§ The House having resolved itself into a committee, to which the Army Estimates were referred,
§ Lord Palmerston
said, that for the convenience of the House, he would, in proposing the vote, instead of taking half the sum required on each item, or instead of proposing the whole sum on each for six months, take a certain sum on account of the whole. This would be for the convenience of the House, as many of the items involved matters which would pro- 610 perly come under the consideration of the Finance Committee, and had therefore be better postponed. It was necessary that a certain sum should be provided to carry on the service of the year, and that the Mutiny act should be passed, which hon. members knew would expire in the course of next month. The whole of the sum for the land force was 3,100,000l. Of this he proposed to take 2,000,000l. on account, which would leave a balance of 1,200,000l.. and when the subject came to be discussed, and the amount of each item to be determined, there would be sufficient for the House on which to make what diminution it might think proper. The estimates were made out at the maximum. The way in which he proposed the vote would leave the question of numbers to the consideration of the Finance Committee, as much as if the vote had been taken for six months instead of a year. Besides the 2,000,000l. on account of the land forces, he would take 1,000,000l. on account of the out-pensioners of Chelsea. The whole sum for that was 1,200,000l. This item was one on which no reduction could be made, consistently with the observance of national faith. The amount of pensions already granted must be continued daring the life-time of the parties; and, if any recommendation on the subject of the amount of these pensions should be made by the Finance Committee, it must be prospective. By the vote which he should propose, the present wants of the service, would be provided for, without pledging the House to the amount of any particular item. He did not mean at present to enter into any detailed explanation; but he thought it right to say a few words on the addition to our force, which appeared on the face of the estimates. This arose, from bringing into the account the colonial corps, which heretofore were charged on the colonial revenues. This applied to the colonial corps, and also to the regiments of the line and staff employed in Ceylon and the Mediterranean. These, as he had said, appeared to be charged on the colonial revenue; but, though so, charged, they still came out of the ordinaries of the army, as the colonies drew for then on those ordinaries, and often, for more than the amount so expended. It was, therefore, a fallacy to leave it as a charge coming out of another fund, when in fact the greater part 611 was to be made by this country, in the same way as the other ordinaries of the army. It would be better that the whole should be brought into one account. This plan had been suggested by the noble lord not long since at the head of the Colonial department, and had been concurred in and adopted by the right hon. gentleman now at the head of that office. In future, therefore, the Colonial troops would be included in the ordinary of the army, and whatever surplus revenue accrued in the colonies would be accounted for by the chancellor of the Exchequer, and brought into the ways and means of the year. He had mentioned this alteration, to account for the apparent increase of three thousand in the number of men, though in reality there was a diminution of five thousand owing to the check on our recruiting establishment, which would be only six thousand this year; whereas it had been fifteen thousand last year. The recruiting establishment of the present year would it was hoped be sufficient to maintain our force in an effective state, as that force would be five thousand less than it was last year. Now, the effect of the arrangement he had mentioned respecting the colonial corps would be, that they would take credit for a diminution of expense of only 14,000l., while the real saving would be from 150,000l. to 160,000l. This saving would be thus made up on the land forces, including the addition of three thousand men:—On account of pay 25,000l.; saving in recruiting department 26,000l.; saving in addition of pay for length of service to officers and men, as there were fewer this year than last 17,000l.; saving in the charges for Yeomanry 86,000l.; making 154,900l.; which, with a saving on other items of 4,000l.; made in all a difference of 158,000l. less than the amount of last year. It was true that a great part of this would be absorbed by bringing the colonial corps into the general account; so that though the real saving was great, the apparent saving was but small. He would abstain from further explanation, until it should be determined what was to be the amount of our establishments for the year, and would move his first resolution; but with the distinct understanding that it would be fully competent to any member hereafter to renew the discussion on the whole amount of force to be kept, and the expense at which 612 it was to be maintained. The noble lord then moved that ninety-one thousand and seventy-five men be kept up as the land force of the year, including commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and exclusive of the force kept up for the service of the East India company.
expressed his surprise at the statement made by the noble lord. They had been told over and over again, that the troops employed in some of the colonies were paid bonâ fide out of the revenue of those colonies, and that the House had nothing to do with the payment. Now, it was admitted, that the whole was a delusion, and that the payment of those troops was to be defrayed by this country. He was glad, however, to find that a new light had broken in upon the noble lord on this point. "The management of the colonies had hitherto been marked by a most wasteful expenditure. Of this, numerous instances might be given, but he would mention only one. Before the Cape of Good Hope had come into our possession, it paid its own expenses out of its own revenue, and left a considerable surplus; but the moment it came into our hands, that revenue was found insufficient, and it became a charge on the country. It would seem as if we sought colonies solely for the purpose of quartering and pensioning upon them the junior branches of our nobility. Though, he was glad to find that we were likely to come to a better system, he could not go along with the noble lord in the course he proposed. Why should we have a Mutiny-bill for six months, and a vote of supply for the same time? That course would not, as in his opinion the present did, pledge the House technically to keep-up a force of ninety-one thousand men. If government were disposed to reduce the public expenditure, why not refer the estimates at once to the Finance Committee, where they had the means of going into the most minute investigation? Indeed, after what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman on a former evening, he had every hope from the labours of the committee. Considering the circumstances of the country, our military establishments were altogether too large. He would not compare them with those of 1792, but would only go a few years back. Looking at our establishment in 1823, he found that, with as much cause for a large force as at present, it was twenty-one thousand 613 men less, and cost 650,000l. less than the force of the present year. The noble lord said, that our expenditure was 158,000l. less this year than the last. He, however, could not make that out. We had now to pay for a nominal force of ninety-one thousand men, but we could not bring eighty thousand effective men into the field. This arose from the practice of having dépôt companies attached to each corps, which amounted to eleven thousand non-effective men, and whose charge raised the expense about 450,000l. But, putting that out of the question, he found fault with the force kept up as being too large.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, that, as he had not had an opportunity of addressing the House before it went into the committee, he would avail himself of the present. Looking at the amount of the estimates, notwithstanding what had been stated by the right hon. gentleman on the subject, he despaired of any plan which could be pointed out, until he saw an effectual reformation in the public expenditure. It had been said, that they were now called upon only to vote the men, and that they could afterwards diminish the supply, if they should not approve of what might be done by the Finance Committee. But he considered it the duty of the House, in the first instance, to the down the government to a particular vote; and there would be no doubt but the establishment would be reduced in proportion to that vote. As to the Finance Committee, he had a high respect for many of the names placed on it; but, recollecting that he had never seen any public advantage result from any former Finance Committee, he had no expectations from the present. Such committees were, in general, a delusion on the public. They were appointed only to get over the difficulty of the moment, and were never resorted to, until ministers were driven as it were into a corner by their own extravagance. He wished to know what was intended. This, however, was not to be obtained, until after the Finance Committee should report; and thus the delay which ministers required would be obtained. They were told of a general desire for economy; but when any particular reduction was pointed out, there was always some attempt to evade it. If a reduction of colonial expenditure were mentioned, it was met by talking of the necessity of keeping our possessions in an effective state. Reduc- 614 tions proposed in the navy were answered by the necessity of upholding that great national bulwark. Reductions in the army were opposed on some other ground; and thus the several professions of economy turned out to mean nothing. He remembered that, on one occasion, lord Castlereagh had come down to the House, and made a speech characterized by the true spirit of economy, in which he recommended that the establishments should be reduced. The noble lord had been driven into that course by the refusal of the House to vote the Property-tax. If that tax had been granted, the minister would have said nothing about economy. So long as ministers could raise money, they represented the country as being in the most flourishing condition: it was only when the supplies were denied them that they admitted the necessity of relieving the burthens of the people. The right hon. gentleman had stated, on a former night, that the income of the country, for the last five years, was 261,000,000l., and the expenditure 249,000,000l., leaving a surplus of 12,000,000l.; but this surplus was to meet a sinking fund of 5,000,000l. per annum for five years, so that, in fact, there was a deficiency of 13,000,000l. Yet the House was now called upon to vote a standing army of ninety-one thousand men in time of peace, with all our debts and embarrassments about us. The country could not bear new taxation: if it were taxed further, it must be under a government with a military commander for its head, and at the point of the bayonet. He begged the attention of the House to a statement of the expenditure of the country for the last five years. In 1823, it was 47,500,000l.; in 1824, 49,500,000l.; in 1825,48,500,000l.; in 1826,49,500,000l.; in 1827, 49,500,000l.; being an increase of 4,500,000l. on the five years. In 1823, the current expenses of the year, independently of the interest on the national debt, was 18,500,000l.; in 1824, 20,500,000l.; in 1825, 20,000,000l.; in 1826, 21,500,000l.; in 1827, 21,500,000l.; making an increase in the four years of 9,500,000l. It was shocking to think that the expenditure of the country should thus go on increasing, whilst the people were labouring under privations of the most extreme nature. In one parish in the city of London, containing only four hundred houses, one hundred and ninety-three persons had been summoned for non-payment of the Poor-rates. 615 The workhouse of that parish was full; beside which there were a large number of out-pensioners. On the surface of society every thing bore the appearance of prosperity, but poverty was extensively spreading. Knowing this, he should be neglectful of his duty, if he did not protest against maintaining a standing army of ninety-one thousand men. We seemed, now a days, to have quite forgotten all the notions of Our ancestors, and probably he should be laughed at for alluding to them; nevertheless it might not be improper to remind the House, that we had no standing army before the Revolution. In king William's time, when the Pretender was endeavouring to overthrow the government, the army did not exceed seven thousand men; but now we had of cavalry alone eight thousand, with eight thousand horses, devouring the country. It was shameful that the people should be taxed to maintain eight thousand horses, which were in no way necessary to the protection of the country. In the time of George 1st and George 2nd, great opposition was always offered to the votes for augmenting the standing army, though it was only proposed to raise it to sixteen thousand. Sir R. Walpole, however, had something like a plea for maintaining an army: the Pretender still prosecuted his designs, and there had been a rebellion in the country. He had to learn, however, what there was in the actual circumstances of the country which called for a standing army of ninety-one thousand men. On constitutional grounds it was highly objectionable that so large a force should be maintained. A standing army had proved dangerous in all countries; and it did not satisfy him, to assert that the military man now at the head of our government was not disposed to make a mischievous use of the instrument which was placed in his hands. The precedent was a bad one.—After again urging the necessity of retrenchment, the worthy alderman said, he could place no reliance on the stability of the present government. One government had already been blown up, and as there were two barrels of gunpowder placed under the present, it was likely to suffer a similar fate. How long it would be before it was blown up, how long its members could hang together—that was an untoward word—some persons might be wicked enough to say they ought to hang together—he could not pretend to guess. On the appointment of the 616 Finance Committee the other night, the House was grievously disappointed. It was waiting in anxious expectation, to hear, not an exposition of the financial concerns of the country, but what sort of explanations two right hon. gentlemen would make. On that occasion they made no explanation, but subsequently they had; and God knew, a poor kind of explanation it was! It left the House as much in the dark as before. For his part, he could put no confidence in a government of which those two right hon. gentlemen formed a part; and he was only sorry that honourable members, who had cut one of the right hon. gentlemen to shreds and patches and totally demolished him, should have allowed the other to escape. Some explanation was still wanted. The country wanted it. It was impossible to walk the streets, to go on the Royal Exchange, or to enter a coffee-house, without hearing that explanation called for. The country expected that men appointed to conduct the affairs of the nation should be distinguished for high and honourable feeling—that they should be above all paltry subterfuge. Those also were his feelings; and it was, therefore, with the greatest amazement he had heard the explanations on a former evening. When a right hon. gentleman was asked why he had not told Mr. Tierney what was going on, till all the ministers were turned out-why he did not mention the circumstance to lord Lansdowne—why he did not state it in his letter to Mr. Tierney—"Oh," said he, "I had no business with it; it was quite sufficient for me to send in my resignation to the first lord of the treasury." When the right hon. gentlemen were driven hard, when they put out the signal of distress, when they could not form a government without inviting the co-operation of such men as lord Lansdowne and Mr. Tierney, they availed themselves of their influence, and the assistance of their friends, but at last they turned tail on them, and provided for themselves in the best way they could. In so doing, the right hon. gentleman had, in his opinion, acted, with duplicity. He knew nothing of the way in which cabinet ministers were accustomed to act; but in the common affairs of life, if such a case had arisen as that which led to the dissolution of the last cabinet, communication would have taken place, and the colleagues of the right hon. gentleman would have said 617 "let us talk over the matter and consult as to what shall be done." He had heard that when "virtue admits of parley she is near surrender;" but the two right hon. gentlemen had surrendered without any parley. They found themselves in the arms of each other, and surrounded by their new colleagues, nobody knew how. Such conduct could excite only contempt—it was a standing jest—the government was degraded by it; and if parliament allowed itself to be governed by such a ministry, it would be a degradation to them and an insult to the country. With respect to the present chancellor of the Exchequer, he had known him in one capacity, but of his fitness for his new office he knew nothing. With respect to the late chancellor, we were told that his loss could not be supplied—he was so efficient—so ready at accounts—so intimately acquainted with all the intricacies of finance—yet all at once, he had been deprived of the office for which he was so peculiarly fitted. The allotment of parts in the cabinet really appeared ludicrous—quite as much so as it would be to put Mr. Liston in Sir George Airy, and Mr. Kemble in Tony Lumpkin. The late chancellor of the Exchequer was sent to repose at the Mint. God knew what he was to do there. He rather thought the right hon. gentleman was a great encumberance to government. As to the pledges which had been so much alluded to, he did not believe that any would be given under the present government which were not signed on the drum head. He thought that no pledges had been given to a right hon. gentleman, and if not, he had deserted his principles by joining the administration. He concluded by urging the House to watch over the public money, as that was the only hold they had of a profligate government.
§ Lord Palmerston
contended, that the present vote would by no means compromise the right of the House hereafter to reduce any of the votes, should the Finance Committee recommend their reduction.
was anxious to put the committee of supply on its guard against sanctioning certain numbers for the army or navy, under the idea that the Finance Committee would correct any extravagance which should hereafter be found to attach to the present vote. He admitted that there were difficulties respecting the ad- 618 justment of the numbers, owing to the possible operation of the secret article in the treaty of last July,—a treaty which he considered inexpedient, unjust, and contrary to the real principles of the law of nations.
Mr. Secretary Peel
admitted that it would not be constitutional for the House to allow its legitimate functions to be usurped by any committee appointed to inquire into the revenues of the country, and that even after such committee should have examined and decided upon details, the House would still have the power of adopting or rejecting such recommendations. He had already explained what he considered to be the nature of the duty which devolved on the Finance Committee: he had stated that it was very difficult to lay down precise rules for their government, because of the confidential political information upon which the administration might be called upon to act; for instance, in such a possible event as the execution of the secret article of the Greek treaty. With respect to the Finance Committee, they were at that moment inquiring into the navy estimates, and had summoned before them one of the lords of the Admiralty and the Secretary. Their purpose was, to ascertain, starting from the point of 1792, why the establishments should continue upon an increasing scale. He thought himself bound to congratulate the worthy alderman upon the ample proof he had afforded of the necessity of establishing this Finance Committee; for at a time when the sole subject before them was the army estimates, he had wandered into references to the dissolution of the late government, and explanations which had arisen out of them. In the Finance Committee these digressions could not take place, and their real business would no doubt, in consequence, be better attended to.
§ Mr. Calcraft
thought there was a great contradiction in the course pursued by the noble Secretary at War, in calling for a vote of 3,000,000l., and ninety-one thousand men, while at the same time he reserved his explanations until the Finance Committee had decided upon what ought or ought not to be the establishments for the year. By this mode of proceeding the House was divested of its constitutional jurisdiction. Why not take a Mutiny bill for the same period as the noble lord required his vote? Hon. gentlemen talked 619 of the injudicious operation of the Greek treaty, but they forgot that the military expenditure was also connected with the Portuguese treaty. As to the observations of the right hon. gentleman upon the speech of the worthy alderman, he thought them ill-timed, for it would be difficult to define what could be termed an extraneous debate, in a committee of supply upon the army estimates; sure he was, that it was the very opportunity, in the best parliamentary times, when Fox, and Pitt, and Burke, and Windham, travelled largely into the whole sphere of the foreign and domestic politics of the country.—As to the appointment of the Finance Committee, he hailed it as a good omen: nothing but the difficulties of the state had compelled the government to agree to it; and now that the country had such a committee, and an entire set of new performers at the Treasury, he hoped for fair play for the national energies. He did think it was a peculiar advantage, that new men were in the offices of the Treasury, such as the First Lord, the chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Foreign Secretary—men who were not pledged to, or implicated in, the deceits and disgusting quackeries which had previously been practised in the making up of the public accounts. The Finance Committee would open the real state of the finances, and place the details in an intelligible form. If fairly looked at, he saw no cause of alarm in the condition of the country; no reason for new taxation, or borrowing for a Sinking-fund; but if the Finance Committee could reduce expenditure, so as to create a surplus applicable to the extinction of the debt, he had no objection to its being soused; unless, indeed, it accumulated to a large amount; for then he thought a grave consideration would arise, whether the public ought not to have the benefit of it in a reduction of taxation; for they might surely rely upon it, that the money would fructify and improve more in the pockets of the people than in the hands of the state. He agreed that there were political considerations which the government must keep from the Finance Committee under certain circumstances; but there was one item of the military force, which ought and could be diminished—he alluded to the twenty-two thousand men for Ireland. He implored the government to adopt a better policy, and to relieve that country from the ex- 620 pense of so burthensome an establishment. The very circumstance of such a military Force being called for in Ireland, showed how bad must be the system which prevailed in that country, and led in addition to this expense of 1,000,000l. a year to the inundation of England and Scotland with thousands of Irish paupers, who forced the English labourer upon the Poor's-rates, and carried misery in their rain.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he was opposed to these votes without further explanation; for it was in that House, and not in the Finance Committee, that the necessary information ought to be forthcoming. With the change of men from this time last year, he had looked forward to a change of measures, and yet no serious alteration had taken place. It was not, he knew, for the Treasury, but for the cabinet to decide upon the number of troops to be maintained; still, the incidental payments ought to be clearly defined, and not kept in that state of delusion which now prevailed. He had over and over again impressed upon the noble lord opposite, that the Treasury had to pay a large part of the military expense of the colonies, but this had always been denied; yet in Ceylon, the Cape, and Malta, the thing was now obvious. Why not reduce the military staff, which amounted to 140,000l. although it was only from 15,000l. to 18,000l. in 1792? Why not do away with the gross delusion of the Sinking-fund. Was the country to be perpetually contracting debt in a time of profound peace? He called on ministers, before they asked the House to agree to the present estimates, to state why those estimates were so enormous in amount? He would not call upon them to return to the scale on which the estimates were formed in 1792, when the whole military force of the empire did not exceed thirty-six thousand men. At that time, the number of troops stationed in Ireland was not more than eight thousand five hundred men: at present, we kept twenty-three thousand men there, independently of the militia-staff, and four thousand or five thousand armed constables. Ireland was now garrisoned by thirty thousand men, of whom twenty-four thousand were kept by the money of England, and the rest by a levy on the people of Ireland. But if ministers could not reduce the establishments to the scale of 1792, why not reduce them to the level 621 of 1823, when the naval force consisted of sixteen thousand, and the military of forty thousand men? Why should we have at present a military force of ninety thousand men, and a naval of thirty thousand, exclusive of six thousand artillery men? Why should we have a force of one hundred and twenty thousand men now, when in 1792 a third part of that force was deemed sufficient for all the service of the country? After this disclosure of the pecuniary resources of the country, it was too bad to persist in wantonly extracting large sums from the pockets of the people, to support extravagant establishments. Let the right hon. gentleman look at the estimates for the year 1823, and then explain why, when sixty-eight thousand men were deemed a sufficient force for that year, an increase of twenty-three thousand men was deemed necessary for the present. Was there any mighty difference between the political circumstances of the country at that time and at the present? The colonies surely were not the cause of the great increase. If they were, then arose a very important question; namely, was the administration of those colonies such as it ought to be? Was the government at home doing every thing in its power to drive the colonies to desperation, or was it endeavouring to conciliate their affections by an attention to their wants and wishes? Why had we six thousand men at present in Canada? Why, but because we kept Canada like a garrison, under the control of a governor whom the inhabitants hated and despised? What would the country think if his majesty were to treat the House of Commons in the same manner as the governor of Canada had treated the House of Assembly of that colony? What would the country think if his majesty were to disapprove of a Speaker who had been elected by a large majority of the House of Commons? What would the country think, if, after fifty-five members had voted in favour of a certain individual as Speaker, and only four in opposition to him, his majesty were to turn round upon the majority and say, "You may elect him as long as you like, but I will never approve of him as your Speaker?" And yet this very outrage had been committed on the feelings of the House of Assembly by the present governor of the two Canadas. It had elected the same individual again and again as its Speaker, and again and again had its choice been disapproved of 622 by the governor. Was it this mode of treatment which rendered the continuance of so large a force in that colony a matter of necessity? He wished the House would compare the amount of the military establishment of the United States with that which our government now kept up in Canada. Strange as it might appear, the United States, immense as their territory was, did not maintain for their whole service so many troops as we kept up in the comparatively petty province of Canada. Was that a state of things which any man in his senses would pronounce to be right? If they were dissatisfied with the manner in which the Canadas were governed, had they a more cheering prospect before them when they looked to our other colonies? In every one of them a wretched system of misgovernment prevailed. The consequence was, that the people of England were burthened with large military establishments, in order to support the maladministration of the arbitrary military governors, which the administration at home sent out. He should be glad to see all these military governors displaced. He had no personal dislike to military men; but he wished to see them where they were always seen to the best advantage—he meant at the head of their corps, who, like themselves were accustomed to the arbitrary command of military energy. Civilians could not bring themselves to submit to it with patience; and thus the sending out of military men as governors excited in the colonists feelings of dissatisfaction and disloyalty, created in their breasts an alienation from the interests of Great Britain, and rendered them willing to do any thing that tended to destroy the connexion between the two countries. This state of things imposed on the inhabitants of the mother country an enormous expenditure; and grinding taxation took large sums of money every day from their pockets, for no other purpose than to keep down the indignant spirit of our oppressed colonies.—To return, however, to the estimates. He was sorry to see, that notwithstanding the large professions of economy made by the government, there was no palpable change in their amount. When he put the professions of the administration in one scale, and the heavy arguments against them—he meant the millions of expenditure—in the other, he had great misgivings in his own mind, that their professions would never be realized. The administra- 623 tion, however, now referred to something which it had done, as a proof that it intended to carry its promises into execution. And what was that something to which it referred? A committee. Here he would observe that, as far as he yet knew any thing of the committee which the House had recently appointed to inquire into the state of our finances, there was no cause to complain of it: he saw every thing about it fair and honourable, quite as much so as he wished it; and that, for him, was saying a great deal. At present the committee was seeking for information on the subjects into which it was to inquire; and it was only right to say that the right hon. gentlemen connected with the different departments of government had hitherto shown the utmost disposition to assist it in all points of its inquiry. But let the House consider the time which the committee must be employed before it could be in a condition to make a report on the subjects into which it was empowered to examine; and let it then decide, if it could, that it was incumbent, in the present state of our finances, to do nothing in the interim. Let hon. members compare the estimates for 1823 with those for the present year, and abstain, if they could, from calling on the right hon. Secretary to explain to them, why we should have a larger military force by twenty-two thousand men now, when Europe was at peace, than we had at a time when Spain was distracted by internal quarrels, and France was preparing to march her thousands into that country to put a stop to them. Under such circumstances, he could not help asking the right hon. Secretary, whether a relief from the burthens which pressed upon the country, ought not to be a measure immediately taken up by the government? If the House permitted the present military establishments to go on, one of two consequences must ensue—either we must become a military government, or we must rob the creditor to pay the soldier. He did not say that we must become a military government, from any fear of the present head of the Treasury: he trusted that his good sense would enable him to see that our constitution was essentially a civil constitution, and that our military establishments had grown out of it; owing to the arduous struggle, no matter how it commenced, which we had had so long to maintain with our great rival, France. He 624 was afraid, however, that our finances would suffer severely, unless some decisive steps were immediately taken to improve them, and he therefore said, that the duke of Wellington might acquire greater honour by restoring them to their pristine vigour, than he had ever acquired by the trophies which he had won in war. The laurels which his grace had purchased by his achievements on the field of battle had already consigned him to an immortality of glory; but his grace might earn a fame even stilt more honourable, by achieving the more quiet but more lasting triumphs of peace. Let his grace turn his attention to the present state of the population, and view its sufferings, if it were possible, with an unmoved eye. One half of the inhabitants of the country were starving; crime and misery were covering the land with victims; and poverty and desolation were carrying their inroads into quarters hitherto impregnable to their attacks. Let his grace earn better laurels than any which have yet encircled his brow by converting a starving and dissatisfied into a well-fed and contented population. It was in his grace's power to accomplish so desirable a consummation, if he would only embrace the opportunity before him. Let him diminish the burthens which pressed upon the people—let him relieve them from ten or eleven millions of the taxation which now ground them to the dust—and then let him contemplate the result of so noble an experiment.—He was aware that some individuals, who were very ingenious, and, notwithstanding, very absurd, were in the habit of saying, that all our distresses arose from the reduction of our expenditure, and that it would be much better for the country to increase than to diminish its establishments. If we could get money to pay for those establishments from other people, instead of taking it from the pockets of our own industrious artisans, it might be as these wiseacres represented; but we were not, like the Romans of old, supported by the wealth of tributary nations, and therefore could only maintain enormous establishments by the exhaustion of our own resources. Surely the reflection, that we were wringing the money to maintain such establishments from the earnings of industrious and indigent poor, ought to induce the government to pause in the career they were pursuing. Why should the man who laboured twelve hours in the day be robbed of one-half of his wages to 625 support an idle pomp, from which he derived no benefit? If his grace should but have the will, as he had the power, to put a stop to such a state of things, he would be the greatest of benefactors to his country.—He begged pardon of the committee for having trespassed so long upon its attention, but he was firmly of opinion, that they were bound to do something immediately for the country, after the language in which they had been addressed that night by the right hon. Secretary. The right hon. Secretary had told them to wait until they received the report of the Finance Committee. He would advise them not to wait any longer, but to proceed forthwith to pare down the military force of the country to eighty thousand men. He trusted that, after the Finance Committee had made its report, they would be able to pare away another ten thousand from that number. He would move, as an amendment, "that instead of voting ninety-two thousand men for the service of the next six months, we only vote eighty thousand."
§ Sir J. Macdonald
said, that though he felt inclined to grant the supply which it was now proposed to make to his majesty, he was particularly anxious to guard himself against the supposition, that he agreed to it from any confidence in the present administration. So long as he saw men acting together in apparent concert, between whom an irreconcilable difference had recently existed,—so long as one portion of the administration was sitting calmly by the side of another portion of it, though it had been charged by that other portion with the meanest and basest usage towards its Sovereign, and though those charges were still unrefuted—so long as he saw a spectacle which placed the administration in so shameful and contemptible a light—it was impossible that any vote which he might give should be a vote of confidence in that administration. He must say, that his noble friend had chosen an inconvenient mode of taking the discussion as to the number of men for the service of the year. The committee was not now discussing the amount of the sums to be expended for their support, because it was understood that a more suitable opportunity would arrive for that discussion. It appeared strange, that the committee should be called upon to agree to a vote for ninety thousand men, when the leading member of the administration 626 had told them, that he did not propose to saddle such a force, by five thousand men, upon the country for the ensuing year. It appeared strange, that after the government had come to such a conclusion, and that a hope was held out, that a still further reduction might be effected by the Finance Committee, that it should propose to the committee to insert ninety thousand, men, as the number which it would be expedient to vote for the next year. He could not allow the sarcasms which a right hon. gentleman had passed upon the speech of a worthy alderman to pass unnoticed. That speech was one of a manly character, conceived in a liberal and constitutional spirit, and was worthy the representative of a great commercial city. The right hon. gentleman appeared to have misunderstood much of the argument of the worthy alderman, when he complained of the conduct of government in referring the estimates to a committee. The complaint was, that the estimates were referred to a committee, instead of being settled by the administration on its own responsibility. As that complaint applied not only to the present administration, but to the last, for whose honour, he as a member of it, must feel a tender regard, he would inform the worthy alderman, that he joined issue with him. He was of opinion that government could never so efficaciously promote useful reforms as a committee honestly and fairly selected, and determined at all hazards to perform its duty. The right hon. gentleman had properly stated on a former night, that whenever any reductions were to be made in the different departments of the public service, the heads of those departments were always of opinion, that the other departments could bear reduction better than their own. There was, consequently, some difficulty, in making any reduction at all, when the head of the administration had to decide in which department the proposed reduction should be made. Hence he conceived, that it was much better to leave a committee up stairs, not only to decide what reductions should be made, but, in what departments they should take place. He thought that the late administration, determined as it was to carry into effect any recommendations which the Finance Committee might advise, had done wisely in leaving in its hands such powers as the worthy alderman complained of. But he was happy to inform the worthy alderman, that the late 627 administration did not leave the work of reduction entirely to the Finance Committee; for, if he would look at the estimates, he would see that they had reduced the expense, by so large a sum as 1,100,000l. He was not saying that in the present distressed state of the commerce of the country, a reduction of 1,100,000l. was such a reduction as the country ought to be satisfied with: it was, however, an earnest that the late administration really wished to reduce the public expenditure.
§ Lord Palmerston
said, he wished to be allowed to explain upon two points. It had been asked why they should vote a given number of men for six months, when the number for the year must be recited in the Mutiny-bill; a recital which would form a conclusion against any subsequent alteration of it? Now, he begged leave to inform the committee, that the Mutiny-bill recited the number of men voted for the year, as a foundation for the code of laws by which the Crown governed the army in time of peace; but nobody ever supposed that by that recital the Crown was bound to keep up the number of men enumerated in it. The Mutiny-bill recited a greater number of men as being employed for the service of the year, than the Crown could ever bring into, or than ever were actually in, the realm. No difficulty, therefore, could occur upon that head; because, if the Crown should be inclined to disband the army entirely, it would not be prevented from doing so by the large number of men recited in the Mutiny-bill as being engaged for the year. It was consequently clear, that even though the House should agree to a vote for a given number of men for the year, and should insert that number in the Mutiny-bill, it would not thereby be prevented from afterwards reducing it to such a number as a committee might think proper to advise. The objection, therefore, that was started upon this ground, could not apply to the vote under discussion. He had been asked, what convenience the service would gain by having the Mutiny-bill passed for the whole year, instead of half a year. If any gentleman would look at the last clause of the Mutiny-bill, he would see that its continuance was limited to different times in different places, according to their distance from England. Now, if they broke all those periods into two, they would render that 628 clause still more complicated than it was at present. This would not be the case with the Marine Mutiny-bill, and for this reason; that the marines, in time of peace, were generally stationed at home. If, then, the course which he proposed left open the revision of the numbers for the year, just as if the grant had been for six months, he trusted that the committee would not object to it. The hon. member for Aberdeen evidently supposed that the vote had been for six months, and it was only at the moment that he was going to move his amendment that he found out his mistake. That circumstance showed how little he would have gained if he had proposed the vote for six months instead of twelve. The hon. member had complained, that he had made certain alterations in the constitution of the colonial corps. There was actually no possibility of pleasing the hon. member. If the government did not improve its old arrangements, the hon. member taunted it for its attachment to them; and if it threw the old arrangements into a better form, the hon. member taunted it with not having altered them sooner. That was a bad mode of encouraging public men to improve the system on which their predecessors in office had acted. The committee would see clearly the reason of the hon. member's dissatisfaction with these new arrangements—they deprived him of his usual topics for a speech on the army estimates; a deprivation at which the committee would not, he believed, feel much regret, as the retrenchment of the hon. gentleman's speeches was one of the retrenchments which the House was particularly anxious to make [a laugh]. In defence of those arrangements he would merely observe, that it appeared better to him to place the military expenses of the colonies in one department of the estimates, and their civil expenses in another. The hon. member had stated his wish to have a reduction of ten thousand men now, and another reduction of ten thousand more at the end of six months, and so on until the army was reduced to the numbers which composed it in 1823. He had asked what reason there was for our maintaining a larger military force now than we did then? The hon. member ought to have recollected that the force of 1823 was a reduction from a much larger force which we had kept on foot in the years 1821 and 1822. The service of the different colonies 629 could not be carried on at a smaller amount of troops, without imposing such a degree of duty on the different regiments, as would not be fair in a time of peace. It was thus that the augmentation had gone on, not with a particular view to this or that particular colony, but upon the general principle, that there should be a disposable surplus of five thousand men, prepared for any exigency. He would appeal to the events of the last year or two to show that there was nothing unreasonable in that policy. Had government not acted upon that principle, it would have been impossible for this country to have gone to the aid of Portugal so speedily as she had done. It was not to keep down the population at home that such a force, or that any force, was required. Happily, the disposition of the people constituted a better guarantee for their tranquillity than the presence of any force, however formidable. He would state a case to show the hardship to which the service must be exposed, by limiting the number below the present amount. There were two regiments at that moment under orders for foreign service. They had each of them been six years on the home station. But then, at the time of their return home, six years ago, they had experienced seventeen years of uninterrupted foreign service, either in the East or West Indies, or at Ceylon. Was it necessary for him to say more, to show that we had not a greater disposable force than was required for the security of the colonies and the relief of the troops? But it was asked, why, if government were to determine on the reduction of five thousand men, they reduce by individuals, instead of proceeding at once to disband by battalions? He would answer, that government did not discharge a single man; they only abstained from recruiting to fill up the vacancies as they took place, and by this operation performed the business of reduction by insensible degrees, and with the least possible inconvenience. One of the advantages of this course was, that no pension was granted, as no man was discharged. It was true, that by the other system of disbanding by regiments, 20,000l. or 30,000l. might be saved; but was that any equivalent for the evil of crippling our defensive means, by destroying the skeletons of regiments? A new regiment was well known to be a very different thing from an addition to the skeleton of an old regiment. But 630 another and a more obvious effect of the disbanding of regiments would be to decrease the number of regiments, and consequently to increase the amount and burthen of duty upon those who remained. The period of foreign service, must, in that case, be prolonged, and the period of home service diminished. He was sure that the House would not think 20,000l. or 30,000l. a-year well gained by the imposition of such hardship on the military force of the country. He would only add, that he was ready either to discuss the amount required at the present moment, or, as he would certainly prefer, to postpone that discussion to a period of the session, when they would be better enabled to look at the subject in all its bearings.
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, he could not understand why, taking a vote for six months, it should be objected to take, at the same time, a Mutiny-bill for six months.
§ Mr. P. Thomson
expressed an anxiety to have some guarantee from the noble lord, ensuring the House not only that they were not pledged to any specific number of troops by the vote required, but that there was a disposition on the part of government to reduce the number as low as possible. It was too much the habit of government to refer them, upon all questions of economy to the Finance Committee; but they were bound to take care that between the two stools the public did not come to the ground. The Colonial Secretary, and the Secretary at War, seemed to differ as to the functions of that committee. One thought it had nothing to do with the naval and military establishments, the other that it had. All he would say was, that if it had nothing to do with these establishments, he did not see why the noble lord should refer them to that committee. At all events, he hoped that as they were called upon for a vote, they would have an understanding from the noble lord, that there should be a diminution of expense, instead of the increase which they were justified in apprehending. They were told by the noble lord, that there was to be a reduction of five thousand men; but he was sorry to say that such assurances afforded him little consolation. The House would recollect, that they were told of great reductions in the half pay and pension lists before; and they would also recollect how far those promises had been realized. Were the half-pay and the pensions reduced? On the contrary, had 631 they not been increased? Not, he would admit, in the last year as compared with the year before, but in each of the succeeding years as compared with the year in which the pledge was given. The noble lord seemed at a loss to know how the military establishment could be reduced. He would answer him in the words of his hon. friend—"pacify Ireland, quiet Canada:" to which he would add "make your colonies pay for their own defence, or abandon them." The noble lord had stated, that England did not require troops to protect herself, but her colonies. Upon that understanding, he supposed Ireland might be considered a colony; and certainly she was as misgoverned as any of them. This fact seemed to point out the remedy,—that of changing the system of government under which expensive establishments were required. If that were done, they might then look forward to better times.
said, that the noble lord had instanced the case of two regiments now under orders for foreign service, which had passed but six years at home after having served abroad for seventeen. This case was intended to show, that the army did not admit of any reduction. But what would become of the noble lord's argument if it could be shown that such instances grew out of a system new to the army,—the system of dépôt companies; and that they must continue to arise so long as that system was persevered in? Those establishments consisted of eleven thousand four hundred and twenty four rank and file, which were rendered totally inefficient by being scattered about in small detachments, and stationed in places where they were not wanted. The consequence was, that the battalions were frittered down to a small number; and thence arose the necessity of greater and more rapid demands for foreign service. Military men were all agreed, that nothing could be more. injurious to the service. As to the noble lord's plan of reducing by individuals, not by battalions, he would ask, was it necessary to have a hundred and twenty battalions as a nucleus from which to recruit our army in the event of war? The plan adopted during the last war must be admitted to have worked well; and that was to reduce, whenever reductions were made, by battalions. Independently of the testimony of experience in its favour, there was this manifest advantage,—that it 632 allowed the country to get rid of the staff, while it increased the efficient force of the army. For these reasons, he was decidedly of opinion, that the system of retrenchment might be further applied than the noble lord seemed disposed to carry it.
§ Mr. Monck
said, that in the few words he should offer, he would confine himself exclusively to the dead-weight; under which head there were some items that seemed to call for examination. He was aware that in that House the example of America was not likely to find admirers; upon which account he would make no appeal to the system pursued in the American army; but the example of France was not regarded with the same jealousy or repugnance. The government of France was more monarchical, but, happily for her people, less aristocratical than our own. The power of the Crown might be less restrained, but the interests of the people were more consulted. To the practice of the French army he therefore would appeal. The first point he should notice in the regulations of the French army was, that their system admitted of no such thing as the retiring of officers upon full pay. Yet no man could doubt of the efficiency of the French army. Another article in the deadweight, was the pensions granted to officers' widows, which amounted to no less a sum than 143,000l. It was, he believed, only within these few years, that pensions became uniformly granted to the widows of officers. In former times, they used to be granted only in particular cases, and with certain conditions, and the widow was obliged to declare that she did not receive double the amount of the pension from any other source. Every man must wish to see, not only the officers' widows provided for, but their children, and, if possible, their children's children. But the French had contrived a method of providing for the widows without casting the burthen on the people. There was a regulation in the French army, that no officer should marry without first making a settlement on his wife, in proportion to the amount of his pay. He should be glad to know, why the same system might not be adopted in our own service. With what face could we read lectures to the poor on the guilt of improvident marriages, while we held out a bounty to officers to contract marriages without regard to the same consideration. If officers' widows were to be pensioned, was there not as much reason 633 for pensioning the widow of the common soldier? Nothing should be done retrospectively, but much might be done prospectively, for the alleviation of our burthens by attending to the example of France. Supposing the English army to be placed upon the same footing with that of France, a saving of 621,000l. would be the immediate consequence.
§ Sir H. Vivian
said, that the regiments which were raised at the commencement of the war were at first inefficient, in consequence of the want of skeleton regiments to graft them on; though they quickly became efficient afterwards. He did not hesitate to express his opinion, that if in 1793 a larger and better disciplined force had been sent out to the continent, the war would not have been prolonged, nor the expense incurred have been so excessive. The hon. gentleman who spoke last, did not wish too see the widows who now, held pensions deprived of them; but the country would not, he was sure, wish, either now or at any future time, to see the widows of officers, who had served and bled for their country, deprived of the miserable pittance which the humanity and justice of that country had provided.
§ Mr. A. Dawson
compared the conduct of parliament in voting away sums without investigating its means of payment, to that of a private gentleman, who proceeded to arrange his establishment, without considering whether he was capable of bearing the expense. He maintained that if a Sinking-fund of five millions was to be kept up, the country could not support its present establishments, and defray the amount of its taxation.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the noble lord had greatly mistaken his words, if he supposed that he had complained of his having turned into the right way. For his own part, though he was willing to give the noble lord credit whenever he went right, he was determined never to cease to blame him for having gone wrong so long. The present system ought not to be continued. As it was, every 100,000l. of stock purchased by government was at a loss of fifteen or twenty per cent. He was sorry to hear the right hon. gentleman talk of the saving made by the buying up of stock through the means of Exchequer-bills. The right hon. gentleman, in calculating the saving, only looked at these bills during half their progress, He should wait until the bills were funded, before he spoke of 634 a saving. In fact, many of those bills were funded at a loss of forty per cent. He hoped the new ministry would put an end to such expensive absurdities. He trusted that the hon. gentleman (Mr. Calcraft), who had such confidence in them, would urge them to the good work. He entertained but little hope that the reduction to the extent of ten thousand men would be now effected, while a military chief presided at the head of the cabinet. He was anxious, however, to put the question fairly before the country, and to show that no reason, at the present moment, existed against such a reduction. Did gentlemen wish to see Ireland tranquillized? Let them effect a reduction of thirty thousand men in their military establishment, and ministers would make the people of Ireland friends, instead of keeping them down as foes. As long as a great military force was maintained in that country—as long as Ireland was like Jamaica, a garrisoned colony—so long the people would continue discontented. The country called for a reduction in the army, and there existed no reason why that reduction should not be effected.
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, the hon. member was in error in charging him with inconsistency on the subject of the Sinking fund. He was not an advocate of paying off the debt with a Sinking fund, while there existed no real surplus from which it could be taken. But as the law stood, they must find money to keep it up, as well as every other establishment. He could not but hail the maiden ignorance exhibited by the new lords of the Treasury on this subject as a happy omen. Those three gentlemen stood unpledged to all ancient fallacies, and when the Finance Committee met, they would be ready to give their support to a new and improved system. He was glad that the new lords of the Treasury were not implicated in the support of lord Bexley's delusions. He expected much from the duke of Wellington. He was sincerely impressed with the conviction, that there was no man more likely to make a reform in the expenditure of the country, with the exception of one noble friend of his, than the present head of the government. Objections had been raised to the present as being a military government. That was perfect nonsense. He was sure the duke would not allow his military character to interfere with the discharge of his civil duties.
§ The Committee divided: for the Grant 106. For the Amendment 16. Majority, 90.