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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/703

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THE JURY SYSTEM.

proposed change. It is suggested that, instead of a jury of twelve untrained men, three or five judges experienced in the law should determine both the law and the fact, and that such decision be final. This would certainly have the virtue of producing speedy justice, if justice at all. But what would be the result? Let us suppose a case. The Legislature passes a law which the judicial tribunal of one county holds to be unconstitutional, while that of another county declares it constitutional, and in two other counties it is construed to mean two quite different things, and so on through fifty counties, each of which has an independent, distinct, and final judicature. We see at a glance that there must be one supreme judicature whose jurisdiction is conterminous with that of the Legislature, whose will it interprets. The confusion now existing between the thirty-eight States in this regard is the source of much regret, and might have been fatal to the existence of the Union had it not been for the Federal Supreme Court, whose silent but constant influence gradually overcame the violence of contending factions. Then, by whatever tribunal cases are first tried, we must always have one Supreme or Appellate Court, and it is fair to presume that about as many cases would find their way into the higher courts, if first tried to the court, as if tried by a jury. And the proposed system would have the further disadvantage that, the higher a case were carried through the successive tribunals, the less would be the probability of a correct determination of the facts. While the appellate tribunals are usually best qualified to settle a question of law, they are, from their technical training and tendency to generalize, least qualified to determine a question of fact. Nor can we reasonably expect a reduction in expense by employing high-salaried specialists to do that which the ordinary laymen can do much better.

It is suggested, however, that justice would more certainly be meted out to litigants if the whole subject of controversy were in the hands of a few experienced men. Might not the same be said of the legislative branch of our Government? A score of well-trained lawyers could doubtless enact a more consistent and probably a better code of laws than any of our heterogeneous Legislatures, yet this would scarcely induce the people to make the change. Indeed, the strongest, cheapest, and best government is an absolute despotism in the hands of a strong, wise, good man. But the character of an institution ought to be estimated by its effects on the people, and that is on the whole the best which produces the best results. It is not only what people are called upon to actually do, but also the possibilities that lie before them, that affects their character. The occasional deposit of a ballot is not of itself much of a public education, but the possibilities and responsibilities that the elective franchise brings with it can scarcely be overestimated in their influence on the character of a people. Much the same is the influence of the popular branch of our system of judicature. While the direct influence of sitting occasion-