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a member of Congress from Vermont. Lyon was a witty, red-faced Irishman who had come to America when a boy as a redemptioner, had served in the Revolution, had acquired large property including a leading newspaper, the Vermont Gazette, and had a seat in the House of Representatives. He was a rabid Republican, and the Federalists, who thoroughly hated him, called him the wild Irishman. With one of their number, Griswold, he had a rough and tumble fight on the floor of the House. Scarcely had the Sedition Act become a law, when Lyon was arrested for publishing in his newspaper a letter from himself which denounced the President's Fast Day proclamation as using the "sacred name of religion as a state engine to make mankind hate and persecute each other," lamented that "every consideration of the public welfare was swallowed up in a continual grasp for power, and unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation and selfish avarice," and that while good men were turned away for "independency of sentiment, mean men" got places. Another count charged him with printing a letter from France in which the writer expressed surprise that the answer of the House to a recent speech of President Adams had not been "an order to send him to a madhouse."
When the trial came on, he conducted his own case. He
the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh Congresses, retiring in 1811, having previously refused the commissaryship of the Western army tendered to him by Mr. Jefferson. After his withdrawal from Congress, Mr. Lyon (or Col. Lyon, as he appears by this time to have been called) returned to Kentucky, where a short time afterwards he received from Mr. Monroe the appointment of United States factor for the Cherokee nation. This drew him west of the Mississippi, and though by this time an old man, he displayed in the uncleared plains of the then outskirts of the Union the same surprising activity that he had shown in the once border lands of Vermont and Kentucky. He engaged on a considerable scale in commerce on the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. "On August 1, 1822, at Spadre Bluff, in his seventy-seventh year, died Matthew Lyon, loved as a neighbor, for he was full of that chivalrous spirit of generosity which is not a strange inmate of an Irish heart; and valued as a friend, for upon that warm temperament had been grafted the fertility of expedients belonging to the American pioneer." Wharton, p. 344. In 1840 Congress ordered that the fine imposed at the trial in 1798 should with interest be refunded to his heirs.
attempted to prove the truth of his own charges by making a witness of the Judge. Have you not, asked Lyon, have you not often dined with the President and seen his ridiculous pomp and parade? The Judge protested that on such occasions he had seen only a decent simplicity, and when the verdict of guilty was returned, scolded the prisoner, fined him one thousand dollars, and committed him to jail for four months.2
His friends got up a petition for his pardon, but as he refused to sign it, the President refused to pardon him. But he was triumphantly re-elected to Congress while still in prison.3
In the United States Circuit Court, Vergennes, Vermont, October, 1798.
HON. WILLIAM PATTERSON,5
HON. SAMUEL HITCHCOCK,
The Prisoner having been arrested immediately after the finding of the indictment, appeared today and pleaded not guilty.
Charles Marsh,' District Attorney, for the Government.
2 McMaster Hist. People U. S.
3 Elson Hist. U. S. 210.
4 See 4 Am. St. Tr. 616.
5 See 4 Am. St. Tr. 638.
6 HITCHCOCK, SAMUEL. (1755-1813.) Born Brimfield, Mass. Graduated Harvard, 1777. Read law with Jedediah Foster, Brookfield, Mass. Removed to Burlington, Vt., 1786, to practice law. States Attorney, Chittenden County, 1787-1790. Representative, 1789-1793. Member of convention of Vermont to ratify the Constitution (Bennington), 1791. Trustee and Secretary Vermont University, 17911800. Attorney General, 1796. Member of Second Electoral College, 1792. United States District Judge, District of Vermont, 1793. United States Circuit Judge, 1802. Married (1789) a daughter of Ethan Allen.
7 MARSH, CHARLES. (1765-1840.) Born Lebanon, Conn. Practiced law in Woodstock, Vt., for half a century. In 1815-1817 was a representative in Congress and was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society. He died in Woodstock.
The Prisoner asked that he be granted bail, which was allowed, and he gave bail for his appearance on October 9. October 9.
The Jury was selected and sworn.
Mr. Marsh opened the case and produced a letter from prisoner dated Philadelphia, July 7, 1798, and postmarked on the same day and which was presented in Vermont on July 23.
The Prisoner admitted the authorship and publication.
The indictment was found on October 5, 1798, contained three counts, the first of which, after averring the intent to be to "stir up sedition, and to bring the President and Government of the United States into contempt," laid the following libelous matter:
"As to the Executive, when I shall see the efforts of that power bent on the promotion of the comfort, the happiness, and accommodation of the people, that executive shall have my zealous and uniform support: but whenever I shall, on the part of the Executive, see every consideration of the public welfare swallowed up in a continual grasp for power, in an unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice; when I shall behold men of real merit daily turned out of office, for no other cause but independency of sentiment; when I shall see men of firmness, merit, years, abilities, and experience, discarded in their applications for office, for fear they possess that independence, and men of meanness preferred for the ease with which they take up and advocate opinions, the consequence of which they know but little of-when I shall see the sacred name of religion employed as a state engine to make mankind hate and persecute one another, I shall not be their humble advocate."
The second count consisted of having maliciously, etc., and with intent, etc., published a letter, said to be a letter from a diplomatic character in France, containing two paragraphs, in the words following:
The writer of the letter was Joel Barlow (1755-1812), who died while United States Minister to Poland, but of whom an American historian says: "This Barlow is memorable as the only one of our countrymen who has been guilty of the folly of attempting to produce an American epic poem. But a better title to immortality is the infamous part he bore in enticing ignorant Frenchmen to buy and settle the lands of the Scioto Company in Ohio." 2 McMaster Hist. People U. S.
"The misunderstanding between the two governments (France and the United States), has become extremely alarming; confidence is completely destroyed, mistrusts, jealousy, and a disposition to a wrong attribution of motives, are so apparent, as to require the utmost caution in every word and action that are to come from your Executive. I mean, if your object is to avoid hostilities. Had this truth been understood with you before the recall of Monroe, before the coming and second coming of Pinckney; had it guided the pens that wrote the bullying speech of your President, and stupid answer of your Senate, at the opening of Congress in November last, I should probably had no occasion to address you this letter.
But when we found him borrowing the language of Edmund Burke, and telling the world that although he should succeed in treating with the French, there was no dependence to be placed on any of their engagements, that their religion and morality were at an end, that they would turn pirates and plunderers, and it would be necessary to be perpetually armed against them, though you were at peace: we wondered that the answer of both Houses had not been an order to send him to a mad house. Instead of this the Senate have echoed the speech with more servility than ever George III. experienced from either House of Parliament."
The third count was for assisting, counselling, aiding, and abetting the publication of the same.
It was proved that Mr. Lyon had several times read at public meetings in Vermont the letter (known at the time as the "Barlow" letter) from which the libelous matter in the second count was taken.
Several witnesses were called to show that Mr. Lyon, both in public and in private, had extensively used the letter for political purposes, and in doing so had frequently made use of language highly disrespectful to the administration. On cross-examination it appeared that on one occasion he had endeavored to prevent it from being printed.
The prosecution having closed, Mr. Lyon, stated his defense to consist in three points: first, that the court had no jurisdiction of the offense, the act of Congress being unconstitutional and void, if not so generally, at least, as to writings composed before its passage; second, that the publication was innocent; and third, that the contents were true.
On the first two points he offered no testimony, but on the third he proposed to call JUDGE PATTERSON, the presiding judge, and Judge Israel Smith.
JUDGE PATTERSON being then on the bench, was then asked by Mr. Lyon, whether he had not frequently "dined with the President, and observed his ridiculous pomp and parade?"
JUDGE PATTERSON replied that he had sometimes, though rarely, dined with the President, but that he had never seen any pomp or parade; he had seen, on the contrary, a great deal of plainness and simplicity.
Mr. Lyon then asked whether he (the judge) had not seen at the President's more pomp and servants there, than at the tavern at Rutland. To this, no answer was given.9
No other witness was called.
Mr. Marsh, district attorney, addressed the jury at length, urging, (1) the libelous nature of the offensive passages, which were clearly within the act of Congress, and (2) the declared intentions with which they had been used by the defendant, which expressly came up to the innuendoes.
Judge Smith10 (the then Chief Justice of Vermont), who
The oddity of this proceeding-in which the fact of the defendant's asking a judge on the bench such a question as this, is only equaled by the judge setting to work to give a regular answer-can only be explained on the ground that the defendant, having no counsel, did not know any better, and that the Court were unwilling to curtail him in his supposed defense. The answer, as reported in the Aurora, a newspaper, is the same as above, varying, however, in the last line to "in place of pomp and parade, I have seen a good deal of hospitality, without much ceremony." The report in the Spectator continues: "And it was evident Mr. Lyon expected no more." That in the Aurora makes up for this by giving a still stronger turn the other way. "The judge, conscious that there was some difference between the table at Braintree, and the humble fare of a country tavern, with the privileges of half a bed, made no reply, but smoked a cigar."
10 SMITH, ISRAEL. (1759-1810.) Born Suffield, Conn. Graduated Yale, 1781; admitted to bar, 1783; settled in Rupert, Vt., which he represented in the State legislature in 1785, 1788, 1789 and 1790. In 1789 was one of a commission appointed by the legislature to adjust the controversy in regard to jurisdiction between Vermont and New York. In 1791 was a member of the convention that ratified the United States Constitution. Removed to Rutland the same year, and was a Democratic representative from western district of Vermont in second, third and fourth Congresses, 1791-1797, being defeated for re-election in 1796 by Matthew Lyon. In 1796 member of State legislature and elected by that body Chief Justice of