§ Mr. Wallace
said, that his first and leading objection to the bill was, that it was a violent infraction of the undoubted prerogative of the crown, which the Constitution of the country had invested with the power of enlisting forces for such a time of service as his majesty might think proper. What was still more, it even precluded the king from the exercise of his prerogative, in giving a negative to the measure, as it was tacked to the Mutiny bill, to Winch his majesty must give his assent, or leave his dominions without an army. He could not conceive what was to be gained by making that pledge different from what the soldier had from the crown, and that Which he was to have from the parliament; but the mischievous tendency of degrading the crown, and taking away that responsibility which parliament: ought to have over any bad and wicked ministers, who might be disposed to abuse the authority vested in them. He was at a loss which most to admire, the boldness of the right hon. secretary, in proposing So strange a plan, or his tardiness in bringing it forward. He had not done away by it any thing that was likely to affect the feelings of the existing army. There could, indeed be no doubt of their loyalty and attachment; but it should, at the same time, be considered, that the army was composed of men alive and quick to every sense of injury. According to the doctrine of the right hon. secretary himself, the men were brought into the situation of soldiers by a system of frand, intoxication, crimping, and every sort of indirection. It says to them, "You have fought out battles, you have exalted the fame of the British army, you have covered the country with glory; but you shall not have the benefit of the present measure." Let the house then judge what must be the feelings of men who found themselves so treated. He should have less objection to the measure, if the new levies Were to be placed in separate corps, where no jealousies would arise amongst them; but as the thing was to be constituted now, one man in the ranks of a corps would have a great advantage over his comrade. in the present state of the army, there was no ground for invidious Comparisons; but under the new plan, it was quite different, as one set of men might quit the army at certain periods, or towards the close of their terms force their officers to relax their discipline, in order to retain them; whereas, another set were compelled to remain, and placed altogether on a different footing from their compani- 530 ons. Reasoning of this kind, he was aware might be represented as preaching discontent, but that should not prevent, him from stating objections which must be obvious to every man. It was, indeed, a strange complaint to come from that side of the house, foam gentlemen, the greatest part of whose lives had been spent in a perpetual and systematic opposition to every measure proceeding from the government. himself, could recollect one of those gentlemen doubting the morality of the people submitting to the law, and saying, that it would be a question of prudence or discretion; and if so, how Could he or his friends now complain of the statement of objections which were in the mouths of every one? The distinction between the army and the navy on this occasion was not to be overlooked, and was very proper to be stated in debate, as it was difficult to find a reason why advantages should be given to the one and denied to the other. Upon a question of such moment it was to be lamented that the house was not in possession of the opinions given military authorities on the subject. It might well be doubted, whether, in changing the condition of the soldier, you did not change his character. The right hon. secretary said, that by the advantages now held out, the army would obtain a better description of persons than usually entered the service; but upon what that expectation was founded, he knew not, for lie believed it would not be contended that the army was not at present in as good a state as it was capable of being placed. He did not see any advantage that could arise front blending the characters of the soldier and the citizen; on the contrary, he thought they would be much better kept seperate, as they were in all other countries, which kept up large military establishments. Another reason why he objected to the measure was, that we had heretofore in this country tried the experiment of limited service, both as to time and space, and had not derived any advantage from it, as was fully evinced by the Army of Reserve, and the Additional Force act, both of which proved unproductive, whilst they injured the recruiting for the standing army But What was to him the most objectionable of all was, that he saw no necessity whatever for recurring to a measure of the kind. It would be productive, as had been most clearly shewn by his noble friend (lord Castlereagh), and others, of great and unexampled expences, and would incur the risk of injuring, if not 531 of totally destroying the discipline of the army. In foreign service, the men must be brought home at the expiration of their several terms of service, which would he attended with almost incalculable expence, and abundant trouble; besides, it would have this certain and very important disadvantage attached to it, that the army would continually be in a state of suffering, by being obliged to part with the very best men of which it was composed, of those also who had been longest in the service, who Were the best disciplined and most inured to the climates, which men must be replaced by raw recruits, men who had seen no service, and who, from not being inured to the climate, were likely to suffer infinitely more from the ravages of that, than from the sword of the enemy; and then we should have to provide annually for a very extraordinary number of casualties, to the amount of several thousands a year, which would render it very difficult to keep the army at its full and complete establishment. He could not but feel, with his noble friend, the vast weight of this enormous expence, at a time when the country was so ill able to bear it, and when every expence that could possibly be avoided, ought to be so. It had been said, that if the plan did not succeed, it was easy to recede from it, but he thought very differently on that head. They would find, on the contrary, a very great difficulty in any attempt to recede from it.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
declared, that he had not been able, till lately, to turn his attention to the consideration of this question; but upon considering it, he was convinced that it had been truly said, that it should not be considered merely as a military question, but as an appeal to the great principles of human nature, which gentlemen, who had not the advantage of a military education, might be competent to decide. In the consideration that he had thought it his duty to give to the subject, he had perused several of the military treatises which had lately been written, one by an hon. member of that house (General Stuart), and another professing to be a discussion of the present state of the English army, and both. these treatises met with his decided approbation. This was a circumstance which he only mentioned, that the house might not suppose he rose to speak upon a military question, without having previously taken any pains to inform his judgment. It was allowed on all hands, that the great question at Present, was to increase the regular army. 532 Gentlemen might differ as to the degree of necessity for the increase, but to him it appeared that a considerable increase of our regular army was necessary, to enable us to resist the enemy. If this country once possessed a large regular army, its naval power would give it great advantages in the use of it. If the enquiry, then, were simply to find out the most effectual means of increasing, the regular army, the argument of his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) appeared perfectly fair, when he supposed that the same measures should be taken to induce men to enter into the army, as would be taken to induce persons to enter into any other occupation where hands were wanting. The greatest inducement that could be held out was hope. Hope was the great stimulus to every exertion; and mankind were so constituted, that their happiness was more in the pursuit of a distant advantage, than in the actual enjoyment of it when it should be obtained. It was upon this great principle of human nature, that the nations which had most excelled in military renown, had wisely formed institutions which facilitated the advancement of men from the lowest ranks to the highest situations. Although from the measure as proposed by his right hon friend, he hoped a great deal, and anticipated much good, yet he considered that the positive inducement to men to enter into the army must come from some other source. At present, whatever inducements there were to enter the military life, were balanced by the consideration that it is a step which can never be recalled, "vestigia nulla retrorsum." They were also opposed by the opinions of parents and friends, who considered a young man ruined and lost to his family and friends, for ever, should he embrace the life of a soldier. He considered then, that the principal effect of this measure would be to remove the impediments which now stood in the way of recruiting, but that the positive inducements must come from some other quarter. He thought that the strongest inducement would be to see the means of promotion within their reach, and attainable in a short time. He thought there was many a man who would not set great value on a distant advantage at the expiration of 14 or 20 years, but that if some kind of promotion of honourable distinction could be obtained in a few years, would feel strongly induced to aspire to it. He thought that the possibility of speedy promotion from the lowest situations of life to a higher one, would of 533 itself be the most powerful inducement. Even small distinctions had great weight with the generality of mankind; for such was the littleness of human nature, that it was almost always by comparison that people judged of their own situation and of their own happiness. If they saw themselves ever so little raised above those who had been their equals, they were highly pleased and elated; and on the other hand, it was often by comparing their situation with that of others, that many found out, or fancied that they Were miserable. Distinctions that would hardly cost the nation any thing would to individuals be of great importance. Military men were at all times fond of such distinctions; and therefore the stars, the ribbons, and the military decorations which were usually given to successful commanders, had always been reckoned among those things that formed "the cheap defence of nations." He should wish that the system of those military decorations, as a reward of merit, should be much farther extended in the army, so that every man might entertain a hope that an opportunity might occur, in the course of 1, 2, or 3 years, when he might signalize himself by some gallant exploit, to gain sonic of those envied distinctions. He had heard, that at one time the late administration had thought of instituting something like an order of merit among the navy, and he hoped the noble lord who was now at the head of the admiralty would carry that idea into execution. He was convinced that such an institution would hold out the most powerful motives both to great exertions, and to make the service attractive. He could by no means agree with the objection that had been so much relied upon, that such a measure as this should have been carried into effect by the crown, without consulting parliament. He was surprized, indeed, at the quarter from which this objection proceeded; fur if ministers had acted differently, and, of their own heads, introduced a change so important in the military system of the country, and which appeared to those gentlemen so very objectionable, would they not, on much stronger grounds, have charged his majesty's ministers with presumption, in following entirely their own opinions, and not giving the country the benefit of having this important question fully discussed before it was decided on? The practical effect which he expected from this measure, would be in the general impression in its favour. Persons were much more 534 apt to judge of their condition from the opinions of others, than from their own feelings; and when the condition of a soldier should be generally thought a good one, all the great objections which now exist would disappear. He thought it might perhaps he better to extend that system a little to the regular army now existing. It was somewhat revolting to the feelings of every humane mind, that a man, who entered in the army in some unguarded moment, should be told, that he should be kept there for his life; and it was almost an insult to common sense, to tell him, that as his act was voluntary the country would hold him rigidly to his bargain. It appeared to him, that the system was likely not only to increase the number of our regular army, but to improve, in a considerable degree, the quality of the soldiers. He considered, that the tone and character of the British army would be highly improved by it. The strong reason which induced him to think so was, that in consulting the history of all military nations, he found, that beginning from the history of the Grecian states, and going down to the history of the present day, it was an universal truth, without a single exception, that the armies of free nations fought with more spirit, and achieved greater actions, than the soldiers of those nations that were not free. This was proved by the history of all nations: by none more than of England. It was not until Magna Charta had been obtained, and some degree of civil liberty established, that England, which a short time before had been conquered by the Norman invaders, was able in her turn to invade France, and make her enemies fear her on the other side of the water. It was from its liberty, that it obtained its military reputation, and its means of defence. It was a pleasing and grateful thought, that, when the mighty bestowed freedom on a nation, that blessing itself ensured the protection of the country, as long as the animating principle was preserved. The soldiers of free nations were always remarked for a certain elevation of character, and noble daring, which did not belong to the character of other nations. The French never fought with such enthusiasm and success, as when their armies were animated with the name and hopes of freedom. If the present order of things, however, continued in that country, he should venture to say, that all their ribbons and legions of honour, would but ill supply the place of the inspiring principle of liberty, and that 535 the character of the French armies must gradually decline; whereas, the energies of the British army would be considerably increased by extending to them the feeling, that British soldiers are free men, and that they fight for a free country. He also considered, that this measure would immediately operate to prevent desertion, and by improving the character of the army, tend gradually to diminish the severity of punishments. He could not agree with those who thought, that if this measure were once adopted, it could not be departed from He, indeed, wished that the experiment should have a fair trial, which would require at least ten years; but if it Were then found inefficient, another system might it be pursued. As to the great discontent that many gentlemen had supposed would, in such case, Prevail experience had shewn, that this apprehension was ill founded; for, in the time of the American war, there were many enlisted only for the war, who served in the same regiments with soldiers enlisted for life, and no such discontents were then heard of. Neither could he see that any such discontents were likely to prevail in the navy, for the sailors were in fact only serving for a limited term, and expected their discharge at the conclusion of the war. He could not allow that the plan deserved the name of a theory or a speculation; it was built upon the general principles of human nature, and upon the known effects which the history of all nations proved to result from those principles, and in this sense it must, be said to be founded on experience. The mere opinions of an individual might be erroneous, but the great principles of human nature were unchangeable. The hon. gent. concluded, by observing on the advantages likely to result from the improvement in the system of colonial service; and took that opportunity to state how strongly he was impressed with the idea, that it was the continuance of the Slave trade, and the state of barbarism our slaves were kept in, which principally occasioned the necessity of sending annually thousands of our soldiers to protect the whites in the West Indies, not so much from the foreign enemy, as from their own slaves; and it was this West India service which was at the same time the greatest drain to the British army,and the greatest discouragement to its being recruited.
§ Mr. Hiley Addington
could not avoid shortly expressing his sentiments upon the important question then before the house. He thought that his right hon. friend (Mr. 536 Windham) had not been handsomely or fairly treated, when plan had been so often called a whim, and a wild and fanciful Theory. The word theory was generally applied to systems and opinions hastily adopted: but the gentlemen on the other side of the house had been complaining, week after week, and day after day, of his right hon. friend having taken so much time to consider and mature his plan, before he presented it to the house. In the full responsibility of the measure, not only his majesty's ministers in that house, but a noble lord, in the other (lord Grenville), would willingly take their full share. As for himself, though he had no share in the responsibility, yet when be heard his right hon. friend charged as a rash and hasty speculator for introducing it, he must say, that he so perfectly approved of it, that he should wish his political character in that respect to stand or fall with that of those who introduced this measure. A good deal had been said in the course of the discussions that had taken place on this question, of the opinions of the general officers not being laid before that general officers not being laid before that house. The opinions of officers were given upon a question referred to them by the commander in chief, and which was different from that which was now under discussion. The question which had been referred to them was merely between limited service and service for life. There were, however, in the present plan, so many auxiliary inducements combined with proposed limitation, that the question then to be considered was totally different from that which had been referred to the general officers. As to the motives which induced men to enlist, he believed the non-commissioned officers could speak better than the generals; but every man of common sense, and who was at all acquainted with the character of the English nation, might form a good judgment on that subject. He considered that the casualties of the army, reckoned at 15,000 annually, would not be near so great in future, as the principal part of it, arising from desertion, would he in a great measure done away. He was much more sanguine in his expectation of immediate success than his right hon. friend, and conceived that it was in his character a trait of that generous policy, which, according to the practice of our ancestors, legislated as much for the good of posterity as for the present time. Some gentlemen had said, "we were well enough as we were." Whoever would look on the 537 map of Europe, and see nothing but France, excepting the territories of our magnanimous allies, the emperor of Russia and the king of Sweden, could hardy bring himself to think that "we were well enough as we were." He concluded by expressing his firm conviction, that this would not only be a most efficient measure, but that, in time, it would be a very popular one. He had conversed with many military officers on the subject, and they had all, without exception, considered that the army would be benefited by it. He also had Conversed with several soldiers who had been discharged, and they all agreed that such a measure would be "the making of the army." This, he was sure, would be the general feeling of all the soldiers in the army, and of all those classes from which soldiers were to be obtained, and he therefore thought that the measure was the most likely for rapidly recruiting the army.
§ General Tarleton
said, the right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) looked to the army not as an Englishman and a soldier, but as a philosopher, and as a philosopher of a very bad school, who knew nothing of the human mind on which his speculations were to operate. He had had some experience of limited service in Portugal, when the baron de Rolle, who had the command of a Swiss regiment, did not dare put them to ordinary duty, lest those whose time was expiring should quit the military life. Then wit, imagination, history, and every tiling else was pressed into the debate, excepting what belonged to it, for the mere purpose of doing what the lawyers called "blinking the question." Among the rest, the French service was held up as an example, and he would admit the wisdom of the maxim, Fas est, et ab hoste doceri; but in the present case the precedents adduced had either no application at all, or were opposed to the argument of the right honourable gentleman. The truth was, the officers of the army had been heartily tired of the prolixity of ministers. Colonel Manly Power had written a letter, stating that he was gaping for what Mr. Windham's plans would be; that he was completely sick of waiting for the system, and that he had applied for a months absence, as every thing was at a stand still. He added, that he had removed his small battalion, and that his men were doubled by the additional force bill; and further, that every man fit for general service had volunteered into it on receiving the bounty. An hon. 538 gentleman (Mr. Grattan) had talked of Roman discipline, and then had reverted to his favourite republic; but what applied to the Roman phalanx mid legion was wholly inapplicable to modern warfare. The hon. judge Advocate had spoken of Scotland, as of a country peculiarly sensible where money was concerned, as if the Irish and English were not equally susceptible of the mercenary feeling. The general did not understand either the policy or the propriety of this local reasoning. From the view he took of the measure, it appeared to him most unwise and dangerous, and he hoped its progress would be interrupted before so fine an army was impaired by such fanciful schemes. The system of the Roman army was, the hon. general contended, inapplicable to this country, and to the present, times; young men of 18 engaged for seven years would never he fit for colonial services. The army was admitted to he at the present moment better in numbers and condition than at any former period. The present ministers, if they could have found any opinions to bear them out, would have appealed to the general officers; but the general officers were all known to be averse to the plan, and therefore no appeal was made to them. plan was not calculated to give satisfaction to the for army, it gave greater advantages to the raw recruit than to the veteran soldier, it went at the same time to make discontents among 150,000 men, and to impose immoderate burthens on the Country. The language of the right hon, gentleman, in saying, that when a man went into the army for life, he was considered as having gone to the dogs, like the strange expression of 'killed off,' and such others, was calculated to disgust the soldiers.
The Lord Advocate
did not exactly know to whom the hon. general alluded, when he styled him judge advocate, and his doubts were not wholly removed when the allusion was made to his observations, for they did not seem to have been correctly understood by that gallant officer. Limited service was the most successful way of procuring men; and to suppose they could not judge of the advantages of limited service, because they had not sustained the character, was as absurd as to imagine that a young woman could not tell the inducement that one of her sex might have in taking a husband, because she herself had not entered into the marriage state. In the country with which he was best ac- 539 quainted, the men were not obtained by hanging a purse upon a halbert; they took rational views of their situation, and on these formed their determination. With those gentlemen on the other side, who had considered perpetual service so acceptable, he should be glad to handle such a weapon, and engage on the recruiting duty with them. What would be the arguments they had to offer to the generous youth of the northern mountains, who loved the wilds of which they were natives, because they were the favourite seat of liberty; "Hasten with us, they must say, and resign your country. Enter the wild world, and forget the soil of your birth. Leave your fathers and relatives to their romantic hills and fruitful vales, for to them you shall never return." Such must be the invitation they must employ. But what would be the language to which he would resort?—"Young men (he would exclaim), the love of your country clings about your hearts; filial duty, honour, and affection, are dear to you as existence; you revere the fraternal attachment, and will surrender none of the sacred obligations of domestic life. I know you will despise all danger in the defence of these fond objects of your solicitude: advance then with me to the field of virtue and glory, and if you survive the conflict, you shall return to the arms of your relatives, and to the bosom of your country, covered with those laurel which shall command the respect and the gratitude of your compatriots." With such Inducement, and such hopes, thousands would flock to the standard of their sovereign; nor would they cast "one longing, lingering look" toward their native homes, until the war was terminated; for they would know, that, if they presumed to relinquish the scene of their duty, they would return to parents and relatives, who would Consider their appearance among them derogatory to Scottish valour. When gentlemen talked of the future end remote disadvantages of the plan, they reminded him of a dispute regarding a canal between Edinburgh and Glasgow, for the supply of coals. In one direction it passed through a vale Without the smallest interruption, on a perfect level, and the tract through which it was to pass contained a supply of coals for three centuries: in another it was to be obstructed by 67 locks, and to be elevated 750 feet above the surface of the sea, but the supply of coals was sufficient for five centuries! It was a disgrace to the good sense of the country, that like this bill, the 540 former channel had numerous opponents The temper of the hardy Caledonian, to whose bravery the nation had been so often indebted, was little known. Tell him to abandon the fond scenes of his youth for ever, and he will retire to the deep recesses of his mountains: indulge the expectation that he will, after a term of peril and fatigue, revisit his domestic hearth, and he will accompany you round the globe. His wants are few, but without freedom nothing can satisfy his desires. Donald the peasant, had three wishes to express; the first was, 'fill my barn full of snuff;' the second, 'fill my pond with whiskey;' for the third, his invention, uninstructed by luxury, was deficient, and he exclaimed, fill say barn again with snuff.' The lord advocate concluded by giving his hearty support to the measure.
§ Mr. Johnstone
thought that the learned lord approved this measure only on account of the men who proposed it, as he had said that men could not be procured under the additional force act, where the advantages to the recruit were greater. He contended that in the present state of Europe none but the lowest orders could be expected to serve as soldiers. He had but little faith in the energies which had been ascribed, particularly to the soldiers of a free country, as the militia of a free country would always be superior to the regular army of a despotic government. He admitted that the army ought to be augmented, but thought an addition ought to be Made by enlisting from the militia.
§ Mr. Whitbread
contended that the object of his right hon. friend was to put an end to all the theories which had been brought forward for a long time past. Like a skilful surgeon, he was removing the bandages, in order that nature might have her way. He mentioned these theories, such as the quota bill, the provisional cavalry, the army of reserve act, and the additional force act, all of which had failed. He denied that there was any danger of exciting mutiny or discontent from this measure. He also contended that the calculations respecting the expence had been erroneous. He denied that this measure trenched, in the smallest degree, on the prerogative of the crown; for, unless the mutiny bill was passed every year, the king could not have a soldier. The instance of the East India Company's soldiers was .au answer to the objections relative to the colonial service. He contended that there was no danger of 541 a relaxation of discipline, as soldiers never loved a commander the better for great remissness in this respect. He suspected that those who opposed the measure did it from a desire to get into their places. One noble lord was so fond of place, that he thought he was reposing, while in place, on a "bed of roses." He might have had some tossings and tumblings, and have felt some of the roses folded under him, a circumstance which had given pain to a certain voluptuary. The expression of his right hon. friend, now no more, "Oh, my country!" was not one which might be expected from a person reposing on a bed of roses. Another gent. (Mr. Canning) did not consider the harness but the horses, not the measures, but the men. Here, however, there were both good harness and good Horses.—The question on the third reading was then put; upon which,
Mr. S. Bourne
rose, and having lamented that the house was not in Possession of the military information which was so desirable on this subject, expressed his general disapprobation of the measure. It infringed on the prerogative of the crown, as it would preclude his majesty from availing himself of any future advantageous mode of raising men that might present itself. It. was objectionable as it related to the deliberations of the two houses of parliament. He was not aware of a precedent of such an important measure being brought forward such a shape, which might be attended with. serious consequences, endangering the delay in passing the Mutiny bill, until a period beyond that in which it would be required. The measure was as wanton and unnecessary as it objectionable. The experiment might have been tried without having destroyed the system from ,which the country was deriving a rapidly increasing supply. The depressed state of the manufactures of the kingdom would, he feared, soon afford an ample source to any mode of recruiting. —Alluding to the speech of a right hon. secretary on a late evening, he expressed his apprehension, that the country had not the means to become as great a military power as that right hon. gent. seemed so sanguinely to expect. To obtain this object, however, he thought that the best mode would have been to have raised men four different services and in different ways, instead of confining the recruiting to one description, and allowing the army to moulder away to the number of at least 30 or 40,000 men. Comparing the 542 population of the country with the numbers engaged in :the .naval and military services, the right hon. gent. could not rationally expect to obtain any great accession of numbers to the latter of these services. The examples of foreign countries that had been adduced, were by no means applicable. No accusation of -being factious should ever deter him from canvassing the measures of his majesty's ministers. He deprecated the ill consequences that would result from the adoption of this measure with regard to the navy, and with regard to the discipline of the army. The colonies likewise would be materially endangered by it, more especially in time of war. Flow many men must be continually crossing the sea, to supply the place of those the term of whose service was expired? If one of those convoys failed, what would become of the colonies? As to the expence, as calculated by his noble friend, that calculation proceeded on the supposition that the measure would succeed, and he was therefore surprised to find that calculation condemned by the advocates for the measure. His noble friend had omitted one article of expence, the transporting of troops abroad. If this measure failed, only one expedient remained.—conscription. And he should not be surprised to find, at some future period, the right hon. gent. come forward, and by way of still further following up the example of foreign countries, propose conscription, to supply the place of those perhaps who were "killed off."—(A laugh).—Above all he considered the measure most embarrassing, as discharging men in time of war; for these reasons he moved, as an amendment, that in the clause schedule it be inserted after the word "discharged," these words, "not until six Months after the termination of any war in which the country may be engaged."
§ Lord H. Petty
observed, that the clause to which the hon. gent. opposite principally directed their attention, did nothing more than what amounted to a declaration of the legislature, to continue for seven years, what formerly they were considered only to allow one. But the necessities of almost every state in Europe were now so much increased, that his majesty's ministers had felt it incumbent on them to make additional demands upon the population of the country for the preservation of the whole: this was but a modification of the royal prerogative, by which the king is entitled to call on the whole of his people to rise in arms for the 543 support of his crown and dignity, as well as for the defence of the rights and liberties of a free nation. What was the army of reserve act, but an additional demand on the population of the country? What was the additional force act but an additional demand on the population of the country? And what had his right hon. friend done but to make the additional demand on the population of the country more simplified and effectual than it had as yet been made by any other plan that we had seen brought forward? Much as he admired the general character of the British army, he could not avoid observing, that the desertions were now become a disgrace to that army; but the system of his right hon. friend would be most likely to an effectual stop to the practice, by withdrawing the temptations which led men to desert; their condition would be bettered, and they would be certain of having an opportunity to exercise their own choice at a definite period. Gentlemen said, that in a time of war we should not adopt any new theoretical experiment. He was well convinced, however, that a time of war or danger was not a time in which we should give way to any feelings of fear. This reminded him of an anecdote told of a very brave man, who, being asked 'How he would act if he were oil the top of Salisbury steeple,' replied, 'Just in the same manner as if I were on Salisbury plain.' And there could be no doubt that in time of danger true, wisdom consisted in acting with steadiness and courage.
§ Mr. Canning
rose and spoke as follows.— "I rise, sir, not only for the purpose of replying to the noble lord who spoke last, but of recapitulating as shortly as I can the leading arguments by which this measure has been opposed, and which remain at this period of the discussion wholly unanswered; of reminding the house of the state in which the question now 'stands; and of conjuring them to avail themselves of this last opportunity, which is afforded them by the amendment of my hon. friend (Mr. S. Bourne), if not to save the regular army of the country altogether from the peril of the projected innovation, at least to disarm that innovation of part of the mischief with which it threatens to be attended.—The precise object of the amendment is to prevent the operation of the discharges during war: to prevent, if possible, the dismemberment or dissolution of the British army, at periods when the very safety of the country may depend upon its being kept together. the noble lord who spoke last has either misunderstood 544 or dexterously misstated the purport of this amendment. He has argued against it as if its avowed object had been to prevent, the passing of this bill during the war; and he has told us that, in his opinion, the time of danger is the properest time for the display of additional courage and magnanimity. The noble lord has illustrated his proposition, (according to the custom of the treasury bench, when argument is wanting,) by a story, the authenticity of which it is not necessary to question, of some wise and gallant individual, who appears to have obtained a great share of the noble lord's admiration, by replying to a person who asked him "What he would do if he were on the top of Salisbury steeple?" "That he would do on Salisbury steeple precisely the same thing that he would do on Salisbury plain." This reply the noble lord considers as fraught with wisdom and magnanimity, and as affording a brilliant example to parliament and to the country. In point of wisdom, perhaps, it is not easy to decide between the person who asked the question and him who answered it. It may be matter of surprize, indeed, that the answerer did not reply to the querist by another query, namely, "Why in God's name he should go to the top of the steeple at all?" What it was that he was to do when he got there, the noble lord has not condescended to inform us, nor would it perhaps he becoming to suggest; but among the few functions which a man in that situation could possibly perform, there does not appear to be any one which is peculiarly worthy of the imitation or attention of the house, or which might not have been performed with as much advantage and satisfaction in a horizontal direction upon the plain as in a perpendicular one from the steeple. But however splendid this individual achievement may have been in the noble lord's opinion, he must see that as an illustration it is not good for much, unless it be the noble lord's intention to contend, not only that we ought to behave with steadiness and courage in time of actual danger, but that it is expedient to create dangers, and to place our, selves in situations of peril, purely for the sake of exhibiting our magnanimity. Such would be the failure of the noble lord's argument, even if applied to the question as he has argued it, of commencing this system in time of war: but the object of the amendment being, as has been stated, to suspend the operation of the system during future wars, it would be difficult to make out any claim of magnanimity on our part 545 for inflicting on posterity evils which we do not encounter ourselves.— What objection can reasonably be offered to this amendment we are yet to learn. To the principle of it the right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) has subscribed, when he admitted an extension of 3 years' service in the case of discharger; becoming claimable during war. This admission is of itself sufficient to acknowledge the necessity; but it is not sufficient to remedy it. On the other hand, it breaks in upon the certainty and definiteness in the term of service, which the right hon gent. has urged as the main advantage of his whole system; it breaks in upon it sufficiently to destroy the inducement arising from it, at the same time that it does not meet the evil, the apprehension of which alone can justify any such infraction. Quitting, however, the narrower ground of the amendment immediately before us, the noble lord has gone into the more general topics upon the subject of the bill, but I think without being fortunate enough to supply that degree of argument and conviction which has been so much desiderated from the other side of the house. One point, however, he has, entirely omitted, upon which it would have been particularly desirable, and from that noble lord it might perhaps have been reasonably expected, that we should derive some information, I mean the question of expence. The right hon. gent. the author of the bill, expressed, on a former night, a wish that he had found leisure to look over the calculations, a wish in which the, house and the country may have good reason to join. My hon. and learned friend near me, (Mr. Perceval) and my noble friend, (lord Castlereagh), upon this acknowledgment, that ministers had not turned their attention to the subject, ventured to suggest, with all becoming deference, such rough and imperfect estimates on this head as the few data in possession of the house, and the unenlightened diligence of men out of office, could furnish. But these suggestions were so ill received, so confidently scouted, as full of error and exaggeration, that it became impossible not to suppose, that though the right hon. gent. whose immediate business it was to bring in the bill, had not had leisure to look into this material part of it, some other of his majesty's ministers had thought it their duty to take the task off of his hands? and when the chancellor of the exchequer rose, it was natural to look to him for information upon a subject not wholly unconnected with his department. 546 Upon this subject, however, the noble lord has not said one word; and the house is now called upon to pass a bill which obviously and notoriously entails a vast expence upon the country, without any official estimate, without any ministerial statement, without the smallest information by which to form a calculation, or even a conjecture,. as to the amount of the burden which they are imposing. All that we know is, that 330,000l. a year (for of so much we have an estimate) is a part only, and a small part, of the whole amount. With respect to the remainder, the only intelligence that we have been able to obtain, is, that the expence will not be so great as it was estimated by my noble friend, namely, about two millions a year.—Another main objection to the whole of this plan, which the right hon. gent. who introduced it had never, condescended to answer, the noble lord and others who preceded him in this debate have this night attempted to remove: I refer to the difficulties attending the colonial service. The noble lord instances the practice of the East India Company, who engaged their recruits for limited service, (a term of five years), and who, as the noble lord avers, never in any instance broke faith with them in India, and suffered no inconvenience from adhering to their engagements. I will not enter into the question of good faith; the testimony on that point is certainly not unanimous. It is sufficient to remark that, whether from feeling any inconvenience or not, the India Company have some years since, at the suggestion of lord Cornwallis, wholly abandoned that mode of enlistment; that there remains, I believe, but one battalion whose service is upon that tenure; and that with the exception of that battalion, all the troops now serving in the East Indies are enlisted for an indefinite term. It may be added, that the whole of the troops so engaged for limited service never amounted at any one time to 5000 men; a very insufficient precedent for placing the whole British army on that footing, and a precedent which we ought surely to have some better reason to induce us to adopt, than the fact that those who formerly practised it have now finally abandoned it.—Finding little support from the practice of past times in the East Indies, the next resource is to look for consolation in What futurity is to bring about for us in the West. And here, sir, agreeing, as I most cordially do, in the opinions and feelings of my hon. friend on the bench below me (Mr. Wilberforce), respecting the great question of the 547 abolition of the slave trade, I really cannot help lamenting (and I am sure I say it with every, possible respect to him), that his wishes upon this subject should. so far have warped, his judgment, as to lead him to believe that he saw in the speedy abolition of the slave trade a safe and certain solution of all the difficulties of colonial service. The slave trade once abolished, my hon. friend tells us, the whole system of negro slavery will be so mitigated and improved, that the internal defence of the islands may be intrusted in a great measure to their own labouring population.—I can truly say, sir, that I would net willingly damp my hon. friend's ardour in this great cause, nor would I abate a jot of the sanguineness of his expectation, if sanguine expectation were of itself a security for speedy accomplishment. But after 20 years of annually. repeated failure, I do not think that one can rationally look with so much confidence to immediate success. God forbid that this consideration should discourage me hon. friend, or slacken his exertions for the attainment of his object! but I cannot agree with him in reckoning upon that object as already attained, so confidently as to begin already to anticipate its consequences, still less to consider them as immediate and available. The warm heart and eager imagination of my hon. friend must have been cruelly imposed upon, if he has been persuaded to consider the abolition of the Slave trade as linked with the measure now before the house; and though I should be glad to account, from so amiable a motive, for the support which he has (otherwise I think unaccountably) given it, I am afraid that it is but too easy at once to subvert and destroy the very foundation of the supposed connection between the two measures, by shewing him that this clause for limitation of service is precisely that which would make the use of a negro force to any considerable extent unavailable, even if by the abolition of the slave trade, and the consequent amelioration of the situation of the negroes, it should have become in other respects safe and desirable so to employ them. Nay, I am much mistaken if this alteration of the term of service does not strike at the root of the establishment of black corps, even as far as they at present exist. It certainly would do so if the negroes were in that state of improvement which my hon. friend anticipates.—I request my hon. friend to look at the clause in which the oath to be taken by all soldiers is prescribed; 548 he will see that there is no exception or qualification whatever; and he will see, a negro enlisted under this mutiny act could claim his discharge at the end 7 years. Now, whatever confidence my hon. friend may have in the dispositions that are to grow out of their improved situation hereafter, I do not apprehend that it can be even his project to fill the islands with disbanded negroes, who have been seven years practising the use of arms. Possibly this difficulty may not apply to the present moment, when the corps are composed of purchased slaves, and, in a great measure, I am afraid of slaves recently imported from Africa; but if ever the moment arrives which my hon. friend so fondly anticipates, when the negro will have become enough of a citizen to be (in his apprehension) safely trusted as a soldier, this improved condition, combined with this improved mutiny act, must necessarily lead to the consequences which I have mentioned. —But after all, can any thing be more wild and visionary than to refer us to the distant and doubtful consequences of the success of a measure which has failed for twenty years, for the only solution which ministers, after all their deliberation, are at last prepared to give of a difficulty of their own creating? Better almost would it have been to have confined themselves within the safer, because unmeaning, and therefore unanswerable, assertion of the right hon. gentleman on a former nights,—that he had no doubt something would be discovered to remedy the inconvenience, thought he did not pretend to be the person to discover it! Such and so insufficient being the answers which are at last provided for the objections which have been urged against the measure in this stage, the noble lord indulges himself in a triumph over other supposed objections, which, because they have not been re-stated this night, he thinks himself at liberty to consider as altogether abandoned. 'We hear no more,' says the noble lord, 'of the alarm which was taken early in this discussion, and which was attempted to be spread throughout the country, of the too great military force which was to be put at the disposal of the crown, to the danger of the liberties of the country: this doctrine has now given place to another of a different sort, and wholly inconsistent with it; we are now told of the encroachment upon the prerogative of that crown whose extended power before was to fill us with apprehension."—Begging the noble lord's pardon, 549 there is no such inconsistency in these arguments as he is pleased to impute to them; nor is that one of them which has not been stated to-night, therefore to be considered as abandoned. It has not been stated to-night simply because it does not apply to the particular point now under disscussion. It was urged at the outset of these discussions as applying to the general scope and tendency of the right hon. gentleman's whole plan, of which the measure now before us is a part: of which plan, considered as a whole, the tendency was argued, and I think demonstrated, to be the discouragement and destruction of all those species of military force, which it has been the practice and the policy of this country to employ for home-defence; and to which, consistently with the spirit of the constitution, its internal defence may best be intrusted. It was urged, and I think un-answerably, that the tendency of the right hon. gent.'s plan, (if not its avowed object) was to discourage the volunteers, to undermine, and finally overturn the militia establishments; to abolish and proscribe every mode of raising from the bosom of the country any sort of force which parliament has hitherto been in the habit of raising; and it, was contended that the inevitable consequence, (as it was the undisguised desire) of the projector of this plan, was to raise and maintain a huge unbalanced regular army. It was affirmed (and can the noble lord deny it?) that against such an army no free state had long maintained its freedom; and it was contended, not that, our military exertions ought therefore to be less, but that our military force ought to continue to preserve that character of variety which is so odious in the eyes of the right hon. gent. but which it cannot lose without a departure from the practice and the principles of the constitution. In this general objection to the right hon. gent's. whole theory of military improvement (which t am not sorry to have an opportunity of re-stating and re-affirming), what is there inconsistent with the objection stated to this particular measure, that it takes the management of the king's army out of the hands of the king; because we feel a jealousy and apprehension of the project of having nothing but a regular army in the country; does it therefore follow, that we are not to disapprove of innovations, as dangerous as unnecessary in the constitution of that army? I, would leave the kings authority over the regular army entire as I find it; but I. would not 550 trust the whole defence of the country, internal as well as external, to that army alone. Is there any thing contradictory in this, statement? Leave us our constitutional, force, and there is no danger from the regular army. But it is a poor device first to break down every other force upon which the country has relied, and to which the constitution is partial, and then to think we can remedy the inconvenience by taking the government of the regular army into Our own hands.—Equally unfounded is that part of the noble lord's statement in which he imputes as an inconsistency and absurdity to those who have agreed with him, with his right hon. friend, and with all mankind, in the necessity of keeping up, under the present circumstances of the world, large military establishments, that they now complain of the vast drain and demand upon the population of the country; and that after concurring in the wish that the country should be militarized as much as possible, they now oppose the means best calculated to produce that effect. The whole of this statement proceeds upon a mistake of one argument, and an assumption of another. I never heard it stated, I am sure I never stated it, as a matter of complaint, or even of regret, that there was so large a drain and demand for military service upon the population of the country. I have stated it, and I have heard it stated, as matter Of fact; and as affording a sufficient answer to those who, because the regular army could not be augmented on the sudden to the proportion which they represent as necessary, have thought themselves therefore entitled to despond as to the military means, or to discourage the military spirit of the country. And as to opposing the measures by which those military means were to be concerted, and that military spirit to be encouraged and extended, the justice of that imputation depends upon the assumption of the fact, that the measures devised by the right hon. gent. are in truth the best calculated for that purpose, and upon the further assumption of our acknowledgment that they are so. We acknowledge no such thing: we oppose the right hon. gentleman's plans, because we think them not the best calculated for this purpose; because we differ from him, as to his opinion that all the other military establishments of the country would be wisely and cheaply sacrificed to procure a comparatively small numerical increase of the regular army; because we think directly the contrary; because, desirable as the augmentation, to any 551 amount you please, of the regular army may be, we Would rather acquiesce in that augmentation being more limited or more slow, than sacrifice, at once all the other military establishments of the country for the purpose of hastening and extending it. In this difference of opinion I will admit for a moment that the right hon. gentleman may be right, and we wrong; but it requires arguments, and better than any I have yet heard, to prove us so; and till that has been proved, it cannot be asserted with truth, that we are wilfully opposing that which we have acknowledged to be best calculated to obtain our object. And this, sir, leads me unavoidably to the recollection of the opinions expressed on a former night by the right hon. gent. opposite me, (Mr. Fox), respecting the general state of our regular force, and the expediency and necessity of maintaining and extending it as much as possible: opinions, which, coming from a person of his pre-eminence both in talents and situation, from one whom it is impossible to consider as any other than the leading minister of the country; could not but excite the most serious attention and solicitude. I am ready to allow, that with much, indeed with most, of what the right hon. gent. has said on that occasion, I cordially agree; indeed upon much of it there Could be no difference of opinion. He told us that with an extensive and efficient regular army, an army not only in as perfect a state of discipline and military spirit as he admits our present army to be, but augmented to such an extent as to bear nearly the same proportion to the armies of the other powers of Europe, and particularly of France, as subsisted between our army and theirs in those periods of our military history to which we refer with most exultation, the wars of king William and queen Anne; he told us, that, with such an army, he would engage to maintain the interests and honour of the country; that, with such an army, he would continue, to vindicate our rank among the nations of the world. And he added most justly, and if with justice, I need not say, with that commanding eloquence with which he is always able to enforce any proposition (but which was perhaps hardly necessary to enforce this, in which there is so general a concurrence) that it was by maintaining our rank among nations, and our connection with the other nations of Europe alone, and not by any fanciful and selfish system of seperate interest and insulated policy, that we could ultimately hope to maintain even our own independent ex- 552 istence. All this, sir, I heard with admiration, and still recollect with satisfaction. But that which was wanting to complete my satisfaction, that which I still feel to be wanting, and which 1 wish I could hear the right hon. gent. this night supply, is the other alternative. 'Give me a great army,' says the right hon. gent. 'such as I describe and require, and 'I will answer for the honour and interests of the country.' But how, if after all our endeavours, if after resorting to every practicable plan for en-creasing the regular army,—how, if it should so happen, that physical causes, that the insurmountable difficulties arising from a limited population, combined with the demands of other concurrent and indispensable services, should prevent us from gratifying the right hon. gent. with an army to the full extent and amount which he requires? How are we then to Understand the right hon. gent? Are we then to understand his pledge as retracted? Are we to understand, that the right hon. gent. puts wholly, out of the account in the estimate of our relative strength and power as compared with those of the enemy, all those circumstances in which our superiority is trot only unrivalled, but unquestioned; and despairs of the safety of the country unless we can acquire a similar superiority also, in respect to that species of power which the physical means of our enemy enable them to maintain upon a therefore, if I am not much mistaken, that scale which ii is impossible for us to equal? —If indeed the right hon. gent. had been applying his argument to that system of insular policy which he very properly abjures, and confining his views, as he very properly disdained to do, to the mere question of domestic security, I admit that the argument no nation can be a sound one; undoubtedly no nation can be great or respected abroad which not confident of its safety at home; but of this there is now I trust no question. trust that the sufficiency of our means, and provision for home defence, is no longer matter of anxiety. Nor did tire right hon. gent. to do him Justice, consider it in that point of view. But if the right hon. gent. meant to say, that unless we, with our 14 or 15 millions of population, can, after providing amply for our home-defence, after manning a navy such as the world never saw before, after garrisoning all our distant colonial possessions, —maintaining at the same time the manufactures and industry of the country;—if he means that unless under all those circumstances, and after all these de- 553 ductions, we can furnish invading and conquering armies, capable of equalling those which the undivided efforts of the enemy have raised from a population more than double in number, that unless we can do this, we must be content to abdicate our station, and sacrifice our honour; if this be the right hon. gent.'s meaning, I confess I do not know how sufficiently to express my regret at hearing such sentiments from the mouth of a British minister at a moment like the present. I regret it the more, because these sentiments agree too much with those which the whole French school of politicians have for the last ten years been labouring to inculcate. The notion that territory ,and population form the only two legitimate bases of national power, that it is upon them alone that a nation can either establsh its own intrinsic merit, or found a claim to respect and influence among its neighbours,—this notion it has undoubtedly suited the views of France to propagate; but I do not think that it is becoming or Safe for the government of this country to adopt it. If this notion be true, arid is received by us as true, the contest is at an end:—France is universally predominant, and we must bound our wishes to humble safety. But if, as I contend, (and a hope I should do the right hon. gent. injustice if I did not believe him to be ready to contend with me), the power of this country is not the less firm, nor its means of exertion the less effectual, nor its claim to the high rank which it has hitherto held, the less legitimate, because they are founded on other bases than the mere extent of its soil and the number of its inhabitants; if its naval pre-eminence, if its commercial enterprize, if its industry and wealth are allowed to weigh any thing in the scale, I must protest against the doctrine, which goes to invalidate all these titles, and to place the question of its greatness upon the single point of the recruitment of its regular army.—But even if we could admit the argument to be true, with what fairness is it applied to the discussions upon the bill now before us? We who disagree with the rt. hon. gent. in considering the regular army as the single vital principle of our existence as a nation, do yet agree with him as to the importance, the expediency, and the necessity of augmenting the regular army as much as possible: and if we oppose this measure, which the right hon. gent. thinks not only the best, but the only one that can be resorted to for that purpose, it is not, because we under- 554 value his object, but because we doubt of the efficacy of his means.—It remains only to consider the nature of those supposed advantages belonging to this measure, upon which its advocates so confidently rely for the improvement and increase of the army. The noble lord (lord H. Petty) says that desertions will be altogether done away by the limitation of the term of service. I answer from the fact, that by far the greater part of the desertions now are from new levies, and from limited service. The right hon. gent. has argued (and many gentlemen, both on this and on a former night, have dwelt upon that argument with great fondness), that there is something in this measure calculated to change greatly for the better the character of the British army. I had never heard before that the character of the British army required to be changed. I had thought that every quality that constitutes a soldier, in bravery, in discipline, in enterprize, and in patience under privations, the British army had already acquired a character such as no service in Europe could surpass. It is admitted on all hands that such is the character of the present army: but it is imagined, I know not on what ground, either that in all those particulars there is a necessity for improvement, or that those who are henceforth to he enlisted would degenerate from the example of their fellows, unless some additional stimulus Were applied to them.—A learned lord, whom we have heard this night for the second time in this house (the lord Advocate of Scotland), and whom I am sure we shall always hear with pleasure, has endeavoured to illustrate this point by a transaction in his own country, respecting the colliers and miners, whose condition was changed some years ago from that of servitude for life to voluntary labour. Many persons, he says, were alarmed at the trial of this experiment; and thought that if the chains of these poor people were broken, and they were suffered to emerge from the bowels of the earth, with liberty to return there or not as they pleased, none of them would in fact return, and that the coal-pits and the mines would remain unwrought for the future. This gloomy expectation, however, was disappointed: the emancipated colliers and miners returned, not only by free choice to the labour from which they had been set free, but with added industry and encreased good will to their employers. Does not the learned lord perceive, that this fact, how- 555 ever interesting as a history (which I willingly admit it to be) yet halts a little as a comparison? The boon bestowed upon the colliers and miners was, if I mistake him not, for their own immediate use and enjoyment: but if had it been resolved only that all future colliers and miners should enjoy these immunities and privileges, but that the existing generation should go on upon the old system of indefinite servitude, does he think there would have been any thing in that, arrangement to awaken i he gratitude, to stimulate the industry, and to improve the character of the present collier and miner?—The learned lord, however, vouches for his countrymen in general, that this alteration in the term of service will operate upon their feelings to such a degree, that bounty will no longer be necessary to induce enlistment. I receive with all possible readiness, and give implicit credit to whatever the learned lord affirms in favour of a country to which I bear so high a respect, and of which he himself is so bright an ornament. Rut will the learned lord allow me to remind him that this, though admirable in itself, appears to clash a little with another character which he gave of his countrymen upon a recent occasion? In the debate upon the repeal of the defence bill, the learned lord told us that nothing could be more absurd than to expect to get men in Scotland for a less bounty than had hitherto been given. My countrymen, said he, are a sagacious people, and it was presently seen, that for the reduced bounty of twelve guineas not a man could be obtained. Now he tells us that his countrymen are a patriotic people; and that for a limited service they will engage without any bounty at all. But the other was limited service too: and therefore, though I do not question either the sagacity or the patriotism of the learned lord's countrymen, yet, while I cannot help regretting that their patriotism was not called in to correct their sagacity in the former instance: I cannot help apprehending that their sagacity may possibly interfere with the exercise of their patriotism in the present instance. My hon. friend below me (Mr. Wilberforce) has takes this matter upon a yet higher tome; and has poured forth abundant eloquence upon the topic of the union of character between the soldiers and citizens; of the incompatibility of indefinite military service with a free civil constitution; and of the necessity of making the soldiers partakers as far as possible, and at all events 556 reversionary heirs of that liberty which they are employed to defend. My hon. friend has told us, that all history exhibits the portant truth, that the armies of free countries have uniformly been victorious; that they have been so, because the armies themselves have been free. The theory is so beautiful, that we cannot but lament that it should want the recommendation of truth. I forget who it is that says, that men read history with such different eyes, and retain such different impressions of it, that you would hardly think it possible that they could have been reading the same thing. For my part, when I endeavour to recollect the most splendid and striking examples of conquest and military glory of the ancient or the modern world, I find it difficult to prevent the names of Philip of Macedon, and of his son; the name of Julius Cæsar; the name of the king of Prussia, and still more that of Bonaparte, from occurring to me: and I find myself at a loss to attribute any part of their successes to the enthusiasm of liberty or to the energy of a constitutional spirit. I am far from wishing to disparage the suggestions of my hon. friend, hut I am anxious that a serious and most important question should be placed in its true and stripped of the glare of popular fallacy. But if I am able to hear this argument with complacency, at the same time that I deny its force, I cannot suppress my astonishment and admiration at the patient silence of the right hon. secretary (Mr. Windham). The right hon. gent. has heard, riot to-night only, but on former mights, such doctrines respecting the mixture of the military and civil character, as I should have thought would have made him start from his seat to vindicate the very first principles of his system. if there were one thing which he laboured more than another in that memorable speech, in which he poured forth his whole soul, the accumulation of many years meditation, upon these subjects; it was the distinctness and inviolable separation of the soldier from the citizen. The soldier he described as utterly segregated and set apart from the population in winch he lived; as. belonging to a world of his own, and not looking beyond the limits of it; exempt from toiling for his own subsistence; but devoting himself to habits of life, to discipline, and laws, and institutions of peculiar strictness and severity, neither partaking in the solicitudes nor enjoying the immunities of civil life. So far from proposing to ap- 557 proximate the soldier to the citizen, he thought (as the house well remembers) that the occasional assumption of the military title, and the military garb, by the Volunteers, who were still irretrievably citizens, had affected the soldiers' character with a contamination which it would be difficult to remove. And yet the right hon, gent. has now, for two mights, sat by and heard his measure supported, on the ground that it tends distinctly and directly to produce the very effect which he has so strenuously disclaimed and deprecated. He heard on a former night an hon. and distinguished member from Ireland (Mr. Grattan) descant in a strain of learned and splendid declamation on the necessary union of the two characters, which he wishes to keep asunder. He heard the same night, the hon. and learned gent. near him (the solicitor general) deduce from the works of Mr. justice Blackstone, an argument, that the separation of the soldiery from the mass of his majesty's subjects was wholly incompatible with our free constitution. He has heard the same argument to-night from the noble lord near him (lord H. Petty) from the learned lord (the lord Advocate) and from my hon. friend (Mr. Wilberforce.) He has heard it asserted as the main principle and chief praise of his measure, that it promotes and secures this contaminating union; and, to my astonishment, he has accepted in silence the panegyrics which his feelings must have disavowed. I can excuse him for having disdained to answer the attacks of his opponents, but I am surprised that he should not have vindicated himself from the support of his friends.—Upon the whole, sir, nothing has been urged in the debate of this night to change the opinion which I had formed upon this measure. The advantages held out from it still appear to me to be visionary and theoretical; the practical inconveniences and dangers manifest and undenied; the remedies of those dangers uncertain and precarious, and, by the avowal of the very author of the measure, rather to be hoped for than confidently expected. The stake put to hazard is nothing less than the whole regular army; that army upon which (exclusively, as the right hon, gentlemen contend), the security of the empire is to rest. And all this at a moment like the present!—The bill I am afraid it gone too far to admit of opposition in the whole, or amendment in many parts. One part only of one danger it is yet in our power to guard against. The amendment 558 proposed by my honourable friend affords us this opportunity. It is the last twig at which we can catch before we are precipitated into all the danger which awaits us: It is too late for the house to decide against measures which hazard the army altogether; but it is vet in their power to take a security for its being kept together, at least in time of war.
Mr. Secretary Fox
replied to the objections which had been urged against the measure by the right gent.; though the arguments so ably advanced early in the debate by his hon. friend (Mr. Wilberforce) still remained wholly unanswered. With respect to the army which it was necessary for this country to keep up, it surely would not be sufficient to have merely the same numerical force as in the time of king William and queen Anne; we must have a force adequate to the new situation of affairs; and if we wished to have influence on the continent, we must have an-army capable of acting there with effect, should circumstances present the opportunity. The right hon. gent. had spoken as if there were some who talked contemptuously of wealth. Who they were he could not tell—at least he never knew that ridicule of that sort had much success. But this at least was true, that wealth alone would not secure greatness, and that it a nation wished to preserve its eminence it must depend on the number and valour of its own soldiers, not on its money to pay mercenaries. To suppose that national greatness could be maintained without this, was to assert what was contrary to all principle; to all common sense; to ail experience. He then proceeded to consider the instances of the adoption of limited service in foreign armies, and contended, that not only the practice, but the successful practice, was justified by the example of foreign nations, particularly the French and Swiss. He then shewed that the spirit of liberty, in all times, had improved the soldier. Nor was this disproved by the cases of Alexander and Cæsar. The former triumphed over the Greeks divided, and over Asiatics, it was the triumph of Europeans comparatively free. To the case of Cæsar, many of his troops might believe the pretences he held out, that they fought for liberty against tyranny and aristocracy. As to what was said of the danger of adopting this measure it time of war, it it was good to be adopted, it ought to be begun in time of War as well as in time of peace, and to do so was what his 559 noble friend (lord II Petty) had wisely and truly said, to shew real courage and Magnanimity. As to trenching on the prerogative, all he had to say was, that it was undoubtedly competent to the house to regulate any power it conferred: and to talk of the prerogative of the crown to levy men on any conditions, was very idle, since the concurrence of parliament was necessary to pay and regulate the army raised by prerogative. And would it be contended that the impression made by the measure, in this shape, would not be much greater than if it had sprung solely from official regulation; and, therefore, was not its success on that account likely to be the greater? As to the effect of the offer of a seven years' service instead of for life, he conceived it self-evident that it would procure more men. As to the discontent of those now enlisted, he saw no danger of the kind. No ill effects of that sort had sprung from enlistment for a period during the American war, or in the instances in which it was adopted since. In a word, he conceived the present measure better calculated to give us a large army than any other; and such an army all men must agree was necessary, if we were determined to preserve our greatness and pre-eminence as a nation.
Mr. Rose, jun.
said, that the experiment of limited service had not succeeded in France formerly. In the seven years war, when France, with a population of 24 millions, had only 140,000 French troops on foot, it was found impracticable to recruit them. And in the beginning of the American war the system was abandoned, and the republic had been too wise to adopt it. Besides, desertion had been very great in the French armies.
§ Mr. Perceval ,
amidst repeated cries of question! question! rose, and replied at some length, in answer to Mr. Fox, in the course of which he defended the proceedings of a former night, as perfectly parliamentary. —The question was then loudly called for, and the house divided, when there appeared, For the amendment, 103; against it 195. Majority 92.—The bill was then passed.—Adjourned at 4 o'clock on Saturday morning.