rendered the whole line of descent from the person attainted, unworthy of personal confidence or public trust—too base, in fact, to be anything but slaves.
In England, attainder might befall a man in either of four ways:
(1.) By confession and abjuration of the realm.
(2.) By verdict of jury, founded on proof of guilt.
(3.) By outlawry, where the guilty person either fled or hid himself so as to be out of the reach of legal process,
(4.) By bill of attainder. ‘This was a bill passed in Parliament in the same manner as any other law. It named the person or persons to be attainted, declared them guilty, and pronounced sentence. It might, like any other bill, be passed by s bare majority, and for the most part, the accused was attainted for an act which was no crime, and against which there was no law when the act was performed, or the words uttered, for which he was condemned.
Nor was this all. It was not an uncommon practice to pass bills of attainder against a man after he was dead. These bills of attainder were a most powerful engine of tyranny and injustice. They might be passed against any political opponent who might happen to be in a minority; or against any man, after he was dead, whose property the King or Parliament might wish to secure. This most odious engine of despotism has been abolished in this country. Here, "no bills of attainder may he passed." But attainder itself—that is, loss of political and civil rights—is not abolished in this country. It may be inflicted as a penalty for treason or rebellion, or other crime, only it must be by trial and conviction; it cannot be by bill or mere act of Congress.
The consequences of attainder, however, were not generally, if ever, expressly declared and pronounced to be the punishment. They were consequences, which the sentence, pronounced by the court, or enacted in the bill, was said to "work," or draw after it. Just as with us—a man convicted of larceny, for example, and sentenced to the State Prison for a term of years. Nothing is said in the sentence of the court about loss of the society of his family—the control and management of his private affairs—the right to vote and be elected to office, &c.; and yet, all these are
- Of course, this idea was modified as the feudal tenures passed away, and the rights of the natural born subjects began to be recognized by the English laws.