Washington Law Review


The framers of the Constitution well understood that fear for the safety of the state might result in tyranny and injustice. In the 17th Century, England had had a spate of treason trials, many of them spurred by the notorious informer Titus Oates. In the 18th, John Wilkes' fight against general warrants had had its echoes in Massachusetts. The speech of James Otis on similar abuses was described by John Adams as the birth of the "child Independence." And France had yielded many instances by its use of the infamous lettres de cachet. No doubt these examples contributed to the insertion into the original Constitution of the careful definition of treason and of the guaranty of the writ of habeas corpus, and into the bill of rights of the prohibition against unreasonable searches and of the guaranty of open trials with the right to jury, counsel and confrontation, as well as of the guaranty against self-incrimination.

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