§ The House having resolved itself into a Committee of Supply,
rose, in pursuance of his notice, to move the resolutions respecting the Army Estimates. So perfectly aware was he of the difficulty of drawing the attention of the House to the dry and complicated details on this subject, that it was his intention to limit his observations as much as possible. It was necessary, however, for him in the first place to point out to the committee, a circumstance, which any gentleman must have observed who had looked into the estimates, viz. that though the estimates were framed in the same manner and upon the same principle as the estimates of last year, yet there were various alterations, which had been adopted with a view to render more intelligible the complicated details into which the estimates unavoidably extended. The particular expenditure of Ireland was contained in a separate column, and many articles of charge were placed under distinct heads, which were usually included in the army extraordinaries or cast into an aggregate mass. He would now proceed to go through the various estimates in succession. The first was that which related to his Majesty's land forces; in which the committee would perceive an increase of four hundred and seventy two men, and a decrease in the charge of 18,400l. This estimate was divided into several classes. The first was the household troops; the increase of the charge of which was 62l. This was a small sum, but as it proceeded from a circumstance which affected the charge of the whole of the regular troops, he would explain it:—It was well known to those who were conversant with regimental details, that it had been the custom to stop a part of the pay of the drummers or trumpeters of every regiment for the purpose of increasing the pay of the drum-majors and trumpet-majors. It had been ascertained, however, 189 that this custom was not authorised by law. It was therefore discontinued. But as the pay of the drum-majors and trumpet-majors was thereby reduced to an equality with that of the privates, it had been thought expedient to give them pay equal to that of serjeants, and this was effected throughout the whole army at an expence of between 3 and 4,000l.
In the estimate of dragoon guards and dragoons, the charge would be found to have decreased 34,000l. This decrease arose chiefly from the transfer in Ireland of the whole charge of forage to the commissariat department, and also (as he had on a former occasion stated) from the arrangement by which the charge of bread has also been transferred to that department. The next class of the regular land forces was the infantry of the line. In this there was an increase in number of 627, and in charge of 28,745l. This increase was attributable to the transfer from the foreign corps of the 97th regiment, formerly composed principally of foreigners, but lately recruited so entirely from the militia in this country as to have become a complete British regiment, and of the new Brunswick fencibles raised originally in America and in the West Indies, a provincial corps, but which had recently offered itself for general service. The next class was the unnumbered corps. It would be found to have decreased, in men, 352, in charge 8,600l. By the vote of last year it was resolved to reduce the waggon train, which had consisted of twelve troops, to seven. Three troops were immediately reduced, but the two others which were to be reduced, being in service with lord Wellington, two of the home troops were sent out to replace them, in order that they might return for the purpose of reduction. Lord Wellington, however, represented in such strong terms the advantage which he derived from the services of this corps, that the whole four troops were permitted to remain. There were consequently six troops of the waggon train with lord Wellington's army, one at Cadiz, and two at home. The estimate, therefore, for the waggon train had not decreased so much as was anticipated; but the great decrease of charge on this general head of unnumbered corps, arose from the transfer of the North Brunswick fencibles to the line, and from the total reduction of the Manx fencibles.
In the miscellaneous charges, which 190 stood next in order in the estimates, there was a decrease in the charge of 185,000l. which diminution arose from the difference, amounting to, 535,000l. between effective and non-effective pay; of which difference 350,000l. might be applied to defray the pay, clothing, &c. of men expected to be raised in the present year; the remainder constituted the decrease in this estimate, which he had already stated. He now proceeded to the estimate of the troops serving in the East Indies, the increase of which was 280,000l. For this no aid would be required, and the estimate was placed among the rest only to allow the committee to perceive at one view the whole military charges of the country, if that were to be defrayed by the public.
The item next in succession in the estimates was that for the regular embodied militia, and in this he had to observe that there was a decrease of 2,000 in the number of men, and an increase of 20,000 in the amount of charge. When the estimates of last year were made up, the regiments of militia were incomplete, in consequence of the great reduction by the volunteering into the line. Three hundred thousand pounds had been deducted from the estimate last year on that account. Since that period the ballot had nearly filled the deficiencies up, and therefore in the present estimate only 155,000l. had been deducted on account of the pay and clothing of non effectives. In the estimate of staff of garrisons, there was an increased charge of 600,000l. This arose from an increase on the Irish staff of 37,000l. and from an increase on the foreign staff of 36,000l.; counteracted by a decrease in the home staff of 16,000l. In the estimate of supernumerary officers, there was an increase of 2,000l. in the estimate of allowances to the principal officers of several public departments, there was an increase of 1,900l. In the estimate of half-pay and allowances to reduced officers there was an increase of 1,000l. arising from the allowances to quarter masters, and the half pay to officers of the garrison battalions. The charge on the estimate of the in-pensioners of Chelsea and Kilmainham hospitals was decreased 4,700l. in consequence of less money being necessary for the buildings. That on the out-pensioners appeared on the face of the estimates to be increased 93,000l. arising from the circumstance, that as last year 100,000l. out of 240,000l. 191 recovered from the prize agents, was appropriated in aid of those establishments, this year only 25,000l. was so appropriated. The real increase, therefore, of charge was only 18,000l.; 13,000l. for England, and 5,000l. for Ireland.
The noble lord then proceeded to notice the estimate for widow's pensions, in which there was an increase of 5,000l. in consequence of a correspondent addition to the number of individuals, who are the objects of this fund. With respect to the volunteers, that extensive and important branch of the internal military organization of the country, gentlemen by looking into the estimates would find that there was a diminution to the amount of 303,000l;—a diminution which arose chiefly in England from a reduction in the number of days on which the volunteers were to be called out on permanent duty. The greater part of this reduction took place in Ireland. The actual diminution of charge in England amounted only to 35,000l. produced, as he had before stated, by the reduction of the number of days of duty: the remainder of the reduction then arose in Ireland, attributable in part to the same cause, but more particularly owing to the circumstance, that in that country the volunteers were not to be clothed this year. On the race of the estimate of the local militia, there appeared an increase of charge of 61,000l. but this was attributable to the estimate of last year falling short of the expence by 128,000l. owing to the too small sum allowed for clothing—to the augmentation of some of the corps—and to the addition of others. It was intended in the present year to reduce the number of training days from 21 to 14; and by this reduction a saving would be effected of 110,000l. When the state of efficiency, in which the local militia was reported to be by the district officers, was considered, it might be presumed that the service would not suffer by this arrangement; the more especially as it was intended that those of the different corps which had not been out before, should be exercised for seven days previous to the regular training, under the permanent staff of their respective districts. In the estimate of foreign corps there was a decrease of charge of 2,100l. in consequence of the incorporation of the 97th regiment into the line, and the total reduction of the regiment of Malta. The next estimate was that of the Royal Military College. In the body of this estimate it would be found, 192 that the charge was decreased 29,700l. a diminution arising from the supposition that no further sum would this year be required for the expence of building. Since the estimate had been framed, however, it had been signified to him that 30,000l. would be required to complete the building for the junior department. One cause of an increase in a part of this estimate was the removal to Woolwich of the cadets of the artillery, who used to contribute 100l. a year each to the establishment, and who were replaced by cadets, some of whom did not pay any thing, and none of whom contributed in an equal degree to their predecessors. The estimate of the Royal Military Asylum was nearly the same as last year. That of retired chaplains was increased in charge 1,600l. The estimate of hospital expences was increased in charge 17,000l.; 5,000l for medicines, and the remainder for transfers made to that from other estimates. The compassionate list and king's bounty estimate was increased in charge 7,600l in consequence of the increase in the number of prisoners that were entitled to relief. The estimate of the barrack department in Ireland, was increased in charge 23,000l.; a very large portion of which arose from the lodging and fuel-money for recruiting parties from regiments on the British establishment. The charge on the estimate of the Irish Commissariat would be found to have increased 73,000l. This was to be ascribed to the transfer to that department of the forage estimates.
On a general view of the whole of these estimates, it would appear, he observed, that there was a diminution in the number of men of 514; and that there was an increase in the charge of 42,000l. Against this increase of charge, however, must be set, the saving which would arise from diminishing the number of days on which the local militia were to be trained, which saving did not distinctly appear on the face of the estimates, and a balance would then be left of 60,000l. Of course he was aware that in such a variety of details there were many articles which he must have left unexplained. He would reserve himself, however, for whatever inquiries might be made on the subject, to make any explanations which might be necessary. Having said thus mach, his lordship observed, that he would sit down without detaining the committee longer, were he not anxious to draw the attention of the committee to the state of our regular army, and 193 to the view which government took of that subject. This was a topic which obviously divided itself into two considerations—first, the amount of the force necessary; and secondly, the means by which that force should be kept up and. rendered effectual to its purpose.—With respect to the first consideration, it was a matter of congratulation to the country, that parliament was not now called upon to devise the means of creating a regular army It was not as at the commencement of the war, when all we had to oppose to the invader, was the ardent and invincible, but undisciplined spirit of the people. That time was gone by. The country had now the satisfaction to see that they possessed a regular military establishment so powerful, as not only to enable us to lay our heads on our pillows in security, but also to arrest the progress of the enemy in those countries which he had already called his own.—(Hear! hear! hear!) The attention of parliament, therefore, must be directed, not to the means of augmenting the regular army, but to the means of keeping it effective and complete. In order satisfactorily to pursue and perfect the investigation of this question, it became necessary to consider, first, what would be the probable amount of annual casualties, and secondly, from what sources the supply of those casualties could best and most effectually be provided. The regular force of the country, exclusive of artillery, amounted to 235,000 men, of whom about 211,000 might be considered fully effective.
But considering the various, and some of them dangerous, services in which our army was unavoidably engaged, the casualties could not be assumed at less than 22 or 23,000 men. For this number, therefore, it would be necessary to provide. What were the means? In the first place, the ordinary recruiting; the produce of which, however, must be confined within certain limits; for when the price of labour, which our extended agriculture, manufactures, and commerce occasioned. was considered, it was not to be expected that many would anticipate, in the profession of a soldier, such paramount advantages as would induce them to quit the peaceful occupations of civil life. He would state the probable produce of the ordinary recruiting, therefore, as low as 11,0 men. It was true, that in the year 1810, the returns amounted only to between 9 and 10,000 men; this was in a great measure to be attributed to the obstacles 194 which the regular recruiting had to encounter last year from the ballot for the militia in the latter part of the year, and from the expectation of the ballot in the former part of it. In some years the produce of the ordinary recruiting had been as high as 19,000 men; but in the present state and circumstances of the country, he would not feel justified in calculating upon so large a result. From the foreign recruiting, taking the average of the last two years, it was fair to expect 4 or 5,000 men, making with the regular recruiting altogether about 16,000 men, which, it was likely, would be obtained by voluntary inlistment. To devise some mode of supplying the deficiency between that number and the number of casualties, was the province of government. It had occurred to them, that it would be advisable to recur to the means which experience had shewn to be so successful, namely, to allow a certain portion of the militia to volunteer into the line. The militia establishment was 92,000 men, of which the effectives might be considered to be 84,000, added to which there was due by ballot 5 or 6,000 men. Considering, on the one hand, the amount of the regular force which under any circumstance would be kept in this country, and on the other, the great security to the country arising from the local militia, which was every year increasing in discipline, it might be stated, without fear of contradiction, that the present establishment of the regular militia was greater than the national defence required. It was proposed to reduce it to the old establishment, namely, 70,000 for the two islands; and for this purpose to allow a number, not exceeding 10,000, to volunteer into the line. Tins measure was the less objectionable, as from the effective state of the militia, a new ballot would not be necessary until the end of the year 1812. His lordship expressed his persuasion that when parliament reflected on the number of men which had already been raised in this manner, they would be of opinion, with his Majesty's government, that it was the best method which could be adopted to meet the casualties, and the least likely to interfere with the ordinary recruiting. On the resumption of the House, it was his intention to move for leave to bring in a bill for this purpose. If leave were granted him, he should, after it had been read a first time, move that it be printed, in order to give ample 195 opportunity for discussing the various provisions which it would contain. His lordship concluded by moving the first resolution.
§ General Tarleton
rose and spoke as follows: Mr. Lushington, I return my thanks to the noble lord, for the clear manner in which he has stated the Estimates of the current year; but, although they contain circumstances of great moment, I shall call the immediate attention of the committee to a subject, growing out of this branch of the public service, which I consider to be deserving of paramount and prior consideration. I allude, Sir, to the war now carried on by Great Britain, on a very extended scale, within the boundaries of the continent of Europe. On this occasion I do not arrogate to myself a superior degree of patriotism, or of military knowledge, but I discharge a conscientious duty to my country; and, in the discharge of that duty, I will employ as much perspicuity and brevity as I can command.—It is my intention to attribute to his Majesty's ministers full credit for patriotic designs, and virtuous motives. That they conceive a war upon the continent will lessen the military power of Buonaparté; will protect our allies, the Spaniards and the Portuguese; and will delay, or ultimately defeat, the invasion of the British isles. On the contrary, I contend that such opinions, with our limited population, speaking comparatively of it with the population of Europe, will offer up as unnecessary victims, the best soldiers of Britain; will not avail ultimately, in the defence of our allies, as the integrity of British resources can alone give us present security, and, in a more remote degree, afford a point and beacon of rally and redemption to the prostrate nations of Europe: and that the expenditure of our brave men, and our military resources upon the continent, will co-operate with the ambitious designs of Buonaparté, and open a passage at an earlier period, and with more facility, to our mortal and inveterate enemy—Experience and common sense equally confirm the soundness and validity of these opinions. If any nation undertakes a line of military operation beyond its means, or comparatively so with those of the enemy, the result must naturally produce a melancholy termination. On the present occasion, I contend that our means are physically inadequate to the object in view, that the plan and system are founded in error and mistake, 196 and must inevitably lead to disaster and destruction.—After this brief analysis of the argument between me and the gentleman opposite, I proceed to take a summary view of the two expeditions which have been sent by the ministers of the day, into the interior of Spain, before I state the operations of the campaign which commenced in 1810.—The papers and documents upon the tables of the two houses of parliament, clearly point out the rendezvous of the troops allotted to the command of Lieut. Gen. sir John Moore, and hold out a delusive expectation, that the army under his command would have been able to penetrate to Madrid, and render important service to the Spanish cause. We collect, likewise, from the papers in our possession, a description of the scanty state of the supplies to be expected by the British general, between Salamanca and the capital.—A small division of this army was therefore intrusted to the command of Lieut. Gen. sir John Hope, consisting principally of cavalry and artillery, who, by a circuitous march, reached the neighbourhood of Madrid. The vigilance of the commander, and the persevering activity of his officers and soldiers, extricated this detachment of the British army from a situation of imminent peril, as the French had occupied the pass of Samosierra, and were extending themselves, in overbearing numbers, on the route of this small column. I need not recapitulate to the committee all the disasters which pressed rapidly on sir John Moore, owing to the erroneous intelligence which was conveyed to him from authority, and from the harrassing movements of superior bodies of the enemy.—It is sufficient for my present purpose to say, that sir John Moore was compelled to offer battle, after hardships almost unparalleled, to an army which out-numbered his own, in the neighbourhood of Corunna. The committee will pardon me if I employ a few moments in giving a rapid sketch, yet faithful portrait, of this meritorious officer. He, like his great example, General Wolfe, had exercised his professional talents in the discipline of the troops which had been submitted to his command, and rendered them, by his attention, extremely skilful in every military movement: he, too, like his illustrious prototype, after a series of mental as well as bodily fatigues, expired in the arms of victory. Posterity, however, in regretting the premature conclusion of such valuable lives, cannot fail 197 to appreciate the marked difference which resulted from their deaths. They both fought and conquered! Wolfe executed the plan of the earl of Chatham, and a victory gave England possession of Quebec and Canada. Moore was employed by these ministers, and, although he evinced genius, intrepidity, and constancy, which he sealed with his blood, his army embarked with a heavy loss and great difficulty, and the French forces have ever since been banished from the northern provinces of Spain. The other instance of attack, on our part, was, as far as the papers laid upon our table justify us informing a judgment, principally planned, and personally conducted, by lord Wellington. His design seems to have been to form a junction with our allies, the Spaniards; and by the joint efforts of this force, to expel the French from Madrid, and afterwards drive them beyond the river Ebro.—The British forces employed upon this occasion were about 30,000, and well selected for any enterprise. The Spaniards, under (General Cuesta, and other leaders, were much more numerous, but not equal, either in officers or discipline, to the British. The battle of Talavera received the thanks of the imperial parliament, expressed by the respective organs of both Houses, to the commander, the officers, and soldiers of the English army: his Majesty also marked the event, by conferring the distinction of a viscount upon sir Arthur Wellesley.—The history of the sequel to the battle of Talavera, discovers that lord Wellington left the principal part of his sick and wounded to the enemy, and, consigning his hospital to their humanity, by a rapid march to his rear, evaded the designs and power of Marshals Soult and Mortier. In crossing to the south bank of the Tagus, our allies sustained a heavy loss of men from one of the French corps, and lord Wellington sought security from the enemy, and cantonments for the British, on the unwholesome marshes of Estremadura. In this manner the second enterprise concluded, which was directed against the French, in the interior of the Spanish territories. The united army, not being able to penetrate to Madrid, theallies separated in disgust, and the British commander-in-chief returned to the neighbourhood of Lisbon.—Before I enter into a recital of the operations and the events of the campaign commenced in 1SI0, it will be highly correct to make two observations: I do not conceive the plan (by the word 198 plan, I mean the military outline of the defence of Portugal) to have originated with lord Liverpool, who succeeded lord Castlereagh in the war department of this country. Although the noble lord did express a desire of marching to Paris in his earlier days, I do not think time has added to his chivalry, so much as to induce him to attack Madrid, in the years of his maturity. I therefore consider the suggestions with regard to offensive or defensive operations on the peninsula, to have proceeded principally from the judgment of lord Wellington.—My second observation I confine to lord Wellington entirely: I beg leave to premise that the mention of that noble lord, which I am obliged to make in a narrative of this description, does not bear with it a criticism or an attack upon lord Wellington's military conduct. The time is not yet come, the documents are not yet arrived, to enable me or the House to form a complete judgment on the subject of the present campaign. We are, unfortunately, only favoured with extracts of the noble lord's letters, from whence we cannot derive much information. In short, the name of the commander in chief can no more be omitted, than the names of Cato or Hamlet, in the representations of those dramatic productions.—The campaign of 1810 opened by the approach of the contending armies, under the direction and command of lord Wellington and marshal Massena, to the frontier of Spain. The former had, according to the best accounts I could obtain, a British force, of artillery, cavalry, and infantry, nearly amounting to 34,000 men. Marshal Beresford, who commanded the organized Anglo-Portuguese troops, had assembled about 20,000 of that nation, in the neighbourhood of lord Wellington's army; and this whole force was subject to the orders and control of the noble lord.—About the time of the appointment of marshal Massena to the command of the army destined for the invasion of Portugal, marshal Ney was employed in collecting and preparing magazines of every description, to enable the French to undertake the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo.—The impediments to warfare, of every description, in the neighbourhood of Salamanca, where depots were to be created, have been described in the papers placed on the table of this House. Sir John Moore and the British army had experienced these difficulties, on their first arrival in Spain, although the country had not at that period 199 been impoverished by the troops of allies or enemies. The season of the year, likewise, in addition to the other difficulties, seemed to oppose an insuperable barrier to the design of the enemy. It cannot escape military notice, that the spring is more disadvantageous for the collection of subsistence titan the autumn, when the harvest is stored. This was the precise time, however, when the enemy collected magazines for the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, and it is quite evident that the country was compelled to supply the demands and wants of the French, with respect to subsistence, as the transport of heavy cannon and military stores would require all the horses and carriages, both Spanish and French, within the grasp of the power of the latter, in order to advance so formidable an undertaking. For the defence of this fortress, the Spaniards made preparations, the works were inspected, the artillery placed upon the ramparts, and some select regiments of the Spanish line composed the garrison, which was expected to resist the effort of the assailants, according to the report which we received from the Lisbon Gazettes, for a considerable time. In the sort of narrative which I am now giving to the committee, which it is equally difficult and delicate for an English officer to attempt if I wish that narrative to be worthy of attention, I must describe the military events which present themselves, without any bias or partiality, and by adhering as closely to the line of truth as the present materials will allow me to discover it, give a faithful delineation of the facts. As the obstacles which presented themselves to the enemy were of no common description, great expectations were created by the reports of the day, and the newspapers of this country, that the enemy would fail in the enterprise commenced. For, in looking at the investiture of Ciudad Rodrigo, the local disadvantages, with regard to subsistence and the roads, were not the only impediments in the way of the French army. Lord Wellington, with the allied forces, was posted in the neighbourhood of that fortress. I cannot help remarking to the committee, at this moment, the fondness of the majority of the gentlemen opposite, of calling in, upon a variety of occasions, the assistance of great authorities. We too have our military authorities; and we regard the conduct of the duke of Marlborough, of prince Eugene, and of the king of Prussia, in as 200 high a point of value and consideration, as those hon. gentlemen do the sayings of lord Coke, judge Holt, and Mr. Justice Blackstone. The duke of Marlborough and prince Eugene considered the investiture of Lisle as a difficult operation, after they had weakened the French power, and driven it from the field. The first illustrious character commanded the army of observation, and prince Eugene superintended the works directed against the place. Notwithstanding this combination of power and talent, Lisle made a gallant defence, and, by a protracted fall, averted the evils which seemed to threaten France. Yet in the presence of the allied army, Ciudad Rodrigo did not make a long defence, and marshal Massena pressed forwards to the Portuguese frontier. By a variety of channels of information, the people of England were made acquainted with the superior numbers of the French cavalry, and that the plains laying around Ciudad Rodrigo were unfavourable to the operations of an army, whose principal force consisted of infantry. But it was represented that the rivers and the mountains, in the vicinity of Almeida, presented a different scene of action, and more sanguine hopes of the failure of the French, in the attack of that place, were consequently entertained by the Portuguese and the British nations. It is natural to suppose that, previous to the attack of the enemy, the place was thoroughly inspected; that the works were strengthened as much as possible, and that the best means were adopted to enable the garrison to make a long defence. Lord Wellington undoubtedly had the option of defending the fortress, and the selection of the troops, for maintaining Almeida, which some writers have staled to be the strongest and largest place on the frontier of Portugal. On the approach of the French, the rear guard of lord Wellington fell back over the river Coa, and Almeida was invested. I cannot help reminding the committee of the examinations which took place within these walls, with respect to the Walcheren expedition, in the course of the last session of parliament. That enterprise, it must be recollected, received the thanks of this House; and, in the course of the proceedings to which I have alluded, it appeared that some officers, and some ministers, vaunted their own vigour, in being prepared to produce and open forty pieces of heavy cannon against Antwerp, within the period 201 of twenty days, in ease a landing had been effected upon the continent. Let us candidly survey the facilities and the difficulties which presented themselves to the British and the French on these two occasions. The English possessed the most ample naval means that the history of the world can produce, to transport the apparatus necessary for any siege to the continent, and the contiguity of Woolwich to the water is well known, and favourable to such a design. The French had to struggle against every difficulty, arising from a tedious land carriage—hostile and exasperated country—bad roads—and poverty of every description. Yet we discovered, I believe, in our own accounts of that transaction, that against the fortress of Almeida, they opened their fire from 63 pieces of heavy ordnance, and that Almeida surrendered after a defence of 48 hours. If any person infers from this statement, that I depreciate the vigour, the talents, and the courage of the gallant officers and soldiers of my country, and raise those of our enemy into a state of superiority, I will give him a direct denial. My examination of military records and my personal knowledge in the field, both enable me to approve the conclusion which proceeded from marshal Villars, after a long experience and many severe conflicts against the British, that "he would prefer the command of 2,5,000 national English, to 30,000 of any other nation in the world." I only make these statements, as I am supported by facts, to prove the small degree of vigour in this vigorous administration, and the madness of our continental experiments. With the account of the fall of Almeida, strong insinuations of treachery against some officers of the garrison, and rumours of a conspiracy at Lisbon, reached this country. As to the particular points of the supposed infidelity, or of the magnitude of the conspiraey in the capital of Portugal, we are not in possession of any documents to enable us to decide with propriety. But the history of the world affords a general solution to similar reports under similar circumstances. All historians have described the effects of invasion and overthrow, and have naturally and invariably shewn, that a people ceases to possess confidence when they cannot obtain protection. The early and unexpected surrender of these fortresses, Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, must have produced disagreeable sensations in the 202 minds of our allies, and instantaneously occasioned those military movements which they had not anticipated. It had been represented, both in Lisbon and the camp, that the defence of two fortified places, well stored and garrisoned for a siege, and within the reach of one day's march of the allied army, would have augmented the enemy's difficulties so as to have occasioned a retreat, or that the protracted defence of those fortresses would have called in aid the periodical rains of the country to defeat the entire design of the French. The stores found in the fallen citadals must necessarily have been of great utility to marshal Massena, and the ground occupied by the enemy obliged lord Wellington to retrograde with the allied army. Notwithstanding the evidence of our senses upon this occasion, the inhabitants of Great Britain were overpowered by the rhapsody contained in the Ministerial Journals, on every mention of Lord Wellington, by their self-important reasonings upon military subjects, and by their positive affirmation that he had not commenced a retreat. The treasury of England, at this particular juncture, "appeared to be the magazine of news, where invention framed the fable of the day, and credulity stood ready to receive it."
It would be superfluous to enumerate the different towns, villages, and mountains, that were occupied by the allies, or the rivers that were passed between the frontier of Portugal and the neighbourhood of Coimbra, which Stands almost in view of I the Atlantic ocean. During this state of anxiety and expectation, the Park and Tower guns, and the Gazette, proclaimed the victory of Busaco. The reports of that repulse of the French, which have hitherto reached this country, contain such scanty information, that the whole transaction, as a military transaction, except the repulse, appears enigmatical. We know that the British and Portuguese troops were formed in line on the ridge of Busaco: that the French army approached the valley, which lay contiguous to the position of the allies: that two detachments climbed the rocks and commenced their attack upon two points: that the assailants were repulsed with considerable loss: and that marshal Massena did not renew his attempts, but immediately made a movement, which crossed the front of the allies, and eventually turned their left flank. From the position of Busaco we likewise learned lord Wellington descended 203 with some degree of precipitation, with the intention of destroying or carrying away the stores deposited at Coimbra. The possession of that place was, however, of short duration, the allied army soon passed to the left bank of the Mondego, and the French obtained some supplies which could not be removed or burned by the allies. I will not make any delay in order to criticise the report made relative to the Portuguese militia, and the expectation formed of their frustrating the movement of the enemy through Sardao. The mention of such expectation excites more than a common share of surprise. Can the warmest admirer of irregular troops conceive that a body of Portuguese militia, after the events of the present campaign, could stop a French army, of considerable numbers, in full march to a great object? With the permission of the committee, I will now communicate to the superior wisdom of the gentlemen who now hear me, my conjecture on the causes which led to the attack at Busaco. It appears, by a document proceeding from the Regency of Portugal, that some Portuguese had espoused the French side of the question, and, by a price set upon the marquis of Alorno's head, at this period, that he was particularly obnoxious. In the American war, the British had partizans of the same description. When life, fortune, and character are at stake, the opinions of men are naturally heated, and their sentiments should be adopted with great caution. It occurs, therefore, to me, that the Gallo Portuguese persuaded the French. General to try, at all risks, an attack upon the British and Portuguese, when formed in one line. They impressed him with a belief, that the Portuguese battalions would not stand the French fire and attack, and that a chasm would be made in some part of the position of the allies; from which state of confusion, a general, skilful in military movements, would derive the greatest advantages and happiest consequences. Such an event might present to marshal Massena the golden opportunity of achieving a great victory, at a considerable distance from Lisbon, and the shipping of the British. The consideration of the scene of action, the mode of the attack, the manner of desisting from it, the movements made directly after the repulse, all confirm me in the belief of the suggestion I have deliberately entertained. The motionless state of lord Wellington's army, immediately subsequent to the defeat of the French columns, and 204 the proclamation which marshal Beresford gave to the world about this period, both likewise minister to my conviction on this subject. The proclamation alluded to, cites all Portuguese officers, then absent from their battalions, immediately to join their colours, or plainly tells them they shall be stigmatized as deserters. This term of infamy, proves the enormity of the transgression, and the number of the delinquents. Such a circumstance of notoriety could not escape the knowledge of the enemy's spies, and the Portuguese adherents to the cause of France, and; united with the other causes which. I have enumerated, might have had some weight in alluring marshal Massena to make the experiment which I have described, as the attack of the allies upon the ridge at Busaco, cannot otherwise be accounted for, and appears, without such a design, entirely unnecessary. From the neighbourhood of Coimbra, the two armies moved with all possible celerity; the allies, to attain their strong position at Torres Vedras; and the French, to bring lord' Wellington to action, previous to his arrival within his fortified camp. It is reported, that marshal Massena disencumbered his army of its baggage and heavy cannon, in order to effect the design he had in contemplation. The allies, however, accomplished their plan, and the French derived no other satisfaction from their rapid march, than confining them to the line of the road, preventing them from exploring the country, and driving in the cattle and other valuable articles, with which that part of Portugal abounded. On the arrival of the allies at Torres Vedras, supplies, equipments, and British reinforcements, were found in aid of lord' Wellington, and the position of his army had been strengthened by superior skill, and unceasing labour. Marshal Massena soon discovered the strong situation, and' formidable preparation of his adversary, and did not long cherish the idea of making an impression upon them in the present condition of his troops, after the hardships they had suffered, and which were daily accumulating around them. From deserters, who flocked into the camp of the allies in great numbers, the wants and' distresses of the French, with respect to shoes, spirits, equipments, and even of ammunition, were strongly rumoured and almost correctly ascertained. The periodical rains which had begun to fall, soon-obliged marshal Massena to send a constiderable 205 corps, under general Loison, to look out for subsistence and cantonments in the neighbourhood of Santarem and the river Zezere. Lord Wellington, in a dispatch, dated on the 30th of October, mentions the departure of general Loison's detachment, and his supposed arrival on the banks of that river, at a point, about forty miles distant from the French position before Torres Vedras. After marshal Massena had faced the allies without choosing to make any attempt upon their lines for nearly the space of one month, in which situation his army had suffered under severe privation, had been exposed to great inclemency of climate, and had sustained diminution by desertion, he withdrew at night-fall with great silence, in order to possess the cantonments prepared under the superintendance of general Loison. As the pursuit made by lord Wellington was not productive of any considerable advantage, it will be necessary to survey the condition and situation of the two armies at the time they respectively took up their positions in the vicinity of Cartaxo and Santarem. At this period, the first opportunity was afforded to the contending parties to relax from the severity of military duties, which, with little intermission, had prevailed in both camps during a long and arduous struggle. Before I state the relative condition of the two armies, and the result of the past operations, I will again make an appeal to the candour of the committee. If I have made any observations, with too much severity, on the shortness of the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida—on the precipitate retreat of lord Wellington upon the magazine of Coimbra—on the superior advantages of the allies after their arrival at Torres Vedras—and the completion of marshal Massena's retreat to Santarem—I must defend myself by saying, that the information received upon those subjects is as yet incomplete, and unsatisfactory to the military reader. The documents, to enable us to judge with fairness and impartiality, have not yet been presented to the House of Commons, and therefore the hour of approbation or condemnation is not yet arrived. Lord Wellington's explanations may be perfectly satisfactory both to professional critics and a generous nation. The military parts of the question are not yet before the tribunal of the public; but what must Great Britain think of the system which has been acted upon for the last 206 three years by the ministers before us That system, if it had any plan, must have embraced the entire defence of the peninsula in the first instance. At the commencement of the present campaign, it must have had for its object the protection of the kingdom of Portugal.—It now upholds Lisbon, and at some future day, a large proportion of the navy of England may be collected and employed to protect and receive the surviving combatant" of the British army. The numbers and' position of the British, the Portuguese, and the Spanish troops at Cartaxo and Chamusca, enabled the commander in chief to cover and extend his lines at Torres Vedras, and to carry on the works near Almeida, for the defence of the port of Lisbon. Within the confines of his power it is now incumbent upon me to describe the extent of the population he has to provide for, and the means for carrying so necessary a duty into execution. The military portion of the three armies, will require at least 90,000 rations each day. The population of the intermediate towns and' villages, as well as Lisbon, must necessarily amount to 200,000 mouths, nearly-destitute of food: and the other inhabitants of Portugal, who had preceded the march of the allies, or joined them on their route, will perhapsexceed another 100,000. The provisions, therefore, to be issued daily, without taking into account the marines and seamen on shore, or afloat in the-Tagus, will form a gross amount of nearly 400,000 rations. The stores, either of a public or private nature, in Lisbon, cannot have been left, after so continued a warfare, in an abundant state. The desolation which prevails in war, must long ago have exhausted every article of life between Torres Yedras and the capital. The supplies, to sustain the efforts of the soldiers, and the existence of the inhabitants, must almost entirely depend upon water-carriage from foreign countries. America, as long as it suits her commercial advantages, and does not contravene her politics, may bring her flour; the coasts of Africa can yet afford fresh meat; and Ireland and England will yield and transport salted pork and beef, as well as hay, port wine, and many other necessary articles, to the shores of the Tagus. For' the whole of which, the treasury of Eng land must provide the means of payment; and for the most considerable part of these supplies, bullion, or bills of exchange, at a great loss of money, must be furnished, 207 The sums paid likewise to the Transport-office, for the general service of the army, cannot be omitted, as that expense will not be found unimportant, it having contributed more than any other to the termination of the American war On the total loss of the British army, since the commencement of the continental war, by the sword, sickness, climate, and casualties, it is out of my power to form an accurate calculation. By returns only of the men sent to, and returned from Portugal, can the exact loss be precisely ascertained. But I think I may hazard a conjecture, that Great Britain, up to this time, will have sustained a diminution of her disposable force to the amount of more than 50,000 men. Another circumstance, which I have not hitherto mentioned, cannot be passed over: When the Bank made a communication to government, late in the last year, of the difficulties which would occur in sending more bullion out of England, it was suggested that specie to a great amount might be procured at Cadiz, on its arrival from Spanish America; but the distractions which prevail beyond the Atlantic, preclude the hope of much money being obtained from that quarter. On marshal Massena's arrival at Santarem, the condition of his army became greatly ameliorated. The convents, churches, and buildings of that place, afforded both shelter and convenience to many battalions that had hitherto been in a houseless state. The favourable situation of the local, it being protected by the Tagus, the swamps, and the mountains, gave a great relief to the severity of the duty which before had necessarily been imposed upon the French soldiers. The cantonments which had been provided between the river Zezere, Torres Novas, Goligao, Thomar, Lryria, and the contiguous villages, received the whole of the troops, and at the same time covered the most fertile as well as the best cultivated parts of Portugal. The ground, therefore, on which the French army now stood, gave comparative abundance, to what it had experienced either on the outset or during the continuance of the campaign. The herds and flocks were found upon the land; the mills were placed in a state of activity; and the late harvest and vintage had hitherto received in those quarters little or no diminution. It appears, by different channels of intelligence, that occasional patroles are made by the French, for various military purposes, to the frontier 208 of Spain, across the river Mondego, and to Lamego, on the banks of the Douro; which have been sometimes interrupted by the peasantry and the militia of the country. Notwithstanding any interruption from this, or any other cause, Portugal has been obliged to supply the great proportion of the subsistence required by marshal Massena, and must continue to furnish all his demands, until the seasons allow the junction of reinforcements, and the consequent commencement of active operations. If we now survey, with candour and truth, the result of the operations since the commencement of the campaign, we must admit that the enemy has gained possession of two important fortresses, with their artillery, garrisons, and stores; that he has advanced over rivers, mountains, and an extensive country; and that he now occupies a position which keeps the allied army in check, and at the same time enables him to feed his troops, build boats and pontoons, and concert his future designs. At this period of apparent repose in Portugal, it may not be improper to call the attention of the committee to a retrospect of the transactions which had occurred in Spain. The desultory warfare which had been attempted both in the south and north, by British officers, and with British resources, had not been crowned with success. The condition as well as character of Spain had undergone a considerable alteration, since the commencement of the struggle, for the dearest rights and privileges of humanity. The defeat and captivity of general Dupont, an officer of reputed celebrity, the glorious and patriotic defences of Saragossa and Gerona, had no parallel in the late events upon the peninsula. The surrender of Ciudad Rodrigo, and the fall of Tortosa, with the abundant garrison and stores which it contained, bore no resemblance to the chivalrous and magnanimous efforts displayed in the first effervescence of the resistance to Buonaparte. An epitome of the state of Spain, during the last nine months, is not an unimportant feature in the argument I am now offering to the committee. The map of the peninsula shews the Pyrenees, the frontier of Portugal, and the French position at Santarem, In their progress from France, as Buonaparté has no water carriage, his troops must perform considerable marches; they must traverse Spain, in all directions, with stores and ammunition; and great and small detachments must necessarily have 209 seven or eight hundred miles to pass over, in order to advance the main operations before Torres Vedras. What, therefore, must we think of the patriotism of eleven millions of people, in permitting the hostile bands of their oppressor to penetrate through the heart of their country to overwhelm their allies, when such natural obstacles as mountains, rivers, and defiles, are in their occupation and possession? Especially when we recollect that three British armies, and weapons and clothing of all descriptions for 300,000 men, have been transported from Britain for the defence and use of the inhabitants Yet we have proofs, so degrading to patriotism, weekly and daily exhibited to our contemplation, in the junction of all the different columns which reinforce Massena's army. Of the numbers and the arrival of the reinforcements from France, his Majesty's ministers must have more accurate accounts than the public have in their possession. The private communications from lord Wellington must contain more intelligence upon that point, than the mutilated Gazette-letters given to the world. We have heard of Drouet, Gardanne, Erlon, and other general officers, bringing up columns and divisions, and of the progress of marshal Bessieres through the northern provinces of Spain; but any thing like a clear amount of force is, in no account, specified with any thing like official regularity. The people of England may fairly infer, from the silence of his Majesty's ministers, and the known ambition of the tyrant of Europe, that the reinforcements arrived in Portugal, or expected by the French in that quarter, will be commensurate to the important object committed by Buonaparte to the arrangement, vigilance, and charge, of marshal Massena. The preparations made by his majesty's ministers for reinforcing lord Wellington's army in Portugal, embraced a wide and distant extent; and, if we give any consideration or reference to the foreign services and colonies of Great Britain, consisted of a greater supply than her population can long continue to support. From Sicily, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Nova Scotia, and the mother country, reinforcements for the peninsula have been selected. It has been reported that a detachment of some magnitude has been sent from Sicily. The future security of that island is thereby, I apprehend, placed in a state of hazard, as I cannot discover any depot of soldiers from which that possession can be 210 supplied, when the French and Neapolitans re-commence their operations. The continental papers point out the preparations for future attacks in that quarter; and the return of the British general at this juncture, who has acquired professional glory in defence of the Sicilian court and country, rather impresses me with an opinion that he has not contemplated the measure alluded to, with perfect satisfaction. The state of the garrison of Gibraltar, and the reputed importance of that fortress, did not permit a great diminution for the warfare upon the peninsula. A detachment was, however, selected under the command of lord Blayney. But from Cadiz the draft has been so great, that the besieging army has been left at liberty to move almost entirely to the river Guadiana, to co-operate in the manœuvres and operations of marshal Massena. Through Merida, stores of every description for the service of the French army in Portugal, have been conveyed under the direction of marshal Mortier. And the Spanish army on the banks of the Guadiana, in the town of Olivenza, has received a blow from marshal Soult, who is reported to have marched his troops from the lines before Cadiz. From Nova Scotia and Halifax, and other British dependencies in that quarter of the world, all the troops have been brought which might have contributed to influence the decisions of the American congress, in the diplomatic controversies now subsisting with the United States. What is the condition of Ireland? Is not our sister kingdom stripped to nakedness, and, by the late circular letter of the government, goaded to despair? I forbear to ask for returns of the regular force in that island, which would equally prove the insecurity of that country, and the imbecility of his majesty's ministers. I believe it has been said, since the commencement of this session, that the numbers of men are as great as they ever were for the protection of that island. But doubting, as I do, the validity of that assertion, of what is the force for the defence of Ireland now composed? I entertain a great respect both for the volunteers and militia of that country. I have often seen and admired them. But I pass over summarily this question, by giving an opinion to the committee, after the experience arising from a considerable command in that island, during the present and the last war, that Ireland ought not to be left without 25,000 regulars, during the 211 continuance of the vital struggle between Great Britain and Buonaparte. If, upon due consideration, I imbibed that opinion nearly six years ago, the changes made in the north of Europe, since that period, rather augment than diminish my conviction with respect to the force necessary for the security of that important quarter of the empire. Within the precincts of this island, every thing has been gleaned of a military description, to advance the Quixotism of ministers upon the continent. From the infantry of the line almost every battalion has been selected that was fit for service. Of the cavalry, you have not sent the last draft, at least you have not embarked the eleventh regiment, because I suppose representations have arrived of the unfitness of the local, in the neighbourhood of Lisbon, for the operations of light dragoons, and of the present straightened situation of the cavalry already in that country, on account of forage. But from the guards, which have two brigades at this instant serving in Portugal and Cadiz, you have been compelled, by imperious necessity, to make a miserable selection in point of numbers. The three regiments produced, according to the information of the public prints, a reinforcement for the army in Portugal of 100 non-commissioned officers and privates. All the brigades, regiments, battalions, corps, and even companies which could be collected, have been assembled, and sent to the peninsula. The great majority of them have long been acting upon the continent, and the last division of the British reinforcements has, ere now, arrived on the shores of the Tagus. Laying out of the question the hazard incurred in all the quarters from whence troops have been drawn, what have you achieved, or what can you accomplish? From the frontiers of Spain, the allied armies of England and Portugal have fallen back to the neighbourhood of Lisbon, and with the pressure of an expense which will soon prove intolerable, and, to defray which, you must make an increase of your tax upon income, you have collected all the distressed inhabitants of Portugal to ask for daily bread at the hands of the British general; whilst our common enemy, pleased with the measures of your insanity, in prosecuting a continental war, is congregating at his leisure a mighty force, and can add to its immensity and mightiness in the comparative proportion of ten combatants to one, He is not entangled 212 by suffering inhabitants—by the cries of humanity—or by the importunities of famishing thousands: he is not restricted in his operations, by any respect for laws, human or divine: he does not call in vain for reinforcements; nor has he drained to the dregs the military population of Europe. Massena and his master are now bringing to a close the downfall of British resources, and, with fell and malignant joy, are already contemplating a mortal blow against the unprotected vilals of our empire and constitution. In this advanced age of the world, and in the present state of society, few occurrences, or even difficulties, can present themselves, in aid of which we may not derive advantage from history. You had the power of investigating the conduct of our ancestors. Hume says, "The English never entered upon foreign wars, although much too much addicted to that unwise course of proceeding, except when a young king of genius, to lead the armies, presented himself to the nation; when distraction prevailed amongst their enemies; and great allies were ready to cooperate in their designs." The condition of Europe, and the fallen state of Austria, might have exhibited to his majesty's ministers a salutary lesson with respect to the peninsula. If ancient history is worthy of your consideration, look at the fate of Carthage—a commercial against a military nation! If that government bad not destined the flower of its army for the invasion of Italy, the overthrow and destruction in Africa might have been retarded, or ultimately averted. But it is in vain to cite instances from history to you, if you are not admonished by your own errors. You ought to have remembered the first ill-planned expedition from Salamanca, committed to sir John Moore. You ought to have remembered the enterprise directed against Madrid, under the auspices of lord Wellington. Both these awful lessons are written in the blood of your best soldiers and yet you intemperately urge on your course of folly and rashness, and lay open the last disposable army of England to dangers of that extent and alarm, as such a precious stake ought not to be liable to, except upon our own shores, and in defence of British liberty and independence. I have now done: I may have urged some topics with too much vehemence, but I have been actuated solely by patriotic views of the points at issue, and, in such a career, 213The laws of council bid my tougue be bold.I am sensible, likewise, I have omitted many things, and that I have not done justice to the great question I have endeavoured to bring under the serious consideration of the inhabitants of the united kingdom. Yet I cannot sit down without apologizing to the committee for the encroachment I have already made upon its time. I move no resolution—but leave this statement to the good sense of parliament and the nation, as every human being, from the throne to the cottage, is interested and involved in the ruinous consequences of your continental warfare.
adverting to the speech of the hon. general (Tarleton), said that it was certainly competent for any member upon the army estimates, to pursue such topics of military discussion as he thought fit, but as the observations with which he (lord Castlereagh) was desirous of troubling the committee, grew out of the details which the secretary at war had that night opened in his speech, and as the honourable general had himself stated, that a more regular occasion would hereafter occur for reviewing the affairs of the peninsula, and the events of the last campaign, he hoped it would not be considered that it either arose from disrespect to the honourable general's arguments, or from acquiescence in his sentiments, if he postponed, till that occasion should arise, to enter upon a field of discussion too interesting in its nature to be lightly passed over, and too extensive to be mixed with the detailed considerations of the army, more immediately the object of that night's debate.
said, he should not feel it necessary to trouble the committee at any length upon the financial part of the estimates—the outline of the intended services had been explained with great clearness by the noble lord (Palmerstone), and the votes proposed seemed to be regulated with all due attention to economy, consistent with the efficiency of the army upon its present high scale, in point of numbers.
The only estimate to which he was particularly desirous of alluding, was that which went to reduce the annual training of the local militia from 21 to 11-days.
The share to be had in creating this force, the interest he personally felt in its well-being, and the conviction impressed on his mind, that the permanent security of the empire rested on its improvemen 214 and conservation, made him very reluctantly acquiesce in any retrenchment which might have a tendency to impair the discipline, and consequently the efficiency of this great system of national defence; but whilst he acknowledged his repugnance to the proposed change in a military point of view, he was ready to admit that there were grave considerations which operated the other way, arising from a due attention to public expence, and the general convenience of the men serving. In this state of things, as a friend of the measure, he thought it best to submit to the change, as an experiment. The local militia bad hitherto found in the country nothing but friends. He thought it would be prudent in its advocates not to attempt to strain a string which so happily had been wound up to its present pitch. If we had been obliged to relax in the number of training days, which originally appeared to him necessary, he had the consolation to observe the institution flourish in a degree far beyond his hopes, from the universal zeal and spirit with which the nation had carried it into execution. All distinctions of party had been lost in the common effort; to that patriotic spirit he was willing to trust for preserving and improving this force, even under the proposed modifications, satisfied that there was but one common feeling in parliament, and throughout the country, that the efficiency of this institution must be upheld, and that so long as it was effectually sustained, the security of the British empire was placed beyond the reach of danger.
then proceeded to notice the concluding part of the secretary at war's speech, which related to the recruiting of the army. It was that branch of the subject on which he had come down, desirous of calling for that information which the noble lord had so fully imparted to the House. To those conversant with army details, it must have been obvious, without reference to returns, that carrying on operations abroad on the scale we now did, the waste of the army, even from the common casualties incident to troops in the field, must very considerably exceed the resources of ordinary recruiting. In looking to what it might be necessary to do, he was ready to acquiesce in the principle laid down by the noble lord, that adverting to the magnitude of the force which the country now happily possessed, the object to be aimed at was rather to keep 215 up, than augment the present numbers of the army.
It having fallen to his lot officially to propose to parliament all the onerous measures which had taken place since the year 1805, for levying men, it was gratifying to him to find, that these efforts had achieved the great object to which they were progressively directed; that the zeal and perseverance of the nation, in cheerfully submitting to these burthens, was rewarded by the powerful army which they now possessed, unexampled before in any period of our history, and which left to parliament the easier task of hereafter upholding what by past labours had already-been created. In illustration of which lord C. referred to the effective strength of the army, as stated by the noble lord, viz. regulars 211,000, militia 81,000; total rank and file, regulars and militia, 295,000, exclusive of 24,000 artillery. Comparing this with the state of the land forces in 1805, viz. regulars 155,000, militia 90,000, artillery 11,000, the committee will see what has been the result of the measures adopted, namely, an increase, after covering the annual waste, of not less than 56,000 regulars, and 10,000 artillery.
Such being the state of the army, and the annual casualties being estimated by the noble lord at 23,000 men, (which exceeded, by about 7,000 men, the average of former periods) it remained to be considered how this waste was to be covered—taking the produce of ordinary recruiting at eleven thousand men, and the foreign recruiting at from 2 to 3,000, there remained a deficiency of 10,000 men to be annually provided. The measure of procuring these men by an annual draft from the militia, as suggested by the noble lord, had his entire approbation. It was extending to the British militia a principle which had long been acted upon in Ireland with the greatest advantage, and, as far as he could judge as an officer of militia, without any material prejudice either to the discipline or efficiency of the regiments which had been subject to the operation of the draft. The details of the increase would be matter of discussion when the noble lord introduced his Bill; he would only now throw out two points for his lordship's previous consideration:—The first was, the great discouragement which the present regulation, with respect to the provisions for militia-men's wives and families, opposed to volunteering into the 216 line. He was aware that there was considerable difficulty and some delicacy in applying a remedy to this evil; but he wished it to be considered, as men entered into the line upon a variety of terms, differing in their nature and degree of encouragement, whether the allowance now enjoyed by the wife and family of a militiaman might not be continued to them, at the public expence, relieving of course the counties from the charge, in the case of the husband agreeing to transfer his services to the line, and whether this would not operate as the best species of bounty. Without this encouragement he was afraid the measure might not prove productive, to the full extent, with it, he was confident it would; and if this indulgence, as an extraordinary effort for securing a supply of men, was confined to the men now actually serving in the militia, no inconvenience could arise to the ordinary recruiting, which might otherwise happen, if it were allowed to operate as a circuitous mode of enlisting into the line.
The second point to which he wished to direct the attention of ministers was, the system which he had introduced in the Bill of 1809, of endeavouring to protect, as far as possible, the counties from the heavy inconvenience of a ballot, by enlisting men for the regular militia at a fixed bounty, inferior to that of the line, and that bounty, where the vacancy arose from transfers to the line, falling as a charge upon the public, and not upon the county, provided the county succeeded within a certain time in raising the men.! Lord Castlereagh wished to see this principle persevered in; he thought it an equitable one; he understood in many counties, where due exertions had been used, it had proved successful in exonerating the counties; and he was impressed with the wisdom as well as importance of connecting with the proposed measure every regulation that could tend to mitigate its pressure. He was aware, from the present numbers of the militia, as compared with the intended establishment of 72,000 men for the united kingdom, that a demand upon the counties was not likely for some time to occur, but the interval he thought ought to be employed in their levying, without expence or inconvenience to the counties, the men which were to protect them, at the end of the second year, from the inconveniences of a ballot, for the successful accomplishment of which useful purpose, a new facility would be found in the 217 permanent staff of the local militia, which might be employed in aid of recruiting parties from the militia regiments in raising men in the respective counties.
Having stated his views with respect to the means best calculated to keep up the army, lord Castlereagh proceeded to call the attention of the committee to an improvement in the military system of the empire, which he had always deemed of the highest importance, of which he never had for a moment lost sight, and which he had only been induced, when in government, to delay pressing upon the consideration of parliament, from the persuasion that its success might have been risked, bad it been prematurely brought forward, entangled with the many other arduous military measures, which had in latter years occupied the attention of the legislature. When he spoke of the military system of the empire, which he trusted at last had assumed a permanent shape, he did not refer to any particular mode of levying men for military service; much political contest had taken place on this subject, which in its nature did not appear to him capable of being reduced to any immutable principle, but must vary with the occasion, the state of the country at the time, the difficulty or facility of procuring men, and; be number required; but what he considered as more immediately constituting our military system, and on which the repeated judgment of parliament had been pronounced, was—1st, That we should possess a large regular army adequate to all the various extensive demands of this great empire abroad, whose best interests, in time of war, even when viewed on defensive principles, was found to consist in the active annoyance of the enemy:—2dly, That we should possess a still more numerous force of local militia, assembled occasionally for purposes of training, but calculated from its numbers at once to protect the country from even the menace of in vasion: and 3d ly,—A considerable force of regular militia, ready to be called forth at the first commencement of hostilities, (an advantage which he was persuaded no other description of Force coula possess) and competent, from their being constantly under arms in time of war, to occupy the garrisons and advanced positions of the empire in the absence of the regular army, and to afford that defensive cover, under which the local militia, should an invasion be attempted, would have to assemble.
218 In looking to this system as a whole, and in contemplating the adequacy of each branch at the present moment to its respective functions, it was impossible not at once to be struck with the imperfection attaching to the latter branch of the public force, namely, the regular militia, whose sphere of service is not co-extensive with the general exigencies of the empire, but is broken, and localized, by those national distinctions which happily, in other respects, have ceased with the union. The inconveniences of this defective organization, perhaps, have been the more slow in impressing themselves on our minds, from the laudable alacrity with which the militia of both countries have been ready at all moments of exigency to fly to each others's assistance; but independent of the time lost in giving legal effect to such voluntary offers of service, and the serious objections that attach in principle to troops having to deliberate at any time upon the duties they are to per-form; there are many cases that may arise, and must arise where the power of making a distribution of the militia force, different from what the law at present permits, may be of the highest importance to the empire, and yet the necessity for it, not of that obvious and striking nature, which, like the exigency of rebellion or invasion, at once calls for the tender of the services required, It is obvious how much the power of stationing a corps of British militia in Ireland might facilitate, at this moment, the reinforcement of the British army in Portugal: and if a period should hereafter arrive, when, instead of the disposable force of the empire being employed, as at present, in a quarter where it in fact covers Ireland from attack, it should be. engaged in operations on the side of Holland, or the shores of the Baltic; how materially might not the defence of Ireland depend on the power of making such a distribution, considering the means the enemy generally possess of assembling a force, and menacing Ireland from the western ports of the continent.
The principle of a common militia for the empire, however obvious impolicy, must rest for its accomplishment on the growing sense of its importance. When the militia system was extended to Scotland in the year 1797, it was not at first thought prudent to hazard the measure, by extending the services of the Scottish militia to England, and it was not till a subsequent year that the conditions of the 219 service of the Scottish regiment were assimilated to those of the English militia. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, if the extension of the principle to Ireland has not more immediately followed the union; but the time (lord C. said) he was convinced was arrived, at least so he was led to be of opinion, from the communications he had had with individuals of both services, when this great work might be accomplished, under proper regulations, with the general concurrence, both of the British and Irish militia.
When he spoke of regulations, he did it from a conviction, that to render the measure acceptable it was necessary that the gentlemen serving in the militia should be clearly apprised beforehand what the nature and extent of the inconvenience was to which, from the consolidation of the militias, they might be exposed. With this view, and from a persuasion that in any other supposible case than that of actual rebellion or invasion, it could only be deemed expedient to employ a proportion of each militia in the other country; lord Castlereagh said, he was desirous of recommending, that the proportion should be fixed, not to be exceeded except in the event of rebellion or invasion; that the tour of duty to serve in the other island, should he taken by the regiments in rotation, and that no regiment should remain on such service beyond a time to be limited. It had occurred to him to propose, that the number liable to be so employed at one time, should not exceed one-fourth of the British, and one-third of the Irish militia, which would furnish a transferable force: of about 10,000 men of the former, and 8,000 of the latter; and that the period of the service of each regiment, out of its own island, should not exceed, at the utmost, two years. He was aware, that a protracted absence from the vicinity of their own counties, might prove inconvenient both to the concerns of the regiment and of the officers; but when it was considered that the rotation of service in Ireland would, to the English militia, come round only once in eight years, supposing the whole period to be one of uninterrupted war, and that leaves of absence are, at all times, liberally granted to militia officers, whose private affairs require this indulgence, be could not but feel sanguine, that the gentlemen interested would, for so great an object, cheerfully submit to this additional sacrifice.
220 It was not merely to the military advantages of the measure that he looked with an anxious solicitude for its accomplishment. He was of opinion, that its moral effects upon the empire would operate not less beneficially; he could assure the committee that his desire to see it accomplished, did not spring from the smallest distrust of the Irish militia soldier in his own country. It was not the language of management, but of sincerity, when he declared, that his confidence in them was as unbounded as in any other portion of the militia army. He had seen them tried severely in the worst of times—such times as he trusted would never again recur, and had always found them do their duty with exemplary zeal and fidelity. It was from a wish to cultivate intercourse, and to abolish every trace of separation between the component parts of the same empire, that he pressed the measure—he was desirous that the gentlemen of England, serving in the militia, should, by observation, inform themselves of the actual state of Ireland, unfortunately too little known, and too often misrepresented—that they should witness on the spot the generous and endearing qualities which distinguished the national character of Ireland, and which the pestilent labours of the disaffected had not been able to extinguish. He was also anxious that the Irish militia should have an opportunity of mixing with their fellow-subjects on this side of the channel; for, proud as he felt of the essential qualities of his countrymen, he was persuaded they would derive advantage from passing in the service of their country, into Great Britain, and there witnessing the happy state of society in which a people lived, who had long subjected themselves to industrious and moral habits, who looked up to the magistrate as their best protector, and to the law, which had made them what they are, for every future blessing—such an intercourse could not fail to improve both, to unite them in sentiments of common interest, and to cement in the feelings of the people, the union which had for ever bound their fates together. He was himself old enough to remember when the different provinces in Ireland were so estranged from each other in habits, that the inhabitants of the north and of the south felt it a less separation from their homes to cross the Atlantic, than to transfer their residence and industry to the other extremity of the island. Time had done 221 something to remove this, but the institution of the militia had done more—the constant intercourse, the intermarriages, the knowledge derived of the entire island by the interchange of the regiments between county and county, since the year 1793, had nearly obliterated these prejudices, and made the inhabitants of Ireland one people—might not similar effects be hoped for in the empire from similar causes, and to procure such happy results, what efforts ought we not to make? To render them effectual nothing is wanting but a further exertion, under the sanction of the legislature, of that patriotic devotion which the militia officers have never failed to display, whenever they saw and were convinced that the public service demanded it. In order to lay the foundation, it would be sufficient to provide, that all men hereafter entering into the British and Irish militia, shall be attested to serve in the united kingdom—to empower his majesty to receive voluntary offers from the respective regiments, of an extension of service, with a power in the crown to invite such offers, under such rules and regulations as to his majesty should seem fit. Such was the general outline of the measure, which, with the concurrence of his colleagues, had he remained in government, and with the good-will of the gentlemen of the militia, he should have been desirous of proposing to parliament. He had felt it his duty a an individual, deeply impressed with its importance, humbly to submit his ideas upon it to the committee, but without the presumption of supposing, that unaided by the intercourse of office, a plan of this nature could be properly digested. It was not his purpose to offer any preposition to parliament on the subject—such a measure could only originate with propriety, or with any prospect of success, in his majesty's council—he had done what became him in committing it to their consideration, they alone could judge of the prudence of bringing it forward, and select the time and mode of carrying it into effect:—he felt persuaded the measure itself rested upon principles which would conciliate to it friends, and invite support; he trusted it would, upon due reflection, recommend itself to the militia of both countries, and that they would aid the king's government in rendering to the empire this most important service.
, of Kerry, warmly supported the proposition for an interchange 222 of the services of the militia forces of the two countries, as likely to be productive of the mort important advantages to both.
§ Mr. Stuart
thought the inconvenience of transporting the militia from England to Ireland could not be greater, in most instances, than in sending them from England to Scotland.
§ Mr. Whitbread
conceived it to be a most unjust and unequal burthen imposed on the counties of England, that they should thus, from year to year, be obliged to find men to supply the deficiences in the army. There were some details in the statement, too, to which he objected, though he should find other opportunities of stating his objections. Three different members of the medical board, he observed, were to be allowed to retire on salaries, who had differed greatly from each other. It was impossible they could all be right. Some of them must have been deficient in their duty, yet all were to be rewarded for their merits; and what was still more strange, the merit of each was to be equally remunerated, without its being shewn in what respect they were entitled to remuneration. As to the reciprocity of service between the English and Irish militia, he should be glad to see the grand obstacle to this measure removed. This could only be done by adopting a step, the proposing of which had occasioned the overthrow of lord Ho-wick's administration; but he was happy to perceive that the idea was now so much hailed by the other side of the House The Irish militia could never consent to venture over into this country, while they would be subject to such pains and penalties, which did not attach to them in Ireland.
said, they had on a former occasion volunteered their services to Jersey and Guernsey.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, that when the interchange of the militias of the two countries took place, he would call the attention of the House to the state in which the Catholic soldiers would be placed. The noble lord said, the laws against them were a dead letter, and the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had cheered him. He had however believed that the right hon. gent, thought them of the highest importance, as the safeguard of our religion and church. But, at any rate, if a dead letter, they were most odious to the sight, and ought to be removed.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
hoped, 223 if the hon. gent, viewed the plan as others had done, that he would not increase existing difficulties by introducing, unnecessarily, a subject on which particular feelings existed, and which might lead to useless altercations. The inconveniences anticipated were not practically felt by those Catholic soldiers already in this country; and were they to suppose them more likely to be felt by the militia who might hereafter arrive? Some had objected at first to drafting into the regulars from the militia, and objected on the ground that it would prove ruinous to the discipline of the militia; but this, he trusted, had not been found the case. As this was not the time for going into the subject of the late campaign, he did not wish to say any thing on that head. Though he was anxious it should not be understood, that ministers gave up that campaign, or that they surrendered lord Wellington to those who were disposed to condemn his conduct, it was, however, remarkable, that the hon. general was now as forward in predicting disasters, as he was last session in saying the English could not make a stand at all against the enemy. As the prophecy he then made had not been realized, the hon. general had nothing new to say on the subject at present, but could only repeat his old prediction. The hon. general had spoken of the opportunities lord Wellington had had, and had failed to improve. He had spoken as if he might have crushed the enemy at Ciudad Rodrigo, and at Almeida. Why, if that were the case, what became of his censure of the plan of that campaign, and of those who had planned it, seeing, if that statement were correct, though they engaged with an enemy who could bring ten to one against them, they had nevertheless furnished lord Wellington with sufficient means to crush that enemy. This general, however, who had been so severely censured for not attacking the. enemy at Ciudad Rodrigo, and afterwards been as severely censured for suffering the enemy to attack him at Busaco. The attempt of marshal Massena was to be looked upon merely as an experiment, they had been told. He wished it, however, to be remembered, that it was an experiment which Massena did not think fit to repeat. If they looked back to what had been done, it would at least be found that lord Wellington had disappointed the enemy, and that he had done more than be had been expected to do by many in 224 this country, though he had not annihilated the French army. The contest, it was true, could not be carried on without a great expence to this country, but it ought to be remembered that the cause was great, and that the cause was our own; and great as the expenditure unquestionably was, it was nothing to what it must be if we were obliged to engage with the enemy on our own shores. It was our interest to prevent that as long as we were able, and that reflection, he trusted, would reconcile the people, not only to what they had already borne, but what it might yet be necessary to call upon them to bear.
§ General Tarleton
observed, that the right hon. gent. had spoken as if he had attacked the conduct of lord Wellington. He reminded the right hon. gent. that he had disclaimed any such intention; but speaking of the events of the campaign, it was as impossible to avoid mentioning the commander in chief, as it would be to perform the tragedy of Hamlet, omitting the character of prince Hamlet, or to represent Cato, leaving out the most important character, Cato himfelf.
rose and said, Sir, had not I conceived it to be generally felt and understood on all sides of the House, that this was not the fit opportunity for going into the discussion of the character and merits of the late campaign, I should have offered myself to the attention of the House at a much earlier hour. But, although what I still conceive to be the prevalent understanding on this subject, will operate to prevent me from going into any detail upon it, at the present moment, yet after what has fallen from the hon. general opposite (general Tarleton) in his last speech respecting the state of the war in the peninsula, I should consider it an abandonment of my duty, and should reproach myself for having acted an unworthy part, if I were to omit to state shortly the opinions which I entertain upon that most interesting and important question. The share which I personally had in originating those measures which have committed this country in the peninsula against France, renders it necessary for me, as well in vindication of my own conduct, as in justice to the principles by which the present ministers have proved themselves to be still actuated in the maintenance of the contest, to express my unaltered approbation of the system which they have continued to pursue. When 225 ever the arduous contest shall have been decided, whether it terminate adversely or triumphantly for the allied arms, I cannot but consider myself as deeply implicated in the issue, and I the rather take this occasion of putting in my claim to answer to this House and to my country for the part I have had in this system of measures, while the result is yet unascertained: because if that result shall be, as I trust it will be, honourable and successful, I should appear after the event, to be claiming a participation of the credit to be derived from success, without having fairly exposed myself to a share of the blame which may be attached to failure.
As to the general policy of maintaining the contest in the peninsula, it is, in my opinion, not only true courage but true wisdom in Great Britain to avail herself of all means and opportunities of encountering the enemy, which may defer to the last the occasion, if that occasion is to arrrive, at which, we shall have to fight the battle upon our own shores. In this view, I must contend that the operations of the campaign, even if considered as merely respecting the war in the peninsula have been eminently advantageous. The enemy has at least been kept in check; and we have not only been gaining time, which, in a war of such a character as this, is no small gain of itself, time for the working of chance in our favour, but our military means and the military discipline and efficiency of our allies have been greatly augmented. The period of our final and separate struggle is deferred: and the probabilities of success in it, are multiplied in our favour. This at least is the fruit of the campaign. In drawing his picture of the operations, which have taken place from the commencement of the peninsula war to the present moment, the hon. general thinks he has said every thing, when he has declared, that those operations commenced near Madrid and have terminated in the environs of Lisbon—that lord Wellington set out with a determination to defend Spain—ther undertook to protect Portugal—and is now contented with merely covering Lisbon Why, Sir, even admitting this representation of the hon. general to be correct (which, however, I utterly deny, though for the sake of the argument I am, willing to admit it) I still contend, upon the general principle which I have already laid down, that, whilst there was a possibility of defending Spain in Spain itself, it was 226 the duty, the policy, the essential interest of Great Britain to make every practicable effort for that purpose. that when untoward circumstances rendered it inexpedient to prosecute the contest in that country, Great Britain was bound to maintain it in Portugal—and, if even the vicissitudes of war should have reduced us to the mere possession of the city of Lisbon itself and the strong positions in its environs, even there Great Britain is as much bound in honour as she is impelled by a just sense of her own interest, to make her stand. Never should we give up our hold of the peninsula, while we are able to continue the contest not with prospect of success alone, but without danger of absolute destruction to our army.
But I must not by any means be understood, Sir, as giving into or adopting any part of the views taken by the hon. general of the operations of the last campaign. On the contrary I maintain, that the hon. general's views are as clearly at variance with the facts as those facts are happily at variance with what that hon. general and his friends thought proper arbitrarily to anticipate last year, of the probable success of our operations in the peninsula. If indeed we were to draw a comparison between the present state of affairs, and such a one as, without due consideration and comparison of means and probabilities, we might conceive to be desirable, we must admit that much is wanting to bring the result up to the standard of our wishes: we must admit that much remains to be done—but we are not therefore to give up the contest as hopeless, or to abandon the cause to despair. But we have a right to resort to another standard of comparison; we have to compare the present state of the peninsular war with the insolent vaunts of the enemy and with the gloomy predictions of many amongst ourselves. We have aright, in forming our estimate of the prospect before us, to compare the present state of things with what it was when the whole of the peninsula was in the power of the enemy—when all its strong fortresses were occupied by French troops, when not a breath of resistance was any where to be heard—when the eagles of France were planted, not only over the walk of Madrid but upon the ramparts of Lisbon. This is the comparison, Sir, which we are entitled to make; and from this I am authorised to draw inferences far different from those of the hon. general. As I never was party to those dismal anticipations, 227 which we have too often been condemned to hear in this House; as I knew the talents and skill of the British general—as I was convinced of the valour and discipline of the British army—and as I confidently anticipated the best effects from the instruction and example of English officers on the physical and moral qualities of a brave nation, I have all along looked to the contest in Portugal with hope—a hope qualified undoubtedly by a mixture of anxiety but wholly unalloyed by any thing like despair. Nor has the result disappointed my expectations. If lord Wellington has arrested, in its career of victory, that mighty military power, before whose overwhelming masses the greatest armies of the continent have crumbled into dust; if he has seized the up-lilted bolt of vengeance, which was ready-to be hurled against the devoted toners of Lisbon, has diverted it from its destination, and conducted it harmless into the earth: if, protecting the kingdom committed to his defence against the destroyers of the independance of nations, he has stood as it were between the dead and the living, and stayed that deadly plague which had filled every other part of Europe with havock and desolation; if he has done this, and no more than this, I am not, I cannot,' be disappointed at the result of the campaign. To have saved Portugal, and in saving Portugal to have procured for Spain another year of hope, another season for exertion, and therewith to have given to Europe another chance of recovering from the effects of this furious tempest which so long has raged with unabating fury, and has laid prostrate every thing great and venerable amongst the nations of the world—this is no slight success, [hear! hear! hear!]—this is no mean glory—it is a result worthy all the expence, and effort, and anxiety, that it has cost us—and, if it does not satisfy our desires it may well make us ashamed of our fears.—But if, because lord Wellington has done no more than this, it be thought that he has neglected to take advantage of opportunities to follow up his successes, and to destroy the whole force of the enemy, there is perhaps no commander, on whose behalf an appeal could be more confidently made against such a charge, to the whole tenor of his professional career, and to the prominent features of his military character. If he did not think it prudent to follow up his success against a repulsed but still a superior 228 and unbroken enemy, if he did not think himself warranted to put the advantage, which he had gained, to the hazard of an unequal conflict, and to risk by a culpable temerity the fruits of what he had gloriously achieved, we may very fairly presume that in taking a course, not the most congenial to his nature, he has adapted his measures to the circumstances of the campaign and to the peculiar situation in which he found himself placed. Let him not now be blamed for prudence after having been so often rebuked for impetuosity.
But disagreeing, Sir, as I do with the hon. general in his views upon the subject of the campaign, there is no one point upon which I differ more widely from him than as to the probable effect and ultimate advantage of the system of measures by which the army of England is now, for the first time for many years, arrayed, against the troops of France in a continental campaign, and contending for mastery under the eyes of Europe. The advantage to our own troops from practice in warfare—and from having had frequent opportunities of establishing beyond the possibility of doubt, what we always knew, but what the enemy constantly flattered themselves they could disprove by denying—the physical and moral superiority of the British soldier;—the impression necessarily produced upon the French armies, by the palpable demonstration thus presented to the world of the groundlessness of their own vain-glorious pretensions to the character of invincible;—these surely are effects which justify the principle of the policy from which they are derived, and which not only contribute to the immediate glory but tend to the ultimate safety of this country.
The hon. general looks to an invasion—to a struggle for our own existence on our own shores. Surely the British soldier, who has fought in the peninsula, will not be a less adequate defender of his country, and the Frenchman who has met him there in battle, will not be a more forward and confident invader. The altered tone of the enemy, in speaking of the events and prospects of the campaign, is to me the most decisive evidence of the merits and services of our army; and might, I should think, satisfy the hon. general (Tarleton) himself, that if we are one day or other to have to encounter the enemy on British ground, the transactions in Portugal may at least have contributed to defer 229 that event, so much to be deprecated, to a later period than has hitherto usually been assigned for it. He might be satisfied, I really think, that, if such a day is likely ever to arrive, it would not have been so good policy to lock up the whole of our military population at. home in trembling expectation of the moment, when it was to be called into action by the arrival of the enemy on our coast, as to fit ourselves for that vital struggle, by a system of active and enterprising hostility; enuring our soldiers to the duties and hardships of war—interposing obstacles to the progress of the enemy while yet at a distance—and combining with the sacred duty of affording assistance to other nations, the most effectual preparations for our own ultimate defence.
If we were to have the choice of any one spot in the whole world, where this system could be most advantageously carried into effect, the present theatre of the war is that which we might most prudently have chosen. In the peninsula, for the first time since the French Revolution, France is exhausted by the expences of the war instead of being enriched by its spoils: we have the best authority for this fact; we have Buonaparte's own explicit admission of it. In the peninsula France acts at the end, as it were, of a long lever through a line of communications, extended, hazardous, and constantly interrupted; and requiring scarcely less than another army dispersed along that line to keep up the means of feeding and recruiting the army which is employed in the operations of the war. To us the sea is open—and the distance and difficulty of communication no more than the length and risk of the voyage, which is trifling in the extreme.
These are the physical and military advantages which would induceme to choose as the scene of operations between Great Britain and France, the present theatre of war, as by far the most advantageous for England. But it is impossible to put moral considerations out of the question; to forget the ties which bind us to the common cause of nations; and which connect the defence of their rights and independence with the separate security of our own. We cannot but feel to how great a degree that, which we are doing for others, adds to our confidence as to what we shall be able to do for ourselves.
I have said, that the tone of the enemy has been changed. Are not our own feelings 230 at least equally altered? Let us recollect that period, at the commencement of the war, when we were in daily expectation of some attempt at invasion; we were all indeed confident, that if the enemy came to attack us on our own shores, we should make a most glorious resistance, and ultimately repel any force which he should be able to bring against us. But the expressions of this confidence we did not scruple to utter, as if they conveyed something of no ordinary spirit and vigour. The wisest and the bravest among us were not ashamed to speak of resistance to invasion as splendid victory. Who is there among us now, that is contented with such language? or who feels, that he does justice to the military character of his country, when he merely professes to believe, that an invasion of this country would terminate in the disgrace and discomfiture of the invaders? Is this the language which we now use? Or are these the topics with which we are now conversant? Are not our language, our sentiments, and our feelings, really and genuinely of a higher sort?
What! shall they seek the lion in his den,And brave him there?Oh let it not be said.And whence then is this great and decisive change in public opinion? whence but from the war in the peninsula? and is not this a revolution of the highest importance? a vain and vapouring confidence springing out of no principle, founded on no practice, and accompanied by no proof and test of its soundness, is indeed far from being a splendid, a safe, or a commendable quality, but a confidence, which has grown up gradually in proportion to our efforts and our trials—which is founded not in our feelings but in our experience—not singly in our own estimation of ourselves, but in a comparison of ourselves with our enemy—which augurs what we may do in our own defence from what we have achieved in the defence of our allies—this confidence is one which may be blamelessly felt, and safely relied on; it is a solid principle of strength, as well as a just ground of exultation; and to have purchased this confidence in ourselves is an object for the attainment of which no sacrifice which has been made, and no burden which may be incurred, can justly be thought more than sufficient. Much, however, as I applaud, and as I partake of this confidence, I am not so blindly sanguine 231 as to look forward to certain success and glory, without taking into my consideration the possibility of a reverse; but when I contemplate that side of the picture, I do so with this consolation, that if ever there was a moment or a situation in which failure (disgrace I will not say, for that is not possible to such an army and such a commander), but in which the failure of the object for which we contend would be comparatively less injurious to us, and defeat more calamitous to the enemy, it is in my opinion the present moment, and the actual situation of the campaign in Portugal. And this too, from moral no less, or even more, than from military considerations. The ruler of France has now the eyes of all Europe fixed upon him. He has now no distant diversion to distract his councils, or draw off the attention of his subjects and of mankind from the one grand object to which he stands pledged and bound—the establishment of his usurped dominion in the peninsula. If he fail in this, his defeat must be most signal and decisive. It admits of no palliation; it is not to be retrieved or compensated by lesser triumphs, nor to be obliterated from memory by the achievement of new successes in other quarters of the world. To be foiled in this great object, and to be foiled by Great Britain, would be to him the most disgraceful, and consequently the most dangerous defeat that he has ever experienced—breaking the charm of his ascendancy, and shaking the foundation of his power. To us it would be the most glorious triumph that the events of this tremendous war have ever yet brought within our reach; the seal of our fidelity to our allies—the consummation of our military character—and the pledge of our national safety.
Such is the character and importance of the contest which is now at issue. What that issue may be, I do not pretend to anticipate. It is in the hands of Providence. But standing at this moment upon that awful eminence, which divides the past from the future; the past chequered with variety of fortune, the future overshadowed with a darkness impervious to human foresight, I am anxious to declare unequivocally, while the issue is yet undecided, that the course and the system by which the military fortunes of the country have been brought to this crisis, have my most cordial and unqualified approbation, (Hear! hear!)
returned the right horn gent. thanks for the eloquence which he had displayed on this occasion, though he could by no means concur in the views he had taken upon the subject of the campaign in Portugal. From the zeal manifested by the right hon. gent. to aid the cause of the peninsula, he supposed that right hon. gent. would be much better pleased if the whole disposable force, and all the generals of the British army, were to be employed in the peninsula.
wished to correct the hon. general. He did not desire that all our generals should be abroad. So long as lord Wellington was employed in the peninsula he could be well contented that some gallant generals should remain at home, to criticise the operations of the campaign, and to protect us from invasion.
§ The estimates were then agreed to, the House resumed, and the report was ordered to be received to-morrow. Adjourned.