« PreviousContinue »
Some one was bound over to prosecute, that is, to give evidence; a true bill was found, indeed there was not the shadow of a doubt in the case ; and the trial came on; but no witness appeared. A poor man in these circumstances would have been certainly convicted, and as the law then stood, hanged. The rich man paid the 2001. on the recognizance, kept the witness out of the way, and was acquitted for want of a prosecutor.–Again, a baronet in one of the Midland counties-worthy baronet I cannot term him-fired a loaded musket at a reverend gentleman with whom he had some quarrel arising from bad neighbourship. The intercession of friends, or the kindness of his own nature withheld him from appearing, and the wrongdoer, who had really committed a capital felony, escaped unscathed; for by some other error, the crime was laid as a misdemeanor, and he was not even imprisoned a day. He was safe until he should make another murderous assault.-But now see how also the innocent are harassed with imprisonment and prosecution. To say nothing of the case lately stated to your, Lordships, of the poor woman confined in Northampton Gaol for some months upon a charge of manslaughter found to be utterly groundless as soon as the bill was preferred, the same learned Judge (Mr. Baron Alderson) not long ago presided at the Central Criminal Court, when the Grand Jury brought in a bill for forgery of a will, a bill preferred by a disappointed legatee against the executór. There was an end of the case the instant the Judge saw the will, which the Grand Jury had never even desired to see when they put the party on his trial.-But I recollect being Counsel, one of the last times I ever attended the Criminal Court, for a gentleman of great property and high respectability, a man of 10,0001. or 12,0001. a year, who stood in the dock, and was arraigned for wilful murder, because the Grand Jury sagaciously deemed him criminally accountable for the neglect of one of his bailiffs
, who had thrown a rope across a road that was under repair, and forgot to put a lantern upon it, so that, unfortunately, a woman coming from market was thrown from her cart and broke her neck. The instant that Mr. Baron Wood heard the case opened, he directed an acquittal of course, and desired, the officer of the Court to summon the Grand Jury into his presence. They were discharged; and his Lordship said, “I am extremely sorry for it; this is a most shameful case.” »
As matters now stand, the accident of the place in which a crime may be committed, or an offender taken, or even of the time of year of the offence, makes an enormous difference in the duration of imprisonment before trial. In London and Middlesex there are twelve Assizes and sixteen Sessions, and a Criminal Court every fortnight; a similar arrangement exists in Surrey. But why should so obvious a public duty be postponed in the rest of the kingdom, though it is performed in the Metropolitan counties with the necessary frequency? To meet this want, Lord Brougham proposes
"That Assizes should be holden four times a year in each county, and Quarter Sessions so frequently and at such times relating
to the Assizes as that a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction shall sit once a fortnight in each county:
* That to equalise the business, counties may be divided, and parts of different counties united for the purposes of trial, and that persons may be tried at the option of the Public Prosecutor, either in the district where the offence is alleged to have been committed, or in an adjoining district :
“ That the same criminal jurisdiction should be given to Judges of the County Courts as is at present possessed by the Quarter Sessions of the Peace, that this jurisdiction should extend over the district subject to their civil jurisdiction, and that the justices of every county may be relieved from the obligation to hold sessions oftener than four times a year, whensoever it shall appear that beside those four sessions and the assizes there is sufficient number of County Court Criminal Sittings to give two Criminal Courts monthly in the district.'
We have recently entered so fully upon the subject of prison discipline, that we shall not follow Lord Brougham into that portion of his address, at the present moment: nor are we prepared to give an unqualified assent to his valuable suggestions in all their details. But the object of the noble and learned lord appears to have been to propound these resolutions for the consideration and discussion of Parliament. That discussion will probably be renewed soon after the Easter recess, and we trust the subject will obtain the ample consideration which it deserves. It is not, however, by the production of one or two partial measures of reform that the principal legal members of the Government can hope to remove those grievances or to satisfy the just expectations of the public. The whole state of our Criminal Procedure requires a searching and comprehensive revision; and the first step to the attainment of this object should be the creation of a Commission to inquire into the whole matter, and to frame the necessary measures for the consideration and approval of the Legislature.
Lord Brougham concluded his speech by a touching expression of the feeling of an old and faithful servant of his country, zealous of good works to the close of his career. He said that almost everything that one now does in this kind is of 'a testamentary nature, but that he deemed it his duty to be• queath these proposals to his brethren and his country before • he shall have sunk into feeble, and unreasoning and narrative • age. We trust, however, that his own life may not be so short, nor the time employed in bringing these measures to maturity so long, as to deprive him of the
satisfaction and the honour of accomplishing another important reform in the law of England, or to rob him of another claim to the gratitude of posterity.
Art. X. — The Military Forces and Institutions of Great
Britain and Ireland ; their Constitution, Administration, and Government, Military and Civil. By N. BYERLEY THOMP
son, Esq. London: 1855. THE HE march of the Guards out of London, in the early spring
of 1854, was an event which made a lasting impression upon the memories of all who were abroad to witness it. The magnificent appearance of the men; the buoyant spirits of the officers; the throngs of people that preceded and followed the columns, admiring and applauding as they went; the crash of military music, drowned from time to time by cheers which, bursting from the crowd, were taken up and heartily responded to by the troops ; the waving of handkerchiefs from windows, bringing tears into a thousand eyes — all these sights and sounds combined to produce a spectacle which stirred the blood of the oldest into rapid circulation, and sent that of the younger portion of the spectators bounding through their veins. When and where were such soldiers ever before collected under a national banner? such weight, such symmetry, such physical strength, such perfect discipline and courage? What force on earth, however numerically superior, could stand before them? what enemy could dare to meet them in battle? Nor was it exclusively in London that this mingled feeling of admiration and confidence prevailed. Liverpool, Southampton, Portsmouth, Dublin, Cork, all became in turn recipients of the same electric shock, and all cheered their gallant countrymen to the place of embarcation, not so much because these latter were going forth in a noble spirit to encounter difficulties and dangers—and it might be death—for their country's sake, as because, in the fond imaginings of the lookers-on, they were proceeding to sure and speedy victory.
Something more than a year has run its course, and where are those magnificent regiments now? They more than realised the expectations that were formed of them. No dangers appalled them; no adversary arrested their progress. So long as there was an enemy to fight in a fair field, they fought and conquered: but hardships such as British soldiers never encountered before, did for them what the swords of the Russians proved unequal to effect. Those stalwart frames, on which we gazed with wonder as they mustered in the dawn of the morning on their peaceful parades, shrank and wasted, and were, by scores at a time, consigned to their mother-earth,- in a countless majority of cases unscathed by fire or steel.
Those manly hearts, which beat twelve short months ago with patriotism the most unselfish, with loyalty of the purest water, lie cold and still; and all alike knew that it was not through the common accidents of war that life was passing from them.
So, in broad outline, stand the facts of the case : and now on whom does the responsibility of these disasters rest? We speak not of individuals who may be to blame each in his own degree; but we must look deeper if we desire to discover the true cause of our disgrace. Nor need we look long; for it is to be found in the military system of this country. That system unites in itself all the vices, without exhibiting any of the counterbalancing excellences, that appertain to the mixed form of civil government under which we live. It lacks the energy and vigour of absolutism, and is choked at the same time by the most deplorable abuses of favouritism. Jealous of the Crown in military affairs, the Constitution has distributed the acknowledged authority of the Sovereign over so wide a surface, that it can never be brought to bear in times of emergency on one point. Whereas the honour of serving the Crown in the army is so highly esteemed in all circles, that no amount of ability or zeal will suffice to raise individuals to high command, unless they have, as the expression goes, interest at the Horse Guards. Indeed' a pair of colours, the first step on the military ladder, lie quite beyond the reach of such as happen to lack connexion or to be without the means of conciliating men in power; whilst with these props to sustain him, no youth need be deterred from aspiring to a commission, however unfitted both mentally and bodily he may be for the profession of arms. In a word, our army is the most imperfect in the world, except in this one important point — the strength, the courage, the endurance, the admirable behaviour of the men. Its administration in the highest quarters is carried on through a succession of checks and balances such as would ruin the working of the best mounted machine that ever was constructed. The training of its subordinates goes forward by a process, which leaves every individual to learn just as much or just as little of his profession as he chooses. And its very regiments, highly as we have heard them lately spoken of, are anything but schools wherein officers as well as men become initiated into the mysteries of a very complicated art, and taught how to apply them to practice. Let us endeavour, by references necessarily brief to some of the most obvious defects under which our military system labours, to carry the mind of the reader along with us, and so clear the way for the suggestions which we consider it our duty at so momentons a crisis to offer.
I. At the head of the causes of that chronic inefficiency to which the British army is liable, stands the nature of the authority by which it exists. Here, as well as in every other monarchy in the world, the sovereign is the ostensible source of military power. But whereas in France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, the army once embodied becomes the permanent servant of the Crown, in England, there is required to keep it in obedience, an annual Mutiny Act; and to hinder it from dissolving itself for lack of pay, an annual vote of supply by the House of Commons. These arrangements, but especially the latter, give to Parliament a complete hold upon the Queen's troops.
Either House, by refusing to pass the Mutiny Act, could at the end of any given year release all the seamen, soldiers, and marines in the empire from their engagements. While with the Commons it rests to decide what amount of force shall be kept up; and with what appliances, if with any besides their arms, the troops shall be furnished. It is obvious that an army so circumstanced, must always be at the mercy of a power which of all others is least likely to deal with it in a spirit of a wise liberality. And hence it
a comes to pass that at the close of every war the single cry, heard both in Parliament and out of it, is for reduction. Away go thousands of men from their colours, costing more in the gratuities given at their discharge than they would have done had they been kept in the ranks till the ordinary casualties of home and colonial service had worn them down. And away go other things quite as essential to the efficiency of the army as men. For no sooner is peace restored than the question comes day by day to be put, -of what use to us now are pontoon trains, commissariat corps, transport services, purveyors' department, camp equipages ? &c. &c.; indeed, any portion of that complicated and well-adjusted machine, which it cost so much time and money to get together, and with which the requirements of war cannot dispense. And the minister, unwilling or unable to resist the pressure, yields up first one establishment and then another; till, before many Sessions are over, we find ourselves again without so much as a nucleus round which to gather a new war equipment were the necessity for it suddenly to arise.
Observe, that we are far from desiring to undervalue the advantages which the people derive from the strict surveillance which they maintain through their representatives over the executive in its military expenditure by Annual Mutiny Acts, and Votes of Supply. But it is just that the people should understand that there is some evil mixed up with a great good; and that the most popular of their representatives are usually the