Mr. Secretary Yorke
moved the order of the day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Volunteer Bill. He expressed an opinion that as there were several amendments to make, and several clauses to bring up, it would be most advisable to go through those amendments and clauses, in order that the whole might be printed, and debate the principle, if it was thought necessary, on the report.—On the question being put for the Speaker's leaving the chair.
§ Mr. Francis
said, I rise, Sir, not so much with an intention to oppose your leaving the chair, as to delay it. We have time enough to discuss the provisions of this bill, even if they were, what I do not think they are, very material or very urgent. Other objects, infinitely more important and more pressing, seem to me to demand a previous consideration. They are not unconnected with the general purpose of the bill. On the contrary, they are essentially connected with it. A measure of national defence is brought before us. To know whether it is judiciously contrived, and likely to answer the purpose it professes, you must consider what your danger is; to understand your danger, you must look at the situation of the country in all its circumstances and relations. This is not a mere question of military defence against a foreign for, but whether our situation, on the whole, constitutes a state of national security, or extreme peril? I speak with greater anxiety and concern on my mind than I ever experienced in this House, because I seriously feel the truth of what others say, without feeling it so deeply as they ought to do. At least it so appears to me to be too much the habit of this House, and indeed of the public. We talk of our danger in very proper terms that it is imminent that the crisis 573 is awful, terrible, and tremendous. Gentlemen use these phrases till they are hacknied and make no impression. We are not deficient in strong expressions about the case, but we are extremely cautious about what we say of the causes and the authors; as if all our duties were comprised in the personal prudence of not giving offence, lake care how you offend this or that great person; be guarded in your terms; be delicate in your allusions. And this they say at the approach of the greatest hazard, and with the prospect of the greatest calamities to the nation. I am not at all disposed to follow these prudential maxims. I will not make an apology or look out for a shelter for doing that which I think an essential duty, and which the present moment imperiously demands of me. This insignificant bill may wait till other topics are discussed. Not that I mean to go far into the discussion of them; but rather to suggest them to the consideration of some gentlemen who are better qualified, and have more authority to in force them. In order to make an effectual provision for what is to come, we must look back to what is past. You might as well say that you may have wisdom without experience, as to talk of remedies against an existing or an impending mischief, without reverting to the false steps which have brought you into it. I do not mean to argue now about the justice or injustice of the war, but shortly to compare the conduct and the progress of it, with the principle which it originally assumed, and the character it out with. In going to war for the preservation of a rock in the Mediterranean, of which we were in possession, we asserted a high station is the society of nations; we took the most eminent ground of national dignity, elevated pretensions, foreign dominion, and possibly of laudable ambition. No man thought or said that it was a war of domestic security, or for the mere defence of the two islands. What followed? This war of dignity and ambition had not been three months old, before a plan was delivered out by authority for defending the capital by lines of circumvallation! A more unmilitary idea, or more universally reprobated by all the great military authorities, did never enter into the mind of a rational government. But I do not now arraign it in that sense. I compare it with the high pretensions of the war, and then I say, that a more degrading act of national humiliation in the eyes of all Europe, cannot be imagined. What have we been doing ever since? Why, Sir, it is said that we have provided for the security 574 of Great-Britain and Ireland. Whether we have done so or not remains to be tried. But granting the fact, to what docs it amount to, but that with a garrison of near 600,000 men in arms, we are able to defend the two islands? There is our glory and there it ends. The war then on cur side, is purely and strictly defensive, and in all appearance it never can be any thing else. But what is 3 defensive war? What is a war in which you cannot offend your enemy? in which you must perpetually wait and watch his motions, and be. perfectly satisfied if you can parry his attacks? This was not the principle on which that wise personage Queen Elizabeth acted in parallel circumstances. Her language was, that "having advised with herself, she was resolved either to make war or peace, for via di mezzo was very unsafe; and besides a course of continual charge: continual fear and to stand only on the defensive was to live at the discretion of her enemies." Such was her wisdom, I or such were the counsels of the great men who advised her; of Raleigh, of Walsingham, of Burleigh, whose characters, I presume, will not suffer much by comparison with that of the gent, opposite to me. Bur I after all, have we fully provided even for our defence? That we have sufficient physical force, I do not dispute. But have we the directing mind? Another view of our state is indeed most melancholy, and open I to the most distressing consequences. Does; any man in the House know with certainty, or can he assert with confidence, that at this moment, when all the faculties of life country are most wanted, die constitution is in real and practical possession of its executive; power? The explanation? given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have thrown no light on that question. All we could collect from him was that he was better informed than other persons who ought to have known best.—His Majesty's Secretary of State has declared, that strict faith must be kept with the several corps of volunteers, according to the terms of their respective compacts with government; and that, if any of them should persist in claiming a right to choose their officers, on which their engagements were offered and accepted, he shall hold himself bound to advise his Majesty to discontinue their service. In the first place, Sir, I do not think that it is I keeping faith with them. They have put themselves to great trouble and considerable expense, and many personal sacrifices for the public service; and now, if they do not submit to a new condition, which ought to I have been stated to them in the first instance 575 if they do not surrender a right or a claim, which they thought t had been acknowledged, they are to be invidiously turned adrift, as if they had deserted he defence of their country in its utmost danger. I am sure they when not do so, but it is their own virtue, and not the wisdom of government, that will pi event it. In my mind, Sir, their claim is inherent in the nature of the service they have engaged in. In this respect there is an essential difference between a voluntary and a mercenary army. I mean nothing invidious by that word. No man can respect and honour our regular and more them I do. In an army raised by the crown, and paid by the public, the appointment of the officers must be in the executive power, and can be no where else. The men who compose are unknown to one another until they are brought together; and could never agree to choosing their officers, even if the choice was left to their discretion. But the principle on which a voluntary army agreed to unite and act, is that they previously knew and depend upon each other. Their officers are their neighbours or acquaintances, and their colonel probably a man of the greatest rank and fortune, and most respected in the county. If this be wrong, it is a defect in the system, but I think it belongs to it. But, Sir, in what circumstances is it that his Majesty's ministers are so very ready to disband any part of that force, in which, hitherto, they have professed to rely fur the public defence? It is it the same moment when we hear it from them, and have it under the hand of the Sectary of State, "that an immediate, and form table attack upon our independence and existence, as a nation, is threatened by a powerful and implacable enemy."—Surely, Sir, these considerations deserve the attention of the greatest abilities, and of the most eminent persons in this House. To watch the conduct of government, to take care of the public safety is, at all time their special duty; but particularly now, when, unfortunately for the country, they have no oilier duly to perform.
— I rise, Sir, for the purpose of decidedly opposing the motion for your leaving the chair. When I consider the magnitude and importance of the subject to which this and the insignificance of the bill it life; when I consider, I say, the magnitude and importance of this subject, as immediately embracing the whole system of the irregular force of the country, and not remand but very materially affecting her 1guiar army, I do feel that un on such a subject (so great in itself, so exten- 576 sive in its consequences) to come to such a conclusion as the adoption of this bill or of any thing that can be w. 11 engrafted upon it in the committee, would be a most serious misfortune.—For if, Sir, we were to adopt this bill, our passing it would, I fear, be considered by the country, I am sure would be construed by his Majesty's ministers, as a parliamentary approbation of that system upon which they have thought proper to rest the defence of this empire, against the most formidable attack that ever was prepared against it.—And when I contemplate the nature of that attack, the immense numbers and the excellence of the army by which it is to be made, their inveterate hostility to us, and the consequent enthusiasm with which they will embark in this enterprize, the uncontroled power and extraordinary talents of the man by whom they are conducted;—when, on the other hand I take a view of the immense powers which this country possesses, and consider how, by the false measures of the ministers, these powers have been, I will not say misapplied, but actually shackled, repressed, and deprived of half their energy and action; when I consider all this, Sir, feel myself bound by the most sacred duty is endeavour to prevent our proceeding any further upon such a system, and shall therefore, propose that instead of going into a committee upon this insignificant bill, we should rather appoint a day for taking a more enlarged and general view of the military system of the country.—Sir, when I speak of the formidable nature of the attack that is preparing against us, and express my opinion that our defensive measures are defective and insignificant, I beg I may not the understood to think that there is a danger of the country being absolutely subdued by the enemy. A zealous but rather an indiscreet friend of his Majesty's ministers, has said in their praise, that under them the nation governs itself; and so, I trust, Sir, that notwithstanding their mismanagement the nation will at least defend itself against ultimate subjugation.—That event I will put out of the question.—But is it enough for us to know that this empire is not in danger of becoming a province of France, would it not be in the highest degree disgraceful and unworthy of Britons to rest satisfied with the assurance that we shall not be entirely conquered by that enemy, with whom we and our ancestors have so often and so gloriously contended? I do not say, Sir, that we ought not for a time to stand on the defensive: but our defensive should be of such a sort as would enable us not only ultimately to repel an invading enemy after a long and distress- 577 ing contest, but almost instantly to annihilate or drive back into the sea the army which should have been rash enough to set its foot upon our shores.—Such is not our present situation; but it might have been such, if the ministers had made a proper use of the time that has elapsed since we were warned of the attack which is now, perhaps, near at hand. In order to repair, as much as possible, the effects of the measures which they have pursued, would require a much more complete, revision and amendment of them than any thing which can be engrafted on the present bill; and, therefore, it is that I oppose our going into a committee upon it—if this Majesty's ministers in framing this bill had aimed at something great, even although they should have so bungled the execution as to render it inadequate to the attainment of their object, still, Sir, I should have entertained good hope (founded upon my own parliamentary experience) that, in its progress through the House, the bill might have been so improved and corrected, as to have become a great and a useful measure. These hopes, I say, would have been founded upon my own parliamentary experience, because I do recollect, that the bill which they introduced last session, for the purpose of enabling his Majesty to call upon a great portion of the people to join in the defence of the empire against an attack which even then was thought to be near at hand, was drawn up in such a manner, that had it gone out of the House as it came into it, the whole of the volunteer force would, to this very hour, have received only one day's drilling. The object that was aimed at by those with whom the idea of that bill originated, was, certainly, a great one; but it was very generally reported, and I believe upon good grounds, that it did not originate with his Majesty's ministers. I have reason to believe, Sir, that the great outline of it was suggested to them by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) whom I am grieved to see in a private station, at a time when the country stands so much in need of the aid of ail those most distinguished for their abilities—Yet although his Majesty's ministers had contrived to fill up the outline that was given them in so unskilful a manner, yet the bill, in the course of its progress through the House, received such corrections and. improvements as would have rendered it a great and powerful weapon, if it had been put into the hands of a government that was capable of wielding it.—But, Sir, the outline of the present bill is so confined, that there is no room to work in; the basis is so narrow, that nothing great can be founded upon it as 578 well might one attempt to erect a palace on the scite of a cottage, or to build a line of battle ship on the keel of a jolly boat or a wherry.—I say, Sir, if we would effect any thing great, we must not proceed upon this insignificant bill, but must come to a complete revision of our whole military system. Let it not, however, be supposed, that I would recommend, at this moment, to undo any thing that has been done, with a view to any future and distant improvement, I certainly would not make one retrograde step; for although we have, long been kept in a state of constant expectation of invasion, yet I do think that the period is now arrived when that event may certainly be supposed to be near at hand; both because the enemy has had full time to make, his preparations, and because at this season of the year the easterly winds most commonly prevail. What I would propose, therefore, is to pass as quickly as possible from a bad system to a good one, not (as I said before) by abruptly undoing what has been done, but by improving what is faulty, and adding what is deficient.—This being the principle upon which I would proceed it becomes impossible, for me to defer expressing my opinions until we go into a committee upon the bill; and I am the more inclined, Sir, to take it up in the present stage, because I confess that something, which lately fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made me wish to seize the earliest opportunity of again commenting upon the measures which have been adopted for the defence of the country.—Upon that occasion, Sir, (I mean the second reading of this bill) the Chancellor of the Exchequer threw down the gauntlet and challenged the House to prove that he and his colleagues had not done every thing that could have been done to provide for the safety or call forth the strength of the empire. I take up the gauntlet; I accept the challenge I desire that a day may be fixed for the investigation; and I pledge myself to prove, that since the commencement of the war our affairs have been grossly mismanaged.—I cannot, indeed, on the present occasion, go so much at large into the discussion as I shall be enabled to do on the day which v, ill, I hope, be appointed for that investigation which they challenge and I desire; but I shall seize this opportunity of taking a general view of the subject. I hope I shall not detain the House very long; but I do net think it necessary to offer any apology for delaying (if I cannot prevent) your leaving the chair, because I do not conceive it possible that the House should feel impatient to go into a committee upon such a bill 579 as this.—I shall begin, Sir, with that which I presents itself to most men's mind as the first and most important part of the public force, I mean the navy. Upon this I shall only say a very few words,—It certainly is nor ivy intention to bring any direct charge against: he Admiralty, for ibis plain reason, that I am nit at present possessed of sufficiently accurate information upon which to ground it; but, Sir, I cannot sufficiently express my astonishment at the two and only modes of defence which have lately been resorted to in this House when the conduct of that department has been called in question.—The one is by a comparison of our present naval establishment with that which has been kept up and found to be sufficient in former wars. But this species of defence, Sir, is good for nothing, unless it can be proved that the present situation of this country, with respect to the enemy, is similar to our situation in the periods referred to.—Now I will not enter into any reasoning to prove that no such similarity exists, and that the attack with which we now are menaced is, beyond all sort of comparison, more, formidable than any that we were formerly threatened with; because I feel that it would be an insult to the House to take up their time in proving that which must be evident to every man of common sense.—This species of defence, by comparison, is therefore, I say, good for nothing; and really, Sir, it does appear to me that the other which was set up by a Lord of the Admiralty, is equally absurd.—"We are told that the low rate of insurance is a proof of the sufficiency of the exertions made in the administration of the naval department. The low rate of insurance certainly proves that few of our ships are taken; but what is that owing to? Why, Sir, it is in a great measure owing to this, that the enemy does not attempt to take them. He does not think it worth his while to be nibbling at the fruits of our industry, when he is preparing to strike at the very root of it, and to dry up the source from which all our commerce flows. The French government not only does not encourage the fitting out of privateers, but absolutely forbids it; and is collecting all the seamen that can be procured either in France or the neighbouring countries, for the purpose of preparing that grand explosion by which they hope to overwhelm us. This mode of defending the conduct of the Admiralty is, therefore, as little to the purpose as the other; nor can they satisfy the doubts which are pretty generally entertained in any other way than by shewing, cither that they have done all that was positive to be done, or that they have done as 580 much as the exigencies of the times require. I have said that I do not mean to bring any direct charge against the Admiralty; but I certainly have heard enough to make me wish that the subject may soon be brought regularly before the House by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) who lately announced an intention of doing so.—I have heard, for instance, from such authority as leaves me no doubt of the fact, that on a part of the coast which is perhaps more than any other exposed to the attack of the enemy's flotilla, many vessels perfectly calculated for opposing such a force, well manned and belonging to persons extremely willing to prepare them for that service, did not receive their guns till some time after Christmas. And as this happened in a situation than which none perhaps is more favourable for the enemy's purpose! it may be doubted whether in other places we are even now prepared as we ought to be.—Having said these few words respecting the navy, because the subject had been introduced by others in discussing this measure, I shall now proceed to consider the system of our land force; and although I shall chiefly direct my attention to that part of it to which this bill more immediately relates, yet I shall think it right to make a few observations respecting the other branches of the service.—And here, Sir, it will be necessary to consider the means which the ministers possessed at the commencement of the war.—This House gave repeated proofs not only of its willingness but anxiety to furnish them with ail the pecuniary means, and invest them with all the powers of every kind which might enable them to call forth the strength of the country, and the whole body of the people when called upon, displayed an unexampled degree of patriotism and zeal: in short, all the means possessed by this country were completely at their disposal. Now let us see how they have applied these means in the different branches of the military service.—In the first place, with respect to the army, we had, Sir, when the war broke out, an army not so strong as it ought to have been in point of numbers, but strong, indeed, in all those excellent qualities which constitute the very soul of an army. It was strong, I say, in a truly military spirit, in an excellent and firmly established discipline, in considerable experience acquired in the course of the war, and above all, Sir, it was strong in a consciousness of its prowess, so recently evinced in the glorious exploits which a part of it had achieved on the plains of Egypt.—I may speak my opinion of that campaign the more freely, because I had no share in it; 581 and when I consider all the difficulties that our troops had to contend with, I do sincerely think, that in the whole course of the late war, in which so many brilliant actions were performed by nil the armies that were engaged in it, nothing was done either by the French or allies equal to the achievements of the English in Egypt.—The happy effect which these victories naturally produced on the minds of the army. was not confined to those brave men by whom they were gained. Every British soldier sympathized with them; every regiment in the service felt an increased confidence in its powers; and when marching against the enemy would be electrified by the sound of Alexandria With such an army on the one hand, (not, indeed, so numerous as it ought to have been, but equal to any in Europe in all those incorporeal excellencies which constitute the soul of an army) and with a great population on the other, (brave as oar countrymen have always shewn themselves, but glowing, upon this occasion, with a more than ordinary degree of patriotic zeal) it is obvious that all the measures of the government ought to have been so calculated as to infuse the spirit of the one, into as large amass of the other, as it was capable of animating.—I shall not here enter into the examination of the means which were or might have been used to raise men; but shall consider only the use that has been made of them when raised: which has, in my opinion, been extremely erroneous.—The first thing that ought to have been done was to augment every one of the existing regiments to as great a number of men as they could contain without becoming unmanageable; both because recruits engrafted upon an old regiment will much sooner become fit for service than if formed into new corps; and also, because in the former case they will soon be inspired, not only with the general spirit of the army, but also with that particular pride and esprit de corps which exists in each old regiment, and is founded upon the recollection of is former services.—And when I compare the establishment of officers in our regiments with that of any other army in Europe, I think I have good reason for saying, that wish a small increase of those below the rank of field officers, the regiments might have been augmented to 12 or 140O men each, and that with some interior arrangements, which it is unnecessary to enter into here, they would not have been unwieldy.—Had ministers pursued this system in the augmentation of the army, instead of raising thirty six new battalions, the new levies might soon have been made equal to 582 the old stock, and we should still have had a great number of good officers remaining to he employed in forming the Reserve, which I shall presently mention, as well as in instructing the Irregulars.—I now, Sir, come to mention a description of force for which no provision whatever has been made, I mean a real Reserve, destined to join the regiment in the event of actual invasion; by means of which the losses sustained in the first actions would be immediately repaired, and the strength of the army would I be constantly increasing, or at least main; undiminished, even during the course of the most severe operations,—The Reserve which I have in contemplation might have been formed in such a manner as to interfere very little indeed with the ordinary avocations of the people, and could not reasonably have been considered as a hardship in any point of view.—I would have taken this reserve, by ballot, from amongst the first class, that is, from those who from age and other circumstances are fittest for the military service; officers from hall-pay should have been distributed through the country to instruct them; and that instruction should have been confined to the rendering them expert in loading and firing, and teaching them the very little else that is absolutely necessary to enable them to take their places in the rear ranks of the regiments when called into the field.—If the army had been augmented on the principles I have mentioned, and no more officers than were ready necessary had been employed in forming the reserve, there would still have remained in the country, as applicable to the irregulars, a considerable number of men of some military experience; and without the aid of such men, I think it impossible that, they should ever be able to render the services that they would otherwise be capable of.—I now, Sir, come to consider that part of our present force to which this bill immediately relates; and I must say, that the whole system of the volunteer establishment, as it now exists, appears to me to be fundamentally wrong. The manner in which it is constituted, the mode in which the expense is defrayed, the committees, the exemptions, the mode of training this force, and the use: which is intended to be made of it, nay even the cloathing itself, in short, all and every part of the system I do most entirely disapprove of.—In the first place, I shall take notice of the exemptions, because (as I have I frequently said before) I consider these to be I the greatest evil of the whole system. It ii totally unnecessary for me to take op the time of the House by tracing the origin of this 583 evil. For I am sure that every member must be convinced, as I am, that the volunteers having become entitled to these exemptions was solely owing to the blunders of those who framed the bills. I have, indeed, on former occasions, heard one of his Majesty's ministers attempt to deny it; but they most prove to me that I have been afflicted with some malady which deprives me of the power of recollection, before they can persuade me that I am mistaken in this assertion. In the army of reserve bill no exemptions were intended to be granted, except to volunteers who had been enrolled before that measure was brought forward: in the general defence bill the only inducement held out to voluntary service, was that, in districts where a sufficient number came forward to enroll themselves, the compulsory clauses of that act should not be enforced. This, I say, was the only exemption that was intended by Parliament, or expected by these who volunteered under the defence act; and I consider it as a libel on the spirit and patriotism of the people, to say (as it has been said), that they required any further inducement.—The mischievous effects of that extraordinary blunder, by which the intentions of the legislature have been so completely counteracted, are, in my opinion, nothing less than to cripple and weaken every branch of the public force, the regular army, the army of reserve, the militia, and even the irregular or volunteer force itself: for so long as the present system is persevered in, you cannot have volunteers without exemptions from ballot, and you cannot grant exemptions to so large a proportion of the people as ought to be in arms. It is to this latter effect of the exemptions, I mean their operation in preventing your increasing the number of your irregulars, that I shall chiefly direct my observations upon the present occasion: not that I think this' the most important part of our force, of that, I finally shall not be suspected: my partiality to one of a different description, I mean to a regular army, is, I believe, well known, and it did in the last sessions induce an hon. gent, whom I do not now see in the House, to give me the appellation of the Regular Colonel; he meant it as a joke, but I contess that I felt myself obliged to him for it; I am proud of it; I am happy to be distinguished from the colonels whom one now-a-days meets in every street of the town. I wish that all my brother officers, of the same rack in the army, were distinguished by the same appellation; I wish we were ail called regular colonels.—3t has been justly observed by a right hon. friend of mine (Mr. 584 Windham), that the profusion of military titles bestowed on the volunteer officers has completely deprived those of the regular army of that honourable distinction in society which they formerly enjoyed, as, perhaps, the only reward for having devoted themselves to the risks and hard hips of a profession, in which they must necessarily sacrifice those advantages which are generally considered as constituting a very great portion of I he comforts of life.—This is no longer the case; this gratification we no longer enjoy; for if, instead of passing my life in the army, I had pursued any other easy and lucrative profession, I might still have been a colonel; I might have been a merchant and a colonel, a banker and a colonel, a physician and a colonel, in short, any thing but a divine; and I expect that, in a hot time, even the profession of a churchman will not p event his assuming a military title.—But to return from this digression (which I hope the House will excuse), I repeat that these exemptions, exclusive of their baneful influence on other branches of our military establishment, are to be considered as a most serious evil, in as much as they prevent the increase of the irregular unembodied force.—To this, I suppose, it will be answered, what, are you so much alarmed at the enemy's preparations as to think that 400,000 volunteers in addition to the army and militia are not sufficient for our security? Why, Sir, I trust I am not more alarmed than every reasonable man ought to be; but I do confess, that in my opinion, 40O,000 men dispersed as they are in almost equal proportions over the whole surface of the kingdom, are not enough. When I however I say this, I beg I may not be understood to mean, that even with such a force as we now have, there is any probability of our being conquered;—but I do maintain that we are not, as we might have been, in such a state of preparation as to ensure our being able to get the better of an invading enemy without the risk of previously sustaining some great disaster.—A right hon. gent. (Mr. Yorke) has told us, that not above one-fourth of the first class of the people are in the volunteer corps now, I, Sir, should wish (as I have frequently said on former occasions) that the whole of the, first class should be armed, and, in many districts, the second and third class also; that is to say, that the great mass of the able bodied active men of the country should be prepared, not to drive away their cattle or destroy their provisions, but to fight and harrass the enemy. In short, Sir, I wish that, instead of a comparatively small body 585 of privileged volunteers, we had what has, I believe, been more than once recommended by two men of the most distinguished talents (Messrs. Windham and Fox), I mean an armed peasantry. A noble lord (Castlereagh) has told us, on a former occasion, that we have even in our own times a striking example of the efficacy of such a force as our volunteers, when opposed to a veteran army, and I understood him to say, that we had no such examples to produce in favour of an armed peasantry. But I confess that, in my opinion, the events of modern history appear to prove exactly the reverse.—The instance quoted by the noble lord, was that of the battle of Jernappe;—but the truth is, that the French troops who gained that battle were perfectly unlike our volunteers. The greater part of them had been formed on the foundation of the old army of France; for it is a mistake to suppose, that that army was dissolved by the revolution. The majority of the general officers, and many of other ranks, certainly emigrated, but not the bulk of the army. Of the artillery and engineer corps (containing the best informed officers in France) very few individuals came away: all the oilier regiments (with only one or two exceptions) also remained in the country; and of the regimental officers (that description, at least, who before the revolution chiefly resided with their corps) a very great proportion did not leave France.—But admitting, as I do, that great part of the troops engaged at Jemappe had not been engrafted on the regiments of the line; still, I say, they were perfectly unlike what our volunteers will be at the commencement of an invasion. They had been long embodied and in the field; and a great part of them had been engaged in a successful and, what they no doubt would consider to be, a glorious campaign: for a general of the highest reputation at the head of an army, esteemed to be at least one of the best in Europe, had retreated before them. It must also be recollected, that in this battle of Jemappe, of which we have heard so much, general Dumourier, according to the most credible accounts, had between forty and fifty, or even it has been said, sixty thousand men, against about sixteen thousand Austrians, so that at any rate it cannot be considered as any great proof of French prowess; and if they do plume themselves upon it, I think they have little to boast of.—This example of the noble lord's does not, therefore, in my opinion, prove anything in favour of our volunteer system; but it does so happen, Sir, that the late war affords us what I should consider as a much better test of the comparative me- 586 rits of the numerous armed peasantry for which I contend, as contrasted with such a force as our volunteers, I mean. Sir, that glorious example set to the world by the Vendéan peasants; an example which (if Britons need look for any thing to emulate out of their own country) we should never lose sight of. The national guards, who first attacked the Vendéeans, were very like our volunteers, well armed, and provided with a numerous artillery; the Vendéans, on the other hand, could scarcely be called an armed peasantry; for the fact is, that in the outset of the contest, a great proportion of them had no ether means of providing themselves with firearms but by wresting them out of the hands of their enemies. Yet, even in this state (many of them having nothing but pitchforks), they attacked their opponents with irresistible impetuosity, took from them the whole of their artillery, and completely destroyed this army of volunteers.—Large bodies of troops of the line afterwards marched against them, but were; likewise defeated. When they, on the other I hand, had the worst of it, they used to disperse so rapidly, that the enemy saw nothing to pursue or strike at; and they assembled again as quickly whenever they chose to renew the combat. Now I say, Sir, with such an example of what has been done by a rude peasantry, totally without discipline, and, in the beginning, almost without arms, what might we not expect from our own, if the great mass of the physical strength of; the nation was prepared to co-operate with our regular forces, instead of being excluded, as three-fourths of the stoutest and youngest men in the country now are, and disgusted (as they must be) by the exemptions which you grant to the volunteers? No nation upon earth possesses a larger share of natural courage than the English; and, if you take the proper means to call forth their exertions, they will defend their country with as much enthusiasm as was ever displayed by any other people. So confident am of this, that whenever the invasion I takes place, I should be happy; o command a body of sturdy peasants, even although they were armed only with pikes; and if I did not find an opportunity of performing some action that would do honour to them j and to myself, I think I should deserve to be dismissed from his Majesty's service.—And now, Sir having said so much on the superiority of an armed peasantry over our present volunteer establishment, I think it will be as well to describe shortly, what I mean by an armed peasantry, and in what respect they would differ from the volu- 587 teers.—In the first place, their numbers would be three or four times as great, and would comprize the whole of the first class of the people, three-fourths of whom a right hon. gent. (Mr. Yorke) has told us, are not now enrolled. 2dly, their dress, if any distinction of that sort was adopted, would be much less expensive, consisting merely of a short coarse great coat, which, with their arms, a small knapsack, and a bag for their provisions, would constitute the whole expense of their equipment; and 3dly, their instruction or drilling would be simple, natural, and strictly confined to that which could be really useful to them when acting as irregulars in the field.—I should of course give fire arms to as great a proportion of them as possible, and pikes to the rest until fire arms could be procured—For the purpose of teaching them the use of their arms, I certainly should prefer gamekeepers and poachers to any militia serjeants in the kingdom; for I should wish them to learn no more than just what every one is taught when he first goes a shooting. All that I would require of them is to load the piece well, and to handle it in such a manner as not to injure themselves or their neighbours but to hit their prey. Provided they could use their arms with effect, I would never plague them about forms; and whether they carried the firelock in one way or another, on the right shoulder or the left, would be to me a matter of perfect indifference. So much for the use of arms. As to manœuvres, they should be so extremely simple that the principles of them might be taught in a very few days. Some practice would, indeed, be necessary to make them expert and ready in applying these movements to all the variety of ground; but there is a most essential difference between such a mode of employing their time and that which is now pursued; for what I recommend would be a lively, active and amusing exercise, and exactly resembling what they would have to do upon actual service. I would teach them to take advantage of the circumstances of ground; to line a hedge in such a way as to expose themselves as little as possible to the enemy's fire; to advance rapidly to another position whenever there was an opportunity of gaining ground; to retreat with equal rapidity and line the hedges in their rear, whenever they found themselves pressed, and to condense themselves into a compact body and dash into any opening that might present itself, in the enemy's line, wherever his evident disorder and their great superiority of numbers should induce the officers who led them 588 to think it prudent to charge.—Such, Sir, is the armed peasantry that I would recommend instead of our present volunteers; and so far am I from agreeing with those who think that the latter possess any qualities which can at all be put in competition with the great superiority of numbers of the former, that I really think that in every point of difference, the advantage is in favour of that which I propose. Let us first take the article of dress. When objections have been made to the present cloathing of the volunteers, they have been treated with a certain degree of ridicule. For my part, I own, that the objection does not appear to me to be by any means trivial. I think it may, by degrees, have a very bad effect on the army to see a body of men so like regular I soldiers in their dress, and so unlike them in their conduct. That they are unlike soldiers in their behaviour, no body can deny who will take the trouble of going on to a volunteer parade. I do not blame them for this; it is unnatural to expect it should be otherwise; and if they were not dressed like: soldiers, there perhaps would not be much harm in allowing it to a certain degree, as; in attempting to prevent it altogether. But a right hon. Secretary (Mr. Yorke) has told us, that it is a very good thing to have the volunteers dressed in red, because then the enemy, when he sees them at a distance, may take them for soldiers. Now, really, I think this is treating them with greater disrespect than any thing that has ever been said of them by those against whom such a clamour has been raised. The right hon. gent, seems to put them on a footing with the women in Wales, of whom it was said,; that their appearance in their red cloaks, returning from market, contributed to the sarrender of the French. I think that upon; actual service many inconveniences may arise from their being dressed like the army, If they give way (and men of this description I may often have occasion to do so) our own troops, at a distance from them, may think some regiments of the line are defeated, which may produce a bad effect on the rest; whereas, if they are dressed as they ought to be, the soldiers would know at once that the retreating body was not a part of the army, and that the line remained entire.—In the same way the general may be betrayed into some false or unnecessary movement by not being able to distinguish the one from the other. I think, too, that with respect to the effect likely to be produced on the minds of the enemy, it would be much better that they should not be dressed in military uniform. If the French should 589 beat a body of volunteers, they would say they had defeated the troops of the Hue, which would increase their confidence. If, on the other hand, they should be beat by the volunteers, their officers would easily persuade them that they had been engaged with our regulars; and they would consider it as one of the ordinary occurrences of war. But if, on the contrary, our armed peasantry, such as I propose, not dressed like soldiers, should once attack and defeat a body of the enemy, such an event would dishearten them in the greatest degree; for they then would naturally say to each other, "see with what courage these peasants fight us; we are here engaged in a vain and endless contest against the whole body of a nation in arms."—So much as to the dress; I now come to consider the effect of training the volunteers on the present system. In this respect, as well as in the cloathing, we go upon the plan of assimilating them to the troops of the line. This is aiming at what we can never effect. We start upon a principle fundamentally erroneous. I know that in this respect I differ from a right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) whose talents and eloquence must always give great weight to his opinions; yet, upon a subject so immediately connected with my own profession, I cannot give up my judgment to his; and I maintain, that the regular system of tactics, according to which the volunteers are now trained, is not only not better than that simple, natural, and easy method which I would teach, but that it really is a great deal worse. It is worse, I say, not merely because it requires much more time to learn it (and with the volunteers every hour that they are taken from their ordinary occupations should be considered of importance) but also because, when learnt, it is totally unlike any thing they will have to do in presence of the enemy.—I am sure it is not from prejudice that I reject it, I was formerly one of the most zealous advocates; and in a regiment which I commanded for five or six years in India, I practised it with success before it had been adopted in the rest of the army. We took it from the great King of Prussia, by whom it was introduced and brought to perfection. It was admirably calculated for the nature of he country where his armies had to act; which, consisting of extensive plains, made it necessary that large bodies of troops should be able to make great combined movements with perfect regularity and order. But the same general principle, which induced him to adopt this system, should make us reject it (I mean the principle of adapting your tactics to the ground you are to act upon) for the two countries 590 are totally different.—If we could suppose England reduced to that unfortunate state of being absolutely precluded from ever carrying on offensive war, in that case I should say, that we ought not to adopt the Prussian system, even for the infantry of the line: but as the latter are exposed to serve in all countries, it is necessary they should know both methods; and on the plains of Egypt they certainly experienced the advantages of this solid regular system.—I do not, therefore, say that it should be wholly exploded in the regular army; but I can conceive no earthly reason for applying it to a body of men, who are never to act out of this country, and who in Lt ought never to be used as regular troops.—The volunteers (who cannot know any fixing of war) naturally expect, that what they are taught upon the field of exercise is like what they are to do upon the field of battle; and in proportion as they become expert in the one, they naturally acquire confidence in their fitness for the other. But what will be the effect produced on their minds, when the first time they see the enemy, they discover that what they have been learning is wholly impracticable, and that the confidence they had acquired in their own proficiency is ill founded? Is it not natural, I say, that this disappointement should be productive of mischievous consequences? Whether this system of tactics be practicable or not in such a country as our, is a question which many gentlemen now present are perfectly competent to decide; because there are very-many of them who have applied themselves to the duties of volunteer officers in a manner that does them the highest credit.—Now I will ask any volunteer officer, any regular officer, or any other man who will reject pedantry and allow common sense to operate upon his mind; I say, I will ask him to put in his pocket the book containing an extract of general Dundas's System as now practised: by the volunteers, and then to ride about the country; and with this book in his hand let him consider how it would be possible for troops to perform those manœuvres in the enclosures which cover almost the whole surface of this kingdom.—Sir, when I I mention the name of general Dundas, I hope I shall not be represented as speaking slightingly of that valuable officer, as I formerly have been said to do of the Commander in Chief, although I certainly never did any such thing. I have the highest respect for general Dundas's abilities, and I knew that he has rendered the most useful services. But I never can or will allow myself, as a member of Parliament, to be deterred by any consi- 591 deration from delivering my opinions., when I think there is any opportunity of giving one that can be useful; and I do maintain that what is called general Dundas's System, as now practised by the volunteers, is the very worst that could be adopted for them, and perfecly unsuited to the nature of our country. The agricultural improvements which have been so extensively encouraged all over the kingdom, the hedges and ditches with which almost every part of it is intersected, render the application of such a system absolutely impracticable.—The volunteers, however, must naturally form their ideas of war from what they are taught to practise as a preparation for war: moving, as they always do, in solid battalions, they naturally expect that when they come to fight, they will meet an enemy formed in the same manner in solid battalions like their own; and they have probably determined to charge him at once. But they will see no such thing. They will feel the enemy rather tli3n see him. They will discover his line only by the fire that issues from it; and whilst they, in a compact body, are presenting a great mass to him which he cannot miss, he will be spread behind banks, hedges, trees, See, taking advantage of every little circumstance of the ground in such a manner that they will scarcely see any thing to strike at; and they will be wholly at a loss how to act.—It is natural, that when men go into action for the first time, they should be in some degree embarrassed; but what must that embarrassment be, if they find (as will be the case with the volunteers), that every thing is so perfectly unlike what they have practised and been taught to expect?—I well recollect how much I was surprized, when I first saw the French, at not being able to discover those solid battalions to which my eye was accustomed, having then had no experience in war, excepting on the plains of India. I afterwards, in Ireland, had an opportunity of observing, in a trifling instance, the effect of teaching men a system not suited to the country; for, upon my ordering an officer of militia to occupy an enclosure, he drew up his men in a solid body in the middle of the field, as he h3d always done on the parade, instead of lining the fence; and however absurd such a mistake may appear, it is not much to be wondered at that men should do what you have taught them.—I repeat it then, that, in my opinion, the present system of training is in every point of view extremely injudicious. It is attended with much unnecessary constraint; it takes up too much of their time; and it is wholly unsuited to tits country and 592 species of warfare in which they will be engaged: whereas, what I recommend is easy, natural, and is just what they will have to do when acting against the enemy. When, therefore, gentlemen, who prefer our present volunteers to an armed peasantry, ground that preference on their pretended superiorly in military skill, I say they are completely mistaken The armed peasantry, such as I propose, would be much better taught than they are for real use; besides being infinitely more numerous.—But, Sir, when I regret that one effect of the exemptions granted to the volunteers is to prevent our having an irregular armament as extensive as I should wish, the answer is that this I is of no consequence, for that the want of a sufficient number of arms would prevent it even if the exemptions did not.—What signifies (say they) whether the mistake in the bill produces the effect you complain of or not; for if more men were enrolled they could not be armed? So that the ministers are reduced to the dilemma of urging their neglects as an excuse for their blunders.—Upon this subject of arms, Sir, I remember that on a former occassion (the debate on the army estimates) I acknowledged that a statement made by a noble lord (Castlereagh) did appear to me to acquit the board of ordnance of any charge of neglect or want of exertion since the commencement of the war. But I certainly should not have said this, if the noble lord, at the same time that he told us bow many arms had been issued since the commencement of hostilities, had also told us how many there were in store when war was declared. This latter statement has since been given us; and on comparing the one with the other, it appears that the number issued within these last twelve months is only 35,000 more than were then in the arsenals. I therefore retract my former concession, and again assert, that there has been great want of exertions somewhere. Perhaps the ordnance department is not to blame; they can only act in conformity to the instructions they receive from government; but if the ordnance has not been remiss, government has. To this I suppose they will answer, that I ought to make allowance for the number of arms that are now in store. In the first place, I should like to know what the number is? And then, Sir, when they say we have a great armoury in reserve, I should like to ask the hon. gentlemen whether they have also an army in reserve? And I should be glad to know what great benefit we shall derive, in case of emergency, from this great store of arms (supposing it to exist) when they have taken 593 no measures for procuring men who know how to make use of them? But, if from whatever cause, a sufficient quantity of fire arms cannot now be had for so extensive an armament as I propose, I do most earnestly recommend it to his Majesty's ministers to endeavour, through the influence of the general officers, and all other means in their power, to inspire the people with a confidence in the use of the pike.—I consider this to be a subject of the greatest importance; and I think, that under the present circumstances, I could hardly render a greater service to my country than by contributing to bring this weapon into fashion.—You might have as many pikemen as you please in the course of a few weeks; and every man carrying, besides his pike, a spade, a hatchet or other useful implement; they would prove in every respect a most important addition to your strength. So convinced am I of this, that I will rather incur the risk of being considered tedious, than omit any opportunity of impressing it on the minds of his Majesty's ministers.—If the question was, whether you would use pikes or muskets? there could be no choice. But when it is, whether you will have the pike or nothing; whether a battalion of rive or six hundred men armed with muskets, will be the stronger for the adddition of an equal number of pikemen, or is as well without them? then I say, Sir, that the officer who rejects such a reinforcement as useless, must either be totally ignorant of military history, or must have a very mean opinion of the valour of his countrymen.—Sir, when we recollect what has been done by other men, without the advantage of fire arms, why should we doubt that Englishmen should do the same. I have already alluded to what was done by the Vendéans; who, disregarding the enemy's fire, used to run up to their cannon with an impetuosity which the Republicans could not resist. And do we not recollect that, in our own country, a body of undisciplined Highland peasants, throwing away what few fire arms they had, and trusting only to their broadswords, charged and completely defeated a superior body of regular troops? A similar instance, not perhaps so generally known, occurred in the year 1794, in the northern part of Bengal, when the Seiks had made an irruption into that province. Twelve battalions of our Seapoys, who are as well armed and disciplined as the Europeans, and were well provided with artillery, were attacked by a body of the Selk infantry. These, like the Highlanders, threw down their matchlocks, drew their swords, and charged the Company's 594 troops; and although the victory was ultimately gained by the latter, yet that part of the line against which this attack was directed was completely cut to pieces. Therefore, I ask again, why should we suppose that Englishmen could do nothing with pikes in their hands, when so much has been achieved by other men with no better weapons? Let us endeavour to rouze them to imitate that great example of heroism, given to the world by the Vendéan peasants. They had, indeed, a great and noble cause to contend for; but ours is greater still. They were lighting for their king, their laws, and their religion; but we in addition to all these powerful inducements to exertion, have also to contend for our independence as a nation, against a foreign enemy who aims at our subjugation. And although no man, I trust, is more loyally and w rally attached to his Sovereign and to the monarchy than I am; though no man has a more complete abhorrence of the French revolution than I have; yet if (which God forbid) it was decreed that our monarchy should be overthrown, I declare to God, that would rather be the slave of an Englishman as vicious as Robespierre himself, if such a monster could be found, than of a Henry the 4th, or the best man that ever sat upon the throne of France. I say, then, that the people of this country have still greater objects to contend for than the Vendéans; and I can have no doubt of their displaying as much valour, if you put arms into their hands arid Like the proper means to rouse then enthusiasm,—air, although I have troubled the House so long, I must beg leave to say a few words upon another part of the present volunteer system, I mean the committees.—It is notorious that committees do exist; yet in this bill, which is meant as a consolidation and final adjustment of the laws respecting volunteers, no notice is taken of then whatever; an omission which I think may be attended with very bad consequences. But although there is nothing relating to them in the bill, yet in the speech of the right hon. Secretary of State in opening the business, we had an opportunity of knowing his sentiments; and I confess I was never more surprised than when I heard them. The right hon. gent, has said, that so long as the committees confine themselves to the financial concerns, there would be no harm in allowing them to continue; but that if they should ever abuse this indulgence, if in any corps it should be found that the committee should interfere improperly, and extend their deliberations to subjects which it would b dangerous to allow them to discuss, he would do—what? 595 Why, recommend it to his Majesty to dismiss a corps which should persevere in such improper conduct! Now, really, this is the most extraordinary code for the management of an aimed force that I ever yet heard of; if it does wrong, you have no remedy bat to disband it—But, Sir, if you allow these committees to exist for one purpose, it is impossible for any man to say that they will not, by degrees, be led astray from the object for which they were originally instituted: and, therefore, if, in the present system, they are necessary for managing the finances of the corps, this is a strong additional reason for adopting what was on a former night recommended by an hon. gent. (Mr. Whitbread). Let government defray the whole expense of the volunteer corps. The tax will be less onerous than it is now, because it will be more equally levied. The expense will be less, because the corps will be restrained by the regulations of government within the bounds of economy, instead of being allowed to vie with each other in the splendor and magnificence of their appearance: and besides these great advantages, you will at the same time ged rid of all plea for committees. I say, do away the necessity of committees, and declare them to be illegal. No, says the right hon. gent.—we will make no law to prevent their assembling, nor to restrain their proceedings but if they should deviate from what we think right, we will punish them. Now, I ask, Sir, is it the conduct of wise legislators to say, we will not guard the people against committing a crime, we will not even declare it to be a crime, we will allow them to be exposed to the temptation of committing it, and then if they should transgress, we will punish them? And, then, what a strange mode of punishment is it, that the right hon. Secretary means to inflict! He says he will dismiss them: but under such circumstances it might happen, that it would not be either very easy or very convenient to do so. I do not wish to put an extreme case; I am only stating the same case which the right hon. gent, himself has supposed to exist. I know that the volunteers are as loyal as they are brave and patriotic; but if such a body of armed men be allowed to hold committees, and to exercise deliberative powers, it is impossible for any man to say to what length they may, by degrees, be carried. The right hon. Secretary has supposed the case of a corps abusing this power. Now if this happens in one corps it may equally happen in all the others, and if ever it should happen, it would probably proceed from a spirit very different from that by which they now are actuated. 596 In such a case the disarming them might be attended with much inconvenience.—But even in a case where the evil had not spread so far; yet the necessity of dismissing several corps might happen at a time when you could not well dispense with their services; and although I have heard it said in a former debate, that if a corps was dismissed, the members of it would enroll themselves in another, yet I must say that it appears to me to be extremely improbable that this would be the conduct of men who had been dismissed in disgrace. At present we are far from the danger of any such inconveniencies being felt; but we ought to guard against them by putting an end at once to this dangerous practice of armed men holding committees.—But there exists another practice, even still more dangerous than the committees, and which is equally unnoticed in this bill; I mean general assemblies of whole corps. It is a matter of notoriety, that in this town there are corps of upwards of 1000 men each, in which, upon certain occasions, a general meeting is called for the purpose of discussion.—Now, if this is allowed to go on, who will pretend to say what these discussions will be confined to? Who will say that we shall not, at some future period, have as many armed Parliaments as there are volunteer corps, meeting to discuss the affairs of the state.—All these meetings, both of whole corps and of committees ought to be declared at once to be absolutely illegal.—There is only one other topic, Sir, upon which, before I conclude, I wish to say a few words. It is not, indeed, immediately connected with the present question, but having been introduced in a former debate upon this bill, I hope I shall not be deemed irregular in adverting to it.—It is a topic, the importance of which, I have frequently attempted to impress upon the minds of his Majesty's ministers; and I will never miss an opportunity of doing so.—What I mean, Sir, is the subject of fortifications. In order to consider what ought to have been done by ministers respecting this branch of our military system, it is necessary that I should shortly revert to the period of the treaty of Amiens; and they have told us, that ever since the signature of that treaty, the conduct of the French government towards us was "one uninterrupted series of aggression, violence and insult."—Now, Sir, I say, that if they viewed it in this light, they ought to have endeavoured to put a stop to it at once by a spirited remonstrance, and if that remonstrance failed of producing the effect, they should have followed it up by a declaration of war. But 597 that under such circumstances, they could possibly think the peace would be of long duration, I will not do them the injustice to believe; for I should really be ashamed of my country, I should, I say, be ashamed of being an Englishman, if I thought that it was possible for men chosen by my Sovereign to govern this empire, were capable of making up their minds to the continuation f peace with a power, whose conduct towards us, they themselves tell you, evinced a determined resolution to degrade, vilify, and insult his Majesty and his government.—If, therefore, you believe their own declarations, it follows that immediately after the conclusion of the treaty of Amiens, it became their duty to lose no time in putting the country into such a state of defence as should best enable it to resist an attempt at invasion, such as We are now expecting: and amongst other means, there can be no doubt that they ought to have had recourse to a judicious system of fortifications. For, whatever variety of opinions there may be, as to the details, yet I will maintain, that the man who shall deny that the art of fortification affords great resources in defensive war, must be wholly ignorant of the military science, and equally ignorant of military history. The timely erection of good works would have greatly increased the difficulties of landing, would have retarded the enemy's progress when landed, and would have secured us against many disasters, which, in the present state of the country, may be the consequence of his gaining a temporary advantage.—But when I insist on the utility of fortifications, I beg that gentlemen will not do me the injustice to believe that I think the entrenched camp at Chelmsford will do us any good. I have been told, indeed, that in some places the parapet has already began to fall into the ditch; and so far was I from being sorry to hear this, that I could not help expressing my hope that the whole of it might come down before the enemy arrives, as there would be no chance of its ever being occupied I confess that I have not seen it; but from the general knowledge which I have of its position, I am quite sure that it can never be of any use, unless we can suppose the enemy to come here so eager and impatient to fight, that he would rather run his head against an entrenched camp than go two miles out of his way to avoid it. It really, Sir, puts me in mind of a proposal made by an officer in Ireland to encamp all the cavalry on the Curragh of Kildare, because it was the finest place in the kingdom for them to act upon. Now this plan would not have been a bad one, if one could have 598 been quite sure that an enemy, having little or no cavalry, would come to the Curragh on purpose to give ours an opportunity of attacking him. So also this camp might be useful, if the French would but be so good as to attack it. Bat the particular construction of this camp, as it has been described to me by officers who have seen it, is also extremely defective; for I understand, that instead of a chain of strong detached works, it is one continued line of entrenchment from right to left; which is a system now universally rejected by men of knowledge and experience. I am well aware that I should have no right to criticise the camp of Chelmsford, if it was true that I had ever made such proposals as have been attributed to me for I have read in pamphlets and in newspapers, that I had seriously recommended one continued line of entrench* merits from Yarmouth to the Downs and to Portsmouth. But, really such misrepresentations as these are too gross and too absurd to be deserving of notice.—And now, Sir, after having roundly asserted that this fortified camp of Chelmsford, which must have cost a good deal of money, cannot be of any use, I owe it both to myself and to the House to explain, in a very few words, the principles upon which have formed this opinion and I think it is very easy to do it in a manner that will be intelligible even to persons who are not military. There are two modes by which a defensive army may check the progress of an invading enemy. The one is by a direct opposition to his march; that is, by constantly placing yourself before him in such a manner that it is physically impossible for him to advance without attacking you. The other more indirect, but in. some cases equally effectual and safer method, is by occupying a strong position which is situated near the enemy's line of operation, that is to say, near the line by which his supplies of all sorts must pass from his magazines and military depots to his army.—In such a position you may stop his progress or oblige him to attack you at a great disadvantage for, if he went forward and left your army behind him in this situation, you would effectually cut of this communication with his magazines.—But although this indirect mode of opposition may sometimes be effectual in a regular military operation on the continent; yet it cannot possibly be imagined that in our situation we should, by proceeding in this manner, stop the progress of an enemy, who, from the very nature of his enterprize, must abandon all idea of preserving communications. Does any body imagine, that if he lands on the coast of Essex he 599 will begin by forming a magazine, and that in advancing into the country he will take care always to preserve his communication with this depot? Certainly not.—He will push on rapidly towards London, trusting to the effects of a sudden irruption: and in that case, how can the camp of Chelmsford stop him? It cannot, as I have said before, throw any direct obstacle in his way, because there are so many other toads in the country which will answer his purpose as well as that which ii commands, and that in order to pass this camp, without attacking it, he need not make a detour of above two or three miles. And if we remain in it after he has passed it, what will be the relative situation of the two armies?—Ours will be in his rear, and will threaten his communication with,—what? Why with the coast on which he landed, and on which he has left nothing behind him:—Whilst he, on the other hand, will be between us and the capital his approach to which we ought at all hazards to prevent. In short, Sir, I cannot conceive that in the present state of things this camp can be of any use, unless the energy are such fools as to run their heads against it rather than take the trouble of turning it.—Having thus expressed my opinion of what has been done (at least in this instance), I will not enter into many details of what might have been done, but will just mention one or two points so extremely obvious, that even men, who are not military, will readily feel the force of them. It is a matter of public notoriety that our depots of military stores are at present in a perfectly defenceless state; whereas, if his Majesty's ministers had made a proper use even of the time which has elapsed since the renewal of war, two or more of these great depots might, without any very extraordinary exertion, have been fortified in such a manner as to have been perfectly secure against a coup de main or assault At present, it a temporary superiority or advantage gained by the enemy should render it impossible for us to prevent his approaching these depots, he may either greatly distress us by destroying them, or, what is still more important, may find in them supplies of military stores, of which he, at the time, may be in the greatest want.—The advantage of securing them is too obvious then to require any reasoning to illustrate it; and if it should be denied that there has been time enough to do it, even since the commencement of the war, I can only say, that I should be very glad to have an opportunity of proving it by indisputable calculations,—There is another point in 600 which our system of defence might have been equally improved; audit is also of a nature perfectly obvious. The batteries which at present exist for the defence of our coast are so weak, that they may without difficulty, be taken possession of by the enemy's infantry whenever it has effected its landing.—Now, think that it must be evident to every man, whether military or not, that where guns are necessary for the defence of the coast, the object will be much more effectually accomplished by putting them into works that cannot be stormed, instead of these weak batteries; for, in that case, even although some of the enemy's infantry should get ashore, the batteries would still oppose the landing of his artillery and stores. Of this description are the Martello towers formerly mentioned in this House by my right hon. friend (Mr. Windham). Coast batteries more capacious than these towers might also have been constructed in such a manner, as to render it impossible for the enemy to take them without a slow process of undermining them, or erecting counter batteries on shore. With respect to their having been plenty of time to erect these Martello towers since the war broke out, I do not wish it to rest upon my assertion. I know that an engineer officer of the highest respectability, and whose name would have great weight, has said, that if in the course of the summer he had been ordered to construct them, they might have been completely finished many months ago. What he said upon this subject, was not with any view to criminate government; but merely expressive of his regret that a more effectual system had not been adopted for the defence of the coast. I should consider it as a breach of confidence to name him at present; but, if his Majesty's ministers, who have challenged us to shew in what manner they have neglected to do all that might have been clone for the defence; of the country, will consent to a I day being appointed for going into the inquiry, I shall be most happy to accept the challenge, and I will then call the officer to whom I have alluded to the bar of the House. Whenever that inquiry comas, I am fully confident that I shall be able to prove, that many most material branches of our defence have been extremely neglected.—I am sorry, Sir, to have been under the necessity of taking up so much of the time of the House; but I have felt it my duty to do so from a strong conviction that the measures pursued by his Majesty's ministers are not such as ought to have been adopt- 601 ed to meet the attacks of the active, enter-prizing, and powerful enemy with whom we are engaged.
said, there was much gallantry in the speech of the hon. member who had sat down, although there was not much novelty in it; but he confessed he heard much of that speech with very considerable regret and concern. In looking at the preparations of this country, he might have been led to suppose that the hon. member would have looked at them as a whole, instead of entering into a minute detail, and dwelling upon particular parts with a curiosity of criticism. He should have thought that he might have taken some pleasure in stating points which appeared to be favourable to this country in the present prospect of things, in the present contest; he should have thought some notice might have been taken of those things which were apparently to the disadvantage of the enemy—not a syllable of the army of France, but of its being an excellent army, headed by a man of uncommon genius and fortune, full of enthusiasm, &c, that they were an army of veterans, &c.; he should have thought it might have occured to that hon. officer that they were not all veterans; he should have thought that hon. officer might have stated, that among our own army there were some veterans competent to meeting those of France, or any other army in this world; he should have thought that the hon. officer would have had some pleasure in stating that of this mighty and boasted army of France, there were some parts composed of Italian and other conscripts; he should have thought it might have occurred to the hon. officer that the militia of this country, were equal and competent to meeting an equal number of any men; and that the hon. officer might have looked at the volunteers in a different point of view from that in which he did view them—that he would have found some consolation in reflecting that the mass of the volunteers of this country was a body of men preparing to fight for the King, the constitution, the laws, and the liberties of it, and that the hon. officer would have had some pleasure in reflecting on the contrast between such men and those conscripts of France, who were torn from their relations, fathers from their childern, and children from their parents, coming towards our shores in fetters. He should have thought that the hon. officer would have had some pleasure in expatiating on these facts but ha took no such view of the subject. The hon. officer had acted, he was bound to believe, from the 602 purest motive, and other hon. gentlemen who had pursued the same line of conduct, had acted from the purest motives, for what appeared to them to be the interests of their country; yet he could not help saying, he had heard their speeches with considerable regret, not that he apprehended the ingenuity which they shewed, would in the least degree shake the determination of the people of this country in the pursuit of their cause, or induce them to far the enemy, but he took up the subject in another point of view; he thought the speech of the hon. officer and some other speeches he had of late heard in that House, would, or might have in some respects a bad effect, for it must be well known now to every body, that whit was said within the doors of that House was not confined to the members of that House, nor to this country, but went to the enemy, as well as all over the rest of the world, and he could not help thinking, there was no ingenuity that could be employed in France that could more increase the energy, and inspire the enterprize of the troops there so much as some of the speeches which had of late been delivered in that House. He knew that was not the intention of those hon. members, but that, he thought, was likely to be the effect of their speeches.—This course of speaking in that House, had a tendency to invite the enemy to come among us, and if they did, he had the confidence and happiness to think that the event would be more glorious to this country than had ever yet been recorded in the annals of the world. Having said this much on the tendency of these speeches, he should lake a short view of the topics urged by the hon. officer who had just preceded him in the debate, although he should not be minute upon them all, many of which, unless he had heard them pressed repeatedly, were such as he hardly should have thought necessary to answer. The fist point he had to take notice of was, that of the exemptions of the volunteers. The hon. officer had stated broadly and roundly, that these exemptions had had the effect of hindering the recruiting of our army, the raising of tile army of reserve, and of interrupting the progress of the militia, and possibly that it might have had the effect (for some times that had been insisted upon) of hindering the raising of our marine force; that was, the force of land men of the navy. The best answer to these round and broad assertions was, that they were contrary to the fact as it stands. As it was only an assertion without proof, he should have thought it would have been followed up by some arguments to 603 shew at least the probability of this assertion; but the hon. officer had been contented with staling it as a fact, Now, he would ask, upon the subject of these exemptions, if there was any thing to hinder volunteers from entering into the service of the navy or of the regular army in any part of the world? He knew of no such exemption; he knew of nothing that prevented any volunteer from entering as a substitute in any part of the army, neither did he know of any exemption which prevented a volunteer from entering as a substitute to serve in the militia. Nor did he believe that any considerable number of the volunteers would have served either in the militia or the army of reserve if they had no exemption; for he knew the great bulk of them to be persons capable of providing substitutes, and this was the last part and most material one, in the whole of the hon. officer's speech upon what he called the evils of the exemptions of the volunteers, for he had pressed it much to the House, that many of the volunteers, if drawn, must have served personally in the militia and in the army of reserve, because they could not find substitutes. Now, to judge of that, it would be necessary to see the number of substitutes who are now serving, and then it would appear that with regard to the militia and the army of reserve, the numbers were not one to 1000 of those who could not provide substitutes; and thus it appeared to him that gentlemen would do better if they adhered a little more to matter of fact, and indulged less in speculations and round assertions upon these topics; a little more adherence to the fact would have spared the observation that the volunteer system had prevented the raising of the militia and the army of reserve. As to the price which these substitutes would have cost for the army of reserve, the principle upon which gentlemen proceeded was erroneous, the price was not higher now than it had been in the course of the last war. This exemption of the volunteers had been stiled a bonus: now, in considering this matter, and estimating the value of tin's exemption, the correct way was, not to consider the price of a substitute, but the price of the insurance by which a man might secure a substitute in the event of his being drawn. Now upon that subject the average price in Scotland was a guinea and a half in some instances a guinea, in many a guinea and a half in some few, two guineas, but never higher than two guineas; and then be would ask, what became of this famous bonus? What was granted to the volunteer by way of exemption, was next 604 to nothing in value; and the volunteer in this respect, instead of receiving a bonus sustained a loss, and that a considerable one, by being a volunteer, instead of being subject, like any other person, to all other levies.—Having said this on the volunteers, he should now take a short view of the discipline of the volunteers j and upon that subject he owned he was astonished at almost every argument which had been advanced by the hon. officer to the discredit of the system of volunteers.—What the hon. officer, and indeed many others conveyed, was neither more nor less than this, that they are sorry that the volunteers have learnt too much: now, if they had learnt too much, had they not at least learnt as much as these hon. gentlemen wished them to learn?—As to the armed peasantry, the general said, he had never been able to understand precisely what gentlemen meant by them. The hon. officer had said an armed peasantry would drive like lightning the French into the sea if they came hither.—Now if they were to do this, they must some how or other do it by tangible matter; so he presumed would the volunteers. The hon. officer however wished these peasants to stand behind the hedges in twenties and tens together, and those were to be men who learnt the use of arms only for a few days, or perhaps only a few hours. Such a posse comitatus as that would never do. The hon. officer shook his head, and yet this was what he had said in his speech, and these were die persons who were to drive the French into the sea, and the volunteers were not to do it. This species of defensive system which the hon. officer would adopt, might make these armed peasantry good soldiers after two or three campaigns, and they had met a good many disasters, for that would be the only species of drilling which they would have; and this was a species of adversity which that system would most probably bring upon the country if it was adopted; for until men had been drilled, a musket on their shoulders was hardly of any use to them at all.—With regard to the Book of Regulations for the Exercise, published by order of H. R. H. the Commander in Chief, the hon. officer said it was totally useless as applicable to the volunteer corps. Now, he agreed with the hon. officer, when he said that as to the regular army, or militia, or volunteers, fighting in this country, that the mode in which they would be called upon to act must be different from that which is adopted in other countries j the truth was, that our system of matters in the way of training had more tactic in it 605 than was actually necessary, or ever adopted in action, bat that men were brought to act further than was necessary did not incapacitate them from acting, as far as necessity required. He thought, therefore, that what the volunteers had gained in knowledge, was not only useful to themselves, but would be highly useful to the country at large in the hour of action; and he could not help saying, that there was much, useful information in the book to which the hon. officer had alluded, and which he thought of so little value to the volunteers in this country, Having said this, and having said that in his opinion the system adopted by the volunteers was preferable to that stated by the hon. officer, he should take a short view of the clothing of the volunteers, which was objected to on account of its being red. He owned he did not see any objection to this, and the hon. officer seemed to quarrel with the cloathing of the volunteers, because it was better than that of the regular army; nor did he agree with the hon. officer as to the effect which their appearance would have upon the enemy. He had said also, that we would have no reserve if any of the volunteers were defeated. He did not assent to that, for if 10,000 of them fell in the field of battle, another 10,000 would instantly fill up their place, or fill the place of his Majesty's regular troops, if the enemy should unfortunately defeat them. Neither would the enemy think of beating them so easily as they might think of beating men in smock frocks but if they were to defeat one army, they would soon see another as well clothed, possibly better, perhaps not quite so well drilled as the former, yet drilled sufficiently for the purpose of action, which, he said, was the case at this moment; for he had no hesitation in saying, that the volunteers of this country were sufficiently drilled for the purposes of action. Now, if the enemy saw them coming in mighty numbers the very day after an action, and another equally numerous body the day following, the enemy would not only expect, but would soon be sure of a defeat. The hon. officer hers quoted a variety of cases, and some of which he had never before heard of he had quoted the case of the battle of Jemappe, to shew what Frenchmen could do; what French volunteers could do: they were a parcel of shopmen, and some of them barbers from Paris, and yet they drove the Duke of Brunswick off the confines of France. Now, if the French volunteers could do this, clothed and equipped as they were, what was to be expected from 606 English volunteers, cloathed and accoutered as they are, and acting upon the best principle, in the best cause, for the best constitution in the world, impelled by the best feelings, and looking to the best object that could interest the human mind? Now, the subject of what had been accomplished by these smock-frock soldiers had been very-copious. They had been tried in the rebellion in America, a country better adapted for them than any other in the known would and under circumstances peculiarly favourable to that species of force.—That force was tried at the beginning of the rebellion but afterwards the Americans found it necessary to use regular troops. What was the case when this smock-frock army came into the field against our regular troops? What was the effect of this smock force being relied on? Why, that every man John of them were taken; but afterwards they relied on regular troops. He observed also, that as to the engagements in La Vendee and the case of the Scotch, to which the hon. officer had referred, some of these had forks, but they only had them because they could not get firelocks and the Highlanders, although they had not been disciplined, yet they fought in the way with which they were best acquainted, and so far they resembled regular troops. Why then it came to this, that men with a great deal of ardour and zeal may do a great deal without discipline, but to say, that even such men would not do better if they had the advantage of discipline, would be to say, that which was, in his opinion, saying that which was irrational.—He then proceeded to take a short view of the state of our navy. Gentlemen said, that this was not to compare with any other time; he did not say it was, but he had yet to learn that there was any department whatever in the navy deficiently conducted, or any exertion wanting; we were now infinitely superior to the united fleets of France, Spain, and Holland, and that to a greater extent than we were at any period of the last war; nor were we in any degree deficient in preparation to meet the enemy's flotilla off Brest Boulogne, or any other port in France. Neither did he think that the opinion of the hon. officer was to be taken in preference to the very grave opinions of others who must have considered maturely the points to which he had called the attention of the House. But one would suppose, by the speech of the hon. officer, there was no other man who understood these matters that he alone was to lay down the law for military matters in this country; whereas, 607 he ought to remember there were others of greater experience and of much higher rank, than the hon. officer, who advised his Majesty's ministers upon these important matters. This was particularly the case with respect to the preparations which had been made in a district which that hon. officer alluded to, he meant the entrenchment at Chelmsford; that was under the super intendance of General Hope, and others who had gained their laurels in Egypt; besides, if all the measures which the hon. officer had so freely censured were indeed so full of defect as he stated them to be, it might have been desirable that he should have proposed some practicable system that was better.—Neither did he see the propriety of the hon. gentleman's sentiments respecting our military depots. Having gone over most of the topics of the speech of the hon. member who preceded him, he then addressed himself to the plan mentioned on a former occasion by Mr. Pitt, whose authority he admitted to be very high indeed, which was that of having adjutants from the line for all the volunteer corps; he admitted that to be extremely desirable, but he apprehended it to be altogether impracticable to any extent that could render it truly useful; for the truth was, that nothing was more difficult than to find a good adjutant that could be at all spared: he stated some other inconveniences which he apprehended would attend the attempt of carrying this plan into execution, and concluded with assenting heartily to the motion for the Speaker leaving the chair.
said, that he could not have had the temerity to have staled some of those sentiments that the hon. general had attributed to him. He did not regard the volunteers as an uselsss body of men. He only thought that the irregular force of the country might have been better and less expensively called forth. The army of reserve he considered as an existing force between the regular and irregular strength of the country, and was of opinion that it should have been more attended to, while the irregular force might have been equally effective in any possible crisis, or perhaps more effective in its own place, by assuming Jess the appearance and attitude of soldiers without the reality. He thought, in fact, that the general mass of the coon try would have been better and more efficaciously employed by bringing into action another system perfectly different from that which had been pursued. He did not mean to say that this effect to which he alluded would have been produced by the difference of the sys 608 tem only, but rather by the greater numbers which the system he had pleaded for would have certainly brought forward. By the armed peasantry, he never meant to hold up to the House a-complete force which could of themselves be efficient, but only the services which a regular army might derive from them, though armed only with pikes, or even weapons of an inferior description.
§ Admiral Berkeley
was induced to rise, from the introduction of an extraneous topic into the discussion, on which he felt it impossible for him to be silent as the crisis was I urgent. He was at a loss to know what connexion there was between the administration of the Admiralty and the volunteer system. As the subject had been mentioned, it was with reluctance he came forward, though on every question relating to the Admiralty it might be supposed by the House that he would state his opinion. That, however, he had hitherto studiously avoided, I because he had been bred under the noble lord who presided over that board, and felt a friendship and love for him, which made him abstain from any observations that might bear upon that noble lord. Whatever charges attached to the conduct of the Admiralty, he was sure that the noble lord was exempt from them, but he was equally certain that blame was imputable somewhere. The noble lord had been by indisposition rendered incapable of attending to the arduous; duties of his situation. How far sickness might have impaired the faculties of the noble lord he could not tell. The business had been left to unskilful hands. The hon. admiral had no hesitation in saying, that the naval preparations for the defence of the coat were not adequate to the purpose; and this opinion did not rest on his own judgment, but he could call to the bar I every naval officer, from the highest to the lowest, to confirm it. He could call on many I hon. friends in the House to prove that ministers had not attended to this subject. He could call on ministers themselves to prove I that representations had been made to them so early as August, September, and October last, since which time the coast might have been placed in a most formidable state of defence. The hon. General (Maitland), had defended the noble lord's statement of the situation of our navy by a comparison with certain periods of last war, but he might as well have compared a first rate of the present day with Noah's Ark. Why had he not compared it with the French, fleet? He should have been shewn its superiority by a comparison with her fishing 609 boats, which had been alluded to last sessions. But these fishing-boats were now turned into fleets, into 74's, equal, if not superior in number to the fleets employed in blockading them. The noble lord's comparison should have shewn that our preparations to resist the invasion, were equal to those which were made to carry it into effect. How came it to pass that the enemy had 500 gun-boats ready to attack our coast, white we had only 20 to oppose them. Highly as he respected the noble lord, he could suggest no excuse for his inaccuracy, than his being unacquainted with the subject. As to the bill before the House, he did not find any clause in it relating to the regulation of the Sea Fencibles, who could not by the provisions of any existing law, be ordered from one part of the country to another. He had expected the Secretary of State would have adverted to this description of force in his opening of* the measure, and he should feel it his duty in this Committee to propose a clause for the purpose of extending the provisions of the bill to them. He hoped no time would be lost, as there was not a moment to lose. The hon. admiral concluded with asserting, that if proper attention had been paid to the business, we might have had at present 500 (he might say 5,000) gun boats, equal if not superior to those of the enemy.
§ Captain Markham
rose for the purpose of making a few observations on what had fallen from the hon. admiral, in detailing matters totally irrelevant to the question before the House. If the Admiralty had been culpable, it would be more regular to bring a direct charge against it, than to bring the question forward in the uncandid manner in which it had been introduced.—It his language was not Parliamentary, he was very sorry for it; but he could not help feeling as he did on hearing the observations of the hon. admiral, who stated that the faculties of the noble lord at the head of the Admiralty had been impaired by illness. Indisposed he certainly had been, but his faculties were as strong as at the time lie taught the hon. admiral; how far the hon. admiral had improved by his instructions, he should prove hereafter. He had riot been in the habit of speaking in the House, but he was obliged to notice what had fallen from the hon. admiral. In consequence of his supposing the faculties of the nobles lord at the head of the Admiralty impaired, he must conclude that the fault lay with the "inexperienced persons" to whom the administration of the Admiralty devolved. As to his own experience, he should not say any 610 thing; but the House was acquainted with that of his colleague (Sir T. Trowbridge), That gentleman's first voyage had been to the East-Indies, where he had continued 12 years. His services since were well known. He should beg here to ask the hon. admiral where his foreign service had been? The hon. admiral had alluded to the propriety of attacking the enemy's flotillas in their own ports with small craft, but he should be glad to learn how he would manage that? To him it appeared impossible; the whole coast of Boulogne was fortified from Cape Grisnes, and supplied with vast numbers of mortars and guns, and where frigates could not go with safety it was perfectly incomprehensible to him how small craft could. It had been intimated by the hon. admiral, that they should be employed in opposing the gunboats of the enemy. Ridiculous He should state his opinions as he felt them. He was not used to the smooth, flowing language spoken in that House, and should, therefore, utter his sentiments in the downright, rough language of his profession. If they were, employed in this way, the first account that would be received after the next gale of wind, would be their total destruction. Another purpose for which the hon. admiral recommended small craft, was to oppose the enemy's flotillas on our own shores, by creeping like crabs along the coast. The hon. admiral might like to try his luck there, but there were no able and experienced officer who could think of any success from such efforts.—As to the hon. admiral's charge against the ordnance, he could say, that that department executed all its business in the most expeditious manner. If the charge was meant against (he Admiralty, this was not the place to discuss the question, whether the. gun-boats were d-serving of the met it generally attributed to them. If the gun-boats had not been equipped in such a hurry, they would have been much better fitted up.—With respect to the observations of the hon. colonel on his statement respecting the low rate of insurance, he still continued to look upon that as the best Criterion of the state of our navy; because Buonaparte would not have taken the seamen out of the privateers so long before he wanted them, so far back as May or June last. The privateers did not put to sea, not because they had not seamen, but because they were blockaded. He should state also, that the rate of insurance was lower at present than in 1801, before the present Board came into office.
§ Colonel Eyre
said, he rose to express his regret, not unmixed with indiguation, at 611 the observations which had fallen from a gent, early in the debate (Mr. Francis), because they tended to degrade and vilify the system of defence to which the country was to trust. That system was not, nor could be unobjectionable but if any delay have been made, the enemy would have been in the heart of the country before any effectual preparation had been made to repel them. He should not then take notice of any of the minor objections, but should barely advert to one which seemed to strike at the port or the system, namely, that half-drilled troops would be serviceable only for parade, and not in action. A German officer, he was inclined to think, or a British officer with German feelings, might be disappointed with such troops, but he was convinced a British officer with British feelings, would know how to avail himself of the enthusiasm and bravery of the British people in so glorious a cause. Last war had furnished a striking example of what was to be expected from an armed peasantry. The levy en-masse in Flanders in 1793, which was neither composed of regular troops, nor consisted: of an armed peasantry, and fighting for their country, and every thing dear to them, could yet not make any impress on on British troops. So long ago as June, it had been said, that 100,000 men would not be terrified by a few shots, nor prevented from making their attempt. What had delayed their attempt, what had prevented thrill from attempting the capital? "What, but the vigour of his Majesty's councils.—He thought the volunteer system a glorious defence. It was not perfect, but it might be made so, if all parties would unite to strengthen his Majesty's government, instead of uniting to turn out his ministers.
§ Sir William Young
thought that the bill would interfere with the other acts for the defence of the country, and the dearest prerogatives of his Majesty. The dangers of the country were so imminent, that it had been well staled, the youngest in the House might not outlive them. He deprecated, therefore, every measure of expediency, on an occasion so serious and alarming. The hon. baronet then adverted to the different distinctions between the volunteers, those under the act of the 42d of the King, and those subsequently accepted. The former amounted to 90.941 those under the Defence Act to 245,110, and, by the exemptions, that proportion of the prime population of the empire was shut out from the army of reserve or militia. The consequence was, that the ballot fell upon the married man, which laid a heavy expense on their 612 parishes. The hon; baronet spoke at some length; all his observations went to establish the distinction between what he conceived the different species of volunteers, and the injury the public service sustained from the exemptions.
§ Mr. Fuller
seemed to think the. volunteers, on their present system, preferable to armed peasantry; the dress of the volunteers being like the line he thought advantageous, as it would prevent the enemy's tirailleurs killing off officers from particular corps. He, however, objected to the Speaker's leaving the chair, as he thought the volunteer system well enough as it was; There was no necessity for the bill indeed, the Court of King's-Bench had sufficiently declared the law, and put the question on that hear to rest. If the bill went on, the people would fear there was something in its future operation that they now had no notion of. As the system at present existed, it was at length clearly understood.
§ Mr. Fox.
—I own, Sir, that I am much surprised at the language used by my hon. friend under the gallery (Gen. Maitland), and still more surprised at the very extraordinary sentiment with which the hon. gent, behind me (Col. Eyre) closed his speech. Of the latter I shall first take notice. The hon. gent, seems highly to disapprove of any thing in the shape of opposition to his Majesty's present ministers, and expresses an opinion that all parties should combine to support them, in order to second their endeavours for the national defence, and, in a word, that all should be unanimity for that object; but although the hon. gent, does so broadly assert that dissention prevails, and that means are used to embarrass the operations of government, I would call upon the hon. gent, to point out a single instance where any obstruction has been offered to the exertions of government to provide for our security. It is easy for any gent, to use a round assertion, but I challenge the hon. gent, to quote any case to justify the charge that any party has been backward to contribute its assistance to the government, whatever they may think of the ministers by whom the government is administered. AM, in fact, is, and has been, union for the public safety, from the moment that safety has been pronounced in danger. The people have, every where, pressed forward in the cause of their country, and their zeal has received no damp or check from any quarter, but from the ministers themselves and, without looking to the innumerable proofs of ardent and active exertion made by the gentlemen of that party to whom the 613 hon gent, seemed more particularly to allude, I shall only cite one remarkable instance in the North of England. Let the hon. gent, look to a distinguished and hon. friend of mine in that direction (die Duke of Northumberland), who, to be sure, could not hold forth such a brilliant example of patriotism as he has done, if his property v/ere not very extensive, but his efforts are not the less honourable on that account. Thai noble duke has, to his immortal honour, raised a body of not less than 150Q men, whom he has cloathed, equipped, disciplined, and furnished with every necessary, arms alone excepted. These they have had from government. What union, then, does the hon. gent, require? The most cordial union exists every where in support of the country and the government, and I believe the union is almost equally general against the ministers; but yet I am astonished to find some gentlemen forward to vaunt of those ministers, and to contend that the Zealand union which so universally prevails are attributable to those ministers. Why, certainly, they have been produced by ministers—but how. By their mismanagement: and if upon this they mean to ground their triumph, they are no doubt entitled to it. They have brought the country to the brink of destruction, and have made us all unite for our own security. Really, therefore, if ministers will claim merit for thus exciting the public spirit, I confess that I cannot deny the justice of their pretensions.—With respect to the observations made by my hon. friend, I repeat that I heard them with surprise, not less as to their substance, than as to the tone and manner in which they were delivered. I have often had occasion to defend the freedom of debate, and I declare I never witnessed a more extraordinary attempt made to interrupt it, than in the instance I allude to. It seemed to be the drift of my hon. friend's remarks, that no officer below the rank of a lieut. gen. should presume to state his opinion in this House upon any military topic connected with the defence of the country. But how different is this from the conduct pursued by my hon. friend on a former occasion I remember when he undertook to censure, and very freely too, the proceedings of officers superior to him, I will not say in abilities, but very much so in rank; when he was only a major, he commented, and with some severity, upon Generals Meadows, Musgrave and others, and my hon. friend exposed himself in so doing to some severe adimad-versions, against which I defended him. I hope, therefore, that he will not be surprised 614 if, acting upon the same principle which influenced my conduct with regard to himself, I now take up the defence of the hon. officer who has been this night the object of his attack. If, indeed, the opinions advanced by my hon. friend were pushed to the extent which he appears to wish, it would go to this, that no officer who is a member of this House, however high his reputation, (and surely no man will question the reputation and military talents of the hon. officer to whom my hon. friend has alluded,) should presume to give his opinion upon military subjects to a superior, officer. I understand it has been said, that such subjects should not be discussed at all in this House, but that the matter should be entitely left to the consideration of officers of experience To this opinion, however, I never will subscribe; but even if true, who, I would be glad to know, has a stronger claim to attention on the score of I experience than the hon officer I refer to; and. yet my hon. friend would restrain him, and. why? not least his opinions should clash with those of other officers of high rank and authority, but because the matter ought, in my hon. friend's judgment, be left entirely to the consideration of such persons; but yet my hon. friend does not venture to say that the points alluded to by the hon. officer, have been, or will he considered by the high officers, for whose monopoly, not only of military power, but of military I knowledge and attention, he seems to be so very anxious. My hon. friend does not. know, however,, that their attention extends to all the topics alluded to by the hon. officer, and still he would wish him to be silent upon those rno3t important points, not because he actually differs with the high officers, for whom my hon. friend feels such reverence, but least he should differ from them on some things which they may hereafter think proper to consider. This was not the only opposition which the hon. officer experienced from my hon friend; for, after condemning the general principle of the hon. officers' at all entering into the discussion, my hot), friend endeavoured to combat the detail of his speech.—a speech for which the House is highly indebted to him,—a speech containing mote professional information, than any speech perhaps; hat I ever heard in this House, and conveyed in a manner so perspicuous as to be more intelligible to men unacquainted with military tactics, than military essays generally are.—The first part of ray hon. friend's objections applied to the argument so often used against the volunteer system, on the ground of She 615 exemptions granted to the volunteers; but I would ask, can any man seriously contend that such an argument is not well founded, and that those exemptions have not materially impeded the ballots for the militia and the army of reserve, and also crippled the recruiting for the regular army? The fact is too notorious to be denied. My hon. friend, however, took up these exemptions as a matter justly doe to the volunteers, and highly right in ministers to propose and Parliament to adopt. But, if it was a matter of right, it was certainly right by mistake, for there is no doubt that ministers did pot intend to grant tuck exemptions at the time the volunteer bill was passed last summer. If they did, it doss not appear on the face of that bill; and sure I am, that it was not so understood in any part of the country that I have heard of. On the contrary, I remember that subscriptions were set on foot in various parishes, to relieve the volunteers from the ballots for the militia or army of reserve, by providing substitutes for such of them as might be chosen for cither of those descriptions of force. Is it possible, then, if exemptions were in the contemplation of the framers of the bill I have mentioned, that it should be so universally misunderstood: and yet, it seems, it was; for some time after the enactment of this bill, out crime the opinion of the attorney-general, who was not, I must suppose, at all consulted in the first instance; or the bill would have been explicit. No! Ministers first frame Acre of Parliament to puzzle him, and then they ask his opinion upon them. His opinion upon subjects thus circumstanced were likely to be erroneous and so they have happened to be.—I am flattered that ray opinion respecting the preference of an armed peasantry to the volunteer system happens to agree with that of the hon. officer to whom I have already referred. But my hon. friend has said, that the volunteers would be preferable for active service. I would, however, appeal to his judgment, whether they could be competent to the same duties as a regular army; and whether they can be fit for any other description of service as an active, hardy, armed peasantry? The hon. gent. who spoke last has referred to the state of the volunteers in a particular county: but does he mean to say, that the state of our force would not be much improved, that the defence of the counties of Sussex and Kent would not be better secured by the establishment of the principle of an armed peasantry, than by the present? amount of the volunteer force, to be found hi these or in any of the other counties 616 particularly on the coast? Some stress has been laid on the advantages likely to arise from the colour of the cloathing, &c. of the volunteers, as contrasted with an armed peasantry; but this very difference I reckon among the defects of the volunteer system; and the quibbling remarks on a smock-frocked army are not worthy of reply. If the amount of the volunteers be dwelt upon; if I am told that we have in them an army of 400,000 men, I answer, that by resorting to an armed peasantry, we might have two millions, and more effective, requiring less drilling, easier prepared for the objects to which it is right to apply them, and less expensive. My principal objections to the volunteers, indeed, arise out of their expense and their mode of instruction, and to the latter particularly. Too much time is employed in endeavouring to teach that I which is not necessary, and which they never can completely learn. By such a mode of proceeding much mischief is, and much more may be, done. To this, indeed, the words of Pope may be appliedA little learning is a dangerous thing;and for this reason, that men are apt to draw inaccurate deductions, and to rest upon imperfect grounds. The volunteers, by such injudicious instructions, are withdrawn from, that which they might acquire with facility and use with much more effect, and the operation of such a system will be to give their minds a wrong direction. If, however, it was wished to render the volunteers perfect in this system of discipline, how came it that the instructions should have commenced so late that, but a few months ago, many volunteer corps were without a single musket, and even at this hour there are several volunteers who have never fired a ball in their lives? Men should not be obliged to travel through the tedious course of military tactics when the danger was so urgent as it is admitted to be on all hands. A force not thus perplexed with circuitous lessons would be much easier collected, and nice effectual; armed also with other weapons than muskets, they, perhaps, would be able more completely to annoy the enemy, remember that some miserable expedient have been resorted to in order to depredate the opinions of the hon. officer. His recommendation of pikes was at first discountenanced, and yet, since then, his plan has been adopted and acted upon to a considerable extent. Above 100,000 pikes have been distributed by government, and I have no doubt those weapons will be more useful in the hands of peasants who shall not undergo the trouble of any rehearsal 617 before they come to action, than volunteers trained to the musket.—I have heard that some gentlemen are of opinion, that the volunteers might be most advantageously employed by attaching them in the hour of service to battalions of the line. Of such a plan I very much disapprove, or of any project to bring them into action, in a solid body, When the hon. officer on the lower bench recommended pikes to be distributed to the volunteers, ministers confessed there was a scarcity of muskets, and that circumstance alone, independently of the known efficacy of that weapon, particularly manifested in the course of the French revolution, was sufficient.—The hon. member behind me (Col. Eyre) has insisted upon the importance of the volunteers, for a very strange reason indeed, which he urged with great confidence, namely, that the volunteers however, as he said, they were depreciated in this country, were held to be so formidable by the enemy, that they operated to prevent him from attempting his threatened plan of invasion, although he was ready in June last; but, if he had come then he would have surprised a vast proportion of the volunteers without arms. If however, the one my was completely prepared in June, and the volunteers in their then state were really sufficient to intimidate him, there can be no danger whatever, now that that body is so much larger and so much better disciplined; nor can it be necessary to introduce this bill, or to make any farther bustle of preparation. However, perhaps the enemy has postponed the execution of his design for other reasons. Possibly he waits until the volunteers shall learn their exercise—until they are properly drilled ! This would be a magnanimous proceeding—but to be serious. I know that there are many different opinions upon the mode provided for disciplining the volunteers, and I have my doubts. Upon this, however, I have no doubt; that the system is altogether not comparable to that of an armed peasantry, who could be had in every district in sufficient numbers, and who would furnish the most powerful assistance to the regular army. It should be recollected, that the great defence of a country consists of an armed people. The enemy may have a large disciplined army, and so may you to resist him; but that from which you would derive your great advantage, that which always must form the powerful opponent of an invading army, would be an armed peasantry. That should be your principal defence. It is like the weapon with which nature furnishes animals for their protection. It is the great 618 bulwark of a country. You might thus have an aid in every village and town, more numerous and effective than your volunteers; and you might put the country in such a state of defence, that the enemy, even after a victory, should he obtain one, over your regular army in the field, dare not send out a detachment to forage, or for any other purpose, without exposing them to be shot at from every hedge, from every cottage, from every enclosure—by men, not dressed so as to be easily perceivable, not wearing those coloured garments which would put the enemy's troops on their guard. Thus might they be harassed and weakened, even after being victorious in the field 5 and we must not be so sanguine as to suppose that they may not sometimes have the advantage; for, however brave our troops may be, and no man has a higher opinion of their valour and skill than I have, we must attend to that calculation which has ever been regarded by the highest military authorities, even by Julius Cassar himself, that fortune has a great share in deciding the events of war. When such events should happen to be against us, I would particularly look to the assistance of the smock-frocked force, as some gentlemen have termed it. A noble lord in treating this subject, has said, that he was old enough to recollect the American rebellion, as he called it, and, certainly, if he recollected all the circumstances of the case he so describes, he would be aware that the term of rebellion was not applicable, and that the use of it was long since abandoned. He would also recollect that which was very fortunate to the subject of this debate, that America was victorious over her opponents, not because she had a large regular army, but because she was an armed country, and the result of that popular armament was, that two of our best generals, at the head of some of the best troops, we re compelled to surrender. Precisely that kind of force which so conquered in America, which emancipated Holland, which triumphed in Switzerland, and performed such prodigies of valour in la Vendue and Ireland, is what I should recommend to be resorted to in this country. The misfortune is, with a view to this, that, as I understand, the volunteers have taken so many arms that enough are not left for arming the peasantry; but there are weapons in abundance to be found to suit them, and they will not require much training. If this plan be not attended to, many parts of the country will, in the event of invasion, be left 619 quite defenceless; for when a volunteer corps is called into service, what becomes of the town or village to which it may belong? Their natural defenders are gone where they are not likely to be so useful as they might be, under another system, to the ultimate security of the country and the overthrow of the enemy. This is a painful consideration; but it naturally arises out of a bad system—a system which rather perplexes the volunteers than contributes to improve them, which, in fact, overloads them with a kind of instruction of no practical utility, instead of giving them that which would fit them for the object to which their service is applicable. This is the mischief; it is as it were to send a man to a university to learn general knowledge, and afterwards to tell him that he must study to qualify for a divine or a physicist!. I should think it would be better to begin the education of the one and the other, with that which might best fit them for their proper pursuits. It would therefore be much wiser to teach the volunteers, not the stiff and intricate manœuvres of Prussian discipline, but that only which is essential, not that which should assimilate them to a regular army, which has begun to learn such discipline; but that which should assimilate them to an armed peasantry, to whom it is naturally extremely desirable that they should be more alike than they are. Nothing can be a greater mistake than to suppose, that the colour of the volunteer clothing will be advantageous the event of invasion, as the Secretary of State enumerated for this reason, that an intimate connexion between them and our regular army must injure the latter; and also, that if they should be defeated in any instance, the singularity of dress will of coarse induce the enemy to suppose them soldiers, and that supposition will tend to their encouragement. My wish is, that instead of such troops, we should have the people armed, in order that in every direction the enemy might have persons to annoy, without being warned by alarming appearances; that he should always have reason to fear in whatever direction he moved; that the apprehension of meeting a foe in a brown coat should haunt him like a spectre; that he should feel that he could not pass through a lane or along a hedge with safety. If you abandon this plan, I am sure you will considerably diminish the fears of an invading enemy; for when he conceives he has none bat red coated foes to meet with, his confidence will, of course, be greater. The evil of this goes very deep. 620 It applies to the principle of the volunteer system. The mischief of affording the enemy the means of ascertaining the whole amount of your military defence is extremely obvious, When he becomes acquaint ed that he has only 500,000 men to con tend with, you of course do him a service; he will then know his enemies by their dress.—The hon. gent, who has just sat down has remarked on the tendency of the sentiments so often urged by my right hon. friend on the bench below me (Mr. Wind ham) respecting the volunteer system, and seems to imagine that the right hon. gent, was inconsistent in accepting a command in a volunteer corps; but inconsistency does not at all follow from this circumstance. The right hon. gent, avails himself of the system, bad as it is, to promote the public defence, because there is no other.—As to the whole of the remarks made upon this system, many of which have been misrepresented, as well as the motives of those who made diem, I beg to observe, that without wishing to abolish the system altogether, it is impossible to remedy its defects, it they be remediable, without having in view the principles of a better system.—With regard to the bill before the House, it in reality contains nothing in the shape of a remedy, nor indeed any thing at all new, and the system it professes to support cannot, in my mind, be of long duration; it is not of a durable nature. The dread of invasion, which produced it, will not long avail, and as soon as the danger disappears, or may not be attented to, and which may be the case, should it long continue to be merely talked of, the spirit of the volunteers will, from the nature of the human mind, be likely to relax; and who can pretend to say how long, for how many years, the enemy may keep up all the appearences of an intension to invade us, without actually at tempting it? These considerations weigh with my mind very strongly, and confirm my opinion of the superior character of an armed peasantry.—As to the opinion, that in order to guard against the evil of a slow recruiting for the regular army, it would be desirable to form a kind of perpetual army of reserve, to be raised by ballot, from, which volunteering for general service was to be more encouraged, I shall at pre sent make but one observation, namely, that I am no friend to the extension of the principle of raising men by ballot. It is a kind of lottery, in which ten men may be said to toss up which shall serve; or in stead of each contributing 40l. one to contribute 20.—To she allusions which have 621 been so frequently made to the conduct of the naval department, I think it would be much fairer to bring forward the subject for a full discussion. I have no doubt that the noble lord who presides over that board, will be able to indicate his character; but, at the same time, as so many charges have been thrown out against the Admiralty, I think it would be better at once to institute an inquiry, which will enable the House to make up its mind upon (his most important subject; and, I am sure that that noble personage is not one of those who would be likely to shrink from inquiry.
—Sir; differing as I do from the hon. gent, who spoke last, in many points respecting the volunteers, I nevertheless have the satisfaction to agree with him in many of the propositions which he has laid down. There is no one sentiment advanced by the hon. gent, to which I assent more cordially than in the necessity of adopting some measures to give a degree of consistency and permanence to our defensive force. It is undoubtedly true, that at present the great object ought to be to direct our efforts to meet the immediate danger with which the country is threatened; nothing, certainly, ought to be neglected in the first moment of alarm or danger, and all future considerations, however important, ought to give way to the present necessity and immediate danger. But that being provided for, we ought not to hesitate one moment in adopting the most effectual measures for rendering our defensive system permanent, and of providing against a recurrence of danger in future times. If we should prevent the enemy from effecting the invasion this year, and that should lead us into a false security, and encourage us to slacken our means of defence, it certainly must end in our total ruin. I am, therefore, happy to find the opinion so strongly inculcated by the hon. gent, that we ought not to be content with our present exertions alone. It is perfectly true, as that hon. gent, has slated, that although the natural impulse of a brave and loyal people has led them to make the greatest and most unparalleled exertions, which have removed ns from immediate danger, yet it is undoubtedly necessary to except measures to guard against that long, protracted, and lingering danger with which the enemy may threaten us. Because, the effect of deterring the enemy from making his attempt, by a demonstration of the force and spirit of the country, may have the effect of making us relax in our efforts, which might produce the most disastrous consequences, I therefore, think we 622 should act wrong indeed, if we were to satisfy ourselves with merely providing against the present danger, without adopting some great, general, and permanent system, equal, not only to the present danger, but equal to that danger which may continue to threaten U3, and which may not be terminated by the present war. I hope, indeed, that our danger will terminate with the present war, because I hope, we shall not lightly consent to make peace without the attainment of security for the future, a security which cannot be obtained while France remains in her present situation. I do not allude to any particular form of government which may prevail in that country, but while she remains as she is, the arbitress of the continent of Europe a perfectly military country, under the guidance of the most absolute and unlimited government, that perhaps, ever existed; unshackled by any of those checks that operate upon other governments, unshackled by that check which has operated in every other instance, though, perhaps, unseen in even the most arbitrary states—I mean, the influence of public opinion, which has never yet been stifled in any other country but in France: and which has always operated more or less' even in the most servile forms of government that ever disgraced Europe. In France however, this check of public opinion is now so destroyed, that no man dares hardly, even in thought, question the conduct of the government, however it may squander The treasures of their country, or, however may lavish the blood of the people. The system in that country is different from any that ever existed before, and must be met by corresponding exertions on our part and however painful those exertions may be* we must determine to submit to them, as the lot which is inseparable from those days in which if has pleased Providence to cast our existence.—With regard to the present volunteer system, though I am far from thinking that it has reached any thing like perfection; though, I think it is capable of, and I have no doubt, will receive grC3t improvement; yet, still I do think, the principles on which it is founded are perfectly right; and, I have no doubt, that coupled with other regulations, and these not very difficult ones, it may be rendered a permanent security against future danger. It is no disparagement to the spirit of the volunteers or their devotion to their country, to say, that it is impossible to trust continually to the operation of that volunteer spirit, k is no disparagement to the spirit of the 'people, to bay, that when the immediate danger is passed, they may, however erroneously, 623 doubt the necessity of their future exertions. The volunteer system was founded upon the conviction of immediate danger; if that cause should cease, it is not at all extraordinary that the effect should cease also. If that is the case, it becomes the duty of Parliament to do that for the country which spontaneous zeal cannot do That spontaneous zeal has hitherto superseded almost the necessity of legislative measures, and has counteracted no small share of error on the part of the executive government. It certainly cannot, however, be expected to continue for any great length of time to the extent to which it has now reached: the question to be considered then is, whether there are any means of giving to that system a degree of permanency which does not belong to it? The system which was adopted last year, and, in my opinion, wisely adopted, was, that it would be right to invite the voluntary exertions of the people, and if they reached to a sufficient extent, it would be much preferable to compulsory service. It now became the duty of Parliament, to provide the permanent means for putting in motion so much of die force and population of the country, as future exigency might render necessary. Upon this subject, however, I do not mean to say that nothing has been done: they have provided the means, I do not say they are sufficiently digested and matured; but (hey have provided the means, in case the volunteers should fill short of that number which is deemed necessary for the security of the country, of enabling his Majesty to call upon the different classes, even, if it should be necessary, to the extent of the whole population of the country. In doing this, the legislature has laid the foundation> of that system, which may be so improved as to establish a great and permanent system of defence, which will place the country in a state of permanent security in all future contests. When I say that such a foundation has been laid, I am far from meaning that it is perfect it certainly requires, and hope, will receive, much improvement; and, that part which relates to the enrolment of persons, undoubtedly requires considerable re vision. Upon that point, however, much difference of opinion prevails, as to the measures which ought to be adopted to bring that system to a state of permanent perfection; but, these are considerations to which we may attend after we have matured the present volunteer system, and thereby provided effectual means of guarding against immediate danger When that great object shall be attained, we shall then be at leisure to consider of the means of calling out the 624 whole population of the country, if ever circumstances should render it necessary. It is now understood, that if in any place the number of volunteers fall short of the number which is considered necessary, the government is determined to call out the classes under the defence act, und I have no doubt that if ever the disappearance of immediate danger should relax the spirit of the volunteers, there are means to be found in that system to keep the numbers entire. There is another source from which, in my opinion, considerable support might be derived to the, volunteer system. If the idea which I threw out on a former occasion should meet with the approbation of the House, if it should be thought right to allow such a ballotted force to exist as I before suggested, to feed and maintain the regular army, and that force is kept up annually by fresh ballots, the exemptions which volunteers would then enjoy would, I am convinced, induce men cheerfully to continue in volunteer corps. As far, therefore, as relates to the question of permanence, I see no difficulties that are at all likely to render that an unattainable object, always bearing in mind, that the first great object we have to perform is to render the volunteer force as efficient as possible in the present instance. I do contend that this circumstance alone would be a sufficient provision against any diminution of the volunteer force to au amount at all to be taken into serious consideration on a general view of the whole subject. Whatever may be the apprehensions on the subject of the sudden falling off of the volunteer force, it really does appear to me extraordinary to urge these apprehensions as any inducements to the House to suspend the discussion of the bill now before the House. On the contrary, whatever the defects of the volunteer system may be, it is surely at once wise and politic that a bill designed, on the spur of the moment, to remedy evils allowed on all sides to exist, should pass with the least possible interruption. Evils of a less pressing nature may afterwards come under consideration, and I am sere, Sir, that it is very far from my wish, to declare that there are not in the volunteer system, as it at present stands, many circumstances which furnish an ample field for fulure deliberation. What I now recommend and desire is, that we should on the present occasion enter on the immediate consideration of the bill, that an opportunity should be given for introducing such clauses as appear to members calculated to render it more perfect, and if we cannot obviate every inconvenience, at least to do what we can, 625 to render it as much as possible applicable to the purposes for which it was framed.—So much has been already said this evening, on the subject of the volunteer force generally, that little new can be expected. In the observations contained in the very able speech of an Hon. Colonel (Craufurd) opposite me, there was, doubtless, Sir, a great deal of matter highly worthy of consideration. I must, however, be permitted to say, that the hon. officer carried one part of his argument against the volunteer system to an unjustifiable length. The hon. officer seemed to argue, that the volunteer force was meant to be substituted for the services of a regular army. I cannot conceive on what such an idea is founded. It is certainly one which I never could for a moment have entertained. If the argument drawn from the idea that the volunteer system interferes with the recruiting of the regular army can be removed, then the objections from this source must be done away. I will take on myself then to affirm, that the volunteer system, so far from counteracting the recruiting for the regular army, has a tendency directly different. A right hon. gent, below me, (Mr. Yorke), on a former evening, gave an instance, taken from the St. George's corps of volunteers, where the number of those who had entered into regiments of the line was so great, as fully to shew the fallacy of the objection to which I have now referred. But this is far from being a solitary instance. Other examples of the same spirit are to be found in every part of the country. Such an effect is indeed to be deduced from the constitution of human nature. Mankind are the creatures of habit. Attention to military affairs begets a military spirit, and perhaps, however much to be lamented may be the propensity to contest, it is fortunate for this nation that the spirit for a military life rises in proportion to the extent of those dangers by which a military life is rendered necessary in society. No argument can therefore be drawn against the volunteer system, from any supposition of its being inconsistent with the recruiting of the regular army.—As to the question immediately before the House, the test seems to be, shall we throw out the bill altogether because it contains so little new matter, nothing either to facilitate the augmentation of the regular army, or to provide for the better organization of any other species of force? The hon. gent, on the other side (Mr. Fox) says, that he cannot be a friend to the present volunteers, because it appears to him that the discipline of the volunteers is not such as the nature of their service require, and he 626 looks to the application of another species of force directed in a way totally different. He professed himself an advocate for die services of an armed peasantry, as infinitely preferable to any voluntary service derived from the present system of voluntary service. I wish, Sir, on this point, to recall to the attention of the House, that the question we have now to consider is not what, under given circumstances, would be the best system of national defence, but what is that which can be obtained in the shortest time possible? I have already declared, that the volunteer system was far from appearing to me in its present state to be perfect; but the question is, whether we shall allow a bill, designed to improve that system, which has been read a second time, to go to a Committee, in which a variety of important alterations maybe introduced; or whether we shall allow the bill to drop, and at a moment when the great crisis may be at hand, enter on a system entirely new in all its parts, and crude in all its dependencies? We have only to consider at present, how far it would be proper to allow the blanks to be filled up in the bill this evening, to give every gentleman to-morrow a fair opportunity of delivering his thoughts on a subject so interesting to every order in the community.—With many of the remarks of the hon. gent, who spoke last, I do most heartily concur; but I am sorry that I have the misfortune to differ with him in one or two instances, which before I sit down I shall have occasion to state. To the subject of the limitation of the number of volunteers, I request the attention of the House for a few moments; and I shall first allude to the number of volunteers in the counties situated on the coast. It will be recollected, Sir, that in fixing the amount of the number of voluntary offers to be commuted for compulsory service, ministers agreed to fix the general standard at six times the amount of the militia. The policy of making such a limitation was never to me very apparent; but it struck me as particularly objectionable, as applicable to the situation of Kent and other maritime counties more immediately exposed to direct invasion. In the county of Kent, with which I have the good fortune to be connected, the public spirit rose to a pitch far beyond the most sanguine expectations. It was lively and vigorous. It was adequate to any emergency, and never exhibited the least evidence of decay, till it was checked by the restrictions of ministers. It appeared clear to every man who reflected for a moment on the subject, that the same criterion as to the number of ve- 627 lunteers, could not be applied to Kent or any other county on the coast, as to Derby, to Warwick, or any other county in the interior. The gentlemen and magistrates of the county of Kent were soon so fully aware of this, and convinced that the adoption of the limitation of ministers would be highly inexpedient, that they actually met for the purpose of preparing a representation on the subject. Such a representation was prepared, and ministers so far yielded to these remonstrances, that the amount of offers of voluntary service was by one-half extended. But even alter this concession on the part of ministers, I have to state, Sir, that 50O0 individuals had offered their services, which ministers have not thought proper to receive. I, in the first instance, lamented the existence of the limitation, and I have seen nothing which has not tended materially to confirm my original impressions. That in the maritime counties the volunteer system is for immediate danger, appears to me perfectly clear, and I very much doubt whether the peasantry of the county of Kent would be at ail adequate to act as such an irregular force as the hon. gent, described. One or two circumstances will be sufficient to establish the truth of this position. The hon. gent, and those who hold similar opinions on this subject, have endeavoured to fortify their arguments by what happened in La Vendee and in America. We are told, Sir, that in both these cases it was by the exertions of an armed peasantry that victory was accomplished. It is true, Sir, that the peasantry of La Vendee, headed by some of the ablest and the most heroic leaders the world ever saw, maintained a most glorious struggle against the monsters who tyrannized over France. But, Sir, is it necessary for me to recall to the recollection of the House the circumstances of that afflicting warfare? It was by encountering every form of misery and suffering, it was by submitting to every aggravation of cruelty, that those brave men were upheld in their resistance to injustice and oppression. They saw around them the ravages of fire and of sword. They beheld their abodes consumed, their dearest relatives massacred, their fondest hopes destroyed. Animated by an unconquerable and heroic spirit, they thought no sacrifices too great which were to be the purchase of that independence which was dearest to their hearts. Fur their glorious exertions they must be objects of emulation to nations in every age; but, I will ask, whether our situation is at all similar to that in which these generous men were called upon to act? We have not yet been reduced to the neces- 628 sity of making up our minds to such terrible sacrifices. If the enemy were to effect a landing in Kent, in Sussex, in Essex, or any of the maritime counties near the metropolis, I know that every man would perish sooner than that they should obtain any thing like permanent possession. But what, Sir, in the first instance, is to be supposed will be the object of the enemy? Can we imagine that on their landing they will consume their time in carrying in their steps, plunder and devastation? These horrors will doubtless be disseminated over the land, if ever the fatal period of successful invasion should arrive. But, in the first instance, we are to imagine, that inferior objects will be neglected, and that if the enemy were to land 6O or 70 miles from the capital, they would endeavour to pass along with the rapidity of a torrent, and never halt till they had taken their station under the walls of London. To think that even the fall of the metropolis would be the evidence of the subjugation of the country, is an idea not to be entertained even for a moment. It will not, however, be denied, that such an event would be one pregnant with terrible disasters, and that no means ought to be left untried, by which so serious an evil might be avoided. With this view it is necessary that we should have a force which may be able m6st speedily to act together, to afford the means of immediate annoyance to the enemy, and to dispute every inch of their progress to the capital.—It appears to me then, that the volunteer system is the one best calculated to afford this force, so far as the defence of the maritime counties is involved, and it does not strike me, that the argument drawn from the exertions of the royalists in La Vendee, are at all applicable. Nor does it appear to me, that the argument drawn from the history of the American war, is at all more conclusive. It is true, that at the commencement of that war, the Americans did employ an irregular force, but it was not by such a force that their final triumph was effected. They had time, from the circumstances in which they were placed, to accustom these troops, at first raw and inexperienced, to all the varieties of discipline, and they received from our troops, the lessons which afterwards were made the foundation of victory. Besides, Sir, when the situation of America is considered, it is impossible to draw any parallel applicable to the present situation of this country. The theatre of war in America, was over an immense tract of territory, widely extended, thinly peopled, possessing no central point, no place particularly established as the seat 629 of government or power, having no vital, and few vulnerable parts. A province might be abandoned in consequence of one successful battle, but no object of importance was obtained. The enemy had only to retire to a distance, and unmolested to complete their preparations for a renewal of the attack. No victory could ever place under the hands of the conqueror, one-tenth, or even one-hundredth part of the country. If the Americans were routed, they had only to withdraw to some of the deserts with which the country abounded, and there wait six weeks or two months till they had an opportunity of renewing the contest with new prospects of advantage. Very different, however, would be the situation of this country if a landing of the enemy were effected. There are points were a landing might be effected within 60 miles of the metropolis. Every dictate of policy requires that, in such a case, we should be prepared to attack the enemy without a moment's delay, to harass not only by irregular troops, but to meet him in front, to hang on his flanks, to suffer him not to advance even a mile into the country, without encountering all that gallantry, combined with skill, can oppose to his progress. It does appear to me, therefore, that corps of volunteers in the maritime counties are best adapted for this service. It does appear to me, that in the remote counties the number of volunteers is net at all too extended. I trust, that if ever the enemy should land, the regular army will, assisted by the volunteers, be able to combat him with success, as soon as he has set a foot on our shores. But we ought to prepare even for the worst consequences. We ought to have a force ready to repair the loss sustained in the first conflicts with the enemy. An armed peasantry, I do not deny, might be rendered highly useful for some purposes; but it might be necessary to have a disposable, active, moveable force, and independent of the volunteer system this could not be obtained. An armed peasantry within their own districts might be highly valuable. They would be, however, beyond that circle, useless as a disposable force. Their local knowledge might be converted to the utmost useful purposes, and their native courage might be so regulated as to give the most galling annoyance to the enemy. But it is necessary to oppose to such an enemy as we should have to encounter, as much regular discipline as possible.—In considering the army which Buonaparté will probably bring over with him, J certainly cannot flatter myself, that let any part of the invading army be composed of 630 the description of troops which have been alluded to, he certainly will not place any reliance upon his Italian and Dutch conscripts. He may amuse us with a newspaper account upon that subject; he may flatter his new and willing slaves with promising to let them partake in the expedition but there is no doubt that he never will attempt the invasion of this country with any but a well disciplined army. I hope and trust that very soon after their arrival, we should have a force collected, capable of driving them back into the sea; but even if we should not, we should at least be able so to balance the contest as to enable us to bring our regulars and volunteers from the interior. But I really do not think that a levy en masse, or as it is called, an armed peasantry, would be sufficient to stop the enemy, or could be brought to act with any prospect of success against hirm—With regard to what has been said respecting the conduct of the Beard of Admiralty, I do not mean, now to enter into any discussion upon the subject. The apprehensions which I stated on a former night, were founded, in part, upon what I have seen, and partly upon public rumour. The apprehensions I entertain are, that the preparations which have been made, have not been sufficiently vigorous, compared with the nature of the enter prize of the enemy, and the novelty of the contest in which we are engaged. I shall, however, pursue my inquiries upon this subject, and if I find my apprehensions well-founded, I shall certainly submit them to the consideration of the House. It will be matter of great satisfaction to my mind, if the noble lord at the head of the Admiralty can satisfactorily account for his conduct, because no man entertains a higher opinion of the transcendent merit of that noble lord than I do: but, nevertheless, I shall conceive it to be my duty, if, upon inquiry, I find my apprehensions are founded, to bring forward, and that at no very remote period, the subject under the.consideration of Parliament.
§ Mr. Windham,
said, that the principles and opinions which he formerly professed upon this subject, he still retained. They were confirmed by experience, as far as experience had gone, and had now, in every point, the sanction of the very high authority (Col. Craufurd's) which the House had just heard. He was anxious to recall this fact 631 to the attention of the House, because it might serve to counteract the effect of the speech of Ids right hon. friend (Mr. Pitt), whose great powers of statements were very likely to have turned the House to a different view of the subject. Notwithstanding these powers, he must still think that his hon. friend was wrong, and that he was right. It was not true, what had been said by many, that he disparaged the volunteers, lie did not disparage the volunteers, nor object to them individually, in any respect: what he condemned was the system on which they were formed, and the uses to which it was meant they should be applied yet, with these objections full in his mind, he knew that such was the pressure of the immediate danger, and such the general deficiency of our military system, that no great part of it, however objectionable, could be. given up at once, or ought so to be changed as to leave any considerable void in our means of defence, even for a short time. Fie did nor propose, or wish, therefore, that the volunteer force should be disbanded or greatly red need: he doubted, in fact, whether by what he should recommend, it would be so much reduced as in the way about to be adopted: he wished if only to be put upon the footing on which it originally stood, or was supposed, at least, to stand, by those who first engaged in it, namely, that of service free from any species of compulsion, but divested also of any inducements other than those which were furnished by mere zeal and patriotism. In this state, whatever good it did would be pure and unmixed. It would not operate, as it did at present, to the continued diminution of a force more valuable than itself; a force, which, if the present system continued, must be for ever growing less and less.—Endeavours were made to show that the volunteer system did not produce this effect, but that the recruiting of the army was rather better than worse for it. The way in which this was made out was, as the House, had heard, that by the military spirit which it infused, men were induced to enter into the army, who would not otherwise have thought of that mode of life. He would oppose to that the number of men, whatever it might be, who finding in themselves something of a military passion were satisfied to give it vent in corps of this description, and remain there when otherwise they might have gone further. It might possibly happen that neither number was very considerable; but he saw no reason to suppose that the last might, not be as great as the former.—So much for the assistance which the volunteer corps were supposed to give to the recruiting. The prejudice they 632 occasioned was easily understood. In consequence of the number of exemptions, the lists were often exhausted, so that the recruiting of the army of reserve, the only source of recruiting now left for the line, in those instances stood still; and at all events sustained a great delay: the consequence of all which was, that the army of reserve had stopt at 36,000 instead of 50,000, and had little apparent probability of ever getting much further. But the principal mode in which the volunteer system operated to the prejudice of the army was by increasing the price of substitutes, and thereby bringing things to the state before alluded to, namely, that in which the army of reserve was the only channel by which recruits were received. This it did in four ways. First, it lessened the number of men liable to be balloted, and thereby retarded, and in many instances absolutely prevented, the filling up the army of reserve. 2dly, it threw the ballot upon a class of men, less disposed, from their habit and situation, to serve in person, and producing therefore, in proportion to their numbers, a greater demand for substitutes. 3dly, it lessened the number of men, who would be willing to engage as substitutes, and 4thly, it placed those who might be willing so to engage, in a situation infinitely more advantageous for them in making their bargain. A man would engage as a substitute on very different terms when he had a ballot hanging over his head, and when he stood under the shelter of an exemption: as it might happen very well, that in the one case he would be willing to engage on moderate terms, and in the other not 10 engage at all. These, it must be presumed, were the causes which kept the amount of bounty at its present height. At least some causes there must he that kept it so; for there it was: and was not only as high as ever, but seemed, according to the phrase of the stock exchange, to be looking upwards.—With respect to the uses of the volunteers, he would not now enter upon them, so much having been already said on that subject, nor pursue the comparison between them and an armed peasantry. That an armed peasantry would be able to stop an army, he never had said at any moment: he had often, indeed, said the direct contrary: but then he must observe, that a body of volunteers, in the form at present proposed, would be equally incapable of stopping an army, and the attempt in the mean-while of doing so, while equally unsuccessful, would be infinitely more fatal. The use of light troops, whatever might be their description, was to co-operate with an army, not to stand in lieu of it: the fault he 633 found with the present system was, that it was calculated with a view to the latter of these uses, namely, that of providing a sort of substitute for the army, and not for the former. It was in vain to say, that by training men for a more regular service you did not unfit them for what was irregular: that such kind of instruction would do them no harm. The inference might be true, if instruction were a thing to be had at no expense, with no sacrifice of Lime or of the means of acquiring what was more valuable. It would do men no harm as light troops, if they were all to be taught Arabick; yet he supposed no one would recommend or much approve that course of instruction. But it was not altogether true, indeed very much otherwise, as had been ably explained by his j hon. friend (Col. Craufurd), that the sort of training, adopted for the volunteer, did no harm. It might do very material harm, and lead to the most serious mischiefs. It might well be doubted, whether even the sort of mixed training taught to the French army, though forced upon them by various considerations not generally applicable, and in traduced in a form very different from that in which it was applied to our volunteers, would be found generally advantageous, But, in another instance, which had been alluded to, and which more nearly resembled what we had to consider, viz. the light troops of the Austrian army, it was universally agreed, as he understood, by the Austrian officers speaking not only with great professional knowledge, but with actual experience of the thing, that the practice which had been introduced of giving to their light troops a degree of regular training had been injurious to them as light troops, and rendered them in fact considerably less valuable, in that respect, than they had formerly-been.—But, whatever might be thought on this point, that is to say, whether any considerable portion of regular training might not prove even injurious to troops meant in the main to act as irregulars, this was certain, that to trust to irregulars as regulars must be pregnant with the most fatal dangers. It was, in our case, to renew the risk of that catastrophe which produced nothing less than the conquest of this country 800 years ago. It was by an action such as that now talked of, but with troops not so disproportioned probably in discipline and experience, that Harold lost his crown and his life, and that the kingdom passed under a foreign yoke. This truth ought to be for ever remembered, that by embodying troops, if you in some cases increased their chance of victory, you, to a certainty, exposed them 634 to greater defeat; and the great question to be decided was, whether from the nature of the troops and the time allowed for training of them, you were likely to gain more one way than you were to lose in the other.
§ Mr. Dent
said a few words in condemnation of ministers, which we could not distinctly hear.—The question was then put, that the Speaker do now leave the chair, which was carried without a division. Air. Yorke in consideration of the lateness of the hour, proposed, that the committee should only proceed pro forma, and proceed to-morrow with the discussion of the subject. The House was resumed, and progress being reported, it was agreed that the committee should sit again on Thursday.—The other orders of the day were then deferred, and the House adjourned at two o'clock.