Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ion I cannot imagine. Such, however, is the plan. Drunkenness is to be repressed by making it impossible. Did it never occur to the honourable gentleman, that all legislative enactments whatever work not by enforcing what is good, but by punishing what is evil? No law that ever was made would render people honest and true to their engagements; but we arrive at a result not very dissimilar by making dishonesty penal. The Decalogue declares: “Thou shalt not commit a murder.” Human law pronounces what will come of it if you do. It is, doubtless, very imperfect legislation, but there is no help for it. We accept such cases, however, as the best defences we can find for our social condition, never for a moment presuming to think that we are rendering a vice impossible by attaching to it a penalty. Mr. Lawson, however, says, There shall be no drunkenness, because there shall be no liquor. Why not extend the principle—for it is a great discovery—and declare that, ... wherever four-fifths of the ratepayers of a town or borough are of opinion that ingratitude is a great offence to morals, and a stain to human nature, in that district where they reside there shall be no benefits conferred, nor any act of kindly aid or assistance rendered by one man to his neighbour? I have no doubt that, by such legislation, you would put down ingratitude. We use acts in the moral world pretty much as in the physical; and it is entirely by the impossibility of committing the offence that this gentleman proposes to prevent its occurrence. But, in the name of common sense, why do we inveigh against monasteries and nunneries 2—why are we so severe on a system that substitutes restraint for reason, and instead of correction suplies coercion? Surely this plan is o on exactly the same principle. Would it, I ask, cure a man of lying —I mean the vice, not the practice— to place him in a community where no party was permitted to talk? The example of the higher classes

was somewhat ostentatiously paraded in the debate, and members vied with each other in declaring how often they dined out without meeting a drunkard in the company. This is very gratifying and reassuring; but I am not aware that anybody ascribed the happy change to the paucity of the decanters, and the difficulty of getting the bottle; or whether it was that four-fifths of the party had declared an embargo on the sherry, and realised the old proverb by elevating necessity to the rank of virtue. Let me ask, who ever imagined that the best way to render a soldier brave in battle was to take care that he never saw an enemy, and only frequented the society of Quakers? and yet this is precisely what Mr. Lawson suggests. If his system be true, what becomes of all moral discipline and all self-restraint? It is not through my own convictions that I am sober; it is through no sense of the degradation that pertains to drunkenness, and the loss of social estimation that follows it, that I am temperate. It is because four-fifths of the ratepayers declare that I shall have no drink nearer than the next parish; and this reminds of another weak point in the plan. The Americans, who understand something of the evils of drink, on the principle that made D, ctor Pangloss a good man, because he knew what wickedness was, lately passed a law in Congress forbidding the use of fermented liquors on board all the ships of war. It was one of those sweeping pieces of legislation that men enact when driven to do something, they know not exactly what, by the enormity of some great abuse. Now, I have taken considerable pains to inquire how the plan operates, and what success has waited on it. From every officer that I have questioned I have received the same exact testimony: so long as the ships are at sea the men only grumble at the privation; but once they touch port, and boats' crews are permitted to go ashore, drunkenness breaks out with ten. fold violence. For a while all real discipline is at an end; parties are despatched to bring back defaulters, who themselves get reeling drunk; petty officers are insulted, and scenes of violence enacted that give the unhappy locality where they have landed the aspect of a town taken by assault and given up to pillage. I am not now describing altogether from hearsay; I have witmessed something of what I speak. As drunkenness, when the ship was at sea, was the rarest of all events, and the good conduct of the men when on shore was the great object to be obtained, this system may be, so far as the navy is concerted, pronounced a decided failure. Whatever may be said about the policy of sowing a man's wild oats, nobody, so far as I know, ever hinted that the crop should be perennial. Legislation can no more make men temperate than it can make them cleanly or courteous. If ParHament could work miracles of this sort, it would make one really in love with constitutional government. But what a crotchety thing all this amateur law-making is Why did it not occur to this well-intentioned gentkman to inquire how it is that drunkenness is unknown, or nearly unknown, in what are called the better classes? How is it that the orgies our grandfathers liked so well, and deemed the great essence of hospitality, are no longer heard off The three-bottle man now could no more be found than the Plesiosaurus. He belongs to a past totaly and essentially irrevocable. And by what has this happy change been effected? Surely not by withdrawing temptation. Not only have we an infinitely wider twice in fluids than our forefathers, but they are served and ministered with appliances far more ta-teful ** seductive. It is, however, to the higher tone of society the revolution is owing. Men saw that drunkenness was disgraceful: it rendered society disorderly and riotous; it intettered with all real conversational Pleasure; it led to unmannerly extests, and to quarrels. A higher cultivation repudiated all these

“My children, be chaste till

things; and even they who, so to say, “liked their wine” too well, were slow to disparage themselves by an indulgence which good taste declared to be ungentlemanlike. Is it completely impossible to introduce some such sentiment as this into other orders of society? We see it certainly in some foreign countries—why not in our own 7 Radical orators are incessantly telling us of the mental powers and the intellectual cultivation of the working-classes, and I am well-disposed to believe there is much truth in what they say. Why not then adapt, to men so, highly civilized, some of those sentiments that sway the classes more favoured of fortune? The French artisan would deem it a disgrace to be drunk— so the Italian; even the German would only go as far as a sort cf teery bemuddlement that made him a more ideal representative of the Waterland: why must the Englishman, of necessity, be the inferior in civilization to these? I am not willing to believe the task of such a reformation hopeless, though I am per-v fectly convinced that no greater folly could be committed than to attempt it by an Act of Parliament. When legislation has led men to be agreeable in society, unassuming in manners, and gentle in deportment, it may make them temperate in their liquor, but not before. The thing cannot be done in committee, nor by a vote of the House. It is only to be accomplished by the filtering process, by which the good habits of a nation drop down and permeate the strata beneath; so that, in course of time, the whole mass, leavened by the same ingredients, becomes one as completely in sentiment as in interest. “Four firths of the ratepayers” will not effect this. After all, Mr. Lawson is only a second-hand discoverer. His bill was a mere plagiarisin from beginning to end. The whole text of his argument was said and sung by poor Curran, full fifty odd years ago you are tempted While sober, be wise and discreet;

And humble your bodies with fastin Wheuever you've nothing to eat."

the education And Training or NAVAL OFFIcers,

ProBABLY at no period of our history—certainly not at any time during the present generation—has the Royal Navy occupied so large a share of public consideration as at present, as may be easily perceived from the close attention bestowed by parliament upon all matters relating to it, from the constant discussions upon naval subjects with which the public press teems, and from the widelyspread and still increasing popularity of this noble service throughout the length and breadth of these Islands. Hence no excuse is necessary for bringing forward any point bearing upon the welfare and efficiency of the Navy; and the particular subject of which we propose to treat in this paper, is one that has not received that general consideration which its importance justifies and requires.

We propose, then, to consider the present system of educating and training officers for the Royal Navy, and to see how far this system meets the requirements of the service.

If we remember the very early age at which it is requisite for a lad to embark in a seafaring life in order to make a good sailor—the age when the mind is most impressionable, and in the most pliable state for being moulded into any form, or trained in any direction—if we bear in mind further the very peculiar and special requirements of the naval profession, we cannot fail to perceive how important it is that a boy intended for the Navy should receive that particular sort of education which is best suited to his future career. It might, with great reason, be supposed that, in this the greatest maritime country of the world— boasting a Navy famous in history and equal in size to all other navies combined—every branch of this great service would be vigilantly watched and tended, so as

to conduce most effectually to the efficiency of the whole. And it would certainly be concluded by any reasonable person, that the careful and judicious training of the young lads destined to become the officers of the Fleet would be one of the first points looked to. Would it be believed, therefore, by any one not conversant with naval affairs, that until these last very few years this important subject has been utterly neglected, and is only now, as it were, beginning to receive that attention and care which its consequence demands? It is not too much to say that in no other country has the training of its naval officers been so disregarded as in England, and we are still far behind every other nation in this respect. It may well be a matter of no small pride and gratification to the officers of the Navy, when they consider the many names distinguished in science which their body has furnished; for these have been in a great measure self-taught, and owe nearly everything to their own exertions and industry, having striven to make up by these means for the absence of advantages which should have been supplied them by the State. The records of the educational branch of the naval service are scanty indeed. The first attempt at anything like a State interference with the training of lads intended for the Navy took place in 1729, when a Royal Naval Academy was instituted in Portsinouth Dockyard for that purpose. The scheme of instruction whieh was framed for this establishment was excellent, and well suited for the require. ments of the service, had it been made compulsory. It included the elements of a general education, as well as mathematics, navigation. French, drawing, fortification, gunnery, and the small-arm exercises together with the principles of shipbuilding, and practical seamanship in all its branches, for which latter a small vessel was set apart. Had this arrangement extended to all those who entered the Navy, we

bably should not now have to

nt the backward condition of the service in this respect; but the evil genius of “half measures” seemed to wield his baneful influence even in those days, for the entrance to the Academy was purely voluntary, and the building was only intended to contain forty boys, which was but a small proportion of those annually entered in the service. The voluntary system, moreover, proved a total failure: the nobility and gentry, for whose benefit the Academy was instituted, apparently did not care to send their sons there—preferring, probably, sending them at once to sea under charge of some friend or relative—for the maximum number of forty scholars was never attained. In 1773, therefore, the numbers having fallen very low, the King determined to offer a gratuitous edueation to a certain number of naval officers' sons; and, accordingly, fifteen boys out of the forty, being sons of commissioned officers, were educated free of all expense. The stimulus thus given to the Academy revived its failing strength, and it eontinued on this footing until 1806, when the enormous extent of our naval armaments called for a large increase of the number of officers; and the Academy was enlarged for the accommodation of seventy pupils, being thenceforward desi the Royal Naval College. Forty out of the seventy boys were now to receive a free education as the sons of naval officers; and the plan of instruction was the same, with , slight, modifications, as that which had been before established for the Academy. But even this increased number of pupils came far short of the requirements of the service, and therefore the greater part of the young officers joined the Navy without passing

through the College.

This state of matters lasted until the close of the great war; but in 1816, material alterations were made in the arrangements. A school for naval architecture was added to the establishment, and the staff of professors and masters was altered in consequence. In 1828 the free education of naval officers' sons—a boon which had been thankfully enjoyed by them for fifty-five years —was discontinued; they were now required to pay at a reduced rate, in proportion to their rank. Moreover, the number of appointments open to them according to this scale—which had been reduced from forty to thirty in 1816—was now to be shared by the sons of military officers; and thus the advantages which the Navy had so long derived from the Academy were so curtailed as to become little more

than nominal.

In order to keep up the number of students at the College, it had been found necessary, from time to time, to extend special privileges to those young officers who had joined the §. through that establishment; and this produced a discordance between the two classes of officers that was found to be productive of great inconvenience to the service. Accordingly, these advantages were gradually withdrawn during the later years of its existence; and the College again languished, and finally terminated its checkered career in the year 1837. From that date until 1857 no steps whatever were taken to re-establish any sort of training for naval officers, the system under which they joined the service during these twenty years being the same as that applying previously to all those who did not pass through the College. The age of admission into the Navy was from twelve to fourteen; and the only qualification necessary to become an officer was, to be able to write English from dictation, to know the first four rules of arithmetic, Reduction, and the Rule of Three. The writer can never forget his astonishment, when, as a boy of twelve and a half, he went up tremblingly for his examination— in much doubt and anxiety as to whether his stock of Latin, French, and Euclid would be deemed sufficient to gain him admission into the Navy—he found sums in simple addition and subtraction placed before him However, it is a significant comment upon the mode of educating boys in this country, that the majority of lads who fail in the examination upon joining the Navy, even to this day, break down in writing from dictation, being in some instances quite unable to spell even the easiest words! For the further instruction of the youngsters, after joining the service, naval instructors in all the larger ships were supposed to teach the young gentlemen the mysteries

of navigation; the gunnery officer

instructed him in the great-gun and small-arm drills, and his duties on board in the course of time taught him seamanship. And so, after six years in a midshipman's berth, he faced his examiners with a beating and anxious heart, only too thankful if he passed through the dreaded ordeal, and received the precious document setting forth that he was duly qualified to take upon himself the charge and command of a lieutenant in her Majesty's fleet. The amount of instruction which the young gentlemen received varied exceedingly. In those ships whose captains took an especial interest in the welfare of their midshipmen, and were themselves men of cultivated minds, able to appreciate rightly the ines. timable advantage of a good education, the naval instructors were supported and encouraged in their duties. And for the first two years of their service, or until they became midshipmen, the youngsters were excused from all other duty during school hours, the claims of the naval instructor upon their time being considered paramount to all others. Even during the later part of the midshipman's career, when

his services were daily becoming more and more valuable to the firstlieutenant, a captain who had at heart the future prosperity of the young officers under his command, would take care that their study hours were interfered with as little as possible. But this was the bright side of the picture. It not unfrequently happened that, from peculiar circumstances, the school hours were unavoidably broken into; the captain's cabin—the usual place of study—might be otherwise occupied; and it was not always easy, or even practicable, to set apart any other place where the studies could be carried on with any degree of satisfaction. And it must be confessed that while many—and those our best officers—took the greatest pains in the improvement of their youngsters, instances to the contrary were unhappily not rare; and the want of interest evinced by the captain produced its effect in the indifference of the instructor, and the consequent backwardness of the pupils. For the effectual carrying out of a system of schoolroom instruction on board a sea-going man-ofwar must, under any circumstances, be a difficult task, and can only produce satisfactory results when encouraged to the utmost by the officer in command. In many cases the studies were suffered to be consid— ered as subordinate to the ordinary work of the ship; and when the naval instructor had, after some difficulty perhaps, obtained a place for his duties, and came to assemble his pupils, he would find that Mr. A. had been sent away on boat duty, Mr. B. was particularly required on deck, and Mr. C. had been given leave to go on shore. And in cases where the naval instructor was left wholly unsupported, as sometimes happened, some of his pupils, preferring a caulk on the lockers of the midshipmen’s berth or the charms of a new novel, would give themselves leave of absence from school, in confident security from any unpleasant consequences.

« AnteriorContinuar »