THE Woolwich Academy still gives signs that all is not yet right within its walls, notwithstanding the changes, which were introduced after the disturbance which occurred there some four years ago. There have been almost annual rehearsals on a small scale of that somewhat serious display of insubordination, and last Saturday's Times contains a report of a variety in the performance—u stupid piece of schoolboy bullying, resulting in the dismissal of some six cadets. The report in the Times is not quite accurate. The ease was not, as the reporter fancied, one in which certain members of a senior class bullied a cadet junior to themselves for disobeying their orders, but one in which an unpopular cadet was punished by his own term for reporting former acts of bullying from which he had suffered. On this occasion, a cloak having been thrown over him, in order that he might not recognize his assailants, the luckless youth was carried away to a large bath of cold water, into which he was quietly dropped. That, how- ever, which strikes us as the most startling feature of the case, is the age of the actors in it. One of the cadets, who is to be allowed to return to the Academy, and who, we believe, may if he is fortunate obtain his commission in a little more than six months, will have completed his twenty-third year before he thus enters Her Majesty's service as an officer. The others are not much younger than this man. It does not require an elaborate argument to prove that there must be something radically wrong in the whole system, when men whose ages vary from twenty and twenty-three play tricks of this kind upon one another. We cannot think that this ought any longer to be regarded as a merely professional question. Whatever con- cerns the management of Woolwich Academy is of far greater general interest to the country now than it was a few years ago, for two reasons. Firstly, because the Artillery, to which Woolwich supplies all its officers, has, thanks to the inventions of the last few years, become both much more important in itself and much better known to the public at large than it was formerly ; secondly, and chiefly, because the Academy is now the scene of the most crucial experiment to which the competitive system has yet been subjected. That a merely scholarly test would answer well enough for clerks or Indian judges was very probable. That the system would be equally successful when applied to a case in which the qualities on which an English country gentleman prides himself were those specially in demand, and in which scientific knowledge, how- ever important, was of less necessity than capacity for com- mand, seemed much more doubtful. That the experiment should be fairly tried was therefore very desirable for many reasons, apart from the necessity for obtaining the best supply of officers that the country could secure for so important a branch of the Army. We propose therefore to consider whether the experiment has or has not been so far fairly con- ducted, and to that end must go a little back into the history of the Academy. With the recent disturbance which has furnished the occasion for our article we shall concern our-
selves no further. Whatever else may be necessary for the well-being of an establishment of this kind, certainly it is necessary that the authorities should not be constantly interfered with in the management of details.
When it was resolved to throw Woolwich open to competi- tion, no change in the social position of the officers was at all contemplated by the authors of the new system. Their objects were in fact twofold. In the first place, to compel those who would otherwise have found their way into Wool- wich through the interest of their friends, to trust to their own wits for admission thereto ; and secondly, to put an end to the exclusion from the Academy of all those who, though otherwise eligible, had no interest with the dispensers of the patronage of the place. The whole scheme was therefore as far as possible so arranged as to prevent the examinations from admitting any but educated gentlemen. Up to this time the Academy had in fact been a school, in which boys received their education between the ages of twelve and sixteen or seventeen. To have allowed the competition to take place at any very early age would have entirely defeated the whole purpose of the new scheme. There were hundreds of boys throughout the country not at all of the class required by the examiners for Woolwich who, if the subjects of examination had been such as could be required of boys from twelve to fourteen years of age, would probably have been able to enter into very successful competition with those whom the ex- aminers desired to admit. The minimum age was accordingly fixed at seventeen, the maximum at twenty. These young men, Whose average age on first admission was about nineteen, now entered the same school in which the boys of thirteen to seventeen were being educated.
The regulations continued the same as they had been all along, or were modified in the most trifling respects. Imagine the result which would follow if successive batches of young Oxford fresh men were turned adrift into a dame's school ! Picture the confusion of the good dame herself, and the flurry and fuss she would be in ! How frightfully strict she would be with her new charges! How horrified when they did not exactly settle down at once into obedience to her baby rules! Now really what occurred was almost as absurd as this. None of the habits and customs of the place were changed, though the average age of the new men was rather greater than that ofe the undergraduates at either University. When the mutiny, which first drew public attention to the state of things, at the place, broke out about four years ago, these men, of ages varying from eighteen to twenty-two, were sleeping seven in a room and four in a room respectively. It was the duty of a cadet corporal to go round every morning and see all the other men in the place get up at a certain hour, reporting in writing in one half of the Academy, and verbally in the other, that he had actually seen them all out of bed. We are soiry that if the story we have heard be true, facts and the report were apt to differ materially, it being naturally not easy to make some eighty young men turn out in their night-gowns for the inspection of the corporal, and the report at all events being insisted on. Admirable training for a service which depends absolutely for its efficiency on the honour of its officers !
The bed-room arrangement has since then been slightly improved. The great body of the cadets are still four in a room, but at all events the greater part of the cadets in the senior term have now each a room to themselves. "How great an improvement that must be as an opportunity for quiet study," will no doubt be the first thought of any one who fancies that the object of Woolwich is to prepare men for a scientific profession. Ignorant enthusiast How far art thou from knowing the intricacies of Woolwich management ! The little boys had of course to be looked after while they were at work, and accordingly the young men are never allowed to do a stitch of work except during the hours fixed for their differ- ent "academics," during which the whole of each term sit at their respective desks under the eyes of a couple of profes- sors. Within this very year a cadet, much fonder at all times of cricket than of reading, whom we should certainly never have suspected of an undue tendency to work out of hours, chanced one night, in a fit of unwonted zeal, to have taken some books out of his class-room or academy," as they call it. He, well knowing the penalties of so frightful an offence as that of burning the midnight oil, cautiously placed a blanket over his window, in order to conceal his sinister intentions from the authorities, and sat down to work. A hole in the blanket betrayed him. One of the officials (an excellent man, and deservedly popular, but of course bound to carry out the regime of the place) entered the room, rated him soundly for his disgraceful conduct in thus cheating his comrade.s, and put an end to his receiving any leave of absence from the Academy for the remainder of the term,—the most severe punishment which the Woolwich authorities can inflict being, as may well be believed, that of keeping the offender with them.
The result of thus cooping up all the young men of the Academy in class-rooms during all the hours of the day in which they do any work whatever, those hours being by no means few, is certainly not very satisfactory. No matter how proficient a cadet may be in one branch of study, and no matter how anxious he may be to make up for deficiencies in some other branch of his knowledge, whatever his class are doing that he must do. If for two hours they are study- ing French, for the same two hours must he, though he be a perfect French linguist, sit in the class with them, and either pretend to study French, work at something else under the rose, or perhaps Dr. Watts could tell us what the third resource for his idle hands may be. Unhappily the most common practical result is the last, and the consequence is that of all amusing and ridiculous stories that we have ever heard, some of the most irresistible are those which an artillery or engi- neer officer who can tell a story well can give of the end- less varieties of ingenious folly from which the professors had constantly to stiffer in his time. You may think them a great deal too bad, but their absurdity is irresistible.
The professors themselves are no doubt as a body both learned and able men, but under so monstrous a system no man has a chance of working with effect. But perhaps it will be imagined that a system of this kind is at least favourable to mere military discipline. Such is, however, by no means the case. The drill serjeants suffer almost as much from petty annoying insubordination as the professors. It really, as we think, almost speaks well for poor human nature that such is the case. We rejoice to think that a nobler treatment would produce nobler results. The Volunteer movement, at our Universities and elsewhere, has proved clearly enough that gentlemen can submit themselves without demur to the temporary authority of their social inferiors, and were our young Woolwich cadets similarly placed they would act, we cannot doubt, in a similar manner. But they are not similarly placed. The attempt is made to treat them partly as children, who have not sufficient sense of decency to consider the difficult position in which a serjeant is placed when he has to teach his superiors in social rank, partly as privates, almost socially inferior to their serjeant. The extent to which this sort of treatment is, or was till recently, carried would seem to us outsiders almost incredible, were not the accounts of what takes place so abundantly confirmed. It is declared that, at all events under a recent governor, the evi- dence of cadets was, like that of negroes in the South, simply excluded from court. A cadet who had been in reality charged by mistake with something which had occurred during his absence, offered to bring abundant testimony to prove an alibi. The governor, so the story runs, instantly met him with "That has got nothing at all to do with it, Sir," and ordered him to the black-hole for having dared to appeal to him to rectify the mistake which had been made.
We are well aware that there are those who will retort at once to all that we have said on this subject, "If they are men, why do they not behave as such ?" Why was human nature made as it is? Would not the old dame whom we have supposed suddenly put in charge of a set of young fresh- men very soon find cause to call out in the same way,—" They call themselves gentlemen, but they seem to me to behave worse than the children I had before?"
We have to deal with facts, not to wish for the moon, or assume that we can alter all the ordinary conditions under which human nature is acted upon. Men treated as men do act as men. Men treated as school-boys play the fool. It may well be believed that it was exceedingly difficult for men who had been bred up under the old system to accommodate themselves to the new ; and, however excellent the officers might be who were appointed to posts at the Academy, it was not easy for them to remember that the cadets were no longer, as they had been when they were themselves at Woolwich, children, but young men, fully capable of appreciating the difference between being treated as gentlemen and being treated as school-boys. This difficulty was enormously in- creased by the fact that all the institutions of the place were kept the same as they were in the olden time, and our own belief is that the spirit thus reigning in the place will never be expelled, till a revolution is effected in the management of
the place more complete than is possible without the appoint- ment of a Royal Commission, with full powers to effect such changes as may to it seem advisable.
After the mutiny which broke out four years ago great and real improvements were introduced. Excellent gymnasia., first-rate racket courts, and similar additions to the establish- ment placed the cadets in a very different position from their predecessors, who could hardly, we believe, get any exercise, except a walk after about eight o'clock in the evening and a Saturday afternoon's foot-ball or cricket. The black-hole was abolished, and a few similar alterations took place. But to convert a child's school into a place of education for young men not mere improvements of this kind are required, but a radical change of system. We cannot think that it is possible merely to lower the age of admission to what it was in the old time We have stated already the reasons which induced the original' authors of the competition scheme to raise the age. We believe' that those reasons were good. We have little fear of their. being undervalued. Woolwich as it existed formerly was never. too popular with the public, and so long as it remains true of' Woolwich now, as it did in the old time, that not one officer in a hundred who has passed through the place ever looks back upon it with any other feelings than those of hatred and disgust,. while almostall who have passed through any of our great public schools or Universities retain for them the greatest affection, we shall hold to this belief, that if a complete change cannot in some way be introduced into such an Academy the sooner it is abolished the better. In conclusion, we must express a hope that if the palpable monstrosities of the present system should induce the Government at last to appoint a commission to inquire what alteratiops are necessary, the commission will not consist largely of officers who have passed through Wool- wich, or even largely of Army officers at all, but that there will be a considerable element in it of those who are well acquainted with other systems for educating young men. What is. wanted on such a commission is, that there should be some indeed who know the stamp of man that is wanted when the process is completed, but more that know how the process of education itself ought to be carried on.