Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Justice on Court By David Barton

Yet, despite the Court’s original lack of stature, there were several interesting practices of the Court which contribute much to our rich spiritual heritage. One of those practices was instituted by the first Justices on the Court.

According to David Barton there were six original Justices appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Washington. They included its Chief Justice, John Jay, an author of The Federalist Papers; three signers of the Constitution: James Wilson, John Blair, and John Rutledge (who later became the Court’s second Chief Justice); and James Iredell and William Cushing (who helped secure the ratification of the Constitution).

In its first years, the Supreme Court functioned much like the old circuit courts; it traveled from place to place across America to hear cases and to convene grand juries. One of the practices of the Court – a practice conducted under these original Justices – was the regular offering of prayers in the Courtroom. 82

According to the records of the Supreme Court as well as the newspapers of the day, juries in the Supreme Court did not begin their work until after a minister had come into the Courtroom and prayed – for the Court, the jurors, and their deliberations! In fact, a newspaper account in the Columbian Centinel of May 16, 1792, reports very simply:

[O]n Monday, Chief Justice [John] Jay gave a charge to the Grand Jury, replete with his usual perspicuity and elegance. The prayer was made by the Rev. Dr. Parker. His Excellency, the Vice-President of the United States [John Adams], was in Court. 83

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