Mutiny (Fr. mutin, refractory, stubborn; mutiner, to rise in arms). A century ago the word mutiny was, as we learn from lexicographers, often used in describing insurrection or sedition in civil society; but it is now applied exclusively to certain offences by sailors and soldiers. Properly it is the act of numbers in resistance of authority; but by statutes certain acts of individuals are declared to be mutiny. The act of congress of March 3, 1835, defines mutiny or revolt in the following language: " If any one or more of the crew of any American ship or vessel on the high seas, or any other waters within the maritime and admiralty jurisdiction of the United States, shall unlawfully, wilfully, and with force or by fraud, threats, or other intimidations, usurp the command of such ship or vessel from the master or other lawful commanding officer thereof; or deprive him of his authority and command on board thereof; or resist or prevent him in the free and lawful exercise thereof; or transfer such authority and command to any other person not legally entitled thereto; every such person so offending, his aiders and abettors, shall be deemed guilty of a revolt or mutiny and felony." The same statute provides for endeavors and conspiracies to excite mutiny.
In construction of the act it has been held that mere disobedience of orders by one or two of the seamen, without any attempt to excite a general resistance or disobedience, and insolent conduct or language toward the master or violence to his person, if unaccompanied by other acts showing an intention to subvert his authority as master, are not sufficient to constitute the offence of endeavoring to excite mutiny. An indictment for this crime, it is said, must set forth a confederacy of at least two of the men to refuse to do further duty, and to resist the lawful commands of the officers. The offence of making a revolt was by the act of April, 1790, punishable by death. By the act of 1835, now in force, it is punished by fine not exceeding $2,000, and by imprisonment and confinement at hard labor for not more than 10 years, according to the nature and aggravation of the offence; while attempts to excite mutiny are punishable by fine not exceeding $1,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding five years, or by both. Sailors refusing to go to sea from reasonable apprehension of the unseaworthiness of the vessel are not punishable as for a revolt under the act; neither are those who refuse to do duty after a deviation from the voyage named in the shipping articles.
Mutinous conduct in the army and navy is provided for by the acts of April 10, 1806, and of April 23, 1800. In the navy it is punishable with death; in the army with death or such other punishment as a court martial may inflict.