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PROMOTION BY PURCHASE AND PROMOTION BY
In an able article which appeared in the United Service Magazine of December 1865, entitled " Promotion by Choice," a more plain and practical explanation appears of the effects of the system of promotion by clioice now prevailing in the French Army, as contrasted with the practice of promotion by purchase, which is in force in our own, than is usually laid before the public. In the French service, seniority and selection for merit regulate the advancement of officers, while in the English it depends upon seniority combined with the power of purchasing promotion. The writer in the outset states his opinion that the greatest efficiency of which an arıny is susceptible, can only be attained when the excellence of the officers is secured by their being chosen for merit, and we conclude that he would have us infer that this supreme degree of efficiency cannot be expected in an army, where, as in the English, promotion and consequent high commands are not the rewards and encouragement of distinguished merit, but are merely the results of seniority in combination with money resources.
Wherever then, as we understand, selection modified in some degree, as in France, by the claims of seniority is the origin of promotion to the higher grades, those officers whose character and capacity have been observed and reported upon in subordinate employments, are speedily raised from thein to more responsible posts. Their talents are more quickly developed iv an enlarged sphere of action, and they obtain the invaluable education which an early babit of command confers. This training they receive while stiil young enough to profit by it, and are thus enabled to give, for many succeeding years, the benefit arising from their talents and experience to the Government which has so carefully fostered tliem.
Under the very different practice which prevails in the English military service, we should scarcely expect even so high an average of merit to prevail as that which we find employed in it. As superior character and ability very seldom elicit any recognition whatever of their value, and do not lead to exceptional promotion as part of a system, we might expect that men of distinguished talent would seek in preference those honours and advantages accorded as the right of superiority of intellect in all other professions, and that those only who were conscious of indolence and inferior capacity would enter a career, in which by the aid of time and money, their success might equal that of their most gifted companions, yet it will be admitted by those who know the service that it contains men of high ability and energy attracted by natural disposition to its duties and vicissitudes.
A young man, who can combine with moderate pecuniary reU.S. Mag. No. 448, March, 1866.
sources the fruits of a good education, often calculates that some position in the army more suited to his natural tastes, than
any he could attain in civil life, will eventually reward his perseverance and his exertions. The prizes of civil life are no doubt more lucrative, and the law offers to high intellect the loftiest objects of ambition; but in that profession the struggle is arduous and the concourse of talent immense, while the very circumstance of much mediocrity being attracted to the army by the existing rights of seniority and purchase, leaves an opening to those who bring mental cultivation to the service, in addition to its other requirements for success. There is, therefore, much ability to be found amongst English officers, and many valuable attainments, but they are perhaps not sufficiently diffused to ensure the highest degree of efficiency in that body, and it may be worth while to examine the matter with a view to satisfying ourselves, whether, without adopting the French system which is unsuited to the composition of our army, some improvement towards the above object may not be introduced into our present arrangements.
The system of purchase is no doubt often prejudicial to the efficiency of our regiments, and of the army in general; it would frequently interfere with the beneficial intentions of a Government, or Commander-in-Chief, who having taken pains to ascertain what officers are remarkable for merit and ability, may also be desirous to encourage them, but meets in the vested interests acquired by purchase, and perhaps placed at the time in the hands of an incompetent man, a serious obstacle to his good intentions. Here then the service is prejudiced by the impossibility of removing an officer from a situation where incompetency alone is of most serious injury, while all the advantages which might be derived from the presence of a man of marked merit in the situation in question are also sacrificed. Should the grade be no higher than that of a commander of a battalion, the detriment to the service is considerable, and not only does the public suffer by the imperfect performance of these important duties, but every individual officer is injuriously affected by being placed under an unsatisfactory authority. All who have seen, or who have served in a battalion thus situated will admit this view to be just, and the details are almost unnecessary. As in all similar circumstances, some unauthorized and irresponsible person possesses the real authority in the name of the commander, and exercises it over those who are capable of the trust, and would more properly be called upon to undertake it. But there is a second node also, in which the great prevalence of the practice of paying money in all cases of exchange as well as of promotion acts to the detriment of the greatest possible efficiency, and this point appears to be illustrated by the sketch of the French General de la Moricière's career, which the writer above referred to lays before us, with a view to exemplify the effects of selection in pushing on officers of merit, from whatever branch of the army, to its highest grades and commands.
General de la Moricière was a lieutenant of Engineers at the outset of his military life, but his natural genius led him to aspire to the great military appointments, rarely if ever attained except by service in the Infantry and Cavalry; and in the former arm, to which he eventually devoted his talents, he acquired the brilliant honours which distinguish bis name. In the English service this kind of transfer is rendered far more difficult by the existence of purchase. Should an officer entertain the wish to exchange from one of the special branches to the more general service, he must not only in the first place resolve to sacrifice the material advantages and well assured prospects of the Engineers or Artillery for the more uncertain expectation of one day arriving at the highest military positions, but he is further required to crown these sacrifices by that of a considerable sum of money which it may be inconvenient or impossible for him to provide. Selection is uuavailing to overcome this obstacle, and in this manner his wish is unavoidably barred from its accomplishment. But we conclude exchanges of this sort are from the first considered so difficult to accomplish, that few officers thus situated in our army ever seriously entertain the project.
The efficiency of the line would no doubt be increased by the entrance into it of these specially educated officers, and although they might in some degree throw into the back-ground others less scientifically instructed, yet, apon the whole, their presence would tend to stimulate the exertions, and awaken the rivalry of the better class of spirits in the Infantry or Cavalry; and it can scarcely be doubted that if the exchange had been permitted on account of the merit of the applicant, the regiment which he entered would be benefited by his accession to it. But with regard to the officer himself, the previous early knowledge of Artillery or Engineering possessed by him would, as he attained the highest military posts, be attended with the best results, and greatly increase the value and extent of his knowledge as a commander. If a General in command be, as we believe, responsible for the condition and the suitable employment on active service of all the branches of the force under his command, how much must his authority be strengthened and increased, if he has that familiar acquaintance with the principles of the application of the special arms, which would enable him to decide with confidence in all cases where his general guidance of them is required. The custom of purchase in this case also, prevents the free transfer of talent from one part of the army to another, and deprives the Infantry or Cavalry of an accession from time to time of scientifically-educated officers, by which the effi. ciency of those corps might be increased, and the officer bimself be enabled to follow the bent of his inclinations as to his future career.
Having endeavoured to point out some of the disadvantages arising to the service from the too universal system of purchase, we