MUTINY ACT is an annual measure passed by parliament to confer on the executive government the right to raise and maintain in this country for the ensuing year a standing army, consisting of a specified number of men, and subject to the laws and discipline of war com prised In the act itself, and in the articles of issued annually under authority of the statute by her Majesty.
Laws have, at ,various times, been made by the authority of the crown for the maintenance of discipline in the army when in garrison, on a march, and in the presence of an enemy; these have been briefly hinted at in the article on MARTIAL and Mstrraree LAW, and may be seen at length in Grose's ' History of the English Army' (vol. ii.); but the coda which is now in use is one of the first-fruits of the Revolution in 1688. Previously to that event the crown, except during the civil wars and the subsequent protectorate, had, at least practically, the supreme power over the militia (that is, over the whole military force), which, with or without the consent of the nation, might be called out and employed as long as pay and quarters could be obtained for the troops. But the efforts then recently made to carry out a series of measures tending to the maintenance and extension of arbitrary power in the crown, joined to the increasing jealousy of the people for their civil and religious liberties, led the two houses of parliament to take the earliest opportunity, after the new king had been called to the throne, of expressing in sonic public act of legislation their authority over the regular troops of the nation ; and an opportunity almost immediately presented itself, on occasion of a serious mutiny taking place in the army. While the Royal Scotch and Dumbarton regiments, under ilarshal Schomberg, in their progress to the coast for the purpose of being embarked for Hollaud, were quartered at Ipswich, a largo body of men refusing to proceed to their destination, disarmed their officers, seized the military cheat, and, with four pieces of cannon, began their march for Scotland. Being pursued by General Ginckel,
with three regiments of Dutch dragoons, they surrendered at discretion ; but, in consequence of this event, and on the spur of the moment, a bill was passed (April 12th, 16S9) by which the army was put at once uuder the control of the law with respect to discipline, and under its protection with respect to pay and quarters.
The enactments of this measure were particularly directed against the crimea of mutiny and desertion, for which the bill was immediately required; but the Act itself begins by laying down as maxims that the raising or keeping a standing army in the country in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of parliament, is against law ; and that no man can be forejudged of life or limb, or subject to any kind of punishment in any other manner than according to the established laws of the realm. It then states that it is judged necessary, by their Majesties and the parliament, during the; present time of danger and for the defence of the Protestant religion, to continue and augment the forces which are now on foot. Avoiding the acknowledgment that any power exists in the crown for the appointment of courts-martial, it authorises their Majesties to grant commissions to general officers to assemble such courts for the purpose of trying andpunishing such offences as mutiny and desertion. Provisions are also made that nothing in the Act shall exempt an officer or soldier from the ordinary processes of law ; that it shall not concern the militia troops; and that it shall only continue in force till the 10th of November in the same year. The Act has ever since, with one exception, been annually renewed : after the bill which passed in 'April, 1697, for ono year as usual, had expired, no other was passed till March, 1702 ; and, on a few occasions, the bill has been suffered to expire for several days before the following one received the royal assent.