The Crime of Punishment

Capital Punishment & Cultural Change in American Life

by James Hitchcock

The campaign against capital punishment in the United States is ostensibly inspired by a heightened respect for human life, a growing realization that the taking of life by the state is itself an injustice. It is, however, at best problematic to claim that Americans, especially the liberal middle class, are more sensitive to human life than they were forty years ago. The phenomena of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, cloning, even selective infanticide, obviously belie this and require that an explanation be sought elsewhere.

To some extent the campaign against the death penalty follows a trajectory . . .

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James Hitchcock is Professor emeritus of History at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He and his late wife Helen have four daughters. His most recent book is the two-volume work, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2004). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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