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felony intended be committed; and it is immaterial whether that felony be by common or by statute law.
By the law of Athens, burglary was a capital crime. Among the Saxons also, burgessours were to be punished with death. In Pennsylvania, burglary and robbery receive precisely the same punishment. The punishment for robbery has been already mentioned.
4. Bl. Com. 227.
i 1. Reev. 485.
h 1. Pot. Ant. c. 26.
j 2. Laws. Penn. 802. s. 2.
OF CRIMES AGAINST THE RIGHT OF INDIVIDUALS TO LIBERTY, AND TO REPUTATION.
LIBERTY, as we have seen on former occasions, is
one of the natural rights of man; and one of the most important of those natural rights. This right, as well as others, may be violated; and its violations, like those of other rights, ought to be punished, in order to be prevented. Yet these violations are scarcely discernible in our code of criminal law.
This we must ascribe to one of two causes. Either this right has been enjoyed inviolably: or the law has suffered the violations of it to escape with shameful impunity. The latter is the truth: I am compelled to add, that the latter, bad as it is, is not the whole truth. Violations of liberty have not only been overlooked: they have also been protected; they have also been encouraged; they have also been made; they have also been enjoined
by the law. I speak this not only concerning the statute law; I am compelled to speak it also concerning the common law of England: I speak this not only concerning the law as it was received in the American States before their revolution; I am compelled to speak it also concerning the law as it is received in them still: I speak this not only concerning the law as it is received generally in the other sister states; I am compelled to speak it also concerning the law as it is received in Pennsylvania: nay, I am farther compelled to speak it also of the law as it is recently received in our national government.
Our publick liberty we have indeed secured;-esto perpetua-But, notwithstanding all our boasted improvements-and they are improvements of which we may well boast the most formidable enemy to private liberty is, at this moment, the law of the land.
In some former parts of my lectures, I have had occasion to remark, and I have remarked with pleasure that solicitous degree of attention which the law gives to personal security. Its most distant avenues are watchfully guarded. To decide questions, by which it may be affected in the highest, or even in inferiour degrees, I have shown, in a sublime part of our system, to be the incommunicable prerogative of sovereignty or selected sovereignty itself. I have shown, that, by an operation inexpressibly fine, personal safety never sees the arm which holds the sword of justice, but at the moment when it is found necessary that its stroke should be made. Inferiour to personal safety only, if indeed inferiour even to that, is the consideration of personal liberty.
a Ante. vol. 2. p. 384, et seq:
And yet, while personal safety can be authoritatively affected only by the community, or a body selected from the community impartially and for the occasion, the law implicitly, causelessly, unconditionally, and continually prostrates personal liberty at the feet of every wretch who is unprincipled enough to trample upon it. I say, unprincipled; because a citizen, who has principle, will not wound it by using the authority of the law. In every state of the union-in every county of every state, there are shops opened, nay licensed, nay established by the law, at which its authority may be purchased, for a trifle, by the worst citizen, in order to infringe the personal liberty of the best.
From the disgrace of these enormities against the rights of liberty, I gladly rescue the character and principles of the common law. The history of the several processes of capias, and orders and rules of commitment will show, when we come to it, that this part of our municipal law is of statute original; and that it was produced in the darkest and rudest, though its existence has continued in the most enlightened and the most refined times.
With another part of these enormities against the rights of liberty, however, impartiality obliges me to charge the common law. Man is composed of a soul and of a body. To mental as well as to bodily freedom, he has a natural and an unquestionable right. The former was grossly violated by the common law. Witness the many overgrown titles, by which the volumes of the law are still distended: witness, in particular, the customs de modo decimandi, and the writs de excommunicate