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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/701

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THE JURY SYSTEM.

suggest, that the jury, with the modifications I have pointed out, is well adapted for its special work—the finding of facts.

But even stronger are the reasons for retaining the jury as a political institution. Some one has tersely said that it is not so necessary that the people get justice as that they should think they do. While this is, perhaps, putting it a little too strongly, yet there is much truth in it. Judges are usually chosen from a rank far above the mass of litigants, and the latter doubtless often feel that they are appealing for justice to one who has but little in common with the class to which they belong. And at this time, when there is a strong tendency to lengthen the tenure of judicial offices, it would be dangerous to cut off the popular branch of our judicature. The question that most threatens this country at present is the question of capital and labor. The tyranny that menaces us is not the tyranny of kings, but that of corporate capital. Whether the bench is really corrupted by the vast moneyed interests of the country is not material to the issue, if there is a deep-rooted suspicion of it in the minds of the people. Most men would feel safer, in a contest with one of these modern leviathans, to submit the facts in dispute to twelve men called from the vicinage, but what twelve no one could point out until the litigants had made the last challenge and the jury is in the custody of a sworn officer and beyond the reach of corrupting influences. Juries are doubtless sometimes corrupt, and sometimes go wrong by mistake, but the verdict of a jury, however erroneous, affects only one case, and neither establishes a bad precedent nor materially lessens our confidence in the system. The verdict deciding only the facts of the particular case has no influence upon the rights of any but the parties to that suit, and it is altogether improbable that the same twelve men will ever be called upon to sit together to try another case. So, however erroneous may be the verdict, and although every one may concede that it is wrong, no serious consequences follow, and the litigants in the next case proceed with the usual confidence in the justice of their fellow-men. It is only those who have a bad cause, or have lost confidence in mankind, that fear the jury. But how is it with the judges? Instead of their power ending with a single case, in the Federal courts and in seven States of the Union they hold their offices during life, and in the others for a term ranging from six to twenty-one years; and our present cumbrous method of impeachment, which can be effectual for nothing less than a "high crime or misdemeanor," affords but slight protection against ignorance, tyranny, or even corruption on the bench. If through ignorance or prejudice a judge has arrived at a wrong conclusion in one case, and from that conclusion there is no appeal, how can he be trusted in the next. And, still more, if he has yielded to the corrupting influences of power, or, what is practically the same thing, if the people believe he has so yielded, in one case, who but the powerful can trust him afterward? Ignorance