The first subject which occupied the attention of the American-born prime minister of Bavaria was the condition of the army. There were three reasons for this early consideration of the state of the army. In the first place, the condition of the continent of Europe at the time rendered the state of the defensive force a matter of extreme importance to so critically situated a state as Bavaria; in the second place, Thompson's own tastes inclined him to take an interest in military matters and lastly, in a despotic state, where a little physical force might be necessary to compel the people to adopt good sanitary or other regulations, the army was the natural instrument to be employed in all such reforms, and to render this instrument efficient was but to begin at the right end.
Omitting all the miscellaneous improvements of a minor or mechanical nature which were effected by Thompson in matters connected with milita ry service - as, for instance, in the construction of cannon, in the uniform of the soldiers, their drill, &c. - let us attend to the moral principle which ruled all his proceedings with regard to the organization of the army. I have endeavored,' he says, 'in all my operations, to unite the interest of the soldier with the interest Of civil society, and to render the military force even in time of peace, subservient to the public good. To facilitate and promote these important objects, to establish a respectable standing army, which should do the least possible harm to the population, morals, manufactures, and agriculture of the country, it was necessary to make soldiers citizens, and citizens soldiers.' To this principle, or at least to the precise form in which it is here stated, different persons will make different objections, according as their sympathies are civil or military; but Rumford's general view, that soldiers should be treated as men, cannot be excepted against. The army being essentially the offspring of an age of physical force, it is certainly difficult to organize it conformably to the spirit of an age which repudiates physical force. To do this - in other words, to make the army, as such, a moral agent - is impossible; but it is quite possible to render a large general culture, and much individual freedom, compatible with strict discipline; and at all events, the modern maxim is, that the army is a part of society, employed, it is true, in services of a peculiar nature, which require a peculiar organization, but not on that account cut off from the general mass of the community. Such was the maxim of the Bavarian minister. Besides what he did to increase the physical comfort of the soldier by superior food, clothing and accomodation, he adopted means for the intellectual and moral improvement of all connected with the military service. Schools were established in all the regiments for instructing the soldiers and their children in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Besides these schools of instruction, others, called Schools of Industry, were established in the regiments, where the soldiers and their children were taught various kinds of work, and from whence they were supplied with raw materials to work for their own emolument.
As nothing is so certainly fatal to morals as habitual idleness, every possible means was adopted that could be devised to introduce a spirit of industry among the troops. Every encouragement was given to the soldiers to employ their leisure time when they were off duty in working for their own emolument; and among other encouragements, the most efficacious of all, that of allowing them full liberty to dispose of the money acquired by their labor in any way they should think proper, without being obliged to give any account of it to anybody.' Besides working at their various trades for such as chose to employ them, the soldiers were employed as laborers 'in all public works, such as making and repairing highways, draining marshes, repairing the banks of rivers, &c.; and in all such cases the greatest care was taken to provide for their comfortable subsistence, and even for their amusement. To preserve good order and harmony among those who were detached upon these working parties, a certain proportion of officers and non-commissioned officers were always sent with them, and these commonly served as overseers of the works, and as such were paid.'