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another question, too, which must be asked and answered; is there not in such uncertainty the most horrible injustice ?
Secondly, this punishment is cruel. Your Royal Highness is not to be told, that the cruelty of punishment has been invariably diminished in exact proportion
a nation has proceeded towards refinement, and arrived at a higher pitch of civilization. Among a barbarous people the spirit of cruelty and barbarity will of course predominate ; but as states become polished and well-ordered, the execution of the laws becomes lenient and humane. The lengthened tortures, the aggravated horrors, and all the dreadful accompaniments which a rude and ferocious policy had devised are gradually abolished; the law, like an offended deity, in the midst of justice remembers mercy. Its dignity and solemnity are increased, although its terrors have been softened. It strikes, but it does not mangle; its blow is swift and sure, but not superfluous in its rigour, or wanton in its severity. It spares all unnecessary pain; it inflicts no torment for the mere purpose of hearing the groans and witnessing the agonies of the malefactor. It acts with a stern, unflinching equity ; but has no feelings of malicious vengeance. The law visits the offender with the punishment due to the offence; but cautiously, and reluctantly, and even kindly ;--as a father punishes a child for his own good, and the benefit of the rest : it does not take delight in the pangs which it inflicts, as some monstrous tyrant, while he lacerates his victim, exults in the gratification of a diabolical revenge. The spirit of the English law loses something of its austerity, and becomes more and more merciful with every succeeding generation ; this is the natural course of things. But the lash, we repeat, seems the remnant of a more ignorant period, and a more savage people. It bears a frightful resemblance to the rack, the iron boot, the thumb-screw, and the knout. Who should deny the cruelty of the punishment ? Cruel ?-Good God, let those who have beheld the operation say whether it is cruel. Let your Royal Highness recollect the scene which it presented to the eye. Figure the shocking reality to yourself, as you read what we have written. See there the British soldier stripped, tied, exposed like a negro beneath the hand of the inhuman and bloody-minded slave-master ; see him writhing in anguish at every repeated stroke ; see the very flesh shrinking from the lash; see it instantàneously black and swollen, or the blood rushing forth, where the blow falls almost before the instrument of torture is withdrawn. Hear the stifled groan, or the muttered 'execration. Consider the length of the infliction ; consider the mental agony, which is superadded to the physical pain. Imagine, my Lord Duke, the officer urging the inflictor of the scourge to “ strike harder," when his arm is relaxed in friendship or in compassion. Imagine the surgeon examining the bare and bleeding back, watching the pale, convulsed, and changing countenance, and feeling the slow decreasing pulse; that he may allot the ineasure of punishment with a barbarous exaetness, and calculate to a savage nicety the maximum of torment which human infirmity can bear without expiring! The poor wretch is not to die indeed !-but he may be brought within an inch of dying; and then just snatched from the jaws of dissolution, that he may drag on a disgraced and miserable existence, to which death might be a relief! Here we would address ourselves personally to your Royal Highness. You are Commander-in-Chief of the British army; you are a prince of the blood ; you are presumptive heir to the throne of England; you are something more ; you are a man of acknowledged kindness and humanity; a man, who, if we understand your temper and disposition, could not look without shuddering on such a scene as we have feebly represented. On all these accounts, therefore, we call upon you to exert yourself, to use your influence which must be powerful, and your efforts which must be gratifying to yourself, in the prevention of a practice so full of cruelty, atrocity, oppression, and horror.
Thirdly, this punishment can never tend to the reformation of the offender, but must eradicate every remaining principle of virtue and honour from his breast. Flogging is, in two words, a disgusting and degrading punishment: all corporal punishment is disgusting and degrading. The slightest blow brings with it ignominy and dishonour. Every
free-born man has a pride in feeling that his limbs have been not only unshackled, but untouched ; in walking abroad with the consciousness that no human being has laid a hand upon him with impunity. What then, on the contrary, must be the reflections of the soldier, after he has been publicly exposed, bound, and almost naked, and flogged in the presence of his officers and his comrades ; when he bears the marks of shame and ignominy; when his own person reminds him hourly of his disgrace ; when he reflects that among his superiors and equals, the witnesses of his castigation, he must ever be an object of abhorrence, or pity, or contempt. He loses his self-respect; he is debased in his own estimation. His honest pride is gone ; his care for his reputation departs, for he is sensible that his reputation cannot be recovered. No longer
He learns to venerate himself as man; but he hates and despises himself as an abject being, an outcast from society. His punishment has allowed him no time for sober and solitary reflection: it has afforded him no chance, that his offence and its penalty will be in time forgotten; but it has exasperated him to madness ; it has darkened his mind with a sullen and savage gloom ; it has filled him with thoughts of vengeance and despair. Like a man who has a brand of infamy stamped upon his forehead, he becomes a villain in self-defence. A villain! ay, 'why should he not become a villain? What further ha's he to hope? what further has he to fear ? can he be lowered in his own esteem, or in the opinion of his associates? or does he expect to be raised? What motives ha's he to support him in virtue, or prevent him from yielding to temptation ? When a man once feels himself irretrievably self-degraded, and self-debased, must he not be from that moment ruined and worthless and abandoned? What principles of honour will he retain, when he has been once utterly dishonoured ? An immediate check is given to all his generous emotions ; 'a sudden revolution takes place in his heart, and his better sentiments are as it were chiled and frozen in an instant; they ebb away, or are absorbed in anger and exacerbation. Why are slaves 'treacherous, unprincipled, dastardly, and ferocious; but from the ignominious and degrading punishments which they constantly receive? Why do vanquished nations always degenerate in character ; but because they are necessarily debased as well as bowed by the yoke of insult and oppression ? Communities and individuals, when they see that the very probability of being restored to honour and esteem has va. nished, that they must forfeit the benefits of virtue and reputation ; must and will grasp at the wretched emolu. ments which are left them; the miserable advantages which accompany villany and infamy, and result from a total disregard of all regal and moral restraints. Thus it is scarcely credible or conceivable, that he who has once been publicly flogged, should prove himself in his subse. quent conduct a brave soldier or a good citizen, or an honest man. He has endured the worst; he is vile in his own eyes :
Nee vera virtus, cum semel excidit,
Curat reponi deterioribus. Fourthly, this punishment can have no good effect, if we consider the example. For what are the feel ings which are excited in those who witness the disgraceful exhibition ? Is there any salutary terror inspired by the operation of the law ? No; there is rather an honest indignation, altogether different in its character and its consequences. Although the sufferer may be pu- . nished justly; the spectators will consider, not the parti. cular justice, but the general nature, of the punishment. Their sentiments on the occasion are exactly what they ought least to be. The direction of their sympathy is entirely wrong. They feel commiseration for the culprit ; abhorrence of the law, and anger against those who put it into execution. The very drummer of the regiment revolts at the painful office which his superiors compel him to perform ; he shrinks, as from something unworthy of a man, from the task of scourging and lacerating the body of a fellow-creature, and a companion in arms; he is sensible, that he, who inflicts such a punishment, is al. most as much degraded, as he who suffers it. While then such emotions are excited by the practice-and they are always excited-they always must be excited.--can it pos.
sibly conduce to moral reformation, or military virtue ? Can the example be supposed, by any perversion of reason, to have a salutary influence upon a free-born British soldier ? In some few, perhaps, it may inspire a slavish fear ; but in all braver and more generous spirits it can only rouse open indignation and unequivocal disgust.
If our space would allow us, we might here trouble your Royal Highness with a few remarks upon the separation between our civil and martial law, and the despotic character of the military code. We might quote the authority of Blackstone; we might observe with him, “ However expedient the most strict regulations may be in time of actual war, yet in times of profound peace, a little relaxation of military rigour would not, one should hope, be productive of much inconvenience.” We might observe with him again ; “One of the greatest advantages of our English law is, that not only the crimes themselves which it punishes, but also the penalties which it inflicts, are ascertained and notorious : nothing is left to arbitrary discretion ; the king, by his judges, dispenses what the law had previously ordained; but is not himself the legislator. How much, therefore, is it to be regretted, that a set of men, whose bravery has so often preserved the liberties of their country, should be reduced to a state of servitude in the midst of a nation of freemen! For Sir Edward Coke will inform us, that it is one of the genuine marks of servitude to have the law, which is our rule of action either concealed or precarious: “misera est servitus, ubi jus est vagum aut incognitum.” Nor is this state of servitude quite consistent with the maxims of sound policy observed by other free nations. For the greater the general liberty is which any free state enjoys, the more cautious has it usually been in introducing slavery in any particular order or profession.” But we cannot enter at present upon this wide range of investigation ; we must confine ourselves entirely to the case before us.
Our first proposition, we think, is now established; viz., that the system of flogging, as a method of military punishment, is execrable in itself, and repugnant to the fundamental maxims of equity and reason. We proceed then VOL. 1.