Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/474

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

plated. First and most influential is the Military Academy at West Point. Our regular army is officered in three ways: by appointment of civilians based upon the results of proficiency as determined by an army board; second, from a list of enlisted men and non-commissioned officers found duly qualified; but now mainly (and certain in the near future to be entirely) from the promotion of graduated cadets.

Although West Point has long been in the focus of publicity, and has a certain and very great renown for thoroughness of instruction and the general high average of the material it turns out, few indeed are fully aware of the essential nature of that institution's merit. This consists, not so much in the value of the education—though this ranks with that acquired at the best technical schools—as in the nature and extent of the course of training, influence and discipline. Here young men for four years of the most impressionable time of life are set and held wholly apart from all civil influences of a kind to divert them from the mastery of their profession. The West Point method is exacting to a degree almost cruel in its rigor; so exacting that of any entering class not more than half succeed in being graduated. It teaches—and enforces pitilessly—thoroughness, exactness, responsibility. But more and deeper than this, seldom is felt, except for purposes of instruction, the hand of outward authority. The commandant and his assistants, the "tactical officers," are 'seldom in evidence; for almost all purposes of organization, drill and restraint within regulation limits, the method is self-acting, largely automatic; from the room and tent orderlies to the adjutant and captains, the corps of cadets governs itself.

And this government is not of force, as the idea of compulsion is ordinarily understood. The real governing power is that most potent of moral forces—public opinion. From first to last, in big things and in trivial things, a cadet in matters of duty is always "on honor"; he is bound to report not only others' derelictions, but at certain times and for certain purposes, his own. The severity of the prevalent code may be inferred from the following, taken from a New York daily of July 3 last:

A member of the new class was brought before a court-martial on a charge of making false statements to the officer of the guard.

"Are you chewing gum?" the officer asked. . . . "I am not,"—is said to have replied, and an investigation showed that the answer was false.

This is the first time in a great many years that a cadet has been dismissed from West Point for telling an untruth, and the authorities feel keenly the disgrace.

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I imagine that many will find in this instance, not justice, but undue and disproportionate punishment for what they may regard as a trivial offence. To chew gum in ranks is indeed trivial; to lie about it (under the West Point system) simply unpardonable. The West Point man is not better, perhaps, morally than the average of his fellow citizens out of