Order for Committee read; paragraphs in Queen's Speech at the opening of the Session read, as follow:—
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
I have ordered Estimates of the Expenses of the current year to be laid before you.
I rely with confidence on your loyalty and zeal to make adequate provision for the Public Service.
Where any increase has been made in the Estimates of the present over the past year, such explanations will be given as will, I trust, satisfy you that such increase is consistent with a steady adherence to a pacific policy and with the dictates of a wise economy.
§ MR. HUME
objected to going into Committee without some reasons being stated. There had been no ballot for the militia for many years, and he should object altogether to the industrious classes being disturbed now for such a purpose, and peaceable and quiet habits interfered with by a measure most unequal in its pressure, and for which no reason was given.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I think it will be more convenient to discuss the subject in Committee, where Members may ask questions and receive explanations, and make remarks upon the matter, without being fettered by some of the rules of debate in a sitting of the House.
§ House in Committee.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, in 1848 I made a statement to the House with respect to the defences of this country, and in the course of my statement, I said I thought it would be desirable to form a foundation for a permanent militia force, which might be of great service in case of invasion. Unfortunately, that proposition of mine, and other propositions with respect to the naval and military service, were coupled with a proposal for increased taxation, which became very unpalatable to the House and to the country, and the Government did not persevere in the proposal. I recall it to recollection now, chiefly for the purpose of showing that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, without any pressure of extraordinary circumstances, it was wise to make provision for the defence of the country. At the time at which I then addressed the House Louis Philippe was upon the throne of France; there was no apparent revolution at hand; the disposition of that King was known to be pacific; his counsels were moderate and wise. At that time I thought it would be advisable to make permanent provision for the defences of the country; and I now renew the proposition, with the hope that the House and the country will take the same view which Her Majesty's Government take, that it would be wise to have a permanent force of militia. When I say that, it is not that I mean to depart in any respect from the assurances which were given in Her Majesty's Speech, that the relations of this country with foreign Powers were of a friendly nature, and that there was nothing apparently at hand to disturb those relations; but at the same time I think it never can be assumed that a country in the position in which this country is can be secure from the danger of war. In the first place, we may have some aggression upon some of our possessions, or even upon our own country. In the next place, it is possible that we may have some dispute with respect to the rights of our subjects, or injury supposed to be inflicted upon them by subjects of other countries. In the third place, we are hound by treaty with respect to several of the countries of Europe to defend them, if attacked. [An Hon. MEMBER: No.] Yes; I will only mention one instance; we are 552 bound to defend Portugal against any enemy that might attack that country; an obligation which was avowed by the whole House in 1826, and Mr. Canning called upon the House to fulfil that obligation. But, in the fourth place, we are connected, and have been for more than a century, with the general system of Europe; and any territorial increase of one Power, any aggrandisement which disturbs the general balance of power in Europe, although it might not immediately lead to war, could not be matter of indifference to this country, and would, no doubt, be the subject of conference, and might ultimately, if that balance were seriously threatened, lead to hostilities. These are reasons, Sir, why we cannot believe ourselves altogether safe from the danger of war. But there is another question which has arisen of late years, and which has been so much the topic of discussion in books and pamphlets, in conversation and in letters, in newspapers, both on this and the other side of the Channel, that it will be quite unnecessary for me to dilate upon it, or do more than mention the subject. It is, that since the invention of steam navigation this country can no longer be considered so safe as it formerly was considered, when it was necessary for an enemy to obtain the command of the Channel, and even to be favoured by the winds and waves, in order to effect any invasion, or even to inflict the most petty insult upon this country. The changes introduced by steam navigation are very great. What would be their extent in case of war, I believe no man can safely predict; but this, at least, is obvious, that any foreign force attempting to land on any part of this coast would no longer have the same difficulties to contend with which other proposed invaders of England in former days had to contemplate. Now, with that change of circumstances we must couple this fact—which is likewise one universally acknowledged—that this country is generally averse to large military establishments; that we never have been able under any Government, Whig or Tory, to endure the notion of very large military establishments, and the maintaining a large standing army, and have rather kept our establishments very far indeed below those of other countries. But it must likewise be considered that in former times, and, indeed, from the time of the Seven Years' War, I believe, to the last peace, it was generally reckoned wise as well as 553 constitutional to maintain a considerable force of militia, which could be, as it were, a reserve for the general army, and upon which the country might rely from time to time for a certain number of men who had been trained to the use of arms. As things at present stand—as they have stood now for many years—we have no support of that kind, no such force of militia. It is to that subject I particularly wish to call the attention of the House. I shall say a few words, and only a few, with regard to our military force. With respect to our naval force I shall not make any observations at present, thinking it much better that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty should state his views upon that subject at length when the naval estimates shall come under consideration. With respect to our military force, I should say that the addition we propose to make to our regular Army in the present year is very small, amounting to 4,000 men of the line, and 1,000 for the artillery, in all rather a less number of men than have been despatched to the Cape since the commencement of hostilities in that colony. But I think it is of importance to state, first, the general policy which we hold with respect to our military force in the colonies, and, next, to advert to the views of the Commander-in-Chief with respect to our present armaments. With regard to the former subject, I should say that there has I been for some time past a policy rather to diminish the military force in our colonies, and rely upon the people of the colonies themselves to furnish such force as may be necessary to preserve internal tranquillity, and keeping only a very small force of our regular Army there. We have acted in pursuance of that policy in more than one instance; and I should say generally I think it is better, with respect to the force we maintain in our colonies, to have it in positions in which a considerable number can be collected, rather than dispersed, as has been in former years, over all our colonies, thus leaving many of them open to attack, and without any adequate force to protect them. With regard to the second topic I have mentioned, I should say that the Commander-in-Chief and the Master-General of the Ordnance have for some time turned their attention to the improved arms which have been introduced, the muskets, which it is well known have a much longer range than those formerly in use; they have likewise considered the 554 subject of training the men to the use of those muskets, and inquiries have been made, and hoards of officers have sat, as well with respect to the choice of the musket that shall prove the host arm of service, as the weight of balls to be used, and the practice of soldiers in the use of the weapon. These matters have been subject of much consideration, and the noble Duke at the head of the Army unceasingly turns his attention to this matter, with a view that whatever military fore we have be in the highest degree of efficiency. I now come, then, to the subject of a militia; and we have to consider, in. the first place, whether it would be advisable to establish a militia on the plan of the old militia, or whether it would be better to establish one on the plan of the local militia. Now, with regard to the regular militia, as it was constituted in the last war, I should say that it differed little from the regular Army; but, at the same time, it was a force which the Government was restricted from using out of the United Kingdom. I own I think, if we were to propose such a force at present, there would, in the first place, be a very great objection to any compulsory service in such a force, considering it as a permanent military force; and if it were to be restricted (as it would) to service in the United Kingdom, it would be better, in case of hostilities, to have a large increase of the military force. But what I have now to propose is a force of a very different description. It is a force intended to be embodied for very limited service, employed generally in their own counties, and only called out for a small portion of the year. It appears to me, that if, at the breaking out of war, you had no force of this kind, it would take a very considerable time before you could collect and organise a sufficient number of recruits for your Army, and during that time you would have but a very limited and insufficient force; and, considering: that some of your posts abroad, such as Malta, and Gibraltar, and others, would ask for an increased force, it would be impossible to have a sufficient number of men to supply them. But, if you can have a considerable number of men who have been partly trained, they would be immediately available, and for a certain time they would be upon the coast and ready to meet invasion, while at the same time the process of recruiting was going on and the increase of your regular Army; 555 and when that was done, the militia might return to their homes, or at all events be confined to very limited and partial service. I will now state the nature of the local militia as it was established in 1808, and amended in 1812, and remained till the end of the war. The local militia were balloted for in the same manner as the regular militia, by a long and expensive process, I think, and when chosen they were assembled and trained for twenty-eight days in the year. They were balloted for from all persons between eighteen and thirty years of age, and they were commanded by persons appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, having certain qualifications in respect of property. The proposals we have now to make, so far as there is any change, are, first, with respect to the officers. With respect to the officers, we propose that two-thirds should be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and one field officer and one-third of the captains by the Crown; so that the regiments may have the benefit of the experience of half-pay officers available for this service, and who must be of great use in assisting the officers appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. We propose that the Lord Lieutenant should not be bound by the restriction of qualification, but that he should name any persons for officers he may think fit, of course with the approbation of the Crown, as formerly, but without the requirement that they should be possessed of a certain amount of landed property. It is very desirable that the gentlemen of the county should take their part in the command of the local militia, but that there should not be too strict a regard had to a qualification derived from property. When the original militia laws were framed, there was a very great jealousy of the Crown, and of encroachments upon liberty, and it was supposed that if there was a limitation to persons of property, it would form a security against any attempt of the Crown in that respect; but our liberties are now so firmly secured, that of all dangers there is none less than that of an attempt by the Crown, by means of a standing Army, to suppress our liberty. With regard to the men, we propose some alteration from the former plan, according to which all men between eighteen and thirty years of age were subject to the ballot. That was a considerable number of years; and the process of sending round to each householder, and requiring a return of the number of persons in his house between 556 those ages was a long, complicated, and very costly one. We conceive that it would be at the same time better, and a great advantage to a large portion of the population, if, taking the force we thought sufficient, we took them within a shorter number of years. We propose, therefore, for the first year, that the ages at which persons should be subject to ballot for the local militia should be from twenty to twenty-three, and in subsequent years that they should be only persons of the ages of twenty to twenty-one. It is supposed that the former proposition of taking from twenty to twenty-three, taking one-fifth as the number to be balloted, would give a force of about 80,000 men, and that in subsequent years the number to be procured from the age of twenty to twenty-one would amount to an average of 30,000. In procuring these men, I think it would not be necessary to adopt the means taken formerly; I believe that, with the assistance of the census of last year, we should know the number of persons in each county and union who would be liable to the ballot, and that it would he sufficient to require all such persons to present themselves on a certain day; that, however, is a part of the machinery of the Bill which requires great consideration. I will not now enter further into the details, but only say, that I think the process may be more economical and speedy than that hitherto adopted, owing to the change in the age to that of twenty to twenty-one in most years, instead of eighteen to thirty, and with the advantage of our knowledge which we have obtained through the census of the number that ought to be in the union and parish between those ages. With a view to the ballot, the Lord Lieutenant will be ordered to make the necessary subdivision of the county, having regard to the boundaries of unions and parishes, and it will be necessary to make such subdivision where there are not at present unions and parishes. The Deputy Lieutenant of the county, some of the magistracy, and adjutant, and some other officers of the local militia, would be present when the men were to be balloted for. It is proposed that when they are balloted, one-fifth should be taken, and that ten per cent of those remaining be taken as a reserve for all cases where excuses might afterwards be made. There would then be, according to the Militia Acts, an appeal, at which excuses might be made or disqualifications proved; and 557 there would be the examination whether the men were fit for service, and those who belonged to the reserve of ten per cent might be called in to supply deficiencies. It is proposed also that any man from twenty to thirty years of age may volunteer to serve in the local militia, and that so far as these volunteers supply the requisite number, the balloting should not take place. It is proposed likewise that the volunteers thus placed in the local militia should serve for one year less than the balloted men. The period of service proposed for the local militia is four years; but it is proposed that we might by an Order in Council require them to serve for six months longer, and in case of Parliament, by an address to the Grown, requiring their services still further, another period of six months may be added, making twelve months altogether, in the event of the country being menaced with danger. I next come to the question how these men shall be trained in the use of arms. It is proposed that they should be formed into battalions, and be assembled either for fourteen or twenty-eight days in the first year, and for fourteen days in subsequent years. It is not proposed that either the twenty-eight or the fourteen days should necessarily be consecutive; the men might be trained for a week, and then, if it were necessary for any operations in the country, or for any other reason, they might go back to their homes and come again at another period of the year. That is the practice at present with regard to the pensioners. It is likewise proposed that three hours' drill and training should count for half a day, which would he a more convenient period to take in some parts of the year, when the service might be performed after the regular work or business of the militia man is 'finished. During the period they should be out, they would have the same pay and allowances as regular soldiers, and would be of course subject to the provisions of the Mutiny Act. With regard to the service to which this force could be applied, I conceive that in case of any danger of invasion they could be embodied and marched to any part of the country where their services might be required. With respect to the amount of training which I think it would be necessary to afford the men, and which I have already stated, I believe that it will be found amply sufficient for the purpose, and that in a very short time after the commencement of 558 hostilities they would become very effective. It should be remembered that many of our great battles have been fought with armies a considerable portion of the troops of which were mere recruits—troops which had never been in action, and which had received their training almost exclusively in the field. The next question is, what will be the immediate expense of this force? It is estimated that in the course of the present year not more than 30,000 men would require to be trained in the manner I have described—there would be a greater number enrolled, but that is the number which it is intended to train for the year. The expenses altogether, including the ballot, in the first instance, the cost of clothing, the pay for the time the men are at drill, and the expense of the officers attached to the force, would be somewhere about 200,000l. It may be necessary to take a somewhat larger sum, as there may be a number of small incidental expenses not included in this sum. The number of men enrolled in the first year will not be less than 70,000; in the next year there would be 100,000, in the third about 120,000. These would be the numbers enrolled only, not called out. The further calling out of the force would be matter for the consideration of the Grown and Parliament, and the force might readily be increased to 150,000 men. Such, then, is the plan of Her Majesty's Government for amending the laws respecting the local militia. It involves, of course, a large number of details; my object, however, was rather to give the Committee a general idea of the plan than to enter into any detailed explanation. I believe myself that the people of this country will gladly adopt the use of such a force as the militia for the purpose of its security and defence. I ought not, however, to omit to state that the Bill will contain a provision to the effect that in certain places, where there is a large police force in existence, such force should be organised and trained according to the regulations of the local militia; and inasmuch as there would then be a trained force in such particular county, that there should be a proportionate exemption from such members of the local militia as would otherwise be required in the first ballot. In cases where volunteer corps already exist, or might hereafter be raised, their services will be accepted by the Crown, according to the provisions of the law at present in force, and such force of volun- 559 teers will be accounted as corps of local militia, and in proportion to their numbers would be the diminished force of militia which would be required. This, therefore, is the plan which I shall have to propose; when, however, the Bill is before the House, hon. Members will be better able to judge of its provisions. For my own part, I should be perfectly willing if upon the details the Bill were referred to a Select Committee for the purpose of considering how far it might be advisable to adapt its provisions to the present Local Militia Act, or to make such further improvements in it as might be considered necessary. Whatever may be the course adopted with respect to the details, if the principle of the Bill is agreed to, it will be a satisfaction to me to have proposed to the Committee a plan for laying the foundation of a national force of this kind.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, the noble Lord had not replied to his question as to whether this Bill would apply to Ireland.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
This is a Bill only for England and Wales. With respect to Ireland, we do not propose a local militia.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
supposed that he was to consider that the noble Lord had now answered his (Mr. Reynolds') question, but he was at a loss how to interpret the answer. He did not know whether the exception of Ireland from the Government plan was to be regarded as a boon or an insult. As an Irishman he could not accept the exemption of Ireland as a compliment. If the arguments of the noble Lord were good for embodying a local militia in England—and he (Mr. Reynolds) was not prepared to say that they were not good—those arguments were still better as applied to Ireland. If it was necessary because of the fear of an invasion from some part of the Continent—and he could not guess as to the particular country by which they were most likely to be interfered with—to raise a local militia in England, there was more urgent need of possessing such a force in Ireland, where, in consequence of her geographical position, the danger was still greater. He must remind the noble Lord that an Irish local militia was embodied once before at a time of great peril, when the existence of the empire was in the scale. He must remind the noble Lord, in particular, of 1798, when an armed French force arrived at Killala, and marched without impediment from the Bay of Killala to the centre of Sligo; and it should not be forgotten that that force was 560 encountered by a body of Irish militia, commanded by Colonel Vereker, now Lord Gort. [An Hon. MEMBER: Surely not the present Lord Gort.] Well, his father. It was a trifling mistake; and there was no doubt that it was very creditable to the present Lord Gort to have had such a father. To have exempted Ireland from this plan was, therefore, no compliment to the loyalty of that kingdom: and he greatly regretted that the noble Lord had made such a mistake.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
begged that the noble Lord, before the debate proceeded further, would state one point more clearly. The noble Lord had not stated how the force was to be distributed over the country with regard to the counties.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
In counties. They are not to be taken out of their own counties without their own consent, except in cases of danger of invasion, or of other imminent danger.
§ MR. HUME
said, he had heard the statement of the noble Lord with deep regret. He (Mr. Hume) was totally opposed to this project. He was as earnest in his desire that the country should run no risk as any one else; but if they were in danger, he was for having a proper regular force, as, for instance, the existing force properly applied; and he warned the Committee and the country against sanctioning the principle involved, and all the social mischief implied, in the scheme of a local militia. The militia was an old and worn-out expedient. The militia was resorted to for the purpose of avoiding the putting the Crown in possession of too great a standing army; and the course which was formerly taken in removing the militia force from under the control of the Crown, and placing it under the government of a Committee of the House of Commons, indicated the jealousy which had existed between the Crown and the Parliament, and out of which sprung the very idea of such a force at all. That jealousy had now long ceased; and no one within those walls would have any jealousy of any powers Her Majesty might enjoy as the executive officer of this country; for the Crown, like every individual in the nation, would be bound by the rules which the constitution laid down. Why, then, were they to revert back to a system of war preparation which no longer was necessary? This scheme would be a tax bearing most unjustly upon those classes who would be drafted into the local militia. The service would be compulsory; and thus 561 people who could not afford absence from home would he subjected to a removal from their ordinary occupations, to their own great injury, and to answer no good national purpose whatever. The proposition which he would submit to the Committee was, whether, with so large a military force, and with so large a naval force, they would be warranted in consenting to the plan propounded by the noble Lord. An expense of 200,000l. was, no doubt, a slight matter; but they were not to consider this plan in reference simply to the expense. Ft was a plan full of social evil. The evil would fall altogether on the poorer classes. The payment to obtain exemption from the conscription was a heavy and serious burden to men of the working classes; and he thought the proceeding both morally and politically injudicious; for it was resorting to the old doctrine which was held before the division of labour was recognised. But there could be a division of labour in defending the country as in everything else. He was for the regular army so long and to such an extent as the regular army was necessary. To take one of the industrious community forcibly and make him temporarily a soldier was mischievous; in the first place, as removing him from a labour that could not probably do without him; and in the next place, as unfitting him, by the new habits he would acquire, for resuming an orderly citizenship. They had seen the effects of what he might call militia forces on national characters among the nations on the Continent: and he wanted to know if they were to overlook all the lessons thus taught them. France used to be referred to as an example to be avoided; and now they were going to imitate her example. He had nothing to say against military men. He was not abusing military men. They formed habits necessary to their profession, which were fit for their profession and not for ordinary callings, being, as he believed, dangerous to private society. What was now proposed was to introduce military manners, modes of thought, and modes of acting into ordinary life; and it was to this he objected. But, apart from the principle of the Bill, he objected to the details. The men to be selected, according to the noble Lord's plan, were to be between twenty and twenty-three years of age. Now, why was this margin fixed upon arbitrarily? Why were men between twenty-five and thirty to be exempt? It was an obvious injustice, and utterly indefensible. The 562 noble Lord had talked about the "balance of power," and of the expediency of this country being on its guard when the balance was overthrown, and of some one nation assuming too much. What did the noble Lord mean? Did the noble Lord consider that France was two powerful? He (Mr. Hume) considered that France, at this moment, was far weaker—far less likely to become the aggressor of England—than at any former period. Were we to have some now Holy Alliance against some one Continental State? He was astonished at such ideas—at such a policy—in the present Government. Was any man in that House so mad as to think that he would ever again see a British soldier on the continent of Europe as an aggressor? Such a sight would never be seen, would never be permitted again. To contemplate such a thing was to contemplate a renewal of that fatal foreign policy which had saddled the country with 800,000,000l. of debt, and which sum, as a permanent debt, ground down the whole people. The noble Lord could not be aware of the dissatisfaction which would be experienced at this proposal to force portions of the population into compulsory service. There was no suggestion that the men so forced from their homes were to be enfranchised. Oh, no! They were to be the defenders of the country; but they were not to have the rights of citizenship. Here, then, was a Whig Government adopting the principles and the practices so severely reprobated in the Tory Governments of former years; and if the noble Lord persevered in such courses, he (Mr. Hume) would tell him that the day was not distant when he would have to give way. The noble Lord seemed to have forgotten Lord Grey's declaration, and the approbation which that declaration elicited from the whole people. He (Mr. Hume) would take the sense of the Committee on the question, if he could find a seconder, and he would give the Committee the opportunity of dividing. He would ask what were the fleet of 250 vessels doing, that they could not be employed in the protection of our own coasts? After thirty-seven years of peace they were bound to hesitate before they adopted hastily exploded principles and proved had systems. He would demand that, before they arbitrarily interfered with the civil rights of the people, they should inquire if their existing naval and military forces could not be better and more efficiently applied. The noble Lord, no doubt, wished peace. But here, in this proposal, 563 he directly and palpably insulted a neighbouring Power. This militia was an armament to prepare against the possibility of a French invasion. But they all knew that the interests of Prance were to be at peace with England; and in that House the noble Lord, and all of them, had repudiated the statements and the assaults against the present Government of Prance. Yet, now, the noble Lord said that they were in fear, and that they must not attach any credit to the declarations of the foreign Government. Half of the 30,000 men to be called out would be taken from agriculture; and they should be careful how they thus interfered with the natural arrangements of society. They were to be drilled for a week at a time. Now, no one could believe that that would make them soldiers. It would just suffice to make it extremely dangerous to let them have arms in their hands. At any rate, the noble Lord should have proposed to accompany this Bill with the concession of the elective franchise to every person serving in the militia; and if the Bill went forward, he (Mr. Hume) would take care to move such an Amendment. The noble Lord had referred to steam and to steam vessels as increasing the risks to this country. But he (Mr. Hume) was prepared to show, steam had been the greatest blessing to us, in point of national defence, and that the power of protecting ourselves had been increased tenfold by our steam vessels. Certainly, they were running risks at present. They had ten ships in the Tagus to assist the Government of Portugal. They had from twenty to thirty ships in the Mediterranean to keep the Ionian Islands in slavery and in subjugation. They had twenty-three ships on the coast of Africa for the purpose of plundering the natives, and, by way of freak, of putting down one man, and putting up another chief. Then they had an enormous army. It was called a small army. But the estimates showed that they supplied clothing to 185,000 troops, either in arms, or ready at a moment's notice to take arms; and why was this vast force (and it was quite exclusive of our sailors) not sufficient?
said, from all the information he could collect, the country would be too glad to see the Government doing anything in the direction of the present proposal, to be very critical as to the measures proposed. There was a general impression of the necessity for being prepared, not against what reasonable and sagacious men might do, but unreasonable 564 and foolish. See what was the intelligence on which the public had to reflect. A journal of this very day, noted for its efforts in procuring intelligence from abroad, announced that the generals commanding corps in the French army were directed, by circular, to have their matériel and personnel in readiness on the 22nd. What was to be done on the 22nd? On the 23rd we shall know; but curiosity may be excused before. The surmise of the informants of the journal was, that on that day the ruler of France was to declare himself Emperor. It did not much concern this country if he declared himself "Mamamouchi;" but if the ruler of France knew his trade, which was to go on till he was stopped, there was a more likely object than this. What would the House say, if it was a point on Belgium? It is presumable we should know it to-morrow, by hearing that a steam force was assembling in the Downs. On all this we are likely to know more hereafter; but, in the meantime, the country will be grateful to the noble Lord's Government for all and everything it shall do in the way of precaution.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, that a Session or two ago their ears were dinned with the words reform, retrenchment, peace—they were told of nothing but harmony, amity, and peaceful confederation to promote the welfare of mankind, and such stuff; and this humbug reached its climax in that Great Exhibition. Everything was then to be happy and prosperous. He never joined in that cant. Her Majesty's Government, and, he grieved to say, many of our gentry, were "hail, fellow! well met," with every foreign ragamuffin. Her Majesty's Government was foremost indeed—every foreigner was a brother and a friend—no matter what or who he was, the foreigner was taken by the hand, whilst our own poor people were neglected. But, not content with all this fuss about foreigners, nothing would suit the Government but that those amicable strangers should be allowed to pry into our dockyards, and inspect the Tower and our arsenals. The whole nakedness of the country was laid open to them, and now we were about to reap the fruits of our generosity. Higher and better people than the noble Lord and his Colleagues countenanced this delusion; but the absurdity had now passed away, and instead of the olive branch they were to have the trumpet. He objected to the scheme of the noble Lord, which he thought in a great measure designed to promote, 565 what he never for a moment forgot on any occasion, great or small, namely, to increase the patronage of himself and his Colleagues. He was unable to hear much of what the noble Lord said, but what be did hear he disliked. The noble Lord spoke in so low a tone of voice, no doubt intentionally, that it was impossible to catch more than a sentence here and there. Even that circumstance tended to increase his suspicion of the nature of the measure. He was of opinion, if any additional force were required, that the old militia might be called out at much less expense and in a more efficient manner than this new conscription which was now proposed. He protested against all these dark and subtle designs, and thought the best that could be done with the Government, who bad brought the country to such a condition, and left her so defenceless, was to ship every one of them off to Botany Bay.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he must complain of the manner in which the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had spoken of the soldiers of the British Army. He (Sir H. Verney) would maintain that there was not a more honourable, well-conducted, and moral set of men in the country ever collected together in a body of 600 or 800 than those who composed a regiment of British soldiers. What was the fact? Every regiment had a library, consisting of 5,000 or 6,000 volumes, which were paid for by the men themselves, and the library was conducted by noncommissioned officers. In each regiment there was a school open for the soldiers morning and evening. On one evening in each week the commanding officer procured a lecture to be given; and on another evening in the week some scientific and intellectual entertainment was afforded to the soldiers. He could not avoid making these few remarks when be heard the character of the British soldier calumniated and spoken of in a way which it did not deserve. It was with some degree of regret that he had heard the proposal of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, for he could not believe that a force so collected, so organised, and so disciplined as was proposed, could be competent successfully to encounter an invasion of this country. If they were to have a militia force, let it be thoroughly efficient. He believed that nothing would be more easy than to raise one battalion or even two battalions in each county, who, instead of being demoralised by becoming soldiers, would 566 prove to be the best class of labourers the country possessed, and who would be looked up to by their fellow-labourers. He hoped the present opportunity would be taken by the Government to bring all branches of the military service into a state of complete efficiency, and make those branches become more closely connected with one another. He should also have been glad if it had been proposed to make the state of the military service more agreeable and desirable to the peasantry and labourers of the country. He should have liked to see the local militia made more useful, and constituted as a link with the regular army; the local militia of each county being put in immediate connexion with the regiment that bore the name of that county. He believed that a system of that sort could be worked at an expense quite as small as that which the noble Lord now proposed. Sure he was that if the militia force of the country were connected with the different regiments of the Army, the national defence would be rendered extremely efficient. Let not the noble Lord suppose that fourteen or twenty-eight days' training of militia could form an adequate defence for the country. He considered it necessary at this juncture to organise an efficient force to resist aggression, but not to interfere with any portion of Europe; and no such force could be organised at a less expense than an efficient militia. That, in his opinion, would be the most judicious step that could be taken. He agreed with the noble Lord in the propriety of employing officers of the regular Army who were now on half-pay in the formation of the new force proposed by him. Before he concluded he would earnestly warn the noble Lord of the responsibility which devolved upon the Government on this momentous question. Should any disaster befall the country, he would tell the noble Lord that those men whom we now loved and honoured, and who had hitherto assisted in founding and confirming our liberties, would be handed down to the execration of after ages if, by their means, any disaster should fall on our country. But he did not anticipate that the Government would be so remiss. He felt confident that the people would most heartily support them in every necessary measure of defence. Could it be supposed that the people of England, who insured themselves in every other matter, would be so blind as not to insure to themselves their lives, their liberties, and their properties? It 567 was necessary that the Government should quietly take the whole matter into their consideration, and, if they did, he felt convinced that the people would enable them to place the country in such a condition as should defy all foreign aggression, whether by a single nation or by a combination of hostile States.
MR. M. O'CONNELL
hoped the noble Lord would consider whether the present measure should not be extended to Ireland. Taking as an instance the county of which he was a native, and the chief town of which he had the honour to represent—Kerry, the people of that county was preeminently loyal. That county was a range of coast extending from the Shannon to as far as Bantry Bay; and yet what was the force which that county possessed? They had one weak depôt, a small constabulary force, which the magistrates of the county were endeavouring to reduce, and a body of Coast Guard, mostly worn-out men, and many of them more fit for Greenwich Hospital than to be on service. Considering the condition of a country like Ireland, nothing could be more easy than for an enemy to effect a landing there. On two occasions such a circumstance had been accomplished. He trusted the noble Lord would not leave the miserable inhabitants of that country without the same defence as he was now providing for England. He was quite sure that if the measure were extended to Ireland, it would be received with thanks, and that the Government would find an organised force collected there that would withstand the efforts of any foreign enemy who should attempt to invade its shores.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, the hon. Member for Bedford (Sir H. Verney) has stated that he hoped, as Englishmen were insured for everything else that they possessed, they would consent to pay for the insurance of their lives, their liberties, and their properties. I have no hesitation in saying that Englishmen are quite willing to pay an insurance for their lives, their liberties, and their property; but the question is, not whether they pay an insurance or not, but whether they pay enough insurance or not for those lives, those liberties, and that property. The question is, whether having already effected an insurance in the Royal Exchange, they should be called upon to insure in the Phœnix as well? The question is, whether they have not already amply insured this country from all hostile attacks by 568 means of those votes—those scandalous votes, I will say, which the House has for so many years sanctioned for the support of the Army and Navy of this empire. This is the sole question for the Committee to consider. As a representative of the people in this House, I never expressed any other opinion than this, that the people of this country were perfectly willing to defend themselves against all unjust aggression. Now, the question again comes to this, whether we have or have not made a due defence against any such aggression? This brings me to consider what is the nature of the defence we now possess? What, in the first place, is it that we have voted for our Navy? Why, if I were to go back to the whole period of thirty-seven years that have elapsed since the war, it would be seen that we had voted no less than 250,000,000l. for our Navy; but I will confine myself to the last ten years of that period, because we have something to show for the money we have during those years expended. During the ten years, then, from 1841 to 1850, we have paid for wages to artificers employed in Her Majesty's dockyards at home 6,850,000l. In the same period we have paid for Naval stores, for the building and repairs of ships, &c, 13,400,000l.; and during the same period of ten years we have laid out in new works, improvements, and repairs in the dockyards, &c, 3,700,000l. Now, what would a private shipbuilder say if, after having laid out 23,950,000l. in shipbuilding, that is to say, in purchasing materials, in paying artificers' wages, in the repairing of ships, &c, he should find all those ships in an inefficient and destitute state, and unfit for carrying out any of the purposes whatever for which they were designed, and that he must apply to some foreign and extraneous source to make up for the absence of that power for which he had paid upwards of 23,000,000l. This is precisely the question which the Committee have to consider. The question put to us by the hon. Member for Bedford is, whether, as a country, we are to insure ourselves against foreign aggression? I say we are already abundantly insured. I ask what it is that we do with the vessels which we have constructed at such a vast cost—a cost which, even within the last ten years, would purchase nearly the whole mercantile marine of this kingdom? What is it that we do with our ships while we hear of this danger of invasion? Where 569 are our ships? Where is our Navy? Up even to this moment we have a squadron in the Tagus, but which I am told has been ordered home. And, at the present moment, we have another squadron in the Mediterranean. I will read to the Committee, and to the people of England, who appear to be frightened out of their wits that something is coming to attack them in their own homes, the number of ships this country possesses, and where they are stationary. In the Mediterranean there are the Albion, of 90 guns; the Bellerophon, of 78; the Indefatigable, of 50; the Phœton, of 50; the Queen, of 110; the Trafalgar, of 120; the Vengeance, of 84; and the Superb, of 80. This does not include above a dozen small vessels of war. We have all this force in the Mediterranean at the very time that we hear this outcry about invasion. Why does not the Government order these vessels home? But, so far from this, what is their policy? Why, at this very moment they have just ordered the Britannia, a ship of 120 guns, to sail to Malta, 1,200 miles away from the coast where it might be of use to us. Besides this, the Lisbon squadron, or squadron of evolutions, as it is called, consists of the Arethusa, of 50 guns; the Arrogant, of 36; the Hogue, of 60; the Leander, of 50; and the Prince Regent, 90. Now, is such conduct as this rational while the people are raising a cry of invasion? Is it wise, or consistent with common sense, that you should have such a force as this—a force large enough for any naval purposes whatever that can possibly be required in the actual condition of the country and of Europe—that you should have such a force 1,200 miles away from your own shores, and that you should then raise the cry of invasion, and come down to this House and ask the people to leave their daily avocations to go out to be armed and drilled, and to give you an addition to your Army in order that you may protect them against somebody who is going to molest them? I am not going to do the Admiralty or the Government the injustice of assuming that we have no ships at home. These 23,000,000l. have not all been wasted. We are not without ships of war in the ports on our coasts. We are not liable to be bombarded by a few gunbrigs, or a thousand or two of buccaneers coming to our shores. We have in commission at Sheerness the London, of 90 guns, the Monarch, of 84, and the 570 Waterloo, of 120; we have at Portsmouth the Neptune, of 120 guns, the Rodney, of 90 (advanced ship), the Blenheim, of 60, the Edinburgh, of 58, the Excellent, of 76, and the Victory, of 101; we have at Chatham the Boscawen, of 70 guns; at Woolwich, the Fisgard, of 42; at Devon-port, the Impregnable, of 104, and the St. George, of 120; and at Pembroke, the Saturn, of 72. Here are ten line-of-battle ships and four frigates. But we have also paid very largely for a force of steamers which are lying in our ports, and we have besides line-of-battle ships in the West and East Indies. Now I ask anybody in the world to say what possible use there is in our having a line-of-battle ship lying at Jamaica, or another line-of-battle ship lying in the East Indies? I challenge any one to show that a line-of-battle ship, either in the East or in the West Indies, could ever be called into service, whatever might be the occasion for them. And yet, we have heard of attacks on British vessels in the Eastern Archipelago, and where you have had to pay head-money for more than 5,000 men. But we never employ our line-of-battle ships in hunting down these pirates, as they were called, and destroying them in the rivers and narrow creeks. We might as well bring a field battery into the lanes and alleys of London to look after thieves and pickpockets. Therefore, to keep these line-of battle ships at Hongkong and Singapore, while we are afraid of an invasion here upon our coasts, is one of the most monstrous and ridiculous things that can be imagined. The argument was, that we were so near France, that we were in clanger of being invaded by French people. But our Colonies were some thousands of miles off France, and there could be no fear that the French were going on a buccaneering expedition against them. The whole argument was, that we were in danger for our own shores. If you are sincere in using it, the first thing you must do to satisfy me of that sincerity, is to order home those large vessels, which are comparatively useless where they are now placed, to your own shores, for the purpose of protecting you. Now, I must say the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in the speech he delivered this night, and in the arguments he used, has put himself very much in antagonism with what he told us the other day at the opening of Parliament. The noble Lord on that occasion informed us that the news- 571 paper press of this country had taken great liberties with the President of France; but that that gentleman had lived in England, that he knew the habits of this country, that he knew the press was free, and that, though it might be licentious, it was not to be taken for granted that what the press said of the President of France was the opinion of the English people. Now, without offering a word of objection to what the noble Lord said on that occasion with regard to the press of this country, I must say I think he has contrived to take up a position which, while it is ten times more menacing to France than anything the newspapers can say, has not the excuse that he is not speaking in the name of the English people, for, if you agree to this proposal, to organise a militia of 80,000 men—to set up this force with an elastic organisation which may become 110,000 or 120,000 men—I say then the noble Lord will do far more than the press of this country, which he took on himself to lecture, to put us in a state of antagonism with the French people. But the noble Lord, when he called on us to do this, failed to give one proof that what he said at the opening of Parliament, and that which the Speech from the Throne declared, was not true, and that his assertions as to the pacific intentions of the French Government were unfounded—he failed to show that what the noble Lord who leads the Opposition in the other House stated was unfounded on the same point he had not done a single thing to show that what the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) said was wrong, when he declared he had left us in relations of amity and security with all the nations of the world. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had not given them an argument why they should depart from the security with which he gratified them at the beginning of the Session, and by which the funds went up. He feared they would go down again to-morrow. But, comparing the noble Lord's statement now with that which he made in 1848, we may find arguments to show why there is less danger at present than then of any attack from the French people. I remember when the noble Lord brought forward his proposal in 1848 to draw out the militia, he said the King of the French during his long and pacific reign had doubled the amount of expenditure on the navy. He has not pretended to show that the present 572 Government of France has increased the navy at all. On the contrary, I have seen in some of those French newspapers which are allowed to be published, recommendations of the policy of laying up some of their large ships. The noble Lord gave us another argument in 1848 for calling out the militia, when he said the French had 2,000,000 of National Guards; but the present President has dissolved and disbanded the National Guards, and that argument can no longer apply, I think we are as safe from molestation now as then. I say as safe from molestation, because, judging from the very suggestive and somewhat alarming remarks of the noble Lord with respect to our arrangements on the Continent, and from the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Col. Thompson), who took upon himself to speak of the policy of Belgium as a matter which might affect our policy, I am afraid there is some danger of our getting into a war from meddling with affairs on the Continent, and that this proposal and talk of calling out the militia may be from the intention of employing our forces on the Continent. Now, I can only say, if the people of England, remembering the experience of the last year, and after having suffered from the desertion and treachery of every people on the Continent in turn, and after bringing a long and dreary war to a close, in which they did nothing permanent, and settled no principle on a fixed basis, but burdening the country with an enormous debt, again allow any Government, Whig or Tory, to attempt to drag them into a Continental war, they will richly deserve the catastrophe of a national bankruptcy which will inevitably befall a country so impervious to all the counsels of sense and experience. As to the present measure, I am persuaded it will be very unpopular in the country among all classes; but less so among the rich than the poor, because the rich can pay for substitutes, which the poor cannot do. I have no doubt, before this discussion is brought to a close, there will be public meetings like those in 1848, when I remember the largest meeting I ever saw collected, in Birmingham, to protest against the noble Lord's measure; and he will see the same expression of hostility—and, I think, very deservedly—to the course he is now proposing. What is it in effect? A mere fraction of the community are to be drawn away from their business and pur- 573 suits to take on themselves the duty of soldiers, and to be put under martial law,—for what? I say, if you want 150,000 soldiers, take them, and pay them; pay them liberally. But, to call a man from his labours, to take a man from his work who can earn his 4s. a day, or from his small shop, where he is with difficulty supporting his family, and to put him into a soldier's jacket and drill him, subject him to martial law, and pay him 1s. a day, is a most flagrant hardship and injustice. But I will return to the point, that our Navy is our national guardian. I say that there is no necessity on national grounds for this measure. You have no business to contemplate any invasion of your shores, if the numerous fleets for which you pay so large a sum are properly kept up and disposed of. You have in that case no reason to dread invasion, whether by a few brigands or by a foreign army. I observe, a Swiss gentleman—one Baron Maurice, I believe, has been giving us a plan of invasion by an army of 120,000; but that has been disposed of, I believe, by military men, who say that it would be impossible to effect it, because to carry such an army would employ all the merchant men as well as all the ships of war belonging to France, and we should be a nation of soldiers before they could land on our shores. But there is another plan put forth by the Army and Navy journal of this month, which I will state for you in their words. It is from the United Service Journal for February, and is, I suppose, the opinion of military and scientific men. The editor says—What we have to dread is, not an invasion, but a hostile descent, throwing on some part of our coast a force of 10,000 or 12,000 men, who, although not strong enough to occupy the country, might do irreparable mischief before they are subdued. A buccaneering expedition might even make its way into the Thames, and demand a Canton ransom from the metropolis of the world."'Now this is a very grave and serious matter put forth by the United Service Journal. But, in the first place, I take exception to it on this ground—it is a libel on the French army. I don't believe you could find a French officer to undertake a buccaneering expedition of this kind without a declaration of war; and if you did, then the expedition would be an act of piracy. If it be too high an appeal to make to French morality and French honour to suppose they would not act in this way, there is still this appeal—that they will 574 be pirates. I am told one of the objects of such an invasion would be to avenge Waterloo; but how would it avenge that defeat, if they only came over here to be hanged? Again, I am told they will burn our ships in Liverpool and Bristol. If they did, they would not burn English ships only, but they would burn American ships, Dutch ships, vessels under every flag in the world; and the nation that warranted such an act, and the Government that permitted it, would be hunted at least from the face of the ocean by all the ships of every maritime nation of the globe. These are the most serious arguments I have met with for the increase of our defensive armaments. Nay, I have no belief in anything of the kind. I have no fear of anything of the kind, and the only thing we want is, that the ships you pay for to the extent of 8,000,000l. a year, including the various departments of the service, the dockyards and Ordnance, may be employed so that they may satisfy the timid that they have no fear of invasion from our opposite neighbours. We pay for this fleet twice as much as France pays for her navy, and three times as much as America does. Why do we pay so? Because, being an island, having extensive commercial operations over all the world, we require more ships than other nations; but, having them, we do not require to call out the militia to protect our shores against invasion. I trust the noble Lord will defer the question, so as to give the country an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon it. As to this cry of invasion, I believe the fear is much less general than many persons suppose. I have seen an attempt made to manufacture this panic before. I had in 1848 to contend against a far louder outcry, and I succeeded, along with a few hon. Members, in defeating the noble Lord's proposition, which he says he regretted. Why does he regret it? Has the country been less safe during the last three years, because we prevented the noble Lord from spending 500,000l.? On the contrary, I have heard it said by the press, that while the French people governed their own country, we never had been so free from fear of war. I hope the good sense of the people will resist this attempt, which, whenever it has been mentioned at public meetings has been treated with scorn. It is, in fact, a cry got up, newspapers having nothing better to talk about during the recess, which ought to have vanished at the meeting of Parliament; and give us 575 but a few weeks more, and you will see that we shall be able to get rid of this fear, and of this cry of invasion, and then I hope it will never return again. If the noble Lord would only suffer a short delay to elapse, he would be enabled quietly to withdraw his measure, and thus to avoid the demoralising effects which the embodying of the militia could not fail to have upon all our social relations.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I have heard with satisfaction the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman on this side of the House., the hon. Member for Bradford (Col. Thompson), who expressed his gratification that Her Majesty's Government were at last doing something, and were proposing a measure on the subject of the present discussion. My satisfaction, I can, however, assure the House, is not founded on any temporary panic, or on any opinion that there is now pressing on us any danger which has not existed at any former period. I trust our relations with all those countries from which, under any circumstances, danger might arise, are friendly, and that there is no question at present likely to arise which can expose this country to the danger of war. But the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government knows that so long ago as the year 1846 I took the liberty of pressing on him my opinion, that on general principles, and with a view to the permanent and lasting interests of the country, it was desirable that some such measure of precaution should be taken as that which is the object of the present proposal, and I have at various times renewed my instances; but there were difficulties which prevented my recommendations from being carried into effect. I am glad, Sir, those difficulties have disappeared, and that Her Majesty's Government are now enabled to propose measures lo provide more adequately for the defence of the country. There are hon. Gentlemen who say they hope we may not be again engaged in Continental warfare, or mix ourselves up unnecessarily with Continental quarrels. Sir, I agree with them entirely; but, as the noble Lord truly said, we have engagements, and some of them of long standing, which may involve us in discussions with other countries. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: Hear, hear!] We have political interests beyond our own shores; and there are changes which it would not suit either the safety of this country or its dignity, that we should sit quietly by, and 576 see take place. We have interests scattered over all the surface of the globe, and there is no country in which we have not subjects, property, and commerce. Questions, moreover, often arise, and sometimes of the most dangerous character, from matters which in themselves are apparently of the most trivial characters. We had an instance of this in the Administration of Sir Robert Peel, when a question arose about Tahiti, of a very grave kind, not indeed involving any national interest, but involving the national dignity and honour. Hon. Gentlemen talk as if the only danger of rupture were from our immediate neighbour, France; but they should remember that France is not the only Power that possesses a large fleet and a large disposable army, and that there is no saying if we were involved in war with one Power, to what extent the flame might spread, or how far the jealousy of other Powers might prompt them to take advantage of the difficulties in which we were engaged. We are told that our position is insular, and that we have a fleet which is our defence; but that insular position, which constitutes, in some degree, our strength, constitutes also our danger. The Continental States are accessible only by certain roads and approaches, which they can watch and protect by fortifications, and they know where and how the attack will come. But the vast circumference of our shores is open all around, and it is impossible to foresee what place an invading force may choose to land at. The Channel is narrow which divides us from our immediate neighbours; but then, as Lord Howe said, the sea is a wide place." That Channel may be crossed in a few hours; and a few days may bring a considerable force to any portion that may be selected of the extended surface of our shores. I believe our Navy is, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden) said it ought to be, considering the expense which has been incurred upon it, as efficient as it ever was at any former period in proportion to its extent. Nay, I believe it is more efficient than it ever was; I believe that we have a great amount of valuable stores in our dockyards, and that we have a large number of ships in ordinary. But is that a reason why we should permit an enemy to come and destroy those stores, to burn those ships, which are capable of receiving men, but which have no men on board? And here I must complain of the exaggeration of the hon. Gentleman in enumerating the 577 force of our Navy, when he reckoned as part of our defence ships like the Excellent, which is only placed for target practice, and the Victory, which is only a guardship in Portsmouth harbour, and not, so far as I know, fit for sea at all. But what I say is this, it would be madness to rely entirely on our Navy for safety from invasion. It is perfectly impossible for any navy, however active, vigorous, and numerous, to prevent altogether the landing of a hostile force, when we consider the short interval of space between our own shores and the numerous points from which an enemy might come, and whence an expedition might sail to some spot of our wide-extending shores, and land, for instance, in Ireland, or any less guarded portion of the country. It is therefore necessary that we should have a land force—that we should have armed men to resist armed men; for, as to fortifications, it is useless to think of fortifying more than our arsenals and dockyards, and such places of vital importance: there is no fortification like brave men armed, organised, disciplined, and ready to meet an enemy. That is the best fortification, and such a fortification you will always find in the hearts and arms of Englishmen. But if it be necessary that we should have armed men to meet the unfortunate possibility of an invasion—I hope not the probability; and mind, the less probable it will be the more we are prepared for it: nothing so much tempts aggression as weakness and incapacity to resist, when to that is added enormous wealth and a great temptation for political objects—if it be necessary that this country should have a force capable of defending our homes against an invading army, and of protecting us from the incalculable calamity which would arise from the occupation of any portion of our country, even for a month, by an invading force, why then, I say, something like the mode proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government seems to me the best, if not the only possible, mode of accomplishing our purpose. It is mighty we'll for persons in this country to talk of the hardship of taking men away from their homes, their farms, or their shops, in order to teach them to defend themselves, their families, and their country. Fortunately, Sir, the people of England do not know what the calamities of war are; but those who have served abroad, and those who have read with common attention the accounts of the effects of war in foreign coun- 578 tries, must know that a greater calamity could not well befall this country than the landing of a force of sufficient magnitude to occupy any portion of it for even the shortest conceivable period. If then there is to be a standing force, I think the mode in which the noble Lord proposes to raise it is, on the whole, the best that can be adopted. I am satisfied that the habits, the feelings, and the finances of the country would not permit us to have a regular force in time of peace sufficient to defend the country in the event of war. The only thing we can have, then, is what every other country of any magnitude and importance I has also, and that is a dormant force, trained, organised, and disciplined to a certain degree, in time of peace, and ready to appear under arms in time of war, I and to take a part with the regular I forces in operations against an invading enemy. My hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden) talks about the hardship of taking persons from their homes; but the people of the United States of America do not feel it as a hardship to be called upon to learn the use of arms to defend their homes and their country in the event of invasion. Why, it is said there are somewhere about 2,000,000 of militiamen in the United States. In most of the countries of Europe there is a similar force. Prussia has a large defensive force in her Landwehr; and Austria has a large amount of dormant force of this kind. The National Guards of France were a very numerous body, and, although they have been recently disbanded, they will no doubt be again partially reorganised. There is no !great country in the world that follows the example of this country—I should say the recent example of this country, for it is only of late years the militia has been discontinued. Considering the enormous wealth which we have to protect, there is no country so defenceless and so destitute of the means of protecting itself in case of attack. What we want is a trained, an organised, disciplined, force, and assembled for a short time in the year in order to be accustomed to the use of arms, and practised in those movements without a knowledge of which armed men are a mob, and not an army; which is not to be sent out of the kingdom, and which can be called together in a short period, and assembled under arms to defend the country. The militia is that force. The militia has been 579 in existence for nearly two centuries; and I cannot understand the meaning of the distinction made by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) between the regular and the local militia, upon which the noble Lord grounds his preference for the local militia. The regular militia is, in time of peace, like the local militia, but in time of war it is within the limits of the United Kingdom, like the regular army. It is a body formed by ballot—those who were drawn providing a substitute, if they chose to do so; and this is an important distinction between the regular and the local militia. In the regular militia there may be substitutes; but in the local militia substitutes are not allowed, and balloted men must serve in person, with a few exceptions. The regular militia is the old and constitutional force of this country, formed by ballot and by substitutes, officered, trained, armed, and equipped, assembling every year for twenty-eight days, or a less period, and ready within a week or ten days, when war is imminent, or has broken out, to assemble under arms and join the regular army for the defence of the country. The regular militia, too, is liable to serve in the whole of the United Kingdom; and I really am astonished that in a plan for the defence of the realm, Ireland should be left without the protection said to be essential for the defence of this country. The local militia, which the noble Lord at the head of the Government purposes to organise, can only be called upon to serve in Great Britain; and why a defensive force is not to be raised for Ireland, I am at a loss to conceive. Do the Government doubt the loyalty of the Irish people? Why, Sir, I would pledge my existence that there is not a man in Ireland who, being called out, and having taken the oath of allegiance to his Sovereign, would not lose his life rather than not defend his country against invasion. I have the most complete confidence in the loyalty of the millions of Ireland. I am persuaded they would be true to the Queen and to their oath; and as to their courage, that is sufficiently well known to need no eulogium from any man. If, then, Sir, we are to have a militia—which, in my opinion, we ought to have—I do not understand why the noble Lord has adopted so complicated an arrangement as this experiment of his seems to be, when he has a simpler and more effective force in the regular and well-known militia, raised with less personal inconvenience, and more 580 available for national defence; because, while the local militia does not permit of substitutes, the regular militia does, and it is a force which may be required to serve in any part of the United Kingdom, The local militia apparently is not to be trained by battalions, but the men are to come out by tens and twenties whenever they like to be trained by squads. Now squad drill will never make soldiers fit for service. To render troops flit for service in the field, they must have been practised in battalion movements. Then it seems, from the statement of the noble Lord, that this local militia, even when formed into battalions, is to remain each battalion in its respective county, and it would thus be eaten up by an enemy in detail just as in this House we dispose, one after the other, of the clauses of a Bill. The regular militia is founded upon Acts of Parliament which now exist, and is available on the first breaking out of a war; but the new force could not be called out until the enemy had landed, and until it was too late to be of any service. I submit to the Government that it would be desirable to leave out the word "local" from the title of the Bill, and to bring in a Bill to amend, if necessary, the Act of 1802, and the laws, in short, which regulate the regular militia. The Government might make some arrangements connected with the ballot by which the constitution of the force might be improved. I have no doubt, too, that it would be advisable to introduce some half-pay officers, acquainted with the practical duties of the service, into the regiments of militia, who would give a tone to the force, and improve its efficiency. The men might then have the advantage of being trained in battalions, and not in awkward squads, as they would be under this Bill. These, however, are details which may be discussed when the clauses of the Bill are considered in Committee. But the Government may depend upon it that no valuable and efficient service can be given by these troops, unless they are trained by battalions, and accustomed to those movements in the field which are essential to render them useful in the operations of an action against an enemy. In conclusion I can only say that I am glad that the Government have at length resolved to provide a defensive force. I think it the cheapest and most effective means which can be provided for the protection of the country, and the danger of invasion may be best 581 averted by its betng known that we have the means of defending ourselves if we should be attacked. But while I agree in this general principle, I think the proposed Bill is susceptible of much improvement, and I would beg leave to point out the regular militia as the standard by which this House should be guided in framing the measure.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
said, he had heard the speech of the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat, with great satisfaction, and he rejoiced that his noble Friend had coincided completely with the Government as to the necessity of being prepared with a force of the description of a militia body; but his noble Friend was mistaken in supposing the Government Bill could be amended by substituting in place of a local a permanent, or regular militia. That subject had undergone great consideration at the hands of the Government, and to their minds it appeared far better to confine themselves in the present instance to a militia of a local rather than of a permanent character. The regular militia was composed of men who were permitted to serve by substitute, and that arrangement created so much confusion that it was often impossible to put their hand on the militiaman when his services were required. Under the system by which substitutes were admitted, a man might serve as such in the county of York, and when the training was over there, he might resort to the county of Somerset, and serve as a substitute there. Thus 5,000, or 6,000 men might in this way be doing the duty of the whole militia force. That might not be discovered in time of peace; but in time of war, when the substitute was detained in the first corps in which he was enrolled, there would be a lamentable deficiency of trained men. Besides, the Government did not propose to go so far as the expense of a regular militia. All that was aimed at under present circumstances was a force which should be mustered, partly drilled, and rendered easy of enrolment whenever the necessity arose of having recourse to their services. By the old system it took many weeks before even the lists preparatory to a ballot could be made out, and many months before the men could he enrolled. It was not proposed by this Act to render every man between the ages of eighteen and forty-five liable to ballot, as by the old Militia Act, whereby married men were 582 drawn, and great expense thrown on the country in providing for their wives and families. But it was proposed to ballot for men between the ages of twenty and twenty-three, by which they believed they would get a sufficient force, and a force composed of those on whom the engagement of service would fall with the greatest lightness. He could assure his noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) that it was proposed to battalionise the force as soon as they were mustered. It was not proposed, as his noble Friend insinuated, to keep them in awkward squads permanently; but they must have them in awkward squads until they were ready for battalions. They would have officers and non-commissioned officers appointed, and, except in case of absolute invasion or threatened invasion, they would not be called for service out of their own localities. Now it appeared to him (Mr. Fox Maule) that this would be a very simple force, and easy to be got together; very economical, and perfectly effectual for all the purposes for which it was required. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had compared the proposed system to a different system in France, only in diluted form, which was known under the name of the conscription. He (Mr. Fox Maule) was one of those who held that it was a constitutional obligation on every man to rally round his hearth and altar; and to that obligation every man in the country ought to be bound. When the Government asked then for only one-fifth part of the adult male population, and that between the ages of twenty and twenty-three, to serve (or rather be liable to serve) their country for a period of four years, and during that period never to be taken from their own locality, except the country was invaded or in danger of invasion—to submit to fourteen, or as much as twenty-eight days' drill in the course of a year, for a period of about six hours of the day, he thought this the lightest duty which could be required of the youth of a great country like this; and he was very much mistaken if such a proposition would either be hooted at, or be as unpopular as a conscription, as the hon. Member for Montrose imagined. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden) said he would prefer a regular army to any militia; but there were some people who, whenever there were two courses, somehow or other had objections to both; 583 and he had very little doubt, when an addition of 4,000 men to the Array Estimates was proposed, the hon. Member for the West Riding and the hon. Member for Montrose would be the first to say, "We have troops enough." The hon. Member for the West Riding had also said, nothing could be so menacing to France as the proposition now made. He (Mr. Fox Maule) could understand no proposition as menacing which had for its object alone the defence of our own shores; it could only be menacing when France, or any other country, landed on those shores, or intended to attack and invade us; he apprehended no act of self-protection could be menacing to any nation. He was perfectly ready to take any share of blame for not having moved in this direction sooner; but he confessed he thought the time was come when Government would have been remiss in not taking the steps which they had done. Some said those steps had been delayed; but at all events they had the satisfaction of thinking the foundation was now laid for the establishment of a home force, never to be called on until their services were absolutely required, and consisting of that portion of the community whom he would not object to see trained to the use of arms. They would be men who had something to lose, and had a desire to protect that something, and not men who, being substitutes for others, were eventually drawn from the refuse of the population. As his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) had stated, there were many country gentlemen in that House who had had many years' experience, and were well acquainted with the details of the militia in their several districts; and the Government did not object to this measure being considered in a Committee of the whole House, or, after a second reading, to be referred to a Select Committee upstairs. But there was one point to which he must for a moment allude. The hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds) had asked if Ireland was to be included in this Bill? His answer was, neither Ireland nor Scotland was included—England was the point most essential, to which, in the first instance, the Government applied themselves; but they omitted Scotland and Ireland, nothing doubting the loyalty of the Scotch and Irish, if they were in any danger of any foreign foe, for, come from where it may, there was not one 584 subject of the Queen, be he in what portion of Her Majesty's dominions he may, be he of what religion he may, be he of what political opinion he may, who would not fly at once to arms in defence, and rally round the Sovereign with the same loyalty which had ever distinguished them.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was sure that, after the very able and patriotic speech of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton—a speech which evinced the truest English spirit—a spirit that noble Lord had on many important occasions manifested—it was not necessary for him to trouble the Committee with many observations. No one was in a position to give a more independent or a more competent opinion on the subject before the House than the noble Lord, having lately left the Government, and being perhaps more versed in the relations of this country with foreign States, and their present attitude, than any other person. Assured, as he was, that the circumstances of the country were not such as to warrant an overweening confidence in the perpetuation of peace, he hoped that England would not suffer herself to be misled by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) into that state of over-confidence with which he would inspire the House. The hon. Member for the West Riding had not been very successful as the prophet of peace, for last Session he and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) said there were no pirates in Sarawak. One of their witnesses was a Mr. Burns, who had since paid with his life the price of his temerity and overconfidence. He did not wish to enter into any discussion of the necessity for the measure which had been announced; but after careful inquiry of those who were most competent to give information on such subjects, he was convinced that he was doing his duty, as a Member of the Opposition, in supporting the proposal now made; in saying that, he was not of course pledging himself to the forthcoming measure in all its details. In 1848 he (Mr. Newdegate) opposed the embodiment of the militia; but in 1852 he would support a defensive measure such as the Government had proposed. He was confident he was doing his duty in giving to the proposal of the Government a general support.
§ MR. ROCHE
said, he entirely concurred in the eulogium passed by the noble Lord 585 (Lord Palmerston) on the loyalty and courage of the Irish people. But in what they were doing, bringing forward a Bill for the further self-defence of the country, would Government allow him to ask whether they were acting quite fairly or prudently towards a people described by the noble Lord as preeminently loyal? It was folly to think the acts of that House would not be canvassed in England, in Ire land, and on the Continent. They might be assured that Continental nations would say, "While England is arming herself for defence against hostility, is there not an important portion of the kingdom, either by neglect or design, left undefended?" Let Members speak boldly and plainly. He had seen with pain writings and publications in Irish newspapers, tending to invite a French invasion. He had seen with pain and disgust those publications. He deplored the fact of such things having been written—he deplored the effect and the act; but he also deplored the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in hesitating at arming the Irish people, for such a proceeding added a kind of colouring to the base and wicked attempts and arguments of misguided people. He did not agree with the views of the hon. Member for the West Riding. He believed the voluntary system was the best, cheapest, and most constitutional mode of defence. If that were so, in what position was Ireland placed? What the noble Lord said was true—the better defended and prepared a country was, the less was the chance of invasion. But if they took care that Ireland should not be armed, what was that but an advertisement to France, that "Soldiers may be landed here." Such would be the consequences of excluding Ireland from the Bill. There might be a small number of disaffected persons in Ireland, but the great body of the people were as loyal and as little disposed to fraternise with the French as the people of England. That was the ground on which he called upon Government, if they were well affected to Her Majesty's loyal and peaceful Irish subjects, to give them the same means of protecting their country as they had given to England. The Bill excluded Ireland and Scotland. He hoped, however, like the new Reform Bills, that they were to have separate Bills to effect the same object. If not, it would be nothing short of a declaration to Europe, that the people of Ireland were not to be depended 586 upon. If they did this, they would commit a great mistake as statesmen, and practically they would also calumniate the Irish people.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down supposes, without any warrant or foundation whatever, that Ireland is not placed in this Bill in consequence of some distrust of the J loyalty of Irishmen. Sir, as I have already said, there is no sort of foundation for such a supposition. It would have created the greatest confusion if we had proposed to introduce into the same Bill different authorities with regard to Irish parishes and Irish unions; and, therefore, we took first a Militia Bill which affected England, and made that the foundation, not making it applicable either to Scotland any more than to Ireland. At the same time we imply no distrust of the loyalty of Scotchmen. We do not say the Scotch people are not loyal, but we say we wish, in the first instance, to introduce a Militia local Bill for England. There is another thing which I stated with regard to this Bill, namely, that a portion of the police force employed in the metropolis, and in the great towns of some larger counties, was regarded as a part of the quota to be furnished, and was so far an exemption from the obligations of the Bill. If the same principle is applied to Ireland, where there is a large force of constabulary formed entirely of Irishmen, who have always behaved well in every respect, and are, I believe, as fine a body of men—some 10,000 or 12,000 strong—as can be mustered; of course, that circumstance has to be considered, when we have to introduce a Bill for Ireland. It is a matter for consideration whether we shall follow this Bill up, when it has been approved by both Houses, by Bills with regard to Ireland and Scotland; and if no measure is introduced for Scotland or Ireland, it will be from other causes than a want of confidence in the people of Ireland or Scotland.
said, he approved of something being done, for he considered it quite disgraceful that people should be thrown so often into such a state of panic as they lately had been on the subject of invasion. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden) had admitted to-night more than he had ever heard him previously admit—that our commercial relations were much larger than 587 those of other countries, and for that reason required a larger navy. He wished to keep the hon. Member in that position, and taking the country which naturally suggested itself for the comparison—with which we were now at peace—they had as efficient a line-of-battle force as we had, both in number, guns, and men, for he (Capt. Harris) could not consider our advance ships in harbour as efficient ships. Within the last two or three months it had been tested, and found to require several months to get an advanced ship in efficient condition. Men ought to be provided, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty would give them some plan for effecting that object. The militia ballot presented an argument for a measure which he (Capt. Harris) brought forward two years ago for manning the Navy. He presumed the seafaring portion of the community would be exempt from the militia ballot, and that would afford great facility to the Admiralty for balloting among merchant seamen to man our advanced ships, and carrying out the plan he had proposed. He had not brought forward that plan last year, in consequence of the seamen having been led away by agitators on the question of the Mercantile Marine Act; but he hoped the subject would now receive that attention which it most assuredly deserved.
SIR F. BARING
thought he should be able on an early day to bring in a measure on the subject, and hoped the hon. and gallant Member would therefore postpone for the present any Motion he might contemplate with regard to it.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
said, he could bear testimony to the fact stated by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston), that the opinion which he had expressed to-night on the subject of the militia was no new opinion, for when he (Mr. S. Herbert) held the office of Secretary of War the noble Lord frequently questioned him on the subject in this House. Those questions had not been without effect, for the late Government were so fully persuaded of the necessity of taking some steps in the matter, that at the desire of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir James Graham), then Secretary for the Home Department, and of the late Sir Robert Peel, he (Mr. S. Herbert) drew up a Bill for the revising of the militia laws, with the view of bringing the subject before Parliament; but the measure 588 was not brought forward, in consequence of a change of Administration. He was glad, therefore, that the Government had now taken the matter in hand. It was most impolitic, and, moreover, it was very uneconomical, to allow this country to be perpetually oscillating between panic and parsimony. He quite agreed with the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken previously, that the military service of the country should be organised, so that the greatest efficiency should be had for the money expended. On this point be as stringent as you can. But, looking to the feelings—prejudices, if they pleased—existing in this country, it was obviously impossible to maintain a standing Army large enough for the purpose of national defence, at all times, and under any conditions. Under these circumstances it was necessary to have recourse to some inexpensive mode of training an armed body to which we might have recourse in cases of emergency. Some inconvenience, however, was likely to arise from the Government having chosen to deal with a local instead of the general militia. The local system was supplementary to the general, and differed from it in many respects; but the chief distinction between them was, that the local militia could not be removed out of their respective counties, except in case of invasion, or under the immediate apprehension of invasion, while the general militia could be moved at any time, without any such condition, on the notification of any such apprehension. The local militia, therefore, was less efficient than the general, and, therefore, less fit to be a model. Take this illustration of the objection to local as compared with general militia: It was exactly when invasion was apprehended that the negotiations between two countries became most delicate, and the greatest efforts were made to preserve the appearance of reciprocal confidence up to the last moment, in the hope of a happy solution of the difficulty. If, then, at such a critical moment our Government should remove the local militia to any point which they thought exposed to the danger of attack, the proceeding would he almost tantamount to a declaration of war, by implying the apprehension of hostilities, while a similar movement effected by a general militia need attract no observation. The right hon. President of the Board of Control (Mr. Fox Maule) spoke at the conclusion of his speech 589 about sending the Bill to a Select Committee. This was eminently a subject which ought to be dealt with by Government on its own responsibility; and, therefore, he protested against its being thrown loose with the view of making the House, and not the Ministry, responsible for what might be done.
§ Sir GEORGE GREY
said, a distinction had been drawn by the right hon. Gentleman between the local and the general militia, and a preference expressed by him for the latter. The real difference was, that one was an offensive force, while the other was purely defensive. All they now wanted to provide was a defensive force—a force to guard this kingdom in the event of an invasion against the attack of a foreign country. They did not want, what was wanted at the conclusion of the Continental war, a militia which should set free every soldier of the regular army in the country, so that the latter might be employed, not for purposes of internal defence, but to carry on the war on the Continent of Europe. It was well known that at the period to which he referred, the militia all through the country did the duty which was originally performed by the soldiers of the line. More than that, the militia then afforded the most valuable means of recruiting the Army. They had no such intention at the present moment. They had no anticipation of a war on the Continent in which this country would have to take a part; but if unfortunately circumstances should occur to render such a force indispensable, it would then be for Parliament to determine what course should be taken to enable the country to maintain its honour and its interests. That, however, was not what was now contemplated. All the Government felt it their duty to do at present was to provide a force which might serve as a purely defensive force against foreign invasion. If a foreign invasion took place, the local militia would be available for that purpose; beyond that they did not think it right to go. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last thought that the removal of the local militia from one part of the kingdom to another pending a negotiation would amount to a declaration of war. So would the removal of the general militia.
§ Mr. SIDNEY HERBERT
No; the law provided for the removal of the general militia at any time. What he had referred to was the moving of the local militia 590 from one county or part of the island to another.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to contemplate the embodiment of a regular militia, as an army in the country, capable of being moved to the coast in the event of an invasion. That was a course which at present they need not contemplate; and, should it be necessary to employ the militia as they were employed at the end of the Continental war, probably the better course would be to increase the Army by a certain amount. The object they had in view was purely defensive in itself; it was one of which no foreign country could complain, for it was not to provide a means of aggression against any other country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he rose to set the right hon. Baronet right on a matter of fact. The right hon. Baronet had stated that, at the close of the last war, the regular militia did the whole of the military duty of the country, by which means the Government was enabled to send all the regular force abroad. Now, in January, 1814, the regular militia in the United Kingdom amounted to 82,000, and the regular troops at home to 56,000.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he had not stated that every individual soldier was sent out of the country; but had the militia not been embodied, there would have been a necessity for 82,000 more soldiers at home.
§ Mr. KER SEYMER
hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), and not refer so important a matter as the present measure to a Select Committee. He differed entirely from the hon. Member for the West Riding as to the feeling of the people of England on the subject. He did not allude to the opinions of that portion of them who were members of peace societies, or to their platform orators; but to the great bulk of the people.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, there was much inconvenience in discussing a measure that was not printed. He would express no opinion as to the policy of forming a militia, reserving that till the Bill was before the House; but he must express his dissent from some observations of a Gentleman for whom he had the greatest 591 respect, and with whom he frequently voted (Mr. Cobden). He quite agreed with the observations of the hon. Gentleman at the commencement of his speech, that if danger was to be apprehended from any foreign country, the first thing to be done was to withdraw our fleet now lying in the Tagus. Till he heard of its return, on the authority of the Admiralty, he (Mr. B. Osborne) should conclude that that fleet still remained there; and before forming any militia, local or general, that fleet ought to be in its proper place in the Channel. But his hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden) was never more provoking or more aggressive than when he talked about peace. This was to be regretted, as the services of a highly-gifted and intelligent man were placed in abeyance by the unfortunate monomania to which he was subject. It brought him into the most glaring contrarieties. In the last half hour he had said he had such confidence in the morality of the French army, that he was certain they would not attack this country. [Mr. COBDEN: No, no!] he would ask what was the morality of any army when led? Had his hon. Friend confidence in the morality of the French army, when he had seen the late scenes in the capital of that country—when he had seen the successful fusillade by the troops of the Boulevards—when he had seen their bayonets pointed against their French brethren; or from the execution done by the artillery in other streets where the cannon was fired by Frenchmen on Frenchmen? Did he imagine that General Espinasse or General St. Arnaud would hesitate to attack this country, when they had not hesitated to break through all laws, human or divine, and place their own Legislature under arrest? If the hon. Gentleman felt that confidence in the French army, or in any army when led by officers, he (Mr. B. Osborne) did not concur with him. But he went with him in saying, "Send for your Tagus fleet." he was not an alarmist, nor an economist; but he held the Government responsible for the defence of the country, and they had a right to take the measures necessary for that purpose. Without defending the calling out of the militia, he would say this, that no foreign Power had a right to view it in the light in which it had been represented by his hon. Friend as a measure of aggression. Foreign Powers knew well that a militia was only for the purpose of defence. His hon. Friend, he must say, used an old economical argu- 592 ment, when he said they were going to pay the militia too little. He complained that they were only to be paid 1s. a day. So far as that went, he (Mr. B. Osborne) was prepared to defend the measure, as he looked upon the militia as the cheapest force that could be employed. The complaint about justice to Ireland had been sufficiently answered by the noble Lord at the head of the Government; for every one connected with Ireland knew that the police was one of the most efficient forces in the country. They would probably come first into collision with any invading army that might have the misfortune to be thrown on those shores, and he was confident they would give a good account of them, and that the result would be much more unfortunate for the invading army than for the police. He did not think this was a question which ought to be referred to a Committee upstairs. He presumed the Government were in possession of much better information than any individual Members. He would throw the responsibility on the Government. If it were necessary to call out the militia, he would give them his vote; but he was not prepared to refer a measure of this vast importance to a Select Committee. He hoped the noble Lord would think well on the matter; and that, whatever was necessary to be done, he would do it well and economically. He hoped there were not many Members of that House so bitten with these peace principles as to be satisfied to peril for one moment the honour and defence of this country.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, he had always observed, in his not very long experience of that House, that when a Gentleman who got up to speak upon any subject found either a want of logical power to give his reasons, or, still more, if he was not prepared to give any opinion on the measure at all, he very often fell off into a misrepresentation of what other people had said. His hon. Friend who had just spoken had charged him with having said that he believed our safety was, that the French army had too much morality to invade this country. Now, what he had said was, when told that 10,000 or 15,000 men would be thrown upon our shores as buccaneers, without any declaration of war, that he had that opinion of the French army that they would not find an officer to lead them. He had gone so far as to say that they would be hanged if they were taken alive. On a future occasion opportunities would be given 593 of discussing this question further; and he hoped that then his hon. Friend would see that there was no necessity whatever to misrepresent his friends.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
thought his hon. Friend had just substantiated all that he had said. His hon. Friend had great confidence in the present ruler of France. He did not know whether he had French railway shares or not; but he had such confidence in the President as to believe that the man who upset the French constitution without notice would not send an army against this country. His hon. Friend was completely run away with. He failed in his logical deductions whenever he talked of peace; but he was bound to say that in his explanation he had borne out all that he (Mr. B. Osborne) had said regarding him.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
wished to observe, that he had no objection to send the Bill before a Select Committee to consider the details of the question; but if the House desired it, he was quite prepared to carry it through the various stages without that course.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
thought foreign Governments would have no jealousy on this subject, as they might very naturally suppose the militia would become necessary to suppress those seditious proceedings of foreigners in this country of which they had complained. He demurred to the statement that, because the party he generally voted with chose to maintain the executive force of the country, therefore they were not entitled to be called radical reformers. Notwithstanding all the money that had been spent, he maintained that they were still very inadequately defended in the west of England. It was most essential that the Tagus fleet should be recalled. He believed this had been done, and that the Arethusa had already arrived. But he would carry the principle further, and have all our fleets at home, sending them abroad only when they were required. He gave his cordial support to the measure before the House.
§ MR. ALCOCK
would also support the measure, and was strongly in favour of a better equipment of the Army. Sir Charles Shaw had stated that 500 men, well equipped and armed, would be equal to 3,000 armed as at present; and the Examiner newspaper said one man properly equipped and armed would be equal to two men, if not to three, under the present system. The arms now given to our Army 594 were worse than those of any army in Europe. They were inferior to the French, the Belgians, or even the Indians and the Algerines. [The hon. Gentleman read an extract from an article which had appeared in the Quarterly Review, with reference to the Affghan war, under General Elphinstone, in which it was stated that the great disasters sustained in that war were caused by the circumstance that the arms with which the troops were supplied were no match for the unerring jezails of the enemy.] he contended that it was most essential to have the Army equipped in the very best manner. But it was not difficult to see why it was otherwise. They did not allow the firearms of any foreign country to be imported; and the consequence was, as in the case of every other monopoly, that they did not get from the gunmakers so good an article as otherwise they would do.
§ MR. HUME
would not have risen again but for the very erroneous statements made by the hon. Member who had just spoken. The hon. Gentleman read to the House a paper written, he supposed, ten years ago, and did not seem to be aware that within these five years every arm of the British Army had been changed. Every gun used in the Affghan war had been changed, as was proved before a Committee of that House. He thought that the public mind ought to be disabused of the idea that the Army was inefficiently armed. Sir Hussey Vivian sent to every State in Europe a commission of officers to bring home the best muskets that could be found. These arms, when brought bore, were thoroughly tried both by officers and men. Reports of these trials were given in; and in consequence of those reports, Sir Hussey Vivian directed that the very best arms should be prepared for the British Army. Every one of them had been altered; the whole of the flint guns had been taken away, and those with percussion locks put in their place. Why, they had voted 150,000l. a year to make those changes, and he hoped, therefore, they would hear no more of inferior arms. If they were to have the militia at all, he hoped all the militia laws now existing would be consolidated into one. He must express his surprise at the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne) speaking on the question without having heard the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The right hon. Secretary of State (Sir G. Grey) told them this measure was for defence only; but the noble Lord attributed it to the general state of Europe, and told 595 them that the change which had taken place in one great country had disturbed the balance of power; therefore it was necessary to have an additional force, in order to be prepared to support foreign States. He said we were bound to support certain foreign States, and spoke of Portugal. Did the noble Lord mean to say we were bound to support Belgium if it were attacked? he regretted that there existed a panic so uncalled for as the present. But, if there was danger, let all men who had property to defend share in that danger; and do not select a few victims between the ages of twenty and twenty-three. Let all who were between eighteen and forty be called out, and not confine the selection to one class. If ever there was an act of oppression more severe than another it was this—it was a conscription without being either general, fair, or just; and its object was to defend the country against an evil that nobody knew anything of.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
would reserve his opinion of the Militia Bill till it was before the House; but he hoped they would always remember that our first and best defence was the British Channel. He thought they had no cause to be at all alarmed about steam vessels. However much the intention of an enemy to attack this country might be forwarded by steam, the power of prevention on our part was quite as great. He had no doubt whatever, that with the power that steam had of getting to any given spot in almost any weather, it would be morally impossible for an enemy to come over without being attacked by our naval force. But then he concurred in what had been said by previous speakers about drawing more of their navy home. They had them scattered everywhere, and very needlessly in some places, as to numbers; but if they wanted defence let them be drawn home, for that was their right defence. If they only took due precautions with their Navy, they would never have an enemy land upon these shores. They might have an irruption—a kind of piratical expedition—but no real invasion. They had double the population that existed when the war ceased; they had ships also equal in size to those of any enemy, and steamers able to cope with any that were afloat. In time of peace their consuls abroad would be sure to inform them if any hostile preparations were going forward. In the case of France, Cherbourg was the only 596 port capable of floating a line-of-battle ship; whereas in this country they had several ports of sufficient depth for the purpose. Let them keep but one-fifth of their Navy at home, and England would be perfectly safe.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman should remember that if the population had increased to the extent which he stated, that population had at the same time been disarmed, and become unwarlike. Parliament had constantly followed the pernicious system of suspending, by the annual Militia Bill, those old wholesome measures of our forefathers by which a constitutional force was created, disciplined, and kept up, sufficient to encounter all the terrors of invasion with which they had been amused, and yet not sufficient to inspire any of that alarm which justly attached to an increase of the standing Army. He agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) that this conscription should be general and equal, and not confined to those who were between the ages of twenty and twenty-three, otherwise it would not be just; and it should be similar to that prevailing in the Channel Islands, where every male person more than six months resident was liable to serve in person or deputy in a regiment the depôt of which was not more than two miles from his place of residence. That was the law which he wished to see adopted in this country, because he believed that was the only way in which they could obtain a reduction in the standing Army, of which they had already seen the dangers in a neighbouring country, where a standing army had overturned the constitution, and that among a population which was not, as ours was, unused to arms. Therefore, though he did not share the alarm regarding an invasion, yet he thought such a measure as the present was well adapted to check that which the ability, the honesty, and the courage of the President of France were only adequate to—a piratical invasion of the coast, where booty was to be gained without the risk of fighting. But at the same time he wished to see no limitation with respect to age; and he hoped the noble Lord would listen to the strong objections of the hon. Member for Montrose and other Members in this respect, for he saw no reason for the population of this country being saddled with taxes to support a standing army for doing that which they could, and which they ought to do 597 for themselves. A standing Army he knew they must still continue to have; but if this measure were carried out to its full extent, he believed that the amount, and consequently, the cost of that Army might be considerably reduced.
§ MR. HUME
rose to ask the noble Lord whether he did not think the old laws relating to the militia should be repealed, and a new enactment made? They had heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. S. Herbert), that he had it in contemplation to consolidate those laws, and doubtless his measure would be found ready in the War Office; but at any rate it, would be much easier to begin anew than to refer to old enactments which nobody understood.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
saie, they had had the Bill of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke before them; but he thought the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) bad better wait till he saw the present Bill.
§ "Resolved—That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave he given to bring in a Bill to amend the laws respecting the Local Militia."
§ House resumed.