An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702

By Roger B. Manning | Go to book overview

17
Conclusion: military professionalism

No profession in the world is more built on true reason and sound judgment
than the military is, for both of those are essentially requisite to generals and
the chief officers under them.

Roger Boyle, 1st earl of Orrery, A Treatise of
the Art of War
(1677), sig. B1r.

The same spirit that brings us into the army, should make us apply ourselves
to the study of the military art, the common forms of which may be easily
attained by a moderate application as well as capacity. Neither is it below any
military man, let his birth be ever so noble, to be knowing in the minute parts
of the service. It will not cramp his genius (as some have pleased to say, in
order, as I suppose, to excuse their own ignorance) but rather aid and assist
them in daring enterprises.

Humphrey Bland, A Treatise of Military Discipline (1727), 115.

The expertise of military officers is directed towards the management of violence in as rational and disciplined a manner as possible. In order to do this effectively, they must keep a cool head under fire, so it was not inappropriate that, during time of war, officers were still recruited from the ranks of gentlemen volunteers.1 Commissions were also given to those who could recruit a company or a regiment, provided that they were gentlemen and could deliver their units to the battlefield clothed and equipped. Battlefield commissions and promotions were becoming more rare in the armies of the Three Kingdoms as the practice of purchasing commissions spread in times of relative peace. Monarchs such as William II and III and Queen Anne disapproved of the purchase system, but the English Parliament, which insisted upon joint control of armies raised in England and Ireland, thought that the system helped to weed out mercenaries and to ensure political loyalty and stability, which certainly were important considerations in the late seventeenth century. Some observers believed that the existence of the purchase system for commissions discouraged the acquisition of a high degree of military expertise based upon scientific study. There were a number of proposals for the

1 Manning, Swordsmen, ch. 4.

-430-

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