§ Mr. Sheridan
rose, and spoke nearly to the following effect:—I rise, sir, in pursuance of the notice I gave, on a former day, to submit to the house a motion for the repeal of a bill, passed last session of parliament, intituled, "an act for the additional defence of the kingdom, &c." I choose to give the whole of the title of this bill, rather than to be studious of brevity, though it might certainly give me an opportunity of complimenting the feelings of the right hon. gent. by describing it in its usual appellation, as Mr. Pitt's parish defence bill. When I gave my notice of this motion, I could not help observing, that it appeared to excite some surprise on the part of some gentlemen opposite; a surprise not unmixed with marks of disapprobation of a nature not the most orderly. I have been endeavouring to account for these symptoms of surprise and disapprobation. Did the hon. gentlemen 724 conceive that my notice arose merely from the thought of the moment; from being piqued at the right hon. gent's silence; from the loss of a debate on the occasion of the motion of my right hon. friend on this side of the house (Mr. Windham)? Did they imagine that we considered the speech of my right hon. friend, al speech in which so full, so able, and so luminous a view of the subject was taken, was so feebly sustained, and so ably and completely answered by a right hon. friend of mine on the opposite bench (Mr. Canning), that we wished for a little time to rally and get breath before we renewed the attack? Or did those hon. gentlemen conceive it to be extremely disrespectful to the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer, who appeared to be so reluctant and so bashful when an attempt was made to bring him to take a part in a discussion, that I should strive to force him into another opportunity of a similar kind? I do pot doubt, sir, that it must have been most unpleasant to those gentlemen to have seen their right hon. friend wincing and writhing under the masterly and unanswerable speech of my right hon. friend. Yet, though they may think it uncourteous in us to force him to an explanation, we prefer adopting that course which we think right, without regarding the feelings of the right hon. gent. It may perhaps be considered superfluous to add any thing upon a subject which has been so ably handled by my right hon. friend. That nothing more can be said upon it than he has said I am perfectly aware. I do confess that the whole I have to say has been anticipated by him. The whole of the details were gone through by him in so masterly a manner, that but little more can be added. But if, in the course of that speech of my right hon. friend, which invited the house to a general review of the military state of the country, he clearly shewed that this statute, on which it was founded, was a scandalous statute, and a disgrace to your statute book, it was natural that some person should move to repeal it. If the causes to which I have referred were not the inducements to that surprise and disapprobation which were exhibited on a former, day, I can suggest but one more cause. Perhaps it excited some degree of surprise, that I should be the person to move for the repeal of an act that professed to have been passed for the defence of the country. It has been very much the fashion to say, 725 when you oppose any of the measures of government, that you are damping the spirit of the country, that you are holding out hopes and allurements to the enemy. Sir, if I thought that, in any one instance, the motion I have to submit could in the smallest degree distress the country; that it could in any view discourage the heart, and feelings, and energy of those who defend the country; that it could throw the slightest ignominy or slur on those whose duty it is to collect the materials for the defence of the country, I would be one of the last men in the world to bring forward such a motion. How my motion will be treated. I am wholly at a loss to conjecture. The right hon. gent. opposite me thought fit on a former night to preserve a regular, persevering, and dignified silence. The duty of answering the right hon. mover was performed by a right hon. friend, (Mr. Canning) for whom I really entertain a very great respect. I speak seriously. I am to conclude that he was very well contented with his own speech. If he was contented with it, all I can say is, that he is a gentleman who is very easily contented. Certainly, out of doors, it has been said that the speech of my right hon. friend was a complete answer to the motion; but, whatever may have been said or thought out of doors, I am sure it was not thought so by any one member within doors, and least of all by my right hon. friend himself. I profess the highest admiration of his talents, but I declare I never saw him so labour and flounder upon any subject before. He seemed to be struggling against wind and tide, clapping up a bit of sail to catch every little puff of applause from behind him; and sometimes compelled to take to his sweeps. He was obliged to make his speech noisy, because he knew he could not make it convincing, and he uniformly raised his voice in proportion as he dropped his argument; No man, I am sure, felt the disadvantage of the cause he was labouring more than he did himself: It was a speech of the Catamaran species, plenty of noise and little mischief; I mean mischief to those it was intended to annoy, but what damage it may have done to those it was intended to support, is more than I can pretend to say.—Having endeavoured so far to stand' right with the house in the view I have taken of the state of the last debate, am I to be considered presumptous in following Up the motion 726 of my right hon. friend, by another motion to repeal the defence act, in which it is my intention chiefly to confine myself to the military part of it, and to the object I wish to press upon the house, of shewing the inefficiency of the measure, and the absolute necessity of repealing it altogether. If any persons expect any sport or diversion from any difference of sentiment or contradiction between me and other gentlemen who may side with me to-night, they will, I believe, be disappointed. In truth, the difference between me and those gentlemen is by no means so wide as has been represented on this subject. Where I differ from them, I am, not disposed to conceal my opinions; I shall ever be ready to state them openly and frankly. I have thought, and I do still think, most highly of the institution of the volunteer system. I think that system has been most useful and admirable. I am convinced, from authorities which I cannot for a moment dispute, that it has had a very powerful effect on the minds of our avowed and inveterate enemy. I believe that its success in this country struck a considerable panic into the mind of our enemy. What the conviction of the new emperor of France, what the opinion of Bonaparte may be, I cannot exactly tell, but I am sure it must have had some effect upon him. I am convinced that nothing more strongly impressed his minister for foreign affairs, Talleyrand, and the people of any consideration in general in France, than that this banking, luxurious, mercantile people, were not contented with lolling on the couch of indolence, and trusting to others to fight their battles; that they were not contented with putting their hands in their pockets, in order to raise an army of mercenaries to protect them, but that they trusted to themselves, and their own energy and spirit; that whether they had skill or not, they had the courage and the disposition to defend the country. If you call on government to have an army, be it of what amount it may, your enemy knows its full extent, and the means of meeting that army may be matte the subject of calculation; but when a nation has shewn such a spirit as this has, no enemy can calculate what it may produce. No one can say where the exertions of a nation will stop, when roused into action by an honourable determination and will to defend to the last every thing that is dear and valu 727 able.—While, sir, I thus admire the noble institution of the volunteer system, I must also own that I am not a friend to any very material diminution of the militia force. I am sure that the principle of that force is a sound one, and I know that it is popular among all ranks. It is one to which the opinions, and feelings, and habits of the people, have been long accustomed, I do not see that there is any very serious evil in having a force consisting of some variety of descriptions. I must own that I dislike putting our trust altogether in an army raised on the principle of hire. No country of which history speaks has ever maintained long her honour, her prosperity, and her liberty, by trusting merely to an army consisting wholly of hired soldiers.—Still, however, I expect to be told, Chat by bringing forward such a motion as this, I am degrading the country. But I say, I am only shewing the failure of a boasted experiment. I say, it has completely failed. What was the promise of the right hon. gent.? 'What my predecessors could not do, I will perform. They were unworthy of being trusted. Give me your perfect confidence.' They must be hurled from their places as persons of imbecility and total inability, though they had seen in their time some accession to the national force. They saw almost a million and a half of men in arms, they saw the country half-martial throughout its population; yet so wretched and imbecile and insignificant were they, that they could not, in the estimation of the right hon gent, go on any longer. 'Let me come,' says the right hon. gent. 'Clear away all the rubbish. I will come, and set every thing to rights.' Well, sir, I comes: and when I comes, what does I do? Why I does nothing half so good, nor half so vigorous, as the much-abused and stupid ministers that were turned out to make way for him. Why, now sir, I wish to expose to the country the nature of the imposture. Has not the country been imposed upon? Is not the effect of this defence bill a proof of the imposition practised upon it? Are these new ministers worthy of the places they have contrived to push themselves into by the changes that have been made? But then they all cry out, 'O! it is dangerous and shocking to tell the country that, the bill has failed! It may damp public spirit and depress the national energies. Let us conceal it, let us keep it quiet, let us keep it snug amongst ourselves!' To say that they who dispossessed another 728 set of ministers of their places for alledged incapacity, and brought in a bill on which to found their claims to pre-eminence, had found their bill ineffectual, and even worse on the. comparison; to say that the great man's measure has failed, and that a bill to raise men has been converted into a mere bill to raise money by the most objectionable means, has been converted into a most odious tax bill; why that, it seems, would be to dispirit and destroy the patriotism and energy of the nation, it would ruin the necessary confidence in the government of the country. The country has often heard of flourishing statements of the numbers of the regular army to a great amount, though it has turned out to be only a statement on paper; but the delusion in the present instance will not do. Any, attempt to make it succeed, must be as absurd and stupid as the bill itself. It is not a measure in which the people are only to judge of a matter in which they are not the actors. No, sir, all the people know what is going on; they are behind, the scenes; they are under the apron of this famous puppet-shew. Every one of them has something to do in the business. They have to pull the wires and the strings of the machine. You won't make them believe they have raised men, when they know they have raised none. There seems to be three simple points on which this question turns. First, has this bill failed or not? Secondly, if it has failed, is it likely, by continuing in operation, to atone for its failure by future success? And, thirdly, is the experiment itself mischievous and dangerous? Here the house will not fail to recollect, that this was a measure recommended to us, not as a flow and progressively operating scheme, which, in process of time, should improve the military force of the country, and perfect the means of-raising a regular army. No, sir, it was a scheme pressed upon the house, at a time when its great author spoke of nothing but of counting, not months and weeks, but days and hours, whenever the necessities and the dangers of the country were to be considered. It was a plan by which a quick and unprecedented addition of force was to be made far army, far exceeding any thing that our the silly, weak administration were capable of effecting. It was to give us, and to give at speedily, the means; of resisting, all foreign efforts, and of enabling us to repel that torrent of liquid fire about to be 729 poured out on this nation, and to retort upon the proud and daring invader, all the horrors with which, in the intoxication of his insolence, he had dared to menace us.—It has been said by some persons, that my right hon. friend, who introduced this subject this session, treated it with considerable levity, and that from the abundance of his merriment, it is not possible to believe that he was really serious in his representation of the very deficient state of the military measures pursued by the present ministers. There are Some things, sir, that are of such a description as must infallibly awaken the sense of ridicule; 'Ridiculum acri quid vetat.' When, after being listened to attentively, and the means afforded him unsparingly, the boaster fails egregiously in every one of his grand and vaunted projects, the sense of ridicule is irresistibly excited. What did he promise? Was it a mere measure of finance? No such thing! It was a measure for the raising of men for military service. The only hope of service that any man can expect from the bill, is quite different from the object held out to the house and the country at the introduction and passing of it. If you were to contract for a certain number of excellent horses to mount a corps of light artillery upon, and your contractor brought, instead of them, an equal number of stout, orderly, well-behaved oxen, could you mount your light artillery upon them, or would you think he had performed his promise, and complied with the terms or the spirit of his contract? In order to try whether the right hon. gent. has failed or not in his lofty and extensive promises to the house, it is necessary to touch but lightly on mere matters of figures, Since the particulars have been already so ably detailed to you, and commented upon. On this point your attention ought to be directed to the general statements of your military force. And here it strikes one, at the very outset, that it is asserted by some gentlemen, that even a failure on the part of the present administration in their performances, is very different from a failure on the part of the late ministers. It is nothing like so bad and so dangerous, because, say they, our force is upon the whole so considerably increased; and the right hon. gent, himself seemed, when the subject was first mentioned, to pant after the time when he might have the opportunity of shewing it. My right hon. friend 730 opposite (Mr. Canning) says, that our navy has been augmented by the number of no less than 50 ships of war. Sir, I deny it. We have not one more effective ship of war, nor an atom more of actual efficient naval force, than we had under the last naval administration. But it would appear that there is something so very peculiar in the composition of the present administration, as to challenge and to command such an especial and unbounded degree of confidence, that no man shall presume to say that any thing in the shape of enquiry is at all necessary. On the subject of their superior claims to the confidence of this house and the public, I shall say a little more by and bye. I must, however observe, that the change, as it respects a claim for confidence, has, indeed, altered circumstances, but has altered them very much for the worse. I shall now shew from a short review of the returns on the table, what the exertions of the right hon. gent. have produced for the army, and how the country has reason to feel from the change which placed the right hon. gent. in power.
From the documents altogether, there results an augmentation of the whole body of the army of only 11,000 men, making the whole difference between the returns of force of the two years, and consequently the sum of the efforts of the present administration. But you are to consider, that of the increase, 7000 men are in the 731 foreign corps, and 4000 in the cavalry. We find, however, that in the British infantry, there is a deficiency of 856 men. Surely the Ceylon, troops are not in fairness to be reckoned. Indeed, augmentation in that quarter cannot justly be taken into the account for ministers, since, with the increase of distant territories, it becomes a matter of necessity to increase the troops. To call this an actual extension of your disposable force, is a downright fallacy. But what we do find, sir, is this; that there is a positive decrease in that particular branch of the military force, which it was the peculiar and boasted object of this bill to increase. To what was this bill particularly to apply? Was it to the raising of troops at Ceylon? Was it to Black Corps? Was it to an addition of German Legions? No! it was to augment greatly the numbers of the British infantry. Has it done so? Has it produced the promised and desired augmentation? No! And if there be any increase upon the whole, it is not the right hon. gent but it is his predecessor, who has the right to claim the merit. It is he who was at the head of that "wretched, incapable, nauseous, milk-and-water administration," with whose laurels the right hon. gent, attempts to adorn himself. I must therefore say, that gentlemen should be inclined to retract those severe and taunting expressions against the late administration, on a comparison of their merits with those of the present ministers. I know it was said, that let those ministers go when they would, worse could not follow. Some others, as well as myself, were of a different opinion. We thought that worse could follow, and we think now that worse have followed them. We may now presume to think, that we were then in the right. We said, infinitely worse may succeed them, who will perform their promises much worse, And keep far less good faith with this house and with the country. By what means have they raised the increase of 4000 horse, but by the raising of men for rank? Did the present ministers introduce that? No! And the same remark holds good as to the foreign corps. Whatever merit, therefore, is ascribable to any person for the augmentation of our military force, is not at all owing to the right hon. gent. or his boasted bill, but it is owing to the noble lord now at the head of his majesty's councils. Perhaps I have made a mistake. I mean the noble lord, now president of the 732 council. I don't know whether he is at the head of his majesty's councils or not; that might be a mistake; I don't enquire into that matter. It is not now of material consequence, whether he is so, or is not. But I do say, that if any thing has been done to enable the right hon. gent. to make any grand exploit, any attack on the enemy's possessions, the merit is not due to him, but to lord Sidmouth.—Whatever returns may appear from the right hon. gent's. own bill, they can have no effect. But it is most ludicrously clear that his bill has failed, completely failed! And sir, what does appear? Why, it appears that the 52 counties of England and Wales have jointly, under the operation of this formidable additional force act, produced 1,295 men; that out of this number there have deserted, or have been discharged, 266 men, leaving 1,079 effective soldiers; and it further appears, that out of this number raised throughout all England, by the most extraordinary means; by all those grand efforts, of which we have heard so much; by local influence and attachments; by sympathetic feelings, and a thousand other operations, assisted and enforced by justices and churchwardens, and all descriptions of parish officers, I suppose not less than 40,000 men altogether, there have been procured no more than 342 men to enter for general service; that is to say, the right hon. gent. has, with all his machinery, been enabled to raise after the rate of four men and a quarter for each county in Englandœ In Scotland, it seems, 267 men have been procured, out of which 43 have gone for general service. In Ireland, where the parish officers alone have done this business, they have got 1081; but there, sir, the zeal has stopped. I do not find that one of these has entered for general service. It does appear, from a particular examination of the whole matter, upon abundant proof, that the parish officers are much worse agents, with all the local and sympathetic engines, for raising men for the army, than the regimental recruiters. It appears that they have not been so solicitous to give the king a good soldier, as they have been to get rid of a vagrant. Hence, in Lancashire there have been 255 deficient by desertion or otherwise. Where the right hon. gentleman's own influence was particularly directed, 11 men were procured, all of whom deserted, and in that particular district where his 733 own authority and popularity are so abounded, where all the people admire him as a general, as much as they venerate him as a politician and a statesman, I mean the Cinque-ports, the spot of his own residence, he has contrived so far to stimulate martial policy as to have been able to raise one man! ac ille leo est! I wish we could get a look at this extraordinary man. He must be a very Hercules. He is an extraordinary recruit indeed! This reminds me of the story of lord Donegal's troop of light horse. When a certain general asked where lord Donegal's troop of light horse were, a man rode up, and said, 'I am lord Donegal's troop.' So, if you ask where the parish volunteers are, out steps a man from the Cinque ports, and says, ',Here I am.' Really, sir, if ever there was a bill introduced into parliament which was calculated to bring to disgrace its author, it is this miserable measure. However we may differ in subdivisions here, we can have but one heart and one mind in defending the country; but to pause about continuing this bill is what I cannot account for; it is a cheat, an imposition. You come into a parish and you say, 'Give me a soldier.' The parish officer says, 'I can't; I have not got one.' You then turn round, like an impudent bully, and tell him, 'Very well, then, if you don't put twenty pounds in a certain place, I shall find a way of making you.' To those who complain so much of the parish officers not having done their duty under this bill, I would ask why the privy council did not set them a good example, by doing their duty? Had the privy council done so, the proclamation of lord Hawkesbury would not have been delayed so long. From this instance of neglect in the privy council I should think it would, be necessary in any future acts, where that council should have any duty to execute, that a clause should be inserted to inflict a penalty upon them for neglect. As to the double penalty threatened on the parishes which are deficient under this act, I think the collection of it would not be less difficult than oppressive.—But now it is said, you have not given the bill a fair chance—give it a full trial—wait a moment. I say we have waited long enough. It was a bill which professed to raise expeditiously a great force. Has it done so? No—the time is over; then why give it a: longer trial? To elucidate this by a comparison. We have heard a 734 good deal respecting the different modes of conveying men by land carriage. Suppose a schemer was to say, "all these plans are good for nothing; they will not answer; you cannot depend upon them. Look at my plan; I will convey you 20 men to Windsor and back again in six hours." Suppose any of us were to be so foolish as to listen to this schemer, and to destroy all our old machines, expecting he would perform his promise. "Well," says the projector, "now get in twenty of your infantry, knapsacks, baggage, arms, accoutrements and all, I'll bring you back in six hours, depend upon it." We believe him, and after waiting six hours we hear he is at Kensington. That's something—we suppose he is coining back with the troops—no such thing—we find that he has got no further—in fact, that he has not travelled more than half a mile an hour. Why, what should we think if he was to say—"O, but you must give me time, I have not had a fair trial?" Or suppose a man, seeing me using a blunderbuss, was to say to me—"Take away that clumsy gun, you shall try mine with a fine hair trigger "—I receive it from him—it misses fire—"Never mind," says the man, "give it time, keep it to your shoulder, it only hangs iire."—"I do keep it to my shoulder, but still it wont go off." If it hung fire only for a moment or two, it might not signify much, but I should think I had been grossly imposed upon, if I had been persuaded to change my blunderbuss for a gun with a hair trigger that hung fire for six months. Really, sir, the mode of proceeding adopted by gentlemen opposite, upon this bill, is something like laughing at the house. They had better call it a tax bill at once, and defend it on that ground, though that was never professed to be its object. If it will not do for one thing, it may do for another. If it cannot attain its intended object, it will serve for a different one. It is giving us what does not answer the purpose it professed. It is like giving a man a sword and a shield, the former of which is unfit for offence, and the latter for defence, and then consoling him, by saying, "Never mind, your sword will make an excellent soup ladle, and your shield an admirable fish kettle." Now, it is just the. same thing with the right hon. gent.'s bill. It won't answer for recruiting the British army, but it may be a notable finance measure. But pray do not venture to say, that for all its professed ends, it has not 735 totally failed. My right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Canning) thought we were in such a state as entitled us to overlook this failure; arid he wished us to see the increased state of our naval force. Now, I say, we have not added one man to the efficient force of the military department of our navy. I say, that in that point we are not equal to the state in which Earl St. Vincent, the late first lord of the Admiralty, left us. The force he left us, I assert, was superior to our present force, for the protection of our trade, and for the annoyance and chastisement of our enemies. If you examine impartially and carefully all this trash of 50 additional ships of war, you will find more than 30 of them old broken-down West-India vessels, and others of a similar description, bought in the river. One of them got to the Downs, but could not keep the sea any longer; another, a fifty-gun ship, an old West-Indian, was broken-backed in the river, and was reported in that state, but was purchased nevertheless, and others of them are still in the river. One went out neither fit to go to sea nor to ride at anchor. She went without her convoy, not because they could not keep up with her, but because she was quite unmanageable. It will also appear on inquiry that the present Admiralty board, has ordered the purchase of some West Indiamen in the river, which were reported to that board to be incapable of being made fit for use at the time of the purchase, and which were still lying in the river. Such are the ships of war which the present vigorous Admiralty have added to our fleet, and they have against that addition reduced it by dismantling 7 ships of the line and several frigates. By the bye, as a sample of the wisdom of building vessels of war in merchants dock yards, which the right hon. gent, once so strongly recommended, all those dismantled vessels had been so built, and not one of them had been in use above 7 years. The addition of men alleged to be made to the naval service, under the present Admiralty, does not exceed 5000. When you take the slight trouble of considering what was the great increase made by the noble earl during his administration of naval affairs, and compare it with what has been done since, after all the boast that was made, and all the charges you beard, the performances of the present administration sink to ridicule. Why does net the right hon. gent. put his assertions 736 to the test? Why does he not bring forward an examination of the conduct of the late board of admiralty? While he refuses to come to that test, bow unjustifiable is it in him, to state in this house, to the prejudice of that gallant veteran officer, that all he has heard, and all he has read, and all he has seen, have convinced hint of the justice and propriety of the accusations be made, when he arraigned in this house the conduct of the noble earl's naval administration? On this subject I do not wish to say any more at present. But I must observe, that if the evil hour should ever come when government shall find it necessary to call on that noble and gallant admiral again to hoist his flag, not more for the terror and dismay of our foes, than for the benefit of his example throughout the British navy, by his skill and valour, and his strict observance of that discipline which is so essentially necessary to the existence of our fleets, and of which he himself is so decided an instance in his own rigorous observance and his self-devotion to the service, they will be deeply and solemnly responsible for having sent out that naval hero with all the impressions they have made by endeavours to lower his character in the eyes of the navy, calumniated, and half disgraced, and disheartened (as far as they could), to the fleet, with the name of a harsh, a rigorous, and an oppressive tyrant.—Having said so much as to the matter and the effects of this bill, I beg to say a word upon the bill itself. In looking over it, every clause seems to be drawn up with a characteristic degree of confidence. It states, first, that whereas it is necessary to raise 85,000 men; it proposes to raise that number within the year. On the next year it proposes to raise as many men as shall be necessary to supply the deficiencies occasioned in the additional force, &c. by enlistments for general service. Afterwards, the bill becomes somewhat moderate, and promises to supply substitutes only for 9,000 men each year, which is the estimated amount of enlistment for general service, and the substitutes are not to exceed that number. But the most curious part of this curious bill is, that the parish officers are restrained from procuring men beyond a certain distance from their respective parishes, while the regular recruiting officer, who is to provide the men in case the parishes fail, is at liberty to procure those men wherever he can get them. Another sin- 737 gular thing in the act is, that it is not specified what bounty the parish officers shall be permitted to give, whether one pound or ten. This was left at the discretion of government, and therefore mi, misters may, if they please to render this tax productive, levy the penalties of 201. or 401, according to their pleasure. But it is impossible these penalties can ever be levied, for all the parishes in England are the delinquents. This defect in the bill I have just alluded to, was, I recollect, corrected in the bill for Ireland, for in that the bounty was limited to two thirds of the amount of the bounty settled for the regular army. Now, it is clear and manifest the house were told that it was a bill to raise men, yet it is calculated to raise a considerable sum of money. It is ridiculous to say that when you have levied the 20l. the bill will go to raise men. What do we know, or what do we care, whether it was to raise men or not, after the fines have been levied. The application of the money has nothing to do with the principle of the tax. You may apply the money to raise men, if you chuse, but that will not reconcile us to the tax, which is clearly a tax on the landed property of the country, and a most atrocious act of injustice.—Sir, I have already observed, that in the opinion of some persons it seems as if there were something of a very peculiar nature in the present administration that gave them a title to an unbounded confidence from this house, and from the country, that no act of theirs should be marked with reprehension, and that we ought not to feel the same suspicions at the failure of their plans, as we ought to have done respecting the conduct and measures of the late silly, imbecile, insignificant ministers. Now, in what consists all this boasted improvement, and where are the merits of this great change? A change has been made, it is true. Many gentlemen expressed their desire, at this crisis of the affairs of the nation, to see an administration founded on a broad and comprehensive basis, combining all the great talents, genius, and experience, of the great public characters of this country. It was not only the wish of parliament, but it was, I believe, the wish, hope, and expectation of almost very man in the kingdom. I give to my right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Canning) full credit for his sincerity in the wishes he expressed for the promotion of this great 738 object. But if I do not give an equal degree of credit to the motives and conduct of others, it may be because I have not had the same opportunity of knowing how to estimate and approve their characters, habits, and principles. I believe he acted with sincerity, and felt his disappointment with regret. I suppose the right hon. gent. the present chancellor of the exchequer, found the administration too strong. That it was something like spirits above proof, which it was necessary to dilute, or like gold that was too pure for use; or, perhaps, he thought it too dazzling and brilliant, and that it was necessary to get back some of the mists and fogs of the last administration, in order to keep men's eyes from being dazzled with its prodigious glare. But does the right hon. gent. deceive himself by supposing that he came back to his office under the same, terms he quitted it? He went out, because there was a great question relative to Ireland, which he thought necessary to the salvation of that country. He went out because he could not carry that measure. He thought himself justified in saying, that there was but one person in the country who stood in the way of his wishes upon the subject. He advised the people of Ireland, after his retirement, not to form other views. He told them that they were to hail his return as the beacon which was to guide them to the object of their hopes. Is it not known that, he came back to his place without the slightest intention of performing his promise? Is it not known that he is allied in power with those who are pledged to resist the measure of Catholic emancipation? He came back with the character of having broken his faith with that laborious and respectable body of persons?—But it is not merely with the loss of political integrity that he has come back to Office. Has he now the same character with the public which he once bad for political wisdom? What is the skill he has shewn in the first requisite of a great minister—the knowledge of the character, talents, and dispositions of the men whom he is to appoint to fill the great situations in the civil departments, and those who are to be entrusted with the important charge of the defence of the country in the hour of danger? Whom has he now succeeded? Who gave his predecessors such high characters and such warm recommendations in this house? The noble lord (Hawkesbury) whom be panegyrized as the very 739 fittest person in the kingdom to direct the important department of Foreign Affairs, with the exception only of my honourable friend on my right hand (Mr. Fox), he has cashiered, and turned down to the home department. Why, if he understood his character and talents when he recommended him, does he degrade him now? The right hon. gent. seems to know no rule but his own will, and does not scruple to avow his. reduction of all the other members of the cabinet, to the situation of mere cyphers. Is it nothing that he should be so slow to discover the total inadequacy of the men he praises, for all the great purposes of the national defence, and the business of diplomacy? Is it nothing that he should be thus convicted of an utter incapacity to judge of the qualifications of such men? Your predecessor, sir, (lord Sidmouth) was, according to his account of him, the fittest person for the management of finance; and lord Hawkesbury and he had taken sweet counsel together, and he knew his abilities well. The right hon. gent. I assert, is convicted of an utter incapacity to form a proper judgment of public men. He cannot sit in a cabinet where they are to count noses, to use his own phrase: he must be sole master, and all the rest his mere slaves, or the tools of his power. In his former cabinet, there were men who had noses, and who were counted sometimes too. But, now, like the man mentioned in Tristram Shandy, there was only one nose as large as the steeple of Strasburg, which put all the rest out of countenance. It was the right hon. gent's early declaration, that he would never accept of any subordinate situation. Now, he will have no equality, he will have no man near him who shall have a voice of his own. Now that he comes back with a diminished character, he enlarges his claims beyond even all his former pretensions. The other, members of the cabinet are much the same as in the former "silly, imbecile" administration. There is my old friend, for whom I have a great respect, my lord Westmoreland, who is certainly neither wiser nor less wise than he was before. There is my lord Chatham, in whom there is no evident difference. The noble lord opposite (Castlereagh) came into the last administration an odd way, and continues in rather an odd way in the present. As for the lord Chancellor, the right hon. gent. does not appear to have found him out as yet. He has not yet disco- 740 vered that his lordship knows nothing about the laws of the country, though he was a member of the late administration. But my lord Hawkesbury is a rare example. When he was thought at one time the fittest man in the world but one to fill his department, why has the right hon. gent. forgotten to say any thing in favour of his successors, lord Harrowby and lord Mulgrave? For my lord Mulgrave, I have much personal respect; but what does the right hon. gent. say of his superiority over lord Hawkesbury, the fittest mail, save one, in the country? the noble lord, to be sure, has had experience in public affairs; he somehow or other got into Toulon; partly by some treachery among the inhabitants, who hesitated and differed about the mode of giving up the place; and perhaps it may be said he has managed very dextrously in getting into the place where he now is. Whether his lordship has the same opinion of it as he had of the other, and thinks himself, "in a state of comfortable security," I do not pretend to know. But this I may say, without trespassing on the partiality of friendship, that as the right hon. gent. has not yet given the noble lord a high character in this house, as he never yet told us that he was the fittest person in the kingdom for his office, there seems to be something like a good chance of finding that he really is so. A noble duke without an office still remains. Formerly we used to have persons in the cabinet for business; now, it would appear, we had them for ornament. They may add something to the state of the business, like the pomp of led horses in an equipage. This noble duke (of Portland) appears ready to fill a place in any cabinet. No minister can be distressed for a person to fill up a vacancy in his cabinet, while this obliging personage is to be found, The right hon. gent. seems to follow the same principle in his cabinets as in his defence bill; but he succeeds in one, though he fails in the other. He can make no use of his reservoir for soldiers, but be has a perfect reservoir for ministers; he has only to turn the cock, and in they come.—So far as I have gone, at least the comparison will not be denied to be rather in favour of the feeble administration of the right hon. gent.'s predecessor. But then, I am told, "there's the first lord of the admiralty. Do you forget the leader of the grand catamaran expedition? Are you not aware of the important change in that department, and 741 the vast advantage the country is likely to derive from that change?" Indeed, sir, it puzzles one to imagine, how the noble viscount (Melville) came to fill that office. There seemed tee be nothing in his particular habits that pointed it out to him, Am I asked whether I would have had that minister placed in his old situation? I say no! for Heaven's sake don't let him return to us as our War minister. When I recollect his management of expeditions; when I remember Toulon, and Corsica, and Ferrol, and, moreover, the expedition to Egypt, that expedition in which Providence so singularly blessed our arms an expedition, the scheme and means of which naturally led to any thing but the actual issue, I can never wish to see the noble viscount at the head of the war department again. I grant that it is fair to say, that a minister who has conducted land operations may possibly be equally capable of managing our naval concerns; but I cannot see the force, of that sort of logic which goes to prove, that because a man is totally ignorant of land operations, he is therefore skilled in those of the sea. This reminds me of an anecdote, which I shall relate with the greater satisfaction, because it will afford me an opportunity of introducing the name of a man, whose memory is dear to many of the members of this house; I mean the late Mr. Garrick. He had a friend, a Scotch gentleman, of the name of M'Crea. He was a very clever, agreeable man, but rather an eccentric character. He was so well beloved by all who knew him, that he was called "honest Johnny M'Crea." This gentleman one day brought Garrick a tragedy in four acts. Garrick looked at it, and advised him to lay it aside, as be did hot appear to have a talent for writing tragedy. M'Crea took his advice, but the next year he went to him with a comedy in live acts, and desired it might be put in rehearsal. Garrick read it, and found it was execrable stud'; he returned it; upon which M'Crea asked him, how he could return it, as it had been written by his desire—"My desire," replied Garrick, "I merely gave you my advice on the subject."—"What," said Johnny, "did na ye tel me that my genius did nalee in the way o' tragedy?"—"Yes," replied Garrick, "but I did not, therefore, say that it lay in comedy."—"Bless my saul mon," cried Johnny, "if my talent does na lee in the way o' tragedy, and it does na lee in the way o' comedy, whare the de'el else con it lee?" Now, sir, it 742 does seem to me as if the noble viscount had been reasoning after the manner of honest Johnny M'Crea, and, because he has found out that his genius is not exactly fitted for laud operations, he takes it for granted that it must shine out in sea affairs, or "whare the de'el else con it lee?"—In stating my objections to this bill, and enforcing the propriety repeal, I shall hear it said, to some others, have you got for it? But this answer would be very ill applied; for, as a bill for raising men, I say, that by getting rid of it, you can possibly lose nothing at all; as to a substitute for it, as a tax bill, I say, take any thing. I have already avowed, myself a friend ^to the old constitutional force of the militia; and I say now, that the high bounties of the militia do not arise out of that system itself. They arise out of the violation of faith with the militia. The principle of the militia originally was to engage country gentlemen to become officers, and to give little inconvenience to them in fact, to keep them in their own counties as much as possible. Something may have been gained by moving them about, in their discipline and precision, but there have been some disadvantages attending it. It is, sir, with great pride and satisfaction that I see in this country, noblemen and gentlemen leaving the hospitalities and splendour of their mansions to go out and discipline regiments of their countrymen in their service. But when I see faith broken with them, what am I to expect? You put them into a situation in which they cannot refuse to act contrary to their own wishes and intentions. Faith must be whole and unbroken, or it is nothing; a breach of it in the slightest degree, is like a flaw in an indictment, and destroys the whole. Faith is a mirror, in which the slightest fracture destroys tb.6 perfection, and you may as well shatter it at once to pieces. When militiamen are intoxicated, and means are used to tempt them, and they snap their fingers in their officers' faces, what an effect must it have; and how can you ever expect low bounties again? How differently used to be the inducement to the service! But now men are almost certain of being tempted or entrapped into service for Holland, or Egypt, or some other foreign destination, you create the cause of these high bouutks.—One word on the subject of recruiting for rank. I confess I have not such strong 743 objections to this practice as some gentlemen entertain. When the country is pressed for men you may surely avail yourselves of this mode, especially in certain circumstances, such as formerly among the clans in Scotland, and even in some parts of Ireland. You may get men in this way more speedily than in any other in. some places, I cannot think that the body of the army can suffer much, by a few men of title and rank coming into it, and getting up rather hastily. It is better for the country that men pf property, rank, and title, should be in the army, and it is much less likely to excite any jealousy. I must trespass a short time longer on the subject of recruiting for a limited time. When the universal opinion of the thinking part of the public, and of military men, is expressed in its favour, when we can do it as soon as we can say it, when there can be. no doubt that his majesty would listen to it, when we find that the minister's own plan has totally failed, why should we not attempt it? I will not dwell further on the many reasons for it that have been so ably argued before. But I dislike much the. taking of poor ignorant boys, and fixing them in the army for their whole lives. A great lawyer has considered even the necessary mutiny act as an anomaly in the law and constitution of the country. Why should such anomalies be extended? Why should you, in this, manner cut off a large portion of your inhabitants from all the benefits of the admirable constitution of your country? Neither motives of humanity nor of patriotism have sanctioned this mode of enlisting for life, and it confessedly stands in the way of raising recruits. What can they know about their country, boys taken from under the roofs of their parents or masters, shut out of the pale of the constitution? How can they know any thing about it, till wounds, or decrepitude, or old age, drive them lo it? Why should we take children abroad and shut them out for ever, with all the consequences before you, of the ill effects it must necessarily have upon the popular feeling towards the military service? How can their minds be raised to a just estimate and admiration and love of the glorious constitution of this great country, to a sense of that equality of rights which knows no distinction between the meanest, arid the greatest and highest of their fellow subjects? How can they feel with the manly and heroic ardour with which they should 744 feel, when they have to fight for a country and a constitution, whose benefits and blessings are greater than those of Any other that has existed on the face of the globe? How delightful must it hot be to them to know, that at the expiration of their time they may return to the bosom of that country, to their friends, and relatives, and connections of every kind, and enjoy that happiness, for which they have fought and exposed themselves to danger and death in the field of battle, in distant climes, and on adverse shores! Let them return! Let them come back again, and repose in the glorious shade of that parental tree, under whose, branches they were reared Let them see its perfections, let them smell the fragrance of its blossoms, and taste the sweets of its fruits.—Before I conclude, I wish to make a serious appeal to a description of members in this house, who are peculiarly interested in the repeal of this wretched bill; I mean the country gentlemen, who should consider the measure, in the present instance, as proceeding de novo. I ask them, will they give their sanctions to this additional tax on the landed property of Great Britain, after it has been proved to be a measure that can never be attended with any of the good effects that were promised by it, and has been shewn to be fraught with the most atrocious injustice? Next to them, I must call upon those who were the supporters, and many of them members of the late administration; I call upon the colleagues of the deposed minister, and his friends, amongst whom I am entitled to class a number of the country gentlemen, to preserve their consistency, and to be mindful of the arguments they themselves used last year, in opposition to the act of which I am now moving the repeal. I, in common with them, gave that minister my feeble support as far as it went. I did so in an independent, and, I trust, an honourable manner, without detaching myself in the least from my hon. friend hear me (Mr. Fox), nor from any of those other honourable friends, with whom I am proud to have uniformly acted, and whose principles I shall never abandon. I supported that noble lord (Sidmouth) because I considered him to have acted generally with a view to what he considered to be the good of the country, with an honest disposition, and with, a proper respect for the sound principles of the constitution; but most of all did I support him because I 745 considered him as a bar to the return of the right hon. gent. opposite roe to power. I now appeal to air those who acted then merely upon similar views with myself, to concur with me now in voting for the repeal of a measure which has already totally failed, and which they themselves have previously condemned. I surely cannot expect them, after all the reprobation expressed of this execrable law, before it had a trial, now having been proved an ineffective, cruel, and oppressive measure, to turn round upon me suddenly, and, without assigning any new reason, say, 'This is a good, a just, and a very humane law!' I implore them not to act in such a manner as to make us ashamed of having opposed the measure on its first proposal. It would not be regular in me to allude to any thing which may have passed in debate in another place, where I am told a noble lord (Sidmouth) did not speak, of this measure in such a manner as I might have expected from him; but, perhaps, noble lords, when transferred to the other house, may not think themselves so much pledged to what has passed here, as we do who remain. Let all these descriptions of gentlemen to whom I have alluded, put their hands to their hearts; and say, as men of honour, whether, if the late reconciliation had not taken place between the noble lord alluded to, and the right hon. gent. opposite me, they would not vote with me on the present question? If so, how can they reconcile any opposition to my motion, with the opinions they before so loudly proclaimed, and which, after the trial, has justified the condemnation they before pronounced upon it? It is evident this bill is a bill of excessive taxation. If the war is to be vigorously prosecuted till we can obtain a safe, and an honourable peace, additional burdens must be laid upon the people; and if so, never was there a moment when it behoved us to be more cautious how we lay them on, so that the people may not only bear them with cheerfulness, but pay them with willingness. I remember the day when the character of the independent country gentlemen, for whom certainly no man can have more respect than I have, stood much higher in this house and in the country, than it does at present. I hope they will this night recollect, that their rank and reputation never were diminished, till they were sunk during the seventeen years of the former 746 administration of the author of this measure, whose corrupt and unprincipled system of bestowing titles to the number of more than one moiety of the other branch, of the legislature, at the same time lowered the ancient dignity of the peerage, and impaired and undermined the independence of the house of commons, and the confidence reposed in it by the people of the country. I know that it is sometimes represented as invidious to deal in distinctions between one description of members and another; but, it would be unmanly in me, feeling as I do, to abstain from them, when, by detaching from this house, those to whom the mass of the people look with most veneration and confidence, there is a gradual introduction into the constitution of the anomaly of a popular assembly, uncontrolable by the sentiments of the people. I therefore once more coujure the country gentlemen to keep themselves, on this occasion, aloof from all party prejudices. Let us endeavour to regain the conifidence of the people, without which we can bring nothing to a successful issue in this great and perilous contest. If we so act, and the question of our safety is at issue, then I think we shall stand on impregnable ground; we shall have at command all the willing energies of the country, and that confidence which will enable us to meet any danger to which we can be exposed, without panic or dismay. It is by securing to ourselves this confidence, that we can best secure the co-operation and assistance of those powers on the continent who may be disposed to make a common cause with us; by convincing them that, instead of having no more than treaties with the ministers and with government to depend upon, they are making an alliance with the hearts and hands of the people of this country; and, most of all, it is by this reliance on the hearts of our brave country men, that we may bid a stern defiance to all the furious threats and efforts of the daring malice and perturbed ambition of the most powerful, most inveterate, and most oppressive and tyrannical enemy that ever vowed the overthrow of an ancient and splendid monarchy, and the destruction of a great, a generous, a brave, a free, and a happy people. I now move, sir, "that leave be given to bring in a bill to repeal the Additional Force Act of last year."
In Jan. 1804 the whole of our army amounted to 191,099 In Jan. 1805 the whole of our army amounted to 143,651 Deficiency 41,448 In Jan. 1804 the Militia 109,947 In Jan. 1805 the Militia 85,519 Deficiency 24,428 Total of army and militia in Jan. 1804 301,046 Total of army and militia in Jan. 1805 229,170 Deficiency 71,876 The Cavalry in Jan. 1804 11,177 The Cavalry in Jan. 1805 21,223 Increase 4,046 The Artillery in Jan. 1804 7,661 The Artillery in Jan. 1805 8,517 Increase 856 The Foreign Troops in 1804 13,710 The Foreign Troops in 1805 21,028 Increase 7,318
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose, and spoke as follows: It is not my intention, sir, to follow the hon. gent. through all 747 those various digressions, through all those multifarious observations, which in the course of his speech he has thought proper to introduce. The greater part of these had no sort of connection with the question more immediately before the house, and were evidently introduced for the purpose of giving the hon. gent. an opportunity of shewing the house how much he was capable of contributing' to the entertainment of the house by illustration, which had no possible relation to the subject proposed for our present consideration. But, though I view those parts of the hon. gent's speech as unworthy of any detailed reply, and shall not on that account trespass long on your attention, there are one or two of the preambles to his speech which I feel it necessary shortly to advert to before I enter on the consideration of the motion with which the hon. gent. concluded his speech. The hon. gent. thought proper to advert, in the first place, to that surprise which the notice of his motion when it was first announced had created on this side of the house. The hon. gent. perhaps, found it convenient to suppose that such surprise existed, merely with the view of turning it to the advantage of his own argument. I, for my part, know nothing of that surprise to which the hon. member has alluded, but I know that the hon. member's notice was not, in the first instance, given within the doors of this house. When it was first given, I have, reason to believe, that the only emotions which it excited, were those of satisfaction; and when it was renewed in this house, I can testify, that it excited a cry of exultation. There was every reason to think that when the right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Windham) brought forward his motion, his friends were not by any means pleased at the manner in which the discussion was closed. It was with reluctance they divided on the occasion, because they were not afforded an opportunity of delivering their several opinions. They could not help voting when the question was so loudly called for, and though the hon. member who this evening opened the debate has paid high compliments to the right hon. gentleman's eloquence, there can be no sort of doubt that he was not satisfied without an opportunity of displaying his own powers on so fertile a subject. The hon. gent. indeed, sufficiently shewed, from his conduct on the former debate, that he was not satisfied with the manner in which the debate 748 was terminated. It was not for nothing that the hon. member had taken so many pages of notes, not, perhaps, with the view of answering the right hon. gent's. speech, but certainly for the purpose of explaining his own peculiar views of subjects touched on in that speech, had not some discreet mediator dissuaded him from the resolution which he had previously formed. It cannot be imagined that these notes were taken for the purpose of answering the arguments of my right hon. friend (Mr. Canning), for ten days of preparation have elapsed before the hon. gent. has thought himself in a situation to attempt this with any thing like plausibility or success. In following this course, the hon. gent. was no doubt encouraged by many of his friends, who were not satisfied with the right hon. gent's view of the business, who flattened themselves that the hon. gent. would take up much more popular ground, and who looked forward to the prospect of triumphing under his banners. Whether these anticipations will be realized will best appear, sir, after we have fairly entered on the discussion of the subject. Respecting the surprise to which the hon. gent. referred, I shall only add, that on this side of the house no feeling was entertained when the resolution of bringing forward the present motion was announced, but one, namely, that we were ready to enter on the discussion at whatever period it might best suit either that or any other hon. gent. to introduce it. Now, sir, as to the second of the hon. gent.'s preambles, which was evidently intended to conciliate the right hon. gent. I feel it necessary to make a few observations. The hon. gent, begins by assuring his right hon. friend that he has no wish, whatever, to stale opinions contrary, to those which he had laid down in his speech, and thus attempts to lull asleep all apprehension of a wish to interfere with his favourite doctrine. But hardly is this opiate given, hardly are the compliments to the right hon. gent.'s talents and eloquence uttered, before the hon. 'gent. enters on a series of observations, all of which are calculated to awaken the jealousy of his right hon. friend, and to destroy even the fundamental principles of that military system in which he took so warm an interest. If he had carefully selected topics for a difference of opinion, it is not easy to see how any could have been laid hold of to mark out a more complete contrariety of opinion. The hon. gent. has this day 749 expressed himself in terms of the highest approbation of the variety of our military force. Now, the right hon. gent. founded his whole military system on its uniformity, and maintains that the divisions of volunteers, of militia, and of regulars, constitute at once its disgrace and its inefficiency. The right hon. gent. wishes the volunteer establishment to be discarded, while the hon. gent. glories in being its advocate and champion. Here, then, on the one hand, the house are called on to look to the volunteer establishment as discarded and exploded, while on the other it is not only defended, but extolled as the grand source of the security of the empire. This surely is a pretty glaring evidence of a difference of opinion, and I leave the house to form their own reflections on the subject. But, while it is impossible not to advert to this difference between the two hon. members, I cannot help observing, that the hon. gent. need not have recourse to all that delicacy which he has used on the present occasion. It so happens, that on every one of the leading points, on which the right hon. gent.'s speech on a former occasion was founded, the right hon. gent.'s opinions had undergone a most important revolution. He now differs as much from himself as it is possible for the hon. gent, to do on any of the matters which he has this evening touched on in his speech. The augmentation of the militia, the plan of raising provisional cavalry, the measure of obtaining men for rank, as well as the call on the parishes for their quotas, all of which measures the right hon. gent. now so strongly censures, were measures adopted when he himself was along with me a member of the cabinet, and at the same time was actually Secretary at War. I shall not now, sir, attempt to go very much into the question, how far the opinion of the country is to be guided by the opinion expressed by an individual of acknowledged abilities and consideration. But this I feel myself entitled at least to say, that if any man not only assents to, but actually brings forward measures as a member of the cabinet, and thinks proper, after an interval of a few years, severely to censure the same measures when he is out of power, the confidence of the country, in his opinion, must be materially diminished. Now, sir; in the year 1796, the right hon. gent. not only assented to all the measures I have just al- 750 luded to, as a member of the cabinet, but joined' me cordially in bringing them forward, and was willing to take his full share of all the responsibility attached to them, either in this house or in the country. He was then as much as he possibly could be, their parliamentary author, and now he feels himself called on to condemn them in terms of the utmost severity. Thus much, sir, I have thought it my duty to say as to the hon. gent.'s preambles. Of his numerous digressions I shall have occasion to say a few words before I sit down, but shall, in the mean time, proceed to the real question before the house.—Before I go further, I beg leave to disclaim at the outset, the view of the question really before the house, as the hon. gent. has thought proper to state it. The question is not, whether the bill has, in all its extent, fulfilled the object for which it was originally designed, but whether it has answered its end to a certain extent, and whether, from the experience of its past effects, it would be better to give it a further trial, or at once to accede to the hon. gent.'s motion for its repeal. I fully allow, when I speak of the utility of the measure I speak of its utility for encreasing the numbers of our regular army. The hon. gent. on the other hand, affects to view it merely as a tax, and solely as a bill for raising money. As a bill for raising men, the hon. gent. asserts that it has produced no effect, and cannot produce any effect, and it must, therefore, be solely with a view of raising money that it is continued. Now, sir, to this assertion, my answer is simple, unequivocal, and direct. I always disclaimed the idea of the bill being considered as a bill for raising money, and never attempted to defend it but as an instrument for recruiting with the greatest expedition our regular army. The hon. gent, has thrown out a hint about withdrawing the bounties from the parishes, and in that way rendering it a money bill. This, sir, is really a sort of proceeding so disgraceful and abominable; a sort of proceeding so utterly out of the contemplation of his majesty's ministers, that I am astonished it has ever been alluded to. I ask support to the bill solely on the ground of its being a measure for the augmentation of our military force, and as it appears calculated to promote this important end. The moment it ceases to produce any effect, or to hold out any prospect of accomplishing 751 this end, then I shall certainly feel myself bound not merely not to oppose, but actually to move for its repeal. In one sense, indeed, the bill operates in a pecuniary way by the penalties, which it inflicts, on those parishes by which their quotas are not provided. But even in this view of it, it is far from being attended with peculiar severity. On the contrary, it suspends the penalties of the army of reserve act, and substitutes in their room others of a milder form. It is, indeed, impossible to conceive any thing milder than the act is, in its present application, unless, as is not pretended to be either just or expedient, the penalties were to be wholly removed. The hon. gent, in speaking of the effect of the bill, seems entirely to have lost sight of one circumstance Very important to be considered, which is the period when the bill first came into activity. From whatever causes this arose, I shall not now stop to determine, but certain it is, that at was not till the 14th of Nov. that orders were first given for general recruiting to supply parishes where deficiencies existed. It is, therefore, sir, to the operation of the bill since that period, much more than to the effect it has produced in the preceding months, that we ought fairly to apply for an. opinion of its merits. Looking then at the last three months, I find that on an average of each week, there have been nearly two hundred recruits obtained. Thus, taking three months as an average, the result will he, that under the operation of the bill, it will produce an annual addition of betwixt nine or ten thousand men. I ask then, sir, with such a statement as this before us, if we can think of listening to a proposition for repealing the bill just at the moment when it shall come into full activity? The hon. gent. has thought proper to say that not one man has been raised by the, bill, and the right hon. gent, maintained that its effects had been altogether inconsiderable. But, sir, I will ask these gentlemen and the house, whether tie effect which I have hinted at, be not one of very considerable magnitude? Whether it be not in fact, nearly equal to the whole of the recruits obtained by the ordinary means of recruiting? On this simple ground, I might almost exclusively rest the merits of the bill, and ask the house whether it is one which aught to be rashly and inconsiderately discarded? But I feel it my duty to take a fuller view of 752 the subject. Here it appears, as far as experience has proceeded, and as far as we can possibly judge from that experience, that we may reasonably expect an addition every year of no less than nine or ten thousand men to our regular forces. And are we then to be told that the measure has proved altogether inefficient? It is true, from the experience of the three months I have referred to, I cannot pretend to form a conclusive opinion, but certainly I have a much better right than the gentlemen on the other side to offer an opinion on the future effects of the bill. As far as experience extends, these three months are a pretty good proof that the bill has answered its end, and a tolerably fair presumption that it will continue to answer its end still more successfully in future. It is true, that the same favourable result may not continue to be experienced, but with stronger probability I may say, that results still more favourable may be experienced. Let gentlemen consider under what circumstances the bill has hitherto operated, and they will see that this is no unreasonable anticipation. Let them reflect what has been the drain of men on the country for the last eighteen months: first, the militia were balloted for, immediately after the supplementary militia were raised, and then came the army of reserve; so that in G. Britain alone above 100,000 men had been raised in the short space of a year and a half. If then, under all the unfavourable operation of these circumstances, the bill has produced the effects which I have described, what may not be expected from it when these circumstances are removed? One great evil which the bill was intended to destroy, was the removal of those excessive bounties which the army of reserve had created. While the recollection of these high bounties existed, it is not to be imagined that moderate bounties could have had a fair chance of success. When, however, the memory of them is in a certain degree obliterated, which it must of necessity be, I entertain no sort of doubt that the bill will be found fully adequate to all the purposes for which it was framed. We are therefore hitherto not entitled to calculate its effects in all their extent. I have stated what probability justifies, and what actual experience has proved; and therefore I have completely succeeded in proving that the reasons adduced by the hon. gent, in support of the repeal, ought not for a moment to 753 be entertained by the house. The hon. gent, has attempted to argue that the measure is not at all calculated to produce the end it professes to have in view; but in what manner he has supported his arguments I leave it to the house to judge. The hon. gent, seems totally to forget that hitherto the bill has operated only on a partial and limited scale. It has been applied only to the deficiencies in the militia or the army of reserve. Its effects have not been felt over the great bulk of the kingdom. Where it has hitherto been tried, it has had to encounter very formidable obstacles. It has been applied chiefly in those districts where men could with the greatest difficulty be found, and therefore it is the less to be wondered at, if it has not answered in all their extent the wishes or expectations of those who originally supported it. Even under all the hazard of the penalties for the army of reserve and the militia, the men could not be procured in the places to which I have been referred; and I will put it to the candour of gentlemen, whether, if the bill had been even less successful than it has been, it would have been at all a matter of astonishment? To all these circumstances let me add, sir, the industry with which the statements of the total failure of the bill have been circulated over the country, the circumstance of its having last session encountered violent opposition, and being carried by a small majority, accompanied by the expectation that, it would certainly be repealed on the meeting of parliament. When, however, these prejudices are dissipated, when the country see that parliament are determined to give the measure a fair trial, when they have every reason to think that it is meant to be a permanent part of our military system, I have no hesitation in expressing my conviction that it will fulfil the most sanguine expectations of its most zealous supporters. If any thing further were wanting to prove that the bill has not yet got this fair trial, it would be the consideration that in no case yet have the penalties of the bill been imposed. It becomes, however, a matter of consequence to have it understood that they certainly will be imposed; and I venture to predict, that even the knowledge will go a considerable way to giving the bill all the effect which I hope it will be found ultimately to produce. At present I have no doubt that in several districts sufficient exertion has not been em- 754 ployed to procure the required quota, from an expectation that the penalties would not be enforced. When, however, they are fully apprized of the contrary, they will feel it necessary to make new efforts, and if these efforts are properly directed, there can be no question about procuring the necessary quotas. The measure then, sir, has not been hitherto fairly tried, and I certainly shall not part from it, unless reasons much stronger than those which the hon. gent, has condescended to use shall be employed, and unless the events of the remainder of the year prove that my expectations of its future effects turn out to be unfounded. But, sir, I am accused of disappointing the house and the country, by holding out, through the medium of this bill, the prospect of a most rapid and extensive increase of our regular force. Now, as to this statement, I have to offer a few observations, and, sir, I beg leave to say, that I never held out any such expectations, I never did give any such pledge, I never said that I looked to this measure solely as the means of recruiting our regular army. I never argued that this measure was exclusively to furnish us with a disposable force. Let me remind the house, sir, shortly, of the circumstances under which the measure was produced. The hon. gent, in his observations, seemed to insinuate that I was hostile to the general principle of the army of Reserve Act. Now, this is a most gross misrepresentation of my views on this subject. So far from disapproving of that measure, I approved of it cordially, and, I am in the judgment of the house, that I supported it in the most strenuous manner. That act certainly did produce a large accession to the army, and, on that account, was a most important measure. But it was attended with many very serious inconveniences, in raising the bounties, in discouraging direct in listing into the regular army, and in promoting desertion. Those who felt all these inconveniencies, and who were at the same time convinced that the penalties were excessive, thought that some milder act should be substituted in its place, that the exertions of gentlemen, parochial officers, and local zeal, would produce effects as important as local activity. These were the grounds on which. I originally presented the measure, and on the same ground I continue of opinion that it is in the train of accomplishing all that was expected from it. But, I never did give the house reason to think that I 755 expected any rapid or immediate augmentation of our regular force from its operation. I did state that the bill would give us a strong chance for encreasing our regular army in addition to those which previously existed. I did state that the bill would not have the effect of interfering with any of our existing modes of recruiting the regular army, or of preventing the adoption of any other suggestions which gentlemen might feel it their duty to bring forward on this most important subject. But on the subject of a great additional force alluded to by the hon. gent. I must beg leave also to make a single observation. I thought I had on a former occasion sufficiently expressed my opinion as to what appeared to me the quantum of force which I thought necessary to our national security. I did on a former occasion distinctly declare my conviction that we had already in point of quantum of force nearly as great a number as the circumstances of the empire required, and I added, that what we then wanted was a disposable force. How far we have or have not got this disposable force will presently come to be a matter of consideration. But, sir, to shew the house clearly that no very great addition to the military force of the country was meant suddenly to be obtained by the bill, let me only call on gentlemen to look to the bill itself; they will there find that in the first instance only 9000 men were to be raised for G. Britain. How different is this from the representation given by the hon. gent, in the course of his speech. From the observations of the hon. gent. I am strongly inclined to think that he has not given himself the trouble of consulting more than the outside of the bill, for if he had at all considered it with the least care, he never could have supposed that I meant the bill: in the course of one year to raise the enormous number of 85,000 men. In the first instance, there was only a deficiency of 9000 men to be made up, and the bill was to operate in producing a permanent force; in a gradual way, and could not be expected to produce its full effect in less than three, four, or even six or seven years. I have attempted to shew the house on the simplest principles, that the bill may be fairly expected to produce an annual addition of 9 or 10,000 men to our regular force, and that this effect has already been produced under a complication of the most unfavourable circumstances. I confess, seeing what the bill has already done, and 756 looking to what it is capable of effecting, I anticipate from it the most important and happy results. I am really, sir, astonished at the language of the hon. gent, and those who join him in support of the repeal. I confess it has never been my fortune within the walls of this house, to hear any proposition so arrogantly and so vehemently brought forward, which had so little even of the appearance of argument to uphold it. The principal object of the bill was in the first instance to do away an evil which had become the subject of general complaint. Has it not produced this effect? Has it not relieved the counties from excessive burdens? Has it not lowered the excessive bounties which had brought regular recruiting almost to a stand? And has it not in this way become a most important auxiliary to the augmentation of our disposable force? Will it be attempted to be denied, that the recruiting is now going on with fresh spirit, since the evil of excessive bounties has been removed? The hon. gent, has drawn a very strange picture of the state of our regular army, and has even endeavoured gravely to maintain, that since last year it has received no sort of addition or extension. I am really, sir, at a loss to know where the hon. gent, has been able to collect his information, for sure I am, it is not to be obtained from the papers on the table. But the hon. gent, seems so wholly intent on the repeal of this obnoxious bill, that he will not suffer his mind seriously to consider the subject in all its relations. Surely it is but fair that the hon. gent, who seemed so much disposed to look back to the period when the bill was not in a state of operation, should look to the time when it shall be in full activity. This, however, the hon. gent, seems to have no disposition to do, but satisfied that the measure is bad, he will not give himself time to see whether or not it actually does aid the regular recruiting. Now, sir, as to the state of our disposable force now, compared to what it was the preceding year, a very short statement will afford the house the clearest view. Here the right hon. gent, entered in to a statement to shew, that we had this year in disposable infantry, cavalry, and artillery, in addition to what we had last year, about 20,000 men. Having finished this, he proceeded: Surely, sir, this is no discouraging prospect, this is no illustration of the assertions of the hon. gent, that the state of the army is neglected; this is no argument to prove 757 that the bill is that obnoxious, inefficient measure which the hon. gent, and his friends are so eager to represent it. The statement I have made is not indeed a direct argument in favour of the bill; but it is at least a strong proof that the bill is not calculated to injure the regular recruiting, but on the contrary, to assist it in the most advantageous manner. It assists it by removing existing impediments, by destroying enormous bounties by putting a stop to the operation of the ballot, out, of which high bounties necessarily sprung. I wish gentlemen seriously to consider in what state the recruiting now is, before they are so clamorous for the repeal of the bill. Why, sir, I find in the month of Feb. alone, no less than 1495 recruits have been obtained. But it is not to that, month alone that I wish them to confine their attention. I have already mentioned that the number of men added to our disposable force during the last year up to the 1st of Jan. is 20,000. Of these 11,882 have been added since June last, that is within a period of seven months. The whole of the addition for the preceding year has been only 12,000 for a period of 12 months. As far as experience can guide us, we have reason to think that we shall have annually 8 or 9000 added to our regular force by the operation of the bill, and according to the proportion of recruits obtained in the month of Feb. supposing the same proportion to go forward, we should have a total of 14,608. Admitting that, to these are added 8000 others who volunteered in the course of the year from limited to unlimited service, we shall have in one year an addition to our disposable force of no less than 26,000 men. When I say this, I beg to be clearly understood, as giving no pledge that such a number will actually be obtained; but I only say that, if the recruit. in should go on, as there is reason to expect it will, a number nearly equal to that may be reasonably expected. Now that the impediments to the recruiting service are principally removed, and that an impulse has been given to the service, we had every ground for hope on the subject. When we consider with what rapidity almost indeed unexampled, the new levies have been completed; what a spirit had been exhibited during the test and several preceding years; what was the large amount of the addition to our disposable force; when we reflect on all these things seriously, how, sir, can any gentleman main- 758 tain that our military system is quite inefficient? I am at a loss to conceive o what principles they act, and am unable to see how they can seriously stand up and hold assertions, when facts so powerfully demonstrate their fallacy.—I shall now, sir, beg leave to make a few remarks on some of the extraneous matters which the hon. gent. has thought proper to introduce in the course of his speech; and the first of these is, the state of the naval defence of the country. I am not prepared to say, what could have induced the hon. gent, to allude to this subject, unless it was that they were suggested by what fell from my right lion, friend (Mr. Canning) on a former evening, But what my right hon. friend then said, was introduced only incidentally, and not with any view to provoke discussion. All that he advanced, was, as far as my recollection goes, that the country, in consequence of the state both of our naval and military defence, was not now in that state of danger to which it had been formerly exposed. On this slight foundation the hon. gent, thinks proper to attack the present state of the naval defence, and directly attacks some expressions of mine on a former evening, respecting the noble lord (St. Vincent), lately at the head of the naval department Now, sir, I certainly cannot think this the proper period for going into this discussion. It is quite clear, that it could not be gone into this evening with the least prospect of advantage to the noble person concerned or the public. I shall, on that account, only make a few observations. The opinion I gave on the ministerial conduct of that noble earl was given when I had not the. honour of being in his majesty's government; but the opinion I offered to the house upon the late first lord of the admiralty, as a minister, before I was in office, has been confirmed by every thing I have seen since I came into it. Whether there is to be an inquiry into that subject, I know not; but if there be, I am ready to support my opinion, I shall not be deterred from giving my opinion again, if called upon; but I do not think that subject is to be pressed into discussion by those who do not think it necessary for the public benefit to institute an inquiry into that subject. I entertain a high sense of, and gratitude for, the naval services and general character of the noble earl; and whatever I may think of him, or of his demerits under his administration of 759 the admiralty, I have no desire to bring forward any charge against him when out of office. The hon. gent, challenges me to support my charge, and triumphantly alleges I have given up the inquiry. Now I put it to this house, whether it is mean in me to resist the invitation of instituting an inquiry into that subject? Whether I have not a right to consider whether the public service would derive any benefit at this moment by such an inquiry? I have no desire to do so. It is not for me to blink the subject; but I do decline at this time to press an inquiry, because I think that no real benefit will result to the public from it. I have no desire to bring forward any thing that is personal against any person connected with the late board of admiralty, and least of all against him, whose former merits in the naval service cannot in my mind be easily cancelled by his demerits in the civil administration of its government. As to the present state of the naval defence, I shall not now enter on the subject; but content myself with saying, that when the regular inquiry is moved for, I am ready to meet it. I know that the greatest professional men in the kingdom have been consulted, and every thing has been done which they recommended. The hon. gent, talks of a few ships unfit for use, purchased by govt. but has he taken the trouble to gain accurate information on the subject? Has he endeavoured to make himself acquainted with the activity exerted by the board of admiralty to repair old ships, to lay down new, and to expedite every part of the naval department?—The hon. gent, seldom condescends to favour us with a display of his extraordinary powers of imagination and of fancy; but when he does come forward, we are prepared for a grand performance. No subject comes amiss to him, however remote from the question before the house. All that his fancy suggests at the moment, or that he has collected from others; all that he can utter in the ebullition of the moment; all that he has slept on and matured, are combined and produced for our entertainment. All his hoarded repartees, all his matured jests, the full contents of his common place book, all his severe invectives, all his bold hardy assertions he collects into one mass, which he kindles into a blaze of eloquence, and out it comes altogether, whether it has any relation to the subject in debate or not. Thus it is, with his usual felicity, that the hon. gent. 760 finds a new argument for the repeal of the present bill, because the house and the country has less confidence in the present than even in the late ministers. On this point, too, I shall say but a few words. If the hon. gent really thinks ministers unworthy of the confidence of parliament, he has means of founding a motion for some proceedings on this subject; but let me conjure the house, whatever they may think of me, not to wound the public service by repealing this bill merely by doing so to injure the minister. Whether I possess the confidence of the parliament or the country or not, certainly this is not the mode of determining it. But, sir, it is rather whimsical, that at the very moment the hon. gent, is saying that I do not now possess the confidence of the parliament and the country, be is paying me an involuntary compliment, by owning that at least I formerly enjoyed that confidence. It is however, rather unfortunate that there is not a single opprobrious epithet which the hon. gent, has now employed against me, which on almost every disputed point he did not lavish on me at that very period when he allows I possessed the confidence of parliament and the country, a confidence then expressed by four-fifths and nine-tenths of the country. The hon. gent, has thought proper to allude, too, to the composition of the ministry, and here I must again beg leave to wave the discussion. I desire the house and the country to look to the connections, to the constitutional agreements or differences, to the habits, to the general views of those who compose the present administration, compared with other connections of certain hon. gentlemen on the other side, and then I am ready to abide by their candid decision. The hon. gent, takes a great deal of merit to himself for the generous, magnanimous, and disinterested support which he afforded a noble friend of mine (lord Sidmouth) while at the head of affairs. I will allow that the hon. gent, did give my noble friend a few votes, most probably when they were not wanted, and my noble friend is doubtless under obligations to him for his magnanimity. I believe, however, the hon. gent, was not at all backward in giving his votes, when my noble friend was forced to resign the helm of affairs, and in this most likely he displayed his disinterested conduct. The hon. gent next passes on to another noble friend of mine, (Lord Hawkesbury) to whom 761 he applies a term which he could not have taken from any thing but the Jacobin code. That noble lord, he says, has been "cashiered." How such a term can be applied to the change of situation to which that noble lord has succeeded, I am at a loss to conceive. An arrangement did no doubt take place in his majesty's government, but that arrangement was made with the free will and entire concurrence of that noble lord, and it was never proposed with any other intention. How, then, can the noble lord be said to have been cashiered? so far from my having ever harboured any thing like sentiments of disrespect for that noble lord, I have never, even when I disagreed with him on certain measures, felt the least diminution of friendship and regard for that noble lord; and far from any abatement of attachment to him having taken place, it has since been encreased, if possible, by subsequent proofs of that character for which I so highly esteemed him. To the other insinuations of a similar tendency, which have dropped from the hon. gent, as they are wholly without any foundation, I shall make no reply: but thus much I have thought it necessary to observe, in vindication of their characters and of my own. But the hon. gent, seems to rely much on his appeal to the country gentlemen; on them he confidently calls as under a kind of obligation to vote against the bill; but by the motives from which he supposes that obligation to spring, the narrow motives of pecuniary considerations, I will never believe they can for a moment be actuated. I am not now to be taught what opinion I am to entertain of that most respectable class of the community. They are still distinguished in my opinion by the same sternness of character, by the same ardour for the honour of their country, by the same zeal for the public service for which they have always been so conspicuous, and confident I am that they will never act on the narrow and selfish principles, which the hon. gent, thinks them capable of being warped by. They are always serious and earnest in coming forward to expose their lives and fortunes in the just and necessary contest in which their country may be engaged, and when the constitution and liberty of the country are endangered. Such men can therefore never be actuated by mere pecuniary motives, or by paltry parochial considerations. While they no doubt wish to consult the com- 762 fort and convenience of the lower classes, their minds will also ascend to the times and circumstances in which they are or may be placed, and they undoubtedly will now feel the necessity of impressing a more military character upon the people, and they will as cheerfully concur in providing for what that necessity imposes. They will not look upon the present measure in the light of a pecuniary burden, but as a part of that system which is to contribute to that salutary end. Whenever the measure shall be found to operate as a pecuniary burden, I shall be the first to disclaim it, and to propose its repeal. But I am persuaded it will have no such effect; but on the contrary, as the number raised by it will annually increase, the expence attending it will not fall on the parishes or individuals, but will be paid out of the public fund. Such are my views and hopes of its prospective effets; and strongly impressed with these sentiments, I shall conclude, sir, with giving my decided negative to the motion made by the hon. gent.
§ Mr. Windham
said, he could not help remarking, how very naturally arid willingly the fight hon. gent, had deviated from the subject before the house, and had made excursions from it to other topics with which it was by no means connected. The right hon. gent, had first endeavoured to point out diversities of opinion between him and his hon. friend who opened the debate, and then between him and himself, on former occasions. On the former of those supposed diversities of opinion, the right hon. gent, had remarked with such violence, as must have induced persons who had not heard the speech of his hon. friend who opened the business, to suppose that he had attempted to conceal that any such diversity Subsisted. Such, however, was well known to the house, and such had been particularly marked by his hon. friend this night in opening the debate. There was nothing inconsistent in his hon. friend, who thought a variety of force was not detrimental to the military service of the country, and in him who thought otherwise, agreeing, that there was nevertheless a necessity for going into a committee on the military defence of the country. It had been stated by him the other night, that the volunteers were not the force on which we ought at present to rely alone, and sin this opinion, he had reason to believe his hon. friend and he were not so much at variance as was generally imagined. That, however, 763 was a subject with which, like the former, they had nothing at present to do. They might like or might dislike the volunteer system; but whatever was their opinion on that subject, it had nothing to do with the propriety of going into a committee to see what might be done more effectually for the defence of the country, or with their concurring in the repeal of the act now under discussion, as being essential to the enactment of a measure of greater efficiency. When fundamental points on which a diversity of opinion had been entertained by gentlemen in that house did not present themselves for consideration, it would be an act rather too hard to say that they were not entitled to acquiesce in any other points connected with the subject, by which, nevertheless, in the opinion of both, the end which they had mutually in view was likely to be attained. As to his own individual diversity from himself, with which lie had been charged by the right hon. gent, he could only declare, that his opinions on grand and constitutional points had never varied, and were during the whole time of his co-operation with the right hon. gent, the same as they were at the present moment. He had adhered to his opinions— the right hon. gent, had deserted his. The right hon. gent, need not suppose that he had forgotten what had passed during the period in which he was in office along with the right hon. gent. Whether he was a party or not a party to those measures, he would now, however, speak of them according to the impression and conviction the result of them, had left on his mind. He could not he answerable, any more than the house, for the measures which had then passed, but whether he had since changed his opinion, or they had not been agreeable to his opinion at the time, and he had felt himself Secluded by the situation which he held from putting a bar in the way of what had been resolved on by the cabinet in general, it would be subversive of all moral feeling and, principle, that when he came to see the inadequacy or mischievous tendency of any acts to the passing of which he had in any way been accessary, that be should be hound up from afterwards declaring his: change of opinion. Such, he conceived, was not to be required of any person holding situation in the management, of public affairs. But the right hon. gent, in a climax of triumph, had clinched his argument his (Mr. W. s) responsibility, by stating that he was then even secretary. 764 at war. He confessed he had a good share in carrying on the war business out of doors; but he declared that he had no more to do with the bills alluded to, in his capacity of secretary at war, than if he had been secretary to the board of agriculture. But what had been the conduct of the right hon. gent? Did it not go to a condemnation of every one measure of which he had been the original projector? Was not the ballot system of his introduction? Who ever hoard of such enormous bounties as had lately been common, till they necessarily followed from measures recommended by the right hon. gent, himself? The right hon. gent, had, indeed, profited a little by the suggestions of him and his friends. He wished he had carried their suggestions further; and he was satisfied if he had; wished to profit by experience, he had sufficient opportunities of doing so from the errors, of his own administration—The principal ground, however, on which he had, from the beginning, objected to the bill was, the oppressive and dangerous tendency of the practices which it was calculated to encourage. The harshness of the measure itself could never, in his eyes, have been done away, had the bill been ever so successful. On no principle could it be contended that parish officers were to be esteemed better recruiters than any other, than on that very ground on which they were totally unfit to be recruiters at all. In their hands nothing but harsh and improper means of fulfilling their task, could be expected to be resorted to. How far men would be induced to exercise the power vested in them tyrannically, was evident from experience; and, in order to shew what little chance the poor man had of being protected in his right, he need only to refer to a recent event which formed a part of the practice now prevalent in, this metropolis. Was it not a fact, that a, number of poor Irishmen, making merry at their own houses, in that affecting kind of festivity which the day they were celebrating rendered doubly sacred, had been attacked by the meddling and vexatious, interference of magisterial authority; had been accused of the worst of crimes; had been left all night in prison; and, afterwards, some of them driven into exile— for the worst of exile was the sea, to a man who had not been bred to it; and this, because they could, not give a satisfactory, account of themselves; or, in other words, were poor men? Was there law, he would 765 ask, in this kingdom, for such a stretch of authority? Was it to be found even in the count of exchequer chamber, with all the judges of the land assembled to give it sanction? Yet such had been the conduct of some of the inferior magistrates of this metropolis; and was he not right in his original fears expressed on the subject of this bill? and was he not now again entitled to urge, that such would be the species of law which the arming parish officers with the powers of this act would naturally produce? Was he not even justified in supposing that the parish crimps might have, persons present who might procure this sea to he changed into a military service, and, of course, that those very men who were thus illegally dragged from their own homes, served to swell the lists which had lately been laid on the table, or would make their appearance in the next return— There was another reason, however, on which it was apparent that the bill was not deserving of support. With all its objectionable features, it had wholly failed of its object. This, however, was flatly contradicted, and an attempt was made by soothing argument to recall the dead carcase of this bill to life. Whatever might be said of its remote design, or of its immediate operation, he presumed all must agree it had been completely obstructed. Where were the 60 battalions which were to have been raised? The army of reserve was to feed the permanent force, and this was to feed the army of reserve. A copious river was to pour forth its waters, and it has been converted into a contemptible rill. The right hon. gent, with some artificial discretion, had told the house he would not expose what had been done by the bill, but he would have recourse to his rule of three, and acquaint gentlemen what it would do. It had been inefficient; but, he said, try it longer, arid it will succeed. So said the empiric—"The spring is approaching, you will find yourself better." The quackery was renewed, and in the mean lime the patient died. Like those pharmaceutic pretenders, the right hon. gent, would never be satisfied of the deficiency of his skill until it was too late to avoid the consequences of his temerity. But this bill was an experiment. This was a philosophic age, and every thing was to be submitted to the test of experiment. The pence of Amiens, which was to restore tranquillity to Europe, oppressed and exhausted, was an experiment. Scientific 766 persons, by experiment, meant something which was to be tried, not the matter itself, for the sake of which the trial was made; but here all was submitted to experiment, on the large Scale, and chance and accident were exchanged for political Wisdom and security. The house ought hot to consent to be put off with experiment after experiment, merely to gratify the projector—The right hon. gent, however, lorded It over the regular recruiting, and alleged that his mode had been equally successful, if not more so, than the old mode of recruiting for the army. That, however, was one of the main, grounds on which he had from the beginning reprobated the right hon. gent.'s measure. He had stated all along, and it was now confirmed by experience, that so far from being an innocent bill, not Only could it do no good Itself, but it had even impeded the regular recruiting by not Only continuing, but even enhancing the bounties The right hon. gent, had complained that the measure had, in some respect, been treated with ridicule. He could not help thinking that there never was a bill so much entitled to be treated with ridicule, nor one where ridicule was so much the test of truth. If gentlemen had exerted themserlves to devise arty thing which should be calculated to excite ridicule against the govt. what could they have invented more likely to produce it than the mere project of recruiting the regular army by parish officers? It was impossible to speak of It as a great and solemn political measure; but, however laughable it might be in its origin, it was most grave arid tragical in its consequences. It was a little singular that to a measure of this nature the right hon. gent, had directed his attention to so little purpose. There was a species of vulgar produce, the turnip, well known hi the county with which be was best acquainted, that was well adapted to the poor soil, which extensively prevailed there: in the rich loams Of other districts it grew rank and degenerated. Perhaps a subject so plain and familiar as that which was connected with the present question was not suited to the fertile invention and warm imagination of the right hon. gent. There was a class of writers who had devoted much of then time to the contemplation Of picturesque effect, and in the selection of a place of habitation enquired not Where the greatest accommodation could be afforded, but where the eye 767 would be most exquisitely gratified. The right hon. gent, was liable to a perversion of intellect not very dissimilar; he did not seem so much to consider what measures would most redound to the substantial advantage of the country, as what view he could present of them by his flowery speeches in the house of commons. The object of the present motion of his hon. friend was to avoid the most afflicting events. We were now thoughtlessly proceeding, squandering away the most valuable time. There was no ground for confidence, either from the merit of the measure, or from the authority and wisdom of those who adopted it. The right hon. gent, then concluded, by declaring, that he should have conceived the bill a bad measure, even if it had succeeded. It would, in his opinion, have gradually eaten up and undermined the ordinary recruiting for the army. It had, however, so completely failed, that he was convinced every gentleman who came up from the country in the beginning of this session, expected it would have been one of the first acts of the right hon. gent, himself to move for its repeal.
§ Mr. Langham
said, he would vote for the repeal of the bill; but in doing so, he should not pledge himself to vote against the administration.
spoke in favour of the bill, until an entire new plan should be introduced for improving the army.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, he should not have risen to trouble the house but for the pointed allusions made by the right hon. the Chancellor of the exchequer to his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham), whose convincing speech, however, he had not attempted to answer. He wished, therefore, that the house should not go away impressed with the statements of the right hon. gent, which were for the greater part incorrect. The house might also wish to hear the sentiments of the noble lord (Castlereagh) who formed a part of the last administration, as well as the opinion of the hon. and learned gent, opposite to him (the attorney general), on an interesting subject of this nature, and one on which they had already addressed the house. The right hon. the chancellor the exchequer had confined him-self-ajmost entirely to denying the detail submitted by his hon. friend (Mr. Sheridan) and gave up the principal of the measure; 768 he no longer insisted on the enthusiasm with which it would be adopted, or urged the sympathy which would exist between the recruits raised for local or county regiments; when he abandoned that ground, he gave up, of course, the substance and efficiency of the bill, according to the right hon. gent's, own ideas at its introduction. He should, therefore, from his own shewing, vote for the repeal of a bill, the ground of which he had thus relinquished. Now, as to the detail. On the 29th of June 1804, this act was passed: in 14 days county meetings were to be held, and in one month the parishes of the kingdom were to be in a general state of activity to raise 16,000 men to supply the deficiencies. This ground-work was all to be performed by the 1st of Oct. 1804. But it was found this ponderous machine could not proceed. A noble lord in the home department then applied his shoulders to the wheel: still it was immoveable: it resisted the efforts also of all the lords-lieutenant of the counties. In this distressing predicament the ministers, on their own authority, suspended the operation of the bill until the 15th of Nov. considerably after all its salutary effects were to have been enjoyed. Thus, the executive government, represented by the secretary of state, assumed to itself the power of preventing the influence of a legislative regulation. It was not, however, perfectly correct to assert that its entire operation was postponed to the 15th of Nov. and this was one of the fallacies with which the right hon. gent, had amused the house. As far as related to raising men, its agency commenced on the 5th of September: it was not the opposition within that house; it was not the resistance from exterior causes, but it was the absolute impossibility of carrying the act into execution, which occasioned this delay. The procrastination proposed on the assessment of the penalties was until the 15th November; but the truth was, that no order was given for this purpose until the 18th of the month latently expired. The right hon. gent, enquired, "are we to suppose the act will not fulfil the intentions of its authors, and that it will not, because it has not provided men?" And when its incompetency at present was pressed as a rational ground to presume its continued insufficiency, the objection is met by the declaration, that the operation of the bill was alone extended to the most exhausted parts of the king- 769 dom. Was ever argument so idle and evasive? The numbers that were to have been raised were 27,000: of these, 9,000 were to have been acquired from the counties, between the 1st of Oct. 1804, and the same period in 1805. All this time had been lost; the bill had been suspended, and the house was now to be told, that the activity would be in the precise ratio of its inactivity to the present hour. The right hon. gent, said, with respect to immediate means of defence, the kingdom was in a state of security. The foundation of this assertion deserved to be examined. He insisted that he had a right to contend, and be convinced from what had occurred hitherto, that this bill would never be of and avail, and was most unjust and oppressive to the people as well as destructive to the recruiting system. It was utterly impossible to raise, men under it but by exacting the penalty, which would prove a most vexatious and intolerable tax. In this opinion he was the more confirmed from hearing the weak defence and flimsy speech of the right hon. gent, (Mr. Canning) that night. The right hon. gent, said, however, that the country was in a stale of perfect security, and recounted the number of our force; but he could not induce himself to expect as much from the exertions of the volunteers as the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer or his hon. friend (Mr. Sheridan) seemed to do. He was a volunteer himself, and respected that body as much as any man; but too much reliance should not be placed on their supposed superior discipline at present. It was rather strange also, that their numbers had diminished so considerably from last year, when the number was returned to have been 480,000, and were at present reduced to 366,000. He only mentioned this circumstance, in order to shew the abusurdity of exulting sometimes on account of numbers, which were subject to such sudden casualties and diminution. With respect to the state of our general defence, he should not hesitate to say that we were as much exposed to the enemy at present, as at any period since the renewal of hostilities. He was one of those who cons dered the danger as great now, if not greater than heretofore; because the enemy, ever active, had not relaxed a moment from the prosecution of his plans against this country, and had time to accumulate his forces in all the points from which our coast was most assailable he collected his 770 forces, and carried on his preparations, even by sea, in spite of all our efforts to prevent him. The catamaran attempts made during the last summer to annoy him without effect must have convinced him that we could not discomfit his projects. If any doubt remained respecting the inutility of blockading, it must be removed at present, when it was certain that two of his squadrons had put to sea some time since, notwithstanding the extreme vigilance of our fleets. He understood also, that no intelligence whatever had yet arrived as to their destination, which probably would be heard of when they had struck a dreadful blow in some quarter. It could not be said therefore, that we were in perfect security, or that the danger had passed. When the country was thus situated, he submitted to the house that this bill should be repealed; for, if continued, it would obstruct the raising of a supply for the army, and if removed, a better plan might be substituted.
Mr. Bragge Bathurst,
in reply to the hon. gent's, (Mr. Sheridan's) appeal to the friends of the late minister, thought it right to observe that it did not follow, because a measure had been opposed before it received the sanction of parliament, that it should also be opposed afterwards, He appealed to the house, whether such had been the practice of parliament, or whether opposition, in the first instance, was supposed to imply the necessity of continued resistance? Most of the measures which many gentlemen thought to be objectionable at first, were amended in their progress through the house; and consequently, when stamped with the approbation of parliament, were entitled to concurrence and support. As to the present subject, the question appeared to be, whether it had received a fair trial; but he thought not; and therefore that it should not be repealed on light ground. If he were asked whether he preferred the army of reserve to the defence bill, he should answer in the affirmative; but it could not be inferred, in sound reasoning, that he ought therefore to oppose the latter. Before he assented to the repeal of the present bill, or rather before he was called on to do so, it was the duty of the gentlemen who proposed it to bring forward their plan, in order that he might be able to decide on its superior efficacy and advantages. If this bill fee repealed, there is no substitute for it as 771 yet; and we must depend, of course, on the voluntary zeal of the country. As the reserve act was repealed, parliament should keep this substitute, otherwise the force of the country would be completely unhinged, and the public councils justly charged with inconsistency and fluctuation, which surely ought to be guarded against. He did not approve of the plan proposed for limited service, because it could not be sufficiently expeditious for the pressure of the moment, nor did he think it at all likely to be attended with the success which was sanguinely expected by some gentlemen from its adoption. As to the fines, he should say that they must be enforced, and if the country supposed that parliament was not in earnest, no progress could be made with this bill, or its merits be fairly tried. The right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer pledged himself that the measure should not operate as a tax, and therefore he thought that alarm on that head ought to be wholly removed. He did not know on what ground the hon. gent. (Mr. Sheridan) appealed to him and the friends of the late minister for their support on this occasion, when that hon. gent. or his friends, had not voted with the late administration; on the contrary, they even partially supported this very measure against the noble lord (Sidmouth). The hon. gent. even with all his professions, the sincerity of which he by no means questioned, and with all the feelings which he expressed for the noble lord alluded to, had not, he believed, given him one vote during his administration. Hence no application could be made for the support of the noble lord's friends on the ground of reciprocity or interchange of interests. When this plan of offence was opened by the right hon. gent, then out of office, it had the cordial support of gent. on the other side of the house, and they did not oppose it until he proposed it at the head of an administration of which they formed no part. Both he and those with whom he acted, performed a painful duty, when, in its conscientious discharge, they resisted this bill, and endeavoured to maintain the former; and he believed they were now of one mind, to support the present under the existing circumstances. The gentlemen who had conducted this business, had a little incautiously disclosed the secret; they said, plainly, that the question was not so much what new scheme of military defence should be adopted, as to what ministers, 772 in future, the military defence of this country, whatever it might be, should be intrusted. To increase their strength, they had invited the country gentlemen to inlist under their banners. The gentlemen of that description were respectable for their property, for their character, for their numbers, and for their attainments; and they would not oppose that bill from the views on the opposite side of the house, so evident and palpable; they knew it was not only necessary to have a competent force to attack the enemy, but to have united councils; and that the security of the country depended on the one, and on the other. On these grounds he should oppose this motion.
§ Lord Archibald Hamilton
observed, that he should support the motion for repealing the bill, from a thorough conviction of its inefficiency. It tended directly to destroy the recruiting system, which was proved from the circumstance of the regimental officers having been as successful as could be wished, till this bill had been introduced into the parishes, when all the sources of supplying the army in the ordinary way were instantly dried up. It had defeated itself completely, and when compared with the promises made, must be acknowledged to be quite nugatory.
§ Mr. Fuller
disapproved of the speech of the right lion. gent. (Mr. Windham) who seemed to be an enemy to-the volunteer system; but any man who could entertain such an hostile opinion, would say that black was white, or white was black; res non verba, he looked to; his wish was not to have flourishing speeches, but substantial measures; he should vote therefore, for the repeal, from the impossibility of carrying the act into execution.
§ Mr. Tierney
thought it necessary to say a few words, after the example of a right hon. friend of his (Mr. B. Bathurst). He disclaimed any idea of giving a factious opposition to the govt.; but he felt it incumbent on him to declare, that with all the consideration he had been enabled to give the additional force act, if the repeal of it depended upon his single vote, he should think it his duty to vote in the affirmative, and upon grounds that were perfectly satisfactory to his own mind. Conscientiously speaking, he was firmly convinced of the wisdom of the military plans of that administration with which he had been connected; and as this bill went to render null the whole of them, he thought him- 773 self, upon principles of consistency, obliged to vote for its repeal. The right hon. gent. here entered into a very clear and elaborate justification of the measures of defence resorted to by the late administration. Their object in suspending the army of reserve act, was to relieve the country from a very onerous pressure, and to employ those milder measures which they had reason to think would be more efficient. The right hon. member then enumerated the various modes which they had proposed for recruiting the army, all of which, and particularly the raising eight battalions for rank, he defended against the unmerited imputations which had been lavished on them. His great objections to the bill, which it was moved to repeal, were founded on constitutional grounds, and never could, by any temporary, or even the greatest possible success, be wholly done away. It tended to. create a great permanent standing army, a description of force which had ever been regarded with a constitutional jealousy in that house. Operating as an amercement, it was oppressive beyond measure; the effect of it would be, to say to the parishes, you shall be heavily fined; you shall be subject to the payment of extravagant and burdensome impositions, unless you can get men to work cheaper than they find it to be their interest or inclination to do. Not wishing this measure should stand in the way of that popularity which he perceived the administration was anxious to obtain, he was desirous that it should not go forward. The country was convinced it had failed, and, therefore, confidently expected its repeal. Even if it had succeeded to the most sanguine wishes of the. proposers, on the return of peace he should have thought it the duty of the house to repeal it. He felt himself bound, upon principles of consistency, and wishing to. pay those marks of respect and affection to the late administration, which he felt they, deserved from him, and which, perhaps, at no distant period, the country would feel were due to them, to vote in support of the motion
§ Mr. Fox.
—Sir; at this late hour, and after the very ample discussion this subject has already obtained, I shall detain the house but for a very few moments. A right hon. gent. (Mr. Bragge Bathurst) has said, that it is not fair to ask him to state upon his honour what would have been his 774 conduct with respect to any measure in different circumstances; and that it is sufficient for him to give his honest opinion of it when it comes before him. The right hon. gent. last year stated his sentiments on this very bill; and though he has not thought proper to tell us what the sentiments of himself. and his noble relation (lord Sidmouth) oh the subject were, previous to the late reconciliation, I cannot help believing that they must have formed some opinion in the course of the summer. The right hon. gent. says, too, that it never entered into his contemplation, or into the minds of those persons who, as well, as himself, have been alluded to by my hon. friend, the mover of the present motion, to engage in a litigious, a vexatious, and a factious opposition to government. Doubtless, they would not engage. in an opposition which they themselves thought so; and they may fairly suppose that others would not do so, or at least confess that their opposition was litigious and vexatious. This declaration of the right hon. gent. does not surprize me to any great degree; for when I recollect the opposition which he himself gave to the very bill of. which my hon. friend now proposes the repeal, I cannot, I say, help believing, that he and his friends did, in the course of the autumn, come to some mature consideration as to how they should vote, not only upon this bill, so much the object of their former animadversion, but possibly, upon every other measure of the present government. But the distinction of the right hon. gent. is extremely curious. When the measure was first proposed in June last, then the opposition given to it by the right hon. gent. and his friends was fair, manly, and honourable; but now that it has totally failed, now that it is scouted from one end of the kingdom to the other, any opposition to it is stigmatised as being litigious, factious, vexatious, and I know not what. But the right hon. gent. puts another notable case. He says that those who oppose a war do not always move for peace. This is true, because it is not an easy matter to repeal a war like an act of parliament; and when a war is once commenced, it is not practicable at any moment to obtain a peace, nor may it be prudent to move for it. But surely this case has no analogy whatever to an act of parliament which experience has condemned; a measure which, professing to raise men, imposes only an oppressive and un- 775 equal tax on the community. Can any man doubt of its failure? Suppose the right hon. gent. opposite to me were to come forward in his official situation, and propose and recommend, with all his powers of persuasion, a tax to the house, which he should state as likely to produce two millions, and which in the sequel should only be productive to the amount of a twentieth part of that sum, what would the house, and what would the public think of him? Would not those who originally opposed this tax, who forewarned him, and who foretold him that it would be inefficient, would they not, I say, feel themselves bound to move for the repeal of it? It has been insinuated by the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer, that on the division on the motion of my right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) the other night, we retired into the lobby rather reluctantly and sulkily. For myself I can assure the right hon. gent. that I quilted the house with no feelings of that sort; but when it is considered, that I had the honour to submit a similar motion last session to the house, in which I had the concurrence of upwards of 200 members, and that this year the number is under 100; when it is considered, that that right hon. gent. by whom I am so little in the habit of being supported, and of whose support, therefore, I am covetous, did on that occasion vote for my motion, and that without any change in our situation, except this identical bill, he on that night voted against a motion precisely similar, it would not have been very surprising if some degree of chagrin on this side of the house had been discovered.—It has been objected by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Bragge Bathurst) intimately connected with the head of the last administration, that there are material differences of opinion with respect to the military system fit to be adopted among gentlemen with whom I have the satisfaction to act. The members of the junction or coalition on this side of the house may possibly differ on some trifling particulars; for instance, I and my right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) do, as it happens, entertain rather different sentiments from my hon. friend the mover of the question, respecting the volunteers. Yet, surely, these differences of opinion with regard to the volunteer system, are not now for the first time announced; and last year, though fully as great as now, they formed no objection to the right hon. 776 gent. the present chancellor of the exchequer's voting along with persons so differing, for a committee of the whole house to consider of the military defence of the country. Those differences, indeed, it has never been attempted to disguise. I suspect, however, that the coalition on the other side will never be arraigned for any such difference of opinion. On the contrary, when I consider the circumstances under which it was effected, the time at which it took place, and the purposes for which it was brought about, I have no doubt that both sides will bring with them such a pleasing disposition to mutual agreement and mutual forgiveness, that there never will be any more differences between them. The right hon. gent. on the floor has talked of a junction and a coalition of discordant parties. But let me tell the right hon. gent. that he is the last man iii the world who ought to throw out taunts against that coalition. Did he find fault with it last year? Would he be sitting in the place he now occupies if it were not for that coalition? Would the "weak, imbecile administration," as he called it, have been turned out? Or, to complete the climax, does he believe that this bill would have passed, if that junction which he now treats with contempt had not been effected? With respect to the question of coalitions, my right hon. friend (Mr. Windham), has, in my opinion, said quite enough to repel any charge of that kind. I have always been of opinion, that unless public men can be persuaded to lay aside their animosities on past transactions, which do not necessarily influence their conduct in different circumstances, it would be impossible to continue that species of government which has existed in this country since the revolution. For instance, what is there to hinder those who formerly differed about the American war from agreeing as to the policy of this country towards American independence? Or what is there to prevent those who differed about the late French war, from concurring in the measures to be adopted in another war? But what has been the conduct of the right hon. gent? What were the grounds of his opposition to the late administration? It was not this or that measure that he objected to, but he arraigned the whole of their measures as the offspring of folly, weakness, and Heaven knows what else! Did he not publicly brand them with the epithets incapable and imbecile? Did he 777 not insinuate that they had as little honour as sense? And has he not restored all those weak and incapable men to the ministry, with all their unfitness? Even all this violence and personality could be surmounted, and the right hon. gent. may say to his new allies, "though I called you fool, though I called you imbecile, though I represented you as not possessing more virtue than understanding, yet now I have got your places, I don't care if you are regarded as a very meritorious, sensible set of people."—I know it is not regular to advert to what took place on a former debate, but before I proceed to examine the bill itself, I wish just to take notice of an observation made by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Canning), that besides the vast merits of this bill, the improvement of our naval situation has been so great as of itself to be an argument against any inquiry. The right hon. gent. has thrown out a challenge respecting the merits of the late and present naval department, which, I trust, will in the course of the present session, be accepted; when possibly, the late board of admiralty, which has been subjected to so much uncalled-for censure on the part of the right hon. gent. opposite me, may, when they come to be weighed against each other, be found to possess as much vigour as the present.—All those who recollect the speech of the right hon. gent. when he proposed this famous bill, which was to work such instantaneous prodigies, must remember that the professed object of it was to raise "forthwith" a very considerable number of men. But what has it done? The prospect held out was, that it would procure an immediate force of 18,000 men before October last, and a farther supply of 9,000 were to be added before October 1805, being in all 27,000 men. But what is the fact? This measure, which we were pompously told was calculated for the immediate exigency, had in the first 15 weeks produced only 1581 men in England, Ireland, and Scotland; and of these 1581, only 640 were raised between the 15th of Sept. and the 6th of Nov; but supposing, for the sake of argument, that those 1581 were all raised in England within 15 weeks, that would be no justification of the bill; for the question is not about 6O or 100 or 200 men a week. It must now produce 850 per week, in order to complete the number which it ought to raise before October next. Who, then, will contend that the bill has not completely and totally failed? 778 When the right hon gent. triumphantly promised and pledged himself, that its operation would produce, within a certain time, 27,000 men, the difficulties, the innumerable difficulties in the way of its execution were foretold to him. It has been said, that the bill was carried by a small majority, and that it had to encounter the effect of much opposition. I do not believe that any obstacle whatever, arising from this cause, has been opposed to the bill. But did I not, at the time, warn the right hon. gent. not to push this bill against the sense of the majority of the English members of parliament, because even a measure, the principle of which might be good, could not be advantageously brought forward, against the sense of the public at large? It is said, too, that expectations have gone abroad, that the bill would be repealed. But what sort of a defence of a measure is it to say, that its absurdities are so palpable and its inefficacy so manifest, that all men believed it was to be repealed; and is not this to acknowledge, rather than to palliate the failure? A noble lord (Sidmouth) formerly a member of this house, but now at the head of his majesty's council (for the right hon. gent. is extremely tenacious of the singular number on this occasion) did, on the bringing in of this bill, propose that it should be postponed until the ensuing session, in order to ascertain the sense of the country respecting it, in the interval. I confess I was one who did not approve of that advice, as the right hon. gent. promised that his bill would produce immediate benefit and assistance. It is somewhat strange, however, that now, when it has been tried and found totally inefficient, the same right hon. gent. should step forward, and tell us that it ought not to be repealed. It has unquestionably failed as to men; and the right hon. gent. has disclaimed any idea of ever employing it as an instrument of taxation, and to this declaration I am disposed to give implicit belief. It is impossible that any one, standing in his situation, could ever resort to so infamous, so vexatious, and so unequal a mode of taxation. For, how is it to be employed? Why, as a threat. It is not the fine but the dread of the parish officers that is to get the men. A more flagrant instance of oppression never was heard of in the history of the world. It is a principle that is in itself a reason for the repeal of this bill. We are told that the bill has assisted the recruiting for the 779 regular army. But in what manner has it done so? Is it not merely by the negative parts of it, by suspending the competition and the high bounties? Acting with my right hon. friend (Mr. Windham), and acting under him, as I shall always be proud to do, we always said that such would be its effects, when this bill came into active operation, and yet this which is- now held out as one of the merits of the bill, was formerly ridiculed as the suggestion of a wild and fanciful imagination. Such are the miserable shifts to which the advocates of the bill are driven for arguments in its defence! The right hon. gent has said, that the object of my hon. friend's motion is the removal of a minister. The right hon gent. with great humility, professes his readiness to bow to the decision of the house, but I suspect he is pretty sure that such decision will not be against him; for I remember, when he was rather more in danger last year, he was not disposed to be quite so obedient. I do think that the right hon. gent. is bound in honour and in generosity to state his recantation of all the opprobrious and contemptuous terms in which he spoke of the late administration; for I do maintain, that whatever there is of vigour or energy in his military plans is solely to be attributed to the measures adopted by his predecessors. I am willing to admit that I was one of those who wished for the return of the right hon. gent to office, in preference to those whom he succeeded. The right hon. gent. therefore owes it to those who assisted in the overthrow of the late ministry, deeming them unfit for their stations, to shew that he is more able, more vigorous, and more energetic than they were. He owes it to his own honour and reputation, to furnish some better proof of his superior claims to the confidence of the nation than such a miserable bill as the present. No man is more disposed to subscribe to the great talents of the right hon. gent. than I am. No man, in the, course of the many years we have been opposed to each, other, has had more reason to subscribe to them; but if any thing could allow me to entertain a doubt of the wisdom and ability of the right hon. gent. it would be the imprudence of staking his reputation on this bill, the operation of which does not furnish one argument which the partiality of friendship can possibly consider as the mark of an enlarged and vigorous mind.
—It is not my intention, 780 sir, at this late hour, to trouble the house with many observations upon a subject which has been so amply discussed, and upon which the luminous speech of my right hon. friend has left me little or nothing to say. But if I did feel myself inclined to enter at large into the question, the gentlemen on the other side of the house would have no reason to conplain seeing that they have repeatedly, called for it. Nothing; however, has been offered by them which in my mind, affects any one, of those fundamental principles upon which the bill is established, and I really feel a considerable difficulty in replying to the vague and unconnected objections which have been advanced against it. The gentlemen who have opposed this bill, have hitherto suggested nothing to supply its place, and I do hope and believe, that a large majority of this house will concur with me in thinking that the onus lays with the other side of the house to make out such a sufficient case as shall induce parliament to rescind its own resolution and to alter the whole military system of the country. I maintain, that the bill has not, as yet, had a fair trial. I maintain, that it is working the most salutary effects throughout the country, and that when the progressive quality of the measure is candidly examined it will clearly appear that it ought to be continued. I am ready to admit, with gentlemen on the other side of the house, that the operation of the bill commenced on the 5th of Sept. instead of the 15th of Nov. The average produce from the 5th of Sept. a period of 26 weeks, is 131 men per week; for the last 16 weeks, 169 men per week; for the last 12 weeks, 184 men per week; and for the last 8 weeks, 203 men per week. Therefore, supposing this regularly progressive quality of the measure to continue, it will in the course of 52 weeks produce no less than 10,500 men; and this being the case, I would ask any gentleman whether such a measure can justly be called inefficient? One of the great advantages arising from it is, that it does not interfere with the ordinary means of recruiting for the army. With regard to the oppressive quality of the measure, if by oppressive is meant inconvenient, I readily grant that in some instances it may prove so, But, if a great and extensive military measure must be resorted to, I should be glad to know, what milder one can the country be called upon to submit to than the one which has been 781 adopted? If we compare it with any measure which this country has known, it is impossible not to acknowledge that it is far milder in its operation than all the preceding ones. If we compare it with the Army of Reserve act, the presumption is tenfold in favour of this bill. I always considered the exertions of the parish officers as so much clear gain. In Ireland they have raised four-fifths of the whole number which has been raised. In England, Ireland, and Scotland, their exertions have been as four to one. I cannot help regretting that we should hear the existing branches of the military defence of the country so much run down and depreciated as we have done of late. A right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) holds them all extremely cheap. He holds the volunteer establishment cheap to a degree. That we do not at present possess a great and efficient army is what I will never consent to admit. I maintain that our regular efficient force amounts at this time to 252,000 men, and that the country is placed in a very high state of defence. I am prepared to say, that we can at any time detach a very large and powerful army to any point where it may be required, and that there is a reasonable prospect, if we continue to act on our present military system, that we shall possess such a disposable force as will enable us to undertake any offensive operations that may be deemed necessary for the honour and security of the empire.
§ Mr. Johnstone
rose, he said, for the purpose of pointing out several fallacies in the statement made by the noble lord, but a general call for the question prevented us from correctly hearing the hon. gent.'s calculations.
§ Mr. Sheridan
then rose to reply, and spoke nearly as follows:—After the attentive hearing with which I was honoured in the former part of the evening, I think the house will do me the credit to believe that it is not my intention to trespass much on their time at this late period. I shall, however, avail myself of the privilege granted to the opener of a motion, to say a few words in reply to the objections which have been started against the motion which I have had the honour to submit to the house. I can assure the house, that what I have to say shall be short, for though I value volunteering very highly, I certainly am not over zealous to reply to speeches which were totally destitute of any thing in the shape of argument. I was not sur- 782 prized that the noble lord felt so forcibly that he and his friends were called on for some answer, and to state their reasons for still supporting this bill. If they had given no answer, it might very fairly have been inferred, that it was because they had no answer to give. In their answer, however, they took care to avoid the main objections that had been urged on this side of the house; namely, that the bill was unconstitutional in its principle, and had completely failed in its effect. The noble lord, however, conceives that the argument of the bill not having been fairly tried was quite too strong for the great abilities of my hon. friend (Mr. Fox) to combat; but, in no part of my hon. friend's speech did he more successfully grapple with the arguments of the supporters of the bill, than where he demonstrated that no future trial could possibly reconcile parliament and the country to it. The noble lord complains that the operation of the bill in Scotland and Ireland has been purposely passed over. But let it be recollected, that the bill to which the present motion immediately applies is confined to England, and has nothing whatever to do with Scotland or Ireland. And here, sir, I cannot help reminding the house, that the bill was carried against the sense of a considerable majbrity of the representatives of England. I do not mean to dispute the right of the members for the other parts of the United Kingdom to vote on such questions; but it is not difficult to conceive, that members for Scotland and Ireland by voting in support of a minister, on a question which does not affect their own constituents, might expect to have something conceded to them in the two bills which were to follow. The bill for Scotland has, however, failed still more than the one now under consideration. In Ireland, I am ready to admit, that proportionably more men have been raised by the parishes, but not one volunteer has inlisted for general service, which was the professed object of the bill. The right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer has told us, that if the bill should prove a measure of taxation, he will be the very first man to move for its repeat. Now it does appear, that altogether only 1250 men have been raised by the bill in England, and after deducting deaths and casualties, 681 is the number of men actually recruited by the parishes; consequently the remainder have been raised by fines and penalties, or, in other words, by 783 taxation. The right hon. gent. complains that I used harsh and violent language towards him, that I wandered from the subject in discussion, and sought to supply the defect of argument by personal reflections. Although I may be supposed to be sometimes a warm speaker in this house, I believe I have never been accused of harbouring much political animosity against any man. The right hon. gent. intended, I suppose, to contrast my violent language with his own singular gentleness and meekness of manners. This observation, he doubtless thought, came with peculiar propriety from a person of his own blushing humility; from a person so perfectly averse to all like ill-natured personalities; so eminently distinguished for soaring above all little political enmities, and so complete a foe to every thing sarcastic or biting. The right lion. gent. has thought proper to describe my speech as coming from a person who has never read the act it is proposed to repeal, and who knows nothing of it beyond its title. What I said is regarded by him as a collection of jests and sarcasms which have been for a long time stored up, in order that they may burst all at once on the meek, gentle, modest, but devoted head of the right hon. gent. If my speech, however, was so very unworthy of the serious attention of the house; if I did wander so very much from the object of the debate; if I did entertain the house with nothing but hoarded repartees or common-place jokes, is it not a little singular that the right hon. gent. should have done me the honour to start up immediately to answer me? The right hon. gent. well knew that his vast and splendid talents were not necessary to answer a speech, distinguished for nothing but irregularity:Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodusis a maxim which no man better understands than the right hon. gent. Why did he not on this, as on a former occasion, employ a substitute? The right hon. gent. supposes I said that when he went out of office he stood high in the opinion of the public. I said no such thing. I said, that he stood comparatively higher than when he returned to power. But though the right hon. gent. has replied to this observation, he has thought proper to take no notice of the reasons on which it was founded. Not a word of a certain pledge to the. Catholics of Ireland which he is known to have give on his abandonment 784 of the office to which he has since returned! No man is more ready to acknowledge the great and eminent talents of the right hon. gent. than I am. No man esteems them higher than I do. But if I were to characterize his ministry, I should say, in language which the right hon. gent. may recollect to have heard before, namely "that he has added more to the burdens and subtracted more from the liberties of the people, than any minister that ever governed this country."—The right hon. gent. has attacked me for bringing charges against his colleagues, who were not in this house to defend themselves, and has taken up the glove for the First Lord of the Admiralty. For my part, I really entertain a respect for the noble lord (Melville) as a man of business; certainly there are many differences between him and his predecessor. He does not, like the noble earl, pin himself down to his desk by four in the morning, examing into abuses, but he goes boldly afloat himself to superintend, or rather to judge with critical eyes (occulis subjecta fidelibus) of the explosion of his own catamarans, I will not call in question how nice an ear the noble lord may have for the blowing up of a carcase; nor do I wish to allude to the festivities at Walmer Castle, where the right hon. gent. opposite me had prepared a sort of Alexander's Feast, and where he and his friends were anxiously wailing for the noble lord's triumphal return:The jolly God in triumph comes,Sound the trumpets, beat the drums.Whether or not there was a Timotheus of their party report does not say; the jolly God however was not absent. There, like Alexander, "he seized a torch with fury to destroy," and if he did not succeed, I suppose it was because there was no Thais at Walmer to lead the way.—The right hon. gent. has thought fit to allude to the support which I gave to the noble lord (Sidmouth) now at the head of his majesty's council, when that noble lord was chancellor of the exchequer. He represents it as an insiduous and hollow support. I hope it is not my character to give any support of that description. He says I gave the noble lord a few votes when I knew they could be of no use to him, and that I opposed him when my support could alone have been of advantage to him. I say that this charge is contrary to fact. I gave my support to the late administration with the most perfect good faith, and I know that the noble lord has always been ready to 785 acknowledge it. But, supposing I had not supported him with fidelity and firmness. What then? I never had professed to do so, either to that administration, or to this house. I supported them because I approved of many of their measures, but principally was I induced to support them, because I considered their continuance in office as a security against the return to power of the right hon. gent. opposite me, which ever appeared to me as the greatest national calamity. If, indeed, I had recommended the noble lord to his majesty;—if I had come down to this house, and described the noble lord as the fittest man in the country to fill the office of chancellor of the exchequer, because it was a convenient step to my own safety, in retiring from a situation which I had grossly abused and which I could no longer fill with honour and security;—if, having seduced him into that situation, I had afterwards tapered off from a promised support, when I saw that the minister of my own choice was acquiring greater stability and popularity than I wished for;—if, when t saw an opening to my own return to power, I had entered into a combination with others, whom I meant also to betray, from the sole lust of power and office, in Order to remove him;—and if, under the dominion of these base appetites I had then treated with ridicule and contempt, the very man whom I had before held up to the choice of my sovereign, and the approbation of this house and the public;—then, indeed, I should have merited the contempt and execration of all good men, and should have deserved to be told, that I was hollow and insincere in my support, and that I had acted a mean, a base, and a perfidious part.—The house then divided, when there appeared,
For Mr. Sheridan's motion 127 Against it 267 Majority against the motion 140
§ Adjourned at half past three on Thursday morning.
|List of the Minority|
|Adair, R.||Barlow, F. W.|
|Andover, Viscount||Bouverie, Hon. E.|
|Andrews, Miles P.||Brogden, J.|
|Anson, Thomas||Brooke, C.|
|Astley, Sir J.||Bunbury, Sir T. C.|
|Babington, T.||Byng, George|
|Bagenel, Walter||Calcraft, J.|
|Baker, W.||Calvert, J.|
|Bamfylde, Sir C.||Cavendish, Lord G.|
|Barclay, George||Caulfield, Hon. H.|
|Chapman, Charles||Maddocks, W. A.|
|Coke, Dan. P.||Markham, J.|
|Combe, H.C.||Martin, R. (Galway).|
|Cooke, Bryan||Middleton, W.|
|Courtenay, John||Milbanke, Sir R.|
|Creevey, John||Milner, Sir W. M.|
|Daley, D. Bowes||Moore, G. P.|
|Dolben, Sir W.||Moore, P.|
|Douglas, Marquis||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Dundas, C.||Morris, Edward|
|Dundas, Hon. C. L.||Mostyn, Sir T|
|Dundas, Hon. G. H. L.||North, Dudley|
|Dundas, Hon. L.||Northey, Wm.|
|Elliot, Wm.||Newport, Sir John|
|Erskine, Hon. Thos.||Ord, William|
|Ebrinston, Lord||Ossulston, Lord|
|faaz, J.||Palk, Sir Lawrence|
|Fellowes, Robert||Palmer, John|
|Fitzgerald, Rt. Hon. J.||Peirse, H.|
|Fitzpatrick, Rt. Hon. R||.Pelham, Hon. C. A.|
|Foley, Hon. A.||Petty, Lord Henry|
|Foley, T.||Plumer, W.|
|Folkes, Sir M.||Ponsonby, R. Hon. W.B,|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Poyntz, Wm. S.|
|Fox, Hon. C. J.||Proby, Viscount|
|Francis, P.||Pulteney, Sir W.|
|Geary, Sir Wm.||Pitches, John|
|Giles, D.||Raine, Jonathan|
|Grenfell, Pascoe||Russell, Lord Wm.|
|Grenville, Right Hon. T||St. John, Hon. St. A,|
|Grey, Hon. Charles||Scott, Joseph|
|Hamilton, Lord A.||Scudamore, J.|
|Heathcote, Sir G.||Shelly, H.J.|
|Hippesley, Sir J. C.||Shelly, T.|
|Holland, Henry, jun.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Hughes, Wm. Lewis||Smith, Wm.|
|Hulkes, James||Somerville, Sir M.|
|Hurst, R.||Spencer, Lord. R,|
|Hutchinson, H. C. H,||Stanley, Lord|
|Jarvis, T.||Tarleton, B.|
|Johnstone, George||Temple, Earl|
|Ker, R. Gervas||Tierney, Right Hon. G|
|Kinnaird, Hon. C.||Townsend, Lord J.|
|Knight, R. Payne||Tyrrwhitt, Thomas|
|Ladbrooke, Robert||Vansittart, George|
|Langham, James||Walpole, Hon. G.|
|Langton, W. G.||Walpole, Hon. IT,|
|Latouche, J. jun.||Ward, Hon. J. W.|
|Laurence, French,||Whitbread, S.|
|Lawley, Sir R.||Williams, Owen|
|Lemon, J.||Windham, Rt. H. W,|
|Lemon, Sir W.||Wynne, C. w. w.|
|Lloyd, J. M.||Young, Sir W.|