THE CONDITION OF THE INDIAN ARMY.
THERE are few, we fear, who have waded through the heavy- speeches of Tuesday night upon Indian Army grievances,. and the mass of petitions, "explanations," and " cases " with which members of Parliament have for weeks been deluged. All " grievances " are dry reading, Indian grievances are especially wearisome, Indian military grievances are beyond' measure tedious, and Indian military regimental grievances- are simply unendurable. The few, however, who did read: those papers experienced, we should imagine, no slight sen- sation of .alarm. Lord Ellenborough's quiet hint the other night that he should have something to say presently about. the Indian Army which it might not be pleasant to hear was not given a moment too soon. The system upon which that force has been re-organized has not hitherto been understood,- in this country, and when it is it will, we believe, meet with the heartiest condemnation. So far as we can perceive, every vice of the old system has been reproduced and intensified, till we very much doubt whether the Empire is not at this moment maintaining an army of 100,000 soldiers visibly useless for the field, men who in a campaign are, humanly speaking, certain to behave as the men of the 43rd Native, Infantry are said to have behaved in the retreat from- Dewan- giri. Hardly two Indians can be' found who agree precisely as to the causes of the great mutiny, but we doubt if two could be discovered who would not allow that one main cause of the disorganization which ended in mutiny was this :—Each of the 250 regiments in the Indian Army had been turned into a: penal settlement for its officers. Very early in Indian history- it had been found that the Civil Service could not without air immense increase be made sufficient to administer all the provinces gradually accreting to the British dominion. It was dangerous, as statesmen thought then and old Indians think now, to entrust the duties to natives, and as a tertiumt quid officers from the army were permitted to take them. As good men were wanted they were tempted with extra pay,. and as good men did not like giving up their chance of military distinction they were suffered to remain on the regimental strength. The system worked 'well, the doubler training producing, as it always does,—as it did, for example, when Chancellors were also Churchmen,—men of very-singular and varied ability, men for example who could - curly_wild? tribes and yet re-organize revenue systems, and as the Wnpirer, grew the "Staff" as it was absurdly called, expanded with ite. At last, when the mutiny broke out, there were fourteen iirtn*) dred appointments open to about four thousand five hundrea officers, appointments all more or less civil, all more or lesti pleasant, all better paid than appointments of equal rank in the army itself. It is all very well to talk of glory- but even in India the normal condition is peace, and in time of peace, life in an Indian Cantonment is rather more tedious. than life in an English. convict depot. Marching is not pleasant work, particularly if one has a wife, and in India every extra rupee is an additional chance of getting home to the dear old land. Besides, to say nothing of pleasanter work and better pay, all the glory was reserved to the Staff, who, the moment the regiment moved on service rejoined it, men who had forgotten how to ride or been chained for twenty years to the desk actually claiming and obtaining regimental commands. Dislike of monotony, passion for work, eagerness for money, all impelled the ambitious in one direction, and the single end of the mass of officers was to get away from the "regimental duty" to- which Staff officers were actually remanded in gazetted orders as a punishment for crime. Men often learned their men's patois perfectly, in order that they might never speak to sepoys again, and fought heroically in order to earn the distinction which would promote them to civil em- ploy. Those who succeeded quitted their regiments, those who failed either still hoped to succeed, and so regarded the regiment as an ad-interim occupation of no importance, or thought that they ought to have succeeded, and so considered their work an unjust penal servitude. There were therefore only two classes of officers left for duty—able men who hated their work, and "hard bargains" who could not do it, and between them the service went practically to pieces. The man who neglected his regiment might still gain his reward in civil employ, the man who attended to it was sure to be super- seded in the field by the civil employe. Will it be believed that the result of amalgamation, that is, of a vast and most costly reform, has been to reproduce this system with all its evils intensified? The first step taken by Sir Charles Wood after the vote of Parliament authorizing amalgamation was to protect the great body of officers who were administering all India:beyond the old Presidency limits by constituting them a Staff Corps. Influenced we presume by a desire not to lose the advantage of military training for his administrators,—in•itself a most wise desire, —S ir Charles Wood decreed that aspirants 'should be trained as officers, and should before entering the Staff serve a certain term with a regiment. He thew for some reason which we cannot venture to guess, ordered' that when appointed they should still be borne on the strength of the Array and retain their regimental rights, but shoulk-be promoted according to 'length of service. The term of Teornetion was fixed a little below the average, and a captain therefore in civil employ often became a major before his comrade who, living with his regiment, rose only by seniority. That in itself did not matter, being only one more reward to the Staff; but unfortunately a Staff officer had the right to return to his regiment. Consequently the man who was doing the bard and unpleasant work was liable to be superseded whenever any prize fell in by the man who was pursuing the pleasanter occupation, and all the evils of the old system were at once in fall blow again.
This, however, was not enough. Under the old scheme a regiment had twenty-two officers, only six could be taken for Staff, and if four more were away on furlough or sick leave twelve still remained for .duty. There was an officer of some sort per company, and an adjutant and commandant over. During the mutiny, however, indeed long before, a cry had arisen that "Irregulars" were better adapted for service than regiments of the Line. That was quite tree, the Irregulars being manned with young natives of good position and o tcered by only three officers per regiment, all picked men, all so well paid that it was scarcely worth their while to go back to the Line except when they got a command, for which, again they were from their experience sure to be fit. Sir Charles -Wood caught at the idea of extending the Irregular system but, being a man of no imagination, did not perceive that the key to its success was the individuality of its officers—an indi- viduality so great that the regiments were usually called by their names. At one fell swoop he made the Regular Sepoy Army in all Presidencies consisting of perhaps 100,000 men, Irregular, 1. e, controlleciby only six officers, a commandant of the whole, a commandant of each wing, an adjutant, and two youngsters, supposed officially to be "doing duty," 1. e, learn- ing their business, but in fact moving heaven and earth to get away from it into the Staff. And there he stopped. Not only weree rthe officers not specially picked, but the now "Irregulars" were speciallyleft to men not selected for the Staff or the Royals, ieek, rem either devoid of ambition, or of capacity, or of interest, the latter want breeding fierce dis- content. The privates, moreover, were left unchanged, so that a regiment of six hundred sepoys, accustomed to strict organi- zation under a dozen officers, was left to be managed under a lax organization by only six. And then, to crown all, among those six, and above those six, and in the way of those six, were some half-dozen more who had been selected for Staff employ, and who might at any mointint come back to rule men who had never seen them, and supersede officers who had passed their time among their men, and who if they had had any hope might in time have got a fair hold on the reins. The old Irregular officer could not be superseded or interfered with except by the direct action of the Viceroy, and in prac- tice was in no more danger of such an event than the head of an English department is. The regiment was his, and within certain limits he made or marred it as he chose, and being a picked man—favourites were put into easier things—he usually chose to make it, and his own reputation with it. The grand reform therefore has ended in a system which retains all the faults of the Irregulars —for example, it refuses to native sabreurs of high birth the possibility of command,—and all the vices of the old Line intensified by their action upon a narrower field, and aggravated by the want of sympathy in the privates for the new re'girne. Did anybody ever hear of such an organization ? We will ask Sir Charles Wood himself how long he thinks a Queen's regiment, commanded by men carefully precipitated from the general body of Queen's servants like mud out of water, set to do work for which, being only average men, they are too few, conscious of having been rejected for better appointments, and liable at any moment to supersession by luckier comrades in civil employ, would hold together ? Yet a Queen's regiment has bones in the shape of non-commissioned officers, who are selected for merit, or, what is in itself a great merit, the favour of their commanding officer. In Irregular regiment has no bones, or rather its bones are not in hearty accord with its muscles. It has native officers, many of whom are able, but then by reason of their ability they are out of rapport with the Europeans over them, are in fact deprived of their natural strength by being forced to obey men of a different, it may be a higher, but still an unintelligible, civilization. The old " Irregulars " found, and we believe still find, their bones in native officers personally devoted to their picked chiefs. Ts it any wonder that the first regiment sent into action under the new system should have failed to succeed ? We use that ex- pression on purpose, for whatever its actual conduct, a point still under inquiry, it certainly failed to succeed, and regiments are organized at such vast cost in order that they may not fail. I body of men, the majority of whom had never seen their com- mandant, were sent into action with we believe onlyfourofficers, two being ill, those four not being picked men, and each of the four feeling himself in time of peace in some sense a beaten man. Of course in the field each acted well, but regiments are made in cantonments, and when the officers are not either selected, or encouraged, or made permanent, or sufficient in number, regiments cannot be made. There is so much pluck and ability among Anglo-Indians, and the cohesive force of tradition is so great, that some of these regiments even now may do exceedingly well, but that the 100,000 men thus commanded are equal in effective force to a well-organized army of that great strength no man who understands armies can believe. Be it remembered this system extends to Madras, which has never yet seen how Englishmen quell mutiny, which is the very focus and centre of Mohammedan fanaticism, which retains one independent army within its limits, and in which op-position' is not crushed by an irresistible force of European soldiers. Lord Ellenborough will do well to speak out quickly, or we may have another catastrophe yet. The vote on Tuesday night will, if Sir Charles Wood obeys it, abolish supersession, but even then unpicked men are set to do work which it is only possible for picked men to do, and set to do it under circumstances in which even picked men would fail.