Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin; Written by Himself. [Vol. 2 of 2] With his Most Interesting Essays, Letters, and Miscellaneous Writings; Familiar, Moral, Political, Economical, and Philosophical, Selected with Care from All His Published Productions, and Comprising Whatever Is Most Entertaining and Valuable to the General Reader

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 80

March 14, 1785.

MY DEAR FRIEND

Among the pamphlets you lately sent me was one entitled _Thoughts on
Executive Justice_. In return for that, I send you a French one on the
same subject, _Observations concernant l'Execution de l'Article II. de
la Declaration sur le Vol_. They are both addressed to the judges, but
written, as you will see, in a very different spirit. 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 Moses
was the law of God, the dictate of Divine wisdom, infinitely superior to
human, on what principle do we ordain death as the punishment of an
offence which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a
restitution of fourfold? To put a man to death for an offence which does
not deserve death, is it not a murder? And as the French writer says,
_Doit-on punir un delit contre la societe par un crime contre la
nature?_[8]

[8] Ought we to punish a crime against society by a crime against
nature?

Superfluous property is the creature of society. Simple and mild laws
were sufficient to guard the property that was merely necessary. The
savage's bow, his hatchet, and his coat of skins, were sufficiently
secured, without law, by the fear of personal resentment and
retaliation. When, by virtue of the first laws, part of the society
accumulated wealth and grew powerful, they enacted others more severe,
and would protect their property at the expense of humanity. This was
abusing their power and commencing a tyranny. If a savage, before he
entered into society, had been told, "Your neighbour, by this means, may
become owner of a hundred deer; but if your brother, or your son, or
yourself, having no deer of your own, and being hungry, should kill one,
an infamous death must be the consequence," he would probably have
preferred his liberty, and his common right of killing any deer, to all
the advantages of society 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 approved; never, that I know of, controverted. Even the
sanguinary author of the _Thoughts_ agrees to it, adding well, "that the
very thought of _injured_ innocence, and much more that of _suffering_
innocence, must awaken all

Last Page Next Page

Text Comparison with Benjamin Franklin Representative selections, with introduction, bibliograpy, and notes

Page 37
If science and other contemporaneous knowledge detracted from cosmic terror, it did not solve the problem of the mystery of evil and sin: like Shakespeare, Franklin was perplexed by the inexplicability and ruthlessness of Man's potential and actual malevolence.
Page 95
34-54.
Page 156
F.
Page 203
I was once inclin'd to it.
Page 211
I had therefore a tolerable Character to begin the World with, I valued it properly, and determin'd to.
Page 226
Conceiving then, that, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his _Golden Verses_, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that examination.
Page 259
The latter only mentions three Qualifications of _one_ Person who was deceased, which therefore could raise Grief and Compassion but for _One_.
Page 295
I have no Manner of Time at all to myself; and you, who seem to be a wise Man, must needs be sensible that every Person has little Secrets and Privacies, that are not proper to be expos'd even to the nearest Friend.
Page 310
This being over, the Accusers and the rest of the Mob, not satisfied with this Experiment, would have the Trial by Water.
Page 387
| 6.
Page 405
42 | 10 58 | 1 | 6 | | 18 | Moon | 11 54 | 2 | 7 | | 19 | rises | 12 44 | 3 | 8 | | 20 | A.
Page 436
]| [Cap.
Page 466
2 11 .
Page 485
b.
Page 511
Dr.
Page 562
[66] March 14, 1764.
Page 571
I am far from desiring to lessen the laudable Spirit of Resentment in my Countrymen against those now at War with us, so far as it is justified by their Perfidy and Inhumanity.
Page 585
On the other hand, it seems necessary for the common good of the empire, that a power be lodged somewhere, to regulate its general commerce: this can be placed nowhere so properly as in the Parliament of Great Britain; and therefore, though that power has in some instances been executed with great partiality to Britain, and prejudice to the Colonies, they have nevertheless always submitted to it.
Page 651
We suspected before, that you would not be actually bound by your conciliatory acts, longer than till they had served their purpose of inducing us to disband our forces; but we were not certain, that you were knaves by principle, and that we ought not to have the least confidence in your offers, promises, or treaties, though confirmed by Parliament.
Page 686
_ Father, We have only to say farther, that your Traders exact more than ever for their Goods; and our hunting is lessened by the War, so that we have fewer Skins to give for them.