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was necessarily brought down to boys of seventeen and eighteen, that during the greater part of the last war the minimum height of conscripts for the French army was five feet seven-tenths of an inch, English measure.” It can readily be conceived that young lads of such a height could make but very indifferent soldiers, even for the minor degree of duties in time of peace. Recruits at anything like such a height as this, and mere boys as the French conscripts then were, raised by compulsory levies and required for excessive duties on an arduous and disastrous campaign, might well be designated an incumbrance. For the infantry of the line in England recruits are not enlisted within several inches of this standard ; youth and height much exceeding the above are found sufficiently combined to meet the exigencies of the service. The careful provision for the recruit's passing the first year or two of his service at home, usually attained by the arrangement of depôts, secures his having completed his novitiate, learned his drill, and approximated the time of life when strength is established and the frame is less susceptible of the effects of climate before serving abroad. Bearing upon this point, a portion of the regulations which were issued by Lord Hill, in 1828, is of peculiar merit.* “In the selection of men to complete the service companies, and more especially those
* Mr. Marshall on the “Enlisting, Discharging, and Pensioning of Soldiers.” Page 11.
stationed in hot climates, attention must be paid to the age
and constitution of the individuals, so that the draft may consist, as far as possible, of the oldest and most seasoned recruits, and therefore best qualified to bear the effects of change of climate. The opinion of the medical officers must, of course, be consulted in the selection."
In an instance where a regiment required unusually frequent support by drafts to replace the casualties from climate or other causes, a slight increase in the age of the recruits could be easily directed if deemed necessary.
As the fatigue of marching was to the infantry soldier one of his most debilitating duties in youth, it was a material objection to early enlistment; the baneful effect of sustaining too early in life the weight and drag of the knapsack on the chest on long marches, is now in a great measure obviated by the very general system of transporting soldiers on home service by railway. Night duty on guard is enumerated as an objection to young men's enlistment, since the enervating effects of want of rest in youth are fully admitted, and always deserve the attention of those who have the power of interfer
In time of peace, on home service, however, this objection seems over estimated; soldiers in some garrisons are occasionally hard worked; but this is, I believe, usually accidental, and is certainly the exception. The improvements in discipline, the judicious restraints, the habits of obedience, cleanliness,
and system, at the present day inculcated, are more readily received and permanently retained in young minds than in those of older growth, which have possibly already acquired habits inconsistent with the duties of a soldier. The much greater prevalence of temperance than formerly, has likewise diminished a fearful source of temptation to lads too easily led into the insidious vice of intoxication. Depression of spirits, or occasionally even recklessness, said at one time to be induced by the hopeless prospect of being bound for twenty-one and twentyfour years service, has now been relieved by the power of enlistment for shorter periods.
Whether the foregoing remarks are generally admitted or not, as intended, with regard to the admission of recruits under twenty for service in infantry, I believe few important objections can be urged to enlistment at this time of life for cavalry on home service. The duties of dragoons, though constant, are very rarely severe, the employment is continuous, but not distressing or enervating. As youths they can be moulded to their work, taught to ride, to groom, acquire position, and hold themselves erect. Full grown men do not usually make such good horsemen. I have obtained the verbal opinion of many old cavalry officers, and feel I am pronouncing the conviction of the majority when stating that commanding officers of dragoons much prefer promising lads of eighteen joining their regiments than men exceeding twenty.
Thus far then I have been endeavouring to diminish the force of arguments advanced against the admission of recruits under twenty. Some objections can, on the other hand, be urged against exclusive enlistment over twenty, or rather of establishing this age as the minimum. Recruits of four or five-and-twenty frequently cannot be set up well, consequently never could look soldier-like; they . have often contracted habits of walking and holding themselves, sometimes the effect of occupation, that no amount of drill can undo; at this time of life, flexibility, elasticity, or rather formative power, has frequently given place to a fixed position ; and whether erect, round shouldered, or crooked, that position often cannot be materially altered. Idle, drunken, or dissolute habits, are sometimes the cause why men of four or five-and-twenty are not settled, or have not obtained a station in life capable of returning a means of living, and after enlistment it has occurred that such men have not made good soldiers. Nevertheless, well-made, smart,
erect recruits, of the maximum age, are daily admitted who make excellent soldiers; nor is it intended to argue against any arrangement of the maximum, beyond contrasting the merits of age in reconciling early enlistment under specified conditions. How far below the age of twenty enlistment is judicious for the general service, is a question of very great importance. Yet if a minimum was established, a difficulty at once suggests itself;
how is the age to be determined if a man chooses to deceive? The general appearance of a recruit could alone guide ; however equivocal this might be, a medical officer could at least judge in the instances of mere boys presenting themselves, since I believe the arguments used by different army surgeons as hostile to the general principle of enlistment under twenty, are applicable to the system when reduced for infantry below eighteen. The mind and body are in the undeveloped condition of boyhood. The ordinary marches, escorts, drills, guards at night, and other duties of infantry soldiers, if incurred much below eighteen, may with truth be designated exciting causes of disease; for the reasons before observed, this does not so fully apply to cavalry. By the decree of the 21st of January, 1852, reviving the old law, the minimum age at which volunteers are admitted into the French army is eighteen.
As a prelude to the investigation of the various disabilities, I trust to be excused for trespassing a little, while making a few general remarks that in an extended sense at least merit consideration, inasmuch as these are intended to direct the mind into a more general channel before proceeding to individual disabilities.
Yet deductions from general arguments are always to be admitted with great care, for if understood as of universal application, or exercised to an excessive particularity, great numbers of eligible recruits might be dismissed. Selection