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Dissertation on Slavery
With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it, in the
State of Virginia

written by "Tucker, St. George, 1828-1862"
...e latter seems to be confined to very few cases. Many actions, indifferent in themselves, being permitted by the law of nature to all mankind, and by the laws of society to all free persons, are either rendered highly criminal in a slave, or subject him to some kind of punishment or restraint. Nor is it in this respect only, that his condition is rendered thus deplorable by law. The measure of punishment for the same offence, is often, and the manner of trial [p. 58] and conviction is always, different in the case of a slave, and a free-man. If the latter be accused of any crime, he is entitled to an examination before the court of the county where the offence is alleged to have been committed; whose decision, if in his favour, is held to be a legal and final acquittal, but it is not final if against him; for after this, both a grand jury, and a petit jury of the county, must successively pronounce him guilty; the former by the concurrent voices of twelve at least, of their body, and the latter, by their unanimous verdict upon oath. He may take exception to the proceedings against him, by a motion in arrest of judgment; and in this case, or if there be a special verdict, the same unanimity between his judges, as between his jurors, is necessary to his condemnation. Lastly, through the punishment which the law pronounces for his offence amount to death itself, he shall in many cases have the benefit of clergy, unless he has before received it. But in the case of a slave, the mode was formerly, and still remains essentially different. How early this distinction was adopted I have not been able to discover. The title of an act occurs, which passed in the year 1705 (60)60 1705. c. 11. for the [p. 59] speedy and easy prosecution of slaves committing capital crimes. In 1723 (61)61 1723. c. 4. the governor was authorized, whenever any slave was committed for any capital offence, to issue a special commission of oyer and terminer, to such persons...

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