Col. William Winthrop

Military Law and Precedents

“The so-called discharge “without honor” is believed to be unnecessary as it is of doubtful authority.”

—Col. William Winthrop, U.S. Army, Judge Advocate General, 1896

William Winthrop, known as the Blackstone of Military Law, is widely regarded as the first and preeminent military lawyer in American History. To this day, the Supreme Court routinely cites Winthrop as authority and has called him “an expert on military jurisdiction.”

Winthrop’s seminal text, Military Law and Precedents, 1896**, cited by the Supreme Court and scholars, questions the legality of the administrative discharge “without honor,” calling it “of doubtful authority.”

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Military Law and Precedents served as an official text of the War Department and has been regularly cited by state and federal courts as the authoritative text on military law for over 100 years.

**1896 was also the year the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was legally permissible. Plessy v. Ferguson. 163 U.S. 537 (1896)