« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
life, his health sustained a gradual decay, and a long and painful illness prepared the public mind for the melancholy termination of his sufferings. For a period of more than six months, he was unable to take repose in a bed, but rested in a recumbent posture upon an easy chair. The dropsy, with which he was afflicted, overpowered his constitution by degrees, and, on Friday evening, the 5th of January, 1827, his royal highness expired.
In the consideration of the character and services of his royal highness, the amendments he has effected in the army, are the first in point of value and importance. Upon this subject we are sure that nothing we could write would so much interest our readers as the following summary from the pen of the celebrated “ Author of Waverley," which we shall, therefore, venture to introduce. Its justice is universally acknowledged, and the authority from whom it proceeds will, of course, render it popular.
“ It is as the reformer and regenerator of the British army, which he brought from a state nearly allied to general contempt, to such a pitch of excellence, that we may, without much hesitation, claim for them an equality with, if not a superiority over, any troops in Europe, The Duke of York had the firmness to look into and examine the causes, which, ever since the American war, though arising out of circumstances existing long before, had gone as far to destroy the character of the British army, as the natural good materials of which it is composed would permit
. The heart must have been bold that did not despair at the sight of such an Augean stable.
“ In the first place, our system of purchasing commissions, itself an evil in a military point of view, and yet indispensable to the freedom of the country,—had been stretched so far as to open the way to every sort of abuse. No science was required, no service, no previous experience whatsoever; the boy, let loose from school the last week, might in the course of a month be a field-officer, if his friends were disposed to be liberal of money and influence. Others there were, against whom there could be no complaint for want of length of service, although it might be difficult to see how their experience was improved by it. It was no uncommon thing for a commission to be obtained for a child in the cradle; and when he came from college, the fortunate youth was at least a lieutenant of some standing, by of fair promotion. To sum up this catalogue of abuses, commissions were in some instances bestowed upon young ladies, when pensions could not be had. We knew ourselves one fair dame who drew the pay of captain in the dragoons, and was probably not much less fit for the service than some who at that period actually did duty; for, as we have said, no knowledge of any kind was demanded from the young officers. If they desired to improve themselves in the elemental parts of their profession, there was no means open either of direction or of instruction. But as a zeal for knowledge rarely exists where its attainment brings no credit or advantage, the gay young men who adopted the military profession where easily led into the fashion of thinking that it was pedantry to be master even of the
BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR OF THE DUKE OF YORK.
routine of the exercise which they were obliged to perform. An intelligent sergeant whispered from time to time the word of command, which his captain would liave been ashamed to have known without prompting; and thus the duty of the field-day was huddled over rather than performed. It was natural, under such circumstances, that the pleasures of the mess, or of the card or billiard table, should occupy too much of the leisure of those who had so few duties to perform, and that extravagance, with all its disreputable consequences, should be the characteristic of many; while others, despairing of promotion, which could only be acquired by money or influence, sunk into mere machines, performing without lope or heart a task which they had learned by rote.
“ To this state of things, by a succession of well-considered and effectual regulations, the Duke of York put a stop with a firm yet gentle hand. Terms of service were fixed for every rank, and neither influence nor money were permitted to force any individual forward, until he bad served the necessary time in the present grade which he held. No rank short of that of the Duke of York-no courage and determination inferior to that of his royal highness, could have accomplished a change so important to the service, but which yet was so unfavorable to the wealthy and to the powerful, whose children and protegés had formerly found a brief way to promotion. Thus a protection was afforded to those officers who could only hope to rise by merit and length of service, while at the same time the young aspirant was compelled to discharge the duties of a subaltern before attaining the higher commissions.
“ In other respects, the influence of the commander-in-chief was found to have the same gradual and meliorating influence. The vicissitudes of real service, and the emergencies to which individuals are exposed, began to render ignorance unfashionable, as it was speedily found, that mere valour, however fiery, was unable, on such occasions, for the extrication of those engaged in them; and that they who knew their duty and discharged it, were not only most secure of victory and safety in action, but most distinguished at head-quarters, and most certain of promotion. Thus a taste for studying mathematics, and calculations applicable to war, was gradually introduced into the army, and carried by some officers to a great length; while a perfect acquaintance with the routine of the field-day was positively demanded from every officer in the service as an indispensable qualification.
“ His royal highness also introduced a species of moral discipline among the officers of our army, which has had the highest consequences on their character. Persons of the old school of Captain Plume and Captain Brazen, men who swore hard, drank deep, bilked tradesmen, and plucked pigeons, were no longer allowed to arrogate a character which they could only support by deep oaths and ready swords. If a tradesman, whose bill was unpaid by an officer, thought proper to apply to the Horse-Guards, the debtor received a letter from head-quarters, requiring to know if there existed any objections to the accompt, and failing his rendering a satisfactory answer, he was put on stoppages until the creditor's demand was satisfied. Repeated applications of this kind might endanger the officer's commission, which was then sold for the payment of his creditors. Other moral delinquencies were at the same time adverted to; and without maintaining an inquisitorial strictness over the officers, or taking too close inspection of the mere gaieties and follies of youth, a complaint of any kind, implying a departure from the character of a gentleman and a man of honor, was instantly inquired into by the commanderin-chief, and the delinquent censured or punished, as the case seemed to require. The army was thus like a family under protection of an indulgent father, who, willing to promote merit, checks with a timely frown the temptations to license and extravagance.
“ The private soldiers equally engaged the attention of his royal highness. In the course of his superintendence of the army, a military dress, the most absurd in Europe, was altered for one easy and suitable to the hardships they are exposed to in actual service. The severe and vexatious rules exacted about the tying of hair, and other trifling punctilios (which had been found sometimes to goad troops into mutiny), were abolished, and strict cleanliness was substituted for a Hottentot head-dress of tallow and flour. The pay of the soldier was augmented, while care was at the same time taken that it should, as far as possible, be expended in bettering his food and extending his comforts. The slightest complaint on the part of a private sentinel was as regularly inquired into, as if it had been preferred by a general officer. Lastly, the use of the cane (a brutal practice, which our officers borrowed from the Germans) was entirely prohibited; and regular corporal punishments by the sentence of a courtmartial have been gradually diminished.
“ If, therefore, we find in the modern British officer more infor. mation, a more regular course of study, a deeper acquaintance with the principles of his profession, and a greater love for its exertionsif we find the private sentinel discharge his duty with a mind unembittered by petty vexations and regimental exactions, conscious of immunity from capricious violence, and knowing where to appeal if he sustains injury--if we find in all ranks of the army a love of their profession, and a capacity of matching themselves with the finest troops which Europe ever produced, -to the memory of his royal highness the Duke of York we owe this change from the state of the forces thirty years since.
“The means of improving the tactics of the British army did not escape his royal highness's sedulous care and attention. Formerly every commanding officer manœuvred his regiment after his own fashion; and if a brigade of troops were brought together, it was very doubtful whether they could execute any one combined movement, and almost certain that they could not execute the various parts of it on the same principle. This was remedied by the system of regulations compiled by the late Sir David Dundas, and which obtained the sanction and countenance of his royal highness. This one circumstance, of giving a uniform principle and mode of working to the different bodies, which are after all but parts of the same great machine, was in itself one of the most distinguished services which could be rendered to a national army; and it is only surprising that, before it was introduced, the British army was able to execute any combined movements at all,
"We can but notice the Duke of York's establishment near Chelsea for the orphans of soldiers, the cleanliness and discipline of which is a model for such institutions; and the Royal Military School, or College, at Sandhurst, where every species of scientific instruction is afforded to those officers whom it is desirable to qualify for the service of the staff. The excellent officers who have been formed at this institution, are the best pledge of what is due to its founder Again we repeat, that if the British soldier meets his foreign adversary, not only with equal courage, but with equal readiness and facility of maneuvre- if the British officer brings against his scientific antagonist, not only his own good heart and hand, but an improved and enlightened knowledge of his profession, to the memory of the Duke of York, the army and the country owe them.
“ The character of his royal highness was admirably adapted to the task of this extended reformation in a branch of the public service on which the safety of England absolutely depended for the time. Without possessing any brilliancy, his judgment, in itself clear and steady, was inflexibly guided by honor and principle. No solicitations could make him promise what it would have been inconsistent with these principles to grant; nor could any circumstances induce him to break or elude the promise which he had once given. At the same time, his feelings, humane and kindly, were, on all possible occasions, accessible to the claims of compassion; and there occurred but rare instances of a wife widowed, or a family rendered orphans, by the death of a meritorious officer, without something being done to render their calamities more tolerable."
To this most admirable summary of his services as commanderin-chief, we shall in conclusion add the description of the person and private character of his royal highness, which proceeds from the same excellent pen.
" In his person and countenance the Duke of York was large, stout, and manly; he spoke rather with some of the indistinctness of utterance peculiar to his late father, than with the precision of enuo. ciation which distinguishes the king, his royal brother. Indeed, his royal highness resembled his late majesty perhaps the most of any of George the Third's descendants. His family affections were strong, and the public cannot have forgotten the pious tenderness with which he discharged the duty of watching the last days of his royal father, darkened as they were by corporeal blindness and mental incapacity. No pleasure, no business, was ever known to interrupt his regular visits to Windsor, where his unhappy parent could neither be grateful for, nor even sensible of, his unremitted attention. The same ties of affection united his royal highness to
the other members of his family, and, particularly, to its present royal head. Those who witnessed the coronation of his present majesty, will long remember, as the most interesting part of that august cere. mony, the cordiality with which his royal highness the Duke of York performed his act of homage, and the tears of affection which were mutually shed between the royal brethren. We are aware, that, under this heavy dispensation, his majesty will be chief mourner, not in name only, but in all the sincerity of severed affection. The king's nearest brother in blood was also his nearest in affection; and the subject who stood next to the throne, was the individual who would most willingly have laid down his life for its support.
“ In social intercourse, the Duke of York was kind, courteous, and condescending-general attributes, we believe, of the blood royal of England, and well befitting the princes of a free country.”
View nature stretching fortb the varied scene,
The rivers and the streamlets glide between,
SLEEP, Silence' child, sweet father of soft rest,
Prince, whose approach peace to all mortals brings,
Indifferent host to shepherds and to kings,
Lo, by thy charming rod all breathing things
And yet o'er me to spread thy drowsy wings
To inward light which thou art wont to shew,
With feigned solace ease a true-felt woe ;
Come as thou wilt, and what thou wilt bequeath,