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even the most ignorant, as a justification; but I am sure, that, when the question is of mercy, it is a very great and powerful argument. I have all the reason in the world to believe that they did not know their offence was capital.
There is one argument, which I beg may not be considered as brought for any invidious purpose, or meant as imputing blame anywhere, but which, I think, with candid and considerate men, will have much weight. The unfortunate delinquents were perhaps much encouraged by some remissness on the part of government itself. The absolute and entire impunity attending the same offence in Edinburgh, which was over and over again urged as an example and encouragement to these unfortunate people, might be a means of deluding them. Perhaps, too, a languor in the beginning of the riots here (which suffered the leaders to proceed, until very many, as it were by the contagion of a sort of fashion, were carried to these excesses) might make these people think that there was something in the case which induced government to wink at the irregularity of the proceedings.
The conduct and condition of the Lord Mayor ought, in my opinion, to be considered. His answers to Lord Beauchamp, to Mr. Malo, and to Mr. Langdale make him appear rather an accomplice in the crimes than guilty of negligence as a magistrate. Such an example set to the mob by the first magistrate of the city tends greatly to palliate their offence.
The license, and complete impunity too, of the publications which from the beginning instigated the people to such actions, and in the midst of trials and executions still continues, does in a great degree render these creatures an object of compassion. In the Public Advertiser of this morning there are two or three paragraphs strongly recommending such outrages, and stimulating the people to violence against the houses and persons of Roman Catholics, and even against the chapels of the foreign ministers.
I would not go so far as to adopt the maxim, Quicquid multis peccatur inultum ; but certainly offences committed by vast multitudes are somewhat palliated in the individuals, who, when so many escape, are always looked upon rather as unlucky than criminal. All our loose ideas of justice, as it affects any individual, have in them something of comparison to the situation of others; and no systematic reasoning can wholly free us from such impressions.
Phil. de Comines says our English civil wars were less destructive than others, because the cry of the conqueror always was, “ Spare the common people." This principle of war should be at least as prevalent in the execution of justice. The appetite of justice is easily satisfied, and it is best nourished with the least possible blood. We may, too, recollect that between capital punishment and total impunity there are many stages.
On the whole, every circumstance of mercy, and of comparative justice, does, in my opinion, plead in favor of such low, untaught, or ill-taught wretches. But above all, the policy of government is deeply interested that the punishments should appear one, solemn, deliberate act, aimed not at random, and at particular offences, but done with a relation to the general spirit of the tumults; and they ought to be nothing more than what is sufficient to mark and discountenance that spirit.
CIRCUMSTANCES FOB MERCY.
Not being principal.
where the highest malice does not appear. Sex
Intoxication and levity, or mere wantonness of any kind.