§ Mr. Hume
rose on a point of order. He thought it was now proposed to take a course different from that which the House had ever taken. He was not aware that the pensioners were other than civilians. He was not aware that they were subject to martial law, or liable to penalties for the breach of martial discipline; and, therefore, he thought that they could not be placed under the provisions of the Mutiny Act, unless the House first determined the number to be employed. The House must first resolve into committee, and settle the number, By the sixth clause of the bill, the pensioners were to be made subject to the Mutiny Act and the articles of war, and he wished to know whether there was any precedent for proceeding with such a bill without the House first deciding the number of men to be employed? He had also an objection to the House passing the bill without provision being made by Parliament, for the pay and expenses of the men.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
said it was perfectly true that these men were not now under the provisions of the Mutiny Act, but it was also true that every other description of force in this country, when they were called out in aid of the civil power, and arms were placed in their hands, was liable to the provisions of the Mutiny Act. This was the case with the yeomanry force, and the law had been so for the last forty years. These pensioners were now liable to be called out in aid of the civil force, and the experience of last year had exhibited the inefficiency of this force when so called out, and it was therefore deemed necessary that they should be armed when called out; and when they were armed it was not prudent or safe that they should not be under the provisions of the Mutiny Act. This was the case of the volunteer corps in 1804, and even gentlemen belonging to them when called 643 out in aid of the civil power were placed under the provisions of the Mutiny Act. Under these circumstances, the Government thought it right to place the pensioners when called out under the provisions of that act. With respect to the number of men proposed to be called out, he had stated the other evening that in his opinion it would not exceed 10,000; but that was merely a vague answer, and he did not mean to say, that the number might not be less or even more in emergencies. It was impossible to propose a vote of money for the expenses, because the expenses could not be stated. The expense would depend on circumstances. There might be no necessity for calling the pensioners out. In the meantime he hoped they might be allowed to go into committee on the bill. He must, in conclusion, observe, that it was even now in the power of the Crown to call out the pensioners, and that power had been exercised in the year 1819, when 10,000 men were called out in aid of the civil power.
§ Mr. Hume
, in explanation, begged to say, that in 1819 an estimate had been laid on the Table of the House, and all the details relative to the 10,000 men then called out were given. He however wished to ask whether there was not an express statute which enabled her Majesty to accept the services of volunteers who were a wholly different class from that comprised by the bill? The objections to the measure had not, he thought, been answered.
§ Mr. W. Williams
said, every man in England as well as the pensioners, might now be called out in aid of the civil power, and was obliged under a penalty to serve as a special constable. But they would not be liable to be brought within the operation of the Mutiny Act, as would the pensioners who might be called out under the bill. He should be glad if the right hon. Baronet the Secretary at War would point out the Act of Parliament which placed the pensioners in that position. He was not aware of the existence of any such statute.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
thought he should be quite in order if he now moved that the order of the day for the committee on this bill be read this day three months. The sooner the bill was stopped the better. He should oppose the bill in every stage, and take the sense of the House upon it. He had declared that intention the other even- 644 ing, and he now rose to fulfil it, for nothing he had heard on the second reading, and nothing he had heard to-night, at all induced him to regret the opposition he had already given to this insidious and unconstitutional measure; and all he could say was, that if, to the eternal disgrace of his side of the House, and to the lasting shame of the other side of the House, this bill should become the law of the land, it should not stain the statute book without the House and the country being put in possession of the insidious character of the provisions which polluted the pages of this bill. He could only look at the measure as an attempt on the part of the present Government to undermine still further the few remaining rights and privileges of the people. He could only regard it as an attempt on the part of the present Ministry to stifle that expression of the public voice which must be given before many months were passed, against the odious system of selfish legislation which had been so long pursued in that House, and which every hour and every day tended to augment the wrongs and sufferings of the people, which he was ready to prove were at this moment almost past endurance. No one was more ready to admit than he was that the public peace must be maintained, that the rights of property must be respected, and that the supremacy of the law must be vindicated; and no man was more ready than he was to furnish the Government with means for those objects; but he maintained that no case of emergency at present existed; that no necessity had been shown to prevail which could justify the House in passing and consenting to this measure. His grounds of objection were threefold. First, he objected to the period of the Session at which her Majesty's Ministers had thought proper to introduce this most important measure; he objected to the measure itself, looking at its character and tendency; and, thirdly and lastly, he objected to it because there was nothing in the circumstances of the country or in the conduct of the people of this country that could justify her Majesty's Ministers in bringing forward so unconstitutional, so cruel, and (as he must call it) so cut-throat a measure as that which it was now proposed to go into. He might appeal to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government whether, considering that this was now the 14th of August, looking at the deserted benches 645 both behind and in front of the right hon. Baronet, it was advisable to proceed further with this measure during the present Session. This House had now been six months and a half assembled, and had never heard of this measure before it was introduced. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, had referred to the vote of the number of men for the service of the year made and consented to in the month of April or May last, and he complained of want of candour on the part of her Majesty's Ministers, when the House consented to the enormous vote of men, in not having then told the House and the country that they intended to take to themselves the power of increasing the standing army by from 10,000 to 50,000 men if they thought proper. There were at present about 76,000 out-pensioners of Chelsea, and the right hon. the Secretary at War had told the House it was not the intention of the Government to arm at present more than about 10,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman stated; that 5,000 would do for England, 2,000 for Scotland, and about 3,000 for Ireland; but still let the House remember that the bill gave unlimited power to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and to the Secretary-at-War, to increase the standing army to any extent they might think proper, if they could only find men into whose hands they could place muskets. He repeated they might arm from 10,000 to 50,000 men; and he must say that her Majesty's Government had behaved most unjustly and unfairly to the House and country in bringing forward this measure at the present moment. Let the House just look at the measure which had been abandoned in order to make way for this most insidious and unconstitutional measure. What had become of the pledge given last Session to ameliorate the provisions of the Poor laws of this country? It was true the right hon. Baronet had been absolved from redeeming that pledge, but he would never have consented to that proceeding had he known of such an unconstitutional measure as that now under consideration. But what were the measures which had been disposed of? The Government had passed a Registration Act for England—a miserable measure not at all adequate to, or commensurate to the wishes of the people with regard to the elective franchise. What had become of the Factories Bill?—though 646 it might have been right to withdraw the educational clauses, still the Government ought to have proceeded with the other portions of the bill which regulated the employment of children in factories, which as far as they went might have been of considerable service to that suffering portion of the community. But it had been abandoned. Again, look at the fate of the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill—a measure which they had been told early in the Session, by the Prime Minister when he called God to witness, was one of the most honest and righteous bills ever introduced into Parliament; and yet that bill had, he supposed, been put aside in order to make way for this measure. Again, he must inquire what had become of the County Courts Bill? Why had it not been proceeded with? It had been introduced long before this measure, and it had been said it would bring cheap justice to every man's door; instead of that however, here was a measure which would carry bayonets into every man's house, at least in the manufacturing districts. Then he must ask the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home Department what had become of the Prisons Discipline Bill, which lay at present in the midst of a mass of legislation? That bill had been announced two or three months ago, and brought in before this iniquitous measure, but there it lay perdu amongst many other measures, in obedience to the senseless clamour which a portion of the senseless magistrates of the country had raised against it. But he must now entreat the House to look at the character of this measure itself. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had correctly described it as an arbitrary and unconstitutional measure, giving powers such as no Minister ever before asked, and which even Lord Sidmouth or Lord Castlereagh would not have dared to introduce. It was worse than all the Six Acts put together. Look at the number of men that might be enrolled by a warrant from the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Then the country was to be divided into districts of an extent at the pleasure of the Secretary of State, and the men enrolled were to serve not only in their own but in all adjoining districts. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had called this a dormant local force. It was no such thing. It was a most active and dangerous force, to be employed against the li- 647 berties of the people. The Government might volunteer these men for garrison duty, and the Secretary at war was to make regulations for their clothing, for the equipments, and for their pay. But out of what funds were they to be clothed, equipped, and paid? Would the Secretary at War, or any other member of the Government, provide the payment out of his own pocket? If not the expenses must come out of the public purses. He believed, therefore, there was an objection in point of form against this bill. It ought to have been introduced in a committee of the whole House, because it entailed taxation upon the people. The clothing, the arms, and the pay of this body of men, would be a charge upon the people of this country; and he had yet to learn why this bill should not have been introduced in a committee of the whole House in the same way as had been the Militia Pay Bill. He hoped the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had consulted some authority on the point, otherwise it would be necessary to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair to examine the clauses of this bill, and pronounce his opinion on the point of order. Then what were the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, the other evening as a justification of this measure? The right hon. Gentleman said, "Look at the state of Wales, look at the state of Staffordshire, and look also at the experience you have had in the manufacturing districts during the last year." The right hon. Gentleman had repeated those sentiments this evening. But, looking at what had actually taken place last year in the manufacturing districts the Government had told the House and the country in the Queen's speech at the commencement of the Session that the ordinary laws of the land, promptly enforced, had been sufficient to repel all these disorders and disturbances which had taken place during the last autumn. But was not this bill something more than the ordinary laws? The Government did not tell them then that they contemplated such a measure as this. True, the other night the Government had informed the House that when last year they passed a bill in relation to half pay officers, they then had in contemplation to call out these pensioners. In common candour they ought in the first instance to have communicated that intention to the House. He contended 648 that this measure was not just or fair to the pensioners themselves. They were civilians to all intents and purposes, they might be called out to serve as special constables, and in no other way had the Government any claim upon them. He desired to be informed whether the pensioners knew anything at all at the present moment of this measure, or whether, in point of fact, the Government by this bill were not taking them by surprise. He had received many communications on the subject from pensioners themselves. To one which he had received this morning he must call the attention of the House. And what did the writer state? He said—With what reckless haste is the Government legislating to compel 76,000 men to take arms against their country; not one of them knows a single clause of this bill which so much concerns them. I am a pensioner myself, I have served several years and I am now receiving nothing near what was contracted with me at the time I enlisted I should receive after a faithful period of service. The country is now only performing its part of the contract towards me. I am not a pauper; on the contrary, I am not beholden to the Government—especially such a Government as the present, who would force me to take arms against my starving countrymen. I am at present employing myself as a schoolmaster, and therefore am not liable to be called upon to serve as a special constable; but under the bill am I to be compelled to leave home? If you cannot stop this infamous bill you can perhaps pass a clause to exempt persons from being called out who are already exempt from serving as special constables. Many pensioners are now in comfortable situations, and in different employments, and if this bill passes they would be obliged either to give up their pensions or their living. Would they in such a case act with the Government or take part with the people? The refusal to serve as a special constable incurred a penalty of 5l. Would not such a fine be a sufficient penalty upon a pensioner who would not give up his situation to serve under the provisions of this bill? As far as my knowledge has gone the pensioners are directly opposed to the present Government, and if arms are put into their hands how will they use them, especially in Ireland? I will not trespass further on your time than to express a hope that you will succeed in your attempt to stop this invidious and odious measure.That was the letter of a pensioner receiving the pay of the Government. He contended that this man spoke that which he had a right to speak; he was a civilian, and owed the Government no allegiance 649 beyond that of a civilian, for the Government was, by the payment of his pension, only performing its contract after his period of service had expired. The Government and Parliament had no business they had no right—to pass a measure which would bring that man within the operation of the Mutiny Act, and enable the Government to tear him from his home and subject him to flogging. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the pensioners had run away at Manchester. He was totally ignorant where they ran away from; but let the Government take care if they put arms in their hands, they did not run away and leave their arms behind them. He trusted in God that these men would not be induced to massacre their fellow countrymen merely to keep the present Government in power. What have her Majesty's Ministers done for the people and for the country to justify them in asking Parliament to strengthen their hands in older to keep the people in their present state of degradation, and not allow them to meet and convey their complaints to their ears or to the ears of their Sovereign? Yet, that was the object of this measure. What an ominous silence had been observed by the Government with respect to Ireland. One object of the bill was to allow these pensioners to volunteer for garrison duty, and so set free a certain portion of the regular army, who were now doing garrison duty in this country to act against the people of Ireland. Why, then, not at once say, that the state of Ireland required additional forces, and that they (the Government) could not spare more from this country without substituting some other? But let the Government look at the state of Ireland, and say what they had done for that country. Let them look at the state of things which presented itself to their view. The masses of the people were meeting day after day, and their own Lord Chancellor declared their proceedings were high treason, and yet the Government did not dare to treat them as such, (though the other day they had sent the rev. Mr. O'Neill, for twelve months to Stafford goal merely for making a very foolish speech abusing the Duke of Wellington, Sir R. Peel, and abusing also most justly that House. For that Stupid speech O'Neill had been prosecuted and tried, and the Government had succeeded in obtaining a conviction. Now he could read passages from speeches made by 650 Members of that House in Ireland ten hundred fold worse and more calculated to excite a breach of the peace than anything addressed by this individual to some 300 or 400 men in Staffordshire; but the Government dared not to go near those individuals. But when they had turned their backs upon this Session of Parliament they would, he did not doubt, exercise very different measures towards Ireland, and that proclamations like those of last year in this country would be issued. It was understood that this year her Majesty would have visited Ireland. Why had not the Government consented to allow her Majesty to afford the same gratification to her Irish subjects as last year she had given to the people of Scotland? He believed if her Majesty did go to Ireland she would be received from one end of that country to the other with enthusiastic approbation and delight. She would he believed, see no disposition on the part of the Irish people to throw off the yoke of England. It had always been said that Irishmen were loyal even to weakness, and he believed her Ma-Majesty, if she went to Ireland, would see a full illustration of that saying. But why did not her Majesty visit this year that part of her dominions? Why, for the simple reason that those by whom she must be accompanied dared not to show their faces in that country. That was not the first Sovereign they had served so. They did the same thing to William 4th, in the year 1830, when he had promised the citizens of London to attend a festival they had prepared for him. The greater number of the present Ministers were in power then, but they durst not show their faces in the City of London, and William 4th was obliged to forego the satisfaction of visiting it, and the citizens of London the honour of entertaining their Sovereign. That was the last act of the Tory Government of that day, and he trusted that this measure would be the last of the present Administration. Why should it not be so? He knew that they were backed by a majority who supported them against the wish of the country in every iniquitous measure, and allowed themselves to be dragged through the mire. Now and then, indeed, a little spite was let out, but it went no further; indeed, it was a sort of spite of which the right hon. Baronet might well be proud. But he wished to know if this augmentation of the standing 651 army was the only remedial measure Her Majesty's Government had to offer the people of this country? Nobody knew better how to dress up an argument or a measure than the right hon. Baronet, and his speech the other evening was a most plausible one. The right hon. Baronet offered a little "soft sawder" to the hon. member for Salford, and a little sugar candy to the hon. Member for Lambeth, who were deluded into the support of this bill. There was nothing whatever to justify the passing of such a bill, and every Member of that House ought to feel it his duty to oppose it. The disappointment of the people, at the close of the session, at Her Majesty's Government having nothing to offer them but this dangerous and unconstitutional measure would be very great, and more particularly in the manufacturing districts. Would this bill carry anything like comfort or solace to a distressed population? Would it give employment to the poor, or food to the hungry, or clothing to the naked? They knew it would do no such thing. It would lead only to increased expenditure of the public money, to the augmentation of Government patronage, and to great heart-burnings and discontent in the manufacturing districts. If the parties named in the bill were ever called out to act in these districts the consequences must be most serious, involving, perhaps, loss of life amongst those engaged in the discharge of the duty imposed upon them. The presence and services of the regular troops produced no exasperation and bitterness of feeling to rankle in the minds of the population after their departure. They might, indeed, leave cause for great grief behind them, but no exasperated feelings against men who properly performed their duty. But if these pensioners, who lived among the people, enjoying with them the rights of citizenship, were called out, was it to be supposed that they and their houses would not be marked objects by the populace? The yeomanry were sufficiently objectionable, but the employment of these pensioners in large manufacturing towns would be more so. He, therefore, implored the House and the Government to pause before they proceeded with this bill. He called upon the House not to place the rights and liberties of the people of this country at the caprice and whim of any Minister of State, whoever he might be. If they did so they must be prepared to consider 652 themselves no longer as free citizens of a free country, but to live and die the slaves of a military despotism, because military despotism was the only ground upon which the bill rested, and the only object which was sought to be established by it. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the bill be committed that day three months.
§ Mr. Williams
, in seconding the motion, reminded the House that already there was a standing army, including engineers and marines, of 145,000 able-bodied men; there were 80,793 men on half-pay, out of which 25,000 were described in the army estimates as unfit for service. Taking the number proposed to be put into active service by this bill, the military force would be increased to 202,000. No fewer than 17,600 yeomen were mentioned in the estimates for this year, to which five regiments had since been added. Then there was the Irish police force of 5,000 men, essentially a military body equal to any of the like number in Europe; the county and metropolitan police force amounted to 11,490 men; altogether the whole available military or armed force at the command of the Government would be 240,000 men. No one who had any regard for the rights and liberties of the nation could view such a state of things without alarm. It was the pride of our ancestors that they were governed without military force, and one of the greatest sovereigns of Britain had boasted that her guards were her people. Every man who was interested in the preservation of life and property in this country must resist every despotism and attempts to establish a military despotism. This measure would not remove the distress and dissatisfaction which pervaded every class in this country except the oligarchy, who lived by taxation and derived their power and influence from monopoly. Let the Government take warning from experience. Large masses of their countrymen were reduced to a rate of wages upon which it was impossible for them to live. They were not pressed down by their employers without necessity, for their employers were as greatly distressed as themselves. A million and a half were receiving relief from poor rates. Ten millions were living on the lowest description of food, potatoes and oatmeal, and food searcely fit for hogs; and even of such miserable fare they could not get enough. Their dwellings, wretched 653 hovels and cellars, were of the same character as their food. According to eminent medical testimony the ordinary average of mortality should not exceed one in fifty-four, but in Liverpool, for instance, through the badness of food and lodging, it was as one in twenty-eight. Let Her Majesty's Government remember that to such sufferings amongst the labouring population were attributable all the incendiarisms of "Swing," and the outrages and tumults that had followed them even up to the very last year. Transportation and imprisonment had been extensively tried, but the root of the evil was not removed. The people in South Wales were at this moment in a state of insurrection, a part of the country where rebellion had not been known for 400 years past. He observed a noble Lord opposite smiling; but he would tell that noble Lord that he must not depend upon the strong arm of military force to put down discontent excited by distress. If only one company of soldiers should refuse to tire upon the people he would not give six months' purchase for the noble Lord's title. Let them look at France. The Royal Guards of that country joined the people in attacking the Bastile; and it was found that the 25,000 foreign troops in that country were unable to put down the distress and discontent which had arisen there from the same causes which now affected this country. He besought the Government not to depend upon such means as this bill to tranquillize and satisfy the people, but to have recourse to sound measures, founded upon the feelings and interests of the people. The right hon. Baronet, in 1835, said, that no Ministry could stand without a majority in that House and the confidence of the nation. The right hon. Baronet had got the majority, but without him that majority would be nothing. His talent was the very source of the power of that majority, brief as it was. He besought the right hon. Baronet to compare the description of the happiness of the English people as given by Lord Chancellor Fortescue in his clay, with their wretched condition at present, and then let him ask himself if he could rest satisfied with passing such a measure as this. The right hon. Baronet might take a proud position if he would at once propose remedial measures for the prevalent distress. But, instead of that, he allowed himself 654 and his Government to be made instruments of extortion for the support of the oligarchy. Holding these views, he had great pleasure in seconding the amendment.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
would lose no time in answering an observation of the hon. Member who had just sat down, who had declared that no dependence was to be placed in the British army. [Mr. Williams. I beg pardon—I never said so.] He was satisfied that every man in the army sensibly and deeply sympathized with the distress of his fellow-subjects, but at the same time the army knew that when called on by their officers they had a duty to perform—a duty which they would perform with energy and firmness, whilst at the same time they exercised the utmost mercy and forbearance. He would also say, with respect to any attempt to tamper with the loyalty of the army, that, composed as it was, of men as incorruptible as they were brave; all such insinuations as those they had lately heard, and heard of, would fall as powerless on their minds as he hoped they would fall powerless on the good sense of the country. When the hon. Member talked of the abuses of a standing army, he told him that in his opinion an army constituted like ours, was a protection rather than a detriment to British liberty. We permitted a licentiousness which, under any other constitution than that of Great Britain, might be fatal to the public peace. With us, however, meetings were held and language was employed which no other empire would permit, and which nothing but the confidence of the Crown in the army could justify even our Government in permitting. The hon. Member for Finsbury had used very strong expressions, and had described this bill as a bill which would give a facility to the Government to send forth the army to act as cut-throats. He repudiated such statements with the utmost indignation. He asserted that the only object of the bill was to enable pensioners in riotously disposed districts to perform their duty to their Sovereign more effectually than heretofore. The Crown, it should be recollected, already had the power of calling out these pensioners for the purposes of garrison duty. That power was exercised by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) in 1819, and the Parliament in the next Session justified and approved of his conduct. To assert that the same body of men might be called 655 out to act as a police, was in fact only to assert that they might be called upon to act as British subjects should act. In 1830 they had been called on to act in this capacity. In 1832 and 1833 their services had also been required, and in 1839 the noble Lord (the Member for London) had not only called them out, but he had done more; for during the sitting of Parliament he absolutely sent to upwards of fifty places in the manufacturing districts 6,000 swords, 8,080 pistols, and a corresponding number of muskets. Now, he (Sir H. Hardinge) did not at all disapprove of what the noble Lord had done on that occasion; but, approving or disapproving of his conduct, it was at least a proof of the power possessed by the Crown over this body. In fact, the Police Act of 1829 shewed the extent of that power. Under that act the police of the Metropolis, at the order of the Secretary of State could be armed precisely as the justices thought fit. [Mr. T. Duncombe.—Not with fire-arms.] "Precisely as the justices thought fit." These were, he believed, the terms; but whether they would be armed with fire-arms or not in London, at any rate the police could be, and indeed they were, armed with fire-arms in Ireland. But, as he had said, arms had been sent down in 1839 to the manufacturing districts; 500 swords and 400 pistols went to Stockport—a fact worthy of notice by the hon. Member for that place. Now, doubtless, it was quite right to send those arms thither, but let him ask, would it not have been better to put them into the hands of the pensioners after they had been duly enrolled, and when they were in a fit state to serve as a disciplined force? It was both safe and prudent to the public that parties armed should be subject to military law, and it was for that wise and sound constitutional reason that the gentlemen yeomen of the county were invited to constitute a militia instead of being asked to serve without order, discipline, or enrollment. This bill, therefore, so far from having an unconstitutional tendency, was adapted to carry out one of the first principles of our constitution. Then with regard to the harshness of the measure upon the pensioners themselves. He had already explained that a power existed to call out the force. They were liable, in fact, to forfeit their pensions if they refused to obey that call, and the fact was, that in 1819 a great many did so 656 forfeit their pensions. Well, then, the power existing to call them out, and that power being in the special warrant of her Majesty, the question was how they might be called out most satisfactorily to their own feelings. Now, the truth was, that the great body of the pensioners were highly gratified with the arrangement this bill proposed to make. They felt that, in future, instead of a veteran being exposed to an encounter in the street with a younger man than himself, disposed to use his weapon with a lawless violence, which the old soldier could not reciprocate—they felt that henceforth they would go in a body, as they had been accustomed to go when in her Majesty's service, under control, and subject to command. They felt that at present they too often appeared in the public places rather as a rabble than as a disciplined force; and, besides this, they had in many cases a great objection to be called upon to serve as a police. In two instances last year officers had resigned their situations in consequence of being called upon to act in that capacity. The hon. Member had read a letter from a pensioner urging that he was a school-master, and that, as he was not liable to be called on as a special constable, some arrangement ought to be made to prevent his being called upon to serve under the provisions of this bill. Whenever a case occurred in which a pensioner could claim exemption, he assured the hon. Member that that pensioner would not be called upon to serve, and, as service would most probably be very rarely required, those exemptions would be made in a very liberal spirit. For these reasons—because the bill was a constitutional, a safe, and a prudent measure—he trusted the House would concur in passing it. He had consulted the Member for Edinburgh, his predecessor at the War-office, upon the subject, and that right hon. Gentleman had expressed his entire approbation of the measure; and had authorised him to state to the House in his name, that he thought the bill a very proper one, because either they should not employ old pensioners at all, or else they should make them useful in their vocation. With respect to the objection of the hon Gentleman, regarding the time at which the bill was brought in, he begged leave to explain, that it was delayed in consequence of the arrangements regarding the payment of the out-pen- 657 sioners not having been until very recently perfected. With regard to the manner in which the men would be employed, he was ready to pledge himself that they would only be used as a local corps—that they would not be available for general service—and would not be required to march from one part of the country to another, nor out of their own district. To a bill with such moderate and useful provisions he had no hesitation in asking them to give their assent.
§ Mr. E. B. Roche
said, that at the end of a Session which had lasted above six months, during which nothing had been done to alleviate the miseries or to redress the abuses of the people, it was not wonderful to him that an attempt should be made to repress the discontent of the masses by the exercise of force. The right hon. Gentleman had declared the measure to be within precedent—he had asserted that the pensioners had on former occasions been called out. If that were the case, what was the necessity for passing the bill at all? If they had these powers before—if they possessed them now, why ask for still stronger measures? Was it that the people were more discontented—was it that the political horizon was looking darker? If so, why not boldly state the fact? As a Government presiding over the destinies of a country like this, it was not by force of arms, but by force of reason and by force of justice, that they ought to guard against the coming storm. In looking for a precedent for this bill, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the arming of the police in Ireland. He recommended that allusion to the attention of the English Members. When next they were passing coercive laws against Ireland, let them remember that the precedent might be quoted against themselves—that those who would not object to carry out the principle as regarded Ireland would not object also to carry it out as regarded England. The gallant officer stated that when those pensioners were called out they could not be used for any other than local purposes. That might apparently be true, but substantially it was otherwise. Though the clause said their services were limited to local districts, yet the Government might make these districts as extensive as they thought proper. The 4th clause gave those pensioners the power to volunteer for garrison duty, and clothed with the authority of the present bill the Govern- 658 ment might hold out any inducement that they thought proper for the purpose of prevailing on these men so to volunteer. They might offer them 2s. or 2s. 6d. a day in addition to their pensions; for, as disturbance increased, the value of those men's services would be enhanced—as funds went down pensioners would rise in value. This bill, then, would enable the Executive Government to garrison the whole country, and the standing army would then be completely at their disposal; in fact, the pensioners would be placed in the position of a standing army, and they would be available for any purpose. He rose, however, more immediately with the view of adverting to one remark which fell from the right hon. and gallant Officer who had just spoken, and in that remark he fully concurred—he quite agreed with him as to the fidelity of the army; but there had been observations made in another place by a noble and learned Lord on something that Mr. O'Connell had been reported to have said in Ireland on the subject. For his part, he fully adopted all that Mr. O'Connell had been reported to say. He wanted to know if he, as a free citizen of a free state, was not at liberty to speak in praise of the British army? If he believed it to be the bravest and the best, why might not he state that to be his belief? If he thought that the non-commissioned officers of that army were not treated as they deserved who was to prevent his saying so? In every other army promotion from the ranks was a matter of frequent occurrence. In the army of France the instances of such promotion were full fifty times as numerous as in that of England, while in point of merit the British army was superior to the French. Those were his opinions, and he could see nothing improper in stating them. He did not suspect the army, neither did he say that the right hon. and gallant Officer suspected the army; but the Gentlemen opposite suspected the army. Those who composed the army could not be men and not know that they were ill treated. It happened in other countries that men who rose from the ranks were presented with the baton of a marshal. The British army could not overlook such facts as those. As to the bill, he regarded it as a dangerous precedent; it gave to the Government the power of calling out 76,000 men. There had been many measures proposed during 659 the present Session of Parliament, the importance of which the Government themselves acknowledged; still those measures were delayed or withdrawn on very slight grounds of opposition, and the present bill was urged forward with the utmost pertinacity. With respect to Ireland the Government had military possession of that country. He should like to know how much more comfortable they felt upon that account. They attacked the leaders of the people for tampering with the army. As one of the leaders of the people he would say to them, you now possess a military occupation of the country, how long will you continue it? The people had the real possession of the country—it had been granted to them by an immutable decree of Providence, and it should never be usurped by man. The military possession of the country might be conformable to the military genius of the Government; but to the people of England he should say that they had established their personal and political rights by the sacrifice of their blood, and he hoped they would not be guilty of anything so suicidal as to stand by and see martial law proclaimed in any part of her Majesty's dominions. The Government of England must know that they did not possess the Government of Ireland—that the clergy kept the peace of that country; so long as the Queen's Ministers kept within the limits of the law, so long would the peace of the country be preserved, but if the law were once infringed no man could foretell the result; on the shoulders of the Ministry, however, must the responsibility rest.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, he did not concur with those hon. Members who showed so much constitutional jealousy of this measure. The Crown at all times possessed the power of calling out these 70,000 or 80,000 pensioners. The present bill added nothing to the power which the Crown always had of calling out the whole of those men. By the regulations under which the body existed they received their pension not only as a reward for the past but as a retaining fee for future services, and they were liable to be called on to serve in any part of Europe. With regard to the first portion of the bill it left the law precisely as it had previously been, but, as he understood the bill, its effect would be to enable the Government to avoid the necessity of calling out whole 660 classes of those men, as by the existing regulations they were bound to do. The bill, then, would get rid of an expensive and operose process, for as the law stood the men could not be called out without a proclamation, requiring all who received a certain rate of pension to repair to specified places, and when they arrived at those places many of them would be found unfit for duty, and then they must be sent back and their travelling expenses paid, thus occasioning great cost and inconvenience without any compensating advantage. Formerly the pensioners were paid by persons engaged in the collection of the revenue; of late, however, the payment of them had been entrusted to half-pay officers of the army. These officers could at any time make out a list of toe men fit for duty in their districts, and thus the number really required might be brought into active service without there being any necessity for calling out whole classes. The men might be called on by name, without demanding the presence of them in the mass. The other portion of the bill would have the effect of placing those men under the Mutiny Act, just as if the whole class to which they belonged had been called out. The selected few would then be under the same regulations as the aggregate, and to this part of the bill be confessed he did not see that there was any objection. As the law stood, the Government possessed the power of embodying those men without the consent of Parliament, but they could pay or clothe them only to a very limited extent, and for a very short time, without coming to Parliament for supplies. There was a sum of 109,000l. applicable to civil contingencies, a part of which might be applied to the pay and clothing of those men; but for anything beyond that Ministers must come to Parliament. So much for one part of the measure. In the former state of the law the Chelsea pensioners were liable to be called upon to act as special constables, when they would be entrusted with arms, and yet placed under very little restraint. The bill, however, would organize them as soldiers, and place them within the provisions of the Mutiny Act. To him it appeared highly important for the interests of the civil part of the population that the pensioners when called out should be placed within the provisions of the Mutiny Act, and governed by strict rules of discipline. Of 661 necessity their recent habits would tend to great laxity of discipline if such regulations were not enforced, and to keep them from casual excesses would be extremely difficult. He repeated that he saw no reason to object to the bill, for it merely gave to Ministers the means of more usefully exercising the acknowledged power of the Crown subject to their Parliamentary responsibility.
§ Mr. Bright
said, I believe the opinions of military men on questions of constitutional liberty have never been held to be of much value, and certainly the speech of the right hon. the Secretary at War is not calculated to make those opinions stand higher in the estimation of the public. The right hon. Gentleman has asserted that a standing army is one of the greatest safeguards of constitutional freedom, and that, in consequence of the existence of an overwhelming military force, the Government is enabled to permit great freedom in the expression of opinion, and to tolerate the holding of great meetings, and to allow what the right hon. Gentleman is pleased to term, even a licentiousness of liberty, and this from the consciousness that whenever these demonstrations become serious, and likely to produce evil results, they have the power to come down upon them with the soldiery, and to prevent any danger to the public peace. But does not the right hon. Gentleman know that the very existence of this loud clamour on the part of vast masses of the people, and the holding of these large meetings, is in some degree evidence that already there has been some infraction of constitutional liberty, and that there are grievances unredressed which the people can no longer bear? I would regard that as more favourable to constitutional freedom, which calmly, but anxiously, investigated the grounds of complaint, and honestly removed them, then that which permitted even a licentiousness of liberty in meetings and speeches, and yet enabled the Government to deny that justice for which the people called. I know not if this be the first time a standing army has been held in this House to be an ally of constitutional freedom, but I trust so monstrous a doctrine will never again be uttered here. But whatever may be the opinions of honourable Members opposite on this point, I am sure, out of doors, there is a great unanimity of feeling upon it. A standing army favourable to constitutional freedom! I hold it to be impossible that when men have relinquished the dignity of 662 manhood, and have stooped to become mere machines, and this they necessarily do when they enter the army, they can be counted on as the firm supporters of the rights and liberties of their fellow-men. The right hon. Gentleman, in justification of the bill before the House, appeals to the practice of a former administration, under which the noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton, held office. He has mentioned the year 1819, and the administration of Lord Castlereagh. Does the right hon. Gentleman imagine that a measure is just, and wise, and necessary, because Lord Castlereagh adopted it? or does he for one moment suppose that the people of this country will judge favourably of this measure because a similar one was brought in by a Government which, above almost every other, is hateful to all who have any respect for the rights of the people? And then as to the noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton, it is marvellous, when anything bad is to be done, how much justification for it may be found on this side of the House. But is that noble Lord always an authority with the Government, and will the right hon. Gentleman be content to act in other cases upon his advice or example? What has that noble Lord told the Government during this very session? Has be not over and over again declared that the discontent of the people arises from the sufferings they endure, and that these sufferings spring from the destruction of their industry by the restrictions and monopolies which the present ministers came into power to perpetuate? Has he not asked yon to reduce the import duties on the necessaries of life, on the articles of human subsistence, and have you in that case held his authority at a high value, and deemed his advice such as you were bound to act upon? No; the noble Lord's opinion is worthless when he counsels proceedings in accordance with the interests and feelings of the people, and is held to be infallible only when it is on the side of harshness and the denial of justice. It has been asserted that the pensioners themselves are favourable to this bill. I doubt this greatly. Only this morning I have received a letter from a pensioner, in which he complains heavily of the harshness of this bill; and I will read to the House, with its permission, a portion of that letter. He says,—Is it not a great hardship, I think I might say a great injustice, that poor fellows who have served upwards of twenty years, or may 663 be, like myself, upwards of thirty years, should be compelled to leave their families and employment, or throw up their pensions, for which they have served the better part of their lives? Sir, I think you will agree with me that nothing can be more distressing than, after a man has settled down to a quiet citizen, fondly imagining that he has discharged his duty to his sovereign and his country, and has now only to live for his family, that such a man should again be dragged forth to serve, or throw up the small pension he has received for his long service.So much, then, for the argument that the pensioners are enamoured of this bill. It would be worth nothing if it were true; but from the letter read by the hon. Member for Finsbury, and from the one I have just read, it would not appear that amongst the pensioners themselves there is any great demonstration in favour of the measure. I do not doubt that the officers who are to command these new forces would prefer swords, and pistols, and muskets to the constable staff, and, in the presence of an infuriated mob, they might feel themselves more secure; but their ease, and comfort, and security is not the question before the House. The question is, shall we grant to the Government greater powers of repression whilst that Government refuses all redress of the heavy grievances of the people? The circumstances of the manufacturing districts are put forward as a reason for demanding the passing of this bill. Now what are those circumstances? The population of those districts are suffering very great and long-continued privations; they also suffer from a sense of wrong, and of intolerable injuries inflicted upon them by this House. And the natural, the inevitable fruit of this suffering, and this consciousness of injustice, is a threatening attitude towards those who are supposed to have the power, but have not the will to mitigate the one, and to redress the other. I live in the manufacturing districts, and am well acquainted with the character of the population, but that the House may have testimony of more weight than mine, I will read an extract from a report presented last year, to this House, by a commission appointed to inquire into the state of the Borough of Stockport. Speaking of the people employed in the cotton trade, the report says:—We find, in connection with the large earnings of this class, industrious habits of no common stamp, regulated and secured in great measure by the peculiar nature of their em- 664 ployment; and a degree of intelligence already much in advance of other classes of the working people, and still growing with the general growth of popular education. It appears, also, that when in the enjoyment of prosperity, they avail themselves, to a great extent, of the advantages of provident institutions, and that partly through this, and through other circumstances, equally creditable to their character as a working people, they avoid almost altogether dependence upon poor rates. On the occurrence of general distress, we find them neither a pauperized mass, nor readily admitting pauperism among them, but struggling against adversity, beating far and wide for employment, and in many cases leaving their country for foreign climates, rather than depend upon any other resources for subsistence than those of their own industry and skill. Those among them who have not been able or willing to leave a place where at present their labour is of little or no value, have been found enduring distress with patience, and abstaining, sometimes to the injury of health, from making any application for relief; while others, who have been driven reluctantly to that extremity, we have seen receiving a degree of relief sufficient only to support life, often with thankfulness and gratitude, and generally without murmur or complaint.And in conclusion the report says:—We feel assured that the sufferings of a population, whose general character and condition are such as we have described them, will meet with sympathy land consideration from all classes of their fellow-subjects; and that the interests of that branch of trade which has furnished such a population with employment, will be held entitled to peculiar attention from the legislature of the country.And I can say, in confirmation of the opinion expressed in this report, that the public have sympathized with the unhappy sufferers in that town; and further, I may add, that in this House alone, has there been an utter disregard of the terrible privations which they have endured; and the fortitude and magnanimity with which they have borne their misfortunes, has been all too little to create within these walls, one single generous impulse in their favour. A little more than a year ago, a deputation from the manufacturing districts waited upon various Members of the Government, to state to them some facts connected with the situation of the people in those districts. That deputation gave the Government a great amount of information respecting the state of trade, the want of employment, and the distress amongst the people; they affirmed their belief that such calamities could not long be 665 peaceably borne, and that unless relief could be afforded, the discontent would become, not only alarming, but seriously dangerous to the public peace. I well recollect the manner of the right hon. the Home Secretary on that occasion. He expressed his deep sympathy with the sufferings of the people; but from that hour to this neither he nor any one of his colleagues has introduced one single measure to the consideration of this House, in any degree calculated to restore prosperity to the industry and comfort to the homes of the people. The distress exists still; the laws which destroyed the trade of a rapidly increasing population exists still; and what do the Government now propose? To do tardy justice? To remove the restrictions? To let the people work who want to work, and would have work if the law did not prevent it? Nothing of the kind. There is no sign of repentance on the part of the Ministers, justice, relief, are asked for, and the people are answered by a Bill to raise a new body of military to keep the discontent of the suffering, and the oppressed from becoming dangerous to the repose of hon. Members opposite. I was in the manufacturing districts last year when the disturbances took place. My house is within 200 yards of the place where near ten thousand men and women assembled daily, and often twice a day, during the turn out. There was no violence against the persons or property of their employers; but there was a conviction, based upon long and grievous experience, that they were ill used; that they had wrongs of no common magnitude; that this House was regardless of their petitions and remonstrances, and that any change in their condition must be for the better. The town in which I reside was, for some days, in the possession of a numerous body of the turn-out workmen. They had the power, if they had had the disposition, to do serious mischief; but scarcely a sixpence worth of damage was done to any property in that town during the whole of these unhappy transactions. But have the people no excuse for these proceedings? Can any Member of the Government point out any single concession of any moment made to the people, except under the influence of fear? Were there no grievances in Canada before the breaking out of the insurrection in that colony; Canada had her grievances, and her people, over and over again, complained to this House that they had no impartial adminis- 666 tration of the powers of the Government. Did hon. Members opposite come forward with a remedy? No; the abuses were continued, were even defended on both sides of the House, until the news of the rebellion arrived, and then, wonderful to relate, the leaders of both parties discovered at once the precise remedy which was required. Ireland had grievances; her Catholic population protested against being made the slaves of a minority, of being sacrificed to the bigotted and merciless Orangemen of Ireland. They demanded to be freed from religious disabilities. And what did hon. and right hon. Members opposite? They denied the right which the Catholics claimed; they declared it inexpedient and dangerous to grant it, and it was only when a noble Duke in the other House of Parliament declared that it was now only a question of concession or of rebellion, that you consented to do that which it is now universally acknowledged should have been done long before. And Ireland has grievances now—both sides of the House admit the grievances. Ireland is in an attitude not a little threatening, and when things become a little worse, the leaders of both parties will discover, probably in the course of a few hours, what are the precise remedies to be applied. The people of the United Kingdom asked for a reform of this House—for a better representation of the people—and their prayer was, for a long period, despised and neglected. They asked that stumps of trees and old walls should no longer send Members to this House, but that the thousands who inhabit Manchester, and Leeds, and Birmingham, should have a voice in your deliberations. You refused it. It was a just demand, but there was no clamour. It was needful for the good of the people, but it was not then needful to secure you from violence. You dared to refuse it. But the usual results followed; a storm arose before which you quailed, and you were for a time swept almost from before the sight of the public. Now we have grievances; we have a law which prevents our trade—which denies the right to labour, for themselves and their families, to multitudes of honest and industrious individuals. The people ask you for nothing that is yours, but for that which is their own, and which you have taken from them for a time. The population increases, and trade does not increase with it, and therefore suffering and competition increase. The country 667 was in trouble when the right hon. Baronet came into office. He pretended to be able to remove those troubles. He brought in a new Tariff and a new Corn Law, and although he did not pretend that these measures would entirely remove the evils under which the country was labouring, yet he said he trusted and believed they would mitigate those evils. Now, why would they mitigate those evils? Because they were steps in the way of free trade, or in the way of greater restriction? Of course, because they were in some degree free trade measures. Then, if the way of free trade be the way to mitigate the sufferings of the people, I ask, in the name of common sense, why not go further in the same direction? if monopoly be right and wise, let us have it fully and without stint; but if free trade be the policy for this country, then let us have free trade. The question for this House to determine appears to me to be a very simple one indeed. Shall we give the people the means to live comfortably by their honest labour, or shall we afford to the Government which refuses them justice, the power to coerce them, and to render it safe to be unjust? Is this policy to go on for ever? I know the state of the country. Within the present year I have been in almost every county, and in communication with large numbers of every class. There is ground for great discontent, and great discontent exists, and so long as those grounds remain, I hope the discontent will remain also. It is not in Lancashire and Yorkshire only that the dissatisfaction prevails, it is not alone in the mining districts of Northumberland and Durham, or of Staffordshire and Wales, but in the agricultural counties there is intense suffering, and a growing feeling in opposition to the policy which has so long been pursued. I am persuaded that this policy must soon be given up, or it will be needful to arm one half of the people to keep down the other half. And let not the Government suppose that the middle classes will for ever give in their aid to support the aristocracy against the rights of the most numerous class. Even last year, a stronger sympathy than had ever before been shown, was manifested by the middle classes in the northern towns, in favour of the suffering operatives. They knew that three millions had asked to be admitted to electoral rights; that as many had asked to have their trade free, and their bread untaxed; and that all their petitions had been disregarded by the Go- 668 vernment. Be assured, then, that we are rapidly approaching the time when the middle and working classes will be found united in one firm confederacy against the domination of a class and of principles which have inflicted such deep injuries upon this country. For myself, I will be no party to the giving increased power to a Government which gives no evidence of a disposition to redress the wrongs they have admitted, but will cordially support any proposition which may serve to prevent the passing of this most unnecessary and coercive bill.
§ Mr. Protheroe
said, he could not participate in the fears which had been expressed respecting a standing army. The experience of the hon. Member for Durham in his progress through England, might of itself have convinced him that his fears in this respect were visionary, and he would ask the hon. Member for Cork whether his Colleague's progress through Ireland furnished any evidence that the free expression of public opinion was prevented by reason of a military force. Let the army be ever so strong, public opinion would have its weight in this country. He confessed he entertained not the least dread of the effect which the measure now proposed by the Government might have upon public opinion. He drew a broad distinction between public opinion and violence. He looked upon the bill as a measure of police—as a measure necessary for repressing violence; and he must say, that he could perceive nothing that was inconsistent with sound sense in the observation of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, that under particular circumstances a standing army was conducive to the preservation of public liberty. He happened to be in the neighbourhood of the borough which he represented, in Yorkshire, during the disturbances in the manufacturing districts last autumn, and he knew that the desire which was then uppermost in the minds of the staunchest Whigs and Radicals was to obtain the means of affording protection to property. They represented the danger which was incurred, owing to the want of troops, and complained of the Government for not having acceded to their proposition for having a barrack in that neighbourhood. He thought that much greater danger to liberty was to be apprehended from violence than any force which might be maintained for its suppression. He knew not how his sentiments might be received by 669 some of the gentlemen near him, but for his part, he thought it was casting an unjust reflection upon public opinion in this country, to suppose that it could be injuriously affected by such a measure as that before the House. In judging of a measure of this nature, he would allow himself to be guided to some extent, by the character of those who proposed it. He was opposed in politics to the right hon. and gallant Member who brought the bill forward, but he was one of the last men from whom he would expect any unconstitutional proposition to emanate. The right hon. and gallant officer was too brave a man to assail the constitution by such petty means. He also felt bound to declare that he did not think any one had a right to attribute to the present administration, a sanguinary disposition, or a desire to have recourse to coercive measures. He daily read attacks on the Government on account of what was termed their supineness and tameness of spirit, as evinced in their determination not to coerce a large portion of the empire; but in those very attacks he found proofs of the wisdom and temperance of the Government. Seeing no ground for alarm in the character of those who brought the bill forward, he looked at the bill itself, and it appeared simply a measure of police—to facilitate the calling out of a body of men, and making their services available for the protection of life and property. These men would form a local force for the protection of particular districts. If Ministers meditated an attack on the liberties of the country, would they look for an instrument in such a paltry force as it was proposed to embody under the bill? He had entered the House rather disposed to disapprove of the measure; but the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury, instead of confirming that impression of his mind, had, by the overcharged picture which it contained of the danger to be apprehended from a standing army, induced him, perhaps, to take a more favourable view of the measure than he otherwise should have done. He supported the bill as a measure for the protection of life and property against the violence of misguided men; and he believed that it would not have the effect of preventing the hon. Member for Stockport from continuing his efforts to convince the people of England of the propriety of repealing the Corn-laws, nor of impeding Mr. O'Connell's course in Ireland, Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to 670 entertain a very erroneous opinion respecting public opinion. He had supported several motions for extending the provisions of the Reform Act; but taking that measure even as it stood, it was a very good one, and gave representation of the people in Parliament, and however much he might regret that the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power, and the Whigs out of power, he would not disguise the fact that the present Government was placed in power by the will of the people. He would recommend his friends near him to work on the minds of the people, and endeavour to change their sentiments. It was not a standing army or Chelsea pensioners that could maintain either a Con. servative or Whig Government in office; the only basis of power in this country was public opinion.
§ Mr. Hume
, after what had fallen from the hon. Member for Halifax, felt bound to express his opinion that the House of Commons, as at present constituted, did not represent the feelings and wishes of the people. He believed that much of the dissatisfaction which prevailed, had its origin in the conviction which the people felt that they were not fairly represented. There was only class representation in that House; it represented merely the rich landed proprietors; but the mass of the working classes were not represented. It was most unwise, on the part of the Government, in the present state of the country, to press forward a measure such as that before the House. There was already a sufficient military force for the service of the country; and if Ministers thought more was required, they ought to have proposed an estimate for it, in the regular way. Ministers had now been in office for two years, and during that time the distress of the country had gone on increasing. The people were borne down by excessive taxation, and yet Ministers proposed to add 10,000l. to the annual charge. He repelled entirely the idea that a standing army was necessary to the preservation of public liberty. At the same time, standing armies were now very different things from what they formerly were. It was impossible now to separate the army altogether from the people. The growing intelligence of all classes made that impossible. Already this year the House had voted 101,000 men of regular troops. It was understood at the time that of that force 6,000 men were to be disbanded; he 671 should be glad to learn from her Majesty's Government that this had been done. Of that force 50,000 men were now in this country. In the meantime the debt of the country was increasing, for he saw by the papers before the House, that the right hon. Baronet had added two millions and a half to the debt during the last year. The right hon. Baronet might, perhaps, find at last that it was possible to tighten the cord too much. There was extreme danger in the present situation of the country; and here, at the close of a Session, during which nothing had been done for the relief of the people, they were going to give power to the Government to raise an additional force of ten, twenty, or thirty thousand men. Let them bring in measures calculated to relieve the distresses of the country, and there would be no occasion for any measures like this.
§ Mr. Newdegate
was understood to say, that to the Members of the Anti-Corn-law League and their agitation must be attributed a large portion of the excitement that at present prevailed in different parts of the country. He approved of the proposed bill, which would give the Government the services of men whose known good conduct might prevent the effusion of bloodshed, if, unhappily, the same excitement should prevail this year as did last year about this time.
§ Mr. Cobden
rose to defend the members of the Anti-Corn-law League, against the attack of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Of all men none were less likely to desire popular commotions. The property of those gentlemen was not invested in broad acres, which would remain though cavalry and artillery crossed them in hostile array. The property of the gentlemen of the Anti-Corn-law League was invested in a manner that made it peculiarly liable to injury from popular violence. No; to put down that body, something must be said more effectual than accusing them of a desire to encourage the employment of physical force. With regard to the measure now before the House, he could not say that he entertained any apprehensions that the liberties of the country would be endangered by embodying the small body of men whom it was proposed to embody. Nor, on the other hand, did he look upon the army as the means of working out any project for the improvement of civil liberty. Still he would advise the Government not to rely upon the army for the maintenance of 672 tranquillity; and he must say the measure, take it altogether, was a very insidious measure, and it would be a disgrace to the Gentlemen on that, the Opposition side of the House, if they did not do everything in their power to prevent it from passing into a law. He thought the country was much indebted to the hon. Gentleman who had called attention to the bill in the way that he had done. The right hon. Baronet opposite came into power for the purpose of deluding the people of this country. He would not call the Government a great imposture—that might be an unparliamentary expression—but he would say that the right hon. Baronet and his Colleagues had kept office by delusion. The right hon Baronet, before coming into power, had held out promises that he would propound measures to meet the difficulties of the country, but since he had been in office, he had not propounded any measure as a specific for the great distress under which the people were suffering. If the right hon. Baronet had ever had any plan in his mind for the relief of the country, except trusting to the chapter of accidents, he had never enlightened the House of Commons as to the nature of that plan. Every other party in the House, every fraction of a party, had its remedy to propose. He had his remedy, and he had endeavoured to carry out his remedy through the medium of public opinion, Others believed the difficulties of the country could be removed by other means: Some thought the great remedy for the existing distress would be to give more relief to the poor. Some were for giving the people playgrounds to amuse themselves in; others were for giving them more Church, but no remedy whatever was proposed by Government, and every remedy submitted to them from any other quarter was evaded by them. Under such circumstances, was the Government in a position to come to that House, and ask for increased powers to coerce the people? He had that day received an astounding statement from his own borough:—Of the 889 voters of Stockport, 374 had either failed or were fast dropping into the mass of the unrepresented classes. Nearly one-half of the constituency! And yet Government had no plan to propose for their relief. The working-classes were fast falling into poverty—the middling classes were fast following them. The danger was less in the cotton districts than in other parts of the 673 country, for, notwithstanding the malignity with which they had been attacked, the master manufacturers in the cotton districts were still paying the most remunerating wages. In those districts, the large capital invested in the works compelled them to employ their men long after the manufactures had ceased to yield a profit. There were other districts, however, in which much more danger was to be apprehended, and some of the hon. Gentlemen would find it so. Those parts of the country would give them more trouble, he believed, than they had ever yet experienced in any of the cotton districts. Give the people employment, however, and they need be under no apprehension of any interruption to the peace of the country. In 1835, Demosthenes himself could not have got an audience together if he had preached sedition; but the people were fully employed then, and wheat was at 40s. a quarter. When the prices of food were low, there never were any disturbances in the country. But he was not now going to dwell on his own remedy for our difficulties; he would do that when he got among the constituencies of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Newdegate
in explanation, was understood to say, that a member of the body to which he had alluded had taken a very decided part in the late turn-out.
§ Dr. Bowring
called on the hon. Gentleman to name the individual to whom he had alluded, and he would venture to say, that the Anti-Corn-law League would most anxiously investigate the charge. With respect to the measure before the House, he could look upon it in no other light than as an addition to our military force. It could not but add to the expences of the country, and it could not but exasperate the public discontent that already existed. If, at the termination of a long Session, which, laborious as it had been, would be known hereafter as the Do-nothing Session, the Government had nothing to show as the result of their labours but an arms bill for Ireland and an arms bill for England, could they suppose that great dissatisfaction would not be produced? He must say that they would have to meet their constituents with mournful countenances, and among those constituents, he fully believed, the conviction would be strengthened that nothing but a change in the representation would afford the people the relief of which they stood in need.
§ Mr. Borthwick
said, that the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government could not be fairly charged with not doing everything in his power to remedy the distress of the country; and as to the principles of free-trade, the right hon. Baronet had done more to carry out those principles than all the Whig Governments that had ever been in office. Now, the hon. Gentlemen opposite called on the Government to carry those principles still further, and told them, in spite of all that had been done, the distress was greater at present than it had ever been. What encouragement was this to proceed with measures that had been found to be utterly inefficacious? He had given his support to her Majesty's Government, but in so doing he had not acted like those towards the farther end of the Ministerial benches), who reminded him of a quadruped celebrated in sacred history, that on a memorable occasion had exclaimed:—"Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day?" When Government came to the House, and asked for power to put down dangers which, although contingent, were of a formidable character, and not distant in prospect, he did not dare to take on himself the responsibility of refusing the demand. He had not been able to hear, in the speeches made from the opposite side, one reason why, in the present state of things, this bill should not pass into law. It was often said, that Government were bound to protect the property of the landed interest, and the property of the manufacturers; but he thought there was another description of property which they were not less bound to protect—that of the misled multitude, who were harangued almost into insurrection by the speeches of hon. and eloquent Gentlemen, in this country and in Ireland. He would not enlarge on this topic; but he would express his opinion, that a broad and conciliatory policy would do more to pacify Ireland than all the Arms Bills which Government could introduce.
§ Sir W. Somerville
observed, that having voted for the second reading of this bill, he thought it right to state that he had done so under an erroneous impression as to its object. Seeing the period of the session at which the bill had been brought forward, and the hour of the night at which its second reading had been moved, he thought the measure went to the regulation of mere police details. But after 675 the debate which had taken place this evening, he found it was a measure which placed very large powers in the hands of the Government, and went, in point of fact, to augment the standing army. That being so, he should not oppose the bill from any want of confidence as to the manner in which her Majesty's Ministers would use those powers, for, however he might regret and differ from the course they had pursued with respect to Ireland, he must admit they had shown no disposition to employ coercive measures; but he could not give his consent to an augmentation of the standing army. He could not consent to place in their hands powers to enable them to increase the present enormous force in Ireland, more particularly, as though grievances had been admitted to exist on all hands, not one measure of conciliation had ever been suggested.
considered this measure even more objectionable than the Irish Arms Bill, and as such he should oppose it.
§ Mr. Brotherton
believed the measure to be intended solely for the preservation of the public peace, and although he was in favour of all those measures which had been referred to by his hon. Friend near him, and which were for the amelioration of the condition of the people, and calculated to promote the welfare of society, yet he had always the spirit in the House to say he was not in favour of physical force, or of anything which tended to a breach of the public peace. The view he took of this measure was not that it would augment the standing army, but that it merely gave power to call out the pensioners in case of disturbances in any district to aid the civil power. Having a desire for peace, and having also full confidence in the peaceful habits of the people in the manufacturing districts, he never thought it would be necessary to call out the pensioners. If the public peace was preserved there would be no necessity for this bill, but if the peace was disturbed there was no man who would not wish that means should exist for its preservation. Although his Friends near him were in favour of liberal measures, they seemed not to be averse to the people showing their feelings in a hostile manner, Now, he would never countenance that mode of proceeding, and he must say, he did not feel with regard to the measure, in the same way as his hon. Friend had expressed. He had great deference for their opinions, and whether he should vote for or against 676 the measure he wished to put upon record his sentiments with respect to it. He was convinced the bill contemplated no increase of the standing army, and he thought his hon. Friends injured their cause by the exaggerated statements which had been made on his side of the House.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, it had been his misfortune the other evening, when the bill was brought forward, and when his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury took so strong an objection to it, to differ from his hon. Friend, and he had made up his mind to repeat to-night the vote he had given on that occasion. He understood the Government to state that they considered the public service required this bill as a precautionary measure. He could not regard it as an addition to the standing army, for even as the law now stood, it was in the power of the Crown to call out the whole of this force, even at great inconvenience to the very parties in whose favour his hon. Friend had made so eloquent an appeal to-night. Under existing powers, the whole class might be called out and marched to a certain spot, where selections were made, and the rest sent back to their homes. But this bill went to remove this inconvenience, and gave power to select from the whole body those who were able and effective; and what was the constitutional objection to that course? It was not adding to the powers already possessed by the Crown, but it operated favourably to those liable to be called again into active service. He would always stand up for the preservation of the public peace, because upon its preservation depended the best security for the progress of rational liberty. He, therefore, differed on this occasion from his hon. Friends on his side of the House; and though he advocated views different from those entertained by the Government, he should do all in his power to aid them in maintaining the peace of the country.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
supported the bill, and thought both the House and the country were greatly indebted to the right hon. and gallant Secretary at War for its introduction.
§ The House divided on the question that the words "now read" stand part of the question: Ayes 92; Noes 16; Majority 76.
|List of the AYES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Antrobus, E.|
|Acton, Col.||Archdall, Capt. M.|
|Allix, J. P.||Baillie, H. J.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Hornby, J.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hutt, W.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Jones, Capt.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Kemble, H.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Knatchbull, rt. hn Sir E.|
|Borthwick, P.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Boyd, J.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Masterman, J.|
|Broadley, H.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Broadwood, H.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Nicholl, rt. hn. J.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Packe, C. W.|
|Clive, Visct.||Palmer, G.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Cripps, W.||Peel, J.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Pollington, Visct.|
|Darby, G.||Pringle, A.|
|Denison, E. B.||Protheroe, E.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Duncan, G.||Rose, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Ross, D. R.|
|Escott, B.||Round, J.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Sanderson, R.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Forman, T. S.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Stanley, E.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Stanton, W. H.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Gore, M.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Trotter, J.|
|Greene, T.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Hale, R. B.||Wall, C. B.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Wood, Col.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Wood, G. W.|
|Hawes, B.||Young, J.|
|Henley, J. W.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||TELLERS.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Freemantle, Sir T|
|Hope, G. W.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Bright, J.||Roche, E. B.|
|Brotherton, J.||Scholefield, J.|
|Clements, Visct.||*Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Cobden, R.||*Wakley, T.|
|Collett, J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Hill, Lord M.||TELLERS.|
|*Hindley, C.||Duncombe, T.|
|Hume, J.||Williams, W.|
§ Main question agreed to.
§ Order of the Day read.
§ On the question that the Speaker leave the Chair,
§ Mr. Hume
protested against the further progress of this measure. He complained* Absent from the Noes on the next division. which were otherwise the same.678 that her Majesty's Government had not fulfilled the promise they had made early in the Session. The right hon. Baronet had admitted that distress prevailed amongst the people, and he declared that it would be the endeavour of the Government to provide means of relief and of employment for the industrious classes. Instead of doing anything of the kind, although every interest in the country was daily growing worse and worse, the present measure of coercion was brought forward by the Government. That was extraordinary conduct; but not more so than the argument of the hon. Member for Lambeth, that because there was a bad Government requiring physical force to support it, that hon. Members would vote for this bill. No one in that House was more anxious than he (Mr. Hume) to support and maintain order in the land. [Oh!] He was glad to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite groaning. It was a sign that their consciences reproached them. That was not the case with him. Hon. Gentlemen must be prepared to groan, if they could bear to see their fellow men starve and die by inches. The hon. Member for Stockport had made an appeal to the right hon. Baronet, which had not been answered. Whether the right hon. Baronet considered that appeal not worth answering, or that a sufficient case had been made out in support of his measure, he did not know; but in the absence of any promise or intimation from the Government that they were prepared to propose measures to remedy the existing distress of the people, he would not consent to strengthen their hands. He would move, therefore, that the House will, upon that day three months, resolve itself into the said committee.
§ Mr. W. Williams
wished the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to state the legal authority upon which the pensioners were to be called out in the way proposed.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
said, that by the warrant of 1806, which followed the act called Wyndham's Act, which warrant was signed by General Fitzpatrick, it was declared that any out-pensioner not offering himself upon any proclamation being made by the Crown, or not joining garrison or the veteran battalions, should forfeit all claim to pay or pension. By every subsequent warrant, that rule not being revoked, every pensioner not obeying the summons of the Crown to attend and be enrolled was liable to the same penalty. 679 On one occasion, in 1819, when the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton called out a number of pensioners, several who refused to serve suffered the loss of their pensions. The act of Sir J. Hobhouse was to the same effect. Lord Howick, when Secretary at War, in a letter to the commissioners of Chelsea Hospital, expressed himself to the same effect. But, whatever privileges the pensioners were entitled to at the time of their enlistment, they would enjoy the full benefit of them. It was impossible under this bill to do any injustice to the pensioner.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
said, the bill went much further than that. If a pensioner were called out to act as a special constable or to do garrison duty, and refused, he would forfeit his pension. But was that all in the bill? The right hon. Gentleman, as Secretary at War, could make certain regulations for these men when they were called our in aid of the civil power. When had we that law in England before? When were these men put under the Mutiny Act before? [Sir H. Hardinge: "Always."] Then why insert it in this bill? By this bill these pensioners might be flogged, imprisoned, or shot. They might be tried by courtmartial and executed. That could never be done before. He did not see any law-officers of the Crown present to give their opinion; but he defied the right hon. Gentleman to prove that pensioners or volunteers could be treated so before. They might deal so with a yeoman while engaged on actual duty. Could they drill these pensioners formerly eight days every year? and would not such a proceeding be an insult to the people of the various towns in which that drilling took place? The Secretary at War was to make allowances, too, from the public money to defray the expense of that drilling. It was a novel principle of law, unknown in England before; but it should not become the law of the land if he could prevent it. The conduct of the hon. Member for Lambeth was certainly most extraordinary. There was a corrupt House of Commons and a large standing army, therefore he must support this bill. There was a bad Government, but the hon. Member for Lambeth must support and strengthen it by physical force. By the old law the pensioners ought to have six weeks notice; under this bill they would not have a single day's notice. He supposed that if 680 the bill went into committee, the Government would resist every amendment, in order to keep the country ignorant of the real nature of this most despotic measure. The doctrine of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was most strange; he said, the larger the standing army, the greater the security for the civil rights of the people. He denied it. The right hon. Gentleman said, the army should be confided in; who doubted it? If it were not so, said he, should we allow the meetings and the licentiousness of the people to go on? Licentiousness of the people! Why, the people had a right to meet and discuss their grievances, and petition for their redress. The people did not hold that right upon the fragile tenure of the caprice of a Secretary at War or the whim of a Government. Why was this bill brought forward in the middle of August, and without any proper notice of its approach? It appeared to have lain in the War-office for some time, and to have been brought forward (though several other measures were abandoned) now in order that it might be hurriedly passed. But he would resist it; and though only sixteen had just opposed it, he trusted the minority would increase until it became the majority for throwing out this objectionable bill.
§ The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 92; Noes 13:—Majority 79.
§ House in committee.
§ On the first clause, her Majesty may order out pensioners to be enrolled.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
replied, that it would be impossible to estimate the cost of calling out the corps, because there might be no necessity whatever for calling them out. When they were called out they would be paid 2s. a day in addition to their ordinary pension allowance, but this payment would not be required if there were no disturbances, and the only other possible charge would occur in the event of a drill or inspection, for which they might be called out eight days in the year, during which days they would be put upon similar pay.
§ Mr. Williams
said, the whole of the matter was this—there were 47,000 men capable of serving, and that number, in- 681 cluding officers, clothing, and accoutrements, might absorb annually 2,000,000l. sterling.
§ Mr. Hawes
said his friends behind him seemed to think that this body might be enrolled and called out to perform regular military service. He did not understand anything of the sort, and for his own part, if they were to have a military force, he thought it would be better to have a disciplined than an undisciplined corps. The Government opposite was unpopular, but it was not the way to oppose it, to obstruct its measures for the preservation of the public peace.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
said the difference of expense between calling out a militiaman and a pensioner would be just so much as the difference between 7s. and 2s. a day. The former sum was the pay of a cavalry yeoman, the latter item was what he proposed to give the pensioners. It was quite a mistake to suppose that this force would be called on to perform military duty; as he had before stated, their services would be limited to their own districts.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
thought the right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong as to the employment of the force. The services of the men were not to be confined to one particular district. The fourth clause of the bill enacted that they should serve as garrison soldiers in any place to which they might be ordered.
§ Sir R. Peel
said this bill would be no extension of the powers of the Crown. In point of fact, it substituted voluntary for compulsory service. The Government was only actuated in this instance by a desire to preserve the public peace, and as for establishing military rule it was ridiculous to suppose that they contemplated any such object. In point of fact, their power was much greater under the present system than it would be under that proposed to be constituted. He thought this would be a popular corps. When the yeomanry cavalry were called out in the course of last year, nothing could equal their devotion to the public service and their exemplary forbearance; but if disturbances arose in the great manufacturing towns, and the yeomanry corps coming from the rural districts, it was impossible to eradicate the impression, however admirable their conduct, that they were calling in one class of the population to suppress the disorders of another. He did not think the present Government 682 could be reproached with having had recourse to unconstitutional powers. Last autumn, although they might have been justified in calling for extraordinary powers they had not done so; they relied on the efficacy of the ordinary law, and were content to be responsible with it. But they must have instruments for enforcing the ordinary law. They asked for no departure from the ordinary law. Here was the cheapest force to be employed: they only asked for a regulation of the power they possessed. When they proposed this bill to Parliament, so far from being viewed by the House of Commons as a coercive measure, they thought they would have received credit for it. Instead of sending down 1,000 stand of arms to one place, and 500 to another, placing them in the hands of disorganized and undisciplined troops, they thought it would be much better to place them in the hands of those who were accustomed to military life and habits, under the control of officers who would be responsible for their good conduct. At the present moment the pensioners might be called out by the magistrates and armed by the Crown. The Crown would still be responsible for the exercise of the power intrusted to it under this bill; and that power would only be exerted in case of absolute necessity. The bill proposed nothing more than the regulation of a power the Crown now possessed, and rendered Ministers responsible for its exercise. With respect to the expence, it did not follow that 500 would be called out in aid of the civil power; but until Parliament provided additional means, those which the Government had were so limited as to consitute a sufficient control over the extent to which the force would be called out. He ventured to say, when Parliament saw the amount of expense incurred, hon. Members would be surprised at the apprehensions entertained, and he would be very much disappointed if they did not admit that this would be a much cheaper and better force than volunteers or yeomanry.
§ Mr. Hume
had no doubt this was a better force than the yeomanry; indeed, he would much rather see an increase of the regular force than have recourse to the yeomanry; but why should they not limit the amount of this new force? When grievances were admitted to exist, and when no attempt was made to remedy them, a call for additional forces would 683 be looked upon with great jealousy by the country. The great evil was the want of employment, and after rejecting every remedial measure the Government called for further arms.
§ Mr. Williams
moved in line 10, after the words "Her Majesty," to leave out the words "from time to time," in order to insert those words—"during twelve calendar months from the passing of this bill."
§ Mr. Hume
hoped, if that amendment were not acceded to, a clause would be introduced, as in the Irish Arms Bill, limiting its duration to a certain number of years.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, the House of Commons would have the same check in this case as had existed for forty years with regard to the yeomanry. Every year a vote in supply would give the House of Commons a control over the whole expenditure of the force. Last autumn he had received repeated and most urgent representations from the magistracy to send down arms to be given to volunteers; but, on constitutional principles he had felt the strongest aversion to such a measure unless the parties had been subject to military discipline and control. He had rejected the urgent applications he had received to arm those men, and considered it much safer to leave their forces comparatively inefficient when not armed, rather than arm men who were not subject to military control. Last year at Wigan, at Bury, at Preston, and Blackburn, there were bodies of soldiers stationed, but gentlemen came up from Chorley, distant, not more than nine miles from those places, and pressed the Government in the most urgent manner that soldiers should be stationed at Chorley. Persons intimately connected with the hon. Member for Stockport were understood to be parties to that application. The Home Office was beseiged by day with deputations from all the manufacturing districts, requesting that soldiers might be sent into every quarter, and if there had been 10,000 men at his disposal they would not have been more than sufficient to meet the applications that were made. He was quite satisfied, that the prudent and moderate use of this measure, if it should pass into a law, would supersede the necessity of all that uneasiness, and would provide in various localities, a moderate sufficient military force, at the smallest cost to the public, and in a manner 684 most consistent with constitutional principles—men accustomed to military discipline, placed under the strictest military control, never removed any great distance from their local residence, and embodied only so long as the circumstances which called them together might appear to warrant.
§ Mr. Cobden
did not think, that any Member of that House ought to be restrained from opposing a measure of that nature, merely because he was connected with an establishment which might be exposed to injury from physical force. He thought, that he ought not to be twitted with anything that might have happened at Chorley in his absence. Application might have been made to the magistrates by persons connected with his establishment; but such a circumstance was not to preclude him from exercising his independent rights as a Member of that House.
§ Mr. Bright
said, that the Government claimed the right in the Queen's name to call for the military services of the whole population. Now, he denied any such right. There was no right to impress men for the navy, and none for the army. They were now arriving near to the 16th of August, the anniversary of one of the greatest outrages that ever was committed in the manufacturing districts. Ministers were now contending for a maintenance of the same sort of measure. The real question, after all, was not different in the present day from what it was twenty years ago.
§ Mr. Williams
would withdraw his amendment if Ministers would agree to the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
recommended her Majesty's Government to make no further concession; they had conceeded too much already.
§ Finally the amendment was modified to insert the words "not exceeding two years from the passing of this act." And the committee divided on the question, that those words be inserted:—Ayes 27; Noes 78 Majority 51.
|List of the AYES.|
|Bannerman, A.||Bright, J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Brotherton, J.|
|Clements, Visct.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Cobden, R.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Collett, J.||Protheroe, E.|
|Duncan, G.||Roche, E. B.|
|Duncombe, T.||Ross, D. R.|
|Ewart, W.||Scholefield, J.|
|Forster, M.||Wakley, T.|
|Hawes, B.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Hindley, C.||Wood, G. W.|
|Hutt, W.||Wyse, T.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Williams, W.|
|O'Brien, W. S.||Hume, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Henley, J. W.|
|Acton, Col.||Hope, hn. C.|
|Allix, J. P.||Hope, G. W.|
|Antrobus, E.||Hornby, J.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Jones, Capt.|
|Baring, hn. W. B.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Knight, F. W.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Boldero, H. G.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Borthwick, P.||Masterman, J.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Maxwell, hn. J. P.|
|Broadley, H.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Broadwood, H.||Nicholl, rt. hn. J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Peel, J.|
|Bunbury, T.||Polhill, F.|
|Burreil, Sir C. M.||Pollington, Visct.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Pringle, A.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Clive, Visct.||Rose, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Corry, rt. hn. H.||Round, J.|
|Cripps, W.||Ryder, hn. G. D.|
|Darby, G.||Sanderson, R.|
|Denison, E. B.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Scott, hn. F.|
|Duncombe, hn. A.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Escott, B.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Stanley, E.|
|Forman, T. S.||Sutton, hn. H. M.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Trotter, J.|
|Gordon, hn. Capt.||Wood, Col.|
|Gore, M.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Goulburn, rt. hn. H.||Wortley, hn. J. S.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Young, J.|
|Hale, R. B.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||TELLERS.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Fremantle, T.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Baring, H.|
§ Mr. Hutt
hoped his hon. Friend would not persist in offering that kind of opposition to the bill. Whatever might be their opinion of the measure, the Government had called for it as necessary 686 in the event of their requiring additional means of preserving the peace, and he did not think any opposition of a merely obtructive nature, ought to be offered to it.
§ Mr. Hindley
could not understand how his hon. Friend (Mr. Hutt) could propose to give the present Government the control of what almost amounted to an additional standing army. He would not consent to give such powers to the present Government. From that Government he had no hope—there was, in his opinion, no hope for England, as long as that, Government remained in power. Yet there was every prospect of their having the means of prosperity at home. The harvest promised to be a good one; all was good as far as Providence was concerned; but every thing appeared had that depended on the Government. They on that side were determined that the Government should not govern the country by force. Let them govern by reason. They should not dragoon the country,—at least, he, for one, would offer a determined resistance to all attempts to give them the power of doing so. He would give them the power of doing all that was right to preserve the peace, but no more But the truth was that the people, whatever might be their distress, had no desire to break the peace. There was his own district (Ashton), where there were 10,000 men out of employ; yet there was no necessity for any force to keep the peace. The right hon. Home Secretary himself knew that there were not more than five or six policemen there to keep the peace. He would give Government a guarantee that Ashton would keep the peace, and he believed that the peace would be preserved throughout the country if the Government and the Legislature were prepared to do the people justice. But he would not consent to give the Government this force for the purpose of enabling them to commit injustice.
§ Sir C. Burrell
observed that this measure was justifiable on the ground that prevention was better that punishment. When confusion and anarchy prevailed it was then late and difficult to take measures against them. A little timely precaution in the provision of such a measure as this might prevent bloodshed.
§ Mr. E. B. Roche
thought they were borne out in offering to this bill a strenuous opposition; let them call it a factious opposition if they would; but they were 687 justified in such a course, because they were opposed by a large and increasing majority. No man agreed more than he in that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he dilated with great eloquence on the benefits derived from peace and order in this country. He would not regard it as a party question. If, indeed, it had been proposed by the Whigs, his opposition would have been as violent or energetic as it was; and, looking at the manner in which the present Government had used the powers now in their hands, and the indications of the leaders of the Whig party, he would rather give great powers to the former than to the Whigs. But at the same time his principle was this, that he would not give unlimited power of raising in any shape an armed force by a Government who had refused to listen to the just demands of the people, and he would address himself particularly to his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, whether, at the end of a fruitless Session, he would give to the Government such unlimited powers?
§ Sir J. Graham
He thought that the period of two years was too limited for the operation of the act, and he had originally suggested that the period should be five. Any arrangement that might lead to a general agreement for some prolongation of that period, coupled with an assurance of something like unanimous support, would be worth considering, otherwise he could not consent to an alteration the effect of which he believed would not be conducive to the public peace.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
observed, as the bill was supported on account of the disturbances in Wales and Staffordshire, he was induced to ask if it were contemplated that those disturbances should last more than two years? If the Government agreed to two years, there would be an end to any other than a reasonable opposition to the bill; but certainly on one point a stand would be made—the number of men to be enrolled—which ought not to exceed 10,000.
§ Sir J. Graham
If the hon. Gentleman would give notice of the amendments they intended to propose in the usual form, they should receive the consideration of the Government; and the bill might be proceeded with to-morrow without loss of time.
§ Mr. Williams
would move for the in- 688 sertion of words limiting the number of men to 10,000, and in the second clause he would move that the whole of the force be officered from the half-pay list; and that the duration of the bill be limited to two years.
suggested, that when any part of the force was called out, the county in which it happened ought to be held responsible for the cost.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
would move, that the warrant calling out any part of the force should first be published in the London Gazette. The right hon. Baronet said that full information respecting the force was to be laid before Parliament; yet he found no clause to that effect in the bill. He would move one, and move the entire omission of the 4th clause, and the insertion of words to render the force entirely a local one.
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past one o'clock.