Washington [D.C.]: A. & G. Way, Printers, 1808. 4 pp. 8vo. Removed. First edition. A very good copy, light browning at the edges. Shaw & Shoemaker 16379. BEAL 14104. Item #37547
In this letter, a fall-out from the Burr affair, Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824), Jefferson's Attorney General, who participate in Burr's second trial, addressed the issue of laws for which crimes were not yet committed: "It is with no personal satisfaction that I propose to consideration of the committee, the propriety of punishing combinations and conspiracies for the purpose of committing treason against the United States. The constitution has wisely defined the crime of treason; but it must be obvious that before this crime is consummated by an overt act of levying war, the public peace may be disturbed and the public safety enfangered by the previous preparations for such an event... It would seem therefore essential to the preservation of the public peace, that a conspiracy to committ treason against the United States, should be punished..." Before he became Attorney General Rodney did lead cases to stiffle the judiciary, in his work on the impeachments of judges Pickering and Chase, but also defended the Philadelphia Cordwainers against a common law charge of conspiracy, two years before this letter. Perhaps, we should still follow his caution on Treason in this same letter : "When we revise any part of the penal code... and enlarg[e] the sphere of criminality, we should proceed with caution and prudence; and we should not add to the catalogue of offences unless on sufficient grounds."