Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare The Smith Court-Martial
The disclosures of these trials forced the trial of General Smith; but he was tried not for murder,
nor for any violation of the laws of war, but for "conduct to the prejudice of good order and
military discipline." He admitted that he gave the orders, and justified them. He did not excuse
them on the ground that his words were reckless talk, not understood as an order and not
intended to be obeyed. On the contrary, months after the act, when on trial for an offence which
shocked the moral sense of mankind, his counsel deliberately admitted that General Smith
"wanted everybody killed capable of bearing arms." It was not a reckless phrase used in excited
conversation, but the expression of a deliberate wish that was then admitted.
No inquiry, so far as appears, was made as to whether this order was given to others or what
action was taken under it, though the article from the Manila News already quoted shows that it
was a general order, and was obeyed. The solitary question tried was whether he gave the order
to Major Waller, and that was admitted.
Upon this record a court composed of representative officers of high rank found him guilty, but
sentenced him "to be admonished" by the reviewing authority. This sentence is described in the
Boston Transcript, a strong supporter of the administration, as
the very lightest penalty that could be awarded for such an offence against humanity and the
laws of war,
and adds that, had the President done no more,
the proceedings of the court-martial would have been about as effective as firing a blank
cartridge against an armed enemy.
Yet the representatives of the army upon the court-martial were satisfied with this blank