Mr. Secretary Yorke
moved the consideration of his Majesty's message, relative to the offers made by several regiments of Irish militia to extend their services to this country.
§ Sir Francis Burdett
said, he did, not 1073 mean to oppose the motion; but this was a subject of very great importance at any time, and more so at the present; it was a subject that was likely to involve principles that must naturally excite the jealousy of those who were attached to the constitution. He would not take up more of the time of the House at present, as he did not know what measures ministers meant to found upon this message; but he could not help expressing the jealousy he felt upon the subject.
§ Mr. Fuller
said, that it gentlemen had any objections to state to this measure, they ought to state them at once; but if they did not know what the measures to be proposed were, it would be as well to wait till they did, before they expressed their objections.—The order of the day was then read, and the Speaker having read his Majesty's Message,
Mr. Secretary Yorke
rose, and addressed the House to the following effect.—Sir; in calling the attention of the House to the message of his Majesty, which has been just read, I conceive that there can exist very little doubt of the general concurrence of the House in carrying to the foot of the Throne their unanimous expressions of joy and satisfaction at the communication which has been made, and of this additional proof of the zeal and loyalty of the Irish militia. I should conceive, Sir, that there can hardly be any person in the House who can rind any difficulty in expressing his concurrence and warm approbation at this generous and spontaneous return on the part of the militia of Ireland, for an equally generous and spontaneous effort which was made on a former occasion by the militia of England, who offered their services to go to Ireland, at a time when that country was in a state of considerable danger. But, as his Majesty's message applies only to a part of the measures that are under the consideration of govt. for augmenting the disposeable part of our military force, I hope shall be excused if I advert shortly to other subjects which form a part of that general plan. Before I proceed to state those points, I think it may be material to recall the recollection of the House to the present state of our military force, because although it has been stated on former occasions in a general way, yet it has never been slated in that distinct and detailed manner which was necessary to make a proper impression upon the House. After having stated the 1074 present state of our military force, I shall take a short comparative view of our military force at two former periods, viz. in Oct. 1801, when the preliminaries of the peace were signed, and in April 1803, immediately after his Majesty's message. The total of the regular force on the 1st of this month, including cavalry, infantry, and militia; amounted to 252,841 men; this body consisted in round numbers of 20,324 regular cavalry, 133,200 regular infantry, and 99,257 militia. The number of the artillery at the same period amounted to 14,202 men, making altogether the actual state of our force on the 1st of this month 207,043 men. Now, with respect to the comparative view which I proposed to take of our force at two former periods; on the 1st of Oct. 1801, the effective strength of the army amounted to 266,800 men; the artillery to 12,287, making together above 7.9,000 men; consequently, taking the whole of our force together, and comparing them at those two periods, viz. Oct. 1801, and March 1804, it will be found that our force, now that we have only been engaged about 10 months in war, is within 13 or 14,000 men of the amount of the army, at the close of a war which lasted nine years. The number of cavalry in Oct. 1801, was 26,350; but it should be recollected, that the cavalry is a force that cannot be raised so quickly as infantry, and that the number of our cavalry was thought at that time by many gent, to be greater than was necessary.—I have now, Sir, stated very shortly-, but very accurately, the comparative strength of our military force at the two periods to which I have alluded, and having done so, I will leave it to the fair and unprejudiced determination of any man, whether there are any grounds for those charges which some gent, are so constantly in the habit of throwing out, of the want of exertion on the part of his Majesty's ministers, and of the neglect of the military force of the country.—Now, Sir, with regard to our force in April, 1803, immediately previous to the rupture with France: it amounted at that time in G. Britain and Ireland to 124,843 men. Now, Sir, I will state the distribution of our force at the two periods to which I have alluded. I The total of force in G. Britain and Ireland in Oct. 1801, including militia, was; 170,426 men; in April, 1803, 124,843, and in March, 1804, 199,993 men; which 1075 is near 30,000 men more in G. Britain and Ireland than there was at the close of the last war, and near 60,000 men more than there was in April last, immediately before the commencement of the war.—But there is another view in which I wish the House to consider this subject, that is to say, the difference of the numbers of the regular troops at the different periods. By regular troops, I do not mean only troops disposable for foreign service. The number of regular troops in Ireland in Oct. 18O1, was 12,220 men; at present there are in Ireland 28,870 regular infantry, which form 30 battalions of as fine and as well-disciplined troops as this country ever possessed. It may be said that tin: danger in the former war was not so great as that with which we were now threatened, but I will venture to say that there were many periods of the last war, and particularly at the time of the Northern confederacy, when the danger was greater I will not say than it is now, because we are fully prepared, but was greater than it was some months ago. Without occupying the House longer upon this subject, may venture to say, that as far as the defence of this country is concerned, particularly if the number of volunteers is considered, it requires no extraordinary decree of courage not to feel much alarm at any threatened attack of the the enemy. That no degree of exertion has been wanting on the part of the executive govt. is, I think, clearly proved, if the number of men be considered that have been raised during the present war. The total number of men raised for the public service, for the regulars, militia, army of reserve, and seamen, since the commencement of the war, is 192, 606 men; and it ought also to be recollected, that this force was raised at a time when provisions were cheap, when the manufactures were flourishing, and, consequently, when there were not such strong inducements to men to enter into the army or navy. When all these circumstances are taken into consideration, let any man judge whether ministers have or have not made any exertions. I take no credit to myself and by colleagues for these exertions, because m making them, we have only done our duty. But I wish to have this point considered as established, that as far as relates to our defensive force, there is no reason to repine at what has been done.—This point, being established with regard to our defensive force, the next question is, whe- 1076 ther we have a sufficient offensive and disposeable force? I am of opinion that we ought, not to confine ourselves to mere measures of defence, but that we ought to look forward to what may happen in the course of the war. Suppose, in some happy day, the continent of Europe should endeavour to rescue itself from that yoke of iron bondage in which it is placed, and which has levelled kings and governments in the dust; it must be admitted that it would be desirable that this country should avail itself of such an opportunity it it occurred; but even if it should not, this country by itself may have an opportunity of reclining the enemy to reason, of convincing him that we are more powerful than lie supposes us to be, and that we are more than able to contend single-handed against him. Upon these grounds, I think it would be adviseable to augment our disposeablc force, and such an augmentation had been determined upon by his Majesty's govt.; it had not yet been put into execution, knit it was ready to be done to such an extent as might be deemed proper. The augmentation which had been already ordered, extended to the cavalry and to the foot guards; the increase in the cavalry was about 3500, and the foot guards above 2000. In addition to this, it is proposed to raise 8 new regiments of 1000 men each, and 10 new battalions of 1000 men also each, to be added to 10 of the strongest of the old regiments: and this augmentation was to be connected with an augmentation which was to be made to the foreign troops in our service. It is perfectly well known, that there was in the last war, a very large body of foreign troops in our service: and it must be equally obvious that there are greater difficulties in recruiting that species of force now, than there was in the last war. The foreign troops now in our service he would take at 8000 men; and in addition to tins WHS to be considered the levies now making in our American and West Indian possession, which I should estimate at 4000 men. If the louse should concur in the propriety of this addition to our regular force, then the next question to be considered is, 1st, by what direct medium you can effect and encourage that augmentation; and, to what collateral means you can use in the attainment of that object. With regard to the 1st of these points, I hope that the House will not be dissatisfied with me if I do not propose any radical change in the construction of 1077 the army, if I do not now enter into the consideration of the question, whether it would or would not he right to introduce the principle of limited service into our army? I by no means wish to contend, that this is not a question very well deserving of consideration; it is one which I have considered, and upon which I have formed my opinion, and whenever the subject is fairly taken up, I have no objection to state it, but I am sure it is a subject which the House would not listen to, unless it had been previously considered by the military part of the administration. It is a subject that not only requires great consideration, but even, if it should be adopted, requires a great deal of time to carry into effect. It has been adopted in the Austrian service, that is to say, the principle was adopted immediately after the treaty of Luneville, but it was determined that it should not take effect till 1804. But I am sure I need not state the material difference that subsists between the Austrian service and ours; the Troops of Austria are all concentrated within herown continental dominions, and are not spread, as the troops of G. Britain necessarily are. Over distant continental possessions. With regard, then, to the direct means that we ought to adopt for encouraging and effecting this augmentation, my opinion is, after the best, consideration I can give; the subject, that the best way would be 1o remove all competition with the recruiting service, and to put a stop to all great bounties, which were not only a great grievance, by obstructing the recruiting service, but encouraged desertion. This may be considered as a great admission on the part of Ministers, and as an acknowledgment of the justice of the reasoning which some gent, have always made use of. But I cannot consider the question in that point of view, I think the measures adopted by ministers last year were right, but the question is, whether these measures are necessary now? But, if I am right in my opinion, that this competition ought, to be stopped the next, question is, whence does this competition arise? It arose from the militia and from the army of reserve. With regard to the militia, the competition certainly was very great last year, because the whole militia was to be raised; but now the militia was very nearly complete, for there did not want to complete the English militia 5000 men, and the Irish was complete within 150. The 5000 mew necessary to complete the militia, will 1078 not, I am sure, be considered as forming any thing like a competition with the army in a country of such extent as this, and containing such a number of fighting men as we know by the official returns it contains; such a competition is hardly worth noticing. We then come to the army of reserve. Though I still maintain my opinion, that the army of reserve bills were salutary and useful, yet now as they have, in a great measure., had the effect which was expected from them, it becomes necessary to consider whether their operation should be any longer continued. The bill to which I allude passed on the 6'th of July last; on the 20th of Aug. there were raised under that bill 15,903 men; on the 24th of Sept. they amounted to 94,701; and in the month of Nov. last to 25,48.9 men. I will ask any man in this House to tell me, by what other means a similar body of men could have been raised in so short a time? The total number of men in G. Britain and Ireland, raised under the army of reserve bill, was men, of whom no less than 10,6'"lG had entered for general service into the regiments of the line. During the time these men were raising, I admit that the recruiting for the army has not increased; but, on the other hand, I contend it has not diminished, notwithstanding all this competition. I am also ready to admit, that for the last 2 or 3 months, the army of reserve has scarcely maintained itself; that is to say, the number of recruits have been fully balanced by the number of deserters; for I am sorry to say, that the practice of desertion has got to a very great pitch in the neighbourhood of the metropolis; and this has been very much increased by the very high bounties that have been given, and at the same time the practice of crimping has increased. In order to remedy these evils, I would propose, as the most effectual means to attain that object, not to repeal the army of reserve bills, but to suspend them for a limited time; and with regard to those counties which have not furnished their regular quota of men, I would propose that they should pay a pecuniary compensation according to the number of men they were deficient. This cannot be considered as unjust, because those counties are now subject to very heavy fines for not having completed their number of men. This is one of the measures which I mean to propose, and I think the army of reserve bills should be postponed in 1079 Ireland, as well as in G. Britain. If the House should think proper to adopt this proposition, it would have the immediate effect of destroying all competition, and consequently of reducing the great bounties. It would also, I think, put an end to the practice of crimping, and prevent desertion. With regard to the other means which I propose to adopt, it is now not necessary to enter into any detail upon the subject: by the plan I have proposed, the whole recruiting service will be thrown into the hands of the army, and in that case they will have an opportunity of regulating the bounties. With regard to bounties, it is the opinion of the most experienced officers I have conversed with, that these high Mollies are by no means essay; it is sufficient if they are liberal, but the great point is, that they should be fixed and certain; it is now proposed that they should not exceed 10 guineas. This certainly is a mere military question, and it is upon the opinion of the most experienced military men that I have conversed with, that I have formed my own. I think also, that some means should be taken to recruit the army of reserve out of those who are not fit for foreign service, or who do not choose to engage for it. With regard to the collateral means; the first is that which is recommended in the King's message; for by bringing over 10,000 of the Irish militia to tills country, it will enable us to set at liberty 10,000 of Our troops, and to render them disposable for foreign service. But in order to prevent any defalcation in the Irish establishment, I mean to propose that the Irish militia, which now only consists of 18,000 men, should be carried to the point at which they were last war, that is to say, 28,000 men. I should therefore propose, in the first instance, to move for an address to his Majesty, in the terms to Which I alluded in the commencement of my speech: I should then move for leave to bring in a bill, to enable his Majesty to accept this offer of service from the Irish militia; next, I should propose to bring in a bill for augmenting the Irish militia; and, lastly, I should propose to bring in a bill for suspending the army of reserve bill for one year. I am not aware that there is any thing more with which it is necessary for me to trouble the House, except only upon one point which I omitted to mention before, but which ought by no means to be lost sight of, I mean the 1080 state of the volunteer force. By the latest returns I have seen, after critical inspection, the number of men, effectual and present, was, of cavalry 27,000, artillery 4000, and infantry 300,000; these were not men upon paper, but effective and present. The cavalry were all, of course, completely armed, the infantry in all the maritime countries were also armed, as were the greater part of those in the interior counties. I think I can venture to say, that of the volunteer infantry 250,000 are completely armed, and, from the great exertions that are making, I am sure the remainder will in a very short time have their muskets; and, incase of any sudden emergency, they might be armed with pikes;, great numbers of which have been issued out. Whatever gents, may say of this volunteer force, I contend that a large proportion of them are as well disciplined as the militia were at the commencement of the last war; and it would be but candid, if gents, when they spoke of the volunteers, would recollect that they were in a very different state from that in which they were 5 or 6 months ago; but it has been the constant fashion to represent them as if they were no farther advanced in discipline than they were when they were first embodied. In addition to this force, there are 25,000 sea fencibles, who would, I have no doubt, prove themselves of the greatest service, if ever the enemy should make an attempt at invading this country with their boasted flotilla.—The right hon. gent, concluded with moving the address. The address having been read from the Chair,
rose and said—I do not rise, Sir, to trouble the House with any discussion at present; the subject is indeed well deserving the attention of the House; but the more proper period for discussing it will be when the different topics enlarged upon by the right hon. gent, to-night shall be brought forward in the shape of bills,. when I shall take an opportunity of delivering my sentiments more at large. To this address I concur in common with the. House, and all those who recollect with pleasure the cordiality and zeal of the militia of this country, who set to those of Ireland an example which has excited their emulation, and which they now, so much to their honour, imitate: this is a subject on which there can be no difference of opinion, but in which we must all feel equal delight, I do not think this an oc- 1081 casion on which it is necessary to enter at all into any discussion of the very interesting and important topics with which the right hon. gent, prefaced his motion for this address. I beg leave to say, that having expressed myself, in the course of the subject now under our discussion, dissatisfied, in many respects, as to the state of the military defence, and not being able to relieve my mind upon the whole of that subject, I must repeat that I retain the same sentiments still. I will, however, freely own, that I am, in many respects, satisfied with what I have heard to-night; I must, however, declare also, that whenever I have ventured to trouble the House upon this subject, I never differed from the right hon. gent, in one proposition which his speech to-night proved, namely, that as far as numbers go, there is no subject of blame to be attached any where; it has never been contested by me, that the numbers raised in the course of the present war are not abundantly sufficient to meet any view which any reasonable person can entertain of the necessity for our defence. How far, in the raising such numbers, merit is to be allowed to his Majesty's government—how much they have done to procure the proper means to improve such numbers, and render them efficient by discipline—how much encouragement has been held out to some descriptions of persons composing a part of those numbers—how far ministers have proceeded to give to the country the benefit it might have had in proportion to such numbers raised by active exertions and prudent policy, are questions which are not necessarily to be mixed in this debate. I shall not introduce any topics of that nature at present; whatever share govt. may have had in producing these numbers of men for the general defence of the country, the arduous, the zeal, and the energy of the country, is manifested more than even the numbers can convey; and this affords to us the best pledge for our security in the hour of attack, and consciousness of invincible strength in the hour of danger; a security, indeed, against any danger by which this country may be threatened, and an assurance of triumph very any difficulty with which we may have to contend. But there is another point which cannot be cured by zeal, and that is, whether the energy of the persons thus raised has been well directed? Whether they have been brought forward and 1082 improved in discipline, so as to render their natural force most serviceable, and made most available to the security of their country? That is a point involving matters which it may be extremely interesting and highly important to discuss hereafter at a convenient opportunity; but I will not introduce these topics into discussion, to embarrass the subject of the present day; I shall leave them to subsequent occasions, of which there will be many when the bills come before us: but while I say I feel some satisfaction from what I heard to-night from the right hon. gent., I mean that my satisfaction arises chiefly from the amount of our force called into activity for our service, and the zeal and energy which the country has manifested for that purpose. In no part of the country do I apprehend any deficiency in zeal and energy; and with the magnitude of our force, in a collective sense, I am satisfied.—On none of these points have I any anxiety; but on the subject of rightly improving such force by discipline, and rendering it more and more efficient for its purpose, have I day after day expressed my anxiety in this House; and this is the great point on which I wish the public may never have reason to regret that more has not been done early in the case. Upon that matter I only throw out this as a hint, for at present I shall say no more upon it; neither will I enter minutely into other matters at this moment. I would just observe in passing, that with respect to the militia, I am of opinion, care should be taken that it be not made use of in a way that may impede the progress of the regular army, or any other disciplined force; and unless I shall see Occasion to change my opinion, I shall have to state more at large my sentiments upon this subject hereafter, and to submit* that under the present circumstances of the country, it will be desirable, as vacancies shall occur, that they shall be filled up in a different mode than has been hitherto adopted: and if they are raised by ballot as formerly, yet that they shall soon be put in a state in which, when trained, they may be at liberty to enlist as much as they choose, as men do from the militia, and also from the army of reserve, into the regular service. I enter as strongly as the right hon. gent, himself can do into the propriety of preventing as much as possible the competition of the services, that of raisin" men for the militia and the 1083 army of reserve, interfering with the recruiting of the regular army. I enter also into the spirit, and feel the absolute necessity of a measure that may crush the abominable practice of crimping. I wish very much to see some measure adopted, to relieve the country from the great. Weight and pressure of those high and enormous bounties, which now have been too long given for men in the militia and the army of reserve, which has, in addition to this evil, another of considerable magnitude attached to it, that of temptation to desertion; but I doubt very much whether you will not prevent a great deal of progress in the service, if you do riot only allow persons from all services to enlist as they choose into the regular service, but also supply the vacancy in some manner like that which is now done in the army of reserve, and rendering that ii species of vehicle, by which to convey men who are trained and disciplined into the regular service. I throw this out as a. mere hint for consideration, before the progress of the army of reserve is suspended. The right hon. gent. has not entered into any derail of the mode by which he means to raise the men: if lie can raise as many new regiments and battalions as may be wanted, by direct recruiting at moderate bounties, without having the circumstance of undue grants in consequence of I shall be glad. If there be reasonable hopes of such a plan, I should wish it to be tried, and should most heartily wish it success. I do not say how fur it may or may not be advantageous to the country to adopt a total suspension of the army of reserve for a while; but I am strongly of opinion, that with a view to the successful augmentation of the army, and the keeping it up effectually in time of war, it must be done by some measure that has at least the effect of keeping down bounties, and that can never be accomplished until the present competition in the services shall have been abolished. I think, however, that you cannot have the mini with the same promptness, nor under the same discipline, without a measure somewhat partaking of the character of your army of reserve, and that will operate in different prirts of the counties more; directly than any other. Some regulations with regard to substitutes, and to confine the bounties within a moderate compass, will, I believe, be found more effectual than any 1084 other mode. I think, however, that to supply the army in this way, will be found a more effectual mode than that of the ordinary progress of recruiting for the army in the first instance; for I have been told by many men of experience, and I have found by my own, that men, as, indeed, it is natural we should expect, without experience, are more ready to enter into that species of service which is limited in extent and duration, which is the nature of the army of reserve, than into that of a general service, which has no limits of time or place. This we all experienced in the course of the last war iii the militia. We have already found in this war, that men have been ready to enter into the army of reserve, independent of the bounty, on account of the service being limited in point of time; and we have found, that when men come together, and after they have acquired military habits, they take inclinations from each other, and are tempted by a natural spirit of courage and emulation among their comrades, to extend their services, and upon which they manifest a desire of going into the regular army, and therefore, believe that as a matter of permanent policy, as well as that of a temporary purpose, or immediate effort, you will find it prudent, instead of giving up the system of the army of reserve, to retain something of its principle, and indeed I collected from the speech we have just heard, it was not the intention of the right hon. gent, to give it up altogether, but only to suspend the provisions of it for a while. I should rather think it better to shape the plan of the army of reserve differently from what it is at present, and to attach it afterwards, as much as you may, to the regular force, by uniting it, by means of moderate bounties, to the different battalions, as second regiments or battalions; for by this mode you will have all the advantages of local attachments, which men have, and the willingness they have to go together in almost every service: this will, in a considerable degree, be always the case where men are raised by districts, instead of being collected by a plan of general and indiscriminate recruiting; and the deficiency may be sup phed by fresh ballot. I do not know whether I have not branched out further than was necessary to express my perfect acquiescence in the present address, reserving, as I do, the perfect and entire freedom 1085 to speak on the different measures when I they come before the House; I have not stated these sentiments or opinions in opposition to the motion now before the House, but I thought it necessary to throw out these ideas, lest it should be supposed, by my silence, that I had altered my opinion in-some respects, in eon-sequence of my seeming to acquiesce in all that has been stated by the right hon. gent. On the contrary, from what I have faced now, I trust it appears to the House, that nothing which I have taken the liberty, on many former occasions, to recommend in our military system, has been in the least degree altered by any proposition which I have heard to-night.
§ Mr. Windham.
—Sir; as there will be a considerable interval between the present period, and the final discussion of the subject now before the House, I shall not be under the necessity of detaining the Mouse so long as I otherwise should, perhaps, feel it my ditty to do; but it is necessary for me to observe, that although the right hon. gent, has gone into the whole measure at once, on a general statement of the matter which he is hereafter to propose, which may therefore be hereafter discussed; yet those who feel like myself, must be anxious not to appear to assent to all he states, and therefore I shall say 41 few words on the subject of the message from his Majesty, and the address proposed by the right hon. gent. There cannot be the least hesitation to assent to the first, and, indeed, what may be called the formal part of the address to his Majesty, which returns thanks to his Majesty for his gracious communication; as little objection can there be made to the acknowledgment of the zeal of the militia of Ireland, or of the people of that country in the common cause; but it remains for me and for those who think with me to say, that we are not prepared to adopt measures to carry into execution any particular plan, until we have had an opportunity of considering what that plan is. The first and leading objection I have to accepting the present offer of the Irish militia is, an objection to the principle of the thing, that is, because by it. a body of men assembled for efficient military purposes, are to go beyond the terms of their original service. I do not say that no condition of things can do away this objection, because there may be a condition things which will do away all objections 1086 of whatever kind; but I say, that condition of things does not exist at this moment: and an objection it always will remain, let the condition of things be what it may; and the only question is, whether such a condition exists as to overrule that objection. I am of opinion, that in the present case, that condition has no such force at the present moment. I felt this objection strongly at the time the English militia made their offer to go to Ireland; and however useful, and perhaps decisive, that measure was upon the occasion to which it was applied, certainly that measure was not carried into effect without producing the inconveniences which I have alluded to, and which I took the liberty of stating at that time. I am confirmed, instead of being shaken, in the opinion I then entertained upon that subject; for, indeed, the taking such a service as this, although offered, is nothing more than that which may, in some degree, be called a departure from good faith: it is not a breach of good faith, but it is a sort of misprision of good faith; for although the leading part of such a service as this may be voluntary, and the offer spontaneous, yet, as to the remainder, it may be absolutely compulsory. If a part of a large military body make the offer, how is the remainder to refuse it? You do not seem to know the possible, nor seem very clearly to see the probable, consequences of such measures as these, for there are many evils attending them: one of these evils, besides the point which partakes of the nature of a breach of faith, is this; it has a very dangerous effect upon military discipline, especially upon such a force as that of a militia force; and, to illustrate this, I should like to ask gent, who went to Ireland with our militia, what passed as they were going there with their regiments; whether they did not hear some things that were utterly subversive of discipline? I would ask, whether the acceptance of such a service is not a species of suspension of discipline? Tutting yourself into a situation to ask a favour of a military body of men (for a favour this is) cannot be said to be free from danger. It may be said, that this is only renewing what I formerly said: that may be true, and yet the observation may not have lost its force because it happens to have been an old one, and the object may be as good now as if it had never been before made; besides, I do 1087 not see that Ireland is less in danger than G. Britain. When you say you let loose a part of your disposeable force in this country, that is to say, that you have so far a power to employ as you please, the regular force which you could not otherwise detach, you must remember, that precisely to the same amount you must make fast your force in Ireland. I have by these measures pretty good testimony of the propriety of the opinions I have formerly given on these points. This asking favour where you ought only to command, this begging of them will have a bad effect; it will introduce among our military bodies a species of saturnalia which may be extremely dangerous; for which reasons, although I agree in the first part of the address, as I have stated already, yet I dissent from the latter part of it. I would really say no more for the present purpose, than that we should take the matter into our consideration, for I think we ought to reserve to ourselves the mode in which we shall proceed, at least until we have had some time to deliberate upon it, for we should not consider the question as a mere transfer of force from the one country to the other; but this question involves a consideration of increasing the militia force of Ireland, a force which is not raised, as in this country, by ballot; and this goes, like many other measures to which I and some others have been constantly objecting, to the prejudice of increasing the regular army, and in that view it is particularly objectionable to me. Many of the propositions of the right hon. gent, to-night I cannot oppose, without giving up a great number of opinions I have delivered on various former occasions in his House, and in which opinions I have been every day more and more convinced, as the subjects have been presented to my mind; Such as that of the propriety of putting an end to the competition of the services by which bounties have been increased; the taking the matter of recruiting entirely into the hands of govt., instead of leaving individuals to 'vie with each other, and creating an expense so enormous and so burthensome. These and some other points stated to-night by the right hon. gent, are what I have stated several times, and a great while ago in this House. These, it seems, are now to be adopted, though then it seemed they were not mature, and were therefore rejected. It 1088 seems as if reason to his Majesty's ministers was like fruit, not fit to eat in less than twelve mouths, for it is now that distance, of time since they were offered; but at last they have been thought fit for the table of the right hon. gent, and so they have been to-night accordingly served up. Upon one point I would ask for information, whether the new regiments are to be raised by recurring to the old and ruinous system of recruiting for rank, and if so, whether ministers can hope for any power of legislation in such a case that will prevent a competition which must be most injurious in its effects? As to the point of the duration of the service in the regular army, I do not blame the right hon. gent, for not alluding to it sooner, for he had no measure that had a bearing upon it sooner: upon that subject I retain the opinion I have often delivered in this House. In a word, I agree with the right hon. gent, as to the propriety of reducing the enormous bounties we have so long heard of, and they cannot be reduced without taking away the competition which has produced them. I agree with the right hon. gent, also in the propriety of govt. taking the whole of the recruiting system into its own hands. I agree too, that the first part of the address ought to be voted, namely, thanks to his Majesty for his gracious communication, and an acknowledgment of the zeal of the people of Ireland: but there I think the address ought to stop for the present. I am not, without much further consideration, prepared to say yes to the remainder of the address, which will tie down this House to every thing but the mere detail of a system, the principles of which I do not approve, and for the consideration of which this House has not had time enough, and, therefore, I shall move, by way of amendment to this address, to leave out all the latter part of it, for the purpose of inserting the words, "and that we shall take the same into our most serious consideration,"—The question being put,
said, he should follow the example of the right hon. gent, who had just sat down, by not entering into the general statement that had been so ably made by his right hon. friend. The general principle upon which that statement rested, was so intimately connected with the address, that one could not support one part without approving of the whole. The objections of the right hon. 1089 gent, to the proposed measure, rested principally on two grounds, 1st, with respect to the description of force to be brought to this country, namely, Irish militia; next with respect to the discretionary power to be granted to his Majesty of augmenting the Irish militia. The measure for employing 10,000 Irish militia in this country, if not complied with, the power of augmenting the militia would certainly be liable to objection. The Irish militia, in their present offers, were but discharging the debt of gratitude which they owed to this country, though the circumstances of the danger of G. Britain were certainly not such as to call for these offers of service on the part of the Irish militia. The principle on which his right hon. friend proposed, not to augment the militia beyond a certain number, was because, from certain considerations, it had not been deemed expedient to increase that description of force beyond a certain proportion to the regular force of the country, which at the present, including cavalry, amounted to 350,000. The manner of making the augmentation was exactly similar to what had been adopted last war, by adding 30 men to each company, which might be trained by the officers and non-commissioned officers without additional expense. Another argument for augmenting the Irish militia would not apply to the English, because from the manner of raising the men there by bounties of 4 guineas each, it would not interrupt the regular recruiting; whereas the high price of substitutes in England, amounting in some counties to 301. and 401. would. The noble Lord did not think that we should yet abdicate any description of force, but rather put them all in the most respectable situation. And with a view to the best means of recruiting the army, he did not think that in 12 months the regular forces would be more than would be necessary for defence and offensive operations. His right hon. friend had proposed two modes of adding to the regular forces: 1st, by liberating a portion of the disposable force equal to the number of Irish militia to be employed liege, and by augmenting the Irish militia. The right hon. gent, had observed, that a case of strong necessity only could justify the measure; but he contended that the policy of adopting it constituted the necessity. As to the expression of satisfaction which the right hon. gent, had used at 1090 finding his right hon. friend come round to his opinions at last, he should only say, that he felt great satisfaction himself that he had been so slow in adopting them; because if they had been adopted at the period first stated, we could not now have, the same commanding force which we at present possessed, nor the same adequate means of defence which the military measures that had been pursued supplied us with. No gen., could look back, to the progress and consequences of these measures, and say that he could play the game better. If the right hon. gent, had looked at the statement, he would have found, that in the short space of 4 or 5 months, there had been obtained from the army of reserve, for the regular army, 10,300 men; by the ordinary recruiting in the last year 9,000; and for the artillery 4,000; making in the whole the number who had enlisted for general service in the last year, 23,900. The noble Lord then stated the number who had been recruited for the regular army in the year between the 1st of Jan. 1801, and Jan. 1802, to be 15,400; in the following year, to Jam 1803, 8,900; and in the year ending Jan 1804, 9,622; little inferior to the number raised in the last year of last war, though the bounties had been then as high as 15l. per man, and exceeding the number obtained during the year of peace.
expressed a hope, that the right hon. gent, would withdraw his amendment, as it would be understood, that by suffering the address to be voted, he should not be precluded from giving every opposition he might feel it his duty to make, to any measure which might appear to trench upon the fundamental principles of the constitution of the militia forces.
§ Dr. Laurence,
from what had fallen from the hon. member who had just sat down, was inclined to conclude that there were two questions to be considered as to the address and amendment, and that by voting for the address, gent, would be considered as pledged to the subsequent measures, The noble Lord might possibly, from his acquaintance with the state of Ireland, be capable of forming an opinion whether 10,000 men could be spared well at this time; but, for his own part, unless a case of strong necessity should be made out, he should not accede to such a measure. In 1798, when the English militia volunteered their services to Ireland, there was a rebellion raging there, which left 1091 the House no alternative. In the present I instance, when boasting of our 400,000 volunteers, and our other military strength, he thought there was no great necessity for going to beg 10,000 men in Ireland. If any gent, were to ask, in what part of the empire 10,000 men were most wanting, he would be answered, in Ireland.—Whence were these 10,000 men to be taken? From Ireland! Ministers had been in the habit of staling in that House, that the attempt at invasion would be made in a few weeks; but every man who was in the smallest degree a statesman, must know, that no attempt would be made from Boulogne, until the enemy could find themselves in a state to make their grand attack, on which they most, relied, on Ireland; and from Brest, in which harbour they had collected an immense quantity of stores during the peace, and made indefatigable, exertions to put their navy on a respectable footing since the commencement of the war. He could not see on what principle the disciplined troops were to be removed from a country, the object of the avowed designs of the enemy, for the purpose, of leaving its defence to raw levies. The learned member here re-urged the arguments of his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham), and contended, that if more men were to be raised, they should be called fenceless, not militia, as they should be enlisted by bounties. He next adverted to the assertion of the noble Lord, that the militia might be carried too far, if extended beyond a certain proportion in respect to the regular force in the country, and commented with much point and ability on the measures that had been pursued during the last year. He insisted, that all the advantage derived from the army of re serve it supplying the regular army, was derived from the advice and opinions of his right hon. friend. He accused ministers of committing and recommitting, and altering again, and again their measures so often, that at last they did not know their own works, and afterwards taking to themselves the merit of every thing that was found in every legislative regulation, although almost every thing valuable of that sort, since the commencement of their administration, was the suggestion of some one or other who bad no connection with them, generally one of their direct opponents. He was decidedly in favour of the amendment.
The Hon. C. H. Hutchinson
declared, 1092 that the address had his most hearty "approbation, as far as it went with respect to the Irish militia, but he was sorry to sea the word "several" in the resolution, when he was certain, that the "unanimous" determination of the Irish militia might be depended on, if their services were required. However their intentions were laudable and generous on their part, to assist the crown in any part of the empire, and to make a return for the liberal assistance which had been afforded to their country at a former period, would any military man say that it was consistent with sound policy to withdraw disciplined troops from a country which was particularly and avowedly threatened with an immediate attack, and to place in their stead the same number of raw, undisciplined troops, which might require 2 years before they would arrive to an equal state of perfection? Was it wise, or was it just or politic, he would ask any gent., when a country was threatened with immediate invasion, to withdraw 10,000 of as line peasantry as any in the world, from its native resources of defence, and to withdraw along with them the gent of the first respectability in wealth or influence within that country, from the assistance which they could otherwise afford it by their wisdom, their power, and their connexions? If England were situated as Ireland now is, would the country gent, of England think it reasonable? He knew that his Majesty's ministers did not possess the power to enforce the extension of the services of a militia force, but he implored the country gent, to consider whether it would not be better to recommend a change of the militia of the two countries, than to leave 10,000 recruits to be raised in the place of an equal number of well-disciplined troops, which were to be withdrawn from its defence. He had often recommended to his Majesty's ministers to inquire into the state of Ireland; but unfortunately for that country, and to the disgrace of the ministers, they had never thought fit to inquire into the business. He was convinced, however, that, if a number of the enlightened part of this country, the superior officers of the militia, were to go over to Ireland during a time of such peril as the present, and were to see the struggles that would be made by the great majority of that people in the defence of their king and of their constitution, they would, nay, they must, consistent with their own good sense, come back when the contest was 1093 over with a thorough conviction on their minds that those people deserved better treatment than they had hitherto received from the servants of that crown for which they were ready to face any foe, however formidable or however specious might be his pretences.—He would not consider himself hound to the support of any future measure that might be brought forward by the bill; but, inasmuch as the address expressed an approbation of the loyal and gallant offers which had been made, he would for the present give his vote in support of it, but would at a future period declare his sentiments freely with respect to any provision which might tend to weaken the native defence of the country in a moment so important as the present.
thought this a matter of very serious moment, which deserved the most mature consideration, and, therefore, he should be inclined to vote for delay. The House, by this address, would, he thought, be in some measure pledged to reciprocal services; and this was a question of such magnitude, that some time ought to be allowed to consider it properly. He thought it highly dangerous to draw troops from Ireland at the present moment, as that country was in greater danger than this country was. He was of opinion, that nothing could be gained by hurrying the measure, as the bill could only be read a first time before the recess. He had opposed the sending of our militia to Ireland in I? OS, but he could not help being a little surprised that the right hon. gent, who was so eager for the measure then, should now oppose one which was founded on the same same principle. It would certainly, however, be necessary to give forces of some sort in place of these 10,000 men, and he saw no description of force that could so well answer the purpose, as those very men that were to be taken away. He would therefore vote for the amendment.
§ Mr. Windham
explained, by observing that he had never been very eager on the subject, and if he had, it would not have been inconsistent with his present conduct, as the times were materially different.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
opposed the amendment; and in answer to what had fallen from a right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham), in asserting that he was not an eager and warm supporter of the measure in the last war, for enabling his Majesty to accept the offers of several regiments of the Eritish militia to serve in Ireland; and 1094 that, so far from eagerly supporting that measure, he had said nothing on the occasion; he could not but exceedingly regret that the right hon. gent, had on that occasion, sat silent, instead of speaking those objections to the constitutionality of the measure which he had offered this night. His very silence on the former occasion was a proof of his approbation of it then; for if he entertained those opinions on the former occasion, which he had expressed on the present, then had he acted very inconsistently with his duty as a member of parliament; and after being silent upon the first introduction of such a measure, it ill became him to express those objections now. But, whatever disposition the House might feel to indulge the right hon. gent, with a delay of this measure, it should not be forgotten that a prompt respect was due to the gallant and patriotic ardour of the Irish militia; for what must they think, on being told that the services which they so gallantly offered could not be accepted without a breach of faith with them? His hon. friend who had last sat down who opposed the measure, did not seem to observe, that in approving the ardour of the Irish militia on this occasion, and promising to take into their consideration his Majesty's recommendation, the wording of the proposed address was extremely guarded, and only proposed to enable his Majesty to a certain limited extent to accept their services; but surely it was not fitting that, during the whole period of the approaching recess, those gallant militia regiments, and the govt. of Ireland, through whom their offer came, should remain in suspense and uncertainty on this subject, and be left in doubt whether or not the parliament would enable his Majesty to accept their loyal and spirited offer.—As to the idea that there could be any intention suddenly to strip Ireland of 10,000 men, nothing could be more erroneous. The object winch govt. had in view was that so often desired by those gent, who now opposed this measure; namely, to set at liberty a dispose able force of 10,000 men for of delusive operations. It was not intended suddenly to withdraw the whole of the 10,000 from that country; but 5000 brought hither, would set at liberty as many troops of the line from the establishment of this country, and those might be replaced by 3000 of another species of force to Ireland, winch would set at liberty 5000 troops of the line there 1095 too. But it was by no means the intention to diminish the strength of Ireland. It had been objected, that the measure of increasing the Irish militia to the establishment of last war, by the addition of 30 men per company, would be a measure of slow progress, but he had the best authority for thinking it was one that would be effected with the utmost expedition; that it was the most economical as well as the most rapid mode of increasing the public force in Ireland, and the speediest for effecting the discipline of such an additional force. No time was to be lost; much certainly would be lost by the delay proposed. The most general opportunity should be given to the Irish militia regiments, on this occasion, to manifest their Real and display their loyalty. He understood vast numbers were ready to come forward with their services, and only-awaited the sanction of parliament, a sanction which ought, not to be withheld for a moment, and therefore he gave his vote for the original address.
§ Mr. Windham
again explained, by observing that the reason was not now so powerful for accepting the services of the Irish militia as it was formerly for sending the English militia to Ireland.
§ Sir John Newport
expressed his exultation that the loyalty and affection of the great body of the people of Ireland stood vindicated in the estimation of his Majesty's ministers. Such was what he inferred from the declarations of one of them, and in which sentiment he trusted they all agreed; the loyal and patriotic offers of the militia, who he believed to a man would cheerfully volunteer their services, was a striking proof, to a very great extent, of the truth with which he wished to impress the House. The charge of disaffection against the great bulk of the Irish people, was most groundlessly made. He trusted they would all in the hour of danger, whatever may be the differences in their religious tenets, stand forth and defend the crown and constitution of the united realm against all attacks whatever. There were certainly some few among the very lowest orders of the people, who, bound by no ties, or influenced by no just principle, were prone to wish for changes in the govt. in the hopes of being able to gratify their own unruly passions and propensities, and so far may be held as disaffected and such there were in Ireland in common with other countries; but with 1096 respect to the great body of the people, ha repeated, his Majesty had not more true, firm, or loyal subjects in all the empire than those of Ireland.
§ Colonel Calcraft
begged leave to offer a few observations upon the subject before the House. If he understood the nature of the case rightly, there was no necessity whatever for the hasty decision passed by his Majesty's ministers. He was informed by an officer of great respectability, that the Irish govt. had offers of service from some of the militia regiments so long since as 4 months: if this was the fact, the consideration of the subject surely would admit a suspension of half a dozen days, to allow parliament time to deliberate on the principle of so great importance as that involved in the address. He defended his right hon. friend, so he hoped he might call him, from the charge of inconsistency in the opinions delivered by him. The state of Ireland at the time alluded to should be considered. A rebellion raged in the heart of the country, and we could spare no other force to resist or to suppress it then, but our militia: he had some opportunities of knowing the state of the popular mind in Ireland, and he was not quite so sanguine as to the extinction of disaffection therein as some gent, seemed to be; and much still remained to be done, before that spirit was obliterated. There were other objections which he entertained to a hasty decision upon the subject. He recollected on a former occasion, the total want of discipline that prevailed, while the sentiments of the militia corps were ascertaining upon the point of extension of service; and he trusted, he should never again have occasion to go round canvassing his men on such a subject.
made a few general observations upon the subject in support of the arguments advanced by his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham). He would put it to ministers, whether, if similar offers were made on the part of the militia of England, they were prepared to say, they would not propose measures for carrying such into effect? He expatiated on the importance of the subject, which, it would appear, in the way it seemed to be treated, they were brought to discuss by stealth.
§ Mr. Archdall
expressed his hope, that neither ministers nor the House would allow a question of such importance as the present to be treated of by stealth. On the contrary, he hoped it would fully and 1097 clearly meet the unanimous approbation of parliament. The eulogium of the hon. Bart, on the loyalty of the bulk of the people of Ireland, was unnecessary? Whoever doubted it? It was said that the militia service had received a blow; with respect to that of Ireland, he knew not what blow it received, but he well knew what blows it gave—it gave rebellion in that country a mortal blow, they gave repeated blows to their enemy,—and he was confident they would do so again, whenever the opportunity was afforded them.
§ The Speaker,
who said, he believed the noble Lord had misconceived the nature of the amendment. He then stated the question and the amendment by which it was proposed to leave out the latter part of the address.
§ Lord De Blaquiere.
then resumed, and observed, he conceived himself at first perfectly in order, as his intention was to express his approbation of the address, as he deemed it highly proper at so critical a period to accept the services which had been tendered with so much loyalty; he was surprised that any hesitation should exist for a moment to accept the proffered services of so large a body of loyal men in arms. With respect to an equal offer of service on the part of the English militia, he well knew the beneficial tendency of such a proceeding. He recollected their signal services to the empire at large while employed in Ireland. To their exertions the salvation of that country was owing. Were it not that the regiments of Lord Buckingham and the Duke of Rutland landed so opportunely as they did, that country would no longer have appertained to Britain. He hoped the English militia would voluntarily come forward and extend their services to Ireland. But reprobated the idea of this being done in the way of stipulation. Was the ardour of either militia clogged in such a way, it would be injurious to both countries, and an insult to one. He thought the militia of Ireland could render the greatest service to the empire at large, when employed out of Ireland, problematical as this may appear. He felt it to be the case. He felt how it must operate, when a father and two or three of his sons were, perhaps, fighting against the rest of his family. He Was aware of the effect of religious preju- 1098 dices, which he lamented did yet unavoidably exist. In short, he was convinced those men would be more advantageously employed any where than at their own thresholds.
made a few observations in support of what had fallen front gentlemen on his side of the House. He particularly touched upon the fact alluded to by Mr. Calcraft, that some of the offers of service were made four months ago, which he considered as an argument in favour of postponing the discussion; and be took occasion to deprecate the practice of suffering military bodies to deliberate.—The question was loudly called for, and the gallery was cleared preparatory to a division. No such proceeding, however took place. The address was carried as originally proposed.