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foreigner or citizen, what the punishment inflicted actually is; and the statute ought rather to be regarded as a snare for the 40th person whom it entangles, than a terror to the 39 who have escaped before him. It appears by the Appendix to the Report, p. 131, that, from the years 1810 to 1818 inclusive, the total number of persons committed for trial throughout England and Wales amounted to 75,021, of which no fewer than 50,595, being considerably upwards of three-fourths of the whole number, were for different sorts of larceny alone. Now, although it be true that these offences are more venial than many other crimes, yet the extent to which they disturb and deprave society makes it an object of extreme concern to adopt and enforce such laws as would most effectually repress them. What means are best calculated for this end it will not be easy to discover, for there is perhaps no offence with which it is so difficult to deal as stealing in its different varieties. We anxiously wish that the amount of the value stolen which infers capital punishment should be greatly raised, but we cannot say we think it expedient that it should be abolished altogether. In this country, where personal property is accumulated to so great an amount; where vast warehouses in unfrequented lanes and courts must be exposed to the attacks of combined and experienced thieves; rich houses and shops committed to the care of servants; and 80 much valuable property in bills and notes must be within the reach of clerks or bookkeepers, who have it in their power to involve whole families in ruin by a single act of stealth; we cannot believe that so fundamental an alteration of the law would be unaccompanied with danger. It is just also that the law should make a wide difference between old offenders and those who are convicted for the first time. When a criminal has not been deterred from evil practices by the reflection which succeeds apprehension, or that agony which accompanies a first conviction, bis case is almost hopeJess, and strong ground is afforded for cutting him off altogether from that society which his future existence would only burthen or contaminate.
4. The 4th and last section of the Committee's Report relates to the punishment of forgery, in the beginning of which we find the following passage:
Much of the above evidence sufficiently establishes the general disinclination of traders to prosecute for forgeries on themselves, or to furnish the Bank of England with the means of conviction in cases where forged notes are uttered. There is no offence in which the infliction of death seems more repugnant to the strong, and general and declared sense of the public than forgery; there is no other in which there appears to prevail a greater compassion for the offender, and more horror at capital executions.'
This language is so strong that it led us to expect nothing less than a recommendation from the Committee of an immediate and unqualified repeal of capital punishment in a case where they had denounced it as so peculiarly odious. In the very next page, however, the conclusion to which the Committee have come on this part of the criminal law runs thus:
• Private forgeries will, in the opinion of the Committee, be sufficiently and most effectually repressed by the punishment of transportation and imprisonment. "As long as the smaller notes of the Bank of England shall continue to constitute the principal part of the circulating medium of the kingdom, it may be reasonable to place them on the same footing with the metallic currency; your Committee, therefore, propose that the forgery of these notes may, for the present, remain a capital offence; that the uttering of forged bank notes shall, for the first offence, be transportation or imprisonment; but that on the second conviction the offender shall be deemed to be a common utterer of forged notes, and shall, if the prosecutor shall so desire, be indicted as such, which will render him liable to capital punishment.'
Into what inconsistencies able men sometimes fall when they permit themselves to express their opinions on perplexed subjects
, in a loose or vehement manner! To us it appears impossible that these two passages can stand together. The first of them ought perhaps to be judged of rather by the rules of rhetoric than of logic; but in the second, the Committee convey a recommendation, the result of which we suspect that they themselves did not fully understand. To ascertain what would be the exact effect of such an alteration in the law of forgery as the Committee have proposed
, it should be known what proportion the persons executed for forging or uttering forged Bank of England notes, bear to those executed for forging or uttering promissory notes or other instruments of a private nature. We have not perceived any document among those printed by the Committee from which that proportion distinctly appears. In the elaborate tables given by Mr. Evans for the county of Lancaster, and printed in the Appendix at page 224, the offences of forging and uttering bank notes, which must mean Bank of England notes, as no other circulate iv Lancashire, are entered in a separate column, from the forging and uttering forged bills and promissory notes, which mean pri vate bills and promissory notes; and the number of executions I the first of these columns between the years 1798 and 1818, amounts to 48, while in the second column it amounts to 5, or 1-10th of the whole. This would shew that 9-10ths of all the executions took place at the prosecution of the Bank of England. It is also stated by the Committee, at page 24, that but 2 persons were committed to Newgate in 1818 for forgery on private individuals, while by the
tables, page 144, it appears that in that year 55 were committed in London and Middlesex for forging and uttering bank notes, and 97 for having forged bank notes in their possession. As far as any conclusion can be drawn from this, it shews the disproportion between Bank of England and private prosecutions for forgery to be much greater than we have above stated it. The evidence adduced by the Committee itself to prove the reluctance of private persons, and especially of bankers, to prosecute for this offence, renders it highly probable, that in all other parts of the kingdom there will be found to be the same disproportion between Bank of England prosecutions for forgery and those at the instance of private persons, which seems to exist in Lancashire and London. It inay be suggested, however, that, allowing this proportion to be correct, it still remains undetermined how many of the executions procured by the Bank of England were for uttering forged Bank of England notes for the first time, which the Committee propose should no longer continue capiral. But the executions for uttering forged Bank of England notes for the first time must be exceedingly few, if there are any at all. The tables at pages 128 and 132 of the Appendix shew the esecutions for forgery throughout England and Wales between 1810 and 1918 to have been to the convictions as 143 to 908, or less than I execution for 6 convictions; and Mr. Shelton, at page 23 of the Evidence, says that two indictments are usually preferred by the Bank, one for disposing of the forged note, which is capital, and the other for being in possession of the same note without lawful excuse, which is not capital; and the parties prefer pleading guilty to the minor charge, as they are aware that in 9 cases out of 10 the Bank' will not prosecute upon the capital charge.' As the Bank is so lenient in prosecuting on the capital charge, and so small a proportion of those convicted are executed, there is every reason to believe, from the character and capacity of those intrusted with the administration of justice, that the worst cases meet with the severest punishment, and consequently that very few of those suffer capitally who have been convicted of uttering forged Bank of England notes for the first time. Whatever that proportion may be, a deduction of 1-10th from the whole number executed seems amply sufficient to cover it; and subtracting this from the 9-10ths already mentioned, there still remain 8-10ihs of the whole number of persons executed for forgery in England and Wales, who appear to have been convicted as actual forgers of Bank of Englaud notes, or as having more than once uttered them. It
appears by the Appendix, page 152, that the whole number of persons executed alluually for forgery in England and Wales, taking the average of the 14 years between 1805 and 1818, has been 15; 8-10ths of which amount exactly to 12; so that, provided Bank of England notes conVOL. XXIV. NO. XLVII.
tion; and also from a belief, which obtained credit anong certain 210 Report from the Select Committee on Criminal Larcs. tinue to form the circulating medium of the country in the way they I'w do, and which it may with tolerable safety be assumed they for a long while will, the result of the whole deduction now justituted is, that the Committee seein in effect to recommend a modification of the existing laws respecting forgery, by which 3 out of every 15 persons hereafter convicted for forgery would escape with transportation or imprisonment, wbile the other 12 would continue to be consigned to death as heretofore, for an offence respecting which the Committee itself has pronounced that there is none · in which ' the infliction of the punishment of death seems so repugnant 10 ' the strong and general and declared sense of the public, and that
there is no other in which there appears to prevail a greater com; ' passion for the offender, and more horror at capital executions." Should there be any misapprehension or miscalculation in what we have now said, the inferences we have drawn must of course fall to the ground; but if there is really that discrepancy which we suppose between the two extracts made from the Report, they furnish a striking illustration of the mischief which may arise from the in troduction of overcharged expressions into any part of the proceedings of a legislative Committee. Such language is sure to catch the attention of many who overlook or disregard ihe limitations or ex: planations with which it is afterwards coupled; and, by the appeal which it makes to the passions, is in the highest degree unfavourable to the undisturbed exercise of the understanding, which ought then to be alone consulted.
What we bave now mentioned does not appear to be the only oversight the Committee have made on this subject. Through the whole of their inquiries with regard to forgery, a want of circum. spection is observable, as well as a deference shewn to popular clamour, which is much to be regretted. Nothing else could have led the Committee to attach so much importance to the manage ment and result of the Bank prosecutions for forgery which took place in 1818. The cause of the outcry then raised was probably little understood, and at any rate had scarcely any perceive able connexion with the general question about the propriety of capital punishment for forgery. The most extravagant statements of the number of those who suffer for forgery, or the uttering of forged notes, at the prosecution of the Bank of England, were circulated and believed; and even though no prejudice had in that way been excited, there is as satisfactory proof as the nature of the case will admit, that the acquittals, which then took place, an unaccountable refusal of the Bank w produce the usual legal proofs of guilt; from a suspicion generally entertained that the Bank had not taken suitable pains to secure its notes against imita
se neral body of electors throughout the empire. Instead of pre
classes of the community, that an unfair selection was made of the offenders against whom the capital charge was preferred by the Bank officers. We find, accordingly, that since the Bank has become less overbearing and more vigilant, the attacks then directed against the laws for forgery have ceased, and that the objections now made to them are urged with the calmness and moderation which will best promote the advancement of truth in every kind of intricate discussion.
The Committee have also thought proper to make minute inquiries into the effect of executions upon prisoners and spectators, and into the judgment which convicts pronounce on the comparative aggravation of their own and of each other's offences. To us it appears, that wbatever purpose, practical or theoretical, this course of investigation was intended to serve, it is one upon which the Committee would have judged wisely had they never entered. With regard to public executions, we believe that, in all ages and countries, the good effects produced upon those whom curiosity has collected to witness them have been extremely limited. Their utility consists more in the tone they give to the conversation in the neighbourhood, the circumstances by which they are preceded and accompanied, or the lessons of parents, guardians or masters addressed io those under their charge, to which they afford occasion. It is true, that in districts where population is thin and virtuous, and executions rare, a considerable part of the spectators may retire to their homes with impressions of salutary horror; but We have no conception that this is now the case in many parts of England, and are satisfied of the justice of the opinion expressed by Mr. Brown, the present Keeper of Newgate, at page 68,—that
many of those who attend executions are of the most depraved and abandoned character.' And yet Mr. Buston, one of the members of the Committee, in a debate which occurred in the House of Commons on the subject of capital punishment, relied upon the cry of shame, shame,' which was raised by the crowd assembled in front of the Old Bailey to witness the execution of Cashman who was convicted of robbery in 1817, as an unequivocal expression of the general sentiment respecting the undue severity of the present administration of criminal law. In the estimation of the sober and judicious, Mr. Buxton will not be thought to have advanced
argument, by esalting such an assemblage into judges of what was right and wrong on such an occasion. With just as much Propriety might the shouts with which the rabble in front of the bustings in Covent
Garden rend the air on the delivery of a speech favour of radical reform, be quoted as a sample of the applause approbation which the same sentiments would draw from the