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Crimean texts

[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]

The Times 9 February 1854 p 6


A short letter upon the subject of the privations to which the soldier is exposed by the joint effect of fixed pay and rising markets will be found in another portion of our columns with the signature of “JUSTUS.” The propositions of the writer are somewhat at variance with the pretensions implied by the assumed name. He is opposed to the reduction of the stoppage which the soldier pays for his rations, on the simple ground that it is better the soldier should be left to his privations than that the public should make good the deficiency. He seeks to terrify us with the amount of the sacrifice in money which we must make in order to save our soldiers from a condition of semi-starvation. We are informed that, at the present strength of the army, the charge would cost us 42,500l. per annum for the reduction of every halfpenny on the stoppage paid by the troops. Of course, the proposed alteration can only apply to the troops affected by the high prices which have unfortunately prevailed for some time past in the British isles. To add to our difficulties, we are told that, when the Militia are called out, we shall have to submit to a greater loss, if we would give our soldiers a sufficiency of food, and it is sagely remarked, not that they who starve the soldier, but those who remonstrate against such a system, at so critical a moment of our national history, are the authors and promoters of insubordination. We leave it to the public to decide this point. Our position is imply that it would always be highly unjust and impolitic to screw the wages of the soldier down to such a point that, with the strictest economy, he cannot obtain a sufficient supply of wholesome food; but that it is worse than impolitic to persist in such a system at the outbreak of a war. The truth is, that men in Government offices become so blinded to what is passing in the world around them that they “learn nothing and forget nothing.” What has been the cause of almost every mutiny and discontent which has occurred in one land and sea forces, but the insufficient scale of remuneration afforded to the men who were appointed, or admitted, or forced, to fight the battles of their country? Had the usual inducements to enter upon a particular path in life been present to the minds of Englishmen in the case of the army and navy we should have had fewer painful recollections of press-gangs, and gratings, and triangles, and shooting parties. The principle has been acknowledged in Parliament over and over again; but, despite of all that has been said upon the subject, and much bitter experience, “JUSTUS,” even at the very moment when our troops are about to be called into action, would impress their minds with the conviction that they could not have taken up a more beggarly calling than that of defending their country.

It should be remembered that this rise in prices is no mere transient matter. there is not a family in the British isles which has not felt it, and it has continued for six or eight months. Most persons, however, can extricate themselves from embarrassment by increased exertion or demand a higher wage. The season of high prices is for many of us a time of great prosperity. Not so with the poor soldier. He is bound down to a scale of pay just sufficient for his decent subsistence at present. Prices have run up and maintained the higher range for a considerable time, and what is he to do? “JUSTUS” would make no addition to his allowance, and call this justice and good policy. We are happy to say that wiser and juster counsels have prevailed, and that a remission in the charge for rations, which will give the soldier more than one meal a-day, has been, as we yesterday announced, determined on, to the universal contentment of the service, though possibly to the discomfiture of such men as “JUSTUS,” who, in the enjoyment of a large income, forget that even soldiers may be hungry, and that hunger is incompatible with good discipline in quarters, or efficiency in the field.

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