Mr. Secretary Yorke
moved the order of the day for the third reading of the Volunteer Consolidation Bill,
adverted to what he had formerly said upon that part of the bill which related to the right of resignation, the substance of which had been adopted, and without which he was apprehensive that great discontent would have prevailed. He had now no opposition to offer to the passing of the bill.
Sir, it is with very sincere regret that I feel myself under the necessity of again addressing you on a subject which has already occupied so much of our time: but although it would give me great concern to find that the House considered me as inclined to abuse that indulgence which I experienced from them, when delivering my opinions pretty much at length in an early stage of this bill, yet I feel myself impelled by a strong sense of duty, rather to incur this risk, than to neglect any opportunity of expressing my most complete disapprobation of this and every other branch of the system pursued by his Majesty's ministers in the administration of the military affairs of the country. I am, indeed, aware, Sir, that in taking the present occasion of doing so, I labour under considerable disadvantages: for notwithstanding the importance of the subject (and surely none can be more important than this, which involves the consideration of all the means by which the great physical strength of this country may be best applied to repelling the most formidable invasion that ever was prepared against it), yet I say, Sir, notwithstanding the importance of the subject, I cannot but feel some apprehension that the House may (for the present, at least) be almost tired of hearing it discussed, when I recollect, that within these last 7 or 8 mouths, his Majesty's ministers have brought in no less than 5 different bills on this one subject; and that this last, which was meant to consolidate the whole, this bill, of which they gave us notice before the Christmas recess, has at length been laid before us in such a state, that it was found necessary for it to be committed and recommitted no less than 4 times, in the course of which it has received an addition of 24 entirely new clauses, besides numerous and considerable alterations and amendments in almost all the original ones.—I am aware, Sir, that those gent, who have taken so much pains to correct and amend this bill, and to make it what it is, must be inclined to hope that the system which it contains may be of some duration; and that they cannot be disposed to lend a very favourable ear to those who presume (like myself) to tell them that they have been, proceeding upon principles altogether erroneous, and that the whole work, therefore, requires a complete and fundamental revision.—Sir,I too, am as desirous as any man can pos- 962 sibly be, that our military system should be established on a permanent basis; for until this is done, we can never enjoy that tranquillity arising from a consciousness of our strength, without which we must gradually lose our consideration and influence amongst the nations of Europe, and must, upon every recurring emergency, be again exposed to that fluctuation of councils, and that sort of feverish uneasiness which we have lately experienced; But in proportion as I am anxious to see our military system placed upon a permanent footing, just in the same proportion must I be anxious to see the present one undergo a complete alteration; for in every branch of it I rind much to censure in what has been done, and much-to regret in what has been omitted.—With respect to our regular army, that force, without which we can never tie either respected by our friends, or dreaded by our enemies, or secure at home; that, which ought to be the first and greatest object of our solicitude, but which evidently is the last at least; with respect to our regular army, I say, the measures which are now pursuing render it every day more and more impossible that it should be recruited for we are every day holding, out additional inducements, and offering men new bounties not to enlist into it. In the militia, for instance, a man gets 15 guineas bounty for 5 years service; arid if he has a wife and family, they are provided for during his absence from home: in the army of reserve he gets a bounty of from 35 to 50 guineas for 5 years service within the realm, with a similar provision for his wife and children: in the volunteer corps, exclusive of other advantages, he has also that of having his wife and children taken care of by the parish, if he is called out of it: and under all these circumstances you expect, that for a bounty of 8 or 10 guineas a man will enlist in the regular army, binding himself for life to serve in whatever party of the world it may be his fate' to be sent to, and leaving his wife and children to starve; for the provision which is made for the families of men in other branches of the public force, is withheld from those of the regular soldier. Under these circumstances, I say it is impossible that we should have an army; nor can we expect to have one, until those measures are adopted which have been so often recommended by my right hon. friend below me, (Mr. Windham). I shall not tire the 963 House by repeating what he has urged with so much more force; but to the opinions which he has so frequently expressed upon this subject of the army, I do most entirely subscribe. With respect to the militia, I certainly think that it was extremely unwise to extend, so far beyond its ancient limits, a force, to which there is this objection at least (and I think there are many others), that it is not applicable to the general defence of the empire. And then, Sir, as to this part of the public force which is now more immediately under consideration, what is called the volunteer system, I really think, that from beginning to end, it affords the most manifest proofs of the extremely injudicious manner in which his Majesty's. ministers have used the great powers with. which parliament invested them. Instead of a force comprizing all the flower and strength of the population of the country, they have created one, from whose ranks are excluded three-fourths of the men most capable of defending it. Instead of a force which would have been contemplated with admiration and affection by every (even the poorest) man of every parish that sent it forth, they have constituted. a privileged body, the object of envy and dislike to the poorer and more numerous classes of the community, oppressed as they are, and disgusted as they must be, at those exemptions granted to the volunteers, by which the whole weight of the ballots (operating us a heavy pecuniary tax) is thrown upon those who are least capable of bearing it. Instead of a force established upon a basis as extensive as the population, as permanent as the constitution of the country, they have created one which is insufficient even now, and of which the ministers, who are its warmest advocates, have lately told us, that it is impossible, to pronounce how great a defalcation of its numbers may shortly be expected: a force, which when Parliament assembles to frame, laws for its government, or regulations for its improvement, you are told, not that these laws are unjust, not that these regulations are unnecessary, but that they will not be agreeable to the volunteers; such a force, in short, that his Majesty's ministers, or their nearest connections, have lately desired us to consider that it is a most delicate machine. But really,. Sir, a delicate machine is not very fit for the purposes of war: machines that are meant for war, should be formed 964 of tough and hardy materials, so strongly put together, as to be able to withstand the rudest shocks. In fine, Sir, I completely disapprove of the plan that his Majesty's ministers are pursuing with respect to the army, the militia, and the volunteer; and as to that fourth species of defence, from which we might have derived great additional strength and security, I mean fortification, only name it now for the. purpose of repeating, that it has been either wholly misunderstood, or completely-neglected.—From this general view of our present military system, I am fully convinced of the absolute necessity of its immediately undergoing a complete revision. If we had time to watt for its being brought about by degrees, I should rest satisfied with the assurance, that there are causes inherent in it, which will in time evince, more forcibly than can now. be done by argument, the validity of those objections which have been urged against it: but whilst we are waiting for the gradual operation of these inherent, causes, difficulties and disasters of the greatest magnitude may come upon us, which might have been voided by the, timely adoption of a better system. I am aware, however, that to effect so complete a change in presence, as it were, of an enemy who is almost, or perhaps quite, prepared to attack us, is a difficult though necessary operation. Our situation certainly requires that nothing should be undone, until something better is ready to be substituted in its place. And when I consider how insufficient is the foundation of our present system, and how defective the superstructure, I am quite convinced, that to strengthen the one, and improve the other, without bringing the whole fabric to the ground, requires abler artists than those by whom it has been erected. I say, Sir, that to make our military system what it ought to be requires far abler heads than those who made it what it is In saying this, I am not actuated by any private or personal motives whatever: but I certainly should not be surprised if I was told, that in so frequently criticizing the military measures, my only object is to find fault with ministers; for I have lately heard such things said in this House, respecting the motives of those who condemn their conduct, that I shall not hereafter, he much surprised at any thing that may be thought about my own. I was? indeed, completely astonished, when, upon 965 a motion lately made for an inquiry into the conduct of the Irish government, we were told by a right hon. gent, opposite (Mr. Tierney), in the most unqualified terms, that the motion was a mere trick, contrived for the purpose of bringing together two or three discordant parties in opposition to his Majesty's government. I was also no less astonished when, upon an inquiry into the state of the navy being moved for by a man, scarcely less distinguished for his incorruptible purity and immoveable fortitude, than for his extraordinary talents, we were told by the same right hon. gent. (Mr. Tierney), that his conduct smelt of a contract, or that he was acting under the influence of panic. For my own part, I am not disposed to call in question the motives of gent, on the other side of the House; but I should be glad to know upon what grounds it is that his Majesty's present ministers can be supposed to possess more vigour and fortitude than other men t I should be glad to know, since when it is that purity and patriotism have been confined to the precincts of the Treasury, or of Somerset-house: I should be glad to know, why those who uniformly support the measures of an administration, which nine-tenths of the thinking men of the country believe to be totally unequal to the direction of public affairs in the present emergency, are entitled to more credit for sincerity than those who openly avow in this House the same opinions which the great majority of the public entertains respecting them? And that the great majority of the men of sense in the kingdom do consider the ministers to be unfit for their present situations, I believe to be the truth.—Sir, I am sorry to have been led into this digression: and, to return to the subject immediately before us, I must say, that whatever is good or admirable in the volunteer force, has sprung up and maintained itself, not only independently, but in despite of his Majesty's ministers. What I admire in the volunteers, is that patriotic zeal and excellent spirit by which they are animated: but to what is it owing that this spirit was called forth? It arose from a conviction that their country was in danger: and to whom are we indebted for having impressed this conviction on the public mind? Is it to his Majesty's ministers, who, actuated by a sort of Stock-exchange policy, did, as we well recollect, use their utmost endeavours to prevent its 966 being believed that we were in danger of the enemy's effecting a powerful invasion? Or was it not the salutary alarm which gave birth to this spirit of resistance, rather to be attributed to my right hon. friend (Mr. Windham), whose patriotic labours in the two last sessions have been such as to deserve, and I hope to acquire for him, the gratitude of his country.—As to the manner in which his Majesty's ministers have taken advantage of this spirit, which they did not rouse, and of those powers which Parliament put into their hands, I shall not now take up the time of the House by entering much at large into the objections to their measures, which I have frequently urged on former occasions: but as I know not when I may have another opportunity of saying any thing upon this most important subject, I cannot help again adverting to those which are of the greatest magnitude. The principal defect in the whole volunteer system is the manner in which it is composed; that is to say, that according to the confession of his Majesty's ministers, you have not above one-fourth of the first class of men, as described in the defence act. It is notorious, that a great many of the volunteers are men who, from age or bodily infirmities, are unable to perform the duties of a soldier in the field; and a much greater number still consists of men whose circumstances are such as would render it ruinous to them and to the country that they should be long absent from home. If a volunteer corps, composed as most of them are, was called out to a distance from home, all the business of the country to which it belongs must stand still: for every farm, manufactory, or shop, in short, almost every establishment would be deprived of its head and director; and, exclusive of the injury done to the individuals, the country and community at large would be thereby thrown into a state of the greatest confusion. The military operations, too, would be equally embarrassed, by having your force, so composed; for although these men would come out with great spirit, and a determination to fight with courage, yet they would also come with an impatience to have the thing immediately brought to an issue. If you give way to this impatience, you engage, perhaps, very prematurely in a decisive operation; and if you do not, you may see half your volunteers returning home before any thing is decided. I do not 967 positively assert that this would be the case; it is impossible to guess how far the spirit of the people may carry them: but I say, that expecting men, such as a great part of our volunteer corps are composed of, to remain long as private soldiers in the field, is expecting much more than we know any example of ever having been done in any other country; and I think it would have been much wiser to have composed ibid force of men more fit for die duties you may have occasion to require of them.—the distribution is also extremely injudicious. It occurred, I suppose, as an easy way of settling the numbers to say we will have six times the militia; the consequence of which is, that the country the most remote from danger has as great a number of men armed, as the one most exposed.—Then, Sir, as to the exemptions, although so much has been said about them, I cannot take leave of the subject without making some remarks upon what has been urged by gentlemen on the other side, in answer to our objections. It is contended, I confess to my great surprize, that the exemptions do not interfere, with the ballots or recruiting of the army or militia. They say that very few of the balloted men serve in person; (an hon. general has stated a regiment of the reserve in which there is only one principal,) and that, therefore, the exemptions do not prevent the effect of the ballots. But I ask them, have the ballots produced men in any way, or have they not? If they have not, then abolish them; but if they have (as is certainly the case), then I say, that it is impossible that the exemptions should not have interfered with their operation. If the balloted men do not serve, then the manner in which the ballots produce men is, that people enlist for the bounty rather than run the risk of being drawn and obliged to serve for nothing; and in proportion as the volunteer corps do contain men of that description that enter the army or militia, the exemptions must necessarily produce this effect at least, that you have fewer men disposed to take the bounty for the sake of avoiding the ballot. But even admitting, for the sake of argument, that the exemptions do not in any way diminish the number of recruits, is it nothing that you throw the whole weight of the ballots (which the advocates for exemptions describe as being merely a pecuniary tax) upon that class of men least capable of 968 bearing it? Are we to consider it as nothing in point of humanity, that the necessities of the poorest class of the community are thus encreased by the exemptions granted to men who, generally speaking, are in more affluent circumstances? Are we to consider it as nothing in point of policy, that the great mass of the nation are disgusted, and feel themselves oppressed by our adopting a system of taxation the most opposite to every principle of justice? And let it be observed, too, that amongst the people thus disgusted, are (as I said before) three-fourths of those whom you ought to be the most desirous of having under arms (I mean the first class), but whom the exemptions prevent your being able to admit into your ranks: for it is impossible to have some volunteers with exemptions and others without them; and so long as the ballots exist, you cannot think of exempting from their operation the whole of the men most fit to serve. You must, therefore, abolish either the exemptions or the ballots'; for until you do either the one or the other, you cannot arm the flower of the population, that is to say, you cannot have what I and others have called an armed peasantry.—And here, Sir, I must remark, that when on a former occasion I recommended a force of this description, and at the same time censured the measures of his Majesty's ministers, I and other gentlemen who agreed with me, were greatly misunderstood; and with respect to myself, I may say, that I was not very fairly treated. In the first place, it was said on that occasion, that I appeared to be more disposed to describe and dwell upon the prowess of the French army than of our own. Now, I will appeal to every man who heard me, whether it was possible to express greater admiration of the English army than I did? I said, in as strong terms as I could use, that it contains the essence of every thing that is excellent; and that if you would but give it men enough, it would be as good an army as any in the universe. I said this, and I sincerely think it; but I am not so blinded by natural prejudices as to believe that there is no other good one. I believe the French army to be excellent also: its qualities are different from ours; in some respects it is inferior, in others superior; but take it all in all, I do not believe that there is a better army in Europe than the French: and I never will follow the example of those gent. who seem 969 to think that in order to encourage our volunteers, you must persuade them that they have only to contend with a set of miserable slaves and conscripts. I say, Sir, I never can entertain so mean an opinion of the courage of my countrymen, as to suppose it necessary to represent the enemy whom they have to fight other than what he really is.—But then again, they say, that the manner in which I talk of our volunteers, tends to discourage the people. Now, Sir, I think it is rather extraordinary that I, who say that every peasant in the country may materially contribute to the defeat of the enemy, should he accused of discouraging the nation; and that this accusation should come from persons, who treat with the greatest ridicule all the efforts that the people can make, if not clothed in red, and trained to the Prussian tactics. This is a subject upon which it is not very pleasant to be so misrepresented; and I deny that I ever used any language of a sort to discourage any part of our force. Do I say, disband the irregulars, for they can be of no use? quite the contrary: I say, add 2 or 300,000 stout able-bodied men to their numbers. Do I say the volunteers cannot fight the French? No; but I recommend that you should not employ them in the manner which I think least calculated to enable them to light with advantage. They would have plenty of fighting if employed in the way that I wish; but would not be exposed to defeat, so much as if you attempt to make them troops of the line. Then, as to the training, it is said, would you have them unlearn all they have learnt? To which I answer, that I would have them learn what is more useful than what they have learnt; I would have them learn to act more loosely like light infantry. Now, upon this subject, a right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) has told us, that the opinion of some of the best officers with whom he has conversed is, that in training men to act as light infantry, you ought to begin by teaching them that regular sort of tactics that our volunteers have been learning: and, therefore, upon this principle, to do what I propose would not be to undo what has been done, but to proceed one step further towards what that right hon. gent, has described as being the last stage of instruction.—What I say then is, not that the volunteers as they now are will be of any use; but that what I have called an armed peasantry, that is to say, a force less expensively 970 dressed, trained less like the troops of the line, but containing all the youngest, stoutest and hardiest men in the country, 3-fourths of whom are now unarmed, would have been a more powerful force: and this difference of the numbers and description of men is the main point; though I am far from thinking that the mode of training, or even the dress are unimportant considerations. And now. Sir, I cannot help taking this opportunity of noticing what passed, when I once quoted the instance of La Vendee, as a proof of what can be effected by an armed peasantry. It was then urged, that this was a case by no means in point; but I think that the whole objection proceeded from a misunderstanding of what had been proposed by us. The Vendéans it was said, became soldiers by long endurance, after suffering great disasters, during which the enemy carried lire and sword into every cottage in the country; and we are asked whether we have made up our minds to undergo similar calamities? or even, if we have, whether we suppose that the enemy would stop in the maritime counties to subdue the inhabitants, or would not rather pass rapidly through them, pushing forward to the capital? And whether an armed peasantry could stop his progress? Now, Sir, this would have been a very natural answer if it had been proposed to rest our defence solely on our armed peasantry; and really, whoever had heard this answer must have imagined that we had recommended a large and perfectly irregular force in preference to a regular army. But what did we propose? A right hon gent. (Mr. Fox) who may be supposed to be less partial than some other gentlemen are to a large regular army, says, "Have an army as good and as numerous as you can; but after all your exertions, it is possible that the enemy may bring one as numerous and as good as your own: and therefore, in addition to your army, have that which an invading army cannot have, namely, an armed people." Another right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) has for these last twelvemonths incessantly exerted himself in this House to enforce the necessity of encreasing to the utmost our troops of the line. As for myself, no man can be more convinced than I am, and have always expressed myself to be, that neither the Vendéan war, nor any other, can with truth be quoted as affording any argument in favour of our trusting to a mass of irregu- 971 lars instead of a regular army. What I say is, have as great a number as possible of troops of the line. In addition to these, and to your militia, have a large reserve, ready to be embodied and thrown into the regiments when the invasion takes place: have a judicious system of fortification for the better defence of parts of your coast, of your arsenals, and your capital; and 4thly, I say, in aid of all these other means, have an armed peasantry: and all that has been said about the difference between our situation and that of the Vendéans or Americans, although it certainly proves that we cannot be safe without a large regular army, does not prove that, as a subsidiary force, the volunteers as they now exist, are better than the armed peasantry which I have described. Other objections have been made to this armed peasantry, as if I had proposed a great unorganized mass, incapable of being moved; and it has been said that those of the inland counties could not be brought into action until the enemy should have penetrated into the heart of the kingdom: I certainly never had in contemplation a body of such a description: what I mean is, that the great mass of the people should indeed be armed in certain districts, but that throughout the whole kingdom the young and able-bodied men, the elite of the whole peasantry of the country should be formed into companies and battalions, which, so far from being an immoveable force (as it has been called) would be much fitter to march and remain away from home than our present volunteers are.—There is another topic, Sir, which though it is not immediately connected with the present bill, it cannot I think be irregular for me to notice, as it is mentioned in the papers that were laid before us when the bill was introduced; I mean the encouragement which is held out to people not only to drive the country, but to destroy the provisions. As to driving the country, the attempt will, I think, be productive of much inconvenience to ourselves, and in other respects perfectly nugatory; unless, indeed, the measure was confined to the removing of all the horses and draft cattle. This latter, if completely effected would be a most important advantage, and would certainly embarrass the enemy to the greatest degree; and I have no doubt that it may be accomplished, if nothing further be attempted: but if we undertake a general driving of the country, the probabi- 972 lity is, that the confusion it will occasion., may terminate in our allowing even the horses and draft cattle to fall into the enemy's hands.—With respect to the measure of destroying provisions, I do think that it would be indeed disgraceful to adopt so barbarous a system of defence as this; and that by so doing, we should inflict upon ourselves far greater evils than even the enemy, if properly opposed, would be able or would venture to inflict upon us. Sir, I am sorry to have taken up the time of the House upon subjects that have been so often discussed; but they are so important that I could not consistently with what I feel to be my duty, omit this opportunity of reurging my opinions upon them.
§ After a loud cry of Question! Question! from the ministerial benches,
§ Mr. Windham
rose. He confessed that he felt no surprise at the uneasiness which Ministers betrayed by their cry for the question to get rid of the measure before the House. It had certainly given them much trouble, and was likely to give I them and the country much more. They might, however, state, as a justification for the silence which they seemed willing to preserve upon this occasion, that all the arguments used by his hon. friend who had just sat down had been advanced before. This might be for the most part true, but he would ask, whether those arguments had ever been answered, and whether they did not remain entirely unrefutad? If so, then, they ought to be repeated, in order, if possible, to persuade the pertinacious adherents of this dangerous system to yield to their force, and to resort to measures more consonant to wisdom, and better calculated to secure the safety of the country. But, perhaps, Ministers had exhausted their eloquence upon this subject, by the four-and-twenty new clauses which they had introduced, and being tired of amendment and re-amendment, of commitment and recommitment, of propositions and recantations, were anxious to send the measure out of the House, without any more words about it. To their wishes, however, he was not disposed to yield, and as this was perhaps the last opportunity of speaking upon this bill, he would avail himself of it to enter his solemn protest against a measure which he thought, if persisted in, would lead to little short of absolute ruin. This sentence, however harsh, he could not hesi- 973 tate to pronounce, as the full conviction of his mind. The Mouse, he observed, had never yet taken a distinct view of the question. One way of shewing what the question was, was to shew what it was not. It was not a question between volunteers and no volunteers; between a system such as was now proposed, and no system at all; between the present bill and a total absence of that force to which the present bill was meant to apply. Any gent, might easily satisfy himself upon that point, by only considering whether he should suppose, if the present bill had never been brought in, that all volunteer force would have ceased. The bill, there-lore, was not necessary to the existence of a volunteer force; its object both was and professed to be, to improve a force of that description which already subsisted, and which would continue to subsist though no such bill should be brought in: and the objection on the part of himself and others who thought with him on this occasion, was, that the improvement to be obtained was in many of its parts doubtful, that it was not applicable to much of that for which it professed to be intended, and that it was at all events not worth the price that must be paid for it: for that independent of other considerations, though the bill might in the end do something for bettering the volunteers, it would in the mean while operate most injuriously on every other species of force, and finally deprive us of that species which was confessedly the most valuable, lie meant a regular army. This was the view to be taken of the question, and these the several points of comparison, by the result of which the question must be determined.—To assist the judgment of the House in forming that comparison, it would be right to consider some of the general reasonings on which all the measures adopted for some time past seemed to have been founded.—These would for the most part, be reducible to the three or four following propositions: 1st, that the prospect of an immediate attack from the enemy, though not absolutely certain, was so nearly so, that persons must act precisely as if its certainty was assured to them, 2dly, that this danger, thus certain and immediate, was of a nature so disproportionate to every other, that nothing could be allowed to come in competition with it, or could be regarded for the time otherwise than as it could be made consistent with that great 974 and over-ruling object, 3dly, That the improvement of the volunteers was, in the actual state of things, the means most effectual that could be taken for guarding against this danger, and, consequently, must be pursued, even supposing (what was not admitted) that it was injurious in many other respects, and was inconsistent with those provisions and establishments which would be most conducive to the safety of the country in future. These propositions, every one of which ought to be true, to support the measures which had been built upon them, were nevertheless, he would venture to say, every one of them false. To the. first, which said that such was the probability of an immediate attack, that our conduct must be the same as if the event were certain, the answer was, that our language and our actions were wholly at variance with each other, and that nothing could be more, evident, than, that while we talked this language, we ourselves had no belief in the truth of it; for that, if we had, it was impossible to suppose that we should content ourselves with such precautions merely as those which we were taking. It was in vain, therefore, to attempt to rest any measure upon the ground that we were to consider the present danger, otherwise than as one which, though probable in a high degree, might nevertheless not happen.—The other proposition, that, namely, which related to the magnitude of the danger, which would confine the whole of our thoughts and exertions to the business of present defence, and would allow of no competition between that and any other object, was a question of somewhat greater extent, and required a more particular examination. It was always forgot or dissembled in talking upon this subject, that cases of present danger were to be distinguished into two sorts, viz. those in which the danger being present, was present merely, and, if it should happily be escaped, would be succeeded by a state of ordinary security and those in which the danger, though present, was Only the commencement of a long course of danger, which might last with more or less interruption and remission, and possibly with great occasional increase, for a period, as was well stated in the present instance, of which the youngest of us might not live to see the conclusion. In the latter of these cases, it was idle to say, that we could confine 975 our thoughts merely to the consideration of the danger of the moment. We could not do so, without an abandonment of all the principles of right reason, and of civil prudence, both public and private. It might be admitted, if any one pleased, that the character of the present danger was such us to allow of no comparison with any consideration of a different sort; that no thought of future prosperity or greatness, of riches, of commerce, or any other object of national interest, could be opposed to that first and paramount consideration, the salvation and actual existence of the state. But the comparison which he was contending for, and which the present case required, was not of Safety against interest, life against money, &c. &c,—quantities between which there might be no comparison or proportion, but of safety against safety, danger against danger, the danger of the present moment against that of the next and every one that was to succeed it. There was the same fallacy in the reasonings which he was adverting to, as occurred often in discussions upon the treaty of Amiens; and other occasions of that sort, where the question used to be described as a question between war and peace. The answer was, that it was not a question between war and peace, but, as we now experienced to our cost, between war and war—war such as it was at that time, and war such as we now find it to be, when we are shut up as prisoners in our own island, and are lighting, not to conquer the enemy, but to preserve ourselves from destruction. We must inevitably, therefore, and whether we would or no, take into our consideration the interests of future moments, as well as of the present, and not be guilty of the folly of trying to save ourselves from the present danger, by means that must ensure our perishing under the selfsame danger the moment after. The only possible case in which we could justify the disregard of all precautions for our future safety, would be, the certainty that the present danger must overwhelm us. If he were sure that he must perish to-day, he might safely neglect all provision for to-morrow: but if he were not sure of perishing to-day, and. that the danger was of that sort which, even if averted for the moment, would not thereby cease and pass away, he must, upon every principle of reason, in considering the means necessary for his present safety, have a view 976 to the dangers which were immediately to succeed.—Under this conviction, therefore, and upon these principles, the House must come to the consideration of that third proposition which he had adverted to, and on which the present bill was founded; namely, that the improvement of the volunteer System, supposing it to be the best for present defence, was for that reason, and without further inquiry, to be adopted. Two questions were for this purpose equally important. Was the improvement of the volunteer system, the measure most efficacious for present defence? And admitting it even to be so, was it the measure (taking in, agreeably to what he had just been contending for, both present and future dangers) which would most conduce to our safety upon the whole, and for that reason be to be adopted, whatever objections might be urged against it in other respects? To these a third might be added, which he would not stop to argue at length: was it certain, that by the measures now proposed, the force of the volunteers would, in reality, receive any addition? The question must not be wholly passed by, nor dismissed, without a word or two of observation. Though it might be admitted, that greater allowances in money, by enabling the volunteers oftener to assemble, would considerably assist their training, that the aid of officers and non-commissioned officers from the regulars would contribute to the same end; and advantage possibly be derived from the regulations for securing attendance in the first instance, and afterwards for enforcing orderly behaviour among those who should be made to attend, yet it must be remembered, that these benefits would not be obtained without a certain abatement, and that a part of the provisions in question, while they might improve the discipline, were likely to thin the numbers of the corps. This was a circumstance, which even the approvers of the present system must consider as a drawback: but by those who disapproved of that system, who. have always considered it as mistaken and vicious, and as turning the zeal and energy of the country into a wrong channel, a further objection must be found, in whatever tended (and was designed) to confirm that system, and to continue the volunteers in a course which they ought never to have taken. Much doubt might, therefore, be felt, whether the volunteer force would, 977 in reality, be increased by the provisions of this bill: in other words, whether what Was represented as an improvement, was in truth an improvement or not? But admitting this to be the fact, there still came the two great and leading inquiries; 1st, how far the improvement of the volunteers was the best course to be pursued, with a view even to present danger, considering, that even for the moment this improvement would not be obtained, but by means prejudicial in other respects? And idly, how far what might be best for the moment, would be best upon the long run, and might not more than counterbalance what was gained in present safety, by the injury done to all our means of safety in future? It was singular enough, that in all this discussion about the improvement of the volunteers, no one should have remarked, that the main clause of the bill, that which was by far the most efficient and operative, namely, that which gave the exemptions, was one, in which improvement was not at all concerned. A man was not a bit the Letter volunteer, was not in the smallest degree improved, either in his marching, or in the use of his musquet, in consequence of being exempted from the militia or army of reserve. The whole effect of this clause was not to improve, but to continue the volunteers; and in the question, therefore, of improvement, must be wholly laid out of consideration, though, is other views, it was the most important and powerful clause of all. It was of consequence that the Mouse should keep distinctly in its view, that there were two descriptions of clauses in the bill: those, namely, which were meant for the improvement of the volunteer body, and those which were directed only to preserve and keep it together. The former might be called the improving and the latter the preservative clauses. The latter had nothing to do with improvement, and could be considered as no addition to the bill in that respect: but the former had, on the contrary, something to do with the maintenance and preservation of the body, and, in fact, would be found to operate very forcibly against it. The powers given to the commanders of corps, the regulations for enforcing obedience, the additional days of attendance, all these would in themselves, and still more by the sort of confused apprehension which they would excite, operate, probably, in driving considerable numbers from the volunteer ser- 978 vice, and in counteracting the effect intended to be produced by the grant of exemptions. And so far hon. gent, might say, that he (Mr. W.) must approve of their operation, inasmuch as it would defeat in part the effect of a clause which he was not inclined to approve. But in fact, when the matter came to be considered, it would be found that they would not be attended with even this advantage. Though they might thin the volunteers, they would not reduce the grievance complained of, which was, the injury done by the volunteer system to other services. The objection to the grant of exemptions was, not that it gave men to the volunteers, but that it withdrew them from services which were more important; and this evil would not be diminished, unless, contrary to what was likely to be the fact, the men whom these new regulations might cause to resign, were persons who had no exemptions but those which their volunteer service gave them. The reverse was rather to be expected, viz. that those persons would first give way, who had no need, for protection, of service in the volunteers, but had protections of another sort, either from age or number of children, or from their being already serving by substitute is some other species or force. These persons might go, while the others remained; so that with less numbers in the volunteers, the number withdrawn from other services might continue just the same; and thus, all the evils consequent upon the present bill will be incurred, while the volunteer force, that force to which every thing was sacrificed, would really be less in numbers, and probably weaker altogether, than if none of these mischievous provisions had been introduced.—Here, therefore, if the facts were as he supposed, would be a good answer to one of the questions which he had adverted to, namely, whether even present security was well provided for by the measures now proposed? It was not very intelligible, how an immediate danger was to be provided against by a gradual improvement; how they were to guard against the dangers of the next three weeks, or next three months, by such a change as could be effected in the volunteers by the operation of the bill during that time. But when to this was to be added, the reduction of numbers which-the bill might occasion,—a reduction not unlikely to operate faster in diminishing 979 the volunteer force, (meaning here by that expression, not the numbers, but the real effective result of the system,) than the improved discipline: would in increasing it; and (far more than all this) when they were to take into consideration the effects of this system, not future and distant, but instant and immediate. Upon all the other and better species of force, it did not seem too much to say, that from the present moment, as well as at all future ones, the country would be weaker in its general defence, in consequence of this bill, and of others which had preceded it, than if no such bills had ever been passed.—The greater part of the evils here complained of, which would begin to operate from the present moment, which would continue their operation through all succeeding ones, would be derivable partly front the condition respecting exemptions, which the present bill confirmed, and partly from what was now professed, and what might at all times have been expected, of the course likely to be pursued by the executive government. It was easy to foresee, and it had in fact been foreseen, that those who wished to make the volunteers permanent, and to give them their present shape and character, would adopt a course of proceeding with them, similar to that which had in part been declared.—The first circumstance that presented itself upon this occasion was, the odd idea of making the volunteer system permanent. It was very near a contradiction in terms. Zeal was, in its nature, a very transitory feeling; and accordingly the hon. gents, when they meant, to prolong a system derived originally from that source, very prudently had recourse to motives more constant in their operation, and less likely to fail, than a mere effusion of zeal and patriotism excited by an opinion of present danger. The permanence of the system was to be entrusted to the good old steady principles of interest and fear, excited by bounties and advantages on the one hand, and penalties on the other. It was whimsical, indeed, to hear those who had vaunted so loudly the disinterestedness of these corps, who had branded as enemies to the volunteers every one who had hinted even a suspicion, that a view to exemptions could have had any influence upon their offers, now stating, that nothing but the hope of exemptions could hold them together, and that they would all fall to pieces the moment this principle 980 of coherence was withdrawn. Let it be remembered always, that this was the language of their friends. He had never said more, than that the prospect of exemptions had been a motive with many; as with many; it certainly had not. He could himself vindicate from any share in that, motive, those with whom he had been more immediately connected, as they had been expressly told, that exemptions were what they were by no means to count upon. Testimonies to the same effect had been heard from every part of the House; and the fact was, indeed, notorious, that a great part of the volunteers, probably much the greater, had offered their services, either not thinking about exemptions, or being distinctly told that they were not to have them* It was curious, therefore, to hear it now stated, and by those who made themselves the peculiar guardians of the character of the volunteers, that exemptions, and exemptions only, would induce them to continue their services. He was inclined to doubt this statement, at least to the extent to which it was urged. It could hardly apply to those who had never had exemptions in view, and who, by possessing them hitherto, had enjoyed a bonus which they had not originally looked to: and if there were others, who, having been influenced by that motive, which he was far from meaning to blame them for, though it would take from their offer any claim to merit, might be disposed to withdraw, when their purpose in that respect was no longer answered, their number might not be greater than that of persons who would be led to quit the corps from the causes which he had before adverted to. Whatever the effect might be, it was plain that the purpose of these regulations was to continue the volunteer system at all events; not limiting its continuance by the motives which gave it birth, and which might be supposed commensurate with the causes that made it desirable; nor suffering it, whenever the time should come, to die a natural death, but giving to it a kind of forced existence, by means of motives which must equally operate* whether a force of that description was desirable or not.—This was the purpose; and therefore, in estimating the merits, of this measure, they were to consider, not merely what its present effects would be, but what its operation at more distant periods. And in this view they must not overlook one 981 great head of danger, on which he had rarely dwelt, but to which he must not, on that account, be considered as insensible; namely, that which must arise from the existence of great bodies of armed men not subject to military law. Upon this point possibly, though upon this only, his opinions might vary, in some small degree, from those of an hon. gent, (his hon. friend as, he, was sure, he would allow him to call him, and as he well might call him on subjects on which they so generally agreed, having commonly found it so difficult to forbear calling him so on subjects on which they completely differed), who, from the general turn and cast of his mind, might be less alive to eventual dangers of the sort which he was alluding to. He would so far agree with his hon. friend, as to admit that there was no danger of that sort at present. He was as much persuaded as any man, that whatever disaffection there was in the country (and they must never flatter themselves that it would be wholly extinct), was, for the present, confined within very narrow limits, and in a great measure absorbed arid lost in the general care of providing against a danger which would make no distinction of friend or foe, but involve all in one common ruin. Of this disaffection, a less portion would necessarily be found among the volunteers, than among any other equal collection of people. Where there was so much zeal and loyalty, and patriotism, there could be little room for feelings of an opposite sort. But they must not suppose that this would be always so; there was in this institution, "nature, that in time would venom breed," though there might be "no teeth for the present." Evidences of this were perhaps already to be discerned. The volunteers, even in their present infant state, just new from the egg, had already shewn their strength, in obtaining a complete mastery over his Majesty's ministers. It was not the infant Hercules that was strangling the full-grown serpent, but the infant serpent that was subduing the full-grown strength of this Herculean ministry. His Majesty's ministers did not venture to stir a step upon this subject, without a previous consent obtained from the volunteers.—He could not but strongly-reprobate the outcry which had been raised, and principally by the gent, of the Treasury bench, against all those who had freely delivered their opinions in condem- 982 nation of the volunteer system. Such an outcry, he had no hesitation in saying, was disgraceful to any man who contributed to raise it, and would be equally disgraceful to any man who suffered his conduct to be influenced by it; but it was evidently one of the characteristics of the present administration, that they had too much a view to that popular favour, which, unless under certain modifications and restrictions, should not operate upon the proceedings of government. They fancied, perhaps, that if they could succeed in exciting popular clamour against a member, they should restrain him from declaring opinions hostile to their measures; but they were excessively mistaken if they supposed, because that fear had so much effect upon themselves, that therefore it would have an equal effect upon the minds and conduct of others. He was told by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Hiley Addington) on a former night, that he was detested by the volunteers; he also heard it said, that it was dangerous for certain gentlemen to walk the streets, for the same reason. This might be intended as a joke rather than a serious warning; but it was a dangerous joke, and did not acquire much facetiousness from the manner of the persons who uttered it.—He would not now dwell upon other instances of misconduct in the volunteers, particularly a memorable one, to which he had formerly adverted, namely, the riot at Chester. However little he might be disposed to call for any thing like vindictive vengeance in that case, or to look upon cases of that sort in general,As if the nation ne'er could thrive,Till every rioter were burnt alive,yet he must say, that it was a marked and shocking instance of that sort of subjection in which the government was to the volunteer body, and of subjection manifested in the way least to be endured, viz. by art unequal and partial distribution of criminal justice.—An immense objection, there-there, was on this score to be urged against any measure of which the tendency and object was to perpetuate the volunteer system; not to mention, at present, those other numerous objections which he had often had occasion to advert to; viz. the disturbance given, and the confusion introduced into all the relations and functions of civil life, and the fatal effect of weakening, and absolutely reducing to I nothing, those distinctions which had hi- 983 therto been appropriate to military men, and which, with the sentiments belonging to such men, they had hitherto been willing to accept in lieu of more solid advantages.—But he would confine himself at present to what related merely to defence: and to say upon this head, that the volunteer system, with the exemptions granted to them, had no effect upon the supply of the other services, was something so extravagant, that he could not understand how it could be seriously asserted. The exemptions, as was evident, operated in no less than four ways.—They, 1st, us was notorious, exhausted, in many instances, the very population of the parish or district from which the supply was to come. They, 2dly, by being conferred principally on the young unmarried men, who were the first to enter into the volunteer corps, threw the ballot in a greater proportion on those who, when drawn, were the least likely to serve in person, and who, in consequence, in proportion to their numbers, would require a greater number of substitutes. Thirdly, while they thus increased the demand, they, by protecting men from the danger of the ballot, lessened the number of those who might be willing to engage as substitutes; and, lastly, when they did not absolutely produce the effect of preventing men from so engaging, they put them at least in a situation in which they could bargain to much greater advantage, and were not likely to engage but from the temptation of higher terms. In every one of these ways the exemptions had a direct and necessary tendency to increase the rate of bounty, and of consequence to bring it to that state, in which it actually was, and in which recruiting for the army could no longer go on. If an instance were wanting, lie might take the army of reserve, which, in spite of all the whipping and spurring which had been applied, had come to what, in the language of sportsmen, was called a dead stand-still, at the distance of 14,000 men from its projected amount. There it was for the present, incapable of moving a step further. And though he would not pretend to say, that by the aid of a little nursing, with the help pf a feed of corn, it might not again creep forward, yet he would venture to predict, shat it would never reach the place of its destination, would never produce the number for which it was calculated.—-Even in this view alone, speaking of the system as a, permanent 984 establishment, he could have no difficulty in saying, that the prejudice it would occasion, with respect merely to defence, was beyond comparison greater, than any advantages to be derived from it in the improved state of discipline and expert, ness in the volunteer corps. The great question, however, still remained; that which seemed in gentlemen's minds to put a stop to every other, viz. could the volunteer system, false and faulty as it might have been originally, be then abolished? Would not the suppression of exemptions instantly disband the corps? And could the country, in its present circumstances, afford to divest itself at once of such a vast portion of its force? Finally, could the suppression of exemptions be effected consistently with a perfect observance of good faith? He had little difficulty in saying that it could; provided always that no abridgment was made of the exemptions, which were granted for service already performed, or which was in a course of performing: and unquestionably no doubt could arise with respect to all who might enter into volunteer corps from that time forward. It was curious, indeed, to hear those talk with so much solicitude about preserving faith with the volunteers, who were at the moment taking such liberties with that faith, or rather committing so great a breach of it, in the very provisions which they were then proposing; there being nothing so clear, as that upon any. Principles of strict engagement, they had no right whatever to make those changes in the condition of volunteer service which was then proposed. If, then, good faith did not seem to stand in the way of the suppression pf exemptions at a proper time, with respect to those even who were already enrolled; as unquestionably it did not with respect to those who might enter in future; there were, on the. other hand, the strongest reasons for wishing to get rid of exemptions, not merely as injurious to the public interests, but as inconsistent with a principle not less to be regarded than good faith itself; namely, justice. Nothing could he more flagrantly unjust, nor more cruelly oppressive, than the power now possessed by individuals, or by self-created bodies of individuals, of imposing or withholding at their pleasure, a fine, such as that which attached to the ballot of the army of reserve and of the militia. Let any one consider what that fine was, what its amount in itself, and what the effect 985 likely to be produced by it, in nine out of ten of the persons on whom it may fall, and then say, whether this was a power fit to be left to individuals or to committees, acting with respect to those whom they may protect from, or expose to this fine, with little other rule than their own mere discretion and option. The obligation upon the House to guard against the existence of such a power was greatly en-creased by considering the classes of persons, upon whom it would be found principally to operate. These were the lower orders of journeymen and labourers, especially those who were married, and who with families so circumstanced as to make the burthen either of serving in person, or of providing a substitute, more grievous and least possible for them to support, had yet not the specified number of children which would entitle them to an exemption. There could not be a class of people having more claim to the consideration and protection of the House, or whose rights and interests the House should be more jealous of appearing in any respect to abandon. Of all persons, those whose cause ought to be espoused with most zeal and anxiety, were the helpless and friendless; though these were, unhappily, the persons, who in the general confusion of human affairs, and with the general infirmity of human nature, which too often lead men to press upon the weak rather than to resist the strong, were the most likely to be neglected and overlooked. It was not always that in public affairs, the greatest injustice was that which was least easy to be committed, or would excite the loudest complaints. Complaint seemed to be among those effects, in the producing which, bodies are found to operate in proportion to their surfaces; whereas injustice was often greater the more it was confined and condensed, and the more partially it fell; so that it was commonly easier and safer to do a great injustice to a few, than a smaller one to many. The House, therefore, would, he hoped, be particularly anxious not to leave such a power, could it possibly be avoided, as that which enabled persons, not only to withdraw themselves from a burthen which ought to be common to all, but, what was far worse, to throw the burthen from their play shoulders upon those of others, and thus to double and treble and quintuple the load upon those who were least able to support even their own original share. Against any supposed 986 hardship of withdrawing the exemptions from the volunteers, he hoped the House would not fail to set in opposition, the extreme injustice, towards the classes, which he had mentioned, of continuing them.—Thus far as to the question of good faith, which might be supposed to stand as a plea in bar against any alteration to be made in the volunteer system, as applicable to those who were already engaged in it. Upon the effect which the withdrawing exemptions would have in dissolving the corps, he had already spoken, and would not do more, therefore, than repeat his opinion, that the reduction thus occasioned would very possibly not be greater, and would certainly be far less disadvantageous, than that which would be effected by the joint operation of the liberty of resignation, and the various vexatious regulations now introduced.—But upon the whole of this question of the reduction or disbanding of the Volunteers, he wished to make one observation; namely, that to disband corps of volunteers was a very different operation, and would have a very different effect, from that of disbanding a part of a regular army. An army disbanded, is dispersed in away not to be reassembled: but not so a corps of volunteers; which, though nominally dissolved, left all the parts precisely in the same situation in which they were. Not a man would be found removed from the spot on which he had all along been residing; nor would either his powers or his disposition be changed in any degree, at least in any material degree, from what, they were when he belonged to the corps. Supposing, therefore, that the whole volunteer system were completely dissolved to-morrow; though a change would be made, no doubt, yet a change not at all of the sort which many were hastily led to suppose. Though there would be much less correspondence in the right hon. gent's office, fewer orders and counter-orders, less annoyance, less disturbance, fewer disputes, less of the present evils, great and small, of the system, and though much would; no doubt be lost of the progressive improvement in the common practice and; training, yet the men would all remain, there would be the same bodies, the same limbs, and the same hearts, and, upon any alarm, the same disposition to run together again, either as some have supposed of the atoms at the last day into precisely the same shapes, or into new combinations 987 possibly not less advantageous. The House must not run away, therefore, with a, notion, that to dissolve the volunteers, was utterly to deprive the country of all the benefit of that force in the same manner or to the same degree, as would happen in the reduction of any other military body. And this consideration would apply to that other head of inquiry; viz. the prudence or possibility of making any material change, with a danger impending such as that by which we wore now threatened. It was said, our system may have been ill-conceived, our means ill-chosen, the posture into which we have thrown ourselves not the best calculated to give us the benefit of our strength: but what can now be done? To attempt to change our course of proceedings Be, would be as dangerous as a general's attempting to change his positions at the moment when he was expecting an attack.—This argument he heard, he confessed, with great distrust, because it never failed to be urged from the beginning, and at periods when it was evident now that it was not true. It was the argument which had been in constant use to cover every thing that was wrong, and to make it impossible that an error once begun, should ever be set right. We had been forever in the state of a horse, who having got into a false gallop, was so pressed on by the injudiciousness of his rider, that he had never time to change and to get right again. We were acting upon the instruction sometimes ludicrously given to a foot messenger, "to make such haste, that if he should tumble down, he must not stay to get up again." But, in opposition to such maxims, he must say, that on this, as on almost every other occasion, there must be a comparison of evils, and that it was not sufficient to say, there will be great mischief or danger in doing this or that, without taking into consideration what would be the evil or danger of not so doing. He would accept the comparison of a general who had got into a bad position, arid was threatened with an attack, and admit the danger in such circumstances, of his attempting to make his position better; yet if lie knew that he must be attacked in that position, and that, if attacked, he must to a certainty be beat, it might be necessary for him to attempt the change, with whatever danger it might be attended. A ship, in like manner, going before the wind, might be so pressed by the gale, that, to tack would 988 hazard instant destruction; yet if destruction were inevitable by continuing her course, if there were a shore a-head that admitted of no escape, the attempt to tack must be made, whatever consequences might be apprehended. Such he felt to be the situation of this country. To continue the present system, with all the consequences which it was obvious would grow out of, was little else than ruin. One of the consequences which it was plain was intended, was that of bringing the volunteers to meet the enemy in regular battle. It was a mistake exactly similar to this, which lost the country to William the Conqueror, at the battle of Hastings; a place that ought to be a warning to those who would now-put their trust in so fallacious an idea. The case of La Vendee did not apply here. The Vendéans gave up their country to be ravaged, and their villages to be burned; not as part of their system, but because they could not help it: when they had done so, they attempted a course, of which he feared, we could not avail ourselves, in case of any disaster under-the present system. He certainly allowed it was the best way to meet the enemy at once, and beat him. But this was like the receipt for running a race, to take the lead and keep it. The Vendéans had never once assembled to fight as a regular army, except on one memorable occasion, when they met to march to Granville, to the number of 40, 50, or as some said, 80 thousand men, for the purpose of receiving the supplies of arms which they expected us to have brought them. It was on this occasion that the French armies took advantage to crush them, in such a manner as they never recovered, though they long sustained themselves with a noble energy. It was once considered whether they should again meet their enemies in regular battle; but it was considered by all their generals, that they would have much disadvantage in a regular conflict with troops so far superior to them in arms and discipline. They had again recourse to that warfare in which the enemy could not reach them, in which they were in the situation described by Macbeth,As easy may'st thou the. intrenchant airWith thy keen sword impress, as make me bleed.By that system they still eluded the force of a power which subdued all Europe, and which did not subdue them till it had subdued all Europe, He considered the 989 sort of discipline the volunteers would obtain a disadvantage. It brought to his recollection what pope said of Curl's cir-cumeision—the ceremony was interrupted, and he was left half circumcised, which, according to the Jewish law, was worse than not being circumcised at all. Whether this was good rabbinical doctrine or Dot, he did not know; but it was perfectly conformable to the common notions and language of mankind.A little learning is a dangerous thing,had been observed the other night.—"aut nunquam tentes avt perfice," was a maxim to the same effect. The system, in his opinion, ought to be entirely changed. The French National guards, so often cited as a justification for regarding the volunteers as regular troops, were, employed at times in garrison towns, in escorting convoys, or perhaps murdering prisoners in cold blood; but they were not placed in the front of the battle, nor were ever employed against the enemy at all. These were the troops, however, to which alone, in their mode of formation and: training, our volunteers bore any resemblance. Whereas the Volunteers of France, whom we, judging by the name, chose to conclude at once to be the troops corresponding to ours, were troops raised upon a quite different fooling, who were instantly marched away from home the moment they were raised, and were never employed as troops against an enemy till they had been trained for at least eighteen months in every other species of military duty. This was particularly the case at Jemappe, where the battle was fought in November 1792, and the volunteers that fought there were those raised in the beginning of 1790—The bill, in his opinion, might be considered as a new mutiny bill, printed on fine white satin. He ridiculed the measure in toto, and described it as having been formed in a smithery near Westminster-Hall, where every one was at work at it, and amongst the rest, the Attorney-General, hammering away and fetching it up with John Doe and Richard Roe assisting him. He was fully satisfied, that out of barren moor like this, not one good crop could be got, and he was the more convinced of the folly of resorting to it, when such a rich and abundant field presented itself as the army. The right hon. gent, concluded with expressing his decided opposition to the whole of the system.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
began by observing, that, considering how often the subject had been discussed for the last three weeks, it Was with extreme unwillingness he rose to comment on the speech which had been just delivered. The right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) seemed to have compressed into his speech of this night the various remarks which, in the course of this session and the last, he had adduced against the volunteer system, with one exception only. The right hon. gent, wished his speech to be, considered as a protest against measures, which he had stated as leading to consequences not short of absolute destruction. It would, however, be recollected by many, that the right hon. gent, had applied this description to a system, which, at the close of the last session, and during the debates upon the defence bill, he had pronounced to be that on which the House must rest for the protection and security of the country. After what he had heard from the right hon. gent., and comparing what he now said with what he had said, considering, too, that he had attacked the structure of the army, though it was the same as it had been during the whole time he was See at War, he was not surprised at the course of argument he had thought proper to pursue, because he could not bat recollect that the right hon. gent, who ridiculed the idea of a militia being an efficient force, was the same person who, when he was one of his Majesty's confidential servants, saw the militia extended to a much larger number than it was at the present moment. The House had heard a violent attack upon the volunteer system by a right hon. gent, during whose administration the system had originated, and who had extended it to 150,000 men. Under these circumstances, it was impossible not to have heard, without surprize, the objections the right hon. gent, had urged. He had attacked the system, because he thought it inefficient to repel the danger. He conceived it a weak substitute for that force the country had in its power to command. Now, was that the fact? Could the right hon. gent, make out the truth of his statement, that, by the adoption of the volunteer system, the regular force of the, country had been neglected, or, on the contrary, that it had not increased beyond what it ever had been at any former period? Was it not true, that the regular force, was greater in 991 G. Britain, than it had ever been? Was it not greater in Ireland, than even at the most critical periods of the last war? Was it not true, that though engaged in hostilities not more than 9 months, the whole regular force was within 15,000 men equal to the highest point during the last war. At the present moment, when the demands for the army were less, in consequence of its being less scattered over the face of the globe, and notwithstanding we had not been at war more than months, though he admitted we began to arm from the instant of the King's message, we had a greater force in this country and in Ireland, than had ever been known. The right hon. gent, stated, that by the adoption of this system, we were meeting an immediate danger by a slow and gradual improvement of the discipline of the volunteers. In reply to this, he must beg gents, to recollect what was the intention of Parliament when the system was adopted last sessions. He must request the House to say, whether it was in contemplation, or within the scope of their hopes or expectations, that the volunteers of this country would have attained that degree of perfection and discipline to which they had happily arrived, within so very short a period as had elapsed since the passing of the act by which they had been constituted. Could it be called slow improvement in discipline, by those who formerly thought that exertions infinitely more limited than those the volunteers were now capable of, would be sufficient to avert the danger? When the bill for forming them was originally introduced, training on Sundays and 14 days, commuted afterwards for 24 days exercise, had been deemed sufficient to give to the country that degree of confidence and security which would lead it to look forward without apprehension to the issue of the arduous contest in which it was engaged. But what had taken place? Instead of 14 or 24 days exercise, the volunteers, with a zeal and enthusiasm worthy their spirits and the cause which animated them, had more than performed their contract. Instead of barely earning their exemptions, they had given the best possible contradiction to the imputation thrown out against them, of having been induced to come forward by the consideration of the exemptions. There was, he could state with confidence, hardly a volunteer corps in this kingdom that had not tripled its en- 992 gagement with the public; hardly one which had not, instead of 24 days exercise, devoted 3 or 4 times that period in the acquisition of military discipline. And what had been the effect? Not certainly that they had readied the degree of discipline which it was desirable they should possess, but that they had attained their present state of discipline with a degree of rapidity which neither the hopes nor expectations of the legislature could have anticipated at the time it defined the number of days exercise required of them. The right hon. gent, had said, that he looked with the utmost apprehension to the proposition which had been suggested, that the volunteers were to be calculated upon as part of the means of resisting an. invading enemy, or, in other words, that they were to be brought forward as an army. He had never heard it stated that the volunteers were to be brought forward as an army; but he had heard it said, and with rapture he had listened to so pleasing a theme, countenanced as it was by opinions far more worthy of reliance than any which proceeded from the right hon. gent, he had heard it said, that the volunteers were capable of being brought forward, not indeed as an army, but, under circumstances, as part of an army. He had the authority of high military characters to oppose to the opinions of the right hon. gent. Against his mere unsupported assertions, he had the sentiments of such men as Lord Cathcart, Earl Moira, and General Simcoe, entitling the country to count on the aid and co-operation of the volunteers with the regular force, as a material ingredient in our means of exertion for the defence against the enemy. The right hon. gent, had been pleased to traduce the discipline of the volunteers, and to speak with contempt of their inefficiency. In answer to his unjust aspersions, it was only necessary to state the opinion of one of the respectable officers he had named, Gen. Simcoe, a man he was proud to call his friend. That officer, without reference to any debates, but to convey that satisfaction to his mind which he was happy to say had been afforded by the knowledge of his opinion of the military efficiency of the volunteer corps, had transmitted to him an account of volunteers, consisting of 2,500 men, raised for the Southern part of Devon. He held in his hand the paper he had sent him, which was signed by the inspecting officer of the 993 corps of South Devon volunteers: they were composed of 5 battalions; and, with reference to every one of them, except the artillery, of which he spoke in the highest terms, he had used these words: "Fit for duty, and qualified to act with troops of the line." Of these 2,500 called out at different periods, only 123 had been absent, and their absence was accounted for by sickness. He trusted he might be allowed to observe, not for the purpose of depreciating any of our other military establishments, but to shew how far a spirit of loyalty and attachment to the country would carry men who were embarked in its defence, that these men, who had attended with such punctuality, were under no obligation of penalties; that they obeyed no impulse but of duty, zeal, and patriotism. The right hon. gent, had said, that experience had not justified the confidence expressed by some persons in troops of this description; and he had referred to the troops employed in La Vendee—to those men who had made one of the noblest efforts ever exhibited to Europe; men who, unfortunately with too little success, had resisted the revolutionary system of France, and had preserved their loyalty to their sovereign, The right hon. gent, had stated, that these troops were a proof of the unsoundness of the principle of a volunteer system, and bow little reliance was to be placed on any exertions, the result of it. He maintained, in opposition to his opinion, that they proved no such thing: on the contrary, they proved how little confidence was to be placed in that force the right hon. gent, wished to have in the room of the volunteers. The troops in La Vendee resembled an armed peasantry, more than any thing else, He was confident, the right hon. gent, and the House must know, that, in their march to Granville, they were zealous, brave, and loyal, but a tumultuous and undisciplined body, incapable of resisting a well-disciplined army. One of the errors of the right hon. gent, and his friends was, that they were desirous of substituting an armed peasantry; but they were not justified in saying that an armed peasantry was better than a volunteer force. For reasons unnecessary to be stated, it was thought expedient to give that preference to the volunteers they deserved: but still there remained to ministers a discretion to add an armed peasantry to the volunteer force. Let it not be said, 994 then, that the volunteer system precluded au armed peasantry. The right hon. gent. had also said, that the national guards bore the strongest resemblance to volunteers: but with respect to the conduct of the national guards, there was nothing to warrant his apprehensions of the volunteers. Was he not aware of what was an incontestible fact, that both in La Vendée and at Jemappe, the national guards were employed. If they were employed at the battle of Jemappe, as he had reason to believe, surely no one would contend that they had not performed good service in a cause to which he should ever look with abhorrence. They had contributed to a victory fatal to Europe—a victory which every man who felt for the independence of Europe, must look back to with horror and regret. They had their share in producing that heavy calamity, but they shared also in the glory of the day. The right hon. gent. had heretofore lain particular stress on the exemptions: in reply to him he had staled, and it had been proved, that exemptions were not the original inducement to the volunteers. But, said the right hon. gent, let it appear it was not their motive now. It was one thing not to be actuated by an interested motive at first, and another, after a right had been conceded, not to wish to give it up. If they should now be deprived of their exemptions, they might feel that Parliament had broken its faith with them. That impression would be made which could not but have an influence on just and generous minds. The right hon. gent, seemed to assume, that every individual in a volunteer corps had the benefit of these exemptions, because he was a volunteer, and consequently that 400,000 men were exempted. He did not consider how many of these were exempted by age, by their occupations, by their service as constables, by their number of children, and various other reasons, from serving in the militia and army of reserve. It could be shewn, notwithstanding the supposed inquiry into the recruiting service, that at this time the actual amount of the army was much nearer the amount proposed to be raised, than at the corresponding period of the last war; and, in fact, that more recruits had been raised for the regular army, than were raised in the first 7 years of the last war—a period when the right hon. gent, was exalting an administration that, much to its honour, was using every 995 effort to enable the country to cope with the enemy. The right hon. gent, had said, that the effect of this system was to discountenance the regulars, tarnish their splendor, and throw them in the shade. It was not possible for 400,000, or twice 400,000 men, or any expedient that this country or any other country could adopt, to tarnish the glory of the regular army, or throw their merits in the shade. But could any thing be so opprobrious, as to hold a language which might, in the minds of the regular army, cause an impression that their glory was tarnished, or that they were under-rated, because 400,000 of their fellow subjects were ready to cooperate with them, zealously and gloriously, for their King and country. Was that an impression which any hon. gent, should wish to create? and yet it was impossible to hear his speech, without being satisfied it had such a tendency.—While the right hon. gent, had dwelt on the effects produced on the feelings of the regular army by those of zeal, which had done honour to the volunteers, he had referred, in a way which had given him great regret, to the irregularities of individuals, he believed it was a matter of exultation and astonishment, that the instances of irregularity had been so few. If he lamented there had been any irregularities, he at the same time rejoiced they had been so trifling, as to make it a subject of regret on the part of the House they had ever been noticed. The period when distractions and complaints among the volunteers were at their height was in August last. What had produced them? It. was, that the whole of their offers had not been accepted. True it was, there existed dissatisfactions, which, in some instances, were manifested by irregularities of expression; but it was only at the moment, when their loyal and patriotic feelings experienced a certain degree of mortification.—The right hon. gent, had not missed the present occasion of adverting to a topic he frequently alluded to, and had imputed to his Majesty's government, that they were actuated by base and unworthy motives, and of pursuing popularity at the expence of their public duty. That was a subject to which he adverted with great reluctance. Whether in a greater or less degree they possessed the confidence of the country, was not for him to conjecture. Sure he was they had served the country with zeal and fidelity. It was astonishing 996 that those ministers should be accused of courting popular favour, on whom the painful duty had been imposed of laying taxes on the people to the amount of 15,000,000l. They had performed their duty with regret, but without shrinking from it. He defied the right hon. gent, to produce an instance of any minister having so courted popularity. If his Majesty's ministers should have the good fortune to succeed in performing their duty to their country in other respects, he trusted they would obtain credit for their motives. In what they had done, he was persuaded the country would not impute to them that they had unlawfully and basely been pursuing popular favour. He begged pardon for having made these observations. They had been drawn from him by the comments of the right hon. gent, who on this, as on former occasions, unsuccessfully, but industriously, had addressed the House for the purpose of creating an impression that we ought not to place any reliance on that description of force, which, if not the object, of reliance, could not act with effect at a tune when, if the the right, hon. gent, was sincere in his idea of the danger that threatened us, no adequate force could be substituted. By the manner in which the right hon. gent, had dwelt on the exemption, any one would be led to imagine they were created by this bill. In fact, all parts of the bill which related to exemptions, were qualifications and modifications of them. But the right hon. gent, meant to take this opportunity of expressing his disapprobation of the whole system, which, at the close of the last session, he pronounced to be that on which the country must rely.—He should conclude by maintaining that the volunteer system was one on which the country must rely for its security, though in what degree he would not say. Thank God! we had a numerous and well disciplined army, a numerous and well disciplined militia, and 400,009 volunteers. Combining these together, he thought they constituted the most efficient force ever collected for the defence of this or any other country.
§ Mr. Fox
said, that he should have supposed, from the speech of the right hon. gent, that he was not in the House when his right hon. friend spoke, for he had completely misrepresented all his arguments. He had never stated that all the volunteers had exemptions nor had he 997 ever stated that the volunteers had enrolled themselves merely on account of the exemptions. On the contrary, he had mentioned several corps within his own knowledge that were enrolled before the exemptions were granted. It, was there, fore very hard to have arguments and sentiments attributed to gent, which they had never uttered. He and his right hon. friend had always argued, that the exemptions had not induced men to enter into volunteer corps, and therefore they had always opposed the granting of exemptions; and this was an answer to at least three-fourths of the right hon. gent, speech. The right hon. gent, had stated; that the national guard composed a part of Dumourier's army: of this fact he was not quite sure, but he knew that it was composed at first of raw troops, and the first report he sent of them was, that 20,000 of them ran away from 1500 Austrians. It should also be recollected, that one of the first exploits of these raw French troops was to murder their own General (Dillon); and the next was, to make another of their generals (Biron), a prisoner. It was true, that these men turned out to be good troops after a campaign or two; but he only mentioned these cases, to shew the reliance that was to be placed upon raw troops. The only way of judging upon cases of this kind was to look into history, and he did not recollect a single instance in which raw troops had, in the first instance, been successfully opposed to veterans. The right hon. gent, had contended, that it was not the intention of government to substitute the volunteers for an armed peasantry, because the King had the power of calling out the population of the country: but had they taken the means to call them out? had they provided arms for them? or if they hourly expected the invasion, why when; they not called out? It had been asserted that the volunteers had attained a greater degree of perfection than could have been expected; but he believed that wear three-fourths of them had never fired with ball cartridge, and yet these men were raised to repel an attack that was expected in August last. The right hon. gent, had relied much upon the reports of some general officers, particularly Lord Cathcart, General Simcoe, and Lord Moira. With regard to Lord Cathcart, he believed he only spoke of the Irish volunteers, which were certainly, in some 998 respects, different from those of this country. With regard to the report of General Simcoe, no man could be disposed to pay greater respect to it than he was; but he should like to know what number of general officers had made similar reports: if there were no others, why then it might be inferred that was the only corps in such an advanced state of discipline. As to the opinion which had been said to be advanced by Lord Moira, it was one which he believed had been delivered at a public dinner; whether it had been correctly reported or not, he did not know, and therefore it was impossible to know whether his Lordship had really advanced such an opinion or not. It had been argued, that the volunteer system had not injured the recruiting for the army; but to this assertion he could not give credit: it was universally known, that the army had not been recruited as it might have been, and indeed it was impossible but that the number of exemptions given must materially affect the recruiting for the army; but it was contended that Parliament would be guilty of a breach of faith, if the volunteers were deprived of their exemptions: but was it not a breach of faith with the volunteers, when the number of days which they were obliged to drill, in order to obtain those exemptions, were changed from 20 to 44. The right hon. gent, had placed great reliance upon a comparison of the force in G. Britain now, and in the former war: but was the danger the same? was the whole force of France directed against this country? If it was not, it was absurd to revert to precedents in former wars. He still retained the opinion he had expressed of the advantage that would result from an armed peasantry, because, instead of 400,000 men, you would then have two millions; but now, with the exception of the army, the militia, and the volunteers, there was not a man armed in the country. Before he sat down, he wished to ask ministers, whether they really expected the invasion, or they did not? If they did, he believed there never was an instance of a country left in such a state of defence, when such a powerful invasion was expected: if they did, he thought they ought immediately to set about some measures for its future security.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
wished to advert to a few points that had been taken notice of by the hon. gent, who had 999 just sat down, The opinion of Lord Moira, which he had formerly stated, he had received not confidentially, but merely from the public returns of the noble Lord. The opinion of General Simcoe he had given on the same grounds as stated in his return for the division which he commanded. The testimony of the persons to whom he had alluded were well known, and might be regarded as very good authorities for the opinion which he had supported of the efficicency of the volunteers.
§ Sir James Pulteney
said, that when the General Defence Act had been first introduced in that House, he was the first, and he believed the only man, who strongly recommended the plan of employing an armed peasantry. He regretted that his idea had not been adopted, but the country was to make the best they could of the system as it stood. He would not agree with an hon. Colonel near him, as to the degree of discipline that was necessary in the volunteer corps. It had been pleasantly quoted, thatA little learning is a dangerous thing,That certainly he could have no objection to, as a line from Pope; but the, maxim was neither very convenient nor very practicable in the occurrences of private life. There were many avocations, in which he would rather employ persons who knew something of their trade, than those who were utterly unacquainted with the first principles of it. It was no easy matter to define what military discipline was; but if it consisted, according to his ideas, in knowing the use of a musquet, in being able to march with steadiness and precision, and in certain habits of obedience and regularity, inseparable from a military life, that degree of discipline he thought the volunteers capable of; and he was happy to find that, to a certain extent, they had attained it. Even that portion of discipline that could be acquired by a few persons assembling in a room, and learning at the, word of command eyes right, and eyes left, would be attended with no little advantage; and if it should be ever found necessary to habituate the volunteers to a looser manner of spreading themselves over, or getting through a country, they would not have much difficulty in adopting that mode of discipline. He fully agreed with the hon. Colonel, as to the extreme importance of the city of London; and he thought that 1000 the volunteer force could render most service to the country, not by meeting the enemy on their first disembarkation, but by combating them in a desultory manner between the capital and the coast. He was not so sanguine in his expectations from the exertions of the two millions of armed peasantry. It was a fact well known to every military man, that in a battle only a certain number of troops could be employed; and if 50 or 60,000 French should effect a landing, even 100,000 volunteers, or armed peasantry, would be as useless as two millions.
explained, that he had always recommended that the armed pesantry should have some degree of training.
spoke against the bill, and appealed to the Speaker, whether, in the course of his experience, he had ever known or heard of so incongruous and absurd a bill as the one before them. It had been compared, not unaptly, to a begging box, which was open to the contributions of the charitable and humane. It could not have presented more contradictory and inconsistent clauses, if the tight hon. mover of it had thrown 4 or 5 blank sheets of paper on the table, and desired the members to scribble what they pleased on them.
said, that there was no man who was a more warm, strong, and zealous friend to the volunteer system than he was. He had done every thing in that part of the country where he resided to encourage and promote it; and when difficulties had arisen in the arrangement, he informed those who referred to him, that those difficulties would be removed as soon as Parliament had taken the whole of the system under their consideration. He was sorry to find that was not the case, for he had never known so much pains bestowed to so little purpose. The bill now before the House went to paralize all the good effects that were likely to result from a proper application of the principle of bounty. Instead of giving it to the volunteers, to expend it as they pleased, it was determined by the clause in this bill, that it should be applied—how? why to purchase great coats to shelter them, he supposed, from the heat of the dog days. He strongly objected to that clause which empowered farmers and manufacturers to make deductions from the wages of their servants, far the extra time they should 1001 employ in drilling or exercising. The consequence of that regulation, he ventured to predict, would cause a very considerable diminution of the volunteer force, for that description of men would have no inducement to continue to be members. However, although he expected no good from the measure under its present form, yet he would not carry his opposition so far as to vote against the third reading of the bill.
§ Mr. Curwen
said, he should have to trouble the House with but a few words. He entertained no doubts as to the public spirit and feeling of volunteers; but with respect to the degree of perfection in training arid discipline, to which they, generally speaking, had arrived, he certainly had considerable doubts. The right hon. gent, had vaunted of the state of discipline which corps in a particular part of the kingdom, to the number of between 2 and 3000 men, had arrived: but were all the returns of the inspecting officers to be laid before the House, a wide difference would soon be perceived, and the number of corps fit for duty, and to act with troops of the line, would, he believed, be found very inconsiderable.
§ General Loftus
observed, that under the present circumstances of the country, he felt it his duty to give the bill his best support. He approved of the plan of blending the corps of volunteers with the regular army, which consisted of a given number of brigades, and placed under general officers acquainted with the service, He deprecated the idea of bringing the volunteers by themselves into action, of marching them into parts of the country to which they were totally strangers, or of placing general officers at the head of troops with whom they were entirely unacquainted. He had made these observations, not with the least view of throwing difficulties in the way, but in the way of caution; no idea could be rationally entained of bringing the volunteers into the field, without any body to lead them. This he applied to the idea of employing the volunteers singly; if such were to be acted upon, experience would soon shew its injurious effects. He next adverted to the important consideration of driving the cattle from those parts of the coasts where an enemy was likely to effect a landing. He recollected, when serving under the present Lord Howe, in America, that the enemy uniformly took the precaution of 1002 driving the cattle from such parts of the coast as his debarkations were made; this operation threw his Majesty's forces into a distressing dilemma, and they were always forced to recur to their own magazines: the consequence was, that with all the skill and ability of that celebrated officer, he was unable to penetrate further than thirty or forty miles up the country. He was happy to understand that it was the intention of government to take the precaution of driving the cattle from the coasts, which necessarily must reduce the enemy to the alternative of subsisting upon the contents of their own magazines.
§ General Tarleton
said, he should detain the House but for a very few minutes, and his endeavours would be to correct a misstatement which had frequently been made with regard to recruiting the army, and in which that night it had been asserted, we were wonderfully. successful. The fact, however, he was sorry to say, was very different. In some districts, he knew, recruits were not to be had. A great deal of the statements which had been made on the contrary, were founded on the numbers who were drawn from the army of reserve, who were induced by a superadded and excessive premium to enter into the general service, and these they called recruits. There was a clause, he observed, in the Army of Reserve Act, allowing men of the height of five feet two, to enter as substitutes; the consequence of which was, that on a certain occasion, where upwards of 1000 men had entered from the Army of Reserve, owing to the five-feet-two clause, there could not be found one man of five feet four for the general defence of the country. Therefore, if the data of these statements were taken from what was furnished by the army of reserve, it was a deception upon the House and the country. He then called the attention of the House to the favourable circumstances for ministers, under which the present war was commenced, with a parliament confiding beyond all former example, arid with the spirit of patriotism and loyalty universally diffused throughout the country, they were furnished with men to render the force of the country completely invulnerable. But how far they were from improving these advantages, and establishing a complete and effective force in the country, was now pretty generally known. With respect to the measures intended to be proposed by an hon. Secretary for aug- 1003 menting the troops of the line, when they came before the House he should deliver his sentiments upon them: but of this he was convinced in common with all officers who were conversant upon the subject; that the army ought to be augmented, and that much time had been lost.
spoke shortly in explanation, and observed, that independent of the newly adopted modes of recruiting, when the number of men obtained by the ordinary mode, was compared with the amount obtained in the former year, it was only one-fourteenth less.
Mr. C. Wynne
made some observations upon the defects, which, he contended, prevailed in the present volunteer system; the men, he said, could not learn the use of arms before they had arms given them. A comparatively small number were acquainted with ball-firing. He knew of two counties where not a single musket had been received, and other districts where not one half of the volunteers had been armed. He was glad the House were about to be rid of such a bill: it was going to a place whence he hoped it would not return, unless it was inoculated with a little more vigour and a little more efficacy.
§ Sir W. Geary
made a few observations upon the subject, and contended, that the volunteer system could not be fairly held to interfere with the recruiting of the line, the diminution of which proceeded from the militia and the army of reserve.
§ Mr. Henry Lascelles
expressed his wishes, that, if possible, a clause, which, in his opinion, threw open the doors to perpetual disputes, might either be entirely omitted, or so altered, as to prevent the bad consequences that would inevitably be produced by it; he alluded to that which authorised the deduction from the wages of farmers servants, if they remained above four hours absent upon drill or exercise. He thought it advisable that the clause should be expunged from the hill, or that the time should be considerably extended. The question was then put on the third reading of the bill, and carried in the affirmative.—The bill was afterwards passed, and ordered to be carried to the Lords for their concurrence, by Mr. Tierney,—Adjourned.