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United States v. Williams et al.
paying the duties in force at the time of its commencement This would prove, if any thing, that the government had no right to alter the duties on importations, without a previous notice of sufficient length to enable our merchants to calculate accordingly. But nothing of this kind, it is presumed, would be seriously urged.
Upon the whole then, in a case where no latitude is allowed for construction, and where there is no attempt to punish for an offence, or to exact a forfeiture, which may have been committed, or incurred on the very day of passing a law, the Court thinks it best to adhere to the letter of the act of Con. gress, which most manifestly subjects to the additional duty, thereby imposed, all goods imported on the 1st day of July, 1812, without any regard to the time of the day when such importations were made.
The judgment of the District Court, therefore, must be reversed, and judgment entered for the United States.
H. HUNTINGTON, D. A. for the appellants.
CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES,
VERMONT, OCTOBER TERM, 1808, AT BURLINGTON.
Hon. BROCKHOLST LIVINGSTON, Associate Justice of the SuBEFORE preme Court.
Hon. ÉLIJAH PAINE, District Judge.
THE UNITED STATES V. FREDERICK HOXIE.
A resistance of the execution of a law of the United States, accompanied with
any degree of force, if for a private purpose, is not treason. To constitute that offcace, the object of the resistance must be of a public and general character.
This was a trial for treason in levying war against the United States.
The offence charged in the indictment was, that the prisoner, being a citizen of the United States, and intending to oppose the execution of the laws thereof, and especially the embargo law, on the 13th day of June, 1808, at Alburgh, Vermont, assembled with a company of sixty armed men, and resisted the Collector of the District of Vermont, in the execution of the duty of his office, and with force and arms, took and rescued from his custody a certain raft of timber which had been seized by the Collector when on its way into Canada,
United States r. Frederick Hoxie.
and was then moored and guarded by the troops of the United States, who were aiding the Collector. And that the defendant, in further prosecuting the war thus levied, and in order more effectually to rescue the said raft, in company with the rest, fired upon the Collector and troops, and thereby intimidated them from detaining and keeping possession of the raft: and that the defendant with his confederates then took the 'raft into Canada.
It appeared from the testimony of witnesses examined on the trial, that one Vandusen had sent a raft of timber from Whitehall to be transported into Canada, contrary to the provisions of the embargo laws. When it had reached the Isle of Mott in Lake Champlain, it was seized by the Collector of Vermont, and placed in the custody of a company of militia. While the troops were at some distance from the raft, a company of about sixty men hired for the purpose, and armed some of them with a dozen muskets, and the rest with clubs and spike-poles, assembled with the intention of rescuing the raft, and if necessary, of making prisoners of the troops who guarded it. They got possession of the rast, however, without any resistance, no one being near it, and proceeded on with it towards Canada. In about an hour, as the raft passed a point of the shore, twenty rods distant, the troops fired upon it, and those on the raft returned the fire. This firing continued until the raft was beyond the reach of musket shot. About one hundred shots were fired from the raft, and the balls struck trees on the shore, and the shot from shore also struck the raft, but no persons were wounded. The firing was in earnest and intended for execution. The men were to have 800 dollars if they took the raft into Canada, but if they did not succeed they were to get nothing. At the time they took possession of it, the sentinel who had been placed over it was a quarter of a mile off, and the men were told that the Collector was willing that the raft should be taken away,
United States v. Frederick Hoxie.
and it was believed that they would meet with no opposition. The prisoner was on the raft, firing pretty actively, but he was opposed to the proposition which was made in the first instance, to make prisoners of the troops who guarded it. After the raft was got into Canada, Vandusen paid off the men and they returned home. There was evidence that the prisoner had been engaged in other attempts, to pass the lines with pot-ashes, and that he had occasionally talked about fighting his way through. But there was no evidence that he had ever used force, except in this instance.
D. FAY, D. A. for the United States.
LIVINGSTON, J. charged the jury as follows:
A very solemn and important office now devolves on you, no less than that of deciding whether a fellow citizen has forfeited his life to the laws of his country.
It is not often that we are called to the discharge of a more interesting, and at the same time, more painful and delicate duty. It must, however, whenever it occurs, be met with firmness; and, while it is performed with all the humanity and caution due to a party accused, sight must not be lost of those claims which, if a crime has been committed, the public have upon us.
The offence charged in the present instance is that of treason. The indictment having been recently read in your hearing, I will not, at this late hour, trouble you with repeating it. To this charge, the prisoner has pleaded not guilty, and for trial has put himself on a jury of his country.
Nor will I detain you with a recapitulation of the facts, as they have appeared in evidence, about which there is no dispute, and on which you are now to say, whether the prisoner
United States v. Frederick Hosie.
at the bar be guilty of the crime of treason. But, although there be little, if any, controversy in relation to the facts on which the public prosecutor relies, you will naturally expect some direction from the Court, how far, in point of law, they support the charge alleged in the indictment. This direction, with its reasons, the Court will now proceed to give you.
Treason, not only holds a conspicuous, and generally the first place in every catalogue of crimes, but is almost universally punished with death. Government is so high a blessing, and its preservation and support are so essential to the welfare of every member of the body politic, that to attempt its subversion, has ever been regarded a most aggravated offence. But, the resentment so naturally enkindled against those who are supposed to aim at the destruction of the only security which we enjoy for life, liberty, and estate, leads us frequently to include, under this high crime, offences greatly inferior in turpitude, much less dangerous in their effects, and in every respect, of a different description and tendency. To prevent, therefore, as far as possible every abuse by the extension of treason to offences, which, in times of public agitation, might, by violent or corrupt constructions, be pretended to belong to it, there was inserted in our national compact, a rule which was to be binding on every department of government. To define and provide punishments for other crimes of federal cognizance, is left to Congress ; but, with a jealousy on this subject, which a full knowledge of the excesses that had so often been committed in other countries by parties contending for dominion, was well calculated to excite, no other trust was here reposed in the legislature, than that of prescribing in what way treason was to be punished. For its definition, resort was ever to be had to that great fundamental law, which was to be binding at all times, and was not liable to be changed on a sudden emer