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Judge Peckham Jury Charge Concerning Military Commission
10-17-2017, 10:34 AM
Post: #1
Judge Peckham Jury Charge Concerning Military Commission
In his argument against the constitutional jurisdiction of the commission, Reverdy Johnson quoted at length (Pitman at 261) from a grand jury charge that had recently been given by Judge Rufus Peckham, in New York court, inveighing against the Lincoln commission. The quotation included the following:

"A great crime has lately been committed, that has shocked, the civilized world. Every right-minded man desires the punishment of the criminals; but lie desires that punishment to be administered according to law, and through the judicial tribunals of the country. No star-chamber court, no secret inquisition in this nineteenth century, can ever be made acceptable to the American mind. . . .

Grave doubts, to say the least, exist in the minds of intelligent men as to the constitutional right of the recent military commissions at Washington to sit in judgment upon the persons now on trial for their lives before that tribunal. Thoughtful men feel aggrieved that such a commission should be established in this free country when the war is over, and when the common-law courts are open and accessible to administer justice according to law without fear or favor. . . .

The unanimity with which the leading press of our land has condemned this mode of trial ought to be gratifying to every patriot."

I have been enable to find any record of Peckham's grand jury charge, or what came of it, other than R. Johnson's use of it. I assume, however, that Johnson must have gotten it from, for example, a newspaper account.

Can anyone help me track it down? Thanks very much.
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10-17-2017, 04:47 PM
Post: #2
RE: Judge Peckham Jury Charge Concerning Military Commission
Judge Peckham's speech was reprinted in numerous newspapers across the country in May 1865, but it was only reprinted in parts so it was difficult to find a copy of the whole speech. Eventually I found the speech reprinted in the May 16, 1865 edition of the local paper, The Argus of Albany, New York:

   

Judge Peckham gave his speech following his charge to a Grand Jury being empaneled for the Court of Oyer and Terminer at Albany City Hall on May 15, 1865. (Peckham was the Supreme Court justice who presided over that court.) The article specifically mentions the Grand Jury investigating
  • Violation of the Excise law
  • The vending of lottery tickets
  • The taking of Usury
  • Extortion
  • The purity of the Elective franchise
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10-18-2017, 05:47 AM
Post: #3
RE: Judge Peckham Jury Charge Concerning Military Commission
Exactly what I was looking for, thanks, Steve! Any idea if the grand jury took him up on it or any other developments thereafter?


(10-17-2017 04:47 PM)Steve Wrote:  Judge Peckham's speech was reprinted in numerous newspapers across the country in May 1865, but it was only reprinted in parts so it was difficult to find a copy of the whole speech. Eventually I found the speech reprinted in the May 16, 1865 edition of the local paper, The Argus of Albany, New York:



Judge Peckham gave his speech following his charge to a Grand Jury being empaneled for the Court of Oyer and Terminer at Albany City Hall on May 15, 1865. (Peckham was the Supreme Court justice who presided over that court.) The article specifically mentions the Grand Jury investigating
  • Violation of the Excise law
  • The vending of lottery tickets
  • The taking of Usury
  • Extortion
  • The purity of the Elective franchise
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10-18-2017, 02:46 PM
Post: #4
RE: Judge Peckham Jury Charge Concerning Military Commission
Since the Grand Jury had nothing to do with anything related to Peckham's speech, I don't think it really mattered anything. Since Peckham had been a former Democratic Congressman, I suspect the speech was really intended for the newspapers rather than the Grand Jury. A September Arugus article lists the Grand Jury indicting people for crimes like larceny, assault, attempted rape, and attempted murder (although I don't know enough about the New York court system at the time if those were indicted during the May term Grand Jury).

Interestingly, the one follow-up I could find was a condemnation of Judge Peckham for making a "stump speech" before the Grand Jury in the 16 May 1865 edition of the Albany Evening Journal. I can post a copy of the columm if you're interested.
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10-18-2017, 09:55 PM
Post: #5
RE: Judge Peckham Jury Charge Concerning Military Commission
Thanks, I'd like to see that, Steve.
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10-19-2017, 12:51 PM
Post: #6
RE: Judge Peckham Jury Charge Concerning Military Commission
(10-18-2017 09:55 PM)Marty L. Wrote:  Thanks, I'd like to see that, Steve.
From page 2 of the 16 May 1865 edition of the Albany Evening Journal:

   

Unfortunately, the quality of the scan/image might make it difficult to read a few words.
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