Benjamin Franklin Papers

Mutiny Act, [4 November 1756]

Mutiny Act

Reprinted (in part only) from The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801, V (Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1898), 266–8.

The Mutiny Act passed on April 15, 1756 (see above, VI, 434–7), expired by its own limitation on October 30. Two days before that event Franklin brought in a bill, by leave of the House, to renew the law for a short term. With nearly a minimum of debate in the Assembly and discussion with the governor the bill was enacted on November 4.6 Except for the substitution of Denny’s name for that of Morris in the enacting clause, the law was identical with the one it succeeded down to the final sentence of the first act, which specified its terminal date. That sentence was omitted and the paragraphs printed below were substituted. The identical portion is not reprinted here.

[November 4, 1756]

* * * * *

And in order to prevent all doubts that may arise in relation to punishing of crimes and offenses committed against a former act of assembly of this province, entitled “An act for regulating the officers and soldiers commissionated and raised by the governor for the defense of this province”:

Be it declared and enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all crimes and offenses which have been committed against the said former act shall and may during the continuance of this present act be inquired of, heard, tried, determined, adjudged and punished before and by the like courts, persons, powers, authorities, ways, means and methods as the like crimes and offenses committed against this present act may be inquired of, heard, tried, determined, adjudged and punished.

This act to continue and to be in force until the twenty-fifth day of March next and no longer.7

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Votes, 1756–57, pp. 17, 25, 26–7. The governor suggested that the number of officers required to constitute a general court martial might well be reduced from the thirteen required by the British Mutiny Act, because of the difficulty of getting so many together in Pennsylvania, but the House replied that the bill was only to be in effect for a short time and, since Denny was in a hurry to get away for an Indian conference at Easton and any change would take time, the proposed alteration should be postponed. Denny acquiesced.

7On December 14 the Assembly appointed a committee, which did not include BF, to bring in a new bill for regulating the troops raised by the governor. The measure was reported Jan. 6, 1757, and passed the House six days later. The governor proposed an amendment to make the number of officers necessary for a general court martial not less than seven nor more than thirteen, but did not adhere to it over the Assembly’s objection. He signed the measure on January 18. The act repeated the main text of its predecessors virtually without change and made its terms applicable to military offenses committed against those acts; it was to remain in force until March 25, 1758. BF was not directly concerned in its drafting nor, except as a voting member of the Assembly, in its passage. Votes, 1756–57, pp. 47, 64, 66, 68–70; Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 390–2; Stat. at Large of Pa., V, 281–3.

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