HC Deb 27 March 1809 vol 13 cc817-20
LORD Castle reagh

rose, according to his notice, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend and render more effectual a Bill passed in the last sessions, for establishing a Local Militia. He began by shortly stating to the house, what had been the result of the experiment of last year. There were at present 250 regiments of Local Militia—of these 184 regiments were for England, amounting to 149,440 men, and 66 regiments were for Scotland, amounting to 45,721 men, making together a force of 195,161 men. The 250 regiments would then be rated at an average of 800 rank and file for every regiment; of these 125,000 men volunteered into the Local Militia, the remainder had been established by what were called Volunteers under the Act, those who had voluntarily entered the Local Militia without having been in any former corps; to the 125,000 before-mentioned there might be added for the volunteers under the Act 50 or 60,000 men. Now, according to the plan of last year, each of the volunteers under the act received an additional bounty of two guineas per man, but owing to the strong representations which had been made to government from different parts of Great Britain, particularly from Scotland, where the assessments on the parishes were felt to be peculiarly heavy, it has been thought advisable to do away that bounty of two guineas, and leave it to the separate districts voluntarily to assess themselves at any rate not exceeding one guinea per man. Another consideration that made this alteration less objectionable was, that it did not appear that there was any necessity for this bounty, in order to encourage the volunteering into the Militia. It would therefore be one of the objects of the Bill he should move for, to abolish that Clause in the Act of last session, that gave the two guineas bounty. As there were counties so peculiarly circumstanced ill which persons residing in certain parts of them could not conveniently attend the training, he should introduce a clause for the purpose of enabling such persons to be trained in any other adjoining county. He also should suggest an alteration with respect to the Stamp Duties on Commissions. It was also his intention to equalize the allowances for June and August to the Yeomanry Cavalry; and as the one was 5l.and the other 2l.a year, he meant to reduce the former and raise the latter to 4l.a year, as he thought such a disparity of provision for the same troops-ought not to continue. The whole force would then amount to 200,000 of as fine athletic troops as no other country ever did or would produce. They no doubt would, in point of discipline, be inferior to the troops of the line, but in equipment they would be every way equal to them. The noble lord then concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend and render move effectual the Local Militia Act.

Mr. Whitbread

said, that the thing had taken a popular turn, and, no doubt numbers were raised, but as to the magnificent description of them given by the noble lord, he must have had it from officers who had not seen them. But when the noble lord talked thus, he ought to recollect that these men were so many taken out of the means of supply for the regular Militia and the Army. As the bounty of two guineas had been begun, he thought it should be continued, although he allowed that it had better be paid by the public than by an assessment on the parishes. If one guinea only was allowed, the volunteering would be at an end, and the men must be procured by ballot, and the Militia be made up of two descriptions of people, the one of which would be apt to look down on the oilier. This diminishing the bounty before the Bumber at present was complete, would create a great deal of dissatisfaction.

Mr. Windham

observed, that the noble lord had triumphed in his success. He did not know what that success was. If the noble lord meant to say, that he had procured an army by this means, this was no great boast; because the ballot must procure men, and it never had been contended by any one that it would not. But the question was, what sort of soldiers it procured, and at what expence to the country? 'Prime men', his lordship said; he had not seen them to be sure, hut he (Mr. Windham) had no doubt the men were good as men, but the point was, what sort of soldiers they would make under this measure; and whether they would be of more value in this situation than another? Here was an army, his lordship said, such as no ether country could produce; they had more money in their pockets, better deaths on their backs, and officers of greater property than any other country could produce, respectable shopkeepers, attornies in great business. The noble lord spoke of an army, which might say like Cloten in the play, "Don't you know me by my cloaths!" and as if he thought that its greatest merit belonged to its taylors. But the effect of the measure was to render the men not disposable, who would otherwise have been disposable. The noble lord spoke of the feeling of the regular army in case of invasion when thus supported. The feeling of the regular army, seeing troops so organized, and so officered, would be terror.—The right hon. gent, then adverted to the Spanish Paper containing the 'Precautious', which had been regarded as new, but which, in fact, was nothing more than an adjudication of a subject which had often been discussed in that house. His lordship, he said, had triumphed over his own measures. He boasted that l25,000 volunteers had entered into the Local Militia. Why, he understood that the volunteers were the force on which of all others the country might depend. His lordship had now done that of which the insinuation had subjected him (Mr. W.) to reproach for two years. He contended, that the noble lord had put the country to a great expence, for which he had got worse than nothing, as he had only locked up the men who would otherwise have been disposable. The whole measure was merely an augmentation of the militia upon a very bad plan, and if it had not been adopted by others, it was because though it encreased the number of men it did not increase the force of the country; or if it did, it did not do so in a way proportionate to the expence and the injury to the regular army.

Mr. Curwen

doubted the propriety of reducing the bounty, but said, that the measure had been received with great satisfaction throughout the country, and he approved of it. It would produce a strong military feeling in the country, which was a necessary object in the present circumstances of Europe. He hoped, in case of invasion, that this would be found a most adequate force, and worthy the confidence of the regular army and of the country Upon an emergency, there was no doubt that the officers would be willing to part With the men, if means could be found to have them commanded by officers of experience. He thought the people would not grudge the money necessary for placing the country in a stale of the fullest security, if real abuses were reformed.

Leave was given to bring in the Bill.