APRIL 1757 – 30th GEORGE II.
An Act for preventing Mutiny and Desertion.
I. WHEREAS it is judged necessary in this time of open war, that a number of forces should be raised and kept on foot, for vindicating the honor of his majesty's crown, and for the safety and defence of this dominion, amounting to fifteen hundred and seventy two men, including three companies of rangers, to consist of one hundred men each. And whereas no man can be forejudged of life, or limb, or subject to any kind of punishment by martial law, or in any other manner, than by the judgment of his peers, and according to the known and established laws of this colony: Yet nevertheless it being requisite for the retaining such forces in their duty, that an exact discipline be observed, and that the soldiers who shall mutiny or stir up sedition, or shall desert his majesty's service be brought to a more exemplary and speedy punishment, than the usual forms of the law will allow.
II. Be it therefore enacted, by the Lieutenant-Governor, Council, and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same. That from and after the passing of this act, if any person being mustered, or in pay as an officer, or who is or shall be inlisted or in pay as a soldier or ranger, by virtue of any act of Assembly, or shall during the continuance of this act voluntarily enter himself into his majesty's service as a soldier or ranger, shall at any time during such continuance of this act within this dominion, begin, excite, cause, or join in. any mutiny or sedition in the company, or regiment whereto he doth belong, or in any other company, or desert his majesty's service, or being a soldier or ranger actually inlisted in any company, shall inlist himself in any other company, without a discharge produced in writing from the colonel, or in his absence the chief officer commanding the regiment or company in which he last served as an inlisted soldier or ranger; or if any officer, soldier or ranger, so inlisted as aforesaid, shall hold correspondence with any of his majesty's enemies, or give them advice or intelligence either by letters, messages, signs, or tokens, or any manner of way whatsoever, or shall treat with such enemies, or enter into any condition with them, without the licence of his majesty's lieutenant-governor, or commander in chief of this dominion, or the colonel or chief officer commanding such regiment or shall strike or use any violence against his superior officer, being in the execution of his office, or shall refuse to obey any lawful command of his superior officer, all and every person and persons so offending, in any of the matters before mentioned, shall suffer death, or such other punishment, as by a court martial shall be inflicted.
III. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That the governor or commander in chief of this dominion, may from time to time grant a commission under the seal of this colony to any officer of such regiment, not under the degree of a field officer, for holding a general court martial within this dominion, for the trial of any officer or soldier belonging to the Virginia regiment, in which court martial all the offences be hereafter directed.
IV. And be it also further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful to and for such court martial, by their sentence or judgment to inflict corporal punishment, not extending to life or limb, on any soldier for immoralities, misbehaviour, or neglect of duty.
V. And it is hereby further enacted and declared, That no general court martial which shall have power to sit by virtue of this act, shall consist of a less number than nine, whereof none to be under the degree of a commission officer, and that such court martial shall have power and authority, and are hereby required to administer an oath to every witness in order to the examination or trial of any of the offences that shall come before them.
VI. Provided always. That in all trials of offenders by general courts martial to be held by virtue of this act, every officer present at such trial before any proceedings be had thereupon, shall take the following oaths upon the holy evangelists, which shall be first administered to the presiding officer by the rest of the members present at such courts martial, and then by the presiding officer to them, that is to say.
You shall well and truly try and determine according to your evidence in the matter now before you, between our sovereign lord the king's majesty, and the prisoner to be tried.
So help you God.
I A. B. do swear, that I will duly administer justice, according to the rules and articles for the better government of his majesty's forces, and according to an act of Assembly, intituled. An act for preventing mutiny and desertion, without partiality, favor, or affection; and if any doubt shall arise which is not explained by the said articles or act of Assembly, according to my conscience, the best of my understanding, and the custom of war in the like cases. And I further swear, that I will not divulge the sentence of the court, until it shall he approved by the governor or commander in chief for the time being, neither will I upon any account, at any time whatsoever, disclose or discover the vote or opinion of any particular member of the court martial, unless required to give evidence thereof as a witness by a court of justice in a due course of law.
So help me God.
And that such court martial shall have power to appoint a clerk to keep a register of their proceedings, to whom the president of the court shall administer the following oath, to wit, You shall swear, that you will not upon any account, at any time whatsoever, disclose or discover the vote or opinion of any particular member of the court martial, unless required to give evidence thereof as a witness by a court of justice in a due course of law.
And no sentence of death shall be given against any offender in such case by any general court martial, unless six officers present shall concur therein. And if there be more officers present, than nine, then the judgment shall pass by the concurrence of two-thirds of the officers present, and no proceeding or trial shall be had upon any offence but between the hours of eight of the clock in the morning and three in the afternoon, (except in cases which require an immediate example.) Provided always. That the party tried by any general court martial in this colony, shall be entitled to a copy of the sentence and proceedings of such court martial, upon demand thereof made by himself, or by any person or persons on his behalf, at any time not sooner than five days after such sentence, whether such sentence be approved or not, any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.
VII. Provided also, and be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid. That the president and other officers acting as members of any such court martial, do, and they are hereby required to transmit with as much expedition as the opportunity of time and distance of place can admit a transcript of the proceedings and sentence of such court martial, under their hands and. seals, to the governor or commander in chief for the time being, and that execution of all and every such sentence and judgment, shall be suspended until the pleasure of the governor or commander in chief be known, who if he thinks proper, is hereby desired to issue his warrant under the seal of the colony, for putting such sentence or judgment into execution, and to transmit the same to the presiding officer at such court martial.
VIII. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That the governor or commander in chief of this colony, may, for the trial of the officers or soldier belonging to any company of rangers, grant a commission under the seal of tins colony, to one of the field officers of the said regiment to hold a court martial, which court martial shall consist of such officer and the commissioned officers of the several companies of rangers, to be raised by virtue of any act of Assembly or seven of them at least, and no sentence of death shall be given against any offender by such court martial, unless six officers then present shall concur there-in: And the said court martial so constituted shall have the same power, that the courts martial to beheld by virtue of this act for the trial of the officers and soldiers of the Virginia regiment have, and shall in every other respect be subject to the same rules, orders, and regulations.
IX. And whereas several soldiers and rangers after being inlisted do desert and are often found wandering or otherwise absenting themselves illegally from the service aforesaid. Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid. That it shall and may be lawful to and for all magistrates, officers and others, who shall have reasonable cause to suspect any man to be such a deserter, to apprehend or cause him to be apprehended, and to cause such person to be brought before any justice of the peace of the said county, who hath hereby power to examine such suspected person; and if by his confession, or by the testimony of one or more witness or witnesses upon oath, or by the knowledge of the justice of the peace, it shall appear or be found that such suspected person is an inlisted soldier or ranger, and ought to be with the company to which he belongs such justice shall issue his warrant to the next constable, requiring him to receive such deserter, and him to convey and deliver to the next constable, and so from constable to constable until such deserter be delivered to the commanding officer of the company to which he belongs; And every constable to whom such deserter and warrant shall be produced, shall execute the same and give a receipt upon the delivery of the deserter to him, under the penalty of forfeiting five
hundred pounds of tobacco, recoverable before any justice of the peace to the use of the informer.
X. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That every constable charged with the conducting any deserter, shall be and is hereby impowered to impress men and horses where necessary, for the safe conveying the deserter or deserters wherewith he stands charged; and if such constable shall suffer such deserter to escape, he shall forfeit and pay five hundred pounds of tobacco to the use of the informer, to be recovered in the manner herein before mentioned. And for the better encouragement of any person or persons to secure or apprehend such deserters aforesaid.
XI. Be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That such justice of the peace shall give him or them a certificate thereof, and the taker up shall be entitled to two hundred pounds of tobacco, to be levied on the public. And when any deserter shall have crossed the bay of Chesapeak, every constable to whom such deserter shall be committed, shall forthwith cause him to be transported again across the bay and delivered to a constable there, to be conveyed as is herein before directed, and for his trouble and charge therein, such
constable shall have and receive five hundred pounds of tobacco, for every deserter so transported and delivered, to be paid by the public.
XII. Provided always. That if any person shall harbor, conceal, or assist any deserter from the forces which now are or hereafter shall be in the pay of this colony, knowing him to be such; or if any person shall knowingly buy or exchange, or otherwise receive any arms or cloaths from any soldier or deserter, on any pretence whatsoever, the person so offending shall forfeit for every such offence the sum of twenty pounds, and upon conviction by the oath of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any justice of the peace in the county where such offence shall be committed, the said penalties shall be levied by warrant under the hand of the said justice of the peace, by distress and sale of the goods and chattels of the offender, to be paid to the informer.
XIII. And be it further enacted, That if any action, bill, plaint or suit, shall be brought against any person or persons for any act, matter or thing to be acted or done pursuant to this act, it shall and may be lawful for all or any person or persons, sued as aforesaid, to plead thereunto the general issue, and to give such special matter in evidence to the jury who shall try the issue, which special matter if pleaded had been a good and sufficient matter in law, to have discharged the defendant or defendants of the trespass or other matter laid to his or their charge.
XIV. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid. That this act shall continue and be in force for and during the space of one year and no longer.