Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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other; and during all this time, the zealous officer who
had expended his private means, in the cause of hu-
manity, was out of pocket £60. Such delay could not
now occur, but six months or more of the delay in this
very case, did take place during the present order of
things, and we believe that with a less energetic
officer than the local chief engineer, twelve months
more might have passed before the cash had been re-

Much reform is still required in the Commissariat.
As yet, in some quarters at least, confusion and expense
seem rather to have been increased than diminished, by
recent changes. ^ In the cattle department, for instance,
the new arrangements were inaugurated by the sale of


the greater part of the public stock. Under such cir-
cumstances, only nominal prices were, of course, obtain-
able ; but scarcely were the elephants, camels, and
bullocks sold, than out came an order to re-purchase.
The fortunes of some rising '' Jotee Pursads " were
accordingly made at Government expense. We know
not whose was this see-saw move, but such was the
fact. We refer specially to sales at a certain large
station, and we have reason to believe that, throughout
the Bengal Presidency, sales, re-purchases, discharges,
and re-enlistments followed each other, quickly. Such
has always been the East India Government's fate in
war time. This was a peace measure.

Half the commissariat expenses during war is attri-
butable to such doings ; to alternate haste and delay ;
above all, to untrustworthy agency. War is expected,
or a movement is to be made in any quarter, whether
within or without our limits. At once the market is
up, not for the contractors, but for the Government.
The former, practically, have the benefit of the earliest
intelligence. They buy at twenty seers for the rupee,
sell at ten; and again, after a few weeks or months,
re-purchase the accumulated stores at fifty. Jotee
Pursad's trial proved how cattle contracts were ma-
naged. But reform has now commenced. The great
contractor has himself arranged for a small retaining
fee, to hold some thousand cattle available for the
public service. This is a good move. On this principle,
contracts for all commissariat necessaries should be
made. In our opinion, they can be most cheaply ef-
fected by civil ofiicers ; the commissariat officers looking
only to quantity and quality. Let Local Governments,
through their most efficient civil officers, contract with
monied men, to supply at fixed points, within given


periods, certain quantities of grain, cattle, &c., and
let a given proportion be always kept available, under
special restrictions, for the contractor's own purposes.

We propose that these arrangements be made by-
civil officers, because they ought to have most influence
in the country; ought to know the soundest traders;
and to be able to make the cheapest bargains. The
commissariat should look to the terms of contracts
being kept, and should manage all details ; a few well-
paid inspecting officers, men not above their work, and
accustomed to such matters, with well-paid Natives
under them, will suffice for all the suggested duties. A
single active officer could ordinarily supervise a Pro-
vince. No sergeants, and very little inferior European
agency, should be employed in the department. The
temptation is too great. If the officer does his duty,
little subordinate supervision is required. The leyiti-
mate work of sergeants can be better done by Natives.
The legitimate work of gentlemen should be done by
gentlemen, trained to the work. Some of them, at
least, might be mercantile men from England. Indeed,
we are disposed to think, that the commissariat might
advantageously be altogether a civil establishment, as is
now the case in the Eoyal army ; but our Indian " Mr.
Eilder," should be, at least, a K.C.B., and so be hoisted
well above the vulgar depreciation of the commissariat
service, so general through the Peninsular and Crimean

The commissariat must be a well-paid and respectable
body; every responsible official having the status and
pay of a military officer. But there should be no irre-
sponsible agency ; contractors should be strictly kept
to contract work, and not permitted, by their money-
influence, to overshadow and bully, even the chief com-
missariat officers.


By our sclieme, very small annual payments will give
Government the command of markets at all times ;
instead of, as at present, leaving it in every difficulty,
at the mercy of its own nominal servants. Eetaining
fees may, in many cases, be almost nominal. Monied
firms gain so much in credit by Grovernment contracts,
that they can afibrd to deal for small profits. Their
stores will be laid in at harvest-time, and by sale of
half or three-fourths at sowing time, they will at least
cover their own expenses, having their full retaining
fee as profit. Similarly, by being permitted, within
limits, to work the cattle they keep up, they can afford
to charge the merest trifle. Such a scheme would in-
volve clashing, some must necessarily occur at first ; but
lieutenant-governors and the commissary- general could
easily stop all that. A few severe examples would
suffice. And as long as inspectors and receivers, Euro-
pean and Native, are paid sufficiently well, to make it
worili their while to be independent of contractors, but
at the same time to do their duty to them, as well as to
Grovernment, all else will work well. Officers enough
are now in the department, to do the needful. Num-
bers might even be reduced ; but pay and position
should be raised. Zeal and ability should be the sole
passports to promotion in all ranks. Let also venality
be promptly and severely punished, and all will soon be
smooth. We repeat that much has been done in this
department. To simplify accounts and insist on their
being promptly rendered, would be immense points.

A transport train should be established ; one com-
bining the virtues of Sir Charles Napier's baggage-
corps, and of tliose recently employed by the Allied
armies in the Crimea. Hints may also be taken from
the E-ussians ; from their wonderful organization and
application of resources. Organization and military


discipline in this department, are as requisite as in any
otlier branch of the army. Economy and efficiency
will both be thus best secured. An Indian army can
never move like a European one ; but still there is very
much that can be eifected, if officers will set the example.
There was no more necessity, as was the case, for a
lieutenant- colonel to take three elephants and double-
poled tents, and glass doors, to Candahar, than for him
to have taken the Crystal Palace. Neither was it
necessary for subalterns to take dressing-boys, and
deputy dressing-boys, and butlers, with their assistants,
&c., throughout those campaigns.

Mr. Kaye has recorded that Sir John Keane's army
was accompanied by ^yq non-combatants for every
soldier. In such a country everi/ man should have been
armed, and the camp-followers should not have exceeded
the fighting men. It is all nonsense to say that the
present system is necessary. It is not. General Pol-
lock had not half General Nott's number of followers ;
nor were such proportions found necessary during either
the first or second Burmah war. Three or four servants
will suffice, for a time, for each officer. They, and
indeed aU ranks, should have as good cover, over their
heads, as circumstances admit of; but it is nonsense to
expect to carry all peace-luxuries into war. Indeed, the
attempt to do so, too often leads to the abandonment
or failure of necessaries. There should be a director-
general of baggage, with deputies, and assistants for
divisions and brigades, as in continental armies. They
should be stern men, of somewhat Napierean views,
with authority to bum all extra baggage, and all bur-
thens of overloaded cattle. Those who remember Bur-
mah, or who bear in mind the passes of Afighanistan,
crammed Yfiih. cattle and human beings, even as poppy
heads ; who remember grain at a rupee a seer, and water


nearly as scarce as beer, will feel with us, that the very
existence of armies should not be risked to give Cleo-
patra sofas and fresh bread to gentlemen whose services,
at best, are ill worth such price.

With a staff corps would, of course, come more effi-
cient staff establishments in all departments. Good
regimental officers who had studied their profession, in
all its arms, would then, as in the continental armies,
be attached to the Etat Major, and according to their
more special qualifications be distributed into the ad-
jutant and quartermaster-general's and other depart-
ments. No one will pretend that the best man is now
selected for either of those important branches. We
cannot indeed be said to have a quartermaster-general's
department at all. We never had. The present heads
are striving to make up for departmental deficiencies,
but the whole department requires regeneration and
extension ; in short, radical reform. Assistant quarter-
master-generals should be the eyes of divisional com-
manders, not merely their aide-de-camps ; still less
should they be gentlemen at large, occasionally, in fine
weather, marching with large perambulators along high

We have suggested the formation of a staff corps.
A word as to details. The French Etat Major is a
distinct corps, admission to which is only obtained, as
in the engineers and artillery, by a special education,
and when this has been completed and the requisite
examination passed, by a fixed period of regimental
duty, with each of the three arms of the service, in the
grade of subaltern. Adverting to local peculiarities,
we w^ould require an officer to serve from two to four
years with his original corps : when armed with a cer-
tificate that he thoroughly understood his regimental
duty, was physically active, zealous, and intelligent, he


should, after passing tlie interpreter's examination in
tlie languages, be admitted into the staff corps. No
man is thoroughly fit for staff duties without such
qualifications. He should, in addition, pass for a par-
ticular department.

First. Adjutant-GreneraVs, Military Secretariat, and
Judge Advocate-General's Department.

Second. Quartermaster- Greneral's and Survey.

Third. Civil and political employment.

Fourth, Army Finance Departments, as pay, audit,

Fifth. Miscellaneous, as military police, baggage, &c.,
&c. Grovernment to fix tests for each department.

High proficiency in other branches might permit the
P. H. to be substituted for the interpreter's test in in-
dividual cases ; but we look on a thorough colloquial
knowledge of the languages, next to good judgment,
the very first qualification for a staff officer. Half the
contre4emps and violences that occur between Europeans
and Natives, are occasioned by mutual ignorance of
language. Book learning is less required; but ability
to read accounts and sepoys' letters is important. Many
civilians never acquire the power, and are accordingly
much at the mercy of their own moonshees. Grood col-
loquial knowledge, acquired by free association with all
ranks, will render other lingual attainments compara-
tively easy. By such processes the staff corps would
possess soldierly officers, qualified by study for every
branch of duty, whether civil or military. After pass-
ing the interpreter's examination, and being furnished
with a certificate of proficiency in his regimental duties,
the staff candidate should then be sent to do duty for
one year with each of the other branches of the service,
his name being struck off his original regiment, and
enrolled in the staff corps. A staff man would thus


have done from five to seven years' regimental duty,
and be about twenty-four years of age, before being
eligible for staff duty. He would have fairly won
his spurs, and would then be available, according to
qualification and the test he had passed, for any depart-

It will be observed that we have thrown the whole
civil as well as military staff" into the staff corps. We
have done so deliberately, and after much consideration,
Cs agreeing with Lord Hardinge,* that it is useful to
have officers qualified for both civil and military duties
on the strength of the army.

Such is the Oriental system, which is too much over-
looked, or even despised. Orientals put a man of
energy and ability to the front, whatever be his antece-
dents ; whether he were a slipper-bearer or a pipe-
bearer, a slave or a son of a slave, a pasha or a son of a
pasha. In troubled times and places, at least, they put
such a man in authority with/^// power. On the other
hand. Englishmen, judging by English rules, split up
and separate offices, thereby puzzling Natives where to
look for justice, and often obliging officials to waste
half their time in forms and squabbles. England has
no need of Eome's fears. The most popular Governor-
Greneral would not be followed in rebellion by a single
regiment. Yet Eome won and held the world under
consuls and pro-consuls. Even the jealous Augustus
armed his governors " with the full powers of the sove-
reign himself. It was reserved for Constantine, by
divided administration, to relax the vigours of the


We do not altogether advocate Eoman powers for
British officials, although there cannot be a doubt that
half Sir Charles Napier's success in Scinde is attribu-

* Evidence before the Lords. t Gibbon, Book xvii.


table to liis despotic powers. A fool so armed will get
into a mess ; but a man of ordinary judgment will con-
sult others where he is himself deficient, and by prompt
action will cover a multitude of defects. For the next
fifty, or hundred, years there must be non-regulation
provinces and military civilians. Indeed, we would
always have them, and uncovenanted ofiicers also, were
it only for a stimulus to civihans, and a fillip to routine

Thus, according to qualification, men would be posted
to civil and poHtical berths, to the adjutant-general's,
quartermaster-general's, finance, supply, baggage, law,
and other departments.

They might rise regimentally, as vacancies occur, in
the stafi" corps, or being originally appointed in that
corps, according to army standing, they might be pro-
moted at fixed periods, so as to reach lieutenant- colonel-
cies in twenty-five years. Or present incumbents might
be promoted on the day on which each would have
obtained each step had he remained with his original
regiment. The regimental rank being secured, each
departmental step would only be icon by efiiciency, by
hard work, and by keeping pace with the times. The
regimental pay might be as that of the engineers;
separate stafi* allowances being allotted as at present for
each office, and a fresh test required on each dejpartmental
stejp up to certain periods. If men became lazy or
apathetic, they might be restricted to small inofiensive
berths ; or if physically or mentally qualified, be sent
as juniors of their rank to do duty with a corps of the
line. After two reports, at intervals of six months, of
continued apathy they should be discharged, pensioned,
or invalided, according to the circumstances of each
case. There would be no more difficulty in disposing
of each case than of that of the late Colonel Davidson,
of the engineers. To place incompetence on the shelf,


and to employ men in positions according to their
talents, is following common sense rules. Thus, a cap-
tain might be commissary-general, a field officer his
deputy. Other posts would be similarly filled.

It strikes us that some such arrangements provide, as
fairly as is practicable, for all circumstances, and would
not be difficult to work. They would effectually checTc,
if not altogether prevent, jobbery ; would give all young
worhing officers an object to work for, and still would
not altogether shut the staff doors to regiments. The
scheme would, at least, put down the present cry of
favouritism, and thus induce comparative contentment.
If it did no more than allay present restlessness, much
good would be effected.

The corps would be large or small, according to the
necessities of the service, and would, like other regi-
ments, annually receive drafts to fiU up vacancies. Our
scheme will be called incomplete, because it does not
shut the staff door entirely to regimental officers. This
is intentional. All men do not ripen early. A very
efficient regimental officer may be idle during the first
three or four years of his service, or his education may
have been neglected. Such a man, if of commanding
talent or energy, should not be lost to the Mat Major.
Ochterlony, Barry Close, and other eminent staff officers,
would have been excluded from high employment by
such a rule. The arrangement would, however, lessen
the necessity of drafts from the line. After its forma-
tion, one captain and two subalterns from each regiment
should be the utmost allowed on the staff. Most of
these would probably go to irregular corps. They
should, however, be available for all staff posts, remain-
ing on the strength of their original corps. In fixing
the strength of regiments and battalions, allowance
should be made for these three absentees, and for one in
four absent on furlough, &c.


Calculating, then, the staff to eventually require six
officers for each of the 219 regiments and battalions in
the service, and 657, or half the number, to be attached
to the staff corps, the expense will be in round numbers
a quarter of a million sterling. At least half of this
would, however, be civil charges, as pay of men ready on
emergency for military duty.

A delicate point remains. Are the staff to be eligible
for command ? The recent order, making the command
of a regiment and certain posts the only roads to a full
colonelcy, implies that such is the present intention. -
The rule does not work well, and has already put bad
juniors over good seniors. Its tendency is to exclude
from eventual command many of the very best officers
in the service — men who have risen by their military
merits. We feel that we can argue this point without
prejudice. In discussing it we have no purpose to
answer but the good of the State. The question is not
what is best, or even fairest, for this or for that indi-
vidual, but what is best and fairest for the service :
whether in a great calamity — and Government should
always be ready for one — the public, and, above all,
those immediately concerned, would place most confi-
dence in soldiers like Broadfoot, Jacob, and Edwards, or
in hap-hazard seniority commanders. Whoever would
have preferred Xenophon to Menon, or Pottinger to
Elphinstone, must vote with us. It is doubtful whether
Xenophon was a soldier* at all when he was raised to
command on the shields of the soldiery. Herat proved
Pottinger to have been a thorough soldier, though he
was fe,r from being what is called a clever man. Wash-
ington was a militia man and a surveyor ; Cromwell a
country gentleman. Tliey were all horn soldiers.

* Rollin calls him a young Athenian : Plutarch says Cyrus gave him a
commission. — H. M. L,


The staff corps must then correspond with the Mat
Major. Its colonels must come on the general grada-
tion list, it being always optional with Government to
keep men to their gram bags, law books, &c., or to put
them in command of brigades. Greneral Huyshe, one
of the most efficient officers in the Bengal army, rose to
his majority in the commissariat ; and Greneral Lumley,
one of its best adjutant-generals, was transferred from
the head of the commissariat to be adjutant-general.
The command of European regiments is given to the
smartest officers. Huyshe commanded one, and Colonel
Swatman, who also rose in the commissariat, now com-
mands another : we mention these names and dwell on
the question because we daily hear it said, " So-and-so
can know nothing of his duty, he was all his life in the
commissariat, &c." We particularize the commissariat
as being a department perhaps less soldierly in its cha-
racter than others. The quartermaster-general's and
survey departments are among the best schools for war,
as are many of the duties of the military collector and
magistrate. They are akin to Wellington's hunting
parties ; they improve the coup d'ceil, sharpen the per-
ceptions, and give opportunities of display of courage,
hardihood, and resource. Five to seven years of mixed
military duties, in early life, would instil into soldierly
civilians all requisite details. It is not by three times
a day seeing soldiers eat their rations, or horses twice a
day eat their gram, nor is it even by, year after year,
driving fuzes and portfires, or by marching round barrack
squares, that officers learn to be soldiers, much less to be
generals. Such avocations are rather the necessary drud-
geries of the profession ; with hasty spirits, they cramp
rather than foster eminent attainments. The soldier
in heart will keep up his military knowledge, wherever
or however he may be placed. He will also avail him-


self of opportunities to take part in battery practice,
and in field exercise ; nor will his steps be unfrequently
turned towards the regimental parades, hospitals, and
target practice. He wiU enjoy such avocations, while
many regimental men expend their energies in execrating

In short, we altogether deny that the officer who has
passed his life in small regimental details, and in per-
forming Dundas' eighteen manoeuvres, or any one else's
twenty- eight, is likely to prove a better commander in
field or in garrison, than the one who, with from five to
seven years' practical military education, has early dis-
tinguished himself above his fellows as a soldier ; and,
in later years, has been knocking about the country as
a quartermaster-general, a surveyor, a magistrate, or a
collector. We even question, whether the individual of
like antecedents, whose wits have been sharpened by the
duties of a military lawyer or commissariat officer, will
not, as a rule, be as efficient as the man of regimental
details. We argue on the rule, not the exception. There
are undoubtedly excellent regimental officers and very
bad staff men. Facts however bear out our argument.
Among the highest names in European warfare, are
those of men who performed little regimental duty. In
the Indian ranks, also, the Pollocks, the Notts, the
Gilberts and the Cheapes of the present day, did as little
battalion drill, as did the Malcolms, the Munros, and the
Olives of old.

We are very far from decrying the school that pro-
duced Colin CampbeU, Henry Havelock, Markham,
Franks, and hosts of good soldiers in the Company's
ranks. We simply aver with all confidence, that there is
nothing erudite, nothing difficult in Dundas, nor in more
modern books of manoeuvres ; on the contrary, that any
dolt may learn his battalion drill, and even the Light



Infantry manoeuvres in a few weeks ; that many do so,
and are little the wiser; that they are practically as
great dolts as ever, and that not one out of a dozen of
them could get a brigade out of Hyde Park, much less
manoeuvre it before an enemy. No ; it is not elemeii-
tary knowledge, such as barrack life, or regimental
parades can give, that is most essential to a commander.
It is good sense, energy, thoughtfulness, and familiarity
with independent action. Above all, it is that coolness
under all circumstances, that enables a man to apply
the full resources of his mind, and without fear of re-
sponsihility, to act upon his own judgment. Few wiU
deny these obvious truths. Then, in all common sense,
let not at least working men be excluded from command,
and those hoisted over their shoulders, who have neither
studied their profession as these have done, nor had
their opportunities. Such practice would deprive Go-
vernment, perhaps in its necessity, of the military
services of its best, or at least of its most accomplished

In all we have propounded, we are borne out, not
only by Asiatic practice, but by the practice and theory
of the Continental masters of war. AYe have already
more than once referred to Jomini ; we do so again, as
his words are very apposite to our argument. He tells
us that a chief commander of artillery should be a good

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 36 of 39)