A Sixteenth Century Jury ing, proceed, nor in any wise dissemble, but with the same shew forth my conscience, and if it were to do again, I would do no less than I did. Chan. Yea, master Hales, your conscience is known well enough, I know you lack no con science. Hales. My lord, you do may well to search your own conscience; for mine is better known to myself than to you: and to be plain, I did as well use justice in your said mass case by my conscience, as by law, wherein I am fully bent to stand in trial to the uttermost that can be objected. And if I have therein done any injury or wrong, let me be judged by the law; for I will seek no better defence, considering chiefly that it is my profession. ... I am not so perfect but I may err for lack of knowledge. But both in conscience, and such knowledge of the law as God hath given me, I will do nothing but I will maintain it, and abide in it: and if my goods and all that I have be not able to counterpoise the case, my body shall be ready to serve the turn. The spirit behind these words was proved by months of imprisonment, borne under conditions which at last broke Hales's spirit and ended with his suicide.6 It was the same spirit which a year later led eight of Throckmorton's jurors to scorn release by "confessing their fault" as the other four had done, and after suffering imprisonment for
- After the coroner's inquest had brought him in
felo de se, the Crown insisted on a forfeiture of an estate held by him and his wife jointly, and it was among the subtleties by which Lady Hales's counsel struggled to protect her that the gravedigger in Hamlet found his "crowner's quest law."
over six months to affirm that "they had done all things in that matter according to their knowledge and with good consciences, even as they should answer before God at the day of judg ment, and Lucar said openly before all the lords that they had done in the matter like honest men and true and faithful subjects" — a declaration which cost him a fine of £2000, while his fellows were fined sums ranging from £200 upward. It showed itself again in the quiet determination of Edward Bushell, the foreman of Penn's jury, in the face of the Recorder's threats to "set a mark upon him," and to "cut his nose," and "to have him carted about the city as in Edward Ill's time." And it was men of the same temper who faced the displeasure of the Lords in Council rather than convict John Wynscott when "they could not fynde in their conscyence" that he was guilty. Criticism and ridicule of the jury system are common, especially among those who imperfectly understand it. No doubt it is an expensive system, in the wasteof time and otherwise. Butwhether it is not worth all it costs is another ques tion. At least its critics must take into account much in its history that has endeared it to men of English blood, and consider whether some things of the same sort might be seen today if the observer had the right perspective.