Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen – George Savile... What exactly does this mean?I am asking this for a debate about capital punishment. i know sort of...

Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen – George Savile... What exactly does this mean?

I am asking this for a debate about capital punishment. i know sort of what it means but dont fully understand the meaning.

Asked on by brady-k

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The quote refers to the deterrent nature of capital punishment.  Part of the essence of the quote is the idea that if individuals understand that their transgressions can result in the state taking their lives, they will be deterred from engaging in such behavior.  In this way, the death penalty is seen as a measure that will prevent future crime.  It is meant to make a "statement" that is intended to resound in the mind of the criminal and those who might partake in crime.  This hinges on the belief that individuals accept the presence of the death penalty in the calculations of their actions.  I am not certain of this, but it does not take from the fact that it is believed that capital punishment has been demonstrated or construed to have deterrent value.

coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

The quotation " Men are not hanged for stealing horses, only so that others horse will not get stolen" is mainly about the principle of deterrence. There are many in society who believe that the threat of loss of freedom and incarceration in an unpleasant environment is not enough to put criminals off committing further crimes. There have been cases where inmates have been released after fairly lenient sentences, and are only too happy to repeat the risk when they comapre it to the gains they may get. The trouble with the deterrence/capital punishment argument is that many criminals are disadvantaged by a traumatic childhood, psychological or learning-challenge issues. Many do not take in the cause and effect nature of their behavior and need help not hanging.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In addition to what has been explained about the hanging being frightening enough to others that it will deter them from stealing horses, the statement can also be interpreted as meaning that if the horse thief is hanged, he will not steal again.

Along with its severe punishment as a deterrent to crime, capital punishment has another argument for its existence:  a dead person cannot commit any more crimes.  Throughout the decades there have been documented cases in which murderers has been released after serving their sentences or paroled only to slay another victim.  So, the proponents of capital punishment might contend the premise of the quote above:  If the perpetuator of the crime is eliminated, he/she will not commit more crimes.

Sources:
pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

What this means is that capital punishment (and punishment in general) is not really punishment for a crime that has already been committed.  Instead, capital punishment is supposed to prevent other people from wanting to commit the same kind of crime that has gotten someone executed.  In other words, capital punishment is a deterrent, not really a punishment.

So in the quote, you hang a person not because he stole a horse.  You hang him to scare others so they won't steal horses too.

Even today, this is a major argument in favor of the death penalty.

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