THE TEN Commandments were made for man alone. We should think it strange if they had been made for all the animals.
We should say "Thou shalt not kill" is too general, too sweeping. It includes the field mouse and the butterfly. They can't kill. And it includes the tiger, which can't help it.
It is a case of Temperament and Circumstance again. You can arrange no circumstances that can move the field mouse and the butterfly to kill; their temperaments will ill keep them unaffected by temptations to kill, they can avoid that crime without an effort. But it isn't so with the tiger. Throw a lamb in his way when he is hungry, and his temperament will compel him to kill it.
Butterflies and field mice are common among men; they can't kill, their temperaments make it impossible. There are tigers among men, also. Their temperaments move them to violence, and when Circumstance furnishes the opportunity and the powerful motive, they kill. They can't help it.
No penal law can deal out justice; it must deal out injustice in every instance. Penal laws have a high value, in that they protect--in a considerable measure--the multitude of the gentle-natured from the violent minority.
For a penal law is a Circumstance. It is a warning which intrudes and stays a would-be murderer's hand--sometimes. Not always, but in many and many a case. It can't stop the real man-tiger; nothing can do that. Slade had 26 deliberate murders on his soul when he finally went to his death on the scaffold. He would kill a man for a trifle; or for nothing. He loved to kill. It was his temperament. He did not make his temperament, God gave it him at his birth. Gave it him and said Thou shalt not kill. It was like saying Thou shalt not eat. Both appetites were given him at birth. He could be obedient and starve both up to a certain point, but that was as far as he could go. Another man could go further; but not Slade.
Holmes, the Chicago monster, inveigled some dozens of men and women into his obscure quarters and privately butchered them. Holmes's inborn nature was such that whenever he had what seemed a reasonably safe opportunity to kill a stranger he couldn't successfully resist the temptation to do it.
Justice was finally meted out to Slade and to Holmes. That is what the newspapers said. It is a common phrase, and a very old one. But it probably isn't true. When a man is hanged for slaying one man that phrase comes into service and we learn that justice was meted out to the slaver. But Holmes slew sixty. There seems to be a discrepancy in this distribution of justice. If Holmes got justice, the other man got 59 times more than justice.
But the phrase is wrong, anyway. The word is the wrong word. Criminal courts do not dispense "justice"--they can't; they only dispense protections to the community. It is all they can do. (1905 or 1906)
Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.
I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps--
His night is marching on.
I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"
We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;*
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!
In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom--and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich--
Our god is marching on.
* NOTE: In Manila the Government has placed a certain industry under the protection of our flag. (M.T.)