Quote of the Day: Thomas Jefferson & Other Founders Supporting Jury Trial for Civil Suits

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Tomorrow is the 222nd anniversary of the introduction by James Madison of the first proposed amendments to the Constitution, eventually the Bill of Rights, before the first Congress.

I posted long excerpts of Madison's remarks here on March 30, including the language of his amendment to protect the right to a jury trial for civil suits: In suits at common law, between man and man, the trial by jury, as one of the best securities to the rights of the people, ought to remain inviolate. Madison went on to describe that right "as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature."

Of course, he was one of many of the Founding Fathers who supported the unfettered right to a civil jury trial. Quote of the Day has been a feature of this website since I opened almost a year ago, in order to highlight the Founding Fathers' quotes in favor of the 7th Amendment. Here are more such quotes by Thomas Jefferson and other Founders and commentators:

I sincerely rejoice at the acceptance of our new constitution by nine States. It is a good canvas, on which some strokes only want retouching. What these are, I think are sufficiently manifested by the general voice from north to south, which calls for a bill of rights. It seems pretty generally understood, that this should go to juries, habeas corpus, standing armies, printing, religion and monopolies. I conceive there may be difficulty in finding general modifications of these, suited to the habits of all the States. But if such cannot be found, then it is better to establish trials by jury, the right of habeas corpus, freedom of the press and freedom of religion, in all cases, and to abolish standing armies in time of peace, and monopolies in all cases, than not to do it in any. The few cases wherein these things may do evil, cannot be weighed against the multitude wherein the want of them will do evil. In disputes between a foreigner and a native, a trial by jury may be improper. But if this exception cannot be agreed to, the remedy will be to model the jury by giving the mediatas linguae, in civil as well as criminal cases. Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, July 31, 1788.

In conformity with these principles, and from respect for the public sentiment on this subject, it is submitted, that the new constitution proposed for the government of the United States be bottomed upon a declaration or bill of rights, clearly and precisely stating the principles upon which this social compact is founded, to wit: ... that the trial by jury in criminal and civil cases, and the modes prescribed by the common law for the safety of life in criminal prosecutions shall be held sacred,... Richard Henry Lee, proposed amendments to the Constitution, October 16, 1787.

Your constitution further provides 'that in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the parties have a right to trial by jury, which ought to be held sacred.' ... Whether the trial by jury is to continue as your birth-right, the freemen of Pennsylvania, nay, of all America, are now called upon to declare... The late Convention have submitted to your consideration a plan of a new federal government--The subject is highly interesting to your future welfare--And it is worthy of remark, that there is no declaration of personal rights, premised in most free constitutions; and that trial by jury in civil cases is taken away... 'Centinel,' presumed to be "Antifederalist" Samuel Bryan, in letter to fellow Pennsylvanians, October 5, 1787.

If the federal constitution is to be construed so far in connection with the state constitutions, as to leave the trial by jury in civil causes, for instance, secured; on the same principles it would have left the trial by jury in criminal causes, the benefits of the writ of habeas corpus, &c. secured; they all stand on the same footing; they are the common rights of Americans, and have been recognized by the state constitutions... "Federal Farmer IV", another of the "Antifederalists," in letter of October 12, 1787.

These quotes are the seeds of our democracy, planted by our forefathers, nurtured and fed with the blood, toil, and sweat of two hundred years of Americans who served the cause of freedom.

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This page contains a single entry by Andrew Cochran published on June 7, 2011 3:12 PM.

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