A Utilitarian Age Looks Hard at the Deterrent Value
IN England around 1800, more than 200 offenses, including forgery, poaching, cutting down somebody else's tree and associating with gypsies, were punishable by death.
Women and children were hanged for petty theft. In 1801, for example, Andrew Brenning, 13, was hanged for breaking into a house and stealing a spoon.
Hangings were attended by huge crowds, and since spectators were preoccupied with watching the gallows, hangings were favorite hunting grounds for pickpockets, even though picking a pocket was a capital offense. If opponents of capital punishment...