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ART. X.-The Military Forces and Institutions of Great Britain and Ireland; their Constitution, Administration, and Government, Military and Civil. By N. BYERLEY THOMPSON, Esq. London: 1855.


HE march of the Guards out of London, in the early spring of 1854, was an event which made a lasting impression upon the memories of all who were abroad to witness it. The magnificent appearance of the men; the buoyant spirits of the officers; the throngs of people that preceded and followed the columns, admiring and applauding as they went; the crash of military music, drowned from time to time by cheers which, bursting from the crowd, were taken up and heartily responded to by the troops; the waving of handkerchiefs from windows, bringing tears into a thousand eyes-all these sights and sounds combined to produce a spectacle which stirred the blood of the oldest into rapid circulation, and sent that of the younger portion of the spectators bounding through their veins. When and where were such soldiers ever before collected under a national banner? such weight, such symmetry, such physical strength, such perfect discipline and courage? What force on earth, however numerically superior, could stand before them? what enemy could dare to meet them in battle? Nor was it exclusively in London that this mingled feeling of admiration and confidence prevailed. Liverpool, Southampton, Portsmouth, Dublin, Cork, all became in turn recipients of the same electric shock, and all cheered their gallant countrymen to the place of embarcation, not so much because these latter were going forth in a noble spirit to encounter difficulties and dangers-and it might be death-for their country's sake, as because, in the fond imaginings of the lookers-on, they were proceeding to sure and speedy victory.

Something more than a year has run its course, and where are those magnificent regiments now? They more than realised the expectations that were formed of them. No dangers appalled them; no adversary arrested their progress. So long as there was an enemy to fight in a fair field, they fought and conquered: but hardships such as British soldiers never encountered before, did for them what the swords of the Russians proved unequal to effect. Those stalwart frames, on which we gazed with wonder as they mustered in the dawn of the morning on their peaceful parades, shrank and wasted, and were, by scores at a time, consigned to their mother-earth, in a countless majority of cases unscathed by fire or steel. Those manly

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hearts, which beat twelve short months ago with patriotism the most unselfish, with loyalty of the purest water, lie cold and still; and all alike knew that it was not through the common accidents of war that life was passing from them.

So, in broad outline, stand the facts of the case: and now on whom does the responsibility of these disasters rest? We speak not of individuals who may be to blame each in his own degree; but we must look deeper if we desire to discover the true cause of our disgrace.. Nor need we look long; for it is to be found in the military system of this country. That system unites in itself all the vices, without exhibiting any of the counterbalancing excellences, that appertain to the mixed form of civil government under which we live. It lacks the energy and vigour of absolutism, and is choked at the same time by the most deplorable abuses of favouritism. Jealous of the Crown in military affairs, the Constitution has distributed the acknowledged authority of the Sovereign over so wide a surface, that it can never be brought to bear in times of emergency on one point. Whereas the honour of serving the Crown in the army is so highly esteemed in all circles, that no amount of ability or zeal will suffice to raise individuals to high command, unless they have, as the expression goes, interest at the Horse Guards. Indeed a pair of colours, the first step on the military ladder, lie quite beyond the reach of such as happen to lack connexion or to be without the means of conciliating men in power; whilst with these props to sustain him, no youth need be deterred from aspiring to a commission, however unfitted both mentally and bodily he may be for the profession of arms. In a word, our army is the most imperfect in the world, except in this one important point-the strength, the courage, the endurance, the admirable behaviour of the men. Its administration in the highest quarters is carried on through a succession of checks and balances such as would ruin the working of the best mounted machine that ever was constructed. The training of its subordinates goes forward by a process, which leaves every individual to learn just as much or just as little of his profession as he chooses. And its very regiments, highly as we have heard them lately spoken of, are anything but schools wherein officers as well as men become initiated into the mysteries of a very complicated art, and taught how to apply them to practice. Let us endeavour, by references necessarily brief to some of the most obvious defects under which our military system labours, to carry the mind of the reader along with us, and so clear the way for the suggestions which we consider it our duty at so momentous a crisis to offer.

I. At the head of the causes of that chronic inefficiency to which the British army is liable, stands the nature of the authority by which it exists. Here, as well as in every other monarchy in the world, the sovereign is the ostensible source of military power. But whereas in France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, the army once embodied becomes the permanent servant of the Crown, in England, there is required to keep it in obedience, an annual Mutiny Act; and to hinder it from dissolving itself for lack of pay, an annual vote of supply by the House of Commons. These arrangements, but especially the latter, give to Parliament a complete hold upon the Queen's troops. Either House, by refusing to pass the Mutiny Act, could at the end of any given year release all the seamen, soldiers, and marines in the empire from their engagements. While with the Commons it rests to decide what amount of force shall be kept up; and with what appliances, if with any besides their arms, the troops shall be furnished. It is obvious that an army so circumstanced, must always be at the mercy of a power which of all others is least likely to deal with it in a spirit of a wise liberality. And hence it comes to pass that at the close of every war the single cry, heard both in Parliament and out of it, is for reduction. Away go thousands of men from their colours, costing more in the gratuities given at their discharge than they would have done had they been kept in the ranks till the ordinary casualties of home and colonial service had worn them down. And away go other things quite as essential to the efficiency of the army as men. For no sooner is peace restored than the question comes day by day to be put,-of what use to us now are pontoon trains, commissariat corps, transport services, purveyors' department, camp equipages? &c. &c.; indeed, any portion of that complicated and well-adjusted machine, which it cost so much time and money to get together, and with which the requirements of war cannot dispense. And the minister, unwilling or unable to resist the pressure, yields up first one establishment and then another; till, before many Sessions are over, we find ourselves again without so much as a nucleus round which to gather a new war equipment were the necessity for it suddenly to arise.

Observe, that we are far from desiring to undervalue the advantages which the people derive from the strict surveillance which they maintain through their representatives over the executive in its military expenditure by Annual Mutiny Acts, and Votes of Supply. But it is just that the people should understand that there is some evil mixed up with a great good; and that the most popular of their representatives are usually the

causes of this evil. These gentlemen, in their conscientious desire to reduce taxation, seldom take time to consider whether the particular reductions for which they clamour are wise reductions. They may perceive that without men and horses you cannot have an army at all; but they are unable to comprehend the use of pontoons in a country where every river is bridged over; or of a waggon train and camp equipment for troops which make all their journeys by rail, and sleep every night in barracks or billets. In a word, they overlook the fact that if you desire to be ready for war, you must have by you, in peace, at least the framework of all that war requires; that waggons, pontoons, &c. cost nothing while in store; that a small establishment of men and horses set apart expressly to work with these waggons can never be very expensive; and that not the least of the advantages secured by their presence is this, that ingenuity is kept on the stretch, and that while using our own implements we are induced to inquire into the proceedings of our neighbours, to adopt their improvements if they have made any, or to make improvements of our own.

Here, then, is one great defect under which as a military nation we must always labour,-that being more earnest in the maintenance of our civil liberties than in the extension of our military power, we shackle, not perhaps too much, but often unwisely, the will of the executive in the matter of military expenditure. For the sums annually voted even in peace are sufficient to give us all that we require, were the Assembly which votes them alive to the fact, that as much depends upon the manner of expending some 16 or 17 millions as on the liberality which supplies them.

II. Another, and at least as effective a cause of our exceeding helplessness at the commencement of every war, is to be found in the custom which has heretofore prevailed, of administering the affairs of the army through five or six different departments, each independent of the other. Some clue to this official labyrinth is given by Mr. Thompson in the compilation of which we have prefixed the title to this Article. But far greater experience than his is required to set the subject clearly before the general reader, for its tortuosities extend through every department of the State. Let us not, however, be misunderstood. Departmental administration, where the chiefs of the several departments report to one common head, and receive from him their instructions, is not only allowable, but indispensable, in the management of every extensive concern. Business could not, indeed, be carried on without such a division of labour. But when, as was recently the case in this country, each department finds itself free to take

its own course; when the Treasury could refuse or grant its sanction to all expenditure, according to the humour in which the chief clerks happened to be; when only the Commander-in-Chief could move infantry and cavalry, only the Master-General move artillery and engineers; when on the Secretary-at-War devolved the duty of providing adequate medical and other supplies; and to the Minister-at-War some ill-defined right appertained of saying when, how, and in what part of the world troops were to operate; when colonels of regiments clothed and accoutred their men, and made a profit out of the job, while the Board of Ordnance furnished great coats and arms; when the balance amongst these several authorities was so nicely hung that a fit of recalcitration on the part of one would paralyse the activity of all the rest in such a condition of things as this, it is very little to be wondered at, if a machine which could just manage to rub on heavily and slowly in time of peace, should, when war made its demand for rapid action, prove wholly unmanageable. It is not, however, our intention to dwell at length on this part of the subject; for besides that in a recent Number we took occasion to set forth the extreme inconveniences of the device, statesmen of all shades of opinion seem now to be agreed that the device itself will admit of no kind of justification. Whether or not the right course has been adopted for applying the remedy to the disease is a point which it may become our duty to discuss byand-by. Meanwhile, we pass on to a third source of military feebleness which, though long felt and deplored by thoughtful individuals, has, up to the present moment, been studiously kept from public view by the heads of the profession.

III. There is nothing in the army itself, or in anything connected with it, which has any tendency to develop the intellect of the members of the body, or to stimulate their industry in time of peace. Promotion with us comes by purchase, by interest, or by seniority. Our Staff appointments go either to friends or relatives of the Commander-in-Chief, or to gentlemen pressed upon him by influential persons whom he would be loth to disoblige. We have no schools of instruction for officers, with the single exception of Sandhurst; and besides that the system of management there is singularly defective, it labours under this not less serious disadvantage, that nobody derives the slightest benefit in his profession at least from the attainment of the highest honours which this seminary can confer. Indeed, it would be hard to say, looking as well to its constitution as to the order of the studies pursued within its walls, why this senior department at Sandhurst should exist at all. It is not like the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris

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