If, then, a long peace had so reduced us to a degree of ignorance that might have been dangerous to us, had we not a king who is always followed by the greatest masters in the world, who knows what peace and different governors may bring us to again?
The manner of making war differs perhaps as much as anything in the world; and if we look no further back than our civil wars, it is plain a general then would hardly be fit to be a colonel now, saving his capacity of improvement. The defensive art always follows the offensive; and though the latter has extremely got the start of the former in this age, yet the other is mightily improving also.
We saw in England a bloody civil war, where, according to the old temper of the English, fighting was the business. To have an army lying in such a post as not to be able to come at them was a thing never heard of in that war; even the weakest party would always come out and fight (Dunbar fight, for instance); and they that were beaten to-day would fight again to-morrow, and seek one another out with such eagerness, as if they had been in haste to have their brains knocked out. Encampments, intrenchments, batteries, counter- marchings, fortifying of camps, and cannonadings were strange and almost unknown things; and whole campaigns were passed over, and hardly any tents made use of. Battles, surprises, storming of towns, skirmishes, sieges, ambuscades, and beating up quarters was the news of every day. Now it is frequent to have armies of fifty thousand men of a side stand at bay within view of one another, and spend a whole campaign in dodging (or, as it is genteelly called, observing) one another, and then march off into winter quarters. The difference is in the maxims of war, which now differ as much from what they were formerly as long perukes do from piqued beards, or as the habits of the people do now from what they then were. The present maxims of the war are:
"Never fight without a manifest advantage." "And always encamp so as not to be forced to it."
And if two opposite generals nicely observe both these rules, it is impossible they should ever come to fight.
I grant that this way of making war spends generally more money and less blood than former wars did; but then it spins wars out to a greater length; and I almost question whether, if this had been the way of fighting of old, our civil war had not lasted till this day. Their maxim was:
"Wherever you meet your enemy, fight him."
But the case is quite different now; and I think it is plain in the present war that it is not he who has the longest sword, so much as he who has the longest purse, will hold the war out best. Europe is all engaged in the war, and the men will never be exhausted while either party can find money; but he who finds himself poorest must give out first; and this is evident in the French king, who now inclines to peace, and owns it, while at the same time his armies are numerous and whole. But the sinews fail; he finds his exchequer fail, his kingdom drained, and money hard to come at: not that I believe half the reports we have had of the misery and poverty of the French are true; but it is manifest the King of France finds, whatever his armies may do, his money won't hold out so long as the Confederates, and therefore he uses all the means possible to procure a peace, while he may do it with the most advantage.
There is no question but the French may hold the war out several years longer; but their king is too wise to let things run to extremity. He will rather condescend to peace upon hard terms now than stay longer, if he finds himself in danger to be forced to worse.
This being the only digression I design to be guilty of, I hope I shall be excused it.
The sum of all is this: that, since it is so necessary to be in a condition for war in a time of peace, our people should be inured to it. It is strange that everything should be ready but the soldier: ships are ready, and our trade keeps the seamen always taught, and breeds up more; but soldiers, horsemen, engineers, gunners, and the like must be bred and taught; men are not born with muskets on their shoulders, nor fortifications in their heads; it is not natural to shoot bombs and undermine towns: for which purpose I propose a
ROYAL ACADEMY FOR MILITARY EXERCISES.