said, that his Majesty's ministers having determined to give the House the liberty of resuming the debate, which they themselves had thought proper so long to suspend, it became his duty to offer such remarks as occurred to him on the proposed second reading. When the bill had been introduced by the Secretary of State, a good deal was said of the hopes which M ere entertained of temper and impartiality in the discussion, and as a motive of inducement to that temper and impartiality, the importance of the measure was dwelt upon, and an appeal was made to the feelings of the House, as to the duty of being impartial on a measure, which the right hon. Secretary represented as so essential to the country. That appeal had obtained due attention from all those to whom it was directed. It was impossible, indeed, to look to the situation of the country, without being penetrated with the necessity of discussing, with temper, every great measure proposed for its defence. If it were not for that situation, it would not now be necessary for him to take up the time of the House. The danger of invasion was such, as it was not necessary for him to dwell upon. If the country was on the day of invasion, to calculate every thing that had been done for its preservation, he was at a loss to conceive, how the present ministers could be justified. Had every step that had been taken been applied in the best manner to secure the country r However happy the man would be who could persuade himself of the affirmative, he could not envy his feelings, if they be founded on the passing of the bill now before the House. In adverting to the papers he had moved for, relative to what was called the volunteer system, he should briefly notice the points which seemed to him most worthy of attention. Much difference of opinion prevailed on the employment of the volunteers. He was one of those who were not against the volunteers in one sense, nor for them in another. He was therefore sorry for these two general distinctions. He was for the volunteers, because he thought the true and genuine British spirit called forth by pressing danger, a necessary ingredient in the force and defence of the country. He would say more, that such an array of that spirit may be made, as with the aid of a proportionate regular army, would make this country impregna- 533 ble to any force that could be sent to attack it. In that sense, he was for the volunteers. If, on the other hand, he was told that it was impossible to look forward to any great increase of the regular army, as had been said by the Secretary of State, in opening this business, and that thence it was inferred, that the volunteer force should be made as nearly as possible a regular force, he conceived the object unattainable, and he thought the attempt to attain it could have no other effect than to exhaust the volunteer spirit; and to husband this spirit, which was the spirit of the country, was as necessary as to husband its finances. If he were to enter into the grounds of those opinions, his difficulty would be, how to ground upon the present bill any large or general view of the volunteer force. The Secretary of State, in introducing the bill, told the House, that two things were to be clone by it; first, that the exemptions were to be assimilated, viz.: those from the Militia and those from the Army of Reserve; secondly, to re-enact what was and is already law, and therefore unnecessary to be re-enacted, unless it were for the purpose of adding the condition of another resignation, the right of resigning. A bill confined to these two objects, would not admit of any large or comprehensive view of what was called the volunteer system, of such a view as it was the duty of the House lo entertain, and till it was entertained the House would not have done its duty. He should content himself at present, with a few remarks on what had obtained the title of the volunteer system; and he should appeal to the candour of every member of the House, and that of the country, whether, when ministers had given the assurance, that during the recess, they would devote their utmost attention to the perfection of the volunteer system; he would appeal, and ask, whether it was possible, that a measure requiring so much labour and attention, could be perfected by the present bill? No five persons were of the same opinion on this, which was called a system, as those who were called upon to execute it well knew. For the purpose of understanding what was called the volunteer system, he had taken the liberty of moving for copies of the letters addressed to the lords lieutenant. Even in the contracted view of the system which the bill imposed upon the House, the contradictions which appeared from the papers on the table, could not fail to make an impression. This afforded grounds for the re- 534 marks which he was about to offer, and which he found it difficult to arrange. He should first observe on the letter, of Lord Hobart of the 20th of June, with-holding, the exemptions from the ballots. It was, cay to conceive the natural course to be observed in calling forth British spirit. But in the course followed by his Majesty's ministers, fear, hope, and appeals to the generosity of the people followed each other in the most extraordinary succession, without co-operating to any one possible result: Lord Hobart's first letter supposed that there was to be no exemption from ballot, except for certain descriptions of volunteers. From that it was supposed that there was some principle that was acted upon. In the part of the country lie lived in, and he was sure the same disinterestedness prevailed in other parts, there was no expectation of any exemptions; at least, the men were ready to come forward without any. Consequently, the effect of granting the exemptions, was, without procuring any real advantage with respect to the volunteer forces, to cripple the Militia and the Army of Reserve. When government had, in the first place, procured as many volunteers as they could obtain, they suddenly put a stop to the acceptance of offers, when they found that the exemptions, unnecessarily given, left no men for the ballot.—The next point in the papers was the indemnification for property taken by the enemy or lost. In that paper there was a paragraph well worthy of attention. In order to animate the inhabitants where the descent should be made, it was said, that it must, at the same time, be understood, that no indemnification was to be made for the property of such persons as were of age to aid the public service, and whose names were not on the roll, either as drivers, pioneers guides, &c.—Another point extremely inforesting, that of the election of officers, I had undergone a very useful discussion on the day on which the bill was introduced. The view was, whether the right existed; another, Whether if it did exist, it Was prudent to continue it. The Secretary of State had clearly explained, that the right was at first exercised, but that he would have thought it his duty, if it were afterwards? insisted upon, to advise his Majesty to refuse the services of the corps so insisting. The noble Lord (Castlereagh) who followed the Right hon. Secretary, on that occasion, with some little difference, maintained the same principle. But, in opposition to this, there were the public orders for the regulation of the pioneer corps, in which 535 it was established, that no corps should consist of less than 25, nor more than 75, that they should recommend their own leaders; and, when the corps amounted to 50, they were to have a captain in addition to the leader. The next point was, the inconsistency of government in increasing the volunteer force, by (he acceptance of offers in every possible case. In the first instance, the volunteer force was to be increased by all possible means, where it had not reached a certain extent; a few lines below, it was mentioned by way of encouragement, that 25 firelocks were deemed sufficient for drilling 100 men. No explanation had yet been given of the omission of ministers to provide arms. If we had been taken by surprise, there would have been some excuse; but his Majesty's ministers had seen all along the continued offences of the French government, and they had themselves commenced the war in consequence. Under these circumstances there was no excuse for not having the arsenals properly supplied. It could not have been regarded as a symptom of hostility by the French government to have the arsenals thus supplied.—The object of his Majesty's ministers, with respect to the volunteer force, should have been to increase it as much a possible, without interfering with the ballots: not thinking of the probability of this interference in the outset, they found themselves embarrassed by it when they were not aware.—The right hon. gent. then proceeded to observe upon the circular letter of the 28th Sept. to the lords lieutenants of the counties, respecting the exemptions; wherein it is expressly stated, that if any members of the corps shall neglect to attend at the proper times and places of muster, and exercise, then such members shall not be entitled to the exemptions allowed by the act, and to which members regularly attending, are justly entitled. By this letter it was manifest, that the system upon which ministers built so much faith, was full of incongruities and inconsistencies, or it could not have been necessary for the rt. hon. Sec. to resort to that mode of explaining the meaning of the intention of the legislature.—He then referred to the opinion given by the Attorney general upon the subject of fines, which opinion was directly the reverse of that which the expounders of the law had delivered into the court of King's Bench, and which latter opinion, to the understanding and common sense of every person, must appear perfectly just. It served to shew the incapacity of ministers, and also the error into which the learned gent. had fallen, 536 when boldly giving his exposition of their wise acts.—He then alluded to the erection of beacons in the different maritime counties, and observed, that, even in that respect, ministers had shown similar incapacity. In one county in particular, not less than four different orders were given; first, to erect the beacon: well, that was very proper to be done, but then came the question—"who is to pay for the erection?" a reference in that respect was given to the county; they refused, and the persons employed were then directed to apply to the general of the district, who was not apprized of the manner in which the correspondence was to be maintained; so negligent had government been of the ordinary language in which these communications were tube carried on! Then came a question, in what manner the beacon was to be erected? To this no answer had been given.—The next point, which he considered as one of very material importance, and to which some allusion had been made on the introduction of the bill, respected the days of exercise, which he understood to be 85. The letter of the 14th of Jan. 1804, stated that adjutants, Serjeant majors, &c. were to be employed in training the men, for which service they were to be remunerated with permanent pay, and the pay to be guaranteed to them, as the right hon. Secretary's letter expressly stales, by his Majesty's confidential servants, thereby making themselves the sole executive power of the country.—The right hon. gent. then adverted to the letter of the 1st of Feb. describing the apprehensions of government respecting an immediate attack from the enemy, and containing the opinion of his Majesty's law advisers. From the general contents of that letter, he inferred, that when once a volunteer had disclaimed the exemptions to which he might be entitled, he could not at any subsequent period claim them; thereby conveying to the mass of the volunteers, that in case they disobeyed the opinions and wishes of government, even though under the sanction of the law, as settled by the court of King's Bench, then the services of such corps might be discontinued at the option of his Majesty's ministers. Having at some length critically and minutely examined the different bearings of the acts, and the letters as connected with these acts, and pointed out what he considered as the deficiencies and defects, the right hon. gent. concluded with recommending the subject to the serious attention of the House, and expressing an intention of moving for a committee to enquire into the whole of the volunteer system.
spoke at some length upon 537 the subject, bat in so low a tone of voice, that he was perfectly inaudible. From what we could indistinctly collect, he seemed to approve of the system in general.
Mr. Secretary Yorke
complimented the noble lord upon the acquisition which the House would obtain from his talents. He perfectly agreed with the right hon. gent. (Mr. Grenville), that the introduction of the bill would afford an opportunity to discuss the great question of the volunteer system in all its branches, and which discussion no one would be more anxious to meet than himself. Though he agreed in this particular, he must express his difference of opinion with the right hon. gent. as to the application of his speech to the bill now before the House. He had paid great attention to that speech, and could not distinguish any one part which he could adapt to the bill, until he came towards the conclusion. He, therefore, should not follow the right hon. gent. through the windings and turnings which he had taken to arrive at the point, but proceed to that point immediately; and he must take occasion to lament that the House had been so often troubled upon the occasion. The greater part of the right hon. gentleman's speech, was composed of hyper-criticisms upon a variety of circular letters, which did not apply in the least to the present bill. He would merely state the outline of it to call gentlemen's attention back, and then he trusted it would be suffered to go to a committee, where every one would have an opportunity of delivering his opinion, and strikeout any thing which might eventually contribute to the general perfecting of the measure. The right hon. gent. had been arguing, as if he conceived the bill was introduced as one compleatly perfect, and adapted to answer every purpose for which it was intended. It certainly was not so introduced. It was impossible on a subject of such great and serious moment that it could be rendered perfect all at ones. He had never considered it so. Time, experience, and attention were the best ingredients to make it perfect. The right hon. gent. bad stated, that before the recess, ministers had promised to re-consider the subject fully. Undoubtedly, such a promise was made, and had been acted upon, but then it did not of necessity imply a direct and positive pledge to bring a measure forward, which, in its formation, should be perfectly new. Every attention had been given on his part; and, the more he considered, the more he was convinced, that the less he attempted to do towards making the measure perfect the better, as it could 538 only be perfected from the united efforts of the whole House. The right hon. gent. in his view of the subject, seemed to take two leading features, namely, with respect to the exemptions and the right of resignation; to the latter, some very material doubts were entertained. These doubts it was the chief object of the present bill to do away; and also by a consolidation of the other existing laws relative to the volunteers, to clear up any misapprehension upon the subject, and get rid of those verbal incongruities of which he now so strenuously complained.—With respect to the papers to which he had alluded being "the system of the volunteers," he could assure the right. hon. gent. that no such title had been given by government. The only passage in the right hon. gentleman's speech which referred to the bill, was that in which he staled, that he conceived the better plan to be adopted would be to postpone the further consideration of the measure, in order to give an opportunity for forming a committee of inquiry, to examine into the system in general, and thereon might be founded a new bill, preferable, in every respect, to the present one, and calculated to provide for the defence and security of the kingdoms.—This, however, in his opinion, would be an unnecessary postponement, because, if the present system is radically bad, then it must operate? as a good reason with gentlemen to propose; another, which might be done without the trouble of forming a committee. Understanding, however, the right hon. gent. to be friendly to the system in general, he should not advert to the arguments which had formerly been used, but merely confine his observations to the institution of the system, and he must take occasion to observe, that he had never said the regular army could not be augmented; on the contrary, he thought it might admit of considerable augmentation; all that he meant to assert, when speaking on the subject formerly, was, that the present time was not favourable for such an augmentation, when the relative situation of France and the rest of Europe was considered. The militia of Gt. Britain at present consisted of 90,000 men, that of Ireland of 18,000 only, list war 28,000. No augmentation in the militia could take place, considering the disposition of what is termed the regular forces. His Majesty's government, therefore, was of opinion, that in order to complete the defence of the kingdom, a compulsory or voluntary system should be resorted to. The latter was resorted to, and it would be in the recollection of every gent., that at the time 539 it was first resorted to, no proposition met with such general support. The House approved of it, and awarded its thanks to the volunteers, both at the end of the last war, and previous to: he late recess, on the motion of an hon. gen. (Mr. Sheridan), not now in his place. He merely mentioned this, to shew, that the right hon. gent did not discountenance, or very highly blame the system. There were two descriptions of volunteers, namely, those trained and exercised under the compulsory clauses included in the first class; and, 2dly, those formed under the acts originally framed upon the subject. This distinction, however, would be obviously siren, that in case of actual invasion, or the appearance of the enemy upon the coast, those enrolled as volunteers would be liable to serve the same as the first class, which class would, upon vacancies arising in the regiments of the line, be turned over to fill up these vacancies, as his Majesty might think fit. Volunteers of the former description, therefore, could not be entitled to exemptions claimed by the latter. He would ask. gentlemen whether so large a number as that composing the present volunteer force could be got together, without producing considerable dissatisfaction, upon the terms which some were inclined to suppose? It never was the intention of government that the class alluded to should be entitled to the exemptions further than from service in the militia.—With respect to the exemptions from the army of reserve, to which the right hon. gent. had adverted, it was never in the contemplation of his Majesty's government, and had been so expressly-stated, that no volunteers entering subsequent to the 22d June, should be exempt from the ballot for the army of reserve, but those who entered bonâ fide previous to that period, were to be entitled to the exemptions. The doubts entertained were, whether or not these corps having been accepted under the general provisions of the defence acts, were taken out of the provisions by the subsequent volunteer act. This question was submitted for the consideration and opinion of his Majesty's law officers. He had to congratulate the House that upwards of 500,000 men entered of the first class, of the ages from 17 to 45, unmarried; when once a man entered the volunteer corps he would be much more likely to make a good soldier. Nay, the volunteer system so far from being injurious, was advantageous to the recruiting service in general, in proof of this, he instanced two corps, the Norwich, and the St. George's volunteers, from both of which the military habits acquired by die men had 540 induced them to inlist in the regulars, in a far greater proportion than the same number of men otherwise would have done, during both the last and present war. From the St. George's corps, from 11th March, 1795, to 1801, out of 600, or at most 780 men, 94 had entered the navy, and 337 into other regiments. During the present war, from the same corps, 40 had already inlisted. So, of the Norwich corps, consisting of 300, 25 had, during this war, already entered the army He mentioned this to shew that the volunteer system did not retard the recruiting the army of reserve.—With respect to the election of officers on which some strange opinions had been formed, the right hon. gent. seemed to think there were two points presented themselves; 1st, as to the matter of right in the first formation of the corps to elect their own officers; and, 2dly, in case of vacancy, the right to supply that vacancy by ballot. The right hon. gent. must have completely mistaken him, if he supposed that, on a former occasion, he had even admitted either the one claim or the other. It had never been recognised by any act of the legislature, nor was it in fact the intention of government to give that right. No such faith had been pledged, in this instance; but where it occurred it ought to he considered on the part of government as sacred. It was a totally different thing from the first formation of the corps, and their subsequent efficacy as a military body. In the first instance, it might be requisite to allow them to present officers for the approval of the colonel commandant, by him to be transmitted to the lord lieut. of the county, from thence to the Sec. of State, and from him to the throne, for the approval of his Majesty. The impolicy of canvassing for the election of officers would be obvious. Suppose the corps were called out into actual service, and a vacancy of 3 or 4 officers in each corps was to arise, the time that would be taken up in canvassing and balloting to supply the vacancies would be of the greatest detriment to the service. In fact, the point of practice in this particular had been completely settled, there was, consequently, in his opinion, no necessity for going into the discussion. The right hon. gent. then adverted to the observations made by Mr. Grenville, with respect to the arms for the use of the volunteers, and contended that if any gentleman thought blame imputable to government for not making a better provision in that respect, the same degree of blame would attach upon the government during the last seven years of the late war. In order to shew that his Majesty's present government were more upon 541 the alert, and provided better for the defence of die kingdoms he would state a list of the quantity of arms in the Tower, and the several out ports, for several years past. In 1755, previous to the breaking out of the seven years war, there was 36,098 stand of fire arms in the Tower, &c.: in 1775, during the American war, 98,488: in 1783, at the conclusion of the war, 94,786: in 1790, during the Spanish armament, 92,131: in 1793. commencement of the French war, 53,482: and in 1803, at the commencement of 'he present war, no less than 329,246 stand of arms; he did not state this to hew any superior attention of the ordnance department, but merely to prove that government bad no; been remiss With respect to the number of arms delivered out:—In the beginning: of 1803, there were delivered out 101,034 stand of arms, and up to the 27th of Feb. of the present year (the day on which he was speaking), the quantity of 365,426 stand of arms, exclusive of pikes, &c. amounting to 18,000. Of this number 217,196 were delivered to the volunteer of Great-Britain, and 32,051 to those of Ireland. A very considerable portion of arms had been furnished at the expense of the volunteers themselves; and from the best information which he could gain, upwards of 250,000 fire arms had been provided, for adding to the general defence of the country. Every thing on the part of government had been done which was practicable.—He then took notice of the letter alluded to by the right hon. gent. as to the resignations. He did not mean to defend or speak in favour of the style, for it was written by himself; but he wished to explain to the House, that he meant they should be dismissed from: their corps, as a punishment for not having done their duty in such a manner as they ought to have done. He might, perhaps, be asked, why, if he thought so, he had so industriously circulated the opinion of the Attorney General? His answer to this was, that a difference of opinion having arisen in the minds of many on this subject, it had been deemed necessary to take the legal opinion of his Majesty's great law-officers, the Attorney and Solicitor General; and these gentlemen, after a mature consideration, thought, that from the nature of the contract, and the tenor of the several acts of Parliament, the volunteers could not resign at their own will and pleasure. As soon as these opinions were received, he thought it then immediately became his duty to circulate them as widely as possible, both for the benefit of the volunteers, and the justices, who were liable to be called on to act in 542 many cases when fines were fixed, to be levied by them; and under such circumstances, he would be glad to know what any gent. would have said to him, in case he had not circulated them antecedent to the recess? The meeting being very short, it was desirable to avoid all differences as to the volunteer services. Since then, the opinion of the King's Bench had decided that the volunteers had at present a right to resign, but that when called out there could be no doubt they were bound to serve.—He said, that on the subject of beacons, the lords-lieutenants communicated with the generals of the district in the maritime as well as the inland counties; and the generals of districts with those who were to carry them into execution. He acknowledged that some difficulties had arisen as to the expense; but it was now settled, that where there were naval signals the Admiralty should pay the expense; and where they belonged to the interior, it should be defrayed by the commander in chief.—Having thus gone through these several heads, he wished the House to suffer the bill to go to a Committee, in order that it might receive the benefit of the united wisdom of the House. He should for one, be ready to listen to all amendments; but he hoped gentlemen would content themselves with doing no more than was necessary. The system being altogether voluntary, too much coercion and strictness might be found inconvenient. The first inducement of the volunteers to offer their services had been the love of their country, and the ardent desire and enthusiasm they felt, as well as the necessity there appeared to them that they should take up arms for its defence and security. Every thing should, therefore, be done that could render their services effectual; and he had no doubt but the volunteers would be found fully adequate to the high raised expectations that had beer formed of them, and that they would prove an invincible bulwark of defence for the protection and security of all that was near and dear to them and to the nation as freemen and Britons.
—Sir; from the opinion of the right hon. secretary of state, that this discussion should be confined within narrow limits, and should apply solely to the consideration of the measure immediately before the House, I decidedly differ; and with the sentiments of my right hon. friend on the lower bench (Mr. Windham) that we are now called upon to take into view every thing connected with the national defence, I entirely concur. Although the volunteer 543 system naturally forms the first subject for our deliberation, as it is the principal feature in the picture, and that upon which we must, under all the circumstances, ground our reliance for ultimate security, yet the army, the militia, and all the other branches of our public force press upon our attention, and require to be examined upon the present occasion. Whether the volunteer system be radically wrong, or inadequate to its object, is not, he question proper for the House now to consider; bat how far any defects, which experience has rendered manifest in its original formation, may be removed, and how the detail of the measure may be improved; how far, in a word, it may be rendered efficient. This, in my judgment, is the turn which the debate should take. With a sense of the situation in winch the country is placed; of the danger which has been so long suspended over us, and of the crisis which, according to all appearances and information, is so rapidly approaching, we should devote ourselves to the consideration of the best means of amending and advancing to perfection, the only force of equal magnitude now within cur reach; to devise, not only how this force is to be prepared for the first approach of the danger which menaces us, but how its spirit and efficacy may be preserved and made, competent to meet the full extent of the danger, and effectually to guard the country. That the enthusiasm which may enable men to meet the first attack, can last long, it might be permitted to hope; hut that it would, no rational man would be very sanguine in calculating upon. It becomes, therefore, necessary to communicate to the volunteers every instruction that is practicable, in order to assimilate them to a regular army. That it is impossible fairly to investigate the nature and tendency of the volunteer system, without referring to the regular army and militia, I readily admit, and that it is proper to inquire how far any farther augmentations of the one or the other is practicable or desirable; also how far the volunteer system interferes with either of these objects. But these are topics upon which I shall trouble the House by and by. At present I wish, principally, to dwell upon the methods to be resorted to, in order to communicate to the volunteers all the instruction they want, and to the system all the improvement of which it may be susceptible; for I am certain that this must form the great basis of our Strength, the important instrument of our defence, the medium by which we must contrive to bring the country safely out of its dangers, and to lay 544 asleep those apprehensions which, from the calamitous destinies of the present times, have been excited by a gigantic power suddenly erected, to disturb the world, to desolate a large portion of Europe, and to lay the foundation, if not resolutely and vigorously resisted, of future and incalculable misery. Such resistance it is become the fate of this country to make, and I trust it will be its glory effectually to accomplish. That its resources and the zeal of the people is competent to the undertaking, and the achievement, no man can doubt; that zeal which has been displayed in a manner so extraordinary as to surprise even the most ardent admirers of the British character, and to gratify the most anxious friends to British independence; that zeal which has not I merely seconded, but far outrun the wants of the country, and very much indeed the wishes of the government. Into the principle of the system upon which the force produced by this zeal has been constructed [shall not now inquire. That is a point which has been already amply discussed, and satisfactorily settled. The question fairly is, whether in addition to our regular army and militia, it is practicable to procure, from the population of the country, a force sufficiently large to meet the magnitude of the dangers which threaten us by any other and better means. It does not appear to me that we could. Certainly, as to the amount of the force, an equal number could not be collected by any other than compulsory means; and if the volunteer plan were abandoned, those means, however obnoxious, must have been resorted to, or the security of the country would have been very precarious. From those considerations approved of the volunteer system. At all events, whatever the imperfections of that system may be, I feel that I cannot be contradicted in the assertion that no other can be now looked to as a substitute. The thing cannot be done away. The danger is too near and imminent to allow of a total change. It is the system to which we must resort to meet the present difficulty, and I will go further and say, that it is that, if carried to the degree of perfection of which it is capable, upon which we might calculate, in combination with other descriptions of ordinary force, for the future and permanent security of the empire.—Bur, whether this system may or may not be brought to that state of discipline which seems necessary to reconcile my right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) to its existence, I contend that this is not the time to think of removing it altogether, of treading back the steps we have taken, of providing another 545 force at a time when the danger is at our gates—when, as one might say, we are within gun-shot of the enemy. This, surely then, is not the moment to entertain such a proposition; and if not, the improvement of the system that is established is, of course, the object for our deliberation. Whatever differences of opinion, therefore, may prevail between the right hon. gent, on the opposite bench, (Mr. Fox) or my right hon. friend on the bench below him (Mr. Windham) and me, I must naturally expect from them, that they will not differ with me on this point, whatever they may wish to do at a future period,—that, when we are inexpectation of an immediate attack from the enemy—when the danger is announced from the highest authority to be close upon us, and when we are about to encounter a tremendous storm raised by a power the most gigantic, perhaps the world has ever seen?—when we are threatened by an attempt on our liberty and existence, dictated by slavish power and inordinate ambition, it behoves us to consult our immediate security, and not to allow of even the idea of disbanding so large a body as 400,000 men, however imperfectly constructed they may be. We should rather examine how far this force may. be rendered effective; and, with this view, I shall state to the House the mode that, in my judgment, ought to be pursued. How far ministers have failed, heretofore, in the performance of their duty with respect to the volunteers; how far they have wished to carry into complete execution the system of which they appear to approve, I will not now stop to inquire, farther than to say, that they should have been more attentive to promote the regulation of the several volunteer corps. They should have communicated more precise instructions through the medium of the lords-lieutenants of counties, as to the best method of training the volunteers, of procuring a regular attendance at drills, and enforcing attention to discipline when there. These are points of arrangement very material to consider, and ministers should even now, and I hope it is not too late, look to objects of so much consequence. I do not mean that any superfluous directions should be given to the volunteers, nor do I ask to have them trained up in the way in which the advocates of an armed peasantry would recommend, who seem to imagine that such peasantry could be converted into that quality of force, namely, light troops, for which, of all others, they are least qualified. But, I would have the volunteers instructed in all the necessary evolutions, and this I am decidedly of opi- 546 nion, would be far the best course to pursue, particularly as it must be admitted, that, under existing circumstances, it would be quite absurd, if not dangerous, to think of proposing a new system to supercede that of the volunteers. To promote this improvement in the discipline of the volunteers, is a thing so obviously necessary, and so highly desirable, that I should hope no minor difficulties will be allowed to stand in the way, that no mistaken or narrow notions of economy will operate to impede such an important object, but that the volunteer force will be rendered as perfect in military discipline, as the nature of the institution, the peculiar character of its members, and the proximity of our dangers will admit. What I speak of the dangers of the country, I do not mean it to be understood although I think the system of our defence has made a progress far short of what it might and ought to have done, that even with our volunteer force, so imperfectly instructed as they are, with our other resources, I should feel any dread for the result of meeting the most formidable attack the enemy can possibly contrive to make; but yet I feel that the House will not have performed its duty if, after the solemn warning it has received from ministers themselves, of the near approach of the enemy, any thing that can be done shall by any possibility be neglected; that any contrivance shall be overlooked which can at all enable us to contend, I will say collectively and individually, with the powerful and inveterate enemy that disturbs us, and to contend with such effect as not only to accomplish his final discomfiture, but to convince him and his infatuated adherents, that any attempt to invade and subjugate England can only originate in the wildest ambition, and must terminate in disgrace and ruin to the army that has the hardihood to venture it. We must make such efforts as to fix a lasting impression, not only on the enemy himself, but on the rest of Europe, that the man who, led on by confidence and daring to attempt the subjection of England even single-handed, shall meet the fate that the pride and courage of Englishmen, animated by a just estimate of their liberty, and other advantages, must ever prepare for any invading foe. We must leave in this contest such an example to our posterity, as shall be honourable to ourselves and conducive to their security. We must not look alone to our defence against danger. Much more important consequences must be achieved. As to the extent of time which the contest is likely to occupy, should the enemy succeed 547 in making good a landing in any considerable force, no man can pretend to say positively; but it is the peculiar duty of Parliament and government to provide for every event. It will not be enough that such. provision should enable us to come victorious out of our contest with the enemy. Our triumph must be signal and decisive. We must resist the en my at every toot of his progress; bur we must take every care that no unnecessary sacrifices shall be made, that the blood of our countrymen shall on every possible occasion be spared. To these points it is our imperative duty to attend; for, surely, if ever there was a great trust confided to the liberality and justice of Parliament, it is the means of protecting the lives and blood of their felloe-citizens, who have rushed forward to the post of danger, when he safety of their country was menaced. We should not consent to purchase our security by the sacrifice of cur countrymen, if such a sacrifice could at all be avoided. From these considerations, I conjure the House to point their attention particularly to the consideration of the means of rendering the volunteer force as efficient as possible. That much yet remains to be done, and for which this bill does not provide, I reel the most perfect conviction; and, although I am of opinion that it would be better the alterations in detail, which I think necessary, should originate with his Majesty's ministers, who are best qualified to give complete effect to such alterations, yet my sense of duty will not suffer me to neglect the propositions which appear to me eligible. To these propositions shall strictly confine myself, and abstaining from all allusion to whatever I may think on the present state of politics, or to the conduct of ministers hitherto, I shall apply myself solely to the examination of our national defence. That appears to mc be the first and most interesting subject. It ought to occupy the attention of every man. It. is quite enough to fill the mind of any man. This, therefore, claiming my consideration, in preference to every other subject, I look with great concern to the imperfections of the volunteer system, recollecting that it is pushed to an extent, far beyond any thing that was foresee when the country was first declared in dinger; and, considering its present magnitude, I regret to find tint it is not more advanced in military quality, that it is still extremely inadequate to its object, and that she proper means of promoting its discipline have not been as yet adopted. These means, which I deem most material, I conceive to be; 1st, the opportunity of regular instruc- 548 tions; 2dly, the seeming attendance at drill. and 3dly, the enforcing silence, steadiness, amp;c. when at drill. On the first of these points, I beg to ask of any thinking man, whether it is possible for the volunteer to acquire a sufficient knowledge of the simplest part of military discipline, by attending drill only 20 days in a year, and, generally, not more than two or three hours each day—particularly taking into account the inadequacy of the instructions, amp;c I am aware that these arguments may be said to offer objections to the system altogether; but these objections I fee! to be removable, by attending to the alterations I have suggested and shall hereafter propose. What may be done at a future time, I shall not now enter into, but merely confine myself to the manner in which they should make the best use of the time that yet remains to prepare them for the impending danger; and this preparation should be stimulated and encouraged by the cond.net of Parliament. The. spirit of our gallant volunteers, so long tried by susperce, may be otherwise relaxed. Danger being so often menaced and so long suspended, their zeal may be weakened, unless Parliament shall do its duty by giving to those valiant patriots every possible means of rendering their exertions in the cause of their country completely effectual. This done, and your views fully explained, I am persuaded that the volunteers will accede to any proposal that the necessity of the case may suggest. Such is the nature of the minds of Englishmen, that I have not the shadow of doubt, that there is no difficulty which they would not encounter, and no privation to which they would not submit, when they shall understand that such difficulties and privation are necessary to succeed in the glorious cause committed to their charge, of rescuing their country from danger, and establishing the security of their countrymen. In order, then, to promote the efficiency which I have in view, I would propose, that the volunteer corps should be encouraged to go on permanent duty, suppose for a week, or two, or three, as was the case last summer in particular districts on the coast, always taking-care to assemble the corps in the place convenient to their native home. For this purpose, I should propose that a small bounty be given to each volunteer who would consent to march on such permanent duty, namely, 7s.Per week, independently of 1s. per day, to every volunteer who should so march. This plan would, I am persuaded, do more towards promoting discipline and military habits among the men, than any drilling at different and detached periods. I 549 had an opportunity of witnessing the salutary effects of such a system last summer. About 2 or 300.0001. Would be quite sufficient to defray the expence of it. Surely it cannot be pretended that Parliament manage with judgment and integrity the purse of their constituent, if they refuse to open it, in order to advance this sum for a purpose of such high importance, to save the lives and property of the people, and to bring the contest in which we are engaged to a speedy and glorious conclusion.—Now, as to the mode of instructing the volunteer corps, I mentioned before Christmas very fully the propriety of appointing field officers, &c. to such battalions as applied for them, and I am still of the same opinion, as none of the arguments which have been advanced against my recommendation appear to me to have any weight, and as I know, from my own observation, the advantages that would result from it. I would propose that the instruction of volunteer corps should be assisted by the regular officers stationed in the several districts, particularly those on the coast, on some parts of which no less than from SO to 100,000 men might be speedily collected. I would also recommend the adoption of some system, not harsh, to enforce attendance at drill, which is particularly necessary. This might be done by regulations, to which each man might subscribe, Imposing fines on defaulters, rendering the. In attention at parades liable to arrest and detention, until tried be force a magistrate, who should have the power of commuting any line for a short imprisonment of two or three days. I agree with the right hon. mover, that no change should be made in the volunteer regulations that is not called for by absolute necessity, and of such a nature do I conceive the proposition I have submitted; so, I believe, almost every man who tins witnessed their parades must confess; and when the cause and object of this change should be explained to the volunteers themselves, I am satisfied none of then would be found to murmur, much less fore sign, particularly when such communication should be accompagnied by the intimation contained in this bill, that they might resign it they did not think proper to remain on such conditions.—As the right of volunteers to recommend their officers, about which so much has been said, it strikes me that there is no material difference upon that point, if gentlemen would endeavour truly to understand it. While a controul was acknowledged to exist in the commanding officer of each corps, in the lords lieutenants of counties, and finally in ministers, the clang was frivolous to insist on; and yet it would be 550 dangerous to concede it, even m appearance. I have at the same time a wish and a hope, that a commanding officer will, upon occasion of any vacancy, consult with temper the sentiments of the corps, but net in any thing I like the forms of a popular election, to take their individual suffrages.—Here the right: hon. gent, entered into a comprehensive review of the progress of the regular army and militia since the commencement of the war,; and contended that neither the recruiting of the one, nor the balloting of the other, was so much impeded by the increase of the volunteers as some gentlemen seemed anxious; to impress on the minds of the Mouse, while I bethought, on the contrary, that the volunteer system would, by proper modifications, I tend to the regular maintenance and progressive augmentation of our public force. The complained of slowness in the ballot for the army of reserve and militia might be easily accounted for, from the circumstance of the great number to be balloted for in the first: year of the war; and this, independently of the volunteer system, was sufficient to produce a considerable difficulty in recruiting for the army. To provide a resource to recruit the regular army, he would propose; that a system, somewhat modelled on the principle of the army of reserve, should be kept up, and that from that body any that should volunteer for general service should be supplied by fresh ballot. One reason for this plan was, that the army should not altogether depend on the contingency of an ordinary recruiting; and another, that the. militia should be held sacred, and that no volunteers for general service should be sought for from that body in future. The proportion between this army of reserve and the militia to be fixed, and that the militia should be gradually reduced from its present establishment, to its old standard, and that according as vacancies may occur in that body, a ballot should take place for an equal; number, not to fill up such vacancies, but to go I to the army of reserve. Thus as the one body was reduced the other would be augmented, that the change hiving a gradual operation, would not be likely to produce confusion in any: branch of our public force. He was aware, however, that this proposed change would incur some unpopularity, and some pressure; on the parishes; but to this he would say, that such pressure ought to be softened, if they could not be remedied, and if they could not be remedied they ought to be endured. To this he had no doubt the people would submit cheerfully, when they reflected on the value of the object for which they bad to contend, and that nothing could di- 551 minish their devout gratitude to Providence upon a comparison of their situations with those countries which, neglecting timely precaution, and refusing perhaps to suffer small losses in the first instance, committed themselves to the will of that power which now employed all its resources to assail this country. The right honourable gentleman particularly urged the introduction of a plan to limit the bounties to be given to substitutes, that it should be always less than that to recruits for the regular army; the bounties to which also should be limited, in order to put a stop to the proceedings of those pests to society called crimps.—He thought it would be wise to allot a certain number of regiments to be recruited in certain counties; and that the recruiting officer should be stationary in such counties. Thus he conceived the recruits would be more easily-obtained, through the connection that would grow up between the people, the recruiting officers, and the regiments to which they might belong; and the consequence of the system would produce an esprit de corps that would be highly advantageous.—The right hen. gent, took notice of the propriety of attending somewhat more to the system of fortifications, and also improving our naval defence, which he stated from his own knowledge to be very defective. While our danger was greater, and our resources also, than at any termer period, he complained that our state of naval preparation was much lower. He declared, that in this statement he was not influenced by the slighest prejudice against any man; on the contrary, in the whole of his observations he wished to keep aloof from every description of asperity, which he thought ought not upon any account to be introduced in the course of this discussion. his was not a time for the operation of any party spirit. Every mind should be engaged, every heart should be devoted, to the consideration of the public defence, and in the prosecution of it he hoped that ministers would weigh well the sacred duty they had to perform, the awful responsibility of their situation. It would not be enough for them to say that cur preparations were great, they ought to be complete. He might be told that the danger was not so great as he imagined, and that the state of our preparations was much greater; perhaps such was the fact, but he spoke the sentiments which all appearances, among which were the declarations of ministers themselves, fully justified. The right hon. gent, concluded with stating, that he bad many other observations to make on the several projects he had mentioned, but should waive them 552 till a future opportunity. In the mean time he declared that he was not so obstinately attached to any opinion of his own as to decline, upon such an important subject, giving the utmost attention to the suggestion of others.
§ Mr. Windham
was of opinion, that the bill was inadequate to the object which it professed to have in view, that it would not be productive of any real or lasting advantage, and that it would end in smoke. His right hon. friend (Mr. Pitt) had defended the system, principally on the ground that it was particularly necessary at the present moment, when, from the urgency of the case, no measure of equal advantage could be devised. This was, however, in his opinion, by no means a decisive mode of arguing. We were not called on merely to provide for the exigency of the present moment, but to consider what would be the species of force which would be adequate to our future defence. The danger against which we were called on to provide, was not one which must infallibly assail us at the present moment. We could not prescribe the conduct of the enemy who threatened us; nor could we know whether the majestic preparations which he was making were brought to full maturity, and would be ready to attack us tomorrow, or for twelve months to come. The enemy by whom we were at present menaced, was undoubtedly one which we were called on by every tie to repel; and to do so with effect, and certainty of success, the whole population of the country, he thought, ought to be employed,—So far, therefore, he was an advocate for voluntary service; but he could not agree that the voluntary force to be employed ought to be of the nature contended for in the present bill. His right hon. friend had pointed out the danger of a sudden diminution of the volunteer establishment. He unquestionably did not wish that any precipitate step of that nature ought to be adopted. He agreed with his rt. hon. friend in thinking, that terror was not the mode of procuring a continuance of a voluntary offer of service, and, on that principle, he approved of the option given to volunteers to withdraw their services, as being the best means of encouraging their continuance. The conditions, however, with which that option was clogged were so unpalatable, that he was convinced the measure would not succeed, but that many would avail themselves of the option and withdraw. His great objection to the present volunteer system was the effect which it had in obstructing the recruiting for the army, which was only 553 Supplied through the medium of the army of reserve. He did not say that the volunteer system was in itself an obstruction to the re cruiting of the regular army, but that by the number of exemptions from serving in the militia and army of reserve, which it occasioned, the field was contracted, the bounties to substitutes were raised above all due proportion, and the difficulty of procuring recruits was rendered almost invincible. Thus, though it did not in itself pre vent recruiting, it did so by its con sequences. His right hon. friend had aid, that as the demand for substitutes became less, the bounties would also become less. He, however, apprehended, that it Mould be rather found, that as the demand became less the means of supplying that demand had become less in a greater proportion. By the difficulty of making up their ballots, and the expense attendant on the enormous bounties given, many parishes had been reduced to the greatest distress. Could he then say, that it was proper to continue the volunteer system under such disadvantages? Ought we alone to regard the present moment, and, through fear of lessening the present volunteer establishment, endanger our safety in succeeding years? He could not agree with his right hon. friend as to the inutility of a body of armed peasantry. He should only ask, if a body of 100O men of this description were collected, would an experienced officer think them of no use, because they had not been trained? He surely would not. He would employ them in some way, and that way would be no other than loosely annoying the enemy. If they made little impression at first, experience would improve them. The practice of war would teach them the best mode of proceeding. Not having learnt the manoeuvres which are only to be acquired by exercise at drill, they would not be of the full service which might be expected from regular troops. Whatever service, however, was to be expected from them, it would be got in some degree from the first, and they would constantly improve. If they did no good, they would do no harm. If they were not able to cope with the enemy themselves, they would not set the example to others to run away.—In the other way, if not brought to a certain degree of proficiency and military skill, if not trained to a certain extent, the volunteers, by mingling with the regular, would impede and confuse, rather than serve any useful purpose. The great error was in supposing, that army, militia, and volunteers were only different stages of the same thing that as 554 certain anatomists had thought that membrames in certain cases became cartileges, and cartileges became bones, so it seemed to be supposed, that volunteers would, by degrees, grow into militia, and militia in time harden into regular army.—It was not sufficient to say, because an improper system had been gone into, that it ought to be persevered in; that they had got into a lane in which there was no turning, and therefore that it behoved them to go on. This was his objection to the ideas thrown out by his right hon. friend. If they continued the exemptions, with the other part of the system, they did so at the expense of counteracting the other part of the force of the country. It had been said, that a great many volunteers had entered as recruits. Of that he could entertain no doubt, nor was it possible to be otherwise where the whole population of the country were volunteers. With equal truth had it been asserted, that the Roman Catholics were the only disaffected persons in Ireland, in cases where the rebellion had broken out in a part of the country where none but Roman Catholics resided. The right hon. gent, then alluded to the conduct of the volunteers at Chester, who attacked the gaol, and liberated one of their companions. He did not mean to describe this as the most atrocious of all offences; nor would he fear to say that, however criminal the conduct, in the motives of these men might be discovered possibly even a degree of virtue. They might be impelled by a generous sentiment of rescuing a comrade unjustly carried away. But it was not thus that the law contemplated such proceedings, and, certainly, not the professors and administrators of the law, who were never backward on these occasions in thundering forth their horror and reprobation, and in repressing these acts of virtue or excuseable irregularity, by a little punishment called hanging. It seemed pretty obvious, that ministers had erected a force of which they now stood in awe, when it was mentioned that the only excuse made for not punishing so flagrant an act was, that the perpetrators of it could not be found out. He declared his horror of unequal punishments, and contrasted the condition of these volunteers with that of the man who was hanged while he (Mr. Windham) was secretary at war, for destroying opposite, to the war-office, not a gaol, not a place of authorized confinement, known to the law, and placed immediately under the royal protection, where none could be put but for just cause and by regular process, but. a vile crimping-house?, the ap- 555 propriate seat of violence and abuse, against which every thing was to be presumed, and where the presumption could rarely exceed the reality of the fact.—In other points of view, the volunteer system, as now eon-ducted, was seriously to be considered. On the occasion of a general election, for Instance, when corps might set up candidates of their own, or espouse the cause of one or oilier of those already declared; how was the rule to be applied of sending, during an election, armed mm out of the town? It would be, in fact, to send the town out of itself. To the plan of his right hon. friend he must decidedly object. It was enforced, as it was sure to be, with great eloquence and ingenuity but—materiem superabit opus. The suggestions themselves were not the more judicious, because they were set forth with great ability. However he might wish to have the energy of the country displayed upon adequate occasions, he did not wish it to be rendered a military country. Even if that were the purpose, the way to accomplish it would not be to render every man a soldier. Those countries in which the system was pursued of making ail the citizens soldiers, were, in fact, the countries that were least military. France, Austria, Prussia, all the great military countries, pursued a totally different course. Swisserland, if in some sense a military country, was not military in virtue of its militia, but from the number of its inhabitants who had acquired experience in foreign service. Geneva, in which that was not the case, but in which every citizen was enrolled in the militia, was certainly not a military state: and the. same was eminently true at this moment of America. Ministers should seriously set about the great work under consideration, and atone for past neglect, by sedulously labouring to create an effective force, which could cooperate with, or support the regular force of the country, when the urgency of the occasion should require.
said, he had heard nothing in the speech of the last right hon. gent, that differed materially from what he had urged so often before; and that with respect to the ill effects of the volunteer system on other branches of service, he had by no means in any respect established that point. As for the discipline of the volunteer corps, certainly there was no man who would contend for the propriety of attempting to give them all the perfection of regular troops, but, on the other hand, there was equal impropriety in being too lax and inattentive to their discipline. There was certainly a medium to be observed in such a case. On the 556 question of irregulars, he recollected very well the case of a body of armed peasants in Suabia, during the war between France and Austria, which did great annoyance and mischief to the French armies, particularly when defeated; or distressed from any local circumstances. But he could not avoid observing, that the first levce en masse in France, which was employed early in the late war, was of a description coming much nearer our own volunteers, and were a much more, efficient force than the Suabian peasants, They very generals who had commanded, those French soldiers declared out volunteers to be equal to them. As to political danger, he was quite insensible to any thing of the kind. When he considered the purity of views with which they were embodied, the mode of appointing their officers, and how they were all connected with the Crown, and that they could exist no longer than Parliament thought their services were required, he could not possibly see any ground of danger.—His lordship then condemned, in marked terms, the conduct pursued out of doors, and patronized by too many, of collecting with avididy every ridiculous story, or disagreeable circumstance, in a body of 380,000 men, and circulating it for the purpose of depreciating them. As to the riot at Chester, it was in the hands of the Attorney General; however, the men were turned out of the corps with every mark of disgrace. But if the right hon. gent, would, with equal curiosity, examine any regiment in the King's service, he believed he would discover little occasional irregularities in an equal proportion. Indeed, were he to consult the orderly book of a new-raised green regiment of regulars, he should not be surprised to hear him lamenting the risk of the constitution of the country, through the defective system of the army.—His lordship then thanked the right hon. gent, under the gallery, (Mr. Pitt) for the great attention he had given to the mode of recruiting the army; a subject which had, indeed, occupied much of his own reflexion, There would, however, be a better opportunity for the discussion of that point. It might then be found quite expedient to make the militia sacred from the recruiting service. That difficulty of recruiting was so great, in various points of view, that if adopted as a general system, it would drive Parliament to the necessity of increasing the militia; that force being so much more easily raised, merely because it is raised by ballot.—The next point, and one of great consequence, to which he wished to request the attention of the House, was the 557 subject of naval defence, on which the right hon. gent. under the gallery had expressed a doubt, though he was happy to observe, without any disposition to censure that establishment. On this subject he was glad to be able to present the House with accurate statements, in which they would see, on a comparison of our present state of naval defence in an advanced period of the last war, that our exertions had been very great. To begin with ships of the line: we had at present in commission 91; last war that number was not reached till the third year. Of frigates we had now manned 129; a number we had not last war, till 1798 Of armed ships of various kinds, we had now 20s, which was as numerous as in 1793. So that, open the whole, we had 411 ships of war already, though not a year had elapsed since the commencement of hostilities; whereas last war, at the end of the year 1793, we had but 375. At the end of the first year or this war we find ourselves as strong in naval defence as in the fourth year of the last war, when we gained the two great and celebrated victories of Lord House and Lord Rridport. All this statement was exclusive of the E. India Company's shipping, which consisted of 20 ships; of those of the Trinity equipped and manned, of 10 ships; of various small craft to the number of 602, at different ports; of the armed vessels in the-dock wards 373; and of armed vessels on the Irish coast 137; making altogether 1,122 armed vessels, exclusive of our regular ships of war. Our seamen too, amounted to 77,012, whereas it was not till the end of two years in last war, that they equalled that number. Our marines were 11,990, which they were not last war till 1795, a space of about three-years. From all this statement of facts, his lordship concluded, that the present state of naval defence was such as must give complete satisfaction to every person who candidly considered that important subject.
begged leave to say a very few words in explanation. He assured the noble lord that he should feel more happy in finding that every tiling practicable had been done in the line of naval defence, than that any of his apprehensions of another kind should be realized. But to be convinced of this, some further explanation than that just offered should be given. He thought the comparative statements which had been given did not proceed upon a fair principle: there certainly was no comparison between the first years of a war when the previous peace establishment had been only 18,000 men, and that in which it had been 558 50,000—where they had passed to a war from a state of profound peace, and where hostilities were resorted to after a continual apprehension of war.—He thought it should be shewn what progress was made in that species of defence to counteract attempts at invasion, by means of shallow water?—Were the comparisons drawn from the state of preparation at those periods of the late war when invasion was more particularly thought of, as in 1797 and 1798, and in the summer of the year 1801, the difference would be more apparent, and the contrast more visible with those steps which had been lately and tardily taken for counteracting the designs of the enemy in these particulars. He felt it a duty due to himself and to the country, to point the attention of the House to this important top'c—a duty with which no former partiality or private friendships should interfere, and which, therefore, he should bring forward in a more specific form to the consideration of the House.
said, at that late hour he should not trouble the House at much length. There were, however, some topics on which he was desirous on say a few words. The first and most important of these was the power, in the volunteer corps, of intermediately appointing their officers. He would nor call this a right. But he contended, they ought to have the power of recommending officers through the lords lieutenants, to his Majesty. Hs would venture to say, that all the volunteers, in offering their service, entertained the expectation of appointing their own officers in this manner. He then alluded to a late transaction concerning the Southwark volunteers, and said, he would declare plainly, that if the right honourable secretary of state proceeded to the extreme he threatened in this respect, he would lose the greater part of the volunteer force. The volunteer system was to supply the deficiency of the Defence Act. It was acknowledged by ministers, that the act was not practicable had it been attempted to be carried into effect: the volunteer system was, therefore, resorted to. But the House must see that the system was of frail texture, and, if it should crumble away, the country mast return to the measures of the Defence Act, inadequate to the necessity as they were acknowledged to be.—Mr. Whitbread next adverted to the pica of economy urged by ministers in behalf of the vounteer system. They ought not to attempt to impose upon the people, by telling them of its economy, when every man knows that it is more burthensome to the public than if a more effective force had been raised.—He 559 then took a view of the attempt to enforce more rigid discipline on the volunteer corps. He contended there was no power of doing so. He spoke of discipline in minute things, which was injudiciously attempted. In the first instance, perhaps, a general plan might have been established, for all the volunteer corps. But now each must be chiefly governed in its own manner. The number of days of drill, far instance, must vary, according to the occupation of the men, and the season of the year. In harvest time, volunteers in the country could not attend to drill. It was impossible; and it was not policy to expect it, if practicable. If the enemy was actually in the country, all occupation must cease in the seat of the invasion, but that of actual war. But in a state of preparation, the ordinary occupations of labouring men must go on. During a certain part of the year, there was no drill in his corps; but that was brought up by more close application to the drill at other times. There must be, in this and many other respects, a great latitude for the volunteer corps. He was glad there were now 26 days pay, for exercise, to be allowed the men. Four days, beyond twenty, had been warmly contended for in vain; but now six were generously given; yet, he could not but observe that this was done without the authority of Parliament. It was done on the mere order of his Majesty's confidential servants. He noticed this for the presumption with which it was done; however, he was obliged to them for it. The times for a complaint against his Majesty's servants, for such unconstitutional conduct, were unhappily past, and he should not comment on that.—It would have been unreasonable to have demanded of ministers, that all the minute parts of the volunteer system should be at once perfect: but he expected to have seen, and all the country expected to have seen, a grand machine, effecting its original purpose, and going on without difficulty, as to all its great movements. But what is the case? No part of the system is free from embarrassment; no part is understood; all is confusion. He really did not believe that ministers, at that very time, understood either what they meant to enforce, or what to abstain from.—Mr. Whitbread then spoke of the imbecility of ministers, in their preparations for war, at its commencement, although they had declared the just jealousy they must have of the armaments in the ports of France, previous to that time. He did not know that the existence of those armaments had ever been proved to the country; bat, if they were, what preparations had been made? Ministers talked 560 like children of the danger, and were as unprepared as children (Mr. Addbigton said accross the table, "The Militia") The militia, indeed, had been called out, but he did not expect them to take great credit merely for that measure. When the army of reserve was thought of, a measure so highly extolled; every means that could possibly raise the price of substitutes, and so injure the recruiting service, and produce other mischiefs, were adopted. Among other things an embargo was suddenly laid on vessels going down Channel, which added to the alarm, and made the price of substitutes enormous. The army of reserve has therefore failed. It stands still: its numbers cannot be filled. On the 18th of Jan. there were no less than 90 deficient in one place, of the quota 250. The first mistake of ministers, when they proposed the army of reserve, was followed by endeavouring to make volunteers a substitute for it, and then granting the volunteers exemption from the army of reserve, &c. thus, destroying the whole recruiting resources of the country.—Mr. Whitbread then observed, that almost every volunteer corps had committee, which he declared it impossible to prevent. He then touched again on the subject of economy, and the precariousness of die subscriptions to maintain the volunteer corps; recommending government at once to meet the expenses of those corps by a parliamentary provision. He earnestly recommended an impartial examination of the real strength of the volunteer corps. He did not believe that it amounted to what was stated, 380,000. And, if that, how much was disciplined, and able to take the field? How many able to march 100 miles from home? He contended that a regular army, to a very large extent, and more economical, might have been raised.—In concluding, he reprobated the raising the spirit of the country by brutal and ferocious prints. Foreign invasion was enough to kindle an Englishman's valour, whether it was by the Demi-God of the Thuilleries, or the Devil Incarnate of the Printsellers in Piccadilly. Henry IV or Bonaparte were to be dreaded alike as Invaders. Ministers continued to act without any plan or system whatever.
§ Mr. Tierney
explained the circumstances which had occured in the Southwark corps. He said, that himself and his hon. friend (Mr. Whitbread) were in similar situations in many respects; they were both colonels, both had corps composed of their constituents, and both might be supposed desirous to stand well with them. The fact was, that one of the companies came to a resolution, declif- 561 ing that they would not serve unless under an officer of their own choosing. Against this proceeding, however desirous to preserve the good will of his constituents, he found him, if obliged, in his military character, to protest and he should have been warning in his duty to the King, if he had suffered meninsisting on such a principle to continue with arms in their hands. In consequence of this affair, another of the companies adhered to the company reduced; but eight out of ten of which the corps consisted never made any pretension to the right claimed by the other two. And now one of those companies had again come forward to serve under the principle which he had held out to them; and twenty-seven of fifty of the other company had petitioned to be allowed to serve in the same manner. This was the whole extent of the affair alluded to by his honourable friend; and he did not see that it had either produced or threatened those disagreeable consequences which had been suggested.
§ Mr. Fox
said, that it was not his intention to go at length into this question at present, there were a few points only on which he begged leave to touch; particularly as being in the nature of remarks on what had passed in the debate, they could not so well be brought forward on a future occasion. The right honourable gentleman under the gallery (Mr. Pitt) had alluded to the conduct of the admiralty; on that subject he was not at present prepared to give any opinion. He confessed that he was partial to this noble lord at the head of that department he admired his professional talents, and gratefully acknowledged his public services. Lord St. Vincent had all his good wishes, and on this account he most heartily wished him a better defender than Lord Castlereagh. That noble lord had defended the first lord of the admiralty, by a comparison with what had been done by former naval administrations. He talked of the navy in 1755, when in fact, the scale of naval force then was no more a standard of naval force now, than that of 1755 was to be measured by the navies of antiquity. The question was not, what, the naval strength of this country in any former war was, but what were the means, and what were the necessities of service, by which our exertions were to be regulated. It was not by referring to dates, and by summing up statements, that the first lord of the admiralty could be justified, nor was it on that ground, he was sure, that Lord St. Vincent would chuse to re this defence. He did not know where, or in what register, the noble lord might have found the arguments 562 he had used, but precisely the same mode of defence was adopt d by the admiralty in the American war when for two years our navy had been inferior to that of France. It had been s"id on the ministerial side, that many of the argument had been used before; it would have been better if it could have been said that they were answered before. Whenever it was contended that the exertions for the public defence in every department were inadequate, ministers thought it was enough it they had done a much within the first year of war a had ever be done before. But could they be allowed to date their preparations only from March last? He would not say whether those he believed the peace was likely to last were nature's fools" or no, but ministers hid persuaded some that the peace was solid, though they themselves had since repeatedly declared that, from the moment of its conclusion, the conduct of the French governmant was but one system of aggression. In that case, therefore, they ought to have been prepared to pat an end' to what they now hold out as a hollow truce, at the most favourable moment, and a pretty moment they did chuse. It it be true That, ever since the peace, the French government had never ceased from insuit and aggression, ministers ought to have been in a state of preparation adequate to what the natural result of such a situation required; and instead of being the first year of the war, it ought to be considered, in regard cf. the state of preparation in which we ought to hive been, as the third.—With respect to the bid itself, he could not help taking notice of the extraordinary assertions of ministers, that it was their intention from the beginning that volunteers should have liberty to resign; they thought any other system pernicious. Yet had they taken the attorney general's opinion, which declared that volunteers could not resign. This opinion was circulated with great profusion, and re-com men tied to magistrates as the rule of their decision. Yet all this time ministers had intended to give the power of resignation, they thought the contrary principle pernicious in the highest degree, and they now say-that they would have proposed to give liberty to resign if the law had settled. This surely was a contradiction 5 and unless they had so gravely asserted that they always intended to allow the power of resignation, he should have inferred that they approved the attorney general's opinion, and that they had, from the first. intended the law as he had declared it. He should have been inclined to believe that the conduct of men disapproving of the opinion and of the law would, 563 in circulating it, have announced to the lords lieutenants, that it did not that their itentions, that they intended to move for an alteration of the law, while in the mean time they would have instructed commanders of corps to permit resignation to take place. But nothing of this had they done, when Parliament met in November; nay, after bringing in another hill on the subject of the volunteers, no mention whatever was made of a'tering a law, the consequences of which are admitted to have been so pernicious to the volunteer system! Nay, since the attorney general's opinion had been given, it had actually been proposed in another House to clear up the point by law, when one of the secretaries of state declared, that that opinion was a sufficient rule for magistrates. In a word, on this point, he must have concluded from the conduct of ministers, that they fully approved the law as interpreted by the attorney general, and nothing but their grave acceleration prevented him from thinking so still. As to general measures of defence, it was not his intention to follow the example of Mr. Pitt in proposing any; and, in truth, one reason was, that I lie House was so little inclined to adopt his suggestions, and he was afraid that even Mr. Pitt was not likely to be more successful: unless, perhaps, there was some ordour of cilice still about him which might have its influence. He believed, however, that Mr. Pitt had not much greater prospect of seeing his plans adopted by the ministers than his himself had. He thought it better, therefore, to stick to the bill before the House, whatever were its defects, particularly as it was now the conviction of all, except ministers themselves, that the country was net in that state of defence which, from the immense means confided to ministers, it ought to have been in. And upon the volunteer system, therefore, we were forced to place a good deal of dependence. It was rather singular, however, that after the volunteer system had existed above seven months, it should be necessary to begin to make new regulations about attendance, silence in the ranks. Sec. &c, and yet the system itself was resorted to on the ground of immediate danger. It was now said, that the danger was immediate, and if it was likely to arrive in tour or five weeks, it was bet to have the volunteers several times every week, than to purpose to extend the number of drills every week. But with regard to the permanence of the system, it might be proper to adopt another course. It might he necessary to give up some of the perfection which more frequent attendance would bestow, least the volunteers should be so ha- 564 rassed, that they might be induced to abandon the service altogether. As to the right of election he did not see that much was to be done. It might, as had been said, be left to the good sense of the people. But the conduct of ministers in menacing those that should not accommodate themselves to the wishes of government, was calculated to lay the foundation of much dissatisfaction. He hoped, however, that the volunteers would not be bullied oat of their determination to defend the country. It was curious that ministers accused those on the opposition side of the House, of attacking the volunteers, and arrogated the merit of defending them, the fact was, however, that he and his honourable friends, said merely that the volunteers never could be rendered so good as regular troops, while ministers, who affected to defend, were they who levied fines upon the volunteers, and threatened to disband them if they insisted on what at the beginning was conceived to be their right.—Mr. Fox concluded with stating, that a period would soon arrive in which it would be the duty of Parliament to enter into a general enquiry into the state of public defence, which was neither adequate to the means with which ministers had been entrusted, nor to what our situation required.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he should trouble the House, at that Fate period of the night, with a very few observations. The comparison made by his noble friend, respecting the noble lord at the head of the admiraltry, was only between the first year of the late, and the first year of the present war between the amount of the naval force in 1793 and 1803, and no farther. At the commencement of the present war, we had raised 40,000 seamen. As to marines, there were difficulties in raising them, that grew out of the means adopted for the defence of the kingdom. He admitted that species of force had gone on with languor, and that no landsmen had been raised. The number of sailors were therefore unusually great, and of landsmen unusually small but notwithstanding these, difficulties, he contended the exertions of the present were equal to those of former boards of admiralty; and if they were equal to those of the board of admiralty, in the last war, he should ask no other praise for them.—With respect to the right of resignation by volunteers, he denied that he had ever said that it did not attach to them. Had he been asked the question, he should have said, that the fact was, the question had never occurred to him; if it had, he should have said the right of resignation was the very essence of the volunteer system. The hon. 565 gent. (Mr. Fox) had adverted to the silence of ministers upon the subject at the beginning of the session but by doing so, he did not seem to be aware, that a bill relating to volunteers had been introduced, and underwent very much discussion. He was astonished, therefore, that those who expressed so much anxiety now, had not availed themselves of the opportunity of such bill, to have had the point settled. The object of the bill to which he alluded, was to relieve those who were deprived of the exemptions, which they merited, on account of some informality, or circumstance, which attached no blame to them; such as their not being exercised with arms, not being in possession of any, &c. These gentlemen, therefore, who did not upon that occasion press for an explanation of the point in question, were accomplices with the government, of whose omission they complained. He said, that the state of the country was such as it ought to be, and wished the charge of insufficiency or neglect should be made specifically, as he should be happy to join issue, and meet it fairly. Ministers, he admitted, were incapable, if they had not made every disposition for defence, to which their means were adequate, and which were honourable to the public feeling and spirit. He ackowledged this, bat he hoped, at the same time, that they had not the demerit of having failed in carrying into effect all those means which had been placed in their hands. None but those who had a propensity to view with disfavour the conduct of government, would be of a contrary opinion. Our regular force spread over the world, considerably exceeded that of any former period, and our effective force was not more than 17,000 men less than at the highest amount during the late war. The objections made to the bill were few, and ministers were ready to listen to any suggestions to improve it, and obviate that few. The hon. gent, did him an injustice to suppose that his suggestions would not be attended to. This was an "era when all should lend their hand in support of the country. He assured the hon. gent, therefore, that he should pay every attention to his advice. He should give, however, no immediate opinion upon any suggestions that had been made. He hoped the bill would be committed on Wednesday, and in the mean lime he should consider them with the utmost attention. He hoped there would be no objection to going into the committee on Wednesday, and that the bill should pass through all its stages in the present week it was necessary that a bill of such import- 566 ance to the country should be no longer delayed.
§ Mr. Grey
hoped, that when the House should come to estimate the sufficiency or insufficiency of the measures adopted for the defence of the country, they should not be told to look to a comparison of the present with this or that year, but to the means in the hands of his Majesty's ministers. He was surprized to hear the right hon. gent, rest the defence of the board of admiralty upon the former of these two grounds; and he thought he gave a proof of his candour, when he asserted that the board of admiralty ought to be tried by the state of the country, compared with the means in possession of government, and not by any other rule. The right hon. gent, had apologised for our naval force being lower than it ought to have been, an account of their being few landsmen. He feared, therefore, that the volunteer system was defective, as interfering with our naval defence, which was of paramount importance to the country. Upon the subject of the attorney general's opinion, the right; hon. gent, had asked what would have been said of ministers should they have concealed it? To this he should simply answer, that there was no occasion to suffer that opinion to be acted upon to the great hardship and inconvenience of innocent individuals. If ministers thought it wrong, as they now confessed, instead of circulating, they should have remedied. They had an opportunity; to do so, for upon the occasion of the bill alluded to, he said it was easy for them to have added a clause to remove that which they now acknowledge to have been a hardship, and contrary to the idea of what the law ought to be. He should not, however, at that late hour, go at length into the question. He hoped, however, that a serious inquiry would be made into the state of our preparations for defence. We had been nearly 12 months at war, but that was not the whole time that must be fairly allowed for preparation. It was admitted that the period that preceded it, was only a suspicious truce, and consequently requiring means and precautions for the safety of the country. Upon I such inquiry he feared our situation, though it might not afford ground for serious alarm and apprehension, would not be found of that strength and security which he had a right to expect.
§ Captain Markham
said, he had heard only 567 general assertions against the admiralty, but no specific charge. He should be happy to meet any precise charges, and to go into a real inquiry whenever it was thought proper. The low rate of insurance, he thought, was the best proof (hat the admiralty had done its duty.—The bill was then read a second time, and committed for Wednesday.