I’ll post a review of Anthony Trollope’s novel The Vicar of Bullhampton this month, but ever since I finished this marvellous novel, I’ve found myself thinking about a passage that concerns jury selection. A murder takes place early in the novel, and here towards the end of our story, jury selection begins. I was rather surprised by this passage:
At that moment the court was occupied in deciding whether a certain tradesman, living at Devizes, should or should not be on the jury. The man himself objected that, being a butcher, he was, by reason of the second nature acquired in his business, too cruel, and too bloody-minded to be entrusted with an affair of life and death. To a proposition in itself so reasonable no direct answer was made; but it was argued with great power on behalf of the crown, which seemed to think at the time that the whole case depended on getting this one particular man into the jury box, that the recalcitrant juryman was not in truth a butcher, that he was only a dealer in meat, and that though the stain of blood descended the cruelty did not.
I found this small aside, set within a 500 page plus novel, fascinating. The man’s objections were not dismissed out of hand–rather his livelihood was defined as ‘not to be cruel’ since he just sold the meat and was not a butcher after all.
In Upton Sinclair’s 1906 book The Jungle, the workers in an abattoir are desensitized to violence, and as a consequence rapes, murders and brawls occur. Strange to connect Trollope and Sinclair together, but the connection is there–even in just a small aside.