« PreviousContinue »
ib. "I am very fenfible, &c"-Here are two things put in comparison that are not comparable: viz. injury to feamen, and inconvenience to trade. Inconvenience to the whole trade of a nation will not justify injuftice to a fingle feaman. If the trade would fuffer without his fervice, it is able and ought to be willing to offer him fuch wages as may induce him to afford his fervice voluntarily.
Page 159. Private mischief must be borne "with patience, for preventing a national calamity." Where is this maxim in law and good policy to be found? And how can that be a maxim which is not confiftent with common fense? If the maxim had been, that private mischiefs, which prevent a national calamity, ought to be generously compensated by the nation, one might understand it: but that fuch private mifchiefs are only to be borne with patience, is abfurd!
Ib. The expedient, &c. And, &c." (Paragraphs 2 and 3).-Twenty ineffectual or inconvenient schemes will not juftify one that is unjuft. Ib. Upon the foot of, &c."-Your reasoning, indeed, like a lie, ftands but upon one foot; truth upon two.
Page 160. "Full wages."-Probably the fame they had in the merchant's fervice.
Page 174. "I hardly admit, &c." (Paragraph 5).- When this author fpeaks of impreffing, page 158, he diminishes the horror of the practice as much as poffible, by prefenting to the mind one failor only fuffering a " hardship" (as he tenderly calls it) in fome" particular cafes" only; and he places against this private mischief the inconvenience to the trade of the kingdom.-But if, as he fuppofes is often the cafe, the failor who is preffed, and obliged to ferve for the defence of trade, at the rate of twenty-five fhillings a month, could
could get three pounds fifteen fhillings in the merchant's fervice, you take from him fifty fhillings a month; and if you have a 100,000 in your fervice, you rob this honeft induftrious part of fociety and their poor families of 250,000l. per month, or three millions a year, and at the fame time oblige them to hazard their lives in fighting for the defence of your trade; to the defence of which all ought indeed to contribute (and failorsamong the reft) in proportion to their profits by it; but this three millions is more than their fhare, if they did not pay with their perfons; but when you force that, methinks you fhould excufe the other.
But it may be faid, to give the king's feamen merchant's wages would coft the nation too much, and call for more taxes. The queftion then will amount to this: whether it be juft in a community, that the richer part fhould compel the poorer to fight in defence of them and their properties, for fuch wages as they think fit to allow, and punish them if they refufe? Our author tells us that it is "legal." I have not law enough to dispute his authorities, but I cannot perfuade myself that it is equitable. I will, however, own for the prefent, that it may be lawful when necessary; but then I contend that it may be used fo as to produce the fame good effects-the public fecurity, without doing fo much intolerable injuftice as attends the impreffing common feamen.
In order to be better understood I would premife two things; Firft, that voluntary feamen may be had for the fervice, if they were fufficiently paid. The proof is, that to ferve in the fame fhip, and incur the fame dangers, you have no occafion to imprefs captains, lieutenants, fecond lieutenants, midfhipmen, purfers, nor many other officers. Why, but that the profits of
their places, or the emoluments expected, are fufficient inducements? The business then is, to find money, by impreffing, fufficient to make the failors all volunteers, as well as their officers; and this without any fresh burthen upon trade.
-The fecond of my premifes is, that twenty-five fhillings a month, with his fhare of the falt beef, pork, and peas-pudding, being found fufficient for the fubfiftence of a hard-working feaman, it will certainly be fo for a fedentary scholar or gentleman. I would then propofe to form a treasury, out of which encouragements to feamen fhould be paid. To fill this treafury, I would impress a number of civil officers who at prefent have great falaries, oblige them to ferve in their refpective offices for twenty-five fhillings a month with their fhares of mefs provifions, and throw the rest of their falaries into the feamen's treafury. If fuch a prefs-warrant were given me to execute, the firft I would prefs fhould be a Recorder of Bristol, or a Mr. Juftice Fofter, because I might have need of his edifying example, to fhow how much impreffing ought to be borne with, for he would certaily find, that though to be reduced to twenty-five fhillings a month might be a "private mifchief," yet that, agreeably to his maxim of law and good policy, it" ought to be borne with patience," for preventing a national calamity. Then I would prefs the reft of the Judges; and, opening the red book, I would prefs every civil officer of government from 50l. a year falary, up to 50,000l. which would throw an immenfe fum into our treafury: and these gentlemen could not complain, fince they would receive twenty-five fhillings a month, and their rations: and this without being obliged to fight. Laftly, I think I would imprefs ***
ON THE CRIMINAL LAWS, AND THE PRACTICE OF PRIVATEERING.
LETTER TO BENJAMIN VAUGHAN, ESQ.
March 14th, 1785,
MY DEAR PRIEND,
AMONG the pamphlets you lately fent me, was one, entitled, Thoughts on Executive Justice. In return for that, I send you a French one on the fame fubject, Obfervations concernant l'Exécution de l'Article II. de la Déclaration fur le Vol. They are both addreffed to the judges, but written, as you will fee, in a very different fpirit. The English author is for hanging all thieves. The Frenchman is for proportioning punishments to offences.
If we really believe, as we profess to believe, that the law of Mofes was the law of God, the dictate of divine wifdom, infinitely fuperior to human; on what principles do we ordain death as the punishment of an offence, which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a reftitution of fourfold? To put a man to death for an offence which does not deferve death, is it not a murder? And, as the French writer fays, Doit-on punir un délit contre la focieté par un crime contre la nature?
Superfluous property is the creature of society: Simple and mild laws were fufficient to guard the property that was merely neceffary. The favage's bow, his hatchet, and his coat of skins, were fufficiently fecured, without law, by the fear of perfonal refentment and retaliation. When, by virtue of the firft laws, part of the fociety accumulated
mulated wealth and grew powerful, they enacted others more fevere, and would protect their property at the expence of humanity. This was abufing their power, and commencing a tyranny. If a favage, before he entered into fociety, had been told" Your neighbour, by this means, may become owner of an hundred deer; but if your brother, or your fon, or yourself, having "no deer of your own, and being hungry, "should kill one, an infamous death must be the "confequence:" he would probably have preferred his liberty, and his common right of killing any deer, to all the advantages of fociety that might be proposed to him.
That it is better, a hundred guilty persons should escape, than that one innocent person should suffer, is a maxim that has been long and generally ap proved; never, that I know of, controverted. Even the fanguinary author of the Thoughts agrees to it, adding well," that the very thought of "injured innocence, and much more that of fuffer"ing innocence, muft awaken all our tenderest.
and moft compaffionate feelings, and at the fame time raise our higheft indignation against "the inftruments of it. But," he adds, "there "is no danger of either, from a strict adherence "to the laws."-Really!-Is it then impoffible to make an unjuft law? and if the law itself be unjuft, may it not be the very inftrument" which ought" to raise the author's, and every "body's highest indignation?" I fee, in the la newspapers from London, that a woman is capitally convicted at the Old Bailey, for privately fealing out of a shop fome gauze, value fourteen fhillings and three-pence: Is there any proportion between the injury done by a theft, value fourteen fhillings and three-pence, and the punishment of a human creature, by death, on a gibbet?