Stray thoughts on regulars and volunteers [29 September 1860]

[Editor: An opinion on regular army soldiers and volunteer militia soldiers. Published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 1860.]

Stray thoughts on regulars and volunteers.

“The summer air is one perpetual strife.” Have you ever watched the conflict of a couple of pugnacious ants? how they strive to tear one another in pieces — or of a couple of game birds, — or of a pair of bulls or stallions in the fields ? — or imagined the encounter of two full-grown “lords of the desert?” Was not the deadly pugnacity of man evidenced immediately after the fall? Is not all history, ancient and modern, full of recitals of the conflicts of man with man ? Does not the cry of “Vae victis,” which we read of in our young days still thrill us in our mature years ? Can we not realise in idea, at least, the meaning of the words gaudia certaminis? “They cry, Peace, peace, and there is no peace,” — will the time ever arrive when universal peace will prevail ? Never, while man remains as he is. Christianity has not secured it, and can any teaching or influence prevail where that has failed ? Is not this love of conflict one of the elements of progress, — however much, for a time, it retards, — the more to accelerate the advance of civilisation ? Let us then accept the necessity and make the most of it.

The profession of arms has ever been held honourable, and the soldier — if free from conventional or personal muculoe, sometimes, it is to be regretted, damaging his repute — has a right to stand in the presence of all men as an equal of the best : it is necessary that he who devotes his time, his life, to the service of his country should be sustained by that country even more handsomely than he is ; and the term mercenary should not be offensively applied ; it is however his duty to be perfect in the art or profession to which he is devoted, and to hold himself as the servant — in the same sense that Bishops, and officers of the State of all degrees, are servants — and not as the master or the superior of the public by whom he is paid. He may be the superior in the knowledge of his profession — in which it is his bounden duty to be perfect — to the Volunteer, or he may be his superior in rank or social position ; but, “caeteris paribus,” the regular soldier is not superior to the citizen soldier, and has no right to assume a superiority, especially as the Volunteer freely gives to the State that for which the regular soldier is paid — his time, his strength, his courage, his devotion, his life! For, be it not imagined by any of those who now enrol themselves in the ranks of the “glorious Volunteers” (I quote the words of the immortal Grattan), that, in case of their being required to devote their lives at a moment’s notice, to the defence of their country, there could be any evasion or holding back without the same infamy and punishment that await the paid soldier in the case of similar dereliction. The time, I believe, is not far distant when the Volunteer army of each civilised country will be its principal military institution ; when the enormous cost of maintaining a large paid Military force will form a grave question for the public to consider ; and when that force will be retained as a basis only for larger temporary formations, which the surrounding Volunteer materials would so readily supply, rather than for home tyranny or foreign aggression.

S. Y. C.
Friday morning, 28th September.

The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 29 September 1860, page 5

Editor’s notes:
caeteris paribus = (Latin) “all things being equal” (translates as “with other things the same”)

gaudia certaminis = (Latin) gaudium certaminis, “the delight of battle”

muculoe = (Latin) stains, blemishes (plural of macula)

vae victis = (Latin) “woe to the vanquished”

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