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recruitment, while it fails in every manner adequately to supply our wants, produces a dissatisfied army, a determination to quit the ranks among vast numbers who have joined, legally if they can afford to purchase discharge, or illegally if they cannot, this being frequently effected by the commission of felony with a view to ultimate discharge after the sentence of the magistrate or the court-martial shall have been completed. The desire to quit the Service is doubtless prompted by various
The first is the rate of wages, the second the wish of the family at home, and the third is the expediency in the eyes of the man himself of returning to his trade or industry before he has lost the results of his early teaching in the field or apprenticeship in the shop. And this brings us to many important considerations affecting the community at large in a manner almost of a kind analogous to the results produced on the men themselves.
A lad of eighteen has not completed his apprenticeship to a trade or industry. If he is engaged in agriculture he is still treated as a learner, and he receives only boy's wages. The various experiences which would make him a finished farm servant, or journeyman gardener, are wanting. Consequently such a recruit on joining the army forfeits the advantage of the previous very incomplete training he may have had in a trade or industry of whatever kind; in short, he forgets what he has learnt practically in the factory, the workshop, the warehouse, or the field, and he learns to be a soldier instead. By the time he is a finished soldier, that is to say when he is twentyfour
years of age, supposing him to have enlisted at the average age of eighteen years, he is supposed to leave the ranks and go to the Reserve on a pay of 4d. per diem. He then discovers that while acquiring the art of soldiership he has entirely lost such little skill as he may have possessed in his original calling before he enlisted. But still further, he enlisted so early that the habits of work and industry have never been formed in him, such habits being in truth the chief stock in trade of the working man.
It is reasonable to infer, on the other hand, that a man who had acquired an art, or served a full apprenticeship in any trade, industry, or calling before he enlisted, would, on his discharge from the army, or being posted to the Reserve, revert willingly, indeed joyfully, to the practice of his youth. This accords with the positive experience we find in the ranks. Thus, a man who is a fair workman hardly ever fails when in a regiment to put his accomplishments to profit, whether as tailor, shoemaker, carpenter, or gardener. It is found, on the other hand, that those who hare not previously learnt an industry in civil life, either will not or cannot acquire one in the ranks, notwithstanding the modern attempts in all our regiments to induce them to do so.
The truth is the details of soldiership require much labour and time for due mastery. There are, besides the calls of duty, the attendance at the regimental school, the inevitable parade, the requirements of military smartness and cleanliness. It is almost too much to expect from young human nature, to hope that under such circumstances the youthful soldier, not possessing the requisite advantages of skill and habit, will submit to the drudgery of an industrial apprenticeship to which he is not compelled by the necessities of existence. Owing to such causes as have been mentioned, the want of settled habits of industry before he enlisted, the British soldier is unhappily known in Europe as the worst and laziest worker in the front of the enemy, presented by modern armies. In the most essential condition of soldierly efficiency, the use of the spade and the pick, whether for his own protection or the prosecution of siege works, the British soldier is inferior to the German, the Frenchman, and the Russian, and, as we learn from the history of the American war, to the vast volunteer armies lately put on foot in the United States. Therefore, because he was invited to become a soldier with the title of man when he was still a boy, he is thrown entirely on such artificial resources as he acquires in the military profession. But he as entirely loses the means of self-support when he shall quit that profession, and even while he is an active member of it he fails in most important soldierly qualities because of the too early interruption of his civil career before his enlistment.
If we trace his progress, we find that the lad thus enlisted for the army at eighteen is transferred to the so-called Reserve, in which he is supposed to be ready for action if the army should be mobilised for service in the field. He is then in a state of forced inaction; he is thrown on his own resources, his retaining fee being 4d. a day paid quarterly ; he has no means of self-support; the little he learnt as a mere lad has left him. What is the consequence? The strong man of twenty-four years of age, when at his very prime, is certain to become an idler. He quickly degenerates; he is soon a casual, 2 tramp, an inmate of workhouses or other places of refuge. A man may have been gathered to the military reserve, but he has been lost to the respectable part of the community. While recruiting the reserve army of Her Majesty he is also a recruit to the army of destitution and
crime. If the soldier re-engage, as it is termed, after the first six years of service in the ranks are at an end, it is but putting
At the end of his twelfth year of service he is even more unable to provide for himself in civil life than he was at the end of his sixth year. It may be further said, with absolute certainty, that if the service of the ordinary soldier be prolonged till he has completed twenty-one years in the ranks, he is still more incapable of self-support, because, in addition to his strongly confirmed habits of soldiership and barrack helplessness, his health is that of a prematurely old man, he having been shaken by tropical service and night duties during the years of his strength and early manhood. In short, the longer a man serves in the army the less competent is he to earn his bread when he quits it, the more certain is he to become a tramp or a beggar, or to fall even lower still, if he have not some industry to fall back on, of which the elements were acquired solidly before he became a soldier.
The consequences here stated are not theoretical deductions. The facts have been verified by careful observation. We are credibly informed by those who have personally watched the going and coming of soldiers since their discharge with reference to the refuge places for the destitute provided by large cities, that the fate above described largely overtakes great numbers of them.
Indeed it must be so when we know what these men are, and how totally incapable of industry because of early enlistment, of absence of apprenticeship, of the non-formation in youth of habits of work and constancy in labour. The fate of the man who has thus served in the army, who has been deprived of the power of ultimately earning a livelihood by the means taken to act upon him while he is yet a child in years, should indeed come home to the national conscience. If that be dull it may be possible to approach it through the nerves of the pocket. The subject is one which may be fairly commended alike to the Earl of Shaftesbury, and to those guardians of our interests who watch over parochial rates. Sir Lintorn Simmons has shown us the pecuniary loss inflicted on the Treasury by the system hitherto pursued; and we find, if the history of the soldier be followed after his discharge, the expense attendant on the violation of economical principles still continues, though now it is shifted from the public exchequer to the parishes or other charitable institutions, and to those nameless means of national waste, want, and misery, which, though not apparent in Parliamentary returns, are none the less pregnant with evil to national resources and individual welfare. It is evident that while the German conscript of twenty or twenty-one years of age may have reasonable cause of grievance with regard to his enforced service, the latter does not commence till he has learnt a trade or industry. He is not exposed to the certainty of want in his old age. The country, whether directly or indirectly, is not under any obligation or inducement to support him unless he shall have received wounds in war, and there is no reason why it should.
Let us recapitulate. The so-called voluntary system, as now pursued, of army recruitment for the regular army, fails to supply men in sufficient numbers for a peace establishment. It follows, therefore, that it must fail in time of war. It always has failed, whatever the devices resorted to, the failures having been most flagrant when men were enlisted for long periods or for life. The result of the present system is a discontented army, as shown by the eager desire to leave it among great numbers of the recruits and the old soldiers, that desire being met legally by a large proportion and illegally by those without sufficient means for the purpose. Hence the enormous expense in keeping up the numbers of a peace establishment.
A large proportion of the men are condemned to want and beggary hy a system of enlistment which attracts lads before they have completed an apprenticeship or acquired habits of industry. It is believed by the community at large that the army is the receptacle of jail-birds, thieves, and men who have irretrievably lost character. Hence degradation
Hence degradation of H.M.'s service in the popular esteem, and one chief cause of thė aversion it is held in by the lower sections of the middle classes of the towns and by the labouring classes in rural district. The crimes of desertion and fraudulent enlistment have been matured into regular industries.
The peace establishment of the present day is nearly double what it was in the old time of long enlistments, and if the Militia be added to the Line in the computation of the force Parliament declares must be maintained at a given strength, it is more than treble. In addition we have the Volunteers and a largely extended system of rural and town police, each force being a cause of deduction from the classes occasionally furnishing recruits.
It is hardly possible to estimate the yearly demand on the population for the raw material with which the ranks of the military service are filled by recurrence to the past, by any attempt of comparison between the wants of the system of forty years ago and the wants of the system of the present day. Where one man was then wanted it is obvious that from ten to fifteen are wanted now.
The case having been thus stated, it remains for us fairly to consider what remedies are open to the War Office, what it may be in the power of that office to effect, what may be expedient with regard to the feelings of the community and the mandate of public opinion. In the first place, let us be quite clear on one point. A few years ago a notion prevailed regarding the introduction into our military institutions of a system of conscription analogous to that obtaining in Germany. This was perhaps unfortunate because advantage was taken of the fact by the late Minister of War to attribute views to his opponents in order to help him in denying serious consideration to the very difficult problem placed before him. It may here be at once placed on record that we have no such views—this opinion being not only our own, but fortified in a very remarkable manner by the results of the large discussion held at the United Service Institution on the question of army recruitment. Sir Lintorn Simmons' speech was in support of the proposition that the means of inducement for the institution of a thoroughly effective system of voluntary enlistment were by no means exhausted. In this he was followed by all the most able and most influential officers who took part in the debate.
But while uncompromising on this point, viz. that there should be no tampering with the voluntary principle with reference to the ranks of the Regular Army, a different language may properly be held when we advert to the ranks of the Militia. To this we are glad to observe Mr. Gathorne Hardy makes no objection, but, on the contrary, admits in the speech already quoted that he considers this power of forced enlistment, commonly called the ballot, a store which should remain at the disposal of the executive Government. We are indeed satisfied with this admission, a great advance on anything that we recollect as having proceeded from Mr. Hardy's predecessor. The principles on which the army recruitment is supposed to rest are as follows:
First. That the enlistment shall be absolutely voluntary.
Secondly. That it shall proceed on a principle of what is called short service, that is, of six years in the Ranks and six years in the Reserre.
Thirdly. That the service in the Ranks may be prolonged with the good-will of superior authority.
Fourthly. That a certain proportion of men may be entertained on a principle of what is called long service—which