Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"It is lawful for every man in this country to keep such weapons"

   "If there were evidence of a merely friendly meeting, it be the same as if there were no assemblage. If they were to give evidence that Blannerhassett and some of those with him were in possession of arms, as people in this country usually are, it would not be sufficient of itself to prove that the meeting was military.

   "Arms are not necessarily military weapons. Rifles, shot guns, and fowling pieces are used commonly by the people of this country in hunting and for domestic purposes; they are generally in the habit of pursuing game. In the upper country every man has a gun; a majority of the people have guns every where, for peaceful purposes. Rifles and shot guns are no more evidence of military weapons than pistols or dirks used for personal defence, or common fowling pieces kept for the amusement of taking game. It is lawful for every man in this country to keep such weapons. In England indeed every man is not qualified to keep a gun; but even to those who have not that privilege the possession of dirks and pistols is not unlawful. Surely their possession at that island, of such arms as every man in this country is legally authorized to keep, and which most people do keep, can be no more evidence of a military project, or an intention to subvert the government, than if they had not been there at all. What is the rule to distinguish in such cases" There must be such evidence of a hostile assemblage proved to the court, as if true in point of fact, would constitute a treasonable assemblage."

- Mr. John Wickham, Friday, August 21st, 1807,  [REPORTS OF THE TRIALS OF COLONEL AARON BURR (LATE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES) FOR TREASON AND FOR A MISDEMEANOR, In preparing the means of a Military Expedition against Mexico, a territory of the King of Spain, with whom the United States were at peace, IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, Held at the city of Richmond, in the district of Virginia, in the Summer Term of the year 1807. TO WHICH IS ADDED AN APPENDIX, CONTAINING THE ARGUMENTS AND EVIDENCE IS SUPPORT AND DEFENCE OF THE MOTION AFTERWARDS MADE BT THE COUNSEL FOR THE UNITED STATES, TO COMMIT A. Burr, H. Blannerhassett and I. Smith, TO BE SENT FOR TRIAL TO THE STATE OF KENTUCKY, FOR TREASON OR MISDEMEANOR, ALLEGED TO BE COMMITTED THERE. TAKEN IN SHORT HAND BY DAVID ROBERTSON, COUNSELLOR AT LAW IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. I. PHILADELPHIA: PUBLISHED BY HOPKINS AND EARLE. FRY AND KAMMERER, PRINTERS. 1808. Pg.582-83] (Mr. Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court was present at the proceedings of this trial. Mr. Wickham, after the Revolutionary War,  earned a degree in law from the College of William and Mary, where he became a close friend of John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the U.S.).

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