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THE ENGLISH MILITARY POWER AND THE EGYPTIAN CAMPAIGN OF 1882.
IN offering some reflections that have occurred to me during a long residence in England, and after thorough study, I am very sensible how difficult it is not merely to describe the character of a people, but to describe accurately any single trait in its character. To penetrate into the inner national life of a foreign nation is no easy task; and, besides, a nation, like an individual, turns different sides to the light at different times under the influence of different moods and circumstances. It may seem strange to some that I should not, as a soldier, confine my attention to the military side of the English people, but should look at the same time at politics and social questions; but these two factors, having their roots in the common moral force of the nation, are really concurrent conditions of the capacity of the English arms for defence and attack.
Great Britain, which possesses no army of great dimensions and no compulsory military service on the part of the whole nation, furnishes a proof that a system of army organization, founded on a universal obligation to serve, is not an unconditional necessity for all times and all countries. The participation of the people in military affairs could only take place in Britain at the expense of cherished civil arrangements, so that this system, which is elsewhere considered a blessing, would necessarily operate injuriously there. While continental States have striven to make the army an instrument of national education, it has been given to Great Britain to obtain by another and equally national kind of education the same results of subordination in the State and society, and of loyal and habitual co-operation among the individual members of the State towards a great national ideal. History itself has taken part in this national education, and has developed in the nation its life, its character, its common conscious
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ness, its freedom in word and deed. The political development of this people has heen a spontaneous growth out of its own germ. It has remained almost completely free from foreign invasion, and has had little to suffer from civil strife. As a rounded whole the island sits proudly in the sea, and as a rounded independent whole the nation stands out towards the foreigner. In the mind of this powerful people there resides such an educating force, such a concentration and yet elasticity of faculties, such a vast energy, that no son of England can withstand the educating influence of the nation; the same mould that fashions the nation fashions him. The individuality of the Briton is the individuality of his nation. I once saw a six-year-old hoy in Brighton showing the Arcade to his nurse, and breaking out in the words, "That's against the honour of old England/' The words rang like music in my ear. But have we not then the most proper and natural centralization, when the people is not tied to the centre by external force, but holds by it of free choice with all its might, because it feels and understands the power of the great association it constitutes?
In England a decisive individual development is promoted by a rare concurrence of favourable conditions, among which I include the small extent of the country and its insular position, which secure it against foreign attack and make it address its energies to the sea, and, consequently, to trade and industry. Its detached situation, by rendering it self-contained, tends strongly to produce the concentration of energies which shows itself in the practical capacity of the people; and when we take into account, besides these advantages, the accessibility on all sides and the freedom of movement in all directions which it derives from the sea, it will be owned that no other country has ever enjoyed conditions more favourable for natural development. Not less important is the character on whicli these conditions had to operate. The British—part Celt, part German—combine, in a remarkable way, the liveliness and agility of the Southern nations with the force and endurance of the Northern. "While French history shows us the slow victory of the Romanic over the Germanic elements in the life of the country, English history reveals a contrary tendency, the Germanic elements always more and more obtaining the upper hand, without completely annihilating the Romanic. The whole cast of English life proves this, for in England the family is the basis of authority and the centre of all right. Family life was, from early times, according to German usage, esteemed high and holy in England, and has always exercised a beneficial influence upon the national education. In the school, on the other hand, the English follow the genuine Romanic model by setting the can above the ken, education above knowledge, living power and mind above dead masses of science; they seek to train the youth to be independent and acquire self-government, and they do so in such a way that, along with habits of culture, the instincts <le la guerre are at the same time developed. Their political life— which exerts an important influence on the education of a people— is in England free from the narrow-minded and class spirit that prevails among purely Romanic nations. There is no aristocracy that is more democratic in feeling, and no democracy that is more aristocratic in ideas than the English; hence the comparative approximation of high and low and the harmony of national feeling. Enfranchised burgesses stand true by the side of the nobility, for, from the favourable situation of London, an independent, powerful, prosperous, and therefore politically influential, bourgeoisie grows up more rapidly there than elsewhere. Indeed, one of the most advantageous influences in the development of people and State has been that of the giant city on the Thames, and its influence began to be exerted very early, and is, from the very nature of the case, as constant and uniform as it is tranquillizing and moderating; for in foreign trade account must be taken of long intervals of time, and commotion of every kind grows more and more pernicious to trade in exact proportion as Great Britain becomes more and more an emporium for the whole world, and as its eyes, withdrawn from local questions, are turned to the distant and the future. This calm and wise outlook, necessitated by the extensive ramifications of the national affairs, is shared with the metropolis by the provinces, and the consequence is that we find in them a self-reliance and self-respect which presents a striking contrast to the characteristics of the provinces of France, where, with the growth of Paris, all life seems to find more and more its free expression only in the metropolis, so that it may be said, Paris, e'est la France.
From the very first the political life of this people was a truly national one, in which all classes of the population co-operated for the good of the whole, and by incessant activity the nation has been schooled by itself, and this self-educating power has increased with the progress of culture and the growth of foreign trade. And so the State can devote itself to the grateful task of guiding the spontaneous activity of the nation, and thereby of promoting its independence, which needs no limitation. Step by step with the great legislative activity of the nation, the national sense of right has developed, and become the fountain of all sorts of freedom, for the living feeling for right which the Briton carries within him is worth far more than the dead letter of law which has often only a momentary importance. All laws, all decrees, may become superfluous,—that is, the dead parchment may pass into the living conscience of the people ; and nothing then remains but the form, under which truths of universal validity are applied to the circumstances of the moment, and filled with real life. Lavs that lack this inner connection with life are superfluous, nay, injurious. It may be said with truth of England that arbitrary free-will has ceased there, for wherever a living consciousness of right exists there is no compulsion, and where there is no compulsion there is also no arbitrary free-will. English history having thus already succeeded in welding the entire nation together into a harmonious whole, England has no need of an army founded on a universally obligatory service, which would deprive the country of much valuable productive labour, so long as her insular situation, by keeping her free from foreign attack, makes such a sacrifice unnecessary. In accordance with this view, we find that the English army and navy only grew up from time to time, as continental nations began to cross the Channel, as England's political position could not be maintained without making an impression abroad, or as iron and fire were needed to retain colonies or open new ways for trade. But its army is a mere means to an end, it has no inward connection with the people, it stands outside their life, and exerts no educating influence upon it. Now, I doubt whether an army so separated from the people, and from all that has made the people free and great, can continue in its exceptional position to-day, and I shall attempt to supply some proof of this in the following pages.
"The world rests on the sword's point;" it has done so long, and never more than in our time. The whole position of nations in the world—this is my firm persuasion—depends now on a universally obligatory military service. Nothing else gives a nation the power and right to take up and assert permanently such a position as •Carthage had and lost, because, in spite of possessing forces unattainable by Borne, and a very excellent fleet, she had in her army only an ■external instrument, and not, as Borne had, an internal power; and because Hannibal sent not men but only a bill at sight to Tarento and Capua. Sparta survived Athens by virtue of the warlike education of her people; Borne dictated laws to the entire known world, through the energy of an army embracing the pith of the population, and then declined, when her upper classes withdrew from the defence of their country, and left the ranks of the legions to be filled, first with slaves en masse, and then with the iron sons of unconquered ■Germany, who could not be expected to cherish any enthusiasm for Boman interests. When the people rose to arms in Prussia in 1813 it was all over with the foreign domination. The war had in 1806 put the institutions of the country to the proof, and had left State and army overthrown; in 1813 it put the power of the people to the proof, and found it unbroken. Such are the causes of the growth or decline of States.
The times are irrevocably gone when a George of Frundsberg could sound his recruiting drum, or a Wallenstein force armies from the ground; and the question may he justly asked whether the hirelings of England, held together, in contradiction to the rest of the national life, by compulsion and external means such as promises and rewards, are in a position to cope with the disciplined national armies of the Continent. We can no longer speak of the "handicraft" of war, for war has become an "art" that must be exercised with mind, science, and sagacity, as well as resolution and energy, and requires accurate technical instruction and constant practice, and no forces that fail in any of these particulars can expect to equal a well-disciplined and instructed army. As an irrefutable proof of this, I appeal to the surrender of the Napoleonic armies at Sedan and Metz, and the loss of a part of the levee en masse dans la belle France, which perished at Belfort or on the Jura. Take a rapid glance at the Lisaine Valley. On the one side stand the flower of the volunteer youth of France, inflamed with the memory of a mighty past and with love for an unhappy country. To make them a powerful army they lacked only one thing, but that involved all: they lacked the rigorous organization that puts every man in his right place, and binds them all in one whole, whose total effect as far exceeds the sum of their individual powers as the mechanical force of the avalanche exceeds that of the snowflakes. On the other side stands a comparatively small army, drawn from all Germany, brought by the fatigues of the campaign to the very limits of their moral and physical endurance, but an army whose raw ore was cast in a rigorous mould. Bourbaki's troops, every single man of them a hero, rushed down the Lisaine Valley with shouts, to surround and capture an enemy so inferior in numbers. In vain! Three long days did the little army resist the advance of the mighty waves with unbroken ranks, firm in the hand of its tried leader,and conscious that it had to form an impassablebarrier before Belfort as well as protect South Germany. One stone after another falls out of the loosely built French ranks, because atomism reigns where the conception of the whole is wanting, where the whole has lost its controlling power, and where army organization depends on improvisation. All rush back, the great masses break up into their constituent parts, no word of command sounds, and when it sounds it is not listened to, the impulse of self-preservation is awakened, and the flames of patriotic inspiration rapidly die away. France lost the battle. Even well-developed fighting capacity, even the strength and courage of lions go down before an iron army organization. The superiority of soldiers depends more on their retaining the military spirit in all situations than even on their mechanical skill in the use of their weapons, and so here those well-disciplined troops gained a great victory over a much more numerous army composed of raw masses. It was Thermopylae performed over again; but the defenders