HC Deb 24 March 1809 vol 13 cc803-4

Upon Lord Castlereagh's moving the order of the day for the second reading of this bill,

Lord A. Hamilton

rose, and argued against the measure, to which he conceived there were various objections, but particularly as it involved a flagrant breach of promise to the Militia, made by the noble mover himself in the year 1807, but still more as it militated against the principle of all the statutes upon which that body was founded. The noble lord therefore thought it his duty to move an Amendment, that the second reading of the Bill should be postponed to this day six months.

Mr. Giles

opposed the principle of this bill on the ground of policy. There were, he observed, three modes of raising men for the army, namely, by increase of bounty, by diminishing the burthens of the service, that was, by reducing the extent of service either with regard to time or place. These three modes offered themselves to the attention of the noble mover, but he adopted neither. He struck upon another device: He proposed to raise meu first by ballot, and then by bounty; but how did that scheme answer? It appeared from experience, that not more than one man out of ten raised by the ballot served in person. Then the remainder were substitutes raised by bounty. Those were the sort of men from whom the noble lord proposed to obtain his transfer into the line. Now, taking the bounty originally paid for substitutes, and combining that with the bounty paid for the transfer of service, it would appear that the number of men obtained from the militia by the last draft to the line in 1808 cost the country in bounties no less than 7 26,000l. one third of which only came from the fund of general taxes of the country, while one third was extracted from the pockets of such private individuals as were subjected to the ballot, and the other third from the landed interest, from the poor's rates." Was this, he would ask, an equitable or a judicious way of providing for the defence of the country? The bounty to each man obtained for the line, according to the system he described, was equal to 28l.; and was it not practicable, under wise regulations, to procure men for that bounty by ordinary recruiting, without resort to the circuitous, expensive and oppressive progress of ballot? But a strong objection to the noble lord's bill, on the score of policy, was this, that it held out that if ordinary recruiting should not be productive within a certain time, recourse should be had to a ballot, thus encouraging the men disposed to enlist to stand back for an increased bounty, when the balloted must pay what is desired, or serve in person. There was another objection to the noble lord's arrangement, that notwithstanding the many military plans he brought forward the several parts never fitted well together. According to a clause in the local militia act, the members of that corps could only enlist as substitutes for balloted men. What was the reason of this provision? Why not allow the local militiamen to enlist into the militia at once, and then the ballot would most probably become unnecessary t If transfers from the militia to the line should be called for by any peculiar emergency, he should not object to them; his objection was to the usual mode of replacing the deficiency which such transfer created in the militia by ballot; for to that system he never could be reconciled, for the plainest reasons. Indeed, the noble lord's military plans, always proceeding upon the principle that the population of the country was insufficient to furnish an adequate supply for the army, through the means of ordinary recruiting, he was surprised that the noble lord should desire, by the system of ballot, which produced a demand for substitutes, to send so many competitors into the market where the article was so scarce; this number naturally tending to enhance the value of that article, and thus to injure the interests of government, which ought, as he contended, to have the monopoly of that market.

Colonel Bastard

was adverse to the measure because he could not reconcile it with any idea of justice towards the militia, or of policy towards the country, that such a draft should be made, particularly if it were true, as stated in the returns Oh the table, that our army only lost 5,000 men in the campaigns of Spain and Portugal.

The house then divided; Ayes 45; Noes 26. The Bill was read a second time, and ordered to be committed for Monday.