« PreviousContinue »
digest for mankind, as to fix for them in what proportion any particular class of their wants shall be supplied. But there are excellent men who would place the moon under the care of Magistrates, in order to improve travelling, and make things safe and comfortable. An enhancement of the evil is, that no reason is given for the rejection or adoption. The Magistrates have only to preserve the most impenetrable secresy-to say only No, or Yes, and the affair is at an end. No court can interfere, no superior authority question. Hunger and thirst, or wantonness and riot, are inflicted upon a parish or a district for a whole year, without the possibility of complaint, or the hope of redress. Their Worships were in the gout, and they refused. Their Worships were mellow, and they gave leave. God bless their Worships !-and then, what would happen if small publichouses were shut? Would villany cease? Are there no other means by which the bad could congregate? Is there so foolish a person, either in or out of the Commission, as to believe that burglary and larceny would be put an end to, by the want of a place in which the plan for such deeds could be talked over and arranged!"
The excise and licensing system are, as we have already hinted, founded on the policy of making the citizen give as much as he can be induced to give to the State while purchasing his indulgence; and we think it a fair arrangement. It must be admitted, however, that it is artificial, and while it exists, instead of complaining that the licensing system is too minute and inquisitorial, we would say that it is too clumsy and fortuitous to meet the exigencies of an artificial organisation of a great branch of commerce. We shall, perhaps, best explain what we mean by saying, that we can see a good deal to admire in the simplicity of the much-talked-of Maine Liquor Lawthough we fear it is not applicable to a country like ours, which has created a large revenue out of a complicated artificial system, so long established that it has become a second nature. In speaking of the Maine Liquor Law, we take the liberty of considering what it permits as well as what it prohibits; though we are quite aware that, in the use generally made of the term, one side only of the account is calculated. If we understand rightly the position of the whole question in the State of
VOL. LXXIX.-NO. CCCCLXXXIII,
Maine, it is this: Traffic in liquor is illegal. Those who have lately travelled there say that illegality in such matters is an empty word, and that no law affecting the habits of the citizen can be put in force where the majority in the town, village, or parish are opposed to it; but we shall take for granted that there is a law against the sale and purchase of liquor in Maine, and that it is enforced. There is avowedly no law to prohibit the importation of wine by those whose wealth and habits prompt them to take that method of filling their cellars. What is of far more consequence, however, there is, so far as we can understand, no excise law there, and no arrangement for preventing the Maine farmer from making his own maple.rum on his own premises. The Highland farmers of Scotland would have had no objection to such a law half a century ago; we question if they would even now. Its tendency is to restrict convivial indulgence to the domestic home, or the circle of private acquaintance, instead of driving it into publicity, after the fashion of our public-house system; and we can easily imagine how the respectable inhabitants of a country, through which a continual emigration stream is passing, should have recourse to such a protection.
The tendency, in fact, of the Maine system is to make drinking cheap and private-that of our own to make it dear and public. Each has some share of wisdom in its design, and both, doubtless, encounter many follies in execution. The prevailing danger of our own system is the enhancements of costs and restrictions, until the smuggler, with all his demoralising influences, is set at work. There is another evil of a less palpable but still serious character in the degradation of the public taste, and the consequent injury of the people's health by the use of adulterated and sordid stimulants. The vile mixtures of turpentine and nitric acid-sold as London gin-are the creatures of taxation, which thus, instead of modifying the amount of liquor consumed, enhances the drunkard's appetite by depraving his taste.
The workman has much to complain of in the usage he has received
about his more economical and harmless luxury, tobacco. The manufacture of this article is now the only protected branch of home industry. The duty of 3s. per pound on the raw material acts as an ad valorem tax to the extent of above a thousand per cent, but in the foreign manufacture this burden is tripled. Now, tobacco, like wine and other products of the soil, is most effectively prepared for use in its own country, and every smoker knows the foreign article from the home as well as he knows claret from gooseberry. No one, however, will dare to speak about so nasty a thing as tobacco; and the consequence is, that the bad commodity of our manufacturer is protected with a prohibitive duty. Compelled to use the worst description of the weed, the smoker's taste becomes deteriorated, and the costliness drives him to methods of economising the strength which tend to aggravate the deterioration of taste, and often convey the poison of the essential oil of tobacco into the stomach. With foreign tobacco at a moderate duty, the British workman might smoke like a gentleman.
We know what will be said in answer to all this. Down with all
stimulants-they are a bad thing; stop the workman's grog, and put out his pipe. This cannot be done, but much mischief may be accomplished in the attempt to do it. The poor are taught not to envy the rich, and a wise provision of Providence, by suiting their desires to their habits, reconciles them to the doctrine. Beer and tobacco are to Lazarus what claret and champagne are to Dives. Let Dives be content. If he attempt to retain his claret and champagne, and take from Lazarus his pipe and pot, evil may come of it. The disposition shown at this moment-not by the aristocracy so much as the comfortable classes-to interfere with the poor, is to us one of the most alarming features of the day. It seems to be believed that when people are poor they should have no appetites, and should cultivate nothing but the cardinal virtues. Hence it is fashionable to speak of all their indulgences as so many self-imposed taxes. That they do expend their money foolishly and wickedly we have already admitted; but must every farthing spent on a luxury be called a tax, when the desire of enjoyment is that stimulus which makes people exert themselves to procure the means?
ON THE STATE OF THE BRITISH ARMY.
So many censures have been passed on the organisation and condition of the Army, even while it was performing the most brilliant acts and gaining the greatest successes, that it may be useful to attempt some analysis of the real state of the case; more particularly as there seems to be a spirit of ill-temper and exaggeration mixed up with the accusations-and in some degree, also, with the defence, by those who have been assailed. The arguments, too, have, in some instances, degenerated into abuse of classes connected with the army, and attempts have been made to cast a slur on the aristocracy (whether of birth or wealth) in it; for the purpose of decrying which class, criticisms which may have been commenced, perhaps, with some reason, have been made a convenient handle.
The British are decidedly not a military people, and during a peace of nearly forty years' duration, they most willingly allowed many very important military institutions to degenerate into a very low condition; indeed, the only point in which the British army remained fully efficient --and that, fortunately, the most essential was the military condition and qualifications of the troops, so far as dependent on the organisation and perfection of each regiment. Parsimony, as regarded military establishments, was the order of the day and the great economists seemed to have taken up literally the saying of the great general, who, when asked what were the three principal requisites for carrying on war successfully, said, that "the first was, money the second, money and the third, money!" In like manner said the economists, "Save your expenditure, and when the day of trial comes, you will have wealth, the important ingredient to enable you to meet it." It has sometimes been said triumphantly, "When did the House of Commons ever refuse supplies for anything that was shown to be useful?" To which it may be replied,
Perhaps not often,-but why? because Government, although per
suaded of the propriety of certain items of outlay, gave, as a reason for not proposing them, that they knew the House would not consent to them."
The consequence was, that at the commencement of the present contest, that which has always been the case before again occurred; namely, that no department could by possibility be in an efficient condition for its duties. They could not be improvisés at once; hence the officers who directed them were charged with being imbeciles; young blood (it was said) must be brought forward to regulate what was declared to be beyond their comprehension; and it was considered still better if the men so introduced could be parties brought up to any other profession: it was believed that such men would be free from "military prejudice and bigotry," which have now become the popular terms to designate experience. To these new-comers, however, be it understood, were given time, and all the necessary means of which the others had been deprived.
Everybody is supposed to be a judge of military matters; and there has been thought to be so little of an art in war, that men brought up to any other profession have been considered to know more than those who had passed their whole life in the service. No artillery officer could be so good a judge of the requisites for a gun as an iron-founder, and it was impossible for a military engineer to be at all aware of the most useful properties for a fortification. Thus quackery has raised its head, and by high-sounding pretensions has gained a great amount of popularity.
If we look at the subsequent working of some of the departments-all of which have been condemned in a lump-we shall find how difficult it is, with every appliance, to raise them up to the ideal degree of perfection, or even to that practically useful state of efficiency which we would be inclined to advocate.
Take the Staff, for instance, than which nothing has been made the object
would have made poor old Joe Hume's hair stand on end to think of such a thing!
of more abuse. The great want now is declared to be that of a proper education. Suppose it be so, surely that radical defect of long standing ought not to be visited on the heads of those individuals who happened to be appointed to the Staff in the Crimea. At the same time, it would puzzle any one to find out a single instance during that service where a staff officer could have performed any given duty better for having passed the most brilliant examination of the kind now put to candidates for commissions in the army.
The duties of a staff officer are not well understood, nor, consequently, the requisite qualifications for them; but assuredly, if they are to be appointed exclusively by their relative educational attainments, the stations will be very imperfectly filled. A high, and perhaps very much forced education, may be very useful to any man, but it is for many purposes, and among them, for the duties of staff officers, not the primary qualification needful; still less with regimental officers, where it is attempted also to make it a sine quâ non.
The Commissariat has been, no doubt, inefficient; but the success of a commissariat may be said to hinge almost exclusively upon abundant means of transport. Now, what has been the case in this important matter? After the first great outery, an officer, held in high estimation for intelligence and zeal, was sent to organise the necessary means of transport; he has been out for seven or eight of the finest months of the year, with full power and unlimited funds, and has not yet succeeded in collecting what is needful.
The hospitals are ill provided for, and a subscription is raised in England for the benefit of the sick. A commissioner is sent out by the great newspaper of the day, with £15,000 in his pocket, to expend entirely at his own discretion, and without accounting to any one; this, with the usual Government resources, soon makes everything comfortable, and then comes the deduction: "see how easily the thing can be managed!" Is it meant that such is to be the system of administration of public expenditure for the army? Why, it
We do not at all mean to state that in many departments there may not have been individuals in authority, who had not the administrative faculties and the boldness to grapple with these difficulties, and who might not, in a greater degree, have alleviated them; but the want of such peculiar high qualities does not justify the intense abuse which has been heaped upon officers who only endeavoured to make the best of things as they found them.
Could the Engineer department have had about double the number of officers, and three times the number of sappers, which it had, the works of the British trenches would have made a different show, and many a valuable life of the army would have been saved; but these are not to be obtained in a few months, and we must still await some further progress in the war before this most desirable provision can be supplied; one that will remove the necessity or excuse for the costly expedients of navvies and Army Works Corps.
In fact and this is the main cause of our recent shortcomings-contrary to the warning of the late Duke of Wellington, we have engaged actively in an arduous war on peace establishments, and those of the low order that are habitually maintained in England; and instead of condemning every officer employed in it, we ought to give them credit for having done so much as they have. It will be observed that every element for censure may be traced to that one source; and it is most unjust to visit the consequences of deficient establishments on the heads of the unhappy individuals who happened to be at the time in immediate charge.
Without searching for particulars, some ground for supposing that the great defects which have raised such strong animadversions were beyond immediate control, might have suggested itself from the extraordinary fact, that not a single officer in early command of army, fleet, or of any department connected with the army, but has been reprobated in the most
contemptuous terms: men who had served with reputation previously, and many of whom had raised themselves to their stations by their own merits-all, without exception, are condemned. It can hardly be supposed that corruption had arrived at such a pitch that every place was filled entirely without reference to capability, and that the effect should have been unobserved in every department, until this fatal moment of action made it manifest.
To most minds this will at once carry conviction, that the true causes of the evil have been much misapprehended, and injustice thereby done to individuals. While we may, however, commiserate these victims of ill-directed censure, the matter for real consideration for the country is, how best to apply a remedy. We fear that by this wrong turn given, in attributing the defects so entirely to personal incapability, too much weight may be attached to personal changes; for, as far as we can perceive, the qualifications of those since placed in direction do not in any essential degree surpass those of their predecessors. In this, as in many other great alterations, which are being introduced with a rapidity which gives no room for consideration, we shall find out that innovation is not necessarily improvement, as seems to be now supposed.
One of the most triumphant arguments applied against the state of things was, the age of the parties in command. "A parcel of old women" was, for want of a better, a very easy term of censure. Experience and regulation were to be cast to the winds, and deprecated under the opprobrious name of routine. This, if it means anything, must imply that young men are to be selected for the control of everything, and allowed to do as they like. It is no doubt very objectionable to retain men in active positions when really incapacitated by age or infirmity; but it is a matter of some difficulty to fix on any decided rule for the purpose, as regards age. The activity required from officers of long service may, under different circumstances, be bodily, or mental, or both. For bodily exertions, age will
tell more than for mental; but in a great majority of instances during the late campaign it has proved that the old and hardened soldier has withstood the hardships, fatigue, and deprivations to which he is necessarily exposed, but already inured, far better than the younger men, who are unaccustomed to the labours of active service. Therefore, as we are by no means inclined to reject experience as a useless quality,-as we would not willingly augment unnecessarily the great cost of a large retired and inefficient list,--and as we fully believe that many an old man may render valuable services in suitable positions, we cannot add our voice to the sweeping condemnation of what may be called old men, or denounce them after a given age as old women.
The degree of obloquy that has been cast on any claim for experience is hardly credible; as if nothing that had ever been done before should or could form a lesson for that which is now in progress. Because partial improvements are making in this fruitful period of great invention, it seems to be assumed that nothing that had been previously established should be attended to at all; whereas, by the close inquirer it will be perceived that the experience of every thing that has hitherto been found best, is to be so considered until the new invention has been established as an improvement, which will not probably be the case with one out of a hundred of those which first strike the fancy.
For instance, nothing can be more erroneous than to denounce the employment, at the commencement of the war, of old officers who had seen active service in Europe (for that in Asia or in Africa could not afford so much useful instruction), and the expression of "Would to heaven we had no Peninsular war to appeal to as a precedent!" was the raving of prejudice in its most mischievous form. Testing this by what took place in the Crimea, a judgment may be formed of the value of these opinions: great inconveniences arose from want of experience; for there are no peace camp duties or exercises, even on the largest scale, that will really teach outpost duty, and many