THE OFFICIAL REPLY ON RECRUITING.
WE are not going to discuss the Army Estimates. If there is one expenditure of time more wasteful than another, it is the discussion by men who are not ex- perts, of a mass of professional details which even experts are scarcely competent to handle in a mass. The question of recruiting is not, however, a detail, and not one re- quiring any special amount of expertness in its discussion. Every sensible employer of labour can form an opinion on the evidence, and the verdict of any ordinary body of electors, if they have attended to that evidence, is just as likely to be right as that of Members of Parliament. The questions are, in fact, only two,—Do we obtain the kind of men we want for soldiers ? and can we obtain the men we want without ruinous expense ? Upon these two questions the whole debate turns ; and we must say, after reading Lord Wantage's Report, and Mr. Stanhope's speech of Monday in introducing the Estimates, it is most difficult for any plain man to decide that the War Office is in the right. It appears, on the evidence of the statements made by its own representative, the Secretary of State for War, to be so hopelessly in the wrong. And first as to the fact. Lord Wantage's Committee, after taking evidence from the highest experts, declares that every regiment on home service is inefficient, and that this inefficiency is due first of all to the immaturity of the young men who enlist. To this Mr. Stanhope replies, first, that those who enlist are not younger than they used to be,—an answer which, even if it is strictly in accordance with the fact, is posi- tively fatuous, the charge not being that the Army was inefficient once, but that, under present conditions of danger, duty, and habits of life, it is inefficient now. The present is called a peace-time, but it is not in any true military sense a peace-time at all, but a time at which a great war is expected ; a time when our varieties of risk in India, China, Egypt, the Cape, and Europe are abnormally numerous ; a time when emer- gencies may arise every month ; and, above all, a time when, owing to the complexities of politics and the armed attitude of all other nations, every emergency is liable to become a big one. A small trouble on the Indian frontier, in Egypt, in the Balkans, in the Canadian Lakes, in Italy, may suddenly throw a great nation into violent antagonism to ourselves. We have, in fact, to be as ready as if a war were certain ; and our unreadiness at any previous time is no more of an excuse than it would be of a protection. But, says Mr. Stanhope, quitting his argument from anti- quity, the regiments are full of efficients :—" I was enormously surprised when I studied these figures to see what a large proportion of long-service men there were in the battalions. Gentlemen can examine the figures for themselves, but the result is that the average number of men with the battalions on the lowest establish- ment who had served with the Army for six years and upwards was 231 out of 793. There is no man in this House who would not be satisfied with six-years' men. Whether hon. Members think the proportion I have given sufficient, I do not know ; but when they speak of the number of boys, I say there is a fair proportion of men who have served for a considerable time in the Army." Just think for a moment what that extraordinary sentence means, when translated into ordinary or colloquial English. Your regiments,' says Lord Wantage, are full of inefficients, mere boys.' 'How can you say so,' replies Mr. Stanhope, when nearly one-third of the men, 281 out of 793, are efficients,—are, indeed, of six years' ser- vice ? ' Where is the explanation there of the other two-thirds ?—unless, indeed, soldiers catch efficiency like measles, in which case one mature soldier in ten might be sufficient. The Generals want regiments in which not one man in ten shall be inefficient, and so does the country, which, be it remembered, cannot afford to expend. a third. of its force in hospital and. still remain strong. It has no such masses of men to waste, being compelled by the want of a conscription to do its work with comparatively few, all of whom must be as good as can possibly be obtained. Even Mr. Stanhope feels this, for throughout his speech, when all other arguments palpably break down, he falls back on the Reserves. There are 78,000 Reserves, they are all mature men, in an emergency they all come to the front, and therefore all is well.' Possibly, as far as an invasion is concerned ; but where is the Army that we pay for ? We pay for regiments ; they are admitted to be bad, and Mr. Stanhope says they will be better when the Reserves are drafted. in. The Reserves are, in fact, treated as substitutes, and not as additions to the force, and instead of adding to its strength in emer- gencies, only bring up its strength to what it ought to be without them. Say you have 90,000 men in the regiments, two-thirds inefficient, and 60,000 Reserves ; when the latter join, you have 90,000 good men ; but you have been paying for 150,000, and ought to have them. Mr. Stanhope speaks exactly as if there were a fixed. number which if you could. collect, you would have victory in your hands ; but there is no such fixed. number. The necessary number is fixed by your necessity, which depends upon your enemy, not upon any law of Nature, still less on your own will. Even if we adopt the extreme, to us the preposterous view, that the only use of men in regiments is to feed the Reserves, the answer is a bad one, for as we pay for both, we may as well have good men in rank as well as in reserve, and so be doubly strong for the same money. We understand the difficulties of a Minister of War, who must defend what is until he can amcnd it, and therefore uses any plausible arguments he can find ; but still, Mr. Stanhope's answer is not even plausible. He practically gives up his case, and says :—' The regiments are bad, but if the emergency is great enough, the Reserves, though they will not increase the total strength, will make the weak parts as good as need be.' That is very little to get for our millions. Then comes the second question. Can we get the men we want without ruinous expense ? Yes,' says Lord Wantage's Committee, in the most decisive way, 'you can get them for fifteenpence a. day and all found, threepence of that to be expended on extra diet.' In other words, you can get them for seven shillings a week, good diet, good lodging, and good clothes. We would ask any man of common-sense in the country who ever in his life made a bargain for effective labour, whether that is much ? The soldier endures a great amount of worry, he has to do unpleasant duty in all weathers, he has to lead a monotonous life full of minute restrictions, he has to turn himself rapidly from an unskilled into a skilled fighter, and he is to receive his keep and a silver shilling every day to spend ! We say nothing of his liability to be killed, because, as mere matter of fact, and, not of rhetoric, the great attraction of a soldier's life is that very liability, and a regiment all seething with discontent will receive the order to go on active service with a sensation of hearty pleasure, and turn all at once good-humoured and obedient.
It is nonsense to say the terms are high, and consequently Mr. Stanhope does not say it. He says something quite different, namely this :—" We take here the cost, not only of the private soldier, the warrant officers, and the non. commissioned officers, but also the stores, rations, fuel, transport, equipment, ammunition, barrack accommoda- tion, medical attendance, and all the cost of paymasters, men in the Army, amounts to an average sum of £56 per drawal of their confidence from M. Mercier by the voters in head. I state that figure for the consideration of the the French Province is made all the more significant and Committee, and ask any one who looks into the matter in satisfactory by reason of the fact that M. Mercier, owing detail to say whether they do not think that, looking at to a blunder on the part of the Lieutenant-Governor, M. the cost of labour in this country, we really get the services Angers, was able to confuse the issue before the electorate. of the private soldier for a perfectly moderate sum ?" The Our readers will doubtless be able to recall the circum- charge is that the British soldier is inefficient, because stances under which the appeal to the constituencies took he is bought too cheap, and the Secretary for War replies : place. In December, the Royal Commission appointed to Yes ; but how cheap he is " The quinine is bad,' inquire into the alleged misappropriation of subsidies voted says the doctor, and the nurse replies : • Maybe, but I by the Quebec Parliament to the Chaleur Bay Railway, bought it at twopence an ounce.' Anyhow, finally remarks presented its majority report, in which it was declared that Mr. Stanhope, ' we have given a kit gratis, and that is some- the Mercier Ministry had been guilty of malversation, and thing, and anything more would be expensive.' No doubt, of diverting public moneys from their original purpose to but would a defeat be cheap P We are not arguing now their own use. Acting upon the report, M. Angers din- that the expense, which could not be a million a year, missed the Ministry as " not being in a position to advise might be saved by better organisation, though every Army the representative of the Crown wisely, disinterestedly, and expert has a plan for that amount of economy, or even faithfully." M. Mercier at once disputed the legality of that it would be better to knock off ten thousand men, the Lieutenant-Governor's action, and claimed that in din- and have all the rest efficient, though that is the plainest missing him and his fellow-Ministers, the representative of matter of business sense. We know quite well that while the Crown had broken the spirit of the Constitution. the dual government of the Army continues, we might as It thus happened that M. Mercier and his colleagues, well ask for economy as for clear responsibility. Our con- instead of having to defend themselves primarily from a tention is, that the country is not, and for some years has charge of corruption, were able to pose as guardians of not been, in a cheeseparing mood ; that it is particularly popular rights. Instead of the simple question before the solicitous to give fair wages for good work ; and that if electors being : " Will you continue to bestow your con- Ministers had the courage to ask for them, they would get fidenee on a man found guilty of corruption by a Royal the necessary grants without serious demur. Members Commission ? " it became : "Will you allow the Lieu- might be exasperated, as Mr. Hanbury is, at the tenant-Governor to usurp the power of dismissing Minis- total cost of a system which gives us so little in tries which retain the confidence of the popular assembly ? " effective force, ready at one day's notice ; but they We must confess to having entertained grave doubts as to dare not go to their constituents and say that they had whether M. Mercier would not be able to ride off on this turned out a Government because it had resolved to side-issue, and escape from the charge of corruption under offer unskilled labourers, good, big set-up men, one the plea that he was the victim of a constitutional out- shilling a day and all found. The workmen would laugh rage. A great many things worked for his interest. In the in their faces, and ask if they thought men were going to first place, he is the typical French-Canadian Catholic, and 'list in order to get nothing at all. Whether those ex- is never so happy as when sounding the trumpet of Ultra- ceedingly moderate terms will bring the men wanted, we montanism and of Nationalism. He has always posed as do not know ; but if they will, as Lord Wantage's Corn- one who is far more a Transatlantic Frenchman than a mittee believe, then the money ought to be given, and, as Canadian British subject. But in the Province of Quebec we believe, would be given if the Government had but the the feeling of sympathy with France and with the extremer moral courage to say it was needful to military efficiency, claims of the Roman Church is very strong, and it seemed, The suspicion of military extravagance runs very deep, therefore, not at all unlikely that when M. Mercier invoked but it is not roused by the soldier's pay, or by any proposal this sentiment to withstand the nominee of the Dominion that his stoppages shall cease. It incidentally came out that the War Office is a great Ministry—he would obtain a very large following. Add to deal worried about the question of deferred pay. Lord this that all the vested interests of corruption were arrayed Wantage's Committee condemned it utterly, and, we on his side, and were aware that on his victory depended should have said, on excellent evidence. We never met a the keeping-up of the old system. The fact that in spite man yet who liked the system, in any rank of life, and of all this M. Mercier was beaten, enables us to under- believe the general feeling of the poor to be that of the stand how strong must have been the popular resolve dockers, who have just unanimously rejected the proposal to cleanse the politics of the Province from the taint to secure them pensions in old age at the cost of small under which they have hitherto suffered. The English subscriptions, as a dodge of the capitalists to save their Liberals of the Province—M. Mercier was the leader own money, and give instead a promise which they will of what was termed the Liberal Party in Quebec— never have to keep. It seems, however, that some men in we are glad to note, were the first to break away the Reserve like it, and say the deferred pay helped from their old chief, on the ground that to give him them to situations. Very good ; then where is the difficulty further support would be to condone the malpractices din- in allowing each soldier to choose ? If he likes money closed in the Report of the Royal Commission, and they down, let him have it ; if he likes deferred pay, let him have were followed by manyof the French Liberals. Such that instead. Mr. Stanhope will say, we dare say, that support as M. Mercier did get was, we expect, due solely the deferred pay is best for him ; but really, speaking with to the success with which he managed to beat the drum all respect, that is a little nonsensical. It would be a great ecclesiastic and national. He told the electors that he and deal better for his servants if he stopped half their pay his friends were being opposed because they had settled in order to compel them to save ; but what sort of servants the Jesuit question, and because they were champions of would he get? All that is grandmothering, not governing. the Roman Catholic religion, and he hinted "that his The soldier may be a child, but he does not think himself defeat would not augur well for the continuance of the a child; and if he is to be content, must be allowed to save Canadian Confederation." That these red-herrings drawn his wages or play chuck-farthing with them, just as suits across the path did not prevail, and that M. Mercier himself. If he is extravagant, he must take the consequences was overthrown in spite of his many advantages, is a like anybody else ; and. if after squandering his money he proof that the people of Quebec feel the disgrace which whines that here is a soldier who shed his blood and can get attends political corruption, and are determined to discover no work to do, the country must have the fortitude to be as a remedy. Nay, more, it is a sign that a democracy is not deaf as a post. With the soldier as with all other men, necessarily callous in regard to the question of political the right way is to pay him properly, keep faith to the last corruption farthing, and leave the rest to the man himself. Who We suspect, indeed, that it is an entire mistake to suppose a promise that we should all get on ? gave us all that democracies are in the abstract at all tolerant of corrup-