HC Deb 27 June 1806 vol 7 cc862-6

The house having resolved itself into a committee on the Training bill,

Sir James Pulteney

proposed, as an amendment, that the first 200,000 men should be trained for two years instead of one, so that they would have 48 days training; a plan which would be, more useful than giving 24 days training to double that number.

Mr. Windham

resisted the amendment, because, as this would materially increase the burden, it might produce a greater degree, of dissatisfaction then the advantage was worth. Perhaps the number of days for training might be increased, but that would be for future consideration.

Lord Castlereagh

supported the amendment, and drew a comparison between the expence of this system and that of the volunteers. The expence of the former, he contended, would be greater without the same advantages. Since there was a provision in the bill for enabling the king to appoint officers for these trained men, he wished the right. hon. gent. had stated how he was to exercise this power. He thought it a most extraordinary thing, and one which was reserved for the present ministers alone, to ask such a power, without stating how they were to exercise it. These men would be far less efficient than the volunteers, who would be disgusted at the treatment they received.

Mr. Windham

said that the noble lord was always fond of referring to the volunteers on all occasions. But this, and a great part of what he said, was quite out of place here. He was hardly excusable in following him, but as to the point of expence, he contended that that of the volunteers, taking the sums provided by private contributions, was much greater than the expence would be under this bill. Besides, here we had the advantage of both systems. It was true that under the bill of 1803 the men were to be trained 40 days. But then 20 of these days were Sundays, and these were here given up. It had been communicated to him from various quarters, that training men on that day diminished the reverence for it. On that point he would leave the noble lord in the hands of the gentlemen near him (Wilberforce and Bankes). If this was the case, we were to consider the disadvantage under which the additional training was gained. He himself wished earnestly to preserve the reverence for the Sabbath. He had shewn it when he wished to suppress the growing evil of Sunday Newspapers, though he did not experience the support from certain gentlemen which he might have expected. He did not think however, that training men on Sundays would diminish their reverence for it, but in this point he had yielded to the opinions of others. As to the officers for these men, he never meant that they should be in the first instance permanently and regularly officered. These the king would appoint as he saw occasion. There must be officers, for instance, in case of invasion, to conduct them to the regiments, as it was not to be supposed that they were to have directions put about their necks and sent off in that Manner.

Mr. Spencer Stanhope

wished to ask, whether the men, when at drill, were to be under the command of the serjeant, or of the constable who was to stand over them? He was anxious to know what the right hon. gent. menat to do on this head, as, being a deputy lieutenant, enquiries might be directed to him on the subject.

Mr. Windham

replied, that the serjeant would instruct them, and the constable would instruct them, and the constable would stand by (a loud laugh from the Opposition.) Though gentleman might laugh, he would ask with Bayes in the Rehearsal, "Where was the joke?" He could not preceive any thing laughable in this. The constable was to be present, and to assist the serjeant in the performance of his duty, and this he would be better enabled to do, from long habits of legal obedience in the people.

Mr. Perceval

observed that his right hon. friend's training act had provided a captain, lieutenant, ensign, and serjeant, for every body of 120 men. Here there was some rational provision for discipline and obedience. But there was now to be a constable to take the man to prison, if he did not turn out his toes properly, or obey the signals of "eyes right," or "eyes left," with sufficient promptitude. They were to be taken from the plough or the loom, just as they were, and only one serjeant and a constable to teach or enforce discipline.

Mr. Windham

observed that even in volunteer corps, the captain was more military in name than in reality: rather a civil than a military character; and he had little doubt that the means now proposed to enforce obedience, would be just as effectual as those which had obtained among the volunteers.

Mr. Perceval

replied that the volunteers had more of the esprit du corps than was likely to belong to the motley collections under the present bill, and therefore were more likely to advance in discipline.

Mr. Bastard

was afraid that frequent quarrels would take place between the serjeant and the constable. Among the volunteers every thing was done by zeal and good will, but here all would be done by force and by the halbert.

Lord H. Petty,

in answer to the observation of a noble lord with regard to the want of cloathing if called to act against the enemy, observed, that though in that case they could not be cloathed all at once, yet all those might be cloathed who were to act at one point; and, besides, this could from no objection to their being prepared in the mean time.

Mr. Spencer Stanhope

objected to the clause allowing the deputy lieutenants to choose the time and place for training or exercising; as he did not think that either deputy lieutenant, or any other person, would have a right to order any person to give up his field for that purpose, or even of bargaining for it.

Sir J. Newport

replied that he considered that any deputy lieutenant, or person under them, might make the bargain under the powers of this act.

Mr. Wilberforce

stated that many persons, whose opinions were intitled to great weight, objected to Sunday being appointed as the day of training. The actual consequences of its being at all allowed was, that drilling not only went on through the time of divine service, but inspections also took place. This produced a desertion of our churches, and a filling of our ale-houses on Sundays, which, he thought, was subversive of religion. As to the saving of money, that was a fallacious argument, for in every county the price of labour was so proportioned to the means of subsistence, that if men were to labour the seven days, they would receive no more than for working six days.

Mr. Calvert

considered, that the military instruction was so sacred a daty that it might well be performed of a Sunday. In other countries it had been practised without any ill effect. It was practised in Switzerland, and yet he never heard that the Swiss were either an immoral or an irreligious nation. The fact was, that unless the training was of a Sunday, it would be so inconvenient as to be altogether impracticable.

Mr. Yorke

declared, that although he had as much regard for the religion of the Country as any other man, yet. he considered that the training on a Sunday (provided that it was not in the hours of divine service) would relieve the labouring class from a great burden. It was not only in Switzerland that this was practised, but in this country it had been the established practice in the time of Henry the 8th, and in later times, that the people should be practised in the use of arms on that day.

Mr. Windham

thought, that instead of causing irreverence and disregard to the Sabbath, it would, on the contrary, exalt and dignify the duty that they had to perform. He therefore supported the clause as it now stood.

Sir J. Pulteney

declared, that he had seen many volunteers exercising on a Sunday, and he always observed that degree of decency and propriety that he thought gave a great solemnity to it. As to the prejudices of the people at large, he was convinced they were not against it, and he thought it would be extremely hard that the opinions or consciences of a few should deprive the nation of so great a benefit.—A long and desultory conversation took place. Mr. Calvert, who had moved for allowing them to be trained on a Sunday, finding the sense of the house against him, withdrew his amendment, and the clause was passed in its original state.—The chairman had leave to report progress, and the committee was appointed for Monday. Adjourned at two o'clock on Saturday morning.