The Death Penalty in America

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Despite the fact that most people, especially the younger generation, want to live in peace, there are still those who murder, rob, and break the law in many other ways, thereby harming those who surround them. Of course, where there is a crime, there is an equal punishment. There are various ways of punishing people, and one of them is the death penalty – executing people who committed the most terrible crimes. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the death penalty in America has changed over the years.

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It is possible to trace the history of the US death penalty back to colonial times. Researchers claim that “the first recorded death sentence and execution by firing squad was carried out in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1608” (Dwankowski, 2018, para. 1). The most common way of execution was public hanging, and crimes warranted the death penalty varied from trading with the Indians and heresy to the murder of husbands by wives or masters by slaves.

People were not against the death penalty until 1764 when the situation changed significantly. In that year, Cesare Beccaria, Italian jurist and philosopher, wrote an essay “On crimes and punishment,” and the movement of abolitionists gained momentum (Dwankowski, 2018, para. 3). Finally, in 1794, Pennsylvania decided to repeal the death penalty for all crimes except for the murders of the first degree (“History of the death penalty,” n.d.). Then, in 1834, it became the first state that moved executions out of the public eye (Baskin, 2018). In 1838, Alabama and Tennessee “enacted discretionary death penalty statutes: the circumstances of the crime were to be taken into consideration” (Dwankowski, 2018, para. 6). Moreover, in the nineteenth century, the gallows usage was condemned and forbidden, and more humane treatment of criminals was proclaimed.

Unfortunately, the conflict between the South and North during the Civil War made the death penalty’s opposition dwindle. That is why some new methods of execution like the electric chair appeared (“Early history of the death penalty,” n.d.). over the twentieth century, some states used to prohibit the death penalty and then restore it again. In the 1960s, the death penalty’s legality was questioned and challenged (“Constitutionality of the death penalty in America,” n.d.). However, in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, and nowadays, people continue being executed for various serious crimes.


Baskin, M. (2018). The death penalty in America: A lethal history. Pacific Standard. Web.

Constitutionality of the death penalty in America. (n.d.). Death Penalty Information Center. 2020. Web.

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Dwankowski, C. (2018). The death penalty – A brief history. Samfunnsfaglig Engelsk. Web.

Early history of the death penalty. (n.d.). Death Penalty Information Center. 2020, Web.

History of the death penalty. (n.d.). Death Penalty Information Center. 2020, Web.

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"The Death Penalty in America." DemoEssays, 20 Feb. 2022,


DemoEssays. (2022) 'The Death Penalty in America'. 20 February.


DemoEssays. 2022. "The Death Penalty in America." February 20, 2022.

1. DemoEssays. "The Death Penalty in America." February 20, 2022.


DemoEssays. "The Death Penalty in America." February 20, 2022.