Sample Ethics Essays on “Speech in Defense of Capital Punishment” by John Stuart

In April 1868, John Stuart Mill gave a passionate speech to the House of Commons expressing his strong support for the continued use of capital punishment to deter criminal actions and behaviors in society. He used a utilitarian approach in his analysis of the perceived impacts of capital punishment and life imprisonment. According to Stuart, immediate punishment through death was less harsh compared to life imprisonment. Stuart focused on explaining the significance of deterring criminal activities through the implementation of capital punishment.

In his speech to the House of Commons, he expressed strong support towards death penalties to deter criminal behaviors such as aggravated murder on innocent citizens. He rejected different arguments proposed by activities that preferred lifelong incarceration. For instance, he believed that life imprisonment and hard labor were incompatible with the concept of dignity and respect for human lives. Furthermore, Stuart believed that such proposals could not generate satisfaction and comfort among different victims of murder. Accordingly, based on utilitarianism ideals, Stuart believed that only capital punishment would generate positive emotional reactions and convictions, especially from the murder victims’ families. Per Struat, death punishment was a dignified decision that could save the individuals from the guilt, mental, and emotional trauma for their respective actions that resulted in the deaths of their victims.

While Stuart supported capital punishment as a viable way of mitigating criminal actions, he believed that the murder suspects deserved fair trials or criminal justice processes. Through such fair processes, Stuart argued that societies would ascertain that the deviants were unquestionably guilty of the alleged crimes. While addressing the fear and criticism that capital punishment would subject innocent people to unjust or unmerited execution, Stuart encouraged the establishment of well-run court and justice systems to address such concerns. Therefore, Stuart’s utilitarian argument in support of capital punishment emphasized the development and provision of conclusive evidence ascertaining that the offenders are indeed guilty of the alleged offenses. He believed that a death sentence would eliminate the concept of double standards in the application of justice. As such, individuals capable of committing heinous crimes, such as killing, should suffer similar consequences of death as their victims. Particularly, capital punishment, according to Stuart, was a comparable action to the death inflicted on the victims.

Stuart’s primary emphasis was on the perceived consequences of criminal acts, and he believed that capital punishment and other important elements in the justice system were corrective and deterrence strategies that could rid societies of criminal elements. Moreover, according to Stuart, the elimination of death sentences or capital punishment would imply that the justice system was supporting the progression of related behaviors. Therefore, in his speech to the House of Commons, Stuart encouraged the lawmakers to be proactive in designing reasonable and heavier penalties that could help in addressing related societal challenges. According to him, the substitution of capital punishment with lifelong imprisonment would trivialize such heinous criminal behaviors among individuals in different societies. Overall, I believe that the speech is making sense because it provided succinct arguments on why using capital punishment as deterrence was effective in society. I believe that John Stuart’s useful and comprehensive insights can facilitate related decision-making processes.

“How to argue about the death penalty” by Hugo Adam Bedau

Hugo Adam Bedau pioneered numerous articles and studies on capital punishment. He was a prominent anti-capital punishment proponent whose primary belief was on observing the sanctity of life of different members of society. Hugo provided a comprehensive outline of major and important parameters that contemporary societies could use to dictate debates on the efficacy of applying the death penalty in various criminal justice systems. In his article, “How to Argue about the Death Penalty,” Hugo Adam Bedau sought to expose and explain some of the disputed and distorted arguments and facts concerning death. The first parameter, according to Hugo, was to ascertain whether the death penalty was a better deterrent strategy to different criminal actions, such as aggravated murder on innocent civilians. Under this parameter, Hugo encouraged modern societies to ascertain the efficacy and effectiveness of capital punishment and other alternative forms of punishment, such as lifelong imprisonment.

As a strong critic of capital punishment, Hugo believed that the admission of such forms of punishment was discriminatory along racial groups. Accordingly, Hugo implored modern societies to make objective assessments on whether the death penalty was tenable. Moreover, according to Hugo Adam Bedau, societies should collect and analyze accurate evidence on the effectiveness of the death penalty in deterring murder. Therefore, Hugo encouraged modern societies to conduct objective analyses of the fairness of capital punishment systems in reducing violent crime rates. Overall, Hugo Adam Bedau provided reasonable and sensible arguments concerning the effectiveness of the death penalty as deterrence in criminal justice systems. Indeed, there is little or no evidence explaining how the death penalty can help in preventing the progression of related criminal activities in modern societies.

Reasoned Arguments

I support Hugo’s arguments against the death penalty because actions are cruel and unusual to human beings. Unlike Stuart Mill, Hugo succeeded in exposing the barbaric nature of executions in civilized societies and proposed alternative punishments that could help in deterring related crimes. Additionally, from the objective analysis and understanding of Hugo’s article, it is clear that capital punishment can deny suspects the application of the due process of law. Particularly, the convicted individuals may not benefit from the collected new evidence or sources of law that may result in the reversal of the stipulated convictions. Contrasting Stuart Mill, Hugo further opined that capital punishment violated the constitutional guarantees on equal protection and application of the law. I support Hugo’s arguments that modern societies should adopt other viable forms of crime control. Increased reliance on capital punishment is a waste of human and financial resources that could have otherwise facilitated the identification and confrontation of the accurate sources and causes of crimes. Lastly, while Stuart Mill’s speech seems sensible depending on one’s school of thought, Hugo’s article is more reasonable.

Therefore, societies should embark on establishing a strong balance between crime deterrence and upholding the moral fabrics of human dignity and respect. Both Hugo and Stuart provided strong arguments to support their perceptions and special insights on the effectiveness of capital punishment in controlling and eliminating crimes. Overall, both Hugo and Mill provided succinct and reasonable arguments to support and strengthen their respective arguments. Nevertheless, Hugo’s article on “How to argue about the death penalty” made more sense because of its emphasis on the sanctity of life, the rule of law, and the application of due processes.



Work Cited

Hugo Adam Bedau, How to Argue About the Death Penalty, 25 ISRAELL. REV. 466, 479, (1991).

Mill,  John  Stuart.  1988.  “Speech  in  Defense  of  Capital  Punishment.”  In  The  Collected Works of John  Stuart  Mill,  vol.  28: Public and Parliamentary  Speeches  Part  I. Edited by John  M. Robson and Bruce  L.  Kinzer,  305-310.