HC Deb 10 December 1812 vol 24 cc248-72
Lord Folkestone

rose and addressed the House nearly as follows:—Sir; the question to which I am about to call the attention of the House appears to me one of too much importance to be for a moment withheld from its consideration. I evinced my sense of this importance by taking the earliest day possible to give notice of a motion with respect to it, and I should have certainly brought it forward on that day if I had consulted only my own feelings; but an application having been made to me by a noble lord opposite, who wished the business to be postponed, oh grounds which appeared reasonable, I acquiesced in that wish, and the matter has stood over from the early day of the session which I first fixed upon till the present time. But if the papers, Sir, for which I shall now move, are refused, I shall have reason to regret my acquiescence, for there are several persons now unavoidably absent who would have supported my motion, if brought forward on the day originally fixed; and I shall have reason to impale to the noble lord, as a motive for delay, merely the wish to resist me by a greater majority than he could have presented without it. I trust and believe, however, that the delay was not requested with this view; but for the sufficient reasons then assigned by the noble lord. It will be in the recollection of several members present who belonged to the former parliament, that in the course of last session I called the attention of the House to the infraction of the law of the land, which was committed by the introduction of foreign officers into native regiments; it will be also recollected, that the consequence of the motion I then made was the production of returns which, though regular in their form, were imperfect in their essence: as they included only the foreign officers on home service, and did not embrace those employed abroad; the reason assigned for the imperfection being, that it was found impossible to ascertain, within the time specified, the number of officers of the description in question who were engaged in the latter service. In consequence of this defect, one of my objects to night is, to obtain the information I then sought to a greater extent than I could then obtain it, to ascertain the total number of foreign officers who have been introduced into our native corps, and also to ascertain the number of such officers employed upon the staff; for the House will bear in mind, that it has been provided by an express statute, that even the officers of the 60th regiment, who are chiefly foreigners, shall not be capable of holding staff employments. The circumstance, Sir, upon which I grounded my notice of motion was, an Order which issued from the Horse-Guards in August last, and which I deem it necessary to read to the House, as it appeared in the Gazette on the 18th of that month. It is as follows:—"War-Office, August 18, 1812.—MEMORANDUM. In consideration of the King's German Legion having so frequently distinguished themselves against the enemy, and particularly upon the occasion of the recent victory obtained near Salamanca, his royal highness the Prince Regent is pleased, in the name, and on the behalf of his Majesty, to command, that the officers who are now serving with temporary rank in the several regiments of that corps, shall have permanent rank in the British army, from the date of their respective commissions."—I will not call this, Sir, an infraction in the law, for happily the law will be found to offer a resistance too strong to be borne down by it; but it certainly is an attempt to violate the law, an attempt to give duration to the services of officers beyond the limits assigned to them by an express act of parliament—an attempt to put them on an equality, in point of permanency, with the officers of the British army. The law limits the duration of the services of the German Legion to the period of the war and twelve months after, but it would seem to be the intent of this Order in defiance of the statute to render the existence of that corps permanent. It is possible, Sir, that the Order in question may receive a different interpretation from that which I give it, from the noble lord opposite; and, therefore, in order that I may not occupy the attention of the House needlessly, before I proceed further, I shall beg leave to ask the noble lord whether I have correctly understood the drift of the Order, for without some explanation on that head, I might found argument on what would possibly turn out to be a complete misconception.

Lord Palmerston

begged the noble lord would repeat his construction of the words of the Order.

Lord Folkestone

proceeded. I am sorry I have not been fortunate enough to make myself understood to the noble lord; but to be as plain as I can, my object is to know, whether the Order be intended to give to the foreign officers foisted into our service (I do not use the expression in an invidious sense) all the advantages enjoyed by British officers? Are they, by virtue of it, to be rendered not removable from the service at a particular time? Are they to be entitled to half pay?

Lord Palmerston.

They are not meant to have any privileges or advantages in the service which may militate against the law. It was neither the intention, nor can it be the effect of the Order to give the officers of the German Legion any privileges or advantages inconsistent with the provisions of the Act under which they were serving.

Lord Folkestone

resumed. If that be the case, then the law is altogether nugatory; it is a mere nothing: but the terms in which it is couched are manifestly inconsistent with the explanation given by the noble lord. As I before stated, the Order could not, if it were meant to do so, impugn the Act of Settlement, and overstep that act by which the German Legion was embodied; but unquestionably the manner in which it was worded was extremely repugnant to the spirit of that act; and for this, since the noble lord has dissipated my apprehensions of an injury to the constitution being meditated, I can only account by supposing, that the dictionary referred to at the War-office affords a greater variety of meanings to ordinary terms than any thesaurus of the language in common use. According to the explanation given by the noble lord, it might be supposed, that the ministers at the War-office considered the meaning of the words temporary and permanent to be the same, but until the War-office could transform the English language as they had transformed the English army, the true sense would be perfectly obvious to every man who had sense to comprehend any thing. It appears, then, Sir, by his statement, that here is an advantage and no advantage; a boon is granted to the officers of the German Legion, and the reason assigned for it is, their distinguished and meritorious conduct when brought to act against the enemy.—"In consideration," says the Gazette, "of the King's German Legion having so frequently distinguished themselves against the enemy, particularly in the recent battle of Salamanca!"—And this is certainly what would justify a boon of no ordinary magnitude; yet when this mighty reward comes to be examined it turns out to be one of a most unsubstantial nature; one with which, if the officers of the German Legion be satisfied, we cannot sufficiently admire their moderation. The noble lord would answer, perhaps, with equal intelligibility, that this was meant as a reward for meritorious service, but what boon was it to tell a man that something should be bestowed upon him, which, from a positive enactment, could never be realized? The Order states, that his Royal Highness, in the name and on behalf of his Majesty, has been pleased to confer permanent rank on the officers of the German Legion, who had hitherto only enjoyed temporary rank. Why, Sir, none of them had any thing but temporary rank. The corps itself is but temporary; and here, Sir, I shall take the opportunity of stating a curious fact connected with the present subject, and which will show how unreasonable it would be to grant that privilege to the officers of the German Legion which I was led to apprehend had been granted to them; It is a rule in the service, that even natives who enter it as officers in any but the lowest rank, cannot be promoted or have more than temporary rank, and sir Thomas Graham, who lately received the thanks of this House, having entered the service as a colonel, is a memorable instance of the truth of this fact. Officers of this description receive no promotion, but remain in the situation in which they first enter the service. Now, Sir, there surely seems to be no good reason why foreigners should enjoy privileges from which his Majesty's subjects are themselves debarred; but that would be the case if the German officers were to have permanent rank. These people came over here in great numbers in the year 1804; it was a sufficient evil that they were then promoted, one made a colonel, and another a lieutenant-colonel, with temporary rank, because they were barons and counts, and highly connected, but now they are advancing to shoulder British general officers, who have risen progressively to their rank, out of employment, to be invested with the command of garrisons and districts, even in this our native land, and it would be rather too much to add to it by now giving them an advantage which a Briton entering the service of his sovereign, under the same circumstances, is rendered incapable of enjoying; it would be violating, moreover, if not the letter, certainly the spirit of the Act by which he is so incapacitated. On what principle could this be attempted? One of them had actually the command of a district—how was this innovation defended by his Majesty's ministers, in the teeth of the Act of Settlement and of that by which they were embodied. But let us contrast with a little attention the words of the Order with what has been said by the noble lord. Does there not seem to be a strange inconsistency, resulting from such a contrast; the Order, says, that the German officers shall have permanent rank in the British army; the Act of Settlement says, that they shall not have more than temporary rank, and the noble lord says, that the Order and the Act are not in the least at variance. Was it that at the War-office, not being able to comprehend their own Order, they were actually incompetent, to understand the obvious wording of an act of parliament? Did they make any nice distinction between what they might call 'temporarily permanent,' and 'permanently temporary?' Let others solve this difficulty as they may; for my part I cannot, by any effort of mine, comprehend what the nature of this permanent-temporary rank is, or how these conflicting terms can be brought into such close alliance. And let me observe, "Sir, that there is no explanation in the Order of this language. If this permanent rank were confined to the German Legion, no person could object to it; for, as the German Legion itself is only temporary, it could only be temporary also.—But the Order expresses, "permanent rank in the British army;" which does not stand on a temporary basis, as the officers are not liable to be dismissed like those of the German Legion, and are also legally entitled to half-pay. Most assuredly an explanation is desirable, if it were only to prevent those who are not so well versed in the bearing of adjectives as the scholars of the War-office, from supposing that, the Order was either framed by very ignorant persons, or with a view to entrap the unwary Germans (equally ignorant with themselves of the English language.) and make them combat with greater zeal, inspired by gratitude for advantages they were never to enjoy. However this may be, Sir, I am happy at having obtained an assurance from the noble lord that no in fraction of the law is intended; for, to my certain knowledge, the apprehension that such was the intention, has created much disturbance and uneasiness in the army, which of course will now subside: and is it any wonder that it should have galled most. British officers' feelings, who after having spent the greater part of their lives and wasted their fortunes in the service of their country, find the privilege of leading her gallant bands to victory, that privilege, the hope of enjoying which had sweetened so many hours of toil and dancer, suddenly wrested from their grasp in favour of persons only just entered the service, and natives of a foreign land?—The noble lord concluded by stating, that in consequence of the explanation which had been given of the Order, he would change the nature of his motion. The motion which he originally intended to have made was merely for papers: but he would with the leave of the House submit a motion, which should extort from the War-office such an interpretation of the Order, such an exposition of their own meaning, as to convince the officers of the British army, that they would not receive that injury and insult, which they at present believed was intended, and would undeceive the German Legion as to the boon which they supposed had been bestowed upon them.—[His lordship here consulted with the gentlemen about him.]—He then stated that he was not prepared to submit the motion, to which he had alluded, that evening, and it was suggested, by several of his friends, that the best way would be, as a ground-work for his ultimate object, to confine himself to a part of his original motion, which he would do. His lordship then moved—"That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, that he will be graciously pleased to order that, there be laid before the. House copies of all Orders issued from the War-office, respecting the rank of the officers serving in the King's German Legion."

Lord Palmerston

said, if the laconic explanation he had been permitted to give, had so far altered the view which the noble lord had taken of the subject, as to cause him to vary, in a considerable degree, the course he at first intended to pursue, he could not help flattering himself, that if he had been suffered to answer the noble lord's speech, before he made it, or rather, to have explained the terms, of the Order, he might have spared him some trouble, though the House would have been thereby deprived of the advantage of listening to his eloquence and his humour. This speech was entirely grounded upon misconception. He apprehended the difference between him and the noble lord arose from a source which often occasioned disagreement—it proceeded from a mere dissimilarity of opinion as to the meaning of certain words, which could very readily be rectified. Here there was a misconception of the word 'permanent,' not unnatural with those who were not acquainted with the technical terms of the British army, a knowledge of which was sufficient to settle the whole question. The words temporary and permanent were only used to point out different ranks, contra-distinguished in one respect, but not in others, which might be applied in the ordinary acceptation of the words. Permanent rank was that which was common to every officer in the British army—temporary rank varied from it, and was conferred on those who raised men, or performed other services, for the purpose of obtaining high commissions, without proceeding by the previous steps to promotion, and were precluded from precedence and command, except in the particular corps in which the rank was obtained. It did not, generally, confer promotion in the brevet of the army, nor did it, as it ceased with the reduction of the corps in which it was given, entitle the person holding it to half pay. So far the noble lord might be well-founded in his construction of the Order; for, if there were no act of parliament, it would be giving them a more durable situation than if they possessed merely temporary rank. But the House must be aware, as well as those who framed the Order, and those to whom it was addressed, that it was so construed with reference to the act of parliament, by which the German Legion was embodied and retained in the service. The Order now in question implied nothing contrary to the law; neither did it apply to all the officers in the German Legion, but only to those of superior rank. It was by no means correct to say, that all the officers in our foreign corps had only temporary rank. Such as were appointed in the commencement were certainly in that predicament; but as vacancies occurred they were filled up by persons upon whom permanent rank was conferred, and who were placed in every respect on a footing with their brother officers.—Many of our foreign corps were in fact brought into service, complete established corps. The Germans however were not so, but the officers and privates were for the most part individuals who had been in the Hanoverian service, and it was deemed necessary that they should be united—it was considered, however, equally necessary that the officers should hold the same regimental rank in the new corps, which they held previously when in the German service. But the analogy of our service had been preserved: the first officers had only temporary rank: but the whole of the corps were not serving with temporary rank. The noble lord, however, seemed to think, that all the officers of the German Legion possessed only temporary rank at the time the Order was issued; but if he looked to the Army List, he would see that not merely in the German Legion, but in all the foreign corps, though the generals and colonels had only temporary rank, yet all those officers who had been promoted as vacancies arose, were appointed with the ordinary rank of the army—so that it must at once be seen that this Order did not apply to all ranks, but to those who, having perhaps had an opportunity of being more particularly useful to the service, were selected as worthy of extraordinary approbation. If the noble lord asked, as it was a fair question and the drift of his argument went that way, whether, these foreign officers acting under laws which declared their services of a temporar nature, it was intended that they should possess rank longer than the law specified? To this he must answer, certainly not; and, as he said before, the Order must be construed with reference to the act. What did the act do? It authorised the king to grant commissions and letters of service to foreigners; and did not say, that they should be different from those held by British officers. The law authorised commissions to be generally granted—and whether they were called temporary or permanent, they must be guided ultimately by the act of parliament. With this reference it would be seen that the existence of their commissions would cease with that of the corps to which they belonged. Neither did the Order entitle them to half-pay; nor did it interfere in the least degree with the interests of the British officers in our service. The act under which the German Legion was organised directed that when German officers should serve along with British, that officer should take the precedency whose commission was of the oldest date, but in no degree did it tend to violate the law, because it gave German officers no one advantage' in rank, promotion, or duration of service. Then it might be asked, what would be the effect of those commissions on other points, and what benefit would the German officers derive from this Order? This advantage only did they derive from the Order, that, at the period when their commissions should cease, their rank having been the common permanent rank of the army, their names would still be printed in the Army List, as an honourable remembrance of the services they had done the country, and they would continue to bear the rank to which their merits so unquestionably entitled them. Now, if this permanent rank did not violate the law or the constitution, by giving to those officers a greater hold on the service than they before possessed, could the noble lord contend that it interfered with the rights of British officers? As to the complaint, that they sometimes commanded native officers, it should be recollected that the act under which they served authorised the formation of articles of war for their government; and one of these gave to the senior officer of a detachment, the command of the whole, for the benefit of the service, and as was usual in the army in general. Those who were acquainted with the practice of the army were perfectly aware that the officers of the German Legion had uniformly taken precedence according to the date of their commission, just as if they held permanent rank. From all this it appeared, that the Order did not interfere with the regular army, or with the act of parliament. The officers of the Legion had always been put in brevet as permanent, so that, in point of fact, the Order, so far from enabling them to shoulder out British officers, gave them no advantage with regard to precedence, or promotion, which they did not possess when they first embarked in the service. But, it would be said, if this Order did not give any advantage, for what purpose was it issued?—and on this point the noble lord was very satirical, observing with great severity on the ignorance of those connected with the War-office, whom he seemed to think unacquainted with their own language. But he would tell the noble lord, that the Order which was issued by the Commander-in-chief, was intended, and was so understood by the officers themselves, to pay a well-merited compliment to a very deserving body of men, who had signalized themselves not only in one action but throughout the whole campaign. Some hon. gentlemen might think it a boon not worth having, but he was sure that those who best knew their pure and honourable feelings, were convinced that it was most gratifying to them. What they acquired was honour, the end and aim of a soldier; that for which he fought and died. To the German Legion such a reward was not, and could not be deemed a trifle; it was in truth most gratifying to their feelings and welcome to their ambition. Those who were acquainted from previous unhappy experience with the sentiments of the noble lord on the subject of the employment of foreigners for our own and the defence of our allies, would be aware that to carry this motion was not so much his object, as at the commencement of a new parliament to make a sort of declaration that his opinions were unaltered, and that he intended to continue the same road he had pursued during the last parliament. If he thought that their employment was improper, all he wished was, that those who entertained a different sentiment should be admitted to have as much love for, and as correct views of the constitution as their opponents.—He knew that many had an objection to employing foreign soldiers on constitutional principles. He thought, however, that those who considered the circumstances of the times, as well as the constitution of the country, would not object to their being employed at present. If any man would look at the map of Europe, and see what a portion of its population the enemy had forced into hostility against this country, if he were also to consider the limited population of these two islands, and the extensive colonies we had to defend, and the navy we had to support, it appeared to him hardly possible that such a man could now adhere to the idea of not employing foreigners in our service. Looking at the present state of the world, and viewing the countless hosts that were arrayed against Great Britain, single handed, it seemed to him the height of absurdity to make such an objection. Because our having swept the seas of our enemies, and because our small but gallant armies had hitherto stood undaunted and unbroken before the overwhelming forces of France and all her dependent states, was it to be urged that we were, unaided and unsupported, capable of sustaining for ever so unequal a contest? That our foreign corps, and particularly the German Legion, merited all the rewards that could be bestowed upon them, no man, let him belong to what party he might, would deny. Surely it would not be said, that the individuals now alluded to were objects of censure or distrust. He would beg the House to consider, who they were? They were not adventurers intruding themselves into the service of this country, but they were Germans—the natural subjects of our own sovereign, who preferred an honourable exile to an ignominious servitude; and who were bound by allegiance to the same sovereign with the natives of this country. As to the value of their services, it would be seen from the perusal of the different Gazettes which were published in the course of the summer. There was no action in which part of this gallant corps was not foremost in every danger. It did not appear to him that the noble lord had laid before the House sufficient grounds for the production of papers; but he thought it would not be sufficient for the House barely to reject the motion on this ground. He thought that the House should not allow itself to be supposed to concur in the idea of its being illegal and unconstitutional to employ foreign troops, and that it would be well, that the new parliament should have its opinion some way understood of the legality and propriety of continuing the present system of employing every means of carrying on offensive warfare which presented itself in the present circumstances.

Mr. Ponsonby

objected especially to the latter part of the noble lord's speech, and expressed a confident hope that, in no case, the House would be led indirectly to express an opinion upon a measure totally unconnected with the motion before them. He would put it to the candour of the House, and to that of the hon. gentlemen opposite themselves, whether or no the noble mover had said? single word as to the expediency of employing foreign troops in the British service? But the noble lord who spoke last had thought proper to bring forth arguments against a speech delivered in the last session of parliament, and of which he was sure not twenty members present had heard one word. He had listened with the greatest pleasure to the explanation given by the noble lord, as it proved that no unconstitutional measure had been adopted, and he was ready to join in the praises bestowed on the German Legion, which he thought they deserved; but, at the same time, he must observe, that the noble mover was not the only one who had mistaken the meaning of the Order which was the object of the motion; he was sure, on the contrary, that the whole country, as well as himself, had understood it as giving to the Germans in our service permanent rank in the British army. People were apt to be swayed by the obvious meaning of terms, and were not certainly bound to know that in the phraseology of the War-office, 'permanent' meant 'temporary.' This it appeared was the real meaning. He should however like to know if the noble lord, in consequence of his eminent services, had been promised a permanent possession of his office, how he would feel when, at the conclusion of a peace, or perhaps twelve months afterwards, he should be told that permanent meant only temporary, and be accordingly desired to resign his situation.—The very natural misconception arising out of the wording of the Order, led the nation at large to believe, that German officers were to have permanent rank with British officers in the British army. But as he now understood, from the noble Secretary at War, that those officers were only to rise gradually in their corps, according to their seniority, all he could say was, that if this was intended as a recompence for the services of the German Legion, and if they had received it as such, they were certainly the most disinterested soldiers in the world, and the cheapest to be rewarded. At the same time, he thought that the word permanent was not the most accurate expression which could be used in this country in speaking of military concerns; it could not strictly apply to any of our military establishments, and he thanked God that the British army itself was not permanent, but would be disbanded, in fact, unless kept together from year to year by the renewal of the Mutiny Bill.—When he first heard of permanent rank being granted to the German officers, he thought that there had been something peculiar in the constitution of the German Legion, which made that order peremptory on government, and he had heard with equal surprise and satisfaction, by the noble lord's explanation, that there was no intention of giving those foreign officers command in our army longer than the period under which they had been engaged by the sanction of parliament; if so, there was nothing in the Order hostile to the constitution, and he saw no objection to the measure. As to the censure passed generally by the noble lord on those who entertained sentiments adverse to the Germans in our service, he begged leave not to be included in that number.—He felt the value of their services as much as any man; he felt that generals, officers, and men, had fully done their duty; and he was above entertaining vulgar prejudices against foreigners, especially when fighting in the same cause.—Still it was natural in a free country to look with jealousy to foreign troops. As the case stood, and considering the state of Europe, he saw no danger in the power vested in the crown to employ foreign troops; but if, as every one had supposed, the words of the Order implied the meaning they seemed to convey, if the crown had over-stepped the bounds set to its power, in that respect he thought that no measure could be more deserving of parliamentary censure. As it had been explained by the noble lord, it was a most harmless, unintelligible measure; but if it was acceptable to the German Legion, it was, he would repeat, a cheap way of rewarding their services.

Sir H. Mildmay,

in consequence of the philippic which the noble Secretary at War had uttered against those who favoured the motion, thought it necessary to guard himself against the imputation of cherishing any undue prejudices against the German Legion, or of being committed by his vote in support of his noble friend's motion upon the general question as to the policy of employing foreign troops.

Lord Milton

deprecated the employment of foreign officers in the manner in which he understood they had in some instances been employed, and wished to ask the noble Secretary at War a question. If he understood the noble lord rightly, he had stated, that the German officers, while they enjoyed simply a temporary rank, were only empowered to command the corps to which they belonged. But had not baron Linsingen been in the command of a district in this country, and had he not, in consequence, had English militia regiments under his orders? The noble lord might allow that this was improper before the issuing of the Order in question; but did the issuing of that Order render it proper? For his part, he thought such a power would be improper under any circumstances; and here he wished to guard himself against the imputation of vulgar prejudices, being supposed to consider the original employment of the persons composing the German Legion as wrong. They came to this country under peculiar circumstances, and although he could not agree with the noble lord in looking at them as subjects of the king of England, which they were not nor ever had been, but must regard them as subjects of the elector of Hanover; yet still they were so connected with the head of the British government, that it was by no means improper to receive them in England, when the circumstances to which he had alluded drove them from their own home. He would not refuse any favour to them which it was constitutional to grant; but he would refuse to place them in situations which none but British subjects ought to be allowed to fill. But he must protest against the appointment of any foreigner whatever to such commands as he had adverted to. He had no objection to their being employed in commands abroad, but he did not like to see them in command in this country, except in their particular corps. In this distinction he conceived himself founded on the true principles of the constitution.

Lord Palmerston

said, the noble lord had completely misconceived him. Although temporary rank in the British army in general did not give command in other corps, yet by a particular article in the articles of war, arising out of the act by which they were originally embodied, the officers of the German Legion were rendered as competent to such command, as if they had possessed permanent rank. It appeared, therefore, that the recent Order did not, as the noble lord imagined, give to the officers of the German Legion a power which they did not before possess. With regard to the general alluded to, the truth was, that he never did command a district; there was, however, nothing in the law of the land to prevent it.

Lord Milton

repeated his persuasion, that baron Linsingen had for some time actually commanded the eastern district, in the absence of lord Chatham.

Lord Palmerston

observed, that upon lord Chatham's retirement from the command of the district alluded to, another British officer was immediately appointed to succeed him. Baron Linsingen had commanded merely the depot of the German Legion.

The Hon. General Stewart

could not possibly consent to give a silent vote when the merits of his fellow-soldiers were under discussion. He bore testimony to the gallantry of the German Legion, whose services he had witnessed on various occasions in the peninsula. Indeed, so highly did lord Wellington, the illustrious general who commands our armies on the peninsula, and whose conduct was the theme of universal applause, so highly did he think of the fidelity and valour of that body, that he did not hesitate to confide the direction of one of the most valuable corps of his army, namely, the light division, to a German officer, (general Alten). Why then, after such a proof of well-merited confidence in real service, should it be deemed unsafe to commit an English district to the command of a German? Why, while those meritorious officers were entrusted with the command of an army abroad in the midst of war, should they be thought unfit or unworthy to take the command of our army at home? Notwithstanding the partiality he naturally felt for English troops, and particularly British cavalry, yet the Germans had so eminently distinguished themselves in the peninsula, he fully believed, that upon the continent there was but one feeling among the British army upon this subject, and as to the general merits of the German Legion. But let those who saw them not in service, look at the Gazettes for an account of the conduct of these deserving foreigners, and they would be found to have eminently signalized themselves upon all occasions. Such was, indeed, the impression they made, that if the British army could be canvassed, which he was aware would be irregular, he had not the slightest doubt that the grant of permanent rank to the officers of that Legion would have been universally approved of, which grant he, among others, certainly under-Stood to have been the purport of the Order under consideration. According to en arrangement at present upon the continent, any British officer who went into the Portuguese service, was advanced a step in rank; but no such advance had ever been objected to by other British officers. No, such was the liberal feeling of British officers, that they were never found to object to the rewarding of merit. These gallant men were only found to murmur when young men, as was formerly the case, were promoted before merit and experience, merely through undue influence and connection. But British officers would never object to the due promotion of foreigners, particularly where their merit was so eminent as that of the German Legion, and who could doubt that merit? He himself had the honour of commanding a German corps, namely, the First Hussars, which had done more than any other corps on the continent, and a more gallant or more effective body of men he had never met with. The conduct of the German corps too under the direction of colonel Bock at Salamanca, was the subject of universal praise, and in the quarter master general's department, he knew some German officers who, he thought, ought to be preferred to British officers. Besides great clearness and diligence, many of them possessed advantages acquired before the war in the peninsula, and had enjoyed peculiar opportunities for qualifying themselves for the respective situations they occupied. Under all those circumstances, he thought the House should express the sense they entertained of the services of the German Legion, instead of cavilling at the meaning of the words in the Order. The hon. officer concluded with asking pardon of the House for trespassing upon its attention; but he felt it due to truth and justice to bear his testimony to the conduct of a too often misrepresented although highly meritorious corps.

Lord Milton,

in reply to an observation from the gallant officer, which observation seemed peculiarly addressed to him, thought it necessary to state that his reason for deprecating the grant of a military command to any foreigners at home, although such foreigners as the gallant officer mentioned were invested with high command abroad, was simply this: that in the one case the command was in Portugal, while in the other it was in England, where, according to the constitutional precept and established policy, foreigners were excluded from any such authority.

Mr. Canning

professed that his mind was inexpressibly relieved by the explanation which the noble Secretary at War had given of an Order, which, until that hour, he certainly understood, in common with the noble mover and the right hon. gentleman opposite, in common with the public, and, as it now appeared, in common even with one of the gallant leaders oft that army with which the German Legion was immediately connected, to import no less than the communication of permanent rank to the officers of that Legion, in the sense in which that term was usually interpreted in the British army. The import of that Order seemed to have been nothing less than permanent rank to the officers of the German Legion. He must say again, that his mind was inexpressibly relieved by that explanation, because it proved, that in fact, the law and the constitution had not been violated. It gave him great satisfaction to learn that the Order in question was so ineffective as the noble lord had described it to be, for whatever might be his sense, of the merit of the troops to which it referred, no earthly consideration could have induced him, as a member of that House, acting upon constitutional principles, to have lent his sanction to such a measure, had it possessed the character which he and the country had erroneously attributed to it. To all that had been said of the services of the brave German troops he most heartily subscribed; and if any question had arisen with respect to their merits, the House must feel that the gallant and generous testimony just borne to those merits by a kindred spirit, would have been conclusive on the subject. Unquestionably, the utmost deference was due to the representations of that gallant general, but it was no disparagement to him who had spoken so much to their credit and his own, to say, that while that hon. officer looked at the question with a military eye, it became the House to consider it with a view to its bearing on the constitution. While he cordially concurred in all that had been said, and in all that could be added in praise of the German troops, he could not let his feelings, or the consideration of the existing crisis, so far overpower his duty to his country as to forget (as he thought the noble Secretary at War seemed at one time to forget), that it was necessity alone that justified their employment. Although no man, rationally considering the circumstances of the times, could object to their employment, yet it ought always to be remembered, that to employ them was the exception and not the general rule. Looking, therefore, at the Order as it had been generally understood—as it had been understood by the public as well as by himself—an understanding, he must observe, mainly supported by the comments with which it was accompanied at the time the Order was issued in publications, which, though certainly not authorised, were widely circulated—an understanding, of which the report of that night's debate would convey to the country the first contradiction—he must say, that it would have involved a principle from which it would have been imperative on him utterly to dissent. Nor was it surprising then, that this Order, apparently identifying foreigners with our own army, should have excited considerable astonishment. Nay, remembering the constitution in its purest state, even a considerable degree of jealousy would have been excusable. In the best and earliest times of our renovated constitution—in the reign of that hero to whom we were indebted for that constitution—in the case of the very troops which had been called in to secure the establishment of that constitution—in the case of the Dutch troops in the service of king William, although that great sovereign and benefactor of the country descended almost to supplicate on his knees the House of Commons to allow him to retain his own guards, they would not permit it as soon as the necessity for their presence ceased to exist. Calling all this to mind, he could not consider apprehensions upon such a subject altogether groundless; and he was convinced that, not with an unwise and unprecedented zeal, but in the spirit that had thus grown up with the constitution itself, it would have behoved every man in that House to look at the Order in question, had its purport been such, as until that night it had universally been supposed to be. Although he certainly was not in the habit of paying the noble lord who had made the present motion many compliments, he could by no means indulge in any sneer against him, for having brought under the consideration of parliament a document so enigmatical, as even to deceive the companion in arms of those to whom it related. On the contrary, he thought the noble lord was in the present instance entitled to the gratitude of the House and the country, for having produced the explanation which had been afforded by the noble Secretary at War, and for having thus put him (Mr. Canning) in a situation which permitted him, instead of supporting the noble lord's motion, to pay him a compliment, and vote against it.

Lord Folkestone

rose in reply. He said that if he was pleased at some things which he had heard that night, he was beyond measure ashamed at other things which he had heard. When he had seen our young men and officers adopting German dresses, and Germanizing themselves as much as possible, undertaking every thing German, and so attached to the fashion of the day as in deference to it to cast off every thing English, he felt disgust at it; but when he now heard the German soldiers preferred to the British from a high authority, he felt the greatest pain. When a gallant general said that they were better than the British—

General Stewart

rose to order, and said, he had never made such an assertion. He had only spoken of one corps, the first Hussars, whom he stated as the admiration of the army.

Lord Folkestone

continued. He understood him distinctly to have spoken of other military departments also, in which he had given the preference to the Germans. The compliment to the Germans he considered rather extravagant; but the gallant general having denied the words imputed to him, he should relinquish that topic, and proceed to advert to the speech of the noble Secretary at War, who had taken occasion this night to reply to statements and arguments which he had brought before the last parliament. But the reply of the noble Secretary he felt to be quite ineffective, first, as to the statement that baron Linsingen commanded the eastern district; he maintained that it was correctly true, that this baron, as commander of the district, ordered out the garrison of Ipswich (among which garrison were some English militia), in order to review it, and that he had done several other acts in the quality of commander of the district. But baron Linsingen was not the only foreign officer in such a situation, for there were in fact four or five other foreigners invested with such commands. Thus was the Act of Settlement outraged; but it had become a habit with certain persons to treat acts of parliament: with evasion and indifference, as in the present instance, where though the law expressly prohibited such employment of these foreign officers, and stated that they were only to be allowed commands in their own particular corps, "inasmuch as they could best drill them, from being acquainted with their language and manners," yet not the slightest regard was paid to this wholesome constitutional provision. According to the act originally constituting the German Legion, the ground alleged for appointing German officers, was, that from their acquaintance with the German language and manners they were best fitted to discipline and command such corps; but what ground of utility or expediency could be alleged for appointing such officers to command in the British army? Here the Act of Settlement was violated without any thing like a plea; but so were other acts also. For example, according to the act relating to the constitution of the 60th regiment, not one of that corps was ever to serve out of America. Yet the prescription of the act had been wholly overlooked. In fact, one battalion of this regiment was now serving in the peninsula. He did not mean to find fault with such employment of that battalion, but with the manner of sending it out. He objected to the violation of the law. Why was not application made to parliament to repeal the law, if found objectionable, instead of acting directly in its teeth—instead of treating the law, and consequently the legislature, with contempt? No man would object to such employment of them, if ministers, instead of breaking an act of parliament, would come to parliament and point out the necessity of such a change of destination. Parliament would, no doubt, attend to any application to remove an exceptionable law;—but it seemed too much trouble to pay due respect to parliament. It was a shorter course to do as men pleased themselves, than to consult others, and particularly a superior authority. The Secretary at War appeared fonder of looking over the map of Europe than the Act of Settlement, or the constitution, but the latter were in his opinion fully as deserving of attention as the former. How great had been the solicitude of parliament to render the provisions of the Act of settlement effective. Not only at the Revolution did our ancestors refuse to allow Dutch troops to stay in this country, but on the accession of the House of Hanover, there was an act in the very first year, which had directly in its contemplation the employment of Hanoverian troops. It was against this very description of force, that our ancestors shewed a constitutional jealousy at the time of passing the Act of Settlement. Even in the reign of George 1st this jealousy bad not subsided, but statutes were passed to guard against the appointment of any foreigner to any place civil or military, in this country: and making that provision a specific clause even in every naturalization Bill.

With respect to the challenge of the gallant officer to look to the Gazettes, in order to ascertain the achievements of the German Legion, he had taken occasion to review those Gazettes, because a similar desire had been before expressed to him by others, and he was happy to find that in glory, as it appeared from the losses, the British army was not inferior, compared with those highly-applauded, those particularly-favoured foreigners. For what was the comparison? Why, let the House and the country judge from a few instances. The day preceding the battle of Talavera, six battalions of infantry and one regiment of cavalry belonging to the German Legion, lost in killed and wounded 125; two battalions of the 87th regiment, ditto, ditto 164.—Battle of Busaço: Four battalions and two detachments of the German Legion, lost &c. 59; one battalion of the 45th regiment 137; one ditto of the 88th regiment 133.—Assault of Ciudad Rodrigo: Total British loss 626; German ditto 0.—Capture of Badajoz: British loss in killed and wounded 3070; German loss 0.—Battle of Albuera: Two battalions of the German Legion, lost &c. 104; two ditto of the 7th regiment of infantry 682; one ditto of the 48th ditto, ditto 273; one ditto of the 29th ditto, ditto 325.—Battle of Salamanca: Five battalions of the German Legion 96; one ditto, 3d of 1st foot 160; one ditto, 1st of 7th 195; 11th 341; 58th 143; 61st 366.—Upon this review the country might decide which description of force encountered most danger, suffered most loss, gained most glory, or was entitled to most praise. To some persons he knew it would be absurd to appeal. From those who paid more regard to their own will than to law or reason; from those who could originate an Order apparently designed, and since it was issued he would undertake to say notoriously conceived, to involve a direct violation of law, he could not expect due attention. But he looked to the members of that House, who must feel, that whatever difference of opinion might prevail upon general questions, the explanation of this extraordinary Order was calculated to do good—and he hoped that that explanation would be rendered effective for the satisfaction of the army and the public. With this view, he suggested that the explanation of that night ought to be put into an official shape, and promulgated, in order to do away the general misunderstanding, and he would add, the general discontent to which the Order under discussion had given birth. Perhaps the manner in which the debates of that House found their way to the public, might be deemed sufficient to give all desirable publicity to the explanation; but he thought it would be more satisfactory, especially to the army, to adopt the course he had suggested. The noble lord concluded with asking the Secretary at War, to say upon what authority he learned that the German officers understood the Order as he had this night explained it to the House?

Lord Palmerston

answered upon the authority of general Dekin, who was the senior Geman officer in this country. He also in explanation contended that he had not expressed any contempt of the Act of Settlement. The command was temporary, and was founded on the Article of War, applicable to the German Legion, by which these officers took precedence. He also saw nothing unconstitutional in the assumption of the command of a district by baron Linsingen, as it must have devolved upon him in the absence of lord Chatham, and was perfectly agreeable to the Article of War to which he had alluded. The noble lord appeared to have totally mistaken the nature of the reference to the Gazettes; for the proper, and in fact, the only way to make the reference was, to establish a fair estimate by the comparison of numbers, as equal as possible, between certain proportions or corps of the British army and the German Legion.

Lord Folkestone

maintained, that he had founded his estimate upon that very comparison which he was charged with not having made.

Mr. Cochrane Johnstone

wished to slate, in reference to what had been said of the comparative merits of British and German officers, that live of the generals who had received thanks for their conduct at the battle of Salamanca, belonged to the German Legion.

Mr. Whitbread

assured the House, that after the arguments which had been advanced, and the explanation which had been given, he should not trouble them at any length. He paid a compliment to the generous and liberal sentiments expressed by a gallant general (Stewart), on the eminent services and distinguished bravery of the German troops employed in Spain. The mutual enthusiasm and unlimited confidence excited in the officers of the army, by the exploits of others serving with them, ought, however, to increase, instead of lessening the jealousy with which we ought to guard against the incorporation of foreign troops with our own. This was not a military question, nor one in which we were to appeal to the sentiments of the army. It was a constitutional question, on which the members of that House were to decide, as the guardians of the rights and civil liberties of the country. What he had risen for, was to direct the attention of the House to a circumstance which had not been noticed, the affectation which so generally and ridiculously prevailed of imitating the dress of foreign soldiers. All characteristics of English regiments, especially in the cavalry, were completely obliterated. From the known predilection for this dress in a certain quarter, our troops were so Germanised or Frenchified in their appearance, that the most serious consequences were to be apprehended. In more than one instance, this mischievous apish imitation had proved fatal. In fact, English soldiers had fallen, and English officers had been taken prisoners in consequence of mistaking a corps of French troops for our own, and in the retreat from Salamanca, one of our officers was near being killed by order of a brother officer, who supposed him to be French. Notwithstanding the general sense entertained on this subject by the army, either remonstrances had not reached the source from which the remedy must spring, or had been ineffectual; so far had taste prevailed over judgment. Whatever might be our admiration of foreign troops employed with our own, there was surely no need to confound the two services together; each might retain a distinct uniform and independent character of its own. He could not abstain from expressing his concern at the conclusion of the speech of a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning), who after the strongest and most pointed arguments in favour of the propriety of the motion, expressed in language which only that gentleman could command, had declared his intention of voting against it. This conduct of the right hon. gentleman was, however, nothing new: he had been a good deal in the habits of speaking on one side of the question, and giving his vote on the other; nor should he, after that night, ever think himself entitled to calculate upon his support in a division from the arguments he might have made use of in the course of the debate.

The original motion was then negatived without a division. The other motions of lord Folkestone were then agreed to as follows: 1. "That there be laid before this House, a Return of the number of foreign officers and soldiers serving in British regiments, distinguishing the officers from the soldiers, and specifying the regiments in which they are serving. 2. A Return of the number of foreigners having staff appointments at home, specifying the nature of the appointments, and the dates thereof. 3. A Return of the number of officers belonging to the 60th regiment of foot having staff appointments at home, specifying the nature of the appointments and the dates thereof."