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in the English army a corporal is considered
as requiring education and intelligence but little
better than a private, with us no soldier is
made corporal until he has undergone an
examination which proves him fit for any
command. Let a corporal with us but behave
himself well, and his promotion to the epaulet
of a sub-lieutenant is but a question of time.
Not so in the English army. There, a soldier
may make an excellent corporal, and not be fit
for the rank of sergeant; or he may do exceedingly
well as a sergeant, and not be suited for
a sergeant-major; or he may make a first-rate
sergeant-major, and not be capable of commanding
men as an officer. I saw an instance of this.
I went to the inspection of a splendid hussar
regiment at Colchester. The corps was about to
embark for India; and the Prince of Wales, besides
a great number of the élite of London society,
came down to see it on parade for the last time
in England for many years to come. When
the manœuvres were over, a sergeant and a
sergeant-major were called before the Prince, to
receive medals of distinction, for good conduct.
Both were perfect models of cavalry soldiers,
as indeed was every hussar of that magnificent
corps. One of these two soldiers, the sergeant,
was noted as having been orderly to Lord
Raglan in the Crimea, and as riding the same
horse that had carried him through the Russian
war. Now, it is twelve years since Lord Raglan
died, and, as mere recruits are never selected
for orderlies, it is but fair to conclude that
this sergeant must have seen at least fifteen years’
service. In our army he would have been at
least a captain, and perhaps would have attained
higher rank; but in the English army he was
only a sergeant. Surely this very slow promotion,
or rather this gulf which is seldom bridged
over between the commissioned and the non-
commissioned ranks, must be the source of
discontent and of great reluctance on the part of
many good men to serve.

Of the system by which commissions and
promotions are purchased in the English army,
and by which the officer who has not money is
certain to be superseded by his junior who
has, I hardly like to speak. It is so utterly
foreign to all that we and every other army in
Europe consider honourable and soldier-like
(nay, it is so utterly contrary to the practice in
the English navy, English artillery, English
Indian army, English marine infantry, English
engineers, and English marine artillery), that
the only wonder is, that a right-thinking honourable
nation can for a moment continue a plan so
degrading and wrong. It will hardly be believed
out of England, that without money no officer
can be promoted in the English army, unless
he may happen to succeed to a death vacancy.
Thus, suppose a captain of a regiment wishes
to retire from the service; if the senior lieutenant
of the corps has passed the requisite examination,
and can muster eleven hundred pounds
(about twenty-seven thousand francs), he will
get his promotion. But if he cannot raise
this sum, no matter what are the examinations
he has passed, the next lieutenant on the list
will get the captaincy; and if the second has
not the amount, the third will get it, and so on.
And in addition to these sums, which are called
the “regulation prices” of commissions, large
extra sums are given to induce officers to retire;
so that promotion up to the rank of lieutenant-
colonel is, in the English army, a mere question
of money. A lieutenant-colonel of English
cavalry told me that his several grades had cost
him about twelve thousand pounds, or three
hundred thousand francs, and that unless an
officer was prepared to pay that amount for his
different promotions, he must never hope to
command a cavalry regiment in the English service.
This system is the great bane of the English
army. On the one hand, it prevents poor
men (whether from the ranks of the army or
from civil life) from hoping to get on in the
service. On the other hand, even those who do
expend these immense sums cannot often afford
to remain until they are made general officers,
for if they do so, all they have paid is lost.
The result is, that nearly all lieutenant-colonels
either retire from the service or retire upon
half-pay, in order to realise, at any rate, a part
of what they have paid for their commissions,
and so all the military experience they have
gained is lost to the State. In short, promotion
is with the wealthy officers a plaything which
they will pay anything to obtain; once obtained,
they are obliged ere long to sell it again, as
being too expensive to keep.

To us Frenchmen (who are accustomed to
look upon promotion as to be gained by
honourable service, by seniority, or by
distinction in the field), this turning of army
honours into mere shares, as it were, which are
to be bought and sold, appears simply detestable.
So long as it continues, I am persuaded
that the English army will never be what it
might be, and that no other reforms in their
military system will, or can be, of much avail.
Its existence is the cause of an extraordinary
system of promotion called brevet, which takes
some little time to understand, and which
confused me not a little. With us, a captain
is a captain and nothing more. If he be
rewarded by promotion, he is made a chef
d'escadron or a chef de bataillon* either in
his own or in another corps, as the case
may be; so is he promoted in the English
navy, from one rank to another. But not so
in the English army. Regimental promotion,
save in the exceptional cases of death vacancies,
or the augmentations of a regiment, or the
formation of a new corps, is not in the gift of the
military authorities. When an officer has to be
rewarded with promotion, he gets brevet
advancement. Thus: an officer may be only a
captain in his regiment, but may have the brevet
rank in the army of major, lieutenant-colonel,
and even colonel. So Iong as he is with his

* A chef d’escadron in the cavalry, or a chef
de bataillon in the infantry, corresponds with the
rank of major in the English army.