HC Deb 15 May 1835 vol 27 cc1155-8
Viscount Howick

rose, and said, the hon. Member for Middlesex was aware, that the calling out of the Militia was attended always with great objections. That it was attended with a very great inconvenience and expense. The mere calling out of the militia, independent of the Staff expenses, was attended with an expenditure of never less than 100,000l., frequently as high as 150,000l., and in addition to that, the ballot of the militia cost a sum varying according to the number of vacancies that occurred, from 10,000l. to 40,000l. If the ballot took place this year when there had been none for four years, the whole establishment would have had to be called out, and the ballot would have cost at least 40,000l. But, further, it was perfectly well known to hon. Members, that the ballot for militia at all times, and especially in times of peace, was a subject of great hardship to the poorer classes, because it operated not like a common tax, but as a poll tax, which was by far the hardest and most unjust of all taxes. It was to avoid the necessity of that tax that the corps of yeomanry were formed; and the yeomanry as he (Lord Howick) believed, were not so extravagant in their amount; because, as the House would recollect, a few years ago, Lord Lansdowne reduced all those corps of yeomanry, which within a certain time had not been called out; and therefore, it was only for those corps which were actually required that any expense was incurred. The greatest pains had been taken to remove unnecessary expenditure. He thought it hardly necessary to say more on this point. An hon. Member had said, that in other countries yeomanry of that description were maintained without expense. But that was not the case here. The National Guard of France was considered as a very great burthen upon the people, and though different names were employed in various countries, the military service was always felt to be very burthen-some, as in Germany and Belgium. He believed that there was no means of keeping up a force equal to that which was adopted with reference to this country, without great expense, and, he confessed, that he considered it of very great advantage to have a body of that kind kept up; a body of persons who, though they might receive pay when actually employed by the public, did not, in fact, receive as much in pay as it cost them to serve.—With respect to what had been observed by the hon. Member for Oldham, certainly nothing was further from the intention of Government than to keep up a force for tyrannical purposes; and he(Lord Howick) must observe this, that when the hon. Member for Oldham pronounced his favorite declamations against the New Poor Law Bill, and affirmed that the yeomanry were rendered necessary from the operation of that Act, he begged to call to the hon. Member's recollection that the most serious disturbances which had ever occurred in this country, were produced by those abuses in the Poor Laws, against which the Act of last Session was directed.

Mr. Scholefield

said, that if it ever should be necessary to use the yeomanry, the consequences would be such as he would not attempt to describe; he thought that the old voluntary system called into service in former times was far preferable to the present one. The yeomanry were generally of a class superior to the lower sort of persons, and therefore much more anxious to ride over them than to meet their demands in a fair and proper way. [Cries of "No! no!"]

Mr. Ward

differed from the hon. Member for Birmingham, he (Mr. Ward) considered the yeomanry corps was the most effectual, most constitutional force that could be employed in this country. The allowances were not in any way adequate to them, when actually called out into service; 3s. 4d. for each man and horse, and only this when actually in service; and as to the constitution, he (Mr. Ward) said, they were composed of the very same individuals who would be sworn in as special constables in the event of a disturbance taking place; namely, substantial yeomen. As to party spirit, he had seen, it was true, Reformer and Radical, Whig and Tory, all united together, so far as the keeping up good order, acting together for the preservation of peace, the enforcement of the law, and the maintenance of harmony in the country. As to its efficiency, it was in the power of Government to augment its efficiency or to diminish it. He was for a more vigorous inspection, and was highly desirous that it should take place; but then they must recollect that this was a force which was constantly dormant except at the moment when it was wanted in the hour of danger. It was a force which never appeared; which formed an additional weight upon the country, and, incase of tumult, always ready to act in concert with the civil power. He thought, therefore, that the vote was perfectly unexceptionable, and that it should not meet with opposition.

Mr. Cobbett

disclaimed any intention to impute tyrannical motives to the Government, but the noble Lord was mistaken as to the origin of the disturbances which arose from the distresses of the poor, and those were produced by their hard treatment, and especially by the system of hired overseers.

Sir C. Dalbiac

had always considered the Yeomanry Corps as the natural protectors of the country, and one of the natural means of preserving its internal tranquillity, and he had therefore always regretted their reduction by Lord Lansdowne.

Mr. Buckingham

said, that he entertained views upon this subject very different from those of most of the gentlemen by whom he was surrounded. He objected to any establishment of yeomanry whatever, on the ground, first of their inefficiency, and next of their unconstitutionality. There was no military men who would not admit that they were far inferior to the regular troops of the line for putting down any actual disturbances; and it was therefore injudicious to keep up an inefficient, while you could have a perfectly efficient, force. But it was also unconstitutional to select any body of citizens for temporary periods and temporary purposes, and arm them with deadly weapons against their fellow-countrymen. What he desired to see was this: that the regular troops should never be employed except in defending the country from foreign invasion; for it was monstrous to send out any body of Englishmen to draw the sword against any other body of the same nation; and next to this to see the civil power alone invoked for the suppression of any tumult, that it might be done pacifically and without bloodshed. He was therefore for decreasing the standing army as well as the yeomanry, and increasing on the other hand the constabulary and the preventive police. If they wanted a proof of how useless it was to attempt to keep a country in content by military and yeomanry, they need only look to the sister country, Ireland, where both existed in the greatest force, and discontent was increased rather than diminished by their presence. Good government was a better pacificator of the turbulent than either; and in this conviction he should give his vote for the reduction proposed by his hon. Friend.

Mr. Estcourt

stated it to be his impression that if the Government were not prepared to maintain a large constabulary force in the country, at an enormous expense, it would be utterly impossible to maintain the public peace, unless by keeping up the yeomanry corps.

Mr. Charles Pelham

rose to give a flat contradiction to the assertion of the Member for Birmingham, that the yeomanry were merely political partizans, having commanded a corp of yeomanry for some time.

Captain Pechell

expressed his satisfaction with the yeomanry corps of Sussex.

Mr. Hume

was determined to press his Amendment to a division.

The Committee divided on the Amendment, Ayes 17; Noes 77; Majority 60.

Resolution agreed to; the House resumed.