Obrázky na stránke

our laws, which I do not think will be the case upon a fair trial; whether it would be a direct conformity to that Heavenly system which has not omitted provisions for the fecurity of the weaker sex, is foreign to my purpose to determine; however, I will dare to pronounce it more consonant to that fystem than Polygamy, more for the good of society, and more productive of domestic peace;

I also think it a better security for female chastity, and better calculated to check the licentiousness of mankind; but whether or no it is preferable to our present laws, is a consideration that I leave for the determination of the Legislature.



[blocks in formation]


AGREE with Madan, in pronouncing

Adultery “ an offence against the positive precepts of * God," and the most malignant kind of commerce between the fexes; and it would be wrong to deny that by the Law of Moses it was punishable by death. Though I have the greatest abhorrence of it; yet such feverity does not, at present, appear to me justifiable: even when I consider all its evil temporal consequences, I do not find them of weight enough to make me alter my opinion. This is not any impeachment of the divine veracity, wisdom, or unchangeableness; by no means ! Indeed it would be abfurd to suppose, that, a Being infinitely wise, would pay no attention, in the infancy of institutions and things, to the genius of a people, or local circumstances. I presume

[blocks in formation]

the reason of that Divine Law, which punished Adultery with death, has ceased ; and of course, under a new and more perfect dispensation, its obligation also. It appears to me, particularly designed, to prevent the corruption and uncertainty of the issues of the several diftinct tribes and families, and above all, to render certain the descent and genealogy of the Messiah ; and in order to effect this, so very material to that more rational system God had in view, no law could be too severe. In the year of the Christian æra, 1650, adultery was made a capital offence in this kingdom; but what was the motive? I have by me a great authority which informs me, that “ when “ the ruling powers found it for their in

terest to put on the semblance of a very extraordinary strictness and purity of morals, not only incest and wilful adul

tery were made capital crimes ; but also “ the repeated act of keeping a brothel, or

committing fornication, were, upon a “ second conviction, made felony without “ benefit of * clergy." And I have it from • Blackstone's Comment. B. IV. Ch. 4.



the same authority, that there was at the Restoration an abhorrence of this bypocrisy, and consequently the aforesaid rigorous law was not renewed.

NOTWITHSTANDING much depended upon the prevention of adultery among the Jews, much more than ever can again ; yet, even in contemplation of their law, it was not the most malignant of crimes; which I attempt to prove

thus : The Jews, in antient times, had four sorts of capital punishment, stoning, burning, beheading, and strangling. I have mentioned them in their order of magnitude, according to the Jewish notion; therefore strangling is the easiest of all, at least fo accounted. Now when the law only mentioned death as the punishment, by a favourable exposition, it was understood always to mean this last fort ;---Omnis mors quæ abfolutè in lege ufurpatur, strangulatio eft.---R. Solomen. Exod. xxi. 16. Then this is the death of an adulterer. Lev, xx. 10, Therefore adultery does not appear to be the greatest of crimes, even under the dispensation of Moses. I am conscious, that in


D 3

after times, when many misrepresentations of the law prevailed through the ignorance ör design of the then rulers, adultery was sometimes punished by stoning; for which reason I pay no attention to the suggestions of those men, who brought the woman taken in adultery, before our Saviour, that, agreeable to the law of Moses, she should be Itoned. As that was not carried into execution, we may conclude, thatîn a juft estimate of things, exclusive of the peculiar circumstances of the Jews, it did not deserve that punishment; but that she was entirely pardoned, upon condition of sinning no more in that way, we must attribute to the forgiving temper of the Lord of Life.

The law in this case, at present in force, as it stands in our books, is, that the injured husband may bring an action for damages : indeed, our code confiders it but as a private wrong, (except in some few instances respecting the royal family) a wrong done to the husband, and so gives him damages. The Ecclesiastical Court also takes cognizance of the crime of adultery, but


« PredošláPokračovať »