Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
A Statement of the Reasons for Opposing
the Death Penalty (S626: 1906?)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A brief pamphlet ('Leaflet No. 2') printed by the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment sometime before May 1906. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S626.htm


    [[p. (1)]] I am, and have been throughout life, absolutely opposed to Capital Punishment, for the following and other reasons.

    1. Because the very principle of the sanctity of human life, which gives us a horror of murder as being the greatest of crimes, equally forbids us to take the life of the murderer.

    2. Because the quality of deliberate intention, which we always consider an aggravation of the crime of homicide, pertains in the highest degree to our action in taking the life of any criminal.

    3. Because in most, perhaps in all cases, Society itself is the primary cause of the murder. We never can know all the peculiarities of the mind, all the complex forces [[p. (2)]] and influences of his social environment, which drove the guilty man to the fatal deed.

    4. Because by taking the criminal's life we are the cause of evil and suffering, incalculable in amount, and perhaps through the action of discarnate upon incarnate minds, extending far into the future.

    5. Because our proofs of guilt are as a rule, less complete in the case of alleged murder than in that of any other offence. Mistakes have not infrequently been made and innocent men have been barbarously done to death, teaching us that fallible judges should never inflict this cruel and irrevocable punishment.

    6. Because the argument that the death penalty deters others, even if it were true cannot justify us in committing the crime of judicial homicide.

    Lastly, I submit, that in a rational form of Society in which all received a sympathetic ethical training, and had equal opportunities of a full and happy life, the crime of murder would rarely, perhaps never, occur. The degrading and unchristian treatment we accord to criminals whose offences are almost wholly due to our neglect, is one of the most glaring indications of the failure of our much vaunted civilization.


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