Boston: Charles Spear, 1845.
Newsprint bifolium (separated at centerfold), 12 x 17.25, pp. , printed recto and verso with text and two wood-engraved illustrations. Disbound from a larger volume, large chip missing to upper inner corner of both sheets, resulting small loss of text; fair to good overall. Reasonably well represented institutionally, but scarce in commerce.
Although a relatively minor figure among New England social reformers, Universalist minister Charles Spear was the foremost opponent of the death penalty. He was convinced that all men could be reformed, and that execution cut them off unreformed and unrepentant. In 1844, he published Essays on the Punishment of Death, and in 1845 he launched The Hangman and helped found the Massachusetts Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment (MSACP). By May 1845 The Hangman claimed more than 2,000 subscribers and a circulation of 5,000. Nonetheless, Spear's complete focus on "showing the entire inutility of the gallows" failed to retain a large enough audience to keep The Hangman afloat, and in 1846 he changed its name to The Prisoner's Friend and expanded its scope to prison reform in general. This early issue includes excerpts from debates held at the convention of the MSACP, including commentary by Hosea Ballou and Wendell Phillips; an eyewitness report on a recent execution in New York State; Spear's account of his visit to "the cell of a murderer" in New Hampshire; and a list of upcoming executions in Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. It also carries ads for other publications on capital punishment, as well as The Water-Cure Journal and a Thomsonian Infirmary and Botanic Medicine Store in Boston.