Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [3rd May], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." And which Amendment was—
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'to enable this House the better to consider the provisions of the Militia Bill, a Return of the Effective Force of the Royal Navy on the 31st day of March last be laid on the Table of the House.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
wished to explain that his having moved the adjournment on the previous evening was not from any want of deference to the House, but he knew that several Gentlemen on his side were desirous of addressing it, and he himself had risen five or six times without having had the good fortune to catch the Speaker's eye. He himself wished to make a few observations on behalf of the city he represented (Bath), which had sent a petition against the Bill, signed by 1,500 persons. Upwards of a thousand petitions had been presented, of which 99 in every 100 were against the principle of the Bill, and not against the ballot. The hon. Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland had alluded to the circumstance that a French fleet had reached Killala, on the Irish coast, during the late war; but the hon. Gentleman forgot to state that that fleet was entirely dispersed, and the greater number of the vessels captured. It was with great astonishment that he had listened to two nights' long debates on this subject, and had scarcely heard the Navy spoken of; or, if it was spoken of, it was only to say that under present circumstances, and with the advance of science, the utility of the Navy had passed away. 200 Although we had the largest Navy in the world, and although other nations, in consideration of our insular position, did not attempt to compete with us in this respect, yet we wanted to vie with the military forces of other nations; and this Militia Bill, if it was passed, would be the first step in that direction. He took it for granted that whatever nation had the command of the sea would usually be successful in its operations, and certainly in landing its troops; while a nation whose enemy commanded the sea would certainly have no success in expeditions on a large scale, if in any. Owing to our having the command of the sea, we had always effected our purposes when we wanted to attack any spot; and had by this means taken Malta, the Cape of Good Hope, and various colonies scattered over the world. It was through our naval power that Wellington first set foot in Portugal, and that long, expensive, and glorious war was sustained by the supplies and recruits which our command of the sea enabled us to send there. And, on the other hand, notwithstanding all the large military resources, the wealth, and skill of France, yet, from not having the command of the sea, she was not able, during the twenty years of the war, to obtain any footing in Ireland, Scotland, or any part of our dominions. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had in his speech the other evening commented on the additional means and facilities of attack which steam had given to our enemies. He (Captain Scobell) replied, that it increased our means of defence to at least an equal, but he thought to a greater extent. The noble Lord had also remarked upon the means which the French possessed at Cherbourg for the embarcation of an invading force, and upon the rapidity and facility with which they might cross the Channel; and he said that all our forts and our gun-brigs (the noble Lord forgot that our Navy did not wholly consist of gun-brigs) would be unable to prevent an enemy from landing who was determined to do so. But even if such a force as the noble Lord contemplated could get across the Channel, the landing of 50,000 or 60,000 men, with the material and baggage of the army, would occupy not hours but days, and before that could be accomplished our naval force would arrive and cut their fleet to pieces, while the few troops which might have landed would be obliged to surrender themselves prisoners. 201 The Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) had, in his speech on the previous evening, talked of the French fleet having escaped from Brest during the late war; but all the escapes from our blockading forces during the late war occurred just at the heel of a gale, and before our force, which had been driven off, had been able to resume its position. That, however, would not do in the case of an invasion, because, in order that they might effect a landing, the enemy's fleet must come out in fair weather. It had been said that we were placed at a disadvantage with respect to Prance by the narrowness of the Channel; but he contended, on the contrary, that the narrower the Channel the more easily was it watched. He believed that if there was any real alarm of invasion, a few thousand men on board steam vessels would, with the present force of France, prevent any attempt being made. He would put 8,000 men (seamen, officers, and marines) on board twenty-four steamers—three of 60 guns, five screw frigates, six first-class steamers, and ten second class; and with this force he believed we should be perfectly safe. He quite agreed that sailing vessels could not do the service that steam vessels could, and he, therefore, thought that the naval force for the defence of our coast should be composed entirely of the latter description of vessels. But he might be asked whether he proposed to add these 8,000 men to the Navy? Now, to a considerable extent, he agreed with the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden), who said that we might bring home from various foreign stations a sufficient number of vessels and men for our home defence. But the fact was that we had even now at home the force to which he had just referred. We had now three line-of-battle ships at Spit-head, and one at Plymouth, having on board 3,350 men, besides the Leander and Arethusa frigates, and some other vessels, whose crews would together make up the 8,000 men he required. Now, if it was thought that an invasion was imminent, all that would be necessary would be to place these men in steam vessels, and place them at such stations along the coast as some skilful commander might advise. The same Navy which had hitherto kept the enemy from our shores, would, if it was encouraged, kept in an efficient state, and stationed in those places where it was wanted, continue to defend us from any invasion, whether in time of peace or of 202 war. Napoleon, although he had the means of coming across the Channel, did not attempt to invade us, because he said he could not hope to succeed unless he had the command of the Channel for a week or ton days. Let us take care that we never, by sending our forces away in different directions, and not keeping sufficient at home, left our shores unprotected, or that for a short time an enemy had a superior force in the Channel; for in that case this country would be no longer impregnable. He would recommend the House to expend the money which it was proposed to lay out on this militia upon the completion of our harbours of refuge, and in the construction of an additional one between Portsmouth and Dovor, which are 120 miles apart; he believed that a suitable site had been recommended near Dungeness. Nobody felt more strongly than he did that every one would be startled at the feats which would be performed by steam vessels should war occur; but these feats would not be on one side alone; the power of steam would give us new means, both of annoyance and defence, and would enable us to laugh to scorn the fears now expressed of our vulnerability. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. P. Howard) had on a former evening said, that, having voted with the noble Lord the Member for London on the first Militia Bill, he felt bound to vote for the second Bill. Now, he (Captain Scobell) had also voted with the noble Lord on the division on the first Militia Bill, because it was evident that the Motion to strike out the word "local" had an object beyond that contained in its terms, and that its real purpose was the one that it answered. He then voted with the noble Lord too, because that was simply a Motion for leave to bring in a Bill, and he understood that it was very rarely that that was refused to a Prime Minister. But he should have voted against the seccond reading of that Bill, had it reached that stage, and he, therefore, felt that he was perfectly at liberty without any breach of consistency to oppose the present Bill. He believed that the subject of the efficiency and capability for defence of our naval force, if properly stationed, was not fully understood, or, if understood, was not fairly admitted. He would impress it upon the Government that before they entangled themselves with this Bill, which was evidently unpopular with the country, they should give greater facilities for the transfer of any reasonable number of men 203 into the steam vessels now fitted out, and should increase the available steam force; if they thought the midnight marauder might be expected on our shores, let us meet him on that element where victory was sure. He was quite certain that if war arrived, it would be proved that England's safety would be found not in the militia, but in those "wooden walls" which had upheld her glory and protected her dominions in the most perilous periods of her history.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, that it was the opinion of the greatest military authorities that the defences of the country required strengthening. If a foe were seen on our shores, the question would not he, what was the opinion of Members of that House, but what were the dispositions of the Duke of Wellington—where did Hardinge command—or to what part of the coast was Napier going? It was therefore their duty now to listen to the opinion of these men, who had at all times given good counsel to the nation; and then this peril would never arise. He did not mean to underrate the power and efficiency of the Royal Navy, for which noble service he had the most sincere admiration and respect; hut he thought that we ought not to rely wholly on our Navy, but that we should take such measures as would enable this country to resist her enemies with equal effect on land or on sea. The most practical work that had been published on the state of our defences, and one which had attracted more attention than any other, was that written by a foreign officer, Baron Maurice, an independent gentleman, who was assuredly actuated by no feeling of hostility to this country. In this work Baron Maurice clearly showed that the proper way to attack this country would not he by endeavouring to land a single large army, but by sending out from the opposite coast several detachments of 10,000, or 15,000, or 20,000 men, who should endeavour to reach different parts of the coast of this island, and should have a common rendezvous. That was the sort of attack that we must prepare to meet, and not an invasion by a force of 50,000 or 60,000 men. It was worthy of remark that no statesman of any distinction had ventured to dispute the positions taken up by Baron Maurice, and amongst distinguished politicians of all parties there seemed to he absolutely unanimity on the necessity of strengthening, by some means or another, our military establishments. 204 He quite agreed with hon. Members who said that it was the interest of France to remain at peace. The immense advances that she had made since the peace in the arts of civilisation—greater than any country in Europe except Belgium—were attributable to the fact of her having enjoyed external peace, and had been made in spite of the internal disquietude under which she had suffered; and that external peace was very much due to the good understanding which she had enjoyed with this country. But he had not read history to so little effect as not to know that the population of a country were not always governed by their interest; but that on the contrary private pique, ambition, emulation, personal or national hatred, not to say the lust of conquest, would frequently throw the most friendly nations into antagonism; and it was against such an eventuality that we were now called upon to provide. It was our duty to provide against the possibility of any danger arising from hostilities; and his conviction was, that the bravery of our population, and our geographical position, would enable us to do this perfectly. He did not think that service in the militia would be oppressive or distasteful to the people of this country. He could not forget that in the last war 400,000 men came forward to act as volunteers; he believed that the spirit of the country was not less patriotic now than then, and that we should have plenty of volunteers if the country were really exposed to danger. He would venture to suggest that a large militia force was difficult to raise and discipline except through the medium of a large army: the last time the militia was enrolled, there were plenty of non-commissioned officers ready to drill the men; and this was one of the reasons which caused that force to be so effective. He did not know whether they were all agreed as to the difference between a regular and a local militia. As he understood it, the regular militia was a force which might be embodied for five years, and which might be called out by the Government in time of war. They were now at war; and if the Bill were passed for a regular militia, it would be in the power of the Government to take every man in that militia and keep him for a certain number of days. The consequence was that he would be disabled from engaging in any other occupation. The local militia, on the contrary, would be embodied merely for the purpose of training in their own neighbourhood, 205 and would never be marched away from it except in case of actual invasion, or when there was peril of invasion. An hon. Gentleman behind him had said that he should wish to have a Committee appointed to make an inquiry with respect to the national defences; and a Committee or Commission so appointed might make a report that would be extremely satisfactory to the country. During the last war, we had 200,000 of the militia enrolled, exclusive of cavalry, foot guards, and colonial regiments; and the whole disposable force in the country at that time was 600,000 men. It was contended that service in the militia would corrupt the men who composed it, and that therefore it would become distasteful and unpopular with the public; but he did not believe it, because the examples set by the soldiers and non-commissioned officers in well conducted regiments of the line, was such as to inspire confidence and respect in the force. He did not see any reason why a militia volunteer should have a bounty of 6l., while the recruits of the line only got 4l., or, in fact, less than 1l., because more than 3l. was stopped for their kit. He believed they could not succeed in reducing the expenditure for the military forces as long as they remained divided under the command of so many departments. There were no less than five departments connected with the military establishments of the country, and this necessarily led to considerable expense. The Infantry, Cavalry, and Guards were under the Horse Guards; the Artillery and Engineers under the Ordnance; the Pensioners under the Secretary at War; the Militia under the Secretary of State; the Commissariat under the Treasury. He did not believe that our national defences were in such an efficient state as they ought to be. He considered that railways would afford great facilities in the moving about the troops; but he should observe that there was a portion of the coast still without the defence of a railway—namely, the country between Dorchester and Exeter. He did not believe their fortresses were in the state of preparation they should be in. He was informed that there were forts at Portsmouth and Plymouth, the bridges of which were so defective that it was impossible to carry a heavy gun over, without first shoring them up; and it was a shame that they should be spending money on that building (the Houses of Parliament), and in procuring comforts for themselves, when the sums so 206 expended would put their fortresses in a state of preparation that would render them invulnerable. The property of the country was estimated at 200,000,000l., and it was calculated that an outlay of 10,000,000l. or 12,000,000l. upon national defences would make the country invulnerable against all attacks. This was a very small assurance to secure the safety of such an immense amount of wealth. He trusted they would endeavour to make their military force efficient, and at the same time as little burdensome and inconvenient to the mass of the people as would be consistent with its efficiency. The hon. Baronet concluded by expressing his intention to support the Bill.
§ MR. GRANTLEY BERKELEY
said, he never saw the Opposition benches so chapfallen as they then were. The only appearance of gaiety among them in the proceedings of last night was that displayed by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley), who, with a naiveté peculiar to himself, asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to agree to the adjournment of the debate, because he intended to offer the measure every opposition in his power. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden) said, that, with the exception of the question of free trade, there was no question that suited him so well to go to the country with as the present. It appeared, then, that the hon. Gentleman must always have a political grievance; for if he had not some measure to stir up the masses peculiarly at his command, his political life would become a nonentity. He should like to know how these petitions, which they had heard so much spoken of, were obtained. How was it that his county, which was one of considerable importance, had never sent him a petition to present against the Bill. The great manufacturing towns, in which the hon. Member had so much power, were the only places from which these petitions emanated. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), when speaking of this subject, like Bob Acres, felt his courage oozing out of his finger ends. That hon. Gentleman said that the Army and Navy were forgotten that moment in favour of what he called the blundering, miserable, and undisciplined horde that would constitute their militia force. The House ought to mark well the difference of the language used by the hon. Member in speaking of the people when addressing these persons out of doors, and when he spoke of them 207 in that House. The hon. Member also said that a political panic was sometimes got up for the purpose of trading on it. He (Mr. G. Berkeley) would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he did not know of such a panic being got up for the purpose of exciting the hostility of the people against the Government; and that language was uttered on such occasions outside of the House which dared not be uttered inside of it. Why, at the first gathering of the Anti-Corn-Law League there was language used which was well calculated to excite rebellion. The hon. Member for Manchester last night was pleased to attach to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) the title of Mrs. Jellaby. Now he (Mr. G. Berkeley) recollected reading of two characters described by the same author, which he thought were singularly applicable to that hon. Member and the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, namely, Unhappy John and Misery Dick. For his own part, he (Mr. G. Berkeley) was a friend of peace, but he agreed with the Spanish proverb, that one sword drawn kept many others in their scabbards. He had the highest opinion of the proposed force. He recollected that during the war, many men had volunteered from the South Gloucestershire militia into the regular Army; and if they were to put the militiamen between the troops of the line, he had no doubt that they would prove quite as effective as the regular soldiers. He should certainly support the Bill, because he was convinced that it was the most constitutional and appropriate measure that could be devised for our national defence.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
wished to take that opportunity of saying a few words in explanation of a statement he had made on a former occasion, about which there had been some misapprehension, in consequence, he believed, of the noise that prevailed in the House at the time, and which he was precluded by the forms of the House from explaining in reply. What he then stated was, that there were 80 field guns that might be made available for the defence of the metropolis; and he also went on to say that there were four companies out of ten of the marine artillery on shore, as fine troops as any in the world, and that he saw no difficulty in their being provided with horses in case of emergency, though they might not be fit for field service. Now that statement, in so far as there being 80 pieces of artillery 208 available, was borne out by the evidence adduced before the Committee of Military Inquiry; and as to providing horses for such a force, he spoke not theoretically but practically, for he had himself gone into action with horses that had never been trained for that purpose, but had been picked up a few days before at the farm houses on the roadside, and they had performed very good service. He believed that the marine artillery could supply 20 more guns, and that horses might easily be procured in London for the protection of the metropolis, so that there might he 100 altogether, in case of emergency. He objected to the militia, because he did not think that species of force was efficient for a momentary occasion; and he stated that our means of defence had been very much underrated. He had also gone on to show that there was no immediate danger before us, and that we had at home a very formidable force to defend us. Now, according to the Estimates, he found that we had of rank and file 51,800, with 6,600 officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, making together 58,400; then there were at home three-fifths of the Ordnance corps, consisting of 15,000, which gave us 9,000 more; or, in all, 67,400. He had said, also, that if this metropolis were exposed to danger, it would be the duty of the Government to bring troops from the different parts of the empire, but he did not say it would be right to do that for a permanence. Then he said, that according to the Estimates, there were 5,300 marines on shore, and 5,700 afloat; and, in case of emergency, he did think that if it were necessary to strengthen the Army, 5,000 men of that force ought to be available, and that would raise the number of men to 72,400. Then there were 16,000 old pensioners and others, of whom he thought they might calculate on 10,000 for a few days' service, so that the entire force available for defence would be raised to 83,000 men. He admitted that complaints were made, and justly made, by the illustrious Duke now the Commander-in-Chief, when he was in command of the army in the Peninsula, that the Government at home overestimated his force most enormously, and forgot that a vast number of his force was non-effective; but when the noble Duke made that statement, there were non-effectives to an amount beyond any likely to exist in a time of peace; he believed that at that time one-third 209 of the army were in hospital. But then he was told that the rank and file only ought to be counted, and that the officers, non-commissioned officers, and drummers ought to be omitted. Why they were not to be counted as part of the force, he could not understand. If, however, these deductions were to be made from our army, they must also he made from the enemy's army. It had been said that an army of 400,000 Frenchmen were at the disposal of one man. He altogether repudiated the exaggerations that had been made on this subject. A Baron Maurice, a major in the Swiss army, had written a book, in which he showed how the British empire might with the utmost facility be occupied and conquered by a French army. He thought the Baron was not extremely well acquainted with the subject. He proposed to plant three great armies on our shores; but where did the House suppose the main army was to be deposited? He proposed to send 70,000, with 200 or 300 pieces of cannon, 10 sail of the line, and he (Sir De L. Evans) knew not how many frigates, to take the port of Rye, and the troops and field-pieces were afterwards to be conveyed to Blackheath to commence operations. Now, he (Sir De Lacy Evans) once represented Rye, and he could state that it was a mud port, and colliers with great difficulty—even with skilful pilots—could enter it. Such statements as these ought to be disregarded as monstrous and ridiculous; and though unquestionably it was the duty of the Government to look forward and see that this country was placed in a perfect state of defence, yet it was not right to endeavour to carry any measure of this sort on the strength of such publications as these, or by representing that our national forces were so infinitely less than he firmly believed they were. He had said nothing about the 13,000 mounted yeomanry, though he considered them a very good force, and believed they would be found extremely troublesome customers in the flank and rear of a French army, if they attempted to show themselves in this country. But he did not believe there was any intention on the part of France to invade this country; though he must say we were putting their good sense to a severe test. He believed that the head of the French Government had too much knowledge of the power, and courage, and innumerable resources of this country to vindicate its independence, if assailed, to en- 210 tertain the project of invading our shores. It was stated that there were 400,000 French troops on the opposite shore; but the fact was not so. The actual amount, according to the French army estimates for this year, was 369,000, and from that must be deducted 70,000 for Algiers; so that 100,000 men were at once to be struck off from the supposed army of France. Then there were 16,000 officers, and 22,000 non-commissioned officers, making 38,500 together, which were also to be deducted, if the number of our own officers—though he could not understand why—were to be so, from the number of our own force; then there were 23,000 drummers and trumpeters, who ought also on the same principle to be deducted. But there was in the French estimates one class which we had not in ours; they considered as part of their army the infantry and cavalry police, or the Gendarmes—they numbered 21,000; but that force was not available for the purposes of invasion; it was absolutely necessary for the local government of France, and carried it on in fact far more than our police. If, however, that formed part of the French army, then we ought not to lose sight of the 12,000 Irish police, who were quite as good, and in his opinion better soldiers than the gendarmerie of France. He knew no troops in the world he should count on as better than the Irish police; they were not exercised in battalions, but the general duties in which they were employed in responsible service, made them fit for any duty, and rendered them most valuable troops in case of emergency. The French also included in their estimates 4,000 enfans de corps: these could hardly be said to be available for the purposes of invasion. Then, look to the number of men invalided. The average of the British army was 4½ per cent, or 3,000 for the whole force at home; but the number for the army of France would be 13,500. That number, therefore, must be deducted, and, counting all those together, he might put them at another 100,000 men in round numbers to be deducted from the 300,000. There then remained only 200,000; but did the House suppose the whole of that force would be available immediately for some ambitious project? No such thing. There was in the time of Louis Philippe never a less garrison in Paris and its neighbourhood than from 50,000 to 60,000; and he believed he was underrating it now if he said the present 211 number was 70,000. Lyons and the country around it, and its entrenched camp, also required 30,000; and he believed it was impossible for the French Government to leave either of those two great cities without garrisons of those amounts, however ambitious they might be. Thus there went another 100,000. What remained? Only 100,000. He would suppose there was nothing else to be looked to in France—no great military Powers on the frontier. He would suppose that 100,000 men of the French army were quite available to be sent over here some fine summer morning. If they did, he would venture to say that with the deductions that would have to be made before they came into general action with the British Army, they would still be inferior to us in number, besides the immense advantage we should have in fighting in our own country and choosing our own positions for combat, with a brave and patriotic population to support our army, and thwart in every way that of an enemy. But there was no such thing as 100,000 men of the French army available at present after making deductions for those indispensably occupied in garrisons. The French had eighty garrisons to provide for, some of which they could not leave without considerable protection, such as Strasburg, Belfort, Metz, Lille. He (Sir De L. Evans) did not believe the French Government could really collect 30,000 men for the purpose supposed. Be that, however, as it might, he did not suppose they were so insane as to enter into a bootless war with the English people. He did not profess to know anything of naval affairs, but there was an evident disposition, both among the past and present Secretaries of War and of the Admiralty, to diminish the supposed amount of the effective forces of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wilts (Mr. Sidney Herbert), in one part of his speech the other night, estimated that 17,000, and in another, so few as 12,000, would be available for the defence of the capital; but in the event of an invasion, the right hon. Gentleman calculated that so many troops would have to be sent to Dover, the Channel Islands, and other places, that he (Sir De L. Evans) feared that London would, according to the right hon. Gentlemen, be left without any troops whatever for its defence. Another right hon. Gentleman, a former Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. Corry), towards the 212 end of his speech seemed completely to concur in the objects of the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding, and to confirm the argument as to the erroneous distribution of our naval force. Undoubtedly the force that might disembark on our shores would not have any sick among them; but at the same time it should be borne in mind that they could not advance from the coast where they disembarked without leaving troops to cover the points on which this had been effected, both for their own retreat, and to favour future disembarcations. He believed that if 80,000 men disembarked to-morrow on the coast, scarcely 50,000 of them would be available for action after advancing fifty miles into the country. If, however, we were to have a Militia Bill at all, he thought that of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) would have been less objectionable than that of the Government, inasmuch as the noble Lord made allowance, among other differences, for volunteers and the local police force. According to the noble Lord's Bill, the metropolis would not have had to furnish one man, because there was a police force available of 6,000 or 7,000, besides a volunteer rifle corps of probably 3,000 or 4,000. As for war, he (Sir De L. Evans) did not believe in its probability. He, on the contrary, believed that if any such invasion were attempted, the inevitable consequence would be—first, that the fleet which conveyed the invaders would be destroyed by our Navy; and the next result would be the destruction or capitulation of the invading troops, and the fall of the Chief of that Government which should undertake so rash an enterprise. In 1848 the French army amounted to 502,000 men, which had since been reduced by 132,000; but notwithstanding which, the Government of this country now deemed it necessary to come forward with this Militia Bill. In 1812 the French army amounted to 943,000 men; in 1813, to 1,107,000; during the hundred days of Napoleon, to 559,000; in 1832, to 426,000; in 1840,to 415,000; in 1848, to 502,000; and within the last three years it had been reduced to 370,000. With these facts before him, he did not apprehend those serious dangers which formed the topic of such general conversation. It was out of the power of any nation to conquer this kingdom. If, indeed, our whole population became manufacturing, we should, perhaps, become so unmilitary in our pursuits and habitudes that there might be danger; but 213 the variety of classes and occupations of our people were a great advantage to us. We had physical strength and courage among the agricultural population, great intelligence and mechanical power among the manufacturing, and these with our vast wealth were great elements of national strength and defence. He did not, in fact, believe that we were really in any serious danger from the hostile attempts of any nation in the world.
§ MR. BERESFORD
said, that, as to the mass of figures which had been adduced by the hon. and gallant Member with respect to the number and disposal of the French Army, he should not attempt to reply, for he owned that he did not possess the necessary documents which would enable him to do so, but he should confine himself to the statement which the gallant General had made respecting our own forces and their efficiency for national defence, and in so doing he should quote a few statistics from official returns which he did possess. With regard to the efficiency of the available force which we were in a position to bring into the field, the original statement upon that subject was made by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and was not made without due consideration. His right hon. Friend stated that the utmost force which could be brought into the field was 25,000; the hon. and gallant Member impugned that statement, and declared that the sum total of the Army which could be efficiently brought into the field was 85,000, and this assertion he had put forth again to-night. In making out that number he (Mr. Beresford) was prepared to admit that the hon. and gallant Member had included the officers in his calculation, and that in the official returns the rank and file only were given, which was the ordinary way in which these returns were made up. But he had no objection to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the officers. He would not say that the officers of the British Army were not as brave and as available for the field as any set of men who ever entered it; and he should be sorry to except them, therefore, from the number of those who would be ready in an emergency to draw their swords in defence of their country. In calculating the number of infantry which could be brought into the field, however, the hon. and gallant Member included the army in Ireland, which he (Mr. Beresford) entirely omitted; and he not only maintained that he had a fair and just right to except it, but he could appeal to the high 214 authority of the late Premier, who the other night entirely excluded that force from being available for the defence of Great Britain, and said that he considered that no man, responsible for the government of the country, and no officer responsible for the defence of Ireland, could withdraw a single man from that country in the event of an invasion of this. He (Mr. Beresford) readily acceded to that proposition. He believed the noble Lord was right, and that the noble Lord had fair and just reasons, grounded on official information, for making the statement. Therefore, he thought he might properly exclude the 21,000 rank and file who were now stationed in Ireland. The same argument, and the same reasons, would operate in like manner with regard to the armed police force in Ireland; and a better or more efficient force than that he believed could not exist. Raised, as it was, from among the lower classes in that country, irrespective of creed or religion, it furnished a distinct and satisfactory proof of what reliance might be placed on the population of Ireland. It showed that Irishmen were capable of being entrusted with arms, and that we need not be afraid of reposing confidence in them. But he maintained that if the number of police were necessary to be maintained in Ireland in a time of profound peace, it was quite as necessary, to say the least, that it should be kept there when apprehensions were entertained of the country being invaded by a foreign foe. [Sir DE L.EVANS: I did not include them.] The hon. and gallant Member, however, suggested that there was a fine force there which might be brought over. The hon. and gallant Member stated that there were 16,000 pensioners, but he did not take the trouble to inform the House, that of this number there was above 6,000 in Ireland; and though the pensioners might be excellent troops when placed behind walls, yet they were not troops of such activity or physical power as to be removable from one part of the kingdom to another. Having therefore deducted the army in Ireland, consisting of 21,000 men, from the total number of our forces in the United Kingdom, there would be left in England only 39,172 men, inclusive of 5,029 cavalry. But with regard to cavalry as a defensive force, he did not think that any high professional authority would maintain that the southern portion of England was a description of country in which they could be made very available for that purpose. It was infan- 215 try and artillery which were required to be brought to those points. Deducting the 5,029 cavalry, therefore, from the force of 39,172, there would remain 34,143 infantry, artillery, sappers and miners, and guards. Moreover, a further deduction must be made for the non-effective service. He held in his hand an official return of the effective force of six different regiments now serving in this country and in Ireland, and he found that, including recruits at drill, there were, upon the average, about 205, or nearly one-fourth of the establishment of each regiment, non-efficient. Without the recruits, who were at present very numerous, it was 142, or about one-sixth. He considered, therefore, that one-fifth would be a fair deduction to make from the infantry regiments, leaving the remainder as the effective portion to be brought into the field. Thus would the number of available infantry and artillery be reduced to 27,314. As to the distribution of the Army, and the number necessary for the defence of our arsenals, dockyards, and forts, he had consulted the highest authorities—that of the Commander-in-Chief, the Master General of the Ordnance, and the Commandant of the Engineers. The highest amount of force which these gallant officers calculated upon as necessary for holding arsenals, forts, &c, was 33,000 infantry and artillery; the next amount was about 30,000, and the lowest, 28,000 men. He would take, then, the amount as at 28,000 men. Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney, with its new harbour, would take 5,000 men; the Thames, including Sheerness, Chatham, Tilbury, Purfleet, the Tower, Deptford, Woolwich, and its other dependencies, 8,000 men; Dovor, 2,000 men; Portsmouth, 5,000 men; Plymouth, 5,000 men; Pembroke, and other detached places, 3,000; in all, 28,000 men. Adding to the artillery, guards, and infantry, the pensioners and some other available forces, they would have a total strength of 34,280 rank and file. From this let the 28,000 men, which the highest authorities declare absolutely necessary for the garrisons of our arsenals, forts, and dockyards, be deducted, and the entire active force at their command would be but 6,280 rank and file; to which he would add, 4,023 cavalry—which were not suitable for service in the southern counties, on account of the nature of the ground, and 261 sappers and miners, and the whole force they would have to meet an in- 216 vading army—a force which all must admit was certainly not adequate to oppose such an army as would be brought by an enemy to support an invasion of this country—would be only 10,564 men. How, then, could they obtain an available force to meet the enemy in the field? By this very militia now before the House. Such a force, though they might be called a rabble, would be able to hold the garrisons and forts. With arms in their hands, they might safely be placed behind walls, with a few old soldiers to direct them; and they would maintain those walls safely, valiantly, and bravely for their country. Thus an available force of infantry would be placed at the disposal of the general commanding, to march against the invaders; and thereby a force of 30,000 rank and file might be brought into the field, able and willing to do their duty. If the militia was refused, we would be obliged to take able and efficient infantry from the field, and shut them up in the garrisons. That was one of the most cogent reasons for a militia. Other estimates of the force available to this country had been made besides those of the gallant Officer; and the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had estimated it at 100,000 men. If the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) could find in April that there were 90,000 or 100,000 men available, why could he not discover that in January or February, when he digested and prepared his Militia Bill? If there were really 10,000 men available for the defence of the country, why did he propose such a Bill? Surely it was not necessary to go into opposition to find out what was the available force of the country, nor did it require a Minister to go to the other side of the House in order to obtain official returns of the national defences of the kingdom. But the noble Lord's 100,000 men would be found, on examination, nearly as effective as those of the hon. and gallant General (Sir De L. Evans). The hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich) had talked of 200,000 men—
§ MR. BERESFORD
would admit that the militia would be useless if such a force could be produced; but if they were, as he had proved, "men in buckram"—an ideal army—it was absurd to talk about them. There were various branches 217 of military duty for which a militia might be made available in a short time, such as garrisoning forts, guarding baggage, and other duties, which would let loose an equal number of regular troops. The militia would be Englishmen; and amongst the arguments against a plan for militia, it was said we were not a military people, though he contended that we were essentially a military nation. Where was the country that had ever produced better soldiers than England? Look at the late case of the Birkenhead steamer. Would any one tell him that the men who had behaved with such cool courage and with such devotion amid the perils of the vasty deep, would not have fought on land like Britons, and carried devastation into the enemy's ranks? There was more excitement in battle than in perishing in the ocean. Depend on it, the English was as brave a nation as ever lived, and could form as good troops as ever fought or conquered. The difficulty of disembarking a large number of troops had been urged as a safeguard against an invasion; and it was said our army took ten days to disembark at Montego Bay. The French coast was much nearer to us than Cork was to Montego Bay, and steam power now existed. When our troops landed in Montego Bay a very heavy surf was running, and there was great difficulty in getting the boats on shore. But there were instances of debarkation of a totally different and much speedier character, which might be cited; as the landing of troops in Egypt; and, in 1814, the debarkation of troops in North America, under General Ross; in this case they landed on the 19th of August, commenced their march on the 20th, continued it on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, and having marched sixty miles, they fought an action on the 24th, and gained a victory; and amongst those who were mentioned in the commanding officer's despatch as highly deserving of commendation for his zeal and the ability with which he advanced the rapid landing of the troops on that occasion, was Lieutenant Evans, acting deputy Quartermaster General, the hon. and gallant Member who now spoke of the difficulties of landing troops. He thought that if the country remembered that gallant Officer's services, he ought not to forget them himself; but he thought the gallant General's practice was better than his theory: he considered his conduct in the field superior to his counsel in the senate. 218 Again, there was the landing at New Orleans, where the ships rendezvoused at sixty miles from the port, and at Baltimore, where 4,500 troops were landed on one occasion before twelve o'clock in the day, and engaged in action, after a march of seven miles, before four o'clock p.m. It was thus that English troops were accustomed to debark, march, and fight; and he did not see why French troops could not in like manner land with equal rapidity, and engage in action in an equally short time after landing. In favour of the militia scheme there was one argument which had never been controverted. Supposing that they augmented the regular Army instead, could they maintain that augmentation? In the present temper of the House and the country they could not. An addition of 15,000 men to the regular Army would not be sufficient to fill up the garrisons of the country, and yet it would cost 600,000l. The "first year, and 520,000l. every year afterwards; whereas the whole of the estimated expenditure for the militia in the first year would be but 350,000l., and there was every chance of the militia being made an available and good force. Why should they be miserable and inefficient? They were taken from the same class as the regular Army; the same men would make the best of soldiers if they went into the line; and if they were drilled as proposed, by non-commissioned officers of the line, why should they not be in time as effective as regular troops? The force had already the sanction of the highest military authorities in the country. There was a fair prospect of raising the men in the way proposed. In the old militia, which was a good force, nine-tenths were substitutes—men paid not by the bounty of the country, but by those who had been balloted and had hired them; hence it was reasonable to expect that there would be a considerable degree of volunteering on account of the bounty now offered by Government. The population was larger, and that would give a greater amount to draw from. The inducement, moreover, to enter now, would be greater than in the old militia, as the condition of the Army had improved so much since then. There was greater morality and respectability amongst soldiers; they were treated with more consideration; their comforts, their moral and intellectual improvement, their occupations and amusements, their medical attendance, were better cared for. The almost entire cessation of cor- 219 poral punishment had also greatly raised the Army, and respectable men would be induced to enter a service where they were no longer liable to a most degrading stigma. He firmly expected that it would not be necessary to recur to the ballot. It had been said a militia force would interfere with the recruiting for the Army. He did not think this would be the case; the age for the militia was very far above that of the usual class of recruits, and men of a lower stature would be eligible than could or ought to be taken in the Army. The hon. and gallant General (Sir De L. Evans) shook his head at the mention of the low standard; but well-formed, active, broad, and muscular men of small stature could go through a great deal of fatigue, and Could march very well, though they might not look so handsome on parade as a grenadier company. But the whole of these details would be subject to the regulation of the War Office. The militia had always been a great assistance to the recruiting of the Army; some of the finest and largest batches of recruits, during the most wasteful and squanderous expenditure of blood in the Peninsular war had been drawn from the English militia; and the same must occur again. He was certain the regulations would be such as to prevent any interference with the recruiting for the Army. It had been said that it was impossible to make a man taken from the plough or the road a soldier in a short time. It was true they might not make them fit at once to mount guard at St. James's; but troops could easily be got to march together in proper files, and to execute those simple manœuvres which were alone desirable with young troops in the immediate vicinity of an enemy. If they could keep their files together, get into column, and deploy, they would be available for such services as they were wanted to perform. Napoleon Bonaparte, on returning from his disastrous campaign in Russia, commenced raising fresh troops by conscription in January, and by the month of March he had got together and marched into Germany 170,000 men, and fought and won the battle of Lutzen with these very troops in the month of May. That was done with troops raised by compulsion; and he could not help thinking but that troops raised by volunteer enlistment would effect as much as those driven into the ranks by conscription. As for Englishmen not being willing to submit to 220 military service, he did not believe it, nor could he think such an argument admissible. It was the duty and obligation incumbent on all members of the community universally, who were capable of bearing arms, to rise in defence of their country when it was attacked. If it were not so, the same argument might apply to the duties of the police, of jurymen, and every other function which might not be regarded as agreeable. He believed, however, that the proposed scheme of militia was one the least partaking the nature of a grievance that could be devised; all its provisions were of a mitigated nature; the more they were discussed the more every honest and independent man would feel that the Government had brought it forward with an honest desire solely to provide against the country being taken by surprise, and at the same to show that they were determined not to leave the shores of England in an unprotected and defenceless condition.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
said, the statements of the hon. and gallant Member (Sir De L. Evans) would be credited generally, not only in this country but on the Continent. It was well known that all the great Continental Powers had, since 1850, been reducing their forces. No country was more insecure internally, both from her financial condition and other causes, than Austria, and yet she was about to reduce her army by one-third. This reduction has arisen from financial necessity. He therefore could see no reason why we should commence augmenting our forces at the present time. He did not believe the French people had the slightest disposition to engage in war against England; and a report of Marshal Soult, which stated that nobody who had served as a conscript would serve as a substitute subsequently, and that conscripts in the army were continually sending home money from their small savings, in order to keep up their connexion with the village or place in which they were born, showed that the French nation had become averse to war and military service. He (Mr. Macgregor) thought that if any course would lead more to excite the French to declare war against us, it would be some of the debates which had taken place in the House for the purpose of increasing our military force, in which our Army was declared so weak, and our Navy so inefficient. He believed we might bring 12,000 men from our Colonies for the purpose of serving in home defence 221 much sooner than we could organise a militia; and if the Army were so inefficient as it had been described, it was a scandal that the people of this country should be taxed so heavily for its maintenance. He must say that he thought the statement furnished by the Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. Stafford) respecting the naval forces of foreign Powers was not a correct one—especially as regarded France and Russia. With respect to Russia, her fleet had been greatly diminished within the last ten years. Ships of war were then called "the Emperor's toys." In 1840 Russia had 56 ships of the line—30 in the Gulf of Finland, and 26 in the Black Sea—with 48 frigates, and also a few steamers, which latter class of vessels had been latterly built in England. At present the naval force of Russia consisted of 45 ships of the line, being 11 less than in 1840. Of these 27 were in the Baltic, and 18 in the Black Sea. There were 24 frigates—12 in the Baltic, and 12 in the Black Sea—15 sloops in the Baltic, and 19 in the Black Sea, besides 8 steam vessels in the Baltic, and 15 in the Black Sea; making their whole force to consist of 130 vessels, forming a navy composed of the worst ships and the worst seamen in the world. In the beginning of 1851, the French had 40 ships of the line, and since that time two or three had been laid upon the stocks, which, with two others that had been since finished, made up a force of 45 vessels of the line. It was true France had 102 steamers; but they were not generally of any great power. Now what was the naval force of Great Britain? It appeared from official returns that the state of the British Navy on the 1st of January, 1851, was 81 ships of the line, 66 sailing frigates, 16 screw steam frigates, from 24 to 60 guns, 12 screw steam sloops, and 12 steam brigs with paddle wheels; there were also on the stocks, ready for launching, several of the largest ships of the line, four of which were of 120 guns each. He, therefore, thought that we had in the ports of the United Kingdom a sufficient force to defeat the whole of the naval armaments of the rest of Europe; he believed, also, that from our commercial marine we could always obtain a sufficient number of seamen to man them; and there existed also a fleet of merchant steamers far greater in number than those of all the rest of the world put together, which might easily he made available for the defence of our coasts. The present 222 alarm which existed on the subject of a sudden invasion, was a delusion; it was impossible in the present state of intercourse with the Continent that it could take place without abundance of notice. With respect to the Militia Bill, he must say that it was most unpopular, for the people would not believe that there was any necessity for such a measure. He said that there was no occasion to make an increase in our military force; and he hoped that there would be much and serious consideration given to the subject before the House passed a measure which would do little credit to the Legislature, and which would certainly not raise this country in the estimation of foreign Powers, Looking at the state of the finances of Continental Governments, there never was a period when an increased military force was less needed by England. The people of France had enjoyed the blessings of peace for a long series of years, and he believed they did not wish to go to war. They submitted to a strong Government, but their object in doing so was to procure the blessings of peace. He denied that so many ships of war abroad were serviceable for the protection of commerce; and he believed that there was not a shipowner on the Clyde who sent out vessels, and asked at the same time for the protection of ships of war. On the whole, he thought it would be better to add to our regular military force rather than to establish a militia, which would interfere with the industrial occupations of the population. But he denied that there was any cause of alarm for the safety of the nation. If we had been in a state of perfect security during the years 1848–9–10 and 11, there was surely no greater danger menacing us during the present or three following years. He would oppose this mischievous and useless Bill in every stage of its progress; and he trusted that the House would reject a project so obnoxious, that it was condemned by the whole public Press of the United Kingdom, and ridiculed by the most intelligent military Continental authorities.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
was anxious to state why he should vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden). He objected to it, because he objected to the return for which he asked. The Secretary of the Admiralty had stated, that he considered it inconvenient for the public service to furnish the information called for by the hon. Member; and his (Sir F. Baring's) 223 own experience led him to concur in that opinion. He had, himself, on former occasions, declined giving returns of a much less specific nature than those now asked for; and when an objection was raised on the part of the department of the Government which was responsible for the production of any returns, on the ground that it would be detrimental to the public service, it was never the practice to compel the production of them, unless under very strong and exceptional circumstances. These were just the returns which an enemy (if there were any), would be anxious to obtain. He was aware that it would be said that an enemy could get the same information elsewhere. So let him. He admitted that the publicity of the press in this country did enable parties abroad to get a knowledge of the proceedings of the English Government, which could not be obtained concerning the proceedings of foreign Governments by us. But let not Parliament get into the practice of furnishing foreign countries with every information they were anxious to obtain, and of which they might make a bad use. He should have objected, therefore, to the return, if it were only on that ground. But that was not the main object of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Manchester frankly stated last night that he supported the Amendment with a view to get rid of the Bill altogether. He (Sir F. Baring) had voted for the second reading of the Bill, and of course he could not he a party to an indirect vote against it. Without entering into the war question, he might observe that he concurred with the most eminent military authorities—with the Government of Sir R. Peel, with that of his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell), and with the present Government—as to the inadequacy of our present military defences. There might be exaggeration in the statements as to any immediate danger; but the question really was, whether their defences were sufficient to secure them against invasion. He admitted that it was for the interest of every country to keep at peace, and among the rest that it was for the interest of the President at the head of the French Government to do so; but he was afraid, judging from the history of the world, that the argument which the hon. Member for Manchester had urged as to the impossibility of France entertaining the notion of invading this country, was scarcely to be relied on. He should derive much more comfort from the assur- 224 ance that we were in a position to defend ourselves. Returning to the subject of the Amendment, even supposing the return were granted, he could not see what would be gained by it. With great respect to the hon. Member (Mr. Cobden), he did not believe he would, even then, be in possession of sufficient knowledge of public affairs to enable him to judge of what would be a proper distribution of the British fleet. It was the duty of the Government to propose to Parliament the force which they considered adequate for the protection of the country. It was rare indeed that Parliament took upon itself the responsibility of refusing to grant that force which the Government required. But when the force had been granted, it was for the Executive Government to apply it in a manner best calculated to carry into effect that defence for which they were responsible. He should very much regret to see Parliament dictating to the Government in what manner the ships constituting the fleet of this country should be distributed. Without the necessary information it was impossible that any hon. Member should be able to form a judgment as to the distribution of our ships. He was afraid the hon. Gentleman would not gain much by the adoption of some of the proposals which he had made. It was not possible to call all the line-of-battle ships home, and station them in the Channel. The hon. Gentleman appeared to be under the impression that we had a great naval force abroad, without being of any use whatever. With regard to the observation of the hon. Member who spoke last, on the protection afforded by our ships of war to the mercantile marine, he had heard it with unfeigned surprise; but he did not think that any person not connected with a Government could not be aware of the number of applications for protection that were made. There was hardly a day that passed without applications of that nature. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that on many stations, and more especially on the South American station, protection was necessary, and that the great reason why our merchants were not injured was, because it was known that our ships of war would not permit them to be injured with impunity. He was glad to avail himself of this opportunity of expressing his approbation of the good judgment and discretion which our naval officers had exercised in some of the States of South America. The hon, Gentleman 225 had also suggested that ships stationed in the East Indies should be recalled. All he (Sir F. Baring) would say with regard to the present mode of employing those ships was, that nothing conduced more to the spread of civilisation throughout the world than the keeping safe the highway of commerce, the sea. With regard to the African squadron, he would not now touch upon it. He did not believe the people of this country would consent to withdraw that squadron, except under the greatest pressure; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night made, in his free-trade speech, an allusion to the great advantages which had arisen from the redaction of the duty on sugar, he (Sir F. Baring) reflected with some degree of satisfaction that that result was in a great degree to be attributed to the exertions of that squadron, and that when he left office the slave trade was at a lower ebb than it had been for many a long year. The hon. Gentleman, in commenting upon some observations he (Sir F. Baring) made on a former occasion, appeared to have misunderstood him. He (Sir F. Baring) on that occasion expressed his doubts as to the expediency of keeping up a large fleet in the Channel. The grounds of his doubts were these—he apprehended that the object of their naval defence was to secure their own safety, but, at the same time, to do so by means the least meddlesome and offensive possible to our neighbours. Now the presence of a large fleet in the Channel might excite the jealousy of France. That was the mode in which those who were anxious for their own safety, and also for peace, would distribute any force they had at command. Here he must remark upon a misunderstanding of what was stated by the last Secretary but one of the Admiralty, the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry). If that hon. Gentleman meant to state that there was a superiority in the Channel of the French over the English force, then he (Sir F. Baring) entirely differed from the hon. Gentleman as to the fact: but the hon. Gentleman was speaking of the whole force of the French in the Mediterranean, as well as in the Channel, and was comparing it with the British force in the Channel only. Now, he (Sir F. Baring) stated distinctly and deliberately that, at the time and before he left office, and even so early as in December last, there was ample force in the English ports to secure to us a superiority in the Channel, as compared, not with the French 226 ships then in commission in the Channel, for there were hardly any, but with the French ships in port—a force which might have been easily manned by the coastguard and the proposed naval reserve. With regard to the plan for manning the ships which he had proposed, he regretted to find that it was considered by the Admiralty to be inefficient. If they wished to get rid of impressment, he believed the best course would be to carry out the plan of a naval reserve proposed by the late Government. He should have had no reason to complain, if they thought the plan wrong, had they wished for time to consider it, and postponed the adoption of the plan; but he did regret that two officers of the Admiralty should have condemned (and one of them in strong language, too) that plan, and yet that the Admiralty itself should not have abandoned it. Abandon the scheme if you please, but don't say you will try the plan, and then, in the House of Commons, systematically complain of it. He did not consider that fair play to any scheme that might be proposed.
was sorry to have raised the indignation of the right hon. Gentleman by his observations on a former occasion with respect to the legacy left to their successors by the late Board of Admiralty, in the shape of the proposal for a reserve force for the Navy; and he could only account for it by the somewhat amphibious position in which the right hon. Baronet now found himself, and to which must no doubt be attributed the fact, that, though he ought more properly to have confined himself to the subject before the House, he had principally referred to what he was pleased to term the free-trade speech of the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer—a speech than which none more fair or candid had ever been made in that House. The House, however, would remember that those observations, made in the course of a preceding debate, had been called forth by the speech of a gallant Admiral (Admiral Berkeley), one of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues, who evidently condemned the plan himself. The present Board saw very great difficulty in carrying out the scheme as proposed by the late Admiralty, seeing that the proposition was not sanctioned by any officers employed in the service. No one subject, however, had had greater consideration than this, or had been more maturely weighed; and the Board had perceived that there would 227 be very great difficulty in carrying it out so as to promote the welfare of the Navy. If the right hon. Gentleman accused the Board of any double-faced dealing, he would state that the consideration of the scheme had not yet been abandoned. The noble Duke at the head of the Board (the Duke of Northumberland) had consulted with experienced officers on the subject, and was ready and willing to carry the plan out to the fullest extent, if it could be proved to be for the benefit of the public service.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
was not aware that he had used, and did not intend to use, any words the effect of which was to throw any imputation upon the honour of those who were now in office at the Admiralty. He thought it hardly necessary to make this explanation, which must have been rendered necessary by a mistake on the part of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ MR. HUME
said, when the Militia Bill was first proposed by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) he had stated his objection to the principle of the Bill, as not being consonant to the feelings and ideas of the age, and to the experience of the Militia Bill of 1801. Since then he intended to have contented himself with that opposition, and with voting against the Bill in all its stages; but there had been such extraordinary statements, and such a number of preposterous allegations made, that he felt bound to state the view he took of the question. The hon. Member for the West Riding had moved for returns to show our naval strength in all its details, contending that until those returns were granted the House ought to defer the discussion on the Militia Bill. He was astonished how any hon. Member of the House, or any Member of the Government, could call those returns unnecessary, and merely asked for the purpose of postponing the debate. Doubtless it was intended to postpone the Bill till this information was obtained; and, for his part, he would be for postponing it until the present panic had wholly passed over. There were only two classes of persons who were affected by the present mania of invasion; the rest of the people were uninfected. Let them look at the many petitions that had been presented from various parts of the country, praying that the Bill might not pass. He thought it was important the House should have before it the information now sought for; and he was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite the late Secretary for the Admiralty (Sir 228 F. Baring) deprecating the affording this information on the ground of secrecy, and that if communicated it would be made use of by the enemy. Who was the enemy, he should be glad to know? He would never allow the French nation to be called the enemy of the English people. He contended that the overt acts and speeches of hon. Members and the Government were ten times more hurtful and irritating to the feelings of the French nation than anything else he could imagine. Moreover, the information now desired was already before the country, and patent to all the world: it had already been furnished to a Committee which sat on Naval Affairs for three years. He had the information in his hands which was now sought to be obtained, every night up to that night, and now, it was very odd, he had forgot to bring it down with him; but he could tell hon. Gentlemen that they would find it in the Appendix to the Report of the Committee, and it contained the numbers of ships employed for a number of years, down to 1847, the number of men and guns, and on what station they were posted. The reports and the returns on the subject were open to the world, and therefore he hoped the House would not for a moment listen to the pretence of secrecy. Then, as to delay, it was said that the Nautical Almanack would afford all the information wanted: if so, France could gain the same information from the same source. The pretence of delay was as ill-founded as the pretext of secrecy. When the noble Lord introduced his Bill, he (Mr. Hume) asked if any information could be given to warrant the alarm and panic which was said to be felt? No information could be given—the noble Lord admitted that he had none. The Queen's Speech spoke of being at peace with neighbouring nations; it was still the same, and the alarm was altogether unfounded. Why, then, was a Bill introduced which looked like preparation to meet some expected hostility? There was a period when France really intended to invade this country; but did not the whole nation turn out to meet and repel the attempt, and the whole country bristled with bayonets from one end to the other? Would not the same thing be done again? It would be done again at this moment if it were necessary; therefore there was no need for this Bill. He would call attention to the state of our military defences. Taking the respective positions of England and France, he contended we were better pre- 229 pared for defence than the French were for attack, even though that Power had a much larger army. If they would look at France and her military necessities, hon. Members would find that France had not even 60,000 soldiers which she could spare for hostile aggression, while we had more than 80,000 available for defence. He had been told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that we ought only to reckon rank and file in our defences; but all he knew was that we paid for the services of a much larger number. Since 1835 our land forces had greatly increased, and we had at this moment a regular force of 161,000,more by 40,000 than when the Duke of Wellington was at the head of the Government. Our Army had been increased from 120,000 to 160,000 men, and yet they were told that nothing had been done to protect the country. Then as to the Navy—26,000 or 27,000 men were all the Duke of Wellington required—we had this year voted 44,000 men, seamen and marines, for the naval service of the country. Since the report of the Committee was made, which he proposed to move for shortly, he should be glad to know what had been done towards improving our harbours and ports? What took place in 1844? The Duke of Wellington and the Government of the day took the alarm about the intentions of France. Did the Government then stand still? No; we had had the benefit of that alarm, and in the evidence of the Committee upstairs they would find that three captains were appointed to survey our coasts from the North Foreland to Cornwall. The purport of Sir T. Hastings' evidence, when examined by the Committee, was to the effect that he had no document or evidence to show that danger was threatened to our coasts. All he could say was, that Joinville said, "France could not cope with us in large vessels, but could in small vessels; and all that France required was a sufficient number of small vessels to carry a sufficient number of troops, in order to land them on our coasts." The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had spoken of the ease with which 60,000 men could be landed on our shores; but he was astonished to think how any man could believe that 60,000 men could be thrown on our shores in one night, or even at all, considering the means of prevention we had at command; and he had, moreover, with all the innocence in the world, given an example of 6,000 men being landed in six hours at New Orleans, as a proof of the facility with which troops 230 could be landed. But the hon. Gentleman forgot that England had the command of the seas, and that the troops on that occasion were landed on a thinly inhabited coast; neither of which circumstances would be the case if a hostile force were to attempt a landing on the shores of England. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had also talked of 60,000 men being embarked from Cherbourg without warning. Why, the noble Lord knew that we had "licensed spies" all over the Continent, as the noble Lord was himself reminded by an hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), who had formerly acted as one of those spies; and what would they be about if all these preparations were to take place without their knowledge? Or, if they should neglect their duty, were there not the agents of the press? And were there not, above all, the agents of commerce, whose fine filaments vibrated to every breath in the political atmosphere. He was ashamed of the ignominous panic which had appeared, and which was unworthy of the English people. Since the panic of 1844 we have had the coasts visited and surveyed, and much money had been spent in necessary works and defences. Basins for steam vessels had been formed at Portsmouth and Plymouth, and considerable sums had been expended in works connected with those and other ports. It could not be said, therefore, that nothing had been done of late years to protect our coast. At present the military and naval forces were greater than they had ever been since the peace, and were much greater than the country ought to maintain. Believing that the alarm was unfounded, he wished to direct the attention of the House to the question in a financial point of view. The hon. and gallant Member for Westminster had referred to our irregular forces, and had told them that he considered them almost as good as the regular army. They consisted of volunteer corps and yeomanry cavalry, 13,620; enrolled old pensioners, as good soldiers as could be found, 16,500; militia in the Channel Islands, and militia staff of this country, 10,000; dockyard battalions, 9,246; and coast guard, about 6,000—in all 54,000, which, added to the regular force of 161,000, made a total of 215,000 men. There was another class of men which should be fairly included in the list; he meant the police force, which might be converted into a powerful defensive force. The police of the metropolis numbered 231 5,780; the county police of England and Wales, 2,749; the police of Ireland, 12,000—in all, 20,632, which, added to the amount of the regular and irregular force, gave a total of something like 237,500 men armed, or capable of being instantly armed. Assuming the number required for foreign service to be 56,500, there would remain 180,000, who were either in arms, or might be speedily put in arms, for what might be called the service of the country at home. Both the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) and the Home Secretary (Mr. Walpole) had referred to the Duke of Wellington's letter to Sir J. Burgoyne in 1847. He must say if he had been the adviser of the noble Duke, that letter would never have been written. But if the authority of the noble Duke was to be referred to on this question, they ought to adopt the remedy pointed out by the noble Duke. The hon. and gallant Member near him had informed them that during the war the militia force amounted to 300,000 men. Now the recommendation of the noble Duke was to raise, embody, organise, and discipline the militia of the three kingdoms to the same extent as it existed during the war. If, therefore, such a recommendation was a proper one, what a petty and insignificant remedy would the measure before them be! His belief was that it was not necessary. We were a panic-struck nation just at present; or rather we had a panic-struck Ministry. Both the late and the present Ministry were affected, and now he was afraid the panic had caught the House. He wished, therefore, the House not only not to proceed with the Bill, but to reduce our military armaments to what they were in 1842. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his able statement the other night, said that they ought not to legislate against the feelings of the country. Why did he not apply the same principle to the Militia Bill? Now, not one petition had been presented in favour of this Bill, though upwards of a thousand had been presented against it, and meetings had everywhere been held to protest against it. It was against the feelings of the people, and it would be against their interest, for it prevented the remission of a number of taxes. If the Militia Bill were not passed, the hop duty might be taken off to-morrow, and the advertisement duty might speedily follow. It was on these grounds that he hoped Ministers would withdraw the Bill, and apply the 232 money which would thereby be saved to the reduction of the hop duty and the advertisement duty. At all events, if the Bill was to be proceeded with, they ought to have the return moved for by the hon. Member for the West Riding.
§ MR. CHARTERIS
I do not wish, Sir, to enter into any controversy upon the statements of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down; but I must express my astonishment at the self-confident tone in which the hon. Gentleman and his Friends enunciate their opinions upon military matters. Any person who has attended here to-night, or who may have heard the preceding debates upon this subject, may naturally suppose that not only do those Gentlemen monopolise all the intelligence, but all the professional knowledge of the country. Why, if we want a correct opinion as to the state of the national defences, it is not to the Commander-in-Chief, or the Master-General of the Ordnance that we must apply, but to the hon. Member for Montrose, or to the hon. Member for the West Riding. But, Sir, this is not the first time that discussions have taken place upon a similar subject. On referring to a time gone by, I fell in with a speech of Mr. Windham's, in 1803, delivered during a debate upon the Military Service Bill, in which there is a passage by no means inapplicable to the present state of things. Mr. Windham said—We were told daily of the impracticability of invasion, by eminent lawyers, by many sound divines, by many worthy country gentlemen, by many respectable merchants, by many intelligent manufacturers, and by many very handsome women. The only persons from whom we did not hear those opinions were our soldiers and sailors. Ask a sailor whether with any superiority of naval force he could ensure the country against an invading army. He would tell you that he could not engage that an enemy should not effect a debarcation on various points even in considerable force. But put the question to the landsman, to the man who never saw the sea but from Ramsgate or Brighton, and who never embarked in anything but a bathing machine, he would say that to talk of invading a country in the face of a superior navy, was the idlest of all follies; and so long as we had our wooden walls—or more properly he (Mr. Wyndham) should say, our wooden heads—we should never treat invasion as other than a threat to frighten children."—[Hansard's Parl. Hist, xxxvi. 1631.]This speech was made in 1803; and in the year following all England was up in arms to repel the threatened invasion from France. The speech was, therefore, made at a time when we may suppose opinions were expressed similar to those entertained 233 by some hon. Gentlemen in this House. I have not the self-confidence upon military matters which is enjoyed by those Gentlemen. In military matters I am disposed to bow to the authority of military men, without attributing their opinions to the imbecility of age, or unworthy or improper motives, such as a wish to aggrandise or exalt their own position. I cannot but think that hon. Gentlemen who oppose our going into Committee upon this Bill, are not supported by public feeling out of doors. There may be petitions upon the subject, but the language of those petitions refers more to the compulsory clauses of the Bill than to the Bill itself. If you test public opinion by the language of the press, or by the debates in Parliament, you will find that there evidently is a strong feeling of insecurity with regard to the state of our defences, and that the people earnestly desire that some steps should be taken to render our position more secure than it at present is. I hope, therefore, that we may be allowed to go into committee as speedily as possible, and that we shall endeavour to make the Bill a complete measure of defence.
§ MR. MITCHELL
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had last night charged him with attempting to delay the progress of this Bill by moving the adjournment of the debate. He believed that during the twelve years he had been in Parliament he had not voted more than three times for the adjournment of a debate. But in the progress of a Bill there were three points at which the principle of it could be discussed—on the second reading, on the going into Committee in the first instance, and on the third reading. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester had been negatived last night, no other Amendment could have been proposed, and he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to charge him with delay for seeking for farther discussion upon the question. He would not go into the military part of the subject, which he did not understand. But the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir P. Baring) stated that our Navy was kept up chiefly for the protection of our commerce. It was quite possible that when some new island was discovered, where a little guano was to be found, there was an application made to the Admiralty to send a ship of war to protect a trade that was not worth protecting; but that was not the case in 234 places where a great trade was carried on. For instance, in the Mediterranean, where we had a large fleet, he could insure a vessel of any foreign country quite as cheaply as he could a British vessel. He objected to the Bill because of the nature of the service it would introduce into this country. The Secretary at War, and a higher authority, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), said it would be impossible to keep any increase in the regular Army. There was no ground for that statement. If an increase of our defences were required, let there be an increase of our standing Army. There was no ground for saying that such an increase would be opposed by a majority of the House. He believed that if it were necessary to increase our national defences, the proper mode to effect that object would he to increase the standing Army. A militia might be raised in two modes—either by voluntary enlistment or by the ballot. Now, he believed that under the voluntary system, with the addition of a bounty, they would collect in their new force all the scamps and vagabonds of the country; and he wished the country gentlemen joy of the vast constabulary force which they would have to keep up in order to protect themselves against those armed militiamen, after their twenty-one days of discipline. Supposing, however, the system of voluntary enlistment succeeded in bringing together a considerable number of respectable young men, what would be the effect? The Secretary at War congratulated himself that, if young men could he induced to serve for twenty-one days as volunteers, they would become so delighted with their vocation as to be disposed to enter as regular soldiers in the Army. Now, if there was one thing more likely than another to create dismay in every family throughout the country, it was a remark of that kind. It was his own impression that a bounty of 6l. would not be sufficient to obtain a force of 80,000 men. Then came the other alternative, which had been carefully kept in the background by the Government—the system of compulsory enlistment by ballot. To this he would give his most determined opposition. On Friday night the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid down the principle, in which he (Mr. Mitchell) entirely concurred, that direct taxation should be extended to the people according to their means; but the Militia Bill would have the effect of taxing 235 the various classes of the people in a most unequal manner. For instance, if the noble Earl, with his 100,000l. a year, who created such a hubbub last year by his letters to the Times, happened to be balloted for to serve in the militia, all he would have to do would be to request his steward to find a substitute; this would probably cost him 10l. On the other hand, if a labouring man, engaged in a manufactory, were drawn, and wished, rather than risk the loss of his employment, to get some one to take his place in the corps, he would most likely have to pay a like sum. They would, therefore, both contribute an equal amount towards the defences of the country. This he called gross inequality and injustice. But if, instead of 80,000 militia, they were to make an addition of 20,000 men to the standing Army, the expense of which might be paid by adding one-half per cent to the income tax; the working man, if the income tax were extended to incomes of 50l., would pay 5s. for the increase, while the noble Lord would have to pay 500l. He looked upon the cost of our national defences as an insurance; and it was just that the amount paid by individuals should be in proportion to the amount of property they had to be protected. Any Government who ventured to force a compulsory ballot upon the country would be doomed within three months. The necessary consequence of the Bill, if it passed, would be a system of impressment like that adopted in the Navy, and the deprivation of large classes of the people of the value of their labour.
said, that as he was one of those who had been accused by the hon. Member for Montrose of being under a panic, he could not be silent. That hon. Member treated invasion as impossible. Some confusion might be escaped by distinguishing between two modes of impossibility. Invasion might be physically impossible, so that if attempted it could not succeed. That was to be decided on military and naval grounds by those who made war peculiarly their profession; or it might be impossible that it should be attempted in the present state of Europe. Of this the general information within the reach of politicians should guide them, rather than the technical considerations of military art. On this point the hon. Members for Montrose and the West Riding might speak without getting beyond their depth. The hon. Member for Montrose seemed 236 quite charmed in having his opinion as to the impossibility of an invasion succeeding, placed above that of the Duke of Wellington and other military authorities. If, however, he looked to all the high authorities who had made the theory and practice of war their study, and were accustomed to the embarkation and disembarkation of troops, they declared there was no such impossibility of invasion as ought to prevent the country doing its best to provide against it. It was fortunate that the greatest living master of the art of war, and the most successful general that history records, should be spared to give his opinion on so important a subject; and the chief officers who had served under him, as well as those who had served in more recent wars, were of the same opinion as the noble Duke. It was well known that the opinion was never intended to be made public—it transpired incidentally and accidentally; but perhaps it was the more valuable because it was intended for the perusal of a friend, and not of the public. No doubt since 1847 great additions had been made to the defence of the country; but the 150,000 men which he declared to be requisite, had not yet been provided, and no prospect existed of seeing them under arms without this Bill. But if hon. Members sneered at the opinions of British officers, they might attend to those of foreign officers. Prince Joinville said that, by the aid of steam navigation, wars of the most daring aggression might be committed at sea—that the certainty of movement was so great, they (the French people) might calculate upon an action not only to the day, but to the very hour; and that with a steam navy they might inflict great loss and suffering on the coast of a nation which had not hitherto experienced the miseries of war, and the misery which followed in their train. He added that nothing could prevent a force before morning landing on the British shores, where they might act with impunity. Now, he would ask the hon. Member for the West Riding, whether he had that confidence in the forbearance and civility of French officers as to suppose that they would be incapable of doing that which had been coolly and deliberately suggested by a Prince of the Blood! Did he not think it possible that steamers might start from the opposite shore at the commencement of night, and before morning appear on some part of our coast, and burn and destroy one or more of our seaport towns, to 237 the great humiliation of the honour and dignity of England? The hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell) trusted exclusively to the Navy, and yet he admitted that the shores of England would not be invulnerable, if there were a bad distribution of our vessels, or some blunder in the management. Now, though the Navy was equal to former times in valour, skill, and discipline, he was not disposed to trust to any one mode of defence. He would rather have two strings to his bow, in case one should break or get out of order. He would have a powerful fleet in the seas, and also an Army which could overcome any invading force that might land in England. Another French general, in a letter to M. Thiers, in 1846, said steam had thrown hundreds of bridges across the Channel, and that they might pass at any time, and in any weather, from France to England. The same authority also remarked, that at the moment he wrote, there were 1,430 naval officers in France, and that if the question were put to them, whether in the present state of naval science they could make a descent on England, every voice would answer in the affirmative. Among military and naval officers in France, the invasion of England was a favourite topic of discussion, and a great number of pamphlets had been written on the subject. Whether it were the mode generally attributed to General Changarnier, of landing a large army, and marching to London, or the scheme for going to Ireland, it afforded much amusement and speculation to all the scientific officers of France who took an interest in discussing the best means of attacking this country. And though hon. Members might talk of invasion as Utopian, our neighbours across the Channel treated the subject as one of practical importance. There had been such a general admission that the country was not properly defended, that if the opposition to the present or any other Bill for increasing the national defences succeeded, a temptation would be thrown out to enemies to attack us. There were some things in the Bill of which he did not approve; but he was desirous of some increased force. He did not expect the militia would have to fight, but their enrolment would be effective in preventing attack. It would be a disgrace to the country if the Session were allowed to pass without some important addition to our defences. The whole inhabitants of these islands came originally as invaders, 238 —thus proving that our insular position was not a sufficient security. He thought the allusion made to General Hoche unfortunate, for if his expedition, consisting of 17 sail of the line, besides frigates and other vessels, in all 43 ships, carrying 15,000 men, although their preparations and their intentions were announced, yet contrived to escape two of our fleets, for sixteen days, to invade Ireland, and to return to France, we must not trust to a security so fickle as the winds and waves. He respected the hon. Member for the West Riding for his feelings in favour of a brotherhood of nations and universal peace; but the members of the Peace Society seemed to imagine that they would best promote peace by diminishing the military forces of the country. But there were two ways in which peace might be sought: the one was by submitting to aggressors, and the other by being strong enough to overcome them. If peace were sought too exclusively, she would fly from the wooer. Peace was a reward given to the courageous and the just, but not to those who sought it by the sacrifice of honour. They could not get it as suppliants, but could impose it by being stronger and bolder than their enemies. He believed that by supporting the Militia Bill he should be best maintaining the interests of peace; and that the true principles of peace would be best carried out by making this country strong, and by saving it and the whole civilised world from the ruin and misery which would follow, if the greatness and civilisation of England were destroyed by a hostile invasion.
was told, that as a civilian, he had no right to an opinion in a military matter. But the real question was the danger of invasion. This was a civilian's question. He would not go back, with one hon. Member, to the invasions of the Danes and the Saxons; but the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland had reminded the House that the various questions raised in this debate had been put in the time of Mr. Pitt, and answered by that great man. It was interesting to observe that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not got beyond the days of Mr. Pitt; but he (Mr. Clay) would rather be answered by the good sense of 1852, than by the good sense of 1802. Good sense, it might be said, was eternal. True; but circumstances changed. In 1802; and for many years after, there was an understood necessity that we should mix ourselves in every European broil; and 239 when our hand was ready to be raised against every one, we might reasonably fear that every man's hand was ready to be raised against us. But now, if there were any feeling stronger than another in the breasts of the people of this country, it was the feeling against invasion or going to war with our neighbours. In these days the universality of the feeling against intervention in the concerns of our neighbours, was the best security against foreign interference with us. He believed that this country was further from being engaged in war now than she ever had been; and Europe as far. But, supposing that there was some cause for fear, what was the best means of defence? Was it imagined that the naval and military authorities were at unison on the subject? So far from this, he had not heard one who heartily supported this Bill, believing it to be the best means of defending the country. On all that he had heard, he came to the conclusion that the militia was as bad a way of defending the country as could possibly be hit upon, and would cost as much, if not in money, yet in idleness and disturbance. He agreed with the gallant Admiral (Admiral Berkeley) that if there was a proved necessity for providing for our defence, it would be best found in an increase of our Navy, placing the vessels, and some 7,000 or 8,000 additional sailors, for this especial purpose, under the command of the most able naval officer who was to be found. In that case he believed that any competent Admiral would answer for it that no enemy's force would be able to effect a landing in this country. He considered also that the Government would act wisely in encouraging the rifle corps throughout the country, which would introduce amongst the people habits of organisation, as well as feelings of military spirit, and that spirit of self-dependence which would be our best resource in case of invasion.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I can assure the House I shall detain them but a very few moments; and I should not have presumed to address them again on this subject in this stage of the debate, but as I have been alluded to so frequently by hon. Gentlemen in my immediate vicinity, I really cannot but reconcile myself to saying a few words in reference—I can scarcely say in answer—to what has fallen from them. Sir, the only answer I can make to the assertions of my hon. Friends is, to meet assertion by counter assertion—their 240 denial of my opinions by an equally strong denial of theirs. The only answer they have given to the observations it fell to my lot to make on a former occasion, was to express surprise that those opinions should have come from me, and a confident belief in the correctness of their own. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, and the hon. Member for the West Riding, and some others near them, are firmly convinced that an invasion of this country by a force from France is an utter impossibility; and believing it an utter impossibility, they think it is the height of absurdity that this country should make any provision to guard against an impossible attempt. I think, on the contrary, that such an event is possible—to use no stronger word—in certain cases, and I think it is the duty of the country to make a provision to guard against such a danger. The country will judge between these Gentlemen and me. If I am wrong, and if the advice which I give is followed, at all events the country is safe: if they are wrong, and the advice which they give is followed, the country may be ruined. Now, Sir, these hon. Gentlemen dispute the authority, they will not admit the opinion, of officers of great experience; of sailors who understand their profession; of men who have practical knowledge, and have personally faced the dangers they call upon the country to provide against. Those Gentlemen, whose habits of life have been conversant with the peaceful arts, with manufactures and industry, who know nothing of war or the chances of war—who know nothing of war or the means by which war is carried on, or by which it must be resisted—those Gentlemen wish to lull the country into a feeling of security, and to prevent them from taking any measures to provide for their own defence. They have disputed English authorities. We have heard just now, from an hon. Friend of mine, foreign authorities quoted, expressing exactly the same opinion with those English authorities. But I have heard—and I believe the truth of what I have heard—an opinion expressed from a very high foreign authority, bearing upon this question. I have heard, and I believe it, that the late King of the French, when he visited this country, after that dispute which arose upon the question about Tahiti—and, by the by, it is not inopportune or irrelevant to this matter to remind the House that upon that occasion, when this country was on the point of being engaged, totally unprepared, in war with her power- 241 ful neighbour on that question, the men who were the loudest in those declamations which were calculated to bring on a rupture, were the very men who are now preaching peace—I say I have heard that on that occasion the King of the French, rejoicing at the peaceful termination of that dispute, said, however, that he had been told by his generals at the time, that if a rupture had taken place, they would have undertaken that within a week they would have been in London. Now, that opinion may have some weight with those who dispute the opinions of English generals and English admirals. Much misapprehension has occurred of things that have been stated by those who agree in our opinion in the course of this debate. My hon. Friend the former Secretary to the Admiralty is supposed to have stated that the French have in the Channel a force stronger than we could at present muster in Channel. My hon. Friend did not state that. His statement, I apprehend, was this—that the French, by the means they have at their command of quickly transferring from the Mediterranean either the crews of their vessels there, or the ships themselves, would have the opportunity and the means, within a shorter space of time, of bringing into the Channel a force superior to that which we, in the outbreak of a war, would be able to present. Sir, I have been supposed to say that the expense of 15,000 regulars would not be greater than that of 80,000 militia; and my hon. Friend who made the allusion just now, seemed to mix up that question with the question of the ballot, and I don't know what else. What I said was this, that the annual cost of maintaining 80,000 militiamen, during the twenty-one or twenty-eight days that they might be out to be trained and exercised, would not be greater than the expense which would be incurred for maintaining 8,000 regular troops all the year round; and it was my opinion that we should contribute better to our contingent means of defence by having the power of calling out within a week 80,000 men under arms, than we should do by maintaining 15,000 regular troops. My hon. Friend challenged us to say when it was that this House had refused to grant to the Government the force which the Government though essential for the defence of the country. Why, fortunately this House has not yielded to those very energetic appeals which we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding and others, to reduce 242 the very limited force which has been deemed sufficient from time to time for the immediate emergencies of the public service; but I will put it to them what would be their expectation of success for future Motions of this kind, if the Government had now proposed an addition of 20,000 or 30,000 to the regular Army, and at the end of two years they had been able to say—Why, you got this force under a panic of invasion: there has been no invasion; and now, for Heaven's sake, don't burden the country with a force which experience has proved to be wholly unnecessary for the purpose required? Now I have the greatest possible respect for opinions which are sincere, and founded upon deep conviction: and therefore I am far from treating with anything like disrespect those opinions which I believe to be at the bottom of much of the opposition which has been given to the measure now under discussion. Those opinions and convictions have not hitherto been fully and broadly stated by those who have taken part in this debate; but they have been broadly stated in a pamphlet I hold in my hand, and which is not unworthy the consideration of those who have turned their mind to this subject. It is a pamphlet ably written, and evidently with a deep and serious conviction of the principles therein laid down: that it is contrary to the Christian religion to do violence to any man, even to an enemy. The object of this pamphlet, then, is to show that it is the Christian duty of this country to be conquered by France. It is in the shape of a dialogue, exceedingly amusing, between two gentlemen engaged in a rifle club. The title is, The Rifle Club, or the Manual of Duty for Soldiers—a very odd notion of a soldier's duty certainly. One of the speakers in this dialogue paints in vivid colours the result of the supposed invasion. He says, "I grant you that 250,000 men may come over to our shores from France"—a good way, let me remark, beyond my more moderate estimate of 50,000, which is supposed overrated'—"they will come unopposed—they will take possession of London—they will seize the Bank, where, though they will not find the 18,000,000l. sterling supposed to be there, they will levy heavy contributions on the city of London—the Parliament will be swept away—the courts of justice will be abolished—the French general will issue writs, and a new Parliament will be called consisting simply of Frenchmen— 243 the Code Napoleon will be substituted for the law of England—the Sovereign will live like a private individual in Scotland—the Government, of course, will be annihilated, and the country will be entirely governed by this French army which has thus invaded us. But then," adds the writer, "what will that signify?—we shall go on working our mills. We shall stand behind our counters, and sell our wares in our shops. People must eat. They will want clothing. We shall supply their wants, and we shall go on making money." But one might say to these gentlemen, that if that event should ever happen, those who might make money might find an application to themselves of those well-known lines—Sic vos non vobis nidificates aves,Sic vos non vobis vellera fertis oves;and they might find, as well, the truth of the French proverb—"Those who make themselves sheep will not fail to be eaten up by the wolves." Again, this pamphlet goes on to say, that that state of things will astonish the whole world. That at first the French will think that there was an ambush; but that weeks would roll away, and that no ambush would be discovered; and then there would be amongst these 250,000 men some man of deep reflection, some man of deep Christian feeling, who would be struck by so glorious a spectacle as a nation remaining without resistance under the invasion of a foreign foe—that the news will go forth to Russia, Austria, and Prussia—and that in the course of time, after some fifty or more millions sterling had been removed from this country to France, the French would be so terribly ashamed of their position—they would be so terribly ashamed of the very ridiculous position in which they had placed themselves—that they would all go back to France, and leave this country to its own resources. Nay, so deeply would this sense of ridicule—to which the French, we know, are more susceptible than any other people—be impressed upon their minds, that they would offer to send back the fifty millions sterling which they had taken from our bankers, and our merchants, and our tradesmen, and our country gentlemen. Then, say the pamphlet, they would be "done" again. For we should show them a still more glorious example—we would magnanimously refuse to receive the money. [Laughter]. Now these statements may excite risibility in this House; but I firmly believe this is written in sober earnest, and is not at all 244 meant as ridicule. My hon. Friend may laugh; hut if he will read the pamphlet he will see that there runs through it a tone of sober seriousness that convinces me that those who wrote it are, in fact, that party at whose instigation much of the opposition that has been made to this measure has arisen. Now the House and the country are to determine between two alternatives. The one is, whether they will, as required by the party from whom this pamphlet emanates, voluntarily submit this country to the miseries and the iniquities (for these are the words of the pamphlet) of an invasion by France as a just atonement for the sins which this country has, in former times, committed by engaging in war (for that is the ground on which this proceeding is urged)—the Parliament and the country are to determine whether they will be voluntarily the victims of this system of submission which is recommended by those whose organs, I must contend and believe, are now opposing this measure in this House and in the country, or whether they are still sufficiently wedded to those ancient notions of independence and of self-vindication which will lead them to resist a foreign invader, and to provide a timely means by which that invasion, if it ever should menace this country, may be successfully resisted.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat commenced his speech by stating, in replying to the observations which had been made by his (Mr. Wakley's) hon. Friends relative to this measure, that all he would do would be to answer assertion by assertion; and he had kept his word, for he had not adduced one argument, fact, or statement to prove the policy, the expediency, or the necessity of enacting this measure. He was astonished that with his gigantic talents the noble Lord should have fallen into the unfortunate position of quoting such despicable trash as he had addressed to the House. The noble Lord had not informed them who was the publisher or the author of the pamphlet from which he had quoted; but he (Mr. Wakley) strongly suspected that it was published at High-gate, where there was an admirable asylum for lunatics and idiots. He recommended the noble Lord to visit it; he was sure the noble Lord would admire it, and the kind of intellect he would find there. To quote such trash as that! He did not wonder the late Cabinet fell to pieces—he only wondered it held together so long, 245 compounded as it was of such heterogeneous materials. The noble Lord spoke reproachfully of his hon. Friend because at one time he was desirous of adding to the defence of the country; and told them what King Louis Philippe said, after visiting this country in 1844; but the noble Lord was Foreign Minister after that period for years, and he wanted to know, if the noble Lord believed what the French King said, why he omitted to act upon that belief, and come forward at once, and say, "Our country is in a defenceless state, we are apprehensive of invasion, and this I propose to do for our protection?" But the noble Lord, instead of that, only came forward with his support now to the present proposition, never having himself made such a proposal to the House. The noble Lord, by his inactivity when in office, showed that he had credited no such notion. The noble Lord, indeed, had created an impression that he himself was of so warlike a turn, so capricious, so touchy, so tenacious towards foreign Powers, that there was no security for peace while he remained Foreign Minister; but, in his Mr. Wakley's) opinion, this was an impression wholly unjust. He was satisfied that the country owed a deep debt of gratitude to the noble Lord for his conduct as Foreign Minister, which had placed England, with regard to foreign States, in a better position than ever she enjoyed before; and he deeply regretted that the noble Lord had been so frequently thwarted in his policy; and he did beg the noble Lord to maintain his hitherto exalted character, and not descend for one moment to give credit to such imbecile, monstrous, and absurd statements as he had read to the House. The blockhead of a writer quoted by the noble Lord said something about "working their mills" as before—ridiculous enough in itself; but there was an ironical cheer at the passage on the other side of the House, which was more ridiculous still. Gentlemen opposite knew perfectly well that there was something more potent about mills than they affected to admit; among other effects produced, mills had ground the party of Protectionists into a party of Freetraders. ["Oh, oh!"] Oh, yes! they might make wry faces; the operation might have been remarkably disagreeable, but the operation had been performed; witness the Budget of last Friday night. 'Twas the mills which had done it all; 'twas the mills which had saved the country, so don't let Gentlemen opposite 246 reproach the mills, and don't let them reproach their master and teacher, Richard Cobden. ["Oh, oh!"] Ay, their master and teacher, and a greater man than any of them. As to this Bill, he had listened until his ears ached, in the hope of hearing something that would justify the bringing forward of this Bill. It was quite lamentable to see the Government, because they had nothing of their own to propose, picking up the dirty rags left by their predecessors. He believed that the liberties of no country which had a numerous army were safe. But hon. Gentlemen who supported this measure said that they dreaded an invasion. They knew, however, very well, that they had no such dread—that such was the patriotic spirit of our countrymen, that so beloved were our institutions, and so revered and respected was our Sovereign, that if foreign invaders dared to put foot on our soil, the nation would rise as one man to repel them. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Walpole) whether he believed that the skilled mechanics would quit their employment and come as militiamen for a shilling a day? The fact was, that the only class they would get would be the farm labourers, and they would thus by this measure inflict a most pernicious annoyance and a very grievous evil upon the tenant-farmers. This Bill was a most dangerous, unwise, and pernicious measure, and he, for one, should feel it his duty to give it his most uncompromising opposition at every stage of its progress.
said, there was another question yet, on the subject of the pamphlet quoted by the noble Lord. Was it quite certain, that the House had not fallen into the jaws of a burlesque? Were hon. Gentlemen who had expressed such violent delight, sure that the joke was not against them, and that the authors of Punch had not been laying a snare for their applause? No doubt, there were well-meaning individuals who honestly carried their principles to an extreme; but he doubted whether any collection of men, whatever their particular opinions, would fall into the impolicy of seriously committing themselves to such a production. As he meant to agree with the wishes of his constituents, he would shortly state why he had determined to vote against this Bill. The reasons were three. First, he concurred with his constituents that the danger which might once exist, had passed away; he 247 had full belief in the readiness of the French army and navy to invade us if they could; hut they had lost their tide, the opportunity had passed. He seriously believed, that if the energies which were applied to taking the Algerian generals out of their beds, had been directed on the instant to making a point on London, the chances of success in one, would have been about the same as in the other. But that danger was over: the thing could not take place now without the usual premonitory symptoms. The second reason was, that the measure proposed was not the measure most expedient to adopt. The third reason was, that his constituents might have more objection to see a militia in the hands of the present Ministers, than they would have had to some others. It was quite true that if Ministers proceeded as on some late occasions they had done, this objection might be in the way of being taken down. But on the present, the manufacturing districts had a bitter recollection of what they denominated "Peterloo." He spoke in presences on both sides of the House, before whom he should be sorry to commit himself to any military folly; but he had a conviction that there was no officer of his acquaintance who, if the necessity arose, would not rather lead ten volunteer riflemen than twenty local militia, or who would not consider a hundred volunteer riflemen dismounted, and twenty mounted, a more effective command than a regiment of the others. Let it be observed, he was not speaking of the old regular militia, who were as good infantry as any regiment of the line which did not happen to have been sent abroad. Neither was he speaking of the Yeomanry, who, if they had come out to join the light cavalry regiments in the Peninsula, would in a fortnight have been made into capital patroles. But he spoke of the local militia as it was now proposed. For these reasons, notwithstanding the way in which their end of the bench had been shot at of the archers, he must vote with the supporters of the Motion for reports.
MR. HENRY DRUMMOND
said, that if it was true that the author of the pamphlet which had been quoted by the noble Lord was indeed a new Punch, who had laid a trap for hon. Members opposite, he thought he should be able, before he sat down, to show that there were many Punches in the House. It would add much to the liveliness of the debates; and he was sure that the House would receive with lively satisfaction the intelli- 248 gence that the publisher of this humorous pamphlet was at present a candidate to succeed his hon. Friend Mr. Fox Maule as representative for the town of Perth. Before he proceeded further he must observe that he had no love for a militia nor for a standing Army. He should have been much better pleased if the noble Lord at the head of the late Government, after having been sitting for six years upon this egg (which he had at last only half hatched), had brought forward a measure of defence more adapted to the present circumstances of the country, instead of trusting to a standing Army, which, as it was at present, was only the creation of the last war, or to a Militia Bill, which was not applicable to the existing state of things. But this was the only measure which those who were charged with the defence of the country had brought forward; and the House were therefore compelled either to adopt it or to leave the country undefended. He believed, with the hon. Member for the West Riding, that there might be a better distribution of our forces. He should certainly like to see the whole of our troops withdrawn from the north of England, and stationed in the southern counties. He could see no reason whatever why any troops should be stationed in the neighbourhood of the manufacturing districts. He held, with the hon. Member for Manchester and his friends, that it was a dreadful thing for the military to trample upon the people; and, therefore, he would not put that temptation in the way of the troops, but would have them wholly withdrawn. Nay, if the Peace Society would positively undertake to enter into a treaty with the President of France that he should sail into the Mersey instead of into the Thames, he (Mr. Drummond) was not sure that he would not be inclined to vote against this Bill altogether. He thought it was not improbable that a small invasion might do them a great deal of good: in his opinion, this country was much in the same condition in which they sometimes saw a great overgrown spoilt boy, when one was inclined to say, "I wish somebody would give that fellow a good licking." Now, he was inclined to think that a good licking would do us a great deal of good. He believed that the first time an army got near to London, those mills which had done such wonders would cease to work. But, the hon. Gentleman said, that the House was to be entirely guided on this question 249 by the great constituencies, which they were told contained all the intelligence, and all the science, and all the knowledge of the country. He would appeal to the lion. Member for Finsbury as a witness to the extent to which intelligence—and he hoped he might add morality—existed in those great constituencies. They had had a general Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations; but they had now done with it, and were pulling down the place. Suppose they built another, and had an Exhibition of the Morality of All Nations: in what position would the City of London stand—to say nothing of Finsbury? He might ask those who had bought coffee, or tea, or bread, or butter, or milk in Finsbury. Why, the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) had shown that there was no place in Europe where there was such a mass of fraud as among the tradesmen of this "enlightened constituency." He believed that many of the hon. Gentlemen who objected to this Bill did not care one rush about its real value; but they were prompted by their vanity to oppose it, because it was their "blue riband" to sit in that House. An hon. Gentleman near him had talked of the parrot cry of a fear of invasion. Where, then, was the parrot cry about peace? Why, some hon. Gentlemen had asserted over and over again that this free trade, of which they were so enamoured, would put an end to war altogether. This fact did not rest upon his mere assertion, but he would prove it by a speech of the hon. Member for the West Riding. That hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) said, "I have never taken a limited view of the object or scope of this great principle." Now, by "principle" the hon. Gentleman meant buying and selling cotton. "But I have been accused of looking too much to material interests. Nevertheless, I can say, that I have taken as large and great a view of the effects of this mighty principle as ever did any man who dreamt over it in his own study." Had he (Mr. Drummond) not told the House over and over again that these Gentlemen went into their studies to dream?I believe that the physical gain will be the smallest gain to humanity from its success. I see in free trade that which shall act on the moral world as the law of gravitation in the universe, drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace. I have looked even further—250 (The hon. Gentleman thinks he can see beyond eternity!)—ay, into the dim future, a thousand years hence, and have speculated on the results of this principle, when it shall have been long in operation. I believe that the effect will be to change the face of the world, so as to introduce a system of government entirely distinct from that which now prevails. I believe that the desire and motive for large and mighty empires, for gigantic armies and great navies, for those materials which are used for the destruction of life and the desolation of the rewards of labour, will die away. I believe that such things will cease to be necessary or to be used when man becomes one family, and freely exchanges the fruits of his labour with his brother man. I believe that if we could be allowed to reappear on this sublunary scene, we should sec, at a far distant period, the governing system of this world revert to something like the municipal system; and that the speculative philosopher of a thousand years hence will date the greatest revolution that over happened in the world's history from the triumph of the principle which we have met here to advocate.It is not the part of speculative philosophers to refer to dates, but of chronologists. The whole passage is a glorious specimen of the confusion of metaphors and balderdash, with which the hon. Gentleman delights the ears of Manchester manufacturers. Now the people of this country wore a very rich people; they had been bragging of their wealth; they were reported and thought to be much richer than they really were; yet they advertised that they would not defend themselves, and their refusal to do so was just saying, "Come over and plunder us, and we won't resist."
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS,
who rose amid continued cries for a division, said, that when the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) introduced the Bill for establishing a local militia, he stated that the noble Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had more than once pressed upon the attention of the late Government the necessity of organising a militia force. The hon. Member for Finsbury had, however, taunted the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) with not having had the courage and patriotism—though he was sensible of the importance of such a step—to recommend to his Colleagues or to that House the adoption of such a measure as that now under consideration. He (Lord J. Manners) thought it right that a statement of that nature should not go forth to the public without some contradiction. So notorious, indeed, was the reverse of that statement, that the hon. Member for Manchester had acquitted the noble Lord of 251 such a charge, by accusing him of having entertained the ridiculous hobby of this very militia force. The hon. Member for Finsbury had told them that no justification had been offered for this measure; but he (Lord J. Manners) would have thought that the opinions of statesmen on both sides of the House, and of the most eminent men in the naval and military services, would have some weight even with the hon. Gentleman. A Resolution of that House had ordered a Militia Bill to be brought in, and the measure of the Government had already in its principle been affirmed by an overwhelming majority. It had been urged that it was to an increase in our Navy that we should look for our true means of defence; but it was forgotten that the same argument which had been so forcibly urged against an increase in the regular Army, applied with equal force to any increase in our Navy, because if after some time had elapsed, no actual danger occurred, one of two things must happen—either the additional ships would be put out of commission under the pressure of a demand for economy, or, on the other hand, they would be sent out to those stations from which they were now told they ought to recall their naval power. He could only say that the Government were perfectly unconvinced by the arguments which had been urged against this Bill. Their opinion remained unchanged, that a great addition to the military defences of the country was essentially neeessary, They were still of opinion that the object could be best attained, in a manner least hostile to the feelings of the people, by a measure of this nature, and therefore they asked the House to reject the Amendment.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I shall detain the House but a very few minutes. I wish to state, in the first place, that I cannot vote for this Amendment, because I think it desirable, the House having decided by a very large majority in favour of the second reading of this Bill, that it should proceed in Committee to discuss its various clauses and provisions. But I cannot speak upon this subject without saying that, while I do not agree in the statements made in the very able speech of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), I must at the same time protest against the formula which has been put forward by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmer- 252 ston). He says there is this alternative—if you vote for this Bill, you are at least safe; while, if you vote against it, you may be safe, but you may very probably be ruined. The whole of my objections against this Bill are comprised in this—that it does not make you safe. I agree with the noble Lord, not as to the extent of the danger—not as to the danger of the sudden attack which he seems to apprehend, but I do agree that it is necessary to provide means against dangers which, in case of war, would more speedily come upon us than they have in former wars; and my objection to this Bill is certainly not that it is a Bill intended to provide against that danger, because undoubtedly the Government have taken the resolution of this House, and fairly executed that resolution, that a Bill should be brought in to provide a militia; but my objection is, that this Bill, if carried into effect, will not provide that safety which I think the country ought to have. I considered this matter as well as I could before the second reading; I considered whether it was possible for me to propose such amendments in Committee as would render this Bill, in my opinion, the means of efficient defence to the country. It seemed to me that while I might possibly be successful in defeating some of the clauses of the Bill, I should hardly be successful in introducing other clauses and provisions which would give strength and efficiency to the measure. I therefore came to the conclusion that it would be better that the Bill should be at once rejected, in order that the Government might provide other means which, as I thought, would be more efficient. I need not now allude to those means; various means have been stated, several by other Members of the House, some by myself, which I think would provide more efficiently for the defence of the country. If this Bill had not been entertained by the House, I can feel not the smallest doubt that Her Majesty's Government would have thought it necessary to resort to some of those other means. It appears to me that there are hardly any of them which would not be better than the present Bill. [Laughter.] I see Gentlemen doubt my opinion as to this Bill; but really, though I have heard the Bill very much defended in this House, I have hardly heard any persons of experience, still less any persons of military experience, who would say in private that they thought this measure 253 such as would prove effective. [Expressions of dissent.] As Gentlemen seem to doubt what I have stated, I would just put the question in order that they might bring home to their minds the efficiency of the measure which the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) says is to make this country safe. If our small regular force is not increased, no one can doubt that, if war were to break out, no person in the situation of the Commander-in-Chief would separate the force he would be able to collect in the neighbourhood of London, or between London and the south coast. Well, then, suppose an invasion in any distant part of the country, Cornwall or Pembroke Dock, would it be sufficient to send only a body, 5,000 or 10,000, of this raw militia, suddenly collected, against an organised French force? Would any one believe it would be sufficient? Now, if that would not be sufficient, this Bill would not be efficient. But then I am told, that the measure we proposed to introduce was one of a similar description, and that the question between the local and the regular militia is one of no great importance. But then there is coupled with this that which I must say seems inconsistent with such a statement, namely, that it was right and wise, entirely from public spirit and patriotism, that a majority of this House should refuse leave to me to bring in a Bill founded upon the principle of the local militia, and that, on the other hand, I could not oppose the regular militia except from motives of party and of faction. I own I cannot see that there is anything very convincing in this statement. I have never found fault with the motives of those who proposed to deprive me of the power of bringing in a Bill upon this subject. It was a proceeding I believe, quite without a precedent; at least, during the time I have sat in Parliament I have known no such instance; but I imputed no motives. But because I, on the second reading, declared this Bill inefficient, and said I would oppose it, it was said that my motive must have been, not a view to the defence of the country, but one entirely at variance with the duty which I owed to the country. I utterly deny such an interpretation of my conduct, and I must say that these are gross misrepresentations of my intentions upon this subject. I can hardly speak upon this subject without saying that the Home Secretary and some Gentlemen on the other side who have spoken, have most fairly addressed themselves to 254 any arguments that I have used, and I have nothing to complain of on their part. Nothing could be more fair than the manner in which the Secretary of State met the arguments that had been offered. I own, as the matter at present stands, I think it far better, that the House, having decided in favour of this Bill, should go into Committee, and that no alterations should be made which are inconsistent with the general intentions of the Government upon the subject. I cannot say I feel sanguine in my views of its efficiency. I think it will be found necessary, probably at the commencement of the next Session, to review the whole subject of the defences of the country. I think it probable that so considering it, without a view to party or to our divisions upon this subject, we may arrive at a system of defence which may be far better than the local militia I proposed, and which may be better than the regular militia now proposed, and with which we may all be satisfied that the country would be well defended. I am very much afraid that you will find this Bill in its operation, while it is obnoxious to many complaints, will not give a force on which you can rely. I do not expect that upon the present occasion you will be able to determine upon such a force; but I think it far better that we should now pass such a measure as the Government recommend, and in the next Session we can consider what alterations should be made, and the means by which we can best amend it. If I shall prove to be totally mistaken—if there are 80,000 efficient men, upon whom military men say they can rely for the defence of the country, I shall be glad to have been mistaken upon the subject. If, on the contrary, there is a general sense that it has been a mistake to suppose that the Bill would be effective, I trust we shall have some more efficient measure.
§ Question put: The House divided:—Ayes 285; Noes 76: Majority, 209.
§ Main Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. HUME
protested against the course taken by the noble Lord the Member for London. The noble Lord had admitted that the Bill under consideration was inadequate for the purpose for which it was introduced, and that it would not satisfy the wants of the country; and yet he counselled the House not to amend it, but to pass it. But would the House stultify itself by acting upon the advice of the 255 noble Lord? The noble Lord had taken a course which he could not understand; and he was not willing to place himself in the same boat with him. The last vote had made the question somewhat indistinct. Now, his opinion was, that a distinct negative ought to be given to the question that the Speaker do now leave the chair, and he would take the sense of the House upon that question.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
asked the right hon. Gentlemon the Home Secretary whether it would not be possible to go into Committee pro formâ on this Bill, with the view of introducing another Bill? ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, another Bill, in which the whole law on this subject might be consolidated. He had recently quoted the opinion of an eminent Judge, Baron Parke, to the effect that it was most desirable that the law should not be contained in partially repealed and new Acts of Parliament, but that it should stand in one comprehensive whole. Now, the question he put to the right hon. Gentleman was, whether he would not be willing to defer the present measure so that a Bill might be introduced which would contain all the laws relating to the militia?
§ MR. WALPOLE,
in answer to a question of the right hon. Gentleman, would first ask the House to go into Committee, when the right hon. Gentleman, or any other hon. Member, would have opportunities of proposing such Amendments as he thought proper. He must say that he was totally unacquainted with any rule of the House which would enable it to go into Committee on a Bill pro formâ, whilst the provisions of the measure were in fact to be rescinded.
§ MR. BRIGHT
rose to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) a question, which he said was of great interest to the community at large—namely, whether Clause 89 of 42 Geo. III. would be operative in the new measure? The Act proposed to embody a force of 80,000 men—substitutes or volunteers: were these men to be subjected to the Mutiny Act—were they to be subject to flogging whilst under training—were they to be withdrawn from the ordinary tribunals of the country, and to be made amenable to martial law?
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that if he answered this question, fifty others of a similar kind would be started. The proper time to answer such questions Was when the House went into Committee.
§ MR. BRIGHT
again rose amidst loud 256 cries of "Spoke!" and "Divide!" His object in rising was to explain. He was asked to vote for the Speaker leaving the chair to go into Committee on the Bill. Now, the Bill was most important, and so was the question he had put to the right hon. Gentleman, and the answer must necessarily influence the votes about to be given on the question, whether the Speaker do leave the chair or not.
§ MR. COBDEN
rose amidst loud cries. He humbly submitted that no reason had yet been alleged why the question put by his hon. Friend should not be answered. There was nothing in the question itself informal or unparliamentary. This was an important Bill, and a very important stage of the Bill. He thought his hon. Friend had a right to ask whether those who came under the provisions of the measure, volunteers or substitutes, came within the provisions of the 42 Geo. III.? [Cries of "Oh!"] He hoped that hon. Gentlemen, though they had a large majority, would not forget that a minority had its rights and its duties in that House; and he hoped they would not use that majority tyrannically. The question was, would the militiamen, under training, be subjected to the provisons of the Mutiny Act? would they be made amenable to martial law?
§ MR. WALPOLE
The hon. Gentleman has put the same question as the hon. Member for Manchester. His belief was that the provisions of the 42nd Geo. III., c. 90, placed men who had been enrolled in the militia, during the time of training, under martial law. Before the hon. Gentleman again addressed the House, he (Mr. Walpole) wished to observe that the force he alluded to would be under the provisions of the Mutiny Act.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 219; Noes 85: Majority 134.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Baird, J.|
|Anson, Visct.||Baldock, E. H.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Baldwin, C. B.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Bankes, rt. hon. G.|
|Bailey, C.||Barrington, Visct.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Beckett, W.|
|Bennet, P.||Frewen, C. H.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Gallwey, Sir W. P.|
|Berkeley, hon. G. F.||Galway, Visct.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Gilpin, Col.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Gooch, Sir E. S.|
|Booker, T. W.||Goold, W.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Granger, T. C.|
|Bremridge, R.||Greenall, G.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Greene, T.|
|Broadwood, H.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Grogan, E.|
|Brooke, Lord||Guernsey, Lord|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Gwyn, H.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Hale, R. B.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Halford, Sir H.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hall, Col.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Campbell, hon. W.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Campbell, Sir A. I.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Hardinge, hon. C. S.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Heald, J.|
|Child, S.||Heneage, G. H. W.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Christopher, rt. hn. R. A.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Christy, S.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Clive, H. B.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Hollond, R.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Hope, Sir J.|
|Coke, hon. E. K.||Hope, H. T.|
|Coles, H. B.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Collins, T.||Howard, P. H.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Conolly, T.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Cotton, hon. W. H. S.||Jones, Capt.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Kelly, Sir F.|
|Davies, D. A. S.||Knox, Col.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Dod, J. W.||Langton, W. H. P. G.|
|Dodd, G.||Lascelles, hon. E.|
|Douro, Marq. of||Legh, G. C.|
|Drummond, H.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Dunne, Col.||Long, W.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Lopes, Sir R.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Edwards, H.||Macnaghten, Sir E.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Euston, Earl of||March, Earl of|
|Farnham, E. B.||Martin, C. W.|
|Farrer, J.||Masterman, J.|
|Fellowes, E.||Matheson, Col.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Meux, Sir H.|
|FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.||Miles, W.|
|Floyer, J.||Moody, C. A.|
|Forbes, W.||Morgan, O.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Mundy, W.|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Mure, Col.|
|Fox, S. W. L.||Naas, Lord|
|Freestun, Col.||Napier, J.|
|Freshfield, J. W.||Neeld, J.|
|Neeld, J.||Stanley, E.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Newport, Visct.||Stephenson, R.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|O'Brien, Sir L.||Stuart, J.|
|Packe, C. W.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Pakington, rt. hon. Sir J.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Palmer, R.||Tennent, Sir J. E.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Patten, J. W.||Tollemache, J.|
|Peel, Col.||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Pennant, hon. Col.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Perfect, R.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Pigott, Sir R.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Plowden, W. H. C.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Powlett, Lord W.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Prime, R.||Vyse, H. R. H.|
|Pusey, P.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Richards, R.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Sandars, G.||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Scott, hon. F.||Welby, G. E.|
|Seymour, H. K.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Sibthorp, Col.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Smith, J. G.||Whiteside, J.|
|Smollett, A.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Somerton, Visct.||Worcester, Marq. of|
|Sotheron, T. H. S.||Wynn, H. W. W.|
|Spearman, H. J.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Stafford, A.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Stanford, J. F.||Bateson, T.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, H. P.||Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Anderson, A.||Henry, A.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Hey wood, J.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Heyworth, L.|
|Bell, J.||Hinidley, C.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Bernal, R.||Hodges, T. T.|
|Blake, M. J.||Hutt, W.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Jackson, W.|
|Bright, J.||Keating, R.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Keogh, W.|
|Brown, H.||Kershaw, J.|
|Carter, S.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Clay, J.||Locke, J.|
|Cobden, R.||Loveden, P.|
|Cogan, W. H. F.||M'Cullagh, W. T.|
|Collins, W.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Cowan, C.||Martin, J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Milligan, R.|
|D'Eyncourt,rt. hon. C. T.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Duff, G. S.||Mowatt, G.|
|Duff, J.||Morris, D.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Moffatt, F.|
|Duncan, G.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Duncombe, T.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Evans, J.||Pilkington, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Reynolds, J.|
|Fox, W. J.||Ricardo, O.|
|Grattan, H.||Salwey, Col.|
|Greene, J.||Scobell, Capt.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Scully, F.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Scully, V.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Hastie, A.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Hatchell, rt. hon. J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Stewart, Adm.||Williams, W.|
|Stuart, Lord D.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|Thicknesse, R. A.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Thompson, Col.||Williams, J.|
|Wakley, T.||Hume, J.|
|Walmsley, Sir J.||Gibson, T. M.|
§ House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the chair.
§ MR. BRIGHT
rose for the purpose of stating that he thought it was the duty of the Government to fix what was called a long day for going into Committee, and proceeding with the clauses of the Bill. During the course of the debate he had observed that no two military men who had spoken had agreed in scarcely one single point in regard to the Bill. If they had agreed at all it was in disapproving of the main portion of the Bill. He thought that on a subject of this nature the Government would not disregard the testimony which had been given that night with so much intelligence by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Westminster; and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), in his responsible position, had stated that this was not the Bill which ought to be carried. It was not desirable that they should proceed with a measure of this nature, unless the urgency of it could be demonstrated; and if its urgency had been demonstrated, which he believed it had not, they had not demonstrated that this was the particular measure proper for the urgency. He implored the Government not to pass this Bill under the present circumstances of Parliament, but to allow it to remain over to be discussed in another Parliament. He did not ask the House to agree with him as to the necessity of a militia; but he thought that they would agree with him that it would be better to postpone the consideration of this Bill for six months, than to pass a Bill which would be inefficient, and which would produce great dissatisfaction. Postponements of important questions took place in every Session, even where all parties were agreed on the principle of a measure. They were told that all the statesmen of that House were against them; but he had known a good many questions on which all the statesmen had taken one view; and he had seen in the course of a very short time those who held leading positions converted, and those who had been in a small minority found themselves the members of a large majority. The noble Lord the Member for London was in favour of some measure; the Government had taken up 260 this measure, and it was supported by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton; but the great constituencies of the country were averse to it, and if they had not a right to dictate, they had at least a right to be heard upon a question of such a nature. He therefore thought that they had a fair claim on the Government in asking them to postpone this measure. He sought for that postponement in order that the opinion of the country might be expressed, and in the hope that the Government, further considering what was the real position of the country with respect to its means of defence, would not deal with that question in a moribund Parliament.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am sure, Sir, that the hon. Member for Manchester is quite conscious that he has made a most preposterous proposition to the House; and therefore I do not think it necessary to argue upon it. We have been pressed night after night to expedite the necessary business of the House. There have been several opinions as to what were necessary measures. One Gentleman said that Chancery reform was not necessary; some others said that some other measures were not necessary; but there was not the slightest doubt that a measure for the defence of the country, that a Militia Bill, was necessary. In deference to the universal sentiment of this House, we lost no time in bringing in a measure for the defence of the country. Now, will any person pretend that the discussion upon this measure has not been ample? It has arrived at the present stage when every Gentleman has addressed "Mr. Speaker" once; indeed, very many have addressed "Mr. Speaker" more than once. And now the hon. Member rises to propose that we should fix a very distant day for the settlement of this question. After night after night has been spent in discussion, he asks us to arrive at this practical point. For what purpose, then, is postponement asked? For the sake of agitation; not to examine the provisions of the Bill, what is its form, what are its details—they are already known; not with the hope that he can influence the opinion of this House, hut really that he should go to the country. Now, I think this is a very unconstitutional course of proceeding. I say, then, instead of fixing a very distant day, I shall, with the leave of the House, take the liberty of saying that we shall proceed with the Committee on Thursday next.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, that he was delighted to hear the course which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take; and as to whether the militiamen were to be subjected to the Mutiny Act, he would advise the hon. Members for Manchester and the West Riding of Yorkshire to enrol themselves, and then they would discover whether they would be subjected to the lash or not.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
rose to repudiate the imputation cast upon his side of the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they sought delay for the purpose of getting up an agitation against the Bill. He knew little, indeed, of the feelings of the country if he thought agitation necessary to excite the strongest antagonism against this measure. It was regarded with dread and abhorrence by the great body of the working people; and those feelings would not be diminished when they learned that they would be brought into compulsory service and put under the lash. There had been in his borough a perfectly spontaneous exhibition of feeling against the Bill; and the House would do well for its own sake to give time for further consideration, particularly when there were scarcely two military men who were agreed on the Bill.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that the hon. Member for Oldham had stated that the Bill was regarded with great abhorrence in consequence of the compulsory clauses, and its subjecting the militiamen to the Mutiny Act. Now, the Government believed that the compulsory clauses would never be necessary; therefore that abhorrence was founded in a mistake. With regard to the Mutiny Act, the House was well aware that every yeoman subjected himself to it—it was necessary for the purposes of discipline—yet nobody ever heard that the power which was created under it had been enforced.
§ MR. BRIGHT
complained that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not met his request in the most courteous manner. It was not very preposterous to ask that more than a day should intervene. Why, Thursday was but to-morrow. It was in vain to tell them that the compulsory clauses did not mean anything. If they meant nothing, why insert them? It was equally vain to say that they did not subject themselves to the tyranny of the lash because those who enrolled themselves in the yeomanry were never subjected to it.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that the simple reason why he proceeded was, that the clauses of the Bill should be very well understood. A variety of opinions had been expressed with regard to them, which was a proof that hon. Gentlemen were perfectly conversant with them; and if the House was not prepared to go into it now, he did not know when it would be.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that what he found fault with was the total disregard of precedent in the mode in which this measure had been drawn up. There was no Gentleman on the Treasury bench who could point out an instance, where, on the request of a considerable minority—not inconsiderable, indeed, when they recollected the constituencies whom they represented—a reasonable application had been refused. He wanted a precedent in which, when a minority asked, not with any factious spirit, but with a sincere desire that the country might have time clearly to understand its position, for a delay of more than one day, the favour had been refused. He could confidently say that no such precedent existed.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he did not wish to enter into any argument upon the matter. If the hon. Member for Manchester had made a preposterous request, he was very sorry for it. The Bill had been read before Easter a first time, and had then been postponed until after the recess. It was read a second time last Monday week, having been postponed from before Easter in deference to the opinions of Gentlemen opposite. There was a sincere desire on the part of a majority of the House that the Bill should pass into a law, and every opportunity had been afforded to Gentlemen to make themselves masters of the question. He, therefore, did not see what reasonable ground there could be for asking for a postponement.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had not told them whether, if this Bill passed, there would be a dissolution of Parliament. It was not likely that those who were opposed to the Bill would facilitate its progress. The noble Lord at the head of the Government professed to be influenced by public opinion. Let them, therefore, wait and see how public opinion would pronounce upon this question. For his own part he thought that the proposition for adjournment was quite reasonable.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was of opinion that the delay was only asked for purposes of agitation. If the measure was a had one, before it came into operation another Parliament would be able to repeal it.
§ MR. BRIGHT
must protest against the course which had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman. It was an imputation to say that he, and those who were acting with him, wanted delay for the purposes of agitation. He could quite well understand whence that argument was brought forward; for he recollected that in 1846 the debates were adjourned night after night, for the purpose, as it was openly avowed, of allowing some county Member to take his seat and vote in the minority. The idea of agitation never entered his head. The hon. Member for Montrose had given good advice to the Government, and they would act wisely in deferring to any reasonable request of a minority. There never was a greater tactician than the late Sir Robert Peel, who had been pronounced to be the greatest Member of Parliament that the country had ever had, and yet he was a man who deferred very much to the wishes of a minority. He believed that the noble Lord at the head of the Government did not fail in that respect. Let right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury benches place themselves in the position of a minority, which they had been in for five years, and let them be in a minority on a question in which they took considerable interest, and would they not consider it very unreasonable that so small a delay should be granted to them if they asked for it? No argument would induce him to assent to this measure for the purpose of expediting business. He believed it was a bad measure, and had rather Parliament should sit till August than that it should be passed.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that this measure had already been frequently postponed. The first reading had taken place before the recess, and the second reading had been postponed until after the recess. It had again been postponed from last Monday week, on the suggestion of the minority, and the Government had then expected to go into Committee on Monday last, when, however, the debate was adjourned. He appealed to the experience of the House whether, when the first and second readings of a Bill had been agreed 264 to, and the Amendment on going into Committee had been negatived, such a request for delay as this had ever been granted? He did not believe that a single precedent of the kind could be produced.
§ MR. BASS
said, that he had voted with the noble Lord late at the head of the Government, and he was of opinion that additional forces were required in the present state of the country. But he was also of opinion that the proposition for delay was very reasonable. He had become aware that a very strong feeling on the subject of the Bill existed in the country. This was the fourth Session that he had served in that House, yet it was the first time he had received a remonstrance for the votes which he had given, and for his absence on the occasion of the second reading of the Bill. He still, however, adhered to the opinion that some measure of defence was necessary.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that the imputation that they wanted to get up an agitation in the country came with a very bad grace from the right hon. Gentleman, who had been treated with the greatest forbearance upon that side of the House. But he would ask who had been the greatest agitators for the last four or five years? There was not a platform or a theatre in that metropolis on which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had not figured. If it was imputed to them that they wanted to get up an agitation in the country in order to transfer themselves to the Treasury bench, there to repudiate the principles which brought them into office, that was an insinuation which could hardly fall with a good grace from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He repeated that the tone which the right hon. Gentleman had adopted was most unbecoming, and that it was one which he (Mr. Cobden) would advise him not to repeat. The grounds on which this request was made, were perfectly reasonable. There was not at present a full conviction on the public mind that after thirty-seven years of peace they were about to have a militia, and still less that it was to be as they had been informed to-night, that the militia were to be placed under the provisions of the Mutiny Act, and that they would be out of the protection of the civil law. Was it not reasonable then that the constituencies 265 in the provinces should have time to petition against these provisions—to remonstrate with their representatives, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby candidly admitted his constituents had done with him?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
reminded the House that the phrase "agitating the country" was originally applied to the proposition made by the hon. Member for Manchester, that this Bill should be postponed for six months, in order, as the hon. Member gratuitously avowed, that the country might be appealed to. He wanted to know what that meant but agitation? The hon. Member for the West Riding said that he (Mr. Disraeli) ought to feel grateful for the forbearance with which he had been received—
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It is expedient when there has been a long discussion to remember its origin. When the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) spoke of delay for the purpose of appealing to the country, what he meant was, that the country should be agitated. [Mr. BRIGHT: I never said so.] As to the charge brought forward by the hon. Member (Mr. Cobden) of obtaining power by the assertion of principles which, when in power, we did not carry out, I beg to inform him that that is a charge which does not apply to me. I am here, Sir, to put in practice, as far as I am able, the policy I advocated when on the other side of the House, and I say so without the slightest hesitation. Notwithstanding the complaints of my demeanour, which are perfectly unjustified as I think—and if I used any expression or exhibited a manner calculated to give offence, which it is neither my habit nor disposition to do—I must say I feel it is the duty of Government, and I think we are only acting with regard to the opinions of the vast majority of the House and of the public out of doors, by calling on you to proceed with this Bill.
§ MR. HEYWORTH
said, that as the Bill concerned deeply the interests of the working classes, it was desirable that the consideration of the Bill should not be fixed earlier than Monday.
§ MR. WAKLEY
understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he was prepared to carry out on that side of the House the principles he had advocated on the other. Then he ought to know that persons professing to be his friends and supporters were asking for the suffrages of the people in different counties and boroughs, and stating that they were Conservative Freetraders, and that Protection was thrown to the winds. He (Mr. Wakley) therefore wished to know whether those persons were guilty of gross misrepresentation or not?
§ Committee report progress;—House resumed.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
proposed that the Bill be again considered in Committee on Thursday next.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Thursday next, again resolve itself into the said Committee."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "Thursday," in order to insert the word "Monday," instead thereof.
§ Question put, "That the word 'Thursday' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 31: Majority 72.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 29: Majority 76.
§ Committee to sit again on Thursday.
§ The House adjourned at half after Two o'clock.