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.

November's Archived Features:

Friday November 1, 2019
Saturday November 2, 2019
Sunday November 3, 2019
Monday November 4, 2019
Tuesday November 5, 2019
Wednesday November 6, 2019
Thursday November 7, 2019
Friday November 8, 2019
Saturday November 9, 2019
Sunday November 10, 2019
Monday November 11, 2019
Tuesday November 12, 2019
Wednesday November 13, 2019
Thursday November 14, 2019
Friday November 15, 2019
Saturday November 16, 2019
Sunday November 17, 2019
Monday November 18, 2019



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.