After the abolishment of flogging, the Navy went looking for a means to punish petty offenses at sea that were once dealt with by flogging. After input from committees of naval officers, this was the resulting legislation. As suggested in the committee proceedings of dealing with sailors and marines receiving a sentence of a bad conduct discharge, apparently they were tattooed on the hips so they would be caught by the examining surgeons at the Naval Rendezvouses if they tried to re-enlist.
AN ACT TO PROVIDE A MORE EFFICIENT DISCIPLINE FOR THE NAVY.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United State of America in Congress assembled, That, from and after the passage of this act, it shall be the duty of every commanding officer of any of the vessels of the navy, on returning from a cruise. to forward, immediately on his arrival in port, to the Secretary of the Navy, a list of the names of such of the crew who enlisted for three years as in his opinion, on being discharged, are entitled to an "honorable discharge," as a testimony of fidelity and obedience; and that he shall grant the same to such, according to the form to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Navy.
Section 2. And be it further enacted, That if any seaman, ordinary seaman, landsman, or boy shall re-enlist for three years, within three months after his discharge, he shall, on presenting his honorable discharge, or on accounting in a satisfactory manner for its loss, be entitled to pay during the said three months, equal to that to which he would have been entitled if he had been employed in actual service.
Section 3. And be it further enacted. That it shall be the duty of commanders of any vessels in the navy, in granting temporary leave of absence and liberty on shore, to exercise carefully a discrimination in favor of the faithful and obedient.
Section 4. And be it further enacted, That summary courts-martial may be ordered upon petty officers and persons of inferior ratings by the commander of any vessel in the navy to which such persons belong, for the trial of offenses which he may deem deserving of greater punishment than the commander of a vessel himself is by law authorized to inflict of his own authority, but not sufficient to require trial by general court martial.
Section 5. And be it further enacted, That summary courts martial shall consist of three officers not below the rank of passed midshipman, and of some competent person to act as recorder. Before proceeding to trial, the members shall take the following oath or affirmation, which the recorder is hereby authorized to administer: "You, A B, do solemnly swear tor affirm that you will well and truly try, without prejudice or partiality, the case now depending, according to the evidence which shall be adduced, the laws for the government of the navy, and your own conscience. So help you God."
After which the recorder of the court shall take the following oath or affirmation, which the senior member of the court shall administer: 'You, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will keep a true record of the evidence which may be given before this court, and of the proceedings thereof So help you God."
Section 6. And be it further enacted, That the commander of a ship shall have authority to order any officer under his command to act as the recorder of a summary court-martial.
Section 7. And be it further enacted, That all testimony given before such court shall be given orally, on oath or affirmation, which the senior member of the court shall administer. That summary courts-martial may sentence petty officers and persons of inferior ratings to any one of the following punishments, viz:
First: Discharge from the service with bad-conduct discharge, but the sentence not to be carried into effect in a foreign country.
Second: Solitary confinement in irons, single or double, on bread and water, or diminished rations, provided no such confinement shall exceed thirty days.
Third: Solitary confinement in irons, single or double, not exceeding thirty days.
fourth: Solitary confinement not exceeding thirty days.
Fifth: Confinement not exceeding two months.
Sixth: Reduction to next inferior rating.
Seventh: Deprivation of liberty on shore on foreign station.
Eighth: Extra police duties and loss of pay, not to exceed two months, may be added to any of the above mentioned punishments.
Section 8. And be it further enacted. That no sentence of a summary court-martial shall be carried into effect without the approval of the officer ordering the court, who shall have power to remit in part or altogether, but not to commute, any such sentence. And it shall be the duty of any such commanding officer to remit any part or the whole of any sentence by a summary court-martial, the execution of which would, in the opinion of the surgeon or senior medical officer on board, given in writing, produce serious injury to the health of the person sentenced ; or in case he shall refuse to do so, it shall be his duty, without delay, to submit the case again to the same or to another summary court-martial, which shall have power, upon the testimony already taken, to remit the former punishment, and to assign some other of the authorized punishments in the place thereof.
Section 9. And be it further enacted, That the proceedings of summary courts-martial shall be conducted with as much conciseness and precision as may be consistent with the ends of justice, and under such forms and rules as may be prescribed by the Secretary of the Navy, with the approval of the President of the United States; and all such proceedings shall be transmitted in the usual mode to the Navy Department.
Section 10. And be it further enacted, That any punishments authorized by this act to be inflicted by a summary court-martial may likewise be inflicted by any general court-martial.
Section 11. And be it further enacted. That any person who shall entice any seaman, ordinary seaman, landsman, or boy, who may have enlisted into the naval service of the United States, to desert therefrom, or who shall conceal an}. person who may have so deserted, and shall refuse to deliver him up upon the order of his commanding officer, shall, upon legal conviction thereof, be fined, at the discretion of the court, in any sum not exceeding three hundred dollars, or be imprisoned for any term not exceeding one year.
Approved March 2, 1855.Tweet