The particular plan, however, which enabled Thompson, while he was improving the personal condition of the soldier, and turning the peace establishment to greater account than before for the general good of the country, at the same time to diminish greatly the expense of its support, was that of permanent garrisons. The whole army was distributed through the various cities of the electorate, each city being garrisoned by troops drawn from the surrounding district. This plan possessed many advantages. A peasant would more readily consent to his son engaging himself to serve as a soldier in a regiment permanently stationed in his neighborhood, than in one at a great distance, or whose destination was uncertain; and when the station of a regiment is permanent, and it receives its recruits from the district of country immediately surrounding its head-quarters, the men who go home on furlough have but a short journey to make, and are easily assembled in case of emergency.' Every encouragement was given to all who could be spared from garrison duty to go home on furlough; an arrangement which was both agreeable to the men - who, during their absence, might be cultivating their little family farms, or otherwise employing themselves at any trade - and economical for the state, because, while the men were on furlough, they received no pay, but only their rations. Thus, while in every garrison town there remained a sufficient nucleus of men to do garrison-duty, and who, while receiving full military pay, were at liberty to earn additional money during their leisure time by extra work, the greater part of the army were distributed through the community, pursuing the ordinary occupations of citizens, but ready to assemble at a few hours' notice, and bound to be in the field at least six weeks every year. The assumed necessity for such a state of military preparation gives one a striking idea of the condition of the continent at this epoch.
Not content with the mere negative achievement of organizing the army, so that t it should do the least possible harm,' Thompson endeavored to make it an instrument of positive good. His plan of permanent garrisons and easy furloughs, by establishing a constant flux of men to and from a centre, suggested the somewhat novel idea of making the army the medium for spreading useful improvements of all kinds through the country. Supposing, for instance, that pains were taken to teach the soldiers in garrison any useful art not then known in Bavaria, but which might be naturalized there, it is obvious that when these men were distributed over the country on furloughs, they would carry with them not only their own superior industrial habits, but the art itself. The improvement of Bavarian agriculture by this means was one of Thompson's most anxious wishes. Very few of the recent improvements in that art, he says, such as the cultivation of clover and turnips, the regular succession of crops, &c., had then found their way into general practice; and, above all, the potato was almost unknown in Bavaria. With a view to introduce a better system of agriculture, and especially with a view to naturalize the potato among the Bavarians, Thompson devised the system of military gardens - that is, 'pieces of ground in or adjoining to the garrison towns, which were regularly laid out, and exclusively appropriated to the use of the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers belonging to the regiments in garrison.' In these gardens every private soldier was assigned a piece of ground, about three hundred and sixty-five square feet in extent. This piece of ground was to remain the sole property of that soldier as long as he served in the regiment: he was to be at liberty to cultivate it in any way, and to dispose of the produce in any way he chose; if, however, he did not choose to work in it, but wished rather to spend his pay in idleness, he might do so but in that case the piece of ground was to be taken from him, and so also if he neglected it. Every means was used to attach the soldiers to their garden labor: seeds and manure were furnished them at a cheap rate whatever instruction was necessary, was given them and little huts or summer-houses were erected in the gardens, to afford them shelter when it rained. 'The effect of the plan,' says Rumford, 'was greater and more important than I could have expected. The soldiers, from being the most indolent of mortals, and from having very little knowledge of gardening, became industrious and skillful cultivators, and grew so fond of vegetables, particularly potatoes, that these useful and wholesome productions began to constitute a very essential part of their daily food. These improvements began also to spread among the farmers and peasants throughout the whole country. There was hardly a soldier that went on furlough that did not carry with him a few potatoes for plantin g , and a little collection of garden seeds; and I have already had the satisfaction to see little gardens here and there making their appearance in different parts of the country.'