of its character than by saying that the author has gone far to realise that which, in his lectures, he points out as the style to be aimed at by writers
“ The writers” (in the circumstances he is supposing) “ would attend to the suggestions of Hobbes and of Locke, and would imitate the method so successfully pursued by geometers: though such is the variety of the premises which some of their inquiries involve, and such are the complexity and ambiguity of some of the terms, that they would often fall short of the perfect exactness and coherency, which the fewness of his premises, and the simplicity and definiteness of his expressions, enable the geometer to reach. But, though they would often fall short of geometrical exactness and coherency, they might always approach, and would often attain to them. They would acquire the art and the habit of defining their leading terms; of steadily adhering to the meanings announced by the definitions; of carefully examining and distinctly stating their premises; and of deducing the consequences of their premises with logical rigour, Without rejecting embellishments which might happen to fali in their way, the only excellencies of style for which they would seek, are precision, clearness, and conciseness: the first being absolutely requisite to the successful prosecution of inquiry ; whilst the others enable the reader to seize the medning with certainty, and spare him unnecessary fatigue.” pp. 82, 83.
Art. VIII.-Facts relating to the Punishment of Death in the
Metropolis. By Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Second Edition, with an Appendix, concerning Murder for the Sale of the Dead Body. 8vo. London, E. Wilson, 1832.
There is no task in legislation more difficult than that of ascertaining the effect of penal laws upon the minds of those against whom they are intended to operate. Rank, wealth, education, intelligence, sensibility of feeling, and a nice regard to honour, all untit the high-born and accomplished legislator for the calculation. He cannot appreciate the motives which govern the ignorant, the unfeeling, and the depraved portion of society, from which proceeds the great mass of crime. Himself in the enjoyment of freedom from restraint, he imagines that confinement of the person must necessarily operate to deter the poor from crime; forgetting that to thousands and tens of thousands of those for whom he is legislating, the restraint of a gaol is little more irksome than their daily imprisonment in the unwholesome atmosphere of our great manufactories. But the most grievous miscalculation is that which is made with regard to the effect produced by the denunciation of capital punishment. “The temptation is great, the injury to society is great, and persons can only be deterred by the punishment of death," has long been the language of those from whom our laws have proceeded. The motive to refrain from crime, which the fear of death affords, must vary in every individual; and not a single session at the Old Bailey passes without proving how light and slender the causes sometimes are by which it is counterbalanced. Upon a man in the possession of all that fortune and character can confer, bound to life by the ties of affection and of friendship, the idea of a disgraceful death may operate with resistless force; but to one divested of all that can make existence acceptable, to a wretch bankrupt in fortune and in reputation, to the outcast, the miserable, and the vicious, what does life present that can render it dear? A long training to vice, a familiarity with danger, and that habitual disregard of consequences, which a long continued course of crime engenders, all contribute to strip the highest penal denunciation of its terrors. That 'such is the case, the number of capital offences, daily committed, leads us to conclude; but, facts are still wanting to show the immediate operation of the penal laws upon the minds of those who are disposed to crime. Unfortunately,opportunities of collecting such facts rarely occur ; the history, of guilt is with difficulty traced; and the communications between criminals and those who are either interested in, or capable of ascertaining the motives by which they are governed, are few and seldom.
During a well-merited imprisonment of three years in the gaol of Newgate, Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield enjoyed an opportunity of making himself acquainted with the habits and feelings of his fellow prisoners. With an activity of mind which prompted him to employ the leisure the law had afforded him, with a laudable curiosity to study the singular specimens of human nature around him, and with manners which enabled him to attract the confidence of those whose history he was desirous of learning, he succeeded in acquiring an insighi into the characters and motives of his companions, such as few persons in his rank of life have ever obtained. The result of his inquiries, so far as they regard the punishment of death upon the minds of criminals, he has embodied in the volume before us, which, where its-correctness can be relied upon, is certainly a work very deserving of attention. With regard to its accuracy, all who are acquainted with the history of its author, must naturally feel considerable doubts, which are not removed by the style of the work itself. evident attempt at effect, a desire to relate striking and startling facts, an endeavour to make a good picture by heightening the colours, a smart and dogmatical tone, and occasionally a confident display of ignorance, are sufficient to inspire the reader with distrust. On the other hand, the majority of the facts related are, in substance, undoubtedly well founded; and in the opinion of those who are acquainted with the gaol of Newgate, the representation of its inmates given by Mr. Wakefield is said not to be inaccurate. Much of the information contained in the volume has reference to the general state of crime in the metropolis, and to means which exist for its prevention or suppression; but the most important part of the work is that which relates to the effect
produced by capital punishments. A law, the severity of which excites.public sympathy in favour of the offender, must be injurious in its operation; and how frequently does it happen that the condemned criminal at the moment of his execution is surrounded by a sorrowful and commiserating crowd? Where can we discover the beneficial effect of a scene like that described by Mr. Wakefield in the following passage ?
“ One case of an attempt either at suicide or escape, which of the two was never precisely ascertained, I ought to mention, as illustrative of the effects of the punishment of death ;—John Williams, an active young fellow, twenty-three years old, was convicted of stealing in a dwelling-house,' and, his sentence not being reversed, was, on the 13th of December, 1827, ordered to be executed on the 19th. On the morning of execution, he managed to elude the watchfulness of the turnkeys, and to climb up the pipe of a cistern in the press-yard, as some supposed with the intention of drowning himself in the cistern, but more probably with the wild hope of escaping. Be this as it may, he fell into the pavement of the yard, and seriously injured his legs. Though every one knew that he would be hanged presently, he was attended by a surgeon, who dressed his wounds with the same care as if surgical skill could have preserved the use of those limbs for years. He was carried from the press-yard to the scaffold, and in the struggle of death, blood flowed from his wounds, which became visible to the crowd. This shocking scene was known and commented upon by a great part of the population of London. What were its effects on the minds of those who made our laws, I cannot guess; but I know that it produced, on two classes of people in London, feelings highly prejudicial to the object of all punishment-the repression of crime. Respectable