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infinite advantage to creditors, as well as to debtors ?-“But you strike (it is said) at the roots of trade, if you abrogate the law of imprisonment.” The answer is, That nobody would propose to abrogate the law. But let this law be applied, like other laws, by the judge, not by the party. It is all, however, a mere gratuitous and rashly received position,—That the prosperity of trade depends, in the slightest degree, on the law of imprisonment for debt. In truth, there prevails at present a superstitious veneration for commerce.
It is an idol to which we are every day sacrificing thousands of human victims. It is an idol for whose sake we are endangering our very existence. Why, at a moment like the present, is not every man armed ? Why is not the art of war the business of the people? Why should we fear, when we might defy? There are in this island, a million of strong right hands, a million of intrepid hearts. Were each right hand armed, what should we have to dread from the despair-whetted ambition of the Parisian despot, or the rapacious cupidity of his slaves ? Even a landing would be impossible. The shores of Albion would present to the invaders one unbroken line of bayonets.
Note 14. p. 29. 1. 319.
The mark which rashness branded on their names.
I Am convinced, that in England, and especially in London, (such is the dispatch used in criminal proceedings,) unwarranted verdicts are sometimes pronounced. The mechanical notion of weighing evidence seems to have got an unfortunate hold of the minds of jurymen ;-and it thus happens, that if there be something like evidence on the one side, and no evidence on the other, the one scale (as it is called) of the judicial balance sinks, and the proof is estimated, not by what it is in itself, but by what it is in comparison of something else. The law of England recognizes the evidence of one witness as sufficient to warrant a capital conviction. The law of God was different: “ Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses; but one witness shall not testify against any person, to cause him to die.”-NUMB. XXXV. 30.
“ At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall he that is worthy of death be put to death ; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.”—Deut. xvii. 6.
I have observed a petulant and contemptuous disregard shown to proof of character. Jurymen are not aware how much this disregard tends to loosen the bands of society.
What has a poor man but his health and his character? His character recommends him to employment, aids him when he is in distress, and he looks to it as a defence when he is accused. Take away its value in this last point of view, and you weaken one of the strongest incentives to moral conduct. In the old Bailey, a good name is found not to be better
than riches. Proof of alibi, likewise, is too little regarded by London juries. In cases of highway robbery committed under cloud of night, I have observed the most incomprehensible positiveness in the evidence of the prisoner's identity. Now, evidence of identity is the most fallacious of all evidence, especially in a populous city, in which including a few miles of the neighbourhood) two millions of people are collected.. Among such a prodigious multitude, there must be many fac similes in person, in dress, in manner, and in voice. Yet juries every day convict on evidence of identity, though contradicted by evidence of alibi. Nor, in such a city as London, can it be said, that they decide in this manner from their knowledge of the superior credibility of the one set of witnesses; for it very seldom happens, that London jurymen have ever seen the face of one of the witnesses.—The disregard paid to evidence of alibi is defended on the score of the frequency of perjury. But this consideration strikes both ways. There may be perjury. against as well as for the prisoner. It is not enough to say, that the prosecutor has no interest to use unjustifiable means for procuring a conviction. There may exist an interest to convict elsewhere than in the prosecutor. When a crime is committed, the search for the criminal is most effectually stopt by a trial and conviction. Suppose, then, the real criminal heard that a wrong person is apprehended on suspicion ; how easy is it for him to send some of his associates to appear as informers, and then as witnesses against the prisoner ! Yes—it may be said—but a few cross questions will destroy the fabric of a false story. Now, is it not plain, that the same observation is applicable to false evidence, on whichever side it is brought ? But where is the remedy for all this ? Will legal regulations avail ? No :-Let truth be cultivated in private life ;-Let parents inculcate the love of truth more than the love of gain ;-let it be their perpetual lesson to their children, that the possession of an honest mind is a possession more valuable, both in regard to