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Trial By Newspaper, 1859: Which Page In Harper’s Do You Read?

July 2024
1min read

“Of course it is true that there are exasperations, and extenuations, and anger that conquers the will and the conscience, and strikes in an almost unconscious fury. But ought it to do so? Ought a man to be negatively praised for losing his moral control? Do we justify an engineer for not bridging precisely the worst abyss of all? The moral sense of every man is given him… for the trials that tear at his heart-roots. That sense may be overborne, and the man commit a crime as black as the one that exasperates him; but he is then not a man to be pitied as if he were a victim—he is to be pitied as a criminal. He may have more excuse than the se- ducer. But because the seduction of a woman is a crime, the willful murder of the seducer does not cease to be a crime also.

“And … remember … the real victim of the tragedy… a wayward girl fascinated to her ruin. If you hasten to pardon crime to him who sins through hate —will you deny forgiveness to her who falls through love: Tenderly, tenderly, pious soulsl

“Owning her weakness, Her evil behavior; But leaving with meekness Her sins to her Saviour.”

Harper’s Weekly , March 12, 1859, p. 163

“An injured husband has but three ways of meeting the injury. He may laugh at it, or he may challenge his enemy; this is the French method. The first recourse affords but little consolation, and requires unusual philosophy; the second may superadd physical to moral injury. He may sue the adulterer for damages. This is the English plan. It involves patience, delay, exposure, disgrace.… Finally, the injured husband may take the life of him who has injured him. This is the American system.… Terrible as homicide is, this method must, on the whole, be admitted to be the most effectual, the wisest, and the most natural revenge.…

“There can be no excuse for the adulterer. He commits a three-fold crime: a crime against the woman whom he misleads, a crime against the man whom he dishonors, a crime against society which he disorganizes.… In these latter days experience proves that in all such cases society will justify the infliction of the last penalty by the husband. Whatever may have been the character of Mr. Sickles, there is not a jury in the United States or in Europe which would convict him even of manslaughter. In the face of so decided a public sentiment, is it worth while to argue further on the question?”

Harper’s Weekly , March 12, 1859, p. 162

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