Who May Be Jurors under the New Constitution?

May 2, 1868


Whether or not "negroes" are allowed to serve jury duty under their newly acquired rights, it is up to the judiciary to make the final decision.


Who may be Jurors under the New Constitution ? " Mount Jackson, Va.,"April 28. " The address of the Conservative members of the Convention to the people of Vir ginia states that ' all who are made voters shall have the right to sit on juries, and none others,' according to the Constitution. Now, article III., section 3, says : 4 ' All persons entitled to vote and hold office, and none other, shall be eligible to sit as jurors.' Under this section a man must be entitled to hold office, as well as vote, in order to sit as a juror. The ability to take the 'iron-clad' oath is an indispensable qualification required of all officers. It is true the second section says that ' all persons entitled to vote shall be eligible to any office within the gift of the people,' but it also says, ' except as restricted in this Constitution.' Will not the restriction imposed by the 'iron-clad' oath apply as well to jurors as to office-holders ? By explaining this matter you will much oblige " Yours truly, "William Wirt Bird." This question is clearly such a one as can be decided nowhere else than in a court of competent jurisdiction. We believe that the intention of the Convention was to disqualify as jurors none except pesons disfranchised. When article 3d, section 3, was adopted, the oath had not been prescribed. Therefore, all who had been made voters were supposed to be "eligible to sit as jurors." So well understood was it in the Convention that all voters might be jurors that the Conservative members did not think it worth while to argue the point in their address. Nevertheless, the intention of the legislature goes for nothing before a judge unless the language of the law consists with the supposed intent. Therefore, while we are of the opinion that every voter would, if the Constitution were ratified, be "eligible to sit as a juror," we are not sure that some judge might not hold the contrary opinion.
About this article

Contributed By

Joshua Hurlburt




“Who May Be Jurors under the New Constitution?,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 20, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1021.