House Journal 1822 (30-318937-022A.pdf)
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32 pied solitude, the want of other objects to engage his attention, obliges the guilty convict to turn his thoughts inward on his own mind, and reflect on his past life and future prospects. Such reflections can hardly fail in many instances to lead to contrition, to soften the most rugged and obdurate temper, and prepare the criminal for the reception of moral and religious impressions.
The humanity of our penal code revolts from the infliction of corporal punishment, except for a few crimes of such enormity, and fraught with such danger to society, that they are thought deserving of death. There is, indeed, little reason for leaving to those, who live by preying on the honest and industrious, to choose how they shall be punished for their crimes; but it is believed that as much mildness, as is consistent with the object of punishment, is not unwise. The certainty of punishment has much more influence in deterring from crimes than its severity. The more sanguinary the law, the less is the probability that its penalties will be generally enforced. The citizens are less ready to prosecute, and juries more reluctant to convict; and the culprit, calculating on the humane feelings of society, is often more influenced by the chances of escaping with impunity, than by the severity of the penalty. Nor are these observations without the sanction of experience.
I have gone more fully into this subject, inasmuch as the attention of the Legislature must necessarily be soon directed to the consideration, whether punishment of the more aggravated offences shall be inflicted by confinement in the county prisons, or to hard labor, or solitary imprisonment, or both, in a State prison. At present the convicts cannot be punished by solitary imprisonment, the gaols in many of the counties being insufficient ill size to afford the requisite number of apartments; neither can they be punished by confinement to hard labor within the limits of the county prisons. The wisdom of the Legislature will determine, whether any further provision on this subject be at this time necessary; and if found to be so, in devising a system, will, I have no doubt, keep steadily in view the saving of expense to the State, and the great objects of reforming offenders and preventing crime. Connected with the subject of the punishment of convicts, permit me to call your attention to the expenses of their prosecution. These are now a charge on the Treasury of the State, and of such an amount as to constitute a very considerable item in the annual expenditure. It is worthy of the consideration of the Legislature, whether these expenses may not be diminished.
On examination, I find that the law of Massachusetts, establishing a Circuit Court of Common Pleas, has not been revised and reenacted here; and on turning to the Council records, that the Justices of that Court do not hold their commissions from the Executive of this State, except such only as have been appointed to fill vacancies. Of course that Court exists by virtue of a law of the parent State in force under the provisions of the Act of Separation, and the whole of its members in the first and third circuits, and one in the second, hold their offices during the pleasure of the Executive, instead of during good behavior, as contemplated by the Constitution. For the convenience of the citizens, as well as to enable the Executive more fully to carry into effect the provisions of the Constitution, I suggest the propriety of revising and re-enacting all the Statutes intended to be in force as law within this State, and of repealing all others. Unless this be done, it will still be necessary to resort to the volumes of Massachusetts Statutes, to find here and there a chapter applicable to our own State.
The Statute for the relief of poor debtors, having been by the last Legislature referred to a Committee to sit in the recess, from the character of that committee a report may now be expected, which will serve to assist your deliberations on that interesting subject, I find by a "Resolve declaring the sense of the Legislature of the powers of the General Government over the Militia," passed by the Legislature of this State, June 23, 1820, that, among other things" the Senators in Congress from this State were instructed to bring the subject of the claims of Massachusetts and Maine before the National Councils, and to adopt such measures in relation 'thereto, as are best calculated to bring those claims to a speedy and equitable decision;-and that our Representatives in Congress were also requested to aid in the same object;" but I am unable to find that any progress has been made in what appears to have been the object of that resolution. To me it has seemed proper to refer the Legislature to the resolve, a part only of which is above cited, that they might perceive what were the sentiments of our predecessors in relation to this subject; and might now take such order thereon, as, under all circumstances, should be judged advisable.
Description: The journal of the House of Representatives documents the proceedings in the chamber, including actions taken on bills, petitions and reports from committees read, and votes taken. The journals are not transcripts and therefore do not include floor speeches that are found in the modern Legislative Records.
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