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Edward Cardwell

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Category: Military
Reference No: 8634
Status: Available
Price: £8.00
  Edward Cardwell

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British politician, best remembered for his tenure as Secretary of State for War between 1868 and 1874 and the introduction of the Cardwell Reforms.

Germany's stunning triumph over France in 1870 proved that the Prussian system of professional soldiers with modern weapons was far superior to the traditional system of gentlemen-soldiers that Britain used.

Although Prime Minister William E. Gladstone paid little attention to military affairs he knew something had to be done. The threat to the British Empire from Germany’s ascendancy was too great to ignore.

His Secretary of State for War (1868–1874) designed the reforms, which began in 1868. He abolished flogging, which raised the status of the ordinary soldier to something resembling an honourable career, abolished "bounty money" for recruits, discharged known bad characters from the ranks and pulled 20,000 soldiers out of self-governing colonies like Canada, which learned they had to help defend themselves.

The most radical change, and one that required Gladstone's political muscle, was to abolish the system of officers obtaining commissions and promotions by purchase, rather than by merit. (British officers were expected to be gentlemen and sportsmen, and it wasn’t considered a problem if they had no military knowledge or leadership skills.)

The bill to scrap the system passed the Commons in 1871 but was, of course, blocked by the House of Lords on principle. When Gladstone threatened to withdraw the offer of compensation he had made, for commissions that could no longer be sold on, the Lords backtracked and approved the original bill.

Cardwell also rearranged the war department. He made the office of Secretary of State for War superior to the Army's Commander in Chief (His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, an opponent of the reforms.) The surveyor-general of the ordnance, and the financial secretary became key department heads reporting to the Secretary. The militia was reformed as well and integrated into the Army. The term of enlistment was reduced to 6 years, so there was more turnover and a larger pool of trained reservists. The territorial system of recruiting for regiments was standardised and adjusted to the current population. Cardwell reduced the Army budget yet increased the strength of the army by 25 battalions, 156 field guns, and abundant stores, while the reserves available for foreign service had been raised tenfold from 3,500 to 36,000 men.

This is a neat ink signature on a 2.75" x 1.75" slip of paper. One light central vertical fold but otherwise in good condition.