Page images
[merged small][graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][merged small]


One of the People. Is not this the Carpenter's Son?"

God said, “Let there be light!"
Grim darkness felt his might,

And fled away:
Then startled seas, and mountains cold
Shone forth all bright in blue and gold,

And cried, “ 'Tis day, 'tis day !"
“Hail, holy light!” exclaim'd
The thunderous cloud, that flam'd

O'er daisies white;
And, lo! the rose, in crimson dress’d,
Lean'd sweetly on the lily's breast,

And blushing murmur'd, “ Light!”
Then was the skylark born;
Then rose the embattled corn;

The streams of praise
Flow'd o'er the sunny hills of noon;
And when night came, the pallid moon

Pour'd forth her pensive rays.
io, heaven's bright bow is glad !
Lo, trees and flowers, all clad

In glory, bloom!
And shall the mortal sons of God
Be senseless as the trodden clod,

And darker than the tomb?

No, by the Mind of Man!
By the swart Artizan!

By God, our Sire!
Our souls have holy light within,
And every form of grief and sin

Shall see and feel its fire.

By earth and hell and heaven,
The shroud of souls is riven;

Mind, mind alone
Is light, and hope, and life, and power;.
Earth's deepest night, from this bless'd'hour,

The night of minds, is gone.
The second Ark we bring :
“ The Press!" all nations sing;

What can they less?
Oh! pallid want; oh! labour stark;
Behold, we bring the second Ark-
The Press! the Press! the Press!
Ebenezer Elliott ; One of the People.

THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH. From a Speech against Death-Punishment, delivered in the Nationai

Assembly of France, on the 30th of May, 1791. In the eyes of truth and justice, those scenes of death which society orders with so much solemnity are nothing else than base assassinations, solemn crimes, committed, not by individuals, but by entire nations, under legal forms. However cruel, however extravagant those laws may seem, be not astonished at them: they are the work of some few tyrants; they are the chains with which they bind down the human race; they are the arms with which they subjugate it; they were written with blood.

The punishment of death is necessary, say the partizans of the old and barbarous routine; without it there is no curb strong enough to check crime —who told you that? Have you calculated all the springs by which penal laws can act upon human sensibility? Alas! before death, how many physical and moral pains may not man endure! The desire to live gives way to pride, the most imperious of all the passions which master the heart of man: the most terrible of all penalties for social man is opprobrium—is the overwhelming attestation of public execration. When the legislator can smite the offender in so many places, and in so many ways, how can he deem it inevitable to employ death-punishment? Punishments are not intended to torment the guilty, but to prevent crime through the fear of incurring them. The legislator who prefers death and atrocious punishments to the milder expedients within his reach, outrages public delicacy, blunts the moral sentiment of the people he governs; just as an unskilful preceptor, by the frequent use of cruel chastisements, brutalizes and degrades the mind of his pupil; in short, he weakens and wears out the springs of government, in seeking to stretch them with undue force. The legislator who establishes this punishment, renounces that salutary principle, that the most efficacious means of repressing crimes is to adapt the punishments to the character of the different passions which produce them, and to punish them, as it were, by themselves; in other words, to make them the instruments of their own punishment. He confounds all the ideas, he disturbs all the relations, and openly contravenes the very aim and end of penal laws.

Hearken to the voice of justice and reason: it cries in our ears that human judgments are never so certain, never so infallible, as to warrant society in inflicting death on a human being, condemned by other human beings liable to error like himself. Had you conceived the most perfect scheme of jurisprudence, the most perfect judiciary order, had you discovered the most upright and the most enlightened judges in the world, you would necessarily have still left some door open for error or prejudice. Why interdict from yourselves the means of repairing them? Why condemn yourselves to the impossibility of stretching forth the hand of succour to oppressed innocence? Of what avail are those sterile regrets, those illusory reparations which you accord to a vain shadow, to insensible dust? they are but melancholy testimonials of the barbarous temerity of your penal laws. To tear from a man the possibility of expiating his offence by his repentance, or by acts of virtue, to pitilessly close against him every avenue to contrition, every return to virtue and self-esteem, to precipitate him to the tomb, all reeking, as it were, with the recent infamy of his crime, is, in my sight, the most horrible refinement of cruelty.

It has been observed, that in free countries crimes are of rarer occurrence, and penal larys milder, than in countries not free. The reason is obvious. Free countries are those wherein the rights of man are respected, and where, in consequence, the laws are just. Wheresoever they offend humanity by excessive rigour, it is a proof that the dignity of man is not known there, that that of the citizen does not exist; it is a proof that the legislator is but a master commanding slaves, and who chastises them without pity, without remorse, according to his whims or capricious passions. I conclude with moving that death-punishment be abrogated.*

Muximilian Robespierre ; One of the People.

INEXPEDIENCY OF THE “HOUSE OF LORDS." BECAUSE, in the first place, aristocracy is kept up by family tyranny and injustice. (Primogenitureship.)

Secondly, Because there is a natural unfitness in an aristocracy to be legislators for a nation. Their ideas of distributive justice are corrupted at the very source. They begin life by trampling on all their younger brothers and sisters, and relations of every kind, and are taught and educated so to do. With what ideas of justice or honour can that man enter a house of legislation, who absorbs in his own person the inheritance of a whole family of children, or doles out to them some pitiful portion with the insolence of a gift?

Thirdly, Because the idea of hereditary legislators is as inconsistent as that of hereditary judges, or hereditary juries ; and as absurd as an hereditary mathematician, or an hereditary wise man; and as ridiculous as an hereditary poet-laureate.

Fourthly, Because a body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by any body.

Fifthly, Because it is continuing the uncivilized principle of governments founded in conquest, and the base idea of man having property in man, and governing him by personal right.

Sixthly, Because aristocracy has a tendency to deteriorate the human species. By the universal economy of nature it is known, that the human species has a tendency to degenerate, in any small number of persons, when separated from the general stock of society, and intermarrying constantly with each other. It defeats even its pretended end, and becomes in time the opposite of what is noble in man. The greatest characters the world has known, have risen on the democratic floor. Aristocracy has not been able to keep a proportionate pace with democracy. The artificial Noble shrinks into a dwarf before the NOBLE of Nature; and in the few instances of those in whom nature, as by a miracle, has survived in aristocracy, THOSE MEN DESPISE IT.-Thomas Paine ; One of the People.

Worth above Wealth or Station.—Amongst all tne things that have given me pain during my life, nothing has given me so much, as to see meritorious industry and labour seeming to bow the knee, and willingly to acknowledge superior worth in rank accompanied by worthlessness; and in wealth no matter how acquired. When society is in this state : when men adore power and riches, without any regard to the conduct or character of the possessor, real freedom cannot exist.-When rank and riches have been acquired by fouí and disgraceful means; when they have been the effect of tricks and contrivances, properly characterized by being called frauds; or when they are used as the means of insulting and oppressing the commons instead of the means of protecting them; then to see the knee of industry and of labour voluntarily bow before them, is to see that which ought to convince every man that liberty has taken her flight from that community; that all sense of political right and wrong is at an end.-William Cobbett ; One of the People.

• See Bronterre's Life of Robespierre,

« PreviousContinue »