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ministers with every misfortune, and imputed every success to mere chance ; I say, let such a man have to-day
place in the administration, and he becomes the very reverse of a Turkish Janizary: every success is then owing to the wisdom of the minister, and every misfora tune he ascribes to some fatal accident beyond the reach of human foresight.
This, sir, is an observation I have long since made : it has been confirmed by many experiments ; and if a new experiment were now to be made, I belicve I should see the truth of it established. But thank God! his majesty has a much juster way of judging; he does not judge of a minister from the event, but from the whole tenor of his conduct ; and whatever the necessity of the times might oblige king William to do, as his pre. sent majesty neither is, nor ever was, under any such necessity, we must suppose that his majesty would not only have discovered, but disgraced any minister that had sacrificed his glory, or the good of his subjects
, to any private passion or resentment, which with me, is of itself alone a sufficient argument for concluding, that nothing weak or wicked has been transacted, either in the prosecution of the war, or the negotiations for a peace; and, therefore, I am against our agreeing to this motion.
JOHN MORTON, ESQ.
His Speech on the Mutiny Bill. Mr. Speaker, The amendment made by the committee to the oath now under our consideration, was an amendment, which, so far as it went, I highly approved of; and I was glad to find my opinion supported by some gentlemen, whase
concurrence I shall always be proud of ; but even then I did not think the amendment extensive enough. How, ever, I resolved not to propose any further extension of it at that time, because I was apprehensive lest it might have defeated what I then aimed at, and because I knew, that a further amendment might be proposed upon the report from that committee. I shall therefore now beg leave to observe the impropriety of our giving a greater power to the courts below, than we give to, or reserve for the high court of parliament. By the oath, as it now stands, any member of a court-martial may be obliged by any of the courts in Westminster-hall, to disclose or discover the vote or opinion of every particular member of the court-martial, when it becomes necessary to have a proof thereof in any trial before them. But if a question should arise in this or the other house of par. liament, relating to the proceedings, or the sentence of a court-martial, no member thereof could be desired, much less required, to disclose or discover the vote or opinion of any particular member of that court-martial: for, surely, we could not desire a gentleman to make such discovery, when he is bound by his oath not to do so, unless we should assume to ourselves a dispensing power, which, I hope, no parliament, nor any court or magistrate in Great Britain, ever will.
I confess, sir, I was always, and still am, against the whole of this oath of secrecy. It is an innovation lately brought into our military law ; and it is an innovation which is inconsistent with the whole tenor of our laws, and the very spirit of our constitution. With us the courts of justice have always been open, and the judges thereof have delivered their opinions, and passed sentence or judgment in the face of the world. This will always have a good effect in favour of justice ; for let men be never so corrupt, let them be never so abandoned, they will always have some regard for their safety, if not for their reputation ; and will be cautious of letting the people know, that they have been the tools of oppression,
and the dispensers of manifest injustice." But if we once begin to have sentence passed in secret, and under an oath of secrecy, we shall soon begin to have the whole trial carried on in the same manner; and this smells so strong in the court of Inquisition, and of those terrible recluse courts which are in arbitrary governments the instruments of tyranny, that it must give a just alarm to every gentleman who has a regard for our constitution, or the happiness of posterity.
One of the arguments made use ot, sir, for this oath of secrecy, is so far from being an argument in its favour, that it is an unanswerable argument for our returning to the regulation of 1713, by which it was provided, that no punishment to be inflicted by the sentence of a court. martial, should extend to life or limb ; and, with respect to commission officers, I think, the restraint should be carried even to that of corporeal punishment ; for that of breaking, suspending, or fining a commission officer, is; Ithink, the highest punishment we ought to allow a courtmartial in time of peace to inflict ; and in time of war we have no occasion for a mutiny-bill, because his ma. jesty's prerogative then takes place, by which he may not only appoint courts-martial, but may furnish them with such powers as he thinks necessary.
When I thus talk of the argument brought in favour of this oath, I believe every gentleman will suppose, I mean that by which it is said that as officers depend for their preferment, as well as for their continuance in commission, upon the arbitrary will of the crown, or rather of the prime minister, or general for the time being, they may, when upon a court-martial, be deter: mined by the influence of that minister, or general, to acquit or condemn and punish, not according to justice, but according to his will and pleasure. This they allow to be a danger that ought not to be apprehended, and this danger they pretend to obviate, by obliging every officer, upon oath, not to disclose the vote or opinion of Any particular member of the court-martial.
In the first part of this argument, sir, I most heartily agree with those gentlemen : we know how liable our common law judges were to ministerial influence, when their com missions depended upon ministerial pleasure ; and, therefore, I shall most readily allow, that the dan. ger suggested by those gentlemen, is far from being imaginary, but I cannot agree in the last part of their arguinent ; for I cannot suppose, that this danger will be in the least obviated by the oath of secrecy proposed. We know how little an oath is regarded by mankind, when it happens to be inconsistent with their interest, and when they may break it not only with impunity, but advantage. No officer will, therefore, notwithstanding this oath, suppose that this way of voting at a court-mar. tial can be hid from the crown, or the general, or minis. ter for the time being: consequently, the members of a court-martial will still continue to be under the same influence they are now. Nay, I think, they will be more 50 ;. because, as their way of voting will by this oath be kept hid from the world, they will with the more freedom abandon themselves to that influence, and ministers or generals will with the less restraint make use of it. At present, or at least before this oath was introduced, a man's way of voting at a court-martial was publicly known; and if one voted against what was supposed to be the inclination of the minister, or general, and was afterwards dismissed the service, or disappointed in his preferment, the world of course supposed, that it was on account of his having voted according to conscience, which was an imputation that a wise minister, or general, would choose to avoid ; but no minister, or general, can now be in danger of any such imputation, and, there. fore, they will with the more freedom dismiss or disappoint any officer who dares to vote at a court-martial contrary to their direction.
This argument is, therfore, sir, what may be called argumentum ad hominem, for restraining courts-martial, in time of peace, from inflicting any punishment
extending to life or limb, but can be no argument for the oath of secrecy proposed ; and the other argument, that it will prevent officers being exposed to the resentment of one another, for their way of voting at a court-martial, is equally frivolous : Nay, I think it is worse ; for it carries with it imputation, both upon the officers of our army, and upon our laws. Can we suppose, that any officer of our army would be afraid of doing justice, lest he should thereby incur the displeasure of another officer ? Can we suppose, that our laws would permit any officer to shew the least sign of such a resentment with impunity? This is, therefore, forming to ourselves an imaginary evil, and making use of that as an argument for introducing a real evil, and an evil which will be a precedent for introducing the worst of all evils, which is that of a secret and arbitrary tribunal : for does not every gentleman see, that both this and the former argu. ment are equally strong for keeping secret the whole proceedings of a court-martial ? And having once esta. blished such a secret military tribunal, it will be a precedent for establishing such secret tribunals in all trials at common law. May it not be said, that our common law judges will be the less liable to influence, the more secret their proceedings are kept ? Do not we know, that our common law judges are liable to resentment, and some have actually suffered for the decrees they have made, or the judgments they have pronounced ? But such arguments will never, I hope, prevail with us to
I establish an inquisitorial method of proceeding in any of our courts at common-law.
But, sir, as I am not to oppose this oath of secrecy in general, I should not have taken up your time with saying so much against it, if I had not thought it necessary for inducing gentlemen the more readily to agrec to the amendment I am to propose : for if there be no evi. dent necessity for the oath itself, there is the less danger in any exception that may be thought proper to be made to it. The committee have already introduced one ex.