Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/399
SCANDALS OF THE PURCHASE SYSTEM.
two of the Imperial family, a circumstance alluded to in vol. xxvii. by Leech's cartoon of The Russian Bear's Licked Cubs, Nicholas and Michael.
The Purchase System.Picton remarked of our officers, when en route to Waterloo, that with fifty thousand of his own men, and French officers at their head, he would march from one end of Europe to the other. But both the quality of French officers and soldiers had deteriorated at the time of the Crimean War, and was destined still further to deteriorate until the utter unsoundness of their military discipline was laid bare years afterwards by Prussia. The French had no generals, while we had one general and an excellent body of soldiers. Unquestionably the Russian war did us the service of thoroughly exposing the rottenness of our military system so far as concerned the officering of the army. The principle followed was precisely that complained of by Sir Thomas Picton forty years before; there was no actual test of fitness until it came to be subjected to the practical test of emergency; money invariably had the advantage of merit, not only in the appropriation of first commissions, but in the purchase of subsequent regimental grades, which were given in exchange for pecuniary value, and not as a reward for military efficiency. The material thus obtained was splendid as regards manliness and bravery, but something more than these were wanted in the absence of a leader like the great Duke; and although the type selected is an extreme one, the result may be indicated by my Lord Cardigan, who, though equal to any amount of endurance and heroism, proved himself incapable of the exercise of the smallest particle of common sense. The scandal of the then existing system of purchase was aptly exposed by the artist in vol. xxviii., where we find a rich titled old lady in a shop served by military counter-jumpers, one of whom, wrapping up a lieutenant-colonelcy for her boy, inquires, in the well-known jargon of the trade, "What is the next article?" in answer to which she expresses a, wish to have "a nice majority for his little brother"; a wounded officer with his arm in a sling timidly inquires the price of a captain's commission, and turns wearily away on finding the preposterous price (£3,694)