HC Deb 02 May 1809 vol 14 cc338-40

On the question for the third reading of this bill,

Sir T. Turton

could not suffer this bill finally to pass through the house without giving it his reprehension. He could not consent to keep up a much larger standing army than the necessity of the times required, and he therefore saw no necessity for adding to it now, when there was no immediate danger of invasion. As for sending armies to the continent to contend against the armies of France, he thought that this country was in no situation to cope by land with France, and therefore that we should not attempt it. The annual expence of our military force was now prodigious, amounting to nearly 25 millions, while we had in arms near 700,000 men. He saw no reason for such a vast expenditure of money, or for tearing so many men from their ordinary avocations.

Mr. Wilberforce

thought that those general declarations against standing armies were very dangerous at the present times. Experience had abundantly proved that it was only by regular armies well supplied, that regular armies were to be effectually resisted. If we wished for security, we must not refuse to pay for it. He disapproved very much of the language which had been held out of doors, and which went to persuade people that this was an enslaved country. For his part, he conceived that it was the most free and happy country in the universe, and he was thankful to providence for assigning it as his lot to be born in this country, and in the present times. As to the conduct of ministers with respect to Spain and Portugal, he thought they were rather too forward than too backward in the assistance they gave. This was an error, however, on the right side, and agreeable to the general feeling of the nation.

Mr. Hawkins Browne

was of the same opinion, and could not agree with those who were against preparation, from the supposition that invasion was not to be dreaded, and that the deliverance of Europe, or any part of it, was absolutely hopeless.

Mr. Windham

spoke in support of those military opinions which he had so often expressed in the house. He could not allow that the Local Militia was worth the money it cost, or that it would be in any way better than the Training bill. There were always men enough in the country, and it appeared to him that if, without going to the expence of cloathing or training them, they were simply to be enrolled and incorporated with the army, they would be of more use than locked up in such corps as these under militia officers. He could not see why government now wanted so large an accession to the army as 24,000. Was it that we had suffered losses in Spain to anything near that amount? or was it, that by their alterations in the system he had the honour of introducing, that the ordinary recruiting had now become defective? He hoped that ministers did not intend to send out expeditions to wage war against the yellow fever in the West Indies. Victories in that part of the world did not increase the confidence of our allies. He really did not wish to trust ministers with large armies, until he had some idea what they meant to do with them. The noble lord's conduct in the disposal of our military means, reminded him of a remark applied to one of his predecessors, that money must be employed, else it would burn him if kept in his pockets. Thus it was with the noble lord, give him an increase of the army, and he was ready to throw it away upon any trash. The right hon. member then took a review of all the military improvements introduced by the noble lord; and adverted to our idle attacks upon the West India islands, lately in the possession of France. Was it proper to make such an application of our means for Sugar Islands, at a moment when this country was actually gorged with sugar?

Lord Castlereagh

saw no reason in the arguments of the right hon. gentleman to change the wise system which parliament had adopted. With respect to the expedition against Martinique, he should say that, independent of commercial advantages, the exclusion of France from any possession in that quarter of the world, must at least diminish the drafts of British troops to the defence of our colonial possessions.

Mr. P. Moore

said, that little as he had made military matters his study, he could not help being struck with the case made out this night by the hon. baronet (sir T. Turton) and the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Windham) near him. He had given his best attention to the whole debate, and they had perfectly convinced him that the present measure, as well as the Local Militia bill, already passed, were both unnecessary, and if necessary, incompetent to their object, while they burthened the country with an expence of four millions per annum, and distressed its population. The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Windham) had said, that, from the indifference in which these bills had passed, the country seemed dead to its true interests, Mr. Moore said, that it was not the country that was dead to its interests, but it was their representatives in parliament who were dead to a true sense of their duty. He saw the measure was wholly unnecessary, and to justify himself in the opinion of his constituents, he would take the sense of the house upon it; they should at least know that he was at his post, and doing his duty.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the bill had already been so fully and frequently discussed, that even the rich and fertile mind of the right hon. gent. Mr. Windham had not that night been able to advance any thing new upon it. It was not, therefore, to be wondered at, that the members of that house, who had listened to so many discussion, and made up their minds on the subject, should not think it necessary to attend this last stage of it. It was that, and not any inattention to the interests of the public, that caused so thin a house at that moment.

Mr. H. Martin

said, he thought the great danger of the country at the present crisis would arise from the enormous increase of its expenditure. The house ought, therefore, carefully to guard against all unnecessary expences; and as the present measure would, without any just cause, add 1,200,000l. to the burdens of the people, who were already extremely distressed, he should, vote against the third reading of the bill.

A division accordingly took place. For the third reading, 57. Against it, 8. The bill was then read a third time and passed.