TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 5 p.m.] TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1881. The Volunteer Capitation Grant.
One of the retrenchment acts of last 5- ' session of Parliament was the withdrawal of all subsidies that could ■ ■ withheld. The jjlea urged •finahrfciil position of the; colony, - , Whicq '"necessitated stern economy, if Zealand was still to hold up her and maintain her good name jn
the world. The taxpayer grumbled, when he had to dip his hand more deeply than ever into his pocket, for it is an Englishman’s right to grumble, but John Bull has always been a taxpaying individual, so he grumbled and paid. The answer to his grumbling was a stern reminder that unless the public income was largely increased, and the taxpaying resources of the colonists were largely requisitioned, disaster was a certainty. Then the pruning knife, in pursuit of the same policy, was applied to the expenditure, and every unnecessary money outlet was slopped. A host of suckers from the colonial tree, in the shape of Civil servants, were mercilessly pruned off, and the nutriment they drew from the parent trunk was saved. Subsidies that had hitherto been paid to local bodies were ordered to cease, and those bodies were quietly, but firmly, informed that henceforth they must find their own funds, and invent such means as they could for furnishing their exchequers. Amonghts the other institutions of the colony, whose income suffered a curtailment by the reaping hook of retrenchment, were the numerous Volunteer corps. For its size and population, New Zealand possesses a wonderfully large and enthusiastic Volunteer army—and it is certainly a credit to her that so many colonists are found willing to give a great portion of their time and means to her service. There are those, of course, who look upon the Volunteers as a luxury the colony could very well spare, and for whose support public expenditure is little else than wilful waste and unpardonable extravagence. But the majority of the public are not of this opinion, and are prepared to recognise the value of the Volunteer movement. As an armor of defence to the colony against any outside attack, we are free to confess that it would be weak indeed if a trained army of any consequence were suddenly landed on our shores. But then, though every white man in New Zealand capable of bearing arms were in the ranks to-morrow, the colony would still scarcely be in a properly defensive position. Yet the duty of their own defence, in case of war, has been shifted by the Imperial power to the shoulders of the colonial dependencies, and the Volunteer movement is a part of our recognised system of defence. No attack from a hostile outside power threatens us a present, and it may be that many decades may elapse before the war-cloud is seen even dimly on our horizon ; but New Zealand has seen the time when a few thousands of men trained to arms and military organisation, were not a valueless Requisition, and there is no assurance that the “whirligig of time” may not again make a handful of men who are familiar with the art of war worth possessing. For present service in the field the Volunteers may not be a pressing necessity, but is it to be supposed that the population of this fair land is always to be a circumscribed one, and its position insignificant ? Having the future in view, is it no small matter to have, within the boundaries of the land, the nucleus of an army, through the ranks of which a vast number of our young men pass and obtain a fair knowledge of the use of arms and of military movements and organisation? Her volunteer corps have given a weight in the “ parliaments of men ” to the mother country that her own regular standing army could never have secured for her; and when the fact is mentioned to a European general that Great Britain has in constant training 120,000 voluntary citizen soldiers, who serve in the ranks unpaid, and are the flower of their country, he puts a far higher estimate upon their value than the ordinary onlooker would do. The general knows how to value the system, and he knows that those 120,000 men do not represent the whole volunteer force available to the country they serve, but that three or four times that number have not forgotten their training, and would rally round their old standard at the sound of thewartrump. The colony aims at being a nation of freemen, and to be free we must be ready to defend our freedom. We need not dwell on this part of the subject, and our space does not permit it; but we would refer to the fact that the withdrawal of the capitation allowance to the Volunteers is certain to militate against the strength and efficiency of the force. The Volunteers have been patient under the withdrawal, and their complaints have not been loud ; but every day brings nearer and nearer a time when the crippling influence will be felt, and when poor and struggling corps will have to disband, and Government will find that a mistake has been made, when all that is left to the colony will be a few attenuated ranks standing up in the larger centres of population, while the training agency that the extinct corps carried on has ceased. By no means was the Volunteer movement an expensive one to New Zealand ; the great bulk of expenditure on Volunteering was borne by the officers and men themselves; and we hope, for the preservation of the movement in some degree of efficiency, and with some show of extent throughout the colony, that Parliament vviil find means, if not to restore the whole of the grant, to give back at least sufficient of it to cover the most pressing expenses of the corps, and thus recognise the patriotism that called them into existence and maintained them in efficiency.