Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Chapman on the Hodges Treason Case

Jennifer Elisa Chapman, University of Maryland Thurgood Marshall Law Library, has posted United States v. Hodges: Developments of Treason and the Role of the Jury, which is forthcoming in the Denver Law Review:
Legal history is an important element in understanding current legal and political discussions. What, then, can a long forgotten treason trial from the War of 1812 teach us about present day discussions of treason and the development of the jury trial in America? 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.
--Dan Ernst