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Nations have always claimed the right of war, and made it their great business to prepare for it, either by having every man a warrior, as among savages; or by standing armies, as in Europe since the middle of the fifteenth century; or by a militia system which places the defence of a country in its own citizens, and keeps more or less of them trained for this service. Such a system, though extremely crude and inefficient, existed in the feudal ages; and the elements of even our own militia may be traced back as far as Alfred the Great.
I shall not now discuss the principle of such preparations ; for the rightfulness of these turns very much, if not entirely, on that of war itself. I may certainly prepare for whatever I am bound or permitted to do; but, if the thing itself is wrong, then is it equally so to make any preparation for doing it. If duelling or piracy is wrong, I must not prepare myself for either. If wrong to counterfeit, or steal, or commit robbery or murder, I have no right to make the slightest preparation for such crimes; and, on the same principle, it is just as right, or just as wrong, to prepare for war as it is to use such preparations in actual warfare. "I believe the gospel forbids both ; but, supposing war to be right in the emergencies for which preparations are made, I still contend that militia drills are worse than useless. I do not now call in question the system itself, or the principle of repelling, and being prepared to repel aggression; but I think it possible, in perfect consistency with this admission, to prove that our militia drills are an expensive and pernicious superfluity, and might, without the least injury or danger, bé entirely discarded.
Few suspect how much our militia drills cost and waste. Take a case which I myself learned on the spot. In a small town of New England, there were formed even in 1842 no less than three military companies with some aid from an adjoining town, and one company of juvenile volunteers. Of the latter a shrewd, economical man said, “I wish this training fever were over; for it has cost me eight or ten dollars to fit up my boys, and lost me a great deal of their time during the best season of the year.' If there were only forty boys in the company, and their equipments cost four dollars each, and their time was worth only twenty-five cents a day, the sum total for these items alone, would have been $340. If we suppose the whole number from that town in the adult companies to have been only one hundred, the time spent through the season a single week at merely half a dollar a day, their incidental expenses barely twenty-five cents more, and their equipments of every kind eight dollars each, the aggregate, though most of these
estimates are too low by half, would amount to no less than $1250, in all for boys and men, $1590; and, should we reckon the loss of time and money to the spectators, and the general suspension or derangement of business, the sum total would probably reach $3000 or more. Put it, however, at only $2000 for a population of one thousand; and, even at this rate, you would make our militia drills now (1845) a tax upon the country of some $40,000,000 a year!
Nor does even this tell the whole truth. A good man once said to me, “I trained some ten years; and, though a subordinate officer only a year or two, it must have cost me, in all, not less than $500. I have also known individuals, hard-working, economical mechanics, embarrass themselves for ten or twelve years by the debts they began, while apprentices, to contract in the militia. Their uniforms, which must be changed or renewed every few years, cost them nearly forty dollars apiece; and then came their personal expenses, and a succession of assessments for I hardly know what purposes. A venerable man, a soldier of the Revolution, and for a long time at the head of the militia in Connecticut, said to me, I know what these things cost; for I have been through the mill. I have spent, as an officer in the militia, not less than $10,000 in my life ; and my son yonder,' pointing to his residence hard by, 'has probably spent about as much more. Such statements may seem incredible ; but we should remember, that every officer was obliged not only to purchase his own uniform and equipments, but to treat all his electors at every promotion, and provide
subsequently expensive entertainments for his subordinates in office and arms. I have known an officer give $300 for the use of a horse on a single occasion; and one training cost him alone some $1500! The commander of a brigade in Connecticut was supposed on one occasion to have spent from his own purse three or four thousand dollars for a single training; and the sum total of its cost to the community in time, and money, and suspension of business, was estimated by a shrewd, candid eye-witness at $80,000! probably an average of nearly two dollars to every inhabitant in the district.
Let us look a little more into the details of this matter. Our militia system has now dwindled into comparative insignificance ; but, when in its full vigor and glory, the number of trainings varied, in different parts of our country, from three or four to ten or twelve every year; and, at one or iwo of them, the mass of the people were wont to suspend their business, and turn the occasion into a holiday of idleness, intemperance and revelry. If we suppose but four trainings a year requisite to keep the system in successful operation, and the people generally to turn aside from their work only twice, we should now have, if our militia were, as usual, about one-tenth of our entire population, nearly two millions enrolled for military service. Every training may be fairly expected to consume, in one way and another, two days; and, at this rate, two million soldiers would
spend every year sixteen million days, worth as many dollars. Their incidental expenses, at only fifty
cents a day, would be $8,000,000; their equipments, at five dollars each, would be $10,000,000; the personal expenses of all the officers could hardly be less than those of all the privates, or $18,000,000; and the time lost by the community at large, if reckoned in all equal in value to that of the troops, would be $16,000,000; a sum total of $68,000,000 a year! All this without reckoning a variety of expenditures and losses in other ways. Perfect accuracy on such a subject is quite impossible; but these suppositions, certainly not extravagant, may suffice to give us a glimpse of what is annually wasted, or would be if sustained in full vigor, upon our system of militia drills.
On this point, let us hear one of our_ablest and most candid writers. “ The first item,” says Judge Jay, “ in the expense of our militia system, is the annual loss of many millions of days' labor. But this multitude must be “armed and equipped as the law directs; and hence an expenditure of fifteen or twenty millions more. Next, the commissioned officers must be arrayed in regimentals, and many thousands of the militia organized in .uniform corps, and compelled of course to provide themselves with expensive clothes. Then comes the cost of music, of standards, of artillery, of cavalry, and of state arsenals and magazines. It is impossible to ascertain with precision the yearly aggregate expense of our militia ; but it certainly cannot fall much, if any, short of fifty millions.” All this when our population did not exceed fifteen or sixteen millions.
But its waste of property is the least evil resulting from this system. It has been a source of general corruption to the community, and formed habits of idleness, dissipation and profligacy. It did a great deal to flood our land with intemperance; and muster-fields have generally been scenes or occasions of gambling, licentiousness, and almost every vice. The history of our militia drills is a tissue of such facts. In answer to inquiries made by our General Government in 1826, the highest officers of the militia in different sections of the country represented militia musters as prejudicial to the morals of the community ; as assemblies of idle and dissipated persons; as making idlers and drunkards rather than soldiers; as attended, under the most favorable circumstances, with riot, drunkenness, and every species of immorality; as always scenes of the lowest and most destructive dissipation, where nothing was acquired but the most pernicious habits.'
To compensate for such enormous evils, what good have our militia trainings done? Have they rendered any
valuable equivalent for the two thousand millions of dollars probably wasted upon them since we became a nation, and for the flood of intemperance, and other vices which they have poured over the whole land ? Strange indeed would it be, had they been of no use whatever ; but what good have they done that might not have been secured without them? More than sixty years have now (1845) elapsed since our revolutionary war; and, during all this period, scarce an emergency has arisen which might not have been met just as well
without the drilling of a single muster. Assume, if you please, the necessity of armed preparation, and the expediency of an organized militia, I still say that the drills are superfluous, and that a simple enrolment, as for the jury-box, would be amply sufficient. The best officers in the militia confess, that such exercises are almost useless as a preparation for actual warfare; and so ineffectual did they prove in our last war, the only fair test to which they have ever been put, that raw recruits were generally preferred to the best drilled militia. If ever so serviceable, however, ought we to waste so much money, time and moral character in preparing for a danger that will not occur once in thirty years, and might even then be met quite as well by other means ?
But would you have no means of defence against war??-I must own I can see little need of such means; there has been no occasion for them the last thirty years; nor is there any in immediate or remote prospect. Why then squander so much in preparations to avert an evil so unlikely to occur? Why drill nearly two millions of men half a dozen times every year, just to fight against the merest bugbear? There is not the slightest probability, that any nation will either dare or wish to invade us; and why take such infinite pains to guard against an emergency that will never occur? Should it occur, it might be met just as well without drills, by a simple enrolment of the men liable to military service; and thus should we secure all the alleged advantages of our miliita system, without the evils incident to its periodical trainings.
If you insist on the necessity of having the militia as an armed police, I reply, that, as peace-men, we have nothing to do with this question. Aiming solely to abolish international war, we do not interfere with the internal operations of government, but leave it to restrain or punish its own objects in whatever way it pleases. It may err; but the peace movement was not started to correct such errors. If the militia were necessary as a police force, it does by no means follow, that we must have its expensive, ridiculous, demoralizing drills. We can uphold government, enforce law, and suppress riots, mobs and insurrections quite as well without as with them. In such emergencies, could we rely on the militia ? When Boston in 1837 was threatened with a mob, some one proposed to call out the militia ; but who and where were they? He looked around him, and saw them in the very mob they were wanted to suppress. So the government of Rhode Island, when assailed in 1842, was obliged in some cases to disband the existing militia, and form new companies of men rightly disposed, because some of the old companies had gone over in a body to the insurgents; and, should a mobocratic or rebellious spirit seize the mass of our people, our militia system would just furnish them with the means of accomplishing their purpose, and thus leave our rulers entirely at their mercy.
AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS.
UNITED STATES NAVY.
WHAT IS ITS USE?
BY SAMUEL E. COUES.
I Ask of judicious and practical-men the following questions :What is the advantage of a Navy? What is its function in peace? What does it accomplish in war? In plain words, what is the use of the Navy ?
A few years since, it was taken for granted, that a navy was absolutely necessary. This was the established public opinion; no one questioned the utility of our ships of war. Fighting vessels were deemed as important as colleges or schools. But the times have changed; and the question is now boldly and openly asked, all over New England, more or less through the land, what is the use of the navy? It is asked, not only by ultra peace-men who set themselves against all wars, offensive and defensive, but by those who still hold to the opinion, that at times war is unavoidable. There are very many who can see no benefit from the navy in time of peace, and who regard fighting ships as the means of useless slaughter in times of war.
A very common apology for the expenditure upon our navy, by those who take a limited view of the subject, is, that the money is not wasted, because it supports mechanics, artisans, seamen and officers, giving to them their means of living. It is true, that it thus affords to many their support. The navy is popular among those towards whom the money flows out in golden streams. For instance, the navy pays annually to about sixty men, as captains, a quarter of a million of dollars. The building, and repairing, and sailing of one ship of the line, disburse one million of dollars. There are many who desire thus to live out of the public. Since the accession of Mr. Polk, in the short space of three or four months, there have been several thousand applicants for midshipmen's warrants. For one vacant office, that of second lieutenant of marines, we were told there were over twelve hundred applicants ! But we ask, who pays the money for the navy? It comes from the pockets of those who have earned it, to go to those who spend it. It is a mere transfer from hand to hand. The nation does not gain. The nation, in fact, loses when it supports men who do nothing for the common good.
The next answer to our question,—and it is the answer most relied upon,-is, a navy is needed for the protection of commerce.