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Arrest, Examination, Commitment, and Discharge of Stephen Sayre


October 28, 1775.

A writ of habeas corpus having been granted for the purpose of bringing Mr˙ Sayre before a Judge, in order that the informality of the warrant whereby he was committed might be argued, and that bail in consequence might be tendered for his enlargement, the writ being made returnable before Lord Mansfield, Mr˙ Sayre was this day conducted to his Lordship' s house, in Bloomsbury Square. Mr˙ Sayre was attended by several counsel, together with Mr˙ Reynolds, his Solicitor. Mr˙ White, the Solicitor in behalf of the Crown, was also present. The counsel in behalf of Mr˙ Sayre rested their plea "on the extreme impropriety of committing a prisoner to close confinement by virtue of a warrant which conveyed no specifick charge whatever." A tender of bail was then made, and Lord Mansfield, after inspecting the warrant, declared, "that not a doubt remained on his mind but that Mr˙ Sayre was clearly entitled to be bailed. The charge," Lord Mansfield said, "admitting it to be true, amounted only to a misdemeanor. Had, therefore, Mr˙ Sayre been brought up unattended by counsel, his Lordship declared he should instantly have admitted him to bail; and if the Court of King' s Bench should be moved, on the first day of the ensuing term, Lord Mansfield intimated, that, for his part, he should have no scruple to discharge Mr˙ Sayre on his own recognizance."

Mr˙ Sayre said, "I thank your Lordship for granting me this ready admission to bail, and for your politeness on this occasion; and your Lordship must think with pleasure, as I do, on the wisdom of our ancestors, in providing this barrier against despotism." Lord Mansfield: "True, Mr˙ Sayre, but law is the barrier against both extremes, and to live within it, is the only way for us all to be secure and free."

Bail was then tendered and accepted. Mr˙ Sayre was bound in five hundred Pounds; Messrs˙ Reynolds and Coote Purdon in two hundred and fifty Pounds each.