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wear fine regimentals, and parade the streets in them. These holiday soldiers did not, however, continue long in that state of military uselessness; they were, in the present armament, called to a severe attention to duty, and the practice of the manual exercise, that put an end to all trifling: some few, doubtless, finding that soldiering was no longer play, but work, sent in resignations; but these were truly inefficient men, and the sooner they left the ranks the better. The principle which directs and instructs the volunteer, will instruct him that having once engaged to serve, nothing ought to compel him to quit the post of honour but the real incapabilities of ill health, or other imperious circumstances. The severities of discipline should be approved, and held in admiration by the volunteer; he should hold in contempt all effeminacy, and like the true seaman teize and torment the lubber who sculks below deck when all hands are called, and who is generally punished by being what they call seized up in the mizen shrouds. Such is the spirit which has made the navy what it is. No petty excuses for a neglect of duty should be acknowledged, much less admitted. A volunteer who abandonş his country in the hour of danger is a weak, dastardly poltroon, and resembles the landsman recorded; I believe, in the excellent work of Joe Miller, who being in a gale of wind, applied to the captain for his discharge. His messmate asked him if he was sea sick? “ No," returned another of these brave fellows, “ He is not sea sick, he is only sick of the sea.” Of the same character are such volunteers (if there are any
such) who having taken to arms would, on the approach of the enemy, wish to take to their legs.
The mind required to make a soldier or a seaman, should be composed of the rough materials of genuine hardihood and spirit, capable of deriding danger and of disdaining fatigue; but the lessons of service ought to have been taken from the regular troops, whose veteran officers could have improved the volunteer force to a high degree of perfection, that might have made them invulnerable to any attacks from a foreign foe.
The severe exaction of penalties from men whose desire it is to perform their engagements, is harsh and impolitic, and it has been entirely owing to injudicious magistracy that the question of the right of volunteers to resign has arisen. Why disturb the goodwill of the volunteers with doubts of the grace and honour (to use the elegant diction of Mr. Erskine) of their character. Men always endeavour strenuously to act up to the favourable opinion entertained of them by the world.
The distinctions drawn between the volunteer corps, the militia, and the army of reserve, with their several exemptions and liabilities, seem to decide the great question of the right of a volunteer to resign, and to settle it, that he has, since if he goes out of the corps he had engaged in, he takes nothing by the motion, or rather indeed has costs to pay, for he becomes liable to serve in the militia, or to find a substitute if he cannot serve. The act of the forty-second of
the present king, c. 66, contains the exemption of the
may be objected that continual desertions would arise from the permission to resign, which would be fatal to the progress and completion of the volunteer corps. It is impossible to say what may be the effect now that they have been compelled to try the right to resign, by the process commenced against them, and the penalties exacted which have awakened in their breasts a doubt as to the justice of those decisions. The old proverb, Let well alone, is finely adapted to the subject; nothing could go on better than the volunteer system; the spirit of patriotism was raised in the country, armed cap-a-pie, and had swelled its enormous bulk to a size that would have terrified an invading host. And yet some little men of power must needs punish with rigour men who would have continued to serve, if they could have done so, without endangering their healths, or being subjected to ruin from the nature of their occupations forbidding them to engage in other pursuits, and who must have paid for their dereliction; the rest were, perhaps,“ rascals, renegades, the scum of Britons, whose space would be better supplied when they had made it empty
It is unfortunate that the question of the right of volunteers to resign should have been started at this moment, and were it not that I believe that that part of the soldiery serve from principle, I should be seriously alarmed at the consequences of the knowledge given them by Mr. Erskine. I know that the fine sense and discrimination of that great lawyer, the orb of whose eye appears to contain the whole subject of his thoughts, and whose wonderful powers of celerity of association and combination of ideas bring him at once to the truth, will readily say :-" Why, if the volunteers consider themselves entrapped into a measure of service never accepted or agreed to by them, should they not be told what is the fact?” I know that if all of them were capable of judging of the moral and honourable nature of their engagements to the service, there would be but little to apprehend from their becoming lawyers; but Mr. Erskine, in his great knowledge of the human heart, and of human life and manners, knows very well how many a man there is who would avoid paying a just debt, if he were acquainted with the statute of limitations, the want of notice as an indorser, and numerous other nice points of law; and how many a man would defend just and honourable demands, and crowd our courts with unconscientious defences.
After all, the solution of the problem is, that weak and inefficient are the objects of compulsory service; and instead of fine, free, brave, and independent troops of volunteers, compulsion would create such wretched þeings only as are denominated in the navy,“ the
king's hard bargains," if it were not that they do not eat and drink at his expence.
But the honour of the volunteers is yet unsullied; it is not petty differences and nice distinctions that can affect the general character of those troops. The true policy would have been to have let all the disaffected, or discontented, have turned out. A captain of the navy, on some of his ship's company shewing a disposition to mutiny, because they wanted to go on shore, had all hands called, produced the muster books, and threatened to put the R* against the name of any man who did not immediately return to his duty--not one left the ship. Such should have been the high conduct of administration, and the volunteer system would never have been weakened.
The Man in the Moon has now to notice a dangerous epidemic, which seems to threaten the health of a great many minds throughout the kingdom of England, and to produce the re-establishment of ghosts and goblins; dreams are already re-invested with all their powers, and a certain lady has proved that there is no contending against their influence. There is a vanity in many people to permit mischief for the gratification of saying “ my dream is out;" and so as a thing is very remarkable, or very wonderful, it is a compensation for all that happens. We are, however, in some measure, obliged to these extraordinary personages, whose life, character, and behaviour entertain
* Signifying run.