Saturday, December 12 1761

…I dined on the remains of yesterday’s dinner. At home all day and pretty busy. In the evening Joseph Fuller smoked a pipe with me.

N.B.: By way of a postscript to what I wrote yesterday relating to Burrage’s affair, I doubt not but to every human and well-disposed person (especially in this land of liberty) (and freedom) there must at the first thought something appear shocking to humane nature at the prospect of a person’s suffering punishment even when his crimes justly merit it, and we are, as it were, instantaneously struck with a fellow-feeling for the delinquent, and at the same time sympathize and as it were bear a part of his punishment, but so soon as the first starts of the impression made on ow minds by the representation of outward objects (if I may be allowed the expression) are over and reason resumes its place, we shall then consider and reflect that, were not human laws in some measure executed, there could be no security of property, and when a person is become truly obnoxious to the laws of his country, totally to pervert the executing of justice would be as great a crime as wholly to exclude mercy, so that what before appeared as compassion and pity we shall now look upon rather as pusillanimity and as proceeding from fear, rather than from a true principle of mercy. Therefore in my opinion justice with humanity should be first executed and then let mercy and benevolence open their extended wings and close the scene.

N.B.: Were the executive part of our laws quite laid aside (as I fear they are in many cases too much) then mercy would cease to be a virtue, and become a real vice.

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