LETTER TO His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the County of CHESTER, With the GOVERNOUR's SPCEEH From the Bench, at a Court of Oyer and Ter­miner, held at Chester the 15th Day of April, 1718,

PUBLISHED at the Request of the Represen­tatives of the Free-men of this Province, in General Assembly met at PHILADELPHIA The 5th Day of May, 1718.


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To my worhty Friends His Majesty's Justices of the Peace, for the County of Chester in the Province of PENNSILVANIA.


YOUR dutiful Respect to Government, as well as your diligent Application to the Service of your Country, but more especially your Commendable De­portment at the last Affizes, held for your County, justly deserves to be acknowledged as Examples worthy of Imitation.

I have sent you the inclosed Copy of what I thought proper to say in Court upon that Occa­sion, because I could not tell how to refuse any Thing that you so Unanimously and Eearnestly de­sired; But could I have fore-seen this Request, I would have, at least, endeavoured to have made the Performance better worth your Perusal than upon Review I find it to be.

[Page 4]MY chief Aim was to enforce a due Execution of the Laws in this Province, made for the Pre­servation of the publick Peace, by declaring my firm Resolutions to Support the Constitution in the Established Magistracy.

AND as I conceive the whole Course of that Tryal, did sufficiently demonstrate the absolute Necessity, that there was for so doing, I cannot but also think the universal Satisfaction, which upon the Issue of that Solemn Affair did Evidently appear in every Countenance, will certainly produce all the good Effect which we may reasonably expect from such decent Harmony in our judicial Pro­ceedings.

BUT, howsoever that may happen, being my self present all the time of the Tryal, it becomes me to say, That the Iudges, the Officers of the Peace, the Lawyers, and the Iurors, did all of them, according to the Best of my Iudgment, acquit themselves in their several Stations with great Integrity and Candour, to the Honour of this Pro­vince, which will ever remain a very Satisfactory and agreeable Reflection to, Gentlemen

Your very Faithful Humble Servant, W. Keith.
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Immediately before the Arraignment of the Prisoners Indicted for Murder at a Court of Oyer and Terminer, held at Chester, the 15th Day of April, 1718. the Governour spoke, as follows,

WE Shall not find any one Circumstance in Life, which more evidently discovers the Stamp of our great Creators Image upon Mankind, than when we are met together in our proper Stations, under a good Government, in order to minister Indifferenly, and distribute equal Justice amongst our selves.

THIS Reflection will become more Familiar and Useful, should we suppose that a Stranger's Curiosity had acci­dentally led him into this Place, where the first thing that struck his View, was the Gravity and Awful Deportment of the Judges upon the Bench, Charging by Turns, the Jurors. To consider with what Solemnity it is, that they Affirm or Swear in the Presence of Almighty God (be­fore whom they expect one Day to account for their Per­formance) that they will true and faithful Judgment make and Deliver of the Evidence given betwixt our Sove­raign Lord the King and the Prisoner at the Bar.

THAT they will carefully remember how that the Fact this Day to be Tryed, is an Offence of the Highest Na­ture, [Page 6] said to have been committed in open Defiance of the Laws both of God and Man.

THAT the Consequences of it have already blasted the Publick Justice of this Province in General, and will more particularly affect the Reputations of those who are now called, and may hereafter be summoned on Juries of this Kind.

THAT as all the Laws in force for the Preservation of the Publick Peace, and the Penalties thereby impos'd on any Breach thereof, were Framed and Enacted only to secure that Safety and Quiet which every Man claims to be his Right, and must naturally covet to Enjoy; We are therefore all equally and highly concerned to see those things duly Performed and Executed, without which we cannot hope or pretend to reap and possess the most common Benefits and Necessaries of Life.

THAT the Heart of Man being for the most Part corrupted and defiled with evil Habits, or the Folly and Unreasonable Violence of his Passions, the same Justice which every one of us would demand and expect in the like Circumstances, commands that an impar [...] and strict Scrutiny be made, in order to discover the naked Truth, upon which our Judgments, for or against one another, are to be Simply Founded.

That the Constitution of our Mother Country, happily [Page 7] derived and extended to us here, has not only provided and settled a certain Measure of Legal Evidence, to infer Conviction upon the Prisoner, but also has given him the noble Priviledge or Birth-Right of an English Subject, to make his Neighbours and Equals, being of one Mind and Consent, the sole and only Judges of that Evidence, upon which his Liberty or Life it self may depend.

THE pernicious Consequences therefore and great Im­portance of the Fact to be thus Judiciously proved.

THE Solemnity of the Judgment or Sentence there­upon to be given

THE Severity of the Punishment to be inflicted.

The Quality of the Person to suffer, your Neighbour and your Equal.

AND Lastly, the wholsom Effect that such a Publick Example will, doubtless, produce, are so many Conside­rations now before us, which Sufficiently demonstrate, That a Righteous Man, while he is Employed in giving Judgment upon or concerning his Neighbour, may be then most properly said to bear the Likeness of his Great Creator's Image, viz. Truth and Iustice.

BUT further let us suppose the Listning and Impar­tial Stranger to cast his attentive Eyes upon the Melan­cholly and Dejected Countenance of a Prisoner at the [Page 8] Bar, who is called upon to be charged with his Indict­ment.

With what a confused Mixture of Pity and Horrour will not his Mind be filled, when it comes to be set forth, How that in Cold Blood this poor unhappy Object, by the Instigation of the Devil, did Wilfully and most Inhumanly Murther his Innocent Neighbour!

WILL not every by-stander be ready to start and shrink at the Monstrous Appearance of a Man thus re­presented in the Shape of a Devil?

WILL not even his own Relations and Old Ac­quaintance be apt to say amongst themselves, with Sur­prize, How have we been deceived in our former good opinion of this Man?

AND shall not every one of us reflect with the utmost Concern, how that we cannot possibly secure our own Lives, nor enjoy the desirable Liberty of quietly attending our Lawful Affairs abroad, whilst such Unruly Monsters are permitted, with Impunity, to walk at large, and live amongst us?

Methinks I hear the Prisoner called upon with an Air of more than Common Austerity, Hold up thy Hand; Speak; What canst thou say for thy Self? Guilty, or not Guilty?

BUT because it is rare to find Men endued with so [Page 9] much true sense of Religion, as openly to confess their Crimes, and throw themselves upon the Divine Mercy, without regarding the painful Consequences of human Judgment, we shall here suppose this Man to plead, Not Guilty, and submit himself to be Tryed by his Country.

THEN will our attentive Stranger have Opportunity to observe with what Wisdom and Caution our happy Con­stitution has provided, as much as possibly could be done, against the Iniquity of any Man's being injured by False Testimony. For the Witnesses being called and acknow­ledging themselves to be Christians, they are most Solemnly Affirmed or Sworn To declare the Truth, and nothing but the Truth that is, they being made sensible of the horrid Sin against Almighty God, that is alledged to have been committed by the Prisoner, and the indispensable Duty that is laid upon Mankind by God himself, to Assert the Truth, in Defence of his Laws and Omnipotent Authority, they are understood to make this Solemn Affirmation or Oath Willingly and Freely, not for the sake of any thing here upon Earth, or only because they are thereunto Legally required, but rather for that they know it is the Service of God unto which they are in Duty bound, and for the Faithful Performance whereof they Expect one Day to Account before God himself.

BUT further, to supply the Imperfection of human Knowledge, which in many cases cannot attain to a Mathe­matical or Demonstrative Certainty of the Truth, the Law will not permit that any Christian shall incur the Penalty of his Life, except upon the full and plain Testi­mony of Men openly professing their Belief of the same [Page 10] Faith in our Blessed Saviour Christ, and his Holy Doctrine▪ So that we being all Christians, and it is to be hoped, endued, as we ought to be, with that Brotherly Love and Universal Charity which is Inherent and Essential to our Profession, We must Suppose, it cannot enter into the Thoughts of any good Man to disbelieve or suspect his Brothers Testimony, when delivered in that Solemn Man­ner, as if he was actually in the visible Presence of Almighty God; at least, since we must acknowledge, that under the State and Imperfection of Human Affairs, This, preferable to all others, is the surest and best method to discover the Truth of any Fact done or committed with­out the Sphere of our own certain Knowledge and Privity. None can pretend to object against the Justice and Equity of this Proceedings, unless it be those, who by their pub­lick Misdemeanors and Detestable Crimes have lost all sense of Religion or Vertue, and would seem to deny the Power of God, as well as the Authority where-with the Civil Magistrate is Cloathed to punish Wickedness and Vice.

IF then a Stranger may justly be supposed thus to reason, and be affected with these things, how much more ought we of this Province to be highly satisfied and pleased? That our Lives and Liberties are so well Fortified and Secured from any Arbitrary Incrochments, Uncertainty, or other Deceitful Hazard whatsoever. That Notwith­standing the Infancy of this Colony, yet, (God be praised) we have a set of as worthy and sufficient Men upon the Bench as any of the Neighbouring Provinces can boast of. That the Generality of our People appear not only to be Industrious as any of their Neighbours, but likewise quietly and peaceably disposed to submit themselves unto, and thankfully to enjoy the necessary and good Effects of an impartial Administration of Justice and Government.

[Page 11]TO the End therefore that those Blessings which we possess, and are more plentifully receiving daily from the kind hand of Providence, may not be misused or despised.

I do in the Name of our Soveraign Lord, King GEORGE, and by Virtue of his Royal Authority, strictly Command and Charge all Persons whatsoever to pay the same Respect, Submission and Obedience unto the Judges upon this Bench, which is known to be usually paid, and of Right to belong unto his Majesties Justices in Eyre or Judges of Assize in England.

AND I do Earnestly Recommend it to you, Gentlemen, upon the Bench, That if any Person or Persons shall presume and dare to act contrary hereto, so as in any sort to Lessen, Impugne or With-stand the Constitution and just Authority of this Government, you will in such Case Immedi­ately proceed to Punish the Offenders, as the utmost Severity of the Law shall direct.

AND whilst I have the Honour to Govern this Province, all Persons, of what Rank or Degree [Page 12] soever they be, may certainly expect, or they will be made to know, that the Order and Judgments of this Supream Court are to be punctually Obeyed and duely Executed.

FOR whatsoever Notions may have been here­tofore framed with design to Baffle and Weaken the Hands of the Magistracy, you may all be assured, that I am Absolutely determined to Main­tain and Support the Constitution of this Province, as it is by Law Established.


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