The History of Capital Punishment Essay

2004 Words 9 Pages
The History of Capital Punishment


Crime has been a plague on society from ancient times to present. In response to
this plague, society has formed structured rules to deal with the perpetrators of crime. A
crime can be defined as act that society’s government deems as illegal. Different societies have formed various methods and standards for evaluating crime and assigning
corresponding punishment. What constitutes a crime has changed throughout the course
of history. In ancient times, such extreme actions as the deliberate killing of another
human being for the sake of family honor or religious rite was considered socially
acceptable and therefore not legally wrong. Now, the majority of the modern world (with
perhaps the
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American concepts pertaining to offenders, punishment, and reform was
developed after much careful thought and consideration concerning the example of
English law and its history. Death was formerly the penalty for all felonies in English law. In practice, the death penalty was rarely applied as widely as the law provided. A variety of procedures were adopted to mitigate the harshness of the law; therefore, many
offenders who committed capital crimes were pardoned. The conditions for pardon were
the offender agreed to be transported to what were then the American colonies and the
benefit of the title of clergy. The benefit of clergy applied to offenders who were ordained priests (or clerks in Holy Orders) and who were thereby subject to trial by the church courts rather than by the secular courts. Hence, if an offender could show that he was ordained he was allowed to go free, and was subject to the possibility of punishment by the ecclesiastical courts. In the 17th century, the only proof of ordination was literacy, and it became customary to allow anyone convicted of a felony to escape the death sentence by giving proof of literacy by reading a verse from Psalm 51. The obvious
problem with this test is that most offenders escaped punishment by simply learning the
words by heart.

Capital punishment has been used in the United States since Colonial times.
During this time frame, it was accepted because of…