HC Deb 16 July 1807 vol 9 cc831-3
Sir Thomas Turton ,

in rising to make his motion, in pursuance of his notice, for a return of the effective strength of the Volunteers, felt it impossible not to participate in the satisfaction of the house and of the public, that a noble lord, whom he did not then see in his place, was to-morrow to bring forward a proposition in which this part of the national force would be adequately provided for. There was a return similar to that he wished to call for before the house, presented in December last, but as he knew that it was inaccurate with respect to three or four regiments, he was sorry that it could not be seen from it how far it was to be depended on. It was peculiarly desirable, in the present situation of the country, to know what was the effective strength of its Volunteer force; as it was not to be concealed that that force had greatly decreased in consequence of the discouragements which it had met with. He was convinced, however, that the Volunteers were sound at heart, and that, with a little encouragement, they would again fall into their ranks; and, in the present state of the country, they should look to the Volunteers principally for the defence of the country. He should conclude by moving, that there be laid before the house a return of the effective strength of the Volunteer force of Great Britain and Ireland, distinguishing cavalry from infantry, to the latest period to which the same can be made out.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had no objection to the motion, as he thought that every information on this subject should be afforded to the house. But he apprehended that the hon. baronet would be disappointed, if he expected more accurate information in this return than in that which had been laid on the table in December last. The inspecting field-officers had then been done away, and the returns were made by the commanding officers of the corps, without any check on the part of government. These inspecting field-officers had been only just appointed; and, though they might have made returns of a few corps, the great mass of the returns, which by the law were to be made every three months, would still rest on the same authority as the returns to which the hon. bart. had alluded.

Mr. Shaw Lefevre contended, that if any relaxation had taken place in the zeal of the Volunteers, it was because there did not appear the same occasion for their services, and that, when the enemy should again appear on the coast, they would again rally round their standards. If the Volunteers had been worked, as formerly, he was sure their numbers would have diminished. The measures of the late administration respecting them, he insisted, were wise. He felt warm on this subject, because he had commanded Volunteer corps ever since 1794, and he knew them to be attached to their sovereign and the constitution. Whilst he had a limb to stand upon, he should be found at his post, and he was persuaded the Volunteers would be found to adhere steadily to the principles upon which they associated.

Sir T. Turton

replied, and contended that such discouraging language as "armed democracy," "depositaries of panic," &c. which had been applied to them in parliament, had principally tended to diminish the numbers of the Volunteers. It was impossible for them, having the feelings of men, to be insensible to terms of reproach, and it required all the influence of their officers to keep them from shewing their sense of them by withdrawing from their corps. He had raised the corps he now commanded, in 1794, and had the satisfaction to state, that whatever provocation might have been given to the Volunteers, his corps had not been in- fluenced by it.—The motion was then agreed to.