Sivu:War Prisoners (Darrow).djvu/12

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12 WAR PRISONERS. traordinary power a power of life and death. And they were boys who, of course, could not know much I was once a boy myself. These were officers in a business entirely new to them. Every private was tried by them, and ninety-four per cent of all the privates were convicted. Only six per cent got away. When there was a charge made against an officer, the officer was tried by officers. Only thirty per cent of the officers were convicted, as against ninety-four per cent of the privates. Upon the face of it, this system is far removed from democracy; it is far removed from what is better, a certain, humane sympathy that goes with people who are substantially alike; it would be impossible that great injustices should not result, and the broad figures show it. Ninety-four per cent of the privates placed on trial were convicted and thirty per cent of the officers convicted. They were defended by people who were appointed from the regiment, generally not lawyers. It is all a lawyer can do to defend a man right. Men, without experience; boys, utterly unable to do the job. As Colonel John Wigmore said, a very large percentage had no defense made for them. They never had any real review of their cases. And, military officers, in the last analysis, really pronounced the sentence. If there was any review, it was not by a real court. These decisions were really not judicial decisions, but military orders, under which men were sentenced to the severest penalties, ranging all the way from one to ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years, and death. Then, in a civil case, after you have been tried and ac- quitted, you are out of it; you cannot be tried again. But, in these military trials, if, six times in a hundred, a boy escaped, and the officers at headquarters were not satisfied with it, they could order a new trial; and they did, over and over again, sometimes two or three times, which is barbarous in the ex- treme. The sentences were such as to shock a person who has had any experience of civil life or the courts. For instance, these courts martial provided for a review at headquarters, and a person had to go to the Adjutant General and from there to the Commander-in-Chief. Down in Texas, they sen- tenced thirteen negroes to death, and to make sure of it, they killed them thirty days before the record ever got to the court of appeals. A reversal of the sentence would have done no good. Twelve men, experienced and old in the service, in one of the camps, all non-commissioned officers, who had been out somewhere in the evening, and were unlawfully arrested by