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MILITIA

  


age, service in the feudal levy depended upon tenure of land under the king as feudal lord. The general levy was not in any case liable for service overseas, but the king for a long time employed his feudal tenants in continental wars until they too, successfully resisted the demand. Personal service formed the basis of both levies, but service by deputy, or payment in lieu ot personal service, and the calling out of a quota only, were allowed rom very early times. The feudal levy was discontinued during the Commonwealth and abolished at the Restoration; but liability to serve in the general levy has never been extinguished, but remains in the statutory and practical form of liability to serve both in the general and local militia. Even at the abolition of these forces the statutory liability to service in them was not done away with. Inspections of arms and the assembly and training of the men raised under this national system were secured from time to time by means of “assizes of arms,” “views of armour,” “commissions of array,” and “commissions of musters,” dating from early in the 12th century down to the 16th century. The machinery employed to carry out the law formed the basis of the existing procedure for the enforcement of the ballot for the militia, which thus bears a strong resemblance to the means adopted from ancient times. These constitutional powers were frequently abused by “electing” or impressing men to serve out of the kingdom, but this was checked in the year 1327 by an Act of Parliament, which strictly regulated the scope and limits of military service within the kingdom at the charge of the parishes or counties, but provided for service abroad at the charge of the Crown. “Commissions of musters” were a development of preceding measures for raising men and material for military service, under which the commissioners registered and mustered persons liable to serve, sorted them into bands and trained and exercised them at the charge of the county. These bands became known as train or trained bands, and were mustered annually. With them were associated lieutenants of counties, first appointed in 1549 by Edward VI., subsequently in Queen Mary's reign called lords lieutenant, and after the Restoration appointed as statutory officers for the militia, their commissions at the present day being issued under the Militia Act. There does not appear to have been any clearly defined regimental organization in existence until these bands or companies were called into active service, but the Acts of the Commonwealth supplied this defect, and initiated a permanent regimental system. One of the earliest attempts to reform the force since the time of King Alfred was made by Charles-I. in 1629, when Orders in Council were issued instructing lords lieutenant to put the militia on a better footing and to fill up vacancies among the officers. Cromwell subsequently issued similar orders couched in strong terms, though under the Commonwealth the duties of lords lieutenant were not recognized, the militia being raised by commissioners. The great services rendered by the militia in the “crowning mercy” of Worcester are a historic exception to the general decadence of second line troops in the 17th and 18th centuries (see Great Rebellion). At the Restoration an act was passed declaring that the control of the militia was the prerogative of the king. By the same statute the militia of each county was placed under the lieutenant, who was vested with the appointment of officers, but with a reservation to the Crown in the way of commissioning and dismissal. The cost of the annual training-for fourteen days-fell upon the local authority. Offences against discipline were dealt with by the civil magistrates, but with a power to the officers of fining and of imprisoning in default. Upon this footing the militia of England remained for nearly a century with the general approval of the community. It was recognized as an instrument for defence and for the preservation of internal order, while it was especially popular from the circumstance that from its constitution and organization the Crown could not use it as a means of violating the constitution or abridging the liberty of the subject. It was controlled and regulated in the county; it was office red by the landowners and their relatives, its ranks were filled by men not depending for their subsistence or advancement upon the favour of the Crown; its numbers and maintenance were beyond the royal control; its government was by statute. While the supreme command was distinctly vested in the Crown, every practical security was thus taken against its use by the Crown for any object not constitutional or legitimate. It was regarded as, and was, in fact, the army of the state as distinguished from the standing army, which was very much the army of the king personally. The latter consisted of hired soldiers, and was more than once recruited by a conscription, confined, however, to persons of the vagrant class not having a lawful employment, while the former was mainly composed of those having a fixed abode and status. The militia thus enjoyed for many years as compared with the regular forces a social as well as a constitutional superiority. To this, however, along with the general breakdown of militia systems under the new “professional” conditions of warfare, explained above, and perhaps the practice of trying military offences by civil courts, may be attributed the disrepute into which the militia fell and the inefficiency it displayed, with the exception of the trained bands of London, until it was reorganized in 1757. Under the act of 1662 all train bands were discontinued in the counties, but those of London, with their auxiliaries, remained until 1794, when they were reorganized as the City of London Militia. In 1688 an act was passed raising the militia for one year, and for some time it was an annually sanctioned force as the regular army is to-day. In 1690, on the occasion of the threatened French invasion, the militia was embodied; and again in 1715 and 1745 during the troubles caused by the Old and Young Pretenders. In a pamphlet of 1712 the English militia was estimated at 7450 horse and 84,391 foot soldiers. From 1715 until 1734, and again from that year until 1757, with this exception of 1745, no votes were taken in parliament for the militia.

The foregoing remarks apply only to the English militia and its predecessors. Ireland and Scotland did not furnish any regular militia until 1715 and 1797. respectively, although in Scotland militia existed long before 1797, e.g. in Perthshire in 1684; and in addition corps of fencibles were raised and embodied. The Irish militia when first raised in 1715 was restricted to Protestants between the ages of 16 and 60, who were bound to appear or provide substitutes. The force was not made subject to military law, but various military offences were punishable by fine or imprisonment. Several amendments and other acts followed until 1793, when a new act was passed providing for raising a force of militia by ballot among men between the ages of 18 and 45, to serve for four years. Each county was liable to a fine of £5 for each man deficient, and enlistment in the army was prohibited. Other amendments followed from time to time, and notably one in 1797 abolishing religious restrictions for the supplementary militia, and another in 1802 removing the same restrictions in the case of the general militia. Finally, all the acts were consolidated in 1809 by an act which fixed establishments, provided for raising the men by ballot, but gave power to the lord-lieutenant to authorize voluntary enlistment by means of bounties, and also to suspend the raising of any regiment. The Scottish militia was at first raised by ballot among men between the ages of 19 and 30. In 1802 former acts were replaced by an Act providing for the organization of the militia on a basis similar to that on which the militia of England was organized by the Consolidation Act passed in that year.

To return to England, the immediate cause of the organic reform carried out in 1757 was the disclosure of the inefficiency of the militia during the Rebellion of 1745. The act of 1662 followed the old law by requiring owners of property to furnish men, horses and arms in proportion to the value of their property, and the liability of persons of small property was to be discharged out of a rate levied in the parish. This was entirely altered in 1757, a liability on the part of the county or parish being substituted for a liability on the part of individuals. Each county was required to furnish a quota apportioned among the various parishes; men were to be chosen by lot to serve for three years (this being the first provision of a fixed term of service) or to provide, or pay £10 for the provision of, a substitute, and vacancies were to be filled from time to time by a like process of ballot. The ages of liability were from 18 to 45. The system thus legalized is practically the existing though suspended ballot system. The force was to be annually trained and exercised for a limited period, and in case of invasion or danger thereof, or in case of rebellion, the Crown could order it or any portion of it to be embodied; but only on condition of informing parliament (which was if not sitting to be summoned for the purpose). During the embodiment or annual training it was subject to the Mutiny Act, except that no punishment during training was to extend to “ life or limb ”; to prevent an unconstitutional use of the militia by the Crown, the estimate for its training was framed each year, not by an executive minister of the sovereign, but by the House of Commons itself. Upon the initiative of a committee of the house, an act was passed providing for the pay and clothing of the militia for the year. The king directly appointed the permanent staff and was given a veto on the appointment and promotion of the officers, who were to have a property qualification.

Under this act 30,000 militiamen were raised by ballot and embodied from 1759 to 1763. This force was exclusively “Protestant,” and remained so until 1802. The service of the militia as thus arranged remained nearly in the same state until 1870. Pitt's reform, however, was followed by numerous amendments, new enactments, and other changes, of which the following is a summary in chronological order:—

1758. Men volunteering to serve recognized as counting towards the quota.

1761. Raising of quota made compulsory on counties under penalty of fines.
Mutiny Act applied to militia when out for training as well as when embodied.

1775. (American War.) Act passed empowering embodiment of militia in case of colonial as well as domestic rebellion.

1786. Charge on parishes for storage of arms, &c., transferred to counties.

1795. Enlistment into regulars encouraged.

1796. Supplementary militia formed, consisting of 63,878 men.

1798. (Irish Rebellion.) English militia volunteered for service in Ireland.

1799. Irish militia volunteered to serve in Great Britain. 15,000 militiamen volunteered to regular army.

1803. 45,492 men raised for militia by ballot, but of these 40,998 were substitutes.

1805. Militia affiliated to line for purposes of recruiting for regulars.