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TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE
MAJOR-GEN. SIR HENRY HARDINGE, K.C.B.
&c. &c. &c.
CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND, AND LATE SECRETARY
In presenting the following pages to the notice of the British army, I have been anxious to do so under such patronage as might, in some measure, draw upon them that attention which the importance of the subject demands.
Actuated by this motive, I was induced to solicit the honor of being permitted to dedicate this work to you. I felt that I could not come before the public under better auspices, than sanctioned by the influence of one, whose merits, whether as an officer in the field, as a statesman in the senate, or as presiding over a great military department, have been too conspicuous and too highly appreciated not to be known by all.
In availing myself, however, of your polite and liberal consent, and in publishing to the world the general approbation with which you have favored my efforts, it is necessary that I should state, that your compliance with my request must not be considered as conveying any assent to opinions on points liable to discussion.
It only remains for me to declare my high sense of the obligation conferred upon me, and, expressing a hope that your future labours for the benefit of the country, whether in the cabinet or the field, may be crowned with that success which has hitherto attended your exertions, to subscribe myself, with unfeigned respect,
Your most obedient
And obliged humble Servant,
THOS. FRED. SIMMONS.
18th September, 1830.
THE FIRST EDITION.
That it is expedient for officers of the army to make themselves acquainted with that system of laws, to which, as soldiers, they are subject, is too obvious to require elucidation; that it is their duty, is evident from a consideration of the nature and responsibility of the judicial character which, in the course of their service, they are constantly called on to assume; and the obligation is rendered still more imperative by the express orders of the army, which declare, “ that the “ duties attached to officers on courts martial, are of “ the most grave and important nature; and, in order " to discharge them with justice and propriety, it is “incumbent on all officers to apply themselves dili, “gently to the acquirement of a competent knowledge “of military law, and to make themselves perfectly "acquainted with all orders and regulations and with “the practices of military courts." By close and assiduous attention to the proceedings of Courts Martial, a sufficient fund of information may perhaps be col. lected; but the results of individual observation are gradual and confined ; and he who relies solely on the conclusions of his own experience, will, in the mean time, be often called to the exercise of functions, his knowledge of which cannot as yet have attained much accuracy and consistence. Works on the practice of Courts Martial and on the subject of Military Law are therefore indispensable : of these, several indeed exist, but they do not appear to have afforded all the information required by the army ; nor are they, in all cases, immediately subservient to practical purposes, nor accommodated invariably to the existing state of the law, and to the general orders which have appeared on the subject within the last few years. Besides which, former publications on the subject are, in a great degree, rendered obsolete by the recent revision of the Mutiny Act and Articles of War.
Such are the reflections which led to the compilation of the following essay; and if, in its progress, the author has succeeded in obviating some difficulties attendant on acquiring a knowledge of the practice of Military Courts, and of the nature and extent of the power imparted to them by the legislature, his principal object will be attained. Whatever may be thought of the manner in which he has executed his design, it will be admitted that the design itself is by no means unimportant and uncalled for.
The Mutiny Act and Articles of War tend reciprocally to throw light on each other, in cases which require elucidation, and where the ordinary rules for interpreting statutes are insufficient; but, in fixing the meaning of the Articles of War, where the pleasure of His Majesty has been expressed, it is decisive ; and as the custom of the army can only have originated in orders, or have been adhered to under the sanction of the King; so must the opinion of His Majesty, as to the usage of the service, be received as equally conclusive. In this view, the author has attentively considered most of the orders which have appeared, since the accession of his late Royal Highness the Duke of York to the command of the army; an epoch ever memorable in the history of Great Britain, as being the commencement of that era, in which the British army has been as conspicuous amongst the armies of Europe for discipline and tactics, as it has always been for patriotism and valour. If the few opinions which the author has ventured to offer on points which have been at times disputed, are not, in each case, supported by reference to a general order; as he believes them to have been inculcated by practice, so he hopes they will be recognised as in unison with the prevailing customs of the service.