Letter from William Roger Paton to Thomas Hardy, 9 February 1899

[Page 1] W.R. Paton (horses in war)


via Smyrna


My dear Sir

I am glad to see that you have taken up the cause of the horses. It[s] has always seemed to me that the use of horses in war is a thing that cannot long be maintained in view of the growing sympathy with the dumb animals – one of the best fruits of modern civilization. It is no whit less barbarous than their use in bull-fights, a thing con­demned by all persons of right feeling & [gap: deleted] only supported by those whom every person of right feeling recognises to be modern savages. Of course, as you say, the poor brutes do not know what they die for, as it is the privilege of the soldier to know.

Numbers of shallow-minded people [w]^-^ people too who love horses – would say that they ^the horses^ enjoy a charge. They enjoy it of course the excitement & the rivalry in the race up to the moment when they are shot, but they don't enjoy their death, agony.

I admire the Czar, but I should have admired him more if he had suggested the abolition of cavalry. I scarcely suppose [Page 2] that this reform is in the near future; but, as you say, the development of the mechanism of war may enforce it, before a senti­ment, which may seem now to many maudlin, but which must continue to grow, enforces it. This sentiment has still in antagonism to it the sentiment of the middle ages which descends to us o^w^ith the words "knight" & chivalrous; it has in antagonism to it the sentiment created by the glorious exploits of caval­ry in war. This latterThese antagonistic sentiments should be tempered by the reflection that the names of the heroic ^war-^ horses do not ^usually^ survive like the names of renowned racers, whose success puts money in the pockets of their owners & backers. How few do survive – [Buce's] Achilles' horses & Bucephalus & Brigliador & Marbot's Lisette. So that even if the horses have some obscure sense of sacrifice for fame, this is not satisfied. As a fact I think they have none & are simply butchered But crack ^to propose^ to disestablish crack cavalry regiments is still beyond the daring of the Czar

yours obediently

W. R. Paton