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absurd, depreciation of their value, and therefore of the resources at the disposal of the country. The Army, like other professions, is apt to favour the maxim “there is nothing like
leather.' Another consideration may be added. The military annals of the country are not sufficiently consulted by those military men who have devoted themselves to the task of awakening the public mind to the relative condition of England in a survey of the martial resources, the territorial ambition, the militarismus of the great Continental Powers, the conversion of the population to the status of standing armies. Perhaps it is not too much to say that the military condition of England as she stood forty years ago is hardly known to many of those who constitute themselves our advisers in the present day. At all events that condition is never adverted to in argument, the consequence being that the grounds of security as properly appreciated by successive governments by no means receive the public consideration to which they are entitled. It is said, and with truth, that whatever advance we may have made during the period referred to, far greater steps have been taken by other Powers, and notably by Germany. France on the one side of the new empire, and Russia on the other, and Austria and Italy to the south, have all adopted a thorough and searching system of nationalised armament, the strength for offence on the part of the one having come in some sort to be the measure of the means deemed necessary by the others for reassertion of that balance of European power which in a large sense completes the notion of Continental defence.
Although, however, so much may be properly admitted, it is surely a mistake to ignore what we have been about ourselves, and to treat with contempt the resources which have been gradually called into existence in our halting Anglo-Saxon fashion, and, whatever may be said to the contrary, provide for the defence of the soil on a scale little dreamt of during the early years of Louis Philippe's reign in France, and that of William IV. in England. We have purposely referred to that time, for then it was that the military resources of Great Britain were suffered to reach the lowest point known in this country since the termination of the Napoleon wars ; and from that time may be traced a constant increase to our military strength, now taking place in one form now in another, with a corresponding rise in the annual estimates. To this allusion will presently be made with some little detail.
The Militia officers, the Volunteers, and a few members of Parliament have contributed their quota of argument, of statement, of suggestion. It is not only reasonable that they should do so, but in the consideration of national defence it is essential that they should come forward. For though through them we do not learn' much indeed of military systems and adaptations, of army traditions and regulations, of the imperfect laws which so entirely fail in accomplishing their object with regard to the supply of men for our regular army, we do become acquainted by their means with the feeling pervading the population, and the merits of a voluntary system resting on intelligence and not on the blind adhesion of youthful ignorance, rashness, or inexperience. We learn through them that in the community at large there is a strong latent military sentiment. We discover that potential capacity for arms and submission to military demands and organisation which justifies the dictum of Lord Palmerston : "Reserves! Talk to me of Reserves ! I trust for Reserves to the energy of the British nation. It is to the truth of these imperfectly quoted words, the occasion of their utterance having escaped our memory, that the officers of the Militia and the Volunteers bring their testimony, whether as shown by their willing service and subordination to rules, or by their contributions to the discussion of the great questions which still await solution from the War Office. These questions are that the sufficient recruitment for the army shall be in future assured; and how we are to arrange a system of real and positive Reserve, of which the men shall be available for mobilisation as seen first in the German armies and subsequently in the military establishments of the other Continental Powers.
To Lord Elcho belongs the proud distinction of having compelled a hearing on an ungrateful subject, ungrateful because we all of us too well know that whether or not we agree to his statement of the case, he has persistently striven for years to lay the fact before the public, that the character of our establishments, however costly they may be, whatever their history, and whatever their purpose, is not such as to enable us to vindicate the position assumed in Europe by the power of England, is not of a kind to ensure regard for the treaties we have guaranteed; in short, that it fails and must fail in ensuring that respect abroad which goes by the name of moral influence in the mouths of statesmen and diplomatists. It is true, as Lord Derby has lately intimated, that the opinion of England is still awaited with eagerness on the Continent. The petulance and even anger, which at times are vented, are proofs of the value set on our estimate of European questions. The imputations of timidity and conscious weakness which are 80 freely hazarded by foreign critics are ephemeral and transi
Phoefs of the value sexen anger, which gerness on the c
tory expressions of disgust or jealousy. Dissent may have been implied from conclusions alien to the policy imposed on Government by the will of the nation, or material interference may have been declined with regard to our insular position and cosmopolite as distinguished from merely European interests. Our sympathies towards this or that Continental interest may have been expressed by public opinion, in Parliament, and even by responsible advice, when for obvious reasons material assistance or diplomatic remonstrance has been denied. But the refusal of interference is one thing. The condition of our establishments which forbids interference or the utterance of strong international sanctions when treaties are threatened and the European system as approved by us and necessary to our interests is in danger, because the utterance might logically entail the interference, is indeed another. That such a feeling should have an existence in the educated portion of the nation, that it should come to be the guide of Ministries, would really be a calamity. It is against the occurrence of that calamity that Lord Elcho warns us. Independent of party, and standing almost alone as he does in the House of Commons, he has perhaps more than any Minister or any group of men during the last twenty years aided towards the enforcement of a truly national policy in these matters, and has effected results of which he may well be proud, far transcending the mere executive action of office.
In the debate raised by Lord Elcho in the House of Commons on May 20, 1875, a thorough comprehension of the subject was indeed shown by all the speakers, not excepting the Secretary for War himself, notwithstanding Colonel Mure's statement that the debate had been most remarkable, for, with 'the exception of the Secretary for War, neither soldier nor
civilian had presumed to say the army was in a satisfactory state.' For in truth if Mr. Hardy's speech be read carefully, it becomes evident that the condition of the army as regards the material point of supply of men for the ranks fills him with anxiety, and that he is not more satisfied with the state of things than any of the numerous critics who addressed the House before and after him. Towards the close he yielded the whole position. Official caution and reticence were dismissed. The Minister expressed his dissatisfaction almost as freely as the independent members, and did to a certain extent shadow forth the promise of a policy which, if carried out in entirety, would, we believe, give the army and the country all that is desired. It is fair to him, and at the same time of much assistance to the line of argument and suggestions about to be pursued, to quote his words in extenso :
Now I cannot help calling the attention of the House to the great changes which have been going on in the Army in recent years -changes so great that I should tremble to make others which were not absolutely necessary because of the feeling of dissatisfaction which must be expected to exist in the Army if there is a continual uncertainty as to what may happen. So dangerous do I think these frequent changes that I must be excused for moving somewhat more slowly than some of my friends may desire. I trust, however, that credit will be given me for an anxious desire to remove any defects there may be in the existing system. No doubt there are defects. There may be a great necessity-I am inclined to admit there is a necessity—that we should expedite the means of filling up the cadres in the case of urgent need. Like the hon. and gallant member opposite, I have been surprised to find that the rapidity with which the Reserve will be completed is likely to be much less than was anticipated. I think my noble predecessor over-estimated the number that would come in year by year, failing to take into account certain reductions which must inevitably occur. It has been suggested that the Militia should be made the foundation of the recruiting system. There would, no doubt, be practical difficulties in the way, yet I believe that the best mode of supplying the ranks of the Army would be through the Militia. I am aware that a distinguished officer has expressed the opinion that with that object it would be a good thing to abolish the existing recruiting establishments entirely. With respect to the ballot for the Militia, there is no doubt that the law is at present in an unsatisfactory state. I have this year brought in a Bill which I hope the House will allow to pass without much amendment, it being a mere consolidation Bill, except in so far as there are some amendments proposed which have become necessary owing to the Militia having been brought under the War Office instead of being under the Lord Lieutenant. If that Bill is passed, we shall then have before us in a convenient shape the whole of the law relating to the Militia. There are difficulties connected with the ballot, and yet it is quite obvious that whoever has to do with the management of the War Department in this country must contemplate the possibility of having to call into action the ballot system of the Militia. It remains as a store on which it may become necessary to draw. I do not think it would be wise to draw upon it unnecessarily; but if the necessity should arise, I am sure no Minister with a due sense of duty would shrink from availing himself of it.'*
Before proceeding with the argument suggested by this speech let us briefly refer to the past. If we go back to the year 1835—the year quoted by the late Mr. Cobden as the economical model in the matter of military expenditure—we find what to the present generation must appear indeed an extraordinary state of things. In that year (1835) the total
* Extract from Mr. Hardy's speech in the debate raised by Lord Elcho on Thureday, May 20, 1875.
strength of the British Army at home and abroad barely exceeded 100,000 men, thus distributed :
In the following year 1836-7 it was almost exactly the same. At this time, and for very many subsequent years, it was customary to retain a large portion of the little army of Great Britain in distant colonies and garrisons. Accordingly we find that in the year 1835 the actual number of soldiers in the United Kingdom, including all the arms, amounted to 47,214; and for the year 1836, 43,747.7
* Officers and men belonging to regiments in India but stationed at home for the purpose of recruiting are carried to the strength in the United Kingdom.
† The following trustworthy table is instructive with regard to the strength of the Field Artillery in the same times, and its subsequent growth :
In 1855 there were 92 Guns in the Crimea in addition.