28 JULY 1866, Page 7


THE sudden fall of the Austrian Empire, a fall which appears for the moment to be alike complete and irre- mediable, has gravely alarmed those who perceive in how many points England resembles Austria. Like her, we are governed by an aristocracy which has never educated the people, and does not at heart wish to educate them ; like her, we are apt to be unprepared and slow of preparation when the hour of danger draws near ; and like her, our organization depends for success too much upon individual capacity. With a dictator competent to use all her enormous resources Austria would have come victoriously out of this struggle, as we should also out of any conflict, granted the same datum. But with- out the dictator—? The Pall Hall Gazette in its issue of Wed- nesday gave expression to a fear entertained by many who thoroughly understand both our resources and our weakness, who do not believe that half-trained volunteers could meet an army like the Prussian, unless indeed commanded by a genius, without imminent risk of destruction, and who fear that

were the command of the sea once lost, such meeting might be more possible than we in our insular vanity conceive. It is good for the country that journals should be found able to rebuke English spread-eagleism in this style, even though it is a little exaggerated, and it is rather from a desire that the whole truth should be stated, than from a wish to complain of a half-truth, that we try to put down clearly the facts upon the other side. The argument to be answered is simple. It is asserted that England, though positively as strong perhaps as ever she has yet been, is comparatively weaker, is declining in relative weight, the only standard nations can ever use. The tendency of the world, its marked,—though it may be, as all Comtists affirm, its momentary—tendency, is towards the aggregation of races. The little States compared with which we were recently so strong are dying out, and are replaced by military monarchies with resources almost as great as our own, armies infinitely greater than our own, and an organization in pre- sence of which our own seems to the spectator feeble and inefficient. We were infinitely stronger than any kingdom in Italy, but the kingdom of Italy may interfere seriously with our policy in the East ; we could despise any State in Germany, but as against Germany united we are as powerless as a bulldog against behemoth. So great is the change, that the vote of England, which only fifty years ago outweighed that of two first-class powers, is now only asked in Congress out of courtesy, and should Prance and Prussia, for instance, unite, we could not prevent, we could scarcely even delay, the absorption of a kingdom we are almost pledged to protect.

It is perfectly true, most of all this, so long as the nation remains in its present mood, without a policy or a desire, but it is, we contend, in a temporary mental paralysis, and not in any failure of strength, that the change consists. This coun- try is not the weaker because Germany has organized itself after a more efficient fashion, on the contrary, it is the stronger, both because the new Germany is a possible ally against the only State near enough to be dangerous, and because the new Germany being sure to become a maritime power, will come within the range in which we are willing to act. Once she has forts and fleets and commerce, Germany is assailable by a maritime power, a risk from which she is at present almost wholly—for serious purposes wholly—exempted by her geographical position. The incident of the year is no injury to Great Britain, and on the general question there exists danger of gross exaggeration. No State in Europe has risen so high as to contain the elements of strength in much greater measure than ourselves, none exceed us unbearably in population, or wealth, or position, or any one point except the education necessary to swift popular action. That no doubt is a great exception, but it applies only to Prussia, and we do not despair even yet of crushing the theological opposition which alone impedes the establishment of a perfect system of parish and county schools. The Continent is being divided into portions containing about thirty millions each, and we are thirty millions, and increase faster than they. Austria, we are told, which after excluding dead-weight provinces possesses that population, was destroyed in a week, and so may we be, but the analogy is but assumed. Were Austria a State, even now she would not be destroyed. Were her population only willing, if Hungarians, and Germans, and *Poles, and Slays hurried up to keep her alive, she would not even now submit, might, in many acute judgments would, still recover her ground. Our thirty millions would hurry up. If the national spirit is gone the empire of course is gone too, but where are

the proofs of that in .a country which alone in Europe still gets soldiers without compulsion, alone in Europe can find men for tropical service equal to its entire home army, alone in Europe sees an unpaid national guard outnumber its paid army, alone in Europe has more sailors in merchantmen and men-of-war afloat than its whole military force ? So far from the population becoming unpatriotic, it is steeped in a content so lazy that the destruction of a few park palings by a mob is a phenomenon which absorbs the attention given in Con- tinental States to a battle, and the only internal question hotly disputed is whether there is or is not a desire for any change whatsoever. The North was just in that mood when the first shot was fired at Sumter, and within four years was acknowledged to be among the great powers of earth, perhaps the very greatest, compelled France under a Bonaparte to give up a cherished dream in the hour of its realization, made England audibly sigh a regret that one of her greatest posses- sions should march with the frontier of the half-despised Republic. Will the Pall Mall Gazette affirm that the Union is weak, and what does the Union possess which England cannot afford? Literally nothing, except a population educated enough to be conscious of its powers.

But we are reminded of time. Wars, it is said, are so rapid, that a week may destroy a nation. Well, we also believe that if an enemy could land in England, with our small army and half disciplined volunteer force, with no generals worth naming— Lord Strathnairn, the best known among them, has seen but one modern campaign against a civilized foe,—with a Com- mander-in-Chief chosen by birth, with statesmen all over sixty, and with no means of organizing rapidly the patriotic willingness of the people, England might come to very serious trouble. The march from Hastings to London would not be a very severe task for an army such as that which obeys the Crown Prince of Prussia, and " resources " we willingly admit are useless unless at hand. But we contend some time must be granted, if only we have the sense to keep our fleet up to its ancient mark,—that of first among the fleets of the world, and the time required would be small. In the hour of danger the habits, and traditions, and prejudices, and withes of system which swathe English life till it gasps as if about to expire drop from about it like burnt flax, and men like Indian civilians, bureaucrats to the core, stand out in an hour fit to sit on a Committee of Public Safety, men who have swallowed formulas, and will shed blood like water rather than yield an inch. The " liberty " which is supposed to hamper us is a faculty capable of being suspended, or a want that can be very quickly filled up. It would be impossible perhaps to-day to shoot a volunteer for any conceivable offence ; an hour after an enemy landed he might be shot for having a button awry. It would be impossible in India now to make a general out of a major. We made one during the mutiny out of a lieutenant, and a captain of artillery held the Viceroy's com- mission in his pocket—to be used if Lord Canning died. Par- liament itself perhaps could scarcely remove the Duke of Cambridge now. It would not take much to hang him if he lost a battle in Sussex. Our lethargy is from plethora, not starvation, from the total absence of that feeling of fear which Continental peoples, who are divided from enemies by a river, and whose fathers remember to have seen horses stabled in their cathedrals, never lose ; from a flabbiness of mind which long rest produces in nations as well as men. All that is needed is an organization democratic in its best sense, an organization, that is, by which the genuine strength of the nation can, in the hour of need, be brought easily into play. We do not say we have it. We are sadly conscious that we have it not, that we are gyved and bound by prosperity, and habit, and the ignorance of the masses. But we can have it if we will, and that is what we conceive the Pall Mall Gazette im- plicitly to deny. We can if we please recognize the truth taught us by two great wars—the American and the German,—that it does not take years but months to make a man a soldier, that long service is waste, not gain, that a man trained for three years may be sent home for ten, and step out in the eleventh a better soldier than his comrade just finishing his time. That single fact, when we see it, will settle half our difficulties of recruiting. We can if we choose remedy the absurd system under which the whole population, however willing, is refused admittance intd the ranks unless it will bind itself to a slavery of ten years, can make soldiership a trade to be pursued or quitted at will, like work in a dockyard or an engine-room. We can if we will perfect the volunteer system, and link the militia scheme fairly to it, providing the volunteers with trained cadres till we

have a permanent home army of 300,000 men, equal to at least three battles with any invading force which modern science could by any possibility land upon our shores, an army capable at any notice of expansion till it rivalled in numbers at all events and spirit any army on earth. Whe- ther we shall do any one of these things before the serious alarm arrives to shake us out of our lethargy we do not know ; if we are governed by old men chosen because of their acres and their pedigrees probably not, but we can do them, and do them very fast. The "Empire," as the Pall Mall Gazette says, that is, our vast possessions in every sea, may be a source only of weakness, but the national strength is unimpaired even by comparison with the new forces around us, the national character is unchanged, the national spirit is un- diminished, and we need but the organization which shall bring the system we have to work into harmony with the new needs of the people who have to work it. A democratic English army would be the most formidable enemy with which the Continent ever had to contend, and an army democratic in all essentials, which it is easy to join, and easy to leave, and easy to rise in, an army lax in points as the volunteers, stern in discipline as the strictest regiment of Prussian regulars, should now be our ideal. Had we defended Denmark, as we advised, we should have had such an army, though after a catastrophe we cer- tainly did not foresee. The first army despatched would have been destroyed, and then the fetters of custom, old generals, double responsibility, royal commanders-in-chief, long terms of service, closed careers, all that prevents the most martial people in Europe from being one of the most powerful, would have dropped off like tow. We cannot interfere on the Continent, says the Gazette, and the men who said it under Charles Ti. believed it at least as fully, and were right while the torpor lasted and the Stuarts reigned. Then we had Marl- borough, and the Continent found, as once in a hundred years it always does find, that the powerlessness of Great Britain is not death, but sleep. If before the great hour arrives we can but educate every Englishman as every Prussian is educated, till he understands why discipline is required and the cause for which he is asked to fight, the awakening will be a rough one, and less easily forgotten than those which have gone be- fore. Even now, though our organization is clotted with pre- judices, though we distrust ourselves to such an extent that a free army, an army in which a private can resign like an English officer or an Indian sepoy, seems to old officers a mad dream, we can place a force of eighty thousand men on any point accessible by sea, and keep them there in full and in- cessantly renewed activity if need be for twenty years. The nation which can do that, or twice that, the day it earnestly wills to do it, is not a feeble nation, save in the wise abstinence from that central compulsion which on the Continent is a sub- stitute for a national resolution. It is flabbiness of will, not feebleness of sinew, from which our country suffers.