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title:“James Wilsons Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention”
date written:1787-12-8

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:13 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Nov. 29, 2022, 3:29 a.m. UTC

"James Wilsons Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 2. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1976. 525-29. Print.

James Wilsons Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention (December 8, 1787)

JOHN SMILIE: (196) This system puts the government in a situation, in which the officers are not responsible.
(197) Every door is shut against democracy.
(198) It was the design and intention of the Convention to divest us of the liberty of trial by jury in civil cases; and to deprive us of the benefits of the common law.1
(199) The word "appeal" is a civil law term; and therefore the Convention meant to introduce the civil law.
(200) On an appeal the judges may set aside the verdict of a jury.
(201) Appeals are not admitted in the common law.
(202) If a jury give a false verdict, a writ of attaint lies or the verdict may be set aside. A writ of error lies as to matters of law; but on that writ the facts are not reexamined.
(203) 3. Bl. 378. Concerning trials by jury.
(204) 3. Bl. 392. The expense of civil law proceedings.
(205) 3. BL 390, 391. The propriety of new trials.
(206) 3. Bl. 452. Chancery frequently directs the trial of facts by a jury.
(207) 3. Bl. 336. Trial by witness is the only mode known to the civil law.
(208) The case of Forsey v. Cunningham, New York. Appeal to the governor and council. Reasons of the chief justice for the conduct of the judges.
(209) "All the appeals we have yet had have been in error."
(210) If such an attempt was made in England; what would the people of that country do? It would set the whole nation in a flame.
(211) Securing the trial by jury in criminal cases is worse than saying nothing.3
(212) The Convention might have said, that Congress should establish trials by jury in civil cases.4
Robert Whitehill: (213) Are we to trust all to judges, who will have their favorites?
(214) There is no security, by this Constitution, for people's houses or papers.
(215) Farmer's Letters, Letter 9. The king cannot punish till a person be found guilty by his peers. Excellence and description of trial by jury in criminal cases.
(216) These priviledges (described in the Letter) are not secured by this Constitution.
(217) The case of Mr. Wilkes, and the doctrine of general warrants show that judges may be corrupted.
(218) A wicked use may be made of search warrants.
(219) If such men execute as formed this Constitution, all alterations will be for the worse.
(220) The people will not submit to this government.
(221) Article 6, clauses 2 and 3 are concluding clauses that the state governments will be abolished.
(222) The oath here required is contrary to the oath required by the constitution of Pennsylvania. No member of Assebly will hereafter take the latter oath.
(223) The next thing will be to call conventions to alter the state governments.
(224) All our constitutions may be altered by treaties made by a few Senators.
(225) This lordly domination will not do.
(226) Our greatest liberties will, by this Constitution, be sacrificed to the will of men.
(227) The trial by jury is given up to the will of Congress.
McKean: I have read as well as heard the objections mentioned here, in the Centinel, Brutus, Cincinnatus.
William Findley: (228) The state has had but two months to consider this system.
(229) Trial by jury is not secured in civil cases as in criminal ones. It is at the mercy of the legislature.
(230) By the appellate clause, an appeal lies from the verdict of a jury, a thing hitherto unknown.
(231) Personal liberty cannot be enjoyed without trial by jury.
(232) All the northern countries have been zealous of freedom. Sweden till lately had trials by jury—and certainly a free government well-balanced, consisting of four branches.
William Findley: (233) Trial by jury is inconsistent with a complete aristocracy.
(234) The lower class of people will be oppressed without trial by jury.
(235) This part is explanatory of other parts of the plan.
(236) The people never expressed a wish to give up the trial by jury.
(237) In Pennsylvania the trial by jury must be by a jury of the proper county.
John Smilie:
(238) In all times a minority, contending for the rights of mankind, have been treated with contempt.
(239) The people should be represented, by juries, in the administration of justice.
(240) 3. Bl. 380. Every new tribunal, without jury, is a step towards an aristocracy.

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