Page:The Lull before Dorking.djvu/10

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THE LULL BEFORE DORKING.

ceives the idea that, if it could but abolish a system which has never yet failed us in war, and which somehow (rudely enough maybe) provides a sort of aristocracy for the officering of our army, every thing will settle itself without further trouble or organization. Now Frederick the Great, the father of the Prussian system (which it seems the object of Mr. Cardwell in some ways to imitate), expressly provided that this aristocracy, this higher social status, should be maintained as an additional inducement to his officers to carry out fearlessly their duty under trying circumstances. He said, "There are or may be occasions in the life of every officer, when the slightest wavering may cost me the destruction of an army:—I will so make it that in addition to the loss of official rank and advancement, every officer that so fails me shall lose honour and social caste. I cannot do that with middle-class men, who will lose nothing among their equals whether they fail or not. My officers shall give me a material guarantee in pledge, their honour,—that to them shall be more than their life." Thus spoke Frederick the Great; and in effect this is so provided by the Prussian system, which maintains such aristocracy by a process of selection to a regiment not very dissimilar to our election to a club, and also by other means. But it would appear that the present Government has never heard of or never understood this necessity, else in abolishing purchase, they would surely think of providing a substitute.

But let all that pass now: it is not the main point.