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security, he set out from Cambridge, the head-quarters of the American army, on the 10th of October 1775, accompanied by his half-brother, Josiah Pierce, who took leave of him at the nearest post-town. "From that hour,” says his biographer, “ until the close of the revolutionary struggle, his friends and relatives were without any positive tidings of his fate.” From accounts afterwards received, it appeared that he had reached Newport on the 11th of October, apparently undecided as to his future movements; that there finding a boat belonging to the British frigate Scarborough, he went on board that vessel, and was afterwards landed at Boston, which his friend General Gage, as commander of the British garrison, was at that time maintaining against the American forces. Here he remained under the protection of the British till the evacuation of the town in March 1776, when he again embarked on board the Scarborough, and set sail for England, the bearer of despatches from General Gage to Lord George Germain, the British secretary of state for colonial affairs. Thus had he fairly renounced all connexion with his native country, and gone to push his fortunes in the old world.
RESIDENCE AND OCCUPATIONS IN ENGLAND-INVITATION
TO MUNICH. Arriving in England, as he did, the bearer of gloomy despatches, and sustaining the equivocal character of a deserter from the American cause, Thompson soon proved that he was a man who could command his fortune anywhere. The capacity in which he had come over introduced him to various public men, who could not fail to be struck by his abilities, as well as charmed by his manner; and the consequence was, that in a short time after his arrival he was offered a post in the colonial office. Probably the minister was of opinion that none of all the American refugees, who then swarmed in London, was able to render such assistance as Thompson in conducting the department over which he presided.
Of whatever nature were the services which Thompson rendered to the public business, they must have been of considerable value; for in 1780, four years after his arrival in England, he was raised by his patron, Lord Germain, to the post of undersecretary of state for the colonies; an instance of promotion which, considering the circumstances in which the subject of it stood, is almost unexampled. The usual accompaniment of such a situation was, and is, a seat in parliament; and according to the practice of those days, when noblemen had seats in the House of Commons at their disposal, Lord Germain, if he had so chosen, might have conferred a seat on his American protégé ; but it was probably imagined that the admission into parliament of a man so unpopular in America would be attended with disadvantages, and that, at all events, Thompson's talents were better fitted for
the desk than the senate. The income and consequence, however, which he derived from his office, gave him admission to the highest metropolitan circles ; and he had thus opportunities not only of becoming known, but also of exercising his inventive mind in many pursuits not immediately connected with his official duties. Fertility—a disposition to propose improvements in all departments-seems to have been his most striking characteristic; and it was probably this ready genius for practical reforms in everything which came under his notice, that recommended him so much to public men. A man who, in his general intercourse with society, can drop valuable suggestions, allowing others to grasp at them, and enjoy the credit of carrying them into effect, is likely to be a favourite. Thompson appears to have been such a man-a person who, holding no ostensible post but that of under-secretary for the colonies, could yet, out of the richness of an ever-inventive mind, scatter hints which would be thankfully received by men of all professions.
While concerning himself generally, however, in a variety of matters, Thompson was at the same time following out certain specific lines of scientific investigation. “As early as 1777," says his biographer, “ he made some curious and interesting experiments on the strength of solid bodies. These were never published, and would probably have been superseded by more full investigations made by subsequent experiments. In 1778, he employed himself in experiments on the strength of gunpowder, and the velocity of military projectiles, and these were followed up by a cruise of some months in the Channel fleet, where he proposed to repeat his investigations on a larger scale.” On this subject Thompson communicated several papers to the “ Philosophical Transactions” of the Royal Society, of which he had become a member. Passing over these scientific lucubrations, we hasten to reach that period of Rumford's life at which he found himself in a situation to give full scope to his genius for improvements.
As the war between Great Britain and the colonies proceeded, it became evident that the latter must triumph. The anti-American party in Great Britain lost ground; and on the news of the capitulation of Lord Cornwallis reaching England, a division took place in the cabinet, and Lord George Germain found it necessary to resign office. As his policy, however, in American affairs had been agreeable to the wishes of George III., he retired with the honours of a peerage, and was able still to forward the interests of his friends. Not the least distinguished of these was Under-Secretary Thompson, who, whether he had co-operated with his principal in all his measures and views, or whether, "according to his own statement afterwards to Cuvier, he was disgusted at Lord Germain's want of judgment,” had at least done a sufficient amount of work to deserve a parting token of regard. Accordingly, by the influence of the fallen minister,
Thompson was sent out to New York, in the year 1781, with the royal commission of major, which was afterwards changed for that of lieutenant-colonel, charged with the task of organising an efficient regiment of dragoons out of the broken and disjointed native cavalry regiments which had been fighting on the royalist side. What were to be the specific uses of this force are now uncertain. The regiment, fortunately, was of no avail.
Peace having been concluded between the United States and Great Britain, Colonel Thompson, shortly after his return, obtained leave of absence, in order that he might travel on the continent. Passing through France on his way to Vienna, he had reached Strasburg on the German frontier, when an incident occurred which changed his prospects, and gave a direction to his life different from what he intended, or could have anticipated. A review of the garrison of Strasburg being held, he presented himself on the field as a spectator,“ mounted on a superb Eng. lish horse, and in the full uniform of his rank as a colonel of dragoons.” The French officers were eager to make the acquaintance of the conspicuous stranger, the more so that his attendance at a review of French troops in full English uniform was regarded as an act of courtesy, which deserved a return. Among those who entered into conversation with him was Prince Maximilian, nephew and presumptive heir of the Elector of Bavaria, and who had served as the commander of a French regiment in the American war. So agreeable was the impression which Thompson made on the prince, that on learning his circumstances and intentions, the latter offered him an introduction to his uncle, the Bavarian elector, in case he should be inclined to alter his design of proceeding to Vienna, and make trial of the Bavarian service. The proposal pleased Thompson, and, furnished with the prince's letter of introduction, he set out for Munich. Wherever he went, he seems to have had the art, almost in spite of himself, of conciliating favour; and on his very first audience with the Elector of Bavaria, he was offered an important situation at court. Still clinging, however, to his resolution of visiting Vienna, he did not accept the offer; but after spending some time at Munich, during which the elector's esteem for him increased more and more, he set out for the Austrian capital. The elector, however, continued to send him pressing invitations to enter his service, and learning at Vienna that the Turkish war was likely to be brought to a speedy conclusion, Colonel Thompson at length promised that, provided he could obtain the consent of his British majesty, he would take up his residence at Munich. Proceeding to London, in order to obtain the consent which was required, he was received with great kindness by George III., who conferred on him the honour of knighthood, and gave him permission, while resigning the command of his regiment, to retain the title of lieutenant-colonel, and the halfpay attached to it.
RESIDENCE IN MUNICH-REORGANISATION OF THE
In the close of the year 1784, Sir Benjamin Thompson took up his residence in Munich, filling the posts of aid-de-camp and chamberlain to the elector, and thus connected both with the military and the civil service. Charles Theodore, the ruling prince of Bavaria, was a man of enlightened mind, whose ambition was to elevate the state over which he reigned to a high rank among the various members of the German confederacy. The aristocracy of Bavaria itself not furnishing men of sufficient liberality of view to co-operate with him in his designs of improvement, and the prejudices of the court preventing him from employing able men from among the people, even had there been any such qualified for his purpose, he had judiciously resolved to employ foreign talent in the difficult work of reforming his dominions. The capacity, therefore, in which Sir Benjamin Thompson took up his residence in Munich was that of a man who, unconnected by ties of blood or interest with the people of Bavaria, and furnished only with general ideas applicable to all times and places, was to make it his business, under the auspices of the elector, to take a general survey of the condition of Bavaria, with a view to rectify as much as possible of what was wrong in it. A more noble or responsible situation can scarcely be conceived; and the dignity and responsibility will appear all the greater, when we reflect that the government of Bavaria, being in its nature despotic, the powers of a man in Thompson's position—that, namely, of virtual though not ostensible prime minister--were almost unlimited, seeing that there were no constitutional forms, and nothing but the absolute will of the elector, to check or thwart his proceedings.
Another circumstance which rendered the situation of Sir Benjamin Thompson a peculiarly interesting one, was the position of Bavaria at the time.“ Most of those," says Ćuvier, " who are called to power by adventitious circumstances, are led astray by the opinion of the vulgar. They know that they will infallibly be called men of genius, and be celebrated in prose and verse, if they succeed in changing the forms of government, or in extending the territory of their sovereign but a few additional leagues. Happily for Count Rumford, Bavaria at this period had no such temptations for her ministers. Her constitution was fixed by the laws of the empire, and her frontiers defined by the more powerful states who were her neighbours. She was, in short, reduced to that condition which most states consider so hard a one-namely, to have her attention confined to the sole object of ameliorating the fortune of her people.” The whole attention of Sir Benjamin Thompson, therefore, was necessarily to be concen
trated on the internal condition of Bavaria—a country about the size of Scotland, but considerably more populous.
The first subject which occupied the attention of the Americanborn prime minister of Bavaria was the condition of the army. There were three reasons for this early consideration of the state of the army. In the first place, the condition of the continent of Europe at the time rendered the state of the defensive force a matter of extreme importance to so critically situated a state as Bavaria; in the second place, Thompson's own tastes inclined him to take an interest in military matters; and lastly, in a despotic state, where a little physical force might be necessary to compel the people to adopt good sanitary or other regulations, the army was the natural instrument to be employed in all such reforms, and to render this instrument efficient, was but to begin at the right end.
Omitting all the miscellaneous improvements of a minor or mechanical nature which were effected by Thompson in matters connected with the military service-as, for instance, in the construction of cannon, in the uniform of the soldiers, their drill, &c.—let us attend to the moral principle which ruled all his proceedings with regard to the organisation of the army. “I have endeavoured,” he says, “in all my operations, to unite the interest of the soldier with the interest of civil society, and to render the military force, even in time of peace, subservient to the public good. To facilitate and promote these important objects, to establish a respectable standing army, which should do the least possible harm to the population, morals, manufactures, and agriculture of the country, it was necessary to make soldiers citizens, and citizens soldiers." To this principle, or at least to the precise form in which it is here stated, different persons will make different objections, according as their sympathies are civil or military; but Rumford's general view, that soldiers should be treated as men, cannot be excepted against. The army being
essentially the offspring of an age of physical force, it is certainly · difficult to organise it conformably to the spirit of an age which repudiates physical force. To do this—in other words, to make the army, as such, a moral agent-is impossible; but it is quite possible to render a large general culture, and much individual freedom, compatible with strict discipline; and at all events, the modern maxim is, that the army is a part of society, employed, it is true, in services of a peculiar nature, which require a peculiar organisation, but not on that account cut off from the general mass of the community. Such was the maxim of the Bavarian minister. Besides what he did to increase the physical comfort of the soldier by superior food, clothing, and accommodation, he adopted means for the intellectual and moral improvement of all connected with the military service. “ Schools were established in all the regiments for instructing the soldiers and their children in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Besides these schools