Press enter after choosing selection

The Trials At Washington

The Trials At Washington image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

The goveiDinent is making a prodigioiis aiid fearful mwtake in the mode of ti al it has adopted for tho couspirators in the luto assnseination. It makes a doublé bluodjer. in faot, tirst in resorting toa military tribunal, and seaondly iu causing tlio proceedingg to be held in secret. What law is there for these rojlitary court nnw that the war lias ceased, now that tho President himself hf dcclared iu a i'crnial proelamation that the " armed resistance in cerhiiu States is virtually at an end," now that tke plea of necessity is wholly voided? The civil law is evcrywhere in the asoendant, and the ordiuary courts aro ocnipotent to any criminal inquest and deciaion. They possess the coDÜdenoe of the people, because their methoda of rriving at justice, maturod by the expcriunce of centunes, ara regular, eöective, well understood. But these military oemmissions are new things, as foroign to onr habits as they are uuknown to our laws, nnd whatevor is done by tlfem takos that color of force, or of governmontal dietatiou, which renders them suspeetcd in tho popular miud. - Judge and jury we know ; but Major Generáis und Judge Advocates, not with swords in their bands, but with pens bohind their ears, we do not know. The offenses, inureover, for which theae conspirators aro to be tried are not all military offenses. The killing of the President, who s also Cammander-inJhief of the army and navy, .-nay ba eonstrued into a military offense, but the attempt upon the life of the Secretary of State, an esclusivcly civil officer, was not of Ui at charactcr. As a crime it conieH wholly under the cognizance oí the civil law, and the perpetrators of it, criminal and atrocious os they may be, re vet shcltored by that provisión of the constitution whicii declares that '' no person shftll be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infainous crime, unless oo a preeenimout nr indictment of a grand jury, except in easep crising in the ' land or naval forcea or jn tbe rnilitia, ' whén in actual service, in tima of war ' or pubüc iianger." This is a positiva, f nnrppealcd, invaluablo muniment of the ' liberty oí the individual, and no ' intration has a right to set it aeide without ai)6wering for it to the people. - President Johnson has just as much right to procla.iin himself empuror morrow as Secretary Stanton has to ] aot these strango forms oí procedure. What renders tbis resort to an , al tribunal the more offensive is, that tho doors are to be closed during the trial. A military court is auffioiently objectionable, but a military court sitting with closed doors is infmitely more so ; it ie a sharceful departure from our legal ugages, and a disgraoe to a nation that boaats of its liberal, free and open institutious. The pretext that it will not be prudent to publish tho evidence aboutto oe given, boeause of the fears of the witnesses that they may orpose theinpelves to the mnhce of the unknown aecemplices of the criminal?, seetns to usa feeble one. It is a pretext that would dcfeat all public trinis in cases involving great deal of personal or political I sion. No community should give way to it. Is not our government strong enough, and our society orderly and well digposed enough, to proteot any man who does bis duty ? Every loyal house in the nation vpould furnish him a shelter, every loyal heart be ready to defend hts person. Beeides, let a proper examplo be made of the assassins we have caught alrcady ; let thera be hung speedily after a fair trial, and those we have not caugbt will disperse. Not one of them ií likely to be in a poaitioo or a jnopd to pursue his criminal ends, after the Confederaoy that hired him has been uxpjoded, aud the leading sooundreïsthat cocspirod with him have had their neoks slretched. We want a public trial, because it ia due to the people at home, to the people of the South, and to the people of foreign nations, that their judgments bo eatisfied of the entiro fairnoss and justice of the procedure. If the fata of Payne, AUerot and the otber wretches depended upon it only it would still be a matter of Bome importance, but not of so much importance as it is in other relations. - Our government, on the strength of evi" dence drawn from the confcBsions of these offenders, and from the witnesses to bo used in this trial, has proclaimed to the world the complicity of Jefferaon Dayis, ThornpsoD, Olay, Tucker, Sanders and Cleary, in the awful murder of Mr, Lincoln. It is a charge that must be fully sustained, not to rpcoil unpleasantly or injuriously upon the heads of its authors. The proof of it must be ampie, direct, unequivociil, of a kind to convince tbe general mind, to justify the issuing of puch a proclamalion, If it be deficiënt, doubtful, in tiirect. or liable to the suspicion of having been procured aud manipulated tbr effect, we Bhall havo put weapons into the, hands of the friends of thogo difitinguished rebels, to be wielded ín aid of their cause and in sympathy for their person. For ourselvcs we have little doubt that the prooi is complete and aatisfaotory, but it must be given to the public also in the most completo and satiafactory way. What au inconsústency it is that we. who boast of the free and popular charaoter of our institutions, should revive theso gecret eouFts, these military conclaves, these mysterious Vehm-Gerichte, t a time whon they hav.o buen duscarded even by the moparohies and despotisms of Europe ! When Henry the Fourth, of Frunce, was assassinated by llavaillac, though it was supposed that the wbolo Jesuit society stood behiüd the criminal, he was yet publicly tried in the regular courts. Balthaser Gerard, wko mürdered the wood Williarn the Sileut, was tried in that way, and of the num-eroua Italiana who at different tiiues ottempted tho life üt' Louis Phil ppe or Napoleon III., we ettnnot reuieiuber that a niuglo one was ever hauded over to military justiee. Shall we, at thia late dny, reuew a bad example eo happily abandoned ? Ilow (iangerous it 'a as a precedent, wo necd nol say, for that view of it is so obvious as to Buggest ittíolf to cvery iniud. If we may iry Harrohi, Payae ;u)d tbcir coufederate-, lij rnHitnry courts, how lo:ig vvili it be befoie we sba!l undertake ti) try other lesa uirocious oiïenders in the s;irno irrcgu'ar wny ? How Iodjj wilt it he b1 foro tho es iiblislicd jutiicial tjRtom is btií afido for uew í'angled aud imspoutiblü metliods? fet the peoplo think ol this, and let thein, through the jnurnaln, pi'olust üjjBínst ihe abuse.


Old News
Michigan Argus