Capital punishment [letter to the editor, 5 May 1939]

[Editor: A letter to the editor from the Rev. W. R. McEwen, in support of capital punishment. Published in The Frankston and Somerville Standard, 5 May 1939.]

Capital punishment.

(To the Editor.)

Sir, — I appreciate your paper with its independent outlook, its sense of fair play, its candid comments on situations of local and general importance, its letters to men in authority, and its open forum for the airing of private opinions on matters of interest. Allow me the liberty of the latter to comment on your editorial on capital punishment.

I realise that you expressed the view held by a great many, including many churchmen, but this view ignores the principle underlying capital punishment. Capital punishment is not the vengeance of society upon a person who transgresses its code of morals. It is the execution of the retributive justice of God upon one who deliberately breaks the Sixth Commandment.

It is foolish to say that capital punishment is itself a breach of the Sixth Commandment, for every law, to be upheld, must have a penalty attached for its infringement. And God has laid down the rule, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6).

The authority to execute the sentence is committed by God, not to private individuals, but to the State. It is a great responsibility, but if the civil authorities and the public for whom they act recognised the divine functions of the State, there would be greater respect for law.

You rightly indicated the inconsistency of the State condemning a man whose drink-crazed brain had led him to commit murder while licensing a traffic which supplied him with the drink which led him to commit the crime, though you did not draw this conclusion. There are other defects in our State legislation which tend towards the increase of crime. But crime will not be checked by failing to execute the penalty when guilt is incurred.

Justice is the very foundation of civil society, and if not upheld by the adequate punishment of crime, then society will go to pieces.

— Yours etc.,

(Rev.) W. R. McEwen.

The Frankston and Somerville Standard (Frankston, Vic.), Friday 5 May 1939, page 2

[Editor: The two lines “situations of local and general import-” and “ance, its letters to men in authority,” were placed in the wrong order in the original text; that error has been corrected here.]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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