Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXXII.

Trial by Jury, and its Incidents. - Definition of Treason.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

$ 228. That clause is · The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such trial 'shall be held in the State, where the said crimes shall have 'been committed. But when not committed within any State, 'the trial shall be at such place or places, as the Congress may

by law have directed.' The great object of a trial by Jury in criminal cases is to guard against a spirit of oppression and tyranny on the part of rulers, and against a spirit of violence and vindictiveness on the part of the people. Indeed, it is often more important to guard against the latter, than the former. The sympathies of all mankind are enlisted against the revenge and fury of a single despot; and every attempt will be made to screen his victims from punishment. But it is difficult to escape from the vengeance of an indignant people, roused into hatred by unfounded calumnies, or stimulated to cruelty by political enmity, and party jealousy. The appeal for safety under such circumstances can scarcely be made by the innocent in any other manner, than by the strict control of a Court of Justice, and the firm and impartial verdict of a Jury, sworn to do right, and guided solely by legal evidence, and a sense of duty.

§ 229. The trial, also, is to be in the State, where the crime has been committed; so that the party accused may not be dragged to remote places, at a distance from his friends and witnesses, and tried by those, who are utter strangers, and who may not feel a common interest or sympathy for his fate. But as crimes may be committed in places out of the limits of a State, as upon the high seas, it became necessary to give authority to Congress to provide for the trial in such

But even here we may perceive, from the language used, that the trial is to be in the place, which Congress may

cases.

[ocr errors]

have directed ; not in one, which it shall direct after the commission of the offence.

$ 230. In order to secure this great palladium of liberty, the trial by Jury in criminal cases, from all possibility of abuse, certain amendments have been made to the Constitution which add greatly to the original constitutional barriers against persecution and oppression. They are as follows: *No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or other infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment by a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval ' forces, or in the militia, when in actual service, in time of 'war or public danger. Nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.'

. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and District, wherein the crime shall have been committed ; which District shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of 'the accusation ; to be confronted with the witnesses against ' him ; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in ' his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.'

231. The utility and importance of most of these provisions are self-evident. They guard the party against false accusations, by requiring the interposition of a Grand Jury, before he can be put upon his defence. He is not to be harassed by more than one trial; he is not to be compelled to self-accusation ; he is not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property, but by the regular process of law. His trial is to be public, and speedy, so as to ensure a prompt acquittal, if he is innocent, and impartiality and responsibility on the

[ocr errors]

part of those engaged in the trial. The accusation is to be by indictment, or written accusation, so that he may be informed of the nature and cause of his accusation. He is to be tried in the presence of the witnesses, that he may

hear their evidence, and confront them. He is to have process to compel the attendance of witnesses in his favor ; and he is to have counsel to assist him in his defence. In despotic governments, many, and sometimes all, of these privileges are withheld from the accused. In England, in former arbitrary reigns, many of them were denied or evaded ; and even now, the accused is not allowed to have counsel to assist him in his defence in any capital offence, except treason.

$ 232. Another provision, that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation, is not less valuable, as it furnishes an important security against private persons being stripped of their property, under the fraudulent pretence, that it is necessary for public uses; or, if really for public uses, to an extent ruinous to their private fortune and support.

233. We may bring also into view in this place two other amendments of the Constitution, connected with the subject of crimes. One is designed to guard the citizens from unreasonable and illegal searches of their persons, houses, papers and effects, without probable cause of the commission of any offence; the other is to prevent Congress, as well as the Courts, from inflicting excessive and cruel punishments. The first is — The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, and effects, against unreasonable searches ' and seizures, shall not be violated. And no warrants shall 'issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirma‘tion, and particularly describing the place to be searched,

and the person or things to be seized.' Formerly, search warrants in a general form were issued from the State De. partment in England, authorizing officers to search houses and persons, without naming any persons or places in par

6

6

ticular, so that, under color of such warrants, every man's house in the kingdom might at the mere discretion of such officers be searched, without any ground of accusation. Such warrants were, however, held illegal by the Courts of Justice in England. And this amendment not only pronounces them illegal; but prevents Congress from passing any laws to give them effect.

$ 234. The second is — 'Excessive bail shall not be re'quired; nor excessive fines imposed ; nor cruel and unusual 'punishments inflicted.' A barrier is thus interposed against the use of those vindictive and atrocious punishments, which in former ages have disgraced the annals of many

nations. $ 235. The next section contains the definition of treason, a crime, which is very apt to rouse public resentment, and in party times to be extended by construction to embrace acts of very slight misconduct, and even of an innocent character. Free Governments, as well as despotic Governments, have too often been guilty of the most outrageous injustice to their own citizens and subjects upon accusations of this sort. They have been ready to accuse upon the most unsatisfactory evidence, and to convict upon the most slender proofs, some of their most distinguished and virtuous statesmen, as well as persons of inferior character. They have inflamed into the criminality of treason acts of just resistance to tyranny; and to torture a manly freedom of opinion into designs subversive of the Government. To guard against the recurrence of these evils the Constitution has declared

"Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving "them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of

treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open Court.' The punishment of treason has been already under our notice in another place.

§ 236. We have thus passed in review all those provisions of the Constitution, which concern the establishment,

[ocr errors]

jurisdiction, and duties, of the Judicial Department; and the rights and privileges of the citizens, connected with the administration of public justice.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

Privileges of Citizens. Fugitive Criminals and Slaves.

$ 237. The fourth article of the Constitution contains several important subjects, some of which have been already considered. Among those which remain for consideration, the first is, “The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all 'privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.' It is obvious, that if the citizens of the different States were to be deemed aliens to each other, they could not inherit, or hold, or purchase real estate, or possess any political or municipal privileges in any other State, than that, in which they were born. And the States would be at liberty to make laws, giving preferences of rights and offices, and even privileges in trade and business, to those, who were natives, over all other persons, who belonged to other States; or they might make invidious discriminations between the citizens of different States. Such a power would have a tendency to generate jealousies and discontents, injurious to the harmony of all the States. And, therefore, the Constitution has wisely created, as it were, a general citizenship, communicating to the citizens of each State, resident in another, all the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the citizens of the latter.

$ 238. The next clause is ~ 'A person, charged in any State with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee ' from justice, and be found in another State, shall, on de• mand of the Executive authority of the State, from which ' he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State, having

« ZurückWeiter »