There Is No Jury Law At All
John Parker Hale of New Hampshire
United States Senate, December 6 1859

Sir, there have been some things in the public press that it requires a great degree of forbearance in the public mind of the free States to tolerate. There have been incitements to blood and to violence published in the papers of some of the slaveholding States. I think that in the Richmond Enquirer, if I am not mistaken, there was an advertisement offering a reward of $10,000 for the head of a distinguished citizen of Ohio - $10,000 if he was brought alive, or $5,000 for his dead body. Then, immediately upon that advertisement appearing, there came out a section of a public law passed here in 1846 - I have not got it before me - by which we undertook to confer upon the judges of the Federal courts authority to carry a citizen from any one State to any other State for the purpose of testifying in the Federal courts. A warrant for that purpose may be issued, I believe, upon the affidavit of any district attorney; and any Federal judge, in any State of the Union, may issue such a paper, and send it out and bring any individual before him. I desire to say a word on that proposition, and say it here and now, though it is not exactly germane to this resolution.

I do not know but that such a use as has been suggested may be attempted to be made of that provision of the law. I think the law was improvidently passed, because I believe this Federal Government has no sort of authority to take any citizen out of his State, except in the two instances that are provided for in the Constitution, and they are fugitives from justice and fugitives from labor; and, in my judgment, the amendment to the Constitution which secures to the people and to the States those rights which they have not surrendered, precludes the idea of any other power of taking a citizen out of his State; and if we had a Supreme Court where any question as to the rights of freemen was safe when brought in collision with those of slavery, the citizens of the free States would be perfectly safe there; but we have got no such Supreme Court. The tribunal which sits in this Capitol has shown that, in every question in which the rights of freemen of the free States are brought in collision with the requirements of slavery, its members are themselves the basest slaves of the slave power. They do not enjoy, and I thank God for it, nor are they entitled to, the confidence of the people of the free States. I hope, sir, that such a proceeding as has been intimated as finding its authority in the law referred to, will be resisted whenever the attempt is made. I hope that we shall find out in the progress of the history of this Government that our fathers actually left two tribunals, and that the States are not to be entirely swallowed up in this vortex of Federal usurpation. It looks to me as an omen of peculiar significance that the very politicians who a few years ago were loudest in their assertion of State rights, and relied upon that great conservative element in the Constitution for the preservation of public liberty, are now, today, the men who are the very foremost in trampling those rights under foot, and yielding anything and everything to the usurpations of the Federal Power.

Sir, if all the doctrines that have been proclaimed in relation to this Federal power are to prevail, and the free States are to submit to them, then we have no Confederation, but we have one great gigantic Federal central power that is embracing everything within its own grasp. They may do it, but I do hope, and I do trust in God, and in the people, too, that the usurpation of the Federal power, in this respect, will be taken heed of by the Legislatures of the free States, and that they will place their foot firmly upon the line of the Constitution, and say to any Federal officer coming with any precept from any tribunal, that when he trenches upon the sacred ground of State rights he will be resisted by all the force and all the power that the State can call to its aid. It is in this way, and in this way alone, that the liberties of the people can be preserved against the constant and the alarming encroachments of the Federal power sanctioned by the Federal judiciary. You cannot make any claim that they will not indorse. I judge of the future by the past, and as was said by a distinguished man, a good while ago, I know no better lamp to guide my feet than the light of experience, and experience teaches me that when freedom is brought in collision with slavery, the Supreme Court of the United States, and your whole Federal array, are all the basest slaves of power, striking down the most sacred guaranties and provisions of the Constitution.

Why, sir, the trials in your Federal courts, growing out of the attempt to enforce the fugitive slave law, are the most outrageous and the most monstrous perversions of justice that are to be found on record even in the bloodiest times of English history. They do not deserve to be named in the history of judicial proceedings; but when some man whose taste shall lead him to write a history of mobs shall give it, then the proceedings of your Federal courts will find an appropriate place, and not till then. They have got so now, sir, I believe, in some of the States, that there is no jury law at all, and if there is, it is not heeded. They send out a marshal and he catches whom he pleases for a jury, and, lest he may not catch the right sort, the judge undertakes to interrogate them to know, in the first place, what their opinions are; and if they have any scruples against rendering just exactly such a verdict as he wants, he will not let them be sworn; and they call that a jury-trial, and it is sanctioned by your hightest Federal judges!


The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C.
Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session, New Series...No. 1, Wednesday, December 7, 1859, page 8.