Proposal on Reforming the Militia

March 27th, 1829

Private Hamilton 27. March 1829

My Dear Sir!

     Your obliging note relating to Militia affairs has just come to hand.  As soon as I shall be enable to leave the House to which I have been for some time confined by indisposition, I shall consult Colonels McDonald and Burnham upon the subject mentioned.

      I have long been of opinion that a judicious distribution of Arms to the Militia would be of great advantage to the service and am very happy to hear that the Lieutenant_ Governor is about taking measures to obtain that end.

     One of my flank companies has been organized nearly a year; the men have furnished themselves with jackets (red) and caps, and feathers with white trousers, the whole expense of which I am informed does not exceed 30._  Northumberland is one of the finest Militia Companies I ever saw, and you would be surprised to see with what spirit and alacrity they attend to their duty.  I have as yet declined permitting another company to be organized until I should learn the mind of the Lieutenant_Governor upon the subject.

     The most central place for the present (Light) Company to drill is the village of Colborne (Cramahe) and if one should be organized in Murray. The mouth of the River Trent will be the place probably at which they would drill; but if they should drill together Lanfordís Tavern in the lower end of Cramahe will be most  central.

          That every exertion should be made and particularly by commanding officers of Regiments, to render the Militia effective, I am for one fully convinced.  and as fully am I convinced that it is neither Laws nor General orders that will do it.  Spirit and emulation, the very life and soul of the Militia, can grow out of themselves only__they may infused by example but not by coercion__and hence the necessity of getting the Militia from the Commanding officer to the Corporal, in proper hands.         Since this is a private note in answer to a private communication in which you have given me a sort of "Carte blanche" I shall give you my idea upon a few preliminary matters having for their object a partial reform of the old Militia system, which however it might have answered the purpose in days gone by appear to me quite inadequate for Upper Canada at this day, extending as it does so many hundred miles along the frontier of a powerful Republic, intriguing and jealous of Great Britain by "Birthright" you may say__where a constant interchange of people and sentiment will unavoidably tend to assimilate the people in every thing except their laws, and municipal regulations. Now these, whatever might be the intrinsic excellency on either part, must in my opinion keep place with public feeling; and our endeavour should be to shoot ahead of the Americans in a magnanimous and liberal militia system in particular, for upon the good feeling of the militia depends our salvation; and this may easily be preserved seeming that our other laws and institutions are so obviously superior to that of the Americans.

        I should permit all militia officers, belonging to regiments of a certain strength (say 400) where the population was dense, who were of a certain age ( say 40 years) to resign if they should think proper, then I would allow the men of the Battalion Companies to elect from among themselves a certain number not exceeding a certain age , to form a flank company (or give it another name) and would then have it completely understood that all vacancies of either officers or non commissioned officers should be filled up in the Regiments out of this Cadet Company nor should anyone of the Company be promoted unless he produced a certificate from the Commanding officer of the Company stating that he had drilled in the Company _ 12 times say; these men I would clothe and equip in the best possible manner at the expense of the government.

      Now this is a mere outline which I am aware to carry into effect, would require great consideration but it would remove the three greatest evils attending our present militia system.  First old men as officers; favouritism in Commanding officer recommendations for commissions; and the facility with which hundreds who fancy themselves fit for officers evade training; and above all it would give the Province at once a disposable and effective force of the flower of her militia in case of emergency.  The idea, or something similar, however utopian it may at first appear, being, I grant, entirely new, deserves consideration __ It may be deemed impracticable but we would be on sure ground, if the experiment should not succeed it could not by any possibility do any harm, for I should recommend no new law nor general order respecting it, but leave it entirely to itself __ indeed the more apparent difficulty with which the theory should be gradually carried into effect, the better.  Let a Commanding officer whom you might give the hint and select for that purpose, try the experiment and I have no doubt but it would spread and the Governor would very soon have applications from other Regiments, for be it understood that I should never grant the privilege except upon petition from the men to the Governor.  And even the upon mere sufferance.

        Perhaps (with respect to the subject of my applying for arms) there will be no impropriety in my referring His Excellency to my letter of June last __ will you let me know __

I am, Sir your most obedient and humble servant Ruttan?

 Paid        Cobourg

 Paid  3rd April 1829

To: Colonel N. Coffin,  Adj. General Yorke

Source: Believed to be Trent University Archives 71-006

John Huston fonds.  

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