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me and the former Master General, the whole of which had been seen by Sir Robert Peel.
Nothing can be more legitimate than a confidential letter from the Commander in Chief to the Chief Engineer. He had been in constant confidential communication with Lord Anglesey and me, and I could not think it possible that a word that I should write would ever be read by the public.
My opinion has invariably been that the effectual and indeed only safe mode of bringing the important subject of that letter to the cognisance of the public was by the Government itself, and I cannot state how much I feel that this letter should have been published, which certainly treats of the whole subject, past, present, and future. —Believe me, ever yours most faithfully,
I will attend your Lordship in London whenever you will send for me.
Forced on by the prevalent excitement, and unable to reconcile the contrary views of his colleagues, Lord John drew up the following memorandum, which was printed and circulated confidentially to the Cabinet on January 10:—
The question of national defence is now likely to obtain that public attention which two years ago it seemed so little likely to command. At the same time, the Government must be careful not to exaggerate the danger, any more than to overrate the security, of our position.
France is the country nearest to us as a neighbour, most formidable as a rival, and with whom we have at once the most frequent opportunities of friendly concert and the greatest probability of irreconcilable quarrel. The danger of war, it must be observed, will be greatly increased if the two countries are in an unequal state of preparation. For, if both are unprepared, both will take some time to prepare before hostilities are begun ; if both are prepared, both will be unwilling to rush into war at the hazard of severe and instant retaliation, or at least of successful repulse. But, if one is prepared and the other is not, from the moment when war becomes probable the State which is prepared becomes eager to take advantage of its superiority, before the balance of forces can be restored by measures of recruiting and equipment.
In August 1840 and in August 1844 we were in considerable danger of sudden hostilities without much previous time for
preparation. Thus it is clear that hostilities may break out suddenly,
There are many points to consider on this subject, which I pass over here, but which deserve the serious consideration of the Admiralty. It is obvious that our steamers could blockade or watch a port with a strong wind blowing in shore, but our sailing-vessels would be driven away. Could the steamers oppose the egress of the French force alone? If such force comprised line-of-battle ships and frigates, must not the blockading or watching steamers retire P Would not their retreat leave the passage open to the enemy? The next point, therefore, is to have a sufficient force to defend our own shores. Such force must consist of 1. Ships. 2. Fortifications. 3. Troops. 1. We must have the means of collecting a strong squadron of line-of-battle ships and steamers in the Downs, or at Spithead, Torbay, or Plymouth. Such a squadron, upon hearing of the departure of an enemy from an opposite port, would at once be in readiness to direct itself to the point menaced. Say the enemy landed near Brighton, the fleet would soon be there—would fight, sink, and destroy any vessels left on the coast, and would be ready to intercept any fresh supplies. 2. Next. The invading force might attack Portsmouth by land. We must have Portsmouth fortified by land as well as by sea, so as to make it capable of standing a regular siege. Measures for the defence of our dockyards have been for some time in preparation. The late Government ordered block-ships to be got ready, to furnish batteries of defence against an attack by sea. The present have organised dockyard battalions, and further measures are in contemplation, of which Lord Auckland has the direction. 3. I come to the most vulnerable part of our present position. Let us suppose the French had overcome all difficulties, and had landed 30,000 men, with artillery and cavalry, on our shores. We must oppose them with an army in the field. We have 55,000 men of regular troops in the British Islands, 13,000 pensioners, and 14,000 yeomanry. Of these, the first only are available for all services. Not less than 10,000 must be sent on the breaking out of war to reinforce our garrisons abroad, to be followed by Io, ooo more in the next year; 25,000 would be required by different garrisons; leaving only 20,000 for the defence of England and Ireland. It is manifest that, unless we can supply our garrisons by some other means, and add largely to our force in the field, we have no adequate force to oppose to an invading army.
It is proposed to do this by a militia force. Two plans have been
There would thus be— In the first year, 40,000 men exercised and trained for twentyeight days, and liable to serve in garrisons, and for the defence of the country, for two years of war. In the second, 80,000 ditto. In the third, 120,000 ditto ; but the first 4o,ooo would have twenty-one days' drill only. In the fourth, there would be 120,000 so serving, and 40,000 local militia. In the fifth, 120,000 as before, and 80,000 local militia; and so on in all subsequent years. A man balloted at 18 would be free at 23, unless it were thought proper to retain him for one year of war, if the five years had not expired before the breaking out of war. A man balloted at 25 would be free at 30. If no war occurred, these men would not have to leave their homes. If war occurred, they would have to leave them for two years before 30 years of age. At the breaking out of war, when the system was complete, 120,000 men would be liable to serve in the embodied militia. Two years would give time to raise the regular force, and each year 40,000 balloted men would be added to the militia. It might then be provided that the men thereafter raised for the militia should serve for five years in the embodied, and five other years in the local militia. The number of adult males in the United Kingdom may be taken at 7,000,ooo. The number between 18 and 25 may be estimated at [blank in original]. Thus the means of defence at the disposal of the Government, in case of a sudden war, would be— 1. A good naval force, consisting partly of steamers, ready to watch or blockade a foreign port. 2. Dockyard battalions and a coast militia. 3. An army of 55,000 to 60,000 men of regular troops. 4. Pensioners to the amount of 15,000 men. 5. A militia in 1848 of 40,000 men, and in 1851 of 120,000 men. 6. A local militia in 1851 and subsequent years.
January 10, 1848.
I have read with great pleasure your very clear and able paper, which I herewith return to you.