19 JUNE 1858, Page 16


IF Ministers perceive their duty, Monday's debate in the House of Lords, on the administration of the Militia, ought to be ex- ceedingly useful. The defects of the present system—we might use stronger terms,—were stated with great distinctness, and with- out contradiction. The Militia at present occupies a position which is altogether anomalous ; and instead of presenting the proper incentives for good administration, it actually runs counter to those incentives, and suggests efficient motives for bad disci- pline and bad management. A Colonel of Militia would be proud to see his regiment's ranks well filled, his men thoroughly drilled, and the whole body under him a kind of model ; but, as Lord Lyttelton remarked, it is inconsistent with human nature that the managing-officer of a regiment should feel any heartiness, any pride, in keeping up a superficial appearance of soldierly discipline, when the whole 'body may be removed from under him at the notice of a recruiting-officer —or what is worse his best men carried off, and only the refuse left. Nor is the ca- terer for the regular Army at all scrupulous in his means. A recruiting-sergeant goes down to a Militia regiment, and plays the Siren by dealing out with open hand the means of drunken- ness—a nice kind of teaching, both for the Militiamen that re- main, and for the soldiers who join the Army ! In fact it reverses the morals of all proper canvassing, as it draws into the Army, not those who might be incited by military ambition or by proofs that they can make their way in a worldly sense but by the love of low pleasure and by idle promises which could be given by none but reckless chatterers and believed by none but fools. The very machinery therefore to extract reinforcements for the Army out of the Militia tends to adulterate both the Army and the Mi- litia who arc left. Many other circumstances contribute at once to weaken and dishearten the officers of Militia. As the Duke of Buccleugh said, owing to the low rate of pay and allowances, there is great difficulty in obtaining the requisite number of non- commissioned officers. Military men are the best for the post of Adjutant; but then the allowances for that officer are quite in-' adequate to the want. For example, he is allowed the -magnifi-, cent sum of 10s. a week for "lodging money." Gentlemen w,ho desire to become officers of Militia may have some wild am- bitions, but if so they soon get disappointed. Or they may be willing to make a toy of the vocation and if so they must pay for it themselves. The absence of sufficient motives to bring out and sustain zeal or great capacity in the staff of the force makes it inefficient and uncertain.

There are still other direct reasons rendering it impossible. that the discipline should be otherwise than exceedingly bad ; so bad that decent men, who might otherwise be an ex- ample to the force, are kept out. The drill is ludicrously insuffi- cient. The weapons employed are ridiculous. In the day of the Minie rifle, even complete percussion-locks are not used, but "old flint-locks which have been converted into percussion "—just one step above the match-lock. The plan of officering the Militia, and recruiting for the Army maintains a chronic drunkenness in the national forces, and converts indiscipline into an institution. There is avowedly no check upon reenlistments, and Lord Grey mentions the case of a man who had enlisted in twelve regiments at once. At the same time drunkenness, malingering, and unlawful absence, are offences so common, that if the whole Militia were called, the absences are estimated variously from 20 to 40 per cent ; and we have strong reason for believing that the higher figure is nearer the truth. We pretend to organize Mili- tia, and what we have actually organized is nothing more than a cumbersome' over-manned, ill-disciplined depot for recruits ; the worst school in which the soldier could be prepared.

The official reply to these representations is discouraging. There is evidently a disposition to yield to pressure, but to yield only so much as can be squeezed out. Good government in our day has degenerated into those acts which feeble men can be made to do by others who are irresponsible ! Lord Hardinge thinks that he has whitewashed the present system, when he says, that the Inspector of Militia has reported favourably of the general condition of the permanent Militia staff, which since September has furnished eight thousand men to the line. If the administra- tion is satisfactory, why was an inquiry granted ? For a Com- mission has been issued to inquire into the whole subject. And it is a bad preface to inquiry, if we assume that it is but little wanted. Now there are several broad subjects which need to be explored to their very base. How can we properly or sensibly muster large bodies of Militia without having proper lodging to put them into ? No railway contractor would think of making a line through a new part of the country unkss he saw how the navigators could be lodged. As the Duke of Newcastle said, at the commencement of a war the Militia is a useful auxili-

Igfor feeding the army as well as supporting it. It en an intermediate stage into which a population, not recently moved by military ideas, can step without great violence to its feelings. But where the Army must be permanently re- cruited, the use of the Militia as we have seen, becomes a hinder- ance, and a perversion instead of an aid. As a mere depot for re- cruiting the Army, the Militia is one of superfluous dimensions and demoralized discipline. For one recruit that is wanted, it collects nine or ten who are not needed ; exposes all ten to the lowest competition of recruiting-sergeants ; positively augments the Army by men who are bribed to desert their original force; and carrying away the best soldiers, leaves to the home force no- thing but the dregs. The Commission, therefore, should it really fulfil the public service which is now needed, will give us all ac- cessible information on the organization of the Militia, the con- struction of the permanent Staff of regiments, the recruiting of the Army by Militia or otherwise, the supply of sufficient lodging for Militiamen, the proper boundaries between the Militia and the Regular Army, the proportion of Militia required for home defences, and the right duties to be performed by the Militia force. These are all practical questions ; the data for prac- tical answers exist ; nothing is wanted but Commissioners who perceive the scope of their duties, and know where to look for the materials of their report. It will probably be found that the Militia may be used as an auxiliary for the recruitment of the Army, but in a way not lately employed. There is one mode by which it could be thus used, while holding out every incentive to the permanent staff, and the working officers, to the progressive improvement of the regiments, the selection, discipline, and efficiency of the men. It would be, from time to time, when circumstances demanded or justified such a step, to admit an entire Militia regiment, with au its men and officers, into the body of the Queen's Army ; never announcing which particular regiment would be thus favoured, but at any unforeseen moment extending that privilege to the regiment which should be most complete in its organization, dis- cipline, and efficiency.