Page images

departments of the navy for future emergencies. In these things we may profit by good example. Hitherto we have contented ourselves too much with providing for the demands of the time. A more comprehensive policy is to be recommended ; one that will embrace the possible wants of the navy when the occasion shall arrive for launching and putting in commission every vessel of war that is now on the stocks. The “Epitome of the Royal Naval Service of England ” affords an evidence of the great popularity of the British navy, not only in its details, but in its typographical execution. It is embellished, in the style of an annual, with colored engravings of vessels of all rates and classes, and interspersed with appropriate poetical quotations easily found in the English writers of all times, to whom the sea and the navy have ever proved rich themes of song.

4 The Main! The Main !

Is Britain's reign;

Her pride, her glory, is her fleet.” From it we take the following table of interesting statistics. It has already appeared in the newspapers of the day, but we would give it a more durable place here for the convenience of future reference.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The following statement of the navy of Great Britain is from the last official list for October, 1840, as published in Miles's “Epitome,” page 37 ;

| 54


In com

in ordi- Build-
Ships, &c.
mission. | nary:


Total. | Tons. Of the line.



1 105 Under that rate,

466,176 149 220

small vessels, &c.
Steam Vessels.

15 1 7 1 87

34,050 . 242


| 595

| 500,232 “ The whole charge for the service of the year ending February, 1841, amounts to £5,659,051. The number of seamen, 24,165. Boys, 2,000. Marines, 9,000. Total, 35,165."

We have sought this opportunity of presenting some considerations upon the present condition of our own navy, and of making some suggestions for its more perfect organization. The field is a wide one, and we by no means expect to occupy it entirely ; but we are bound to say, that we offer our remarks in a spirit of candid inquiry, with an earnest desire to assist the labors of the Navy Department, and to contribute something to the honor and efficiency of this valuable branch of the public service. We need hardly add, that our suggestions will have no other connexion than the subject which is their common basis. It is said, and not we fear without truth, that the discipline of the navy has suffered in common with its other interests from the neglect of late years.

There are some unhealthy symptoms apparent to a superficial observer. One of the worst of these, is the want of concert and harmony between the different grades. Cases have recently occurred where junior officers, feeling themselves aggrieved, and have ing in vain applied to the Department for redress, have been driven finally to appeal to the justice of Congress, or the sympathies of the people. The decisions of courts-martial have justified this appeal, and the fatal consequence has resulted, of a loss of confidence on the part of young officers in those to whom they would naturally look, and ought to look, for protection.

It is suspected, that rank has proved a shield against the penalties of the violated law. An attempt has been made to fix upon the junior officers the caluinny, that they are not interested to preserve discipline and proper subordination.

It has been declared from a high place, that publicity in the proceedings of courts-martial impairs their authority, and, what is more strange, that the members of a court are noi bound to make up a finding according to the evidence, but are authorized to go beyond the record, and consult their private feelings and opinions.

Some of these pernicious doctrines are set forth in a “Letter from the Secretary of the Navy, transmitting Copies of Proceedings of the Naval Courts-martial in the cases of Commander Smoot, and Lieutenants Sharpe and Stallings.” A few extracts from this letter will suffice as a text for our future remarks.

“With the most unfeigned deference to the assembled representatives of the people of the United States, I would respectfully suggest for their consideration, whether the frequent practice, among officers of the navy, of appealing to Congress, when dissatisfied with the decisions of courts-martial, or the course of the department, is not well calculated to impair that just and salutary authority committed to them by the laws, and the exercise of which seems indispensable to the preservation of discipline and subordination in the service."

It may safely be trusted, that it will never be in the power of any individual, however exalted his station, to withhold from any other, however mean his condition, the right of proper and respectful appeal to the high court of the nation ; our comment therefore will rather apply to the spirit than to the effect of this passage.

No publicity can impair the just and salutary authority, which is exercised with impartiality. Discipline and subordination are best preserved by the distribution of an equal justice, which has no cause to dread exposure and discussion. So far from fearing the evil anticipated by the late Secretary, we think that nothing can be more conducive to proper subordination than a publication of the proceedings of those tribunals in which the guilty are punished, and the innocent acquitted ; — where the good may find encouragement, and the bad warning; which afford precedents, that cannot be too much multiplied, and instruction that cannot be too often repeated. The public administration of the laws is a main principle of our government. It is a principle founded on truths, that admit of no exceptions in favor of military rule. Any attempt to give to military courts a secret and inquisitorial character will terminate in the subversion of

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

their authority, and in the prostration of one of the main pillars of the military system, — the exclusive administration of its own laws.

In the following sentences, “I would respectfully call the attention of Congress to a consideration of the complete contrast between our civil and military codes; the object of one is to secure equal rights to all, – the other recognises no equality,” the distinction of ranks in a military establishment is confounded with the exercise of judicial power.

The assertion, that the military code recognises no equality is, in this connexion, a specious error. It is true, so far as the external condition of the individual is concerned, but erroneous, with regard to the right of that individual to simple and equal justice. We fear that we have before us, clothed in a more seemly garb, a sentiment which was once more common in the service than now, that juniors have no rights. Inferior officers have few privileges, side-boys fewer ; but all have rights, as well as duties, and the first of these is their right to perfect justice in the execution of the laws.

"That there may have been great disparities in the punishments awarded by courts-martial, for offences apparently similar, is very certain. ... From the int imacy of their association, almost every officer is acquainted with the character and habits of his brother officers from his own personal knowledge. It is not always, therefore, that the decisions of courtsmartial are exclusively founded on the testimony given on trial. They are necessarily influenced by this direct personal knowledge; . . Hence the records of these tribunals do not always clearly indicate the whole ground upon which their decisions are based."

In these passages of the late Secretary's letter, the very singular, and indeed monstrous, doctrine is asserted, that the members of a court-martial are justified in making their private opinions and feelings the basis of their legal decisions ! With this assertion we hardly know how to deal. It is surely not necessary in this community, at this time, seriously to undertake the exposure of its falsehood and evil tendencies; yet it comes to us from one having authority, and holding a high station ; one, whose instructions are supposed to be such as may be listened to with respect, and relied upon with safety. We must express our wonder, how any man could have had the temerity to stand before the Congress of the United States as the

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »