HC Deb 20 February 1852 vol 119 cc838-79

I wish, Sir, before the Report of the Committee is received, as there appears to be some objection to allow me to bring in this Bill, I am anxious to be permitted to recapitulate the principal provisions of the measure. I stated the other evening that we did not propose to proceed on the basis of the Local Militia Acts, but to modify that basis in such a manner as to enable us to realise the object which the present Bill contemplates—which is, that we may be enabled to obtain a considerable number of men who will be on duty for a short period of each year, and who, in case of a war, may be available and useful for some months, so as to supply the place of the regular troops, and to allow an opportunity for the Army being recruited and strengthened. Now, what we are most anxious to do, is to accomplish this object by means the least burdensome and the least expensive to the country. With this view, we propose that, in the first place, instead of taking the ages from eighteen to thirty, or from eighteen to forty, as in the old system, we shall take them—for the first year from twenty to twenty-three; and for subsequent years, from twenty to twenty-one. Those ages comprise the periods of life when men, generally, are not married, and, therefore, are not liable to the inconvenience of being taken from their families, so that the loss to themselves and the expense to the country will probably be not so considerable as they would have been had more mature periods been selected. These men having been chosen by ballot in the proportion of one-fifth of all those who are of the prescribed age, we then proceed to make arrangements respecting substitutes. On this question we do not propose to take either the provisions of the regular Militia Act, or the Local Militia Act. We propose that the persons balloted for and chosen shall he at liberty to procure substitutes, but the substitutes must be taken out of the same lists from which they were themselves selected; that is to say, that the substitutes must be of the same district, and of the same range of age as the principals. Regard being-had to the system on which we intend to proceed, of taking only one-fifth of the number of the prescribed age, we do not apprehend that there will be any difficulty in procuring substitutes whenever it may be found desirable to do so. Having succeeded in procuring men who, being levied in the proportion of 30,000 men a year, will amount in the aggregate to a force of 100,000, or if need be, of 150,000 men, we propose that during the first year of their service they shall be liable to duty for twenty-eight days, and for fourteen days during every subsequent year, until the period of four years is accomplished. These arrangements are intended to ap- ply in times of peace, but the especial object of the Government is to obtain a sufficient force to be useful in the event of war. The existing Militia Laws are designed to refer simply to the calling out of the force in case of an actual invasion, or in case of an enemy being on the coast. The old local militia were liable to be taken from their native districts only during such an invasion, or while the enemy was on our shores, and for a period of six weeks after those occurrences; but it appears to me that these are not provisions which it would be judicious to adhere to in the event of any future war in which this country may be engaged with Europe or with the United States. What we propose is, that, in the case of an invasion, or of a threatened invasion, it may be lawful for the Crown to call out this body of Local Militia, and to call them out, if need be, for a period of not more than six months, and that that period may be extended to twelve months if it should seem desirable to Parliament to present an Address to the Crown for such a purpose. We conceive that if this body be properly trained, disciplined, and equipped, and formed into efficient battalions, it will be a force very available for the purpose of defending this country in case of invasion, while, at the same time, it would afford an ample opportunity for calling out the General Militia if desirable, or for increasing the regular Army to such an extent as entirely to supersede the apprehension that there would not be a sufficient force for the protection of the kingdom. With respect to the officers, I have stated that it is intended that the Lord Lieutenant of each county will have the power also of appointing two-thirds of the officers of this force, while one-third, including a field-officer, shall be officers selected from the half-pay of the regular Army. Such are the most essential features of the plan; but whether the project is one which will ensure a sufficient force for the protection of the country, and whether it will do so in a manner least burdensome to the country, are questions which it will not be possible for the House to decide without having the Bill before them. What I wish, therefore, is, that the House will, before taking another step, allow me to place the Bill upon the table, so that there may be an ample opportunity for considering its details. When the House is fully conversant with these details, I shall be quite prepared either to discuss this plan, and to urge it on the adoption of the House, or to accept any other scheme which may be proved to be more worthy of sanction, I think, however, that the House would do wisely in allowing me to lay the Bill upon the table at the earliest possible opportunity. I should observe, before concluding, that we propose to repeal all existing Acts with respect to the local militia; and that the new Bill will, therefore, be complete in itself. It must be apparent to the House that if the principle of this Bill, such as I have sketched it, shall be adopted, it will be absolutely necessary to repeal the existing Acts, with a view to reconstruct the system on the basis of this Bill. The present mode of obtaining men for the militia is so exceedingly dilatory, that I believe at least ten weeks would have to elapse before the preliminary process could be completed. It is, above all things, desirable that the preliminary process should be made by the new Bill as simple and as expeditious as possible. In order to the attainment of this object, it is certainly desirable that the old Acts of Parliament relating to the Militia should be consolidated and amended. But I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) desires to raise the whole question of the expediency of having any militia force whatsoever; and that is a question of such high importance, that I think it highly expedient that the fullest opportunity should be afforded for its discussion. With respect to the opinions expressed a few evenings since on this subject by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), it appears to me that they do not differ in any essential respect from those to which I gave utterance, and that they are conclusive as to the wisdom, and indeed as to the necessity, of having, irrespectively of our regular Army, a force on whom we could depend in the unfortunate event of a war or a foreign invasion. It is necessary for this country, having the limited number of men which it has for the regular Army, there being no prospect that this House will ever adopt any proposition for an increase of 30,000 or 40,000 men to the regular Army, to be kept in the United Kingdom—it is necessary that there should be some force of militia which should en-able the country to have at command a sufficient number of men partly trained and ready for employment, and that this force should be ready to be sent to any part of the Kingdom. I therefore trust the House will permit me to lay the Bill upon the table, so that they maybe enabled to arrive at a direct conclusion as to its provisions.

Resolution reported:That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the laws respecting the Local Militia,

Motion made, and Question proposed— That Leave lie given to bring in a Bill to amend the Laws respecting the Local Militia.


Sir, it is far, very far, from my intention to prevent the Government from bringing in a Bill for the purpose of providing a force to be available in case of invasion. On the contrary, my wish is to assist them in doing so. But I think it is of great importance, both for the public service and for the convenience of the House, that a Bill brought in, consisting of considerable details, should be founded on a right principle, because, if a Bill be brought in on a wrong principle, it will take a great deal more time and labour to work it out to a right principle, than would have been required to make it complete if it had been, in the first instance, framed upon a principle applicable to the purposes for which it was intended. From what the noble Lord stated, it is obvious that there is an essential difference between the title which be intends to give the Bill, and its substance and provisions; and the object of one of the Amendments which I intend to move, is simply to place the title of the Bill and its provisions in harmony one with the other. The first Amendment refers to what the noble Lord has just stated, and applies equally whether the Bill shall relate to the local or to the regular militia. My first Amendment is, that the Bill shall not only amend, but shall also consolidate, the existing Acts. From the statement of the noble Lord, it would seem that it is intended to amend the existing laws: the addition which I propose, and which the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) suggested, is to add the word "consolidate," so that the whole of the existing law on this subject should be incorporated in one Act. But the main point for consideration is, whether the measure is to be founded on "the militia," or upon "a local militia." There is a very essential distinction between the two—but a distinction which was entirely lost sight of in the observations which fell from the noble Lord; for, in proposing to bring in a Bill which appears by its title to be founded on the local militia, the noble Lord describes provisions which are very nearly identical with those which govern the regular militia. What I humbly conceive to be necessary is this —we are in a political and geographical position which exposes us—I hope not much—to the probability, but certainly to the possibility, of finding ourselves engaged in a war, and we are liable to be invaded in case of war, by a very formidable force. We have not in time of peace a regular Army sufficient, to meet emergencies of this kind. It would not suit the habits of the country, nor the finances of the country, to follow the example of the military nations of the Continent, who, in time of peace, maintain a standing army sufficient to defend them in the outset of any war in which they may be involved. Well, our regular Army, therefore—at all events that portion of it which we retain at home—is necessarily small in time of peace, and is insufficient to meet the various emergencies to which we might be exposed at the breaking out of a war. And be it remembered, that, in considering the event of the breaking out of a war, we must bear in mind the change that has taken place in navigation by means of steam, which renders the danger much more imminent than it has been on any former occasion. We have to provide not against danger which will happen at the end of six months or eight months, but against danger which may happen in a month or even in a fortnight from the time when it was first to be apprehended. Now, how is that danger to be met? Sir, the only rational mode of defending ourselves from such danger is, that we should in time of peace have a considerable force organised, officered, clothed, armed, equipped, drilled, and disciplined, and ready on the shortest possible notice to appear in arms— either when a war has broken out, or when there is ground for serious apprehension that it will break out. I wish to see a force ready trained, and which we can lay our hand upon, and which might start into arms at the shortest possible notice. It is so far immaterial what such a force may be called—whether local militia or regular militia, provided the men are trained, armed, and equipped, and in readiness to be called out at a short notice. But a local militia is not such—a local militia is not by the law which formed it liable to be called out, except in cases of actual invasion, or of an enemy being in force off our coasts. To call out a militia when the enemy had landed, or were actually on our coasts, would be something like locking the stable door after the steed was stolen, or bolting the doors after the robbers had entered the house. If the militia is not to be called out until the enemy have landed, or are lying in Torbay, they would be too late to fulfil the purpose for which they ought to be designed. Therefore, Sir, a local militia wont answer; it has, indeed, in fact, been thrown overboard in substance by the noble Lord himself, though, strangely enough, he still preserves the title. The next condition is, that the forces so called out, and available in time to be of use, should, when called out, be liable to serve in any part of the United Kingdom in which its service may be required. We have Ireland near at hand, and we must not disguise from ourselves the circumstance that an enemy might land, or attempt a landing, not merely in one part of the United Kingdom, but in two or three places at once; and a defensive force which comes to the aid of a regular army must, in order to be useful, be applicable to every portion of the United Kingdom. Now, the local militia is not so applicable. The existing Local Militia Act distinctly provides that the local militia is not to go out of Great Britain. The noble Lord, feeling the force of the arguments against his militia being considered as merely a county militia, said it would be applicable to every part of the United Kingdom. Well, then, why does the noble Lord style it local? That name does not describe in this respect the quality and character of the noble Lord's plan. It is admitted to be necessary to organise a defensive force which may be called out to serve in any part of the United Kingdom; but such a force is not a local militia, but a regular militia. In former times the Irish militia was liable to serve only in Ireland, and the militia of Great Britain only in Great Britain; but, in 1813, an Act was passed, by which, from that time, all the militia were liable to serve in every part of the United Kingdom. I trust the force now about to be raised will be of this kind. I confess that, having some slight interest in Ireland, I am anxious as to the defence of that country, and it would be no consolation to me as an Irish proprietor to be told, "Here are 200,000 gallant local militiamen in England, but they must be kept back from serving for the defence of any other part of the United Kingdom, and you must content yourselves with whatever volunteers may offer themselves in Ireland." The noble Lord persists in the "use of the phrase "local militia;" but the force, as he describes it, which he intends to raise, is, in this respect, really identical with the regular militia, as distinguished from the local. Another point is also essential in the defensive force which we ought to have, and that is, that the force when called out should be liable to remain embodied as long as required for the defence of the country. Now, the local militia is not so. By the Local Militia Act they are only liable to be called out after the enemy has landed, or is in force off the coast; and they could not be kept embodied longer than six weeks after the enemy should have been expelled, or should have been prevented from landing. Now, it is evident that the liability to danger does not cease with the sailing away of an enemy's squadron from one of our bays, or with the expulsion of a body of his troops from our territory. But here again the noble Lord throws overboard the provisions of the Local Militia Act, though he still retains the name, because I understand him to say, that the force which he proposes to raise, is to remain embodied for six or twelve months after it is called out. The plan proposed is, therefore, I think, neither one thing nor the other; it provides for the establishment neither of a local nor of a regular militia. It is, however, so far local that it is to be different from a regular militia; and you are to have a regular militia be sides; and then what is to happen? Why, this body of local militia, numbering in a few years 200,000 men, who are liable to be called out upon the breaking out of a war, and kept embodied for six or twelve months, is to give way, on an emergency, to an augmentation of the regular Army, and to the embodying of a regular militia. This is an arrangement which, I think, will cause great confusion. Why, upon the breaking out of a war you will have 200,000 men ready to be drawn out, and yet you are at once to proceed to the double process of enlisting, in order to make a large augmentation of the regular Army, and at the same time to proceed to ballot for 90,000 men for the regular militia. This will be playing right hand against the left. You will be sending your recruiting parties through the country to raise men for the line, and you will be making, at the same time, the necessary arrangements for balloting a large number of men for the militia. This will be a very unwise and inconvenient arrangement. Surely it is far better that we should have, in time of Peace, a well-trained force in reserve, to aid the regular Army in time of war, and that when we get that trained force we should keep it. Is it not better that a body of men formed and disciplined in time of peace, should be maintained and kept up, than that we should trust upon an emergency to raw levies—the Army bidding in the recruiting market against the militia, and the militia, against the Army? In the course of the last war, I believe it never happened that in one year we were enabled to add more than 25,000 men to the regular Army by voluntary enlistment. But you would require a much greater augmentation than this in time of war. You would be obliged to send reinforcements to your foreign garrisons; you would be obliged to make a large augmentation to your home defences, therefore, I apprehend that at least two years or more must elapse before you could with any degree of safety dispense with the embodiment of that reserved force, which, dormant in time of peace, could be promptly brought out in time of war, and made available for the defence of the country. For these reasons, Sir, it appears to me that what the country wants is that force which we call the militia. It is a force which has existed much in the shape it has now assumed since 1661. It was remodelled in the time of George II., and afterwards improved in the reign of George III. Various Acts of Parliament have been passed since then, all of which were based upon the principle of the original Act. The system has existed for nearly two centuries; and in the preamble of the Militia Act of 1802, the purposes and objects of the force are distinctly explained. It sets forth that— Whereas a respectable military force, under the command of officers possessing landed property is essential to the constitution, and whereas the militia, as by law established, through its constant readiness on short notice for effectual service, has been found of the utmost importance to the internal defence of this realm— And so it goes on. The local militia, on the other hand, was an accidental and occasional force, devoted to a particular purpose, and required at a particular time. The preamble to the Local Militia Act says, that— Whereas it is expedient, in the present circumstances of Europe, that a local militia should be established, trained, and permanently maintained under certain restrictions in England, to be called forth and employed in case of invasion, in aid of His Majesty's regular militia force, for the defence of the Realm, may it please Your Majesty— And so on. The local militia was established, in fact, as a reserve for the regular militia, and not as a substantive force in itself, nor as an element in the permanent defences of the country; and that being the case, it was a very natural and practicable arrangement that the local militia should not be called out until the enemy had actually landed, for the country had a regular militia and a standing Army in sufficient force to meet the first assault of any invading enemy, and all that the country wanted was to have a corps de reserve in case reinforcements should become necessary. But, Sir, we have not now that I force to which the local militia was to be t subsidiary—we have not got the regular militia. Well, then, the result is, that as there is only a small portion of our regular troops in the country in time of peace, we want a force that can be called out at once; —we want a force available for the service of the United Kingdom at large, and which can be equally employed in every part of it. I will not go into details about substitutes and other matters of minor arrangements in the Bill until the time arrives for going into those matters in Committee; but I wish to impress on the House that what we want is, that kind of force which we have had for two centuries, namely, a regular militia; and what we don't want is a force to be called a local militia, but which is not a local militia. It is quite plain that such a force as I have described will answer the purposes of the country. And such a force would not be a new thing, for so late as 1831 we had a regular militia called out for training. The regular militia was trained in 1821, 1822, 1825, and again in 1831, so that there is not the objection of novelty to make against the regular militia. I know, however, although we may not have the objections stated here, that objections are felt, and objections have been stated to me, that the regular militia is a bad thing, because it admits of substitutes; that you cannot rely upon your substitute; that he will not appear at the time of training; that he will not come when the regiment is embodied; that, in Scotland, people do not like to be compelled to serve; and that in Ireland you cannot trust the men who may be enrolled. To listen to these objections, one might suppose that Englishmen are cheats, that Scotchmen are cowards, and that Irishmen are traitors. The whole of the objections of the Government to the formation of a regular militia are founded upon a radical distrust of the people of the United Kingdom. I, Sir, on the contrary, am disposed to confide in the people. But, if things have come to this pass, if we have so mean an opinion of our population, that we cannot trust our fellow-subjects to defend themselves, it is much better to give up the Bill altogether. But, Sir, there is no foundation for this distrust; there is no reason to believe that the people of England would not rally round the national standard. It will not be for the first time that the people of Scotland will have risen up in arms and have fought the enemies of the United Kingdom; and if it be that we cannot trust the people of Ireland to be faithful and true to their Queen and country, why, Sir, let us at once send for a Russian force to defend us, or let us have an Austrian garrison in London. Let us hide our heads in shame and confusion; let us confess that England is no longer England, that her people are no longer endowed with that spirit and courage which sustained them in times gone by; and that they will not take up arms in their own defence, in defence of their homes and their families, of their Sovereign and their country. Such seems to be the idea of the framers of this Bill. But that is not my opinion. I do not think so meanly of the people of this country. I believe the people of England love their country; that they have a proper sense of the value of what they are called upon to defend, and that they would act with a spirit of determination to maintain the liberties and independence of their fatherland; that they are not likely to give way to false and unreasonable panic, or to fear dangers which do not exist; but that they are resolved to guard themselves against dangers which, if not immediately imminent, are possible. For my own part, I am convinced that if the Government and the House make an appeal to the people of the United Kingdom—if they show them what the dangers are to which they are possibly liable, and the value of that which they have to defend—if they call upon them for moderate exertion for the purpose of providing means of defence, I am satisfied they will not find substitutes running away from their colours; they will not fine the population unable or unwilling to defend the country to which they belong; but you will have a force which, costing you comparatively little, will show to all the States of Europe, and to the world, that England is prepared, in case of need, to defend herself; and by adopting those wise precautions against invasion, you will take the surest steps to prevent it, and by those means you will secure that peace which we all value, and will maintain the Empire in that position of respect and dignity to which, on every account, it is so eminently entitled. Sir, I move to insert, after the word "amend," the words "and consolidate," and that the word "local" before the word "militia" be omitted.

Amendment proposed to be made to the Question, by inserting, after the word "amend," the words "and consoldate."


said, he would take the liberty of making a few remarks on this question, both on the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), and on the proposition of the Government. And he must say, that he did not feel the necessity, in discussing a matter of detail of this sort, that there should be those appeals to the valour, and the gallantry, and the contempt of danger, which was said to pervade all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. He had no doubt it was so, but he did not think it necessary to go over that everlasting ground. He did not wish to be offensive, but what had been said reminded him of the Dialogue of the Thieves in the Beggars' Opera, who, when they met together, congratulated each other on their contempt of death, and their determination to stand by one another—and all the rest of it. He did not think that sort of commonplace reflected any light whatever on the question that they had to decide. He was one of those, as this was a matter of expenditure of public money, that regretted that there should be a necessity for applying any part of the existing surplus to the increase of our armaments. Looking at the position of this country, with its growing population, and the difficulty that there was in providing remunerative labour for portions of the labouring classes, it appeared to him it would be very desirable, if it were possible, to apply the surplus, as far as they could, to the repeal of such taxes as stood in the way of the employment of labour, and therefore stood in the way of the happiness and contentment of Her Majesty's subjects. The great security of nations was the contentment of the people; and therefore he contended it was wise policy, if they could, to apply the surplus to the repeal of such taxes as could be shown to prevent the employment of labour, and therefore to prevent the welfare of the working classes from being promoted. Now, he did not say that a case could not be made out for applying the surplus to the increase of the Army; but was that case made out? And if it was, were the forces to be increased in the way proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, or in the way proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Not having a practical knowledge of such affairs, he approached the question with very considerable difficulty, when he saw so many great authorities at issue with one another. He thought from what they had beard to-night, that none of them had a very clear idea of the force that they wanted, or of the danger that that force was to guard against, especially when he connected the proposal with the speeches that were made the other evening when the proposition was first submitted. And now with regard to the danger they were called upon to guard against. They were to depart from a policy of thirty-seven years' duration; they were to do something which they had not done before, and therefore he contended they ought not to be satisfied with vague surmises, but that they should have special reasons for change of policy. The country were given to understand the other night by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that they might be called upon to maintain the equilibrium among the nations of Europe, known under the term of the balance of power. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton said they had political interests in all parts of the world which it was necessary for them to defend. Now, was that House prepared to give its sanction to the balance of power being maintained by an aggressive policy on the part of this country? Were they to give any importance to the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, or were they to pass them by as idle words? If they were not to pass them by as idle words, they were to understand that one of the reasons for an increased force was, that they might be called upon to be aggressive, to interfere in the affairs of Europe; for they were told that they had been connected with the European system, and that it might be necessary for England to take the part that she took before, and by force of arms attempt to maintain the balance of power. Now he, for one, was not in favour of that policy. He disputed the policy of the balance of power, or the possibility of maintaining the different nations of Europe in the position, either in reference to territory or power, as they were settled at the time of the Congress of Vienna. He disputed both the policy and the practicability of maintaining this physical equilibrium among the nations of Europe. But he objected to these political interests that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had spoken of as existing in the different countries of the world. Was England to ally itself with political parties in the different countries of the world? Their political interests were within the shores of the United Kingdom, and when they stepped beyond it, and got into political interests elsewhere, then he said, if that was to be their policy, it did indeed behove them to have a large Army to carry that policy into effect. But he was against that policy. Whether parties in the different nations sympathised with us or not, he said, let us not interfere with the internal affairs of any country in Europe. He had a right to mention these subjects, because they were stated by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as among the reasons why we should at this time add to our armaments. But, with regard to the increased armament, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was for a regular militia, and was not for a local militia; and he asked, were they afraid to trust the people of Ireland? They had been asked whether the people of Scotland would not have the valour to use the arms, if they gave them to them. The noble Lord asked if the people of Ireland were traitors, and the people of Scotland cowards. Why, if they were to arm the population, he did not know that it might not be wise policy to hesitate before they armed the population of Ireland. Hear the reasons. No man, for an instant, disputed that the people of Ireland would defend Ireland, or any portion of the United Kingdom, from the invasion of foreign enemies; no man questioned their loyalty to the Crown of this country; but there were many who did question their being satisfied with the institutions that existed in that country. Would they make him believe that a Roman Catholic people, with arms in their hands, would defend a Protestant Church? He did not think it would be prudent to rely on the militia to do that. He did not think they could rely on the local militia in Ireland to do the internal duty in that country if they were to be brought into collision in matters affecting deeply the religious feelings and interests of that country. He supposed the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton would tell them that if they had the regular militia, he would bring the Irish militia to England and send the English militia to Ireland. But if so, the noble Viscount had not much more confidence in the people of Ireland than Her Majesty's Government. But what said the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary with regard to the regular militia as opposed to the local militia? He said—and he (Mr. M. Gibson) thought with great force—the regular militia was an offensive force, that it meant that they wished to have the power of sending over the regular Army to the Continent for aggressive purposes, and therefore he was not prepared to support a regular militia as against the local militia. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State; he thought if they were to organise the regular militia in the way proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, it would have the complexion of an offensive policy, and it would appear that England was preparing herself to interfere in the affairs of the Continent. He was surprised at the discrepancy of opinion as to what it was that was wanted at the present moment. The noble Lord at the head of the Government said he had consulted the Commander-in-Chief and the Master-General of the Ordnance; but he had not taken the advice of the Commander-in-Chief. He only mentioned this to show how completely the great authorities were at variance with each other. The Duke of Wellington said in a letter he published some time since, that he had constantly advised the Government to raise and embody a militia of the same numbers in the United Kingdom as during the past war, and that this would give a mass of organised force amounting to 150,000 men whom they might at once set to work to discipline; so that the Duke of Wellington was not an advocate for a peace establishment at all. He said they were to have an organised force of the same extent as they had in the war; and in the same letter he said there was no difference in the relative position of the two countries, except the simple one of peace and war. But he (Mr. M. Gibson) thought that was all the difference. He did not wish to run into any extremes in this matter. He should be sorry to say anything offensive, because he knew the impatience there was when Gentlemen with whom he acted ever used the word peace; but he hoped he should not be supposed to be asking too much if he might be permitted to hope that there was a possibility of peace. He considered that the possibility of peace was one that they ought to take into consideration. They were told that for thirty-seven years they had acted upon a particular policy, and that during that period peace had been maintained, and no special reasons which would not have applied to the whole of that period, could he found now why they should depart from the policy they had hitherto pursued, and which had hitherto been successful. Could it be shown that the absence of this militia during the last thirty-seven years had been attended with disastrous consequences? He must say it appeared to him it was incumbent on the Government to give them some special reasons when a large increase of force was demanded in this country. Now, he contended that there never was an instance when a large addition to the Army of this country was demanded by the Crown, that the Crown did not say in the Speech from the Throne that there were circumstances that required an addition to their Army in reference to their relations with foreign countries. But they were told that their relations were peaceful, and that in point of fact they were going to do nothing more than they ought to have done for thirty-seven years and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had told them that during the period that he was connected with the Government he had been endeavouring to persuade the Government that the country was not safe in the absence of this militia force, Now, he (Mr. M. Gibson) had been always bound to understand that the safety of this country was best guarded by her Navy; and he remembered reading in the Report of the Committee that sat some two Sessions ago, that the force of this country ought not to be constituted in reference to England being required to pursue the military policy which prevailed during the last year, but ought to be constituted on the principle that the Navy was the right arm, and that the safety of the country depended upon it. But, he said, if they embodied their regular militia in this extraordinary way, and took pains to keep them embodied for long periods from time to time, they were going back to that policy that the Committee condemned—they were going back to the policy of England being a military Power, and prepared to interfere in the political arrangements of the Continent. If the noble Lord had said that some particular country was going to be attacked, and that England was bound by treaty to defend that country, and that therefore it was necessary to have a militia force in order to send the Army to defend that country, that would have been intelligible to him. But what said the noble Lord at the head of the Government? He only mentioned the case of Portugal, and it was a carious thing that the very country they were called upon to defend, was that very country that they were leaving to defend herself, for they had just called away their fleet from the Tagus. A short time ago, when he was at Lisbon, the Portuguese Government were selling their fleet by auction, and therefore if this country was bound to defend Portugal, they ought, instead of withdrawing their fleet, to have sent them more ships. He could not reconcile the practical conduct with the speeches of the leaders in that House, and he thought it was a reason why they might doubt the sincerity of the professions, when they found the actual practice of the Government so much at variance with them. If he were obliged to vote in favour of either proposition, he should infinitely prefer the proposition of the Government to that of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. He viewed the noble Lord's proposal as inviting this country to pursue an offensive policy; and he only regretted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had thought it necessary to embody this local militia at all, no special reasons having been assigned either in that House or elsewhere for supposing that it was necessary for this country, at this time, to take extraordinary measures for the increase of its Army. He hoped that they would have something more conclusive before hon. Gentlemen were called upon to come to a final vote on this question. He did not know whether his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) was about to take the sense of the House on the proposition of the Government at this time; but he supposed he would do so before the Bill had passed through all its stages. He hoped that they would have something more satisfactory in the way of explanation before such an important change was made in the policy of this country. He was gratified with the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government upon the Address; and although there had been sneers at what he said with regard to the peace party, and although his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne) took upon himself to throw some kind of sneer upon his (Mr. M. Gibson's) hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), for advocating the cause of peace, let him ask the hon. Gentleman was he prepared to stand up and say that peace was not the greatest of all national blessings; was he prepared to defend war as a benefit; and if not, why should he complain of those who advocated principles which could have no other tendency but the increase of friendliness in the relations between States, and to promote the cause of peace? Why, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in the previous discussion on this subject, delivered a speech which might have been delivered at the Peace Society itself. He had heard expressions from the noble Lord on that occasion, which, if they had come from any of the party he (Mr. M. Gibson) belonged to, would have been treated with perfect scorn and indignation; but he was glad that those sentiments had had the authority of the head of the Government. The noble Lord said— But, really to see some of the letters which have been published, and to hear some of the language that has been used, it would seem that these two great nations, so wealthy, so civilised, so enlightened, were going to butcher one another merely to see what would be the effect of percussion shells and needle guns. Those were exactly the feelings expressed at meetings of the Peace Society; and he thought the expression of those feelings did good. Now, before he sat down, he desired to say that he did not wish to go into extremes. He did not say that men were not to have physical force to repel an invasion. All that he said was, that they must not look to possibilities when they were called upon to increase their forces; they must look to moral probabilities. And when he considered that confidence had been placed for a long series of years in those who had had the administration of this country; when he knew that the money which the Duke of Wellington had ask- ed from Parliament for the defence of the country had been granted; when he knew that these men had had the control of large sums of money, to the extent of 16,000,000l., or 17,000,000l. a year, he had great difficulty in persuading himself that it was possible in the very nature of things that these men, having the most valuable interests to defend, could have left the country defenceless. He could not believe that the country was defenceless. On the contrary, he believed that the money that was spent, was far more than enough to give adequate defence; and he would not be a party to pass so grave a censure upon all those who had had the defence of this country entrusted to them, to say that they had utterly neglected it; and that we found ourselves, after thirty-seven years of peace, in a defenceless condition. He could not bring himself to such a conclusion; but he could easily perceive that men might endeavour for party purposes to get up panics by writing in newspapers and by other means; and after a short time had passed away, he could also imagine the Minister of the day might find it difficult, and against his own political interest, to take a firm stand against it, and that he was unable altogether to resist appeals of that kind. It was his firm belief at the present moment that the panic, if there was one, was not founded upon any well-reasoned ground, and that it had been got up by parties for political purposes. If there was one question more than another in that House that had been used for party purposes it was the question of the defences of the country; and if they looked back into Hansard's Debates, they would find repeated instances of charges of neglecting the defences of the country. There never was a time when those who were out of office did not say that those who were in office neglected the defences of the country. He wished the noble Lord at the head of the Government had taken a firm stand against this sort of appeal; and he hoped that their legislation on the subject would not be construed by foreign countries into any feeling on the part of this country that we were about to depart from what he believed was the most sound, safe, and constitutional policy, namely, that of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries.


Sir, I can very well understand the course taken by my right hon. Friend who has just spoken. He and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) conceive that this country is sufficiently defended by its naval force. Now in no distrust of the efficiency of that naval force, or of the gallantry of that arm of our defensive establishment, I do not think it prudent to rest all the hopes of England entirely on the means of defence which a naval force may afford; not doubting that whatever enemy our Navy has to meet will be mot with the usual bravery and the usual success, but always considering that the state of the elements or the movements of the enemy may be such as to give no opportunity of meeting before the shores of this country are invaded. I cannot, therefore, now, any more than in 1848, express an opinion that it is wise to trust to a sufficient naval force, and not to have a sufficient military defence on our own shores. We have, then, the Army, which no doubt produces, according to its numbers, and in proportion to its numbers, a manly and an efficient force, but in not sufficient numbers, considering the wide extent of coast; at any point of which we may be threatened. On this point then I entirely differ from the principles of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson). I will not enter into the question with regard to the balance of power any further than to say that it resolves itself ultimately into a question of national independence. If, in spite of the declaration annually made in the Mutiny Act of our desire to maintain the balance of power, we should resolve to stand tamely by and allow the other Powers of Europe to pursue their own course uncontrolled, we might enjoy an ignoble quiet for a time, but we should finally find ourselves isolated, and obliged to defend ourselves under the most disadvantageous circumstances. But although I understand the position of my right hon. Friend in opposing any increase of force, I confess I do not understand the position of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), because he comes forward in a most unusual way, not to dispute the second reading of a Bill, not to point out the difficulties of the plan proposed, but to say—"You, the Ministers of the Crown, shall not lay your plan before the House; you shall be debarred from placing this Bill upon the table; you shall not take the Bill which you have considered, which you have thought best; you shall take another Bill of my concoction, of which will not tell you the clauses, but leave you to find out the provision that will suit my purpose." I say, never was such a demand made. Of course I cannot comply with that request—it would be most absurd in me to attempt it. Even supposing I intended to follow all the injunctions I have received from the noble Lord, he might turn round and say, "This is not the Bill I intended; the clauses are quite different; you must bring in another Bill, more agreeable to my views." With respect to the difference between us, that difference mainly consists in a point which the noble Lord has altogether omitted, on which he has refrained entirely to touch. The question is, and on that point we are agreed, to obtain a force which shall be sufficient in numbers, with sufficient training to be enabled to act, which shall be removable in case of danger from one part of the United Kingdom to another, and which can be kept up for a certain time after the commencement of a war. But then occurs the difficulty. According to the plan, as I understand it, of the noble Lord, he wishes to have a regular militia balloted for, and if in the course of the present year a war should unfortunately break out, immediately embodied and obliged to serve for five years. Now, that is, of course, a very different demand on the people of this country from that of making a demand upon them to appear for twenty-eight days in time of peace, and to be bound to serve six or perhaps twelve months in time of war. And then comes the question which the noble Lord will not discuss, which lies at the bottom of all the difference between us—the question of substitutes. Will you say you will have no substitutes? Will you oblige these men who have been balloted to serve during those five years of war? I am convinced if you proclaim to the country you are about to make a ballot of militia, and oblige those drawn to serve for five years as soldiers, whatever their condition in life may be, that measure will be so unpopular that there will be the greatest difficulty in carrying any such Bill into operation. Another course— and it is a completely opposite one—is not to have balloted men, but to take substitutes; and that is a very easy course, no doubt; for if you offer 30s.—still more if you offer 5l. or 6l.—bounty, there will be a great number of substitutes offering, who will be trained for the twenty-eight days during the present year. But observe the difference between substitutes under our plan, and those under the plan of the noble Lord, in time of war and in time of peace. When you have accepted a substi- tute in time of war, he will be placed at once in the embodied militia, kept in the ranks, and bound not to desert by all the penalties of the Mutiny Act. But in time of peace, if you offer 5l. for a substitute in the county of Kent, or any other county, many a man will come forward for twenty-eight days and take that bounty. Supposing, in the year 1852, at the end of twenty-eight days' training, you discharge the substitute, who will tell me that in 1853 that man will come back without bounty, he being engaged perhaps in some distant part of the country, and receiving good wages? It seems to me you are placed in this dilemma: you must either make a law which is efficient but very oppressive, and thereby not easily carried into operation; or you must make a law which is not oppressive, but very costly and very inefficient. If in one case you have balloted men, you will secure them; be they farmers, gentlemen's sons, merchants' sons, mechanics, or whatever class of life, if you make them serve in the ranks you will have an efficient force; but it will be considered a hardship, to which men will not easily submit. If you take the other course, and have substitutes for money, there will be no security that the substitutes in time of peace will be again forthcoming in time of war. I do not give these arguments as conclusive on this subject. I wish the House to weigh them deliberately. If, notwithstanding the objections I have urged, the House conceives the noble Lord's plan to be the best, I advise them to adopt it, and alter that which I have proposed; but what I ask —and I think it is not an extravagant demand—is, that we, the Ministers of the Crown, having for many weeks considered this question most attentively, and having, among other plans, investigated one which the noble Lord was good enough to favour me with, some months back, and come to the conclusion that our plan is the best, and the least liable to objection, should -be allowed to introduce it. I do not know whether we have come to a right conclusion; but that being so, is it right, will it be expedient, would it be fair for this House to say, "You shall not produce your plan; you shall have no opportunity of laying that Bill before the House?" Of course, if you should so decide, if you should decide to leave out the word "local," because the question of "consolidating" will not test the sense of the House—the word "consolidate" being quite in accordance with the Bill we shall bring in—if you should decide to leave out the word "local," all I can say is, I shall leave it to Mr. Bernal and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton to bring in a Bill which will satisfy the House, but certainly I shall be no party to it.


Sir, the noble Lord at the head of the Government has favoured us with a most extraordinary speech. The noble Lord proposes to introduce a measure, into the details of which he has amply entered, founded on a principle which another Member of the House thinks essentially vicious. If the principle is vicious, it follows of course that it will only be a loss of time for us to consider the details resulting from that vicious or erroneous principle with which the noble Lord has favoured us. The noble Lord seems to think that if the House of Commons considers the principle of the Bill so essentially vicious, and that it is totally impossible that its details can be beneficially changed, it is not open to us to question the propriety of the Governments introducing such a measure. The noble Lord adopts this tone—he says that it is unparliamentary and unconstitutional, if a Minister brings in a measure founded on a vicious principle, for us to oppose its introduction. I believe that I have not misrepresented the noble Lord. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: You have quite misunderstood me.] The noble Lord says that I have quite misunderstood him, but I certainly think that I have not misrepresented him. Now, I ask the House just to consider exactly how we are placed with respect to the question before us. It is now four or five years since the Government of which the noble Lord is the chief, announced to the House that they were about to bring forward a measure on the subject of the militia. The noble Lord, however, neither brought forward the Bill, nor favoured the House with the details of the measure which he intended to bring forward. Now, I should like to have known from the noble Lord whether the project which he intended to bring forward on the present occasion was a project for the regular or for the local militia? We have not been favoured with information upon that point, which is really interesting. But it is quite clear from the circumstances under which that measure was announced—at a period, it will be remembered, when we had no anticipation of those revolutions on the Continent, or any of those alarming circum- stances which we have more recently experienced—I say it is quite clear that the Government were of opinion that as a general principle, and with reference to circumstances of a lasting character, our means of defence were not so efficient as they ought to be. Therefore, in dealing with any measure of this kind we need not consider it with reference to the important transactions which have subsequently occurred. We have the advantage of deliberating upon and considering it with reference solely to the consideration whether this country is in that position of self-defence which every great country ought to be. With respect to the necessity of some measure, it would appear that, with rare exceptions, almost all are agreed. What we have to decide is, what is the most efficient plan on which our domestic garrison may be formed? The Government, after four years' consideration of the question which they had previously introduced to our notice, and after the occurrences which have taken place in that lapse of time—occurrences which no one, taking even the most peaceful view of human affairs, or the most charitable view of human character, can pretend have rendered our position less exigent—the Government having again brought the subject under our notice, I say that we have a right to consider, in the first place, what is the most effective way in which this self-defence shall be provided. What we have to deal with at present is the principle of a measure. The details which the noble Lord originally favoured us with, and which he recapitulated to-night in a manner rather unusual, have, in the meantime, nothing to do with the question. The details to which the noble Lord referred are points which no doubt we shall be able to enter upon with effect when the Bill goes into Committee. But if it is the opinion of the House that the Bill of the Government is founded upon a principle which cannot lead to the result which the House desires to accomplish—if, in fact, the Government having announced a measure four years ago with great hesitation, and having now, after the occurrence in the course of those four years of events of great importance, not had the courage to bring forward an efficient measure, but one of a hesitating and unsatisfactory character—I think it is the duty of the House, at this stage of the business, to express, in a manner not to be mistaken, their opinion of the principle upon which it is founded. And when the First Minister tells us that if we assent to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton he will throw upon the noble Lord and the Chairmen of our Committees the responsibility of bringing forward the Bill, I must say that I think that it is a tone which the noble Lord ought not to adopt. The noble Lord, I think, too often shows a readiness to influence by menace the decisions of this House. I put the question merely in this way: If it be the opinion of this House that the principle upon which the Government measure is founded is not a correct one, and that the principle which is expressed in the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is, on the contrary, the one which ought to be adopted, is this, or is it not, a legitimate occasion to express that opinion? If it be a legitimate occasion to express that opinion, I cannot doubt that the House will not shrink from fulfilling that duty, and that the threat of the First Minister will not deter us from laying down the sound principle upon which we think the means of national defence should be established in this country.


said, he was sure the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had perfectly misunderstood the argument of his (Sir G. Grey's) noble Friend; for if he had not perfectly misunderstood it, it was impossible he could have put such a construction upon it as he appeared to have done. His noble Friend had never uttered an expression which intimated that the House were not perfectly competent at any stage of a Bill of expressing their opinion upon the policy of any measure submitted by Her Majesty's Government. His noble Friend did not say that the House was not perfectly entitled now to refuse their assent to the question which would be put from the Chair, that leave be given to bring in a Bill founded upon the principle and embodying the details which the noble Lord had submitted to the House on Monday night. The House had a perfect right, and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had a perfect right, to dissent from that question; and if a majority of the House should unite in refusing their assent to the Government being allowed to introduce their Bill, it would be open to any Member charged with the responsibility of that refusal to prepare such a measure as might be thought more suited to the circumstances of the country. But that was not the course which had been taken by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The noble Lord did not propose that they should disagree with the Resolution of the Committee. He did not propose that leave should now be directly refused to bring in the Bill which had been prepared by the Government, and which the Government were ready to present to the House, and embodying the details which they thought necessary to carry into effect the important object of national defence. But what the noble Lord did was this—he said, "You shall obtain leave to introduce a Bill, but not the Bill which you think ought to be prepared; you shall have leave only to introduce a Bill upon a different principle, and embodying different details from those which you have declared to be necessary." Now, this was a course to which the Government could not agree. The Government had a Bill prepared, and, if the Resolution of the Committee of the whole House was affirmed, they were ready to lay that Bill before the House; and, if any hon. Members had amendments to move upon that Bill, those amendments could be proposed at a later stage when the Bill was before them. But the noble Lord adopted the unusual course, not of meeting the proposal of the Government with a direct negative, but, of attempting to impose upon the Government the obligation of bringing in a Bill different from that which they had prepared. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had said that what was wanted was a regularly trained, armed, disciplined, and organised force, ready to be called out for the defence of the country at a short notice. If the noble Lord would wait till the Bill of Her Majesty's Government was laid on the table of the House, he thought he would find every one of the objects he had stated would be sufficiently accomplished by that measure. But the noble Lord objected to a local militia, because the Local Militia Acts were deficient in certain points, upon which he dwelt at considerable length, and which he seemed to think were insuperable objections. The fact was, however, that the Bill of the Government was directed to the removal of the very defects which had been pointed out by the noble Lord. The Government had thought it their duty, on looking to what was necessary for the defence of the country, to introduce for that purpose a measure which, while it would be efficient in its operation, would he the least burdensome to the people, would bear with the least pressure upon the finances of the country, and would least interfere with the regular industry and employment of the people. But it was important that the House should understand what was meant by this demand for a regular militia. He (Sir G. Grey) thought the House had a right to call upon the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) and those who supported him to state distinctly what they meant by that—whether they desired that a regularly embodied militia should be established, or only that there should be an amendment of the Militia Acts, enabling the Government, in the event of a war, to embody such a militia. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), in pointing out the other night the inconveniences which would arise from the employment of the local militia at a period when negotiations might be in a critical state between this and a foreign country, clearly contemplated the embodying of a regular militia, liable to be drawn by ballot, to serve either in person or by substitute, not five years, as had been said, but for seven years, and to be embodied in regiments like the Army in time of peace, with the exception that they were not to be sent to any of our Colonies, nor to any other parts beyond the United Kingdom. Now, there was an essential difference between that proposal and the measure of the Government—a difference which he thought the House would do well to hear in mind before they came to a vote upon this subject. He thought such a proposal to be unnecessary in the present circumstances of the country. He believed that not only would the expense of such a proposal be greater than that of raising an equal number of men for the regular Army, but the force would be far less efficient. A great deal had been said about leaving Ireland out of the Bill; but no one could believe, and, least of all, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, that the Government had done this because they distrusted the loyalty of the people of Ireland, when it was remembered that a very large proportion of the British Army was recruited from that country; and that they had carried the fame of England to the most distant parts of the world, and had always been conspicuous for their gallant achievements in the field. But he begged to remind the noble Lord, who had called for a general Bill for the United Kingdom, with a view to the embodiment of a regular militia by ballot, that there never had been such an Act in force for the whole Kingdom; that there had always been separate Bills for the three Kingdoms; and that in Ireland the ballot had never been enforced. He would only say that if the House gave the Government leave to introduce their Bill, they would find that it was calculated to effect the objects considered essential by the noble Lord. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had said that he (Sir G. Grey) had spoken of the regular militia as an "offensive force." Now it was true that there was an important difference between the local and the regular militia. The local militia was a purely defensive force, liable only to be called away from home in case of an actual or threatened invasion; while the regular militia might be called out in time of peace as well as of war, and might be used to set free a certain number of the regular Army, and, to that extent, it might be called an offensive force. The Government had no anticipations at present that war would arise, and they trusted that no such occurrences were likely to happen. Still they thought it prudent to be prepared to resist foreign aggression, and they, therefore, asked the House for leave to bring in a Bill to place the defences of the Kingdom on a more satisfactory footing.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had told the House that the Government had thought it expedient, from certain circumstances, to place the country in a position to resist foreign aggression. He (Mr. Deedes) believed that that sentiment was generally participated in by the Members of that House, with the exception of a few, among whom he might rank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson), although he very much doubted whether the right hon. Gentleman would much advance the contentment and the happiness of the lower orders of the people by not having ready, in the event of a foreign aggression, a sufficient force with which to preserve their contentment and happiness. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), in introducing his views on the subject, had said that his possessions in the county of Sligo might possibly be endangered in the event of a foreign aggression; and he (Mr. Deedes) thought it would be conceded to him that, representing as he did a frontier county (Kent), and having nothing but his possessions in that county (which, though small, were dear to him) to depend upon, he was entitled to state in a few words the opinion he entertained upon this important matter; and, in the first place, he begged to say that it certainly had struck him forcibly that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in introducing the measure, although he alluded to the circumstances under which he brought forward the measure of 1848, and pointed out the difference between the state of affairs then and now, yet seemed to labour under some incubus which prevented his stating what he wished to see carried out under existing circumstances. Now, for his part, he felt that if it were necessary to raise a force for a particular emergency, the sooner that force was put into an efficient state the better would it be both for those who would form part of the force, and those who were to pay for the formation of it. The noble Lord had told them the Government desired to render the training of the force as little onerous to the individuals as possible; and he told them that with this view they would be called upon to serve only twenty-eight days in the first year, and fourteen days in the subsequent years of their enrolment; and he even said that three hours and a half should be counted half a day, and that, in fact, the training should be done at the times most convenient for them.


said, that it was proposed to make the law in that respect the same as it was in the Militia Act now.


said, that might be so; but he wished, if the Government were not to originate anything anew, that they should at least improve what they found, and make it as efficient as possible. What he said was, that if it was necessary to place the country in a state of defence—for he wished to go no further than that—he was no advocate for aggression, it was madness in us in the present state of things to sit still till the enemy was at our doors. He had no wish to see a foreign general in his house, except upon his invitation. If any attempt at aggression was made, we ought to be in a state to offer the most efficient opposition; and he saw no reasonable hope that the local militia contemplated by the Government could within a moderate time be placed in anything like an efficient state, and, believing that by leaving out the word "local" the Government would get rid of many difficulties, he should support the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton.


did not recollect, long as as he had been in Parliament, an attempt being made before, when a majority of that House had clearly demonstrated their wish that Her Majesty's Ministers should bring in a Bill, to prevent them from doing so. He did not, however, speak in favour of the measure, for he was opposed to it; but he thought it was not fair to the Government to take the course which had been adopted. With respect to the measure itself, he had already stated his opinion, and he should at the proper time take the sense of the House upon it. Whether substitutes should be allowed or not, was a matter of trifling detail. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had agreed to the propriety of having all the Militia Acts consolidated; and, where the principle was the same, it was most unusual for any Member to oppose the Government bringing in a Bill. He should vote with the Government, thinking it only fair play that they should have the opportunity of bringing in their measure. He would not stultify the Resolution of the Committee. Let the noble Lord wait till he saw the details of the Bill, and then propose his Amendment. The noble Lord admitted that danger, if not probable, was possible; therefore his principle did not at all justify his Motion. But had he given them any idea what the danger was, or shown that there was any? From the speeches of both noble Lords, it might be supposed that we had actually no defence, and might be overrun at any moment by a force of 20,000 foreign soldiers. For the last forty years 15,000,000l. or 16,000,000l. a year had been voted towards the defence of the country; till recently we were told that the country was never in a better state of defence; and all at once it was said we had no defence. What was the real fact? At this moment we had under pay 239,000 men. A document on the table of the House showed that there were in this country 150,000 men in arms, and 4–5,000 in the colonies—a greater amount of armed force than we ever had before. He would state of what this force consisted. There were upwards of 98,000 regular cavalry and infantry, exclusive of 25,000 in the pay and employment of the East India Company, 11,347 artillery; 13,600 yeomanry cavalry. [Laughter.] He hoped they were as good as a local militia, with fourteen or twenty-eight days' training. Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but the yeomanry had held their heads very high in that House. There were 1,870 sappers and miners; 15,124 enrolled pensioners—a force which he held to be far superior to any militia, regular or local, and which, commanded by bold and experienced officers, would be as good as any troops they could possibly enrol. The royal marines he put down at 11,621, there were 9,000 or 10,000 belonging to the staff of the militia; and the dockyard battalions, better disciplined than any militia could be to great guns and small arms. There were 12,000 police in Ireland, equal certainly to any militia they could have. Thus there were 195,000 men paid at this moment, drilled, ready in case of an emergency; and who dared say we were unprepared? Gentlemen seemed to have been frighted from their propriety by idle rumours. There certainly was some excuse for the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, as he lived near Dovor. He deprecated statements of this nature, which were in effect throwing out a defiance to a country with whom we ought to be at peace, and alarmed those in this country who knew no better. If justice were done to the colonies, most of the colonial garrisons might be withdrawn, and thus our means of defence might be considerably increased. With 150,000 men in arms in this country, besides 39,000 seamen and 130 ships of war, of which 100 at least might be on our shores, who would say that there was any great fear of invasion? The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) said that in fourteen days a strong force might be landed. He (Mr. Hume) denied the possibility; the noble Lord ought to know better. He had been long enough at the head of the Foreign Department to know everything that was going on. Did he believe that France could prepare an army to invade this country without his having some intimation of what was going on? We were well prepared—better prepared than England ever was before—to repel such an attack. He should like to know if the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was ready to join such a body as the Holy Alliance, merely from fear of invasion, and impose on us one more an enormous debt? ["Divide, divide!"] It was easy for hon. Members to cry "Divide;" but he begged to remind the House that, if they hastily ran into such extravagance as had been shadowed forth by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, the time would come when they would regret the course they had taken, and they would find as a consequence that their uncalled-for expenditure stood in the way of useful and indispensable measures of improvement for the benefit of the country.


said, the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had misunderstood the observations which he (Mr. S. Herbert) had made on a previous evening. He did not argue for the permanent embodiment of the militia. The question which alone they had now to decide, had nothing to do with that. The question was, whether, when a reform of the Militia Laws was contemplated, we should reform the whole substance of those laws, or only that which happened to be an excrescence and an addition. The noble Lord at the head of the Government said he was willing to accept amendments upon his proposition; but the moment an amendment was offered, the noble Lord repudiated it, and said, "If you choose to make alterations, you must take the whole responsibility of the measure upon yourselves." [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: No, no!] He (Mr. S. Herbert) would not willingly misrepresent the noble Lord; but he apprehended that the noble Lord was arguing upon a proposal, of which he was cognisant, and of which the House was ignorant, which had possibly been made in private by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. Of that the House knew nothing. They merely saw what the noble Lord had proposed on the one hand, and on the other the Amendment of the noble Member for Tiverton. That Amendment did not propose to confine the Bill to the calling out of the general militia; it did not substitute "general" for "local;" it merely proposed to omit the word "local," which did confine the operations of the Bill. Now, in dealing with a subject like this, they should not take an exceptional but a general view of the whole question. The noble Lord said, there were many evils connected with the general militia; and he expatiated with great truth on the inconveniences resulting from the system of ballot and substitutes; but he said that, besides this local militia which I propose to give you, you may have a general militia too. Well, if this general militia is to be had in addition to the local, do let us clear away the evils and inconveniences which attach to such a system, which are now to be left as bad as ever, and which we shall have in addition to any inconveniences which may result from the local militia. If the noble Lord intended to deal with the general militia likewise, why did he not adopt the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, which clears the ground, opens the way, gives him a larger scope on which to work, and enables him to deal with the laws upon a simple and intelligible basis. He (Mr. S. Herbert) founded his whole argument the other night, not upon the advantages for embodying, but for training the militia, upon the convenience that would often be felt in training men in adjoining counties, where the local militia might not he sufficiently numerous to constitute a body that could he effectually trained by itself; and that when there was an expectation of a war, it would be a great advantage to be: able to move the militia from one county to another, without, in the first instance, having to embody them. After admitting that there were great inconveniences attaching to the Militia Laws, and expressing his desire to remedy them, he (Mr. S, Herbert) could not understand why the noble Lord, whilst consenting to insert the word "consolidated," refused to omit the word "local." The field would then be left more open, and the House of Commons would have a better opportunity of dealing with the question.


said, the right hon. Gentleman must have completely misunderstood him. He (Lord J. Russell) had said that there was a Bill ready upon this subject, and if the principle of that Bill were adopted, it would be necessary to bring in another Bill afterwards with respect to the general militia. But with regard to the measure respecting the local militia, they had that measure ready, whereas the other Bill had never been considered in detail. It would take weeks, perhaps months, to consider it, and therefore he had asked leave to bring in this Bill, reserving to himself power to bring in the other one at a future period.


said, with respect to the danger which was at the bottom of the present question, he was disposed to be of the opinion of the "Babe in the Wood" who says, "Kill him again Walter, such a villain can't be too dead." If he were to speak till midnight, he could not better explain the reasons for his vote. He must vote with the noble Lord below the gangway, because he went the furthest. It had been his chance to be off Boulogne in 1804, when the French Admiral Villeneuve ought to have let out the French flotilla and did not; and he remembered the rueful looks they used to direct to the westward at daybreak, expecting to see twenty or thirty sail of the line coming up the Channel, when to the best of their belief there were not above ten or twelve in the eastern waters to oppose to them. In those days the worth of the regular militia was felt, and everybody knew it to be a most formidable force; while all he could recollect of the local militia, without meaning to speak slightingly of anybody, was that nobody knew where it was. There were laws of old standing for the regular militia, which might do very well with such touches of alteration as the lapse of time might make necessary. But the local militia was never of any value except as an embryo force; and it was anything but an embryo force with which there was a possibility of coming in contact. On the contrary it was a force of 400,000 men, in the highest possible state of discipline and equipment. He could not agree with a much valued friend on the same benches, that no French officers would be found to lead this force against us, without a declaration of war. There was not an officer nor a Frenchman that would dare to refuse; and it was matter of notoriety that one of the most eminent of the French generals, no long time ago, had offered himself to try the issue of a point on London. The French had also avowed the ground on which they should dispense with a declaration of war. Our fathers ate sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge. That subject was a painful one, and there was no necessity to be more explicit. On the whole, he was for making the greatest possible preparation, always hoping that we should be disappointed by having no enemy to meet.


said, he could not let the opportunity pass without making some allusion to the difference between the principles involved in the two proposals before the House. The object which the Government had in view was the introduction of a Bill for amending the laws with respect to the local militia, which should have the effect of providing for this country at the cheapest rate, and in a manner the least burdensome to the people of this country, a force which could most speedily be at the disposal of the Government to protect these shores in case of any threat- ened or actual invasion. For the last four or five years that had been the principle to which the attention of the Government was directed, namely, the establishment of a force, similarly constituted to the local militia of former days, in which a large proportion of the population should be trained to the use of arms, at a moderate distance from their places of residence, forming in every part of the country a respectable force for the defence of each locality. It might be all very well to disparage the local militia—or hon. Gentlemen who disliked that name might call it an army of reserve if they pleased—but it was a branch of the service composed of men in their own localities, and the object of the Government was to interfere as little as possible with the usual avocations of those people. But the regular militia was a totally different thing; and he was as distinctly opposed to having the regular militia in a time of peace as he would be to the addition of 50,000 men to our standing Army. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen did not know what the compulsory powers of the Militia Act were. They compelled a man to serve either by ballot or substitute, rendered him liable to be taken from his family, and carried to any part of the United Kingdom, destroying, it might be, all his settlements in life, and interrupting his usual employment for seven years. It might be that he was called out in the year in which he was drawn; and every precaution might be taken to secure that the man should be single and without incumbrance. Well, he was drilled for twenty-eight days of the year in which he was drawn, and then returned home. Was he married meantime, then, perhaps, the next year he was embodied, and left his wife and perhaps a family behind chargeable to the parish. How would the country gentlemen like to find themselves chargeable with all the expense of maintaining the wives and familities of a militia which was made to serve as an embodied force in any part of England, Scotland, or Ireland? Such a course, he asserted, should only be resorted to during a time of urgent necessity in war. But suppose you take the alternative of serving by substitutes, where would the substitute be after having served the first twenty-eight days at drill? Where would he be next year? His noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) said all England was not composed of cheats, and they were not to suppose that the men who were sub- stitutes would not be honest enough to reappear to fulfil their bargain. He (Mr. F. Maule) did not fancy that all England was composed of cheats, but he had his opinion, that the persons purchased to serve as substitutes were very great cheats, and in composing a militia in time of peace of substitutes, they would be training to arms the lowest scum of the population, To be sure, if embodied in the time of war, and taken into barracks, and subject to constant duty under all the restraints of the Mutiny Act, these men might be made as good soldiers as any, probably; but if they took substitutes in time of peace, they would get a class of persons who ought not to be trusted with the use of arms, and whose services could not be obtained when they were wanted. He wished to see established a force—call it by any name you please—which should be trained for so many days in each year, which should by degrees amount to a large and extensive force, which might, like the yeomanry, with a very trifling drill, be made effective for all purposes to which raw levies could be put. Such a force, too, would lay a foundation for the continual increase of our regular Army, in the case of any war breaking out. If we had 120,000 men thus drilled to the use of arms, and paraded with a military spirit, it would only depend upon the amount of bounty which we chose to offer, whether we could not get many thousands of them to join the regular Army, or the general militia, when it might be found necessary to extend either the one or the other. The Local Militia Act was never extended to Ireland. Such was the objection to the system of the ballot, as applied to Ireland, that it had never been put in force in that country. But there would be no difficulty or hesitation in adopting the same system of arming the population of that country for the protection of its shores by a volunteer corps, as was adopted at a former period. He would say to hon. Gentlemen, Beware how, in a time of peace, without absolute necessity, you give any Government the power of embodying a regular militia. They will find a burden hanging round their necks infinitely heavier than they will be inclined to bear; and if they do impose upon the people of this country the obligation of a regular militia service in a time of peace, they will commit one of the most unpopular acts that ever was undertaken by any House of Commons.


said, he intended to vote with the Government, because he had heard nothing in the course of the discussion which led him to believe he should be justified in voting in a manner which should prevent the Government from bringing in this Bill, That would be a most unusual course. After the Bill was brought in, the responsibility of the measure would rest with the Government, and the House might then either reject or amend it.

Question, "That the words 'and consolidate 'be there inserted," put, at agreed to.

Another Amendment proposed to be made to the Question, by leaving out the word "local."

Question put, "That the word 'local' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 125; Noes 136: Majority 11.

List of the AYES.
Adair, R. A. S. Greene, T.
Alcock, T. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Anson, hon. G. Grey, R. W.
Armstrong, Sir A. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Hall, Sir B.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T. Hanmer, Sir J.
Barrington, Visct. Harcourt, G. G.
Bass, M. T. Harris, R.
Bellew, R. M. Hastie, A.
Berkeley, Adm. Hastie, A.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Hatchell, rt. hon. J.
Bernal, R. Hindley, C.
Bethell, R. Howard, Lord E.
Birch, Sir T. B. Howard, P. H.
Blackstone, W. S. Hume, J.
Blewitt, R. J. Hutt, W.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Johnstone, Sir J.
Boyle, hon. Col. Kershaw, J.
Brocklehurst, J. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Brockman, E. D. Lewis, G. C.
Brotherton, J. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Brown, W. Matheson, A.
Charteris, hon. F. Matheson, Col.
Clay, J. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Clay, Sir W. Milligan, R.
Cockburn, Sir A. J. E. Milner, W. M. E.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Mitchell, T. A.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Craig, Sir W. G. Mowatt, F.
Crawford, W. S. Norreys, Lord
Crowder, R. B. Owen, Sir J.
Dawes, E. Paget, Lord C.
Divett, E. Parker, J.
Buff, J. Peel, F.
Duncan, G. Pigott, F.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Pilkington, J.
Evans, Sir De L. Plowden, W. H. C.
Evans, J, Power, Dr.
Evans, W. Power, N.
Ewart, W. Price, Sir R.
Fergus, J. Rice, E. R.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Rich, 11.
Foley, J. H.H. Romilly, C.
Fordyce, A. D. Russell, Lord J.
Forster, M. Salwey, Col.
Fortescue, C. Scholefield, W.
Fox, W. J. Scobell, Capt.
Geach, C. Scrope, G. P.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Seymour, H. D.
Seymour, Lord Tufnell, rt. hon. H.
Shafto, R. D. Vane, Lord H.
Smith, rt. hon. R. V. Verney, Sir H.
Smith, J. A. Vivian, J. H.
Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. Wakley, T.
Stanton, W. H. Wall, C. B.
Staunton, Sir G. T. Walmsley, Sir J.
Strickland, Sir G. Walter, J.
Strutt, rt. hon. E. Williams, J.
Stewart, A. Wilson, J.
Stuart, Lord D. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Stuart, Lord J. Wood, Sir W. P.
Thicknesse, R. A. TELLERS.
Thornely, T. Hayter, W. G.
Trelawny, J. S. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Adderley, C. B. Greene, J.
Anstey, T. C. Grogan, E.
Archdall, Capt. M. Gwyn, H.
Arkwright, G. Hall, Col.
Baillie, H. J. Hallewell, E. G.
Baldock, E. H. Hamilton, G. A.
Barrow, W. H. Hardinge, hon. C. S.
Beresford, W. Harris, hon. Capt.
Blake, M. J. Hayes, Sir E.
Boldero, H. G. Herbert, rt. hon. S.
Booker, T. W. Hemes, rt. hon. J. C.
Booth, Sir R. G. Higgins, G. G. O.
Bowles, Adm. Hodgson, W. N.
Bremridge, R. Hope, Sir J.
Brisco, M. Hotham, Lord
Bruce, C. L. C. Humphery, Ald.
Buck, L. W. Jocelyn, Visct.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Jones, Capt.
Burghley, Lord Keating, R.
Campbell, hon. W. Keogh, W.
Christopher, R. A. Knightley, Sir C.
Christy, S. Knox, Col.
Clive, hon. R. H. Lennox, Lord A. G.
Clive, H. B. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Cobbold, J. C. Leslie, C. P.
Cocks, T. S. Lopes, Sir R.
Coles, H. B. Mackenzie, W. F.
Collins, T. Mackie, J.
Compton, H. C. Mahon, The O'Gorman
Cunolly, T. Manners, Lord J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Maunsell, T. P.
Cobitt, Ald. Meux, Sir H.
Davies, D. A. S. Miles, W.
Diedes, W. Milnes, R. M.
Dsraeli, B. Moody, C. A.
Dod, J. W. Morgan, O.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Mullings, J. R.
Drummond, H. Naas, Lord
Duncombe, hon. A. Napier, J.
Duncombe, hon. W. E. Newdegate, C. N.
Duncuft, J. Newport, Vise.
Du Pre, C. G. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Edwards, H. O'Brien, Sir T.
Egerton, W. T. O'Ferrall, rt. hon.R.M.
Evelyn, W. J. O'Flaherty, A.
Forbes, W. Packe, C. W.
Forester, hon. G. C. W. Pakington, Sir J.
Fox, S. W. L. Palmer, R.
Freestun, Col. Peehell, Sir G. B.
Freshfield, J. W. Portal, M.
Fuller, A. E. Prime, R.
Galway, Visct. Pugh, D.
Gaskell, J. M. Richards, R.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E. Roche, E. B.
Goold, W. Sadleir, J.
Grace, O. D. J. Sandars, G.
Grattan, H. Sibthorp, Col.
Spooner, R. Waddington H. S.
Stafford, A. Walpole, S. H.
Stanley, E. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Stuart, J. Wawn, J. T.
Stuart, H. G. West, F. R.
Sullivan, M. Whiteside, J.
Tennent, Sir J. E. Willoughby, Sir H.
Thompson, Col. Wodehouse, E.
Trevor, hon. G. R. Young, Sir J.
Tyler, Sir G.
Tynte, Col. C. J. K. TELLERS.
Tyrell, Sir J. T. Palmerston, Visct.
Vyse, R. H. R. H. Dunne, Col.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill to amend and consolidate the Laws respecting the Militia ordered.


Sir, I consider that the Vote to which the House has just come, is tantamount to a refusal to allow the Government to bring in the Bill which they have prepared. It is a Bill for the internal defence of the country, and, as such, a Bill of the utmost importance to the country. I cannot, therefore, consent to assume the further responsibility of the Bill with an alteration in its title which I consider objectionable. I intend, therefore, to relieve myself of all further responsibility with regard to it, and shall leave it to the noble Lord, or any one else who wishes, to bring in the Bill.


Sir, I cannot help expressing my extreme surprise at such an abdication by the Government of their proper functions in this House. I presume, it was not without full deliberation that the Government deemed it to be their duty to introduce a measure for the better defence of the realm. The only difference of opinion between the majority of the House and the Government has been, whether that measure shall be founded upon the Act of the 42nd Geo. III. or the Act of the 58th Geo. III.—whether it shall be founded upon the system of a regular militia or of a local militia. The noble Lord has stated by his explanations this evening that his measure was so nearly the same as the arrangement of the regular militia, that it appeared to me—and it has also appeared to the majority of the House—that it was inconsistent with common sense, I may say, to retain the word "local" in a measure which, in fact, with one exception, was an arrangement similar to that of the regular militia. The noble Lord has admitted substitutes, which the Local Militia Act forbids, although we have indeed heard a very eloquent exposition of the objections to those substitutes. The noble Lord stated that his plan would admit of substitutes, like the regular militia; he stated that his plan would admit of the force being called out and embodied in case of war like the regular militia; and he admitted — if I understood the noble Lord rightly—that in case of war it might be sent to any part of the United Kingdom, like the regular militia. The only remaining difference between us is as to the period during which the force so called out shall be liable to remain embodied; and I ask, if that is the case, is it fitting that the Government should shrink from the performance of their duty—that they should throw up, on account of a verbal incidental alteration of their plan, a measure which they ought not to have proposed unless they thought that it was really essential for the welfare of the country?


I have to inform the House that at present there is no question before it.


Sir, after what the noble Lord has said, it is incumbent on me to say a few words in explanation. The noble Lord says that the measure which I explained on a former occasion, and again this evening, was so nearly similar to the plan which he himself proposed for restoring and establishing the militia, that he wonders I should throw up the Bill, Now if that were the case, I own I should think it a most unprecedented course, that, because of some difference on minor points with regard to this Bill, therefore a majority of this House should alter the words of the title of this Bill, thereby implying that a very great change is intended. I am sure that if we were now to bring in the Bill on the principles of which the Government have decided, when that Bill was printed I should be told, that is not the Bill which the noble Lord intended, and other provisions must be introduced. Sir, is that a position for a Government to hold? I think I made a great admission when I said that, with regard to all the details of this Bill, when it was before the House, I should be ready to listen to any amendments; I should be ready even to submit it to a Select Committee for further consideration. But if I am to be stopped at the threshold—if I am to be told at the commencement that this House has no confidence in us—then, Sir, it is impossible for us to go on with this measure [Cheers]. I hear hon. Gentlemen cheer that observation, thereby implying clearly that the noble Lord was wrong in what he said, and that it was intended, by this Vote, and by putting the Government in a minority in times of serious import, and with regard to a serious question, to show that a majority of this House had not confidence in the existing Administration. I must therefore, Sir, conclude by moving that Mr. Bernal and Lord 'Viscount Palmerston be ordered to bring in the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Bernal and Viscount Palmerston do prepare and bring in the Bill."


I was one of those who gave my vote, and my cordial vote, in favour of the Motion of the noble Lord. I think the course that was pursued by the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) who sits below me was uncalled for and unprecedented; and I think it would have been more in accordance with the usages of the House, to have aliened my noble Friend to introduce this Bill. But, having supported my noble Friend on this occasion, I cannot go along with him further. I gave my vote in favour of my noble Friend; but I intended to give my vote in the future stages of the Bill in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. But I am not at all satisfied with the conclusion the noble Lord at the head of the Government has come to, and I do not think be ought to have called on the noble Lord below me to bring in this Bill. He has stated to the House that we require a militia—he has stated, as the head of the Government, that we require a further defence. I do not agree with him there; but I think, if the noble Lord states to this House that we do require defence, he ought cither to give up the situation he holds as a Minister of the Crown, or proceed with this measure, and I hope the conclusion my noble Friend will come to is this—that he will at once give up office; and when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bradford say she has the greatest horror of a foreign force landing in this country, but that he has a still greater horror of a Protectionist Government coming into power, I say that I have no such horror. We shall see them try their hand at government; and I hope my noble Friend, after the decision that has been come to, will not merely abandon the Bill, but, in consequence of the vote that has been carried against him, will take that constitutional course which lie has always taken, and at once intimate his desire no longer to preside over the councils of the Sovereign.


Sir, I merely rise to say that I thought I had made my meaning sufficiently plain. I stated that I took it for granted, from the result of this Vote, that the Ministers no longer possessed the confidence of this House; and the result of Ministers no longer possessing the confidence of this House will be that the usual course will follow. You said, Sir, a little time ago, that there was no Motion before the House, when I moved that Mr. Bernal and Lord Palmerston be ordered to bring in the Bill. Of course I do not mean to impose that responsibility upon the noble Lord, and I now beg to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.