Thursday, October 11, 2018

Smith on an Antebellum Treason Trial

Jennifer Elisa Smith, University of Maryland Law School, has posted United States v. Hodges: Treason, Jury Trials, and the War of 1812:
Gabriel Duvall (LC)
In August 1814 a number of British soldiers were arrested as stragglers or deserters in the town of Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Upon learning of the soldiers’ absences the British military took local physician, Dr. William Beanes, and two other residents into custody and threatened to burn Upper Marlboro if the British soldiers were not returned. John Hodges, a local attorney, arranged the soldiers’ return to the British military. For this, Hodges was charged with high treason for “adhering to [the] enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” The resulting jury trial was presided over by Justice Gabriel Duvall, a Supreme Court Justice and Prince Georges County native, and highlights how the crime of treason was viewed in early American culture and the role of the jury as deciders of the facts and the law in early American jurisprudence. Contextually, Hodges’ trial took place against the backdrop of the War of 1812 and was informed by the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr. What can history tell us about current events?

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