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Mr. Archibald Forbes On The Lash.

In the new number of the “ Nineteenth Century,”. Mr, Archibald Forbes denounces what he calls the factious conduct of the “obstructionists, humanitarians, claptrapists, and what not, whose persistent and unpatriotic opposition to the flogging clauses of the Army Discipline Bill has produced an Act that can have no other effect than to diminish the efficiency of the British army.” Some of the arguments of the opponents of corporal punishment ho meets with opposite instances. For instance, with reference to the contention that the consciousness of a liability to be flogged does not act as a deterrent, Mr. Forbes reluctantly adduces his own experience : “ Twenty years ago I enlisted in a cavalry regiment. Young, full of spirits and vigour, not destitute of money, and having no experience cf discipline, it must be said that not in every respect was I a model soldier. For offences of lightheartedness I was somewhat scandalously often in trouble. At length, for an escapade on the line of march from Liverpool to Sheffield, I was tried by a regimental court-martial, and underwent twenty-eight days’ imprisonment, on the moat strictly farinaceous food, in the Sheffield ‘ garrison provost. ’ Emerging from confinement with a head shorn so bare that it resembled an affable turnip, rny light-heatedness was not long in reasserting itself. Brought as a prisoner before my commanding officer, I stood at attention in the ordeily-room before him, when he asked me the question, ‘Do you know, sir, that you are now a second-class man ?’ I had not studied those niceties of military grades, and failing to see the drift of the question I simply replied ‘No, sir.’ The manner in which he pursued the subject was not wholly agreeable. ‘ Well,’ said he, ‘ you are and as such liable to be flogged ; and, by God, the next time you come before me I’ll flog you !’ I did not want any more of that topic. He never saw me again as a prisoner, and when I left the regiment it was with a good character. I simply adduce this personal example to demonstrate how effectual a deterrent from military crime it is to be brought in this unpleasant manner face to face, as it were, with the lash. It has always struck me as very strange and unsatisfactory that the men who in the nature of things have the most direct knowledge of, and interest in, this matter have never been asked their opinions in respect to it. Members of of Parliament, publicists political and sentimental, humanitarians, officers of position—Mr. Gladstone referred to the views of the younger officers of the army —stump-orators, and gushers of all kinds, all express their views on it with more or less vehemence, and claim authority. But it is not these varieties of the human family, but the men in the ranks, who are liable to the infliction of the lash ; and it might not be inappropriate to ascertain their sentiments with regard to this timehonoured institution. I cannot claim to be a spokesman for this new and youthful short-service army of which Lord Cardwell has been the creator ; but an experience of some duration in the ranks, before the reconstruction of the service took evil effect, may entitle me to speak with some authority in this behalf. It may be remarked that there has been no such change in the relations of soldiers to soldiers, and to the laws which govern them, as to foster the notion that any material alteration should have occurred in the sentiments of the private soldier since the ill-starred revolution in question occurred. But I will not go beyond my own personal knowledge : and I unhesitatingly aver that, when I served in the ranks, the private soldiers —my comrades —were in the mass favourable to the maintenance of flogging.” Mr. Forbes argues in support of his conclusions by narrating the following episode in connection with the advance upon XJlundi

“ On the night but one before the advance on Ulundi, while the force lay in laager on the right bank of the White Umfolosi, there was a discreditable scare. To what occurred elsewhere I will not advert ; but it happened that the rear rank of an outlying picquet furnished by OBe of tfla regiments of the Flying Column ! bolted into the Imager, abandoning its front rank, which stood firm with their officer. Wood quietly flogged the whole half-dozen of weak-nerved youngsters. Not quite happy between the shoulders, probably, they nevertheless went back to duty, and the next day but one they had th§ opportunity of vindicating their manliness in the ranks of their gallant regiment as it bore its full share in the victorious combat of Ulundi. What other punishment than the lash could have been so compactly efficient in this instance ? The lads did not quite deserve to be shot. They would have been blighted for all time had they been kept ignominiously as ppisquers within the laager when their regiment w as adding to its laurels in the field of honor, VYo could spare that day no fighting men to the guard-tont, either as prisoners or custodians. But the offence could not have been passed over, for it was a very grave one. So it was dealt with sharply, swiftly, and sufficiently by a punishment that exactly met the case, and by tlie only punishment that would have done so. An officer, whose nap)a I can give, heard some men of the regiment muttering among themselves that ‘for once the general had made a mistake.’ He took the trouble to ask them in what. Why, sh’,’ was the reply, ‘ in not letting the chaps have the full fifty to which they were sentenced!’ Wood bad commuted the sentence by one half. In a campaign, believe me that the fear of the lash is the beginning of wisdom, Jt is bad enough to make efficient war as it is ; what with scruples about compelling selfish, huckstering colonials t > make some sacrifices towards contributing to their own protection { wfuit with howls at home because a casual wounded savage is not furnished with a water-bed and spliuU o{ the newest pattern ; what with the nn- i worthy disposition of Government to sub- ■ ordinate the question of military capacity to personal preelection or pre-

ference ; what with the nervousness that must afflict a chief in the held hy reason of the knowledge that he is the Victim of impertinent interpellations at home, which a flaccid Ministry shrink from boldly squelching. But f>v harder would it tie to make, war—ay..-, Iv. ill say tin*. wuh our present hnmau figitt.ng ..i.o.ii:,'. it would be impossible to make ’.var • -:l *.*• course to corporal punishment were forbidden. And in iriaking this assertion I am perfectly confident I base with, me the army, from the commander-in-chief to the drummer-boy. ” ■

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18800101.2.17

Bibliographic details

Mr. Archibald Forbes On The Lash., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 42, 1 January 1880

Word Count
1,140

Mr. Archibald Forbes On The Lash. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 42, 1 January 1880

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