Capital Punishment During The Colonial Era

1165 Words5 Pages
The public opinion within the United States on capital punishment has fluctuated since its early establishment during the colonial era. The debate about the use of capital punishment has been shaped by factors such as class, gender, age but most importantly race.
During the colonial era, Britain was the biggest influence on America when it came to utilizing the death penalty. The death penalty was used for minor offenses such as stealing, killing animals, and trading with Indians. As the late 1700s approached, a movement towards abolishing the death penalty began. Beccaria wrote an essay in 1767 called “Crimes and Punishment,” that had a significant impact on the world’s opinion towards the death penalty (Bohm,1999). Beccaria suggested
…show more content…
Zimring began to research executions by different regions in the United States and noted the similarities between historical lynching trends and current patterns in the use of Capital punishment (Gabbidon and Greene). Throughout the research Zimring conducted, he noticed that there was a strong correlation between legal lynchings and death penalty executions after lynching were made illegal. The data indicated through 1889 to 1918 that 88 percent of lynchings were carried out in the South. In comparison, through 1977 to 2000 81 percent of executions were held in the South (Gabbidon and Greene). In conclusion, Zimring believed that the death penalty is a racialized system that has replaced lynchings. This created a renaissance of capital punishment between the 1920s and 1940s. During the 1930s, there was an average of 167 executions each year. These annual numbers were similar to the number of lynchings recorded in the 1890s (Vandiver, Giacopassi, & Lofquist, 2006).
After this era, the support for death penalty began to slowly decline, as 42% of people showed support for the death penalty in the 1950s (Bohm,1999).
Following the decline in the support of the death penalty, a moratorium on executions began in 1972 during the case Furman v. Georgia. Furman argued that the death penalty was arbitrary and violated the constitution (Mallicoat and Brown 255-280). In a five to four vote, the Supreme Court
Get Access