G. W. M. Reynolds offers several arguments against capital punishment, beginning with the argument that since we cannot create life, we should not take it. He is against its cruelty and, as he shows in the following passage from The Mysteries of London, also because it debases those who attend executions and (ironically) provides opportunity for crime. — George P. Landow

Towards eight o'clock the crowd had congregated to such an extent, that it moved and undulated like the stormy ocean. And, oh! what characters were collected around that gibbet. Every hideous den, every revolting hole--every abode of vice, squalor, and low debauchery, had vomited forth their horrible population. Women, with young children in their arms,--pickpockets of all ages,--swell-mobsmen,--prostitutes, thieves, and villains of all degrees and descriptions, were gathered there on that fatal morning.

And amidst that multitude prevailed mirth, and laughter, and gaiety. Ribald language, obscene jokes, and filthy expressions, were heard around, even to the very foot of the gallows; and even at that early hour intoxication was depicted upon the countenances of several whom the Law had invited thither to derive an example from the tragedy about to be enacted!

Example, indeed! Listen to those shouts of laughter: they emanate from a group collected round a pickpocket only twelve years old, who is giving an account of how he robbed an elderly lady on the preceding evening. But, ah! what are those moans, accompanied with horrible oaths and imprecations? Two women fighting: they are tearing each other to pieces--and their husbands are backing them. In another direction, a simple-looking countryman suddenly discovers that his handkerchief and purse are gone. In a moment his hat is knocked over his eyes; and he himself is cuffed, and kicked, and pushed about in a most brutal manner. . . The public-houses in the Old Bailey and the immediate neighbourhood drove a roaring trade throughout that day. [ch. 36]

Related material


Reynolds, George W. M. The Mysteries of London. vol 1. Project Gutenberg EBook #47312 produced by Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team from images available at Google Books. Web. 2 August 2016.

Last modified 18 December 2016