Sixty years after the Civil War that saw the beginnings of a regular ‘new Model Army’, Parliament maintained a strict watch on the number and cost of the British Army. It passed an annual ‘Mutiny Act’ which approved its existence and limited its size and cost.
This book, actually by Archibald Hutcheson (1659-1740), MP for Hastings, gives a picture of the British Army in the early years of the reign of King George I, a decade after the Duke of Marlborough’s great victories in the War of the Spanish Succession.
The army comprised about 18,000 men, organised in regiments of horse and foot guards, ‘horse’ (cavalry), ‘foot’ (infantry) and ‘dragoons’ – at that time mounted infantry. Hutcheson’s ‘abstracts’ do not refer to artillery units, because they were not formally part of the army but were controlled by the Ordnance Office.
Much of the book is devoted to counting of the cost of paying officers (who though a minority of the army cost about ten times more per head than ordinary soldiers), and especially of the cost of ‘half-pay’, the pension paid to retired officers.
Because regiments were effectively the private property of their colonels (who made a profit on the pay of notional ‘non-effective’ soldiers) Hutcheson was particularly concerned to document the cost of an army which was much less effective than it appeared, lamenting that £55,000 ‘at least, might have been saved to the Publick’ had the army’s finances been better managed.
Digital Collections | Library (20th May 2020). Abstracts of the number and yearly pay of the land-forces of horse, foot and dragoons in Great Britain for the year 1718 .... In Website Digital Collections | Library. Retrieved 12th Apr 2021 09:09, from https://unsw.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/3073