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Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume IV (1876-1877)

Caverno, Charles
The abolition of the jury system,   pp. 7-18 PDF (3.4 MB)


Page 10


-10     Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters.
   Trial by jury may be a palladium of British liberty, but Brit-
 .ain has had wit enough not to trust her invaluable marine inter-
 ests to landlubber juries.  It is readily apparent why this excep-
 tion is made. The ordinary citizen cannot pass understandingly
 upon matters so technical and peculiar as maritime business in-
 volves.
   But then, is it not apparent that all business is rapidly tending
 to infold the same difficulty? Can marine affairs present any
 greater difficulties to an ordinary jury than arise out of the in-
 dustries we are now plying on land? If it is undesirable to have
 juries pass upon shipping interests, how comes it desirable to
 have them pass upon cases which spring out of railway business,
 out of manufacturing, patents, telegraphy, banking?
   Is not commerce by land becoming as technical and peculiar as
 commerce by sea?
   If there were no objections to the character of juries as ordi-
 narily raised, yet the tendency of all business to what Herbert
 Spencer would call greater "heterogeneity," is reason
enough for
 the abolition of the jury system in all civil cases.
   The lot cannot any longer be expected to select a man for a
 juror who can in any wise be of any assistance to a court or to
 parties litigant. Originally the jury was called not only to aid
 the court with information which they possessed, instead of being
 instructed by the court, as now, by the impartation of both fact
 and law, but for generations it was only upon one kind of matter
 of dispute that the aid of a jury was sought.
   Questions respecting titles to land called into existence the in-
stitution of the jury. The expression, " a jury of the vicinage,"
preserves to us a reminiscence of the day when the sole business
of a jury was to give the court information in respect to posses-
sion and reputed title to land in their vicinage.
   In the commotions consequent upon the Norman conquest,
questions of this kind were frequent.
   Titles rested not in record but in possession. Twelve men
front the vicinage could tell the court who had been in pos-
session of a certain piece of land, or along what line of de-
scent it was reputed among them that possession came. That


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