Page images

four or five years back, by which candidates for commissions were called upon to undergo a species of examination, the Horse Guards never made inquiry either as to their education or personal fitness for the service, so that an idiot, a cripple, or a youth unable to write his own name might have been gazetted to an Ensigncy, and it Whs left for the Officer commanding the regiment to which he was appointed to report specially on his unfitness. We remember one case, that of a dwarf, who, after appointment, was de-irous of attending the Military Secretary's levee; but, an official at the Horse Guards, fearful that his deficiency of stature might cause it to be cancelled, dissuaded him from his purpose, and hastened him out to join his regiment in North America.

We are just now in a transition state as regards education, and about to witness the result of establishing, to a certain extent, the competitive system for entrance to public employment. Our Engineer and Artillery services, and the Civil Service of the East India Company, have been thrown open to general competition, the effect of which measures will be, as we imagine, to stimulate useful education throughout the land, and strike a heavy blow at our long cherished classical system, to which, by the way, we shall have to advert at some length. In most matters we prefer the "bit by bit" mode of introducing reforms, rather than sweeping measures, and therefore would gladly wait to see the working of what has already been set in motion, before proceeding any farther.

Most things must be judged of by comparison, but we cannot admit the propriety of comparing any educational establishment in this country with the French Polytechnic School; when, therefore, the Commissioners even remotely glance at such schools as Woolwich and Addiscombe, in reference to their marks or credits, as compared with those obtained at the Ecole Polytechnique, we think it unfair. Woolwich Academy has been heretofore filled by patronage of the Master-General of the Ordnance, and Addiscombe by the nominees of India Directors ; whereas the Ecole Polytechnique is recruited from the cream of the whole of France.

As many of our readers may not be aware of the nature of that celebrated school, we will just mention that it is an admirable general school for the Civil, Military, and Naval services of the empire; these are the roads and bridges, mines, powder and saltpetre, naval architects, engineers, artillery, staff, hydrographical corps, tobacco department, navy, marine artillery. Two years are allowed for the course of instruction, and the students have the privilege of selecting their service according to merit. It appears that the students at the head of the list have generally, since the wars of the first empire, entered into the Civil rather than into the Military services, the former being much better remunerated; and generally of late years the selection of service has been in the order above given. The Polytechnic is a preparatory and general scientific school; its studies are not exclusively adapted for any one of the branches of the public service to which, at the close of the course, the students may find themselves attached, and on quitting it they have, before entering on the actual discharge of their duties of whatever kind, to undergo a further term of teaching in some one of the schools of application specially devoted to particular professions. Candidates are received into the Ecole Polytechnique between the ages of 16 and 20, but non-commissioned officers and privates of the army must be 20, and under 25 years of age. The examination for entrance is conducted by five Examiners, appointed by the Minister of War, who examine the candidates at Paris, and at the several towns named for the purpose throughout France. The working of the Ecole Folyteehnique is a powerful mechanism by which the French empire forces out of the mass of boys attending ordinary schools the talent and science which are needed for Civil and Military services. We may add that, according to the Report of our Commissioners, the interests and management of this noble school are most carefully watched over by the Government.

Admirable as this establishment undoubtedly is, and however well suited to the genius and democratic feeling that now prevails in France, we think its principle could scarcely be imitated in this quasi aristocratic land; and, looking to the interests of the army, we should deem its introduction as positively injurious. Indeed, the report before us shows that French officers of high standing are quite alive to the disadvantage of seeing only second-rate ability fall to their military service.

Our immediate purpose being to offer a few suggestions on education for the army at large, and the staff, we shall keep clear of our special services, except just to glance at the dissatisfaction shown in the Report by both artillery and engineer officers, at being debarred by custom from holding appointments on the general staff, and from military command. Now, as such posts constitute the sole prizes to which the general service can aspire, and which we trust some day to see awarded to merit alone; and as, moreover, the corps have numerous snug berths connected with their respective services, wo think their pretension ought not to be listened to ; besides, we would observe that the duties of neither of those valuable corps are of a nature to qualify for exercising command. We are in the habit of viewing an engineer rather as a distinguished civil employe than as a military man, and certainly if we inquire into the nature of his duties we find grounds to bear out that view. True, he wears a uniform, and may occasionally command a company of soldiers; but where and how he is to learn to command and handle a brigade or a division of troops we are at a loss to imagine. '1 he artilleryman, on the contrary, is a soldier, and a good one; we are cognisant of no instance when his nine-pounders were not well forward in the field, nor when his great guns were not well served in battery, but we are quite unable to see how the manoeuvring and firing of cannon can qualify for the command of a division of infantry. If, on an extraordinary occasion during the late war, an officer of artillery virtually held a great command, and highly distinguished himself, the instance was extraordinary and exceptional : a man of real military genius can do anything. The above remarks may seem somewhat of an invidious cast, but they have been prompted by no partial feeling. We respect both the artillery and engineers, believing that at all times, and under all circumstances, they have performed their duty manfully and well ; still we could not conscientiously refrain from saying what we consider just and fair, not only towards other branches of the military profession, but also as regards the service of the country.

When Talleyrand was asked where he thought the best system of education existed, he replied, "In England ; but it is detestable." At the present day we believe that, both in France and Germany, education is better conducted than with us—as being more suited to the requirements of modern active life; which ought, unquestionably, to be the aim of all education. Dr. Vaughan, of Harrow, is strongly in favour of the public school system, as preparatory to a pupil undergoing military instruction, and we must admit that he advocates his cause most ably; but, with all deference to the Doctor's opinion, and while admitting the advantage of our public school system as regards training and discipline, we cannot bring ourselves to think that the classical education of those schools is the one best suited to the embryo soldier, or as introductory to any other active profession. A few centuries ago all knowledge was locked up in the dead languages, and most works of a philosophical and mathematical kind were composed in Latin. In former times, therefore, it was necessary to learn dead tongues in order to get at knowledge, and hence their study held a high place in tuition. But, as an able writer observes,* "The social condition of mankind has since that period undergone so many extraordinary changes, and our own language has become so rich in expression, as to be inferior to none, ancient or modern; thus the necessity for the acquisition of the dead languages, as a means of becoming acquainted with living truths, no longer exists; but it shows most forcibly the effect of ' tyrant custom,' and the slow subsiding of ancient prejudices, and, more especially, how long a habit once fixed retains its hold on the public mind, that two centuries, at least, after the necessity for a thing ceases, it should continue to go on, although it may produce a positive evil, where it originally conferred an important benefit—a thing about as wise as if Noah had continued to live in the ark after the waters had subsided."

After some remarks on the beauty and copiousness of our own language, the same writer goes on to inquire what classical knowledge (so called) does for the various classes of society which think themselves bound to acquire it. First, then, we may hold that the Latin language is valuable as an introduction to the Greek, and for those who have the means and the leisure to acquire that language, it is worth all the pains of head and body which may be taken and endured for its sake. But he who enters upon its study must be shown that the harvest of his reward lies far, very far from the spring-time of

* "Educational Magazine" for October, 1835.

his hopes. He has a long and tedious path to pursue; the chilling icebergs of his Latin Grammar, and the burning deserts of his Greek Accidence must be surmounted ; he must be bound, as it were, to the monotonous wheel of Ixion, and take his never-ending rounds of moods, tenses, and declensions. He must tread the thorny paths of his Accidence He must wander in perplexity in the wilderness of Pronominum constructio, and his Verborum constructio, and strain up the rugged steep of Propria qua Maribus, where ideas are as confined as those of an oyster. He must wade through the slough of his delectable Delectus, and for seven long years be compelled to taste the dregs of bitterness, and the wine of the birch, before he can obtain a mere sniff of the

"Spicy isles that lie beyond the wave."

Seven other years of pilgrimage then commence, and at the end of even this second apprenticeship what is gained? The name, perhaps, of a classical scholar! * * * "Thus, thousands of bright geniuses have wasted their sweetness on the desert air of the Latin and Greek Grammar. The genial current of the soul has been repressed; the green buddings of fervent thought have been withered ere they could develop into bloom, Alas! how many, how very many have been murdered by the classics. But if it does not inflict death in many cases on the body, it continually does on the soul, by the vast amount of education it excludes. Does it not shut out, in very many instances, knowledge of the vast variety of phenomena which exist in us and around us? Where do we find the wonders of nature, the properties of bodies, the anatomy of our own natural and spiritual being unfolded, as a part of school education?"

As regards the study of the classics making good sons, good husbands, good fathers, or good anything, let us see what another writer upon education, Mr. James Simpson, says on the subject:—" Morality is placed by the classical authors upon a false and anything but a Christian basis; and yet they are most strenuously advocated by the clergy, especially in England, as the most appropriate discipline for the youthful mind. This is evidently the result of the habit of not inquiring into the nature and consistency of long-established customs. As part of an education professedly Christian, admiration of the ancient heathens is worked up almost to idolatry in the student. Their natural selfishness and injustice, called patriotism, are positively recommended as the noblest objects of imitation; the history of their murderous aggressive wars, rapine, and martial glory, is listened to with delight, and made in mimic essay the pastime of the play-ground of every grammar-school; the sensuality and profligacy that defiles, sometimes with nameless abomination, the pages of the satirical and other poets, which, countenanced for a moment, would meet with merited stoning by the populace—nay, the immoralities of the mythological Pantheon itself, as a subject of study in a Christian country, have all, as stated exercises for our youth, afforded matter of amazement to those who perceive moral distinctions, and are accustomed to observe and think consistently. A different standard of morals—another rule of right and wrong—seems by habit to be applied to those privileged tribes of the ancient world than is acknowledged theoretically, at least, in regard to the modern ; so that sensuality, selfishness, injustice, rapacity, cruelty, and crime, are, in the first, not only passed over as of a different specific gravity from what they count for now-a-days, but are pressed upon the opening faculties as the constituents of moral grandeur and practical virtue! This essential barbarism recoils dreadfully on society. Christianity itself is overborne by a spurious morality imbibed from the ancient authors, and society continues selfish, sensual, and belligerent."

So powerful is the force of prejudice and habit combined, that we fear it will be long before the truths set forth in the above extracts become generally acknowledged ; and we have therefore little hope of seeing the public school plan of classical education speedily relaxed in favour of a common sense system, such as the actual business of life in this great commercial country demands. Dr. Vaughan has, however, made a beginning by establishing a military class at Harrow, and possibly he may be a man in advance of his sect, and prepared to make such changes in public school instruction as the wants of the country require; if so, we wish him every success, and, meanwhile, are prepared to second many of the views which he put forth in his published letter, considering them to be both sound and practical.

Up to the present time we think that very little benefit has accrued to the service from instituting examinations for commissions. The plan has raised up a set of men whose business it is to cram the candidates sufficiently to get them through the trifling and almost farcical examination at Sandhurst ; and we do not hesitate to say that the public desire, as set forth originally by Mr. Sydney Herbert, when Secretary-at-War, has been signally defeated. We admit that in process of time the regulation may have an effect upon early and sound education, for parents must see the advantage of it to their sons over the vile cramming business, especially as the fees given for the latter sometimes amount to a considerable sum.

With the information we possess upon military education, there would be little difficulty in devising a system suited to the kingdom of Utopia; but the conflicting views and interests in this country, coupled with the purchase system, perplex us greatly when writing on the subject As regards the purchase and sale of commissions, it is argued that, without this practice, retirement from active service, save at a heavy sacrifice, could not be effected, and that regimental officers would be too old for the duties and wear and tear incidental to service in tropical and hyperbolean climes. But, on the other hand, it may be observed, that purchase obtains in no foreign army, nor in our own artillery, engineers, or marines. We cannot at present embark in a discussion of this very important question, and, indeed, are not without hopes that the Board now sitting to inquire into the working of the system may recommend some plan which will in time

« PreviousContinue »