HC Deb 28 May 1821 vol 5 cc1017-24

The House having resolved itself into a committee of supply, to which the Miscellaneous Estimates were referred, Mr. Arbuthnot moved, "That 137,500l. be granted for the service of the Barrack Department for Great Britain, for 1821."

Colonel Davies

said, he considered this not so much a financial as a constitutional question, because the present system went to substitute military force for civil power, and to erect barracks, as if the. country were a conquered province, not a free and independent nation. It was high time for every man of principle to stand forward and resist the progress of a system so detestable. The subject was highly important, however, in a financial point of view, The sum this year required for barrack-masters and storekeepers was 29,000l., while in the last year it had only been 27,000l. What reason could be assigned for this increase? There were now no less than 104 barrack—masters in Great Britain, and the duties of the majority might be well performed by the barrack Serjeants, or stewards of the stores. Why was a barrack master appointed for Stockport, even before the barracks, for which 4,500l. had been voted last year, were completed? The same step had been taken at Leeds, although only 8,000l. had yet been granted for the construction of barracks, that were to cost the country 22,000l. He could only call these things wanton extravagance and absolute jobbing. At Paisley barracks not a single stone had been laid; yet a barrack-master and all his dependents were charged in the estimates. The item of pensions and allowances was swelled to 13,500l.; yet among those benefited by them to the extent of 700l. or 800l. a year, were men who had only served for eight or nine years. The most objectionable part of the vote now required was the sum of 74,000l. for new barracks, in 1821; it was in truth for the establishment of garrisons in disaffected districts. Thus the ferment of distress was augmented by the very means taken to repress it. The people demanded relief, and ministers gave them a barrack; they asked for bread, and they gave them a stone. The gallant officer concluded by moving a reduction of 78,000l. upon the original sum proposed.

Mr. Arbuthnot

contended that the salaries of barrack-masters were by no means upon too large a scale, and assured the committee that not one had been appointed until the comptroller of the department had represented that a barrack-master was necessary to take care of stores which had been collected. After the peace no new barrack-masters had been chosen, until all those on the reduced list capable of serving had been provided for. He could most unequivocally state, that not one man had been appointed to an office of the king from private views, or improper influence. He was not surprised that the sum for new works should appear considerable: it had seemed so to himself until he had obtained from the comptroller a statement of the details of the different repairs. During the war, the barracks were calculated to contain 150,000 men; now they were calculated to contain only 42,000 men; and the reason for erecting new barracks at present arose out of the disturbed state of several districts. These new barracks were not undertaken except on the solicitation of gentlemen in several parts of the country. It was, in fact, a most grievous burden for the soldiers to be quartered upon the inhabitants; and it besides often led to serious disturbances between the people and the military. These barracks were deemed necessary for the preservation of tranquillity. When incendiaries, like Hunt and Others, turned the distresses of certain classes to their own purposes, it might even be right to protect the people against themselves. As to the amount of the resolution of the 88,000l. voted last year, 75,000l. yet remained unexpended, and would be found deducted in its proper place front the grant now required. In addition, he might state that ministers, upon more mature reflection, had determined that barracks should not be built at Oldham, Ten-brook, Cuper'sbridge, and Carlisle.

Mr. Hume

could not refrain from once more referring the committee to the golden year of 1792, when there were only 43 barracks capable of accommodating 21,000 men; and when the whole expense of barrack-masters and assistants was 4,552l. The salaries at that time were generally 40l. a year; and now they had risen, in many cases, to quadruple that amount. In proof of this, he instanced the barrack-mastership of Aberdeen. He would here recommend that the barrack-masters should be taken from officers on half-pay, who might be obtained at a considerably less expense, instead of paying half a guinea a day to perhaps a farmer near Berwick, who resided 8 miles from the barracks of which he was master; or to a linen-draper at Haddington, who kept his shop 14 miles from the situation of his public duties. He believed there were many barrack-masters of the same description, and who ought to be removed. At least one-half of the 29,000l. charged for them might be reduced, recollecting the alteration in the price of commodities, the removal of the income-tax, and the great alteration of duty in time of peace. He then entered into a statement of figures, to show that the barrack-department this year cost the country considerably more than in the last; and particularly objected to the charge for the barrack establishment, 11,690l., including the salaries of a comptroller at 1,500l. a year; a deputy, at 800l. a year? besides' inspectors, assistants, and 28 clerks. As to the reason for building the new barracks, if the distresses which occasioned the ferment in certain districts were temporary, what pretence was there for making permanent barrack establishments? He hoped his hon. friend would press his amendment.

Sir R. Heron

protested against the unconstitutional increase of barracks in a time of profound peace.

Mr. Bright

said, he would never give his assent to so extravagant a grant. The country was much indebted to his hon. friend (Mr. Hume) for his persevering exertions to reduce the expenditure of the country; and though nothing had been struck off from the estimates this session, he felt confident that the labours of his hon. friend would have an effect upon the conduct of ministers in the next. It was lamentable to see the public money voted away night after night in that House, when the country gentlemen, who ought to protect the interests of their tenants, labouring, as they were, under such accumulated distresses, were absent from the House, and the ministerial benches were filled with gentlemen who came down to vote for their own salaries. If the session terminated without retrenchment, he would advise the country gentlemen to look to themselves; for they would no longer meet with the support of their constituents, if they did not compel ministers to reduce the extravagant expenditure of the country. Above all, he deprecated the barrack system, which was calculated to make this country a military nation. We were not naturally a military people, nor could we be made so by art. Our navy was our natural protection, and it was the interest of this country to support our navy, instead of setting up as a rival to the barbarous Russian, by extending our military establishments.

Mr. Williams

said, that if the system now pursued were carried to its extreme, it would become necessary to establish barracks in every village. Taxation must be reduced, and no stand could be better taken than against this vote.

Mr. Harbord

declared himself decidedly averse to measures of intimidation, for the purpose of stifling the opinions of an enlightened community.

The Committee divided: For the Amendment, 29t; Against it, 53.

List of the Minority.
Anson, hon. G. Langston, J. H.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Moore, P.
Bright, H. Maberly, J.
Barham, J. F. Martin, J.
Boughey, sir J. Newport, sir J.
Calvert, N. Newman, R. W.
Creevey, T. Parnell, sir H.
Colbourne, R. portman, T. B.
Denman, T. Rice, S.
Evans, W. Smith, hon. R.
Fergusson, sir R. Smith, John
Grattan, J. Tierney, rt. hon. G.
Griffiths, J. W. Williams, W.
Hume, J. TELLER.
Heron, sir R. Davies, T. H.
Harbord, hon. E.

On the resolution, "That 280,000l. be granted to provide for such expenses of a civil nature as do not form a part of the ordinary charges of the Civil List, for 1821,"

Mr. Bennet

objected to the grant. Among the items which formed that amount, was one of 43,000l., for expenses incurred in the late trial of her majesty. Now that was a sum, one shilling of which he could never consent to vote. He felt satisfied that if the country were polled from one end to the other, an immense majority would be found opposed to that atrocious measure, as one of the most ill-advised, injudicious, profligate, cruel, abandoned, and infamous proceedings which had ever disgraced the country. That 43,000l. should be called for to make good the expenses of that odious proceeding, appeared to him monstrous. He had heard it said, that his majesty might have prosecuted, as duke of Cornwall; and he should have been glad to learn that the expenses were paid out of the revenues of the duchy of cornwall rather than out of the public purse. On the present occasion he thought the House would do well to imitate the conduct pursued by their ancestors at the time of the Revolution. They had voted that the expense of the infamous prosecutions in the time of James, should be paid out of the estates of those who had instituted and carried them on. He, for one, would support the same principle, and make the estates of ministers liable for the expense of proceedings which had been carried on against the earnest prayer of a whole nation. He would not agree to vote a single shilling for contingencies until he saw the whole, particulars stated.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, it was impossible that all the expenses of the civil government in each year could be foreseen, so as to enable ministers to lay estimates before the House; and it would have been the incurring of a hazardous responsibility for them to have applied to such expenses any part of the sums voted for other purposes. Whenever a specific charge was brought against them, they would be prepared to enter on their defence.

Mr. Hume

maintained that the House ought not to sanction a vote for the payment of any of the expenses of carrying on the Queen's trial, nor even for any of the contingencies, until they knew what they might comprehend. He wished to know whether the late king had made a will; because if he had not, his property should belong to the public, and some of it might be applied to the payment of the expenses incidental to that disgusting prosecution. The hon. member then went into other items of the contingencies, and maintained that they could not be classed under that head of expenditure which the chancellor of the exchequer had said could not be foreseen; for there were several of them which must have been known beforehand. Among these he objected to the charges incurred under the Alien act, that un-English law. The expenses of the Insolvent court ought also to have been more fully detailed. He maintained that the non-production of estimates for these, and many other items, the nature of which was well known beforehand, was, a breach of that confidence which had been reposed in ministers. He next adverted to the expenses of our foreign ambassadors, which, he maintained, were much too large. A great saving might be effected by curtailing the expenses of our public purse. On the present occasion Embassies to the courts of minor powers, bethought the House would do well to The next item upon which he should have to observe was one of 6,241l. to pay the composition for an action brought against colonel Maxwell, governor of Sierra Leone. This gentleman, it appeared, had employed the force under him to clear the Rio Pongas of certain individuals; one of whom, upon his return to this country, had obtained a verdict, finding for him damages to the amount of 12,000l. or 13,000l. This amount had been com- pounded; and he should, say that, taking this sum, the charge For expenses on the Queen's trial, and the charge of the Alien-office, with one or two other items which he had noticed, amounting to 80,000l.:he felt justified in proposing, as an amendment that ministers should have At their disposal only 200,000l. instead of 280,000l.

Mr. Brougham

agreed with his hon. friend in the general principle which he had laid down with respect to the civil contingencies. His majesty's ministers were certainly bound, whenever they foresaw the amount of the Sums to be expended, to put them in the form of an estimate for the House, and to give an Opportunity of their being previously discussed; With respect to governor Maxwell, his hon. friend seemed to suppose that the verdict was given on the merits of the case against governor Maxwell, and that twelve honest men had on those merits decided against him; but the presumption upon the primâJacie case was Very different from the fact. A person of the name of Cooke, who brought the action, and two others were notorious slave dealers, and had continued the trade after the act of 1811, which made it felony. Those persons were guilty of great cruelty, and possibly deserved to have been put on their trial for a higher crime, but were only indicted at Sierra Leone for slave-trading; they pleaded guilty, and Cooke was sentenced to fourteen years transportation. He was brought home, and while in the hulks, it was discovered that the court which tried him had no jurisdiction. As no commission had been sent out, this objection was fatal, and made the case of Cooke a legal subject of compensation. He had in Sierra Leone admitted the fact, and the jurisdiction of the court; but here he pleaded, that he was an American, and not a British subject, and that the Court had no jurisdiction; an act not so much of mercy as of severe justice then took place in the liberation of this man. Cooke then brought an action for damages against governor Maxwell, under whose authority the seizure was made. There Could not be the slightest doubt, under the circumstances of the case, that he must obtain damages, for the record of his conviction could not be received in evidence against him, as it was a nullity. It was not even tendered in court, for which he was sorry, as that would have brought the real merits of the case under the notice of the jury. Damages were given for the sum laid in the declaration; but the persons who got the award knew the nature of their case so well, that they were willing to compromise the matter, and to take 6,241l.

Mr. Arbuthnot

agreed, that it would be better to avoid as much as possible leaving sums of money to be granted under heads of service to which they did not belong. He was willing to admit that there were many charges in the present estimates, which might have been more appropriately placed, and which would for the future be so disposed of.

After some further conversation, the committee divided: For the Amendment, 77; Against it, 106. Majority, 29.

List of the Minority.
Allen, J. H. Lennard, T. B.
Anson, hon. G. Lushington, Dr.
Astell, W. Lester, B. L.
Bernal, R. Maberly, J.
Boughey, sir J. F. Macdonald, J.
Barham, J. F. Martin, J.
Benett, J. Milbank, M.
Barrett, S. M. Milton, visct.
Benyon, Benj. Moore, Peter
Birch, Jos. Newman, R. W.
Brougham, H. Newport, rt. hon. sir J.
Bright, H.
Bury, viscount Palmer, C. F.
Chaloner, R. Parnell, sir H.
Carter, J. Powlett, hon. W.
Cavendish, H. Pryse, P.
Concannon, L. Portman, E. B.
Crespigny, sir W. De Plumber, John
Crompton, S. Robarts, A.
Creevey, Thos. Robarts, G.
Calthorpe, hon. F. G. Rowley, sir W.
Corbett, Panton Rumbold, C. E.
Davies, T. H. Rice, T. S.
Denman, T. Rickford, W.
Duncannon, visct. Smith, hon. R.
Evans, Wm. Smith, W.
Fergusson, sir R. Smith, J.
Fitzroy, lord C. Smith, R.
Gordon, R. Taylor, M. A.
Grattan, J. Tierney, rt. hon. G.
Grant, J. P. Tremayne, J. H.
Griffiths, J. W. Tennyson, C.
Guise, sir W. Wharton, John
Heron, sir R. Whitbread, S. C.
Harbord, hon. E. Williams, W.
Hill, lord A. Wood, ald.
Hume, Joseph Wilson, Thomas
Hutchinson, hn. C. H. Whitmore, W. W.
Johnson, col. TELLER.
Jervoise, G. P. Bennet, hon. H. G.