Their public exercises will be also very diverting, and more worth while for any gentleman to see than the sights or shows which our people in England are so fond of.
I believe as a constitution might be formed from these generals, this would be the greatest, the gallantest and the most useful foundation in the world. The English gentry would be the best qualified, and consequently best accepted abroad, and most useful at home of any people in the world; and His Majesty should never more be exposed to the necessity of employing foreigners in the posts of trust and service in his armies.
And that the whole kingdom might in some degree be better qualified for service, I think the following project would be very useful:
When our military weapon was the long-bow, at which our English nation in some measure excelled the whole world, the meanest countryman was a good archer; and that which qualified them so much for service in the war was their diversion in times of peace, which also had this good effect--that when an army was to be raised they needed no disciplining: and for the encouragement of the people to an exercise so publicly profitable an Act of Parliament was made to oblige every parish to maintain butts for the youth in the country to shoot at.
Since our way of fighting is now altered, and this destructive engine the musket is the proper arms for the soldier, I could wish the diversion also of the English would change too, that our pleasures and profit might correspond. It is a great hindrance to this nation, especially where standing armies are a grievance, that if ever a war commence, men must have at least a year before they are thought fit to face an enemy, to instruct them how to handle their arms; and new-raised men are called raw soldiers. To help this--at least, in some, measure--I would propose that the public exercises of our youth should by some public encouragement (for penalties won't do it) be drawn off from the foolish boyish sports of cocking and cricketing, and from tippling, to shooting with a firelock (an exercise as pleasant as it is manly and generous) and swimming, which is a thing so many ways profitable, besides its being a great preservative of health, that methinks no man ought to be without it.
1. For shooting, the colleges I have mentioned above, having provided for the instructing the gentry at the king's charge, that the gentry, in return of a favour, should introduce it among the country people, which might easily be done thus:
If every country gentleman, according to his degree, would contribute to set-up a prize to be shot for by the town he lives in or the neighbourhood, about once a year, or twice a year, or oftener, as they think fit; which prize not single only to him who shoots nearest, but according to the custom of shooting.
This would certainly set all the young men in England a-shooting, and make them marksmen; for they would be always practising, and making matches among themselves too, and the advantage would be found in a war; for, no doubt, if all the soldiers in a battalion took a true level at their enemy there would be much more execution done at a distance than there is; whereas it has been known how that a battalion of men has received the fire of another battalion, and not lost above thirty or forty men; and I suppose it will not easily be forgotten how, at the battle of Agrim, a battalion of the English army received the whole fire of an Irish regiment of Dragoons, but never knew to this day whether they had any bullets or no; and I need appeal no further than to any officer that served in the Irish war, what advantages the English armies made of the Irish being such wonderful marksmen.
Under this head of academies I might bring in a project for an
ACADEMY FOR WOMEN.
I have often thought of it as one of the most barbarous customs in the world, considering us as a civilised and a Christian country, that we deny the advantages of learning to women. We reproach the sex every day with folly and impertinence, while I am confident, had they the advantages of education equal to us, they would be guilty of less than ourselves.