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By J. J.
FRANCE AND ENGLAND. By Francis de Pressensé
ENGLAND'S DUTIES AS A NEUTRAL. By John Macdonell
Fox- UNTING AND AGRICULTURE. By George F. Underhill
RATHER more than a quarter of a century ago, the public opinion of the day—so far as it could be interpreted by newspaper articles and speeches—asked, as it is again asking now, that something definite and effectual should be done to improve the Army; and the Government then in power, perceiving that this demand might be brought into harmony, not only with their party policy, but with their national duty also, at once made themselves responsible for a more or less revolutionary change in the military system of the country. Less, rather than more; for although the reforms of 1870–71 which affected the officers of the Army were undertaken with infinite zeal and heartiness, and with a sincere belief that in the destruction of certain class privileges greater efficiency also would incidentally be secured, still, that portion of the task which dealt with the rank and file, and which would and should have dealt with the civilian element at the War Office, seemed to bring the reformers into conflict with certain elements they were loth to offend, and it was consequently only dealt with in a half-hearted incomplete fashion. It is generally believed that Mr. Cardwell himself was ready to rise superior to such considerations as these, and that left to himself he would have completed the structure of which, as it was, he was only able to lay a part of the foundations. There is very little doubt, for instance, that he was quite ready to have established some moderate, form of universal service-at all events for the Militia ; and if, in short,
Vol. XLIII-No. 251
the Liberal party of that day had only been unencumbered with the Purchase scheme, and had moreover been a little more closely confronted with the possibility of war, they would have seized the opportunity, and would have dealt effectually with the whole problem of Army Reform—including even the War Office. It is much to be regretted that such a course was not taken ; for while it has become manifest, of late years, that Radical legislation can be most safely and expeditiously carried out by ministers who mainly rely upon Conservative support, it is also most certainly the case that constructive changes which appear-however erroneously—to have a reactionary flavour or tendency, may sometimes very judiciously be intrusted to statesmen kept in power by the party of Progress and Reform. Can we not all imagine the late Mr. Stanhope proposing the abolition of some cherished military abuse; or Sir H. Campbell-Bannermanwith characteristic flippancy-defending it?
Our present Coalition Ministry has not always been fortunate in deciding what particular question has offered the greatest promise of popular approval and support; and it must be confessed that our rulers have on the whole been more successful when they have obeyed that branch of their instinctive faculties that warns them to resist, than when they have yielded to the other branch that impels them to interfere. Here, however, they find themselves confronted with a real question of natural and unforced growth, as to which a definite and if possible a bold policy has become inevitable, but with regard to which we see them in apparently much the same dilemma as Mr. Cardwell and his friends—that is, afraid to act thoroughly, and afraid above all of causing any inconvenience to the War Office official. Judging from the principal utterance that has so far been delivered as to what is likely to be done, it would seem that the Government accepts the responsibility of materially increasing the Army, and begins also to recognise that the State has a duty towards the soldier when he leaves the colours. A large number of much-needed bricks are thus promised, with the hint that a little more straw may also be provided. It is to be hoped that the improvements thus foreshadowed will
prove successful in practice as well as in theory; and the course Lord Lansdowne has taken in adhering to the main lines of the present system, as regards the Line battalions and the Reserve, may not improbably be justified by events still in the future.
But there is still this one awkward and conspicuous hiatus in the position just now taken up by the Government: the absence, that is, of any announcement on the subject of War Office organisation. The Secretary of State would certainly find his course infinitely more easy and clear if he would only muster courage to disencumber himself of the heavy log which is at present fastened to him in order to prevent his roaming away from the old worn-out pasture in Pall Mall. The present condition of the Army, and how to transform it into something a great deal better and even cheaper, is a question that would not very long puzzle him if he could but shake himself free from some of the traditional surroundings of his office. Even in this democratic age, with all the drawbacks that impede any assertion of personal will, a War Minister who had only to obtain, first hand, the honest opinion of his military advisers, and then, with his own modifications or otherwise, present those opinions to the Cabinet and to the country, would soon find Army Reform, on the lines of national expediency, not only advocated in both Houses of Parliament, on all Unionist platforms, and in every newspaper professing to support the Government, but warmly commended in some very unexpected quarters also. The real views of the military advisers would then harmonise-would even in the main be identical --with those that were officially attributed to them; and the War Office,' instead of being associated in the public mind with the idea of a cobwebby old tenement where Red Tape daily strangles Common Sense, would mean the place where the nation prepares for war.
But the pen is once more mightier than the sword; the stumpy quill of the War Office clerk thrusts aside the Field Marshal's baton; and when every one is asking what the great Army Reforms are to be, we are at the outset confronted with intimations that the middleman,' who stands between the frank common sense of the cleverest and most experienced soldiers, and the astute political wisdom of the cleverest and most experienced statesmen, has such strong vested interests that he really cannot be deposed—at all events not for the present.
But what has the poor War Office clerk done that we should be so angry with him? What have they done?' Lord Beaconsfield once demanded, when he was attacking his opponents, at a great public meeting. Nothing !' answered a voice from the crowd. 'I wish they had done nothing !' cried Lord Beaconsfield. In one of the stories which Punch occasionally inserts, a gentleman who has been successful with his garden tells another who has not been successful with his, that the difference between them was merely this, that one kept a gardener for his garden, while the other kept a garden for his gardener. For many long years the War Office garden has been kept up, actually, and to a certain extent even ostensibly, for the benefit of a most superabundant number of War Office gardeners. The friends of this system will ask, with sorrowful indignation, whether these clerks do not work hard ? No doubt they do; that is they probably work quite as hard as the officials in any other branch of the Civil Service. But which particular part of their labours may it be that a military man under the orders of a staff officer could not perform as well or better? And who will assert that military.clerks would not do the same work more cheaplyassuming, that is, for the moment that the same work would have to be performed at all if the present nightmare could once be ended ? Would not the world go on, and is it not conceivable that the work of the Army would go on also, if the present civil staff of the War Office especially in the Finance Division and the Contract Division-were all transferred to some other field of enterprise ? “The War Office,' including the civilians who occupy so many comfortable—and, according to military ideas, lucrative-berths in that establishment, is zealous in its advice to other departments that more employment should be given to old soldiers. The calmness with which this advice is given by this very worst of the offenders (always excepting the Post Office) is really worth studying as an instance of the most audacious kind of cynicism. It is only surprising that the War Office' does not add a new and original argument why other departments should employ more old soldiers. They should be urged to do so on the ground that the “War' Office employs so many civilians.
But what is the work that these gentlemen are given to perform? The ingenious authors of The Army Book for the British Empire—a well-written work which gives the official account of all our military institutions—thus authoritatively describes the work of what is called the Central Office' in Pall Mall : 'It administers those duties within the War Office which are necessary for the harmonious working of the whole, providing, so to speak' (this passage is written with evident emotion), ' oil for the wheels of the official machine.' The authors add that 'the Central Office comprises four subdivisions under civilian heads directly responsible to the Permanent UnderSecretary of State;' and they proceed to enumerate the duties of each sub-division. C. 2, for example, ' deals with many miscellaneous subjects which it would be difficult to apportion to specific subdivisions in the Military Department, such as Nonconformist clergy, orders of knighthood, &c. &c. . . . In case of war this subdivision conducts the correspondence (except on military details) with the general commanding.' Might not war itself be fairly regarded as a 'miscellaneous subject' by a department whose principal duty is to supply oil of all kinds to the official machine'? We afterwards read that among the varied functions of C. 4''it collects and digests information to enable the Parliamentary officers to reply to the numerous questions which are put to them.' And here we may freely admit that as long as ' Parliamentary officers' choose to answer all military questions—some of them of a purely mischievous naturethat are put to them in the House of Commons, so long must a staff of some kind be retained to edit the necessary replies; and it may be well that so delicate a duty should be intrusted to men who have been trained, until the other day, by a gentleman who has recently proved, ‘in reply to numerous questions,' that there is really nothing at all the matter with the Army or with our military system. Still, this qualified admission as to the utility of ‘C. 4' certainly does not apply to