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History Of Capital Punishment In America

921 words - 4 pages

Capital Punishment, the process by which the government takes the life of an offender for crimes committed against humanity. Capital Punishment also referred to as the “death penalty” has played a role in the correctional process dating back to 1608 in Jamestown. Over the years the use of Capital Punishment has fluctuated. Like most areas of corrections the death penalty has become reformed and altered to needs of modern day society. Like most controversial issues the majority of people have a firm stance, either supporting or opposing.

The history of the death penalty in the United States has fluctuated greatly over time. In 1608 the first victim of Capital Punishment was executed. Captain George Kendall was sentenced to death and executed for espionage. Shortly after in Virginia Governor Sir Thomas Dale launched the Moral, Devine, and Martial Law. These laws called for the death penalty for non-violent crimes such as stealing, executing chickens, and participating in trade with Native Americans. Much like today the laws pertaining to Capital Punishment fluctuated amongst colonies. In New York the Dukes Law was enacted which brought the death penalty to offenders who were guilty of moral offences, such as denying God.

Almost as soon as the trend of the government sponsored executions began to spread across the developing nation, people opposing the practice began to make a public stand. Cesare Beccaria’s 1767 writing, On Crimes and Punishment had an impact on many Americans. Beccaria’s work states that there was not justification for act of any state ending a person’s life. His ideals were embraced by those who opposed the death penalty and gave them the motivation to act on their beliefs. Thomas Jefferson was the first to develop proposed legislation that would reform the laws regarding Capital Punishment in Virginia. When his legislation was voted on he lost by only one vote. This goes to show that this issue divided the nation, much like it does to this day.
In the mid 1800’s, those who opposed the death penalty developed a following in the northeast. Several states condensed the quantity of crimes punishable by death and erected state penitentiaries. In 1834, Pennsylvania was the first to conduct executions out of the publics view and hold them in correctional facilities. Shortly after in 1846, Michigan was the first to outlaw Capital punishment for all offences except treason. Rhode Island and Wisconsin then followed suit and out lawed Capital Punishment for all offences. Even though some states out lawed Capital Punishment, the majority of states did not. Several states developed laws which called for more offences to be punishable by.
In 1838, many states started to create laws that no longer...

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