"But, sir, the people themselves have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal of arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet only his fellow-citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation."
in the Massachusetts Convention on the ratification of the Constitution, January 23, 1788,
in _Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution,_
Jonathan Elliot, ed., v.2 p.94 (Philadelphia, 1836)
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Reader comments about this quote:
This is very important to remember. The jury is the last line of defense of the People against injustice. The jury does not only decide whether a law was broken, but whether a law is just. Even if the 'law' was disobeyed, if the jury deems the law to be unjust, they may declare the defendent 'not guilty.'
 -- E Archer, NYC     
    Yet injustice occurs, such as a white jury acquitting a white man of lynching a black man, or O.J. found "not guilty".
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
    I don't think Theophilus figured on the quality of the "fellow-citizens" our public schools would be putting out 200 years later.
     -- Mike, Mount Holly, NC     
    Joe's got at least half the issue, the other half being that the prosecution has many powers to tilt the scales of justice, be it the dishonest law officer who lies or plants evidence, or just as simple as highly skewed jury selection or a biased judge... its a tenuous balance at best.
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US     
    The quote was true enough with prohibition. Now that the masses have been dummied down to the point of thinking socialism or fascism are their moral and economic saviors, liberty has little chance to progress. ;-) 'AND' agreeing with A from Reston, I have personally seen individuals go to trial after the grand jury has acquitted or, no grand jury heard the case at all. Judges are extremely prejudicial, to the point that, in one case the judge told the jury they would find the individual guilty or he would overturn their verdict. (of course that didn't end up in the official court record but I personally heard it.) The courts are so corrupt that justice or liberty are no longer part of the system.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    I forgot to say Archer is right on here. It's pretty wierd when I agree with both Archer and A from Reston.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    I certainly wouldn't want to bet my life that any jury today would give a single thought to whether the law itself is just or not. As products of today's government education system, being molded into compliant drones, they can only be expected to do as they're told and convict.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
    Another case in point of an act of obligatory usurpation not being law. I know a person that after an unlawfully bazaar kangaroo court, went to prison. After the sentence was fully served, said individual was kept in custody, under executive (Board of Prisons) action (no disciplinary or other reason was ever given - anywhere, at any time) over a year and a half (even after a federal court judge demanded a full and complete release). An executive parole (???) ensued undaunted by multiple judicial decisions and demands to the contrary. Amerika is governmentally a very scary place where fact, law, justice, individual rights, freedom and liberty have little to no place.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Where is the Jury when someone "deemed" a threat is arrested under the Patriot Act?
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    E Archer summed it all up perfectly.
     -- jim k, Austin,Tx     
    It's not a perfect system and even if it was it's run by humans. But it is far better than many other countries. That being said, many good points in the commments above. Let us be vigilant and jealous of our freedoms lest they be legislated away slowly like boiling a toad.
     -- Anonymous, Monterey     
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