OFFICIAL CONDEMNATION OF OUR MILITARY SYSTEM.
TIEE late Government broke down because it failed to grapple effectually with the work of organizing the War departments. The new Government comes into existence upon the popular un- derstanding that the condition of occupying office is to do the work which the late Government failed to do. The whole
Lary system is condemned as bad ; to use the expression of Mr. Os- borne, Secretary of the Admiralty, " it is rotten from top to bot- tom." The necessity of reorganizing it was affirmed by the House of Commons on the instigation of Lord John Russell ; for such were practically the origin and the result of the late Parliamentary- Ministerial movements. And supporting that general and sweep- ing condemnation, we have specific statements of the defects in the present system. We have often had such statements before, but now they stand on the official authority of the latest occupants of office, with the semi-official corroboration of Lord Grey and Mr. Stafford.
The expedition to the Crimea is the first military movement which this country has made in Europe since 1815. Englishmen have appeared in other fields,—Sir De Lacy Evans commanded a legion composed of Englishmen serving in Spain many years back ; our navy shared the " untoward event " of Navarino ; but it is in the Crimea that the State has first put forth its power. Hitherto, the result of that movement, if it were taken alone, would go to establish the fact that this country has declined and has lost its military prestige. " No one," says Lord John Russell, " can deny the melancholy condition of our army before Sebastopol : the accounts which arrive from that quarter every week are not only painful but heartrending." " There is something that, with all my official knowledge, is to me inexplicable in the state of our army." " We are all, however, free to confess the notoriety of that state of things." " Exposure to suffering," says Mr. Sidney Herbert, " exposure to an inclement climate and to privations of all de- scriptions, has reduced the army under the command of Lord Rag- lan to a state that does excite deep anxiety in the mind of every Englishman." And Mr. Osborne summarily characterizes " the disgraceful way in which this war has been conducted." Our whole army is declared to be untrained and untaught, or imperfectly trained and taught ; and this statement has been ad- vanced even as an excuse for the state of the Crimean expedition. Lord Grey says-
" It is only two years since you formed your first establishment for teach- ing with anything like system the use of improved fire-arms to the troops. -.. . . A soldier ought to know something more than the use of his arms ,on drill.. He ought to know how to perform outpost duty, how to take advan- tage of all the accidents of the ground for offence or defence, how to construct small works for -similar purposes' how to build huts for his own shelter, of such rude Materials as are to be found wherever warlike operations are car- ried on ; he ought to know all the best modern contrivances for facilitating labour., and for employing the joint efforts of large bodies of men with moot -effect in the prosecution of any work to be carried out The Sappers and Miners, on the contrary, are so useful in civil life that it is actually diffi- cult for the Government to keep them—there are such constant attempts to bribe them out of the service by persons who know how valuable they would
be in any employment to which they might be turned There is no reason why every soldier in the British army should not be as well instructed as the Sappers and Miners."
Forced idleness and tedium, says Lord Grey again, have been the curse of the army. They have driven the soldiers to drinking, and young officers into those excesses which have recently been exposed.
" Our soldiers," says the Duke of Newcastle, qualifying such statements as these, and at the ssrme'time making an addition of his own, " had been instructed in the use of arms ; but the instruction which they wanted was with regard to living in the camp."
Improvement is a slow and difficult work. It is so long ago as 1837 that Lord Howick was member of a Commission to inquire into the Army. Eighteen years have elapsed ; " and what," asks Mr. Osborne, " has been done ? "
" In 1848 and 1849 efforts were made to consolidate the departments. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London was then at the head of the . Government, and the Duke of Wellington was at the Horse Guards. It was hinted when a motion was brought forward in that House, that the Duke of Wellington was opposed to any innovation on the military system ; and no improvement took place. We had only recently armed our troops with the Mini6 rifle ; and he believed he was not incorrect in stating that at the pre- sent moment there were three different aorta of arms in use among our troops in the Crimea."
Materiel when sent is not available. Stores of every descrip- tbm have been sent to the Crimea; food, clothing, medicine, with mules and horses for their transport-
" But these supplies," as Lord Grey explains, "hare not been available at the time and at the place where they were wanted ; and because those sup- plies were not so available when and where they were required, our gallant army has been reduced to its present condition ; its losses by sickness and death, brought on by fatigue and by want, infinitely outnumbering the losses occasioned by battle or by preventible diseases. We know this. It is acknowledged on ail sides that from the want of organization these unhappy consequences have resulted."
Want of organization is distinctly asserted by Mr. Sidney Her- bert. " What you term the English army," he says, " has not been an army ; it is only a collection of regiments, each of which is perfect in itself. Throughout the campaign there has not been the slightest sign of regimental disorganization : there has been wanting that control over the whole army which you can get only by praetice; and you have had no such practice." Field-officers were deficient in the Crimea. "There have been field-officers in command of regiments in the Crimea," says Mr. Sidney Herbert, "who, until they went there, unless they had i been in India or been quartered in Dublin, never in their lives saw a brigade; men who have never seen an army in the field, and are utterly unacquainted with the movements of such a force and with the regulations required for its supplies and its security." Our system of promotion narrows the selection of efficient -General Officers. " A man rises to be a general officer," says Lord Grey, "not by seniority alone in service, not by serving, but by simply living upon half-pay for ten or twenty years unemployed. The actual average age of Major-Generals appointed at the last
brevet under that system was not less than sixty." Mr. Osborne carries the inquiry a step further back. " How was it possible to expect a succession of able generals, when the first thing they had done under the present system was to debar a man of whatever talents from command unless he had a very large sum of money to purchase a commission ? A Lieutenant-Colonel of cavalry paid for his com- mission 61151.: he had known an instance where 15,0001. had been paid. A regular Lieutenant-Colonel in an infantry regiment paid for his commis- sion 45001. How was it possible, under such circumstances, that any but a rich man could enter the army ? "
The Staff is not calculated to give effectual assistance to the Generals old or young. The appointments have occasioned great vexation in the Crimea. The Secretary to the Admiralty packs up the whole case in a nut-shell-
' The staff of the French army is the eye and the right arm of that body. The staff-officer is a man of knowledge and of military science, fertile in ex- pedients and sagacious in council. la that the case in the English army ? It is not, and every honourable gentleman whom he addressed knows it it not. Yes, every honourable gentleman knows it is not merit nor capability for which an officer in the British army is appointed to the staff, but from interest and connexion. He wished to know how many of them could speak French—how many could draw a eommon field plan. " We have no Commander-in-chief," says. Lord Grey- " In this country the Commander-in-chief is a Minister of War shorn of a great part of his proper power and authority. He is Minister of War, with very little power over the artillery, with no authority in matters of ex- pense, and with scarcely any as regards the provisioning, clothing, and arm- ing of the troops. He is Minister of War deprived of all the essential parts of his functions."
"The time has arrived," says the late Secretary to the Admiralty, "when they could not expect our army not only to win a battle in the field, and to go through the vicissitudes of a campaign, without laying an unsparing hand on that building adjacent to these premises. They must find a Hercules who would turn the Serpentine upon the Horse Guards and upon all the ramifications of office."
The Downing Street Administration• crowns the system of in- efficiency. The following passage puts -the general effect of Lord Grey's bill of indictment against the present rule into a few lines— The system of transacting business is " cumbersomeand complicated," be- cause "you have had a Secretary at War, a Commander-in-chief, a Board of Ordnance, and a Commissariat Department, carrying on a voluminous cor- respondence with each other, with the other departments of the Govern- ment, and with the officers serving abroad, that, in such correspondence, the essentials of what was to be done have very often been lost sight of, and mistakes and errors have taken place ; and when mistakes have not occurred, the most ordinary arrangements -have only been effected with a loss of time which in war is too often a loss of everything Those arrangements are so complicated that very often the heads of departments do not know what is the proper quarter to which particular applications should be ad- dressed."
Lord Grey might be doubted as an outsider, although in fact he has been in office, and in this particular department. We have, however, the same statement from the late Lord President of the; Council. The entire effect of Lord John Russell's condemnation of the military administration is, that the departments were too mach divided, and not brought sufficiently under the command of a single Minister, endowed with the power of controlling them. In. the absence of that unity, the Cabinet has done something to repair omissions ; but a Cabinet is a cumbrous and unwieldy in- strument for carrying on war. It can furnish suggestions, or make a decision upon a measure submitted to it, but it cannot ad- minister.
We have carried our survey from the common soldier upwards, through all the grades of the higher offices, to the Commander-in- chief, to the Horse Guards, the War Department, and the Cabinet itself : at every stage we have, on official authority, a description of inefficiency arising from disorganization. We will not to-this pregnant canto add one word of comment. We neither make nor repeat ally suggestion as to the measures of reform : we only say, that a simple union of two offices will not do what is absolutely required. The nature of the evils points out the fitting remedies. It is, however, not invention that has been wanting throughout these eighteen years, but the resolution to execute invention—the energy, the sense of duty, commensurate with necessity.