網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

shuffled off, and speculations, segars, politics, and clubs” expel the sweet thoughts of matrimony until increase of years finds them still less “studious of change." Besides, the "golden fleece" in the shape of a wife, lieth not at their doors, and they are compelled, Jason-like, to travel many a long mile for the treasure. It is not, too, every fair daughter of Eve who will brave the hardships of the west, or is disposed to lead the kind of life which is required of the sturdy pioneers of civilisation. This disproportion, however, is one that, every day, is becoming less and less, and will, doubtless, finally disappear altogether.

What, on the other hand, the females lack in numbers, they supply in quality. It is no less a truth than the one we have just stated, that the education, at least of the rising generation of women, is far superior to that of the men. It is mentioned by the writer, with respect to the latter, that many boys, whose parents reside on plantations, are suffered to grow up to the

ages of eight or ten, unable either to read or write. Or even where more attention is paid to the culture of their minds, it is generally dispensed at the schools in the neighbourhood, while the daughters of almost all who can afford it, are sent to the Atlantic states for the greater advantages in this respect which they hold out. An unfortunate prejudice, too, prevails with many planters against giving their sons a classical education ; deeming it unnecessary for the practical purposes of life, and unsuited to the retirement of a plantation. This is not the time or place to enlarge on a topic of so much interest, or we might easily show how an extended education contributes not only to the actual improvement of the mind, and its adaptation, too, to many even strictly practical pursuits, but offers a rich store of consolation and mental enjoyment in the shades of retirement, or under the pressure of adverse fortune. We are delighted to perceive that different and better views of what is due to the mental faculties of our race, are already prevalent with our western brethren, and that rising colleges, and well endowed universities, are beginning to dot the valley of the Mississippi, and to sow the seed of a rich harvest of after cultivation. The west is unquestionably large enough to contain within herself all that is requisite for the nurture and growth of science, literature, and religion, without looking to the eastern states for any supply of either. She is now, for the most part, a missionary land. We hope to behold her, even in our day, a great storehouse of all that can adorn and ennoble man.

We were prepared to discover the penal law of Mississippi standing in need of reformation. It would have been strange if that system, which requires deep reflection and philosophical

[ocr errors]

investigation to bring even to a tolerable standard of right, had been found matured in a new country. One crying evil, arising from its imperfection, has been already felt by our fellow citizens at the west, and will only be checked when public sentiment being improved, and the national sensibility awakened, penitentiary discipline, and penal law, shall receive the attention they deserve. "We allude to "Lynch law”—the scandal of a civilised age; which has its root in those bad passions of human nature, that no laws can thoroughly eradicate.

With our author's few remarks upon this subject, we shall take our leave of him.

“Crossing Cotton square—the chief market place for cotton in the city -we in a few minutes entered upon the great northern road leading to Jackson, the capital of this state, and thence to Washington, the seat of the general government. Near the intersection of this road with the city streets, a sudden clanking of chains startled our horses, and the next instant a gang, of negroes, in straggling procession, followed by an ordinary looking white man armed with a whip, emerged from one of the streets. Each negro carried slung over his shoulder a polished iron ball, apparently a twenty-four pounder, suspended by a heavy ox chain five or six feet in length, and secured to the right ancle by a massive ring. They moved along under their burthen as though it were any thing but comfortable-some with idealess faces, looking the mere animal, others with sullen and dogged looks, and others again talking and laughing, as though 'Hymen's chains had bound them. This galleylooking procession, whose tattered wardrobe seemed to have been stolen from a chimney-sweep, was what is very appropriately termed the

chain-gang,' a fraternity well known in New Orleans and Natchez, and valued for its services in cleaning and repairing the streets. In the former city, however, there is one for whites as well as blacks, who may be known by their parti-coloured clothing. These gangs are merely moving penitentiaries, appropriating that amount of labour, which at the north is expended within four walls, to the broader limits of the city. In Natchez, negro criminals only are thus honoured—a 'coat of tar and feathers' being applied to those white men who may require some kind of discipline not provided by the courts of justice. This last summary process of popular justice, or more properly excitement, termed 'Lynch's law? I believe, from its originator, is too much in vogue in this state. In the resentment of public as well as private wrongs, individuals have long been in the habit of forestalling and improving upon the decisions of the courts, by taking the execution of the laws into their own hands. The consequence is, that the dignity of the bench is degraded, and justice is set aside for the exhibition of wild outbreaks of popular feeling. But this summary mode of procedure is now, to the honour of the south, rapidly falling into disuse, and men feel willing to yield to the dignity of the law and acquiesce in its decisions, even to the sacrifice of individual prejudices. That' border state of society from which the custom originated no longer exists here—and the causes having ceased which at first, in the absence of proper tribunals, may have rendered it perhaps necessary thus to administer justice, the effect will naturally cease also —and men will surrender the sword of justice to the public tribunals, erected by themselves.

“ The want of a penitentiary has had a tendency to keep this custom

alive in this state longer than it would otherwise have existed. When an individual is guilty of any offence, which renders him amenable to the laws, he must either be acquitted altogether or suffer death. There is no intermediate mode of punishment, except the stocks, whipping, branding, and cropping—the last two are seldom resorted to now as legal punishments, and the others are regarded as too light an expiation for an offence which merited a seven years' imprisonment. Therefore when a criminal is acquitted, because his guilt is not quite sufficient to demand the sacrifice of his life, but enough to confine him to many years' hard labour in a state's prison-popular vengeance, if the nature of his guilt has enlisted the feelings of the multitude-immediately seizes upon him, and the poor wretch expiates his crime, by one of the most cruel systems of justice that human ingenuity has ever invented. When a criminal is here condemned to death, whose sentence in other stales would have been confinement for a limited period, there is in public feeling sometimes a reaction, as singularly in the other extreme. Petitions for his pardon are circulated, and, with columns of names appended, presented to the governor, for here there can be no commutation of a sentence of death. There must be a free, unconditional pardon, or the scaffold. Sometimes a criminal under sentence of death is pardoned by the governor, thinking his crime not sufficiently aggravated to be atoned for by his life, which may often be the case in a state where eleven crimes are punishable with death.* In such instances the criminal, unless escorted beyond the reach of popular resentment, receives from the multitude a commutation of his sentence, which, through the tender mercies of his judges, is more dreadful than death itself. Death indeed has in two or three instances terminated the sufferings of these victims of public feeling ; sometimes they have been placed upright in a skiff with their arms pinioned behind them, and a jug of whiskey placed at their feet, and thus thrown upon the mercy of the Mississippi, down which, under a burning sun, naked and bareheaded, they are borne, till rescued by some steamer, cast upon the inhospitable shores, or buried beneath the waves. This act, inhuman as it may appear, does not indicate a more barbarous or inhuman state of society than elsewhere. It is the consequence of a deficiency in the mode and means of punishment. Was there but one sentence passed upon all criminals in sober New England, and that sentence, death, humanity would lead to numerous acquittals and pardons; while popular feeling, when it felt itself injured, refusing to acquiesce in the total escape of the guilty, would take upon itself to inflict that punishment which the code had neglected to provide. A penitentiary in this state would at once do away this custom.”

* The capital crimes of this state are, murder, arson, robbery, rape, burglary, stealing a slave, stealing or selling a free person for a slave, forgery, manslaughter, second offence-horse stealing, second offenceaccessories, before the fact, to rape, arson, robbery, and burglary.

Art. III.—.A bill to authorise Limited Partnerships : reported

to the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, by Mr. J. B. Smith: December 5th, 1835.

A bill has been introduced into the Legislature of Pennsylvania to sanction the formation of “Limited Partnerships." In the present era of reform (so called) nothing can be regarded as entirely safe from the pruning knife wielded by innovating hands : and the law, therefore, venerable and cultivated as it is, must share the fate that falls even upon the Constitution. The present is the age of experiment; and men will scarcely be found, at any period, willing to admit the existence of aught in morals, government, or law, which they cannot make a little better. There are, however, over the civilised world, periodical returns of sedateness, when, tired with the turmoil of constant change,--the “rattle” affording no further pleasure, and the straw" tickling but to tease,--people are disposed to recline upon the wisdom of their ancestors, and to receive, as possessing the tone of command, the whisper of sic antiquitus usitalum. Such a time, no doubt, will come in America; and happy will the generation be that beholds it, if no violent convulsion of the social fabric bear the experience along with it.

Let us not be misunderstood. We are far from being the opponents of reformation in general : reformation cautiously considered, and cautiously applied. But we are opposed to mere change, and the love of it as such; where the exigencies of society do not imperiously call for it. And we are further of the opinion, that if any people ever existed that less required change in any particular, it is the American people, whether in their general or state governments, or laws. Not that every thing in either is, in our judgment, perfect; but that all things are so perfect, that any alteration should be viewed with a jealous eye, and only admitted after a careful scrutiny.

One further general remark before discussing the particular subject before us. We do not pretend to assimilate a mere change in the law to

adoption of revolutionary measures; or to rank the introduction of a novel principle in the legal system of partnership among the worst features of these changing times. We, however, look upon it as an index of the spirit

that is abroad, and as such lay our hands upon it. Again; there is nothing more pernicious in its results than the tampering with settled principles of law by those who are unskilled in the mysteries of the science, and who attempt to mend what is really not out of order; and the subsequent disorder of which may be fairly .attributed to the unskilful tinkering of a soi-disant reformer. The ultimate results of an alteration in a legal principle which,

has been established for centuries, and whose ramifications are beyond the ken even of the professors of the science, cannot be anticipated by any; and cautious jurists, therefore, remove with hesitation, approaching almost to dread, a single brick of the old edifice, lest a foundation stone being moved, the whole pile be shaken.

To understand clearly the new provisions which it is in contemplation to introduce into this branch of our jurisprudence, we shall present a general outline of the existing law of partnership, so far as respects the rights and liabilities of the members of the firm. This we undertake for those of our readers who are not lawyers; for the latter the abstract will not be necessary.

The essence of a partnership is a community of profit and loss in the business for which the association is formed. Whenever two or more persons carry on any particular trade, or unite for the prosecution of any one object of trade, if the profit and loss of the particular adventure or the general business, (as the case may be,) are to be divided between those engaged in it, (whether equally or not is unimportant,) a partnership in the eye

of the law is formed between such persons, whether this be stipulated by the parties themselves or not. Thus it will be seen, that these contracts may be created, either expressly by the parties, or for thein by the law. In the latter case, however, it is only so far as respects third persons that people are constituted partners against their consent. The reason of this rule of law (seemingly harsh) is well founded. A community of profit and loss interests one in the whole and every part of an adventure. Until the accounts of the transaction are closed, it cannot be ascertained whether profit or loss has resulted; but when this is done, if the experiment have proved unfortunate, it is but fair that he who was to share in the expected profit, should be liable, with the rest, to the burden; and if the reverse have occurred and the fates have been propitious, the whole expenses are, of course, first deducted, and the surplus merely distributed : thereby identifying the interests of each one with his associates and with the entire result of the operation. Whatever, therefore, may be the private arrangement between them as to a division of the gain, or a partition of the responsibilities, the world can and should only regard them as equally liable for all claims against the association, because all are, as we have seen, interested alike in the winding up of the business. To lay down any adverse rule, or to assume any middle ground, based 'upon the voluntary arrangements of the parties to the contract, over which the world has no control, and of which it is, in most cases, ignorant, would be at once to subject the rights of creditors to the VOL. XVIII.-NO. 37.

7

« 上一頁繼續 »