Wednesday, April 2, 2014

French military justice reform, 1790-96

Stumbled upon while looking for something else: this informative article by Charles H. Hammond, Jr., of the University of California, Davis, The French Revolution and the Enlightening of Military Justice, 34 Proc. of West. Soc'y for French Hist. 134 (2006). The author writes:
The Revolution's overall accomplishments were considerable, even pivotal, but as with many other aspects of the Revolution, military justice required much more refinement. Still, the tally sheet was on the positive side. The French military had a basic justice code that brought greater organization to what had been a chaotic series of military courts at the end of the Old Regime. Notwithstanding, issues remained. The conseils de guerre lacked truly independent decision-making capability, as did the revision councils. The problem of ratione materiae versus ratione personae had not been resolved and had seen considerable see-sawing throughout this period. Sentences remained harsh, though even in this arena the Revolution had eliminated some of the most onerous punishments. Moreover, the conseils de guerre needed regulated court procedures to insure that each accused received a standardized trial and the services of a mandatory defender. Finally, the Revolution had attempted to extend to the soldier the legal status of a citizen. It had succeeded in this task far more than the Old Regime, but more work in preserving a soldier's rights in this regard would be necessary for the future.

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