HC Deb 01 May 1812 vol 22 cc1137-51

On the motion for taking into further consideration the Report of the Committee of Supply, comprehending the Barrack Estimates,

Mr. Fremantle

rose for the purpose of opposing it. There was nothing in the estimates to justify the House in granting the sums there named. There were three barracks to be erected, one in Marylebone, one in Bristol, and one in Liverpool. To begin with perhaps the least objectionable of these three plans, that of erecting cavalry barracks at Liverpool; these barracks were intended to contain 1,000 men, and the expence had been estimated at 82,000l. No less than 30 acres of ground at St. Domingo, near Liverpool, had been purchased for these barracks. Ground too, that had many buildings upon it. The expence of this purchase amounted to 27,000l. He contended, that the lot of ground was much larger than was necessary for a barrack for 1,000 men, and that a scite in every respect as eligible as the one selected, might have been had at a price considerably less. The Petition on the table from so many respectable inhabitants of Liverpool, against the erection of those barracks on this particular ground, claimed the particular consideration of the House. He understood that colonel Dyer, a gentleman sent down to examine the situation fixed upon, had pronounced other situations in every way as eligible. He stated also, that he had understood that government might have had towards the north of the town, from lord Darnley, as much ground as they had paid 27,000l. for, for only 6,000l. The barracks at Bristol were intended for 800 men, and were to cost 60,000l. There was no reason assigned for these new barracks, but that of prisoners being kept at Bristol, as if that was peculiar to Bristol, or as if there were not many towns where prisoners were kept, and yet where there were no barracks. Besides, so far back as 1803, government had had some intention of erecting barracks there, but upon mature consideration had abandoned it. But the plan of erecting barracks in Marylebone, he thought of all the others the most seriously objectionable; they were called upon to vote a sum of 133,500l. for cavalry barracks for 450 men. Hitherto the 2nd regiment of horse guards had been reckoned at 416 men, but in this estimate they had been increased to 450. But this was not the whole, there were also artillery barracks, magazines, ordnance stores in contemplation. He affirmed that plans of such had been confidentially spoken of, and that as the House could not be ignorant of them, they would by voting this estimate be pledged to follow up the remaining plans, no matter what the expence. This was evident from the great extent of the ground, not less than 27 acres in the heart of the metropolis. It was a most serious matter, to consider whether they would give government the power to raise a military depôt, in such a city as London, a sort of Prætorian camp that could not but be hostile to the feelings of the people, and might eventually be dangerous to their liberties! It was equally objectionable on the ground of expence, ground near Marylebone would sell for 35 years purchase, this would make an addition of 35 or 40,000l. to the estimate, making the whole expence of purchase and building amount to about 170,000l. which would be at the rate of 400l. for every man and horse, besides the mere wall of enclosure would cost 4 or 5,000l. and the gravelling the ground would cost 8,000l. The cavalry barracks in Hyde Park, built in the years 1792–3, cost 52,247l. Exeter barracks for 215 men, coat only 29,625l. Dorchester bar- racks for 421 men, cost 34,456l. being at the rate of 82l. for each man and horse. Edinburgh cavalry barracks for 406 men, cost but 31,870l. being only at the rate of 78l. for every man and horse, whereas in the plan before them, the expence would be at the rate of 400l. for every man and horse, this was an excess that no difference in the price of materials then and now could at all explain or account for. It was, he contended, a total departure from I all economical honest principles, and from all controul, and as such he disapproved of the whole business. Gentlemen should take into the consideration of the question, the heavy burdens which were imposed upon the people; there was, assuredly, no period when it was more necessary to do so. The last paper which had been put into the hands of the members of that House, ought to render them more particularly cautious in adding to a pressure already so severe. It appeared that of 98 millions of money, which now constituted the annual expenditure of the country, five millions had been added since last year; and there was an addition of not less than the enormous sum of 55 millions since the commencement of the war. Besides, great as were the estimates for the current year, he was confident that they would be exceeded by the expences of it, and he would beg further to remind the House, that our funded debt was not less than 817 millions, while our unfunded debt amounted to fifty four. He was influenced by no party feeling in what he bad uttered, and would conclude, by moving, "That the further consideration of the Report be postponed to that day six months."

Some conversation took place on the effect of such an Amendment on the part of the Report nut objected to, Mr. Fremantle consented to with draw his Amendment, and another was moved at the suggestion of Mr. Bankes, substituting the sum of 484,000l. for the original sum of 524,000l. which the House was called on to vote.

General Tarleton

objected to the erection of barracks at Liverpool, upon the ground of that town being by no means situated in the direct line to Ireland; and as it was important to preserve the intercourse with that Country as closely as possible, he thought the most natural course of communication would be by the way of Portsmouth and Plymouth to the Cove of Cork, a course which would he peculiarly advantageous; first, from the march of the troops from Kent and Sussex, the two principal military counties of England, being much less circuitous to the last-mentioned places than to Liverpool, and next, from the great facility of debarkation between Kin sale and Cork, from the peculiar-boldness of the shores. He then adverted to the local objections to the erection of barracks at Event on, and suggested the propriety, if it was determined to erect barracks at Liverpool, to select some place less objectionable' to the inhabitants.—A number of villas had been built on the adjacent grounds, and it was a favourite spot, to which the merchants and mariners of Liverpool retired after weathering the storms of life.

Mr. C. Smith

thought that the profusion of the proposed grant had been unanswerably shewn by the hon. gentleman who moved the amendment. He himself did know of the scandalous jobs in the erection of barracks at Bath; and with regard to the scite of the proposed barracks at Liverpool, it was very likely that a beautiful view for the officers might enter into the plans of those who suggested them. The expence of the barracks at Bath was much greater than in any other instance, but the new barracks at Marylebone would cost four times as much. If the House assented to such profusion, they must labour under the grossest delusion with regard to the feelings of the people on the subject of our expences.—A man could hardly enter a stage coach, but the first questions which he heard were, How is the country to go on with our present expences? How is the loan of the present year to be made?" and other enquiries of a similar kind. In the present depressed state of our manufactures and commerce, no one circumstance so much aggravated the feelings of the people from one end of the kingdom to the other, as the system of extravagant expenditure that was pursued. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to lament it; and it really would appear that he had not the means of its prevention, but must conform to the wishes of those in a higher quarter. The last ministry had given pledges, and had shewn some disposition towards retrenchment; and he really believed that this was one cause why they had existed so short a time. Financial extravagance had been the destruction of all modern governments; the first disturbances of the French Revolution had been occasioned by the unbounded profusion of the French princes; and ministers should recollect, that he was the best friend to the stability of the government who suffered no opportunity to pass of recommending economy. The apathy of the Houses on subjects of this nature was really astonishing. They were become like extravagant spendthrifts, who durst not look their affairs in the face, and the deeper they plunged in difficulties became more indifferent as to the future. It was his opinion, that at the present rate of expence, two or three years would certainly put an end to the system. Yet with such things staring us in the face, the most profuse and unnecessary expences were recommended. The only way to obtain a solid peace was to shew our potent enemy, that, by a system of retrenchment, we were able to carry on the war to an indefinite period.

Mr. Bathurst

contended, that it was highly necessary to erect barracks at Bristol; first, with a view of relieving the innkeepers from the burdens they had to encounter by the number of soldiers who were continually quartered on them, and next on account of there being 5,000 French prisoners confined within four miles of the city.

General Gascoyne

said, the objections of the inhabitants of Liverpool were, not to the erection of barracks, but to the place selected for that purpose; which was one inhabited by the most respectable people of Liverpool, who did not object to the soldiers, having no doubt of their discipline, but to the people who sold liquor, soldier's wives, and such description of persons as generally settled in the neighbourhood of troops. He intimated, however, that the commander in chief had expressed his readiness to meet their wishes, by the abandonment of San Domingo, provided any spot equally eligible could be procured.

Mr. Wrottesley

said the House ought well to consider, if it were necessary to erect the barracks at all. It was said the innkeepers would be released by the measure, but did gentlemen consider what a permanent expence these would entail on the Country? If happily a peace were made tomorrow, these would still be an expence to the country. Might it not then be better to give the inn-keepers some compensation for the inconveniences to which they were subjected. If quartering the soldiers in Bristol would be too far from the French prisoners in that neigh- bourhood, why, he would ask, was Bristol a seaport, selected for a depot for French prisoners? It had been slated on a former; evening, that one of the reasons for erecting barracks in Mary-le-bone-park was, that if any disturbance should arise in the metropolis, they might be called one to crush it immediately. He admitted that government should have the means of putting down a riot at once, but with a view to effect this, was it necessary to have the military actually in the metropolis. What were the barracks at Houn slow, &c. for? We had a sufficient number of troops with in two, or at most three hours march of the metropolis, to quell any such tumult. If the barracks were to be erected at all, he thought they ought to be built on a more economical plan than had been proposed. Were the barracks intended to ornament Mary-le-bone Park? There was no reason why the public money should be squandered away imprudently for the purpose of ornamenting this or that park. It seemed now to be wished to separate the military altogether from the people. Why else were there so many barracks erected, and the military colleges of Marlow and Sandhurst established, when the boy who entered at 12 or 13 years of age never could have a common feeling with the other inhabitants of the country. Upon the whole he thought it would be much better to give the sum proposed for the erection of these barracks in aid of the distressed manufacturers of the country; and he should therefore decidedly vote against the grant.

Mr. Wharton

supported the original grant. As to the barracks at Bristol and Liverpool, there was no argument made against the necessity of the first, which was at all tenable, and the objection against the other was altogether local. The Commander in Chief allowing its full weight to the Petition of those who did not wish that a barrack should be built on the scite of San Domingo, near Liverpool, had given two months time to the applicants to find out a situation instead of it: and there was not certainly the least desire on the part of government to build on that scite, it one equally convenient could be had. As to the arguments of the hon. gentleman who spoke against the principle of barracks altogether, he should like to know from the hon. gentleman if it were possible by any enchantment to do away at once all the barracks in the country, did he imagine that the troops could be quartered in the same way in which they were quartered before those barracks existed? The hon. gentleman knew that was impossible; and it was, therefore, unfair in him to advance such an argument As to the proposed barracks at Mary-le-bone, that subject divided itself into two considerations,—1st, whether the barracks were necessary; and, 2dly, whether the plan proposed was the most proper to be adopted. As to the necessity, he considered it absolutely imperious; and he, therefore, should not waste the time of the House in making out that which was evident to every one; but the other consideration was one of detail, and to be met by calculation. The hon. gentleman who opened the debate had said, that the estimate of 133,000l. would not cover the whole expences, as the value of the ground, 35,000l. was to be added to that estimate. But did not the hon. gentleman know, that if the government were to purchase ground for those barracks, there would be incurred an actual expence of nearly the same sum? He did not wish to deny that the sum proposed was an enormous one—but at a rough calculation, he contended that it was impossible to build cavalry barracks at a smaller expence. It was said, that the plan adopted was more expensive than that on which the Hyde Park barracks were built, Now the fact was, that the model of both was the same, with the exception of one particular, which went in favour of Mary-le-bone barracks, and that was, that in the latter, there would be a parade; which would serve at the same time, for an exercising ground, while at present, government was at great expence for an exercising ground to serve for the troops at Hyde Park. It was asked by another hon. gentleman, was there not a sufficient number of barracks within two or three hours' march of London in case of any insurrection or disturbance: but he had to inform that hon. gentleman, that the barracks at Mary-le-bone were to be built on the principle of a depot [Hear, hear, from sir F. Burdett and other members.] He did not know what there was in this observation to excite the cheers of the gentlemen opposite. He then argued against the unfairness of the estimate brought forward by the hon. mover of the amendment. When that hon. gentleman made the comparison that he did between the expence of the former barracks and the estimate for the present, it was rather un can did, not to allude even in the most distant manner to the prices current at both periods. At the former period timber was at 3l. and now it was at 13l. and other articles were nearly in proportion. He concluded his observations with a few remarks on the plan for building the barracks proposed by Mr. Nash. Mr. Nash said, that by a judicious arrangement, a saving of one third might be made; but what was this arrangement of Mr. Nash, who he allowed to be a man of genius and fancy in his profession, though his talent was not particularly exerted in behalf of the soldiers on this occasion? why, that all the nuisances belonging to such a place as the barracks were to be in the very midst of the barracks themselves. After saying this, he thought he would be excused from arguing more at length on the judicious arrangement of Mr. John Nash. Mr. Nash was said to be in the habit of building very ornamental houses for gentlemen; but if he treated gentlemen as he would the soldiers, he could not well account fur his press of business in this ornamental way.

Mr. Bankes

spoke in favour of altering and reducing the present estimate. He said that he for one could not agree to vote away any sum at the present moment that could by possibility be avoided. He was convinced there were so many very heavy expences coming upon us from various quarters which must be attended to, that the utmost economy in every department of our expenditure was absolutely necessary; and he would not do any thing that might give a check to our exertions in the peninsula. If the country was to be burdened with large additional sums, let them be applied to carrying on the war in the peninsula. This was, in his opinion, a very bad time to build expensive barracks when timber was at so high a price: and it might, from various circumstances, be reasonably hoped, that in a short time a great alteration would take place. He was sure there was a very great profusion in the estimate of the present barracks, and he saw no necessity for building the officers' lodgings in the barracks.

General Phipps

having heard it observed, that the officers did not need to be accommodated in the barracks, thought that officers ought always to be lodged along with I the men, otherwise they might easily be intercepted, on any emergency, in going separately from their homes.

Sir J. Newport

wished to ask the hon. general, whether the officers of the foot guards were quartered along with the men? and whether he had ever heard of any in-convenience having resulted from their not being so quartered?

General Phipps

had to answer the right hon. baronet that it would be much better if they were.

Mr. Creevey

observed, that though the valuable lease of 548 acres of Mary-le-bone Park had fallen into the crown within the last year, and there had been no report from the surveyor-general of the laud revenue of the crown since that of Mr. Fordyce, in 1800, yet that no report had been made this session. This was a breach of the act of the 50th of the King, which directed such reports to be laid be-fore parliament every three years. It was the duty of lord Glenbervie to have furnished the history of these crown lands; and he was the more disinclined to leave the management of these matters to his lordship, whom, he saw, was proprietor in a new canal, called the Regent's Canal, about to be cut in this very Mary-le-bone Park. Lord Glenbervie, he observed, by a clause in the Bill, had given himself, as surveyor-general of the land revenues of the crown, a power to contract with lord Glenbervie, as proprietor of the Regent's Canal—[Here the hon. gentleman read the clause empowering the sale of part of the crown lands for the purposes of the Canal.] His lordship had also issued cards to the members of the House, to come down on Tuesday, at three o'clock, to support the Bill, and to assure all those who chose to join him of 11 per cent. for their money. Indeed so busy did he appear to be with his canal, he had not had time to make his report. On these grounds he wished for further enquiry, before he voted the money now asked for. He also objected to the scite chosen for the barracks at Liverpool, and contended that the other side of the town was more eligible.

Sir Mark Wood

supported the original Resolution, and had no hope of any time coming more fit than the present, for executing works, in his opinion, absolutely indispensable. He contended for the necessity of having barracks near town for the guards, who could not remain in the stables they possessed any longer, and were liable to all the evils and inconveniencies attendant on being billetted in public-houses, two or three miles from their horses. He also maintained, that the expence incurred would not be more than the men now cost in various other ways, with inn-keepers' allowances, &c. Barracks also separated them from the contagion of vice, so injurious to discipline in populous sea-ports, such as Liverpool and Bristol.

Mr. Wynn

concurred generally with Mr. Bankes, as to the unfitness of the time, and the barracks not being now absolutely necessary. His great objection was to the enormous expenditure, and he apprehended no danger to the horse guards, from their remaining in the same situation in which they had been for the last century.

Mr. Bastard

said, the barracks built 50 years ago were more comfortable for the men, more convenient for discipline, and more durable than those built of late years at greater expence. Till the cause of this was enquired into, he wished the present vote to be postponed.

Sir F. Burdett

said, that he felt it less necessary to address the House, from the conviction he entertained of the truth of the assertion of the Secretary of the Treasury, that he should be able to persuade the majority of the House that the vote ought to be acceded to. On this subject, however, involving a question of the highest constitutional importance, he could not consent to give a silent vote. On former occasions, in addressing the House upon this subject, he had been accused of disaffection, because he had asserted, that the government was attempting to make use of that army which was paid by the people for the subjugation of the people.—The truth of this statement the vote now proposed made evident, and some of its supporters even went so far as to urge the necessity of concurring in it, lest the soldiers should be intercepted by the populace whom they were to subdue, on the way to their horses. [Hear! hear! from ministers.] He had no doubt his remarks were not very welcome to the other side of the House, whose business it was, with inconsistent prodigality, to throw away the public money with one hand, while they were grinding the nation with taxation with the other. At a time when discontents convulsed the country—when ministers felt their weakness, and required support other than that of the people, that was indeed the fit period for establishing a military system for their protection, by the erection of barracks to keep down the national spirit in all the populous districts. Much was said of the hateful tyranny of Buonaparté, but was not the mode now pursued not only following his steps, but even outrunning him in the formation of a military despotism, to govern the people, not by law, but by the sword? Were not the soldiers on the slightest occasions called in to keep down the people? Did they not commit murders upon the people? [Order! order! order!] This was indeed a new, and an auspicious area [Order!] Gentlemen might make what exclamations they pleased, but they should not drown his voice, which was only uttering the truth.

General Manners

spoke to order. He said that to assert that what the hon. baronet was stating was the truth, was casting an undeserved slur upon the army.

Sir F. Burdett

denied that he was making any accusation against those who were compelled to act under the orders of their superiors. It was the administration of the country that he charged with employing the army to commit murders.

General Manners

desired that the hon. baronet's words might be taken down.

Sir F. Burdett

said, that he had no objection to any of his words being taken down; but as the hon. general had called him to order without attempting to shew how he was out of order, and expressed a wish that his words should be taken down without moving for it regularly, he thought that it was rather the words of the hon. general which ought to be taken down. He would maintain that the act which was relied on, called the Riot Act, did not say any thing about soldiers, or authorise the magistrates to employ them as they had done, or give up a starving population to military execution. When he heard the Secretary to the Treasury argue, that it was a vicious system to keep the soldiers out of barracks, or to allow any free intercourse between them and the people, he could not but observe how totally the constitutional opinions of our ancestors had been departed from in the present times. Such doctrines would have filled our forefathers with horror and affright, and against such sentiments he must ever protest. Was it in this new era that the Prince Regent was to be told by his ministers, that the foundations of the British throne ought not to rest in the affections of the people, but on an army? At former periods of our history, and in the most successful reigns, such had not been the policy of the country. When Queen Elizabeth was asked by the Spanish minister, where were her guards, she pointed to the people in the streets, and said, "These are my guards, and by their affections I am best protected." The ministers, however, now might think proper to tell the Prince Regent that he was safe only when surrounded with soldiers. It would be found however, by referring to history, that those sovereigns were more secure, and more beloved who relied on their people, than those who relied on armies. Who brought Charles I to the block? It was an army, and an army levied by parliament, but which afterwards turned out the same parliament. Who restored Charles 2?—An army—a small part of Cromwell's army. Nevertheless Charles 2 wished to rely upon them, but a wiser man than he (lord Clarendon) dissuaded him from it, James 2 wished also to rely on a regular army, but they deserted him in his distress. He would maintain that as the law now stood, the magistrates were not justified in letting the soldiery loose upon the people, and giving them up to military execution. The Riot Act allowed the constitutional officers, sheriffs, constables, &c. to interfere, and justified those constitutional officers in using force, if the populace would not disperse in a certain time after reading the act. The Riot Act did not prescribe that the soldiery should be ordered to fire upon unarmed multitudes, in order to disperse them. He conceived that the expence of these barracks would be a great objection in the present times, but it was on the unconstitutional tendency of the measure that he rested his principal objection to it.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was firmly convinced, that however the question might be disposed of, or what ever might be thought of the details of it, there would be very few persons found either in the House or in the country to follow the hon. baronet in his argument, or to concur in a single sentiment which the hon. baronet had uttered. He believed that the hon. baronet was extremely mistaken, if he supposed that the speech which he had just delivered was likely to make any great impression out of the House, or that he would be considered as acting under a sound discretion, when at this period above all others—when his mind could not fail to be impressed with the disgraceful scenes that every day occurred in a particular part of the kingdom, the hon. baronet held out to the people that those measures, the employment of which cruel necessity compelled, were re- sorted to for the purpose of crushing the liberties of the subject, and that this was a government not of the law, but of the sword. He believed that it would be almost universally felt, that the steps which government, or which the magistrates thought proper to pursue, were not for the purpose of crushing the liberties of the country, nor to make war with the people, and subdue them; but for the purpose of protecting the valuable lives and the valuable properties of his Majesty's subjects from rioters and incendiaries. These were the people whom the hon. baronet appeared now to have taken under his protection; and this mob of rioters and incendiaries were called by him, the people; and government was charged with making war upon the liberties of the people, because they would not allow a turbulent populace to destroy all the valuable accumulations of wealth, property and ingenuity in the realm. To preserve the peace of the districts so disturbed, government had been obliged to draw troops from different parts of the kingdom; and this was what the hon. baronet called making war upon the people and subverting their liberties. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could, without much difficulty, attribute the speech which the House had just heard to its true origin. The hon. baronet had no doubt strongly in his recollection the steps which government had been obliged to take to repel the tumultuary aid which had been offered to him in resisting the laws of the country. He might now confidently say, resisting the laws of the country; for the law had since been recognised and settled in the most formal manner in the tribunal, to which the hon. baronet chose to appeal,—a Trial by Jury. The hon. baronet doubtlessly meant that the constitution had been violated, and the liberties infringed some few months since, when government was compelled to send a military force to quell the multitude raised by him; Now he under-stood why the hon. baronet disliked the life-guards, and their barracks. It arose from some awkward impression that yet remained of an unsuccessful attempt to defy and defeat the law.—There was no-thing which ministers could do, that would go more immediately to destroying the constitution and the liberties of the country, than by permitting such tumultuary proceedings to go unchecked. He trusted, however, that the good sense of the public would perceive, that there was nothing in these statements of the hon. baronet, but mere declamatory nonsense; or, if there could, be collected any sense from them, it would be only such as was calculated to do infinite mischief in the present agitated and disturbed state of many districts. He should pass over those topics without any further observation, and take it for granted, that no man could find out more danger to the constitution from the regiment of horse guards having barracks in Mary-le-bone park, than if they continued in King-street; or in a detachment of the ordnance being stationed in the above park, instead of the whole park being at Woolwich. The right hon. gentleman then defended the estimate in detail, and conceived that he had given proper advice to the Prince Regent, when he advised his Royal Highness to surrender the 510 acres of ground which formed this new park, to the health and comforts of the inhabitants of this great metropolis, instead of making the greatest rent of it by covering it with buildings. As a barrack was wanted, he thought it much the most eligible plan to build it upon this land belonging to the crown. As to the expence formerly incurred in barrack estimates, it had nothing to do with the present question, as the contract was open to fair competition, and it was allowed that the expenditure was now watched over with the greatest vigilance.

Mr. Huskisson

condemned, in very strong and pointed language, the speech delivered by the hon. baronet, which he had heard with pain, though not with astonishment, recollecting the rooted aversion which the hon. baronet must naturally entertain to the life guards, who had restored order at a time when the hon. baronet was the first to set the laws at defiance. He maintained that the military, whenever they were called on to suppress disturbances, behaved with a moderation that was highly admirable, and which even the deluded wretches whom they quelled were the first to acknowledge. The hon. baronet had made allusions to the history of former periods, which by no means bore him out in his argument. In particular he had adverted for an instance of the reliance which a sovereign might place on his subjects to the reign of Elizabeth, who was known to be one of the greatest tyrants that ever existed.—Still, it was with sorrow he said it, he was compelled to concur with the hon. baronet in the vote he should give. He contended that the erection of the barracks, in all the situations required, was inexpedient, and in some instances unnecessary. The estimate for them was also extremely excessive, the usual rate being only about I 20l. for every man and horse of the cavalry, and only about 60l. for every man of the infantry. The frontage of the barracks in Mary-le-bone was nearly one-third of a mile, and the wall to in close it not less than a mile in circumference.—Thinking that the postponement could not be injurious in any point of view, he should support the amendment.

Mr. Barham

said, that although he came down to the House to vote for the amendment, he had been induced to change his resolution by the address of the hon. baronet, and certainly the Chancellor of the Exchequer had in his comments been a little ungrateful, since no speech that had been delivered could have more benefited him.—He was an enemy to barracks, but if any thing could convince him to think them necessary, it would be the prevalence of such doctrines as he had heard with disgust that night; and he trusted he should not often see persons in this country appeal from the laws to the mob.

The House then divided—

In favour of the Amendment 112
Against it 134
Majority ——22

The original Resolution was then carried.