« ZurückWeiter »
politic. Large armies spring into life when faction and intrigue have dissolved the necessary coherence of society, when the love of gain has superseded the love of honor, and when a people have become animated by views of conquest. When these vices have seized upon the character of a people, the aid of a mercenary soldiery is scarcely necessary to insure the success of any resolute and enterprising aspirant after power.
But those who seek to sustain the proposition, that standing armies are dangerous to liberty, must not go back to the days of the Roman republic for examples. Precedents, drawn from an age of mental darkness, are inapplicable to an age of light and cultivation. Before the invention of the press, every question of power was brought to the standard of brute force : in the present age, every question of this sort is brought to the standard of public opinion. Throughout the former division of time, every public operation was principally determined by physical force; every public operation now, is principally determined by moral force. In ancient times, an army employed in the subversion of a government, had to encounter men without any common principle of interest to give them union and concert, unconscious of political rights, and accustomed to bow implicitly to the powers above them. In modern times, an army so employed would have to encounter men united by the spirit of freedom, animated by the love of independence, conscious of sacred rights, and accustomed to share, directly or indirectly, in the operations of government. Thus, in the French revolution, the guards of Louis XVI., who remained faithful to his cause, were overwhelmed by the torrent of popular strength. At the erection of the royal standard for the commencement of the civil war in England, in 1642, the national forces, both land and naval, with few exceptions, abandoned the cause of the sovereign, and embraced the popular side of the controversy. In the recent revolutions of Spain and Naples, the military forces were the first to move in favor of the great cause of political freedom ; and both these countries were free, until they sunk under the preponderance of an external force. These examples are merely adduced to show, that a new principle has been introduced into the operations of society, which renders in a great measure inapplicable all inferences drawn from the political revolutions of antiquity.
We are led by a review of the considerations which we have presented, to the belief, that a military establishment in this country, so long as its existing relations to the government and the people are unchanged, cannot become dangerous to our VOL. I.
free institutions. It might, no doubt, be enlarged to a size which would make it extremely burdensome to the national finances, and which would greatly impair the general prosperity, by withdrawing from the productive branches of industry an unnecessary number of laborers ; but these are the most serious evils, which we should apprehend from an inordipate increase of the army. Taking these premises for granted, the standard to which the dimensions of the army should be brought, would not be derived from any apprehensions of its hostility to the great doctrine of popular freedom, but from an estimate of the public necessities. To prove that this standard is not improperly assumed, it is only necessary to suppose the United States placed in the midst of warlike nations, like those of Europe. In such a case, our military preparations would immediately be augmented, without reference to the conflicting spirit of military establishments and free governmen', to correspond with the dangers to which we should be exposed. Happily, our dangers from abroad are few and remote. An immense ocean separates us from the great belligerants of the world; the savages, our only constant foe, have been subdued by the force of our arms, and the influence of our intellectual light; the colonial possessions of Europe, which border on us, are too feeble to require any preparation against them; and with the nations of the south, which have recently sprung into independent existence, we shall be likely, from the effect of distance and congenial interests, to remain a long time on terms of peace.
The condition of the states of continental Europe is precisely the reverse of ours. A number of independent societies occupy adjacent territories; and it is their misfortune, that the military preparation which one of them makes, is necessarily followed by a similar preparation on the part of all the others. The policy of Charles VII. of France, who organized the first standing army on the continent, after the dissolution of the Roman legion, introduced into the political order of European governments this new feature, by the force of which, every member of the general society is, of necessity, equipped in an armour adapted to that with which he is liable to be assailed. It is contended by many writers upon government and morals, that this change in the military condition of Europe is favorable to the general order and happiness of civil society :* and
* Examen of Machiavel's Prince, chap. 2.
by others, that it is also the most safe and economical mode of providing for the national defence.*
But, notwithstanding all the arguments by which the favourable influence of the established military system of Europe is sustained, we cannot but consider it, even granting it in some respects to be a blessing, as a blessing encumbered with conditions which almost wholly counteract its beneficial effects. It imposes a pecuniary burden of vexatious magnitude on the industrious classes of society; it operates more directly to the discouragement of industry, by setting apart for the purposes of defence a numerous body of citizens, who would otherwise be employed in some productive department of labor; it renders the spirit of society more warlike and barbarous, by a constant exhibition of military preparations; and finally, it invites to wars and conquest, by arming ambitious sovereigns with the means of executing their views of personal or national aggrandizement. There is, however, one redeeming considerationcontingent, indeed, and we hope remote: the disciplined armies of the South of Europe may, hereafter, present an insuperable barrier to the invading hosts of Muscovy. When we glance at the immense possessions of this enormous empire, its numerous and hardy population, its vast resources, and the despotic character of its institutions, we cannot but apprehend that we see the elements of future conquest and desolation. And we shall deem the present military burdens of Europe of po account, if they shall prove, hereafter, to have been incurred, with the effect of checking a deluge of Vandalism, like that which, in ancient times, poured upon the delicious regions of southern Europe, and buried religion, science, and the social improvements of ages, in one indiscriminate ruin.
From the views which we have taken, and the examples adduced to sustain them, we draw the inference, that the only standard to which our military establishment can be brought, with respect to numbers, is an estimate of our necessities, as derived from an examination of our relations with foreign states. That a consideration of the inconsistent spirit of free institutions and standing armies makes no part of the standard, is evident, from the fact that the latter would invariably be enlarged to meet any increase of the public necessities. The only questions, then, to be solved, in regulating the dimensions of our military establishment, are, 1st. What is the minimum force necessary to provide for the security of our frontier possessions, and
* Paley's Moral and Polit. Philos. book vi. chap. 12. s. 3.
to constitute a basis of extension for a war establishment? and 2d. What form of organization is best calculated to secure these objects? The first of these questions we shall not attempt to decide, especially as differences of opinion, too extraordinary to be readily accounted for, or easily reconciled, have prevailed among our distinguished national legislators. At the close of the late war, Mr. Mason, a senator in congress from NewHampshire, advocated the reduction of the army to 3000 men. Mr. Mason, who is a man of uncommon intellectual endowments, enlightened by study and experience, has always been a distinguished member of the old federal party; and it is hardly necessary to add, that the system of this party has been to build up and invigorate all our national establishments. Mr. Monroe, the late president of the United States, was said to be in favor of an army of 15,000 men. Mr. Calhoun, on the floor of congress, voted for 10,000 men. Mr. Clay, on the contrary, whose voice is now raised against the evil tendency of the military spirit, advocated a retention of 20,000 men as a peace establishment.* But without deciding the respective merits of these several estimates, we are disposed to believe that the creation of a scientific corps of officers, sufficiently numerous to organize and discipline such an army as would meet the probable exigencies of the country in case of foreign war, would dispense with the preservation, in time of peace, of all except a very moderate number of rank and file. Recruits are easily disciplined to the habits of soldiers, if they have the advantage of able instruction. The delay which attended the formation of our armies during the late war, and the disasters to which their inefficiency gave rise, were all owing to the want of a body of scientific and experienced officers. The commissioned grades, like the ranks, were principally filled from domestic life; and the consequence was, that the officers were as inexperienced as their men: they had the rudiments of their education to acquire, at a time when it should have been perfected.
These observations lead us to the consideration of Mr. Calhoun's plan of organization, which is, to retain a proportion of officers greater than that which exists in war formations, so that the peace establishment, by the mere addition of rank and file, may be enlarged at once, on the occurrence of hostilities, to a compass which would be adequate to the public defence. Mr. Calhoun's views, as stated in the report cited at the head of this article, are given too much in detail to be inserted entire, but
* “Tempora mutantur, et nos,” &c.
the following extracts from different parts of the report will afford a tolerably just conception of his plan.
“ Those qualities which essentially distinguish an army from an equal assemblage of untrained individuals, can only be acquired by the instruction of experienced officers. If they, particularly the company and regi. mental officers, are inexperienced, the army must remain undisciplined, in which case the genius, and even the experience of the commander, will be of little avail. The great and leading objects, then, of a military establishment in peace, ought to be to create and perpetuate military skill and experience; so that, at all times, the country may have at its command a body of officers sufficiently numerous and well instructed in every branch of duty, both of the line and staff; and the organization of the army ought to be such as to enable the government, at the commencement of hostilities, to obtain a regular force, adequate to the emergencies of the country, properly organized and prepared for actual service. It is thus only that we can be in the condition to meet the first shocks of hostilities with unyielding firmness; and to press on an enemy while our resources are yet unexhausted."
“ No position connected with the organization of the peace establishment, is susceptible of being more rigidly proved than that the proportion of its officers to the rank and file ought to be greater than in a war establishment. It results immediately from a position, the truth of which cannot be fairly doubted, and which I have attempted to illustrate in the preliminary remarks, that the leading object of a regular army in time of peace ought to be, to enable the country to meet, with honor and safety, particularly at the commencement of war, the dangers incident to that state. To effect this object, as far as practicable, the peace organization ought, as has been shown to be such, that in passing to a state of war, there should be nothing either to new model or create; and that the difference between that and the war organization ought to be simply in the greater magnitude of the latter." “The war organization, thus raised on the basis of the peace establishment, will bring into effective operation the whole of the experience and skill of the latter, which, with attention, would, in a short period, be communicated to the new recruits and the officers recently appointed, so as to constitute a well disciplined force.”
We conceive this plan of providing for our national defence as less objectionable than any which we have ever known proposed; i, because it dispenses with the greatest possible number of common soldiers; and, 2, because it secures the greatest aggregate amount of facilities for promptly creating an efficient force on any sudden emergency. As we have already observed, recruits are readily levied, and, with able instruction, soon acquire the regularity and discipline of an army. Officers, on the contrary, require a systematic education to procure the knowledge and experience which would qualify them to organize an army, give it habits of order and obedience, and conduct it to victory. If there is any foundation for the apprehension that standing armies may prove dangerous to our liberties, the