Page images

with several years' service, because their constitutions have been injured, as they have themselves stated, owing to the hardships they endured in the Crimea. It is well known there are many instances of this description, and it is no wonder if voluntary enlistment is brought into disrepute by it. The mere possibility of such things happening ought to be shut out from our regulations.

The payment of the bounty on discharge in the manner advocated, instead of on enlistment, would at once destroy the system, which latterly became almost a trade (and to which any increase in the amount is an additional inducement) by some men, of enlisting for the purpose of obtaining this sum of money, and deserting immediately after, repeating the practice in different parts of the country, and escaping detection, if detected at all, for a considerable time by means of the railways. Some inquiry into the extent to which this practice was carried on, especially during the war, would at once show the evils of our present system, and the demoralisation, as well as waste, that attends it.

What is mainly argued for in this matter is (and any one who has had any experience of the soldier, or means of judging of his habitual carelessness of himself and his best interests, will bear their testimony to its accuracy), that anything given to him in any but the most exceptional cases, while he is yet serving, is not only money thrown away, but it is worse, for it is more likely to do him an injury than a benefit, and that it would be far better to be liberal to him when he gets his discharge, which is the time when he most needs it. The way to amend our system is to substitute, for the reckless inducements now offered on enlisting, that of a more comfortable position when the service of the soldier is over. This inducement might not be quite so popular in the first instance as the one it displaced, but if worked out in perfect good faith it would soon become infinitely more so. The spectacle in a village or country town of an old soldier or two not living on a mere pittance which just keeps him from the workhouse, and barely suffices to do that, but as well off as a good labourer when no longer able materially to help himself—such a spectacle would, it is presumed, if men are to be supposed at all capable of seeing their own interests, do more than anything to encourage others to enlist, and to raise the army in the estimation of the classes from which our soldiers come.

It has not been mentioned, but it can hardly be otherwise than understood, that the character of every man, while he has served, should be a main element in the consideration of his pension on discharge; for to send away a drunkeu profligate as a pensioner, thus giving him the means of indulging in his vicious propensities, would only be bringing disgrace upon the profession, and doing far more harm than good. A man discharged under such circumstances might receive his bounty with its accumulated interest, and no more; and even this should be withheld if he had been guilty of any acts of a disgraceful character. Such men should never be retained for any length of time in the service. It is a mistaken economy, if it is intended as such, to keep them when they have proved themselves to be irreclaimable.

The system of good conduct pay has, undoubtedly, done some good;

but a great deal of it is more apparent than real. It is, moreover, worked by too many different hands to be attended with much fairness. The men of one regiment, under an easy commanding officer, arc nearly all in the receipt of good conduct pay; while those of another, under a stricter administration, are comparatively cut off from it. Some get it by favour, and many by good fortune in not being found out, or by dissimulation and an appearance of what they are not. Each man in his respective rank should have the same pay, for his duties and responsibilities are the same. Nor is there anything founded on justice by which the ill-conducted man should receive less pay for the days he does his duty than the well-conducted man. Though the difference between the two might with reason tell, when the time for their discharge arrived. Very few men ask any question, or trouble themselves much with regard to good conduct pay when they enlist; but there is hardly one who does not like to know something about the pension he will get if he is hurt or disabled, or when he is discharged; and a greater liberality on that head would soon remove any objections that might attach to withholding immediate payment of the bounty. The fact of every soldier commencing his career with an account in the savings' bank, by means of the latter, would, perhaps, do more than anything to make them provident. The first step is always the most difficult, and if once the soldier knew that he had a little capital put by and bearing interest, it would be a great inducement to him to add to it. He would certainly be more apt to know something about the savings' bank and its advantages than he now is. This proposal of doing less for the man while serving, and far more for him when his service has expired, than is now the cuse; of keeping temptation out of his way, while he is yet at a thoughtless age, and surrounded by his comrades of the same stamp, and of giving him the means of being more comfortable when he is advanced in life, and more likely to turn it to good account, is not thrown out without much inquiry on the subject. All the better class of soldiers, without an exception, give their testimony in favour of it; and even the worst admit they have nothing to say against it. It is not considered that the difference of expense, if there should be any, which is more than doubtful, would be any insurmountable obstacle; while the advantages,both administrative and otherwise, would be great. The alteration would remove all the present pension warrants and good conduct warrants, with their clauses and conditions as numerous as an Act of Parliament, and nearly quite as difficult to understand; and the securities it offers against desertion and repeated re-enlistments by the same man, might, in the end, make it more economical than the present cumbersome and intricate system, which is open to fraud at every turn. It has been within the writer's knowledge that men have drawn good conduct pay, for a year or more, who were never entitled to it; and it is more than probable that many instances of a like kind exist at the present moment.

The difference between what is proposed to be done, and what is now doing, may be best illustrated by taking the cases of two men enlisted, say on the 1st of January, 1803; the one according to the regulations now in force, and the other upon that advocated. Both would receive their bounties: the one spending his immediately in the usual manner; the other having his to his credit in the savings' bank. Supposing them both to be equally exemplary characters, to have been engaged in the late war, and to have seen precisely the same service; when they come to get their discharges at the end of twenty-one years, the one would have received as follows—all of it spent while he is yet young and thoughtless:—

£ s. 6d. Field allowance before Sebastopol, 6d. a-day for 12 months 9 2 6

One penny a day, good conduct for 5 years 7 12 1

Twopence do. do. 5 „ 15 4 2

Threepence do. do. 3 , 13 13 9

Fourpence do. do. 3 „ 18 5 0

In all £63 17 6

With the possibility of five pounds more if he gets the medal and gratuity. This last sum being the only one reserved and payable on discharge. At different periods of his service he has had, according to regulation, and, exclusive of one penny a-day beer money, one shilling a day for the first five years, thirteenpence for the second five years, fourteenpence for the third, fifteenpence from the fifteenth to the eighteenth year, and sixteenpence a-day for the remaining three years. He then gets his discharge with a shilling a-day pension and no more. So that having lived so long on the larger sum, and having his clothes, his quarters, his fuel, and many other things found him, he is all of a sudden turned adrift with none of these advantages, and a diminished income. The extra pay he has had has been issued to him in small sums, extending over a long period, and has been spent. If his constitution has been injured in the service, and such is most likely the case, he is an object of pity and of warning rather than otherwise, to any one inclined for soldiering. He is, no doubt, often pointed out as such. If he has a wife and family, and applies, as he must do, to the parish for assistance, his pension is taken from him and paid over to the parish officers, and he is not one bit better off for his military service than if he had never shouldered a musket.

In the case of the man enlisted as proposed, he would have served throughout his career on one uniform rate of pay—a shilling a-day. With nearly everything he requires found him, he is, if a prudent man, able to get on, on this sum, very well. It should be the object of the Government to take care of his means for a time when he will most require assistance. According to what has been said, this man would have so much for the battle of the Alma, so much for Inkermann, and afiirther sum, to cover any minor affairs, for the campaigns of 1854 and 1855. These amounts, instead of being given to him at the time, would, like his bounty, be placed in the savings' bank; and, instead of having had some sixty or seventy pounds, at an average of three pounds a-year, he would have a considerable amount to receive in one sum when his service ends, and which should only be paid to him when he arrives at the place he intends to settle at. His pension, instead of being limited as at present to a shilling a-day, should be at the discretion of the Commissioners of the Chelsea Board, and regulated according to what he might be able to do for himself; and might be either more or less for a time, but with this distinct understanding, that when he reached sixty years of age, or, previous to his doing so, if his constitution broke down and prevented his doing much for himself, he should, according to the rate of wages in the market, have his pension made up to him. The fear of the workhouse, if he is at all prudent, for either himself or his family, should never haunt him. It is discreditable to a country so abounding in wealth as this is, to frame regulations with regard to the pensions of well-conducted soldiers, in which the probability of parish relief is necessary to be considered. No pensioner should be a pauper. If he becomes such by his misconduct he should cease to be a pensioner, and the community amongst whom he became corrupted should pay the penalty of his maintenance. Some regulation, similar to the present one relating to good conduct might probably be applied to the pensioner, and the pension awarded him be made to graduate accordingly, until in his old age he found himself on a level with the labourer able to earn his own livelihood. It is not intended in this article to go into minute details, or to lay down accurate limits, but simply to indicate in general terms where improvements and changes may be made. The intention is to invert the present system, and to do for the soldier later in life what is now done for him in the earlier and more thoughtless part of his career. If he has served faithfully and well, he should be protected from want when his health and strength fail him; while he possesses both, he should be made to take care of himself. If he is somewhat worse off while a soldier than men of his class in civil life, the average of his whole life will be far better than theirs. It will increase his pride and attachment to his profession by the feeling that his whole fife is secured in independence if he only conducts himself properly in the early portion of it. It is more than probable, by having no increase of pay in the service, that too early and imprudent marriages amongst soldiers, becoming an evil, and the cause of very great expense in the army, might be lessened—certainly, anything that improves his pecuniary means will tend to increase it.

Let it be recognised that the profession of arms is one of selfdenial and hardship, and that it must needs be so in many respects. Fix the period at which on the average a man may be considered no longer fit for it, and then let his lot be made, comparatively with his class in civil life, a comfortable and an easy one. There is nothing extravagant in the means proposed by which this may be done, for the whole of what is now little better than thrown away in the shape of good-conduct pay would go in aid of the pension list, and without any additional expense this might suffice. Something similar to what is here recommended is carried out in the case of substitutes in the Austrian service. The Government receive the money (£150) and find the man to serve, but the latter only receives the interest while he is a soldier, the principal is handed to him on his getting his discharge. Some men serve a double term, and in this way obtain as much as £300, and this system is found to answer admirably. It would be fair, in doing away with the good-conduct pay, and considering the nature of the English soldiers' services, that each year in the colonies should add to the amount which he receives on discharge, so that the arduous duties of one man should not be placed on exactly the same footing as the easy duties of another. There is neither justice nor equity in this respect at present. With all his many fine qualities, the English soldier is generally thoughtless to the last degree. Properly managed and his confidence obtained, he can be led anywhere, but those who talk of compulsory savings, of making him, whether he likes it or not, put by money out of what he considers his day's wages for his day's work, know nothing of his character. He would resist such tyranny to the last. It would be most unfair to subject him to it. It is in the power of the Government, by means of the bounty, to enable him to commence his career with an interest in the savings' bank, and the chances are, that beginning with a little capital in this way he will be induced to add to it. He will be encouraged to save, for he has a little saved already. There will always be something beckoning him to the bank with his shilling or two in opposition to the canteen, which, under the existing state of things, has no rivalry to contend with. The second bounty at the end of his ten years, if he has been saving at all meanwhile, will be another start for him, and, as far as his means permit him, he is more sure to become provident. The suggestions made may be crudely offered and indifferently supported. They are thrown out in the sincere belief that they would be most beneficial both to the soldier and the efficient maintenance of the service; such as they are, if they are worth anything, others may improve upon them. The pith of what is meant is expressed in a few words: if we wish to improve the character of the soldier, let us look more than we do to the condition of the pensioner. Our additional pennies to the former would do far more good if given to the latter.

For Junior Naval Officers.

The present article is not addressed to the senior members of the profession, who, in war and in peace, have had multiplied relations with our mercantile marine and with Admiralty agents (who have several functions to perform, in relation to our merchant shipping), but rather to those juniors who have still their career to make. The first objects of a navy are, no doubt, the defence of our territory, and offensive operations against the enemies with whom we may be at war; but next to those, and, in fact, closely interwoven with them, is the protection of our merchant shipping. We therefore apprehend that it may be useful to the juniors of the naval profession to have a clear conception of the laws which regulate the respective relations of the shipowner to the state and to the shipping merchant; of the underwriter to the insured; and of the master to his employers and subordinates. We do not on the present occasion profess to be profound or abstruse, but having before us the principal acts of Parlia

« PreviousContinue »