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Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
(1976)

B. The Dissent of the Minority of the Convention,   pp. 617-640


Page 633

B. DISSENT OF MINORITY/18 DEC.
fact can be established is by adopting the principles and practice of
the civil law; unless the United States should be drawn into the ab-
surdity of calling and swearing juries, merely for the purpose of con-
tradicting their verdicts, which would render juries contemptible
and worse than useless. 3d. That the courts to be established would
decide on all cases of law and equity, which is a well-known charac-
teristic of the civil law, and these courts would have conusance [cog-
nizance] not only of the laws of the United States and of treaties, and
of cases affecting ambassadors, but of all cases of admiralty and mari-
time jurisdiction, which last are matters belonging exclusively to the
civil law, in every nation in Christendom.
Not to enlarge upon the loss of the invaluable right of trial by an
unbiased jury, so dear to every friend of liberty, the monstrous ex-
pense and inconveniences of the mode of proceeding to be adopted
are such as will prove intolerable to the people of this country. The
lengthy proceedings of the civil law courts in the chancery of Eng-
land, and in the courts of Scotland and France, are such that few men
of moderate fortune can endure the expense of; the poor man must
therefore submit to the wealthy. Length of purse will too often pre-
vail against right and justice. For instance, we are told by the learned
Judge Blackstone, that a question only on the property of an ox, of
the value of three guineas, originating under the civil law proceedings
in Scotland, after many interlocutory orders and sentences below,
was carried at length from the court of sessions, the highest court in
that part of Great Britain, by way of appeal to the House of Lords,
where the question of law and fact was finally determined. He adds,
that no pique of spirit could in the court of king's bench or common
pleas at Westminster have given continuance to such a cause for a
tenth-part of the time, nor have cost a twentieth-part of the expense.
Yet the costs in the courts of king's bench and common pleas in Eng-
land are infinitely greater than those which the people of this country
have ever experienced. We abhor the idea of losing the transcendent
privilege of trial by jury, with the loss of which, it is remarked by the
same learned author, that in Sweden, the liberties of the commons
were extinguished by an aristocratic senate; and trial by jury and
the liberty of the people went out together. At the same time we re-
gret the intolerable delay, the enormous expenses and infinite vexation
to which the people of this country will be exposed from the volumi-
nous proceedings of the courts of civil law, and especially from the
appellate jurisdiction, by means of which a man may be drawn from
the utmost boundaries of this extensive country to the seat of the
supreme court of the nation to contend, perhaps with a wealthy and
powerful adversary. The consequence of this establishment will be
633


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