§ Order [20th February], "That Leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend and consolidate the Laws respecting the Militia," read.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, pursuant to the order which has just been read by the Clerk at the table, I now beg leave to move, that certain Members of the present Government be ordered to prepare and bring in a Bill for the purpose of consolidating and amending the laws relating to the Militia. In doing this, I own I feel no ordinary anxiety, and I throw myself at once on the indulgence of the House, on that indulgence which I have so often experienced before, but which, I assure you, I never felt so much in need of as on the present occasion; for as, on the one hand, I am so conscious of the magnitude of this sub- 268 ject, and of the various difficulties by which it is surrounded, that, if I were still in a private position, nothing would justify me in bringing it forward, or even, perhaps, in venturing to speak on it; so, on the other hand, I am so convinced of the absolute necessity of some such measure as that which I shall presently have the honour to submit to the House, that if I were now to shrink from the task, I should be indeed neglecting my duty, and, in my opinion, I should be actually betraying the best interests of the country. Sir, let us consider for a moment the circumstances in which we are placed. I suppose it will be admitted, as an undeniable proposition, that this country ought, in its means of defence at least, whatever may be its means of attack, to be placed on an equal footing with other countries. Is that our position at the present moment? We have been lulled into security by a happy peace of nearly 40 years' duration, and having enjoyed peace for so long a time, we can hardly believe in or even realise to ourselves the possibility of danger. But though I trust, nay, though I think, that actual danger—actual and immediate—is as far removed from our shores as ever—yet, looking at the state of Europe, not, I mean, with reference to its Governments, but to the elements of anarchy and confusion—I did not say "to the anarchy and confusion," but "to the elements of anarchy and confusion"—which might easily combine and break out into violence not many months hence, I think we are bound to see that we are in such a state of defence, and of defence alone, as to be able to resist any attack which, by possibility, may be made upon us. Now, a question was put to the Government the other night by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick (Sir Charles Douglas), whom I do not now see in his place, namely, whether we had received any information from or respecting any Foreign Power which increased or modified the propriety or necessity which at the time of our accession to office we considered to exist for introducing a Militia Bill. Sir, I frankly say we have not. But that is a circumstance which, to my mind, completely justifies us in the course we propose to pursue. Nay, I will go further, and will say that our friendly relations with Foreign Powers have increased, and are increasing, as the papers which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid on the table this night will show; but, knowing that those friendly relations still exist, I say 269 they justify us in the course we are pursuing, for they distinctly show that we are not influenced in pursuing that course by jealousy, or fear, or undue apprehension, but that we pursue it simply and solely because we believe that it is the first of duties to keep a country in a state of self-defence, because we know that provident precaution against danger is the highest wisdom, and because we are convinced that the best guarantee against attack is always to be prepared and ready to meet it. Now, that being so, the first question which we have to ask is this—Are we, or are we not, in such a state of defence as the inhabitants of a great country like this ought to be in? I think the answer to that question is not a very difficult one. In the first place, you have the general concurrence of all the best and highest authorities, whether they be military or whether they be naval, that the embodied force in the United Kingdom is not, in case of sudden emergency, equal to its protection. They also think that the inventions and discoveries with reference to steam must necessarily expose this country to more sudden and more imminent peril than she has been subjected to at any previous period in her history. In the second place, you have the fact, that Government after Government have prepared measures in times of panic, somewhat similar to that which I have to propose this evening. Two of those measures were, I think, actually proposed to Parliament, and were only postponed because the panic had passed away. In the third place, you have now the Resolution of the House itself, in pursuance of which—or in obedience to which I might truly say—I am now acting; and I refer to that Resolution because it expresses the opinion pronounced by this House only a month ago that something is necessary to be done to put this country in a better state of security. Now, look at these circumstances, and let me ask you whether a Government coming into power with such circumstances as these thrust upon them would be justified in leaving the defences of the country exactly as they found them. I ask you still further, if they did so leave them, and a war should happen and a misfortune should befall us, would you not say, and justly say, that the Ministers who had so acted, under such circumstances, ought to be impeached? How, then, can we fling up the responsibility which has been cast upon us? Now, Sir, there will probably be 270 three classes of objectors to the observations which I have made. There are those who think that the present state of our defences is actually sufficient. There are those who think—and, from the smile which I saw just now on the face of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Cobden), I suppose he is one of them—that, since there is no immediate danger, there is no immediate necessity for what we propose. There is a third class of objectors, who think that, if you increase the defences of the country, you ought to do it by adding to the Army or or to the Navy, instead of having recourse to the regular militia. Now, let me say a few words upon each of these classes of objectors. And, first, for those who think that the defences are sufficient as they are. The other night, when the Army Estimates were voted, the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) cast up the numbers of the troops very accurately, and said, "When you have 100,000 men for your Army, 30,000 in India, 15,000 pensioners, 13,500 yeomanry, making in all somewhere about 160,000 men, what is the need or necessity for a militia?" Sir, you arrive at hasty conclusions from those figures, if you do not ask yourselves, what use can you make of those men for your home defences? It is true you have a large Army; but that Army is not a quarter of the army of Russia; not half the army of Prussia, not a third of the army of France, and very little more than the army of Belgium: but your Empire is ruled over by a Queen who has under her dominion one-sixth of the population and one-eighth of the surface of the habitable globe. You have colonial possessions which exhaust a great part of your forces. Other Powers have more compact dominions, and can, therefore, more readily concentrate their forces. Their troops are not spread abroad in weak detachments, which cannot be withdrawn, like those belonging to this country. The very greatness of your Empire, therefore is, in one sense of the word, a source of weakness; for no question can there be that the extent of it multiplies the opportunities and means of attack, while it diminishes, at the same time, the means of defence. Well, now supposing it should happen, which, I trust, it will not—I do not think there is any immediate cause to apprehend that it will happen—but supposing it should happen that a sudden invasion or incursion was made upon you, what is the force which you could bring to bear upon the south coast of England? Why, if you were to 271 withdraw from the manufacturing districts, from the central depôts, from the metropolis itself, from most of your fortified arsenals, all the men you could obtain, you could not bring to bear upon any one point five and twenty thousand men: and you would then have to leave the rest of the country, the metropolis itself, and your Queen's palace, to the defence of your pensioners and the police. Now, then, I ask you whether that is a state of things in which this country ought to be left? I know it may be said by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans), "You have the hearts of Englishmen, who would rise in a moment if any thing of that kind took place." Sir, I hope I am not backward in placing confidence in the spirit and enthusiasm of the English people; but no one knows better than the gallant General himself that something more than spirit and enthusiasm is needed for the defence of the country—that unless you have the drill, the patience, and the discipline of the soldier, you cannot expect any one to be steady under arms. But then, it is said, "Look to the Navy; have you not ships enough to cover the coast?" I think it was said by a gallant Admiral in this House (Admiral Berkeley) that you had ships enough to cover the whole of the south coast. Granted that you have the ships; but have you men in them? And if you have ships enough, will you vote money enough to enable the Government to put them all in commission and man them? Your ships in commission on the home station at this moment are nine line-of-battle ships, five frigates, one sloop, nine steamers propelled by screw, and eight steamers propelled by paddle. I am not disparaging that force, nor do I say that it would not be amply sufficient to prevent a sudden incursion. What I say is this: The assailing party always has an advantage over the defending party, inasmuch as the assailing party can concentrate his force and select his own point for attack; whereas the defending party must scatter his forces over a wide surface, and is altogether wanting in these advantages; and if your ships are withdrawn from their stations for a moment, or if an invading squadron elude the vigilance of your cruisers, then, unless you have a covering force by land, you cannot be in the position in which a great and wealthy country ought to be. So much, then, for the present state of your troops. Now, I say that is not sufficient. I now proceed to the second class of objectors. They say that there 272 is no immediate necessity for this preparation, because there is no immediate danger. Now, whatever, argument is to prevail in this House, I trust that argument will not be the one which will do so. The postponement of your preparations for defence is always open to two great disadvantages. First of all, if you have to make your preparations in a time of panic, that necessarily provokes and increases the panic, and probably hastens the rupture which you intend to avoid. In the second place, preparations which are made in sudden haste are always sure to be less perfect and more expensive than if they were not made in a time of panic. In short, the time for preparation and the time for action ought never to be simultaneous. Will the House permit me to read some remarkable words of one of the greatest statesmen, perhaps, that ever lived in this country, which have made an indelible impression upon my mind in reference to this subject. I think they are words which should never be forgotten. These are the words of Edmund Burke:—Early and provident fear is the mother of safety. For in that state of things the mind is firm and collected, and the judgment unembarrassed; but when fear and the thing feared come on together and press upon us at once, even deliberation, which at other times saves, becomes one's ruin, because it delays decision; and when the peril is instant, the decision should be instant too.Those are words of prescient wisdom; and nothing, I trust, will make us ever forget them, or lead us to throw upon this country the possible risk of having to pay a heavy price for neglecting to apply them. Sir, the third class of objectors to the observations which I have been making to the House, are those who think that you ought to increase your Army and Navy. Now, there are two answers to that class of objectors, one of which is applicable to the increase of both those forces, while the other is applicable to the increase of either taken separately. The first objection to the increase of the Army and Navy, taken together, is that it must necessarily add a great permanent additional expense, and then, if your revenue should be doubtful hereafter, the House of Commons might not sanction the continuance of that expenditure. The second objection is, that both your Army and Navy are instruments of attack as well as defence, and that if you increase your Army and Navy, you will raise suspicions and provoke jealousy amongst other Powers, even at the moment when you least intend to do so. Now 273 both those objections I conceive to be fatal to the proposition for increasing the Army and Navy; instead of having recourse to some such plan as that I now submit. With reference to the Navy, if I am right in the observations which I have addressed to the House, no force of that kind can be adequate unless you have also a covering force by land, to protect you in case of foreign aggression eluding your ships; and with regard to the Army the objections to a large increase were put so forcibly by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) the other night, that I hardly need repeat them. I refer especially to the objection that, such are the feelings and habits of the people of this country in regard to a large Standing Army; and that if a large increase were made, depending, as it would do, on a Parliamentary grant, it would probably not continue many years. Well, now I think I have shown you, first of all, that the defences of the country are not what they ought to be; and, secondly, that the objections which have been made to any increase of them, whether by saying that we should wait till danger arises, or that we should add to our Naval or Military Establishments, are not sufficient objections to prevent you from considering to what you shall have recourse for the purpose of protecting your shores. Now that leads me immediately to consider whether you ought not to have recourse to your national militia. There are many reasons which make that force far preferable to any other. In the first place, it is a force that is familiar to the country. It has existed in this country for 200 years; and though happily through the long peace which has prevailed we have had for a considerable period no necessity for calling it out, yet its name, its character, and its organisation, are familiar to all. In the second place, by your law you have actually a militia at this moment. You only suspend the law for calling it out; and if you did not suspend it by an annual Act of Parliament the ballot would be resorted to the very next year. In the third place, your militia has done good service to the country. It is a force from which you have been able to recruit for your regular Army; and it ought not to be forgotten that it has taken a prominent and a glorious part in many of our engagements. Why, I was reading the other day in Napier's History of the Peninsular War, in reference to the battle of Talavera, that of the 16,000 Englishmen who were engaged in that bat- 274 tle, a very large part were drawn from your militia at home; and they had gone into Spain so recently before the engagement, that a great portion of them had some of the accoutrements of the militia regiments to which they belonged. Now, the advantage which the militia have over the regular Army in the object I have now in view, is, that a soldier's life is so inconsistent with the feelings and habits of the civil portion of the community, that an increase of the Army would necessarily be unpopular. But a militia have, in fact, a double character; in the first place, they are defenders of the country; in the second, they are contributors to its prosperity; they mix with all other classes of citizens as soon as their military occupations are over, they are seen living under the same laws, and pursuing the same callings as their fellow-subjects. Well, then, it may be said—"What! are we to have a militia, with all the evils and hardships which attend it? Are we to draw away people from their industrious pursuits, whether they will or no? Are we to give an advantage to the rich, who may escape from this service with comparative ease, by paying a sum of money to procure a substitute; and are we to force the poor man from his home, or else drive him to the necessity of selling his goods, his furniture, possibly even his tools, in order to escape from this forced conscription?" No, Sir, I say you ought not, except in case of extreme necessity. Well, then, if you ought not to have recourse to that, in what mode—since you ought not to add to your Army and Navy—in what mode should you provide for your defences? Now, perhaps, the House will pardon me if, for a few moments, before answering that question, I refer to the law as it has been, and as it is, in reference to this constitutional force. In former times this country was defended by commissions of array. The militia dates, in its Parliamentary provisions, from the reign of Charles II. At that time the lord-lieutenants of counties were to select, in proportion to the people's means of contributing towards the force, either a horseman with arms, or a foot-soldier with arms, or a proportionate sum of money, where the means of parties were so small that they could not thus contribute towards the defence of the country. By the Act of Parliament the militia was mustered and trained in regiments once a year for four days together, and in companies four times a year 275 for two days together. So the law continued till the reign of George II., when danger being over it was thought that this force might be dispensed with, and it was dispensed with. Danger, however, came again upon the nation in 1756, and what did Parliament do then? You cannot have forgotten the appeal made to you by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and I think he might have referred to this in confirmation of his argument: "What," said he, "if you will not protect yourselves, if neither the Scotch, nor the Irish, nor the English have courage enough to protect themselves, will you go to Russia, or to Austria, or to some foreign Power for mercenary aid to defend their shores?" The noble Lord might have referred to the fact that, in 1756, Hanoverian troops were brought to England, and that so greatly did the people of this country feel the disgrace to be, that the very next year saw the passing of the Militia Bill. So the law continued till 1802, when the various alterations which had been made were consolidated together by the celebrated Act of Parliament 42 Geo. III., c. 90. The ballot still remained; but there was a clause in the Act enabling parishes in vestry to provide their quota by means of a bounty to be paid to volunteers; and I beg the House to attend to this fact, that in pursuance of that provision, from 1809 to 1814, no fewer than 64,500 men were drawn into the Army from the trained volunteers. That is some encouragement to those who are in favour of the militia. Well, after the peace it was no longer necessary to call out the militia, though it has been balloted three or four times since. Since 1831 there has been no ballot; but though there has been no ballot, do not let the House run away with the notion that we are paying nothing for that force. The expense last year was 83,000l.; and surely it is better, instead of wholly throwing away that sum, to make it available for the purposes of the national security. I have referred to this history of the Militia Act for three reasons, and I desire to draw three lessons from it. The first is, that the present measure is an improvement on the old Bill, by which people were not compelled to pay for this force in some respect according to their means. I have referred to this history also to show, that unless you provide a military force sufficient to protect yourselves from any danger that may arise, you may find again that you must have recourse to foreign aid, 276 and the country will feel the disgrace of such a proceeding so deeply, that it will at once have recourse to the militia. My third reason for referring to it is to prove that the ballot is accompanied by great severities, great hardships, and great inconveniences, which may all be got rid of by voluntary enlistments. Having stated this much, it will at once be clear to the House, in which direction Her Majesty's Government are inclined to look for the purpose of raising a military force for the protection of the country. In other words, we propose to do it by raising, through the means of volunteers, a sufficient force for the purposes of defence, and not to fall back on a compulsory conscription unless voluntary enlistment should be found to fail. But I think, at the same time, that the great principle of the Act of 42 Geo. III., c. 90, ought to be maintained—namely, that this force should be rendered effective by drilling and training, so as to be in readiness, at a short notice, for the internal defence of the country. These are the two great principles on which the measure is founded, which I shall now take the liberty of explaining to the House, and which Her Majesty's Government submit to your consideration. The measure may be considered in these five points of view: first, with regard to the mode of raising the men; secondly, with regard to the officers; thirdly, with regard to the term of training and discipline; fourthly, with regard to the pay and the consequent expense of the force; and, fifthly, with regard to the period for which they shall be enlisted, and the circumstances under which they shall be employed. As to the first of these five points, on the best consideration we have given to the subject, we think that the additional force which should be permanently established for the defence of the kingdom, is 80,000 men. We think that to raise that force in one year, would be open to two objections: in the first place, it would cause the expenditure of a very large sum by means of bounties to raise the whole of that number in one year, and therefore we propose to limit the number in the first year to 50,000, and to take 30,000 in the following year; and in the second place, another advantage will be derived thereby, namely, instead of having all the periods of service terminating at the same time, they will terminate at different periods, and consequently there will always be some trained men in the force. We propose to raise 277 these men, if we can, by means of bounties, which may be paid either in one sum at the time of enlistment, or, which may be a great convenience to a vast variety of people, particularly to the agricultural labourers, by means of regular monthly sums. I will state this point more clearly by and by. We propose that this should be regulated by the Secretary at War, and not regulated by Act of Parliament. Many men might wish to have the whole paid down to them—say 3l. or 4l.—others might wish to have it in payments of 2s. or 2s. 6d. a month. The latter, though it would amount to more than the sum to be paid down at once, would, if spread over a period of five years, be a great advantage to the country, and a great convenience to the persons who would have to receive it. We therefore leave it to the option of the men to take the payment one way or the other; subject, however, to such regulations as the Secretary at War may make respecting it. With regard to the officers, there are high qualifications required by the Act of 42 Geo. III. We think that these qualifications may be dispensed with for all officers below the rank of major. We further think that it must be of great advantage to have the militia officered by men who have served in the Army, and who are bow on half-pay; and so propose that all officers who have served in the Army who may enter the militia shall be considered to possess the qualifications required for the higher grades. With regard to the training and discipline, the House is aware that by the present law the men may be called out for training and exercise for twenty-eight days. From the best information we have been able to obtain on this subject, we think that as an ordinary rule twenty-one days may be sufficient, provided there is power of extending that period; for we think that there are certain cases of emergency, when it would be most advisable to extend that period—and in other cases, there may be circumstances when it would be advantageous to reduce it. For this reason the Bill will provide that the ordinary number of days for training and drilling shall be twenty-one, with a power to the Crown to extend it, in cases of necessity, to fifty-six days, and also a power to reduce it to three days, if the longer period appear unnecessary. With regard to the circumstances under which the men are or should be embodied, we propose to alter the existing law in one respect. The House is aware that the 278 men are embodied by the existing law in cases of actual invasion or imminent danger thereof, and also in cases of insurrection or rebellion: we propose to limit it to actual invasion or imminent danger of it. We propose that this provision shall be inserted in the present Bill, and that these shall be the circumstances under which the militia shall be embodied. With regard to the expense that will be incurred, it will be heavier in the first year, from the necessity of providing for the bounties, and also of providing for the equipment and arms of the force; but if you spread the expense over the whole period of five years—and I have the details, which I will furnish to the House, if they wish to have them—it will amount, in the whole, to 1,200,000l. or somewhat less than 250,000l. annually. In the first year, in consequence of having to provide for the bounties, the equipments, and the arms, the expense will be 400,000l., or between 300,000l. and 400,000l. Now, we look upon this as a national force; and since it is to be a national force we consider that another great alteration ought to be made in the law as it now stands; in other words, we consider that the expense ought to be borne by the public funds, and not by burthens on the local properties; it would be hard upon particular districts that they should have to contribute out of local property towards such an expense if the object of the force is a permanent and national one; but, at the same time, we think, that if any district fails in furnishing its proper quota, for that neglect it ought to be punished; and it has occurred to us that the hardship and severities of the ballot, together with its expense, should be thrown upon that district. Such is the measure, in a short compass, which Her Majesty's Government have now to submit to the consideration of the House. The reasons for it, and the objects we have in view, I think I have explained, or at least I have endeavoured to explain, in the course of the observations I have made. There is one objection, however, which I think I ought to mention. That objection is, that by raising so large a force of volunteers, we may interfere with the recruiting for the Army. That would be a most serious objection. We have consulted the military authorities on the point, and we are informed, and I believe correctly, that that objection, if not entirely done away with, will be greatly limited by the provisions which we intend to make 279 with reference to the ages and height of the men. The House is aware that a recruit enlisting in the Army must not be more than 25 years of age, and that the standard of height is 5 feet 6 inches. We propose that the ages during which persons may volunteer or be balloted for, shall extend from 18 to 35 years. The consequence is, that with regard to those men who are upwards of 25 years of age, we shall not interfere with the recruiting for the Army, and as to those under that age, we shall not prevent them from enlisting if so disposed. With reference to the question of height, I may observe that the standard required by the present militia law is 5 feet 4 inches. The standard of height of the Russian infantry of the line is 5 feet 4 inches, in France it is 5 feet 1 inch English measure. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh at that; but, though I am speaking in the English House of Commons, we ought never to forgot that a nobler or more gallant soldiery never existed in the world than the French soldiery—and if we find that this people, who have fought throughout the length and breadth of Europe, have taken into their armies men of 5 feet 1 inch, we ought not to assume the military capacity is not to be found in men of 5 feet 2 inches—which is the height we propose to take—or that it is too low a standard. I am well aware that this is a subject which I am little competent to explain, and it contains in itself so many difficulties, that I may not have explained myself as clearly to the House as I should have wished; I have endeavoured, however—
§ MR. WALPOLE
Five years. I have endeavoured, however, to give you a plain and simple account of the facts of the case, as I believe them to exist with reference to the state of your internal defences. I think I have shown you that there is an absolute necessity for some improvements in your defensive armaments, if you intend to secure yourselves against all the casualties to which nations like individuals are equally liable, and to diminish at least, if not to prevent, the chances of danger by provisions made in time of peace. I have offered to you reasons, political and financial, which we believe fully prove that you cannot add to your defences either by increasing your Navy or your military establishments; and seeing these facts, I know not to what 280 force you can have recourse except that which is a constitutional and a national one—a force which has already done you great and good service—the regular militia, a force which, while it will relieve individuals from all the inconveniences of the former arrangements, will secure to the country all the advantages which it has formerly derived from that body. If you accept this measure, I trust you will assist us with your counsel and support in accomplishing the object which we must all have in view, that of preserving to this country a permanent and effective defence, combining together in the anxious desire to put the people to as little constraint as you possibly can, and also to interfere in as small a degree as you are well able to do with their ordinary pursuits and industrial occupations. But I must say, if you reject this measure from any false or mistaken notion of a parsimonious economy—if, from what I must consider the vain supposition that you will have time to provide against danger at the very moment when it bursts upon you—if you should persist in an overweening confidence in the assumed impregnability of your insular position, permit me to warn you that you may be deceived. In any case we shall have the merit and the satisfaction of knowing that as a Government we have endeavoured to do our duty; and, unless you assist us in adding to our security, I must add, the whole responsibility of leaving the country in a defenceless state will rest with you and not with ourselves. But I am persuaded that you will not say, and that the people of this country will not say, that you will be doing right in throwing up a plan which has so many advantages and so few inconveniences; the country will tell you, "We will not sacrifice for a pecuniary motive the perfect security of our hearths and our homes; we will not grudge a small annual expense when we know that possibly we may have to pay a far heavier and far more disgraceful impost, to be levied upon us by a foreign Power. No; we will stedfastly maintain the honour and independence of the country, with which our liberties are inseparably united—we are bound by the duty which we owe to our ancestors, to preserve the freedom which they have transmitted to us, as well as to our descendants to whom we have to transmit it; and we know full well, that all our resources, our national character, our national privileges, our present blessings and our future hopes 281 —I may even say, our future existence as a nation—depend on the wisdom, the foresight, with which Parliament shall provide for our national defence." Knowing that this will be the feeling of the country, I feel you will give a patient consideration to the measure which I have now the honour to submit to your consideration. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That in pursuance of the order of the 20th day of February last, 'That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend and consolidate the laws relating to the militia;' Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Walpole, and Mr. Secretary at War, do prepare and bring in a Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Secretary Walpole, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Secretary at War, do prepare and bring in the Bill."
§ MR. HUME
said, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he need be under no fear that he had made a distinct and clear explanation. His statement had been perfectly intelligible, and he (Mr. Hume) understood every proposition which the right hon. Gentleman had laid down, although he could not at all agree with the reasoning on which the right hon. Gentleman had grounded them. He (Mr. Hume) had never found that House unwilling to vote whatever number of men was proposed by the Government for the Army, and believed that during the whole period he had been in that House, no Motion had ever been successful in resisting a proposition of the Government in that respect, however absurd or preposterous it might be. He therefore despaired in any expectation that the House, constituted as it was at present, would afford oven a patient hearing to any observations he might make on the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. By introducing this measure they were about to violate one of the maxims which a statesman should always uphold—that of husbanding their resources in time of peace, and, by placing their finances in a proper condition, preparing for the time, if it should ever arrive, when they would be called upon to defend themselves. No ground whatever had been shown to justify this measure; the panic which had existed a few weeks ago had completely subsided, and there was not an old woman in the country who now apprehended the slightest danger. We were on the most amicable terms with 282 France, Russia, Belgium, and other States—no danger of an immediate attack had been spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman; and why, then, should the House insist upon raising this large force. The only argument urged by the right hon. Gentleman was based upon his own imaginary fears of some hostile attack that might some day, at some point, be made upon this country; and he had put forward this fallacy, that because Russia could muster 600,000 men, and France could muster 400,000, England, having a territory equal to nearly one-sixth of the whole habitable globe, ought to have an army of 300,000 or 400,000 men likewise. Now even if that argument were not altogether erroneous, why was it that the right hon. Gentleman had taken no account of the 250,000 men which we already had in our Indian possessions? Her Majesty's Speech, at the opening of the Session, assured them that this country was in amity and at peace with all foreign Powers; and yet the Government came forward to ask for the enrolment of a new force of 80,000 men in addition to our regular troops, to ward off an apprehended danger. No grounds whatever for alarm had yet been assigned—no specific or threatened attack from any foreign Power had been mentioned in the whole course of the right hon. Gentleman's address. Why, then, was the country to be called upon to go to this extraordinary increase of expense of nearly 500,000l. a year? In round numbers, the House this year had voted 102,000 men for the regular Army, 15,500 for the artillery; 39,000 had also been voted for the Navy, to be actually embodied, with 5,000 more as a reserved force; and altogether, including police, coast guard, and other irregular forces, there were 232,000 men paid by the public, who might be applicable in case of need. Yet, with all this force, the right hon. Gentleman stated that he could not muster 125,000 men. How was that? There were 40,000 men, he (Mr. Hume) admitted, in the Colonies; but why not bring them from the Colonies, where they were not required? Why, for instance, did they keep in Canada at this moment from 8,000 to 10,000 men, when we had declared that Canada should be left to manage their own affairs? They heard nothing of any Power threatening to attack any one of our Colonies, and if we would only give the colonists the rights of self-government for which they asked, 283 they would bear the burden of defending themselves. Our Estimates this year for the Army, Nary, and Ordnance, were upwards of 14,000,000l.; and he doubted greatly whether the French Estimates cost so much, certainly those of Russia were not so enormous. Great, however, as was this outlay, the right hon. Gentleman told them, although we have 250 sail of vessels, we could not muster more than nine line-of-battle ships, eleven frigates, one sloop, and nine steamers of one class, and eight of another, making the total of ships on the home station only thirty-eight. Why then did they have so many ships cruising in distant waters, where they were useless, if they really were wanted at home? He held in his hand a return of the ships in Her Majesty's stations in the year 1848, since which period a certain number, but not many, had been called home. All that time we had 39,000 men, and 235 sail in commission; among which were thirty-five vessels on the coast of Africa, and thirty-one men of war in the Mediterranean. On the coast of South America we had twenty-six ships more; and at the East Indies we had twenty-five sail, one-half of which, he was confident, would be quite sufficient. Let the number of these vessels that could be spared be recalled home, and then we should have enough to surround the whole of our coast. Then, again, we had 6,000 efficient men belonging to the preventive service, and the large body of pensioners who were lately enrolled. We had also recently enrolled the dockyard battalions, a corps who would make much better soldiers than any militia that had had twenty-one days' drill. The cost of the dockyard battalions was 70000l. the first year, and 30,000l. a year afterwards. Why, with all these resources, he (Mr. Hume) would undertake himself to call together 25,000 men, without touching a single man of the regular Army. Besides, the facilities of railway communication made the services of troops more readily available, by enabling them in the shortest space of time to be concentrated on any given point. But he had not done with the enumeration of our disposable forces, which, if they were made useful and properly turned to account, would render a militia totally unnecessary. The number of our marines had been lately increased in order to set loose the services of the regulars; and altogether the aggregate of regular forces at present maintained by the country amounted to 161,000 284 men; and the irregulars to 48,724; making together nearly 210,000 men. Nor was this all. We had 10,000 policemen in the metropolis and in the country, and, if necessary, why should they not be disciplined and prepared to act in conjunction with the regular troops? Then, again, in Ireland we had also 12,000 armed police, far better than any militia; so that he made up a grand total of 232,000 men, including the police and the other irregular corps he had named, all already in arms, or ready to bear arms, and now paid by the country. At present we had a weight of taxation, amounting to 56,000,000l. annually, pressing upon the springs of our national industry; and now, in a time of peace, it was proposed to add another 500,000l. to this crushing pressure, because, forsooth, after all that we had paid on our armaments, the country was said to be destitute of the proper means of defence. But, let it be remembered, if we were to have the militia enrolled, that as many as sixteen classes, including the gentlemen of fortune and of ease, and all the well-to-do were to be exempted from personal service; and the duty of protecting the property of the rich would be imposed upon the poorer members of the community. The system of balloting would involve the greatest hardships, such as was the case in the year 1831. A well-known instance was that of a shoemaker named Lovett, who was balloted in 1831, and having refused to serve he was taken before a magistrate. As he declined to find a substitute at a cost of one shilling a day out of his scanty earnings of only from three to five shillings, his goods were seized; but such was the feeling excited by the injustice and hardship of his case, that for three months no one could be induced to purchase them; and after remaining in the hands of the broker for five months, they were sold as unclaimed property for poor-rates, and Mr. Lovett never heard any more of them. From that hour Mr. Lovett became a reformer, and had remained so ever since. Such was the excitement caused by his resistance, that the balloting for Militia was put an end to through the country, and from that time to this had never been recurred to again. We had now in the pay of the Government 232,000 men; and our coasts were surrounded by 6,000 men of coast guard, with thirty or forty cruisers for revenue purposes. Now this latter force was quite applicable as a means of defence, and as 285 they were quite willing to volunteer, would it not be better to make them available than to take on new men? He thought that at all events, before the people were called upon to be balloted for the militia, or before a shilling was expended for that force, the best use should be made of our present forces, which was not yet the case. Our present panics were not due, as in times past, to the old women, but to our having too many clubs about London, with so many half-pay officers about, who had nothing to do but to look about for employment for themselves and their friends. These were the people who wrote to the newspapers, anxious to bring grist to the mill somehow or other. This was the result of that lavish promotion of officers, in consequence of which we had not now employment for one in seven of them; and after forty years of peace, our non-effective list now costs as much as our whole military establishment in 1792. We ought to retrace our steps, and in future promote no more officers than were actually required. Why did not we take a lesson from the exhausted state of the Continent? And why should we now be alarmed because Louis Napoleon had been appointed President of the French? What business had we there? It was for the French people to judge with respect to their own Government; and if their President ordered them to walk on their hands instead of their feet, and they chose to do so, what was that to us? He believed that, notwithstanding the increased rapidity of transit in consequence of the introduction of steam, we had nothing to fear, for so long as we knew in London within five hours whatever was done on the Continent, and wherever any increase of force had taken place, we should have notice in ample time to provide for our defence with such forces as we had already at command, or were readily available. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State had very properly said that our money had been wasted on the militia staff; on which perfectly useless body 8,500,000l. had been expended since the peace, without any benefit whatever. For, if it was requisite to enrol the militia, the Government would not employ this staff to drill the levies, but would select from the regular Army men of experience and capability. When the Marquess of Lansdowne was at the Home Office, two or three of the ablest officers in the service, on being asked, gave their opinion against keeping 286 up either this staff or the volunteer corps; and all but one or two of the latter bodies were disbanded. The sooner that it was put an end to the better; the interest of the money that had already been spent upon it would now have kept up a force of 50,000 or 80,000 men. The plan of the present Government proposed to extend the injustice of the militia force over a larger space than that of the late Government; but he wished to know whether the former exemptions from service were still to be adhered to? Unless we had arrived at the period when equal justice was to be done to the poor as to the rich, the Government would by this measure light up a flame which, as in 1831, would be too hot for its authors to come near. He did trust, however, that they would yet desist from the scheme, and, taking into consideration the immense amount of our present taxation, the great force that we had now at command, and the increased means of defence which a more judicious disposition of that force, and a more judicious expenditure of the money now expended upon it, would give us—that they would come to the conclusion that they had at present resources both in men and money if they were properly applied. He believed that after forty years' peace, and in the present friendly state of our relations with foreign Powers, there was no reason why we should entertain any fear, and under its influence proceed to load still further our already overburdened finances; he never knew of any war occurring without provocation, and we neither had done nor intended to do anything to provoke either France or Russia. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said that the Government did not intend to have recourse to the ballot except in case of necessity, and he believed that whenever it was recurred to, the reasons against it would be found so strong that a constitutional Government would be obliged to desist from the attempt to enforce it. We were now in quite a different state from that in which the country was when the militia force was originally introduced. Every man was now applied, on the principle of the division of labour, to the purpose in which he was most useful to the country; and that was a strong argument against taking a man from home to serve on the militia. He held it inexpedient, in a moral point of view, that any Government should put in action the demoralising influences which must arise from the collection together of such an embodied force as 287 the militia; and this was particularly the case when, as in the present instance, they proposed to collect together the riff-raff whom they had obtained as volunteers by bounty, together with the honest and virtuous whom they had compelled to serve by ballot. He should not oppose the introduction of the Bill, as he had not resisted the introduction of the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and he thought that the Government should be allowed to lay it on the table, that its full bearing might be seen; but he thought that, after the country saw what was intended by the several clauses, and after they had read the despatches which had been just laid on the table, and which showed that our relations with foreign Powers were much more friendly than at the commencement of the Session, the right hon. Gentleman would have some difficulty in inducing the House and the country to sanction the second reading, unless arguments were adduced of a much stronger character than had hitherto been brought forward.
§ SIR De LACY EVANS
said, he had a notice on the paper of a Resolution which he had intended to move with reference to this subject, provided the Motion for the introduction of the Bill were agreed to; but, understanding from Mr. Speaker that it would be irregular to move it on the present occasion, he begged to say that he should postpone it till the second reading. In the meantime he would take the liberty of saying that he greatly doubted the propriety of the plan proposed by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had stated that it was not possible to concentrate more than 25,000 men for the defence of the metropolis in case of attack; but he believed that he should be able to show that we had a greater body of troops disposable in case of necessity. [Mr. WALPOLE: In this country?] Yes, in this country. The right hon. Gentleman had stated as some reason for this preparation, that the attacking party had an advantage; but if that was the case, how was it that the weaker party always resorted to the defensive? He had no hesitation in saying that in case we were put upon our defence, we should prove that we had very material advantages, and that any attacking Power would rue having put us to the test. The right hon. Gentleman reminded him of a French officer who turned out his company, and telling them there was a desperate 288 duty to perform, invited them to step forward and volunteer. Not a man stepping from the ranks, "Ah," said he, "you rascals, you won't volunteer, but you shall go notwithstanding." So if the people of this country will not take the 3l. or 4l. bounty, they will be balloted for notwithstanding. He thought their obtaining by bounty many out of the 50,000 men they required was very doubtful. He thought the distribution of our naval and military force was at present very unsatisfactory, and that it might be made much more available for the defence of the country. The right hon. Gentleman rather threatened the House that unless some steps of this kind were adopted, we might be obliged to resort to foreign nations to supply us with our means of defence. That was a gratuitous and uncalled-for affront to the people of this country, which, he believed, was never at any period of its history in a better and more adequate state of defence against any foreign attack. He believed that all we had to do was to defend ourselves against some sudden and foolish incursion. We should always have notice in ample time to defend ourselves against an invasion by a large armament. And although steam, undoubtedly somewhat facilitated the transfer of troops from the opposite coast irrespective of weather, it also gave us the means of rapidly concentrating all our forces all over the country. He did not object to the consolidation of the militia laws; he believed that they were now in a very unsatisfactory state, and that if they were allowed to remain on the Statute-book at all, they should be amended; for at present, although Government had the power to levy the militia, this could not be done under nineteen or twenty weeks. He thought that no person would object to giving the Government power to resort to this, amongst other means, of defence in case of necessity, or in case of any real demonstration of hostility; but he thought that there was no necessity for calling out the militia at present, and that by availing ourselves of the means we had, and by inviting the co-operation of volunteer corps, we should be on a better footing of defence than by adopting the uncertain proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had said nothing about the clothing of the militia. Were they to be clothed like the regular Army? [Mr. WALPOLE: Yes.] Would the cost of the clothing included be in the 400,000l.? [Mr. WALPOLE was understood 289 to reply in the affirmative.] The Government appeared disposed to refuse the offer of the services of volunteer corps. That was a very important subject, and he did not think the House would permit the progress of any Bill of this description, requiring an advance from the national funds, until they understood on what grounds the Government refused the gratuitous services of the volunteer corps. He trusted, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would give some explanation upon that subject.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that he rose principally to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they would not consider it a judicious course to postpone any future proceedings on this measure until after that appeal to the country which they were told was shortly to take place. He said this because the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department did not submit to the House that there was any peculiar emergency which called for this measure, or that was of a temporary character, but that it was founded on a permanent policy, and had been maturely considered. Those being the grounds on which it was brought forward, he thought those who were opposed to it were entitled to bring to their aid the opinion of the constituencies of the country. If they were about to commence a new system of policy, and it was to be of a permanent character, as they were on the eve of a general election, it appeared to him that there was nothing so reasonable as to wait for the verdict of the country on the measure which had now been proposed. That was the course which the Government had pointed out as proper to be pursued on other branches of their policy. With regard to their commercial policy, they had said it was to be decided by the verdict of the country; and again, as regarded the settlement of our relations with the Roman Catholics, they were to await the verdict of the constituencies. He (Mr. M. Gibson) said, therefore, that in matters connected with the defences of the country, which were not called for by any pressing emergency, and were to be permanent in their character, they should also await and be guided by the judgment of the constituencies. He had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), and, although he had appealed to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), and seemed to calculate on receiving his support, yet, as he (Mr. M. Gibson) understood that the measure did not ex- 290 tend to Ireland and Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman might perhaps be asked by the noble Lord, as the noble Lord on a previous occasion had inquired whether Scotland was not treated as if Scotchmen were cowards, and Ireland as if Irishmen were traitors. The right hon. Gentleman ought not, therefore, to anticipate the support of the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount had turned out one Government on this question of the militia, and the best atonement he could make was now to turn out another upon it, as the present measure must fall as far short of his views as that introduced by the noble Lord lately at the head of the Government. He (Mr. M. Gibson) did not understand what the measure was. Were substitutes to be allowed or not? If substitutes were to be allowed, what did the Government propose to do, and what measures would they adopt for securing the services of those substitutes? They were told that a bounty was to be given to men to come and be trained for twenty-one days in every year. But where was the security that on an emergency those men who had received the bounty would be forthcoming? It would be necessary to go to an enormous expense in running about to look for the substitutes, and while a foreign army was marching on London, our authorities would be running about to find the men who had taken the bounty, or their substitutes. If there was to be a regular militia, it must be kept embodied, or it would be useless as a force for any real purpose. Again, where were the men to be put when they were got? There would be 80,000 men raised, who were to be assembled for twenty-one days in every year. Where were they to be put? Were there barracks to be provided for them? In the Local Militia which had been proposed, he could point out the arrangement which had been made in this respect. By that it was enacted—That it should be lawful for mayors, bailiffs, and justices of the peace, to quarter and billet the officers and men during the times they should be called for exercise, in inns, livery stables, alehouses, and houses licensed for selling brandy, strong waters," &c.Was this the present plan? Were they going to fill our country towns and all the public houses and beershops with the class of men who would accept the bounty or become substitutes? Would such an arrangement be acceptable to the moral and religious feelings of the community? He believed that most thinking people would 291 prefer an increase to the regular Army. They believed and thought that the days of the militia had passed by, and however applicable it might be to the days of George the Third, it was not fitted for the present time. They would rather make the Army a separate profession, than in this age of advancement in commerce and in art, there should be an interruption to the progress of industry by taking men from their pursuits in this way. He would take the liberty of quoting an opinion from the works of Archdeacon Paley, and although the authority of a divine did not seem the most applicable to a military question, yet he was an authority who might be quoted on any subject.That the profession of a soldier always unfitted a man for any other; and that out of three inhabitants of a village it would be better for one to be a soldier by profession than that the whole three should be husbandmen at one time and militiamen at another, as in the one case you would get one good soldier and two good husbandmen, and in the other you would get three idle militiamen of profligate pursuits.He (Mr. M. Gibson) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, that a Minister of the Crown who had not the courage to propose to Parliament any force which he thought necessary for the safety of the country, was unworthy of the position which he held. But in saying this he did not adroit that our present force was inadequate. The reason why the Minister of the Crown was not able to induce the people to consent to add to our regular Army, was because he could not make out a case for any such addition. He (Mr. M. Gibson) did not think that the people would be very easy if there were any imminent probability of their homes being invaded, or their country subjugated. Far from it; but they did not agree with the grounds on which the Bill of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was brought forward, because the Minister of the Crown was unable to produce any cogent reasons in support of it. So now he (Mr. M. Gibson) maintained that there were no facts to justify any increase to our standing Army, and still less for the establishment of the militia. He trusted that as there had been an ill fortune attendant on all former attempts to procure the adoption of the militia system, the same ill fortune would pursue this measure. There had always been a party which had been trying to get back the establishment of the militia. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had 292 stated that three years ago he had tried to persuade the Government to do so. In 1831 an attempt of that kind was made, but the Government was frightened out of it, and it was given up; and similar efforts had been made in 1846 and 1848, and with the same result, although on the last occasion, as the noble Lord the Member for London had very properly said, it had the disadvantage of being accompanied by an addition to taxation; but, even without that accompaniment, it would have met with the same fate. He hoped that the present measure, like the others, would he defeated. He would appeal to the Government to let the country have an opportunity of giving an opinion on this proposal before they attempted to pass it into a law.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said: Sir, I am not going to answer the call which has been made upon me by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down; for, so far from opposing this measure, it is my intention to give to Her Majesty's Government any support in my power in carrying it into a law; and I cannot but compliment the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, for the very able, forcible, and, to me, satisfactory manner in which he has placed his proposal before the House. Sir, it is impossible to overstate the necessity for some permanent arrangement of this kind. It is all very well for Gentlemen to talk of the amount of our army, including in that term our troops in the East Indies and in our scattered Colonies in every part of the world, and then to tell us that that army is available in defence of the United Kingdom. Why, it is perfectly absurd to make use of such arguments; and I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen should rise one after the other to endeavour to persuade us that a military force, scattered and dispersed as ours is in various parts of the world, is available for any purposes of defence at home. The hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans) appeared to doubt the calculation made by the right hon. the Secretary of State as to the smallness of the number of troops which, in the present state of our military forces, could be brought together for the defence of the capital were an enemy to land upon our shores. I have seen calculations made on that subject, and I am convinced, from what I have seen, and from what I know, that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was by no means under the mark as to the amount of force 293 so available. I should doubt whether so large a force even as that he mentioned could be brought together within a few days, if it should be wanted. It is true we have a large number of ships; but, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, those ships could not put to sea at a moment's notice, because there were not the men by whom they could be manned. But if those ships were manned and fit to put to sea, yet it is physically impossible that a naval force could effectually prevent the arrival of a large invading force taking advantage of the opportunities which exist. My hon. hon. and gallant Friend (Sir De L. Evans) stated, that in collecting a large force for the purpose of crossing the Channel, such an extensive preparation must be made as would give us ample notice; but he is much mistaken with regard to the want of facilities which neighbouring countries possess for collecting together a formidable force and bringing it over to this country, without our having lengthened, or, indeed, even timely notice. The very ship despatched to convey to this country intelligence of the threatened armament, would probably not reach our shores much sooner than the hostile expedition. I consider it, therefore, an absolute and indispensable necessity that we should have at home some additional force available to meet an enemy, in case any enemy should ever succeed in landing upon our coasts. I do not rest that opinion, however, on any apprehension of danger existing at the present moment. I am willing to admit, to any extent which hon. Members may think I ought, that our relations with other countries are such as to indicate no present danger. If there were present danger, the measure of the Government would be an insufficient one, because it does not provide for any immediate armament, but lays the foundation of a prospective and permanent arrangement, applicable in times to come for purposes of defence. But it is said that if we want really to defend the country, we ought to increase our Army and our Navy. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had fully explained, and I have had also the opportunity of explaining, on a former occasion, that it was impossible to maintain permanently any addition to the regular Army that would sufficiently answer for the purposes of defence. The force the Government purposes to raise consists of 80,000 men, who are to be kept up and periodically drilled at an expense only which would suffice for the 294 addition of 8,000 regular troops. Is it not then, better, to have 80,000 men organised, equipped, clothed, drilled, and easily called out in a fortnight, upon an emergency, than 8,000 men, however superior their equipment and condition might be? But there is another consideration which was also adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman, and that was, if any change in public opinion, or any serious alteration in our finances, should take place in a couple of years, which would force the Parliament to abandon the additional cost, we should be deprived of any addition to our regular Army, and lose all the advantage of the expense we had incurred. But with the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, even although the cost of calling out these men should not be incurred, we should still have this army of reserve enrolled, equipped, ready and liable to serve when any emergency should arise, and we should thus be enabled to add to our regular force 80,000 men; whereas, under the other system, there could be no addition to the Army except by the ordinary means of enlistment. The plan of the Government appears to me to be generally a very good one. I have always thought that voluntary enlistment might be taken advantage of as a substitute for the ballot. It may be deserving of consideration, however, how far the ingenious arrangement of dividing the bounty into monthly payments will operate. Some, no doubt, would rather receive it immediately, and it might be advisable, under certain circumstances, so to pay them but, on the other hand, monthly payments would give greater security for the future attendance of the recruits. With the exception of that, and of other matters of detail which we shall have the opportunity of considering when the Bill comes before us in a proper shape, I am bound to say that I think the plan proposed by the Government is one which highly deserves the favour and sanction of this House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) says, that I ought to find fault with the measure because it does not provide for the defence of Scotland and Ireland. I did not exactly follow what the right hon. Secretary of State said with regard to that; but the force proposed to be raised would, I suppose, be liable to the obligations of the present Militia Laws, and, under those laws, a force so raised would be liable to serve in every part of the United Kingdom. 295 I conceive the plan of the Government is one to raise an army of reserve of 80,000 men, partly by a voluntary enlistment, and partly, if necessary, by means of the ballot, to be trained in time of peace, so that on the approach of an enemy to our shores, they would he available for the public defence. In conclusion I beg to state that so far from taking advantage of this proposition to turn out Her Majesty's present Government, I shall certainly give every assistance in my power to enable Her Majesty's Ministers to carry out a measure which I think of the utmost importance.
had two remarks to make on the opening speech of the Home Secretary. One was, that it had been there laid down, that we ought to be ruled in the scale of our defences, by the state of defence in which other countries were found. He would submit that this was inaccurate. If the Continental countries should choose to cover themselves with a network of fortresses, there would be nothing in this to imply that we ought to do the same. The measure of what we ought to do, was the probability of attack from other countries, and not the state of their preparations against attacks we never meant to make. The other was, that the speech of the Home Secretary had stated, that the Ministers saw no danger from the existing Governments upon the Continent, but they saw great danger from the consequences of some of them being overturned a few months hence, as they distinctly intimated they expected to be the case. Here, then, was a remarkable shift of purpose. The country had hitherto regarded the first as their enemy, and the others as their friends. It had supposed the Militia was to be called out to guard against what might be attempted by an existing ruler in France; but it now appeared it was to guard against those who might put him down. The representatives from the manufacturing districts were under a strong pressure from without, on this question of the Militia, and it was necessary they should be able to give precise answers to their constituents, as to what the danger was, and where it was from. For his own part, using such judgment as he had, he had thought that at one time the danger was considerable; but in the exercise of the same judgment, however feeble, he believed such danger to a great extent to have passed by. The ruler of France was manifestly not getting 296 forward; he was hanging fire. His star was not rising; and in spite of the cheers of corporals and the embraces of demoiselles de la Halle, the next thing must be that it would decline. It would further be necessary to tell their constituents, why the proposals from the country to form volunteer rifle corps, had as some of the daily papers expressed it, been "snubbed." Why had the Government said, "We will not have the force that offers to pay for itself, but we will have the force for which the country must pay 400,000l.?" Was it that, like Governments on the other side of the water, they did not like a National Guard? He could conceive nothing more groundless than that the Government should conceive any jealousy of the individuals who were likely to form the volunteer rifle corps, or in fact of any other class within the country. It was absurd to believe, for instance, that the working classes wished to see Mr. So-and-So and Mr. So-and-So contesting for the sovereignty, and had not rather see it exercised as now; or that they viewed the Peers as other than individuals of large property, who were quite as good as any others of the kind, and as often found on the people's side as against it. Under all the circumstances, he would join with the Member for Manchester in urging the postponement of the measure till the promised reference had been made to the constituencies.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I am one of those who think that the means of defence of this country ought to be increased. I confess it has never appeared to me a satisfactory reason against increasing the efficiency of our defensive force to say that we are now at peace with all the world, and that there is no immediate prospect of hostilities; because we know perfectly well, from former experience, that though there may be no cause of hostilities existing in the course of one month, two mouths, three months, or even in the course of any year, yet that cause of hostility might arise which it would be very difficult for the Government and the Parliament so to arrange as to prevent the calamity of war from taking place. I certainly would not rest the necessity of increasing our defences upon the existing Government of France, or the Government of any other country. I think, on the contrary, we ought to consider that the present ruler of France is as well disposed to peace as any other person who might govern that country; but he—like the 297 Sovereign of this Empire—governs a country where very high feelings of honour are entertained, and where there is extreme susceptibility with regard to that honour being in any respect invaded. Between two such nations—putting aside all other nations of the continent of Europe, and the United States—it is impossible to say that, at any time, causes of hostility may not arise. Let us recollect what occurred some five or six years ago, when no one was dreaming of any cause of war or hostility. We heard that an injury had been inflicted upon a Consul of this country in the South Seas. Sir Robert Peel, then Prime Minister, came down to the House, and said that that injury was a wanton injury, and that reparation must be demanded and obtained. What if the Government of France had said no injury had been committed, and that no reparation could or should be given? There would have been a grave cause of hostilities at once springing up. The Government of France, however, were disposed to pacific counsels; they admitted that some injury had been committed; and the Government of this country asked for some very small and inconsiderable reparation. I believe at that time a Minister of France, so far from going counter to the feelings of the French people, would have been very popular if he had said that no indemnity should he given to Mr. Pritchard, and that no reparation should be made. We can never safely say that no cause of war can arise, and agreeing, therefore, that our means of defence should be increased, I have heard with great pleasure the very able statement of the right hon. Home Secretary. At the same time I must say that, while the right hon. Gentleman was very clear and explicit upon the greater part of the measure he proposed to introduce, there were other parts which it seemed not so agreeable to touch upon, and which, in conformity with the rule of Horace, he seemed anxious to avoid. The great difficulty, when you propose a militia, is the question of the ballot. The right hon. Gentleman proposes a force of 80,000 volunteers; but he does not state how he is to get them, and if he does not obtain them as volunteers, he must then resort to the ballot. I should have liked to hear some explanation with reference to the ballot—whether the unions are to be formed into districts for that purpose, and what are the classes of persons who are to be subject to this ballot. I should like to 298 know, also, whether persons so balloted are to be allowed to find substitutes, and whether—as I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say—all persons balloted, or who volunteer, will be subject to five years' service in case of danger of invasion? Are we to understand that if, within three months of this militia force being drawn, hostilities should unfortunately result, they will be subjected to five years' service? I think these are questions to which it is important we should have answers, that we may know what is the state of the law; because, although the right hon. Gentleman seems very confident as to his volunteers, I own I do not feel a perfect persuasion that those volunteers will be forthcoming; and, if they are forthcoming on the first occasion for twenty-one days, I am not sure that they would be forthcoming in the remaining four years. I think the right hon. Gentleman, when he gives the option to these volunteers to receive the 4l. bounty at once or by monthly payments, runs great risk, as the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) has pointed out, that the payment of the 3l. or 4l. at once will be very generally accepted. The monthly payments, I think, would not afford so great a temptation. It would be 2s. 6d. a month, or 1d. a day; which, though it might be a fee for a volunteer militiaman, certainly would not be considered a proper fee in the Court of Chancery. If you do not obtain these volunteers—or even if, obtaining the 50,000 men the right hon. Gentleman expects the first year, you do not get the 20,000 or 30,000 men the second year—you will be obliged still to have recourse to the ballot. I certainly do not see any satisfactory mode of obtaining such a number of men without, in one shape or the other, having recourse to the ballot; and I therefore think it most desirable to know what is the kind of ballot proposed to be adopted, what class of persons it will affect—whether the inhabitants of particular districts, and what is to be the age of persons liable? I certainly can form only a very imperfect notion of the measure, even from the clear and able statement made by the right hon. Gentleman; but, being one of those who are in favour of increasing the defences of the country, I should think it most unjustifiable if I were to offer any obstacle to the introduction of this Bill. I think it is quite proper that the right hon. Gentleman should bring in his Bill. For my part, for reasons I have before 299 given, and for the reasons which have been stated by the right hon. Gentleman tonight, I should prefer a large militia force of this kind, if it could be assembled, to any increase of the regular Army. At the same time, this is a matter upon which not only we, but the country, must judge; and if there should appear so great a repugnance to the militia as some persons seem to suppose, then we must have recourse— not certainly to the abandonment of all means of defence—I should be very sorry to see such an abandonment—but to an increase of the regular military force. I am very glad to find that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) is ready to approve the introduction of this Bill. I had the misfortune to have my Bill thrown out, because it only applied to England; and it was said that, as Scotland and Ireland were not included in that measure, it was clear the Scotch were cowards, and all the Irish traitors. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has made the same proposal, though it is different in some other respects. He proposes a Bill for England; he proposes that the militia should be liable to be sent to any part of the United Kingdom, as I proposed; but he does not propose a Scotch or Irish militia. The objection of the noble Viscount, however, does not apply to this Bill, although the propositions are the same as in the Bill I wished to introduce. The Scotch may be very brave men, and the Irish very loyal men, but the Militia Bill is not to be applied to them. With regard to this proposal for the establishment of the militia, I hope the right hon. Home Secretary will give us an estimate, as nearly as he can, of the expense of the force. I own it appears to me that the expense will be great. If, however, he can furnish an estimate, it will, I think, be satisfactory to the country. There is a subject connected, as I think the House must see, with any increased expenditure, upon which I hope soon to hear the determination of the Government; I allude to the question of "ways and means," by which the expenses of the country are to be met. I hope that very soon the right Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will inform us what he means to do with respect to the renewal of the Income Tax. The Income Tax, as the House is aware, expires on the 5th of April, and, unless that Act is renewed, the dividends for July will be paid without any deduction for income tax. I think, therefore, it is 300 necessary that we should learn the determination of the Government on that subject, and I hope no long time will elapse before an explanation is given.
§ MR. WALPOLE
begged to say, in answer to the first question of the noble Lord, that it was intended to take the Registrar General's districts as the districts that would furnish men; because, in consequence of the convenience of referring to the Census of 1851, it would be found that they could fix the quota of men to be supplied by the different places more equitably by going to those districts than by going to the parishes. With regard to the question concerning the ballot, it was a necessary consequence that they should fall back upon it if they could not procure a sufficient number of men by voluntary enlistment; and it would also be a necessary consequence of the ballot, that substitutes should be allowed. In regard to the next question of the noble Lord, he would lay before the House a calculation which he held in his hand with regard to the expense. If 3l. a man were paid as bounty, the sum required for the first 50,000 men would be 150,000l.; and the 30,000 men to be raised next year would cost 90,000l. Of course, if the bounty was 4l., the expenditure would be proportionately more. The pay and allowances to 50,000 men, with officers, would be for twenty-one days, 87,129l.; marching money for men joining and returning, 6,250l.; carriage of baggage, 5,000l.; clothing, at 1l. 15s. a man, 93,663l.; extra allowances to innkeepers, 15,000l.; making a total for 1852 of 207,042l. The 30,000 men proposed to be enrolled for 1853 would entail an additional expense of 38,027l. 10s. for the twenty-one days' training; with 3,825l. for marching money; 2,180s. for innkeepers' allowances; clothing, at 1l. 15s. per man, 53,550l; making, with some allowances for medicine, &c., a total expenditure for the two years of 311,952l., deducting the cost of clothing provided in 1852 (93,663l.), the total cost of 80,000 men for 1853 would be 218,289l.; and again, deducting the cost of clothing in 1853 (53,550l.), the cost of training for 1854 would be 164,738l. The cost for five years, he believed, might be taken to stand thus: for 1852, 200,000l.; for 1853, 210,000l.; for 1854, 160,000l.; for 1855, 160,000l.; for 1856, 160,000l.
§ MR. BRIGHT
wished to know whether the ballot was intended to apply to persons between the ages of 18 and 35?
§ MR. G. DUFF
begged to ask the indulgence of the House while he expressed in a few words his decided opinion against the principle of the measure proposed to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government. After all that had been said, both by the late Government and the present one, he did not intend to make any remarks upon how far an increase of the permanent defences of the country was necessary; for he could not for a moment imagine that any Government would needlessly alarm the public mind, and he must take it for granted, that, with the means of information at their command, they had come to a right conclusion as to the expediency of some addition being made to the land forces to be maintained in the United Kingdom during time of peace. He did consider that it was the duty of every Government, in providing for the security of the country, to adopt those means of defence which, while they protected in the most efficient manner the property of the rich, would press least heavily upon the poorer classes; and he rejoiced to see that the present Government were sensible of the evils of the old militia system, and were desirous, if possible, to avoid them. Of course, he could venture no opinion as to whether volunteers would be always forthcoming, as expected by the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department; but he thought he might tell him that if the ballot were obliged to be resorted to, it would be found that after a peace of thirty-seven years, the blessings of which it at this moment enjoyed, this country would endure with impatience a compulsory service to which it objected even in time of war. He must say, too, that he had no confidence in the efficiency of the force to be provided according to the plan of the right hon. Home Secretary. According to Mr. M'Culloch (an authority for whom, it seemed, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had great respect), any militia system was at variance with the well-recognised principle of the division of labour; for to be a good soldier a man moot be nothing else, and a force composed of half citizens would be dearly purchased at the cost of withdrawing individuals for a time from their ordinary avocations, and subjecting them to a species of military service which, even if not compulsory, in most cases would tend to unsettle their habits in after life. Such a force, too, 302 must, of necessity, be only half disciplined; and he must confess that he should be sorry to see the destinies of the country confided to its guardianship, if ever the veteran battalions of an invading army should succeed in reaching our coasts. We might rest assured that no such hardy enterprise would ever be undertaken by raw levies. Those whom we should have to encounter would be tried soldiers, selected from the flower of some mighty army. He did think that if such a contingency were to be provided for, a great country like this, which spent so much annually in the protection of her meanest Colonies, ought not to intrust the defence of her own shores to either local or general militia, or any paper army. If an addition was to be made to our defensive land force, it ought to be in the shape of regular disciplined soldiers to such an extent as Government might deem sufficient, for We need have no fear that a standing Army, whatever its amount, would ever be employed, as it had been too frequently in other countries, to overthrow those liberties which in our islands could never be in danger except from foreign aggression. If Her Majesty's Government were afraid of mistaking the feelings of the country upon the subject of the defences of the United Kingdom, they could easily refer the question to the verdict which would be pronounced at the approaching elections.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, I would not be doing justice to my own feelings if I allowed this measure to be brought in without troubling the House with a few remarks upon it. The difficulty which I feel in these discussions is greater and greater, time after time; because the more I hear from hon. Gentlemen, and right hon. Gentlemen, and noble Lords, and gallant Officers, on both sides of the House, and in both Houses, upon the alleged necessity of an increase in our armaments, the more am I at a loss to understand the reasons why we should grant that increase. For it appears to me, if I am to believe at all in the sincerity of the official declarations made to us, that so far from there being any cause for adding to the strength of our establishments, we are now, at this period, removed farther than ever from any such necessity. The right hon. Gentleman who has introduced this proposal to-night, as if to make a mockery of it, and as if to leave us without a shadow of pretence to go with to our constituents, has stated, speaking with the 303 precise knowledge he has no doubt acquired in office, that we are in a safer state now, as respects dangers of hostilities, than we ever were before. A gallant Officer behind me (Sir De L. Evans), representing a most populous and wealthy city, the City of Westminster—that constituency which we were told was to have been invaded and even pillaged by a foreign enemy—got up to-night to protest against this measure; and he gave us all the weight of his professional authority, to show that it would be impossible for a foreign enemy to collect such a force as would be wanted to invade this country, with such a rapidity as to take us by surprise; that, in short, it could not be done without giving us adequate warning and time for preparation. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) contradicts that; but I suppose that the noble Lord's professional knowledge entitling him to speak on the military question, can only be that of a militiaman. The noble Lord gives it as his opinion, that it would be perfectly easy for an enemy, on the other side of the Channel, to prepare his invading force with such a suddenness that in our present circumstances we would be practically defenceless. [Viscount PALMERSTON: Hear, hear!] The noble Lord cheers that sentiment. But I really think that in such a matter as this we are not at all obliged to defer to the opinions of this or that Member of the House; for there are historical facts which may guide us very safely. This invasion of England, your bugbear, was contemplated once by Napoleon the Great. There is certainly an historical controversy whether he really ever was serious in the design, but at any rate he acted as though he were in earnest, and it was believed that he would attack our shores. Well, he assumed that not less than 150,000 men were to be brought across the Channel, as the least force that could be successful. And it took twelve months to make his preparations; to collect the force in all the ports on the other side of the Channel, French and Dutch; and, even after all that, Napoleon did not venture to make the attack. Take another instance. The same Napoleon made a so-called sudden attack on Egypt. In that case there were not 150,000 men; there were only 40,000 men; but those 40,000 men required 400 or 500 transports to carry them, with their camp equipage, and their stores, &c., to Egypt; and, in get- 304 ting ready for the expedition, there were months of slow preparation. The matter, indeed, has been settled by sound military authority, which decides that a great army cannot make a sudden descent on our coast, because, being a great army, we could anticipate it; and now the danger is said to have changed, and we are told that we have to guard against the surprise of a small body of 10,000 or 15,000 men. Well, now, are we to contemplate 10,000 desperadoes coming against us, for the mere purpose of doing mischief, knowing that they cannot get back, and ready, therefore, to be sacrificed? Would a militia prevent such a gang of ruffians coming over? Why, the existence of a militia would increase the danger; for such a lunatic gang of ruffians would think it then a far wiser plan to come over individually, to get regular passports, to distribute themselves about the country, and to increase the mischief by dividing the murder and devastation. [Laughter.] Yes, you laugh; but it really reduces itself to this absurdity. I can't treat the thing as serious. It just seems to me to be this: that somebody wants to create soldiers; that Lord Lieutenants want patronage and fuss; that somebody else seeks amusement with red coats; and I do not believe that anybody in this country seriously entertains the fear of an invasion by France. All the evidence proves that the French Government is contemplating anything but an attack on this country, or on any other. Would any Government undertake to convert the Five per Cents into Four-and-a-Halfs, if it was contemplating a war? I put it to hon. Gentlemen whom I see around me, capitalists who are making railways in France, whether there ever was so much English capital going over to France, to make railroads, as at this moment? You surely are not sending your money across to a nation which is but a horde of banditti, who would make war on you without cause, and without declaring war? Why, in making a proposal like this, you ask us to take leave of our senses. You are assuming that France would make war on you without calculating the consequences that must befall the commerce, the property, and the lives of any people wantonly assaulting a country of such vast resources as England. You assume that France does not calculate the retribution that would follow upon her crime. You speak and seem to think of France as of a body of ancient Scandinavians, without 305 commerce or industry, with nothing to lose, looking only to pillage and plunder, and indifferent to the consequences to themselves of piracy. Why, what is France? There is as real an amount of portable wealth in France as in England. You talk of your Bank. There is more bullion in the Bank of France than in the Bank of England. Do you ask me to deal with such a people as with barbarians, as pirates—a people without common sense, and reckless of every rule of justice and honour? I beg to remind you that the French nation is only second to ourselves as a manufacturing people. After England the manufactured productions of France are the largest of any country in the world. With the exception of England no country depends so much on its supply of raw materials, to carry on its manufactures, as France. Paris, itself, manufactures more for exportation than any other three capitals in Europe. France is a great industrious nation, which has given pledges for good behaviour, which has vast interests at stake binding it over to keep the peace in regard to its neighbours. You ask me to forget all this, and to assume that this France, without provocation or motive, is going to assail our shores. But I cannot forget all this; and I cannot assume so much while I see these chances against any invasion of England from France. You do more. You ask me to enter at once, on this assumption, into expenses which would amount to some very important taxes we want to get rid of. My right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) is labouring year after year to induce you to take off the "taxes on knowledge." Why, if we are to incur the cost of a militia, we cannot take off those most improper imposts. Again, the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Frewen) desires to relieve the suffering farmers of Sussex from the duties on hops; but a militia would absorb so much money that those duties would have to remain on. I take all this into consideration. Certainly, if you could play at soldiers without taxing the people, or if you would consent to tax property instead of industry, it would be a different thing. But you will not; and, therefore, your militia would mean a continuance of taxes on industry, and a retention of a tax on intelligence. I ask for reasons for these proposals. There the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) meets us and puts it as a matter of astonishment that we should demand reasons. We are at peace, he says, no 306 doubt; but that is no reason why we should not prepare for war. Now, I think that the fact that we have been thirty-seven years at peace, is some reason for thinking a continuance of that peace more probable than a recurrence to war. I remember reading a speech made by the noble Lord, on a reform Motion in 1822, which I may contrast with the noble Lord's views this evening. In the speech to which I refer, the noble Lord told the then House of Commons that public opinion had reduced our Army to 68,000 men, and that it was a great reproach to the boroughmongers of that time that they had so long resisted the force of public opinion. [2 Hansard, vii. 75.] But you have gone on increasing, year by year. You have not only increased your Army, but you have been adding other supplementary forces: 10,000 dockyard drilled battalions, and 15,000 pensioners, as good soldiers to fight for their own land as any you could get. In short, you have nearly doubled your armed forces since 1822. You are not content with this; you now want 80,000 more men. Why, where is this to stop? At the end of another thirty years you will be voting as many soldiers as France possesses. Are these, necessarily and properly, the fruits of peace? I thought that in times of peace we were to have the advantages of peace, and that we were not to live in perpetual anticipation of a war. Sir, my impression is, that the English Government is not acting in a manner calculated to improve the good feeling between England and France. I challenge opposition when I say that there has been nothing done by the French Government or the French people during the last four years to warrant this proposal. On the contrary, there is every reason afforded us why we should have continued at most with the amount of force we had before recent events. Recollect what was said in the spring of 1848, when the revolution broke out in France. How I was taunted because some time before I had resisted the attempt to increase the strength of our Army! On all sides there was a cry against me. I was told that the danger I had decried had arisen, that the French people were in a state of unbridled license, and that we must prepare for our defence. But what is the language now? Every one now says that the French people during the last four years—I speak of the French people—have been pacifically disposed. There is another change. With- 307 in a few months an individual has attained supreme power in France. He bears a very ominous name. He is one whose very name is calculated to raise up old antagonisms and ancient alarms in this country; and it is alleged now, that it is because of the presumed inclination of this individual for war we should hurry to arms. But what has been the conduct of this individual in his foreign relations? The Earl of Derby has emphatically expressed his belief in the pacific wishes of this individual; and the noble Lord the Member for the city of London has said the same thing. Well, then, we are raising an outcry without cause. I say it is cowardice—base cowardice; for I don't know what is cowardice if it be not a panic in terror of imaginary dangers. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary must allow me to judge for myself, So far as I am interested, about this matter; and I declare that I am Satisfied with the defences of the country; and I, therefore, ask why you should tax me? I am not speaking merely my own sentiments; I am speaking in the name of a large proportion of the people of this Country who have manifested their opinions at their public meetings. I speak with a full knowledge of what is going on in the north of England. If the people perceived the danger, they would be calling out to the Government to give them adequate protection. But you are in this singular position—you are seeking to increase our forces, for the purpose of protecting the people, as you say, while the people are meeting in public assemblies and denouncing your proposals. Take the resolutions of the Marylebone vestry—a little parliament, where sometimes the members talk quite as good sense as one usually hears here. The Marylebone vestry declared all this to be a hoax. They don't believe in your sincerity in raising this outcry, and they have no intention of quietly submitting to any tax for the purpose of sustaining an absurd militia. The right hon. Gentleman has talked of our defenceless state. I don't believe it. I think, without the papers before me, that I could tell you where you could get 40,000 men; and you could get this force at once and fresh to the coast of Sussex by rail. The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, if I tell him that I look with suspicion on all these suggestions of the paucity of our forces. It is the custom of that (the Treasury) bench to talk in that way. What did we hear in the beginning of the year 308 about our Navy? Why, that we could not get a ship fit for sea. Nothing was said by the Government in contradiction to all this newspaper representation during January or February. But no sooner does the gallant Admiral (Admiral Berkeley) reach the wholesome and invigorating atmosphere of this side of the House—than he informs us, as if impelled to do so, that we had been hoaxed, and that we had reserve ships at home numerous enough to occupy within hailing distance of each other the whole of the waters between the North Foreland and Channel Islands. It may be the same thing as to the Army; and I should like to have a Committee appointed to inquire exactly into the number of armed men we could really command. I would suggest, indeed, that the officials who bring us the Estimates would render them much more complete if they would append to them accounts of the exact positions of the forces. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite the Secretary at War shakes his head. Of course. He wants to keep all that a mystery; the old excuse being that we must not let foreigners into such secrets. Why, what nonsense. The foreigners have only to take the trouble to go to the Army and Navy Lists and to the Gazettes, and to analyse the facts, and they find it all out. We are told, in defence of this proposal, of the small number of troops we have at home. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) has spoken of our Colonial Empire. Our Colonial Empire occupies, we are told, one-eighth of the surface of the habitable globe; and we are assured that our Army and Navy are fully engaged in doing the police work of this vast territory. Has it never occurred to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that the taxation to maintain the vast police forces by sea and land for this enormous territory is paid altogether by the people of these little specks of islands, Great Britain and Ireland? We draw no revenue from Australia, from Canada, or from the Cape of Good Hope; and let hon. Gentlemen opposite be quite sure that, a few months hence, when this protective delusion of theirs has been set at rest for ever, the Members for counties as well as the Members for large borough constituencies, will be turning their attention to these facts, and will be inquiring whether if we are to have free trade with all the world, the Colonies being no longer subjected to restrictive monopolies of trade with this country, whether free trade 309 is not to be carried out to its logical consequences in regard to such a colony as Canada with its 2,000,000 of inhabitants, whose average condition economically speaking is superior to that of our own people, with a more absolute self-government than is enjoyed by any of the States of the neighbouring federation — with a perfect control over its own waste lands, and which actually put a prohibitive duty upon your paupers from Ireland, diverting your emigration in one year to New York? Be quite sure that all these facts will be taken into consideration; and that in looking to Canada, the conclusion will be that such a country ought to bear the expense of its own police; or, at any rate, if it insists on having our soldiers in its garrisons, ought to pay for them. I say make your colonies, from which you get no revenue, protect themselves, and then you will no longer have the argument in favour of such a proposal as this, that your Army—your Army of 100,000 men—is scattered. But I must be understood. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) and I, myself, have been greatly misrepresented in this matter. Do not let it be supposed that we are advocating the addition of one soldier to the forces of this country; and let it not be recorded against me that I am asking you to bring home your regiments from your colonies to keep them here. I say bring them home; but bring them home only to disband them. That is what county Members will say, too, when the protection delusion is over. When they find they cannot raise prices, they will join with us in reducing taxation, so that prices may be nearly as profitable though not so high. It is disgraceful if you are defenceless. You ought to be ashamed to admit it. Bring home your ships from the Mediterranean. The right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty said, in answer to this suggestion lately, that if we were to bring home our line-of-battle ships from the Mediterranean, the French would take the alarm and would bring their ships from the Mediterranean to cover their north coast. What does that admit? It admits that the French have ships in the Mediterranean simply because you have ships in that sea. Supposing, when you took your ships out of the Mediterranean, that you proposed to the French, instead of keeping them in the Channel to lay them up in ordinary, don't you think the French would be glad to reciprocate that economy with you? It 310 is an affair of a vis-a-vis. Where you are in strength, the French will be in strength. I am convinced that if ever we get a Government not afraid of being stigmatised as the tool of the "peace party," it will be perfectly practicable to go to the French, and to propose to reduce our naval force by one-half, on condition of their doing the same. Arthur Young said, eighty years ago, that if the French and English would bring all their war ships into the Channel and burn them to the water's edge, it would be a blessing to humanity. I say so, too. It would come to the same thing as regards your defence to lay your ships, ship by ship, with the French, up in ordinary, as continuing the competition of wasteful extravagance which has gone on so absurdly for so many years. We have heard of the military resources of other countries; but nothing of that sort should influence us. It used to be a constitutional maxim here, and with none more than the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that England should make no attempt to become a military Power. Our sea frontier was considered once a safety, and our Navy an adequate defence. But steam is referred to as necessitating a change of system, and as destroying by "bridging" over that frontier. Yes, but the bridge is in our possession, not in possession of the enemy. So far from steam leaving us in danger, it is the very thing which ought to give us security. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (as we understood) admitted this when he (Mr. Corry) was connected with the Board of Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman said, without exciting astonishment, what would be rejected here as extravagant in me. He said that in the event of war, for every steamer France could produce, we could produce ten, and that in three months after the breaking out of war, such was the force of mercantile steamers and privateers, in addition to our Navy, we could launch against the enemy, not a French ship would be left on the seas. Don't you think that the French Government perfectly understands all this, and sees that it could not compete with our immense navy of huge steamers—the Cunard line, the East and West Indian lines, and our coasting steamers, and other vessels, and that, in fact, it is not the interest of France to face our prodigious powers of destruction? Seeing, therefore, no reason for this increase of our armaments, believing it will only irritate and lead to an increase abroad, 311 and that no Power harbours the design to molest us, I think the increase a wanton act on our part, and shall oppose the measure in every stage.
§ MR. BERESFORD
said, he would not follow the hon. Member for the West Riding into the colonial or the naval features of the question, but would confine himself to his remarks on military topics. The hon. Member was only following his usual avocation—that of throwing a slur upon every man that wears a red coat. But the hon. Gentleman was not the best prophet on such occasions. He had made a tour of peace and good will a few years ago, prophesying at the time universal kindness between man and man throughout Europe, but immediately after his return in 1847, there were wars and rumours of wars throughout Europe—citizens armed themselves against citizens, and were seen cutting each others' throats by wholesale. They could not, therefore, place implicit credit on the hon. Gentleman's prophecies, because on this occasion he was found decidedly wanting. The hon. Member had referred to Napoleon Buonaparte, who in 1802 meditated an invasion of this country, had prepared his vessels of war on the opposite side of the Channel, and gathered together a large army; but an attack which at such a time was difficult, was rendered much more easy in these days, when they had the power of steam to resort to. England was not the only country which possessed railroads. The French had also the advantage of railways like ourselves; they had the power of concentrating a large force in a given time on their northern coast. England had, no doubt, a large army, but it was only sufficient for her colonies, and could not well be dedicated to domestic defences. It appeared to him that this country was bound, in order to protect her great wealth, and to maintain peace, to keep at her disposal such a force as would enable her to transmit those advantages to posterity. The French army was larger than that country ought to have for purely domestic purposes; and as we had a very small army in England, it was manifest that we, in a defensive point of view, were in a worse position than that country. It was not that the Government dreaded an offensive force from France, but that they desired to have a sufficient force to preserve that peace and safety which England had so long enjoyed. It was not because they dreaded a hostile force from Boulogne or any other particular quarter that they sought to 312 increase their defences; but they thought that it was wise to place this country in a position to meet an attack, come from what source it might. He little thought, after the fair and candid manner in which the measure had been introduced, that he would I be called upon to defend it. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), had told them that alt danger of attack was imaginary, and that the fear of invasion was only to be found in the minds of old women. He (Mr. Beresford) was glad to see that the hon. Member for Montrose maintained that strength of body and elasticity of mind that made him superior to all apprehensions of danger. Younger men, however, were not so free from apprehension. If they looked around, they found that, with the exception of the small party who opposed this Bill, the general feeling was that the danger was not altogether imaginary. The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), considering that these defensive preparations were necessary, had himself introduced a Bill upon the subject. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), than whom there was not a more able or experienced statesman in that House, had declared in favour of the measure. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, even when in opposition, had approved of such a measure. Now the real question for their consideration was, had the Government done their best in consonance with the expressed opinions of the leading statesmen, as well as of the House, to introduce a measure that would prove the least burdensome and oppressive to the people? He maintained that they had. The great objection made to the noble Lord's Bill was the presence of the ballot. The present Government had, however, proposed a measure free from such an objection. It not only divested the Bill of some of these difficulties, but it had also divested a considerable number of hon. Members of their speeches, which were curtailed of their fair proportions in consequence of the absence of the ballot in his right hon. Friend's Bill, contrary to what was anticipated. He thought that they might fairly say, that the ballot was an obnoxious measure. The object of the militia force was for the universal and national defence of the country. It was a force intended for the protection of our hearths and our homes, and he did not think that any true Englishman would be found unwilling 313 to serve in it. Instead of the Government being opposed on the present occasion, he thought that they deserved the thanks of the country. The hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans) appeared to think that there would be some difficulty in getting volunteers. Now, within his (Mr. Beresford's) recollection, there had been raised in this country a considerable army for the service of foreign Powers. Yet, the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who must be very familiar with that circumstance, seems to think that though he was enabled to raise and to command a large body of soldiers who left this country for the shores of Spain, there would still be a difficulty in getting volunteers to serve on; behalf of their own country. He thought it was somewhat ungrateful for the hon. and gallant Member to express a doubt of being able to obtain a force for the defence of Old England, when he recollected how easily a force was raised for the defence of the reigning Sovereigns of Portugal and Spain. Considerable forces had also been raised for South America in this country. With such facts in their recollection, did they mean to say that when England herself was in danger, those highminded and noble sentiments which had heretofore characterised their people were extinct? He thought it was the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) who said that the Bill should be thrown out, because it did not include Ireland and Scotland in its provisions. Now he (Mr. Beresford) maintained that the Government had followed all the precedents upon this subject. Looking at those precedents, he found that the Militia Bill for England had never been brought forward at the same time as the Bills for Ireland and Scotland. The Militia Bill was first introduced for England in 1661, the force was remodelled in 1757, and was finally settled in 1802. For Scotland the Militia Bill was passed in 1797. The Fencible Corps was established three years previously in Ireland. In England, in the year 1757, there was an alteration made in the Bill, in which power was given to the Crown of disapproving of the officers nominated by the lords lieutenant. The ballot was then recognised in the English Bill, but not in the Bills for Ireland and Scotland. With regard to Ireland, he found that the first special enactment respecting the militia passed that Legislature in 1705, and that it was further altered in 1777, and finally settled in 1809; and he 314 might remark that the armed police in that country were drawn from the same class from whom the militia would be drawn, and the existence of that armed force was a proof that this country had no doubts of the loyalty of the youth of Ireland, which had ever furnished the bravest soldiers and the most loyal subjects. A remark had been made on the expense of the militia enrolment of England. The expense was, of course, incurred in that country which was most exposed to invasion. Therefore it was that England had been dealt with in the first instance, previous to legislating on this subject, if necessary, for Scotland and Ireland. The right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had spoken of the evils which the militia would cause to trade, and of the demoralisation which it would produce. He could not join in these frightful forebodings. He could not for a moment suppose that any demoralisation which might arise from the embodying of 80,000 militia, could be anything like the demoralisation which an invasion by even 20,000 foreign troops would produce in a single week. Such an invasion would do more to interfere with and stop trade than would an embodyment of double the number of militia. There was no reason to expect a greater amount of demoralisation from the militia than that which was attributed to regular troops. Whatever might be said on the last point, it was well known that the demoralisation of the Army had of late years, from better education and other cause, wonderfully decreased. According to the old proverb, idleness was the devil's opportunity; but the militia, while they were in training, would be kept pretty constantly employed. On the whole he considered the present measure to be a measure of protection—(Laughter)—not a measure of protection, as hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think, to the agricultural classes only, but a measure of protection to all classes, to the virtue, to the honour, to the interests, and chastity of the British nation.
begged to tell the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) that he had always maintained with regard to the Navy the same conduct upon that (the Opposition) as upon the other side of the House. He was glad to find that the hon. Member for the West Riding had recovered his courage, because only a few months ago he was the first among those who were panic-stricken, and who execrated the Admiralty 315 for leaving the country totally undefended, and for keeping a fleet at Lisbon, when he, forsooth, thought they ought to be in the Channel. Now, the hon. Member ought not to meddle with things that he did not understand. The same rule applied to soldiers and sailors, to tinkers and tailors. The hon. Member said that he (Admiral Berkeley) had stated that he could cover the Channel with steamers within hail of one another. Did the hon. Gentleman know how many steamers it would take to reach from the Channel Islands to the North Foreland, to be within hail of one another? So much for the hon. Gentleman's seamanship. The hon. Member said that if we made all these demonstrations it would be a cause of offence to France; and yet the hon. Gentleman was angry with him (Admiral Berkeley) because the late Board of Admiralty had a reserve that he was not acquainted with. He had been found fault with, both in that House and out of doors, for making that statement; but he pledged his character as a naval officer, that in twenty-four hours after the Government had given the word, there would have been a force not to resist, but a look-out force of armed steamers, reaching from the North Foreland to the Channel Islands, Would the hon. Member tell him how many steamers it would take to cover that ground? Did he know the distance? [Mr. COBDEN shook his head.] Then he did not know what he was talking about. He could almost have forgiven the hon. Gentleman his lamentable ignorance of matters connected with his (Admiral Berkeley's) profession, because he was unfortunately backed up by a gallant Admiral, a friend of his, one of the greatest officers of the day, but too fond of writing in the newspapers. His gallant Friend had taken the alarm; but he said that if his (Admiral Berkeley's) statement was correct, all the old ladies might put on their nightcaps and go to bed in safety. Now he thought that his gallant Friend was famous for his energy and his resources; but he began to think he should have to say of him, in the words of the old song, that—The bullets and the goutHad so knock'd his hull about,That he'd never more be fit for sea.Every sailor must know that what he had stated could be done with case; and he would tell the House how it might be done. Before the Lisbon squadron returned, there were three steamers in commission in port, 316 and three ordinary guardships in commission, There were fifteen first-class reserve steamers—vessels that were ready in every point to proceed to sea, wanting the men. The hon. Member might ask how he proposed to man them? There were marines, officers, boys, seamen, gunners, and riggers of the dockyards on the spot. He need not tell the hon. Member, too, that the commander of the coast-guard had orders to have 1,500 men told off ready to join either at Devonport, Portsmouth, Sheerness, or wherever it was necessary. In the year 1827, before the days of railways and electric telegraphs, in forty-eight hours a squadron sailed for Lisbon, manned, and carrying troops on board. Mr. Canning boasted of that in the House of Commons; and if in 1827 that could be done in forty-eight hours, he believed that the Navy had not so far lost its energy that it could not now be done in twenty-four hours. He admitted he was not satisfied that there were at present men enough in the Royal Navy. If they had wanted a squadron such as he had described to watch the Channel, he should have been taking away the men who ought ty be left at home to fit out other ships. He repeated what he had declared on former occasions, that they ought not to be content with less than one-third of the men in peace that were required for the Navy in War. With regard to the efficiency of the Navy, it had been admitted by the noble Earl now at the head of the Government to be as efficient as the means placed at the disposal of the Admiralty would allow it to be.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
said, he was disposed to concur very much, if not entirely, with the observations of the right hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the Motion now before the House, because he (Mr. F. Maule) was one of those who thought it was the duty of the citizens of England to contribute to the internal defence of the country; and he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman also in thinking this was the time—when there were no particular impressions of danger from foreign parts, when the idea seemed to have passed away of any intention to invade this country by a foreign Power—calmly and deliberately to consider the manner in which the citizens of this country were called pa to defend their native shores. The Government of which his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) was at the head only about a month ago proposed to introduce into this House 317 a specific measure for that purpose. He (Mr. F. Maule) would not disguise from the House that he had always been of opinion that in these days a militia, whether they called it a local or a regular militia, established by the ballot, would be a most unpopular proposal to submit to the country; and the great object which he, for one, had in proposing the measure lately introduced, was to place it in such a position as to be in the least degree burdensome to the country, and to interfere to the least possible extent with the avocations of the individuals who, it was proposed, should serve in that body. The late Government had it particularly in view to make the burden of service fall as lightly as possible on the people of the country. They proposed that a certain number of individuals should be chosen by ballot, it was true, but giving an opportunity also to volunteers to serve if they chose. They proposed that that number, when chosen, should be drilled and trained in their own localities, and only subject to be taken from those localities upon an invasion, or a threatened invasion, and then only kept away from their several districts for a short specific time mentioned in the Bill. That seemed to the late Government to be the fullest extent to which they were entitled to call on the nation to furnish a local defence for the country; and it appeared to him (Mr. F. Maule) that any further defence that might be required, either for our shores or for operations abroad, might better have been effected by an addition to the regular Army of the country, because when they came to embody the militia, to draft them into regiments, to place them in barracks, and to appoint commissioned and non-commissioned officers, those men become in war as efficient, as expensive, and as regularly a part of the Army of the country as any other part of the regular force. But what did the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary propose to do? He proposed to go a great deal further than the Bill of the late Government. The present Bill, to the introduction of which he should raise no possible objection, was to all intents and purposes a revival of the regular militia. What did that imply? It implied in the first place a service of five years, and that it extended only to England. He was glad that it did not extend to Scotland. It implied, further, that the party called upon to serve was not only not necessarily to be drilled in his own neighbourhood, but might be drilled at some 318 considerable distance from it; and he was to be liable for those five years, on every threatened invasion or tumult, or upon the will of Parliament sanctioning an Order in Council, to be removed from his own locality and ordered to serve in Scotland or Ireland, taken from the profession or trade in which he might be engaged, and prevented, consequent upon the responsibility to serve during those five years, from establishing himself in the particular trade or profession to which he belonged. That was a far more burdensome provision than that which was proposed in the Bill recently introduced by the late Government. But the right hon. Gentleman said, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War confirmed the statement, that they meant to get rid of the unpopularity of the ballot. The right hon. Secretary at War said they would first try the system of volunteers. Now, his (Mr. F. Maule's) belief was that they would get very few to volunteer on their terms. If they could get them, he allowed one volunteer would be worth many impressed men. If they did find volunteers, they were to pay them a bounty of some 3l. or 4l.; and the right hon. Gentleman said they would either pay it down at once when they took service, or give it in monthly payments as a retaining fee. [Mr. WALPOLE: Subject to regulations made by the Secretary at War.] Subject to certain regulations, no doubt; but he did not understand what regulations could be established if the bounty was paid down at once. If the bounty was paid at once, he was afraid that at the second training they would see very few of the recipients; and if they gave 2s. 6d. a month as a retaining fee, he did not think they would get men willing to take upon themselves the risk of being sent out of the country for a paltry payment of 2s. 6d. a month, 1d. a day. Then they came to the ballot. If they had the ballot, they meant to have it very much under the provisions of the present law. When the right hon. Gentleman came to talk of the ballot, he (Mr. F. Maule) would ask whether he had examined the most confused machinery of the present mode of taking the ballot, and taking into account the length of time necessary to put it into operation, and the expense caused by the payment of clerks, constables, and other officers? He (Mr. F. Maule) presumed also that the expense of that machinery must fall on the county rates, or upon some other rates falling on the country gentlemen. And was 319 that to be the first proposition the country gentlemen were to expect from the present Government? Why, instead of relieving the country gentlemen from their "local burdens," the Government proposed to add to them. He thought the country gentlemen would not thank the Government for such a proposition. The force proposed by the Government could not be got into the field for the space of ten months. The object of the late Government was to get a force in the space of ten weeks drilled to as full an extent as the force which was proposed to be raised under the present Bill. That would be the right and proper means of calling on the people of the country to defend its shores; but if they were to have recourse to a regular militia, he warned them that in a time of peace their plan would regularly fail. If they wanted a defensive force for this country, it should be a very large force. They should have at least 150,000 of our youth, so that when they removed from their localities they would leave no burden of wife or children behind them, and they would be at a time of life when they were not bound to any particular trades, and when such of them as had trades could prosecute those trades without interfering with that short time which they would be called on to devote to the learning of certain military duties. Above all they should have those young men free from the responsibility of service long before they had attained the age of thirty, at which age men might be even drawn for the first period of service under the present Bill. He thought up till the age of twenty-three the country would have as fine a force for its local defence as it was possible to obtain; and after that time the young men who had served might fix themselves in any line of life they might think fit to adopt. He thought that would be making the defence of the country fall, as lightly as possible on the citizens who might be called on to undertake it, whilst the proposition of the Government, on the other hand, he believed would be found to be a very unpopular one.
§ MR. T. B. HOBHOUSE
said, that until the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) who had just resumed his seat, advanced his powerful objections to the measure, he was inclined to say that all the authority of the House was on one side, and all the argument on the other. When he remembered that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and the noble Lord the Member for London, were both in favour of the 320 Bill, he thought there was a great deal of authority, if not much argument, to be adduced in its favour. But when the right hon. Gentleman, almost fresh from the labours of the War Office, told them that the measure was almost impracticable, and open to the most serious objections, then he might say that not only all the argument, but a great weight of authority, also, was opposed to the measure. He would not urge a single argument against the defence of this country, nor would he give a single vote that would leave our shores exposed; but he thought that in any measure of this kind the precaution should at least bear some proportion to the danger. It was not so, however, in the present case, for they had a danger that was infinitesimally small, provided for by a security that was disproportionately large. That was the reason why, if the Gentlemen about him supported him, he would take a division, even at that stage of the Bill. He was convinced that the danger had been greatly magnified, and that much exaggeration had been at work. While all the Powers of Europe were at peace with us, there was no reason for the introduction of a Bill that would put the country to so much expense, that would distract men from their occupations, and call them from the plough and the loom to become soldiers. He had not the slightest difficulty in pointing to France as the country against which all these preparations were made; but he besought hon. Gentlemen to consider the relations between France and England, and to remember what had been the history of the two countries during the reign of Louis Philippe, during the time of the Republic, and under Louis Napoleon. He was quite sure the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton would not say that the danger of war was greater at this moment than it was when France was under the dynasty of Louis Philippe. He must remind the noble Lord and the House of the state of affairs in 1841. At that period France menaced this country on account of the Syrian campaign, and affected to isolate herself from all the European Powers; but when the time came to strike a blow, she withdrew from the danger. He did not say that, in withdrawing from the danger, the French were actuated by pusillanimity. They were actuated by prudence—by a desire to sustain the commercial intercourse they had established with other countries, and by a just sense of the calamities and evils of 321 war. The noble Lord the Member for London had alluded to the Pritchard Indemnity. On that occasion the same menaces, the same language, and the same remonstrances were employed; but when the time for war came, Prance saw that Europe would not back her in such a course; and peace was maintained between France and England. This was under Louis Philippe. Then, coming to the time of the Republic, they all recollected with what acclamation the warlike message of General Labitte was received by the French Assembly when there was a probability that peace might be broken between France and England. But the warlike spirit evaporated once more, and all the danger disappeared as had happened on so many occasions before. The best guarantee for the maintenance of peace in Europe was, not that France had not the power of making a descent upon England, not that she was unable to find troops possessed of the requisite skill and bravery: but the knowledge that the other Powers of Europe would, for their own interests and their own safety, revenge the cause of England in case of her invasion, and take arms against France. The same principle applied here as in the case of individuals, whom no degree of precaution could secure against attack; but the fear of consequences was in general a sufficient preservative from danger. He would like to know what had become of diplomacy, or of the balance of power in Europe? What had become of the Treaties of 1815? Was there no security I in diplomacy and in embassies against a sudden attack, for if all these precautions now proposed were necessary, it seemed to him that diplomacy became a delusion and a mockery? Looking back to history, he could not but remark, that it was very seldom indeed that wars took place by surprise, and with the suddenness which was talked of. When disputes arose between States, negotiations took place, correspondence was interchanged, recriminations were bandied about, and several months always elapsed before a war broke out, during which period the country could be preparing for its defence. He opposed the measure because it distracted men from their pursuits, and spoiled them for returning to the usual duties of life. If he were asked what precautions ought to be taken against an attack, he would say that our Navy should be amply sufficient to meet any possible danger; and, in the very phrase 322 of the Delphic oracle to the Athenians, which has descended to our times, he would advise them to betake themselves to their wooden walls. If, however, it could be shown that the Navy was insufficient, there would not be the same objection throughout the country to its increase as there was to any increase in the Army, or to the proposition at present before the House, these being forces which would always he unpopular, because they might be used against the liberties of the country. Let us have, then, additional ships and men, if necessary—let our banner be raised in the Channel—let "the meteor flag of England" wave upon our coasts—let the sea swarm with ships; but we need not defend ourselves or our shores from dangers which might never be brought home to us. Supposing a foreign force to have landed, would any Gentleman in that House tell him that there was not spirit enough in the country, without any such measure as that proposed, to delay, or even to crush a French army before it approached the capital? Met by disciplined men, not raw levies, in front, cut off by our sailors in the rear, the situation of that army would not be an enviable one. He intended before he sat down to move as an addition to the Motion the words "this day six months." Hon. Gentlemen would not say that a danger which bad been incurred for thirty-seven years, was so imminent that they could not wait till July or August. If he were not assured that the Government did not intend to bring the Bill to a second reading, he felt inclined to take a division. It was the new Parliament which ought to decide upon this Bill, and not a Parliament in which there was no certain majority. A Bill for the armament of the country, and which would put the country to an expense of 250,000l. a year—in the first year it would be 400,000l.—a Bill, too, which, if passed, would prevent them from repealing some of the most obnoxious and odious taxes, ought to be discussed upon the hustings; and if hon. Gentlemen around him would support him, he would take care that it was discussed there. This Bill would, if carried, be a frightful source of jobbing, and, perhaps, of peculation. The land would he overrun with colonels; they would see nothing but red coats; men would be abstracted from their usual occupations and pleasures, and, in his opinion, for no pretence whatever. Hon. Gentlemen who voted for this measure would be called to a severe account at the hust- 323 ings: he meant those who had any constituencies; for some of them were very short of constituents. While they were talking of balloting for the militia, the country was thinking of another kind of ballot-voting by ballot for Members of Parliament. Under all the circumstances of the pase, and in the belief, moreover, that un-warlike and undisciplined levies were, as all history proved, utterly useless in opposition to veteran troops, he should move that there be added to the Motion the words "this day six months."
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was of opinion that no sufficient reason had been alleged against the measure of the Government.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
rose to order. He had proposed an Amendment, and he would beg to remind Mr. Speaker that his Amendment had not been put.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Motion before the House was, that the Bill for calling out the Militia be introduced by certain Members; and the only Amendment which could be moved was, either the direct negative to this, or that some other Members be ordered to bring in the Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he feared that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Hobhouse) must feel disappointed at the decision of the right hon. Gentleman in the chair, since he would not find his name entered upon the Journals of the House, for he (Mr. Newdegate) really believed that could have been his only motive in bringing forward the Amendment. He was convinced that the House would not be so inconsistent as some of the hon. Members opposite, in regard to their support of the principles of this Bill. One of the arguments used against the Government was, that they proposed at once to resort to the ballot; but he understood the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department to say, that it was only to be resorted to in the case of those districts which failed to afford their quota of volunteers to the required force. He could not understand how Gentlemen, who were in favour of a volunteer force, should object to a volunteer militia. There appeared a great discrepancy between the statements made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, with respect to the necessity for defensive measures and the best form of them if required, for the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) advised us to send Commissioners to France, and ask that Power to burn their fleet, promising at the same time to get rid of our own Navy; 324 while the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Hobhouse) suggested that the force of our Navy should be doubled. As to the demand that the Bill should be left unpassed until the constituencies had pronounced upon it, he supposed hon. Gentlemen opposite wanted a cry with which to go to the country, feeling sure that the measure would be unpopular when viewed in the light in which they were going to put it at the hustings. He began to regret that the noble Lord lately at the head of the Government and the Earl of Derby had repressed the warnings which had been addressed by the press to the people, on the possibility of a sudden invasion. He fully appreciated the motives which had dictated this course on the part of the late and the present Premier. The language held by the press must have been irritating to the people of France; but the noble Lord, as well as the Earl of Derby, forgot that there was a faction in this country who would only be controlled by popular clamour. The object of this faction, led by the hon. Member for the West Riding, must be to dismember the empire, by separating our colonies from the mother country; and to effect this, by increasing the pressure of taxation upon the land and the agricultural interest of this country, which would, they hoped, induce the farmers and country gentlemen to join in a clamour for a reduction of taxation, while thus suffering from the competition of foreign agricultural produce and increased taxation. This they calculated would lead to a reduction of our armaments and the withdrawal of the troops from the colonies; the inhabitants of which, already injured by free trade (the nostrum of that faction), would abandon their allegiance, and seek connexion with some more friendly Power, or attempt an independent existence. If this was not the plan, it must be to leave this country exposed to foreign invasion, in fact at the mercy of foreign Powers. The press rightly had too much reason, he feared, to believe that this House would not have strength enough to carry any measure for the protection of our shores unless they excited the alarm of the people. He feared that the democratic principle was working so strongly that, without a popular cry, as it was called, we should scarcely be able to adopt any measure of defence. He hoped, however, that the Government would not be deterred by any feeling of this sort, or by what had been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, from 325 bringing forward a measure of such importance as that now before the House.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he felt strongly the responsibility resting on the Government on this question; and he was certain they were fully sensible of it themselves, or they would not have brought forward this proposition. There were certain difficulties in agreeing to the Motion. He was not aware of any precedent for a Government asking for so large an increase in the military establishment of the country, without an immediate and pressing necessity. Secondly, they proposed to raise that force by a means which failed during the last war, and which, after nearly forty years of peace, had become so unsuited to the habits and feelings of the people of this country, that it would in all likelihood fail again. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, casting aside official reserve, had stated that he based his proposition solely on the ground of necessity for improving the national defences; and he had anticipated three classes of objectors to his measure. First, those who said that the present armed force was sufficient: the statement of our existing means of defence was a sufficient answer to that. If there really were danger—and the statement of the Government was confirmed by inquiries he had made on the subject—if it were really a fact that we were liable to an invasion, there was certainly a necessity for increased means of defence. Then it was said that there was no immediate or pressing necessity; and the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had said that if such necessity existed, we were now too late in providing against it. It was true we were at peace just now, and our relations were amicable with all the States of Europe; it was further said that the people of France were amicably disposed towards us. These were not assurances on which we ought wholly to rely. They might be true; or it might be that an invasion was improbable; still, our security against it ought not to rest on the forbearance of our enemies, but entirely on our own strength. Though great reliance was undoubtedly to be placed on our Navy, still, since the invention of steam, if there were a greater facility of invasion, we could not feel perfectly safe. We ought in his (Mr. Horsman's) opinion to be as well prepared internally, as if there were not a single ship to be seen on our coasts. If we required a defence against invasion, that defence ought to be by some other force, and not by a Militia. Every 326 military authority was of opinion that if an army landing on our coasts had to contend with militia alone, our fate would be at once decided. The idea of opposing men who had been trained three weeks against the picked troops of France, was madness. Either the danger was altogether imaginary, and we needed no addition to our defences, or it was real, and we ought to have the very best defence against it. It was said that Parliament was unwilling to increase the regular Army: so it was unless sufficient cause were shown; and the same might be said in reference to a Militia. But let it once be shown that the necessity existed, and Parliament would display no such unwillingness. Of late years, there was no question on which Parliaments had been more accommodating. From 1847 to 1852, on the propositions that had been made by Government for keeping up the Estimates, opposed by Motions of hon. Members to reduce them, the Government propositions had been carried by a majority averaging four to one. During the Administration of Sir Robert Peel, Parliament had been still more disposed to support the Ministry, and had affirmed all their propositions by a majority of seven to one. This was the one question of all others on which the Government had been sure of receiving the support of Parliament, and keeping up any military establishment they thought necessary. If the necessity were now shown to exist, he ventured to assert that Parliament would grant the necessary force; for those hon. Gentlemen who objected to increase armaments, only did so on the ground that no increase was necessary. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) objected to a large standing Army being kept up during peace; but show him that that peace was liable to be disturbed, and that our liberties and lives were in danger, and it would be no longer a question of expenditure with the hon. Member. Others objected that the increase of our military establishments would excite jealousy in foreign Powers; but he did not think that was an objection which ought to weigh against a proved necessity. Then it was said that a large standing Army was alien to the habits and feelings of this country. That was true; but it was not proposed as a matter of choice, but of necessary defence; and then the habits and feelings were at once altered. The measure proposed would be at once costly and inefficient. A force of 80,000 militia would not be considered by 327 any military authority as sufficient for the national defence. They might cost less than a smaller number of regular troops, but it did not follow that they would be more economical. It appeared to him (Mr. Horsman) that the great mistake made was, that of doing too much if there was no danger, and too little if there were real danger. When the second reading of the measure should be proposed, he would enter more fully into his objections to it.
§ CAPTAIN BOLDERO
said, it was the duty of the Government to put the country in as perfect a state of defence and security as possible. That it was not so at present was evident from the vast forces which foreign countries could direct against us. The French Government was friendly disposed towards England; but as that Government was based entirely on an army of 400,000 men, and as no one could tell what future events might produce, it would only be wise to place this country in a position to meet all eventualities. Though he believed that the present Prince President of France had no disposition to attack this country, where he had so long resided, yet who could foretell what might take place during the next twelve months? Another dictator might then be placed at the head of the French army with less amicable feelings. During the late war the militia had on various occasions done good military service, and he had no doubt would do so again. It was a proper force to raise for the defence of the country. The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth (Mr. F. Maule), had declared it would be better to increase the regular Army. Why did not those right hon. Members make such a proposition when they were in office, and prepare the Estimates in accordance with it? It appeared that they changed their opinions as rapidly as they changed their seats in that House. For his part, he should be perfectly content if the Army were placed on the footing on which it stood in 1848, and a large additional force in the shape of a regular militia provided. He trusted, however, that he should never live to see the day when a foreign army should land in England; but he was convinced that if the case did occur, every arm in the country would be instantly raised to crush the invader.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he had the honour of holding an important commission in that most valuable force, the old 328 regular militia, and he expressed his opinion that there was a great superiority in the measure of the present Government as compared with that of the last Government. He placed confidence in the present Government, and therefore he should support the introduction of the Bill; but he would not be bound by all the details, as he preferred the system of the old militia without alteration.
The O'GORMAN MAHON
said, that without going into the details of the proposed measure, he desired to express his extreme regret at the speech delivered by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden); and, on the part of his countrymen, he begged to tender to the right hon. Secretary at War his thanks for the manner in which he bore testimony to their fidelity and loyalty, whenever they were called to the defence of their country, and to the maintenance of the honour and dignity of the Crown.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he merely rose to express his hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not call on the House to divide. The Government were, in fact, only obeying the order of the House, and all they asked for was, permission to lay on the table of the House that Bill which the majority of the House had decided should be prepared; and this was his answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp); he assured that hon. and gallant Member that by his vote that night he was pledged to nothing, but to permit the Government to comply with the order of the House. It was for these reasons that he should, only for a few moments, trespass on the attention of the House. He should not be induced to attempt to answer the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), who had made one of those agreeable speeches which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) always listened to with pleasure, though he entirely disagreed with them. The hon. Member was not merely against the militia, but against all defence. His argument was an argument against the line, against the household troops, the artillery, and the cavalry; and it proceeded on the assumption that, in the present state of the world, no country need defend itself. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could not give his adhesion to those opinions. He could not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the events of the last few years, to which he had appealed, had in 329 any way authorised his adopting those opinions, though he had triumphantly referred to them as authority for what he had stated; and when he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) recollected, since the date to which he had referred, when the convulsions of Europe commenced, that in the course of eight weeks four pitched battles had been fought, and that the Baltic and Adriatic had been both blockaded, he really could not agree with the hon. Gentleman that those were the evidences of that halcyon period, the approach of which the hon. Gentleman seemed to anticipate, He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said before, and he must repeat it, that, totally irrespective of the disturbances which we had of late years unfortunately witnessed, there were features in the present political arrangements of the world, of long endurance, which forbade him to believe that we had arrived at that period of permanent and enduring tranquillity of which we heard so often. He must repeat that, so long as he found the strongest places in the possession of the weakest Powers, so long as he observed that throughout Europe and Asia the richest countries were under the dominion of the poorest sovereigns, he felt that that was a state of things which would lead no doubt hereafter, he hoped not in our time, to very great changes, which he could not believe would be effected by any other agency than war. Upon the measure which his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had explained to the House, he would, as he hoped no division would take place, scarcely touch; but in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth (Mr. F. Maule), he must say that from him he collected that his chief opposition to the measure was the contingent ballot; but he might remind the right hon. Gentleman, that in the measure which he had himself proposed, that offensive arrangement was introduced absolutely.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
The right hon. Gentleman quite misunderstood me. I maintained that there could be no efficient militia system without the ballot.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
He was glad to perceive that the elements of opposition were already diminishing. ["No, no!"] At all events he would remind the right hon. Gentleman, that in this case the necessity of the ballot was a matter of opinion. It was impossible for the right hon. Gentleman or for the Government to refer to any conclusive data 330 on that head. He could say the Government had given this subject the most painful investigation, that they had consulted the highest military authorities, that they had weighed all the evidence before them with the utmost attention they could command, and that the result of their inquiries was, that they had arrived at a different conclusion from the right hon. Gentleman. In case this measure should be adopted by Parliament, of course the future must determine which had formed the correct judgment; but he begged the right hon. Gentleman to understand that there was, upon the part of the Government, a conviction that voluntary enlistment might be appealed to in raising a militia with great and even complete success; but this was a point which the future could alone decide. With these few observations, he would again express the hope which he had already ventured to express, that notwithstanding the somewhat fiery addresses from some hon. Gentlemen opposite, the House would see that it would be the fairest and most friendly course in the present position of the question to allow the Bill to be brought in. There would be many opportunities when it could be most amply discussed hereafter, and they must all feel that no general discussion could be satisfactory until they had the provisions of the Bill before them. He trusted, therefore, that no division would take place at the present stage.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer commenced his observations by making the not unreasonable request, that the House should not oppose the introduction of this Bill; but it does strike me that the request is a somewhat singular one to come from the right hon. Gentleman. I presume that if any Gentleman has been upon those benches opposite for about a fortnight, he acquires a gravity of face with which he can ask anything whatever from this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman sits on that side of the House by a violation of the rule which he now wishes to lay down. The Order of the House, to which he so pathetically referred, had passed before without a division, when the right hon. Gentleman enlisted under a vindictive noble Lord, who now sits below the gangway. I hope that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), having now played at tit for tat with the noble Lord the Member for the city of London (Lord J. Russell), we shall 331 hear no more of this between those two distinguished statesmen. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has followed the example of almost all the hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House who have spoken since my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and who have attacked his speech either by argument or ridicule. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the hon. Gentleman's argument against this Bill went against all defences whatever, upon the assumption that we had arrived at a time when no nation can be required to defend itself. Nothing can be further from the fact than that statement. The right hon. Gentleman talks as if we neglected to do anything for the defence of the country; but he appears to forget that we are at this moment providing for our defence three times the sum which the general government of the United States requires for its military establishment, and for the whole service of its general government. We are voting for a sum of no less than 15,000,000l. annually for the very purpose which the right hon. Gentleman takes upon him coolly to suppose that we are altogether neglecting. Now, my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding, four years ago, opposed a proposition for the establishment of the Militia; and I venture to say that, since then, everything has only justified the course which he recommended, and which the noble Lord then at the head of the Government pursued. Now, we have had three authorities to whose observations I would refer—the noble Lord at the head of the late Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton; all of whom have really appeared to vie with each other in making the strongest assurances that there is hot the slightest necessity for this Bill, and that not only are we at peace, but that we have greater securities for peace than ever we had before. I recollect well the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton last year admitting fully that every year we were at peace added to the securities that we have for its continuance. All three endeavour to persuade us that this Bill is introduced not in any feeling of panic. I don't say that it was. I cannot find out whether the panic was got up for the express purpose of passing this Bill, or whether the Bill is the natural result of the panic; but the two things depended on each other, and I am therefore obliged to 332 connect them together. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaks of the responsibility which he felt as a Member of the Government, and of the responsibility of the Government. Now, I can only say, you have no responsibility whatsoever upon this question, provided that the opinion of the country is adverse to the proposition which you submit. If your constituencies of the United Kingdom and the public are not in favour of this measure, then I say, that the Government is clear of any responsibility with regard to this matter. ["No, no!"] If hon. Gentlemen opposite differ from me on this point, I really cannot undertake to argue with them. It is a point which I took for granted by everybody—that a Government, a Representative Government, were not compelled to raise taxes to establish a new system of defence if the public opinion of the country was against it. Why, there is another kind of protection which you are going to abandon, on the very ground that public opinion is against it. I can assure you that I am not going into what is called the military question, because I am quite sure that if I did, I should only provoke some belligerent major-general or some pugnacious admiral; but I look at the matter simply as a citizen, and there are points in the discussion upon which I am as competent to form a judgment as any one in this House. The authorities to which I have alluded assure us that the Bill is not brought in on account of the panic, but to meet some case that might arise. If this be so, and if this Bill be as important as it is stated on the other side to be, I think we should have time to give the subject the consideration it deserves. It is very fortunate that there is no urgent necessity, and that we can give our best attention to it. If we have been thirty-seven years without it, and if during the last four years since the abandonment of the measure of 1848, he inconvenience has arisen, there can be no harm in postponing the matter for a little time longer, in order that we may ascertain the opinion of the country upon it. What I ask is, that we should not do what all Governments that have carried Militia Bills have done, namely, they have passed them by large majorities in this House, and have thereby caused a great feeling of discontent the longer they have been continued. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the cost will be 400,000l. the first year, but he has left out the arms; and if 333 the cost is to be 1,130,000l. for five years, exclusive of arms, we may consider that the total sum will be not less than 1,500,000l. for the five years. Now, the expense is not the only thing. What is proposed is, to take 50,000 men the first year, and in the subsequent years to make that number up to 80,000, and for a portion of the year, varying from three weeks to seven weeks, these 80,000 men are to be withdrawn from their various occupations. I will not take up any time in the discussion of whether the voluntary system will act, or whether you will have to apply the ballot; but I think I may fairly be permitted to assume that the ballot will be required. That is a matter of opinion upon which the greatest authorities cannot come to a positive conclusion; but we have the decision of the late right hon. Secretary at War (Mr. F. Maule) that the ballot must be resorted to. You will find it, of course, much more easy to raise your volunteers in parts of the country where wages are perhaps only 1s., or 1s. 3d., or 1s. 6d. per day, and where employment is difficult to be obtained, as in the south-eastern counties, than in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where wages range from 2s. 6d. to 5s. a day, and where employment is abundant. In Lancashire and Yorkshire you will in all probability be obliged to ballot; and I ask the right hon. Gentleman under what conditions the relations between capital and labour are conducted? I will take him into a large manufactory of cotton or wool, and I will show him from the floor to the roof some hundreds employed, and the works going through all its successive stages until the raw material is worked up, by means of machinery of the most costly character, and of which the cost can only be repaid by its being kept constantly employed. The right hon. Gentleman will find that in all this building the different workpeople all form successive links. It is a chain of industry of the most ingenious kind, the wonderful arrangement of which has grown up for the most part during the last half century, until it has now become the most important and productive industry in this country. The right hon. Gentleman proposes, as I understand, not to take them, as was before proposed, between the ages of twenty and twenty-three, and afterwards between the ages of twenty and twenty-one, but to ballot for all between eighteen and thirty-five of the men engaged in these delicate, difficult, and skilled operations. Now, I should like to know how he will 334 deal with these manufacturing towns, for this is a difficulty from which he will find it impossible to escape. It is all very well for I the Government to take an airing on the British Lion, as was said by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton the other night; but when they came to work the question, and when the balloting system was put in operation, they would find that it was not the great capitalist alone, but the workmen whom they were about to withdraw from their regular and well-paid industry, Who would be the steady and implacable enemies to the measure now proposed. It is not only taking a man who is earning 3s. or 4s. a day, and subjecting him to all the evil influences to a drill in the militia, but it is breaking a link in that chain in which you may do twenty times the mischief that would ensue if you only took an unskilled workman or an agricultural labourer. I wish, through the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, to examine these facts which I have laid before you. I am afraid that the taking of 80,000 men for the militia would be the bringing of great evils upon this country. There are two evils which the military spirit creates. The one is that in times of great suffering and of great political excitement, you would have the people refer to arms and to conflicts in the streets as the remedy for their political grievances, rather than to debates and divisions in this House. Or you may breed amongst them a military spirit, which will lead the Kingdom to tolerate great armies, and great armies, as all the world by this time is informed, are of all things most dangerous to the security and permanent freedom of nations. If it were possible that the countries of Europe could be as free from the military spirit as this country now is, it would be impossible that the tyrannies we now see could exist. There can be no fear for the liberties of the country until, through the culture of this military spirit, you shall have taught the people to tolerate a great army, and that great army in some future day—in the days of our children or our grandchildren—may be as hostile to the liberties of our people as the armies of France have been to the liberties of the French people. What I want of the right hon. Gentleman is, that as there is no immediate urgency, not to press on this Bill in the present position of the Government, and in the present condition of the House. If we come back after the dissolution—some of us are destined to come back, and some of us not— 335 but such of us as come back after the dissolution may have from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or from his successor, to consider a Bill of this nature. Well, if we have time to consider, I probably cannot give the House any expectation of a change in my views; but we shall have an opportunity of taking the opinion of our constituencies upon the subject. I have an admirable precedent for this. The hon. Gentleman is going to take the sense of the country upon a question of even greater importance than keeping out the French— the keeping out of French corn instead of French bayonets. Seeing, then, that there is no immediate urgency, that the Government is in a minority in this House, and that Parliament is not in a very steady position, and that hon. Members are indisposed to give that laborious attention to a Bill like the present, which contains 136 clauses—I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, as we are going to the country upon another question, we had not better submit this likewise to its consideration? I have heard that of the constituency of Sheffield, which has never polled 4,000, no fewer than 2,500 have signed a memorial against this project of the militia. Such a remonstrance cannot fail to have great effect upon any Member, and therefore I certainly think we had better appeal to the whole country for its decision. The specific object for which I rose is to ask whether, if this Bill be carried by a majority, the Government will not lay it on the table, and take its second reading after we come back from the election, and when we may give this most important subject our best consideration, and when our decision may be the decision of the country.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he had had no intention of addressing the House on the present occasion, but some opinions which had been expressed by the bon. Gentleman who had just sat down, induced him to trespass for a few moments on the attention of the House. The hon. Gentleman had talked of the gravity with which the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had asked the hon. Member and those who thought with him to permit the Bill to be introduced to the House; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman had erred in expecting that the hon. Gentleman, who was so sensitive with respect to a "pugnacious admirals, and belligerent major-generals," would exercise so much forbearance as to permit a measure the principle of which had been approved by the House, to be 336 laid on the table. The hon. Gentleman had also severely censured the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston); but he was hardly so charitable as might have been expected of him with regard to the motives which actuated public men in the course they took on great and important questions. Notwithstanding, however, the weight of the hon. Gentleman's censure—and he admitted that the censure must be estimated by its weight and the height from which it fell—he (Mr. Whiteside) was still of opinion that the public would have little difficulty in deciding whether the noble Lord, in the course he had taken on this question, had been actuated by unworthy motives, or by a patriotic desire to serve the best interests of his country. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) had urged them to leave the question of a militia to the decision of the hustings. Was this the constitution of England? Was every question to be submitted to the hustings? Were Members of that House mere delegates, bound to act according to the instructions of their constituents? or were they to give their constituents the benefit of their judgment, their knowledge, their reason, and their experience upon the questions which were submitted to them? The hon. Gentleman had said he would not argue the question with them; and he (Mr. Whiteside) must do him the justice to say that he had not argued the question. Whenever the hon. Gentleman spoke on questions connected with the manufacturers, he always listened to him with interest, because he was sure to derive instruction and profit from him; but he must frankly say that the same vigorous intellect was not apparent when the hon. Gentleman talked upon questions with which he was not particularly acquainted. He (Mr. Whiteside) wished to ask the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) —for whom he entertained a strong personal respect, and who, he admitted, was entitled to the respect of every Member of the House on account of the constituency he represented, and his own great ability—he appealed to the hon. Member whether when he spoke of seeing universal peace on earth established, he really believed that the present condition of the world afforded any evidence of the near approach of that happy state of things? Did he really see rational liberty making progress, and virtue and justice triumphant? He rather thought he did not. And when the 337 bon. Member talked of their addressing the French Government to disband their soldiers and get rid of their ships, he wished to ask the hon. Member if he would undertake to be the ambassador on such an embassy? An hon. Member had spoken of the danger which this measure was intended to guard against as infinitesimal; but with great respect for that hon. Member he begged to say that the importance of a danger was to be estimated not so much by the greatness of the assailing force, as by the inestimable value of the object threatened. Now, in the present case, the object threatened was the security of the empire; and it was of importance to protect this even from a small danger, if it were only for the happiness and contentment which it would secure. It was a wise economy to expend what was just for the preservation of the people. The hon. Gentleman said, that nations would never be contented and peaceable until they had liberty and justice fairly administered among them. If that were so throughout Europe, there wore ample materials for rebellions, convulsions, and revolutions; and notwithstanding all her efforts to the contrary, England might be dragged into the quarrel. As regarded Prance, he admitted that while France had a constitutional Government and free discussion the danger of invasion was less; and he rejoiced to hear from hon. Members on both sides of the House that there was no danger to be apprehended from that country at present. But suppose the press were extinguished—suppose free discussion to be suppressed, and the whole civil and military power centered in the hands of one individual—would any one say that there would not be just grounds for circumspection and precaution? But invasions had not merely been threatened by Napoleon Bonaparte: his (Mr. Whiteside's) country had been actually twice invaded by the French, and a client of his had been prosecuted for a speech inviting the French for a third time to invade Ireland. These were fair grounds, therefore, for assuming that an invasion might take place. It was to give protection to all classes in that country that the late Ministry—that the present Ministry—that a majority of that House, and he believed a majority of the country, would give its support to the present measure—a measure calculated to ensure the security and tranquillity of the country, and enable 338 it to make still more rapid strides in prosperity.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he admitted that the ordinary course, when a measure had been prepared by the Government, was, that the House allowed it to be brought in; and he was anxious that that should be done. But he was anxious that that step should be taken for the very reason stated by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), for he (Mr. Roebuck) wished the country to decide upon this Bill in precisely the same way as was proposed with regard to another great measure. All he desired was, that, without dividing against the Bill, it should be laid on the table of the House, with the understanding that the sense of the country was to be taken upon it, as well as upon other measures. He understood, from the statements made in the other House, that it was the wish of the present Government not to go to the country upon one isolated measure, but; upon the general tone of their policy. Assuredly this was the most important question of their Administration. To show that he did not concur in the principle of the hon. Member for Manchester, he believed there ought to be some defence, of this country. But before they assented to extraordinary means of defence, they ought, as on many previous occasions, thoroughly to sift the mode in which they employed their present resources. Having determined that, if those resources were not sufficient, he should he prepared to support hon. Gentlemen opposite in a distinct appropriation for increasing our regular military force; for he was of opinion that the division of labour entered into the business of fighting as well as everything else; and he would rather see 10,000 efficient regulars, if they were needed, added to the Army, than 80,000 good artisans converted into militiamen, making very bad soldiers. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not now, without going to the country, with regard to a matter on which the country had been thoroughly tried, upon a point of opinion which had been sifted for many years past, on which he had taken a determinate line of conduct—if he would not now come and ask Parliament to decide on that, but said they were about to go to the country upon that point, which was well understood, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman was it fair, was it wise, was it politic in him, as a mere partisan politician, to say he would 339 ask the House of Commons to decide a point which was not sifted, not yet made thoroughly known to the country, and, where known, had created great dissension and strong feeling—was it politic to take a course with respect to the second different from that which he had determined to pursue with regard to the first? There were principles in this Bill which he (Mr. Roebuck) could not support. He believed a regular army was the thing for this country, if required for additional defence, with the addition of voluntary support. But that was not the question he was now mooting. All he asked was, that the right hon. Gentleman should lay the Bill on the table of the House, submit it to the consideration of the country, and let it be decided by the country.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, as a Member of a large constituency, he wished to join his entreaties to those of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, that Her Majesty's Ministers would place the Bill upon the table and take the opinion of the country upon it.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, in answer to the question put by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and backed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, he would remind the House that this Bill was brought in in obedience to a decision of the House. He could only add that it was not the intention of the Government to press it hastily, but to give the House and the country a fair time for consideration. They would proceed with the measure, but would not bring on the second reading until after the Easter recess.
§ Question put, and agreed to.