Amendments V and VI
[Volume 5, Page 247]
Sir Matthew Hale, History of the Common Law 1713 (posthumous)Gray 26-27, 163--64
But touching the Business of Martial Law, these Things are to be observed, viz.
First, That in Truth and Reality it is not a Law, but something indulged rather than allowed as a Law; the Necessity of Government, Order and Discipline in an Army, is that [Volume 5, Page 248] only which can give those Laws a Countenance, Quod enim Necessitas cogit desendi.
Secondly, This indulged Law was only to extend to Members of the Army, or to those of the opposite Army, and never was so much indulged as intended to be (executed or) exercised upon others; for others who were not listed under the Army, had no Colour of Reason to be bound by Military Constitutions, applicable only to the Army, whereof they were not Parts; but they were to be order'd and govern'd according to the Laws to which they were subject, though it were a Time of War.
Thirdly, That the Exercise of Martial Law, whereby any Person should lose his Life or Member, or Liberty, may not be permitted in Time of Peace, when the King's Courts are open for all Persons to receive Justice, according to the Laws of the Land.
. . . . .
Ninthly, The Excellency of this open Course of Evidence to the Jury in Presence of the Judge, Jury, Parties and Council, and even of the adverse Witnesses, appears in these Particulars:
1st, That it is openly; and not in private before a Commissioner or Two, and a couple of Clerks, where oftentimes Witnesses will deliver that which they will be ashamed to testify publickly.
2dly, That it is Ore Tenus personally, and not in Writing, wherein oftentimes, yea too often, a crafty Clerk, Commissioner, or Examiner, will make a Witness speak what he truly never meant, by his dressing of it up in his own Terms, Phrases, and Expressions; whereas on the other Hand, many times the very Manner of a Witness's delivering his Testimony will give a probable Indication whether he speaks truly or falsly; and by this Means also he has Opportunity to correct, amend, or explain his Testimony upon further Questioning with him, which he can never have after a Deposition is set down in Writing.
3dly, That by this Course of personal and open Examination, there is Opportunity for all Persons concern'd, viz. The Judge, or any of the Jury, or Parties, or their Council or Attornies, to propound occasional Questions, which beats and boults out the Truth much better than when the Witness only delivers a formal Series of his Knowledge without being interrogated; and on the other Side, preparatory, limited, and formal Interrogatories in Writing, preclude this Way of occasional Interrogations, and the best Method of searching and sifting out the Truth is choak'd and suppress'd.
4thly, Also by this personal Appearance and Testimony of Witnesses, there is Opportunity of confronting the adverse Witnesses, of observing the Contradiction of Witnesses sometimes of the same Side, and by this Means great Opportunities are gained for the true and clear Discovery of the Truth.
5thly, And further, The very Quality, Carriage, Age, Condition, Education, and Place of Commorance of Witnesses, is by this Means plainly and evidently set forth to the Court and the Jury, whereby the Judge and Jurors may have a full Information of them, and the Jurors, as they see Cause, may give the more or less Credit to their Testimony, for the Jurors are not only Judges of the Fact, but many Times of the Truth of Evidence; and if there be just Cause to disbelieve what a Witness swears, they are not bound to give their Verdict according to the Evidence or Testimony of that Witness; and they may sometimes give Credit to one Witness, tho' oppos'd by more than one. And indeed, it is one of the Excellencies of this Trial above the Trial by Witnesses, that altho' the Jury ought to give a great Regard to Witnesses and their Testimony, yet they are not always bound by it, but may either upon reasonable Circumstances, inducing a Blemish upon their Credibility, tho' otherwise in themselves in Strictness of Law they are to be heard, pronounce a Verdict contrary to such Testimonies, the Truth whereof they have just Cause to suspect, and may and do often pronounce their Verdict upon one single Testimony, which Thing the Civil Law admits not of.
Hale, Sir Matthew. The History of the Common Law of England. Edited by Charles M. Gray. Classics of British Historical Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago