HC Deb 01 June 1815 vol 31 cc579-80

—The order of the day being read, for taking into further consideration the Report from the Committee of the whole House, on the Bill "to continue two Acts of his present Majesty, for enabling Subjects of Foreign States to enlist and serve as Soldiers in his Majesty's service, and to enable his Majesty to grant Commissions to Subjects of Foreign States to serve as Officers, under certain restrictions,"

Lord Folkestone

observed, that the present Bill was one of the most serious importance, considered in a constitutional point of view, as its object was to admit 16,000 foreign soldiers, commanded by foreign officers, into the kingdom. The Bill likewise differed from the former, inasmuch as the present authorized the introduction of such a force during any war, while the former limited it to that during which it had been enacted. But, not satisfied with admitting those foreigners into the kingdom, to enjoy rank within their immediate corps, the Government had given them commissions in the English army, and had advanced them to the rank of generals commanding brigades and districts. On what principle was it, that while Englishmen of rank and fortune were prevented by the rules of the service from arriving so suddenly at the head of the army, these foreigners should be exempt from their operation; and, having entered the service as lieutenant-colonels, be advanced to the rank of generals? At the commencement of the French Revolution, private persons were permitted to raise regiments, in which they held the temporary rank of colonels, but were at the same time precluded from the possibility of promotion, in consequence of the nature of their commissions. Among others he noticed lords Uxbridge, Craven, and Lynedock, each of whom was compelled to resign his temporary commission, entering the service de novo, and passing through the regular gradations, in order to obtain the capability they before wanted. From this necessity the German officers were exempted, while our own were compelled to submit. Sixteen Germans were now generals in our service, which he conceived a great hardship to British officers. On the late regulations with regard to the Order of the Bath, ten Grand Crosses were reserved for foreign officers in our service. The present Bill he conceived to be contrary to the Act of Settlement, and he would therefore move, "That the Report be taken into consideration that day three months."

Lord Palmerston

thought the House would hardly entertain the noble lord's proposition, which went to cut off 20,000 men from our army, at the very moment when the country was again at war. As to the other observations of the noble lord, it would be very hard if the German officers in our service were to lose that rank in peace, which they had merited by their conduct in war.

Mr. H. Martin

thought it rather alarming for the House to hear, that at no period, even of peace, these foreign officers would cease to belong to the British army.

Lord Palmerston

explained, that all that was meant by this Bill, was to continue the services of German officers, as we were now at war. The Act was limited to the return of peace.

Lord Folkestone's

motion was then put, and negatived. Several clauses were introduced into the Bill, which was ordered to be read a third time to-morrow.