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The Social Security Act came to be because of two separate factors, the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression. You see, before these two events which shaped the United States to what we know it as today security for the elderly came from another source. In this time prior to the 1930’s America was almost entirely an agricultural nation. A typical life in this period would be to grow up on the farm working the land until you were too old to do so. Once this occurred your extended family would take care of you until you passed away, so there was no need for social security. But, as all good things must come to an end so did this fairy tale world where blood actually was thicker than water. The industrial revolution was what started it making the extended family and the family farm less common sources of financial security. Then, the Great Depression finished this metamorphosis off so to speak by making things so economically difficult that it was every immediate family for themselves. And so the Social Security Act was born.

On June 8th, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt first spoke of his idea of a social security program to Congress. To tackle the actual creation of such a policy the President appointed by Executive Order the Committee on Economic Security. The committee was told to examine the entire problem of economic insecurity and to then devise a plan to help those most in need. In early 1935 the committee made its report to President Roosevelt and by January 17th he had introduced the findings of the committee to both houses of Congress so that there idea could be considered. Soon the houses were able to come to majority decision as the Social Security Act was signed into law on August 14th 1935.

One of the first things that this act did was establish a bipartisan Social Security Board made up of 3 members who were chosen by the president. The original members of this board included John G. Winant, Arthur J. Altmeyer, and Vincent M. Miles. The duties of the SSB encompassed such things as delegating to the public how earnings were to be reported and what benefits were available to them. For Social Security to be effective though the United States government had much more to do. The biggest thing on this to-do list was to register all employers and employees by the deadline January 1, 1937 when they would start receiving credits towards their old age insurance benefits. To do this the government contracted with the United States Postal Service to deliver applications to the American people. Over 35 million SSN cards were issued via this mass registration between 1936 and 1937 alone.

Through the Social Security Act monthly benefits were to begin in 1942. So from 1937 up until then the U.S. paid out single lump-sum payments to retirees. The first man to receive such a payment was Ernest Ackerman, a retired Cleveland motorman. Acker retired only one day after the act began and so he received a payment for only 17 cents. This was far below the average of the time of $58.06.

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The execution of fellow human beings in the pursuit of justice is as old as human history. What began thousands of years ago as a profound method of retribution involving not only the families of the victims but often the whole town; has grown and shrunk, widened and narrowed, and within the last hundred years gradually been reduced to a small minority of countries still executing their citizens for convicted crimes. It is an issue strife with controversy, and is always surrounded by debate whenever approached.

This paper will address the history of the death penalty, from the far and distant past, though history until we reach the death penalty that we are familiar with today. We will specifically address Capital Punishment within the United States, how our citizens view it and how citizens of other countries view the U.S. We will address Capital Punishment and the law, both within the Federal Legal system and the State legal systems.

Finally, we will conclude with a view into the validity of capital punishment as a useful tool within today’s society, how effective America’s legal system is in meting out accurate justice, and a glimpse into some alternate measures that could be implemented in place of the death penalty.

Stoning was the earliest form of execution with recorded stoning dating back to 3000 – 1000 B.C. There was no formal legal process at the time; therefore early executions by stoning were unceremonious and brutal affairs. A typical stoning would consist of a family member of the harmed party or a witness to the crime placing a hand on the head of the offender in order “to mark them for execution”. At this point, either one of the family members or the witness would cast the first stone. If he could not produce death alone, then the bystanders would hurl them also. As laws began to develop, Jewish law set forth a more involved execution ritual involving two witnesses, but the rudiments remained the same. “When the offender came within four cubits of the place of execution, he was stripped naked, only leaving a covering before, and his hands being bound was led up to the fatal place, which was an eminence twice a man’s height. The first executioner’s of the sentence were the witnesses, who generally pulled off their clothes for the purpose: one of them threw him down with great violence upon his loins: if he rolled upon his breast, he was turned upon his loins again, and if he died by the fall there was an end; but if not, the other witnesses took a great stone and dashed it upon his breast as he lay upon his back; and then, if he was not dispatched, all the people that stood by threw stones at him till he died.” (Johnson 11)

As history progressed more involved methods of execution were devised coupled with different forms of legal proceedings. Hanging by strangulation became a method of choice throughout much of the then “civilized world”. In the Middle Ages, executions became a sort of pageantry, involving the whole town in a form of brutal entertainment.

After being convicted of a crime and sentenced to death (Confessions were usually produced through torture immediately following capture) an elaborate ceremony followed in the town square. The accused would be paraded through the crowd, who were encouraged to heckle and ridicule. The accused was then led up before a nobleman or priest of the King’s courts who would notify him of his crime and pronounce him to be sentenced to death through various forms of mutilation and torture. Some of the more popular procedures were, hang the person, cut them down immediately prior to death, and then disembowel or carve out his intestines and cut him into four pieces (This is commonly known as “to draw and quarter”. Another method was known as “breaking on the wheel” The accused was placed upon a wheel-like platform. The executioner then proceeded to break the arms and legs of the accused with a heavy iron bar. The mangled remains were then turned rapidly, scattering gore about, until the victim was dead. Another popular medieval execution was “sawing the victim in pieces”, in this type, the accused would be strung up by his feet, and then sawed vertically in half, of course while still alive.

For certain crimes, the laws specified exactly what was to be done to the victim, down to the details to be performed on specific body parts. One such example of this follows, “Ye do respectively go to the place from whence ye came; from thence to be drawn upon a sledge to the place of execution, to be there hanged up by the neck, to be cut down while ye are yet alive, to have your hearts and bowels taken out before your faces, and your members cut off and burnt. Your heads severed from your bodies and your bodies disposed into quarters, your heads and bodies respectively disposed of according to the king’s will and pleasure; and the lord have mercy on your souls.” (Johnson 14) Needless to say executions of today are a little less violent than in the past.

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