Courts-martial at that time were endowed with very nearly discretional powers. Dumas, at the legislative Assembly, had sketched out a plan for military legislation, revised later on by Talbot, at the Council of the Five Hundred, but a final code for councils of war was not framed till the time of the empire. It is from the empire, by the way, that dates the obligation imposed upon military tribunals to begin taking votes from officers of inferior rank. This law was not in existence at the time of the Revolution.
In 1793, the presiding officer of a military tribunal was practically the whole tribunal himself; he chose the members, classed the orders of rank, regulated the mode of voting; he was master as well as judge.
Cimourdain had selected for the council-room of the court-martial, this same hall on the ground floor where the retirade had been and where the guardroom was now. He intended to make short work of everything, the way from the prison to the tribunal, and the passage from the tribunal to the scaffold.
At noon, in conformance with his orders, the court was in session with the following adjuncts,—three straw-seated chairs, a deal table, two lighted candles, a stool in front of the table.
The chairs were for the judges and the stool for the accused. At each end of the table there was another stool, one for the commissioner-auditor, who was a quartermaster, the other for the clerk, who was a corporal.
On the table was a stick of red sealing-wax, the copper seal of the Republic, two ink-stands, some sheets of white paper, and two printed placards, spread out open, one