Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The New Model Army's “Laws and Ordinances of War" (Theonomy Applied)

In 1642 during the English Civil War, a military code was published for the Parliamentarian army titled “Laws and Ordinances of War established for the better conduct of the Army.” It “became the laws under which the New Model [army] and the armies of the Commonwealth and Protectorate were governed.”[1] 

As such, the code was employed by the great military and political leader Oliver Cromwell, who ascended to supreme commander of the New Model Army—which never lost a battleand would ultimately become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England.

The “Laws and Ordinances of War" was so influential that some of its articles of war were enacted by the army of the subsequent Restoration, and thus became part of the English military code.[2] 

Unlike contemporary military codes that at best only have some commands regarding a soldier’s duty to man (the second great commandment), this code first and foremost includes commands regarding a soldier’s duty to God (the first great commandment)—the fear of Whom is foundational to treating one’s fellow man justly, and thus keeping the second great commandment. It should come as no surprise that the modern, non-Christian way of waging war is inhumane because God Almighty, the source of justice, is not acknowledged.

The code begins by requiring reverence for God and divine worship, both of which, if neglected, could invite God’s curse on the military and cost it any hope of victory:
I. Blasphemy.—First, Let no man presume to Blaspheme the holy and blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; nor the known Articles of our Christian Faith, upon pain to have his Tongue bored with a red-hot Iron. (Of Duties to God, I)
II. Cursing.—Unlawfull Oathes and Execrations, and scandalous acts in derogation of God's Honour, shall be punished with loss of Pay, and other punishment at discretion. (Of Duties to God, II
III. Neglecting Divine Worship.—All those who often and willfully absent themselves from Sermons, and Public Prayer, shall be proceeded against at discretion: And all such who shall violate Places of Public worship, shall undergo severe Censure. (Of Duties to God, III)[3] 

Related to the third law above, the first part of a later section of the code states: 
Commanders must see God duly served.—All Commanders are straightly charged to see Almighty God reverently served, and Sermons and Prayers duly frequented. (Of the Duties of Commanders and Officers in particular, I.)[4]

The "Laws and Ordinances of War" took measures to curb sins
common to warfare, such as theft, pillage, rape, and murder.

The code moves on to Second Table of the Law prohibitions. Soldiers can be prone to abusing the power of the sword to indulge in sinful desires at the expense of their neighbor—namely, intimidation, theft, pillage, unnecessary destruction and violence, rape, torture, and murder. As such, this code wisely took measures against such abuses, as we see in the following prohibitions scattered throughout the code:
Unnatural/ abuses.—Rapes, Ravishments, unnatural abuses, shall be punished with death. (Of Duties Moral, II)
Theft.—Theft and Robbery, exceeding the value of twelve pence, shall be punished with death. (Of Duties Moral, IV)
Provocation.—No man shall use reproachful, nor provoking words, or act to any, upon pain of imprisonment, and further punishment as shall be thought fit to be inflicted upon enemies to Discipline and service. (Of Duties Moral, V)
Seizing upon dead men’s goods.—No man shall take or spoile the Goods of him that dyeth, or is killed in Service, upon pain of restoring double the value, and Arbitrary punishment. (Of Duties Moral, VI)
Murder.—Murder shall be expiated with the death of the Murderer. (Of Duties Moral, VII)
Waste and extortion.None in their March through the Countries shall waste, spoil or extort any Victuals, Money, or pawne, from any subject, upon any pretense of want whatsoever, upon pain of death. (Of Duty in Marching, I)
Taking of Horses out of the Plow.No Soldier shall presume, upon no occasion whatsoever, to take a Horse out of the Plough, or to wrong the  Husbandmen in their person or Cattel, or Goods, upon pain of death. (Of Duty in Marching, II)
Drawing swords in a quarrel.No man shall draw any Sword in a private quarrel within the Camp, upon pain of death. (Of Duties in the Camp and Garrison, V) 
Whosoever shall in his Quarter, abuse, beat, fright his Landlord, or any Person else in the Family, or shall extort Money or Victuals, by violence from them, shall be proceeded against as a Mutineer, and an enemy to Discipline. (Of Duties in the Camp and Garrison, XIX)
Burning and wasting.—No man shall burn any House or Barn, be it of friend or foe, or willfully spoil any Corn, Hay, or Straw, or Stacks in the fields, or any Ship, Boat, Carriage, or any thing that may serve for the Provision of the Army without Order, upon pain of death. (Of Duties in Action, IV)
Pillaging without licence.No man upon any good Success, shall fall a pillaging before license, or a sign given upon pain of death. (Of Duties in Action, X)[5]

In the midst of battle, the code both forbids sparing an enemy wielding
a weapon, as well as killing an enemy who yields.

The code also takes into account the tendency for soldiers to default into the extremes of either bloodlust or unwarranted pacifism. First, in the heat of the battle, soldiers may forget that war is about justice, and instead, in fits of maniacal bloodlust, view war as an opportunity to cut down their enemies with impunityeven when they have peacefully yielded. On the other hand, in bouts of humanistic sentimentalism, soldiers may, at the possible expense of their own lives and the lives of their fellow troops, be tempted to spare enemy troops who have no intention of surrendering. Thus the code takes care to decree the following:
Killing an Enemy who yields.—None shall kill an Enemy who yields, and throws down his Arms. (Of Duties in Action, V)
Saving of men armed with Offensive Arms.None shall save a man who hath his offensive Arms in his hands, upon pain of losing his Prisoner. (Of Duties in Action, VI)[6]
The code, moreover, recognizes that man’s propensity for unwarranted violence can even occur between fellow soldiers. The “duel” was anticipated, and thus officers were to be vigilant to prevent it:  
Stopping of Duellers.—No Corporal, or other Officer commanding the Watch, shall willingly suffer a Soldier to go forth to a Duel, or private Fight, upon pain of death. (Of the Duties of Commanders and Officers in Particular, IV).[7] 

Commanders were required "to see Almighty
God reverently served, and Sermons and
Prayers duly frequented."
And, just as soldiers are not to wage war unnecessarily on their fellow man, neither are they to wage war unnecessarily on creation itself. Arbitrarily destroying trees is forbidden:  
Spoiling of Trees.—No Soldier shall presume, in Marching or Lodging, to cut down any fruit-trees, or to deface, or spoil Walks of trees, upon pain of severe punishment. (Of Duty in Marching, IV) [8] 
We also find the code recognizing the reality that soldiers can be prone towards sexual immorality while away from their wives and exposed to foreign women. And so it includes the following prohibition:  
Adultery.—Adultery, Fornication, and other dissolute lasciviousness, shall be punished with discretion, according to the quality of the Offence. (Of Duties Morrall, III)[9]
The code also protects soldiers from being defrauded, as the laborer is worthy of his wages:
Defraud of Soldiers pay.— Any Officer that dare presume to defraud the Soldiers of their pay, or an part of it, shall be cashiered. (Of the Duties of Commanders and Officers in particular, III)[10]
Finally, for all the laws of the military code to have their full weight, justice must be respected and intact. Attempts to defy justice were not tolerated:
Braving The Court of Justice.— No man shall presume to use any braving or menacing words, Signs, or gestures, while the Court of Justice is sitting, upon pain of death. (Of Administration of Justice, VII)[11]


[1] Charles Harding Firth, Cromwell’s Army: A History of the English Soldier During the Civil Wars, the Commonwealth and the Protectorate (London: Methuen & Co., 1902), 282.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., 409. Appendix L. We have tailored language in this code to contemporary English.
[4] Ibid., 418.
[5] Ibid., 412 - 418.
[6] Ibid., 417.
[7] Ibid., 418.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid., 412.
[10] Ibid., 418.
[11] Ibid., 422.

photo credits:

West Gate Towers and Museum, St Peter's StreetCanterburyKent. English Civil war armour and flintlock musket.
© Linda Spashett‎ / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Reenactment - The Siege of Bolingbroke Castle Musketeers and pikemen group together.
© Dave Hitchborne / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY -SA 2.0)

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