Trial by Jury in the United States of America

In the United States today, both sides of the political aisle like to invoke the principles of our founding fathers. It doesn’t matter the subject, no matter how important or trivial, Democrats and Republicans claim to be upholding the Constitution. So what did our founding fathers actually say about the right to a trial by jury? Below are a few quotes: 

Without trial by jury we have no way to keep us from being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, fed like swine and clothed like hounds. John Adams (1774)

I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution. Thomas Jefferson (1788)

Trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any of the pre-existent rights of the nature. James Madison (1789)

The friends and adversaries of the plan of the constitutional convention, if they agree on nothing else, concur at least in the value they set upon trial by jury; the former regard it as a valuable safe guard to liberty; the latter present it as the palladium of free government. Alexander Hamilton (1788)

I am especially interested in what John Adams had to say about the right to a trial by jury in civil cases because he was a practicing attorney before devoting himself full time to public life. After obtaining a law degree from Harvard, he supported himself and his family by representing people in civil and criminal matters throughout the Massachusetts Circuit. He traveled throughout present day New England trying cases. He was a trial lawyer. Therefore, John Adams had in depth understanding of the importance the civil jury trial system.

Share