5 MAY 1855, Page 14


WE English, being a practical people, constitute practice our only school, and resolutely decline to prepare beforehand that of which we might foresee the necessity. There is, perhaps, no race that has less-shaped its own course by a predetermined will. Our boasted eonstitution grew up out of the excitements of "the people, and was not-prepared for us by any sages or inspired philosophers. We even resist the proof of necessity until we feel the iron pressure hard upon us. Nothing is more manifest by the evidence of facts, than the conclusion that, if we would retain our place among the nations, we ought to possess an army; nothing more evident than the principle, that the cheapest kind of army is that which is effi- cient for all fighting purposes ; nothing sounder in economy, than the expediency of using every available opportunity for exer- cises or improvements that tend to promote efficiency : and yet, with means, appliances, and opportunities for cultivating as fine an army as ever existed, we persist in rendering our force as in- effective as possible. Wellington was the last and not the first to teach us, that a soldiery is of little use, in modern times, for pur- poses of warfare, until it be formed into the organized bodies called armies ; yet one of the latest authorized statements of our newest War Minister is, that we are adhere to our "regimental system." Our Ministers have authoritatively declared that they do not intend to break in upon a system of purchase which causes Our army to be formed out of two classes—the wealthy and the helplessly humble ; although that system precludes us from tiling the grand schools that we possess for teaching officers the business Of armies in combination.

"The regimental system," as pursued with the aid of the sys- tem of purchase and promotion in our army, is one that makes our force resemble a troop of Indian servants, dividing the duties of the household so minutely that one man carries your pipe, ano.: ther your slippers, another your purse, and so on with almost every article of the drawingroom or caravan. The officers and men are kept apart; the gentlemen, whose business it is to wield armies, learning nothing either of the men they have to command, the bodies they have to combine, or the elements of the move- ments they have to accomplish. For the details of "the Regi- mental System," the reader may see a capital article which begins Fraser's Magazine for the present month. He will there learn, how the officer, coming into the barrack where the men are formed in companies, goes through certain ceremonies of receiving reports from the sergeants who conduct the early parade ; how, subse- quently, the officers pretend to put the men through evolutions, for which the sergeant has prepared them and still watches in detail; how the officers go the rounds of the barracks, with the stereo- typed, unintelligible question, "Any complaints ? " and how, after a multiplicity of these forms, irksome because idle, the regiment is at last, on Some special day, called out to field-parade, and is put, upon grass, through the same elementary evolutions which it i has already performed upon gravel. It is the sergeant -that knows the men, that suggests their promotion, sees to their food, watches I their conduct, arranges their kit, inspects their weapons, and con- ' ducts the business of the companies tied together as a regiment by the loose clasp of the colonel's staff. The regimental system leads to 'soldiering not unlike the sportsmanship of the battue ; but, un- fortunately, it is not calculated to bring down the enemy, for the simple reason that you cannot put your Russians or other game of that sort into a preserve. You must first catch your Russian; and our soldiers, trained in the regimental system, have not proved clever at that pursuit. They laughed, indeed, to see the Russians run away ; but since they found that the Russians could come back, they have learned to laugh on the wrong side of the month. The regimental system trains officers like automatons to dictate the movements prearranged by the sergeant. The captain gives the word of command, and the step ; and, fixing his eye upon any small object on the ground, he goes so far as to lead his section of the army in marching upon a bit of grass, or a stone. He is quite competent, that captain, to march upon a bit of grass; but he is kept all his life at that evolution of marching upon a bit of grass. The reforms suggested by the writer in Fraser's Magazine cer- tainly do not advance beyond simple and practical considerations. The lesson they teach, indeed, falls short of that already taught by the campaign in the Crimea. To organize the British army into corps, divisions, and brigades, like the armies of Continental na- tions; to give officers promotion for following up the art of disci- pline from the point where it is arranged for them by the sergeant;, to give certificates of certain attainments as essential preliminaries to the highest promotions made for actual service in the field,— these surely are moderate suggestions, infinitely within the sug- gestions presented by the actual condition of our army. We have example, exercise-ground, men, learning, ancient traditions, money —everything that can be requisite for the formation of armies in every part and in every exercise. Wellington told us the perfec- tion to which a moderate-sized army could be brought. Louis Napoleon has continued with increasing energy that training of the French army to act in combinations with cavalry and artil- lery which began under his uncle ; the commissariat and the medical departments forming constituent portions of the whole body. The whole is a moving power, so that the artillery, the infantry, and the hospital, can keep pace with the cavalry in a forced march, and the corps can be distributed into its condi. tuent parts at a halt. The French have practised the artisans that always enter military bodies ; and a corps d'armee is an independent community, capable of foraging for itself; of manu- facturing and utilizing the resources of the spot upon which it may find itself. We are not incapable of that united action of great bodies of soldiers, but positively fall short in the most elementary efforts. No wonder that our Estimates are calculated to confound our business men and to astonish our neighbours. But to achieve this singular and organized incapacity, we throw away the finest opportunities that any nation ever had. We have colonies with every variety of climate ; and yet, in lien of seasoning our troops, and particularly our officers, by the varied experience that such an empire affords, we have localized our armies as we individualize and isolate the particular classes of soldiery. We have a grand school of active warfare and campaigning always open to us in India ; and the new War-Office memorandum recognizes the pupils of that school, in a way that implies some further use of their services. The War departments, it is said, are about to be organized: we have yet to see whether the new reform is ani- mated chiefly by a spirit of sparing that which exists or of intro- ducing that which is required because it is essential to efficiency. If we are to rebuild our house upon the principle of not disturb- ing any of the gentlemen who may enjoy their leisurely afternoon, certainly the new building will not differ very greatly from the old. But, after all, the organization of the War departments is scarcely more necessary than the thorough organization of the ar- my. As it is, we are doing in the body of the force exactly what we have permitted to happen in the highest commissions. A sys- tem, somewhat strengthened by experience, but superannuated by routine, is superseded by patchwork reforms in office, as we recruit our ranks by men who do not know how to wear their clothes. One of the last regulations is to require that the men shall he die- missed from drill after forty days,—a reform which certainly se- cures that the British army, not yet gifted with its young Welling- ton, shall be amply recruited with the awkward squad.

What is the grandest and most obvious distinction between the army of today and that of yesterday ? It is, that the men are not "set np," and the officers do not wear epaulettes. We are anxious to see the army of tomorrow.