Useful Quotations in Support of the Constitution and Trial By Jury

The rights and duty of a jury

If a juror feels that the statute involved in any criminal offence is unfair, of that infringes on the defendant’s natural God-given unalienable or constitutional rights, then it is his duty to affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime at all, for no one is bound to obey an unjust law.

US Chief Justice Harlan F Stone; Harvard Law review

Democracy (real meaning-and its prevalence)

It cannot be denied that the practice of submitting causes to the decision of twelve men was universal among all the northern tribes (of Europe) from the very remotest antiquity.

p. 32 Crabb’s ‘A History of English Law; or an Attempt to Trace the Rise, Progress and Successive Changes of the Common Law; from the Earliest Period to the Present Time’

Churchill, on Importance of Trial by Jury

The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government, whether Nazi of Communist.

Sir Winston Churchill. Excerpt of telegram from Cairo to UK Home Secretary November 21st 1943

Clarification on the Common Law and the Right of the Jury to Judge Law

These are the same laws and customs which were called by the general name of ’the law of the land’, or ‘the common law’, and with some slight additions, were embodied in Magna Carta. This oath not only forbid the king to enact any statutes contrary to the common law, but it proves that his statutes could be of no authority over the consciences of a jury since... it was one part of this very common law itself (that is, of the ancient “laws, customs and liberties” mentioned in the oath) that juries should judge of all questions that came before them, according to their own consciences independently of the legislation of the king.

Lysander Spooner, An essay on ‘Trial by Jury’ 1852

General Support of Trial by Jury

The Trial by Jury ever has been, and I trust ever will be, looked upon as the glory of the English law. It is the most transcendent privilege which any subject can enjoy or wish for, that he cannot be affected in his property, his liberty or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbours and equals.

Book 3, Blackstone’s Analysis of the Laws of England, p. 379

US Constitutional Convention - The Power of Jury Independence

If a juror or any citizen accepts as the law that which the judge states, then that juror or citizen has accepted the exercise of absolute authority of a government employee and has surrendered a power and right that was once the citizen’s safeguard of liberty. The saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while there was time.

Statement attributed by Bancroft in ‘History of the US Constitution’ to Judge Theophilus Parsons at the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention

Penn and Mead Case: Jury Independence

Near this site William Penn and William Mead were tried in 1670 for preaching to an unlawful assembly in Grace Church Street. This tablet commemorates the courage and endurance of the Jury, Thos [Thomas] Vere, Edward Bshell and ten others who refused to give a verdict against them although locked up without food for two nights and were fined for their final verdict of Not Guilty.

The case of the Jurymen was reviewed on a writ of Habeas Corpus and Chief Justice Vaughan delivered the opinion of the Court which established “The Right of Juries” to give their Verdict according to their Convictions.

The Right and Duty of Jurors to Judge on the Justice of the Law. The Commemorative Plaque, Old Bailey Law Courts, London

Hume describes Trial by Jury as...

An Institution admirable in itself, and the best calculated for the preservation of liberty and the administration of justice, that was ever devised by the wit of man.

David Hume’s History of England, Chapter 2

The Great Charter is Real Common Law

It is agreed by all our historians that the Great Charter of King John was, for the most part, compiled from the ancient customs of the realm, or the laws of Edward the Confessor; by which they mean the old common law, which was established under our Saxon princes.

Blackstone’s Introduction to the (Great) Charters; Blackstone’s Law Tracts, p. 289

The Great Charter is Real Common Law

It (Magna Carta) was for the most part declaratory of the principal grounds of the fundamental laws of England. They (Magna Carta and Carta de Foresta) were, for the most part, but declarations of the ancient common laws of England, to the observation and keeping whereof the king (the government) was bound and sworn.

Sir Edward Coke (Chief Justice), Preface to 2 Coke’s Institutes

Our Constitution pre-dates Magna Carta 1215

Alfred, Edgar and Edward the Confessor, were the great compilers and restorers of the English Laws.

Robert Kelham. P. 12 of Kelham’s Preliminary Discourse on the Laws of William the Conqueror

Alexis de Tocqueville on Trial by Jury

The jury ‘Is both the most effective way of establishing the people’s rule and the most efficient way of teaching them to rule


de Tocqueville described the jury as ‘a political institution embodying the sovereignty of the people’ and ‘the very best way of preparing a people to be free

(1988:273 - 274)

Under the Constitution, the King/Queen is not all-powerful

The king, so far from being invested with arbitrary power, was only considered as the first among the citizens; his authority depended more upon his personal qualities than on his station; he was even so far on a level with the people that a stated price was fixed for his head, and a legal fine was levied upon his murderer, which, though proportionate to his station and superior to that paid for the life of a subject, was a sensible mark of his subordination to the community.

See Appendix 1 of David Hume's History of England

The Jury were the Judges - and judged both Law and Fact

No cause of consequence was determined without the king's writ; for even in the county courts, of the debts which were above forty shillings, there issued a Justicies (commission) to the sheriff, to enable him to hold such a plea, where the suitors (jurors) are judges of the law and fact.

Introduction, p.19, Gilbert's History of the Common Pleas

Why the Coronation Oath us so important in Constitutional Law

Yet the English were very zealous for them [the laws of Edward the Confessor/Common Law] no less or otherwise than they are at this time for the Great Charter; insomuch that they were never satisfied till the said laws were reinforced, and mingled, for the most part, with the Coronation Oath of King William I, and some of his successors.

1 Hale’s History of Common Law, 157