Why do we say "One might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb"?

Well-Known Expressions

One might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb

Meaning:

If the punishment is the same for a major crime as for a minor one, you might as well commit the serious one.

Background:

"As good be hang'd for an old sheep as a young lamb."
From John Ray's collection of English Proverbs (1678)

John Ray (1627– 1705) was an English naturalist who is often said to be the father of English natural history. He was a great cataloger - of plants, animals and proverbs - and was the first person to produce a biological definition of a species in 1686:

"... no surer criterion for determining species has occurred to me than the distinguishing features that perpetuate themselves in propagation from seed. Thus, no matter what variations occur in the individuals or the species, if they spring from the seed of one and the same plant, they are accidental variations and not such as to distinguish a species... Animals likewise that differ specifically preserve their distinct species permanently; one species never springs from the seed of another nor vice versa."

Alphabetical list of expressions

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