Chapter 2

Discipline

by Adam Smith Icon

When everyone went out, there could be no military discipline.

They were all on the same level. Discipline was unnecessary because their common cause was so well discerned. When the highest orders went out, a principle of honour would supply the place of discipline. But when this office fell on the lowest order, the most severe and rigid discipline became necessary.

Accordingly, discipline has been introduced into all standing armies.

Generally, they should be kept under such authority as to be more afraid of their general and officers than of the enemy.

It is the fear of their officers and of the rigid penalties of the martial law, which is the chief cause of their good behaviour. It is to this principle that we owe their valiant actions.

In the recent war, 800 Prussians defended a pass a whole day against several thousands Austrians. At night in their retreat, they deserted almost to a man. What could be the foundation of this courage?

It was not:

  • a principle of honour,
  • love to their country, nor
  • a regard to their officers.

These would still have detained them.

It was the dread of their officers:

  • who were hanging over their heads, and
  • whom they dared not disobey.

This, by the by, shows the governableness of our nature. It also shows how much that manly courage depends on external circumstances.

We may further observe how far this principle of fear may be carried. If a bold, fierce, and tyrannic adjutant is succeeded by a gentler one, the ideas of terror remain with his position. It is some time before he is perceived as not so terrible as the other.

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