Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

Corporal Punishment

The Guardian, February 15, 1930

Sir,—The permission given by the House of Commons for the introduction of Mr. Benson’s bill to abolish flogging is a sign of the change that has come even public opinion in regard to corporal, as well as capital, punishment, a change fully reflected in the press, as in the articles that have appeared in your columns, and also in the “Nation” and other papers. The stock objections to the discontinuance of the lash will, of course, still be used. Mr. Justice Roche has lately referred* to “an old saying” that in Liverpool garrotting was put down by flogging. If “old sayings” were to be accepted without test there would be few places where some crime or the other had not been put down in that way; but, as was pointed out in Mr. Collinson’s “Facts about Flogging,” there is no proof that this happened in Liverpool, while there is clear proof that it did not happen, as an old saying alleged, in London, where the ordinary law proved sufficient.

It is interesting to note what is said by the writer of the article on “Flogging” in the new edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”: “With a growing consciousness that punishment is not so much a deterrent to crime as had been supposed, flogging as a general practice has been abandoned.” He goes on (and here he fully confirms the opinion of your contributor ‘Artifex’*) to lay stress on the unwisdom of flogging children, inasmuch as it “is likely to undermine the whole mental and nervous system of a child.” Testimony to the same effect is given in Mr. M. D. Hill’s “From Eton to Elsewhere” (1928), where it is pointed out the “psychological effects” of such practices are the reverse of beneficial.

Surely it is time that an age which claims to be civilised should abandon these corporal punishments, which are alike* nasty and ineffective, degrading to those who inflict no less than to those who undergo them.

*texted not clear on original this is our guess.

Yours, &c.,

Henry S. Salt
21, Cleveland Road, Brighton