ENGLISH MILITARY REFORM.
A LMOST all writers on English Military Reform, more .C1 especially those who are writing under the influence of the recent victories in Germany, seem to forget one essential point in the situation. Alone among the great countries of the world England requires two armies, one for defence against invasion, the other for a general service mainly tropical. Our military difficulty lies in Asia, not in Europe or Great Britain. It is because we possess India, not because we are wealthy or unwarlike, that it is so difficult to keep our military strength up to the level of our rank in the world. If we had no India a great army could be organized speedily enough. The colonies could be entrusted if we chose to the marines, a special service capable of considerable expansion without excessive expense, it not being indispensable to spread every concession made to attract recruits over so wide a surface. An extra shilling a week can be granted to say 30,000 marines, without the necessity of granting it also to 200,000 soldiers. Apart from the colonies and India, the home army could be as easily filled as the household regiments, which are never without recruits. For active service men will go willingly anywhere, and if the greater part of a military life were passed at home, as it is in every other army, recruits even under the present system of enlistment would not long be wanting. Indeed, in spite of the indignation two or three democratic organs find it convenient to affect, we question if a conscription for home service would be utterly out of the question. Balloting for the Militia was borne very easily, impressment never excited real resistance, and the country once determined to have an army, we suspect that a good many ideas now very powerful would be found to be false. The Star, for instance, talks of service as in itself demoralizing, quite forgetting that the Army might be made as reputable a profession as any other, that it is only not so now because we are content to draw recruits from the worst class of the population. Cromwell's Ironsides did not think themselves exactly lowered by the cuirass. It is wiser, how- ever, as well as easier to use systems to which the people have grown accustomed than to invent new schemes, and we have already an army of defence which a little ingenuity, patience, and expenditure might make perfect. We can if we please organize regiments on the footing of the Guards, make the organization of the Militia as complete as that of an army in the field, enable every Volunteer regiment to march, create transport and commissariat, train officers, and in short secure efficiency without departing from constitutional pre- cedent, or risking a conflict with a people taught to believe that a country lout who has entered one of the best schools in the world, a school out of which he emerges heavier, stronger, and better made, more educated, and indefinitely more able than he went in, has " disgraced his family." With fifty or sixty thousand regular troops, eighty thousand Militia, and 120,000 Volunteers all really efficient, able to move and feed themselves, to obey orders, and to march, armed as well as Prussians, and led by men who have seen service, we should be quite as safe as there is any necessity to be. Two good armies of 100,000 men each—much less than the number now on the registers, supposing them all effectives —would be amply sufficient to preserve this island against any enemy whose arrival statesmen will take the trouble to anticipate. Even then it is of course possible that we may be defeated or even conquered by a combination, say of France, Prussia, the United States, and Dahomey, but the cost of providing against a contingency of that kind, in money, and energy, and men would be greater than that of facing it unprepared, should it ever arrive. There is a limit to national preparations just as there is a limit to training, which it is unwise to pass. Up to a point a man can by exercise, and abstinence, and practice make himself a much better oarsman, or boxer, or wrestler than he was before, but beyond that point he simply injures his constitution, without any return in- muscular power or capacity of endurance. We believe firmly that Parliament has but to will a good home army to have one, and our only dread is lest the moral timidity of the upper class, and the love of easy chairs in the middle, and the ignorant courage of the masses should delay the exertion of that will too long. The most certain way to avoid the danger is to admit the workmen to the constituency, it being quite certain, amid many doubtful results of demo- cracy, that no democratic State ever gave up its place in the world except upon physical compulsion.
Unfortunately the home army, even when organized, is not sufficient for Great Britain. The Star indeed, with that wonderful inability to comprehend English Radicalism which distinguished the old Manchester school, says we are never going to fight again, that we have grown wise in our middle age, that we now intend to be prosperous, and so on, and so on, all which we think we have heard before applied to a much larger section of mankind. Not believing that hate is extin- guished by electricity, or pride by the solar spectrum, or fear by railways, or covetousness by commerce, we cannot profess an undoubting faith in that easy solution of military troubles. Skulking is not the special vice of democracies, and we have a suspicion that Mr. Beales' friends care rather more for other countries, are rather less selfish, are rather more given to enthusiasm for freedom and right, are rather less disposed to put up with any affront, however imaginary, than the party which cried aloud " Perish Savoy I" yet professes to represent them. At all events, that particular point is not worth dis- cussing, for the country has only to be aware that it has not an effective army to form one, the resistance of optimist Radicals or precedent-loving Tories notwithstanding. The only question will be the way, and we believe, when the crisis arrives, there will be before the country very few alternatives, the establishment of a landwehr, for instance, being as use- less as impracticable. A training of three years, it is clear, will make efficient soldiers, particularly if recruits are all educated, and all liable to be shot at discretion, but what would be the value of men raised for three years in India, or China, or at the Cape ? They would spend half their time in going and coming, and cost more in transport than in wages and commissariat. Even the ten-years' rule is in this respect an embarrassment, and three years would be found simply intolerable alike to the men and to the State which employed them, and which would have one-sixth of its army perpetually afloat in movable barracks, cost- ing an income-tax in mere rental. We say nothing of the utter impossibility of compelling a whole population to undertake tropical service against its will, though the mere statement of the proposal is its own sufficient answer, but con- tent ourselves with showing that, supposing Parliament to pass the law and the people to obey it, the end would not be obtained. There remain three alternatives and, as we conceive, but three. The first is to raise an adequate army for general service by conscription, a plan to which we may be driven in the end, but which will certainly not be attempted until the nation has been raised to revolutionary temper, and which will end within twenty years either in the restoration of India to its princes as an unendurable burden, or in the -formation of an army of mercenaries, Arabs, or Negroes, or Chinese, who can be trusted not to rebel. The second is the formation of a special Army of Asia, with special pay, exceptional laws, and it may be a distinctive organization, to be filled by all who find Europe either too tame or too hot for comfortable resi- dence. It would not be difficult, by throwing open all careers, choosing, for example, all its officers from the ranks and allowing the men the officers' right of furlough, to make such an army very attractive, quite attractive enough to keep up the supply of 60,000 men which will ultimately be required. India can pay for that number very liberally, and careers will always tempt the adventurous, a class which one fancies, despite the Star, is not totally extinct in Great Britain. This army formed, the difficulty at home would, as we said, disappear, and any one of a hundred plans might be found to succeed, the people dreading, not battle, but the liability to exile under a tropical sun. Or—and this third alternative seems to us the easiest—we must make the regular army, with
its tour of duty in Asia, a service which a strong artizan with some education and a love of adventure would enter just as soon as he would enter a foundry, or emigrate, or " go foreign to try his luck." Soldiering must be a trade, and a good trade, like joining, or carpentering, or bricklay- ing, or doing navvies' work. Does anybody know any army which would stand up against one hundred thousand English navvies, armed, drilled, and commanded as well as the Prus- sian army ? To secure them we must pay the market price, say at present twelve shillings a week, with clothing and rations and no stoppages whatsoever, abolish the lash utterly, —not because it is inhuman, or barbarous, or despotic, but because an imaginative dread of it keeps recruits out, —grant commissions only to men from the ranks or lads who have won them by the severe training of an Ecole Polytechnique, break summarily any officer who uses terms to a private he would not use to a subordinate of his own class, and—here is the point at which our few liberal Generals will part com- pany with us—allow the soldier to quit his trade as he would quit any other, subject always to the proviso that an order for India is an order for the field. Of course we shall be told this is impossible, that there would be incessant change in the ranks, that discipline would be impaired, that the expense would be enormous, that there is no precedent for such a course in any army in the world. We reply, first, that the ideal army is an army every man in which feels and thinks like an officer ; secondly, that officers have possessed this privilege throughout our history ; thirdly, that the practice existed in the Indian Army ; and lastly, that without this we
shall never attract the real fighting strength of the country— the men who can do something else—into the ranks. With these changes, or others identical in their spirit, we believe England might always rely on an army sufficient to make her word, when seriously spoken, as effective as that of any single- Power ; without them we may yet be driven, either by a catastrophe or the fear of one, to the dangerous device of conscription. Liberalism can produce armies, and so can compulsion, but the mixed system applied to an empire which stretches across the world is visibly breaking down..
For the idea, which absurdly enough is now called " Liberal," though no genuine Liberal entertains it, the idea that Eng- land's mission is over, that she is never to fight even for the right, never to put down a wrong too great to be suppressed by " opinion," never to pioneer the way for freemen with shot and steel, we have neither sympathy nor respect. But there is a liberal as there is also an aristocratic organization for armies, and it is to that, and not to a silly policy of quiescence, which will not survive the first grave menace to England or the first surge of national emotion, that liberal effort should tend.