This Day in History
The Right to Trial By Jury


On a day like today in the 1840’s...

The right to a trial by a jury of peers - and by the law of the land - was guaranteed to every Englishman by the Magna Carta of 1215. This right of a fair trial - translated in our own constitution into the phrase “due process of law” - is one of the majestic concepts in the history of civilization. Until modern times, it was to be found only amongst English-speaking peoples. The English had carried it with them to their settlements in America, where it flourished. The Americans wrote it into most of their state constitutions, and, by the fifth and sixth articles of the Bill of Rights, included it into the federal. Nor was the concept of a fair trial limited to provision for a jury of one’s peers: the Bill of Rights also prohibited double jeopardy, cruel and unusual punishment, and self-incrimination; and specified that no one was to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. To this guarantee the Fourteenth Amendment added that no state might “deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the law” - a restriction only now taking on revolutionary significance.

From the beginning vast distances and limited means of transportation suggested that as people could not all come to some capital city, judges should “ride circuit” and hold court in county centers. Thus, the first constitution of Ohio required that the Supreme Court judges should hold court in every county once a year. Holding court and conducting trials in the rural areas was often a homely affair, as Mr. Künstler has so aptly illustrated.





September's Archived Features:

Wednesday September 1, 2021
Thursday September 2, 2021
Friday September 3, 2021
Saturday September 4, 2021
Sunday September 5, 2021
Monday September 6, 2021
Tuesday September 7, 2021
Wednesday September 8, 2021
Thursday September 9, 2021
Friday September 10, 2021
Saturday September 11, 2021
Sunday September 12, 2021
Monday September 13, 2021
Tuesday September 14, 2021
Wednesday September 15, 2021
Thursday September 16, 2021
Friday September 17, 2021

 

 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.