HC Deb 14 December 1803 vol 1 cc334-53

On the order of the day being read, that this bill be read a third time,

Mr. Windham

said, he was much grieved, that by not being present in the House the night before, he had lost the opportunity of offering some suggestions, which would, he conceived, materially have improved the bill. He did not expect that the Report would have been brought up before this day, and as it was competent to offer any improvements that occurred, upon the report, he had been, less anxious to attend in his place yesterday. It was true, that Reports were, in cases of urgency, immediately received: but this was not a case of urgency; and the present ministers ought to have known more than any other men the propriety of leaving every measure before the House for as long a time as possible. The very bill which they now pressed forward so unnecessarily, arose from, that hasty spirit of legislation which left in every act doubts and ambiguities requiring further acts to remove them. The hon. gentlemen seemed particularly prone to this course of proceeding. They were fond of driving to an inch, of running every thing to the last moment. The consequence was, as it necessarily must be, that being obliged to act in a hurry, whatever they did was crude, ill considered, and full of mistakes. There were two modes, Dr. Johnson had observed, of composition; one in which the several parts received from the writer, before they issued from his mind, all the perfection which he hoped to give to them; the other, in which they were committed to paper in the first instance to be improved by subsequent correction. The hon. gentlemen, by the circumstances in which they placed themselves so constantly, seemed to prefer the latter of these modes. They threw down their first loose thoughts in an act of Parliament, trusting to future consideration and experience to bring them to something of a better shape. An act of Parliament wa3 their foul copy, in which it did not signify how many faults there were, as the Legislature would be able afterwards to set them right. Their preference to this mode was founded, he supposed, upon the observation of the poet, that poets Lost half the praise they should have got, Were it but known, what they discreetly blot. The hon. gentlemen did not choose to lose this praise. They chose to compose in public; and to have full credit both for their first conceptions, and for the successive improvements which changed them often to something utterly unlike what they had been originally. Though by this course of proceeding of the hon. gentlemen in the present instance, fee had lost the opportunity of suggesting his amendment in a stage when it might have been received, he should nevertheless mention it, with a view to occasions, when the volunteer system might be again under discussion. It was in fact, however, no more than what he had already urged on more occasions than one, viz. the putting a stop to exemptions with respect to those who should enter into volunteer corps in future. To abolish those already subsisting was, he was aware, difficult, and might perhaps be impossible. Certainly it ought not to be attempted, if it could not be put upon a footing to make it consistent with good faith. But the granting such exemptions in future, and continuing by design what had got a place in the system only by chance and against the intention of its authors, was a proceeding for which no rational motive could be assigned, and which he could not hear without great surprise as well as concern, was to make part of the present hill. What he had further to object being of 2 sort, which could not have been corrected by an amendment or clause was as proper (or more proper), to be urged on that day as on the day before. It was an objection to the whole system. While the right of exemption produced the effect on the one hand of defrauding the army, the army of reserve and the militia, by contracting the population, from which they were to be supplied, it oppressed the whole country, and particularly the lower orders, to a degree the most grievous, and by means the most intolerable that were ever admitted deliberately, into the institutions of any state. Where did any one ever hear, except as matter of complaint and reprobation, of a power such as that vested in the leaders of volunteer corps, whether one or many, of deciding arbitrarily and without appeal, who should or should not be liable to a ballot, the effects of which would be to the persons on whom it might fall, a fine of 40 or 50 guineas? These were sums which to the bulk of those who might be liable to them, would be nothing less than absolute ruin; at the same time that it might be equally ruin to them to quit their trades and their families and to engage for a service of five years, as soldiers. Such a power lodged in the hands of a commandant where the constitution of the corps was monarchical, or in a committee or sub-committee, where its form was republican or democratical, would rank here after for oppression or abuse, with any of those most famous in history—with the dispensing power or powers of granting indulgences. It was not that this power was applied abusively or oppressively, in many or perhaps in any instances, at present; but it could hardly fail to be so in the end, and in the mean-while must be considered as one wholly out of the course of all ordinary proceedings, and for which it was hardly possible to find a fit depositary. Such a power must however somewhere exist, supposing the privilege of exemption to continue: for it was impossible to imagine, that every one could be allowed to enter into a volunteer corps that pleased: and he or they, who had the power of admission or rejection, must possess the power here spoken of, improper and unsafe as that power might be. The only remedy was, either to abolish exemptions, or to abolish volunteer corp9. It seemed hardly possible to correct the evil by regulation. Nor was it to be conceived, that such evil had now become small, because the greater part of the militia and army of reserve were raised, and ballots of consequence to the same extent were no longer wanted. To the same extent they: certainly would not be wanted; but it must be considered at the same time, that they would have to operate upon diminished numbers: so that to supply and maintain the-present force, that is to say, to make good what was then wanting, and afterwards to maintain the whole (for which latter purpose too, as was obvious, more would be required the larger was the force already raised), would render these ballots perhaps not much less burthensome than they bad been at any preceding period.—So much as to the oppression of this system, armed as it was. with a power such as he had described, which the present bill both confirmed and' extended, and which it seemed extremely difficult to take away. Its injurious effect on all the other species of force he must still' maintain, notwithstanding the specious statements made on the other side. First, as to the fact. Whatever the numbers might be, produced by recruiting during the last seven months, as compared with the produce of an equal number of months during an antecedent period, and however small the proportional dimininution which appeared to have taken place in the latter instance, he must still insist upon some strong and hard facts, namely, that in many regiments the return per month was not more than two, and sometimes not so much: and that in one of the largest recruiting districts, comprising many extensive and not unfavourable counties, the rate of recruiting per month was not more than seven or eight. Now, when this was so, let the gross numbers be what they would, he must contend that recruiting was nearly at a stand, taking the question upon the footing on which it ought to be taken, as a comparison between he supply and consumption, between what was gained to the army in recruits, and what was lost by desertion, death, invaliding, and discharges. But, next, as to the reasoning. Proportion, which the hon. gentlemen dwelt so much upon, that is to say, the proportionate abatement in the numbers at that time recruited, compared with those recruited in equal periods formerly, was not that on which the question properly turned. Proportion in abstract quantities had place among the smallest as perfectly as among the greatest. If the hon. gentlemen had a mind to be very deeply learned, they might tell us of the proportion of one nothing to another nothing and such a consideration would be very far from inapplicable to much of their recruiting. But in common concerns they must apply to proportion, what is said of law, de minimis non curat lex. If a regiment, which formerly recruited three a month, now recruited two, you were not obliged to say, that recruiting in that regiment had declined one-third, nor on the other hand could you be entitled to say, that it had declined one-third. Such variations would happen by chance, and by a law consequently wholly different from that of proportion. No conclusion, therefore, could be drawn from such instances separately considered: and if a judgment? were to be formed, as it ought to be, from the whole state of facts taken together, it would be the very reverse of that meant to be established by the hon. gentlemen; who, instead of saying the recruiting during the existence of these causes, (viz the immense bounties; the great extent of the militia force; the 400,000 men locked up as volunteers, &c. has been so and so; therefore these causes have not operated to its disadvantage, ought to say, the recruiting being what it is, notwithstanding the operation of these causes, which must have acted so powerfully against it, what would ii not have been, had these been removed, and other new causes, which must be presumed to have arisen, have been left to produce their natural effect? This he must contend was the legitimate conclusion. It was not in the nature of things, that causes such as he had enumerated, and were obvious to every one's observation, must not have some effect in checking the progress of recruiting. To take only one; could any man in his senses suppose, that with fifty guineas offered for service in the army of reserve, men would go on to enter for the line, at a bounty of five or ten, in the same manner as if no such competition existed? If the recruiting, therefore, kept up to nearly its former amount, as was contended by the hon. gentlemen, there must have been something to counteract the effect of these impediments; and this something it was not difficult to find. It was a state of war; it was the threat of invasion; it was the stimulus of the compulsory service; the discharge of numbers of workmen in consequence of temporary checks to trade; the general military spirit, that filled and animated every part of the country. These circumstances were of force sufficient to uphold, to a certain degree, the recruiting service, even in spite of the causes which tended to depress and to annihilate it. How far might they not have carried it, had there been nothing on the other side to counteract their effects?—The objection, therefore, to the volunteer system as contributing with other causes, to destroy the recruiting of the army, continued in full force, even admitting the statements of the hon. gentlemen; and he must continue to urge these objections, even though he should be asked, as he was the other night, why he would persist in decrying a system, which, whether right or wrong, was now fixed and incapable of being altered. His answer was, that it was not fixed, but must, on the contrary, and infallibly would, and that, at no distant period, come again under revision; and that it was with a view to that period, that these observations were made; that the defects of this system were such as would never suffer it to go on long as it was; and that, if other causes were wanting, the very failure of its funds must soon bring it again before Parliament. Unless Parliament greased the wheels the machine must soon stand still. He wished, therefore, that before that time, gentlemen would be prepared with their opinions on the several parts of the measure; would consider how far the objections were valid; how far the parts objected to might be corrected or got rid of; and, failing of that, whether the whole system would not require to be new cast, and in great degree, possibly, to be done away.

Mr. Hiley Addington.

—sir the right hon. gent who just sat down seems very desirous of having the last word on the subject new before the House. I hope, however, shall I be permitted to express for the first, and perhaps the last time, my sentiments upon it. There are many points of the right hon. gentleman's speech on which I wish to make a few observations. The right hon. gent, and his associates in speaking of the volunteers, always ground what they say on a solitary instance. In the course of his speech, the right hon. gent, stated, that the subscriptions which have been raised to pay the expense of the formation of the corps of; volunteers would soon be exhausted, and that then they will be obliged to call on government to give them assistance for their future maintenance. Nothing can be more futile than this observation. In the first place, I conceive shat the right hon. gent, is completely misinformed in supposing, that subscriptions of the nature which he mentioned are raised at ail for the formation of corps of volunteers. I believe that there are many instances to the contrary; and I can assure the House, as one instance, that, towards the formation of a large corps which I have the honour and the happiness to command, there has been no subscription at all. The men were actually clothed out of the allowance made by government, with a very inconsiderable addition; and I feel a pride in stating, that not the smallest objection has been made by one individual to clothing of that description. It was not cloth at forty shillings a yard, to be sure, but the corps was extremely contented, and were not quite of an unsoldier-like appearance. Where there have been subscriptions, I conceive that they were directed principally to this object, and I am therefore at a loss to conceive how government need apprehend, even in the most distant perspective, that any call will be made on the public purse to afford any assistance, especially as it was generally understood that the clothing was to last three years.—The right hon. gentleman has asserted, that no less a bounty than 50l per man has been given to substitutes for die army of reserve. Gentlemen en the other skis: of the House were fond of adverting to the solitary instance of the metropolis. To that fact I cannot speak; but I can assert, from my own knowledge, that in she county in which I reside, the price of a substitute is never more than 25 guineas, some times 20, and die average is 22—In the same way, the right hon. gent, has argued on the argued on the committees. A solitary instance was stated on a former night, of a corps being governed by a committee. Ab uno disce omnes, is hardly a fair way of judging, I have seen many corps of volun- teers, and have heard of more, but I know of no such regulations. The system is a bad one; nothing should induce me to hold any commission in such a corps, or to have any thing to do with it, It is an unfair mode of arguing, to infer, that because there was one solitary instance, it must be the general description of volunteer corps. I have, indeed, read such arguments of late, but I little expected to have heard them urged by gentlemen of enlightened understandings.—As to the injury done to the recruiting service, that point has been completely answered by the statement of the Secretary at War., and by other gentlemen. Facts cannot be done away by the loose and vague opinions of individuals. They are so unanswerable, that I shall not dwell on this objection.—I mean nothing offensive to the right hon. gent, in what I am going to add: but I must; once for all express my grief and my astonishment, that the right hon. gent, should have adopted, and now persevere in a course of language, disparaging, discountenancing, and discrediting a description of men, on whose services the safety of the country not a little depends. The right hon. gent, perhaps, despises popularity; I am nevertheless astonished that, without any adequate reason, he should set himself in opposition to the universal voice. But I will tell that right hon. gent, that every corner of the kingdom echoes its reprobation of the language which he has held since the meeting of Parliament, People cannot comprehend, posterity will scarcely believe, that in a moment of danger so unparalleled, one individual could be found, who would gravely assert, that 400,000 Britons in arms were not I only doing no good, but were even injurious to the interests and defence of the country.; Is the right hon. gent, so grossly ignorant of ancient and modern history, as not to know; what glorious exploits have been performed by the patriotic and voluntary energy of men like our volunteers? Such examples will not be lost, I am confident, on my countrymen If real danger should present itself, what may not be expected from men, animated with one spirit, fired with an unexampled unanimity, to lake arms in defence of a monarch whom they love, of a constitution which they revere, of an independence which they cherish, and for the protection of every thing that can be valuable and precious to them as men and as Englishmen.

Mr. Windham,

in explanation, observed, that he had never said that 400,000 men in arms would be of no use.

Mr. Alderman Pries,

in order to set the right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) right as to the subscriptions which were set on foot in the metropolis, thought it his duty to state, that the object of these subscriptions was to defray those charges for which the corps were not entitled to call upon government, and the sums subscribed were to such an amount, that they could not be expended for years; neither was it an idea with these volunteers, that they were only to be shewn to the enemy in their red coats; they exercised and manœuvred almost every day in all the evolutions necessary for a regular army. As to the committee, they only managed the money: they never interfered with the discipline of the men. He wished that adjutants should be added to the corps, but not field officers. As a proof that this was the general wish many of the corps had already procured adjutants, and settled on them an adequate income. They were, in fact, in every respect effective soldiers, and ready to act as such wherever the appearance of the enemy required. As to the bounties for the army of reserve, 26 guineas was the highest sum given in the metropolis. Before he sat down, he should just ask the Sec. at War, why the marine and river fencibles were not noticed in the return of the volunteer corps? Was it from their being a force of an extraordinary description, which could not exactly be classed with the others.

Mr. Secretary Yorke

had not inquired into the reason of the omission alluded to by the worthy alderman; but he supposed it was because the corps mentioned by him were not understood to be of the description to which the return was to apply. Probably they were understood to belong to the Admiralty.

Colonel Craufurd

complained that his right hon. friend below (Mr. Windham) had been grossly misrepresented. He did not think that 4OO,000 men could be of no advantage to the country. On the contrary both he and his honourable friend gave the volunteers the highest credit? they only complained of the manner in which they were constituted, and that they had a tendency to starve the regular forces. He expressed his regret that any exemptions had ever been granted. He believed it had been by accidence. It was doubtful whether it was intended, even by ministers themselves, to give these exemptions: for, so late as the 23d of Sept. they had consulted his Majesty's Attorney-General whether they were to be given. If he had himself understood that they were to be given, he would have came down prepared to oppose them. As to the volunteers in general, he was of opinion, that they ought to be carried to the highest perfection of which they were capable, and he was, therefore, sorry, that the suggestion of a right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt), not then in his place, respecting the appointment of field officers had not been adopted. He was sure the volunteers themselves would be happy to have the benefit of the instruction of experienced officers, to enable them to perform their duty in the field,; with honour to themselves, and advantage to their country; if they were really actuated by a spirit of patriotism, as he had no doubt they were, so far from feeling discontented, therefore, at such appointments, I which was urged as the first objection against this useful regulation, there was every reason to conclude that they would be happy at the adoption of it. Another objection, that it would be impossible to procure a sufficient number of officers from the line, would be obviated, when it was considered, that an English regiment of about 800 men, had an establishment of double the number of officers, than a similar battalion of any other European troops. It had been said, that though the volunteer corps would object to field officers, they would have no difficulty in: receiving adjutants; but, it was essential to have the officers instructed as well as the privates, and he was of opinion, that it would be inconsistent with military propriety, that an adjutant, who generally held the rank of lieutenant, should instruct his captains, and even field officers. With respect to the volunteers themselves, what had been said by his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) on the subject, had been so much misconceived in the House, and so much misrepresented out of it, that he felt disposed, as he was on his legs, to set gentlemen right on that head, He had attended to his right hon. friend as much as any hon. member, and he had never heard him say any thing that could warrant an inference, that 400 000 Britons in arms, so far from being of service, would be injurious to the cause in which they were engaged. His right hon. friend was not so little acquainted with the great deeds which history related to have been performed by the sole impulse of spirit, without discipline, and in many instances without arms. The Swiss peasants, impelled by that spirit, had attacked the French army with no other arms than pitch forks. He had himself witnessed with grief the prowess which the Irish peasantry, impelled by a mistaken spirit, had displayed in repeatedly attacking the King's troops with no other weapons than what could be easily put into the hand of every peasant, a pike. There were living those who had seen similar instances of bravery in the Scotch peasants. He was sure that this country, with the spirit inspired by the best of causes, the best of Sovereigns, and a liberty such as no other nation could, boast, would display as much valour LIS any other country at any other time. Could it then be supposed, that any roan would venture to assert that 400,000 Britons, in such a cause, with whatever gallantry they may attack an enemy's forces, could do no service? All that his right hon. friend contended was, that they would not be so effective, and, though history furnished us with examples of great victories gained by undisciplined troops, there was no doubt that disciplined troops were the best. When we trusted to the army, we trusted to an array which was tried, and which had proved itself in every war, and in no war more than in the last, equal (for he would not flatter the British army by saying superior) to the French. He had heard the French army abused as a set of conscripts dragged into the service. These conscripts, by whatever means they were brought together, formed as good an army as any in Europe, and such an enemy the volunteers should expect to meet in them, animated by as high an enthusiasm as theirs, though not of so good a nature.

Sir William Young

stated, that he was particularly anxious, as this would most likely be the last time he should have an opportunity, of declaring that there were two descriptions of volunteers, and that the exemptions adopted in regard to those two descriptions ought to be extremely different. This was a point, he thought, essential to the interest of the country. A strong line of demarcation ought to be made. He had looked into the acts of Parliament on the subject of the volunteer exemptions, and he found that he was borne out in what he then asserted, that the volunteers under the 42d of the King, were of a different class in the eye of the legislature from the present volunteers, who bad no regulation but that of the 43d of the King. The latter were a very large body of men, by whose exemption the great mass of the population of the country was greatly affected; they impeded very much indeed the progress of the army of reserve, for three-fourths of them were of the first class of the Defence Act, unmarried mm under the age of thirty: this was a serious matter: they ought not to have these exemptions, for it was greatly inconvenient to the country. As to the volunteers under the 42d of the King, who were the only tree volunteers, in the proper sense of the. word, for they came forward without any view of exemption; they were justly entitled to every exemption; they were in number from 69,000 to 70,000, and they were a body of men, on whom the country need not less rely for patriotism than for discipline; but the other great body which had been lately raised, and had entered, was not so properly called a body of volunteers, although that name had been given to them. They were not at first to have been exempted, either from the militia or the army of reserve: by the act of the 17th of July, no intention was expressed of exempting any of them either from the militia, army of reserve, or oilier service; but on the 11th of August, when many gentlemen had gone into the country in hopes of serving it as essentially as they could by attending that House, a clause crept into a bill for regulating the volunteer cavalry, by which all this immense body of men were exempted from all other services, as it was now to be interpreted by the present bill, but which could hardly have been then so intended, as indeed was to be gathered by the very necessity there was now of explaining that act. This was a matter worthy the serious attention of the House at some future period. By these 300,000 men being thus entitled to exemption from the militia and the army of reserve, and three-fourths of them being of the first class of requisition under the Defence Act, being unmarried men under the age of thirty, this threw all the ballots almost upon men who had families, and they wishing to remain with and provide for them, of course became eager for substitutes, so that a great competition arose among them, and the effect was the bounty for substitutes became enormous. These were matters to be considered gravely; not that he wished cur military strength to be; diminished by any means; no, we must continue that strength while the affairs of Europe wore their present aspect. It was no matter to us whether Buonaparté existed or not, while France was the military nation she was, we must bear a relative proportion to that military power. He admitted, however, that no addition ought to be made to the condition of any man who entered into his military service that would be a breach of faith—The hon. baronet then took up the subject of popularity, as stated by Mr. Hiley Addington, and said, that his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) could never be, unpopular among those who knew how to value a man versed in ancient, and intimately acquainted with every branch of modern learning, who knew how to esteem private worth and public virtue. As to the "gross ignorance" which the right hon. gent. had thought proper to apply to his light hon. friend, he was astonished, and he believed that every member present was also astonished, that it should ever have entered into the head of that gentleman to make an insinuation of so extravagant a nature.—He concluded by insisting on the distinction which he had taken between the two classes of volunteers, those of the 42d, arid those of the 43d of the King; the first he thought entitled to ail exemptions, the other to none.

Colonel Calcraft,

in answer to what had fallen from the worthy Alderman (Price), thought that the facility of recruiting in provincial districts, as compared with the difficulty staled to exist in London, did not arise from the cause stated by (he worthy alderman, namely, the giving of higher bounties in the former than in the latter, but from the circumstance of a vast number or working artisans being dismissed from their employment at. Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, and various other manufacturing towns, as the returns from those towns would prove. These men, when they were unemployed, and saw no chance of being reinstated, immediately formed the idea of enlisting in the line or militia; and instead of going from town to town to look for higher bounties, repaired to the next town where they could be received; and this would account for the difference of facility in raising recruits in the country. With respect to the volunteers themselves, as lie had not had an opportunity of speaking his sentiments, he wished to say a few words. It had been pretty much the fashion to charge a right hon. gent, near him (Mr. Windham) with disparaging those corps, as utterly useless and unfit for service. He, for one, never conceived the arguments of that right hen. gent, in that view, but merely as meaning that his Majesty's ministers did not use the military population of the country in the way which he thought most efficient. For his own part, however, he felt no disposition to undervalue the services of the volunteers; on the contrary, he thought they would be rendered highly serviceable and efficient for the defence of the country. As to discipline, however, as compared with troops of the line, or established militia, that was out of the question. The nature of the service, and the opportunities that had occurred for training the volunteers, admitted of no comparison with the other troops, In aid of those troops, however, he thought they would form an important branch of the pub- lic force; and he thought that as that service must depend chiefly on the high spirit and good will of the corps, a liberal conduct from those who were to direct their operations should be observed, and that government should not be over nice or strict in the minuter details of their discipline.

Mr. Secretary Yorke

suggested to the hon. baronet (Sir W. Young) who spoke last but one, to read and consider the act of the 42d of his Majesty, as he seemed not to be aware of its provisions. Referring to the remark of the last speaker, which would imply some; want of patriotism and public spirit in London, he had to observe, that from one instance which came within his own knowledge, that insinuation would not appear to apply. When he was Secretary at War, an otter was made to him by the Drapers' Company of London, immediately after the commencement of the war, to raise 200 or 30O men for the public service, to be attached to any regiment of the line which government might think proper. This proposal he submitted to the consideration of H R. H. the Duke of York and General Hewit, and it was the opinion of those high authorities, that it would be imprudent to accede to it, for this reason, that it was found that this respectable and wealthy company had not the means, through their own influence and connexions, to raise the number of men specified: and that the probability was, they would offer such high bounties as would interfere with, and do much injury lo, the ordinary course of recruiting for the regular army. This instance he mentioned merely as an answer lo the statement, that the City of London was not sufficiently forward to contribute to the public defence: and he had no doubt, had the offer he described been accepted, that many others of a similar nature; would have been made.

Mr. Giles

wished to know, whether the proportion of the army of reserve, which London was to furnish, was yet complete?

Mr Secretary Yorke

stated, that there was a deficiency in the city quota, as well as in that of Middlesex; but that such deficiencies arose, not from the tardiness of those with whom the duty of providing the men rested, but from the frequency of desertion, which took place to a greater extent in this city than in any other district; and this be conceived it impossible to prevent. It arose from the nature of our police, any change in which, however, he could never persuade himself to propose or to meditate.

Mr. Giles

argued, that from the reading of the Volunteer Act, the distinction taken by the hon. baronet (Sir W. Young) was unfounded. This act described only two descriptions of service, namely, volunteers and voluntary services; and the fact was that not one of the latter description was entitled to exemptions. The hon. baronet had been also erroneous in stating, that the prospect of exemption from the militia and the army of reserve influenced the volunteers; in contradiction to that assertion, he had to mention a fact which he knew, in consequence of the situation which he held as one of the deputy-lieutenants of Hertfordshire, namely, that the number of volunteers accepter in that county was 2800, and the number who offered for voluntary, services were 6.600. The latter were not entitled to, nor did they ever look for exemptions; though the hon. baronet had stated generally, that almost all the men in the country, capable of military service, were locked up in the volunteers; and that of course the exemptions were so extensive, that it would be found quite impossible to provide recruits for the regular army. Upon inquiry he had no doubt that such circumstances as he had described in Hertfordshire, would be met with generally throughout the kingdom.

Sir William Young

said, that his meaning was misconceived by the hon. member who spoke last.

Dr. Laurence

rose, and, in a speech of considerable length, took a general view, as well of the volunteer system, as of the conduct of his Majesty's ministers, in adopting that system, going over nearly the same ground which had been traced, both on this and on former nights, by Mr. "Windham, and by the learned doctor himself. It. had been the fashion, he said, for his Majesty's ministers and their supporters, to endeavour to calumniate, and run down the characters of those men who have the honesty and the boldness to deliver their candid sentiments in that House, in opposition to the measures of ministers, which, they conceived to be impolitic; regardless of that temporary popularity which ministers were so anxious to obtain from gratifying the whim of the moment without looking to future results. Of this illiberal disposition too many instances had been given with respect to the conduct of his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham), the purity of whose motives no man could question, and the ability of whose; mind even his adversaries were forced to; acknowledge; but yet he was the subject of much undeserved censure, and extremely culpable misrepresentation. The latter, some persons out of doors seemed encouraged to promote; and the effect of that misrepresentation in the circles of the minister's friends, was quoted in that House as an objection to his right hon. friend's opinion A right hon. gent, on the other side of the House, whom he did not now see in his place (Mr. H. Addington), had this night stated, in a very confident tone, that his right hon. friend was unpopular; he had expressed his astonishment at the sedulous perseverance of his right hon. friend, in reprobating the volunteers, and asserted that every corner of the country echoed with censure, disapprobation, and disgust, at the conduct of his rt. hon. friend. What, he would ask, was the cry of unpopularity, even if it attached to a particular course of policy, to weigh with the mind of an enlightened statesman, to urge him to the abandonment of that course, against the conviction of his own judgment The idea was too ridiculous to be entertained. No sound politician could support it. That popularity was highly desirable, was an indisputable proposition, because it was, independently of other considerations, a powerful instrument for a politician to work with; and, whatever the advocates of ministers might assert or insinuate, he would contend, that his right hon. friend did possess a very high degree of popularity, which was particularly owing to his opposition to the volunteer system. This fact he knew from his acquaintance with the sentiments of the people throughout the country, and particularly those of the more intelligent description. He said he was himself present when a large company, consisting principally of the friends of administration, drank that gentleman's health, and made him the bearer of a complimentary message to him, for the part he had taken with regard to this subject. The learned member observed, that the company he alluded to was composed of men whose talents and characters were such as to entitle their opinion to respect—men to be esteemed by whom was indeed a flattering evidence of the popularity which his right hon. friend enjoyed; and he could not help saying, that any people who could condemn the motives which manifestly actuated his right hon. friend, or who could not respect the line of public conduct which he had pursued, were incapable of understanding their own interests, were scarcely worthy to be served. Yet, however much he regarded public opinion, however much he respected popularity, he must observe, that too much was generally said in that House about following the sentiments of the people, for if the people were always to be followed, for what purpose were some persons, selected to lead? No national man would wish to render himself obnoxious to the people, but yet no intelligent and dignified statesman would shrink from his purpose from fear of popularity, for it was notorious that the people were too apt to consult their immediate ease, and but seldom to look to future interests, however important they might be. Ministers, if they were wise, should rather encourage than attempt to depreciate an opposition, from which they might obtain he most useful advice. In many cases, indeed, they had acted upon advice derived from that quarter, although so forward to traduce its consequence, at the time it was offered. Ministers were told by his right hon. friend, that if the dangers of the country were fully made known, the spirit of the people would be found ready to meet it, and this appeared from the result; but the complaint of his right hon. friend now was, that that spirit was ill directed, that the Slower of the military strength of the country was locked up in the volunteer system, and that the volunteers were governed by committees which were likely to become the focus of democracy. That such committees did exist was a fact quite notorious, arid that six privates had, from their institution, the power of governing a whole corps, officers included, and or arranging every thing connected with its internal conduct, enforcing the attendance members, infliction of fines, &c—With respect to the allusions made to the amount of the bounties given to the substitutes for the Army of Reserve, he could say from his own knowledge, that not less than 50£0 guineas were offered for substitutes in Middlesex. A man was known to hold a paper, pasted on the top of a pole, at Charing Cross, with an inscription of "50 guineas for a substitute;" and his hon. friend had said, that 100 guineas had been advertised for two substitutes at the Market Place of Norwich. To prove the enormous bounties offered, in contradiction to the statement of an hon. gen. on the opposite side of the House, he could quote many other instances, but it was unnecessary, and would only serve to prolong the debate—The learned member concluded with accusing ministers of running away from their duty, and declaring that he should always feel proud of having acted with his right hon. friend, in opposition to their system, whatever animadversion might be made upon him in that House or whatever calumnies might be propagated respecting him out of doors, because he was equally satisfied of she purity of his right hon. friend's motives, and the profound wisdom of his political conceptions.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

began by saying, that the learned member had concluded with a very heavy charge, indeed upon his Majesty's ministers, namely, that they had deserted their duties and had given encouragement to a spirit of culumny; but, to whom the charge of dealing in groundless slander and detraction most properly applied, he would leave it to the House and the public to judge. of the duty of a member of Parliament be was fully aware; and no man re peeled that duty more than he did. He. knew that, consistently with that duty, every member of that House was bound to examine, and entitled to state fully, his opinion upon every public measure. He should be sorry to see that disposition damped by any fear of animadversion, or that the exercise of such an important right should become the subject of calumny. He admitted fully that a statesman should prefer the interests of the people to every other consideration, and that unpopularity should not restrain him from pursuing the course of measures which his judgment prescribed, For popularity, properly understood, he professed the highest respect, and should always feel a proper sollicitude; but, that ministers had ever betrayed any idle, vain wish for popularity in the system they had acted upon, as had been insinuated, he most pointedly denied. To what part of their conduct could the charge of endeavouring to court the people, be applied? Was it to be detected in their financial arrangements? Wash in the quantity of taxes they had imposed en the country? It would be recollected, on this point, that immediately after the conclusion of the last peace, an addition was made to that public taxes, which was equal to half the amount of the whole interest on the national debt, previous to the war which that peace terminated, and at the commencement of the present war, a further addition was made of twelve millions. From this it appeared that no less than millions were added to the taxation of the country within the short space of 14 months. That is, not less than seven millions more than the whole interest of the national debt previous to the commencement of the last war. The financial proceedings, therefore, of ministers could not be said to manifest any very strong disposition to conciliate popular favour; and could that disposition be seen in their conduct with respect to the military and naval departments? Did their keeping up 50,000 seamen during peace, together with a large military establishment, imply an extraordinary desire for popularity? In a word, did not every measure of ministers carry with it the determination to provide for the honour, the interests, and the safety of the country? He would put it to the candour and common sense of any man, whether, in their proceedings, they were in the least degree influenced by any base, unmanly, dishonourable wish to court popularity, and whether they had in any instance shewn the still mere dishonourable wish to detract from, or calumniate any member for the performance of his duty? For himself and his colleagues lie could say, they despised a practice so illiberal and so vile, and he was equally certain that his right hon. relation (Mr. H. Addington), to whose words some allusion had been made, would contemn any thing like it. The words alluded to, which were merely, that the sentiments which the right, hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) no doubt, thought it his duty to deliver in that House, made a very unfavourable impression abroad; and that his observations upon the volunteers were particularly ill received. No doubt, however, the right hon. gent, felt his conduct justified in his own mind, but yet it was very natural to suppose, that the disposition he had upon ail occasions shown to depreciate the volunteers, would be considered a very ungracious return to them for their patriotic zeal, and for the diligent application of their time to acquire a knowledge of the means necessary to defend their country. That his Majesty's ministers attempted by any means to traduce the character of the right boo gent, was an unfounded accusation; but that they complained of his conduct, was an undoubted fact. They complained of the right hon. gent, and the right hon. gentlemen who acted with him, because they condemned indiscriminately every measure that, they had taken since their accession to his Majesty's confidence. They complained of the right hon. gent because he reprobated their arrangements respecting the militia, though that body was constituted precisely as it existed at the time that right hon. gent, was in office. They complained of him, because he called forth all his efforts to decry the system of the volunteers, although it was no deviation whatever from that which prevailed, when the right hon. gent, was in office: but now it. appears that the right hon. gent, would prefer an armed peasantry. In short, it was, because he airaigned every thing they proposed, that they complained.—The right hon. gent, on the subject of the volunteers, had always argued as if ministers looked to that body as every thing, which they regarded only as an important ingredient in the public force. They felt that it was a principle never to be lost sight of, that our security materially depended on the diversified construction of our national army, and that in a country situated as ours it would be impossible to array in a regular army, any very considerable portion of our population; because it would be inconsistent with their industry and their habits, and injurious to the vital interests of the nation. In addition to the volunteers, we had, it was to be remembered, a regular army and a militia, much, greater than ever existed at any period, that, the right honourable gentleman was in office, and yet, he was heard perpetually to allege the inadequate state of preparation for the defence of the country. Among the singular modes of attack upon ministers, resorted to by the. right hon. gent, and his advocates, it was observable that they uniformy took, the deductions from their own reasoning as facts, and generally relied on them as such. They concluded that at the peace the regular force of the country would be reduced, and therefore that it was reduced; but the fact was, and he had made inquiry to ascertain it, that from the whole of the infantry only 1,500 men had been discharged, of whom 1000 were from the. guards, as being under sized and otherwise unlit for service. The statements of the right hon. gent, were, therefore, as to this point, upon which he and his coadjutors had often dwelt, egregiously exaggerated. Their assertions with respect to the progress which recruiting for the regular army had made since the commencement of the war were equally groundless. For, on the contrary, instead of such recruiting being at a stand, as they alleged, the ""army had obtained 7000 recruits from that army of reserve which that right hon. gent, so strongly condemned; and upon a comparison of the period which elapsed since the war commenced with the same progress of time during the last, peace, it appeared, that more men had been obtained by recruiting within the former period, notwithstanding the competition which ordinary recruiting had to encounter in the high bounties offered for substitutes in the army of reserve, the amount of the militia, and the exemptions granted to volunteers in the one instance, and the solicitude which must have assisted in the other instance to fill up regiments, and the facility of obtain- ing recruits In consequence of the militia being disbanded, amp;c. This consideration would surely be admitted by the right hon. gent, to be a strong proof of activity in the recruiting service, and it must be evident that his apprehensions upon this head-had been quite unfounded; for, upon the whole, it would appear that the regular army had obtained, within the short space of seven months, no less than 15,000 recruits. So much for the outcry raised by the right hon. gent, and his party, as to the slate of our means for the defence of the country, and the exertions which ministers have made, seconded by the wisdom, energy and zeal of Parliament and the people, to give to every department of the public force ample resources to meet the exigences, to avert the dangers of the present crisis, and to oblige the enemy to feel she vanity and wild-ness of the calculations which urged him to occasion that crisis!

Mr. Windham

denied that he ever meant to disparage the volunteers; and said that his remarks upon the reduction of the army previous to the commencement of the war, referred to the disbanding of the foreign corps in our service, which was a proceeding that he would ever condemn.—After a few other remarks from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the bill was read a third time and passed.