HC Deb 14 June 1820 vol 1 cc1072-96
Lord Palmerston

moved the third reading of the Mutiny bill.

Lord Nugent

wished to preface the observations he had to make in bringing forward the motion of which he had given notice, and which had for its object a diminution in the proposed amount of our military force, by inquiring of the noble lord whether the army maintained in India formed any portion of the establishment pointed at in the first resolution.

Lord Palmerston

thought this question would be best answered by the resolution itself, which he therefore moved should be then read.

The resolution was accordingly read, and it in distinct terms declared a vote of 92,224 men, exclusive of his majesty's forces in the East Indies.

Lord Nugent

assured the House that it was far from his intention to detain them long in setting forth the grounds upon which he thought it his duty to submit his present proposition. He feared, indeed, that the motives by which he was actuated, and the principles to which he must of necessity refer, would make but a slight impression on the House. His proposition would certainly apply itself at once to the principle of the army estimates, and have no connexion with any of their details. The time and patience of the House would be wasted, if he were to indulge in declamation at the cool unhesitating manner in which so great a military establishment had been proposed at a moment of profound peace. He trusted that the jealousy manifested on former occasions by parliament, with reference to a standing army, had not gone entirely out of fashion. It would be melancholy, indeed, if such a change had taken place in the feelings and dispositions of the country. A. much better defence, he felt assured, might be relied on for our domestic peace than an immense regular army. Such a force, viewed with regard to the avowed purposes of its application, seemed, to his mind, worse than useless. Were they to be told by the ministers of the Crown that after five years of peace, and after all the provisions made with regard to the militia, and the additions made to the yeomanry, that any cause of dismay or alarm could justify the maintenance of so enormous an establishment? Such a measure was, in appearance at least, a large stride towards a military government. He looked in vain to any thing which had fallen from the noble secretary at war for an argument to justify this proceeding. All that the noble lord had urged was the notoriety of its necessity. For his own part, he meant not to impute any motives of a personal kind; but he must observe, that a plea of this nature was easily set forth, and was, unaccompanied by any reasoning, entitled to very little weight. He would not, therefore, admit the postulate of the noble lord; and was the more induced to bring this subject under consideration from a remembrance, that when, some years ago, very large estimates were laid before the House, the refusal of the House to continue the income tax caused those estimates to be withdrawn, and others of a reduced amount to be substituted [Hear, hear!]. He was not without hope, under such circumstances, that, taking into view the state of our militia and yeomanry force, some part of the proposed regular army of 92,224 men might be dispensed with. In a report of the finance committee, in the year 1817, would be found a strong recommendation that the numerical amount of our regular force should be gradually reduced, till it formed some approximation to the standard of our establishment in 1792. It was alleged at that time, that the year 1817 was a period of discontent, and of danger attendant on that feeling. His majesty's ministers must have viewed it in that light, for then it was that they proposed a suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. If no reduction was deemed advisable at such a period, was it to be inferred that such a reduction would be impolitic at this moment? He admitted that much discontent and disaffection still prevailed, but they had their origin in distress, and in a distress which must be aggravated tenfold by the course of policy now adopted. The true means of subduing discontent were not to be found in armed or expensive establishments. Discontent was in itself not the evil to be cured, but the symptom of it. Would a large standing army give bread to starving labourers, create enterprise in disappointed merchants, or give fresh impulse and encouragement to their agriculture? Were not bankruptcy and hunger the real disorders for which they ought to provide a remedy if they could? If he searched his own heart whilst he content plated this subject, he certainly must confess that he felt reason to be an alarmist. He feared that if things were to continue in their present state, and the same counsels were to be adopted, they must terminate in some violent effort, which every friend of peace and true lover of his country must deprecate and deplore. Nothing but the unsparing hand of retrenchment could secure is from this calamity. It was incumbent on the House to prove that it was ready to interpose its shield in defence of a suffering people, against a system of cold hearted and needless profusion [Hear, hear!]. He should be ashamed, be should think meanly of himself for ever after, if he were capable of exaggerating the statement of his feelings on this subject. Had not many circumstances occurred within the last two or three years, which, independent of the amount of our military establishment, afforded reason to dread lest it might be made instrumental in bringing about a military government? Had not soldiers been called out on every occasion of accident, riot, or disturbance? Had we not even known them to be called out at a popular election—a step which in his opinion, ought long since to have been brought under the consideration of that House? But, what was still more important, the present advisers of his majesty had, without the consent of parliament, and during its recess, added 11,000 men to the standing army. This by the express words of the Bill of Rights, it was unlawful for them to do in a time of peace. Such, however, was the spirit by which parliament was animated, that, at its meeting, no animadversion on this proceeding had taken place. Yet he believed no precedent could be found for the measure, since the period of the Revolution. The last case which bore any resemblance to it was under the reign of the second James, when the duke of Argyle was in arms, and in open rebellion. The Crown then took upon itself to raise a military force, and the first step which even the slavish and submissive parliament of 1685 took on their assembling was, before they voted a supply, to pass an abstract resolution declaratory of the principle to which he alluded. It appeared to him wrong to consider this as a question chiefly of economy, far as he was from undervaluing such a consideration at the present moment. Having stated these facts, and adverted to these principles, he should conclude by moving, that, instead of 92,224 men 77,224 should be inserted, making, on the whole military force, a reduction of 15,000 men. By acceding to his proposition an amount of force, not proved to be necessary by any argument used on the other side of the House, would be dispensed with, which would lessen the ex- peuditure of the country, with reference to the army estimates, more than half a million of money. He knew with how little of the spirit in which he had moved for this reduction his proposition was likely to be met by gentlemen opposite; but if the House hoped to support public liberty—if they wished to maintain, within their walls, that constitutional control over the army which it was their duty to uphold and to practise—they ought, by their votes on the occasion, to manifest the jealous feelings which they entertained of military power [Hear, hear!].

The noble lord was proceeding to move his amendment, but was interrupted by the Speaker, who stated that the bill must be first read the third time—after which proceeding alone could any proposition be received for altering any part of its contents. The bill was then read the third time. After which, lord Nugent moved to leave out "92,224," for the purpose of inserting "77,224." The question being put, That 92,224, stand part of the question,"

Mr. Bright

said, he could not, without considerable alarm, view the efforts that were making to increase the military force of the country, and he deeply regretted the diminution of that bulwark of their strength—the naval force—which had been so often and so successfully employed in asserting the rights of Great-Britain. It was his most anxious desire to place the military force within the smallest possible compass. The establishment of 1792 had been referred to by former committees of that House as sufficiently large for the service of the country in times of perfect peace; and, for his own part, he could not see anything in the situation of the country at present that called on them to extend the military force beyond what it was in 1792. It was true that discontent existed in the country—it was true that alarming scenes had been exhibited—ie was most true, that meetings had been assembled, whether legally or illegally he would not determine, but which, in the minds of the people, were undoubtedly considered legal. It was equally true that those who were thus assembled had been forcibly dispersed; but he demanded of the House whether these combined circumstances rendered this extraordinary establishment necessary? He believed, notwithstanding all that was re- ported, that the principles of the people were sound—he believed they were strongly attached to the King, Lords, and Commons, as they now existed by law, but he knew they felt, and, he believed, justly, that they suffered under some evils which might be removed—that they paid for some things that could be done without,—and amongst these was this enormous military establishment. There might be cause for alarm—there might be discontent in the country—but how did it originate? In his opinion the people were irritated, because they thought that his majesty's ministers did not sympathize with their feelings, or compassionate their wants. If such sympathy were manifested, it would satisfy their minds, and relieve them, in a considerable degree, from the distress which they now encountered in consequence of the unpromising situation of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures. If he wanted an argument to prove that ministers did not feel for the distresses of the people, it was to be found in the conduct of the chancellor of the exchequer in the course of the evening. That right hon. gentleman had treated in the most cool and harsh manner the application of an hon. member for Ireland, who had called on the government to afford some relief to the distresses which now. Prevailed there. When it was stated to him, that eleven out of fourteen banks. had failed in. the south of Ireland, and that universal ruin was likely to be the consequence, they were calmly told that it was contrary to all the principles of political economy to relieve the distress thus created, and which occurred in a country where nothing but paper was circulated. In acting thus, he contended that the chancellor of the exchequer did not do that which, as a minister of the country, who was bound to watch over the prosperity of every part of it, he ought to do. Let the House look to the extraordinary levy which was made in the last yean He denied that that proceeding could be justified. Their ancestors would have felt the utmost alarm if they believed that there were 11,000 men in the heart of the country, shut up in its hospitals, or retired into private life, ready: to be called forth at the discretion government. This circumstance call-editor the minute observation of parliament. It was not an ordinary matter. If there was any^ thing in the principles of the constitution which, more than another, they ought to revere, it was that which directed them to look with jealousy to the increase, of military power. They ought, therefore, to watch with the utmost vigilance this new mode of calling an increased military force into action. They ought not to leave in the power of the minister—whenever he thought, with or without cause, that discontent and disaffection were to be found in the country—the means of calling out a force to put them down at his own will and pleasure, and, perhaps, to put down with them the good feeling and the good sense of the country [Hear, hear!]. He did not mean to say that the good feeling or the good sense of the country were displayed at Manchester and other places; but he would contend that nothing which had occurred called for 11,000 additional men. With respect to that 11,000 men, he felt that the motion of the noble lord was perfectly correct; but, with regard, to the other 4,000, he was not quite so well informed. If his majesty's ministers would agree to reduce these 11,000 men, he would be content not to support the motion of the noble lord; but, in the event of their refusal, he would vote for the proposition now before them.

Lord Palmerston

said, the noble lord, in the course of his speech, had stated, that the motion he was about to propose, and some of the sentiments he was about to profess, would not, he feared, coincide with the feelings of many individuals in that House. After having heard the motion of the noble lord, and the accusations he had advanced against gentlemen on the ministerial side of the House, he believed it would be found that there were indeed very few individuals within those walls who would be disposed to concur with the noble lord in the view he had taken of the subject. The noble lord's argument might be divided into two parts; the one relating to the military establishment, setting aside the 11,000 veterans; the other respecting the measure adopted in calling them out. The noble lord said, that ministers had adduced no reason to prove why, in the present instance, an establishment founded on that of 1792 would not be sufficient; and he further observed, that a committee, in the year 1817, which certainly was one of commotion, had pointed out the establishment of 1792 as that which ought to be adhered to. If the noble lord would allow government all the force which was at their disposal in 1817, he would then admit that his argument was applicable to the present question; but otherwise he must deny its validity. He had stated, on many occasions, that the increase of their colonies, and the extent and importance of some of them, formed a broad line of distinction between the force that was deemed sufficient in 1792,: and that which was at present considered necessary. The circumstances of the two periods were entirely different. This country now possessed Malta, the Ionian islands, the Cape, Ceylon, the Mauritius, and various other settlements which had been ceded to her since the period to which the noble lord alluded, and for the protection of which it was necessary to provide. With respect to calling out the veterans, the noble lord considered it to be a violation of the constitution. If, however, he looked back to the constitution of this country, he would find many instances in which an augmentation had been made in time of peace, under the apprehension of approaching war, or of internal commotion [Hear, hear!]. He hoped those gentlemen who cheered him would not object to this distinction. Surely they would not say that the same course ought not to be taken by government to guard against internal that was adopted to meet external danger. The latter, he conceived, ought to be more particularly provided against. Many instances had occurred, in time of peace, where an augmentation of the military force had been effected, without any bill of indemnity, or any measure of the kind mentioned by the noble lord, being deemed necessary. He admitted the argument of the noble lord, that no force could be constitutionally embodied without the consent of parliament; but that consent, he contended, had been obtained. In the speech from the throne, the intention of calling out this additional force was mentioned; and both Houses of Parliament, in their answer to that speech, plainly adverted to the circumstance. If, therefore, gentlemen conceived this proceeding to be unconstitutional, they would find it difficult to answer their country satisfactorily for having suffered so many months to elapse without having agitated the question. But, not only was the circumstance mentioned in the speech from the throne, and the address in answer to it, but a spe- cific vote of money was agreed to for the subsistence of those troops. He therefore was at a loss to know in what point the measure objected to by the noble lord had not received the full sanction of parliament. The circumstances which called for this accession of force were so notorious, that it was not necessary to prolong the discussion by enumerating them. Let the House look to the state of the country at the time. Were there not collected in various quarters multitudes of armed men? If the noble lord would but call to mind the feelings that were prevalent throughout the country at that period, he would find, that consistently with a due regard to the safety of the country, it was necessary to augment the military force. The noble lord would ask, "Is it necessary now to keep up this additional force? "In answer to that, he would only ask gentlemen to turn their attention to the events that had passed since the period to which he had referred. He would forbear from adverting to the conspiracy that was discovered in London. A conspiracy to destroy some hundreds of individuals—to burn different parts of the metropolis—and to create a provisional government—was, it appeared, a; matter of no importance to the gentlemen opposite. Did not the noble lord; know that special commissions were issued for the north of England, and for: Scotland, to bring persons to trial, for the highest crime the law of this country: contemplated—the crime of high treason did he not know that the scenes which gave rise to these commissions took place in the months of February and March last? Did not the noble lord know that meetings of armed men had taken place in Scotland? Was he not aware that, in one instance, a body of those armed men had acted in hostility to the regular troops? Had he not seen the proclamation that was posted up in the town of Glasgow, purporting to be issued by a provisional government—the object of those signing it being, as they stated, "to obtain their rights by force of arms? "That proclamation was issued about the time he had already mentioned. Seeing those things going on in the months of February and March last, could any man suppose that the country was in such a state of security as would justify ministers in throwing aside those measures of precaution which they had formerly adopted? But it was observed, "the country is now tranquil." This he admitted, and that very circumstance only proved the soundness of the measures taken by government. But he must contend, that the success of those measures formed but a weak reason for setting them altogether aside at the present moment. The noble lord had in the course of his speech brought very grave and serious charges against his majesty's government. He had accused them with an intention of establishing a military despotism in this country. That stale, and for the one thousand and first time worn-out charge, was more fit for the audiences that assembled in Covent-garden, in Smithfield, and Palace-yard, than for those that were to be found in that House. If there were any man who could really bring himself to think that ministers were so senseless, so utterly lost to thought, as to endeavour to establish a military government in the country—if any man could suppose that they meditated the overthrow of that constitution by which, and under which, they governed—if any man could be found to entertain such an opinion of his political opponents—he, from his heart, felt nothing but pity for the political bigotry which must influence that individual. No man could mix much in public life in this country—no man who had the slightest opportunity of witnessing daily and hourly, in private life, the blessings derived from the constitution under which they lived, could entertain any other feeling but a determination, if necessary, to sacrifice his life in its defence. If a man possessing those opportunities could bring himself to believe that his political opponents harboured a base intention to overturn the constitution, he could perceive very little difference between such an individual and those men who could really entertain such a determination. The noble lord said, he had watched with jealousy the strides towards a military despotism that had been made of late years. He would say, that if there were any set of men who could drive them to a military despotism, it was those self-called, but misled reformers, who demanded that sort of reform in the country, which, according to every just principle of government, must end, if it were acceded to, in a military despotism. It was said, that government met with the sword the complaints of the people. This was not the fact; they only met with the sword those who endeavoured to stir up, and to take advantage of, those irritated feelings which were the offspring of distress. The use of that military force was to keep down those outrages which had the worst effect on the prosperity of the country. Perhaps the noble lord thought it was immaterial to the industry and welfare of the country to be on the verge of a civil war? Those who knew the extent of those outrages would agree with him, whatever the noble lord might think, that any measure which tended to preserve the peace of the country tended also to maintain its prosperity. The veterans had not been called out unconstitutionally, but to defend from the machinations of traitors those liberties which they had derived from their forefathers, and which, he hoped, they would transmit, unimpaired, to their children.

Colonel Davies

said, that he had been long of opinion that the country suffered under a military force, which it did not require, and that in the different departments of the army there was a shameful waste of expenditure. The hon. colonel next adverted to the public meetings held through the country, which were not, in the opinion of those who attended them, of an illegal description, and did not, at all events, require an increase of the army; for if the peace of the country were seriously threatened, he would much sooner depend upon the exertions of the gentry and the loyal and well-disposed part of the people, by far the most numerous body, than he would upon the dangerous and unconstitutional interference of military power. The actual force in 1819 was equal to all purposes of protection against foreign or domestic enemies. The only pretext for the increase of that force was, the extraordinary apathy of the people who had property to defend in the disturbed districts of England. In Scotland there were 7 or 8,000 volunteers and yeomanry. In Lancashire there were but 500 yeomanry, and not a single volunteer. If the great body of the people were really tainted with revolutionary principles, the addition even of 50,000 men to the military force would not subdue them, but would add fuel to the flame. The history of France and of Spain, and of every other country that had undergone a revolution, proved this. If, on the other hand, the mass of the people were well affected, they should be called on to defend themselves. He should suggest that, as the noble lord (Nugent) wished not only to record his opinion against the ministry, but to relieve an impoverished country, he would alter the form of his motion. He hoped (if he might use the expression) that he would put it into intelligible shape [A laugh]. He explained—that if the noble lord proceeded upon certain data, by bringing back the army to the state in which it stood before the last increase, he might afterwards, if that force were found too great, propose a further reduction. In order to put the motion in a shape as little exceptionable as possible, he should propose an amendment on the amendment, to move that the number should be 80,479, instead of 77,224, as proposed by the noble lord.

The motion and the two amendments having been put,

Sir H. Vivian

said, he was as great an enemy to a military despotism as the noble lord, but he thought it was the duty of government to protect the well-affected. When he considered the state of the public mind during the last autumn, and recollected the blasphemous and seditious publications that were disseminated, he could not but congratulate the country on the escape it had had. The hon. member then proceeded to describe the disaffected state of the population in the west of Scotland, where he had been employed on the staff. It was, he observed, almost impossible to describe the disaffection which existed in Glasgow and its vicinity, where the population amounted to 300,000 souls. They had forgotten their duty to their magistrates, to their ministers, and even to their God. In that part of the country there were not fewer than 25,000 men prepared in every respect, but that they wanted arms, to resist the constitutional authorities of the country; while there had been but two infantry regiments and one regiment of cavalry to oppose them. If the object which so many mischievous men had in view had been carried into effect, who could contemplate without horror the events that would have taken place? The yeomanry had undoubtedly come forward, and in the handsomest manner; but he could not help deprecating the employment of yeomanry corps to put down popular commotions. The unfortunate events at Greenock, he believed, would not have taken place if regular forces had been employed. In conjunction with regular forces yeomanry corps were good and useful; but when employed against popular combinations, they occasioned great animosities. At Manchester, he firmly believed that the yeomanry had only been employed as military constables, and not for the purpose of attack, and that the mob had taken advantage of their being yeomanry to attack them. Commotion and insurrection were more likely to be attempted against a small force than against a formidable force, and for the saving of a few pounds they ought not to run the risk of occasioning bloodshed in the country. It had been said that all disturbance had been subdued; but how could it be maintained that the spirit of the proclamation issued on the 1st of April—not an unappropriate day—had been entirely suppressed? It could not be doubted that the disaffected would have come forward and acted more violently, but for the force opposed to them. No one who read the papers of this morning, and who recollected the circumstances and scenes of the French revolution, could contend that there was not a manifest necessity for keeping up a formidable force—a force that could successfully be opposed to the foes of the country either at home or abroad. He begged not to be understood, in these remarks, to be advocating by any means the interests of the army.

Mr. Habhouse

spoke as follows:—

Mr. Speaker;

—In better times than the present this great national question would not be left to the feeble defence which I can pretend to afford to it. In the absence, however, of abler advocates, and representing, as I have the honour to do, a large portion of this enlightened metropolis, I shall offer a few arguments in behalf of that which I presume to consider the rights and liberties of my country, now menaced by the proposition of the noble secretary at war. The noble lord has told us, that the speech by which the noble mover of the reduction of the estimate introduced his amendment, was fit only for the hustings of Covent-garden or of Palace-yard. The noble lord, although living not far from these scenes, seems not to he aware that—thanks to the exertions of his colleague's,—the people are shut out from one of those arenas for discussion, and that the same salutary interference has left the other open only at stated times and seasons. The noble secretary has also told us, that the speech of the noble mover was calculated only for reformers—to this I will say, that whomever that speech may be calculated For, I am sure that the noble secretary's is calculated only for those who are predetermined to vote for any proposition tendered to them by a secretary at war [Hear, hear!]. I cannot boast of any familiarity with debates in this House; but I have not failed to acquaint myself with the arguments adduced by former ministers in defence of a large standing army in time of peace; but I must say, that any thing so totally nerveless—any thing so devoid of all attempt at rational excuse for a monstrous project never was before offered to this House. And what is it that the noble lord passes over with such trifling efforts? What is it that he scarcely deigns to attempt to render palatable?—It is no less than a standing army in time of peace—in the sixth year of peace—an army of which there is no example or any thing approaching to an example, in the whole course of English history.

Even were we inclined to believe that such an enormous force were necessary, still I contend that nothing which the noble lord has said can at all warrant the raising of 11,000 men or of raising one man, during the prorogation of parliament. The noble lord has asserted, that this is not contrary to the constitution as declared in the Bill of Rights. "What, then, is the meaning of the words "by consent of parliament?" Surely the raising a body of troops while parliament is not sitting, and trusting to the compliance of some House of Commons that perhaps may be prorogued some months longer, or may sit after the troops have done their work and are disbanded, this interpretation, I say, of the Bill of Rights is altogether new and untenable—indeed, it is so new, that in former debates upon raising forces, we find no such pretext that I am aware of, for infringing the letter and the spirit of the statute—quite the contrary—for in 1751, when the Militia act was under discussion, the principal speaker for that act recommended it because, said he, "if an enemy should land, or any emergency should arise during a prorogation of parliament or absence of the king, we could not raise a body of regular troops, the consent of parlialiament being necessary" [Hear, hear!]. It is fair to call the attention of the House to former periods of our history. What has been done then, may certainly be referred to in opposition to what is attempted now. I knew very well that the noble secretary at war asserted in 1818, whilst debating the same subject, that we might as well go back to the days of the heptarchy as to the year 1792, for a precedent as to the forces requisite to be kept up during peace. This day he has been less extravagant; but he has still said, that the circumstances of the two periods are so different that the peace establishment of 1792, cannot in reason be followed in framing the peace establishment of 1820. The noble lord may say this—but that he can prove it I am inclined to doubt. In 1792, it is true, this country was at peace—but what sort of peace was it that we then enjoyed? It was a peace that the ruling politicians of the day proclaimed could not last. Some parts of Europe were in actual war—the alarm was sounded here—and, the supposed dangerous principles of the French republicans were said to be arrayed against us, and to require the immediate opposition of all the lovers of peace and order. But In 1792 the nominal standing army for England was only 15,000 men, and it is likely that the effective army was much less. The next year, however, affords a still more striking parallel. The interval of twelve months had presented a variety of momentous events—all Europe was engaged in a severe contest—Great Britain herself was on the eve, if she had not actually declared, that war which was doomed to swallow so many hundred millions, and to desolate the fairest regions of our hemisphere. Yet, let us ask how many fresh troops were embodied in that year—a year of alarm almost unparalleled—only 2,000! And now, in a year of profound peace—when there is not a single sword unsheathed throughout Europe, his majesty's ministers, without assent of parliament, raise eleven thousand troops, and thus increase the peace establishment to the unheard of number of 35,569 for Great Britain, and 24,179 for Ireland!

What are the excuses—what is the pretext for so monstrous a measure? The noble lord gravely tells us that, in the first place, we have had some thirteen or twenty men plotting in a hay-loft to upset the state—and this machination requires an additional eleven thousand soldiers to resist. But no; this is not quite all—we have some other cause for this great levy—there have been and still continue to be state trials in several parts of the coun- try. This is more strange even than the other pretext. What do we want eleven thousand additional troops to protect the tribunals of the land? Do our judges administer the law amidst the din of arms? Are we not repeatedly told that our juries ate doing their duty and our laws working their due effect in correcting the evil portion of the community? If so, why raise more soldiery? Why, ask the noble lord, and he will tell us that the more active the civil power proves itself to be, the more vigorous and determined his colleagues should be to augment the miitary force [Hear, hear!]. Certainly, Sir, I would grant much, as the noble mover of the amendment has said, to the urbanity of the secretary at war. Indeed I would grant any thing to that urbanity—any thing but a measure which must destroy the liberties of my country.

I shall think it my duty to vote for the amendment of the noble lord rather than for that of the gallant colonel; and for this reason, because the reduction proposed by the first is greater and goes farther than that proposed by the second. Indeed, for my own part, had the noble lord proposed the disbanding of the whole army at home, I should vote for it [loud cries of Hear, hear! from the ministerial benches]. Sir I perfectly understand those cheers—but I trust that the gentlemen opposite will not think that I shall be intimidated by them. They are, it is true, backed by a majority within, and by the military without the doors of parliament. I am supported only by a consciousness that I am doing my duty, and with that consciousness, I am content to have any interpretation put upon my words. I do not look at this question in detail—I consider only the principle—I think that this country should not be governed by a standing army—and I would rather disband the whole army than suffer it to remain at its present enormous amount.

The gentlemen opposite think it somewhat hard that they should be suspected of entertaining any design of governing the country by the sword—if they do not mean this, what do they mean by this ninety-two thousand men in time of peace? These numbers are not mere figures—they have their existence elsewhere than in this paper—they are not the soldier shadows of a magic lantern—they are substantial men in arms—they are now living and moving amongst us— they infest our streets—they elbow us in every walk, and give to this peaceful metropolis the air of a barrack. The gentlemen opposite think it hard that they should be thought to harbour the same designs as those who have before raised; standing armies in other countries. They try the same means but with purer ends—whatever their ends may be I know not—but I will say with the celebrated Fletcher of Saltoun, "whether our enemies shall conquer us is uncertain, but whether a standing army shall enslave us, neither reason nor experience will allow? us to doubt."

I am really afraid of tiring the House by referring to authorities in the earlier periods of our history—it has become the fashion lately to regard all such references as the resort of shool boy rhetoricians. The mere practical means of keeping down the people seems all that we are bound to consider; and I protest that since I have had a seat in this House, I have often thought myself amongst an assembly of armed colonists in a conquered country, debating how, and in what proportion, they should spare or extirpate the unfortunate natives. If, however, I may be permitted to say a word of happier times [Hear, hear!], I would ask the House to recollect that this nation has always been extremely jealous of any standing army. We all know that the raising of some fifty yeomen to guard the palace of Henry 7th was regarded as a monstrous innovation upon national manners. The defenceless condition of the great Elizabeth, defenceless as far as soldiery were concerned, forms one of the most touching traits of our history. The Stuarts were stopped the moment they began to raise an army for general purposes. The remonstrance of the Commons, in 16218, complained of the continuance of a small army, and of the appointment of the duke of Buckingham as commander-in-chief. The first body of standing troops ever raised and continued in England was that of Charles 2nd: in 1677, that king had an army of 5,890 men—this was reckoned intolerable; but our foot guards alone now amount to 5,760 troops. The parliament made many remonstrances with the king, and even gave him a sum of money to disband them; they voted a member to the Tower for saying that the king had a right to a guard for his person, and they came to this resolution, "that it was necessary for the safety of his majesty's person, and for the peace of the government, that all forces raised, since 1677 should be disbanded." Now, Sir, this parliament was reckoned the most base and compliant that ever sat—this was the infamous pension parliament, and pensioned as it was, it would not bear a standing army. The king dismissed the parliament; but the next that was called had equal jealousies; it voted the army a nuisance, and declared that "the continuance of standing forces in this nation, other than the militia, is illegal." Charles did not ask his parliament to pay these troops, and yet I now find that there are some persons who think that the Mutiny bill only provides payment, and that the sovereign may retain as many troops as he chooses to pay from his own purse. I King James 2nd augmented the 5,800 of Charles 2nd to 30,000—we all know how that experiment ended. Yet we have now a standing army of 35,000 men in Great Britain alone. It is true that they are not all encamped at Hounslow Heath; but if this House should ever do its duty by the people of England, they may be encamped there, and it is impossible to foretell the issue.

What did our ancestors in the time of William 3rd? This prince, if any, might; have been allowed a small army at least—his eminent services, his noble character might have raised him almost above the suspicion of his subjects, but after the peace of Ryswick in 1699, the parliament would allow him only 7,000 men for the service of Great Britain and her colonies, then scarcely pacified—and only 12,000 for Ireland, of which he had only military possession. He struggled hard to retain his Dutch guards; but this House did its duty by the public; the Lords did; their duty; the ministers did their duty, and the king was obliged to dismiss those very troops from England with whom and by whom he had in part fought for and conquered the liberties of England. After the peace of Utrecht, the standing army amounted only to 7,000. Even during the disputed succession, and in 1715, no more than that number were in arms in the kingdom, and they were enough to put down a rebellion; for the rebellion in 1715 was suppressed before the 10,000 troops came from Flanders.

Sir, it is from these times that we must date the origin of the present system: then it was that it was discovered that there was no other way to rule this coun- try than "by a standing army and a standing parliament," those twin-sisters, as a gentleman who represented the city for which. I have the honour to sit, called them, which were born together, have flourished together, and must die together. We know when and how they were produced; we have witnessed their increase; and as they have flourished we have declined. Let us hope that a restoration to our pristine health and vigour may cause the death and destruction of both. Let us hope that we may return to our ancient salutary practices, and by choosing such parliaments as shall fairly and fully represent the people, secure their affection and obedience without the restraint of an overgrown military establishment. I pray the House not to regard this as the intemperate raving of a mere innovator; these doctrines are but the doctrines of the political ancestors of every party that is now to be found in this House—the Tories and the Whigs and the ancient reformers, all have held this language, which is, indeed, only the language of the constitution: this was the language of Shippen, and of Bromley, and of Walpole himself, in 1718. It is true that Walpole, by becoming a minister became a convert to standing armies, but his early conviction resisted the fatal infringement upon the free usages of Englishmen. This was the language of Pulteney, and of Wyndham, and of Chesterfield. The Journals of both Houses record the struggles made against the increase of the peace standing armies. Disaffection always was made, as it is now made, the pretext for the measure; but the opposition lords in 1721 protested that the augmentation of the standing army was more likely to increase than to diminish the disaffection. Similar sentiments are to be found in the debates of 1732, of 1738, and of 1749. In the great struggles of the year 1718, it was roundly declared—what indeed there is no denying—that this Mutiny bill, by which martial law is extended to life and limb during a time of peace, was contrary to Magna Charta, and inconsistent with the rights and liberties of a free people." Such was the language of the peers who protested in 1718, and those who read Blackstone may see his opinion on the dangerous, the cruel, the unconstitutional condition to which this Mutiny bill reduces a portion of our fellow subjects.

But what was the number of troops against which the great men whom I have mentioned raised their voices and recorded their protests? From 1716 to 1749, I find no greater rise in the standing peace army than from 16 to 18,000 men. The wit of Chesterfield—the eloquence of Windham—the sober declamation of Wal-pole—were arrayed against no more than 18,000 men, and this comparatively insignificant number, seemed so terrific in those days, that lord Chesterfield, combatting the pretext that "the consent of parliament" saved the infringement of the Bill of Rights, loudly proclaimed that "if the keeping up a standing army in time of peace, as it must be, if it be inconsistent with our constitution, the sanction of parliament cannot make it right [Hear!]. I am at a loss to discover at what time Englishmen became familiar with these vast establishments; I believe that the duke of Newcastle made greater inroads on the constitution in this respect than any former ministers. In 1774, we had 40,000 troops altogether; but after that period the peace establishment bore no proportion to the present vast body of forces arrayed under pretext of enforcing the laws. In 1786, the whole army amounted only to 29,000 men. In 1792, the effective force for Great Britain was only 15,000—and in 1793 only 17,000. Even in 1818, if I may trust the parliamentary debates, the noble secretary at war said, that though the apparent force for Great Britain stood at 26,000 men, yet the actual force which could be brought to act upon the people was only 18,000 men." But we have now 35,000 for Great Britain alone—and for what? The gallant general who spoke last has told us, that in the North a body of 25,000 men have been seen in a state of discipline which has surprised his informant—25,000 men performing military evolutions together and wanting nothing but arms. Sir, to want arms is to want every thing—all we complain of in the 35,000 men is that they have arms; if they had not, we should be perfectly indifferent to them—or we should love them as our fellow subjects. But does the gallant general really think that these 25,000 men would not have been seen by some other person than his informant? would these 25,000 have not been paraded by all the ministerial journals? and where did this happen? The gallant general knows better than I do how much ground it requires to allow 25,000 men to perform any military evolu- tions, or even to stand at all: this scarcely seems a serious statement. The gallant general adds, that a general disinclination prevails amongst the people of those districts against their ministers—against the king's ministers I can easily believe. But it appears to me that the gallant general has given up his point when he tells us how very few regular soldiers are able to quell a disturbance. If few can perform this duty why ask for many—Oh! says the gallant general, a few are good, but more are better—a few can disperse—but more can intimidate; at this rate there is no use to dispute against raising a standing army to any given number—for if the doctrine is that we are to have more than enough—if assurance is to be made doubly sure—then there is no line to be drawn and the present policy must end in a complete military government [Hear, hear!].

Depend upon it, Sir, that the disaffection of which we have heard this night, arises solely from systematic misgovernment. The people of this country are not impatient, by nature, of all rule—the dislike to government with which they are charged, does not belong to them; they are naturally roused to complain of the evils brought upon them by the present system—but if I might presume to advise, I would answer these complaints not by the sword but by removing the grounds by taking away the materials of disaffection. But even if the sword is the only remedy there can be no reason for so enormous a force. In 1715, the disaffected—a good half of the population—were kept down by 7,000 men. In 1745 a second rebellion was quelled by 17 or 18,000 men. In 1792 and 1793 when the constitution was to be upset positively for the last time of upsetting [a laugh] 17,000 men were thought enough for the service of England. Look to our own times—when in 1817 there was an insurrection, or at least something so called, in the capital; Mr. Alderman Wood dispersed it with 4-0 men and his own constables; the rebellion at Derby was put down by one officer, one magistrate, and eighteen dragoons; at Manchester 100,000 men were put to the rout by 40 flushed, not to say drunken, yeomen. What then do we want 35,000 soldiers for? The gallant general has said something about blasphemy and blasphemous publications. In his view of the question I presume that the worst blasphemy is sedition, or animadversions on the earthly powers that be; but even allowing this I do not see how the eleven thousand men just raised are to prevent the people from reading—to extinguish their curiosity—to put out their eyes [a laugh]. No, Sir, this scheme will fail. This remedy will be found altogether inapplicable. All the publications in the world would not be worth the paper on which they were written, if they had no real grievances of which to complain—remove the grievances and laugh at the complaints—retain the grievances and no force whatever will be able to smother the voice of anger and regret and indignation which will arise from all parts of the country. Indeed if the cause for complaint remains I trust that there is still spirit enough left in this country to prevent a total suppression of our complaints by any military force however large. In such a case I trust that 92,000 or (to speak at large) 92 hundred thousand would still be too weak for the whole of the remaining population. With this hope I shall conclude, thanking the House for their attention and the noble lord for his motion [Hear, hear!].

Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald

said, that though he was aware that a sense of duty actuated the hon. member who had just sat down in delivering his sentiments to the House; yet he could not help noticing some of the opinions of that hon. gentleman. He should not attempt to follow him through all his arguments, but he would beg leave to call the attention of the House to one sentence in which he had said, that he would vote for the disbanding of the army altogether. He would not quarrel with the conclusion arrived at by the hon. member because he was confident that the House would not be induced to ground a vote on it. He would call the attention of the House to the state of the country with which he was connected, and declare it to be his conviction, that unless some precaution was taken before the next session the force now in Ireland would be insufficient. He spoke of the western districts. He had been present at public meetings where unanimous applications had been made for additional troops. The majority of the people was not disaffected. The middling classes of the country and the proprietors were loyal, and opposed to every treasonable practice. Within the last two months peace was preserved in one county only by the introduction of one quarter of the troops which the hon. member had said, would be sufficient for Ireland. He called upon the hon. member for the county to which he had alluded, to say, if the inhabitants did not, contrary to the wish of the government, call for some additional force. He should be the last man to oppose a reduction at a proper time; but he thought a sudden reduction would be attended with danger, and in the peculiar situation of the country, ha would not lend himself to such a proposition.

Mr. W. Smith

said, that the reduction of the army, like the question of reform, was one of those points, the advantage of which was always admitted, though the time for adopting it never arrived. He did not like to hear the interests of the army spoken of in that House; for in that House they could not be said to have any interests as separated from the country at large. With respect to Ireland, it struck him, that no greater censure could be pronounced upon the system of government than what was implied in the necessity of a large military force to prevent insurrection and rebellion. Ireland had none of the marks of a well governed country, whose characteristics were a happy and a contented people. Unless different measures were adopted, they could govern that country only by the musket and the bayonet, and would find it a source of weakness instead of strength. He would not go the length of his hon. friend and vote for the abolition of the whole army. Our garrisons abroad must be maintained.

Mr. Hobhouse

explained that he had said "at home."

Mr. Smith

continued. He would not say that the army was maintained for the express purpose of subjugating the liberties of the country, but he would say what was perhaps as offensive that it had been kept up partly from habit. We had gradually been accustomed to 7 000, 18,000, 35,000, and 70,000 men. We had become accustomed to millions in finance, and thousands of men in the army. The taxes ground down every class in this country, and the greatest discontent arose from that cause. The interest of the national debt was the great enemy that caused distress and disaffection; that increased sedition, if not blasphemy in the country. The influence it gave to ministers was one reason for so large a standing army.

Mr. Martin,

of Galway, said, he would tell the hon. gentleman opposite the rea- son why he thought a large standing army necessary. They themselves, were in a great degree, the cause of its being kept up, by perpetually saying that the government of the country had no feeling for the sufferings of the myriads that were starving, whilst it was in their power to administer relief. He would gravely ask those gentlemen whether, by putting such arguments in the mouths of the radicals, they did not afford them a pretence to meet in arms to depose a government so destructive to the country? He entreated those gentlemen, if they wished to do away with the standing army, to have done with such arguments. He entreated them, if they wished for peace, to tell the people that the government were doing all they could to procure them relief. He regretted that questions should have been put to the chancellor of the exchequer respecting the propriety of making advances of money to relieve the distress experienced in the south of Ireland. As he thought that the motion which he had made, in the last session of the late parliament, had served to recommend the hon. gentleman (Mr. Hob-house) to his seat, he should make no apology to him for what he had then said. At the same time he must say, that that hon. gentleman had given an example how far a man could be improved by the company which he kept. He congratulated him on the temper and moderation with which he had spoken. He had never heard a more constitutional speech from the gentlemen by whom the hon. member was surrounded. But let him not hope that he should be able to reform them, as far as he had been reformed himself. He had never seen a speech more radically reformed, compared with that which he had expected the hon. member would have entertained the House. If the mob had been told that the House were not their legitimate representatives—if they had been told to come and take the members by the ears and drag them out—[Cries of "Order, order, order! Chair, chair"].

The Speaker

was satisfied that he needed only appeal to the hon. gentleman whether his observations in the first place had any thing to do with the subject before the House, and whether, in the second, they were consistent with order?

Mr. Martin

was ready to bow to the authority of the Chair, but if those expressions were offensive to the House, he did not think there was great delicacy in sitting in the same House with the man who had used them.

The Speaker

was sure the hon. member would thank him for giving him an opportunity of explaining that which he was convinced was not offensively meant, though it was most offensive to the House, and might be deemed so by one of its members.

Mr. Martin

stated, that noting was farther from his intention than to say any thing offensive to the House, or to any of its members. He was most penitent, and asked ten thousand pardons.

Lord Nugent

rose to reply; when the Speaker observed, that the question before the House was, whether the numbers should stand as in the original clause, to which the noble lord had moved an amendment, which had been since followed by another. The noble lord could therefore only be heard in explanation. The question being put, "That 92,224 stand part of the question," the House divided: Ayes 101. Noes 46. The bill was then passed.

List of the Minority.
Aubrey, sir John Lloyd, sir Ed.
Althorp, viscount Martin, John.
Benett, John Milton, vise.
Barratt, S. M. Monck, J. B.
Bright, H. Palmer, C. F.
Bernal, Ralph Parnell, Wm.
Carew, R. S. Power, Rd.
Creevey, Thos. Pym, F.
Calcraft, J. H. Robinson, sir G.
Duncannon, viscount Ricardo, David
Ebrington, viscount Rumbold, C.
Griffiths, J. W. Smith, hon. Robt.
Guise, sir W. B. Smith, Wm.
Gurney, R. H. Sykes, Dan.
Hughes, col. Wilkins, W.
Hurst, Robt. Wood, ald.
Hume, Jos. Whithread, Sam.
Heathcote, Gil. Western, C. C.
Hobhouse, J. C. Winnington, sir E.
Harbord, hon. E. Williams, Wm.
Harvey, D. W. Webb, Ed.
Honeywood, W. P. TELLERS
Haldimand, Wm. Nugent, lord
Lambton, John G. Davies, col.
Lushington, Dr.