Sir Robert Williams
rose to oppose the bill. He approved altogether of the system that had been produced last year by the late ministers, and he had expected that the hon. gentlemen opposite had become converts to its merits, and that they would have had the manliness to acknowledge the fact. He called, then, on all the independent gentlemen in that house, to support their own consistency by supporting that system, which they had last year so deliberately and solemnly sanctioned. He had always been a friend to enlistment for a limited period, and he was confirmed in his opinion by the success that had attended its adoption. That system had raised 22,000 men in one year, and would continue to produce more, because the measure would be improving daily and hourly, so as in a short time, to give the country a disposeable force, adequate to every national purpose. The object of the hon. gentlemen opposite was to overturn a system that had proved so beneficial. They proposed to take from the militia, a force best calculated for defence, in order to add to the disposeable force, which was not now wanted.—As to the inspecting field officers appointed to the volunteers, he maintained that they were of no use to the volunteers, because they had no authority over them, and could not put any corps through a single manœuvre, without the order of the colonel. The withdrawing these inspecting field officers would save 40,000l. to the nation, but that was no consideration with the right hon. gentlemen opposite. The late administration had, by their measures respecting the volunteers, effected a saving of 300,000l. to the nation, without rendering that force less efficient. On all these grounds he felt it his duty to oppose the bill under dis- 932 cussion, in every stage, and should therefore move an amendment, "that the bill be read a second time this day three months."
also opposed the bill, because it would destroy the militia, and be oppressive to the country. The men that were to be taken from the militia, were to be replaced by the ballot. He did not approve of the measure, which held out encouragement to officers of militia to seek promotion in the line, by the number of men which they could influence to volunteer from the regiments. This would have most injurious effect upon the militia, for which it was at present so difficult to procure proper subaltern officers. In the present critical circumstances of the country, he was very unwilling to oppose any measures that might be deemed necessary, but a sense of duty obliged him to oppose this measure in every stage. If, however, the bill should pass into a law he would not throw any impediment in the way of its operation. He trusted, that in such a case, a clause would be introduced to prevent the recruiting parties or commanding officers from tampering with the men. The militia was already in a declining state, and for his part he would much rather the noble lord had brought forward a proposition for annihilating the militia altogether, than for degrading it by making it subservient to the recruiting of the army.
§ Mr. Willoughby
would give his support to the measure, because at this eventful period, when the states of the continent were over-run, and when we were threatened with the same fate that had befallen other nations, vigorous measures were absolutely necessary. This measure he considered efficacious and from conversations which he had had with some militia officers, he was convinced, that if double the number proposed to be allowed to volunteer were necessary, they could be obtained readily. Here he could not but remark upon the neglect of the late ministers, who had deserted our brave allies, and lavished the force of the country by such expeditions as that to Egypt, which terminated in a disaster that tarnished the lustre of the British arms. Of the volunteers, a force so much decried by a right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Windham), whose talents he admired, but whose politics appeared to him to be too theoretical and speculative, he might truly say, that the spirit with which they had come forward had saved the country. He was of opinion that the 933 inspecting field-officers and permanent duty, were necessary to make that force efficient. The hon. gent. concluded, by expressing a hope that those dissentions which had lately prevailed amongst them, would cease, and that there would be the same unanimity in the councils, which he was sure there would be in the field.
spoke against the bill. He admitted that the army would gain by the operation of it in the first instance. But parliament was bound to look farther, and then he would ask what, would become of the ordinary recruiting? That source of supply for the army would be effectually cut off by the effect of this measure. The ballot, by raising bounties, would destroy the regular recruiting. It was remarkable too, that the plan of the noble lord departed from the precedents of volunteering from the militia into the line. The volunteering in 1799 had not been followed by a ballot. A similar volunteering from the militia had taken place in the course of the present war, and had not been succeeded by the ballot. This constituted an essential difference between the present and the former cases. Though he objected to the whole of the measure, he might be induced perhaps to withdraw his opposition to it, if one or two points were to be ceded to him. The first was, that no proposition should be made, under any circumstances, to the men who should volunteer, to enlist for a longer term than that sanctioned by the system adopted last session. Another was, that the men who should be raised by ballot to supply the place of those who volunteered into the army, should not, in any case be called on to volunteer into the line. If these points were ceded, he might be induced to vote for the bill.
most heartily approved of the measure, because, as the noble lord who proposed it had stated, it would not interfere with the regular permanent recruiting for the army. I was a temporary measure to meet a pressing exigency. This measure was not like that of the right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Windham), in its infancy, but complete major at once. The soldiers it would give to the army, would be of that description emphatically designated by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Yorke) on a former night, sui generis. They would be men not cajoled or entrapped in an incautious moment; but men who had seen service, and who only regretted, that the 934 sphere in which they had moved was too narrow for their glory. It had been objected, that the measure was founded upon compulsion, but that argument would apply against all the militia laws. These laws had at first been unpalatable, and produced riots, but the good sense of the people had reconciled them to them. But if this measure were one of even greater compulsion, he would readily lend himself to its support, under all the circumstances of the country, when its inveterate foe was compelling state after state upon the continent to become subservient to his power, and would perhaps enroll them all against this country. The minister of this country ought to provide, by the energy of his measures, for its safety. That was the duty of any man, whoever he might be, that was minister, and the measures he might adopt for such a purpose would be cheerfully submitted to and supported by the people. A minister who should act in that manner with energy would stand upon the firmest ground, but he that should neglect the security of the country, by pursuing an opposite course, could not maintain himself for any time. They had seen it stated in one of the French bulletins, that the French soldiers ridiculed the Cossacks for their mode of warfare, by discharging arrows at the enemy, as European arms were not to be encountered by such weapons. This shewed the necessity of procuring a force suitable to the enemy it would have to contend with. That enemy employed compulsion for the most tyrannical purposes, and should we not resort to it to insure our preservation? The people, he was confident, would submit with alacrity to whatever should be necessary for that purpose. He could not believe that the militia officers, so brave, patriotic, and high-minded class of men, would feel any reluctance to consent to this measure, seeing and knowing as they must do, that our fate depended, not upon what we might do six months hence, but what we shall do present. Every feeling of public duty and private honour, a proper regard for our religion and property, as well as for every thing that can be valuable in civil or social life, must bind them to promote the measure. We should not blind ourselves to our situation. If the enemy should conquer this country, he would rob us of every thing we hold dear. He would realize what he told his army at Ulm, that he had 500 years of vengeance to inflict on 935 England. What he said then, he would no doubt realize, if he should succeed in his designs against this country. That enemy had never broken his word in any thing cruel, vengeful, or invasive. The long arrear of hate for the 500 years that Great Britain had rivalled and resisted the power of France, would be discharged with accumulated interest. If this were true, he was sure that militia officers would not feel either disgust or relaxation in consequence of a measure which was necessary to preserve the country from the dangers that threatened it. He was sure that there would be no objection to the measure, when it would be seen that it was become necessary. In the case of an individual who might not be willing to go from his family though balloted, a fund might be provided by private benevolence to cover him from the severity. He only threw out these hints, that means might be devised to obviate any cases of individual hardship that might occur; though he was afraid that the practical consequence of acting upon such a principle, might be injurious in another way, by interfering with the regular recruiting for the army.
§ Mr. Calcraft
could not concur in the sentiments expressed by the hon. gentlemen, who had for the first time addressed the house that night, (Messrs. Willoughby and Lockhart) though he was anxious to concur in any measure that might be deemed necessary for the security of the country, in the critical situation in which it was placed. Before he could agree to the proposition of the noble lord, he must first look at the situation of our national force; at the pretext for the noble lord's plan, and at the plan itself. When he found that the force already on foot was, if properly organized, arranged and regulated, sufficient to save the country, he was anxious to spare his countrymen that compulsion, which the noble lord considered necessary. If he was persuaded that the existing force was sufficient for that purpose, he was justified in opposing the noble lord's measure. Before he proceeded in his argument, he should beg leave to make one or two observations upon the volunteer force. He was fully sensible of he zeal, the spirita[...] due sense of the country's danger, with which the volunteers had come forward in its defence, but he could not sit silent and hear charges brought against his right hon. friends of the late administration, that they had by their measures diminished the vo- 936 lunteers. If gentlemen were but to examine the papers on the table, they would find that any diminution which the volunteer force might have undergone had not arisen out of the measures or regulations of the gentlemen with whom he acted, but was the natural consequence of the institution [a cry of no, no]. He begged gentlemen to examine the papers. In the year 1805, the volunteer force was upwards of 400,000; but, at the commencement of the year 1806, that force was reduced to 318,000; and this was before his hon. friends had come into office, before any regulations which they afterwards made existed, and therefore the charges so constantly urged against his hon. friends was not borne out by the documents. Every body must be aware that it was the nature of such an institution to be fluctuating, and it was evident from the documents on the table, that from the time when his hon. friends came into office to the latest return, the reduction of the volunteer force did not exceed 28,000. Any gentleman who looked to the fact, and compared that diminution with what had taken place in the antecedent year, m[...]st be sensible that there was no foundation whatever for the charge. As to the inspecting field-officers, both he and his hon. friends admitted, that it was necessary that there should be some organ between the volunteers and the government. But there was a complete staff in every district, who were nearly idle, and who, by performing this duty, might cause a considerable saving to the nation. It might be said, that the saving would be small: he contended, however, that the effect on the country, by attending to every necessary principle of economy, would be considerable. He asked too, why those inspecting officers had not been taken from the half-pay, rather than from amongst those that had quitted the service? It was somewhat remarkable, that of the 70 inspecting field-officers, only 16 were in the army. Did not that look like a desire to extend patronage? It certainly wore to him the strongest appearance of that which had so lately been the topic of mutual charge and recrimination in that house. As to the plan of the noble lord, which was to operate by filling up the places of the men who should volunteer from the militia by the ballot, what was that but a conscription to supply the army? If such a measure was necessary, it would he much better to employ the ballot to procure men for a more 937 enlarged sphere of service, as in the case of the army of reserve. This he should prefer to raising the men for the militia, and waiting till they should become desirous of a more enlarged sphere of service, while the disposable force of the country was, in the mean time, squandered and dispersed. But what was to become of the militia during the process? It would be June next before the men raised for the ballot would be fully trained and effective, as the militia regiments are at present, so that the noble lord's measure would, without any adequate necessity or object, paralyse that important arm of the public force. To shew that there was no necessity for this, it would be sufficient to take a view of the force now existing applicable to defence. There were in Great Britain and Ireland at present, of regular troops, 183,000: militia, 77,000; naval troops, seamen, and marines, which, by being employed round the coasts, were applicable to defensive purposes, 120,000; artillery, 20,000; amounting together to more than 400,000 men. There were, besides, 300,000 volunteers in Great Britain, which, with the sea fencibles, and the volunteers of Ireland, made an aggregate amounting to nearly one million of men in arms for the defence of the country, and afforded by our limited population. With such a force as that in arms, could they not provide for the security of the country without harassing the subject with a conscription or ballot? If they did not conceive that force sufficient, they were more apprehensive of the power of the French arms than he was disposed to be. The plan of the noble lord would, no doubt, procure a valuable supply for the army, but the militia was to be filled up by a ballot that would fall heavily upon a particular class, and the ballot always resolved itself into a bounty, so that it would thus become a heavy and oppressive tax upon a class least able to bear it. It was not just to procure the supply for the army from any particular class. For his part, he should much rather have the men raised by bounty from a public fund. When the volunteering from the militia had formerly been resorted to, it rested on totally different grounds. The noble lord had stated, as a ground for the measure, that the regular force of the country had been scattered and dispersed by the predecessors of the present administration. But that noble lord had not stated, that the present ministers were sending more troops in one ex- 938 pedition, at least in the two armaments they had been preparing, than all their predecessors had sent out. They certainly had collected more men and transports for their expedition, for which it was less difficult to find any thing than an object, or an officer to command. When the volunteering from the militia had taken place in 1799, there was a considerable foreign expedition in progress. Again, in the year 1805, there was some plausible pretext for the measure, though he had felt it his duty to oppose it at the time. The noble lord had stated, that it was not his intention to take any measure that would affect the militia, bu[...] was it not galling to officers who had exerted themselves in making their men good soldiers, to have so constitutional a force for defence frittered away, at the moment when there was a probability of its being brought into action? It would be to mock them, to give them the name of militia, if they were to be converted into a supplying source to the army. If ever the day was to arrive, when British blood was to be shed upon British ground, it would be degrading and disgraceful to militia officers to be deprived of the opportunity of shewing their bravery and their skill in the defence of their country. The noble lord had also declared, that it was not his intention to alter or interfere with the system of his right hon. friend: but it was his intention to subvert it. The ballot would interfere with the regular recruiting, and a falling off in that would afford ground of charge against the system. The hon. gentlemen opposite viewed with an envious and malignant eye the immortal credit belonging to the system established by his right hon. friend. Had not that system procured more men than the additional force act and the ordinary recruiting in the same time? It had; and that was doing a great deal. He remembered the high bounties and the complicated and vexatious machinery of that bill: he remembered the ages and description of men obtained by it, and if the returns were to be analyzed, he believed that it would appear that no such numbers as appeared in the returns had been actually supplied to the army. The scheme of the noble lord was a covered attack by sap upon the system of his right hon. friend.—Having said thus much in opposition to the bill, he should add, that he was not as great an enemy as others to the ballot, as a mode of recruiting for the army, but it was only to be justified by a strong and imperious 939 necessity. The defensive force marked out by the constitution should not be frittered away: and if any considerable addition were necessary to the disposable force of the country, the ballot ought rather to be applied to that purpose, than in the manner proposed in this bill.
§ Mr. Cripps ,
so far as his observation had extended, though he allowed that was rather a limited criterion, had found that desertion had not decreased in consequence of the late measures of military arrangement. He thought some extraordinary exertion in the way of recruiting was required in the present crisis. With respect to any general diminution in the attendance of volunteer corps, he was not competent to speak; but in the corps that he commanded, consisting of 400 men, there had been no falling off. He thought it a great defect in the arrangement of the late plan, with respect to the militia, that the ballot was altogether stopped, and that the vacancies occasioned by the retreat of those who had served their terms, were not filled up. He was of opinion, that the inspecting field-officers, though in some instances of use, need not be so numerous as they now were.
§ Colonel Wood
said, it must be allowed, that the present crisis called for every possible exertion, in order to have not only ample means of defence at home, but also of powerful attack, if opportunity should offer. He agreed that our existing armed force was, in comparison with our population, beyond that of any other country. But when the despotic power of the present ruler of France had been unable to find recruits without resorting to conscription, he did not see why we should abstain from resorting to a measure of equal force for the defence of the freedom and happiness we enjoyed. The recruiting under the new system had been hitherto so successful, because it had no competition to struggle with; the militia ballot was totally suspended. In May it would revive, and when the five or six thousand men, who were then to retire, should come to be balloted for, the effect of the plan would be much less than it had been. It was not on measures of mere prospective success that the safety of the country could be allowed to rest. He trusted that the colonels of the militia regiments would universally promote the execution of this measure when it should be passed: for however it might be in general matter of commendable emulation in them, to vie with each other who should 940 have the best regiment, that emulation must give way to the superior importance of the preservation of the country. It should be matter of pride to encourage the men to go into the line, and the colonels, who in such an exigency, would rather repress than encourage the general ardour, could look with little confidence to their men, and could be looked upon with little confidence by those men, if it should be necessary for them to go into action together on British ground. He did not think the Training act could be carried into effect in its present form. The line could not spare officers for the mass, neither could the militia. The volunteers he considered well officered in their own kind. If the continent should make a general peace on the terms dictated by Bonaparte, we should have to maintain the contest single-handed. In that case all our force should be called into action, and with a view to strengthen that force he voted for the bill.
knew of no contest between the militia colonels and the line, but who should have the best discipline; and, if occasion should arise, the best fighting battalions. The object of this bill was to depress the militia, and to raise the glory of the line upon its ruins. He should therefore oppose the bill, looking upon the militia as those most interested in the preservation of the land, consequently those most likely to fight for it, and best entitled to its favour and confidence. With respect to the consistency which gentlemen were called upon to shew, he had never known any consistency during the 15 years that he had sat in parliament, except in uniformly substituting one plan for another, according as every new government wished to supersede the plans of its predecessors. He therefore hoped gentlemen would be now consistent, and that they would persevere in rejecting a measure so much to be deprecated. He hoped that parliament would consider the necessity of making other exertions also, without which it would be impossible to go on in this contest. The weight of taxes, already so intolerable, could not be well increased. He hoped that every acre that was productive, would be taxed without exemption. He thought also, that means might be found in the country, of providing a supply of timber for the navy, now purchased so dearly from foreign nations. He trusted that a committee would be appointed to enquire, and 941 to report, not only what savings could be made in our expenditure, but also what further funds and resources could be called into action. Though he thought these repeated drafts from the militia so many death-blows, and though he was most anxious for adhering to its original constitution, yet if the bill should pass, he should do his duty by giving it his utmost support.
§ Mr. Fuller
differed from the hon. gent. who had last spoken. He considered that the practice which prevailed of late years, of making the militia nearly the same as regular regiments, hurt considerably the recruiting for the regular army, by causing a competition. When the militia was on the original plan, raised for only 3 years, and serving principally in their own counties, then the balloted men often served, and acquired military habits, which induced them afterwards to enter into the regular army; but when that old practice was changed, and they were marched out of their counties, and kept on the footing of regular regiments, then the men who were balloted no longer served, but obtained substitutes, at large bounties, which injured materially the regular army, by the competition which it gave rise to.
maintained the propriety of our having different descriptions of troops, particularly with a view to home defence. But as the power of making effective attack was among the most powerful means of defence, and as our regular army was the only offensive force that we had in addition to our navy, he thought an increase of the line most necessary in this momentous crisis. The noble lord took a comparative view of the effects of the measures of the right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) for recruiting the army, and the Additional Force Act, and contended that this latter would have been equally productive if allowed a fair trial. Considering the state of Europe, and of the British empire, menaced with all the rage of the conqueror; the state of Ireland too, for though he counted much upon the loyalty of the Catholics of Ireland, and was convinced that they would repel with indignation the seducing appeals of the bishop of Quimper, yet he could not help thinking that Ireland was vulnerable, acid therefore to be watched with peculiar care, and guarded with an ample for[...]e:—under all these circumstances the exigency was obvious, and this was the best means of providing for it.
§ Mr. Whitbread
began by saying that he was anxious to express his sentiments of the bill before it went into a committee, because he had not yet heard that made out which ought to have been proved in the first instance, namely the necessity of the case. He had heard nothing to convince him that such emergency as had been stated existed at present, and until he was convinced of that, he could not assent to the bill in its outset. And here he could not help making one observation, that in the whole course of those wars so protracted, when that house was so often and so solemnly told by Mr. Pitt, that not an hour was to be lost, that the wisdom of the country must at once and for ever resolve upon the best means of bringing forth its strength, and that after all those warnings, and consultations, and measures proposed, agreed to, and acted upon, that still we were now as we were at first; that from the year 1793 to 1807, nothing had yet been effectually done in the way of determining upon some satisfactory mode of national defence. This was extraordinary, but it was not unaccountable, for upon a review of all those different plans and schemes, it did appear that they were calculated to act only on great emergencies. They were provided against incidental events, and therefore were not of that permanent nature necessary to the progressive improvement of a wise and comprehensive system of military defence; therefore it was, that the plans of that statesman, as to the defence of the country, were not found to answer. The Additional Force Act, considered as a measure of security, entirely failed. And, now, what were they about to do? merely to provide, as it was said, against an emergency. But then, the present could not be said to be one of Mr. Pitt's emergencies. The French emperor was not now at Boulogne. Things were not yet brought to the mere cast of the die. The fate of the empire was not yet brought to the issue of a single battle; the country was not called on by any existing circumstances, to play the bad game of sacrificing the future to the present. As to the French emperor, he would here take leave to observe upon the idle and childish way in which many persons were pleased to indulge when speaking of that person; words did not win battles. It was by deeds, and deeds of energy, we were to maintain ourselves and oppose him; but what was the deed of energy that the country was now called upon to perform, and who were 943 those who now called upon the country, who now told the country that a moment was not to be lost? The men who, in the midst of all that emergency, put an abrupt stop to every possible means of answering that emergency, by dissolving the parliament, so far admitting the necessity of extraordinary levies; but he denied that necessity. He was now, as formerly, fully satisfied that there was, in the existing forces, ample means of defence, provided that force was well administered. He would put it fairly to any military man, if 168,000 men were not a sufficient establishment for the national defence, even in cases of the last emergency?—The noble lord had said much upon the necessity of ministers having at their command a large disposable force. He could not at all agree with the noble lord as to that necessity. He was at the same time fully aware that there were many of his majesty's present ministers, who thought the enemy assailable in certain points, and that the means of this country could not be better applied than in expeditions to those places. But he was not of that opinion. A good deal had been said, too, about the necessity of having a sufficient disposable force to send to Ireland; and yet he knew not how to reconcile that with the measures that were now pursuing with respect to the defence of that part of the united kingdom. For, if report was true, ministers were at that time withdrawing from Ireland the forces which it had been pretended, in introducing that bill, it was necessary to keep there. Why were ministers in so violent a hurry to pass the Irish insurrection act, if that country was so tranquil that they could draw off the greater portion of its military strength without any apprehension whatever? This looked like tampering with Ireland. They were told that there was the most urgent necessity for dispatch in passing the insurrection bill into a law, for that the other would expire on the 1st of August. Why, what was intended to be conveyed by this affectation of alarm? Were they to be told at the same time, that Ireland would be lost if it was a day without an insurrection act, and yet hear of the troops being withdrawn from it, while the necessity of sending troops into Ireland had been pleaded as an additional argument in favour of the noble lord's bill? Or why, if such danger was apprehended with respect to Ireland, by the delay of passing the insurrection bill, why dissolve the parliament and thereby 944 increase the danger so much apprehended? But, as to the emergency so much talked of, he did not look upon it as so pressing. The French emperor would take some time to pass from the present scene of his conquests to Paris; he would take some time in preparing to direct his immediate operations against this country, and some considerable time must, in the nature of things, elapse between the commencement of those operations and the final attempt to bring them to an issue. The first period could not possibly be before the autumn; the next would extend at least till winter; and the final attempt would not be before at least a year had passed by: twelve months must first elapse, and at the end of that period, in what state would they find the force of the country? just at that moment the effects of the noble lord's bill would have operated, so far as to have, by that time, disorganized the defensible force, and the ballot, at that time, would not have been completed. Let the house, then, mark the injustice of the bill as affecting the militia. The militia might at that moment, be brought into action, when the country would inconsiderately, but very naturally, entertain precisely the same sentiments of its character and promise that it now so jutly did; and what must be the result might be easily foreseen by any man who knew how ill calculated a set of raw recruits must be to supply the place of an experienced and disciplined soldiery. He had seen the first draught that had been made from a militia regiment in Kent, and an hon. gent. over against him had been present at the same time: he confidently appealed to that hon. gent., if he ever witnessed such a shameless exhibition of drunkenness, idleness and dissoluteness, as upon that occasion. The defective situation in which these men were found on the subsequent expedition to Holland, was too well known to require any comment from him. He had been further assured by a general officer, who was very capable of forming a correct judgment on the fact, that after their return from that unfortunate service, it would take nine months to make these men fit for any other.—The evils and hardships of the measure now before the house would be felt most sensibly in recruiting the militia after the draft. The militia was in effect made up of substitutes, and those who now should be balloted and could not serve, must of course find substitutes, whatever price they might cost. The conscription enforced 945 throughout France was spoken of as worthy of being imitated here. If it was, let us come to it manfully, and let us not practise it indirectly, but more partially and oppressively, by beating up the militia, and then allowing it to feed till it filled itself, in order to devour it. He must say he had a better opinion of the army of reserve than of the measure now before the house. But even that measure justified in the execution, the objections he had felt, and made to it, while passing through the house. He had, notwithstanding the disapprobation he had felt and expressed, contributed most zealously and actively in carrying that measure into effect; and he was sure every member would enforce this, or any other measure, with equal zeal, let their private sentiments of it be what they might. He again enforced the folly of having recourse to temporary expedients, to the destruction of lasting resources. The present expedient was a kind of fungus springing up and perishing as soon as it was plucked. The existing force was sufficient for all the exigencies of the time, even though the great door, which was about to have been opened for engaging the Irish Catholics to enlist, appeared to be irrevocably shut, [a cry of no! no!] at least while the right hon. gent. opposite should remain in power. The system which his right hon. friend had introduced to supersede and remedy that system of expedients that had so long and so injuriously prevailed, was founded on fundamental principles of the wisest policy, and on human nature itself. The substitutes serving in the militia, were now entitled to look forward for their discharge at the end of the war. To engage these men for 21 years, would be totally to alter the principle of his right hon. friend's plan, and to destroy the confidence placed in it. The noble lord's present plan, supposing there was an immediate exigency, and that this plan would supply that exigency, would not go one moment beyond it. It would exhaust itself, and destroy the general means of recruiting the army. It was objected to his right hon. friend's plan, that, of those it had procured, a great number were boys. It was urged in answer to this, that the plan it had superseded, had procured a great number of old men, who were counted, though evidently approaching fast to a period when they would be no longer fit for service. The entrance of so many boys was to his mind a proof that the plan of his right hon. 946 friend had made the condition of a soldier agreeable to parents and friends. For boys must be supposed to be under the controul of their parents and friends, and could not be supposed to enter so generally without their approbation. It should besides be considered, that these boys did not begin to count their first period of service, till they reached the age of 18. Their parents parted with them cheerfully, because it was not a parting for life, as it was before, at the very outset. His right hon. friend's plan would, if persevered in, correct all the vices that had hitherto pervaded our military system. He had a high opinion of the volunteers, but he must altogether condemn and deprecate the opinion uttered by some, that this part of our force might be relied on for our whole defence. No man could seriously hold such an opinion, and express it for the purpose of courting popularity, with an intention to withdraw it, in the event of the exigency arising; it was a dangerous as well as an unwise and uncandid expedient. Those who would attempt to expose the fallacy of the idea would be accused of disparaging the volunteers, while it would he endangering the ruin of the country to suffer it to pass unexposed. The volunteer force was at first 415,000 men. It then declined to 350,000, and afterwards to 300,000, without any observation on the decline from the other side. It was now 289,000, and he was convinced as effective at that number as the whole original 400,000. But this last reduction, though the smallest in proportion of time, was unjustly charged as matter of crime upon his right hon. friend, and those who acted with him.—He hoped the Training act would be carried into effect in addition to all the other expedients. Without some measure of that general nature it was impossible that our regulars, our militia, our volunteers, or even our navy, could secure us. He recommended the pursuit of all measures that could lead to the restoration of peace. Nothing would tend more to the strength and security of the empire than the true sentiment of cordial union and co-operation through all orders of the people. I have always, said the hon. gent., thought that your best strength would be peace among yourselves; peace with your dependencies, and above all, peace in Ireland—peace with the Irish Catholic; and that would do more for you than all your measures for new levies and new conscripts. You talk of 947 strengthening the resources of the empire, while you are hurrying through the house Insurrection acts against the most vital part of the empire. The Irish Catholic is excluded from your militia [a loud cry of no! no! from the ministerial benches]. I do not say that he may not enter into your militia regiments; but I do say that the obstacles you have put in his way amount to a comparative exclusion. I have now but one observation to make, and that is, to express my earnest hope that his majesty's ministers do not think so desperately of our situation, as not to be willing and anxious on all occasions to embrace the first opportunity of accepting any overtures that may offer for peace with the emperor of France. There never was, I believe, in the history of empires, an epoch in which peace was not the most desireable object, in which it was not wise to try for it, and madness wantonly to evade it; in saying thus much; I hope I shall not be understood as wishing to listen to any accommodation that could compromise the dignity of this great empire. The wish next my heart has always been a peace with France; and I have always deprecated the war of words I have heard too often within these walls, directed against an enemy who is not by words to be resisted. Mr. Pitt always prefaced the statements of any new plan of defence or taxation which he had to propose, with inflated accounts of the pride and arrogance, the relentless hatred and jealousy of a cruel and implacable foe;—all this being abuse, amounting to nothing more than that Buonaparte was a formidable enemy, and that if you did not kill him, he would kill yon. As yet, however, such predictions have been generally falsified. When Buonaparte came down to his menaced shores, he said that it was the only thing left him to try, and that though the chances were 100 to one against him, he would be obliged to try it. He now will have the means of trial. We, I am confident, shall not be deficient on our part. In such an extremity I shall not fear the issue; but, at the same time, I shall live in hope of what may be more conducive to our happiness—an honourable peace between the two nations.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, he thought the arguments of the hon. gent. who had just sat down most extraordinary, for he had admitted that the common enemy of this country had conquered the whole of the continent of Europe, and that he was 948 now about to concentrate and direct his whole attention to the attack of this country; and yet he had strennously contended that there was no urgency which called on the house and on ministers to adopt the measure now proposed for the defence of the country. He begged the house would recollect that his majesty's present ministers had been called on by several members of that house to know if they did not mean to bring forward some measure to this effect; and he had been informed just now, for he happened not to be in the house on the day on which it happened, that the hon. gent. who spoke last had been of the number of those who put that question. He, for one of those ministers, would say, that such a measure had been under their serious consideration from the first moment they came into office; but they had been desirous not to act with any degree of precipitation; first, because they wished to see what effects might result from the plan of the right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Windham), and to convince him and the public that it was not their intention to overturn and do away every thing which had been adopted on this head by their predecessors in office; and, secondly, because they could not possibly foresee the disastrous events which had lately taken place on the continent; and from a hope and expectation that they would not have happened, had flattered themselves the war might have been so much longer protracted, that such a measure would not be so immediately and indispensably necessary as recent unfortunate events had rendered otherwise. It was impossible for his majesty's present ministers to have protracted the late warfare; but, perhaps, if assistance had some months before been afforded, there might have been a chance of that event having been produced; as it was, there remained only a choice of evils; and he believed that the choice now made was that of the least of those which now presented themselves. The ruler of the French had now made peace with all those powers on the continent with which he had been engaged in war, and we had to contend with his whole force, concentrated and directed against this country. In fact, the greatest part of the continent of Europe were against us; and surely the house would not hesitate to say, that this was such an exigency as called for a very considerable augmentation of our force? As that was granted, the next question was, whether it was not necessary 949 to have part of it a disposeable force? A great mistake seemed to have been made by several gentlemen who had spoken on this head, and who had seemed to consider a disposeable force only in the light of a force to be used in foreign offensive operations. They seemed to forget that we had many possessions abroad which must require troops to defend them. Since the present war broke out, we had gained the Cape, and possessions in South America; a part of our force was detached to Alexandria and other places, which required, and would require, troops for the purpose of keeping them, he would not say in perpetuity, but in order to purchase what the hon. gent. who spoke last had so warmly expressed himself desirous of, an honourable peace. He war one of those who so far concurred in opinion with the hon. gent. that peace was always desirable; but he begged the house to recollect, that in order to obtain that on fair and honourable terms, it would be necessary to shew the enemy that we were prepared, at all points, to carry on the war; and that nothing would ultimately produce that desirable event more successfully, than being able to shew him that we were in a state to cope with him, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe where we had foreign possessions. Those possessions had many of them devolved on his majesty's present ministers, from plans and operations originating with their predecessors in office; though he did not mention this with a view of giving any opinion on the propriety or otherwise of those plans, but merely to shew that the country was at this time so situated, as to require a much larger disposable force than it had a twelvemonth ago. This being the case, which he thought would scarcely be denied, the question was, what was the best mode that could be devised or adopted, of obtaining a large force of that description in a short time? He thought there could be but one opinion, that the measure of his noble friend, now under the consideration of the house, was best adapted to this purpose; for it gave immediately a very large addition to our army, of troops already disciplined, and which would be able to act with the regular army, either at home or abroad for defensive purposes. With respect to what had been said, that it was intended to debase and degrade the character of the militia, he was certain that no such idea had ever entered into the heads of his majesty's present ministers: so far from it, he for 950 one, had always thought with the hon. member behind him (col. Wood), that it was giving the militia an opportunity of defending the country on a more extended scale, and would shew that their officers had not only made them solders to the eye, but to the heart also, and that they were emulous and zealous to defend their country, not only at home, but in every quarter where their services might be deemed necessary. The hon. gent. who spoke last had said that he would not, in arguing this measure, touch upon any other matters which were not immediately connected with it, and he had almost kept his word. He had, however, in some degree, departed from it, in referring to the case of the people of Ireland, which he thought was not immediately connected with this measure, and which was not, in his opinion, very fair and candid, when he knew that the late ministers did not mean to have acted on the plan of any further extension of indulgences or conciliation than merely the bill which had been brought into the house, had they remained in office. He hoped, therefore, the house would see the necessity of as speedily as possible adopting a measure which was, on all hands, allowed to be necessary, and which the present bill was calculated to effect in the easiest and most speedy mode.
§ Mr. Addington
said, that if the question now to be considered was an ordinary one, and if he did not concur with a gent. who had spoken last but one (Mr. Whitbread) in thinking that the decision of the house might prove of vital importance, and that perhaps even the preservation of our independence might depend on the measures now to be adopted, he should not have obtruded himself on the notice of the house; but in this crisis of unexampled difficulty and contingent dangers, which most seemed to admit, though differing materially as to the means of averting them, he hoped it would not be thought unbecoming in him to submit to the consideration of the house such observations as the most mature reflection had suggested to him.—In one point, and indeed in more than one, he cordially concurred with his right hon. friend opposite to him, (Mr. Yorke,) that one false step taken at this time, might prove irretrievable; that the interval between the present moment and the next meeting of parliament might be big with events, in which the national welfare might be deeply involved; and that the utmost 951 caution and circumspection were necessary in deciding on such measures as might be now submitted to parliament. It had been therefore matter of great satisfaction to him to find, that ministers had, however reluctantly, acceded to the proposition made from this side of the house, to defer the second reading of this bill till that day. The interval thus given, he, in common with every other member, had turned to the best account he could, by weighing all the arguments for or against this measure; and he had even indulged the delusive hope that his noble friend opposite to him, (lord Castlereagh,) would have reconsidered his own proposition, and would have come down to the house prepared to substitute in its room, one as simple, and infinitely more efficient; one better adapted to the circumstances in which the country was placed; one equally practicable, and more certain in its results; and free from the weighty and insuperable objections that attached to the measure now under discussion. To his mind, this would have been an inexpressible relief, proportioned to the reluctance that he felt in appearing to oppose government on such a subject, and at such a moment, when he knew the value of unanimity in that house; to which unanimity he for one could not contribute but at the expence of every feeling, of every conscientious opinion, of every sentiment of public duty, and indeed without compromising the safety of the empire itself.—It would soon appear that his disapprobation of this measure rested on grounds not only different from, but absolutely opposite to, those which had been stated by his right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) on the bench above him. Hitherto he had always appeared particularly alive, almost to an extreme, to the dangers to be apprehended from the formidable power of France; and had, on former occasions been the foremost in recommending the adoption of new exertions, to meet new emergencies. And yet now he could contemplate those dangers, magnified to a degree that might disquiet the stoutest heart; he could look with a steady eye on those dangers, increased out of all proportion to those of any former period, and could gravely recommend to parliament and to the country, to be content to do nothing—to rest with their arms before them—and to depend exclusively for our security on the operation of those measures, which he, when a minister, had 952 prevailed on parliament to adopt. Of the efficacy, the value, the wisdom of that great measure, the new military system, Mr. A. said, that his right hon. friend would never expect to hear any doubt expressed by him: he ever should think, in full confidence of its successful result, that by it he had built an eternal monument of fame for himself, and had laid the foundation of the future security of the country. He had been one of those who had expressed themselves most sanguine as to its immediate good effects, and still thought, that if proper measures had been taken at an earlier period for the promulgation of the new regulations, as to this moment they had not, its success would have been apparent much sooner, and to a much greater extent. But what had the right hon. projector of it always said on this subject? Why, that it would take not only months, but years, to bring it to any thing like perfection.—If, therefore, his right hon. friend at all agreed with him as to the magnitude, or the proximity of the danger with which we are threatened, his own recorded opinions of the tardy progress of his own plans, afforded a complete answer to the objections which he now made to the adoption of some auxiliary measures, which would, at least, afford a temporary resource till his own might answer all the purposes for which it was designed. That ballot, in every shape, must more or less effect its operation, he did not mean to deny. This could only be temporary; every one would know the cause of it; and he was warranted in believing that it would be inconsiderable. Because, during the operation of that great and most efficient measure (as he believed he now might be allowed to call it), the Army of Reserve bill, it was a fact that the regular recruiting had not diminished more than one fourteenth, as was demonstrated by documents laid on the table of that house. There was good reason therefore to hope, that the effect upon it would be trifling.—It would be already evident to his noble friend, that he entirely concurred with ministers as to the indispensable necessity of adopting new and vigorous measures, which the state of affairs, and the feelings of the country demanded at their hands.—He applauded government for its wisdom in persisting in the military system, which they had found shaped to their hands, whatever were their declared opinion of it, and in avoiding the danger of unhinging our whole military 953 establishment by attempting to rescind it. They had done more; they were not only giving it fair play, but, as he knew, had lately taken some very active steps to give it an accelerated impulse. How far these. were the most judicious that could have been selected for that purpose, he should not stop now to enquire; he was sure they were well meant, and was confident that they would prove considerably efficient.—He would now come nearer to the question under the immediate consideration of the house: which was a proposition of the noble lord's to raise 38,000 men, of which 28,000 were to be disposeable force. It might he convenient to the house to look at this principally in three points of view. First, whether its disadvantages might not be greater than any advantages that were likely to accrue from it? Secondly, whether any advantages at all were to be expected from it, or if any, to what extent? And thirdly, whether other measures infinitely preferable might not be resorted to, for the attainment of the object in view, winch he had already admitted to be a most important one? On each of these points, he hoped that the house would indulge him with making observations; assuring gentlemen, that as he was not in the habit, so he never felt disposed to trespass longer on their patience, than was absolutely necessary to his view of any subject, and that he should abstain, as far as possible, from renewing those arguments which had already been more ably urged, on a previous discussion of this subject.—He would begin with stating, that we had now, according to the last returns, a militia, English, Scots, and Irish, amounting to 77,000 men; as fine a body of men as the world could exhibit, and as efficient as any that had not actually been engaged in regular service. It would be recollected, that this force did not consist of new levies, of raw recruits, but had now been embodied above four years; and that therefore, what was of immense importance, a mutual confidence might be supposed to exist between officers and men. They constituted a formidable part of our domestic strength, amounting in fact to very little short of one half of it. This force his noble friend proposed to unsettle (to use his own expression) for a time, by allowing the large proportion of 28,000 men to volunteer from it it into the line. Was this sort of gentle concussion all the inconvenience that promised to result from such an attempt? 954 Was it possible to look back on the mischievous consequences that had ever resulted from those tamperings with our constitutional force, and not tremble at the renewal of them? Without detaining the house by going back to what had occurred in the war before last, he would only avert to what had passed since the present militia was raised in 1803. One argument in favour of raising it to such an amount, and one which he hoped would not be hastily lost sight of was, that whilst the necessities of the state were obliging us to increase our regular army to such an extent, it might be prudent that our constitutional force should bear a proper proportion to it. A militia therefore of 90,000 men was raised; and such was the confidence and spirit prevailing at that time, that in a few months it was completely officered, and in less than a year in the highest state of discipline. Scarcely however had this fine fabric attained this degree of perfection, than it began to totter. In 1804, a change of government took place, and the first measure of the new administration was, the Additional Force bill, one great principle of which was to suffer this force to decay, in numbers equal to the supplementary militia. What was the consequence? In the course of one year, the numbers of course fell off from the casualties not having been filled up, and a vast number of officers sent in their resignations, partly from disgust, partly from finding that their services were in a short time not likely to be wanted. And it is curious to remark, that this injurious result of the first measure, namely, a defalcation of five hundred officers, was made a principal argument in the subsequent year, for allowing 17,000 militia to volunteer into the line. For this he had voted, as it was evident that the men could be of no use where they were without officers to command them. With this experience before our eyes, we are now called upon to resort again to this violation of faith towards the militia, and not only to supply the numbers so volunteering, but to add 10,000 to their numbers. We began at the wrong end; instead of thus extinguishing all inducements for gentlemen to come forward, we should begin by endeavouring to revive confidence. We knocked down with one hand, and then raised with the other; but he feared that the blow would be so stunning as to afford no hope of placing this establishment on its legs again. And suppose the highly pro- 955 bable case, of a great resignation of officers, and of the militia furnishing but few volunteers, while you are adding 38,000 men to their numbers. They would be totally useless, and must either be disbanded again, or these new levies must be allowed by a new act to volunteer also into the line. The measure was full of absurdities, as well as of risk.—The disadvantages were likely to be such as no possible advantage could compensate; and we should endanger the ruin and annihilation of this branch of service, when we were most likely to stand in need of it. The other dangers of such an experiment had been before fully stated by his right hon. relation near him (Mr. Bathurst). These were, the shock that would be given to the militia, if the measure was successful, from which it would take a long time to recover; its total inefficiency for many months, by reason of the diminution of the strength of the companies; to which he would also add, that the whole of what remained would be rendered useless for near a twelvemonth to come, by the necessity of employing all the non-commissioned officers to drill the recruits as they came in from the different counties.—He proceeded to the next consideration, of no less importance. Were any advantages at all likely to accrue from it, or to any extent? His right hon. friend (Mr. Windham) had called it a mere commutation of service, but he could not travel so fast with him as to admit its claim even to that degree of recommendation. Out of doors, it had been called "Robbing Peter to pay Paul." Nor was that accurate, because it was evident that unless Peter consented to be robbed, Paul could not possibly be paid.—This, then, he would take as his thesis; and he could not but admire the confidence with which his noble friend anticipated the success of this plan. He was sure that past practice did not warrant this confidence, as he would shew that recent experience did warrant his doubts. Look only at the results of the act of 1805, by which the then minister proposed to procure from the militia seventeen thousand volunteers. Did he procure that number? All turned upon the an[...]wer to that question. No; he did not: he got about fifteen thousand. Why, then he entreated the house to consider what we were about to do. From the same body, not merely the same description of force, but from an aggregate of the same identical individuals, we were now to be confident of obtaining 28,000 volunteers, every man of 956 whom refused to stir on the former occasion. In 1807, 28,000 individuals were to shew great alacrity to do that, which in 1805, to a man they refused to do. This was extravagant: the act of parliament, though it gave the power, could not create the will. He was aware that it might be said that the former act imposed restrictions and regulations, which were not to he granted under the present one. To which he should answer, that those restrictions were introduced to silence the complaints of a large proportion of the most respectable of the militia officers. If, therefore, they were withheld now, though you may get a few men, the other evil would be aggravated, namely, the danger of driving such officers out of your service.—He was far from meaning, or wishing to overstate these points. They were not random opinions, but reasons given for them. These his noble friend might controvert, if he had the means of doing so—he believed he could not. The house had heard the opinions of two or three respectable militia officers within these walls; out of doors he had met with but one opinion amongst them. They were placed in a most awkward and invidious situation, and might naturally feel some reluctance in avowing their objections, and in deprecating the adoption of the measure, when they were told, not as heretofore, that their men were wanted for foreign offensive operation, but that the safety of the empire required the sacrifice.—This was indeed, for obvious reasons, a cruel mortification to them. There could be no possible doubt of what their view of this project must be; of a project, which, in his contemplation of it, amounted exactly to this: that we were called upon to take this sorry and sickly expedient, this exhausted, worn out, threadbare remnant of a system, faulty and vicious in itself, as the substantive foundation of a measure by which we were to be enabled to maintain our national independence. If we were really reduced so low, which he utterly denied, it was time to abandon all hopes of a successful issue to the great contest in which we are engaged—"Oremus pacem, et dextras tendamus inermes."—Let it not be supposed that such was his view of our situation, feeling confident that, if our strength was wisely called forth and applied, we might, under Providence, treat the threats of our implacable adversary with defiance.—On the third point, he should not detain the house at any length, as it had been fully and ably expatiated upon by his hon. relation on a 957 former occasion. In fact we had now three distinct plans before the house; for the negative proposition of the late secretary of state could hardly be entitled to that denomination. The noble lord proposes to allow 28,000 militia to volunteer into the line, and then to resort to ballot to raise 38,000 new militia. His right hon. friend opposite to him, (Mr. Yorke,) approves of the first part of this plan, but suggests that the ballot should be resorted to, to create an army of reserve. His right hon. relation objects to the volunteering altogether, and recommends that the revival of he army of reserve should be resorted to in the first instance, and suggests other auxiliary measures for adding effectually and expeditiously to your military force. In every part of this last proposition he most cordially concurred. In one point all three agreed, namely, on the necessity of resorting to ballot in one way or other. His noble friend had on all occasions done ample justice to the unexampled efficiency of the Army of Reserve bill, which was natural, he having been an assistant adviser of it, and its able advocate in that house.—But it seemed to be now out of favour with the noble lord. And yet he need not be reminded, that in one month it had raised 15,000 men; in two, 25,000; and in about four months, very little short of 40,000 men; he knew the causes that had obstructed its complete success, namely, the previous ballot for 90,000 militia, and the calling forth 400,000 volunteers who were entitled to exemption from it. He would recollect that it was only suspended by the administration that created it, and that it was their fixed intention to resort to it again, in case of any new emergency, after a sufficient respite from ballot. The machinery was all ready; the force to be raised by it would be preferable, inasmuch as it was more disposeable; and it would be free from the objection of even unsettling the militia, but what he should call the danger of annihilating it. As to the emergency, it now presented itself. This measure had been called an expedient; he would maintain that it was a principle; not indeed constantly, but occasionally operative, and when called into action, certain of success. This it was now proposed to revive to a certain extent. In addition to it, to raise 12 or 15 battalions by giving one step in rank. It would be recollected that the government that was dissolved in 1804, had proposed to raise 20 958 battalions in this way, which was overruled. But one-fifth of this rejected plan had been adopted, and actually raised as many men in three months as the whole Additional Force bill had done in one year and three quarters. These two measures, hen, might raise from 40 to 50 thousand men. Both had been tried, and both had been found successful.—There were two other points, namely, the Volunteer Service and the Training bill, on which he would wish to touch, were he not fearful of abusing the indulgence of the house. With regard to the latter, he had never discovered the necessity of its superseding the Levy en Masse bill, on which one step had been taken, viz. the enrollment, and laid on the table of the house. The principle of both was admirable, namely, that of making our whole effective population military, by rotation. It was almost a sheet-anchor of our safety, as it afforded inexhaustible means of supplying our army in case of invasion.—He had looked at it lately in the capacity of a deputy lieutenant, and believed that without some alteration, it would be found impracticable. As to the volunteers, he rejoiced that they were to be restored to their old establishment. On the re-appointment of inspecting field-officers, there was much difference of opinion, even amongst those most favourable to the system. He approved of it; his own observation fully justified the opinion that he entertained of their value. He had seen none that had not honourably executed the duty intrusted to them. But there were abuses both in this establishment and in permanent duty, which he severely condemned, namely, the field-officers ordering the six inspections, during the summer months, and corps going on permanent duty, from one city to another, not ten miles distant—they should go at least thirty miles—should be assembled in brigade, under the commanding officer of the district, and at a reduced expence, and should be all directed to learn the light-infantry exercise.—With these impressions and convictions even his noble friend would allow, if he believed him sincere, that it was impossible for him to support this measure, indeed impossible for him to abstain from resisting it. Other gentlemen who felt equal reluctance with himself in opposing any measure of government at such a moment, would agree with him, that this was not a time to be complimenting away the safety of the country. Had only a little been 959 proposed to be done, without a concomitant greater evil, it should have had his support, at the same time that he would have urged his majesty's ministers to greater exertions. But this was doing worse than nothing. At an early period of the present war, it was matter of complaint (not universally admitted to be a most unfounded one), that the government of that day, which was unceasingly employed in calling forth all the energies of the country, that they had not done enough, and when the danger was comparatively trifling. He had not forgot an unanswered statement by his noble friend opposite to him, made six months before the dissolution of that government, that we had at that time 700,000 men in arms, and in the eighth month of the war. Had we that number now? Had we any thing like it?—we ought, therefore not only to make up that deficiency but to go infinitely beyond it. And yet, says a right hon. gent. "do nothing." His answer should be, "leave nothing undone."—"Think nothing gained, till nought remains," nor consider the country safe, till all her means are brought into action. Did gentlemen recollect what was the enemy with which we had to contend? unfortunately we had but one, and that almost the whole of Europe, under subjection to, or under the controul of our formidable and irreconcileable adversary. Since the period to which he had been adverting, we had seen that mighty conqueror, for so he must call him, advancing with rapid strides to universal dominion; in successive year marching straight forward to his object whatever it might be, looking neither to the right or the left, unchecked by difficulties, unappalled by dangers, always proportioning his means to his views, and, though bravely opposed, always successful and triumphant; in the midst of his conquests ever looking to England as the ultimate object of his ambitious views, and making his conquests on the continent the instruments and the means of accomplishing our ruin. In 1804, Holland was only the ally; she might now be considered as an integral part of France. Spain was then neutral, now her naval force was thrown into the scale; happily, indeed, immensely crippled by our splendid naval achievements. We might have other enemies—we might have them in a quarter to which at present he dared only advert.—To look at this approaching storm without anxiety, would be worse than madness—without hope, if 960 proper efforts were made to meet it, would be worse than folly. Of the latter, however, he for one should feel but little indeed, if he saw good reason to believe that our rulers were inadequately impressed with the former. How far the measure now proposed was calculated to authorize that persuasion, it would be for the house and the country to determine. With the anxious forebodings that pressed on his mind, in case the house and parliament should adopt this proposition, he had no option left him but to resist it, with a view to the adoption of others more vigorous and less objectionable, to which he could give his conscientious support.
§ Lord Henry Petty
was glad that his right hon. friend who spoke last had been heard before him, though he was anxious to have addressed the house at the time he rose, in order to repel a charge brought by the right hon. gent. opposite, against the late ministers. He had said that they had abandoned the intention of doing any thing in favour of Ireland. They certainly had done no such thing, but had with anxiety reserved to themselves a power to make representations on this subject. What the right hon. gent. said was contradicted, even by the garbled documents which had been surreptitiously published. With regard to the present measure, he was anxious to support any thing which could have the effect of a permanent addition to our force. The consideration then was, whether this was a measure calculated for that purpose. His hon. friend (Mr. Whitbread) had enteredupon the consideration of the amount of our force compared with our population, and had certainly taken the just view of the subject. He had included in his calculation some who were not properly part of our military force. But, however, without these, our force, compared with our population, was as great, if not greater, than that of any other country. We had about 400,000 men in our army, and having besides 30,000 foreigners; we had 150,000 in the regular army, 20,000 artillery-men, between 70, and 80,000 militia, and 130,000 in the navy. These, with from 370 to 380,000 volunteers, formed nearly 2–17ths of our population capable of bearing arms. In one of the most military monarchies of Europe, where there was little commerce and few manufactures, he meant Prussia, the proportion of those actually armed, out of those capable of bearing arms, had been 2–17ths. For any permanent force, more 961 than this, could not be found. This was a most essential view of the subject, for if there was a moment when we ought to be peculiarly cautious with respect to military measures, it was when we had already advanced to the natural limits by which we ought to be bounded in ordinary cases. On that ground the present measure was to be considered.—The danger he considered as arising from two sources; first, the general danger from the state of the continent; and secondly, the particular danger of invasion arising out of it. This view of the danger would furnish us with principles to try the propriety of the measure. Now, we ought to be cautious about altering the existing force; and certainly when a plan, confessedly of a temporary nature, was brought forward, it ought only to have a temporary effect on former establishments. Now, in these respects, the plan was extremely imperfect, for it went to unsettle the great existing principles of defence.—It would have been expected, if any part of our force was to have been destroyed, it would not have been the militia. If there was a time when that service ought to have been improved and encouraged, not annihilated, this was the moment. If it was good for any thing, it was for the defence of the country. At the moment, however, when the attention of ministers ought to be directed to the protection of the country itself, the measure they proposed was one which went to disorganize this very force. This he conceived to be a most extraordinary step, in what could only be a temporary measure of defence. The officers of the militia made many sacrifices for the public advantage. Should even this measure pass into a law, he was convinced they would so far forget the degradation and insults offered to themselves, as to exert their utmost endeavours in seeing that the act be carried into proper effect. But it was impossible that government could again expect to find gentlemen of landed property from these counties, step forward as militia officers. There was always a deficiency in the militia in this respect; there was so at the present moment; and the measure now proposed must go greatly to increase it, and to deprive this force of great part of the character it now enjoyed. He agreed with an hon. gent. who had spoken early in the debate, that there was a great difference between the calling on the voluntary services of the militia in the year 1799 and at the present moment. Then an increase 962 was wanted in the disposable force of the country; of course, in extending their services, they benefited the country, which had then no occasion for their protection at home; while those by whose desire they volunteered, shewed that they esteemed their services as valuable. Now, however, the danger threatened this country, and instead of looking for assistance from this legitimate constitutional force, the government, by asking them to volunteer into the regular army, clearly informed them that as militia men, they were of no use even in the very service for which they had been raised. The plan of the noble lord seemed, so far as the militia was concerned, to carry in it the seeds of its own destruction. The noble lord in opening his plan had told the house, that there were a number of the militia within six months of the period of expiry of their service, and that there was little doubt of the whole of them enlisting to the regular army. This he thought highly unlikely. By doing so, they could receive only 10l. of bounty; whereas, by lying by, and waiting the operation of the ballot, they might receive from 50l. to 60l. in the first instance, and then the additional 10l. for extending their service. He objected to the measure still more, however, because it went to destroy the plan of his right hon. friend, from which, as had been expressed by the hon. gent. below him, he was of opinion, if allowed to take its fair course, his right hon. friend must derive immortal honour. The documents on the table shewed, that if experience was not a cheat and fact a liar, that the plan of his right hon. friend had completely succeeded. The right hon. gentlemen opposite seemed highly pleased when his hon. friend near him, (Mr. Whitbread) stated, that the plan of his right hon. friend, if it had not done more, had done as much as the Additional Force act, and the regular recruiting, at the same time. These hon. gentlemen seemed now to think this nothing, but they were not always of such an Opinion. They had fo[...]merly represented the Additional Force act, as in itself a measure of great efficiency, while, at the same time, as they contended, it did not at all interfere in the regular recruiting. Their language, however, was now greatly changed, and they allowed no credit to the plan of his right hon. friend, although it had proved itself superior to the Additional Force act, and the ordinary recruiting combin[...]e disapproved of compulsory service, which resolved int[...] 963 ballot, as raising up a competition against the regular recruiting, which it could not stand, and which must always drive it out of the market. He thought that voluntary service should be carried as far as it would go, and that the situation of the soldier should be rendered as comfortable as possible, as an inducement for him to enter. He desired gentlemen to recollect that this was not an emergency of a week, or of a month, or of a year, but one which would in all probability last for some time. If the house or the country therefore were content with a temporary remedy, they deceived themselves. He did not see that the plan of the noble lord could do any good. Between the two he preferred that of the army of reserve, on this principle, that if they were to resort to a mode of compulsory service in the line of the regular recruiting, that mode would do least mischief, as it interfered with no other portion of our defensive force, but allowed every thing to remain settled and undisturbed. On the subject of making a diversion in favour of our allies, the right hon. gent. had tauntingly said, that if such a thing had been thought of at an early period of the campaign by the late ministers, it might have been possible to have protracted the war. He hoped, however, gentlemen would recollect, that as, on the one hand, it might have been possible to protract the war by sending a British force to the assistance of our allies, so, on the other hand, it was equally possible, without benifiting our allies by such protracted warfare that a considerable loss in British valour, British blood, and British lives, might have been the consequence. The first expedition under lord Cathcart was not attended with any great success, not from any want of courage, skill, or bravery in that gallant officer or his troops, but from what other cause he should not say. He hoped the second expedition under the command of his lordship would be more successful. The right hon. gent. had said, that it was well known that the late ministers were to do nothing for the Catholics of Ireland, but that they would have been glad to have remained in place at the expence of sacrificing every measure of conciliation to wards them. This the noble lord denied. He had thought, that if any thing was more notorious than another, it was this, that they had refused to enter into any pledge not to advise his majesty to such acts as they might think to be for the interest of 964 that body, and of the kingdom of Ireland in general. If there was any thing more notorious than another, it was this, that the late ministers had other measures besides the Catholic Officers bill to propose for the good of that body. If ministers really wished to provide effectually for the defence of the country, they would speedily, he knew they must, sooner or later, do something to repair the lost condition of Ireland.
expressed his utmost confidence in the alacrity of the militia to render all possible service to their country; and he was sure that that constitutional force would conform with the utmost cheerfulness to such arrangements as the government might think proper to adopt for strengthening the national arm, and affording due measures of defence and security to the empire.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
felt that the present was a question of the utmost moment; and was therefore not surprized at the various opinions which had been offered in respect to the best mode of accomplishing the great purpose which was the object of the bill. Gentlemen on both sides agreed, that the present moment was one of considerable difficulty, and required, of course, more than ordinary exertion to meet the exigencies of the occasion; they acknowledged that the energy and resources of the country, should be brought forth as speedily and effectually as possible. The only difference then was, as to the mode of accomplishing the great object. For his part, he was willing to confess, that he considered the militia force as of a most efficient description; and while it approached the nearest to the regular army, was the most constitutional force we possessed. One great reason which made the transfer of the militia into the line desirable was, that whenever a peace should be concluded, the militia must be disbanded. He would ask gentlemen, whether, under the present circumstances of Europe, such a peace would reasonably be looked for, as would enable the country to dispense with such a large portion of its military establishment, as the militia constituted? He thought the house must agree with him, that we could not spare such a number of men from our means of defence; and it must be obvious to all, that there was no other way of obviating the difficulty, and preserving such a force to the country, than by permitting it in time of war to volunteer into the line. This was an effectual 965 remedy, and the deficiency thus occasioned in the militia would speedily be made good by the proposed ballot. The right hon. gent. then entered into a long detail, in order to shew the inefficiency of the military plan of the late ministers, and concluded by a strong recommendation of unanimity in opposing the common enemy.
§ Mr. Windham
entered at large upon the comparative merits of the bill now before the house, the plan of the present ministers, of which this was a part; and that military system which he had brought forward, and which parliament had adopted last year. The leading objection which he had to the present measure, and to the whole system of which it formed a part, was, that it was only of a temporary nature, and therefore inapplicable to the present condition of this country, which required a military system of a permanent nature. For want of attending to this distinction, we had fallen into many, and he was apprehensive we should fall into still more errors, and he feared some of them might prove fatal unless we adopted a permanent system: nothing else would serve us; for the evil against which we were to provide was of a permanent nature. The militia officers had been made the mere vehicle for recruiting; and now, when the very moment had arrived at which they expected to be called into actual service, in order to display that discipline and valour which they had been the means of fostering and exciting, their troops were to be taken from them and drafted into the regular army. Was not this more degrading to the militia than any thing which had been done to the volunteers, as alleged by the hon. gent. opposite? The right hon. gent. defended at considerable length his own training act and recruiting system; which he maintained, from the returns on the table, had answered every purpose, for which they were intended. If his system had been allowed to take its own course, we should have avoided the ruinous consequences to our militia now resorted to, of filling up the standing army front that source. He denied that the late administration had put an end to the Additional Force act; the fact was, it had put an end to itself. The question now was, shall we break up a solid system for the sake of gaining a temporary advantage?—Where was the emergency which rendered such an injurious measure necessary?—A word or two now as to the volunteers. There was no system which owed its existence to zeal alone, that could 966 long maintain any thing like a constant number. Take away their zeal, take away the impression of the moment, by which alone zeal could be excited, and they would dwindle in point of numbers, as well as sink into complete inattention and indi[...]erence. He would still maintain, that the volunteers under the present system, could never be made to display to advantage that spirit and energy which individually, no doubt, the greatest part of them possessed. Even with the assistance of the sinister attempts of the hon. gentlemen opposite, their physical strength and moral courage could never be brought into action in a way to tell as they ought to do. Before he concluded, he could not help remarking to the house, as one characteristic of the system which he had been concerned in, that there was not a job in it from one end to the other. He should certainly have been as happy as the hon. gent. to have provided for old, worn out, and meritorious officers, by recommending them to appointments under the volunteer system. He claimed as merit to himself, that such was his feeling; but he claimed likewise as merit, that he had, in compliance with what he thought his public duty, suppressed the institution (the inspecting field-officers), by which opportunities would have been afforded him for that purpose. The hon. gent. looked to a far better fortune. They restored the means of their own patronage and hoped at the same time to be applauded for what they had done. He charged the opposite side of the house with having not only taken advantage, when they came into office, of the cry of "no popery," but of having turned the cry of "no volunteers" also to some advantage. When the general election came on, they appealed to the volunteers, telling them they had been degraded and insulted by their predecessors; but now was the time to shew their loyalty, by voting for ministers and their friends, and they would, in return, restore them to their former splendour.
thought that there was no ground for supposing that the present measure would completely counteract the operation of the plan of the right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham); occasions would frequently occur in which it would be necessary to make an exertion for procuring a considerable accession of force; but such emergencies could only produce a temporary obstruction to the measure, and would 967 by no means subvert it, as had been maintained. He, however, could not approve of the present plan, and in particular objected to it on the ground that while it called for a supply of force from the militia, it proposed to fill up the deficiency created by an immediate ballot. He thought that the proceeding implied an opinion in those who proposed it, that the militia was not a proper force for home defence, for it was for home defence only the present measure could be thought necessary, as the country already possessed a sufficient force for foreign service.
could not forbear making a few observations even at that late hour of the night. He lamented to meet with such opposition from different quarters, and on such different grounds. Some did not think the emergency so urgent as others, and therefore were for adopting no measure at all. Some were for making greater, others less drafts from the militia; while others again deprecated the touching it altogether. The militia was allowed to be in a higher state of perfection, and to be more complete in officers, than at any former period for these 14 years. Why, then, did it not furnish more facilities than at any former moment towards the object which it was now so necessary to attend to and to accomplish? Our military force was now more scattered abroad than at any former period: it was therefore more necessary to feed and compact that force than before. He did not flatter himself with a nearer prospect of peace than the gentlemen on the other side: but this he felt, that our military system should be adapted to both situations, and partake of either prospect. When so calculated, it might be framed and kept up at a smaller expence. As to the right hon. gent. who spoke last but one, he seemed to lose sight altogether of the dangers which he formerly dreaded from France. His apprehensions on that score seemed wholly to have vanished, and all his faculties seemed now to be absorbed in the admiration of his own military plan, which he seemed to think had succeeded beyond his most sanguine dreams. Still, however, all that happy result was yet to come. We were to look for it at the distance of two years; and in the interim, it seems, were to expect that Bonaparte would become grey, and be no longer anxious for any thing but peace; and then we should be able to defend the country without any measure like that he 968 had the honour to propose. Such, however, was not the opinion of that great man (Mr. Fox), who was now no more, and whose extraordinary talents added such authority to any opinion he expressed. He thought it necessary our military force should be raised to the utmost pitch, and such as should surpass the proudest periods of our military renown. Let us compare, however, the dangers of the country, even at that day, with what they now were, and how would they appear increased? when the powers of the continent were so much less able to assist us, and when we had an enemy to contend with, so much more confident of victory and flushed with new triumphs. Besides, our disposable force under these aggravated difficulties was rendered less available by the late administration, who had scattered it in so many directions, and who had made no preparation whatever towards averting these dangers. On the 24th of January last, the moment when they should have been preparing for some active enterprise to open the campaign, they dismissed from the public service every transport that was not absolutely necessary for the ordinary routine business of the Channel service, and nothing was left for offensive operations. Whatever expedition, therefore, it might have been prudent to undertake, not a shadow of preparation was left to support it. By the former administration, not a single exertion was made to rescue Prussia; she was suffered to perish before our eyes. Such was the situation in which they had left the present ministers, with nothing to inherit from them but weakness, difficulties, and distress.
§ Dr. Laurence
expressed his surprise, that, after his majesty's ministers had deprecated all personal allusions, the noble lord should have made charges of a nature similar to that with which he concluded his speech, and should have taken the opportunity of making so uncandid an attack, when all the members of the late administration had spoken in the debate. Whatever was to be regretted in the distribution of the public force by the late government, he contended was the necessary result of the impolitic measures of their predecessors. He also remarked, that before they could be justly censured for any of their measures, they ought to be permitted to disclose the general plan, of which those measures were perhaps only parts. He did not pretend to have a knowledge of what 969 had passed in their councils, but this much, however, he could say, that he understood the late administration had an expedition in contemplation, that would have been worthy of them and of the country, and which the present ministers would not dare to look at.
§ Mr. Windham
stated, that the late ministers had left to their successors a much greater number of transports than had been received from them. If the noble lord thought the late ministers had failed to do their duty in any particular, he wished him to bring the matter before the house, when they might have an opportunity of vindicating their conduct.—The question was then called for, when a division took place,
Whilst strangers were excluded from the gallery, the bill was read a second time, and ordered to be committed.
For the second reading of the bill 187 Against it 90 Majority 97