HL Deb 07 February 1804 vol 1 cc421-2
The Earl of Suffolk

confessed himself satisfied on this head, but said there was another point of great importance, to which he wished to call the attention of the House. The subject lie alluded to was the volunteers. He should now merely touch on the point, as the decision of the court of King's-Bench of yesterday, had rendered it unnecessary for him to take the ground, which, in the event of a contrary judgment, he should have found himself called on to occupy. He felt no hesitation in giving it as his opinion, that, in the event of a contrary decision, every volunteer in the kingdom would have retired in disgust. He intended, in that event, to have submitted a motion to the consideration of the House, which he should now read. As his lordship was proceeding to read the motion, he was I called to order by

Lord Walsingbam,

who objected to any motion being read which was not properly before the House.

The Earl of Suffolk

asserted his right to make any motion which he might think consistent with the discharge of his duty.

The Lord Chancellor

also spoke to order. The noble earl, as he understood him, had I only stated, that if an event had not taken place, he intended to have submitted his motion to the House. In this view of the case, Lord Walsingham was correct in objecting to its being read. If, however, it was the noble earl's intention to submit it to the House, he was clearly intitled so to do.

The Earl of Suffolk

said, that it surely was his intention to submit his motion to the consideration of their Lordships, though, on account of the decision to which he had alluded, he should abstain from the remarks he must otherwise have made. He concluded, by moving, that a committee of naval and military officers, Members of this House, be appointed to advise with government respecting the volunteers, and to recommend such measures as they may think advisable for rendering them most serviceable and efficient.

Lord Hawkesbury

could not think the motion of the noble earl exactly well timed. He could not be ignorant that the servants of government had pledged themselves immediately to bring the question of the volunteer system before Parliament. Whatever, therefore, the noble earl had to propose on that subject, he would then have an opportunity of bringing forward. As all questions, however, of this nature were supposed to originate in his Majesty's mi- nisters, it was but fair, in the first place, to allow them an opportunity of declaring their ideas on the subject, and of seeing how far those ideas met the general sentiment. That ministers had consulted the roost skilful and celebrated commanders in this country, was a fact. The assembling a council, however, consisting of such men, would, he conceived, be inexpedient, unparliamentary, and impracticable. Persons of this description were, in the present situation of the country, scattered up and down, engaged in remote but necessary service. Supposing, therefore, that the measure were parliamentary, and that it were practicable, would it be prudent and expedient, at such a moment, to enter into the measure proposed by the noble earl?

The Earl of Suffolk

said, that it consisted with his knowledge, that in the corps with which he was connected, had it not been for the decision to which he bad alluded, every man in the corps, both officer and private, would have thrown down their arms. It was the duty of government to conciliate the volunteers, not to disgust them. Had the measure which he now proposed been at mice adopted, the explanatory bill, alluded to by the noble lord, would have been rendered unnecessary.—He had not proposed a general council of military officers, but one composed of members of that House, who might have been called together without inconvenience. It had been said, that great military characters had been consulted. He could however say, that many of the first military characters in the country, with whom he was acquainted, had not been consulted of the subject.—The motion was put and negatived without a division.