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Essay on the Trial by Jury

Essay on the Trial by Jury by Lysander Spooner

FOR more than six hundred years that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215 there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge of the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws.

So begins Spooner’s epic on the jury, its origins and history. Spooner examines the history and powers of a jury, from the magna carta in King John’s time, to the practices in the 18th century. A classic work on law, Spooner argues that the decision of the jury is sovereign over the king’s law.

First Page:

Scanner's Note: I have made two changes in this text. First I have removed the footnotes to the end of each chapter and I have placed note 9 at the end of chapter 6 noting that because of the ratification of the XIX amendment to the Constitution for the United States, August 20, 1920, women were fully enfranchised with all rights of voting and jury service in all states of the Union. Other than the lack of italics and bold in this text and the typos (may they be few) this is the complete first edition text. Let me know of any mistakes you have caught! My email address's for now is and

David Reed

An Essay on the Trial By Jury By LYSANDER SPOONER

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by LYSANDER SPOONER

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

NOTICE TO ENGLISH PUBLISHERS The author claims the copyright of this book in England, on Common Law principles, without regard to acts of parliament; and if the main principle of the book itself be true, viz., that no legislation, in conflict with the Common Law, is of any validity, his claim is a legal one... Continue reading book >>

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