Tocqueville, Democracy In America, Appendix S


Democracy In America, Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831

Appendix S


If we attentively examine the constitution of the jury in civil proceedings in England, we shall readily perceive that the jurors are under the immediate control of the judge. It is true that the verdict of the jury, in civil as well as in criminal cases, comprises the questions of fact and of law in the same reply. Thus a house is claimed by Peter as having been purchased by him; this is the fact to be decided. The defendant puts in a plea of incompetency on the part of the vendor; this is the legal question to be resolved. The jury simply says that the house shall be delivered to Peter, and thus decides both the questions of fact and of law.

But according to the practice of the English courts, the opinion of the jury is not held to be infallible in civil as it is in criminal cases, if the verdict is for acquittal. If the judge thinks that their verdict has made a wrong application of the law, he may refuse to receive it, and send back the jury to deliberate over again. Even if the judge allows the verdict to pass without observation, the case is not yet finally determined; there are still many modes of arresting judgment. The principal one consists in asking the court to set aside the verdict and order a new trial before another jury. It is true that such a request is seldom granted, and never more than twice; yet I have actually known this to happen. ( See Blackstone, Book III, Chap. xxiv; idem., Book IV, Chap. xxv. )


Return to Table of Contents


The original copyright for Alexis de Tocqueville’s, “Democracy In America,” Translated by Henry Reeve, 1899, is held in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired. Formatting of this digital copy of Democracy In America Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal. Non-commercial, educational use of individual chapters is encouraged with a live link back to the original copy at The Moral Liberal and a courtesy note to the editors.