Page:The plea of Clarence Darrow, August 22nd, 23rd & 25th, MCMXXIII, in defense of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr., on trial for murder.djvu/56
48 PLEA OF CLARENCE DARROW IN DEFENSE
Hanging for picking pockets—and more pockets were picked in the crowd that went to the hanging than had been known before. Hangings for murder—and men were murdered on the way there and on the way home. Hangings for poaching, hangings for everything and hangings in public, not shut up cruelly and brutally in a jail, out of the light of day, wakened in the night time and led forth and killed, but taken to the shire town on a high hill, in the presence of a multitude, so that all might see that the wages of sin were death.
What happened? I have read the life of Lord Shaftesbury, a great nobleman of England, who gave his life and his labors toward modifying the penal code. I have read of the slow, painful efforts through all the ages for more humanity of man to his fellowman. I know what history says, I know what it means, and I know what flows from it, so far as we can tell, which is not with certainty.
I know that every step in the progress of humanity has been met and opposed to prosecutors, and many times by courts. I know that when poaching and petty larceny was punishable by death in England, juries refused to convict. They were too humane to obey the law; and judges refused to sentence. I know that when the delusion of witchcraft was spreading over Europe, claiming its victims by the millions, many a judge so shaped his cases that no crime of witchcraft could be punished in his court. I know that these trials were stopped in America because juries would no longer convict. I know that every step in the progress of the world in reference to crime has come from the human feelings of man. It has come from that deep well of sympathy, that in spite of all our training and all our conventions and all our