Mr. Secretary Yorke,
agreeable to his notice on a former day, rose to move for leave to bring in a bill for consolidating and explaining the existing acts for the regulation of the 426 volunteer establishment. The right hon. gent, prefaced his motion by a speech to the following purport: fair, although what maybe conceived to be necessary in opening die measure with winch it is my intention to conclude, might easily be confined within a very small compass, yet as the subject, generally, is one of the greatest interest, and has been the object of long expectation, I hope I shall be indulged by the House in going into considerable detail. I shall preface my remarks, Sir, by expressing a hope, that the subject will be considered with the Utmost coolness and impartiality. When the defence of the country is the matter under discussion, it is not presuming too much to entertain the hope, that party spirit will not enter into our deliberations, that we shall only think of the most effectual means of resisting that enemy who menaces the destruction of all that is dear to us as the inhabitants of a free country. I hope I do not carry my expectation too far, when I express a hope that gentlemen will not shew themselves inclined to increase that clamour which has been raised against the volunteer system, for what reason I know not, by a certain description of persons, who do not wish well to the country, and whose last resource of malignity is to set the government against the volunteers and the volunteers against the government. Against such persons, if such persons exist, I wish more, particularly to guard the volunteers, as the worst enemies of their establishment, and the most dangerous foes of their country, I am anxious also, Sir, that gentlemen should view the volunteer system not only in its defects, its difficulties, or its inconveniencies. It is at least fair to contemplate the system as a whole, and not to hold forth individual instances of difficulty 3iid inconvenience, as arguments against an establishment essentially connected with the safety of the empire at a most perilous ciisis.—On the present occasion it is not my object to intro dace any thing very new, pointed, or extraordinary. From experience it must have been obvious, that measures dictated by temperance and moderation were those winch it was most prudent to adopt and pursue. Whatever are the measures of improvement to be adopted, they must be such as are suggested by imperious necessity, and such as are essential to the correction, not merely of incidental abuses, but of the radical deficiencies of a general system.—Having made these preliminary observations, I will now proceed to the substantial considerations en which my motion is to be founded. Before, however, I go into the detail of the circumstances 427 which prove the necessity of a new bill for the purpose of explaining and amending the laws for the regulation of the volunteer institution, it will net be improper to say a few words respecting the use and purposes of such an institution, the history of its original formation, the actual circumstances in which it is now placed, the inconveniencies which are admitted to exist, and others which, though held cut as inconveniencies, could not be proved such in point of law and of fact. While I enter on these topics, it is of course, at the same lime, my object to point out the remedies which appear most applicable to existing defects, and the improvements which are conceived to be the most adapted to complete the perfection of an establishment at all times useful, but more peculiarly important at a crisis when the fate of the whole empire is involved. These remedies are to be obtained, and these improvements are to be effected, by a very simple process. They are such remedies as depend on the implied prerogative of the sovereign, or they are such improvements as are fully within the reach of the legislature. As to the nature and purposes of the volunteer establishment, it will net be necessary for me to take up much of the time of the House. It is hardly necessary for me to advert to the present situation of the country, to the present enormous aggrandisement of French power, contrasted with the humiliated condition of the rest of the continent of Europe. Even with reference to a defensive system, it will not, I believe, be contended by any gentleman, that a larger additional military force is not necessary than many former period of our history, Great and powerful as our navy now is, it Would be improvident and criminal in the I highest degree, to trust to the exertions of our sailors the defence of the United Kingdom. We have to consider the immensity of coast which was to be guarded. This was an extent of no less than 2 500 miles; and with such a compass of territory to protect, it behaved us to use all those means of protection which were placed in our hands. While I admit that the navy of this country, however powerful and victorious as it has long been, is not adequate to the protection of our coasts against a roost inveterate enemy; it is, at the same time, necessary to declare, that we have not the means of keeping up such a regular army as can at all secure the protection of Great-Britain and Ireland against fie menaced invasion of a most formidable power. In a military point of view, perhaps, the regular force of the country could, tinder particular arrangements, and by the 428 observance of the most rigid economy, be augmented to a certain extent. I do not, however, think, that the regular force, now amounting to about ninety-thousand, could be augmented to any very considerable amount, if any regard was to be paid cither to views of constitutional liberty, or any considerations of financial resources. Deficiencies in our regular military establishment may and will be filled up, bat the augmentation to our regular standing force, cannot be expected to be of such a nature as to weigh much in the scale. At present the militia of Ireland amounted to 18,000, and, during the late war, they were more numerous by nearly 2000. With respect to this part of the national establishment in that part of the United kingdom, I certainly can entertain no wish of any augmentation. On the other hand, a large proportion of the regular army from this country, is necessary for the protection of this part of the empire, against intestine commotion or foreign attack. Under these circumstance, Sir, it became a matter of policy, as well as of necessity, to call on the services of that proportion of the people who were able to carry arms, and submit to the labours of military discipline. These services have been required by the acts passed in the last session of Parliament. The principle of the arts then passed was, that a great proportion of the population should be trained to the the use of arms, and that their discipline should be accomplished at the least possible expense to the state. I need not remind the House that the principle of the volunteer establishment is far from being novel in its nature. It was a principle first introduced during the Shelbourne administration, near the close of the American war. It was revived in 1794, from the circumstances in which the country was then placed. From that period it has continued in full activity, and was then made the subject of legislative enactment. At that period it was acknowledged as a part of a new system arising out of the new circumstances of the country, and the idea of exemptions was considered to be essential to its existence. Under this original voluntary establishment, where there was very little legislative enactment, but where almost every thing was left to the corps themselves, except in cases where actual service might be required, the number of volunteers throughout the kingdom was not below one hundred and fifty thousand. It was not then judged expedient to control those bodies by many positive enactments, and, the consequence had been, that under these 429 circumstances the beneficial consequences of such institutions had been materially experienced. So much, indeed, was Parliament convinced of this, that thanks had been voted to the different volunteer bodies throughout the kingdom, for the services they had rendered their country. On the conclusion of the peace the House and the public were so well convinced of the excellence of the volunteer establishment, that it was judged politic to encourage its perpetuity by continuing, though on a more limited scale, the exemptions formerly granted to those who had stood forward in defence of the country, at a crisis of peculiar danger. For this purpose the act of the 42 d of his Majesty was passed, and in chap. 46 of that act, the object to which I have now adverted, was described. The object of this act of the legislature was to hold out to the yeomanry at large, and to the volunteer infantry in all the large towns throughout the kingdom, to continue their set vices even during peace, and by such an arrangement it was meant that the necessity of a very large standing army would be avoided. When the war broke out, an immediate necessity of extraordinary means of protection was experienced, and the voluntary spirit of the country manifested itself in a way equally honourable to the national character, and the individuals by whom this spirit was displayed. All ranks were sensible that the situation of the country, critical from the particular circumstances of Europe, was rendered still more critical from the intrigues and designs of an individual equally formidable, from his enterprising and ferocious views. A new act of parliament became necessary, to regulate the mode in which these offers of voluntary service were to be received and applied, in the way most applicable to the public service. It was necessary that his Majesty should revert to his ancient and undoubted prerogative to call out his subjects>i>r (he protection of his throne, and the general defence of the empire. The act of the 43d of his Majesty was framed for this general end; and in the 96th chap, are contained the terms under which voluntary was to be preferred to compulsory service, and explaining the exemptions which those offering such service were to enjoy. Under this act, voluntary offers to the amount of 400,000 men were received. By an abstract of the returns under the General Training Act, distinguishing offers of voluntary services from registers of those who were liable to serve, I find that the number of volunteers under the first class was nut less than 420,000, while the whole number 430 liable to serve did not exceed 500,000. In consequence of this display of the national spirit, the compulsory clauses of the 43d, or his Majesty were suspended. The number of volunteers, speaking in round numbers, was now upwards of 350,000, and thus the intention of the legislature was fulfilled. When I speak of the volunteer establishment here I have no reference to Ireland. The system there differs in several important circumstances. During the last war the volunteers of that part of the united kingdom she wed what valour and discipline could effect, and the principle of their establishment was not in want of any alteration. I think that the House must agree with me in thinking, that the Irish volunteers have already done themselves the highest honour; and it is only to be hoped, and I trust such a hope is not at all unreasonable, that their example may animate those who have enrolled themselves here for the defence of their country to shew a similar spirit in the moment of danger. I have already stated, that the volunteers of this part of the empire were upwards of 350,000, a number under proper regulations fully adequate, in cu operation with our regular force, to put the country out of all danger, a number net restricted, till it had amounted to three-fourths of the first class liable to be called out under the General Training Act.—Having thus briefly noticed the history and numbers of the volunteer establishment, let me next direct your attention to their present situation. With respect to a late decision, as to the right which a volunteer has to withdraw from a corps to which he has attached himself, I shall at present offer a very few observations. In the decision then given, the court certain", differed from the opinion given or the subject by an hon. friend of mine, and even now I am not altogether convinced that he had not as a lawyer good ground for the opinion which he then offered. His opinion, it must be allowed, was only a legal deduction from a review of the different acts of parliament on the subject of the volunteer establishment, and no notice was taken of the particular circumstances under which these acts were passed by the legislature. I am free decidedly to declare, that no such legal inference was meant to be drawn from these acts. I have no idea whatever that it was the meaning of Parliament in the framing of these acts, to preclude the right of volunteers to resign under particular circumstances. I am sure that no idea to the contrary was ever held forth in the course of the discussion 431 which took place, to countenance an opposite opinion: and there remains no doubt in my mind, that the right of a volunteer to resign was clearly understood. I was particularly anxious to state the distinction betwixt voluntary and compulsory service, and to mark out the material circumstances which essentially characterized their application The idea of preventing the liberty of resignation never appeared to me either politic or necessary. This opinion is founded on a very simple principle, that, on the well-disposed, any attempt at coercion must only produce dissatisfaction and disgust: and the same zeal which originally determined men to stand forward in a great cause, was the best security against their deserting it., when their obligations to service were, instead of being diminished, materially increased. Coercion is, in a I cases, as much as possible, to be avoided in a free country; and coercion to men who deserved so much of their country, was what his Majesty's ministers were most anxious to avoid. We accepted voluntary offers of service as far superior to compulsory labours; but, if contrary to ail expectation and probability, the right of resignation once admitted, should be improperly abused, his Majesty's power of calling for the services of individuals acting in this way would revert, and all who had thought proper to decline voluntary service, once offered, would be forced to learn the use of arms under tie respective classes to which they belonged.—It has, Sir, been objected to the volunteer system, that the exemptions are so extensive as to be extremely onerous to that part of the community, which has not the means of being connected with any volunteer association. Here I cannot help observing, that on the subject of exemptions the greatest misconception has prevailed. It is not true, Sir, that members of the volunteer corps are exempted from the ballot. It was expressly provided by the law, as it now stood, that the names of all volunteers should be given in to those who were to prepare the lists for the different ballots in the different counties of the kingdom. If they were drawn, they were exempted only in case of their producing satisfactory evidence of their attending the number of drills necessary to grant legal exemption, to my treat surprise, I find that this plain requisition of the law has not keen complied with in a variety of instances. These observations I apply only to the militia ballots. The ballots for the army of reserve are conducted on a footing altogether different, and on this subject the law is so clear as to require no additional 432 explanation.—Let me now, Sir, shortly speak to some of the most striking defects and inconveniencies of the volunteer system. It maybe admitted generally that the volunteer system has in its constitution some defects which are inherent and incurable, while others are such as admit of an easy and efficacious remedy. It will be allowed, among the defects inherent in the volunteer establishment, that it does not admit of as great a degree of discipline as can be obtained in a regularly organized army. That man must be grossly ignorant of the nature of voluntary service who could for a moment suppose that it could be made equal to a regular standing army or the militia, or that it could be regarded in the same light. As great a degree of discipline as possible was to be obtained, but after that object was accomplished it was neither wire nor politic to attempt to press the completion of discipline to a degree inconsistent with the ordinary occupations of those individuals who from the most honourable and patriotic motives have stood forward with the offer of their lives and fortunes for the defence of the empire. Deficiency of discipline, therefore, to a certain extent, was, in this view of the system, to be expected, and it was not to the remedy of such a defect that the bill which he meant to introduce was at all designed to apply, This was an inconvenience which legislative provisions could not remedy, and which indeed would not be severely felt; if other evils to which remedies were applicable, were removed, the one to which I have alluded will be felt of less importance. A good deal has been objected to on the score of the powers exercised by the committees in certain volunteer corps. I have taken some pains to enquire into this subject, and the result of my investigations has been, that in particular instances such committees may have exercised improper powers. In general, however, I have found that these committees were merely instituted for the management of the pecuniary concerns of the corps to which they respectively belonged. Let any person attend, Sir, to the manner in which many volunteer corps have been formed; let him consider, that the greater part of the expense attendant on their establishment has been defrayed by voluntary contribution, and he will have no difficulty in admitting that committees of the nature which I have described are not only liable to no animadversion, but are to a certain degree absolutely necessary. Of this I have no sort of hesitation in declaring my opinion, that beyond the management of pecuniary concerns they ought to have no control; and that if they 433 attempt in the smallest degree to interfere with the military concerns of the corps, they are doing what is quite unjustifiable and what cannot be permitted. Against such practices the legislature must directly set its face, and to prevent its continuance is an object of the highest importance.—The right of electing officers in volunteer corps is another subject to which, on the present occasion, I wish to call the attention of the House. I wish here clearly to state, that there is a very great distinction betwixt the election of officers by a volunteer corps previous to its being regularly embodied, and the supposed right of filling up vacancies among the officers as often, by a variety of circumstances, as they may take place. In the cue case, it may appear expedient to suffer the exercise of a certain degree of discretion, from an idea that the choice will fall on those individuals who are the best fitted to hold the rank of officers, or who may be supposed to be most esteemed by those by whom they are selected to be their commanders. This, Sir, is only, however, a permission given, and not a right conferred, and in the instance of a vacancy occurring, it never yeas meant that volunteer corps should exercise the right of chusing their own officers. There is not a single tittle in any act of Parliament to justify such a claim; and it is a claim inconsistent with the exercise of his Majesty's lawful prerogative. It is a wise principle of the constitution, that the exercise of the prerogative shall not be usurped where it is Dot limited by an act of the legislature, and there is no act of the legislature which authorizes volunteer corps to fill up vacancies among their officers. If a particular body of men have supposed themselves in possession of such a right, they must be convinced of their error. The exercise of such a right I have no difficulty in pronouncing illegal: and I have cot less hesitation in saying that, in almost every instance, it would be highly impolitic and dangerous. The commandant of a volunteer corps is, in the case of a vacancy, to send in a list of those whom he conceives best qualified to supply it, to the lord lieutenant of the county. The lord lieutenant is invested with the full power of either transmitting or with-bolding that list, according to his own discretion; and the Secretary of State may lay it before his Majesty or not, precisely according to his opinion of the character and respectability of the persons who are recommended to fill up the vacancy which has occurred. If any corps chose to insist on this right, it is the fair right of his Majesty to discontinue their services; and I am so fully convinced of this 434 right, that I consider it unnecessary to make it a part of the bill which it is my object to introduce. It may perhaps be said, Sir, that the right of volunteer corps to elect their own officers has in a variety of cases been admitted, and that many of the oldest corps have hitherto exercised this right without any attempt to deny the fairness of their claims. I do not deny that in some old corps there was an implied agreement with the government at that time, that such a right was to be exercised; bur, with regard to all the corps firmed since the war, I maintain expressly, that no such agreement beyond the first election of officers, was ever in the contemplation of his Majesty's ministers, or was ever held forth as an inducement to increase the voluntary offers of service from any part of the community. On this point, I have at present no further observation to offer.—It has been further contended against the volunteer system, that, as it now" stands, it is hot sufficiently efficacious for insuring regularity of attendance and proper behavior during the periods allotted to discipline. Without pretending altogether to deny the justice of this observation, let me be permitted to observe, that this inconvenience can, consistently with the volunteer system only be remedied effectually by two measures. The one of these measures is, the power vested in the commandants of volunteer corps, of discharging those who are negligent in the performance of their duty. In this case, those so discharged would be immediately liable to the ballot, both for the militia and the army of reserve. The other check on irregularity of attendance and remissness of discipline is, that persons so offending, besides being liable to discharge from their respective corps, will immediately be liable to be called out in their respective class, and compelled to undergo an the labours to which, by the general training act, all those able to carry arms are to be subject. I have already allowed, that there are some defects in the volunteer system which are inherent, while others are level to remedy.—The question then is, whether we shall adhere to this system, with all is defects, at so critical a period as that in which we are placed, or resort to another, which, though in some respects more perfect, is in others far more liable to objection, and infinitely less adapted to the circumstances in which we are inclined to act. It always has appeared to me, that wise me best shew that wisdom, by adopting hot what may be absolutely the best in the particular circumstances, but what is the best in the particular situation where they are called on to repel 435 formidable danger. When a system is allowed to contain the materials of excellent regulation, it is surely much better to improve it than to reject it wholly for an experiment, which, though in its aspect captivating, may lead only to disgrace and disappointment. It is better to go on temperately and coolly, than by rashness to overturn a system, capable of the most useful ends and the highest purposes.—Now, Sir, let me say a few words as to the remedies proposed to be applied to the volunteer establishment. In the first place, it will not be denied, that if any individuals or any officers in a volunteer corps be deficient in their duty, his Majesty has the full right of discontinuing their services, and that too with circumstances of disgrace. If the number of persons so dismissed was considerable, then his Majesty has full powers to call them out under their respective classes, and to compel them to learn the use of arms to prepare them to defend the country in case of actual invasion.—After such training they may be sent either to reinforce the regular army, the militia, or in any other way which his Majesty, by the advice of ministers, may chose to appoint. They may even be sent to fill up the ranks of those volunteer corps from which, under particular circumstances, they may have withdrawn. As to the military committees, to which I have already alluded, it will only be necessary for me to say, that if they presume to exercise illegal powers, or attempt to control the proceedings of the commandant, they must necessarily be suspended. I can hardly suppose that any corps would support them in any such irregularity; but if, contrary to all expectation, they should be guilty of such improper conduct, the inference is obvious. They thereby declare themselves unfit to support the character they have assumed, and must submit to have their services discontinued.—I have now finished my general observations, and have only to conclude with a few more particular remarks. The object of the bill, as I intimated in my first notice, is to consolidate all the acts for the regulation of the volunteer system. These, acts are three in number, and though they differ very little in spirit or substance, it is of importance that they should appear in a form more precise than they now possess, and that their exact meaning should be understood with as little inconvenience as possible. As to the exemptions, it is my wish that several important alterations should be introduced. As the law now stands, a certain description of volunteers are exempted from the ballot of the militia by five days 436 attendance at drill. As to the army of resere, it stands on a different arrangement. Volunteers are not exempt from the ballot in this case, but if drawn they are exempted from actual service, provided they have attended 24 drills in the year, or a proportionate number before the time of their being drawn to serve. It is meant by this new bill that the time, entitling to exemption, shall be equalized, and that none can claim exemption from the militia who have not been drilled 24 times in the year. I mean, Sir, to propose, that every member of a volunteer corps shall be at liberty to resign at his option; and I think it proper to add, that this was a determination formed with out any reference to the late decision of a law court on this subject. It is the object of the bill that all volunteers shall be subject to the ballot both for the militia and army of reserve. A list of those actually serving in I volunteer corps, and who have certificates of regular attendance, is to be separately preserved. When a member is either discharged, or chooses to quit a volunteer corps, then his name is to be returned to the clerks who prepare the county lists, and from that time he is liable to supply any vacancy which may occur. Another object of the bill will be to simplify the returns of effective force, and to point out the manner in which resignation is to take place: When a member thinks proper to resign, he is to give due notice to the commandant of his corps, and is at the same time to deliver up his arms, accoutrements, or whatever other articles he may have received, either by private subscription or at the public expense, in as good ease as they received them. By such a atop, it will be under stood that they not only subject themselves: to the regular ballot, but also place themselves at the disposal of his Majesty, to be employed in whatever way he pleases, either in defeating external invasion, or putting down internal insurrection. There are minor points in the bill, which I need not now explain, as they will be better comprehended when it is regularly before the House. I trust there will be no objection to the introduction of the bill in the first instance, and that gentlemen will reserve their arguments till they have the subject fairly before them. I have stated that it power of resignation will be given to volunteers, but from this option I fear no dangerous consequences. Surely, Sir, those who in August and September last stepped forward to defend their country, threatened by an implacable foe, will not shew less zeal now that the enemy's preparations are still 437 further advanced, or rather nearly completed, and that he only waits the favourable moment to land on our shores. I am confident that they are now as much as ever alive to the calls of patriotism, of duty, and of honour; and that they will not desert their King and their Country at this great crisis. Even those, whom circumstances may oblige to withdraw from regular attendance, will in the hour of danger, rally round the standard of freedom, and expire in the same grave which swallows up the liberties and independence of their country.—Having now finished the observations which I thought it incumbent upon me to make; previous to the introduction of this bill, I shall now conclude by moving, that "leave be given to bring in a bill to explain, amend, and consolidate, the provisions contained in the several Acts relative to Yeomanry and Volunteer Corps throughout the United Kingdom."
expressed his regret, that the opinion which he held respecting the right of electing officers belonging to volunteer corps, should be misunderstood by the right hon. gent, who had just sat down, for he entirely agreed with that right hon. gent, that no such right existed in any corps in whose original otter of service such a right was not expressly demanded and acceded to by government; and he also agreed that any corps, claiming any such privilege of electing their own officers, under different circumstances, misunderstood their rights and their duties; but if it was meant that the recommendation of an officer by any corps was not to attended to, he wished to know where they who would reject such recommendation would desire the power of appointing such officer to rest? would they wish the commission to originate in the crown, in the lord lieutenant, or the deputy lieutenants of counties? Or could it be seriously supposed, that any or either of those arrangements would be preferable to that which the volunteer corps, in general, desired, and which must tend to render them more effective, by the mutual attachment which must subsist between them and officers of their own choice? The right hon. gent, had observed, that the recommendation of officers should properly belong to the lord lieutenant;, out that he, from his situation, should feel himself bound to advise his Majesty not to attend to such recommendation, if the person recommended should appear to him to be ineligible, and he would be glad to know whether the right hon. gentleman's exercise of the same discretion would not be sufficient to prevent the ap- 438 pointment of any officer recommended by a volunteer corps? If so, then, what danger could arise from allowing things to remain on the same footing as they have been; and instead of the lord lieutenants recommending, &c. leaving to the volunteers themselves the right of recommendation? He adopted the word recommendation, because it seemed to be more agreable to the right hon. gent, than the word election, although there was no material difference between the two.—The right hon. gent, had drawn a distinction between the right which a volunteer corps might have at its original formation, and after it had been actually established. With the inference which was attempted to be made from that distinction, he most decidedly differed, for he never would assent to the opinion, that because no express covenant was entered into between a volunteer corps and government, that such corps should not have the right of electing or recommending its own officers, that such right should not be allowed to them, although, according to its original constitution, the members understood that this privilege belonged to them. Of any attempt of this nature, which would go to evade an implied compact, he would highly disapprove. It would be quibbling with the judgment, it would be breaking faith with the engagements of a gallant body of men, who were intitled to the most respectful attention, the mort honourable dealing; whose zeal in the public cause, if any thing could damp, might be affected considerably, by any departure on the part of government from the terms upon which they understood themselves to have originally taken up arms. The utmost faith, he repeated, ought to be observed towards the volunteers, particularly in such instances as those he had alluded to. If, at the time, the offer of any volunteer corps had been accepted by government, no notice was; taken of such a distinction as that which the right hon. gent, had insisted upon this evening, where, he wished to know, was to be found the law to justify, the right to authorise, that any such distinction should be afterwards acted upon:—The same check as to the right hon. gentleman's advice to his Majesty, respecting any recommendation to a commission, existed as well at the first format ion of the volunteers as at present, but neither then nor now, did there exist any right to prevent that recommendation from being offered. In the former instance, indeed, it was not pretended that it did, and in either case it did not appear to him very prudent or necessary to press such a prohibition. If, however, in the first instance, go- 439 vernment had refused to any volunteer corps the power of electing its own officers, then such corps might have withdrawn its offer of service, and there would have been no apparent injustice; but if after such corps had been actually formed and made considerable progress to, if not really become perfect in discipline, it should be attempted to deprive the members of a right which they conceived they possessed from the beginning, and without even a hint of the design at the period of their first offer of service, there could be no principle or policy to excuse such conduct, and he trusted, that under circumstances such as those he had described, ministers would not press the plan alluded to by the right hon. gentleman; but if they really meant to take away altogether the right of recommendation from the volunteers themselves, he hoped that it would not be assigned to the colonel commandants of corps, with whom, for many reasons, he would, least of ail others, wish it to rest, although upon them, as much as upon others, ministers would have the check described by the right hon. gent. There were some instances, he understood, where the agreement entered into with volunteer corps were of a particular nature, where the vender of service was upon certain conditions. In such cases the ministers ought, of course, to be tenderly cautious that the faith of government should not be violated. An hon. friend of his (Mr. Whitbread) had the honour to command a corps at. Bedford, which, in its original after of service, stated its conditions, namely—that two gentlemen., whose names were mentioned, and of whom his hon. friend was one, should have the command, and that all the other officers should be elected by the corps, which right of election to fill up any vacancies that might afterwards occur, was to rest with the members of the corps. This offer of service was accented without any objection, either expressed or implied, to the conditions upon which the offer was made. A case of this kind, therefore, and perhaps there were many quite similar, he would submit it to the candour of ministers, and the justice of the House, was entitled to exception from any ride that it was intended to make general. After a few more remarks upon the propriety of strictly keeping faith with the volunteers, he concluded with expressing his confidence, that minister's possessed a sincere disposition to do justice to the pretensions and lo gratify the feelings of that gallant body.
observed, that the hon. gent, who had just spoken, had not followed his right hon. friend very closely in his ob- 440 servations upon the speech, by which this subject was brought before the house. His right hon. friend had stated what was the principle on which the volunteers proceeded previous to their existence as a regular body, and what was to be understood of their power after they were erected into, and constituted a body. The sentiment of his right hon. friend upon that subject was this, that a popolar election was, generally speaking, contrary in principle to that discipline which is absolutely essential to every large military force; and entertaining that idea, his right hon. friend conceived there was a distinction between that which a corps might do previous to its becoming a military body, and that which it might do after it had been formed into a military body. It was generally through the medium of the recommendation of the different corps that their officers were submitted for the approbation of his Majesty through the medium I of the secretary a state; but none of them should have apprehended that they should have continued to have these recommendations after they had formed into a military body, because it was a principle which was in itself objectionable on the ground he had stated, that of a popular election, which was unfavourable to military discipline. In the first instance, that was, before they were formed into military bodies, there was no evil to be apprehended with respect to discipline, but the case was quite otherwise I after they were formed into military bodies. Having once been formed into military corps, it was a delicate thing to expose such a corps to the inconveniencies of a popular election. But his right hon. friend had made this distinction, and he had also stated, that although this general military principle operated upon; the minds of his Majesty's ministers, yet there were exceptions to this, where his Majesty had been pleased to recognize a custom of chusing the officiers by the men, and: where that was the case that custom should remain undisturbed, for that was what good faith required, This was the case with some military forces in the city of London; this was the constitution of the military force raised in that city, and therefore although; the principle of preventing military corps: being exposed to the inconvenience of a popular election of officers was extremely important to be preserved, yet in these excepted cases they were to be endured, and in such cases the principle had been relaxed, and in this instance experience had shewn that it might be relaxed without prejudice to the public safety. The principle itself was important, but it might be relaxed, and the discretion 441 which governed this principle could not be left in better hands than those it was in at present, namely, in the hands of his Majesty, advised as he. was by his ministers, who were responsible for the advice they gave.—But whatever might be brought forward by his right hon. friend, the House might be assured that the principle of good faith would be kept entire, and adhered to without the slightest deviation but, having said this, he must be allowed to say, that he deprecated the principle as a general one, that large bodies of military should be exposed to the inconveniencies of popular election. That practice, therefore, of continuing to elect officers in all cases by the corps, would not do as a general rule. He would not, therefore, support the general right of a corps to chuse their own officers, unless upon terms in which they might be allowed to do so. where their services had been accepted by his Majesty, or in cases in which his Majesty should be pleased to relax the principle which prevented them from chusing their officers; yet this was not ail: for while he deprecated the practice of military corps being subject to the evils of a popular election, on account of the effect it might produce upon discipline, there were other evils besides those he had hinted at, and such as the corps might feel among themselves; they would in many cases be put to difficulties which they were not perhaps altogether aware of. But having said this, he should add, that it was in his opinion material in the highest degree, that, let the recommendation of officers come from whatsoever quarter it may, the feelings of the men who were to be commanded should be consulted, and regarded with great delicacy for, after all, a volunteer corps could never be made to ressemble any other military body, although it was clear that they could never be well provided unless his Majesty had the genera choice of those who were to command these corps, for his Majesty alone ought, generally speaking, to have the power of saying who was fit for the command of a military force within his dominions this, however, he said, without any idea of government having any breach of good faith with anybody of men whomsoever; but he must again revert to the distinction which was obvious between a body of men before they are formed into a military force, and that what they might be permitted to do in one case had no analogy to what they ought to be permitted to do in the other; in the one case they might have a popular election without any danger, because in die one case they did not require discipline; in the other, 442 they could not have a popular election without danger to discipline, or in other words, in the one case they were a civil body, in the other they were a military body.
—Sir; if it had not been for the allusion made by my hon. friend (Mr.Sheridan) I should not, perhaps, have said any thing at present upon the subject now before the House, but I think it necessary to say a few words on the subject of the different corps chusing their own officers, as stated by the noble lord and the right hon. gent., particularly on that which has been stated by the right hon. gent who has informed the House of the advice he should give to his Majesty, in the event of any military corps persisting in the choice of its own officers. And, Sir, lam the more desirous of adverting to the sentiments of the right hon. gent, as they came from himself, than to the explanation of the noble lord. The right hon. gent has said that if any corps should persist in the right of recommending to his Majesty its officers to command them, that he should advise his Majesty to dismiss that corps; that he should advise his Majesty, in the first instance, not to listen to such recommendation; and, in the second, to dismiss such corps if they should persist in such recommendation. This, Sir, I apprehend, is much too genera. The terms of the corps which I have the honour to command were, that they should serve under officers specifically named by themselves; not only so, but also such as they may recommend hereafter to his Majesty, through the medium of the lord lieutenant of the county. Their services were accepted after they sent in these terms, nor were the terms in the least degree qualified when the service of this corps was accepted. If they had been told that they should not have this choice or recommendation not only of their present commander but also of their other officers, or that they should not be allowed to continue to have that recommendation, I really apprehend, Sir, that no such corps would have been formed at all. Now I should like to ask the right hon. gent., whether he would think himself consistent if he attempted to take away from that corps the right of recommendation at all? As to the distinction between election and recommendation, I can hardly perceive it they are in substance the same; for neither means any more, than to submit to the lord lieutenant the propriety of his transmitting to the Secretary of State, the names of the persons whom they wished to be commanded by; but, of course, the crown, acting on the advice of its ministers, would have the right of judging whether 443 such person? were fit to be commanders or not. Upon this subject there can be no doubt. Now, in the corps to which I have the honour to belong, the terms of their services are such, that if any vacancy were to happen for an officer, I should apply to the corps to say who they would wish to fill it: undoubtedly I should feel myself bound to do so. Why, then, what is this but an election? And where is the evil of all this? The lord lieutenant has a right to say, I will not forward this recommendation to the Secretary of Stale, for I do not think the person recommended is fit for the office, or if the lord lieutenant should forward it, the Secretary of State may say that it shall not take place, and advise his Majesty to that effect; then it will come back again to chuse another, and they must go on with their recommendations until they have hit upon somebody to whom neither the lord lieutenant nor the Secretary of State has any objection; so that no one can ever have a commission in any volunteer corps, without the approbation of the crown; and this is in itself, as it appears to me, desirable, for the men ought to know the character of the person under whom they are to serve. But the right hon. gent, adverted to volunteer corps under establishments, like those of the last war, or if not those of the last war, of establishments different from those under which the present volunteer corps were formed. They have hitherto, all enjoyed the power if not of electing, of recommending their officers: now I wish to know, whether this power was given to the volunteer corps by law, or by connivance of the crown? If by law, it must belong to them generally; if by connivance, I should like to ask the right hon. gent, whether he has found any mischief in the practice? If he has not, why should he now attempt to exclude the volunteers from that which they have hitherto enjoyed without any inconvenience to the public, and take from them that, for which they have much value, and without which, as I apprehend, not only would the volunteers become less numerous, but also less efficient, according to their number, than they now are. Where, I should like to ask, is the difference between the first choice and the second? In the first instance, the lot falls upon those generally who are the most known, who are the most remarkable for talents, or for some qualities or other that distinguish them, either for high station, or something that gives them a preference to others, and for which there are, generally, very good reasons for recommending them to his Majesty; and, is it reasonable to suppose, that 444 the same motives which actuate the corps in the first instance, will not also influence them in the second, and that they will not continue to fill up vacancies, as they may happen in their corps, with the same propriety as they made the first choice? I do contend, that if the right hon. gent, acts up to the spirit of what he has said to-night, he will find himself in an error, which will be fatal to the whole volunteering system of this country. This, Sir, is my firm opinion, and I think, it my duty to say so at once, and to entreat ministers to be cautious in what they do upon this occasion. For my own part, had I offered my services as a private in any volunteer corps, I own I should be very un willing to serve under any officer appointed by the Crown to command me without my own consent.—The right hon. gent, has gone through the whole history of the volunteer service, in which I shall not follow the right hon. gent., bat merely make a few observations on some points in the speech of the right hon. gent, to the House previous to his motion.—He says, that ministers, finding they had no friends on the continent, it became us to look at home, and make the most of our internal strength, since we were at war. This system of volunteer service was resorted to, because we found ourselves at war without a friend on the continent to assist us.—I should have thought it would have become ministers to look about them and to see, whether we should have any friend on the continent to assist us, before we entered into war; this would have been the course pursued by a wise politician; but our sagacious ministers thought proper to adopt a contrary system, they got first into the war, and afterwards inquired how it could be supported; they then adopted the system of a volunteer service. Now, I am ready to confess, that the system of volunteer service is not the best, either for economy, or for the purpose of making military efforts, such as might have been made under a different system of policy, and at the same lime bringing forth all the energy of the people of England. But while I say this, I trust that neither the right hon. gent., or any other, will endeavour to bring upon me the odium of a desire "to raise a clamour" against the volunteer system. Nothing would be more unjust than such an imputation; for there is not, I believe, a man in the country, who has exerted himself more than I have done, in support of the volunteer system, when I found it was to be resorted to, I as the only means of our general defence: but I am still of opinion, that it is not the best system that could have been resorted 445 to, for the general defence of the country in time of need. And here, Sir, I cannot help accusing ministers of wavering from day to day, in their system? proving thereby, that they had got into a path in which they had met with great difficulties and perplexities, and out of which, I am afraid they are not yet extricated. They first attempted to produce a General Defence Act, out of which arose the volunteer system all over the country. At that time they found, that 450,000 men had inrolled their names for the service of their country. Here I must beg to be understood, as not, in the slightest degree, wishing to depreciate those men, on the contrary, no one has a higher opinion of the goodness of their motives and principles, in thus rushing forward in defence of their country; but yet I cannot help thinking, that it is of essential importance to look back upon this matter, to examine into the question of what we had really to trust to in this mass of 450,000 men; to see what was this great body, who are now the grand mass of the army of England. I am persuaded, that a great portion of this mass is such as could not be depended upon for effective strength. They were too indiscriminately accepted by government; persons of all ages and of all descriptions, without regard to infirmity or any unfitness, among whom were many who were not able to march, were received as volunteers. There certainly was a great enthusiasm, and all descriptions rushed forward as volunteers; this, undoubtedly, did honour to the zeal of the country, but it must not be disguised at the same time, that, among those who came forward, there were many who were quite incompetent to the carrying of arms: in some instances nor above one-half of a whole district were actually fit for effective service. Then came the order of government to reduce their number to that of six times the amount of the militia. This sudden measure had a serious and alarming effect; it damped the ardour of the country so much, that it became a matter of considerable difficulty to bring men back again, and to persuade them to inrol their names when they found that their friends, with whom they had associated, were not to be allowed to go with them into the field. Now, after all this, and time being given us by the enemy, for he did not appear on our coast, although we all expected him, as explanation came forth from the ministers, the spirit of the people revived, and appeared again in its wonted lustre. Now, what was the intention of ministers at that time? Did they or did they nor then intend to exempt the volunteers from the 446 army of reserve? No, they did not; and so I informed the volunteers then raising, and which I have now the honour to command; and, to their immortal honour, every man entered as a volunteer, although he thought he would have been liable to the service of the army of reserve. I told them all, that there was not one of them who would have any exemptions by entering as a volunteer, yet every one of them entered, notwithstanding that apprehension. But what was the effect of this? they were afterwards exempted both from the militia and the army of reserve. And what was the further effect? Why, that neither the militia nor army of reserve could ever be properly filled up; it was utterly impossible that they should, for all the best men are serving already in the volunteers, as well as some of the most unfit; and I know it to be a fact, that there are not men who could be drawn to serve in the militia to the number intended to be raised of that body; the same may also be said with regard to the army of reserve. How then is the recruiting of the army to go on? I have no difficulty in saying, that, in the present state of things, it is impossible. Those who would have constituted the army of reserve and militia, are now filling up the ranks of the volunteers. Such being the effect of the volunteer system: and so, the best course now to be taken is, that to make the volunteer system as beneficial, and at the same time as palatable to the public as possible, and to bring them to as a good a state of discipline as is applicable to a torce of that nature. Ministers then had recourse to the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor General, in order to get over another difficulty which they felt themselves under, and tiles learned gentlemen gave it as their opinion, that the volunteers were exempted from the army of reserve; after which came the question whether a volunteer could resign or not? Sir, it always was my opinion, that a volunteer could resign whenever he pleased, and return his arms, if he had any (it was a long time before they could get any but while a man remained in the corps there were means of rendering him liable to pay fines for his nonattendance, and which fines were levied upon his goods if he had any. But here again the law stopt short, for if he had no goods, there was no way of imposing any other penalty on; he volunteer, so that a man might walk out of the service when he pleased. But the right hon. gent, has, to my great surprise and joy declared, that if the Court of Kings Bench had not decided the law to be that a volunteer could resign as it has done, he should have proposed to make the law so; 447 now, I must confess that this struck me extremely, for it is to be remembered be red, that the right hon. gent, sent to all the lieutenants of the counties, who, in their turn again sent to all the magistrates, as the exposition of the law, the opinion of the two law officers of the crown, the Attorney and Solicitor General, and upon the strength of this, magistrates had acted all over the country, which opinion was, that a volunteer con id not resign, an which opinion tinned out no to be law. Without intending the least disrespect for the two learned gentlemen who give their opinion, this erroneous opinion, for so I am now bound to call it, since a court of law has pronounced it to be so, and without intending any thing disrespectful of that opinion, for must be allowed to say, that it was an opinion which led the magistrates into error, for they acted upon that opinion as if it was a sound exposition of tile law of the land.—Sorry should I have been, to have found that this opinion was consonant to the law of the land; but I was very much surprized, though greatly rejoiced, at what I heard from the right hon. gent tonight upon that subject, and I think that the public at large have a right to complain of the right hon. gent, for finding this opinion given by these learned gentlemen, which now appears not to be law to be, namely, that a volunteer could not resign. The right hon. gent, caused it to be most industriously circulated and published all over the country, by which the public have for a while been misled, and this step was the more remarkable, since it was an opinion promulgating that as law which the right hon. gent, has this night told us, he did not wish to continue to be the law, for he has expressly declared, that if the law had been found to be so, he should have, proposed to alter it, and to make it what it now is. Having said thus much, I must add, that I feel extremely anxious that justice should be done to the volunteers in every particular. With regard to that part of the volunteer system which is called the economical part of it, they are greatly mistaken who conceive it to be so to the public. Who are the public? The individuals of whom it is composed. Now it is a gross mistake to suppose, that a system by which no money is taken out of the public purse in form, does not really' cause a great expense to the public. The expense to the public is the same in whatever way it is defrayed, if it comes out if the pockets of the individuals, of whom she public is composed; for what difference can there be between paying 50l. into a subscription chest to support a volunteer 448 corps, (which subscription, by the way, may ere long become compulsory), and paying a tax to that amount into the exchequer? And, in this respect, I assert that this system is extremely expensive to the public, for, at a very moderate computation, it is upwards of 4l. per tnan.—Another objection to the system is, that, from their form and condition, the volunteer corps are continually subject to, and in daily danger of, being dissolved: not that the individuals of whom die volunteer corps are composed want spirit, for if dissolved in one street, I am confident they would enter again in the next; but they are subject every hour to the danger of dissolution. Suppose they were to say, that they did not like their commander, and that they wanted to chuse another, and they were not to be allowed that privilege, and that thy should not have the satisfaction even of recommending another officer, as the right hon. gent, has told them they shall not, and they were to say they were no longer volunteers? What, Sir, is the remedy? A very short one, certainly; they must be dismissed. But, if they amounted to 100O men—this would be a prodigious loss, at least for a while, and this is a matter which I wish to be attended to by his Majesty's ministers.—There is another evil connected with volunteer corps, from whence I am apprehensive they may be dissolved, and that is a want of funds to carry on the system. This is a point which government must look into with great attention, and if they neglect it, I venture to predict, that it will be impossible to carry on this system long. They is no corps of which I have any knowledge, that is not in some degree or other in debt. Many corps have endeavoured to excel others in their dress and ornaments, which I certainly do not blame. It is natural enough when men fee the ardour of a military spirit, but it is attended with an expense that cannot be supported unless the funds of almost every corps in the kingdom are increased—Men must be cloathed from head to foot, and after a great coat and the other articles of dress are provided, it will nor, on the most moderate computation, as I have said, already, amount to less than 4l. per man, which will be a tremendous sum of money in the whole. No, Sir, what is the remedy?—A second subscription; but that is a plan which I should strongly deprecate, for the mischief of it would be to collect from the liberal, and perhaps the poor, that to which the illiberal and rich ought also to contribute in a fair proportion. No such thing could, take place if the wants of the volunteer, were to be supplied from the na- 449 tional treasury. For these reason, I consider the plan now acted upon for providing the volunteers with necessaries, a very mistaken plan of economy.—There is another point to be attended to: at present, it is the rule to allow no pay to any officer who instructs the men, however well he may do it, or may have bad the unqualified praise of the inspecting officer, unless such person shall have been in the army; this is a defect which ought to be remedied, for men cannot be expected to give their time and labour for nothing but mere praise; men in middling circumstances cannot afford it. It is also worth while for ministers to remember, that the pay of these officers is only for 24 days an t now they are to be out 24 days: the additional 4 days ought to be paid for or we shill find many persons remiss in their duty. I have taken the liberty of pointing oat those things. I fear it will be found, that ministers have been getting from one error to another, and that they have now placed that country in a situation in which it has no choice, but must trust its main defence to the volunteer force; it, therefore, behaves them to render that system as little objectionable as possible. In my judgment, the augmentation of the militia has been carried on a this too much; and I am confirmed in this opinion by the conduct of ministers, by the enormous expense which his been occasioned in drawing men from the militia afterwards by bounty into the regular service, and also by the expense of raising the Army of Reserve, and at last being obliged to have recourse to the volunteer system, which is much more expensive than either. It is for the right hon. gentlemen, into whose hands his Majesty has thought proper to entrust the government of this nation at the present important moment, to consider the best means for providing for its general defence and safety: it is for members of Parliament to speak their sentiments upon such means, and to shew the House the imperfection of such means, in order to bring them to the best stale they are capable of. This is a liberty which I have taken to myself: it is not form to point out what is better, it is my duty, as a member of Parliament, shew to the House, what: appears to me to be erroneous in the conduct of ministers, and which they ought now to rectify, I shall only add, that I trust the right hon. gent, will consider of allowing volunteers the practice of recommending their officers to the crown; will consider also of the expense of providing cloathing for the volunteers, and the pay to which I have alluded, and of the difficulty of procuring the at- 450 tendance of officers who do not receive pay for the additional four days, now about to; be proposed, without some allowance. Here, Sir, for the present, I shall leave the subject, recommending the whole of it to the most serious consideration of his Majesty's government.
§ Mr. Windham
remarked on the conduct of an hon. gent. (Mr. Sheridan) who had gone before him, who, having begun by professing this agreement with the proposal made by the right hon. secretary, that there should be no discussion that night, had immediately proceeded to take a part in direct opposition to the agreement thus professed.—This, as usual, had led to further deviations, till, step by step, the debate had proceeded, not only into the details of the mea-sue, but in to questions of the constitution of particular corps.—His purpose in rising, was to call to the recollection of the House, the proposal which he had just alluded to, to which he meant to adhere himself, and; which he conceived the I louse would think it, upon the whole, most advisable to adopt.—It was not that in opening the present business, the right hon. secretary had not gone into a variety of topics, which he should be; very glad to remark upon, and which he could not possibly pass over in silence, were silence to be construed as acquiescence. He begged to have, it distinctly understood, that he was silent for the reasons only that he had given; namely, that he concurred in the recommendation of the hon. mover, and would reserve what he had to say to subsequent stages of the proceeding. Some of the topics of the right hon. gentleman were to Le sure, of a sort on which it did not seem that there was much to be said. When the right hon. gentleman laid down his laws of debating, having in view, he supposed, the well-known laws of philosophising, and declared that they were to proceed without heat, to abstain from every thing with, to consider every thing with coolness and impartiality, &c. &c,; and when, in like manner, he talked of those, who were enemies to the volunteers only because they were at the same time enemies to the constitution in church and state, he was at a loss to know what to say, because he did not very well know, what the observations meant, nor against whom they were intended to point. His history of the volunteer system, with its descent and progress from the time of the last administration to the present day, inasmuch, as it was a mere history, and, he supposed, a correct one, was as little a subject on which he had any thing to remark. As to the legal discussions, he should cer- 451 tainly abstain from them, not only for the general reason already given, but because it would be ungenerous to attack the right hon. gent., where he seemed already to have so many enemies upon his hands; the whole of his speech in that part being a sort of conflict with three powerful antagonists, viz. the Law Officers of the Crown, the Court of King's Bench, and his own bill: with all of whom he w=s keeping up a kind of running fight, much like that which gentlemen might have read in the last gazette, though not so glorious he feared, nor likely to terminate quite so successfully.—The defects which the right hon. gent dwelt upon, and which he described as inherent in the system, and incapable of being cured, were urged, be presumed, for the purpose of reconciling those by whom the system had been originally opposed—These topics, he shot Id content himself with having adverted to, without at present making them the subject of any discussion. As little would he introduce discussion in what further he had to say. But he must trouble the House for a few moments longer, partly to give vent lo his surprise,—a surprise not excited by what the bill contained, but by what it did not contain,—and for the further and more important purpose of putting it seriously to the right hon. gent, whether he conceived, that by a bill such as the present, by such a scrap and remnant of a measure (for so he mast call it), he could-hope to meet the public exigency, or appease that sort of craving expectation, which the nation felt, of something really substantial and solid, to relieve it in its present difficulties? He earnestly hoped, that before the measure should be finally settled, the right hon. gem would impress upon his mind a more just idea of the situation of the country, and of the magnitude of the object requiring to be provided for: that he would convince himself, that it was not the mere inconvenience arising from mistakes and ambiguities in the volunteer bills, (plentiful as they might be) and which an emendatory or explanatory act might set right, but a fundamental failure in an important part of the system; that one of the main pillars of our security was in danger of giving way 5 that a part of the building seemed to be actually falling in; that four-fifths of the national defence,—four fifths in extent at least, if not in substance,—was found to have been raised on so loose a foundation, to be composed of such improper materials, and to be so unskilfully put together, that at least a very dangerous settlement had taken place, and that no one could say., whether in a few 452 months, or even a few weeks, the whole might not become a heap of ruins. Did the right hon. gent. ready suppose, that in such a state of things, the expectation of the country could be satisfied, or its safety provided for, by a measure such as the present; and that by sticking in a few bricks here and there, by proving the building in one part and cramping it in another, he could put this mansion info tenantable repair, so as either to induce the inhabitants to stay in it, or to make it safe for those who lived in the neighbourhood?—He would not dwell even upon this topic at the present moment, but leaving to the right hon. gent, to judge of the value of the suggestion which he could not forbear to other, though with no great hopes of its producing any effect, he would take the liberty of urging to the House, what he was sure would be urged with effect, namely, that they should avail themselves of all that inquiry and consideration could do in the intermediate time, in order to come to the discussion of this question, prepared at once with just views of its magnitude, as well as of its importance.
§ Colonel Eyre.
—Sir 5 whatever inclination I may have to express myself at length on this subject, I shall, on the present occasion, adhere to the recommendation given in the outset to abstain from discussion. I have listened with the most sincere satisfaction to the speech of the right hon. Secretary. I highly approve the plan he has brought forward, which I hope will be the means of bringing to perfection the volunteer system, and of correcting those imperfections which are necessarily incident to a measure so vast, new, and unusual, and that overstrained discipline to which, from the urgency of the times, the volunteers were expected to conform. I am, Sir, a warm friend lo the volunteer system, which I think better calculated than any other to effect the security of the country, at the least possible expense; and instead of exhibiting that shattered mansion of which we have just heard, I am confident, that, with proper support, it will form such a bulwark, as to render the country capable of setting every attack at defiance.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
rose to advert to one particular point in the speech of the right hon. Secretary, that for authorizing the deputy lieutenants of counties, to make the quarters for the militia and army of reserve, heavier in the districts which had not raised a certain proportion of volunteers. This was^ a point not to be considered lightly, and Parliament should pause before it came to any general resolution upon it; so should the 453 right hon. gent, before he proposed any general measure. In the county to which he belonged (Stafford), the volunteer service was at present nearly confined to the northern and north we tern districts. The inhabitants of the southern and south-western districts, were not deficient in zeal or unanimity; lie did not know a man among them, v, he was not ready to come forward, without requiring any exemption They had made their offers in due time, and if those offers were not attended to, he thought those who made thorn were not to be considered as having been deficient; and, therefore, she House should be cautious or corning to any resolution, which would involve them, or persons In similar circumstances.
Mr. Secretary Yorke
rose to reply to some observations which had been offered in disapprobation of the principle proposed by his bill. But first, in answer to what had fallen from the hon. baronet, he said, government, hi the distribution of the volunteer armed force, had acted as the exigencies of the public service seemed to require, or as local circumstances rendered necessary. "With respect to the condition upon which an hon. gent opposite to him (Mr. Whitbresd) had stated the volunteers, generally, to have offered their Services, namely, that of having the privilege continually of electing their own officers, he denied that stub, a principle ever was recognized by government. It was possible that the lord-lieutenants of counties, to whom such offers of service were first tendered, might not always transmit the tenders to his Majesty's Secretary of Slate, in the precise words in which such tenders were originally made; but certainly, since lie had the honour of coming into an official department of his Majesty's government, he had no recollection of any offer made or accepted upon any such principle. There had come, from many populous towns and districts, tenders of service upon the principle of chusing and recommending their own officers 5 but government, without a breach of the military principle, could do no more than connive at the custom, which though they might have done if, was never meant as an ackowledgment of that as a general principle which was contrary to the spirit of military law: and certainly, since he had the honour of filling a situation in the military department of administration, he knew of no offers of service accepted upon such conditions as those of continuing to elect their officers, after the formation of the corps was first completed. The distinction to be taken between the first agreement amongst the mem- 454 bers of a corps to associate for the purpose I of offering their service in the public defence, and recommending, from amongst I their number, the persons whom they wished to be officers, to be approved by his Majesty, and the situation of that corps after it was completed and acknowledged as a military corps, was pretty obvious; and indeed, from the very nature of military service, it was impossible that government could accede to I such I principle with any corps as the permanent right of electing their officers—Suppose, for instance, in case of actual service in the field, a body of volunteers going into action beside any other troops of the line, or militia, an that any of their officers should be killed in action; was that corps, the moment the action was over, to I proceed to the election of officers from amongst themselves to fill up the vacancy, without appealing to the judgment of as commander in chief? He by no means meant to deny their right of recommending persons whom (hey conceived eligible for officers; but there was a material difference between the right of recommending, and that of electing. By denying the later, it was by no means to be. implied, that officers I were to be forced upon those corps without in any degree consulting their wishes and attachments. It was not to be presumed, that in recommending persons as eligible for I officers in such corps, the lord-lieutenant of a county would give such recommendation without consulting the commanding officer of such corps, and exercising his own judgment in chusing such a person; as was most I kely to bear their confidence and attachment. The hon. member had argued as if the right of permanently electing their officers was the general idea of all the volunteer corps; whereas, from the best information be could collect on the subject, no such idea was generally entertained But if it was possible, that any such notion had; generally gone forth, or even that such a principle did really exist, was it to be argued, that if such a principle was found to be inexpedient and injurious to the objects of public service, that Parliament was to have no privilege of revising the volunteer system, and making such amendments as obvious necessity should point out, without incurring the charge of breaking faith with the volunteers? He trusted, that nothing which he had urged in support of the necessity of such amendments, could be construed to convey the slightest imputation upon that gallant and patriotic body of men;—but surely, that could not be called a breach of faith which recognized the right 455 of every volunteer, who disliked the continuance of his services, under the new regulation, to withdraw himself from Ins corps; recollecting, however, at the same time, that by such resignation, he surrendered all claims of exemption from the ballot for other branches of the public force to which he became entitled under tins first regulation. Another point adverted to in the bill, was the increase proposed in the number of days service, from 20 days to 24 days: but this he thought could make no very material difference to individuals.
§ Mr. Whitbread
rose to explain. He said, that what he called a breach of faith, was, that after putting men to considerable expense and trouble in acquiring discipline, under certain acknowledged principles, by which they were taught to consider themselves exempt from the militia and army of reserve, a new principle is brought forward, to which, unless they think fit to accede, their former exertions go for nothing, and their exemptions are forfeited. If the right hon. gent, denied the right of volunteer corps to elect from amongst themselves the persons whom they should approve for their officers, he begged to know, how it was that the London and Westminster Light Horse continued to this day to exercise that privilege: for surely if it was the right of one volunteer corps it w is equally that of another.
Mr. Secretary Yorke
answered, that the principle upon which that corps was constituted, differed most materially from every other in the service. They were a much older corps than any other, and the principle of electing and recommending their own officers, was a compact agreed to by his Majesty, upon their formation. They had beside another privilege peculiar to them, that their appointments came, not through the lord lieutenant of the county, but direct from the Secretary of State. So long as his Majesty should think it expedient to continue the services of this corps, his Majesty would, no doubt, maintain towards them the terms of their original constitution; but certainly no such principle was implied or understood by government in respect to the volunteer corps in general, as now formed.
§ Mr. Whitbread
replied, that though, according to the argument of the right hon. gent, the crown had the privilege of rejecting the claims of the volunteers to chute their own officers, he hoped its ministers would have the wisdom to advise the crown not to exert it. Me was sorry to see the right hon. secretary treat the matter so lightly. He conjured ministers seriously and cautiously to pause., before they ventured to 456 precipitate a measure which, at such a crisis is the present, might be productive of the most mischievous consequences.
rose, and expressed some surprises, that the Right Hon. Secretary of State, in speaking of the constitution and privilege of the. London and Westminster Light Horse, on account of their long services, had made no mention of another respectable corps, which he conceived no less-entitled to consideration for its early, long, arid active services, alluding, we presume, to the Bloomsbury and inns of Court corps, of which the hon. and learned gent, is a member. He could not avoid expressing, in coincidence with a right hon. gent, on the other side of the House (Mr. Windham), his surprise and astonishment, not at what the right hon. secretary had this night expressed, but at his omission to have expressed much more upon a topic of such vital importance to the country. Upon a subject, in which the whole nation was so deeply interested, the mind of the metropolis, and of the country at large, had been bent with anxious expectation to the measure proposed to have been this night explained by the right hon. gent.; a measure which was expected, as it was proposed, to remedy all the defects, and amend all the errors, which had crept into the volunteer system, and excited so much disputation and animosity throughout the country. But what did this great measure amount to, now that it was explained? Merely to a change in the number of days of public exercise necessary to exemption, to a declaration that the corps have no longer a right to elect their own officer, and to a recognition of the right of resignation. He could not but I agree with the hon. member opposite to him (Mr. Whitbread), that such an alteration in the volunteer system certainly amounted I to a breach of faith, and that such a charge in the number of days necessary to the volunteer's exemption was a most material departure from the original condition of service; nevertheless, he was ready to acknowledge it was an alteration necessary to the exigencies of our situation. He did hope, that his Majesty's ministers would have taken a lesson from then precable consequences which had already flowed from I the errors and imperfections of the volunteer system, as formed by them, and would have reported to the wisdom of that House for a complete revision of the system, in order to a complete and effectual amendment of all its detects and errors, instead of tampering I with temporary experiments, which would only expose the system to new difficulties, 457 and to the necessity of resorting, again and again, so the legislature, for new alterations I and amendments; to the production of new I disputes and discontents. He did hope, that in proposing an effectual amendment to the errors of a system upon which the security and existence of the country so principally depended, the proposition would have been submitted originally to a Committee of the whole House, in order that it might have the advantage of suggestions from gentlemen of great talents on both sides of the House, many of whom had much experience in the volunteer service, and had spent: the greater part of their lives in the army. A measure thus originated would come for ward in a form much more perfect and satisfactory, than that which this night was proposed by the minister; and would have been much more likely to remedy all errors and defects, and prevent all future cavillings, than one brought forward in so crude a form, without the advantages of such a consultation. He concluded by pressing en the wisdom and prudence of the House, the necessity of a lull deliberation upon a measure of so much importance, and of rendering it, owe for all, so complete, as to obviate, as far as possible, all probable uccessity for further alteration or amendment.
in answer to the observations of his learned friend behind him (Mr. Sturges), observed, that it was the duly of government to bring forward such plans and projects of measures, as they deemed advisable for the public service. There was every opportunity for discussion, amendment, and improvement, in the sub-Sequent stages. He had also to advert to another point laid down by his learned I friend, who carried the idea of breach of faith to far greater length than it had been carried before. In his opinion, the power of resigning put a bar to all possibility of breach of faith. It never could have been meant, or understood, that government should be bound up by the original terms of the first I volunteer acts; and when the right of resignation was recognized and established, Parliament had a right to make every alteration that was deemed just and proper.—With respect to the opinion which he had given, and which had been determined, on the I highest authority, to be erroneous, he did not wish to say any thing. That opinion was now nothing, any farther than it regarded him and he was far from thinking, that the attention of the House would be well taken up by any thing that concerned so humble an individual. But to those who expressed surprize that such an opinion 458 could have been entertained, he could not help observing, that they should consider what the nature of the volunteer contract was. He wished to ask them lie question, whether a volunteer entered into any engagement or not? He would ask, whether there was not an engagement to come forward, and to be ready in case of invasion; and was every roan who entered into this engagement to be free from it till invasion came? It was very strange that an obligation which became so absolute and peremptory as that was, should make no provision for the person being forth coming on whom the obligation was to fill. But it was idle to engage the House in defending an opinion which was nothing more thin a mere conjecture, more or less founded on rational grounds, of what the decision of the judges would be. The decision of the judges in this instance had declared his opinion wrong, and he should not now have adverted to it but for the notice that some gentlemen had taken of it, and lest he should be deemed shy, because he had been wrong. He again noticed the mischievous tendency of the idea that every alteration in the volunteer duties was a breach of faith.
in explanation, said, he never meant to assert that government should canvass the opinion of the House before they brought forward any plan. What he meant was, that the House should do in this case as it had in most others of like importance, resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, where the subject might be more fully discussed, and government bring forward their present plans in the shape of re-solutions.
§ Mr. T. Grenville
rose, not to debate at large the whole of the proposed bill in detail, as there would be many opportunities for doing that in the coarse of" its subsequent stages, but to abide by the injunction of the right hon. Secretary on the opening of his proposition, by receiving from him calmly the explanation he had to give, and deferring debate upon the subject to a future opportunity; he could not, however, leave that House without expressing his surprize and astonishment, in common with his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham), at the explanation he had given. He coincided in the judicious suggestion of the learned grent. under the gallery (Mr. Sturges), notwithstanding the manner in which his opinion had been attacked by the Attorney General, and from which it would seem almost criminal to call in question the consummate wisdom of his Majesty's ministers, upon a subject on which they had already displayed so much 459 versatility of opinions and conduct. He could not, however, see the criminality of suggesting to his Majesty's ministers, the propriety of an appeal to the united wisdom of that House, upon bringing forward a question of such vital importance, instead of coming forward wish one so utterly and to tally inadequate to the object proposed. It was not his intention to have said so much in the present stage of the. business; but bin object in rising was to defend the right and necessity of appeal to a committee of the whole House, upon a measure of so much importance; and for the suggestion of which so much censure had been thrown upon the hon. and learned gent. He should not now argue, whether or not the dismissal of a corps for asserting the right of electing their officers, was or was not a breach of faith on the part of government; but he sincerely I recommended to his Majesty's ministers, I before they brought forward the question for ultimate discussion, to make up their minds, and learn to agree with each other upon the point, for this night they seemed at variance. The right hon. Secretary asserted that the right of electing officers never was possessed by the volunteers, and that the denial of right was no breach of faith. The noble lord (Castlereagh) argued as if it was a breach of faith; for though he stated such a claim to be a violation of the military principle, and so far agreed with his right hon. colleague, yet much as he admired and loved that principle, he thought it good in some cases only to be departed from; for he insisted, that the Crown should most tenaciously keep faith with the volunteers upon this point. The right hon. See of State asserted the right of the Crown to dismiss any corps asserting such a privilege; and the noble lord, while he admitted the right of the Crown, insisted upon the necessity of relaxing it in this case. Upon which of those was the House to rest their confidence? or how was the House to accept a proposition, as adequate to its purposes, upon which his Majesty's ministers, sitting in council by each other, could not agree?
in explanation, denied that he had offered the arguments imputed to him by the right hon. gent. or that any thing he had said in the course of debate was at variance with the arguments of his right hon. friend the Secretary of State, or his learned friend the Attorney General. What he had said was, that if there was any particular corps constituted with the particular privilege of electing its own officers, by special compact with the Crown, so long as that corps was allowed to continue in ex- 460 istence, the Crown was bound to keep faith with it scrupulously, upon the terms and conditions of their original constitution; but he by no means denied the privilege of the crown to dismiss that corps whenever it should be deemed expedient to discontinue its services.
declared he should not have been actuated by any particular motive to press himself upon the attention of the House, were it not for the observations of the hon. and learned gentleman under the gallery, who professed himself so very zealous an advocate for referring the bill proposed by his right hon. friend below him, to the consideration of a Committee of the whole House. He would ask that hon. and learned gentleman, what were the very strong and imperious reasons which rendered the measure he recommended so very necessary? Was it not in the recollection of every man who heard him, that when the bills passed the House, the consolidation and amendment of which was the object of the proposed act, no objection whatever had been started to them in their rise progress and conclusion, because they had not originated in a Committee of the whole House? The former bills respecting the formation and regulation of volunteer corps, were unquestionably of the highest importance, and yet in no single instance did it occur, that they had been opposed on the ground, of their not having been previously submitted to and framed by a Committee of the whole House. He trusted, therefore, that the argument advanced by the hon. and learned gentleman would be found inapplicable to the question under discussion. Several gentlemen had with great earnestness expressed their astonishment and surprize, not at what had f Hen from his right hon. friend who opened the business that evening, but at what had not fallen from him; not at what had been done, but at what had not been done in the arrangements which were submitted to the consideration of the House. Now he must, in his turn, express his surprize and astonishment that although these gentlemen were so very eager to discover and point out things; which appeared to their minds deficiencies of considerable importance, they never urged improvements which might tend to the amelioration of the volunteer system They were, indeed, extremely ready to detect errors and faults, but they suggested no alteration, and advised no plan of their own framing. The only fair conclusion that could be drawn from their speeches was, that they thought themselves the only fit persons to save the county in the present emergency. They asserted, in bold and confident lan- 461 guage, that the building of the state was tottering to its ruin, but they furnished no buttresses; nor assistance to keep it from, falling. When he witnessed inconsistencies of that nature, he could not avoid making some remarks upon them; and he trusted that under every point of view, the bill win h was the object of his right hon. friend's motion, would be found perfectly adapted to give strength and efficiency 10 the volunteer force of the country.
rose to explain. He observed, that it was unnecessary for him to make any answer to the charge of inconsistency, which had been preferred against him by the hon. gent, who spoke last; but he merely wished to set him right relative to the question of referring the consideration of the bill to a whole House. He had, he begged leave to state, never recommended that this business should be again commenced in the Committee; but he certainly had expressed his concern that it had not originated in a Committee of the whole House, it; which the right hon. gent, who brought it forward, and his colleagues in office, might have derived essential advantages from the talents, information, and experience, of all the members.
rose to vindicate his right hon. friends from the imputations which had been thrown on them. He observed, that when gentlemen had expressed their surprise, it as only what might very naturally be expected on a view of the various changes which had taken place in the minds of his Majesty's ministers. If, however, the observation of an hon. gent, opposite (Mr. Hobhousej was correct, as to the desire of getting the places of ministers being the principal stimulus to an opposition to their measures, it must be fairly inferred that, as that hon. gent, had for so many years regularly opposed the measures of his Majesty's ministers, that his only view was to get on that Bench on which he now sits. There was one point to which he wished to advert, and he considered it of no small importar.—the present measure had been represented as calculated to remove all possible evils; yet the right hon. Sec. had described it as the least of two evils. The right hon. Secretary had allowed that it was impossible to augment the regular army or the militia; and, therefore, of the two evils, was inclined to choose the least. The system, he contended, had many radical defects, which it would be necessary to remove before it could be rendered efficient to its object. The bill proposed to be introduced was intended to consolidate three Acts of last ses- 462 sion. It, however, appeared to him likely to produce no effect, but in the appointment of officers, the conduct of committees, and the recognition of that for law which the decision of the Court of King's Bench: had already ascertained to be the law. The learned gent. here adverted with consider able delicacy to the opinion of the Attorney General. He contended that his Majesty's ministers were bound to consult the wisdom of the House in the first instance. This was the stage in which every effort ought to be made to render the measure as I complete as possible. They were particu1rly called on in the critical situation of that; country to deliberate with wisdom and discretion, to square, shape, and model the measure in the outset, so as to render it adequate to the important national objects to which it was to be directed. He wished to press on the House the necessity of mature deliberation, and not to suffer a measure, of the last consequence to the security and defence of the country, to slide in, as a little bill, unheeded and undiscussed.
Mr. Secretary Yorke
informed the learned member that he had never stated the impossibility of increasing the regular army. In the present situation of the country, and of the army, he was of opinion that it could not be carried to a greater extent than it had already reached, though, under certain regulations, he thought it might. The militia he had certainly considered as incapable of being further augmented; and, from the situation of France, and of the Continent, it appeared to him unavoidable to provide a considerably greater military force than either the regular army, or the militia, or both, constituted.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer.
—Sir; I shall detain the House but a few moments, before it comes to a decision on the question under consideration. In a discussion of some hours length, I have heard no objection urge against the motion of my right hon. friend, but that it ought to have been submitted to a committee of the who's House, that the whole of the measure proposed to be brought forward was inefficient to its object, and that it would disappoint the expectations entertained by the public. With respect to the proposition for submitting the measure to the consideration of a committee of the whole House, I am at a loss to know where in the Journals the gentlemen have found the precedent for such a course of proceeding. During the last war many propositions were submitted to Parliament for the effectual security and defence of the realm, yet not one of them originated ia a committee of the whole 463 House. A sufficient opportunity will be afforded to gentlemen, in the committee on the bill, to offer such observations as they may deem necessary, and to render the measure as perfect and effectual as mature deliberation and adequate discussion can make it. But the light hon. gent, has represented the measure, as opened by my right, hon. friend, as miserably defective. My right hon. friend, however, did not state the system to he a system of perfection. He was fully aware of the utter impossibility of attaining perfection in any human institution, within the short period that has elapsed since the adoption of the measure. It is not at once that a measure of such magnitude and extent can be brought I to full and final completion. What, Sir, is the object of my right hon. friend?—to obviate the inconveniences which have been; found to arise from the effect of the system, as it at present exits, to remove the difficulties which have been experienced in its execution, and to apply an effectual remedy to the practical defects and inconveniences which have occurred. The practical inconveniences of the system may be ranged under three heads: first, the election of officers; second, the power of committees; and third, the right of resignation. My right hon. friend has stated, that the only instance in which his Majesty's ministers could countenance the existence of committees was, where their interference was limited to objects not military. They may be found necessary to adjust the accounts or the internal arrangement of a corps, but it is the determination of his Majesty's government to discountenance their interference in function; at all military.—As to the election of officers, much difference of opinion has prevailed on the subject; and as it is a subject upon which much discussion will probably take place, there is every probability that it will be placed on such a footing, as will give entire and eventual satisfaction. What my right hon. friend stated was, that in all cases where the election of officers formed a part of the original constitution of a corps, his Majesty's discretion would be extended, so long a it should be his pleasure to admit the continuance of the services of such corps. Good faith will in every instance concede what is due to principle. But, Sir, I do not consider the measure proposed as any violation of the public faith, as it has been represented by the hon. gent. (Mr. Sturges) under the gallery. I to, however, admit, that a violation of faith would in some degree attach to the system; and that his Majesty's ministers would be 464 justly liable to inculpation, if, in a service so extensive, so serious, and important, and on which the future salvation of the country depends, they were to attempt to fetter that free agency, which is the life and soul of the volunteer force. With all the respect which entertain for the opinion of my learned friend (the Attorney General), and with all the attention which I am disposed to pay to the opinion of an hon gent, not now in his place, I am not influenced by either in my own. Independent of the opinion of these gentlemen, and independent of the decision of the Court of King's Bench, I am convinced, that Parliament is bound in good faith to construe the meaning of the acts, with a bona title view to the precise terms of the law, as to the conceptions of the people; and if the individuals composing the volunteer corps of the kingdom, conceive themselves not to be deprived by the existing laws of their free agency, I consider I that single consideration as binding on Parliament. If, therefore, the judgment of the King's Bench had coincided with the opinion of mu learned friend (the Attorney-General) if the expediency of that opinion were even admitted, yet as a contrary impression does prevail amongst the individuals composing the volunteer corps, I should have thought it my duty to have come forward to advise the House to give the volunteers a new option, by passing an acr, declaring, in express terms, what is generally understood to be the tenor of their original contract; namely, that every man should be at liberty to resign at any time he should think proper, excepting only when an enemy should be in our country or upon our shores. It is the very essence of this constitution, that the parties should be at full and complete liberty to quit their corps whenever they shall think proper: and, I contend that from the zeal and spirit which has been displayed by the whole country, there is no reason to apprehend that any individual would resign on slight grounds.—Sir, I ask pardon of die enthusiasm with which all classes of the community have come forward, if, for a moment, I have supposed it possible for any to resign except on grounds which left them no alternative; but, if there should be individuals of that description, sure I am, that they ought to be consigned to infamy, that their names should be execrated, and themselves considered as traitors to the most sacred of causes, and guilty of offering themselves for the defence of every thing dear and valuable on earth, and of abandoning the glorious object in the moment of peril and uncertainty. This, Sir, should be his punish- 465 ment, but the hand of the law should not be extended to coerce them.—As to the committees of volunteer corps, my right hon. friend only proposes to confine them solely to financial affairs, and to see that they have nothing military in their functions.—A right hon. gent, urged early in the discussion, that we were contemplating the probable dissolution of the principal part of the military defence of the country. Let me ask that right hon. gent, what was the state of the country in July last, whether at that period he could have contemplated such a force, and in such a state of discipline as the force now actually existing? If he could, then the confidence of that right hon. gent, in the real spirit and patriotism of (he country far surpasses any which I entertain, though no hon. member can possibly estimate the spirit of the country more highly than myself.—The hon. gent, who has just sat down stated, that my right hon. friend admitted that the regular army could not be augmented. My right hon. friend, on the contrary, stated only, that the most effectual mode of providing for the security and defence of the country was by the system under which the great mast of the population of the country has been moulded to military objects. It was wisely observed by an hon. gent, during the last session, that the security of a country depends chiefly on the diversified nature of the force employed in its defence. As to the actual state of the military arrangements of the country, let me ask, whether there ever has been in the short space of eight months so large a force of regulars and militia, and in such a state of discipline, as at present? It has been urged, that the means of providing for the effectual security of the empire has been neglected; bat the fact is, that a larger regular force is now in Great-Britain and Ireland, than has ever been before provided in so short a period. With every deference to the merits of such a force, I think it unfair to make their superiority the cause of depredating the services of another meritorious description of persons, whose exertions, I however, have been deprecated in that House, but whose zeal and patriotism forms the proudest monument of virtuous public spirit, that ever distinguished any period of the history of this, or of any other country. If there exists defects in the system under whit h the are regulated; if inconveniences are experienced in its operation, let it be our business to remove that former and obviate the latter. Let us see how the good sense of the people will work out its perfection. Do not let us stop the great instrument of our 466 security. Let us cherish it as a proof of the affection of the people for their King and their constitution. Let us watch its progress, and marking those instances of error or insufficiency which may occur, let us endeavour to apply the remedies as occasions may arise. All I ask of gentlemen is, that they will not endeavour to put the country out of conceit with a system, on which its security essentially depends, but that they will assist with temper and moderation, in discussions which are to give a more perfect form to a measure, whose object it is to promote the effectual exertions of a loyal people in defence of their Sovereign and Constitution. I earnestly entreat gentlemen not to consider the system as fugitive or temporary, but as a great instrument of permanent security, every step of the progress of which, should be watched and gradually corrected, in order to form a more perfect system; for it must be considered as a measure of the greatest importance to the present interests of the empire, and one on which its future security and salvation is principally to depend.
§ Sir William Young
expressed his disapprobation in general of the whole of the system by which the volunteer force of the country was constituted and governed. His Majesty was, by law, invested with the high privilege of commanding the exertions, and exacting the services of every one of his subjects; and this, his undoubted prerogative, seemed to be questioned, or at least rendered abortive by the general defence act; for in its consequences it tended to paralize the operation of that particular prerogative. He censured the principle of exemption, and the practice of extending those privileges to the great mass of the population of the country, which, by the former laws, were only claimable by persons under peculiar circumstances. The lamentable result of this principle, he might say of general exemption, was, that the recruiting service, whether for the army, or even tor the militia, was completely cut up both root and branch; and all the vigour and activity of the country were protected and locked up, as it were, from the defence of the empire, at the most momentous crisis in which it. was ever placed. Three fourths, at least, of the people, of such part of them as would have enrolled themselves in the militia, or enlisted into r-he army, were, by the ill-considered measure of the I lib of August, sheltered against that prerogative, almost coeval with the monarchy, of being required, in time of peril, to come forward in defence of their country. The hon. member called emphatically on his ministers and particularly on 467 the Secretary of State, to recover that high ground on which they stood previous to the 11th of August. He called on them to unfetter the hardy and gallant population of the country, and to subject very man, indiscriminately, to be required to contribute every exertion he was capable of to defend the constitution. He even wished to see the good old system revived as practised in the reign of Henry the Eighth, when the flower of the English youth was to be seen on the sabbath day exercising with the bow and arrow, and the other military weapons then in use. This was a duty to which they were compellable by particular statutes; and he could see no great impropriety at the present day, of compelling every man capable of bearing arms, of being trained to the exercise of the musket. Were such an wholesome and excellent practice revived, then, indeed, he should have no hesitation in saying, that the armed force of this empire would not only prove a terror to the French, but might bid defiance to the combined hostility of all Europe. He would not, at present, make any opposition to the motion of the right hon. Secretary, but resered to himself the privilege of arguing it fully and minutely hereafter. He, above all things, conjured the House not, by any acts of theirs, to lock up all the population (when he said all, he meant, the active portion of it) from serving in the militia and the army.—The question was then put, and carried. The Secretary at War, the chancellor of the Exchequer, and other members of his Majesty's Privy Council, were ordered to prepare and bring in the bill.