Polemics & Exchanges

On Reprisal and Law

I read with interest Mark Royden Winchell’s “When They Bare the Iron Hand” (Vital Signs, March).  I do not dispute his account of the events of 1865, but in Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, Congress, not the president, is given the authority to grant letters of marque and reprisal.  Current sensibilities no doubt cloud Mr. Winchell’s memory.

Also, while my recollection of military law procedure may be faulty, the judge advocate, as I recall, was not “both prosecutor and judge.”  Rather, he was both prosecutor and defense counsel.  He was, in fact, to be the professional lawyer in the proceedings and to remain neutral and assist both with the presentation of the case and with the defense.  He was present because a panel of officers, who were laymen (non-lawyers), were the collegiate tribunal or judges, and he was to advise on the substantive and procedural law.  Military law derives its procedures from Roman, not common, law.

        —Duane L.C.M. Galles
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Winchell Replies:

I thank Mr. Galles for his thoughtful response to my article.  In order to avoid confusion, I should have said that the Constitution granted Congress the power to direct the president...

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