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quotations about capital punishment

The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind

The sentence of the first murderer was pronounced by the Supreme Judge of the universe. Was it death? No, it was life. "A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth;" and "Whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold."


The law which attempts a man's life is impractical, unjust, inadmissible. It has never repressed crime -- for a second crime is every day committed at the foot of the scaffold.

MARQUIS DE SADE, Philosophy in the Bedroom

Most people approve of capital punishment, but most people wouldn't do the hangman's job.

GEORGE ORWELL, The Road to Wigan Pier

Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty.


The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.


If we believe that murder is wrong and not admissible in our society, then it has to be wrong for everyone, not just individuals but governments as well.

HELEN PREJEAN, Dead Man Walking

To vindicate the sanctity of human life by taking it is an outrage upon reason. The spectacle of a human being dangling at the end of a gallows-rope is a degradation of humanity.

CHRISTIAN NESTELL BOVEE, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought

It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind.

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Maxims for Revolutionists

It is a question whether, when we break a murderer on the wheel, we do not fall into the error a child makes when it hits the chair it has bumped into.


This country started going to hell when they stopped hanging folks. No gallows dirt. No gallows deals.

NEIL GAIMAN, American Gods

A criminal who, having renounced reason ... hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or tiger, one of those wild savage beasts with whom men can have no society nor security.

JOHN LOCKE, Second Treatise of Civil Government

Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.

J. R. R. TOLKIEN, The Fellowship of the Ring

Read Percy Bysshe Shelley's essay: On the Punishment of Death


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