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Views on Capital Punishment

Views on Capital Punishment

Death penalty has always been a punishment for serious crime in the United States system of justice. From Americas early years to the present the death penalty has always been a controversial issue. It has evolved from a punishment for witchcraft to primarily first-degree murders. Colonial abolitionist to present day death penalty supporters, have fought to no resolution on this conflict on morality and justice.

Capital punishment was a sanction perfectly familiar to America’s early settlers. Since the first European settlers arrived in America, the death penalty has been accepted as punishment for crimes. All British colonies followed the English penal code but actual practice varied from colony to colony. In colonial Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans left England to build a model society for Christians to emulate. Although Puritans felt that criminal justice needed amending, they never considered doing without it. They screened settlers who resided in their towns but future offenders who would fall to sin would still sneak through. Sin threatened not only the social tranquility of the colony but also divine wrath, for the Puritans conceived that they had covenanted with God to live according to his spiritual commands.(Hirsch 3). The Puritans felt 12 crimes fell under this category of stirring up their social tranquility. The 12 crimes which warranted this punishment were idolatry, witchcraft, blasphemy, rape, statutory rape, kidnapping, perjury in a trial involving a possible death sentence, rebellion, murder, assault in sudden anger, adultery, and buggery (sodomy). This capital list remained consistent with Puritan beliefs. The Puritan belief also held true in convictions of capital offenses. They believed that no sentence of death could pass without a warrant from God’s word. As the eighteenth century drew near most moral capital offenses were brought down to lower charges of criminal offenses. Judges and juries demonstrated an extreme reluctance to execute moral offenders they tended to downgrade capital convictions. Biblical reference took precedent as authorizations of the death penalty. Puritan criminal justice system mirrored Old World law by treating property offenses mildly and moral offenses with relative severity.

The Quakers whom also had in place a form of capital punishment contrasted with their colonial counterparts the Puritans. The Quakers of South Jersey Royal Charter did not permit capital punishment for any crime. Their first execution took place in 1691. The Quakers believed that all human beings are born with an inner light that could...

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Category:   Capital Punishment

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