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Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The

Illustration Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments


* In this publication, the original Saxon words are given, but, owing to the want of Saxon letter, they are printed in common type.

I have strictly observed the scale of punishments settled by the Committee, without being entirely satisfied with it. The _Lex talionis_, although a restitution of the Common law, to the simplicity of which we have generally found it so advantageous to return, will be revolting to the humanized feelings of modern times. An eye for an eye, and a hand for a hand, will exhibit spectacles in execution, whose moral effect would be questionable; and even the _membrum pro membro_ of Bracton, or the punishment of the offending member, although long authorized by our law, for the same offence in a slave, has, you know, been not long since repealed, in conformity with public sentiment. This needs reconsideration.

I have heard little of the proceedings of the Assembly, and do not expect to be with you till about the close of the month. In the mean time, present me respectfully to Mrs. Wythe, and accept assurances of the affectionate esteem and respect of, Dear Sir, Your friend and servant,

Th: Jefferson.

George Wythe, Esq.

[Illustration: Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, page121]

[Illustration: Bill For Proportioning Crimes

and Punishments, page122]

[Illustration: Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, page123]

[Illustration: Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, page124]

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[Illustration: Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, page127]

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[Illustration: Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, page133]

[Illustration: Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, page134]

_Bill for proportioning Crimes and Punishments, in Cases heretofore Capital_.

Whereas, it frequently happens that wicked and dissolute men, resigning themselves to the dominion of inordinate passions, commit violations on the lives, liberties, and property of others, and, the secure enjoyment of these having principally induced men to enter into society, government would be defective in its principal purpose, were it not to restrain such criminal acts, by inflicting due punishments on those who perpetrate them; but it appears, at the same time, equally deducible from the purposes of society, that a member thereof, committing an inferior injury, does not wholly forfeit the protection of his fellow-citizens, but, after suffering a punishment in proportion to his offence, is entitled to their protection from all greater pain, so that it becomes a duty in the legislature to arrange, in a proper scale, the crimes which it may be necessary for them to repress, and to adjust thereto a corresponding gradation of punishments.


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