State v. Wetmore (Conn. 1802)

A very interesting case, which was to my knowledge not reported in any print reporter, but which was covered in the Litchfield Monitor, Sept. 8, 1802, at 3 (some paragraph breaks added):

At the Superior Court, which sat in this Town and rose last week, Maj. Seth Wetmore of Winchester, was tried and found guilty of the following charges, which the Indictment against him contained, viz.[]
Wickedly and maliciously intending and contriving to defame and bring into contempt the Laws and Government of this State, and to excite among the Citizens thereof, an hatred and disregard to the said Laws and Government, did utter and publish to the Inhabitants of said Winchester then and there assembled in Town Meeting, the following false, scandalous and seditious words, of and concerning the General Assembly of this State, and the Acts and Laws thereof, viz.

“Every man who is twenty one years of age, and pays taxes, has a natural right to Vote, (meaning to vote and give their suffrages in legal Town Meeting and Freeman’s Meetings) and no man or men have a right to infringe on the natural rights of men. It is a great grief to me, (meaning himself the said Seth,) to see how the poor people (meaning the people of this Sate) are oppressed by the Laws of this State, (meaning that the several Laws of this State, which require and make necessary the owning of Personal or Real Estate, as a qualification of Voters in such Meetings, were tyrannical and oppressive,) and I am determined to vindicate their cause as long as I live.

[“]The General Assembly of this State, have for, several sessions past, been abridging the freedom of Election — I consider it an act of tyranny and oppression to prevent any man from Voting, (meaning in such aforesaid meetings) and it is now time for people to assert their right (meaning that it was then proper to gainsay, oppose and resist the Law aforesaid; and also meaning that it was then proper and time for persons, who had not the qualifications required by law, to insist on, practice and carry into effect, their pretended right to Vote in such Meetings[)]. The conduct of our Assembly in preventing such men, (meaning such unqualified Voters) is similar to the conduct of Great Britain in taxing the colonies; and it is a right old Tory plan, (meaning that the said Laws were oppressive, unjust and tyrannical.) The Assembly of this State for several years past, have been abridging the rights of Election, and I am determined to set up a systematic opposition.”

All which is against the peace and dignity of this State, and evil example to others in like manner to offend.

The Trial occupied one day and an half, closing at evening, and the Jury returned their verdict of Guilty, the next morning soon after the Court opened. There were two at least of Major Wetmores political sentiments on the Jury, and we believe that it is agreed on all hands he had a fair and impartial trial. The Court sentenced Maj. Wetmore to pay a fine of one hundred dollars, and the Costs of prosecution.