Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI.: JURIES OF THE PRESENT DAY ILLEGAL. - An Essay on the Trial by Jury
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
CHAPTER VI.: JURIES OF THE PRESENT DAY ILLEGAL. - Lysander Spooner, An Essay on the Trial by Jury 
An Essay on the Trial by Jury (Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
JURIES OF THE PRESENT DAY ILLEGAL.
It may probably be safely asserted that there are, at this day, no legal juries, either in England or America. And if there are no legal juries, there is, of course, no legal trial, nor “judgment,” by jury.
In saying that there are probably no legal juries, I mean that there are probably no juries appointed in conformity with the principles of the common law.
The term jury is a technical one, derived from the common law; and when the American constitutions provide for the trial by jury, they provide for the common law trial by jury; and not merely for any trial by jury that the government itself may chance to invent, and call by that name. It is the thing, and not merely the name, that is guarantied. Any legislation, therefore, that infringes any essential principle of the common law, in the selection of jurors, is unconstitutional; and the juries selected in accordance with such legislation are, of course, illegal, and their judgments void.
It will also be shown, in a subsequent chapter,* that since Magna Carta, the legislative power in England (whether king or parliament) has never had any constitutional authority to infringe, by legislation, any essential principle of the common law in the selection of jurors. All such legislation is as much unconstitutional and void, as though it abolished the trial by jury altogether. In reality it does abolish it.
What, then, are the essential principles of the common law, controlling the selection of jurors?
They are two.
1. That all the freemen, or adult male members of the state, shall be eligible as jurors.*
Any legislation which requires the selection of jurors to be made from a less number of freemen than the whole, makes the jury selected an illegal one.
If a part only of the freemen, or members of the state, are eligible as jurors, the jury no longer represent “the country,” but only a part of “the country.”
If the selection of jurors can be restricted to any less number of freemen than the whole, it can be restricted to a very small proportion of the whole; and thus the government be taken out of the hands of “the country,” or the whole people, and be thrown into the hands of a few.
That, at common law, the whole body of freemen were eligible as jurors, is sufficiently proved, not only by the reason of the thing, but by the following evidence:
1. Everybody must be presumed eligible, until the contrary be shown. We have no evidence, that I am aware of, of a prior date to Magna Carta, to disprove that all freemen were eligible as jurors, unless it be the law of Ethelred, which requires that they be elderly† men. Since no specific age is given, it is probable, I think, that this statute meant nothing more than that they be more than twenty-one years old. If it meant anything more, it was probably contrary to the common law, and therefore void.
2. Since Magna Carta, we have evidence showing quite conclusively that all freemen, above the age of twenty-one years, were eligible as jurors.
The Mirror of Justices, (written within a century after Magna Carta,) in the section “Of Judges”—that is, jurors—says:
“All those who are not forbidden by law may be judges (jurors). To women it is forbidden by law that they be judges; and thence it is, that feme coverts are exempted to do suit in inferior courts. On the other part, a villein cannot be a judge, by reason of the two estates, which are repugnants; persons attainted of false judgments cannot be judges, nor infants, nor any under the age of twenty-one years, nor infected persons, nor idiots, nor madmen, nor deaf, nor dumb, nor parties in the pleas, nor men excommunicated by the bishop, nor criminal persons. * * And those who are not of the Christian faith cannot be judges, nor those who are out of the king’s allegiance.”
—Mirror of Justices, 59-60.
In the section “Of Inferior Courts,” it is said:
“From the first assemblies came consistories, which we now call courts, and that in divers places, and in divers manners; whereof the sheriffs held one monthly, or every five weeks, according to the greatness or largeness of the shires. And these courts are called county courts, where the judgment is by the suitors, if there be no writ, and is by warrant of jurisdiction ordinary. The other inferior courts are the courts of every lord of the fee, to the likeness of the hundred courts. * * There are other inferior courts which the bailiffs hold in every hundred, from three weeks to three weeks, by the suitors of the freeholders of the hundred. All the tenants within the fees are bounden to do their suit there, and that not for the service of their persons, but for the service of their fees. But women, infants within the age of twenty-one years, deaf, dumb, idiots, those who are indicted or appealed of mortal felony, before they be acquitted, diseased persons, and excommunicated persons are exempted from doing suit.”
—Mirror of Justices, 50-51.
In the section “Of the Sheriff’s Turns,” it is said:
“The sheriffs by ancient ordinances hold several meetings twice in the year in every hundred; where all the freeholders within the hundred are bound to appear for the service of their fees.”
—Mirror of Justices, 50.
The following statute was passed by Edward I., seventy years after Magna Carta:
“Forasmuch also as sheriffs, hundreders, and bailiffs of liberties, have used to grieve those which be placed under them, putting in assizes and juries men diseased and decrepit, and having continual or sudden disease; and men also that dwelled not in the country at the time of the summons; and summon also an unreasonable number of jurors, for to extort money from some of them, for letting them go in peace, and so the assizes and juries pass many times by poor men, and the rich abide at home by reason of their bribes; it is ordained that from henceforth in one assize no more shall be summoned than four and twenty; and old men above three score and ten years, being continually sick, or being diseased at the time of the summons, or not dwelling in that country, shall not be put in juries of petit assizes.”
—St. 13 Edward I., ch. 38. (1285.)
Although this command to the sheriffs and other officers, not to summon, as jurors, those who, from age and disease, were physically incapable of performing the duties, may not, of itself, afford any absolute or legal implication, by which we can determine precisely who were, and who were not, eligible as jurors at common law, yet the exceptions here made nevertheless carry a seeming confession with them that, at common law, all male adults were eligible as jurors.
But the main principle of the feudal system itself shows that all the full and free adult male members of the state—that is, all who were free born, and had not lost their civil rights by crime, or otherwise—must, at common law, have been eligible as jurors. What was that principle? It was, that the state rested for support upon the land, and not upon taxation levied upon the people personally. The lands of the country were considered the property of the state, and were made to support the state in this way. A portion of them was set apart to the king, the rents of which went to pay his personal and official expenditures, not including the maintenance of armies, or the administration of justice. War and the administration of justice were provided for in the following manner. The freemen, or the free-born adult male members of the state—who had not forfeited their political rights—were entitled to land of right, (until all the land was taken up,) on condition of their rendering certain military and civil services to the state. The military services consisted in serving personally as soldiers, or contributing an equivalent in horses, provisions, or other military supplies. The civil services consisted, among other things, in serving as jurors (and, it would appear, as witnesses) in the courts of justice. For these services they received no compensation other than the use of their lands. In this way the state was sustained; and the king had no power to levy additional burdens or taxes upon the people. The persons holding lands on these terms were called freeholders—in later times freemen—meaning free and full members of the state.
Now, as the principle of the system was that the freeholders held their lands of the state, on the condition of rendering these military and civil services as rents for their lands, the principle implies that all the freeholders were liable to these rents, and were therefore eligible as jurors. Indeed, I do not know that it has ever been doubted that, at common law, all the freeholders were eligible as jurors. If all had not been eligible, we unquestionably should have had abundant evidence of the exceptions. And if anybody, at this day, allege any exceptions, the burden will be on him to prove them. The presumption clearly is that all were eligible.
The first invasion, which I find made, by the English statutes, upon this common law principle, was made in 1285, seventy years after Magna Carta. It was then enacted as follows:
“Nor shall any be put in assizes or juries, though they ought to be taken in their own shire, that hold a tenement of less than the value of twenty shillings yearly. And if such assizes and juries be taken out of the shire, no one shall be placed in them who holds a tenement of less value than forty shillings yearly at the least, except such as be witnesses in deeds or other writings, whose presence is necessary, so that they be able to travel.”
—St. 13 Edward I., ch. 38. (1285.)
The next invasion of the common law, in this particular, was made in 1414, about two hundred years after Magna Carta, when it was enacted:
“That no person shall be admitted to pass in any inquest upon trial of the death of a man, nor in any inquest betwixt party and party in plea real, nor in plea personal, whereof the debt or the damage declared amount to forty marks, if the same person have not lands or tenements of the yearly value of forty shillings above all charges of the same.”
—2 Henry V., st. 2, ch. 3. (1414.)
Other statutes on this subject of the property qualifications of jurors, are given in the note.*
From these statutes it will be seen that, since 1285, seventy years after Magna Carta, the common law right of all free British subjects to eligibility as jurors has been abolished, and the qualifications of jurors have been made a subject of arbitrary legislation. In other words, the government has usurped the authority of selecting the jurors that were to sit in judgment upon its own acts. This is destroying the vital principle of the trial by jury itself, which is that the legislation of the government shall be subjected to the judgment of a tribunal, taken indiscriminately from the whole people, without any choice by the government, and over which the government can exercise no control. If the government can select the jurors, it will, of course, select those whom it supposes will be favorable to its enactments. And an exclusion of any of the freemen from eligibility is a selection of those not excluded.
It will be seen, from the statutes cited, that the most absolute authority over the jury box—that is, over the right of the people to sit in juries—has been usurped by the government; that the qualifications of jurors have been repeatedly changed, and made to vary from a freehold of ten shillings yearly, to one of “twenty pounds by the year at least above reprises.” They have also been made different, in the counties of Southampton, Surrey, and Sussex, from what they were in the other counties; different in Wales from what they were in England; and different in the city of London, and in the county of Middlesex, from what they were in any other part of the kingdom.
But this is not all. The government has not only assumed arbitrarily to classify the people, on the basis of property, but it has even assumed to give to some of its judges entire and absolute personal discretion in the selection of the jurors to be impanelled in criminal cases, as the following statutes show.
“Be it also ordained and enacted by the same authority, that all panels hereafter to be returned, which be not at the suit of any party, that shall be made and put in afore any justice of gaol delivery or justices of peace in their open sessions to inquire for the king, shall hereafter be reformed by additions and taking out of names of persons by discretion of the same justices before whom such panel shall be returned; and the same justices shall hereafter command the sheriff, or his ministers in his absence, to put other persons in the same panel by their discretions; and that panel so hereafter to be made, to be good and lawful. This act to endure only to the next Parliament.”
—11 Henry VII., ch. 24, sec. 6. (1495.)
This act was continued in force by 1 Henry VIII., ch. 11, (1509,) to the end of the then next Parliament.
It was reënacted, and made perpetual, by 3 Henry VIII., ch. 12. (1511.)
These acts gave unlimited authority to the king’s justices to pack juries at their discretion; and abolished the last vestige of the common law right of the people to sit as jurors, and judge of their own liberties, in the courts to which the acts applied.
Yet, as matters of law, these statutes were no more clear violations of the common law, the fundamental and paramount “law of the land,” than were those statutes which affixed the property qualifications before named; because, if the king, or the government, can select the jurors on the ground of property, it can select them on any other ground whatever.
Any infringement or restriction of the common law right of the whole body of the freemen of the kingdom to eligibility as jurors, was legally an abolition of the trial by jury itself. The juries no longer represented “the country,” but only a part of the country; that part, too, on whose favor the government chose to rely for the maintenance of its power, and which it therefore saw fit to select as being the most reliable instruments for its purposes of oppression towards the rest. And the selection was made on the same principle, on which tyrannical governments generally select their supporters, viz., that of conciliating those who would be most dangerous as enemies, and most powerful as friends—that is, the wealthy.*
These restrictions, or indeed any one of them, of the right of eligibility as jurors, was, in principle, a complete abolition of the English constitution; or, at least, of its most vital and valuable part. It was, in principle, an assertion of a right, on the part of the government, to select the individuals who were to determine the authority of its own laws, and the extent of its own powers. It was, therefore, in effect, the assertion of a right, on the part of the government itself, to determine its own powers, and the authority of its own legislation, over the people; and a denial of all right, on the part of the people, to judge of or determine their own liberties against the government. It was, therefore, in reality, a declaration of entire absolutism on the part of the government. It was an act as purely despotic, in principle, as would have been the express abolition of all juries whatsoever. By “the law of the land,” which the kings were sworn to maintain, every free adult male British subject was eligible to the jury box, with full power to exercise his own judgment as to the authority and obligation of every statute of the king, which might come before him. But the principle of these statutes (fixing the qualifications of jurors) is, that nobody is to sit in judgment upon the acts or legislation of the king, or the government, except those whom the government itself shall select for that purpose. A more complete subversion of the essential principles of the English constitution could not be devised.
The juries of England are illegal for another reason, viz., that the statutes cited require the jurors (except in London and a few other places) to be freeholders. All the other free British subjects are excluded; whereas, at common law, all such subjects are eligible to sit in juries, whether they be freeholders or not.
It is true, the ancient common law required the jurors to be freeholders; but the term freeholder no longer expresses the same idea that it did in the ancient common law; because no land is now holden in England on the same principle, or by the same tenure, as that on which all the land was held in the early times of the common law.
As has heretofore been mentioned, in the early times of the common law the land was considered the property of the state; and was all holden by the tenants, so called, (that is, holders,) on the condition of their rendering certain military and civil services to the state, (or to the king as the representative of the state,) under the name of rents. Those who held lands on these terms were called free tenants, that is, free holders—meaning free persons, or members of the state, holding lands—to distinguish them from villeins, or serfs, who were not members of the state, but held their lands by a more servile tenure, and also to distinguish them from persons of foreign birth, outlaws, and all other persons, who were not members of the state.
Every freeborn adult male Englishman (who had not lost his civil rights by crime or otherwise) was entitled to land of right; that is, by virtue of his civil freedom, or membership of the body politic. Every member of the state was therefore a freeholder; and every freeholder was a member of the state. And the members of the state were therefore called freeholders. But what is material to be observed, is, that a man’s right to land was an incident to his civil freedom; not his civil freedom an incident to his right to land. He was a freeholder because he was a freeborn member of the state; and not a freeborn member of the state because he was a freeholder; for this last would be an absurdity.
As the tenures of lands changed, the term freeholder lost its original significance, and no longer described a man who held land of the state by virtue of his civil freedom, but only one who held it in fee-simple—that is, free of any liability to military or civil services. But the government, in fixing the qualifications of jurors, has adhered to the term freeholder after that term has ceased to express the thing originally designated by it.
The principle, then, of the common law, was, that every freeman, or freeborn male Englishman, of adult age, &c., was eligible to sit in juries, by virtue of his civil freedom, or his being a member of the state, or body politic. But the principle of the present English statutes is, that a man shall have a right to sit in juries because he owns lands in fee-simple. At the common law a man was born to the right to sit in juries. By the present statutes he buys that right when he buys his land. And thus this, the greatest of all the political rights of an Englishman, has become a mere article of merchandise; a thing that is bought and sold in the market for what it will bring.
Of course, there can be no legality in such juries as these; but only in juries to which every free or natural born adult male Englishman is eligible.
The second essential principle of the common law, controlling the selection of jurors, is, that when the selection of the actual jurors comes to be made, (from the whole body of male adults,) that selection shall be made in some mode that excludes the possibility of choice on the part of the government.
Of course, this principle forbids the selection to be made by any officer of the government.
There seem to have been at least three modes of selecting the jurors, at the common law. 1. By lot.* 2. Two knights, or other freeholders, were appointed, (probably by the sheriff,) to select the jurors. 3. By the sheriff, bailiff, or other person, who held the court, or rather acted as its ministerial officer. Probably the latter mode may have been the most common, although there may be some doubt on this point.
At the common law the sheriffs, bailiffs, and other officers were chosen by the people, instead of being oppointed by the king. (4 Blackstone, 413. Introduction to Gilbert’s History of the Common Pleas, p. 2, note, and p. 4.) This has been shown in a former chapter.* At common law, therefore, jurors selected by these officers were legally selected, so far as the principle now under discussion is concerned; that is, they were not selected by any officer who was dependent on the government.
But in the year 1315, one hundred years after Magna Carta, the choice of sheriffs was taken from the people, and it was enacted:
“That the sheriffs shall henceforth be assigned by the chancellor, treasurer, barons of the exchequer, and by the justices. And in the absence of the chancellor, by the treasurer, barons and justice.”
—9 Edward II., st. 2. (1315.)
These officers, who appointed the sheriffs, were themselves appointed by the king, and held their offices during his pleasure. Their appointment of sheriffs was, therefore, equivalent to an appointment by the king himself. And the sheriffs, thus appointed, held their offices only during the pleasure of the king, and were of course mere tools of the king; and their selection of jurors was really a selection by the king himself. In this manner the king usurped the selection of the jurors who were to sit in judgment upon his own laws.
Here, then, was another usurpation, by which the common law trial by jury was destroyed, so far as related to the county courts, in which the sheriffs presided, and which were the most important courts of the kingdom. From this cause alone, if there were no other, there has not been a legal jury in a county court in England, for more than five hundred years.
In nearly or quite all the States of the United States the juries are illegal, for one or the other of the same reasons that make the juries in England illegal.
In order that the juries in the United States may be legal—that is, in accordance with the principles of the common law—it is necessary that every adult male member of the state should have his name in the jury box, or be eligible as a juror. Yet this is the case in hardly a single state.
In New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, the jurors are required to be freeholders. But this requirement is illegal, for the reason that the term freeholder, in this country, has no meaning analogous to the meaning it had in the ancient common law.
In Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Alabama, jurors are required to be “freeholders or householders.” Each of these requirements is illegal.
In Florida, they are required to be “householders.”
In Connecticut, Maine, Ohio, and Georgia, jurors are required to have the qualifications of “electors.”
In Virginia, they are required to have a property qualification of one hundred dollars.
In Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, certain civil authorities of the towns, cities, and counties are authorized to select, once in one, two, or three years, a certain number of the people—a small number compared with the whole—from whom jurors are to be taken when wanted; thus disfranchising all except the few thus selected.
In Maine and Vermont, the inhabitants, by vote in town meeting, have a veto upon the jurors selected by the authorities of the town.
In Massachusetts, the inhabitants, by vote in town meeting, can strike out any names inserted by the authorities, and insert others; thus making jurors elective by the people, and, of course, representatives only of a majority of the people.
In Illinois, the jurors are selected, for each term of court, by the county commissioners.
In North Carolina, “the courts of pleas and quarter sessions * * shall select the names of such persons only as are freeholders, and as are well qualified to act as jurors, &c.; thus giving the courts power to pack the juries.”—(Revised Statutes, 147.)
In Arkansas, too, “It shall be the duty of the county court of each county * * to make out and cause to be delivered to the sheriff a list of not less than sixteen, nor more than twenty-three persons, qualified to serve as grand jurors;” and the sheriff is to summon such persons to serve as grand jurors.
In Tennessee, also, the jurors are to be selected by the county courts.
In Georgia, the jurors are to be selected by “the justices of the inferior courts of each county, together with the sheriff and clerk, or a majority of them.”
In Alabama, “the sheriff, judge of the county court, and clerks of the circuit and county courts,” or “a majority of” them, select the jurors.
In Virginia, the jurors are selected by the sheriffs; but the sheriffs are appointed by the governor of the state, and that is enough to make the juries illegal. Probably the same objection lies against the legality of the juries in some other states.
How jurors are appointed, and what are their qualifications, in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Kentucky, Iowa, Texas, and California, I know not. There is little doubt that there is some valid objection to them, of the kinds already suggested, in all these states.
In regard to jurors in the courts of the United States, it is enacted, by act of Congress:
“That jurors to serve in the courts of the United States, in each state respectively, shall have the like qualifications, and be entitled to the like exemptions, as jurors of the highest court of law of such state now have and are entitled to, and shall hereafter, from time to time, have and be entitled to, and shall be designated by ballot, lot, or otherwise, according to the mode of forming such juries now practised and hereafter to be practised therein, in so far as such mode may be practicable by the courts of the United States, or the officers thereof; and for this purpose, the said courts shall have power to make all necessary rules and regulations for conforming the designation and empanelling of jurors, in substance, to the laws and usages now in force in such state; and, further, shall have power, by rule or order, from time to time, to conform the same to any change in these respects which may be hereafter adopted by the legislatures of the respective states for the state courts.”
—St. 1840, ch. 47, Statutes at Large, vol. 5, p. 394.
In this corrupt and lawless manner, Congress, instead of taking care to preserve the trial by jury, so far as they might, by providing for the appointment of legal juries—incomparably the most important of all our judicial tribunals, and the only ones on which the least reliance can be placed for the preservation of liberty—have given the selection of them over entirely to the control of an indefinite number of state legislatures, and thus authorized each state legislature to adapt the juries of the United States to the maintenance of any and every system of tyranny that may prevail in such state.
Congress have as much constitutional right to give over all the functions of the United States government into the hands of the state legislatures, to be exercised within each state in such manner as the legislature of such state shall please to exercise them, as they have to thus give up to these legislatures the selection of juries for the courts of the United States.
There has, probably, never been a legal jury, nor a legal trial by jury, in a single court of the United States, since the adoption of the constitution.
These facts show how much reliance can be placed in written constitutions, to control the action of the government, and preserve the liberties of the people.
If the real trial by jury had been preserved in the courts of the United States—that is, if we had had legal juries, and the jurors had known their rights—it is hardly probable that one tenth of the past legislation of Congress would ever have been enacted, or, at least, that, if enacted, it could have been enforced.
Probably the best mode of appointing jurors would be this: Let the names of all the adult male members of the state, in each township, be kept in a jury box, by the officers of the township; and when a court is to be held for a county or other district, let the officers of a sufficient number of townships be required (without seeing the names) to draw out a name from their boxes respectively, to be returned to the court as a juror. This mode of appointment would guard against collusion and selection; and juries so appointed would be likely to be a fair epitome of “the country.”
[* ] On the English Constitution.
[* ] Although all the freemen are legally eligible as jurors, any one may nevertheless be challenged and set aside, at the trial, for any special personal disqualification; such as mental or physical inability to perform the duties; having been convicted, or being under charge, of crime; interest, bias, &c. But it is clear that the common law allows none of these points to be determined by the court, but only by “triers.”
[† ] What was the precise meaning of the Saxon word, which I have here called elderly, I do not know. In the Latin translations it is rendered by seniores, which may perhaps mean simply those who have attained their majority.
[* ] In 1483 it was enacted, by a statute entitled “Of what credit and estate those jurors must be which shall be impanelled in the Sheriff’s Turn.”
“That no bailiff nor other officer from henceforth return or impanel any such person in any shire of England, to be taken or put in or upon any inquiry in any of the said Turns, but such as be of good name and fame, and having lands and tenements of freehold within the same shires, to the yearly value of twenty shillings at the least, or else lands and tenements helden by custom of manor, commonly called copy-hold, within the said shires, to the yearly value of twenty-six shillings eight pence over all charges at the least.”—1 Richard III., ch. 4. (1483.)
In 1486 it was enacted, “That the justices of the peace of every shire of this realm for the time being may take, by their discretion, an inquest, whereof every man shall have lands and tenements to the yearly value of forty shillings at the least, to inquire of the concealments of others,” &c., &c.—3 Henry VII., ch. 1. (1486.)
A statute passed in 1494, in regard to jurors in the city of London, enacts:
“That no person nor persons hereafter be impanelled, summoned, or sworn in any jury or inquest in courts within the same city, (of London,) except he be of lands, tenements, or goods and chattels, to the value of forty marks;* and that no person or persons hereafter be impanelled, summoned, nor sworn in any jury or inquest in any court within the said city, for lands or tenements, or action personal, wherein the debt or damage amounteth to the sum of forty marks, or above, except he be in lands, tenements, goods, or chattels, to the value of one hundred marks.”—11 Henry VII., ch. 21. (1494.)
The statute 4 Henry VIII., ch. 3, sec. 4, (1512) requires jurors in London to have “goods to the value of one hundred marks.”
In 1494 it was enacted that “It shall be lawful to every sheriff of the counties of Southampton, Surry, and Sussex, to impanel and summons twenty-four lawful men of such, inhabiting within the precinet of his or their turns, as owe suit to the same turn, whereof every one hath lands or freehold to the yearly value of ten shillings, or copy-hold lands to the yearly value of thirteen shillings four pence, above all charges within any of the said counties, or men of less livelihood, if there be not so many there, notwithstanding the statute of 1 Richard III., ch. 4. To endure to the next parliament.”—11 Henry VII., ch. 26. (1494.)
This statute was continued in force by 19 Henry VII., ch. 16. (1503.)
In 1531 it was enacted, “That every person or persons, being the king’s natural subject born, which either by the name of citizen, or of a freeman, or any other name, doth enjoy and use the liberties and privileges of any city, borough, or town corporate, where he dwelleth and maketh his abode, being worth in movable goods and substance to the clear value of forty pounds, be henceforth admitted in trials of murders and felonies in every sessions and gaol delivery, to be kept and holden in and for the liberty of such cities, boroughs, and towns corporate, albeit they have no freehold; any act, statute, use, custom, or ordinance to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.”—23 Henry VIII., ch. 13. (1531.)
In 1585 it was enacted, “That in all cases where any jurors to be returned for trial of any issue or issues joined in any of the Queen’s majesty’s courts of King’s Bench, Common Pleas, and the Exchequer, or before justices of assize, by the laws of this realm now in force, ought to have estate of freehold in lands, tenements, or hereditaments, of the clear yearly value of forty shillings, that in every such case the jurors that shall be returned from and after the end of this present session of parliament, shall every of them have estate of freehold in lands, tenements, or hereditaments, to the clear yearly value of four pounds at the least.”—27 Elizabeth, ch. 6. (1585.)
In 1664-5 it was enacted, “That all jurors (other than strangers upon trials per medictatem linguæ) who are to be returned for the trials of issues joined in any of (his) majesty’s courts of king’s bench, common pleas, or the exchequer, or before justices of assize, or nisi prius, oyer and terminer, gaol delivery, or general or quarter sessions of the peace, from and after the twentieth day of April, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and sixty-five, in any county of this realm of England, shall every of them then have, in their own name, or in trust for them, within the same county, twenty pounds by the year, at least, above reprises, in their own or their wives’ right, of freehold lands, or of ancient demesne, or of rents in fee, fee-tail, or for life. And that in every county within the dominion of Wales every such juror shall then, have, within the same, eight pounds by the year, at the least, above reprises, in manner aforesaid. All which persons having such estato as aforesaid are hereby enabled and made liable to be returned and serve as jurors for the trial of issues before the justices aforesaid, any law or statute to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding,”—16 and 17 Charles II., ch. 3. (1664-5.)
By a statute passed in 1692, jurors in England are to have landed estates of the value of ten pounds a year; and jurors in Wales to have similar estates of the realm of six pounds a year,—4 and 5 William and Mary, ch. 24, sec. 14. (1692.)
By the same statute, (sec. 18,) persons may be returned to serve upon the tales in any county of England, who shall have, within the same county, five pounds by the year, above reprises, in the manner aforesaid.
By St. 3 George II., ch. 25, sec. 19, 20, no one is to be a juror in London, who shall not be “an householder within the said city, and have lands, tenements, or personal estate, to the value of one hundred pounds.”
By another statute, applicable only to the county of Middlesex, it is enacted.
“That all leaseholders, upon leases where the improved rents or value shall amount to fifty pounds or upwards per annum, over and above all ground rents or other reservations payable by virtue of the said leases, shall be liable and obliged to serve upon juries when they shall be legally summoned for that purpose,”—4 George II., ch. 7, sec. 3. (1731.)
[* ] A mark was thirteen shillings and four pence.
[* ] Suppose these statutes, instead of disfranchising all whose freeholds were of less than the standard value fixed by the statutes, had disfranchised all whose freeholds were of greater value than the same standard—would anybody ever have doubted that such legislation was inconsistent with the English constitution; or that it amounted to an entire abolition of the trial by jury? Certainly not. Yet it was as clearly inconsistent with the common law, or the English constitution, to disfranchise those whose freeholds fell below any arbitrary standard fixed by the government, as it would have been to disfranchise all whose freeholds rose above that standard.
[* ]Lingard says: “These compurgators or jurors * * were sometimes * * drawn by lot.”—1 Lingard’s History of England, p. 300.
[* ] Chapter 4, p. 120, note.