Hide Articles List

4 articles on this Page




[No title]


THE Peace with which Europe had been blessed for forty years, had induced a great majority of Englishmen to believe that the civilised portion of mankind, at least, had been awakened to the folly and iniquity of war. This plea- sing dream was, however, rudely dispelled by the echoes of Russian cannon on the banks of the Danube, and the protracted struggle before the formidable earthworks of Sebastopol gave the present generation some idea of the state of excitement and anxiety amidst which their fathers passed some twenty years of the Napoleonic period, when the tide of devastation and bloodshed rolled from the shores of the broad Atlantic across the Rhine, the Danube, and the Vistula, only to meet with its first check before the burning towers of Moscow. But there is, so far, a wide distinction between the times of our forefathers and our own During the contest with the Czar, our sympa-. thies were painfully excited for the brave men who, exposed to the inclemencies of wiuter on the bleak Crimean heights, were, with heroic resolution, maintaining the cause of European freedom in the face of difficulties almost unpa- rallelled. At the present moment our sympathies are, if possible, still more painfully excited on behalf of our countrymen supporting the honour of their country on the burning plains of Hindostan, in the midst of hardship and pesti- lance, in the face of overwhelming numbers, with, as yet, no support but their own indomi- table resolution to do and dare and suffer, but never surrender. We can, therefore, comprehend the feelings with which our fathers, in the days when steam and electricity were unknown, awaited news from English armies fighting bravely on the far coasts of Egypt, or amid the Pyrenees. But they had at one period of the mighty struggle a cause of anxiety and interest nearer our doors, in the threatened invasion of the first Napoleon, who covered the heights of Boulogne with masses of armed men, destined, as it was believed, to carry fire and sword through the hitherto peaceful valleys of England. We are, happily, free from such a cause of un- easiness but without wishing to assume the cha. racter of alarmists, we feel it our duty to point out the fact that we are very differently situated in one respect. There can be but little doubt that the difficulty of transporting a large army across the channel alone prevented the Victor of Marengo and Austerlitz from making the experiment of an invasion. If, in his day, steamships capable of conveying thousands of armed men, in the face of wind and tide, had been in existence, there can be but little doubt that there would have been battle-fields in Hampshire or Sussex to attract the steps ot the pilgrim in search of scenes of historic interest. We cannot disguise the fact from foreign nations that, for a second time within three years, Britain has been almost denuded of her garrisons, and could with difficulty muster 10,000 regular soldiers to meet an invading foe. We would not wish to depreciate the utility of the Militia force, but the practice rendered unavoidable of recruiting the regi- ments of the line from its ranks, sadly militates against its efficiency if called upon to take the field. At the same time, we believe that the remedy may be found without doubling our income-tax, and without crippling our national industry, by withdrawing large bodies of men from their ordinary occupations. We feel con- fidently assured that if the Government would but encourage the existing disposition to form Volunteer Rifle Corps throughout the country, ey cou d call into existence a National Army sUffiCIently formidable to check ambititious designs on the part of any power in Europe, or in the world. If our able-bodied middle- classes and respectable artisans were but well armed with the formidable JEnfield Rifle, and regularly trained to handle it with effect, we could spare every soldier in the British Army for foreign service, and rest secure from any. alarm at home. The patriotic spirit of our countrymen only needs direction and encou- ragement, and the obstacles (of no great magni- tude) will easily be overcome. A few hours devoted to target practice in the summer morn- ings, and an occasional day devoted to drilling in bodies, would render the young men of Britain equal to the honourable task of pro- tecting their own hearths and homes from desecration. The feeling of national security would not be the only advantage, for we feel assured that a spirit of manly brotherhood would arise among men banded together for the defence of all that can be most dear and sacred to them, and the chivalrous spirit arising from such exercises would supply a formidable counterpoise to the present struggle for gain which, in the present day, threatens to contami- nate all the sources of our national greatness, and utterly to destroy that social confidence which has hitherto been an Englisman's proudest boast.