A Sixteenth Century Jury confronted Serjeant Hales in the Wynscott case. Judged by what he saw, the proceedings justified the indignation which expressed itself in his complaint to the Star Chamber. The discovery of the purse in the heap of timber, the re ported confession of the defendant, and its confirmation by the restitution of the money, seemed to make a plain case. But in truth it was but half the trial, and that the poorer half, in which the judge took part. He heard only the prosecutor and his two supporters, and the second-hand recital of the local magistrate. The Sheriff of Somerset, too, who sat as the other judge of assize, may have done his share in pressing the official theory of the case. Could Ser jeant Hales have shared with the jury what they knew he would not have been left with so pale and partial a picture. The spendthrift whose lands had slipped away from him; the thrifty rival who had prospered as the other had sunk; the night alarm; the excitement in the village; the discovery that the dread intrusion was only the old owner's drunken homing; the explosion of rustic mirth at Boldy's expense; the tempta tion to justify himself by a false charge and reclaim the situation from the farce into which it had fallen; his own capa city for so knavish a piece of work — had the judge known as much of all this as was known in the juryroom the story might have taken on another color. It is safe to guess that with a hearing for both sides and the opportunities given by a modern trial to get at the facts, the truth between Boldy and Wynscott would not have been hard to find. And the trial would have been not only more effective, but more dra matic as well. Jury trial under the old system must have been a tame affair. It is no accident that in all his wealth of legal allusions Shakespeare's refer
ences to the jury are so few and so slight. It would be different with a nineteenth century Shakespeare. But the point in the case which holds the imagination is no detail of procedure, but its human significance. Here were twelve English countrymen passing on the life4 of one of their neighbors. He was a fellow of little enough account — a common drunkard, who had wasted his substance and passed on to another village. The magistrates were convinced of his guilt and bent on his conviction — judges who were ready to make this complaint to the Star Chamber must have made plain enough to the jury during the trial the dangers of an ac quittal. Punishment of jurors was a familiar occurrence: witness the long imprisonment and heavy fines which were imposed on the men who were so bold as to acquit Throckmorton of high treason, and the savage treatment of William Penn's jury by the Recorder a hundred years later. Sometimes, no doubt, if the defendant enjoyed the favor of some great man, the jury found themselves between the devil and the deep sea; but poor John Wynscott had no such advantage, and nothing stood in the way of a conviction but their oaths and their consciences. Here were obstacles, no doubt. The questions pre sented themselves, why a burglar should go to sleep on the bed of the man whom he had just robbed, and prepare for slumber by locking himself in — or why if he had secured a friendly accessory to remove a part of his booty he should < There was benefit of clergy, indeed; but to be sure what this meant to Wynscott we should need to know whether this was his first collision with the criminal law, and whether his literary attain ments were sufficient tor his "neckverse." Also we should need some light on his matrimonial career, and even on Mrs. Wynscott's; for it was not until a year later that clergy was allowed to "bigamus" — that seemingly respectable person who "hath married two wives or one widow."