§ MR. PALK
said, that on rising to move an Address to Her Majesty with reference to the arms, accoutrements, and ammunition to be furnished to volunteer rifle corps, he wished to state that he had received communications from various parts of the country, from which it was evident that the statements made by the Government with regard to their intentions on this subject had occasioned universal dismay and disappointment. The circular issued by his right hon. and gallant Friend below him (General Peel) had been very popular, and the utmost readiness was evinced in rallying to the call for Volunteer Corps, because it was felt that that circular recognized the right of Englishmen to arm and organize themselves for the defence of their country—a right which was recognized in all foreign nations, and even enforced in some. The desire to adopt this course was not attri- 679 butable to anything that was taking place abroad, but to the knowledge that the shores of this country were entirely open to attack, and that many of the forts maintained during the last war had in the long interval of peace been allowed to fall into a state of complete decay. Since the last great European war great convulsions had occurred in foreign countries, and great changes among the dynasties of the Continent, but amid all the changes which had taken place, one object had ever been foremost in the minds of the French Government—namely, the increase of the French navy, and the completion of those works which were commenced by the First Napoleon, and which were intended as means of attack upon this country. During this period, however, although great preparations had been made by other States, England had been totally quiescent. The shores of Russia were bristling with cannon, and were fortified with the greatest care, while her harbours were filled with steamers and gunboats; but England had altogether abstained from fortifying her coasts. Since the last war the introduction of steam, as applied to shipping, had caused ports which were previously deemed almost inaccessible by sailing ships to be most vulnerable, and to be the most likely to he assailed by any foe menacing these shores. He might instance the port of Dartmouth, the entrance to which was so narrow that during the late war it was supposed to be almost secure from attack by sailing ships; but the introduction of steam had rendered access to the port quite easy, and on more than one occasion French steamers had left the French coast and anchored in the harbour during the course of the same night, while it was well known that French ships had constantly been taking soundings on the coast. The plan of the Government seemed to be to encourage the formation of artillery companies in those towns where there were already fortifications and guns. This proposal, however, did not meet the cases to which he was referring. There might be some guns at Dartmouth, but he believed they were likely to be much more dangerous to those who fired them than to those at whom they were aimed. Dartmouth and many other places on our coasts, were, from their natural positions, peculiarly susceptible of defence, and if batteries were erected, and artillery volunteer corps were raised in their neighbourhoods, they might, in case of necessity, be defended by these volunteers until the suc- 680 cour of regular troops could be obtained. He believed that a force of this description, especially with the aid of volunteer rifle corps, would render the landing of any hostile force most difficult and hazardous. He thought, however, that the plan of the Government was extremely unsatisfactory. They proposed that twenty-five rifles should, under certain conditions, be supplied to every 100 men. One of these was that there should be a proper range for practice, while another was that there should be a proper place for the custody of the arms; another that there should be a military inspection of each corps; and another that its rules should be subject to the approval of the Secretary for War. He should be glad to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he proposed that the supply of arms should be limited to twenty-five for every 100 men enrolled, or whether the remainder of the corps were to be allowed to provide arms for themselves. He also wished to know if volunteers were allowed to provide arms for themselves, how those arms were to be obtained. He was informed that all the manufacturers of arms in Birmingham and London, the only places besides Enfield, where the proper weapons could be obtained, were under contract to supply arms to the Government, 2,500 rifles a week being furnished from Birmingham, and l,200 from London. He believed that unless greater facilities were afforded for obtaining arms the establishment of rifle corps would be materially interfered with. Considerable doubt existed as to whether the Government intended that the volunteers should be organized in regiments or in separate companies, and he had received a copy of resolutions which had been forwarded to the Secretary of State for War by the Bristol Volunteer Rifle Corps, expressing their regret at the statements made on this and other points by the Government. He also held in his hand a letter from an officer who had been selected as major of one of these corps, and who stated that he could hardly suppose that the regulation as to forming companies and not regiments was intended to apply to large towns. This opened a very wide question. To what extent did the Government mean to go in its attempt to raise volunteer corps? Were they to accept the services of every corps irrespective of locality, which presented itself. If so, even on the moderate percentage of twenty-five rifles to every 100 men they must be 681 prepared for a large outlay upon arms and equipments. On the other hand, if they adhered to the view which seemed generally adopted by the late Government, that the volunteer rifle corps should be at first formed as accessaries to the regular service, they could not do better than to organize them in companies, because it would be necessary on the coast, where they had not large towns like Bristol, Birmingham, and Manchester, to trust to the villages, and it would be much easier to get a company together in a district than to march men from great distances to form portions of other corps. The country had a right to demand that in all circumstances its shores should be rendered safe from insultor attack. Some said there was no danger abroad, and they could rot account for this constant fear of invasion, and the other night the gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark (Sir Charles Napier) was twitted when advocating the increase of the navy by another hon. Member, for his constant fear of invasion; but on the throne of France there was a ruler, who, if he had kept faith with us, had broken it with his subjects; who, if he had been true to us, had been false to that republic which he had sworn to maintain. Not many months ago, too, the language of the French colonels had raised a storm of indignation; nor was it long since they had been informed that the preparations then making by the Emperor of the French were intended merely to replace the losses occasioned by the war in the Crimea, whereas it now appeared that they were sufficient to enable him to engage in a European war. Without disputing, then, the Emperor's good feeling towards this country, but looking to all the contingencies of the case, and having regard to the power which that great ruler wielded—having regard, above all, to his acts rather than to his words—we might entertain more confidence in the maintenance of peace if our population were duly organized and properly drilled to repel foreign attacks, and if greater attention were paid to the fortification of those portions of our coast which circumstances had rendered more vulnerable than they used to be. He would therefore conclude by moving—That this House will, upon Tuesday next, resolve itself into a Committee to consider of an humble Address to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the necessary arms, accoutrements, and ammunition be furnished to Volunteer Rifle Corps, under the provisions of the Act 44th Geo. III., c. 54, as 682 well as to Artillery Corps in maritime towns, and to assure Her Majesty that this House will make good the same.
, in seconding the Motion, observed that if the rule laid down by the Government were adhered to, the small arms could only be supplied to the extent of a few thousand of second-rate guns, which were in the stores of the contractors, and were sold by the gun makers at £5, probably not being worth £2. It was, of course, impossible to give as good a supply as could be wished, but he understood that his hon. Friend only wished to inquire into the whole subject. His object was also to ascertain from the Government whether, when the corps had been formed and drilled, they would be supplied with arms to the extent of 100 rifles to each company, so that they might be ready to act in case of invasion. The assembling of men to shoot at targets was merely a preliminary matter; the great point was to have them trained and prepared for actual warfare. As to the clothing of the men, that was a point of some importance. If the men were ever to be rendered available, they must have suitable clothing. A great many persons had contended that the proper attire consisted of an ordinary shooting-coat and a wide-awake hat; but they seemed to forget that an important point was to dress the riflemen in such a way that in case of their being taken they would be treated as prisoners of war, and not merely as peasants taken in a hostile country with arms in their hands, and who by the rules of war were subject to be hanged like so many dogs. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen would perhaps accept the authority of the late Duke of Wellington on that subject. On the entry of the British troops into France in 1814, there was some rising against them of the peasantry, and in a despatch to Marshal Beresford, the Duke said, "If I have to complain of this or other villages again, I will treat them as the French treated the peasantry in Spain. I will totally destroy the villages and hang all the peasants in arms." If the Duke of Wellington would do that for the protection of his soldiers the House need not expect that a French force would act more leniently in this country. It was, therefore, not a mere matter of fancy but an important point so to clothe the Rifle Corps that they should be recognized as prisoners of war in case of any of them being captured. He hoped that, in a matter requiring such serious consideration as the present, the 683 Government would make some statement of what was in contemplation with reference to the more efficient drill and discipline of the Volunteer Corps.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—
MR. HENRY BERKELEY
said, that the House was indebted to the hon. Gentleman opposite for bringing this matter forward. The question was one that deserved the most serious consideration, and one on which the House ought to express an opinion. There could be no doubt that England was less prepared to resist an attack in case of invasion than any other country in the civilized world. The question of preparation simply amounted to this:—If they were prepared, they had men sufficient, and they only required to be furnished with that which constituted courage, namely, discipline; for, in the event of invasion, without discipline the inhabitants of a country, however individually brave, would become a frightened rabble. This was an opinion which every military-man in the House would endorse. As it appeared to him, both the present and the late Government had been wrong in their view of this question. The first occasion on which this subject had been brought before the Secretary for War was by the people of Bristol, who waited on Lord Panmure for leave to form a rifle corps, but Lord Panmure would have nothing to do with volunteer corps. He himself had subsequently laid an address before his right hon. and gallant Friend opposite (General Peel) in which the mayor, corporation, and people of Bristol desired permission to arm. First of all this had been denied to them, but when it appeared that the desire was general throughout the country permission was granted to form a corps, which was accordingly done. His opinion, not being that of a military man, was probably not worth much, but he gave the preference to the formation of companies over regiments. But he certainly did not consider, however, that the proper way to form a regiment was to commence with the staff and band; what was required was that men should be drilled to the practice of the rifle, and that in case of emergency they should be disciplined to a certain extent, but not disciplined with all that paraphernalia and pipe-clay which is deemed necessary at the Horse Guards. From time immemorial it had frequently been the fact that the undisciplined adherents of an army had done more execution than the army itself. In the American war the battles of Bunker's 684 Hill and Lexington had both been won by irregulars; for though Bunker's Hill was claimed by us as a victory, still it led to future disasters in teaching the Americans their own powers of fighting. In those days it was supposed that no soldier who was not well set up with an enormous stock, pig-tail, and pipe-clay to any extent could be of any service in an action; and it was well known that the Americans after shooting those extraordinary looking objects from the works of Bunker's Hill actually went to view their corpses as curiosities. The British authorities then said it was all very well for the Americans to fight with their rifles, but let our soldiers come at them with the bayonet, and they would soon rout them; and great slaughter did take place when they came up to them, but that was simply because the Americans had no bayonets. At Lundy's Lane the Americans showed themselves well able to use that arm. But to show how the pipe-clay system was invariably adopted by all the authorities, when the Americans got up an army they did not arm them with the rifle but with the musket, and the only place in which the superiority of the rifle was tested was at the battle of New Orleans, by an American irregular force, where the slaughter was so extreme that a rifleman might seem to have been shooting deer in some small park. During the French war, in which Napoleon I. contemplated the invasion of this country, the volunteer was armed and clothed by the Government, and he conceived that a similar course should now be adopted. There were sufficient reasons for such a measure. In the first place, the arms, if supplied to the volunteers, would be the property of the Government, and would not belong to the men, which he held to be objectionable. In the second place, if they allowed or made it incumbent upon the volunteers to clothe and arm themselves, they would exclude from that force the very best men in the country, the working classes, and confine the movement entirely to the middle classes, for no working man could afford to purchase his uniform or his weapon. Of the two propositions which had been made he preferred that of the late Government, which was to let the members of these corps arm and clothe themselves. But the idea of giving them a per centage of arms was, he thought, to cast great discouragement on the movement. For, did the House for one instant believe that 25 out of every 685 100 men would meet for drill, and that the remaining 75 would walk up and down with their hands in their pockets? These men naturally would obtain arms also, and then they would have a magpie set of troops got together—half-armed,—each man his own master, and all discontented with the Government. He hoped that the Government would take this question in hand, and that if the volunteers were to be called out, the movement would emanate from the Executive. If arms and clothes were not to be given, then he hoped all reasonable encouragement would be afforded to the middle classes—as in that case to obtain the assistance of the working classes would be hopeless. Above all, he thought his hon. Friend could not be too cautious in recommending that suitable practice grounds should be secured—so that the public might not be liable to the amateur practice of those gentlemen—because he could speak from authority in stating that at the present moment it was becoming rather dangerous. Only two days ago he had received a letter from Bristol in which it was stated that a gentleman and two ladies were out walking, when something whizzed by just over their heads. One of the ladies said "Is it not rather too early for a cockchafer?" when, just at the moment, another passed by and struck against the wall opposite. The gentleman went to the spot, took out his knife, and bad the satisfaction of digging out from the wall a Minié bullet. They had another very fine volunteer force in those old friends of his, the yeomanry. That body consisted of very fine men, but they were very ill-disciplined. He believed that in certain parts of the country attempts were being made to bring that force into something like better order; and here he believed rifles might be introduced with very good effect. Some such thing had already taken place in Kent and in Devonshire, and he believed if the yeomanry throughout the country were armed with the rifle, particularly with Terry's breech-loading carbine introduced by the late Government, and trained as the Cape Mounted Riflemen were, to exercise on foot as well as on horseback—he believed that from the rapidity with which their movements could be accomplished and directed to any point, they would be an invaluable force for the defence of the country. As he had always given his opinion boldly with regard to the yeomanry, he thought it only 686 fair to make this statement with equal candour. He had never failed to do justice to them as men who would do their work if they knew how—and he only hoped that hon. Members who belonged to that force would teach it to them.
said, that having had the experience of some twenty-five years in Her Majesty's service, he rose to express his sincere hope that both the House and the Government would be very cautious how they gave encouragement to the formation of these rifle corps. He was not one of those who dreaded invasion. He had no fears that any one, even the Emperor of the French, would be such an idiot as to attempt a descent upon our shores. But he feared that unless we exorcised very great discretion we might find ourselves drifted into the war now raging in Europe; and certainly he would oppose no reasonable vote of money that was demanded for the improvement of our forces, and especially for the increase and efficiency of our navy. After the navy came our army, which required a great deal of improvement; and then came the militia, on which a considerable sum of money was expended, and which might be rendered much more efficient than they had hitherto made it. They ought therefore to be careful lest by giving encouragement to volunteers they did not abstract that portion of the population more immediately available for the militia. For this reason he thought that every sum of money taken from other sources of defence to form rifle corps was just so much money thrown away. If they were to be at any expense at all with these rifle corps, it should be in serving out the ammunition at cost price, in order that they might be obliged to keep their weapons all at the same bore. He thought he gleaned from the observations of the Secretary of State for War the other night that he was not quite sure that it would be desirable to give too much encouragement to those rifle corps. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that if he did not support the rifle corps movement he would be accused of running counter to the feeling of loyalty in that respect displayed in the country. But he (Colonel Dickson) hoped no Government would allow themselves to be influenced by a feeling such as that. He trusted the Government in the course they might take on this question would confine themselves to the formation of artillery corps in maritime towns, which would be a valuable 687 means of defence, and that they would not give countenance to what he apprehended would prove a very useless force.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, there could be no doubt that the shores of this country in many parts were very inadequately defended, and that it might be possible for an invasion suddenly to be made where no immediate force could be brought to bear in repelling the attack; but it did not follow that a volunteer rifle corps would be the force best calculated to resist it. If we gave encouragement to them we could not do so under the belief that they would be adequate in themselves to afford all the requisite protection. He agreed that it was extremely doubtful whether the large amount of public money necessary for clothing and arming those rifle corps might not be more judiciously spent. He thought it right in the case of all maritime towns that power should be taken for establishing guns and something like a volunteer maritime artillery for an immediate purpose; but in doing that we ought to take especial care that we did not entirely rely on such a force. Steps should betaken to ensure the concentration of an adequate force on particular points of the coasts in case of a sudden emergency by means of railways and other means of rapid communication, and on which more reliance might be placed than on rifle corps. He found the greatest diversity of opinion prevailing with respect to those corps, and that diversity appeared also to obtain in that House. At the same time it could not be doubted that something must be done in the matter. It was clear at the present time the Government could not supply a sufficient store of arms for all the corps formed and forming throughout the country; and he thought all that was reasonable and necessary for the Government to do was to furnish adequate materials simply for practice. The subject, however, required to be sifted, and he trusted that soon they would be enabled to arrive at some definite conclusion.
§ MR. W. E. DUNCOMBE
said, he could not concur either with the noble Lord who had just sat down or with the hon. and gallant Member for Limerick (Colonel Dickson). It was an indisputable fact that from one end of the country to the other extreme anxiety was shown for the establishment of additional means of defence. In proof of that he might mention that at a meeting held recently in the division of the county (North Yorkshire) 688 which he had the honour to represent, it was stated that in the small country towns and villages large numbers of volunteers had already been enrolled. He thought, however, that the rules introduced in reference to the organization of Volunteer Corps in large cities would not apply to the country districts. He felt convinced both the present and the late Secretary of State for War were anxious to see these Volunteer Corps placed upon a wise, safe, and efficient system; but he would suggest that it would not be desirable, if it were even possible, to organize a larger force than companies in the country districts. There was a great disinclination on the part of men in those districts, willing to join a Volunteer Corps, to leave their avocations and go any great distance from home for purposes of practice or drill; and he would suggest that in rural districts companies alone should be formed in each petty sessional division, and that more than one practice ground should be allowed to each company, as was contemplated in the part of the country with which he was more immediately connected. There could be no doubt that the navy was the first line of defence of the country, but it possibly might be broken through on some dark night, and considerable mischief might be created by the landing of a body of troops. He felt convinced, from the spirit he had seen displayed, that the country was anxious to support the Government in the organization of Volunteer Rifle Corps, for the reason that the people had not sufficient confidence in the defensive power of the kingdom, and that they considered it was not such as the large sums of money voted every year for the express purpose ought to secure.
§ MR. BRISCOE
said, that the difficulty in dealing with the Rifle Volunteer Corps arose from the uncertainty as to the intentions of the Government. Neither the late nor the present Government had stated whether the proposed force was to assume a permanent character. It was supposed by the public that the Rifle Corps were only recognized for a temporary purpose, and to meet a threatened invasion. Now, he was not one of those who believed that the Emperor of the French meditated an invasion of this country. He had heard with great pain and regret the remarks made in "another place" upon a friendly and neighbouring Power. He had no hesitation in saying that the Emperor of the French had behaved with perfect 689 fidelity and honour to this country; but a portion of the English press had thought fit to indulge in animadversion, invective, and abuse with regard to the Emperor, which ill became the press of a free country in speaking of a friendly Power. If these writers wished to be on terms of peace and amity with France they ought to abstain from the use of such language. During the last autumn he had travelled through a great part of France by Dijon and Avignon towards the Mediterranean. He had taken a great deal of pains to learn the sentiments of the people of France towards this country, and he found an extreme desire to cultivate the most friendly relations with this country, but they complained greatly of the language of a portion of the English press. It was impossible that the Rifle Corps should be an effective force without large assistance from the Government. The uniform might be found by individuals, but the arms and ammunition ought to be supplied by the Government. To supply only 25 per cent with rifles was a great mistake, because if an invasion should take place the whole country must be supplied. There was no other country with 30,000,000 of people which relied for its military protection upon 30,000 soldiers. The late Secretary for War said that the Government did not possess a sufficient number of rifles to justify their distribution to the Volunteer Corps. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, however, said that they were coming in at the rate of 1,500 per week instead of 1,000, which had formerly been the rate of supply. He trusted the Government would look at the subject boldly, earnestly and patriotically, and not with reference to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer might suggest in the way of saving a few pounds, for he was quite sure the British public would cheerfully pay any amount of money for their protection, so long as it was economically and wisely laid out.
said, that as he had been appealed to by the hon. Gentleman, perhaps the House would permit him to state the views of the late Government on this subject. The circular issued by them did not arise from any fear of invasion on their part, but solely in consequence of the numerous and urgent applications which were made to them for permission to form rifle corps, on the express understanding that they were to be of no expense to the country. The first application was from 690 Bristol, and no sooner was that granted, and the Government circular issued, than numerous applications were made to them to supply rifles. Those applications were refused on two grounds; in the first place, because there were not rifles enough in store to justify the Government in spreading them all over the country. The number of rifles then in store was 170,000, out of which the disembodied militia were to be furnished. The late Government made contracts for the supply of every rifle that could be produced in this country for the next two years. They then turned to Belgium, but before entering into contracts with the manufacturers of that country they applied to the Belgian Government to know whether their contracts with Belgian manufactures were likely to be interfered with, and whether there was any probability that the rifles would not be supplied. The Belgian Government replied that there was no probability of such an event, and contracts were then made with Belgian manufacturers. Contracts were now made for every arm that could be supplied in this country, and the weekly supply had been increased from 1,000 to 1,500 in the manufactory at Enfield, and yet after supplying the whole of the regular army and the militia there would only be 300,000 rifles in store at the end of two years. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sidney Herbert) that if the Government gave the Volunteer Rifle Corps 25 per cent of rifles for drill and practice it would be quite sufficient. The companies would only have one musketry instructor at a time, and 25 per cent would be quite enough for rifle practice and drill. They must boar in mind that there was a great deal for riflemen to learn, besides the mere practice with the rifle. Unless, for example, they learnt the bugle sounds and were acquainted with all the drill and practice of riflemen they would be found perfectly useless as soldiers. He was aware that there was an opinion that this drill was not a difficult one, but he himself had been three years in a rifle regiment, and also in a light infantry regiment, the 71st, and he could assure the House that the rifle corps required more drill than any other. He hoped his right hon. Friend (Mr. Sidney Herbert) would adhere to his determination that the volunteers should be raised in companies instead of larger bodies, for they would not then require the degree of drill which would otherwise be neces- 691 sary and make it irkesome to the volunteer, and such a plan would be much more advantageous. It had been the intention of the late Government to have a drilled but not an armed population; but if it should be necessary to call them out, then to supply them with everything needful. Meanwhile, however, it should, as far as possible, be a voluntary movement. Those who provided themselves with arms and accoutrements were not likely to join the militia or the regular forces, and it was very important that the recruiting for those services should not be interfered with. The hon. Gentleman had represented the number of troops in this country as much smaller than was actually the case. The number of troops of one kind or other in. this country, including militia, was, when he left office, about 110,000; there was also a larger force of artillery than at any former time, and he believed it was in a most efficient state. It was most important to encourage the proposed Volunteer Artillery Corps. We had 3,600 guns in position, requiring ten men to work each gun, or 36,000. This being so, it was useless to talk about erecting more fortifications, for they required garrisons and troops which we had not got. The most efficient means of protecting our coast was, perhaps, by movable batteries, of which fifteen were already complete, and ten more ordered, so that here would be 150 movable guns which might be placed on any part of the coast, and when we had got these batteries composed of Armstrong guns, they would form the best possible defence which the country could have. Every effort should be used to induce the inhabitants of seaport towns to join these artillery corps; they should he supplied with ammunition and guns, and it might be even expedient to pay them for their services when engaged. If, however, these rifle volunteers generally were supplied with arms and ammunition, many would come forward and join them who would fire away a great deal of ammunition, and then perhaps retire from the corps altogether; for the Government, it should be recollected, had no hold upon them whatever. With regard to our coast defences, there were now in course of construction fortifications which would cost £2,000,000, and, including those that were contemplated, £4,000,000 would be spent in this way. Now, he said, on bringing with the Estimates that the House would do well to consider whether these were ne- 692 cessary or not. If they were, it was not right to vote the money in driblets, and to wait for their completion at their present slow rate of progress. Not that he feared invasion, and he believed nothing had ever fallen from him implying that he had any such dread; but at the same time they ought always to be prepared. At the present moment, he thought it hardly possible to decide what fortifications were necessary until the effect of rifled guns upon masonry and earth-works had been fully ascertained, and his belief was, that fortifications were now being built which might prove of very little service. As far as recent experiments had gone, the effect of rifled guns was less upon earthworks than upon solid masonry. It was obvious also, that fortifications constructed to meet a range of 4,000 yards would be almost useless against artillery with a longer range. It was proper, therefore, to decide what fortifications were necessary, and then to complete them as soon as possible. He believed that these volunteer rifle corps might be made of the greatest possible service. If, however, the Government interfered too much, they would probably defeat their own object. The various corps should be left to appoint their own hours of drill, and to lay down their own rules as far as possible; Government interference would only be likely to disgust them, and they would much prefer to be left to themselves.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he quite agreed that nothing was less becoming to a great country like England than periodic or chronic panics about invasion. He had not risen to defend the language that had been used towards a neighbouring Potentate either by the press or by individuals. He had just listened in "another place" to a speech made by a noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst) upon our national defences, and it was because he believed that the House of Commons could hardly be expected to vote any increase to our already enormous Army Estimates that he thought it essential to have some additional means of permanent defence. This volunteer movement might he made a useful adjunct to the regular services. It was a fashion, indeed, amongst military men to say that volunteers would be of no use, and would in fact be in the way; but, though it might be presumptuous in him, he inclined to a contrary opinion. Besides, what else could be done? The most intelligent classes of our population were at 693 present of no more use for purposes of defence than so many old women. Take the 600 and odd Members of the House of Commons, for example. Most of them—except those, perhaps, who swore themselves off election Committees—were able-bodied; at least, their constituents believed they were, considering the duties expected of them with the Thames in its present state; but in the ease of invasion, only those hon. Members who had been in the army or militia would be of the slightest use. Of the upper ranks of artizans, and those engaged in trade and commerce, the same might be said; and the ex-Government simply intended that that class should, by a certain amount of training and organization, be useful, upon an emergency, for the defence of the country. With all deference to the opinion of military men, the country would be in a safer position against invasion if so large a number of the population were organized and made available. He had calculated that if the people of London volunteered for these corps in the same proportion as the population of Brescia volunteered for Garibaldi's corps, there would be in the metropolis alone upwards of 200,000 volunteer riflemen. The history of the Tyrol, of America, and of Switzerland proved the value of these riflemen in repelling an enemy, and in Italy the free corps commanded by Garibaldi had been of great service. The letters of The Times' correspondent on this point showed that these men learned their drill in an incredibly short space of time, simply because they belonged to the most intelligent classes of the community. Let the Volunteer Corps be properly organized, and he believed there was enough of spirit in our people to save us both from real dangers and from periodical panics. The Government had exercised a wise discretion in giving a proportion of arms, and he had no doubt their judicious liberality would be duly appreciated by the country as regarded the question of raising these corps.
said, if the noble Lord were correct in his estimate of the number of men that would volunteer they would certainly be of some use if they were disciplined; but he was of opinion that those men would not undergo the necessary amount of discipline requisite to render them of any service to the country. He thought that we could not place the slightest dependence upon the volunteer corps. They would never consent to become regularly 694 drilled soldiers. The noble Lord said, "Let the House turn its attention to arms." Well, he (Colonel Dunne) had served in the army, but if he were called into active service, he should be very much inclined to look at the man next him to see what he ought to do. No doubt undisciplined volunteers might be useful in a country where they were well protected by woods and other natural shelter. But let them take the case of Perugia the other day. There the bravest men were unable to make he had against the Swiss battalions. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War how many volunteers had we in Great Britain at that moment? He did not believe we had more than 5,000. We should be deceiving ourselves if we thought that these volunteer corps would be of the slightest use except to excite a spirit for enlistment. It was the trained soldier upon whom we must rely for repelling an invasion. It was, no doubt, well to encourage this spirit of forming Volunteer Rifle Corps; it would be an amusing plaything for the people. But as regarded the military defences of the country, every one who had the experience of a soldier knew that they would not be of the slightest use unless they submitted to a regular course of military discipline. As to drill, it was a fact that the militia generally learned faster than the regular soldier; but the information they acquired was not so permanently impressed on them as upon the latter, in consequence of being at liberty after a few years to return to their homes. We must have 150,000 thoroughly disciplined men under arms to defend this country.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he could not but express his regret that the hon. and gallant Member seemed desirous to throw cold water upon this subject. No doubt the hon. and gallant Member was a great military authority, but he would forgive him if he said that at his (Sir John Shelley's) time of life he felt no great respect for great military authorities as far as progress or improvement was concerned. Had the country been left to them, our soldiers would now be armed with the old-fashioned ''brown Bess." He thought the House was much indebted to his hon. Friend for bringing forward this Motion. It might be true that there were no more than 5000 volunteers at present but the fact was that nobody knew how to act. There would be no lack of men when they knew better how to set to work, and he 695 hoped the Government would tell them in what way this corps was to he brought up so as to be of the greatest use. There was no wish on the part of the volunteers not to submit to drill or to become useful. He would only say that he thought the proposal of the Government to furnish 25 per cent of arms to the volunteers was extremely wise, for twenty-five men would thus become skilled in the use of the weapon, and the same arms would teach twenty-five men more.
, in explanation, disclaimed any wish to throw cold water on the movement. He had merely spoken of what he considered likely to be the result of the movement.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
Sir, I think the discussion which has taken place has been a very useful one. There is no doubt great diversity of opinion upon matters of detail, both in this House and in the country on the subject of Volunteer Corps, but at any rate by discussion we shall come at last to know what it is we want. I have been asked whether or not the Government ever contemplated the Volunteer Corps becoming a permanent force. If these corps turn out as useful as I hope and expect, they will become part of our permanent establishment; but when I say that I do not mean that for twenty or even 100 volunteers a single regular soldier will be displaced. We are willing to make as perfect a soldier as we can of every man who is willing to take our pay and subject himself to our discipline. In this country, however, there is very little military spirit. There is much martial but very little military spirit, although even in this House a great change has taken place since the militia was called into existence. Formerly the Army Estimates were discussed very coldly, almost the only speakers being a few military officers; but now we see how much the existence of the militia has spread a military feeling and imparted military knowledge to gentlemen of influence in their respective localities. That feeling, however, has hitherto been confined to the lower and to the upper ranks of society. What we want now is to get the middle classes imbued with an interest in our own means of defence, and I think the Volunteer Corps will be useful in doing that. My right hon. and gallant Friend the late Secretary for War has doubts, on account of the state of our stores, whether it was wise to issue rifles to these corps. If the present state 696 of our stores had been permanent, I should have hesitated to have pledged the Government to that step, but seeing there is a rapid increase every week, and that next year our stores will be much enlarged, I thought that it was right to issue a portion of these arms, and instead of allowing them to remain useless it would be better to have men behind them engaged in the practice of military exercises. If we had asked the Volunteer Corps to arm and clothe themselves, and pay for their own drill and musket instruction, and done nothing for them in return but put them under military law, the effect would have been discouraging in the extreme. We must have some influence over them, and unless there is some equity in the dealings between us, we cannot expect them to pay due deference to the military authorities. Such, at all events, were the reasons which induced us to offer arms, as far as our means would permit. I have been asked what we would do for them in case of war. In case of war, of course, they would be armed; but those who point to the times of George III. ought to recollect that circumstances are very different now from what they were then. People talk in a very loose way about invasion, but at that time it stared us in the face in the practical shape of a large camp within reach of our telescopes, and we were obliged to call out every man, and both dress and arm him. As regards dress, the gallant officer opposite fears lest the Volunteers, having no uniform, should, in case of war, be mistaken for armed peasants, and shot down without mercy. Now, at present my only fear is that instead of being negligent in that particular the Volunteers will be rather too fond of uniforms; at all events, we need be under no apprehension that in case of war they may be improperly dressed. As to raising them in companies or battations, there is a broad distinction to be observed. In thinly populated districts it would be impossible to raise them in battalions, for you may depend upon it that men engaged in the ordinary pursuits of life will not consent to attend drill or practice at a distance from their homes. There is a question as to whether these Volunteer Corps should he formed into battalions or companies. In case of war you must form into battalions, and therefore it will be a great advantage if some of them have a knowledge of battalion drill. There will be great facilities for this in large 697 towns, where you can raise a sufficient number of companies to form a battalion; and it may be accomplished in the manner which I to-day suggested to a deputation of gentlemen who are raising several companies, and wish to have them formed into a battalion. I explained to them the difficulties which attended that course, but said, "If you are going to raise eight or ton companies lot the gentlemen who have the management of them combine, let them all have the same uniform and the same code of regulations, and they can then at any moment he formed into a battalion without the slightest difficulty or expense," and the Government will be ready to entertain the proposition. I have stated that the Government are very anxious to promote the formation of these corps. As auxiliaries I believe they will be most useful. If ever they are made a substitute for a regular force, I believe they will be most mischievous. But that is not our intention nor theirs. The hon. and gallant officer (Colonel Dunne) says that without discipline a population is useless; but is not that a reason for attempting to drill them while you can? Every one says that you must keep up a large store of muskets—so many for the regular army, so many for the militia embodied and disembodied, and, beyond this, 200,000 or 300,000 stand of arms for arming the population; but, if you are going to arm the population surely it is wise to give them as much knowledge of the duties as you can. For all these reasons the Government feel most grateful to the gentlemen who have undertaken the formation of these corps. They have done so at the sacrifice of much time and often of lucrative employments, and I think that the country owes them a debt of gratitude for the exertions which they are making. I trust that in this House hon. Members will not press too hard upon the Government with the different views and theories which they may entertain. I think that we have got into a good groove, and that by steadily pursuing it we may effect much good, especially by the formation of Volunteer Artillery Corps. Not only have you now in position guns which would require 38,000 men to work, but you have every day an augmentation of batteries requiring additional men. A Volunteer Artillery Corps is not merely an auxiliary; it becomes a substitute for the Royal Artillery, which can be employed better and more effectually in the field. For these reasons the Govern- 698 ment are anxious to give every encouragement to such forces. In bringing forward this Motion my hon. Friend has done a public service; but as there seems to be a great unanimity upon the subject, I hope he will not press it to a division.
said, a reflection had been thrown out by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Shelley) that military officers were opposed to all improvement, and that if their will had been allowed to prevail the British soldier would still be armed with Brown Bess. In answer to that remark, he felt it due to the memory of the late Viscount Hardinge, to state that he had effected great improvements in the army, and that to him in particular we were indebted for the introduction of the Minie rifle, He must add, that he highly approved of the formation of Rifle Corps, and thought they would prove most useful if they submitted to military discipline; if not, they would be more dangerous to their friends than their foes.
§ MR. SELWYN
said, he wished to offer an observation to the House on a difficulty which had arisen in the formation of the Rifle Corps, but which was overlooked in the circulars both of the late and of the present Government, and which he thought might be removed without any expense to the country. The right hon. Gentleman had imposed as a condition upon the supply of arms to Rifle Corps that they should be in possession of a ground for practice. Now, he did not speak without experience on this subject, for the University which he had the honour to represent had taken an active part in this movement, and, in conjunction with the town, had formed what he had no doubt would be a model rifle club and a crack rifle corps. But a difficulty had arisen with respect to obtaining proper ground for practice. It was important that the ground should he in the neighbourhood of the town, and yet it generally happened that the ground in such a situation was in the hands of many different landlords and tenants, and it was scarcely probable but that some one or other of them would insist upon exorbitant terms before he would allow the Rifle Corps the use of his ground. What he would suggest, therefore, for the consideration of the Government was, whether it would not be advisable to bring in a short Bill, giving the Secretary at War the same powers of acquiring ground suitable for the practice of rifle companies, as were now given in the case of railway companies or Her Ma- 699 jesty's dockyards. He was aware that the power must be cautiously given, and still more cautiously exercised; but if some such power was not given, it would prevent the formation of many corps, for members refused to join till they knew whether the practice ground would be in such a situation as they could attend.
§ MR. PALK
said, he wished to explain, that in referring to the expenditure of money upon fortifications, he had only intended to say that no sums had been expended in fortifying that portion of the coast which was wholly unprotected. Having in a great measure attained the object with which he brought this subject, he would, with the leave of the House, withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.