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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) [Instructions on how to run a Court martial]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.01982 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: West Point, New York Type: Autograph document signed Date: 4 March 1783 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 33.6 x 21.1 cm.

Summary of Content: Outlines rules and regulations on how to run a fair and just Court Martial. Includes a precept stating "No quotations from law authorities to be admitted in a court martial, as they would tend to involve the proceedings in endless perplexities & errors."

Full Transcript: [draft]
A Court martial ought to possess the means of obtaining the truth, unrestrained by any forms, but such as common sense and the known maxims of Justice dictate. It ...is therefore difficult to establish rules which shall govern in all cases, as there may be some peculiarly circumstanced, which must be decided upon by their own state of things. The following principles however may be necessary to be adopted, as they appear to be founded upon the unalterable principles of Justice
Challenges, or objections, to members of [struck: the] [inserted: a] Court without any given reason, to be admitted. There may be different opinions with respect to the number, which might perhaps be equal to the whole court, provided the services could furnish another.
General charges not to be admitted. They ought to be distinct and particular. A copy to be given to the officer when arrested, or the soldier when confined.
Evidences to be allowed to put their own testimony in writing, subject to cross examination -
No written testimony taken out of court under any circumstances, to be admitted [struck: in cases] [inserted: against a person] in a trial of life and death.
[2] Ex-parte evidence taken out of court not to be admitted; unless it should be fully proved, that the parties were properly cited, and that the non-attendance on the one part, was owing to willful neglect.
Suggestive interrogations, ought not to be admitted. That is questions which lead immediately to the fact, and which suggest an immediate answer. The interrogations ought to be general, bringing the fact to view without any of its attendant circumstances.
Perhaps it would be proper to admit the accuser if he [inserted: should] please [struck: s] to state the questions, conformably to the above principles, to the witnesses which he may produce to support the charges, and to cross examine the evidences of the defence, But not to argue upon the propriety of the proceedings, or to remark on the nature or tendency of the testimony
Courts martial should suffer nothing to be urged on the part of the prosecution, or defense, but what should be pertinent to the charge. If however an officer accused should use expressions injurious to the character of another officer, he ought to be responsible for such expressions before another court martial. [strikeout] The injurious expressions cannot be less criminal, because a court martial happen to be influenced by prejudice or blinded by ignorance in such a degree as to be [3] as to be incapable of performing their duty with propriety.
No quotations from law authorities to be admitted in a court martial, as [struck: it] [inserted: they] would tend to involve the proceedings in endless perplexities & errors.
The Judge Advocate, must be under the immediate orders of the court. He ought impartially to bring the whole truth before the court, whether it should support the prosecution, or acquit the accused. He should assist the prisoner in his defence, and in every instance govern himself by the principles of equal Justice. The Judge advocate is said to be the prosecutor on behalf of the United States. But if his business ends with the prosecution, the institution is unequal and unjust. An Office employed on one side only without [inserted: any] counterballance is too absurd to be tolerated.

West point 4 March 1783 HKnox MGeneral

Sentiments on Courts martial
4 March 1783 -
Sentiments on Courts martial
4 March 1783.
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People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralMilitary HistoryMilitary LawLawOathDeath PenaltyCivil Rights

Sub Era:

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