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tection afforded to other criminals, though these are but slight compared with those in European countries, is taken away from a traitor, and he is sure to die. Nor himself alone : in 1803, the life of the emperor was attempted by a single assassin, and while he was condemned to a lingering death, his sons, who were of a tender age, were strangled. Thus, the innocent, contrary to the principles of all reason and humanity, are made to suffer with the guilty. And this despotic law is even sanctioned by their sacred books. In them Confucius enjoins a son not to live under the same heaven with the slayer of his father ;” and this rule is made to extend to the sovereign.
The extent of the punishment for particular crimes is clearly defined in the penal code, and the administrators of the law dare not go beyond the definition. So far the offender is protected from injustice. He is, however, rarely permitted to escape unscathed; for the government, jealous of its authority, and fearing that the subject might derive too much protection from the distinct statement of crime and punishment, has issued the following enactment: —“Whoever is guilty of improper conduct, and such as is contrary to the spirit of the laws, though not a breach of any specific article, shall be punished with at least forty blows; and when the impropriety is serious, with eighty blows." It may be truly said of the Chinese, therefore, that when they once are enclosed in the net of the law, it is difficult for them to make their
escape. The minor punishments among the Chinese are by the bamboo, whose dimensions are exactly defined, and the blows of which are administered
according to the nature of the offence ; the kea, or cangue, which has been called the wooden collar, and is a species of walking pillory ; temporary banishment to a distance not exceeding fifty leagues from the prisoner's home; and exile beyond the Chinese frontier, either temporary or during life. The three capital punishments are strangulation, beheading, and a mode of execution called ling-chy, which means literally disgraceful and lingering death.” The application of these modes of punishment sometimes savours of despotism. Thus robbery, with the preconcerted use of weapons, is punished with death, however small the amount may be which the robber has taken. Thus, also, killing in an affray, without reference to any intent, either expressed or implied, is punished with strangulation.
In the law of homicide there is a remarkable incongruity, which could only have been engendered by that principle on which the government is founded; namely, patriarchal authority. While this law almost exculpates the parent from crime if he kills his children, whether accidentally or intentionally, it denounces the penalty of death upon children who strike or curse their parents. This absolute power bestowed upon fathers is, doubtless, productive of much evil; and if natural feeling did not generally prove a sufficient security against its abuse, China would thereby present an awful spectacle of homicide to the world. As it is, fathers have virtually the power of life and death over their children.
The prisons of China are very severe, and they are frequently made the instruments of judicial injustice in prolonged imprisonments. The Chinese
emphatically style them ty-yo, or "hell;" and their horror of them is such, that it has a tendency to deter them from crime. Their severity is increased by the confinement being solitary, of which the Chinese, who are a social people, have an instinctive dread. Women are rarely confined in these miserable abodes, they being generally allowed the exemption of being placed as criminals in the custody of their nearest relations, who are answerable for their appearance at the tribunal of justice. At this tribunal the whole of the vast population of China are liable to be arraigned, except ten privileged classes, who are either in relationship to the imperial line, or in high character and station. These, except in the case of treason, when the exemption is not allowed, cannot be either tried or punished without a special reference to the emperor. In giving evidence, oaths are never required, but severe punishments are attached to falsehood. When any one exhibits a reluctance to give evidence, a species of torture is employed to force it from him; that is, the ankles or fingers are squeezed between two sticks tied triangularly. Torture, however, is forbidden to be exercised on persons above seventy, or under fifteen years of age, as also on those labouring under permanent disease.
The severity of the penal code of China appears chiefly in those cases wherein the safety of the emperor, or the stability of the government, is involved. Apart from these, benevolent traits are sometimes discernible. Thus, in order to promote kindred and domestic ties, it is provided that relatives and servants living under the same roof shall, in ordinary cases, be held innocent,
though they conceal the offences of their fellow inmates, or assist in effecting their escape: but this benevolence ceases in the enactments relative to slaves. To them the law affords less protection than to a free subject. Every offence is aggravated or diminished in its penalty, according as it is committed by a slave towards a freeman, or a freeman towards a slave. Thus, if a slave kills his master, he is punished with a lingering death, as a traitor; but if a master kills his slave, the crime is not even made capital.
The penal code of China, therefore, cannot be said to be founded upon the strict rules of equity and justice. If in some respects it exhibits practical wisdom, in others it appears eminently calculated to keep the multitude in awe. Its defects and excesses are those inherent in all despotisms, for they evidently arise from the first and last principle of the government, which declares that one man shall rule, the rest obey.
That the population of China is comparatively happy and secure under its administration, is universally attested by those who have visited that country. Sir George Staunton, speaking of his colleague in the commission of the last British embassy, says :-“His extensive acquaintance with Persia and India renders him a peculiarly competent judge of comparative merit in this case. He
pronounces China superior to the other countries of Asia, both in the arts of government, and the general aspects of society: and adds, that the laws are more generally known, and more equally administered; that those examples of oppression, accompanied with infliction of barbarous punishment, which offend the eye and distress the feelings of the most hurried traveller in other Asiatic countries, are scarcely to be met with in China; that the proportion which the middling orders bear to the other classes of the community appeared considerable; and that compared with Turkey, Persia, and parts of India, an impression was produced highly favourable to the comparative situation of the lower orders."
The Chinese themselves appear to be generally satisfied with their lot, and even to felicitate themselves that they were born in China. Thus one of them wrote these complacent reflections :“I felicitate myself that I was born in China. It constantly occurs to me, that I might have been born beyond the sea in some remote part of the earth, where the cold freezes, or the heat scorches: where the people are clothed with the leaves of plants, eat wood, dwell in the wilderness, lie in holes in the earth, are far removed from the converting maxims of the ancient kings, and are ignorant of the domestic relations. Though born as one of the race of men, I should not have been different from a beast. But happily I have been born in China. I have a house to live in, and have drink, food, commodious furniture, clothing, and caps, and infinite blessings ! Truly, the highest felicity is mine!"
If, Christian reader, the Chinese feel called upon to felicitate themselves that they are born in a country where they can peaceably enjoy the blessings of life, without making any reference to eternity, how much more cause have you for selfcongratulation ! You are born in a country where you can not only enjoy liberty and prosperity, in a far higher degree than the Chinese, but where