In 1683, Algernon Sidney, member of Parliament, son of an earl, and member of the Green Ribbon Club along with John Locke, was arrested on suspicion of treason (and the Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II).
The king's men searched his house and found an unwritten manuscript, which he maintained in his trial was not intended for publication.
The judge in his trial was one of the most infamous judges in all of English history, George Jeffreys.
Sidney was a friend of William Penn, and worked with him on establishing the founding charter of Pennsylvania. He was well aware of Penn's trial in 1670 and the heroic efforts of Edward Bushell and the other juror's that acquitted Penn, and he was aware of the decision in Edward Bushell's case that juries could not be punished for their verdicts.
But Jeffreys would have none of Justice Vaughan's decision in the Bushell case. He told the juries that he was the judge of the law, and that they were judges only of the facts.
Sidney was convicted of treason because of his writings and beheaded. Five years later, the Glorious Revolution of 1688, of which Sidney and his fellow Whigs were a part succeeded.
Ten years later, the manuscript for which he was executed was published as Discourses Concerning Government. The book had a great impact on the founding generation of the U.S. Sidney was mentioned with Locke many times. Caroline Robbins called the Discourses a "textbook for revolution" in America.
The heart of Sidney's Discourses Concerning Government was about natural rights theory upon which the framer's views and jury nullification is based.
This quote from Discourses was used by William Lloyd Garrett in his long fight against slavery in America.
The quote deserves to be one of honor in the pantheon of quotes about jury nullification by the framers and those who influenced them.
Whoever would be obliged to obey a constitutional law, is justified in refusing to obey an unconstitutional act of the legislature. When a question, even of this delicate nature, occurs, every one who is called to act, has a right to judge.
Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe?
Expediency asks the question: Is it politic?
Vanity asks the question: Is it popular?
But conscience asks the question: Is it right?
And there comes a time one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular -- but one must take it simply because it is right.
Martin Luther King
It is not only [the juror's] right, but his duty . . . to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition of the court.
2 John Adam's Works 253-55 by Charles Francis Adams (Books for Libraries Press 1969) (1850-56).
When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.
I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.
Letter to Thomas Paine in 1789.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, 7 THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 408 (Lipscomb and Bergh, ed., Memorial ed., 1903).