Essay, Research Paper: Punishments In History

Legal Issues

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The common practice of early Americans that seems most alien to me is that of
human punishment. During the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, the way people
were punished was savage and crucial. Those who punished others for a crime,
seemed to take matters in there own hands and give punishments that were truly
too harsh compared to the crime committed. One of the areas in which such
punishment was greatly visible was in the slave institutes. Masters would treat
their slaves as if they were ‘animals’. It was crucial to see that the only
thing that differed Southern and Northern stores was that those in the south
stocked “negro-whips” and “mantraps” in their shelves. Whipping was the
popular way of punishing slaves at the time, therefore stores made sure they had
that six to seven foot long peace of cowhide, to sale to masters who wished to
beat there slaves. This type of whip was not enough, for they began making whips
that had a platted wire on the end so that it would hurt more and create more
damage to the skin. I was shocked to read that a slave would get brutal whips
just for simply taking a drink of water when it was not break time yet. If
looked at carefully the slave had committed no crime yet was still whipped by
his master. This is no way in which a human should treat another human, since we
are suppose to be the intelligent, moralistic species of the world. Whipping is
still nice, compared to other ways in which many criminals were punished. At
times of great crimes, delinquents were faced with the mutilating punishments of
the old penal laws, which included branding, ear cropping, hanging and even
occasionally castration and burning alive. Thinking of such punishment is harsh,
for I thought that the only things that got castrated were the animals in my
grandpas’ farm. That is not all, since I can not imaging a live human being
burned to death. Making such scenes even more disturbing was that they were held
in public areas where many people could gather and watch. In New Haven,
Connecticut, around 1810, Charles Fowler, a local historian, recalled seeing the
“admiring students a [Yale] college” gathered around to watch petty
criminals receive “five or ten lashes…with a rawhide whip.” On a day of a
hanging near Mount Holly, New Jersey, in the 1820’s, the scene was that of a
holiday: ” around the place in every direction were the assembled multitudes
– some in tents, and by-wagons. This is obscene, for humans got a kick out of
seeing other humans get killed. Where has the idea of morality and self-respect
gone for these people? Right now you probably just imaging men getting such
punishments but that was not the case, for women were often treated in the same
type of manor. In a country tavern in Georgia, Margaret Hall summoned the slave
chambermaid, but she could not come because the mistress had been whipping her
and she was not fit to be seen. The next morning she made her appearance with
her face marked in several places by the cuts of the cowskin and her neck
handkerchief covered with spots of blood. In my point of view, a woman is not to
be treated in such manor, for they are to be respected more than men. It is not
that I don’t believe that people should be punished for doing things they
shouldn’t do, but it should be reasonable. I believe in the idea of “Eye for
an Eye”, for if a person murders another, his/her punishment should be death.
But for a person, who simply got into a fight with someone else, death doesn’t
seem to be a reasonable way of punishing him. Instead he should be given a
beaten himself so that he can see what it feels like. People in the past seemed
to take things to far and not think about the situation carefully. Thanks to
God, the old ways, so startling unfamiliar to the modern reader, gradually fell
away. Americans changed their assumptions about what was proper, decent, and
normal in everyday life and began to look at life in a different view. Who
knows, perhaps our morals, to some future observer, will seem as idiosyncratic
and astonishing, as I believe this type of behavior is.
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