HC Deb 13 May 1808 vol 11 cc274-7

Lord Castlereagh moved the order of the day for the further consideration of the report of the English Local Militia bill, and having moved that the bill be recommitted, the house resolved itself into the committee.

Mr. Babington

, with a view to the more certain and efficient training of the people, proposed an amendment, rendering it compulsory to call out the quotas under the bill as speedily as may be.

Lord Castlereagh

thought it might be safely left to the discretion of government to carry the training into effect with all convenient speed. He, however, was, willing to accede to the hon. gent.'s proposition, with some verbal amendments.

Mr. Windham

thought the burthen of the training and regimenting too great to impose on the people till there was a prospect of its being wanted. It was the merit of the Training act, that it gave the power of calling out the people when they, should be wanted, and imposed no burthen in the intermediate time. If any hon. gentlemen were so much in love with the present measure, that, they wished it to be,-executed without delay, the best incentive was to indulge them with the enjoyment of the ballot as soon as possible.

Mr. G. Vansittart

thought so large a ballot as this measure required, would be intolerable and impracticable. He wished the lists to be made out, and the ballot to take place at the same time for the local and the general militia, in order to avoid the unnecessary repetition of the bustle and confusion attending that proceeding.—After some further observations, the Amendment was agreed to as modified on the suggestion of lord Castlereagh.

Sir James Montgomery

objected to the balloting plan of the noble lord, and proposed that the young men should be taken, from the age of 18 or 19, to that of 25; that they should be trained for 3 months the first year, and that the time in the; subsequent years should be diminished-as; they advanced in proficiency; that when they had passed the age of 25 they should be exempted from the service, so that the rotation should depend on the age and not on ballot. He described the advantages of having the services of these young men, who would be much easier trained, and with a much less burthen to the nation, which would have fewer wives and families to provide for. It would be much Jess harrassing to the country than this ballot.

Lord Castlereagh

observed, that this would entirely destroy the system of quotas, and the hardship would fall very unequally on the counties, unless the hon. baronet meant that the whole of the volunteer establishment should be immediately abolished. This would, besides, be attended with difficulties in the execution, much hardship, and other disadvantages, to which he did not see it necessary at present to subject the country.

Mr. Windham

approved of neither of the plans; but of the two, the hon. baronet's was certainly preferable, as along with the burthen on the public it would be in some degree efficient, whereas the noble lord's would do nothing more than impose an useless burthen. The hon. baronet was for dissolving the volunteers. The noble lord was for wasting them by degrees; he was for drilling them, secundum artem: his object was to transfer them to the local militia; he intended to bribe them to come into this militia, and to induce the officers, by giving them rank, to bribe the men to accompany them. This was his mode of proceeding with those to whom he had so often said he was willing to trust the fate of the country: why did he not trust them now? He had within 50,000 of all that he had before of volunteers. But the noble lord was obliged to have recourse to this transfer, and to adopt some of the very methods he had so loudly condemned, and all this after the calumnies which he had propagated against the proceedings of the late administration on this subject. He did not at all approve of the method of training proposed by either of the plans. It was impossible to train the people, so as to bring them in regiments against the enemy, under officers as ignorant as themselves. What he had proposed was to teach them the mere elements, to handle their arms and to fire powder. But his great object was to have them enrolled, so that they might be called upon, in case of emergency, to join the regular troops under experienced officers.

Colonel Foley

thought this a very fair bill, as it went to call upon those counties to do their duty, who had not furnished their proportion of volunteers.

Lord Castlereagh

mentioned, that he intended to propose that there should be an instruction to volunteer corps that were full, to admit as supernumeraries persons who chose to pay half the fine, and go into a volunteer corps, in order to be exempted from this service.

Mr. Windham

observed that this was forcing into volunteer corps those who were no volunteers.

Mr. C. Wynne

rather approved the bill, so far as it went; for a more permanent force than the volunteers was necessary. Yet he would have prefered a conscription of the young men from 18 to 25 to the method of ballot. A conscription, he affirmed, would be much more efficacious and less distressing than the ballot, for the duty would then be certain and unavoidable, whereas the system of ballot was attended with the most tormenting anxiety and uncertainty, and was calculated to introduce a system of perjury, that would be of the most calamitous consequences to the country.

The Secretary at War

observed, that on that plan, all ranks must be confounded, and this would be felt as an intolerable grievance. The present mode of exempting persons, by fine and service in volunteers, would have the effect of bringing into the local militia those who were most fit for such a situation.

Mr. Wynne

observed, that he had meant that the volunteers should be open to those who chose to serve in that way.

Mr. Wilberforce

thought that the hon. baronet's plan was preferable, and he was sorry the principle had not been acted upon as it had been detailed by a noble writer (lord Selkirk). But the amendment proposed by the hon. baronet would go to change the principle of the present bill, and could not, he apprehended, be adopted in the committee. He must, therefore, oppose it as being brought forward at ah improper period. If, however, it should be proposed at a time when he could, consistently with the usages of the house, support it, he would do so, for he was convinced it would, more than any other plan, give security to the country, and contribute to the restoration of peace.

The house then divided, For the amendment 41; Against it 146; Majority 105;—Several verbal amendments were made in the different clauses, and a considerable deal of discussion took place.—The house then resumed, the chairman reported progress, and obtained leave to sit again on Monday.