Page:Attainder of treason and confiscation of the property of Rebels - 1863.pdf/26

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tion to which he was to be condemned. And in the same way, his want of capacity to take care of his property, his vices and prodigality, against which no law could protect him, might impoverish them. And this is only a part of the inevitable consequences of vice and crime―a part, if one chooses so to regard it, of the penalty with which not only states, in their sovereign capacity, as administrators of their own laws and sense of justice, but society also; and, we may add, God, in His Providential government of the world; visits the offenders against the laws of righteousness and justice. And the prospect of such consequences, as well as the known certainty that they must and will inevitably follow, are among the most powerful motives that can act upon the human heart to deter men from the commission of crime. And in this view, whatever of severity there may seem to be in such a policy, it is a severity which man cannot abolish if he would, and a severity which he should not abolish if he could―for it is but mercy under the sterner form of severity―this is mercy. But the other course―the visiting of the sins of the father upon the children, after he has gone to his final account, and cannot appear to answer for and defend himself before his earthly tribunal, is only unmitigated and most unnecessary cruelty.

And there is something peculiarly appropriate in the punishment of treason by confiscation of property. It has been practised, I believe, under every form of municipal law and by every government that has existed. For lighter offences we punish by fine and imprisonment. We take the life of him who has merely taken the life of a fellow-man, with malicious intent. But for the man who has aimed at the life of the Nation, not death only, but utter loss of all civil rights and privileges would seem to be the natural and appropriate manifestation of the Nation's sense of the enormity of the wrong that has been attempted against it. Let the people feel how priceless are their blessings under a benign government and a righteous administration of laws. Let them see, in the utter destitution and wretchedness to which they are reduced, who wantonly raise the murderous hand of treason against it―how sacred was that life, the life of the Nation, which they had imperiled―how worse than the midnight assassin and the highway robber is he, who commits treason against government and those laws which have been for him