Imágenes de páginas

ments necessary to render and to keep it efficient. He is just as little able, of his own knowledge, to put the country in a state to wage either an offensive or a defensive war, as he is himself capable of fabricating the implements with which our soldiers and sailors are to be equipped; nor, as the Commissioners have well pointed out, is it possible for him to obtain the faintest glimmering of light on such matters. His views on subjects of general politics may be far-searching; he may speak well, and be able to give intelligible answers in Parliament to questions, even if they relate to his own department, of which he has received due notice. But possessing all these accomplishments, he is, as Secretary of State for War, a mere tool in the hands of others. For, besides that he comes to his office profoundly ignorant of what he ought to know, he never remains long enough there to learn anything for himself. The outside public describes one War Minister as able and another as the reverse. The outside public is quite mistaken. Each Minister, during his tenure of office, is to a great extent what his advisers make him; and one is comparatively able and the other comparatively the reverse, because the first puts himself into the hands of wise advisers, the last into those of advisers who are neither wise nor disinterested.

Nothing could be easier than to illustrate all this by reference to the innumerable committees which have reported, since the introduction of our present system of administration, on all manner of military questions. Surely, however, this is not necessary. He must be very inattentive to what passes round him who knows abso

lutely nothing of the general state of the army at the present moment, and of the processes by which it has been reached; and still more obtuse-minded must he be who is unaware of the perpetually increasing expenditure of public money which these everchanging processes have occasioned. Not to dwell upon the results of Ordnance laches, which Sir James Stephen's Commission justly condemns, much less to speak of the cost of improved weapons, which, though very great, has been inevitable

we should like to see a fair calculation made of the outlay on brigade depots, their barracks, and permanent staff; on the abolition of purchase and its consequences compulsory retirements and pensions; on reserved pay to the soldier while serving, and his retaining-fee when transferred to the reserve. We should really like to see an accurate calculation made of what these and other changes in the constitution of the army, and of the War Office itself, have cost the country; because only by some such process is John Bull likely to be convinced that he might just as well commit the charge of the fleet to a skilful master of hounds, as place the army under a civilian War Minister, and expect it to be either wisely or economically managed.

Lord Randolph Churchill, we perceive, has begun a series of attacks on the mismanagement of both the navy and the army. We do not propose on the present occasion to notice his exposure of blunders at the Admiralty; but with much that he says respecting the results of army the results of army administration, as it is now carried on, we heartily agree. Unfortunately, however, Lord Randolph contents himself


with denouncing abuses without offering a single suggestion which might help us to discover a remedy for the evil. This is scarcely fair, especially in a professed friend of a Government which has had no hand in creating the system complained of. They received it from its authors after it had been thirty years in force, and, thanks to Mr Gladstone's parliamentary tactics, have never been able, since their accession to office, to attend to any other question than how best to prevent the disruption of the empire. Still, we give Lord Randolph credit for meaning well-if not to his late colleagues, without doubt to the country-and will therefore endeavour to supply in part what is wanting in his slashing speech at Wolverhampton, to render it eminently useful.

Some twenty years ago or thereabouts, a Committee reported to the Secretary of State for War that, among the armies of continental Europe, there was none which, in every respect, came up to that of France, either in discipline or organisation. Its intendance, or department of supply, in particular, was perfect, rendering the whole force capable of mobilisation at a moment's notice, and incapable, except in the event of a great defeat, of suffering through lack of necessaries. Accepting this statement as incontrovertible, the Secretary of State gave the requisite permission, and forthwith our redoubtable Control Department sprang into existence. Like the Land Transport corps with its smart uniform and elaborate instruction in cavalry drill, it turned out to be a very expensive plaything, of which nobody, except the Commissioners and those who profited by their recommendation, spoke well. It held its ground,

however, and might have been followed by other imitations of our neighbour's system, but for the occurrence of the Franco-German War. Then all respect for French military institutions passed away, and boundless admiration of those of Prussia took its place. This change of opinion on our part was natural enough; and had there been at the War Office a Minister able to distinguish between what in the Prussian system is suitable to our social condition and what not, the best results might have followed. Unfortunately, however, this was exactly what there was not, and the consequence was, that we ran headlong into arrangements which kept us for many years in a state of military decrepitude, and from which, by a second volte-face, we are only just beginning to recover. The Prussian War Office, it appeared, enlisted its conscripts for three years' service with the colours, and four in the reserve. The arrangement suited admirably for Prussia; was there any reason why it should not be suitable for us? The committees which sat to consider the point pronounced that it would be suitable, entirely overlooking two important facts, first, that the Prussian recruit must have

attained the twentieth year of his age in full; and next, that, except in the event of war, he is never called upon to pass beyond the limits of his native countryit might be, even of his native province. Putting these facts in the background, the committee determined that it would be advisable henceforth to enlist young men in this country for three years with the colours, and nine in the reserve, without saying one word about the proper age of enlistment, or making the faintest

reference to the military wants of India and the colonies. The recommendation was acted upon without delay. Veterans who had served more than three years already were encouraged, if in home garrisons, to pass into the reserve. If in India or any other foreign station, conditions were made with them which somehow or another never worked well, but which, at every stage in the many alterations that occurred, put the country to constantly increasing expense. At last, in sheer despair, the letter of the Prussian system was departed from, and, except with the Guards, who never leave home for other than a great war, service with the colours was extended to eight years, without, however, raising the military age from eighteen to twenty.

Had there been in the Cabinet when these changes were adopted a Minister capable and willing to put two and two together, he would have doubtless striven to impress the fact upon his colleagues that there was much more in the Prussian military system worth inquiring into than the conditions of service imposed upon the youth of the country. He would have urged them to study the constitution of the War Office in Berlin, and to satisfy themselves whether or not it might be possible to introduce a modification of it into London. The War Office in Berlin is, he could have shown them, not only inexpensive in itself, but the cause of the inexpensiveness-if such a term be allowable- of the army to the State. It consists of two branches, the administrative and the tactical, both presided over by general officers of tried ability and experience, and manned in every department by military men. At the head of the administrative branch

stands the Minister of War, who, besides his special duties, represents the King, and advises with him and takes his instructions on all points of military policy. His special duties connect him with the appliances of every description which are required to keep the army efficient-i.e., in a state of constant readiness to pass from a peace to a war establishment, and to move. At the head of the tactical branch is the King's chief of the staff, on whom rests the responsibility of maintaining discipline among the troops, and seeing that in all other respects they may be fully depended upon. Over every important department in each of these branches an officer presides who is master of the specialties with which he has to deal, and the writers-or, as we should call them, the clerks—are almost all intelligent non-commissioned officers.

The expense to Prussia of an army thus managed would appear upon the surface to be moderate in comparison with that incurred for the English army. Lord Randolph, looking beyond Prussia proper, tells us "that the great German empire, with its forty-seven millions of people, spends, in ordinary times, twenty-one millions annually on army and navy purposes. In return for this outlay, it can bring into the field a million and a half of armed men, exclusive of the reserve. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, with its population of thirty-six millions, expends on army and navy thirtyone millions, and could scarcely, after maddening delay, and pouring out money like water, put one hundred and fifty thousand men in the field." Now this, begging his lordship's pardon, is mere claptrap. Germany may appear, in times of peace, to spend no more


than twenty-one millions annually on its army and navy. Let war come, however, and the twenty-one millions will mount up to forty-two millions, through that very process which enables the empire to place in time of need a million and a half of men under arms. No doubt the peace establishment of the German army is much greater than that of England, and equally certain it is that, as regards artillery, stores, transport, and weapons of every sort, the German army is very far ahead of ours. But three facts Lord Randolph forgets to notice: first, that the German army is raised by conscription, a much less expensive process to the State than voluntary enlistment; next, that of these twentyone millions, scarcely three are annually spent on the German navy; and lastly, that besides the money voted by the nation, Germany has a secret military chest to draw upon, into which the larger portion of the French indemnity was poured, and from which the War Office supplements, when necessary, its requirements, without giving any account of the incident to Parliament. As we really do not know to what extent this process is carried, it is impossible for us to say how far these recognised eighteen millions (for after deducting 3 from 21, 18 remain) are annually exceeded, though we are quite ready to admit that, comparing the numbers and conditions of the two armies, that of Germany is maintained at a figure which, under our existing system, we can never hope to approach, far less to parallel.

Conceding, therefore, to Lord Randolph that the British army, with its sixteen or eighteen millions annually expended upon it, costs a great deal more than it ought,

and going further than perhaps he does in attributing this unpleasant fact to a faulty system of administration, the question arises, Are we prepared to make a great change in the system, and to substitute for it a mere replicate of what works so well in Germany? Our answer to the first portion of this question is decidedly, Yes; to the last, No, with qualifications. The German War Office is responsible to the Emperor-King alone, and the Emperor-King is in reality the commander-in-chief of his own army. The English War Office has unfortunately become too much, because too immediately, responsible to Parliament, and the Sovereign is commander of the British army only in name. To transfer, therefore, en bloc, the usages of Berlin to London, would, if it were possible, only make matters worse. But it is not possible. It would, however, be not only possible but easy, if only we had strong men at the head of affairs, so to manipulate the Prussian system that England should extract from it all that tends to link together efficiency and economy in her army, without infringing in the slightest degree upon the constitutional rights of the Government. And by common consent, now that we have come down to household suffrage, government is admitted to be government by the Imperial Parlia


There was a time-not long ago -when the Master-General of the Ordnance was as necessary a member of the Cabinet as the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The Master-General, as we need scarcely repeat, was a general officer of admitted ability and experience; and on all military questions, whether the country was at war or at peace, he was the

chief adviser of his colleagues. This good practice was interrupted for the first time when the Duke of Wellington passed from the Ordnance Office to the Horse Guards, and became a Cabinet Minister, and, as the country knows to its cost, was never afterwards resumed. But the Secretary of State for War now sits in the Master-General's chair, and is ex officio a Cabinet Minister. All that seems necessary to make a good beginning in the process of War Office reform is to determine that for the future no statesman, however able, shall be eligible for office as Secretary of State for War, unless he be a general officer of recognised ability and experience.

The fact that he is an accomplished soldier cannot, however, in a constitution like ours, exempt the Secretary of State for War from going out of office on every change of Government. Ours is a parliamentary government,-in other words, a government by government by party; and the claims of individuals to good things when their party is in the ascendant cannot be ignored. If, therefore, the country be determined to maintain something like continuity of policy at the War Office - and until this be effected all reforms must be shams the permanent Under - Secretary must, like his chief, be a soldier, well acquainted with his profession, and of recognised ability as a man of business. Nor only to this extent ought the military element to prevail in an office which has the management of military affairs. At the head of each department which has to do with providing arms, stores, or means of transport, or other appliances, without which no army can take the field, a military man

[ocr errors]

should be placed-not temporarily, as is the case at present with every officer employed in Pall Mall, but permanently, or till some sufficient reason present itself for desiring a change. This is not necessary in the department of Finance. Nor, if in addition to the Financial Secretary a Parliamentary Secretary be essential, need he be a military man. Like the Financial Secretary, however, he must have a seat in Parliament-in the House of Commons if his chief be a peer, or the House of Lords if his chief be in the Commons.

Let us look next to the composition of the body by which the details of the business are conducted at the War Office, and to the accepted mode of conducting them. Lord Randolph Churchill thus deals with one branch of this subject: "The staff of the War Office consists of twenty chief clerks, who receive from £700 to £900 salary; of forty-six senior clerks, who receive from £400 to £600-altogether 577 clerks at the War Office, who cost this country £156,000 a-year; and in addition to that, they pay £8000 to copyists, who are taken on at 10d. an hour, and who, you may be perfectly sure, do all the real work of the Office." This, like his lordship's comparison of the relative costs of the German and English armies, is mere bunkum. The copyists do not "do all the real work of the Office," and the number of clerks is put down at an exaggerated figure. But we are not prepared to deny that the War Office, as now constituted, is greatly over-manned, or that the manner in which the work of the Office is carried on accounts forindeed is the true cause of-such over-manning. There is not a clerk in Pall Mall, however brief

« AnteriorContinuar »