29 SEPTEMBER 1906, Page 13


Sia,—In your issue of the 15th inst. we had the welcome news that henceforth the influence of the Spectator will be on the side of those who believe that military training for the people, (mite apart from any question of defence, is of such

real need as to make it a matter of prime importance. But you stop short of advocating compulsion, on the ground that the way of the English people is to take these matters by steps, and that it would be better to rely at first on voluntary effort, and you quote the case of the Education Act. Now, Sir, with all deference, it seems to me that the facts of that case are rather against your conclusion.

We have for fifty years and more been carrying on the military education of the people by voluntary means. Teachers (or officers) and the taught (or rank-and-file) have all come forward without compulsion out of a desire to learn, and the whole has been (iu the case of the Auxiliary Forces) largely dependent upon the public for the wherewithal to "carry on." But matters have broken down. There is a steady decline in numbers. Last year six thousand three hundred and forty-seven more left than joined the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers, and there were a hundred and thirty-nine thousand less joined than Parliament in the Estimates allowed for. And yet on all hands there is the cry that things are not as they should be. Mr. Haldane calls for a "nation in arms," and mentions seven, eight, or nine hundred thousand as the numbers. He tells us that there is no safety without such forces, and all who look the world fair in the face know how weak we are, and see what strides Continental nations have made while we have stood still or even receded. Is not the ease on all fours with the educational position in 1870? For fifty years or so voluntary effort had been responsible for education ; but foreign countries were forging ahead, and we were being left behind. Voluntary effort, however praiseworthy, had passed its time, and this the nation recognised, with the result that compulsion was applied at once.

That compulsion was willingly accepted, being deemed necessary for both the individual and the nation. We believe that compul- sion in military training is necessary now, both on individual and national grounds. The Liberal Party brought in compulsory education ; will they bring in compulsory national training ? Why should they not ? It would be a most truly democratic measure, bringing all ranks of life together to serve one great. end, and teaching rich and poor, master and servant, cultivated and less cultured, to know more of one another and their ways of thought, and tending to throw down the barriers of class which too often now exist,—a great measure and worthy of a great Minister. Mr. Haldane has gone some way with his "nation in arms," but he will not get it except he asks and persuades the people to make the sacrifice which every nation in Europe (except ourselves) makes, and make it obligatory upon every Englishman to give some time to the service of the State which does so much for him.