Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One of the earliest leaders

This op-ed by MVFHR Executive Director Renny Cushing appeared in today's Concord (NH) Monitor:

The effort to abolish capital punishment in the United States follows in large measure from the late 18th- and early 19th-century "anti-gallows" movement, which opposed public hangings. One of the earliest political leaders to call for ending executions, public or otherwise, was New Hampshire Gov. William Badger. This month marks the 175th anniversary of Badger's asking the New Hampshire Legislature to abolish capital punishment.

In his address, Badger compared the possible punishments for capital crime in New Hampshire relative to their effectiveness: solitary confinement in prison for life versus the death penalty.

"As expressed in the Constitution, 'the true design of all punishment is to reform and not to exterminate mankind,' " Badger said. "No one will attempt to controvert the principle that 'the prevention of crime is the sole end of punishment,' and 'every punishment which is not necessary for that purpose, is cruel and tyrannical.' If then the principle is admitted, that the sole end of punishment is the prevention of crime, two questions arise: How shall the offender be disposed of so as to prevent a repetition of the offense? And what punishment shall be most effectual in deterring others from its commission?"

Read the rest.

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