Lawalso doing the same that very year morris and

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law—also doing the same that very year (Morris and Rothman 1995 ; Bradburn 2009 ). Because of Beccaria’s influence, Americans vigorously debated substituting harsh punishments for milder ones. ‘‘Even Congress, in one of the first attempts to create a national penal law,’’ writes historian Louis Masur in Rites of Execution , ‘‘appointed a committee to investigate alterations in the penal laws of the United States that would provide ‘milder punishments for certain crimes for which Eur J Law Econ (2018) 46:275–302 289 123
infamous and capital punishments are now inflicted’’’ (Masur 1991 ). The creation of that committee was urged by Edward Livingston, a 1781 graduate of Princeton and the youngest of eleven children of Robert Livingston, a judge of New York’s Supreme Court. Edward’s oldest brother, Robert R. Livingston, had been a member of the committee of five tasked with framing the Declaration of Independence, and among the signers of that historic document was Philip Livingston, a cousin of Edward’s father. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson would appoint Edward Livingston— who, years later, wrote a draft penal code for the State of Louisiana advocating the abolition of capital punishment—as U.S. attorney for the district of New York (Henderson 1910 ). Edward Livingston—like so many reformers of his age— frequently invoked both Montesquieu and Beccaria, calling them ‘‘names dear to humanity!’’ ‘‘If the argument were to be carried by the authority of names,’’ Livingston wrote at one point, speaking of his plan for a Louisiana penal code, ‘‘that of Beccaria, were there no other, would ensure the victory’’. 29 Although Pennsylvanians pushed forward some penal reform in the 1780s, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania witnessed even more anti-gallows activity in the 1790s. In 1793, William Bradford—a frequent correspondent of James Madison— wrote An Enquiry How Far the Punishment of Death Is Necessary in Pennsylvania . In that legislative report, Bradford—again invoking Beccaria—argued for the death penalty’s abolition for all crimes except pre-meditated murder. Noting that evidence might later show the death penalty to be unnecessary even for pre-meditated murderers, Bradford wrote that, in America, ‘‘as soon as the principles of Beccaria were disseminated, they found a soil that was prepared to receive them’’ (Bessler 2012 ). In 1794, Pennsylvania ultimately became the first state to divide murder into degrees, with only first-degree murder punishable by death (Binder 2012 ). Beccaria’s writings, one criminologist notes, influenced ‘‘reformers such as John Howard and Thomas Jefferson, as well as Quaker reformers in Pennsylvania, and became a driving force behind penal reform in the United States’’ (Roth 2006 ). The very title of William Bradford’s widely distributed essay, An Enquiry How Far the Punishment of Death Is Necessary in Pennsylvania , confirms that the question early Americans wrestled with so intensely was whether executions were truly necessary.

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