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Sample Term Paper

Words 1,289

Cesare Beccaria’s 1767 essay, On Crimes and Punishment, had a particularly strong impact throughout the world. In the essay, Beccaria conceived that there was no validation for the state’s taking of a life. American intellectuals as well were influenced by Beccaria. The first attempted restructuring of the death penalty in the U.S. occurred when Thomas Jefferson introduced a bill to revise Virginia’s death penalty laws. The bill projected that capital punishment be used only for the crimes of murder and treason. It was defeated by only one vote.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Pennsylvania Prison Society held that having a death penalty in fact increased criminal conduct. Pennsylvania to become the first state to consider degrees of murder based on responsibility. In 1794, Pennsylvania repealed the death penalty for all offenses except first degree murder. (Bohm, 55)

Michigan, in 1846, became the first state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason. Later, Rhode Island and Wisconsin abolished the death penalty for all crimes. (Schabas, 68)

The 1838 passing of discretionary death penalty statutes in Tennessee, and later in Alabama, were seen as an immense reform. This beginning of sentencing responsibility in the capital process was supposed to be a victory for abolitionists because before the ratification of these statutes, all states ordered the death penalty for everyone convicted of a capital crime, not considering the situation.

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