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Jury Trial: No. Ii: For The Signal Of Liberty

Jury Trial: No. Ii: For The Signal Of Liberty image
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In my last I attempfrtd to show the high valuo put b)' the American people on the right of trial by jury. TLere is no principie so thoroughly intervovcn into the constitution and laws of every portion of our country, or which commends itselfso strongly to the judgment and feelings of the whole American peopte. It isso nümate-i ly incorjïorated into our wholo civil and criminal jurisprudence, that without it, the latter would bean unmeaning jargon. Trial by jury is the best security ever yetdevised for life, '.iberty and property and assuch cannot have too strong a hold on the judgment and affections of our peo)lc. Jt was established for the protectiott óf the poor man against the rich, of the weak the strong, of hm who has no helper, against him who might he to rich for the integnty or too powerful for thefearsof the single magisirafe on.tlic bench. The more feeble tfie individual !he more he is the subject of prejr.dice ;ind i ill wijl, the greater is bis necd ot" this har-' lier against injustice and oppression. Why is it, that in a case wherc ihei greatest interest are at stake and safe-! guards of tenfold strength are ncedeá, whero the conlest is between wéalth and j poverty, between power and weakness, betweerc the actors and sufferers in a scheme of oppression, we throw away the ! shield and break down the barricr, which centurieB hnve set up and rerrdered saercd ? Why is it without scruple and almost without reflection we viólate, and not only viólate, but as respecta one class of our citi-i zens, absoluiely nullify the most e??en- tial provisión of the Ordinance, the Con-; Btitution of the U. S. and our own State Consiitution ? Are these provisión un outvvard form - a mere show to riazzle and deceive, a whited sepulchre, beautiful without, but within fuil of dead men' bones? Alas! it is even so, and so wiü it remain till the people ariPn their might, and free themselve8 f rom that oriious,; truel, and most uncons'itution'il law of! Congress of 1793, passed by and for the] siaveholder and imposed by him on the i people of the free States. This law was sowell commented on in a late nuniber ofi the Signal, that it needs no additional observations in this communication as regnrds ita cnormity. Jt muy not be amfes however, to point out more distinctly its entiro incompatibility, its irrcconciluble opposition to that article in the Constifutipn of iho United States which declare, "Iu suitö at cr,-imon law, whcre the va ui; in controversy exceeds twenty dollar?, (he right of tnafby jury shali be proserved.1' Nowl "a peraon 'hold to labor" is claimed as property, and as property whose value cxceeds twenty dollars, and thoreforo the case comes directiy under that clause of the j con.s.Mtiition of which it id a palpable and di-1 reel vioktion. The clairn of the most is on'y on the 8Upposition tliat theperson claim-! w' is property and on no other supposi- lion can he be held to service or labor. - A stiït is iherefore brought for property; the parties are the claiman'.s arui the individual claimed, the om; claiming the olhcr, andthit other qiniming hinisolf, and lJle vahis in controversy oxcoeds twenty olíais to the onc party ivnd to the other exceeds all córaputatip. Shall we be told thatthc claimaot demanda "servico or lar"and not 'proncriy," the distinctton is lalseip faCt, and false in form; he claims nim himself, and uses him, and means to nse him, and claims hitn without disguise Jconcealinent for tho purpose of using nirn as property subject to (he same coníweralions, as those under which he uses any otller species of property- hs own god pleasurca and the laws of tho State wnere he resides. Jhe Constitution of the United States wo the act of 1793 are, then, directiy at "amnce. The latter is also directiy at vanance with the original compact of the Mr. Stevenson's letter to Lord Palmerson asserts 3 'by these laws (i. e. of the ?'ave states) therc is ia Hict no distinction (n principie between property in persons m property in things."Ordinance of 1787 and with our State Constitution. The practical question thcn for our State Legialature to determine ia to which of these it shall give effect. To what do the oaths of the members bind them? - to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States andof this State. An unconstitutional law, it is well known, has no validity, and it is palpable that. thé members of our Iegislature, are by theiroalhs, bound to guard the property ofevery citizen by a jury trial, and if a man is claimed as property, to decide that cluim between another and hirnself on the same principies, or at least on prineiples no less favorable to ihe latter. Are thee solemn oaths a mere puff of air, empty ns the breath with which they are made? Do ihey not bind the conscience nnd ought they not to regúlate the conductof our legislators? Can a legislatur swear to support the Constitution which provides that trial by jury shall bc inviolate, and yet either in legislaling direclly or omitiinj; to legislafe, leave hundredsof citizens of thisbí;ttc (it any claim be made on their persons) in (he absolute power ofany one of our thousand justiees vvithin whose jurisdiction they may happen to be, and yet that man lay his hand on hjs heart and nver that he has kopt his onth? The law of the U. S. which was thus passed in violation of the Constiluíion for a most unrighieous purpose - as such laws usu:illy are - was the fruit of a shocking tyranny, which, not content with preyiug on its wretched victitn at home, ivould extend its grosp into the laad of freedom, and in order to secure one slave cndanger the liberiy ofhundreds of freemen. Tliere are, f I mtstake not, 400 persons of color in the State, nearly all undoubted freemen. It is a perfectly safe calculalion that there are nine such to every slave. - The proportion is probably much greater, but that is immaterial to my argument. Supposing the right of the slaveholder to every tenth person of color among us, or 40 in the whole, have they any right to claim that the remaining 3G0 shall be insecure in their liberty, that ihey may have a better chance oí' asseriing their claim to the former? The proposition is monstrous, - 3G0 persons, our own citizcn?, many of them bom on our soil anti nurturcd in our midst, Hable to be stripped of every right, natural and moral, at the iudgment of onemun, possibly ignorant, probably prejudi= dal, and certainly fallible, in order that a claim of property may be more easily established over 40 other persons in violation ofiheir natural righte. lt is difficult to Cviiceive of a greater outrage under the forms of law. A state which can allow tho rights of any porlion of its citizens to be thus trampled on, is unworthy of its liberty. In the case ofour free people of color, there is not only no adequate protection for thoir liberty, luit an absolute lure to the most ódious and despicable of mankind - the class of negro-catchers to prey upon them. Tnere is probably now no so sure mode of procuring by theft or robbery 5 or $000 sis for an unprincipled man of this proverbially unprincipled class to pounce upon some unsuspecting person of color, and by the oath of u confedérate, (a service easily repaid in kind) procure the certifícate of a Justice, and hurry off this victim to the great southern prieonhouse. ís such u state of lhinrs to beThe number of free colored persons in this State, as appears by the census, was 707. - [jE. Signal.