19 JULY 1879, Page 6


T ORD HARTINGTON has unmistakably changed his IJ opinion about Flogging, and it is not unnatural that his opponents should think he has changed it for party reasons, and especially to conciliate Mr. Chamberlain and the extreme Left. In the debate of Thursday he denied the latter part of the charge, and supported his denial with dates, which, unless the whole of the front Opposition Bench are in a conspiracy to deceive, finally dispose of it, but we do not wonder at the suspicion of electioneering. Lord Hartiugton did snub Me. Chamberlain for resisting flogging, and did then propose to abolish flogging, and it did look to men who had not studied the whole debate as if he had given way with a view to the coming election, and the intense, almost morbid, feeling of Radical townsfolk on the subject. But what we wonder at is that those who persistently charge Lord Hartington and his colleagues with electioneering, do not see that if their charge is well founded, flogging ought to be abandoned. They assert that the Liberal leaders have discovered that in the towns where their electoral strength lies, flogging is detested, and that consequently, at any risk to discipline, and of being accused of vacillation, they are now disposed to denounce that mode of punishment. Let us admit, for a moment, that the asser- tion is correct—which it is not, for the Liberal leaders have always held that flogging can only be justified by visible necessity, and opinion as to a necessity may change, as opinion about a principle cannot—and then see what it means. Clearly it means this,—that the urban population of Great Britain, which votes by household suffrage, so detests the lash, that rather than endure its continued use, it will turn out its favourite Representatives. That is the statement in plain English, and it is fatal to flogging, because if the feeling against that punishment, be it reasonable or un- reasonable, is so deep as that, then it must gravely and in- juriously affect not only the extent, but the character of re- cruiting. If the householders, who do not enlist, so dread and detest the penalty for others, their sons and brothers, who do enlist, must dread and detest it still more for themselves. They supply a heavy proportion of the Army. The popular notion is that recruits are agricultural labourers ; but we believe that in Britain nearly or quite half of them are towns- men, and that, contrary, again, to the general impression, there is a large proportion of Londoners, who make unusually good soldiers. In am Army recruited by voluntary enlistment, to deter townsmen from enlisting is folly ; and that a popular idea about flogging does deter, is proved by the necessity of conciliating voters upon the subject. The popular idea may be foolish, or "sentimental," or anything else, but what has that to do with the matter? We want good recruits, and to secure them any practice not absolutely essential to discipline—that is, to the existence of an army at all—ought to be given up, and in the end, if the ranks are to be filled, must be given up, whether we like it or no. The whole ques- tion is, therefore, whether flogging is essential to discipline, and on that point we have a word to say not yet said.

We do not believe discipline can be kept up without the infliction of pain. Even when our Army has been reorganised on such sound principles that dismissal shall be as heavy a penalty as it is in a factory, a foundry, or a merchant-ship, there will remain some men who require to be coerced into good-order by heavy personal penalties. They are not necessarily black- guards, but they are men in whom the spirit of licence is like a mania, and only to be kept down by immediate fear. There' are such men among the officers, and we have for them, and we use for them in India, very severe penalties, namely, cashier- ing, which is social death, imprisonment, which is in the tropics a frightful punishment, and actual death by military execution. An officer drunk on duty is cashiered, an officer who embezzles—. the equivalent of theft among the men—is imprisoned, and an officer who refused to obey an order in the field would unquestion- ably be sentenced to death, though he might not be executed. It is at least as necessary to coerce rough men as educated men, and as cashiering is not, from circumstances, social death to the private, it is perfectly just to inflict imprisonment, or when imprisonment is impossible, its equivalent in physical pain. Why that pain should not be whipping we do not precisely see, at least as long as whipping is retained in the schools frequented by the highest class, except, in- deed, as the Pall Mall Gazette has well said, because whipping is so cheap and convenient a punishment that the tendency is to inflict it too easily ; but the body of the townspeople do see, and there, with a voluntary army, it must end. It is of no use to tell servants that they are unreason- able in objecting to eat salmon twice a week, when they have made up their minds that on account of salmon they will not take service. The policy is to find another form of pain not so detested ; and with all deference for some angry experts, it is not impossible to find one. The alternative is not "lash or bullet." The German punishment, labour in fetters—that is, in the leg-chain—is very severe indeed, severe enough to coerce the roughest recruit, and it can he inflicted in the field. We believe any amount of needful discipline can be kept up by three punishments—first, deprivation for a month of pay, grog, and all food but bread, and of regimentals, the man doing his full duty in a punishment suit of canvas ; second, fatigue duty,—that is, in fact, the scavengering work of the camp—in fetters ; and third, death, which latter dreadful and dreaded penalty should be inflicted for two offences only. These are violent resistance, by blows or deliberate and mutin- ous insult to an officer, and "defiance of sentence,"—breaking arrest, or flight, or resistance while in fetters. The first clause is the rule of every Service in the world, and we eannot even conceive how without it an army could be kept together. Mu- tiny in the field is a distinct moral offence, an incitement to mutiny in the whole army, and therefore an attack on the very existence of the country, and it is one from which a soldier, private or officer, can always refrain. We would allow no exemption, and consider no provocation in extenuation, except a blow from the superior, but make death for mutiny in the field the unswerving, fundamental rule of the Service. And we would inflict it in the second case in order that light secondary punishment should be possible without perpetual waste of men in guarding prisoners. A man under sentence for a short period is sober, has had his severe warning, has hope before him, and should if he breaks bonds be regarded as a civil prisoner who escapes from Portland is regarded, that is, as a man liable to be shot at sight by the sentries. We do not believe that if death were limited to these two offences, mutiny in the field and defiance of sentence while on service, that it would revolt public feeling at all, or that it would be needful to inflict the sentence once in ten years. Soldiers, however bad, are men, and the worst criminals shrink from crimes followed by the death- penalty. And we believe that most officers will allow that with the three penalties we have named, aided, of course, by imprisonment in peace-time, discipline could be as rigorously maintained as at present, more especially if Parliament made it an invariable law that the sale of liquor to a soldier on service, whether by civilian or by comrade, should be punished by severe fines, fines like those which pro- tect the Customs revenue. The object of such sale is gain, and it should be made too unprofitable to risk. So believing, we are totally unable to accept the charge that either Lord Hartington, or his colleagues, or the Radicals intend to run the smallest risk of destroying the discipline of the British Army. They want to maintain it, but at the same time to attract such good recruits that the Army may no longer be regarded as a refuge for bad roughs. They know perfectly well, as Lord Bandon also knows, that with a con- scription flogging could not be maintained a week, and refuse to treat the present soldiers as if they were of some lower order than the body of the people. They are, in fact, fighting for changes which, whether wise or not, are entirely consistent both with patriotism and with the desire to maintain an effi- cient and a strictly disciplined Army. We have said that we do not see clearly why whipping should be so detested as a penalty, but we do not mean to say that the feeling is inexplicable. The detestation arises, as we believe, from two causes, the one the dislike to inflict pain in forms which deface the body,—the real objection to branding, which other- wise might be most useful—and the spread of the Democratic spirit, with its best result, the growth of the sense of personal dignity, of the dignite' de l'homme, as the French Radicals de- scribe it. In all Western countries, it is felt that blows—always the coercive method used by superiors—lower the sufferer as nothing else does. On the Continent, this feeling—which is a sort of embodiment of the passion of equality—rises almost to a mania, till a blow even from a drunken man is held to be an insult ; and even in England, a man who has suffered a totally un- just horsewhipping does lose heavily in social consideration. That spirit has been slow to spread to England, but it has spread till, as all employers of labour know, the one thing men will not take from masters is blows, and legalised blows inflicted on any but criminals are held to be cruelties. The people resent them, even in national schools, till teachers are constantly prosecuted unjustly, and a gentleman who struck his labourers would be more hated than for any other conceivable form of oppression. Stripes, in popular estimation, are for animals, not men, and the very convicts resent the warder's cano more than his authority. That the spirit frequently takes absurd forms is true enough, but in its essence it is a good one ; and good or bad, there it is, a moving force with those to whom all ultimate power has been com- mitted. The upper class refuse as yet to see this—refused on Thursday by 289 to 183—but they will have to see it, whenever they want a numerous army. The resistance to the abolition of the lash is resistance to democracy on a most an- noying and, as we believe, useless point, and will therefore not only fail, but in failing leave an unwholesome and needless irrita- tion. Pricking Behemoth is not the way to diminish, and still less to guide, his enormous and blear-eyed force.