THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY AND THE ISSUE OF TRIAL BY JURY
Luther Martin of Maryland, like Robert Yates, John Lansing, and Elbridge Gerry, quit the federal constitutional convention and ardently opposed the ratification of the Constitution. A famous lawyer and orator, his Genuine Information, Delivered to the Legislature of the State of Maryland. . . . was widely quoted by Antifederalists. The following selection, taken from this tract, succinctly underscores Antifederalist fears that the English heritage of trial by jury would, in essence, be removed by the proposed Constitution. The selection is reprinted from Elliot, I, 380-82.
. . . . in all those cases, where the general government has jurisdiction in civil questions, the proposed Constitution not only makes no provision for the trial by jury in the first instance, but, by its appellate jurisdiction, absolutely takes away that inestimable privilege, since it expressly declares the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact. Should, therefore, a jury be adopted in the inferior court, it would only be a needless expense, since, on an appeal, the determination of that jury, even on questions of fact, however honest and upright, is to be of no possible effect. The Supreme Court is to take up all questions of fact; to examine the evidence relative thereto; to decide upon them, in the same manner as if they had never been tried by a jury. Nor is trial by jury secured in criminal cases. It is true that, in the first instance, in the inferior court, the trial is to be by jury. In this, and in this only, is the difference between criminal and civil cases. But, sir, the appellate jurisdiction extends, as I have observed, to cases criminal, as well as civil, and on the appeal the court is to decide not only on the law but on the fact. If, therefore, even in criminal cases, the general government is not satisfied with the verdict of the jury, its officer may remove the prosecution to the Supreme Court; and there the verdict of the jury is to be of no effect, but the judges of this court are to decide upon the fact as well as the law, the same as in civil cases.
Thus, sir, jury trials, which have ever been the boast of the English constitution--which have been by our several state constitutions so cautiously secured to us--jury trials, which have so long been considered the surest barrier against arbitrary power, and the palladium of liberty, with the loss of which the loss of our freedom may be dated, are taken away by the proposed form of government, not only in a great variety of questions between individual and individual, but in every case, whether civil or criminal, arising under the laws of the United States, or the execution of those laws. It is taken away in those very cases where, of all others, it is most essential for our liberty to have it sacredly guarded and preserved: in every case, whether civil or criminal, between government and its officers on the one part, and the subject or citizen on the other. Nor was this the effect of inattention, nor did it arise from any real difficulty in establishing and securing jury trials by the proposed Constitution if the Convention had wished to