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in the middle of November, and a later ship brought out that of the artillerymen. Their superior science or education did not and could not afford them the slightest advantage. If all the great mathematicians, engineers, and scientific men in the -world had been with the army, so long as the Commissary-General would not spend money, and get what the army wanted, the result would have been the same, and will be so again if we try it in the same manner, if theoretical education is all we can think of to prevent it. We can never have an army, either in number or instruction, equal to a sudden aggression upon any of our neighbours. Our preparation for war, on anything like a permanent footing, must be at sea. An aggressive organization on shore is not suited to us, and if attempted will never last long. It will be nothing but a waste of means if tried on a small scale, and it will never be granted on a large scale; we cannot compete with the continent in military matters. France has Algeria as a school of instruction, Kussia has its Caucasian warfare. The whole continent lives in an atmosphere of large armies. In England we can hardly get up a sham fight with any earnestness of purpose, or with a capability of looking at it in a more serious light than as a spectacle to please, far more than to instruct, both the lookers on and the actors in it. In the best of our military displays, there is more of play than real work. We may vote and waste our money for purposes of military education, in obedience to the public wish for it, but we shall never succeed in making the army a profession such as it is looked upon abroad, for we do not live under the same circumstances, and it is to be hoped we never may. To make the army a profession as it is abroad, we must shake the feeling of security which exists, and which is too plain to be overlooked, in the superiority and efficiency of our navy. Until we effect this, and thoroughly alarm the country, which will be rather a difficult thing to do by means of pens, ink, and paper only, the army, as a profession, will be much the same as it is now, and has always been: not a scientific or even professional one, but one delighted, with the whole country, at the prospect of a fight, and never so contented with a victory as when it is dearly purchased. We do by voluntary enlistment, at this moment, what other nations can only do by coercion. We treat our men most villanously, very often turning them adrift, maimed and injured for life, on the most paltry and often temporary pittances, but still they flock to our standards. Our officers are gentlemen, and a high tone of honour prevails amongst them; the soldier is brave, willing and obedient; our victories have been many, our defeats few; like the wonder of Caractacus of old, what can we see who possess so much to envy in other people? Are we going to risk a change in so much that is good, because people cry out not knowing exactly what it is they want, and who are not able to trace our disasters to their right causes? Long contemned and insulted, the British army has never, in one single instance, been false to its sense of duty; nor has it ever, either before an enemy or in civil commotion, betrayed the trust confided to it. At once the bulwark against external aggression and the preserver of social order, it has proved itself equal to both. It is strange if the work of reform can have much to do here. If the causes of this outcry about army education are traced, they will be found to exist in the fact that we landed with our allies the French (not a bit less mistaken than ourselves) in the Crimea, expecting to take Sebastopol by a coup d» main. We underrated our enemy, and failed in our object. At a critical moment we had to change our plans, and what was to have been done off-hand, became an obstinate siege. To conduct it the army was compelled to keep the field throughout the winter, on an exposed plateau, with nothing to shelter the unhappy soldier, already weakened by sickness, but a bit of canvas. The most fearful suffering and loss of life ensued. England received the accounts with a cry of distress and alarm such as she had never known before. Recovering from her grief, she has had her indignation excited and inflamed, upon the most unjust grounds, against the officers of the staff in particular as the cause of all that happened, and to the ignorance of the officers generally as helping to it. It is upon these grounds, and under the influence of strong feelings, with little exercise of reason and still less of reflection, that the lessons of the late war, long oscillating between a land transport corps and the inefficiency of this or that officer in the Crimea, are finally to be embodied in scientific education and a staff school.
Since the above was written an order fixing certain qualifications for appointments on the staff has been issued. If it is carried out as it is already advocated it should be, apart from the authority of the Horse Guards, it may be looked upon as the commencement of a decided and radical change in our military system. The officers of our army can only be made more professional by changing the class from which they have hitherto been taken, and this change, it would seem, is now to be effected. When this principle of military education is once established, promotion by purchase must soon give way; and the constitution of our army with which we have hitherto done so much, and the reasons for any reform in which are so little evident, will in its present form disappear. That the change, when everything is fairly considered, will be for the better may reasonably be doubted. The army, especially as constituted with us, is not and need never be one requiring a technical education. It will never, from the variety and nature of the duties of its officers, benefit by being made so. The earlier days of our Indian empire, and of the greatest of those who formed and established it, should teach us this. Some of the greatest military leaders we have had, and those best known to us for undeniable achievements in the command of armies, were not scientifically educated, or even professionally so until late in life. A good general education, an energetic character, and a clear judgment, and strong will; these with some other physical qualities are the elements of a good officer. Let us make our authorities responsible for any manifest deficiency in any of them, either in our commanders or amongst the staff; we shall then have taken a practical step towards remedying inefficiency, first, however, looking to the clumsy working and administration of our departments.
ON THE ARMY ESTIMATES AND MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS."Cut your coat according to your cloth."
There is very naturally a strong feeling at all times existing in the country for reduced taxation,—involving, as a matter of course, reduced expenditure;—the maintenance of the efficiency of the public services is a secondary consideration; and the implied reasoning would seem to be, that the advantage of increased wealth in the community,—which taxation tends to check,—will, eventually, more than compensate for the incompleteness, or partial inefficiencies in the public service. The system is, to restrict the public expenditure to a given amount, and then to require Government to make the most of it. They are, in fact, "to cut their coat according to their cloth."
Among the various items which, it is argued, are susceptible of retrenchment, some meet with more favour than others:—for instance, the military expenditure has been always that for which the feeling is for curtailment to any extent; it has become the most popular outcry; and no electioneering claim to favour is admitted, without the introduction of "reduced military expenditure;"—with all parties, the established clap-trap is, who shall bid most in this captivating promise.
The manner then in which the "coat" is to be provided for, is much the same every year. After the fatigues of the Parliamentary Session, and the ministers have taken their very necessary autumnal repose or recreation, they commence their preparations for the ensuing season;— it is then that the Estimates are discussed with due deliberation; every item is explained and studied in detail,—never losing sight of economy,—but efficiency of the service, whatever that service may be, being the primary consideration.
This, then, might reasonably be pronounced to mark the real wants of the country; but, unfortunately, it has to pass through another ordeal, which entirely mars its due proportions.
The demand made periodically for reduced taxation,—that is, just before the meeting of Parliament, when it is known to be most effective,—now takes place; meetings are held, and the arguments duly recorded in the newspapers, on the impolicy of this or that tax; and others, on the more sweeping requirement for general reduction; the popular feeling warmly takes up such attractive propositions,—the Opposition are observed to be ready to chime in with so favourable a mode of damaging the ruling power,—and the Government find that they must yield either the amount of expenditure, or their places; and the order is given for a general reduction, in the proportion of the favour in which each department is held,—each having, then, at its own discretion, the reduced quantity of cloth to which its coat must be cut.
One bad feature in this process is, that the Government consider it so necessary to yield with a good grace, and not to submit to the damaging result of being compelled to do so, that they make themselves responsible for the consequences; and then, in case of niisfortune from inadequacy of means, it is triumphantly thrown in their teeth that Parliament had never refused to grant what was demanded from it.
Of all items of expenditure, that for the military service is the one of all others that should not be lightly reduced; because greater interests may be influenced by such reduction than by any other.
It is not here the desire to advocate profusion or an indiscriminate compliance with every demand made. Let economy, and a limitation to that which is strictly necessary, be rigidly enforced; but let the expenditure be with reference to the real wants of the service, and not to a given sum which, right or wrong, it must be made to fit. It is all very well to talk of abuses, and very right to lop them off without mercy, to reduce such an allowance or establishment, and to correct such and such bad arrangement; but it is most impolitic to make these amendments (which, in the aggregate, only amount to a few thousands of pounds), the plea for abstracting necessary hundreds of thousands from the efficient wants of the service.
There is another manner in which this fallacy is enforced, and that even by eminent statesmen,—which is, that the best preparation for war is the accumulation of wealth; perhaps, because it is popularly called " the sinews of tear,"—and on this plea is advocated the greatest parsimony in the military expenditure, during a period of peace; but the error, in this case, consists in not being aware that no amount of wealth whatever will enable the preparations for war to be made within a short period,—during which time most important advantages may be gained by the power which is first able to take the field.
War may be offensive or defensive: of the two, the measures for defence are far the most important, as they involve the preservation of our actual possessions, and even of that which constitutes our very existence as a nation; and, unfortunately, these measures require the longest time for preparation.
Troops, which are required either for offensive or defensive operations, cannot be raised and made efficient in less than from one to two years. Arms, ammunition, equipments, and accessories will likewise require a long time; although they will be, from the commencement, in gradual progress of supply.
All this was clearly experienced during the late war with Russia; and it was only towards its close that we found ourselves equal to maintain an army of from 25,000 to 40,000 in the field; for whatever may be said of the errors of individuals or of management, the great deficiency of military means, for the first one or two years, in spite of the greatest effort to counteract it, was real and undeniable.
It is as if, for a security against fire, you laid by your money at interest; to be expended on making engines and organising a proper fire brigade as soon as the conflagration commences.
That such arguments should prevail at the present period is all the more strange, because if there is one thing which passing events demonstrate more clearly than another, it is that war, through the progress of science and of the mechanical arts, is fast assuming a phase where no amount of wealth, of popular enthusiasm, or of bravery, will compensate for a want of that high training which the individual soldier must now possess; and the appliances of modern warfare have reached a stage of perfection of art and workmanship, which must place all unprepared communities completely at the mercy of regularly organised bodies of troops.
Thus, at the first outbreak of hostilities, the nation with the large standing army has now an enormous advantage, which in former times it never possessed. Before the invention of gunpowder there was little distinction between the soldier and the civilian; and armies swelled, and melted away, as the surrounding population joined or abandoned the standard. With the invention of gunpowder, and the more scientific character which warfare then assumed, the advantages of a trained force became apparent, and standing armies were the natural consequence. The superiority thus gained, it is evident, will increase in the same ratio as warfare becomes more skilled and scientific.
A characteristic of the present age is division of work, and the substitution of skilled for unskilled labour; and nowhere are its effects more marked than in the organisation of armies. Thus, the common soldier, the mere machine of pedantic military writers—the "legs" and "arms" of Marshal Saxe—now undergoes a process of training which, at the same time that it gives him a knowledge and command of his weapon, tends in a measure to develop his reasoning faculties, and to substitute skill and intelligence for what was before an instinct or mechanical action. Thus, the soldier has now more than ever a trade to learn, and an apprenticeship to serve, and until this has been done, not all the fine military qualities possessed by the man will make up for the want of training of the soldier, even if the raw material is forthcoming, which is not always the case. Ten thousand additional British infantry would have taken Sebastopol before the month of December 1854, and saved all the sufferings of the winter campaign; but not all the boasted wealth of England, the "sinews of war," could supply the British infantry required.
In 1847, the opinions of the late Duke of Wellington warned the nation emphatically of the dangers of its position, from want of military means; during the excitement of the late war, the public were made alive to these deficiencies, and liberally admitted of a very great expenditure, to place the military establishments of the country on a proper footing; but now that we are blessed with a return of peace, the demand for reductions is likely to bring us rapidly to the old and very worst condition.
This game may be played again and again; on each occasion throwing the blame of the consequent misfortunes on the powers that be, and their unhappy agents; but it may be played once too often, when the results may be awful.
History in all its ages affords examples of the fall of commercial states which trusted to their wealth alone. From the period of the destruction of Carthage to the downfal of Venice, all the commerce and wealth of such states, combined with the highest spirit and civilization, have not saved them from falling a prey to their more military rivals. Wealth, unless it supplies means of defence, only entices the conquest which it has no power to avert.