§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee; Mr. Berna! in the Chair.
§ Clause 7.
§ MR. HUME
said, this clause contained the essence of the Bill, which was to create an army of reserve of 80,000 men. If the Government must appeal to the country upon the question of distributing the vacant seats, he hoped they would also appeal to the country upon a matter of such grave importance as this, and not proceed further with the measure at present. He could conceive nothing more important to the Government in a financial point of view, or as it regarded the content or discontent of the people. Every sitting of the House brought petitions against this Bill; and if the cogent reasons for postponement offered by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) applied to the last question, they applied, in his (Mr. Hume's) opinion, with much greater force to the present Motion. Seeing the situation of the country, be trusted Her Majesty's Government would say this was a fit subject to be postponed; and if it should be brought forward in a new Parliament, and he should be returned to that Parliament, he should meet it with that moderation which a question of this great importance demanded. He was as anxious as any man to make our defences effective, hut, having seen so much money squandered in useless establishments, and believing that the expenditure contemplated under this Bill would also be useless, he should move that the Chairman do now report progress, asking the Government to appeal to the country upon a question for which, it was admitted on all hands, there was no urgent demand. The noble Lord at the head of the late Government introduced the question as one of urgency. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department mooted the question as one of great urgency. But both sides now agreed that it was not a question of urgency, but of permanent establishment. He submitted, therefore, he was not unreasonable in asking that it might be referred to the country in the appeal which was about to take place.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, the proposition 467 of the hon. Member was not a very reasonable one. There was a great distinction between this question and that on which the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford had spoken. In the latter case the question was whether the House considered it ought to go on with a proposal for filling up the vacant seats; and the House had refused to entertain that proposal. But with regard to this Bill, the House, instead of refusing to entertain it, hod affirmed it by repeated majorities. Under these circumstances, they (the Government) should bow most readily and cheerfully to the decision of the House in the one instance, and he thought the opinion of the House upon the other question ought to influence hon. Gentlemen.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he was distinctly of opinion that the Bill would not have received such consideration and favour from the House, had it been introduced under the very different circumstances in which it now stood. He said that circumstances had greatly changed since they last discussed this measure. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London said, that he did not think there was any urgency for the Bill, and that he had no fear of immediate danger; and the noble Lord at the head of the present Government had made on Saturday night a speech which was essentially a peace speech. Besides, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, by withdrawing the ballot for a year, had given the militia force all the character of an army of reserve, who were therefore to be regarded as troops of the line, only that they received a larger bounty and were only to spend a certain time in training, instead of being permanently embodied. A circumstance had likewise happened tonight which he thought most important. There could be no doubt whatever, and he thought no one on the opposite side of the House would dispute it, that the division to-night was not unexpected by the Government, and he was not sure that it was not sought by the Government. He believed that the object of the Government was now to fulfil the engagement into which they had entered—that Parliament should be speedily dissolved with a view to meeting in the autumn, when the present dislocated state of the House would not interfere with the fair consideration of public 468 business. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to-night to introduce a measure of the most important character. He (Mr. Bright) thought there were points in it which were not noticed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) quite as important as those to which he had alluded in the speech he had just made. The House came to a division immediately after one speech on each side. Such a thing was scarcely known with regard to a question introduced by the leader of the House of Commons. He doubted whether the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), or any hon. Gentleman who had sat in that House as long as the hon. Member, could recollect such an instance. And a majority of not less than eighty-six had emphatically and at once voted against even entertaining a proposition which the leader of the House of Commons and a distinguished Member of that House had introduced. That showed that the Government did not enjoy that which was understood as meaning the confidence of the House of Commons. The right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department said, this military question was different, because it had been received by the House with large majorities. He (Mr. Bright) denied altogether that any majority of that House had expressed an opinion beyond this—that the question of the public defences was one which required consideration, and that there was ground for believing that the defences of the country were not in a satisfactory condition. But he denied that a majority in that House had expressed any opinion in favour of a militia proposition, and if hon. Gentlemen took their own (the Ministerial) side of the House, they would find nearly every military man objected to it. Every one of them on that (the Opposition) side objected to it; and the press told them that all military men out of the House took exception to it. The votes of the majorities which the right hon. Gentleman claimed were given in favour of greater attention being paid to the question of defences. That was something, and was probably necessary; but he submitted that, in the present condition of Parliament, it was much better that this question should not be huddled up without being a question of immediate necessity, and that it should be left over to that, which was the highest tribunal to which appeal could be made in this country. This question involved the ex- 469 penditure of 750,000l. in the next two or three years; it involved the raising of 80,000 men for martial occupation, who were now engaged in industry; and at the close of this year it would involve, in all probability, the calling out of the people by ballot, which was but an organised and arranged system of pressgang, from various classes, to become members of the force they were about to embody. He begged to direct the attention of the Committee to the speeches at the Mansion-house on Saturday night. He would not describe the fare provided by the distinguished people who had the arrangement of these entertainments; but his attention was drawn to the speeches, and to those speeches he wished to draw the attention of the Committee. The speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government was essentially a peace speech. The noble Earl gave the strongest reasons for believing that between this and every other country, especially between this country and France, there was no question in dispute or in agitation which could require or justify the raising of an additional force in this country. And if they turned to the speech of the French Ambassador, then present, and who spoke, not only for his own Government and for his own country, hut for all the corps diplomatique who permitted him to represent them on that occasion, they would see that—unless these distinguished men, the noble Lord the Prime Minister and the French Ambassador, were men whose words were not to be trusted upon any question, they gave the most satisfactory assurances—the most explicit and reiterated assurances—not only that there was no question in dispute, but that feelings of the most perfect amity and the most perfect confidence existed between this country and France, and between this country and all the other important countries in the world. And if that were so—and he did not read speeches of Prime Ministers and French Ambassadors as speeches of persons who were stating what they did not believe—lie read them with a consciousness that they were stating what was true—if that were so, those speeches had been read by this time by scores of thousands of intelligent persons: and he would ask what would those intelligent persons say, if they believed the Prime Minister and the distinguished men at that dinner—if they believed those facts to be facts—vv!;at would they think if Parliament and the Govern- 470 ment insisted upon urging through, under the circumstances of the present Session, a measure which he ventured to say was more important, and, on many points, more to be dreaded, than any measure of a military character offered to the House of Commons since the year 1815? Then if that were the state of things, and if there were no symptom, no expression, of public opinion in favour of this Bill—if they could not point to a single paper in London which advocated the measure—if the provincial press, almost without a single exception, was against it—unless the Government could upset their own case, for it was Lord Derby's case with which he was now dealing, they could not expect to be allowed to proceed with this Bill until something more had been said by the Government, and till the House of Commons were informed that the speeches at the Mansion-house, and the statements of the distinguished persons present, were not the real truth, but were intended to conceal the truth, and that there was a danger against which we ought to be prepared. He was of opinion that the course they were taking was calculated more than anything else to produce the result they were proposing to avoid. He saw that morning, in a respectable provincial paper, an extract from a letter received by a gentleman in a town in the north of England, from a friend of his, for many years resident in Paris, in which he said that to his certain knowledge one of the Ministers of the French President had stated to an English gentleman at Paris that he knew of nothing so calculated to create unfortunate feelings between France and England as the discussions going on in this House and in this country; and he stated further, that he had himself prevented, in the plenitude of that power which the Government of France, unfortunately as he thought, now enjoyed, all extracts from English papers calculated to excite ill feeling in France against this country being inserted in the French journals. If they had been inserted, nothing could have prevented the stimulation of a feeling of antagonism and suspicion, like that attempted to be created here; and if the Government of France had had any designs against England, what was more easy than to have allowed extracts from English papers and extracts from speeches in that House to have been published all over France, whereby feelings of anger might have been excited, akin to, if not 471 worse than, those which in this country had been aroused? He had now shown the Committee that, judging from the press, from meetings and from petitions, there was not the slightest demand for this measure, but general apprehension of its passing. He had shown them also that, taking the speeches of the noble Lord at the head of the Government and of the French Ambassador, speaking in the names of the ambassadors of the chief countries in Europe, every ground upon which they had endeavoured to persuade Parliament to consent to this measure had no foundation whatever, and had sunk entirely from under their feet. He had shown them that which he need not have shown them, for it was patent to every one —Government had proposed a measure, and had been outvoted by a majority of nearly 100. He had argued that such a vote must precipitate a dissolution of Parliament, which the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night was not remote but imminent. He argued that it was more imminent from what had taken place to-night, and that he was fairly entitled to ask the Committee not at once to divide on this clause, but to appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether the Government would not even now consent to postpone this Bill for their own better consideration in the recess, and the more impartial consideration of Parliament after a general election. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department should say that was an unreasonable proposition, what could be more reasonable than that he should postpone the Bill to some other day this week, Thursday or Friday, that the subject might be again considered by a Cabinet which it would be an insult to their common sense and to their common patriotism were he to assume that a single Member of it was wishful this measure should pass into a law? It was one of those unpleasant legacies left them by their predecessors. They were not to blame for the original idea. They were not to blame that a Militia Bill should have been introduced into the House. They were not to blame for asking for 80,000, when the first proposition was for 120,000 men. But they were to blame if, seeing the arguments which had been brought against it, and the general opinion of the country, and looking at the condition of Parliament, they persisted in doing that which every an felt, even on their own side, they 472 were unable to defend by arguments, though supported by majorities. Upon these grounds, if the right hon. Gentleman would not postpone the Bill till next Session, he called upon him for the reasons he had given to defer it until Thursday or Friday. If he persisted, they who acted with him (Mr. Bright) could not prevent the measure being passed; but, having strong convictions on the subject, it would be their bounden duty, though an impotent minority, to resist to the utmost of their power the further progress of the Bill.
§ MR. JACOB BELL
submitted that if there had been any desire on the part of France to interfere with us, she could not have had a better opportunity than the interval during which we were left without any government, or the possibility of taking measures for the national defence. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester, that the' circumstances were now entirely changed, and he trusted the Government would accede to the hon. Member's proposition.
§ Mr. W. J. FOX
thought there were other reasons which should induce the Government to pause in proceeding with the measure besides the division to-night, to which he would not refer. One reason was the remarkable change which had taken place since this Bill was first introduced. It was then strongly impressed upon the House that two successive Governments had each declared that it was a measure of urgency. The inference was, that certain facts were known to those Governments in their official position which it would be imprudent to disclose, but that those facts were sufficient to ask the House, upon their authority, to proceed with the measure. No longer ago than the last night the House sat, the noble Lord at the head of the late Administration (Lord John Russell) distinctly stated that there was no urgency, no fears of immediate danger, no suspicion of designs by a 'person who presides over a neighbouring country. If there were any immediate danger, the noble Lord must have been acquainted with it. The succeeding Government had postponed the only feature of the Bill connected with the question of urgency—the right of raising men by ballot—until the end of the present year. Thus by the express words of one Government, and, what was stronger than words, by the acts of another Government, they had a contradiction of the impressions under which many had previously voted. They had 473 now the conjoint assurance of the two Governments that it was not a measure of urgency—that there was no occasion for any precipitation whatever in its passing through the House. The inevitable conclusion was that there was no immediate apprehension—that no peril whatever would be incurred until the new Parliament assembled. This was not a measure of national defences against impending dangers. It was really a step towards a change in the policy of this country—a step towards making it more a military country, and giving it a different position among European nations, who measured their strength and importance by their arms. It was not strange that official persons should desire to change the policy of this country. It was, no doubt, a very gratifying thing for those who conducted the diplomacy of this country to be able to confer upon the supposition that there were certain great armies at their back to enforce their arguments. He would not say whether such a policy was or was not desirable. The present was not a time to enter upon that question. It might be that, in the opinion of a great majority of the people of this country, it was glory enough for any nation to be the greatest of naval and commercial empires that the world had ever seen. But if the question raised was whether the House of Commons was content to make England a more military power, that was a question for a new Parliament calmly and deliberately to consider, and certainly not a question hastily to be carried through what was very properly called a merely moribund Parliament. The statement of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer led many to suppose that free trade was at last a settled matter. Since that time various expressions had been used in that House and elsewhere which produced a contrary opinion, and led the people to apprehend that in some form or another an attempt would be made to reverse it. Now, Her Majesty's Government could not urge on a matter for forming an army of reserve under more inauspicious circumstances than by connecting it in the minds of the people of this country with an attempt to re-establish the corn laws, or something equivalent to the corn laws. They would regard as a most ominous conjunction the revival of protection, or an equivalent to protection, and the revival of a militia force. He was urging this in no hostile spirit, but upon the ground that it would be politic and prudent for Her Ma- 474 jesty's Government to postpone this question to a period not far distant—namely, upon the assembling of a new Parliament.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, it was not very reasonable to be called on to go into repeated discussions on the principle of the Bill, and it was not out of any disrespect to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if he declined to enter into the general arguments. But there was one point, to which the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. W. J. Fox) had alluded, which he begged to explain, with reference to the assertion that the noble Lord at the head of the late Administration had changed his views of the urgency of the measure. The noble Lord, when appealed to by the hon. Member for Fins-bury (Mr. Wakley), gave his reasons for preferring his own proposition, but still expressed his opinion that some measure of this kind was necessary for the permanent safety of the country. With regard to the observation, upon the postponement of the ballot, from which the hon. Member inferred that this measure was considered by the present Government to be no longer an urgent one, he begged the hon. Member would recollect that urgency did not depend so much upon the ballot as upon voluntary enlistment. By the ballot they could not obtain the force necessary in less than three or four months; by voluntary enlistment they might obtain it certainly in as many weeks, probably in as many days. Supposing that the Government had argued that urgency was necessary, to say that they had postponed the ballot was no reason to induce the House to suppose that the urgency was not the same. This clause had already been discussed two evenings; three divisions bad been taken upon it, and everything that could be said had been said for it. He now hoped the Committee would go on with the remaining clauses.
§ MR. HUME
said, he thought that in a Parliament which was about to expire, they ought not to commence an expenditure which might lead to, he did not know the amount, but immediately to 500,000l. for bounty, and to a permanent army of reserve of 80,000 men. He said the Committee could not, and ought not, to support that proposition without having its necessity clearly pointed out. All that he wanted was to have it postponed for the decision of a new Parliament, and he hoped Government would agree to do so.
§ MR. FORBES
said, he could not see 475 what an addition to the Parliamentary representation had to do with the defences of the country. He might be wrong as to the nature of the danger; hut he certainly did think there was all the less of it when the country was prepared. He could not understand the objection of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the Militia, when he considered their antagonism to standing armies. The militia was constituted on a far better footing than the National Guard of France, or the militia of America. He would far rather pay taxes than have contributions levied on him, either directly by foreign bayonets, or indirectly in the form of a forced loan. He would not be a party to defeating the Bill in any shape whatever, because he believed it to be absolutely necessary.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department had said they had been discussing the principle of the Bill for several evenings. He admitted that; and it appeared to him that they ought to discuss it again, and persist in discussing it until they had satisfied Her Majesty's Government that they ought not to persist in attempting to carry such a measure. Then the Government position was very much changed by the vote of this evening. They had been revelling lately in majorities, apparently very subservient majorities, and so subservient that they thought they would never miss them. There was a whip on their side of the House, and there might have been some lashing on his side. But they had now experienced a most mortifying and signal defeat, and experienced it, too, upon a strictly Government question—upon a Ministerial proposition— a proposition, respecting the character of which there could be no mistake. He would ask any lover of constitutional government on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, whether such a thing was to be found in the history of this country as that an Administration, being in a minority of 86 in a House of 382 Members, should demand to have conceded to them the power of raising a militia force of 50,000 men? He strongly suspected that if Parliament were dissolved next month, the Government would not be very anxious that a new Parliament should be assembled before November, and possibly not before December, so that the raising of the militia would most probably be confided to a minority of that House. Instead of being demanded, this Bill was detested 476 and dreaded by the whole community, and the minority ought to avail themselves of the forms of the House in their resistance to it. He did not care at all about being called factious, believing that he was but performing his duty in conscientiously and constitutionally resisting the further progress of this Bill. He saw no grounds for such a measure. It seemed to have been produced by some whim or caprice. As to the French, they appeared satisfied with their President, and he with them; and he (Mr. Wakley) declared that within the last twenty years he had never seen so little probability of a commotion in France as at that moment. The Motion for reporting progress had been withdrawn by the hon. Member for Montrose, but it was in his (Mr. Wakley's) power to renew it, and he should do so. He thought it but fair to the Government, after what had passed that evening, that they should have the opportunity of calmly considering for two or three days the nature of their position. He believed he should be rendering them a very great service by enabling them to abandon with a good grace a measure which was uncalled for and unpopular, and he should, therefore, conclude by moving that the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that the hon. Gentleman had commenced his speech by saying that Government were in a minority, and a Government in a minority ought not to advise the Crown to raise 50,000 men for defensive purposes; and he concluded his speech by telling Government they ought not to go on with a tyrannical majority against the wishes of the people, who, he believed, were decidedly against the Bill. Now, if it be a fact that Government were in a majority, and that that House, by a majority, had confirmed the principle of the Bill, was it not right that the Bill should be proceeded with? The House were agreed upon the principle of the Bill, and they were now called upon to consider the details. The hon. Member might show that the principle of the Bill was bad, but that principle having been affirmed, he would not discuss it then. If the hon. Member was right in his argument, the proper time would be to discuss the principle at the third reading.
§ MR. ELLIS
said, that, representing a constituency of no small magnitude, he wished to express on their behalf strong opposition to this measure. Having lis- 477 tened to all the debates, he must say he had not heard a single argument which tended to convince him of the necessity for it. If carried out, it would, he believed, have a most demoralising effect on the population. He was old enough to recollect the embodiment of the local militia; and he knew what the men were when they left their homes, and what they were when they returned. Believing the measure to be a most mischievous one, he should make no apology for endeavouring by every means in his power to throw it out.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the hon. Member (Mr. Wakley) had spoken of the division against the Government. The persons, he believed, who were most surprised at that division were those who supported the Amendment. A great number of Members who would have voted for the question had left the House, under the impression that the division would not have taken place at so early an hour. It was with the greatest difficulty he got into the House in time to give his vote, and there were several Members in the lobby in a state of consternation because they could not get in. He deeply lamented the division. He thought the proposition of Government was perfectly fair and liberal; and he would tell hon. Members who had professed liberal politics that they could not have taken a more unpopular mode than that of voting against the Government measure. It was said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that they must not pass measures of importance in a moribund Parliament; but some measures the country would expect the Government to propose, as necessary to the public service; and a Bill to provide for the completion of the next House of Commons might fairly be considered a measure essential to the Parliamentary and constitutional government of this country. The opponents of this measure by their acts desired to provide that after the dissolution, an imperfect and incomplete Parliament should consider important measures. Hon. Members opposite often argued that the votes of Members representing large constituencies ought to tell for more than one vote each, because they represented more persons and property than other Members. All their argument turned against them—because by the recent division they declared that the representation should not be more equally distributed. Now with respect to the militia measure, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ellis) said he objected to it be- 478 cause of the grievous moral injury it would inflict on the population. The hon. Member said he remembered the consequences which resulted from the last local militia. This Bill, however, was not intended to be a Local Militia Bill. But there were special circumstances connected with the religious opinions of the hon. Member, which made him abhor both a militia and an army. To state those opinions was doubtless very creditable to the hon. Gentleman; he deprecated a resort to arms, he deprecated military power, altogether, and of course, he deprecated a militia. But on account of these special circumstances, the hon. Member was not at liberty to give an unbiassed opinion. The hon. Member came to the discussion with a forgone conclusion; and though the hon. Member was justly entitled to give an opinion, still that opinion must stand singly; at all events, merely as the opinion of the Society of Friends, to which the hon. Member was attached. With respect to dividing the House, he trusted they would not have another snapped division like that which had just taken place. He trusted the House would not permit the principle of this Militia Bill to be mutilated in Committee, since they had already sanctioned it. The principle had over and over again been confirmed by large majorities; it was vain, therefore, to expect to defeat the measure—it could only be uselessly obstructed. It was all very well for the hon. Gentlemen over the way to disclaim being actuated by factious motives. They were, nevertheless, acting factiously, however, and the country, he was sure, would think so.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, with reference to what had been termed a snapped division, that he had himself been shut out from it, and he understood that the division was called for by the hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves. When the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate), however, talked of a snapped division, he bogged to refer him to the recent division. The numbers were for the Motion 148, against it 234, tellers 4, pairs 80, these making a total of 466 Members. Now 466 Members was a large portion of that House, though it had been said many went away not expecting a division; that argument might operate on both sides—so there was an end of the hon. Member's snapped division. The fact was, that the hon. Gentleman knew the majority of that House was against Government on that question. The opinion of the House was, and is, that the present 479 Government ought simply to pass only those measures necessary for the good government of the country; to defer all other measures, and to bring the Parliament to an end. He readily acknowledged that on the Militia Bill a majority of the House was in favour of it. But he understood how that was. First, the Administration which preceded the present Government introduced a similar Bill, and a large portion of their supporters was hound by the votes they gave. But the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had since broken loose from his bond, and was against a Militia Bill, or at least this Militia Bill. There was a large portion of that House, representing a very large section of the population, who were strongly opposed to all Militia Bills. They were now addressing Government in consequence of the recent vote, by which their minority was remarkably brought to view. And they said, "Why not do what you intend to do? Do just enough to carry on the public business until you can go fairly before the constituencies, and when you get another Parliament, do what a constitutional Government ought to do." Supposing Government were in a majority on this Bill, they would still be crippled; for they who were in a minority would turn round and say, "Any Government beaten as you are, as a constitutional Government ought to resign." It was clear Government could not escape from the difficulty, except on the principle that they would appeal to the country. If Government told them that, then he yielded. But Government said, "It is true we are beaten, but it is in a House of Commons that is not ours, and that we believe does not properly represent the people of the country." To that he replied, "If you pass the Bill, you are shattered and shaken by your position: you will be unable to do that which is right in the next Parliament in consequence of your false position." The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was hampered by his position —he was bound by one set of opinions, while he was doing all he could to maintain the opinions of Gentlemen behind him. The right hon. Gentleman was not at the present moment in a straightforward course: and he (Mr. Roebuck) could tell the Government they could not on that account govern the country. The right hon. Gentleman might be in a majority on the Bill, but he was in a minority as far as the House was concerned; he could 480 not, therefore, maintain right principles— he could not govern the country on fixed principles. He did not care who came forward and told him Government were right on this question, and that they had a majority in that House: still it was dear Government were playing a false game, their authority was shaken, and they could not do what was right. In a constitutional point of view he contended Government ought to withdraw not only this Bill, but every Bill except the Mutiny Bill and the Bills requisite for the Army and Navy services. The House had passed in confidence the greater portion of those measures, and therefore the best thing the right hon. Gentleman could do for himself and the country was to bring the matter to a close—to withdraw this Bill—and then if the country was willing to have it, they would enable Government then, but not till then, not only to carry that Bill, but all other Bills for supporting the peculiar views of the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had made a good deal of the division, but he (Mr. New-degate) could only say that he knew that a great number of the supporters of the Government were shut out. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that he was shut out too, and, therefore, the question remained a moot point. As far as the measure was concerned, he again stated that the House, by a large majority, had already determined that some such measure of defence should pass, and he, therefore, trusted Her Majesty's Government would persevere; for if hon. Gentlemen had wished the Session to be brought to a close, why did they not select some opportunity before of defeating the Government?
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, it appeared to him that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had explained very satisfactorily the flimsiness of the pretence that the division was early and unexpected. He would now account for the opposition he intended to offer to the Bill. He had been told if the 7th Clause were rejected, it would endanger the Bill —that was a strong inducement for him to endeavour to get that clause rejected. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) had been very eloquent in the laudation of ft militia. Why, then, did the hon. and learned Gentleman not extend the benefit 481 to Ireland? Why should England have a militia, and not Ireland? He had always heard, at least from cooks, that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander; hut here all the sauce was given to the goose, and none to the gander. Ireland, however, though left out of the Bill, was included in the more important part of it—for Ireland would have to pay her share of the burden. He could not help connecting this 7th Clause with the 11th Clause of the Bill, which empowered the Secretary at War to make regulations for the payment of money to volunteers by way of bounty, not exceeding 6l. at the utmost, and not exceeding 2s. 6d. per month during the term of service for which the volunteers were enrolled. Now there was not a man in England who would not prefer to have the money down rather than receive it at the rate of 2s. 6d. per month. For one reason, the man might not live for five years—he might be shot in those dangerous movements which would wait upon those feather-bed soldiers. But if the money were paid down at once, it would only serve as a premium upon emigration to America. Suppose a parish in which there was what politicians called a congestion of population. The male population in that parish would gladly accept the bounty, which would pay their passage to Quebec or New York, and leave them something in hand when they got there. Then he did not see the necessity of this Bill, as they were at present at peace with the whole world except the Kafirs. Some hon. Gentleman observed in an under tone, when that observation was made before, that they were not at peace with the Irish. Well, he did not know that there was very cordial peace between them, but at any rate there was no actual war. There was an item in the Budget of 600,000l for the expenses of the Kafir war. He bad lately asked a friend who had just returned from Kafirland, what notions the Kafirs entertained of Christianity? His reply was, that one part of the Kafirs considered Christianity meant brandy and tobacco, for it was through the agency of brandy and tobacco that conversions were attempted to be made. Another part of the Kafirs considered that Christianity meant burning of corn, stealing of cattle, abusing women, and slaughtering one another. Now he would ask the Committee was it not time to put an end to all this bloodshed and expense? He contended that a Militia Bill was not needed, and that Go- 482 vernment were not justified in inflicting it on the country. The men were to be drilled for twenty-one days, and then to be set at liberty to go where they liked. That was called providing for the defence of the country. He might refer the Committee to the authority of Paley for the reasons why that celebrated philosopher thought a regular military force preferable to a militia for the defence of the country. He had not heard a single argument from hon. Members opposite in favour of the Bill. If the public prints were to be believed, no one could apprehend any danger from France. The President seemed to be occupied in consolidating his power, in promoting schemes for the improvement of France by railroads, drainage, education, and other peaceful works, and in breaking down that terrible band of men, the leaders of the Red Republicans. It was quite true that the present Bill had been supported by large majorities, but majorities were not always in the right; and it ought not to be forgotten that there were many lieutenants of counties in that House who would have a great deal of patronage under the Bill, if it became law. He thought the Bill unwarranted and uncalled for.
§ MR. G. SANDARS
rose to state, that he should give his vote for this clause, namely, the raising a militia force of 80,000 men for the defences of the country. He had voted for the second reading of this Bill, not that he approved fully of its details, but that as both sides of the House had agreed that our national defences were defective, and that it was necessary without further delay to place them in a state of efficiency, the natural question which presented itself was the best mode of effecting this object. Now, he admitted his opinions at first had been in favour of increasing the regular Army, and encouraging the formation of volunteer rifle corps; but the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had convinced him that the establishment of a general militia force of the nature proposed by the present Bill, was, all things considered, the most effective and most permanent way of accomplishing this object. He did not wish to see a mere temporary measure carried, but he wished to place our defences in a permanent state of security. Now, the noble Lord had very justly remarked if Parliament now consented to a vote for the increase of the regular Army, as soon 483 as the apparent danger had subsided, probably next year or the one following, the House would refuse the necessary supplies, and the force would be abandoned—thus having put the country to a serious expense without effecting any adequate or permanent advantage. A militia would be a permanent and continuous force, and further; what had not been sufficiently dwelt upon, it Would be a school and a reserve for the supply of troops to our Army. But he (Mr. Sandars) had said, that though he had voted for the second reading of the Bill, thus admitting its principle, yet he did not agree with one important feature, namely, compulsory conscription. He felt sure in that part of the country in which he resided, the West Riding of Yorkshire, the feeling was so strong against the compulsory enlistment clause, that it would be next to impossible to carry it out; and he hoped that his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department would not persist in maintaining the 16th Clause in the Bill: if he did, he should feel it his duty to oppose it. The right hon. Gentleman had said "the present Bill was, in fact, in-tended to render voluntary enlistment a substitute for compulsory conscription;" he, therefore, asked the right hon. Secretary at once to carry out his intention, by striking out that clause. The Government had declared they would not put the ballot in force till after the 31st of December. Now, as Parliament would meet again in autumn, when, if necessary, fresh powers might be sought for, he would call upon the Government not to incur, when there Was no pressing necessity, the odium of carrying this unpopular clause. He saw really no cause for it; for if the volunteer principle failed in providing the full complement of men, and if an emergency should arise, there was still the Act of '42 Geo. III. to fall back upon. He had ft further objection to the compulsory clause, and that was, the militia being subject to the Mutiny Act, they would be liable to the degrading punishments of that Act. But if these enlistments were entered into voluntarily, with their eyes open to the facts, then he did not see that they or the public had a right to complain. As the division which had just taken place had been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman who had preceded him, he might be allowed to say that he knew well the counties of the West Riding and South Lancashire, and he believed that the vote which hon. 484 Gentlemen opposite had given would prove an unpopular vote in those counties. The country would see that it was a party measure to embarrass the Government and place them in a minority; a fairer proposition for the disposal of the four vacant seats it was next to impossible to imagine.
§ MR. MOWATT
would admit that our defences were not in a satisfactory state, nor were they so well protected against probable or even possible danger as they might be. He had for years thought that the country was exposed to risk of an aggressive character, to which it ought not to be left. But, notwithstanding, he was opposed to this Bill, because it was to be remembered that, in addition to the annual sum of 28,000,000l. sterling they already paid for interest on the expenses of former wars, they had this very year voted the sum of 16,000,000l. for military purposes; and he did not believe that any military authority would say that this sum, if judiciously expended, was not sufficient for all purposes of military defence. But the truth was, they sent their army to the Colonies when they were wanted at home. What business was there for troops at the Ionian Islands, or Canada, when they were apprehensive of being attacked at home? Besides, it was admitted that this force was not calculated to cope with the only enemy they had to dread, and he believed they would not be forthcoming when they were wanted. In addition to all this, he contended that even if such a measure as the present were necessary, the present Government were not the parties to press the question, especially after the vote that had been come to that night.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
would content himself with stating that his constituents were unanimously opposed to this Bill.
said, that he thought it would be much more equitable, and less oppressive to the country, assuming that we really wanted an additional force of 50,000 men, and that 40,000 volunteered, and the additional 10,000 to be balloted for, they should be taken from the counties pro rata in proportion to the number of their inhabitants, without reference to where the volunteers came from: the effect of this would be, that those counties which had least employment for labour, would probably furnish the greatest number of volunteers; and those where labour was-profitably employed, the least. This would interfere less with the industry of the 485 country than the plan proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers. There was no doubt that a militia force was more or less demoralising, and all military authorities who had spoken on the subject, admitted the plan contemplated would be inefficient; and an increase to the standing army was disliked by the country. He therefore wished them to consider whether an increase of our constabulary and police force would not be better: although it might cost a little more, it would be efficient; all that were embodied to be paid as now by the counties and boroughs, but the additional numbers to be paid for by the State: one-third or one-fourth of them to be sent into barracks every year for three months, and thoroughly drilled; and when not in barracks, to assist the civil power, without arms, to protect persons and property. Thus being constantly employed, and under discipline, they would never be lost sight of, and always at hand to meet any emergency.
§ MR. G. THOMPSON
said, he must express his decided and unqualified disapproval of the measures both of the late and of the present Government. He was perfectly impartial, as he belonged to no political party; and he had come to the deliberate conclusion that no argument had been used on either side of the House to justify the measure. In addition to the expense of the force, he would remind the Committee of the loss that would be sustained in these men's labour, which, if they were to estimate the 80,000 men as earning on an average 15s. a week each, and if they were kept out on drill thirty days in each year, would amount to 240,000l.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 85; Noes 156: Majority 71.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause as amended stand part of the Bill."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Gentleman had stated that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had on former occasions always been ready to oppose every proposition for the expenditure of public money. But that was not 486 so; for wherever the credit, the honour, and the security of the country were involved, he had never opposed propositions for expenditure. As he was not prepared to oppose grants of public money to pay the dividends to the public creditor, so he was not prepared to oppose any disbursement of public money for the defence of the country. He would say nothing more on the clause, which had been under discussion during two nights. He believed that what the public then required was a declaration of opinion by the votes of their representatives.
§ MR. HUME
said, that the honour and the interests of the country were not at stake on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman had utterly failed to establish any such position; and it was on that ground that he (Mr. Hume) opposed the measure. He would be one of the first to support any proposal which was based on the necessity of maintaining the public credit. But the measure before them was only a means of endangering that credit. All profligate Governments exhausted the public resources by unnecessary expenditure. [Laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite went on in that way, he should be obliged to move again that the Chairman should leave the chair, because he was not to bullied. He threw back the imputation that he was anxious to destroy the public credit. He had done as much as any body to preserve it. If it had not been for what he had done, the public credit would not have been in so good a position as it now was in. He wanted to keep the coffers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer full, in order that he might be able to reduce taxation. The right hon. Gentleman was now going to expend the public money uselessly. Not a single constituency, except, perhaps a county one, would be in favour of it; and the military officers all differed as to the best mode of defending the country. He was sorry to find those people who had called themselves the farmers' friends trying to impose this additional burden of taxation upon them. He was determined to go to a division upon this clause, even though no one should go into the lobby with him.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 169; Noes 82: Majority 87.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 8.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
hoped, the right hon. Secretary of State would detail 487 to the Committee the steps to be taken for fixing the quotas in counties, and the persons who were to be liable. They should, at all events, have a list of the exemptions before them.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, every person would be liable to serve in the militia, except those exempted by the 42nd of Geo. III.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) was quite aware that the 42 Geo. III. was to be brought into operation; but what he asked was, that the Government should state who were liable under that Act. He wanted the right hon. Secretary of State to explain the conditions implied in this clause; but if the right hon. Gentleman did not do so, and state what were the conditions laid down in the 42 Geo. III., how could they be expected to proceed? They were, for practical purposes, re-enaeting the provisions of the 42 Geo. III.
§ MR. WALPOLE
wished the Committee to remember that the present clause merely gave powers, in order to provide for any contingency that might arise, to fix the quotas of men in the respective districts in a way that would be fair and reasonable. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) asked him to explain the whole of the conditions laid down in the 42 Geo. III.; but he thought that a somewhat unreasonable request. Supposing the ballot to be in operation, every person of a certain age would be liable to serve, with the exceptions enumerated in that Act. They had in no respect altered that Statute as to exemptions; and all they were now doing by this clause was to arrange the mode of fixing the quotas.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, if the ballot had been given up, as he understood it was, till the new Parliament met, there was no need of this clause. But in case this clause should pass, the Government would, in the terms of it, forthwith put the country to the immediate inconvenience of making up lists of those liable to serve. Every householder would be required to make up a list of those liable within his house, and that list would appear on the church doors, with a surplus of time for entering claims to be exempted. If they put off the ballot to a certain day for the further opinion of Parliament, why should they enact this clause? If he was correct in that, he must move the postponement of this clause till after the consideration of the compulsory clauses.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, there was nothing 488 in this clause requiring lists to be made up, for the Queen in Council would fix the proportion of men required for each district, chiefly from the returns made under the last Act.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, it seemed to him the difference arose upon the word "forthwith." Now, if the ballot clause were struck out of the Bill, this clause would not be required at all, while, as regarded the ballot clause itself, it was not proposed to have the ballot until the 1st of January, and, therefore, that one would be totally unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman, he must say, was leading them into a quagmire, in giving them a clause which had been introduced in a Bill made fifty years ago, with many provisions in it, far from applicable to the temper of the people or the exigencies of the times.
§ MR. WALPOLE
explained, that the object of the Bill was to raise the men by voluntary enlistment, and if the number were not fixed by the Queen in Council, they would be forced to put the ballot in operation in some circumstances.
§ MR. BRIGHT
would ask whether the Government intended putting the ballot in force in one county to make up the deficiency in another county?
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that if in England and Wales the whole number of men proposed were procured, though in some districts the numbers might be smaller than in others, the ballot would not be enforced in any district. When the men were procured, the object of apportioning a quota to every district was, that they should give credit to every district furnishing its quota of men, and such districts, therefore, would be exempted from the ballot.
suggested the postponement of all the compulsory clauses, and this among the rest. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said that this Act followed the 43 Geo. III.; but there was a difference in the ages specified in each Act. It could hardly be said, therefore, that this strictly followed the 43 Geo. III.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, there was nothing compulsory in this clause, which, in fact, was merely to enable the Crown to apportion the number of men in each district.
MR. VERNON SMITH
thought that the Committee should have an opportunity afforded it of considering the various things mentioned in this clause.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
begged to be allowed to explain the principle of a militia. It was, that a certain force be raised, in certain proportions, over different counties. In order to ascertain the number of men to serve, there must be quotas arranged for each county, and it was absolutely necessary they should ascertain the quota to serve in each county, whether the number was supplied by voluntary enlistment or by the ballot.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
wished to put this case: Supposing that there were ten counties who were each to supply ten men, that would make altogether a hundred men. Now, if fifty-five men volunteered from Ireland, how would they apportion the remaining number of men to each county?
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that in the 10th Clause it would be seen the volunteers would be confined to persons residing in each county.
§ MR. C. VILLIERS
said, he did not understand why they could not dispose of the volunteer system in the Bill without reference to quotas.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, if it were not intended to resort to the ballot, of course there would be no necessity for quotas.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
asked, whether it was intended that the Lord Lieutenant of a county might enrol more than the quota of his county?
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that the provisions of the 8th Clause would be necessary only in the event of having recourse to the ballot; and that by the 10th Clause they would raise a certain amount of volunteers in each county, and probably only the proportionate number which each county ought to furnish; but he had prepared a proviso to that clause to the effect that when a county had furnished its proper number of volunteers, it should also be allowed to funish a supplemental number, with the view of raising the whole number of men required in the aggregate.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
declared himself to be still at a loss to understand the meaning of the Government. The question was, whether the Government intended by the Bill to say that, in the first instance, a certain number of men should be the quota for each county by voluntary enlistment or by ballot, or was it the intention to raise 80,000 men by voluntary enlistment from whatever parts of the country they could be got?
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, if the right hon. Gentleman would take the Bill in his hand 490 and examine it, he would see that there were three divisions, and that down to the end of the 9th Clause it provided that a certain number of men were to be raised as a militia force; it would follow, therefore, as a matter of course, that these men would be raised in the ordinary way that the militia had hitherto been raised under the 42 Geo. III., namely, by having recourse to the ballot. For that purpose it was necessary to fix the proper quota which each county was to furnish, giving the Queen in Council the power to alter those quotas as might be deemed necessary. From the 10th to the end of the 15th Clause it was provided, that in the operation of raising the force, the necessity for the ballot might be superseded by allowing men to volunteer. And from the 15th Clause the Bill enabled the Crown to have recourse to the ballot, after giving credit to the different counties, subdivisions of counties, and parishes, for the number of men they had furnished by voluntary enlistment. The passing of this clause would, therefore, be simply to say, that if recourse were had to the ballot under the 42 Geo. III., the Crown should have the power of fixing the quotas.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, that the 10th Clause contained no provision for the Lord Lieutenant of a county to raise the necessary quota of men, and this appeared to corroborate the view that 80,000 men were to be raised from any part of the country.
§ MR. WALPOLE
The intention of the Bill is, that you shall raise volunteers in certain quotas from the counties, and that the ballot may be resorted to, if a sufficient number cannot be had. It has occurred to me, as I have previously stated, that it might be allowable for counties which have furnished their quotas, to furnish a supplemental number; but that is a question for the Committee to decide.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
begged to ask how the numbers were to be apportioned, supposing one county furnished 500 men, and another only 300?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, the object of the Bill was, first of all, to raise a gross number of militiamen; but that gross number was to be distributed over the counties in certain proportions to each. Those proportions must be ascertained; and the 8th Clause provided, therefore, that the quotas should be fixed by Her Majesty in Council. But the quota being fixed, voluntary enlistment was what they proposed 491 to look to, in the first instance, to supply the required force; consequently it was necessary that the quotas should he established as a preliminary measure to ascertain the number of militiamen who were to serve for each county. If they could get the exact number by voluntary enlistment, everything would have been done that was necessary; but if they did not get the exact number, then the ballot would come in aid to supply the deficiency, but only in that event. Thus it would be seen that it was absolutely necessary to begin by fixing the quota. It was the very foundation of all their operations, and without it they could not proceed one step, either in the way of voluntary enlistment or the ballot.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Did he understand the hon. and learned Gentleman to mean, that in case the Middlesex quota, for instance, was fixed at 5,000 men, that county would not be allowed to raise more than that number; so that, if it proposed to raise 8,000, 3,000 of them would be rejected?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
With all due submission to my hon. and learned Friend, we should not reject one. We would not raise them.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he believed the mating out of the lists and the appeals formed one of the worst features of the militia system, giving rise to a litigation which would be needless, except under a compulsory system. The 8th Clause, as it stood, ought not to pass, because it involved questions of fitness, &c, which would be useless unless the ballot was resorted to; and therefore, until it were decided that there should be a ballot, the clause ought to be postponed. The Bill had an entirely new principle imported into it. By the 42 Geo. III., the number of men to serve in the militia was settled, and then the question was considered as to who were fit and liable persons; and in order to do this, a list of householders was necessary. In this Bill, however, the Government wanted to begin by enacting that, as soon as the Bill had passed, the number of men fit and liable to serve was to be ascertained. As this was an entirely new principle, he begged to move that the consideration of the clause be postponed for the present.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he understood the 80,000 were to be raised by voluntary enlistment. But, so far as that went, the "Witness and liability" of the men mattered not in this clause, and these words could be omitted.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the intention of the Government was that the quota should be the basis of the increase, endeavouring to supply it first by the voluntary enlistment, and then falling back on the ballot. By the clause the number only would be fixed, not the particular men.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
thought all that was necessary was, to give power to raise a certain number of men in each county. The words "fit and liable" ought to be left out.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
agreed to leave out the words "fit and liable" provided the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) would allow the clause to pass.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he would not consent to any compromise of the kind. The best way would be to postpone the clause.
§ MR. BRIGHT
could not see that the omission of the words "fit and liable" would make any real difference in the case, except to render the clause very much worse English than it was before. Acts of Parliament ought to be drawn according to the rules of grammar. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not agreed upon the exact nature of the clause, and he thought they ought to have an opportunity of reconsidering it.
§ COLONEL THOMPSON
asked what necessity there was for ascertaining the number of men fit for the militia in each county, as a preliminary to the apportionment of the numbers, when it would be easy to make the apportionment with quite sufficient exactness by taking the proportion to the population? For example, if 80,000 men were to be levied, and the population of England was 16,000,000, what was there to do but to take one man in two hundred of the population in each county?
§ MR. MOWATT
asked whether the Government had any objection to add a schedule to the Bill containing a list of exemptions and exceptions which might be claimed?
§ MR. J. L. RICARDO
said, this clause provided that a certain quota of men should be fixed to be raised in each county; but by the 10th Clause it appeared that power was given to raise the whole number of men in any one county, and he wished to 493 know whether the Government intended to persist in demanding that power?
§ MR. WALPOLE
replied, that it certainly was not intended to raise the whole number of men in any one county; and in reply to the inquiry of the hon. Member for Penryn (Mr. Mowatt) he said he could not accede to his suggestion to add to the Bill a schedule containing all the exemptions.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be postponed."
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 99; Noes 216: Majority 117.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he still objected to the words "fit and liable," but really thought they had better postpone the clause until they had got further into the Bill.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he was willing to give up the words objected to, if the hon. Member would allow the clause to be then proceeded with.
§ SIR DAVID DUNDAS
said, a reference to the 19th and 20th sections of the Act of the 42 Geo. III. whould show the total non-necessity of the words alluded to; they did not occur in those sections, and were not necessary here.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed; Committee report progress.
§ The House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.