« PreviousContinue »
then appeared as counsel for the defendant, declining to reply, in consequence of the shortness of time allowed him for preparation, he having been called into the case at the bar, the defendant addressed the jury at great length, insisting on the unconstitutionality of the law, and the insufficiency of the evidence to show anything more than a legitimate opposition.
PATTERSON, J., (to the Jury): You have nothing whatever to do with the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the sedition law. Congress has said that the author and publisher of seditious libels is to be punished; and until this law is declared null and void by a tribunal competent for the purpose, its validity cannot be disputed. Great would be the abuses were the constitutionality of every statute to be submitted to jury, in each case where the statute is to be applied. The only question you are to determine is, that which the record submits to you. Did Mr. Lyon publish the writing given in the indictment? Did he do so seditiously? On the first point, the evidence is undisputed, and in fact, he himself concedes the fact of publicatin as to a large portion of libelous matter. As to the second point, you will have to consider whether language such as that here complained of could have been uttered with any other intent than that of making odious or contemptible the President and government, and bringing them both into disrepute. If you find such is the case, the offense is made out, and you must render a verdict of guilty. Nor should the political rank of the defendant, his past services, or the dependent condition of his family, deter you from this duty. Such considerations are
State supreme court.
Elected to seventh Congress (1801-1803). United States Senator, 1807. Failed of re-election to the Governorship in 1808. Presidential elector, 1809. Soon after he became Governor his health failed, and he died insane at Rutland, Vt. He advocated substitution of confinement at hard labor for capital punishment, state supervision of highways, and the building of a state prison. His attempts to enforce the embargo act of 1807 and summary dealing with smugglers contributed to his defeat for the Governorship. Was a judge of incorruptible integrity. See Dexter, Yale Biog. E. Annals; Biog. Congress. Direct.; Lamb's Biog. Dict. for the court alone in adjusting the penalty they will bestow. The fact of guilt is for you, for the court, the grade of punishment. As to yourselves, one point, in addition, in exercising the functions allotted to you, you must keep in mind, and that is, that in order to render a verdict of guilty, you must be satisfied beyond all reasonable substantial doubt that the hypothesis of innocence is unsustainable. Keeping these instructions in your mind, you will proceed to deliberate on your verdict.
THE VERDICT AND SENTENCE.
At about eight o'clock in the evening of the same day, after about an hour's absence, the Jury returned with a verdict of guilty.
Mr. Lyon being called up for sentence, a postponement was obtained till the next morning.
October 10. JUDGE PATTERSON. Matthew Lyon, as a member of the federal legislature, you must be well acquainted with the mischiefs which flow from an unlicensed abuse of government, and of the motives which led to the passage of the act under which this indictment is framed. No one, also, can be better acquainted than yourself with the existence and nature of the act. Your position, so far from making the case one which might slip with a nominal fine through the hands of the court, would make impunity conspicuous should such a fine alone be imposed. What, however, has tended to mitigate the sentence which would otherwise have been imposed is, what I am sorry to hear of, the reduced condition of your estate. The judgment of the court is, that you stand imprisoned four months, pay the costs of prosecution, and a fine of one thousand dollars, and stand committed until this sentence be complied with.
THE TRIAL OF ANTHONY HASWELL FOR A SEDITIOUS LIBEL, WINDSOR, VERMONT, 1800.
After Matthew Lyon was sent to jail his friends, to relieve his distress, started a lottery—a very popular method of raising money at that day. His houses, his lands, his mills were the prizes and the Vermont Gazette in an article containing some strong criticism of the prosecution of Lyon, called upon the people to save from poverty the defender of their rights. The United States Marshal was charged with extreme cruelty in the treatment of his prisoner, and the Government was charged with selecting for office Tories who had fought against independence. The printer Anthony Haswell! was indicted under the Sedition Act, convicted, fined and imprisoned.
In the United States Circuit Court, District of Vermont,
April 28. The Defendant had been previously indicted, under the statute (the Sedition Act) for publishing the following libelous matter in the Vermont Gazette:
1 HASWELL, ANTHONY. (1756-1816.) Born Portsmouth, England. Emigrated to America before the Revolution and joined the Continental Army, being present at the Bottle of Monmouth. After leaving the army he went to Boston, where he learned the printers' trade. After living a time in Hartford, Conn., and Springfield, Mass., he removed to Bennington, Vt., and established the Vermont Gazette, which he conducted until his death. “At the expiration of his sentence, an immense concourse of people from the neighboring county assembled to welcome him back to liberty, and to signalize “To the enemies of political persecution in the western district of Vermont :
"Your representative (Matthew Lyon) is holden by the oppressive hand of usurped power in a loathsome prison, deprived almost of the right of reason, and suffering all the indignities which can be heaped upon him by a hard-hearted savage, who has, to the disgrace of Federalism, been elevated to a station where he can satiate his barbarity on the misery of his victims. But in spite of Fitch (the marshal) and to their sorrow, time will pass away; the month of February will arrive, and with it bring liberty to the defender of your rights? No. Without exertion it will not. Eleven hundred dollars must be paid for his ransom. This money it is impossible for Col. Lyon to raise in an ordinary way. A contribution is talked of, but this is an uncertain, humiliating, and precarious method. Col. Lyon has adopted a plan which accords with his feelings, and he hopes it may be with those of his friends. The plan is this: he has purchased a grant for a lottery, upon which he has formed a scheme whereby he designs to sell his tickets for money to the amount of his fine and consequent losses; and pay the prizes in land, houses, and such other property as he has to dispose of. May we not hope that this amount may answer the desired purpose, and that our representative shall not languish a day in prison for want of money after the measure of Federal injustice is filled up?
“At the same time the administration publicly notified that Tories, men who had fought against our independence, who had shared in the desolation of our homes, and the abuse of our wives and daughters, were men who were worthy of the confidence of the government.”
The Defendant appeared in court today and pleaded Not Guilty.
Israel Smiths and Mr. Fay, for the Prisoner.
The Prisoner's Counsel made a motion for a continuance on the ground of the absence of material witnesses. They filed an
their disapprobation of his imprisonment. He marched forth from his quarters at the jail to the tune of Yankee Doodle, played by a band, while the discharge of cannon signified the general satisfaction at his release.
Mr. Haswell was highly respected, not only by his friends, but by his political opponents. He was distinguished in private life by exemplary conduct in the discharge of his duties, and by his devotion to the moral and religious improvement of society.” Wharton St. Tr., p. 687. In 1844 Congress passed an act refunding the fine and over 40 years' interest to Mr. Haswell's representatives.
2 Wharton's State Trials, see 4 Am. St. Tr. 616.
affidavit to the effect that the prisoner expected to prove by General Darke, of Virginia, and Mr. McHenry, the Secretary of War, that the government had on one occasion acknowledged the policy of occasionally appointing Tories to office; and that every effort had been made to obtain the attendance of these gentlemen, but in vain. The affidavit also stated that two witnesses from the immediate neighborhood were pected, but had not yet arrived, one being detained by accident, and the other by sickness.
The continuance was resisted by District Attorney Marsh, for the Government, on the ground, that due diligence had not been shown in collecting the wanting testimony, and that even if it could be got, it would be inadmissible.
JUDGE PATTERSON said that the first item of evidence would not be admissible, even if present, as it would not be a flat justification; but that in order to permit the defendant to avail himself of the attendance of other witnesses whom he momentarily expected, a postponement of several days would be granted.
May 5. The District Attorney opened the case on the part of the United States. Evidence was produced to show that the passages in the indictment had been published in a newspaper called the Vermont Gazette, edited by the defendant; the first being part of an advertisement issued by a committee of Colonel Lyon's friends, the second being an extract from the Aurora.
In justification of the first paragraph, the Prisoner's Counsel called witnesses to prove circumstances of peculiar hardships attending Lyon's imprisonment.
The Jury were addressed by the District Attorney and the Defendant's Counsel, and afterwards by the Defendant himself, who said:
With respect to the first count, gentlemen, I believe you will entertain a doubt at least whether I am, in fact, the publisher of it, in the common acceptation and real meaning
6 See ante, p. 689,