HL Deb 27 March 1804 vol 1 cc1022-47

The order of the day being read for the second reading of the Volunteer Consolidation Bill,

Lord Hawkesbury

rose, and spoke nearly as follows:—My Lords, in proposing to you that the bill for the regulation of the system, under which the volunteers are embodied, be read a 2nd time, it is my duty to call your attention to the acts, relating to this description of force, which were passed in a former session. I am aware, that this is but a very narrow and limited view of the subject. When I shall allude to the principles of the volunteer acts, I cannot well do it, without alluding to the other measures which his Majesty's govt, have adopted, for supporting, or deriving support from, that species of force, which it is the object of the present bill to render as efficient as the nature of such a body, and the principles of its institution, can reasonably admit: and before I enter upon the details of those other measures of defence, which the govt, has provided, I trust, my Lords, that I may be allowed to make a short observation on the exercise of a right, which I have ever understood to be inherent in the person vested with the executive power of the state—I mean that prerogative residing in the Crown, of calling forth the services of all capable persons in the country, upon actual invasion, or strong apprehension of it. This right, my Lords, I conceive to be one of the indefeasible prerogatives of the King of this kingdom; not a prerogative of recent growth, but discoverable in every part of our history: and I own, that it was with much astonishment I heard it controverted on a former evening, by a noble earl on an opposite bench. I should Lope, my lords, that there is not a person in the empire, tolerably acquainted with the constitution, who can entertain a doubt that the principle contained in the preamble of the present bill namely, that it is the undoubted right of his Majesty to require the services upon certain emergencies, of all ranks of his people, is not a principle coeval with the earliest part of our history, and which, on many occasions, has received all the weight and authority, that the sanction of King, Lords, and Commons, could give it. It is upon that prerogative, which, I trust, will not be contested at this day, that the General Defence Act of a former session was framed, and out of that act the present volunteer system has, in a great measure, arisen. But before I go into the consideration of this bill, I beg leave, my Lords, to advert to an observation made by a noble baron (Lord Grenville,) "that much as he admired the volunteers and the loyal and patriotic spirit by which they were actuated, yet he never could consent to their being employed in any other way than as an auxiliary force, in which situation, he had no doubt, but that they would render incalculable service." My Lords, to the wisdom and policy of that observation, I most cordially agree; I never imagined, I never intended, that the volunteers should act in any other capacity than as a secondary and subsidiary force; and I am persuaded, that should they be ever called into the field in aid (I mean in that way in which their habits and degree of discipline have best fitted them for) of his Majesty's regular forces, that they will not belie the sanguine expectations that those, who look most favourably upon them, have formed.—I wish, now, my Lords, to say a few words as to that other description of force provided by his Majesty's govt, and to which I must always consider the volunteers, as I have said before, secondary and subsidiary: and in communicating to this House, and to the country, the extent of that force, as high perhaps in point of number, certainly as high in character and discipline, as ever the energy and loyalty of a bee people supplied, I feel ample matter for confidence and exultation. My Lords, we have at this time within the United Kingdom, an army, composed of troops of the Hue and militia, amounting to no less than 180,000 men. When I compare this with the force which we had in the months of March and April, 1801, I find that it exceeds it by nearly 40,000. At that period, the peace of Lu-neville had established peace on the Continent, and the whole power of France, disembarrased from any other attack, was solely directed against this country; in addition to which, we were then involved in a contest with the Northern Powers, the issue of which was, to speak the most favourably of it, extremely precarious. We had then, my Lords, foreign possessions to garrison and defend, which required, as you all know, a farther addition to our force; and yet, with all the demands for it, and the menace of immediate invasion with which we were then threatened, superadded to them, our effective forces in the whole of our empire, internal and external, did not equal that army which we have in actual array at this moment for the defence of the united kingdom. I say, my Lords, our present effective force not only exceeds what we then possessed, but nearly equals the amount of the greatest military establishment that we entertained at any period of our history. I should hope, my Lords, that I have said enough to convince this House, that no measures that prudence and precaution could have suggested, for the protection and defence of this kingdom, have been neglected by the govt.; and that when we consider, that in audition to our regular forces, we have in G. Britain alone no less than 350,000 volunteers, we have some reason to look with confidence to an honourable termination of the present arduous and eventful contest. I mean, my Lords; to state distinctly, that the efficient volunteer force of this island amounts to 330,000, and I make this statement from the best authorities, not from the offers of service, not from the numbers enrolled, but from the returns of the different inspecting field officers. How and what is the best mode of employing this immense force, is a question which admits of many contrarieties of opinion. I know that many persons, whose opinions are entitled to very great attention, are decidedly averse from employing the volunteers, as other than an armed peasantry; and I must acknowledge that they argue to that effect with great plausibility. I fully concur in the idea, that one of the great advantages that the invaded possess over the invaders, is in the circumstance of having an armed po- pulation. I know that the advantages to be derived from the incessant attack of this species of force are incalculable in common wars. Where a war becomes protracted, and can only be terminated by a succession of ordinary campaigns; or one sanguinary one, in which every other day may produce a battle; there I will acknowledge the exertions, the activity, and the local advantages of an armed peasantry, may produce the most beneficial effects, and ultimately tend to the discomfiture and annihilation of the enemy. But where the enemy did not intend, and never could reasonably expect to make a permanent conquest; where they only calculated the extent and quantity of mischief they could effect in a given time, and that as short as possible, where they could look for no certain and considerable reinforcements, a position the most detrimental possible to an hostile army, then their object would be to push for the metropolis, or to get, if possible, possession of some of your great naval arsenals, for the purpose of destroying them. To defeat a sudden irruption of that kind, I know no force so competent as that of a regular force, or something nearly approaching to the steadiness and order of its discipline. Of that species of force I conceive the volunteers to be, and I am warranted in my opinion, by the judgment of many experienced military officers, that for the purpose of resisting sudden attack, or a forced march to an important point, they possess decided advantages over an irregular farce. I am aware, my Lords, that many persons also of great military information, have recommended that the volunteers should only be employed as a desultory force, and that to qualify them for that, it would be advise-able that they should unlearn every thing they had acquired in the way of military discipline. I do not see how that could be well done with prudence or safety, considering the crisis in which we are placed, and, I think, it will be more judicious to take the system as it at present is, with ail the disadvantages that may appertain to it. We all allow that the principle in itself is good; and where the advantages are numerous and apparent, and the disadvantages not great, I think that by adopting the system, such as it is, we best provide for the interest and safety of the state. The bill for the regulation of that system is now before the House, and I shall trespass but a little time longer on the pa- tience of noble Lords, while I call their attention to a few of the clauses in it. [The noble Lord here made a few observations on the different clauses relating to the exemptions, the right of resignation, and the election of officers.] I will not deny, my Lords, that there are very great anomalies in this bill, but, notwithstanding, I conceive that the safety of the country may be so essentially provided for by it, that I should hope it, the principle at least, may meet with no great opposition in this House. We are to consider that the volunteer force is of that nature, that it will advance in improvement every day, and that considering the different materials of which it is composed, it should be matter of surprize not that there have been some or so many irregularities, but that there have been so few. I know that it has been objected to the volunteer system, that it cannot be permanent, that it has been produced by the exigency of the moment, and that it contains the principles of dissolution in itself. Should that ever happen, of which I must acknowledge, my Lords, I see no reasonable ground of apprehension, it would then be the duty of ministers to advise his Majesty to recur to the General Defence Act. By that act, his Majesty is authorised to call forth the services of all ranks of his people, and to dispose of them as may seem most fitting to him, for the protection of the state. But trust, my Lords, that his Majesty's ministers will never be reduced to the alternative of advising him to that measure. I have that confidence in the zeal, loyalty, and spirit of the volunteers, that should the moment of danger ever arrive, they will not be found wanting in their duty; that their energies will increase in proportion to the apprehension of invasion; and that they wall submit with readiness and cordiality to the various regulations which it is the object of the present bill to establish for the good order and discipline of a force, which I, for one, should be happy-to see last as long as the necessity that has given rise to it.

The Earl of Carnarvon

expressed his entire disapprobation of the bill, which commenced with an affirmation totally repugnant to the principles of the constitution. His Lordship adverted to the General Defence Act, carried through the House in two days; and which, in common with the present bill, contained the assertion of a very extraordinary prerogative, namely, that his Majesty, independent of any consultation with his parliament, possessed an inherent right to array all classes of his subjects in moments of critical danger. His Lordship denied that his Majesty possessed any such prerogative, to the extent that had been stated; and went into an elaborate examination of the ancient military tenures, for the purpose of proving that no deductions to warrant such a right could be drawn from them. His Lordship severely condemned the principles of the General Defence Act; by which, he said, every man in the kingdom of a certain age, with the exception of Judges, Clergymen, and Quakers, were liable to be called out, to be placed in the ranks, and to be brought to the halberts, in case of military transgressions. Even the Prince of Wales, were he not commander of a regiment, would not be exempt from the operation of that act. For himself, he was past the age at which he was liable to be called on, but were he not, he would rather put a pistol to his head than submit to the provisions of a law so monstrous and unconstitutional. The present bill, although less offensive, was full as absurd, and he for one must vote against its being referred to a committee.

Lord Ellenborough

—My Lords; in this age, when we are daily accustomed to so many adventurous propositions, I really did not expect that any noble Lord would have ventured to question a radical, substantial, unquestionable, and hitherto never-questioned prerogative of the Crown, that of calling forth, upon emergency, the services of all the subjects of this realm. My Lords, from the earliest period of our history, we have been by statute a military people; and this right, inherent in the crown, from the Norman conquest to this day, and which I contend to be indefeasible, cannot be abandoned without the commission of an act of political suicide, both by his Majesty and by his people. My Lords, I have in my pockets one of the most solemn documents to support the opinion I have given, a document carrying the authority of King, Lords, and Commons, and concurred in by what, perhaps, the noble Earl who spoke last, may think of very little consequence, the opinion of the judges who administered justice at that period. My Lords, the document. I allude to} is, I will admit, not to he found in any of our statute books, but its authority is not in the least weakened by that. I hold in my hand a copy of the commission of Array, passed in the 5th year of Henry the IVth. and to be found in page 527, of the third roll of parliament. That identical statute referred to by Sir Ed. Coke, in his 4th institute, which was written in the reign of lames the 1st, was acknowledged by him to be the law of the land at that day, and it has continued so to be to this very instant, for it has never been repealed either positively or by any inference or implication whatever. That statute, my Lords, solemnly recognizes that it is a prerogative inherent in his Majesty, to require, in critical cases, such as invasion, or even the apprehension of invasion, the services of all subjects capable of bearing arms, or, in the words of the commission, of all those, "potentes et habiles in corpore." And, my Lords, this is not a solitary assertion of that right, but it is to be found at various periods of our history, and particularly in the reigns of Henry VII. of Ed. VI. and of Henry II. This, my Lords, is a right consequent to the sword, it does not exclusively belong to the sovereign of this country, but is inherent in whom ever may possess the executive power in any state. If the noble Lord will refer to Vattel, or any other of the writers upon the laws of nations, he will find that they are unanimous in declaring, that such a power makes part of the prerogative, whether royal or executive, in all the countries that possess any thing like a legitimate or civilized government. As to the noble Earl's supposition, that this prerogative conferred the power of throwing all classes of persons indiscriminately into the ranks, I must decidedly oppose it. No, my Lords, no such abuse of it can ever be committed; men are to be employed according to their states, to their habits of life, and to the modes in which they may be most useful. But I trust, that in case of extreme necessity, no man, who bears the semblance and appearance of a man, who values his country and his domestic ties, and who is to fight body to body, pro aris et focis, will stickle about the mode in which his energies can be most advantageously brought into action. My Lords, unfitted even as I am by habit and education for maintaining such a contest, yet in such a case of extreme necessity, I should not think I did my duty to my country, or to my. children, if I did not cast this gown from my back, and employ every faculty of my mind, and of my body, to grapple with the enemy. I shall not at present make any observations on the principle, or the provisions of this bill. I rose merely, conceiving myself alluded to by the noble Earl, for the purpose of declaring what I understood the law to be as to a particular point, and I trust I have satisfied him, as well as other noble Lords,

The Earl of Carnarvon

professed that he was by no means convinced by the arguments of the noble and learned Lords. Having proceeded to some length in repeating his former reasoning, he was called to order by

The Earl of Morton;

who gave it as his opinion, that the whole of the noble Earl's speech was irrelevant to the bill before them.

The Earl of Carnarvon

stated, that he rose for the purpose of explanation, a privilege seldom denied by the courtesy of their Lordships; and if they should on the present occasion deviate from their usual practice, it was competent for him to move for a Committee, in which he would have the liberty of speaking as often as he pleased. His Lordship resumed his argument, when he was a second time called to order by

Lord Hobart,

who expressed his extreme reluctance to interrupt the noble Earl, but he thought it due to the dignity and regularity of their Lordships proceedings, not to suffer such irrelevant matter to be introduced into the debate; he must, therefore, be under the necessity of appealing to the standing orders of the House.—The order was here read by the Clerk, which was in substance as follows: "that if any noble Lord should desire a committee, it should not be refused him."

Lord King

wished, as the present was, in all probability, the only opportunity that he should have to debate the principles of the bill, to trespass, for a few minutes, on their Lordships attention, He would confess that he saw no advantages whatever likely to arise from the present bill, and he conceived that the defence of the county, so far from being improved, was materially injured by the volunteer system in general, and most particularly so by the provisions of the present bill. He censured the ministers for the various incongruous measures they had brought forward at different times, for the defence of the country. The militia and army of reserve, are in direct opposition to each other, and the volunteer system is in positive contradiction to both. He combated the prerogative, as asserted by a noble and learned Lord, and denominated it, a jacobin principle, not unbecoming the worst period of the worst part of the French revolution. He denied that the King, consistent with the principles of the constitution, did possess, or could possess, any such inherent right, as it was recited and asserted in the preamble to the bill. His Lordship placed the different provisions of the bill in a variety of contradictory lights, deprecated the idea of ever employing the volunteers as troops of the line, gave it as his opinion, that an armed peasantry would be found much more serviceable and efficient; and concluded with expressing his disapprobation of the present measure.

Lord Boringdon

spoke in terms of high praise of the volunteers, and entertained no fears of their having any disposition to disband. He did not see much to praise in the present bill, but approved of giving the volunteers the advantage of the militia, when called out. After the many contradictions of last year, he thought it would be rather too sanguine to look to the perfection of the system by this measure.

The Bishop of Landaff

thought the country was at a most critical moment. The die of its fate was in the air, and every nerve must be exerted in its cause. For that purpose there was need of the efforts of all, though not perhaps of that co-operation of which he had heard mention of certain great and honourable characters, whose talents he most highly admired, and who, he was sure, would not co-operate from any selfish or party view, to gain place or power.—Respecting administration, which had been accused very strongly of inability, he confessed he was not a sufficient judge on that subject. He had seen no proofs, no documents, from which he could establish that conclusion. But if any mistakes had been committed, it should in fairness he remembered, that the present circumstances of public, affairs were new, and that, he thought, should form an excuse for mistakes; at least it was so to him.—Of the volunteer system, he would say, that it was most noble in principle, most difficult in execution; but he trusted confidently, it would prove most successful in its effects. Who were the volun- teers? they were not low, mean beings. They were men of all ranks, even of the highest. They ware many of them of the greatest stake of property, and of the first respectability. They comprized all professions, nobility, men of letters, merchants, manufacturers, artizans, yeomen, and the respectable of every description; and they all came forward, animated with glowing enthusiasm and valour. And why did they feel this glorious stimulus? Because they knew that they possessed at present more liberty and more happiness than was possessed by any other nation on the face of the earth. Because they knew that the success of the invader would be the loss of them liberties and of their happiness. The system might not be perfect, but surely it was susceptible of improvements. The question was not upon the principle of the system. It had been adopted, and it must now be maintained. And was there any thing their Lordships would not do to make it as perfect as possible, as a great means of defence? My Lords, do you want arms? Put in requisition all the gun-smiths and black-smiths throughout the island. Do you want men His Majesty's prerogative enables him to call out the whole nation. Do you want horses? Put in requisition every coach-horse and saddle-horse, and train them for the purposes of war. Men must in such emergencies go about on foot. Your Lordships will think it no hardship to walk down to tins House; and I honour too highly the sex, to suppose that they would complain of any necessary privations in the hour of difficulty. Do you want ships? Hire all the merchantmen and small craft in your harbours. As for large ships, I hope the enemy will build them for you, and that our brave seamen will shew them the way to our own ports. Do you want money? That is a serious question, my Lords, I admit; but in such times taxes must be laid commensurate to public exigencies. All property is the creature of civil society, and you should use it for the public good, and for the security of the country. I dread, my Lords, the power and intrigues of the enemies of my country, and more still, that political paralysis which has deadened the spirit of every cabinet on the Continent of Europe. Oh! my Lords, I had rather be reduced to the meanest situation, live on oat-bread and water, and wear the wooden clogs of Westmoreland, than exist pampered with all that affluence could procure me, and see my country subjected to the terrors of French domination. And, my Lords, give me leave to say, that it gave me extreme consolation to hear his Majesty's message of last night concerning the Irish militia. I hope and trust that Ireland sees the advantages of her union with us, and that she is disposed to promote and perfect it. I confess, my Lords, that, timid as I am, though I hope not personally, it drove away from my mind the terms of an 100,000 Frenchmen inarms.

Earl Darnley

entered at some length into the consideration of the principle and particular regulations of the bill. The question appeared to be, whether there was, in fact, any necessity for the volunteering system? and whether, if so, ministers had carried it into execution in the readiest and roost effectual manner? He conceived that the regulars and militia were not, under the present circumstances of the country, adequate to its defence, and therefore admitted that there was a necessity of resorting to the aid of volunteers, or a general arming. As to which was most proper—Ministers seemed to have acted under the most distressing uncertainty; indeed, nothing but doubt and inconsistency had marked their conduct upon the subject. They began with holding out no great encouragement to volunteers; then came the Defence Act; then the volunteers were encouraged a good deal more: they were, however, soon repressed again. In the minds of ministers, it was clear there existed no distinct notion of any necessity as to the volunteer system. They brought it forward, and repressed it, just as it suited the opinion of the moment. The measures now under consideration, his Lordship thought, shewed neither cleverness nor consistency. He approved of the volunteer system, but thought it should have been instituted on a more reasonable plan in point of ex-pence. Had this been considered at first, and the system been constructed on regular principles, by this time that body of men would have been as complete as their nature would admit. Ministers, he thought, had acted very absurdly in applying one rule to all the counties. Ask any man, how little so ever acquainted with the subject, he would say it was common sense, that a greater number of volunteers should be permitted in Kent, Sussex, and other maritime counties, to what was allowed in Nottingham or Northamptonshire. So inconsistently and unwisely had ministers acted upon this subject, that it was altogether incongruous and absurd to apply the word system to such an ill-understood and undigested mass of regulations as related to the volunteers.

The Earl of Fife

observed, the question now before their Lordships was, that this bill be read a second time: he, said that he could not help observing, there had been great irregularity in this debate, by almost entirely departing from the question, He assured their Lordships that he should not take up much of their time. He was too far advanced in life to have any object in speaking, but from public duty. He would not waste time in complimenting ministers on the wisdom of their measures, having very little acquaintance with any of them, except from official correspondence, and he did not even know who were their opposers: he rose as an old volunteer, feeling it his indispensible duty to do justice to that species of force, which upon every occasion had acted with honour and spirit. He said he could not but regret, that many reflections had been thrown out in speeches and in publications against the volunteer system, (which term he should use, notwithstanding it had been disapproved of by a noble Lord), some from ignorance and folly, and others, he was afraid, from worse principles. His Lordship was confident, that the most malicious insinuations would not raise a jealousy between the volunteers and regular army; it was their joint honour and interest to support each other. The numerous body of Volunteers all over this kingdom, certainly must appear to our enemies a formidable bulwark of defence of our King, our constitution, our religion, and every thing dear to us.—He had great experience last war in raising volunteers in the county where he has the honour to be Lord Lieut. He has at this time a very considerable number, and might have had a great many more, had govt, accepted of the offers; and he was proud to say, during all that period he never had occasion to make a complaint to the war office but of one, and that was a captain returning a lieut. present when absent, and he was superseded, His Lordship was of opinion that the volunteers certainly had the power of resigning, but at the same time he was fully convinced that they would never desire to exercise that right so long as their country required their services; and he said he should have regretted it extremely, had any measure been adopted which should make any alteration in their voluntary and patriotic offers. He was happy to have this opportunity of complimenting a noble and learned Lord on a decision which has done him great honour, and given universal satisfaction. At the same time, with all the attachment which his Lordship said he had to the volunteer system, he could never agree to allow the men the power of choosing their own officers; he had heard of the existence of such a practice, but in the part of the country he was connected with, it had never been heard or thought of. No practice appeared to him to be more dangerous. His Lordship coincided perfectly in the sentiments so ably stated by a reverend prelate, which it was unnecessary, for him to repeat. He concluded by saying, that there were many clauses in the bill before the House, which he highly approved of, and therefore gave it ids entire support.

Lord Romney

took a similar view of the subject, and would answer, when the occasion came, the volunteers would be equal to encounter the soldiers of France. They must surely be equal, at least, to forced conscripts chained hand in hand. He felt that the stake at risk was great, but was confident that the volunteers would prove equal to the trial, and repel any force that could be brought against them. Were the danger even more pressing, we should not imagine, for a moment, they would shrink from their duty. I On these accounts he thought they should be encouraged, and officers of service should mix among them. One eminent officer had given a great example of this. General Harris, the commander of the Indian army at the siege of Seringapatam, had not thought it beneath him to accept; the station of lieut.-col. of a corps of volunteers. He thought, however, that the proportion should have been greater in the maritime counties than in the inland. The policy in this was so clear, as to admit of no doubt, notwithstanding ministers had pursued a different course. With respect to this bill, he thought it contained many regulations which would tend to improve and meliorate that system; and therefore he should give it his entire support.

The Duke of Somerset

said a few words, but in BO low a tone as almost to be in- audible. His Grace spoke in favour of the volunteer system in general, without touching on the regulations immediately before the House.

Lord Grenville

began by expressing his satisfaction that those who found it their duty to oppose the bill, were not now supposed to be enemies to the volunteer system. It would, indeed, be strange, that those who had used the utmost exertions to consolidate that system, should for a moment be considered as individuals who wished it to be dissolved, even under the present critical circumstances of the empire. No man, he would affirm, could entertain a higher idea than he did of the zeal, the energy, and the spirit of the people of England; and no idea could be more monstrous than to suppose that 400,000 volunteers, who had stepped forward in defence of who liberties and independence of their country; would not be found capable of the most important services. It was not that he doubted of the courage of the volunteers of England, but it was keeping in view, that those whom they were to encounter were troops of undoubted courage, and who had enjoyed the advantage of a degree of discipline obtained in not less than 12 campaigns, in which they were opposed to all the best disciplined troops in Europe. With the knowledge of the enemy to be opposed, it was undoubtedly the duty of ministers to have directed their principal attention to that description of force which was to be encountered. In the present bill, his Lordship declared that he saw not the slightest evidence of a regular military system. Since the commencement of the war, he had hitherto seen no evidence of a system adequate to the crisis in which we were placed, the various parts of which had any reasonable degree of relation or connection. What he had principally to object to the volunteer system, as it at present stood, was, that it had stood in the way of every other department of the national defence. The recruiting not merely of the regulars, but the filling up of the militia, had been materially affected by the provision which the bill now contained. A noble Lord had stated one fact, which effectually proved the assertion which he had submitted to their Lordships' consideration. The fact to which he referred was, that in the county of Kent, at the breaking out of the war, there were not more them 37 individuals embodied out of the whole quota required for that district. Could there, he desired to ask their Lordships, be a more decisive proof of the improvidence and culpable neglect of ministers? Was it not admitted that the peace was not considered to be lasting? Was it not allowed by ministers themselves, that during the short interval of peace, the whole conduct of the enemy had been one uniform system of violence and aggression? On what principle it was, then, that the ministers disbanded the militia, or were so backward in re-embodying them, he could not pretend to decide. Their conduct in this instance was hardly reconcilable to any of the ordinary principles of human affairs. It was a subject of considerable interest to look to the successive measures of Ministers for the defence of the country. The first in any point of view calculated to secure the augmentation of the regular army, was the bill for raising the army of reserve. But how was the operation of this act encouraged by subsequent proceedings? The conduct of Ministers was characterised by their usual confusion and irregularity. They immediately introduced the General Defence Act, and much time was employed in reducing this measure to any degree of consistency. Hardly two days elapsed, before in two or three lines the whole measure is rendered nugatory. Ministers take on themselves to hold forth, that voluntary offers of service shall be commuted for the provisions of the General Training Act. Not contented with this, they introduce a most extensive and unparalleled system of exemptions. They go so far as to introduce into a volunteer bill provisions, exempting not only from the ballots for the militia and army of reserve then in existence, but from all ballots which might afterwards be appointed by a solemn act of the legislature. What the effect of such a system was, he needed not to enlarge on. It must be obvious to every noble Lord who took the trouble to exercise his judgment on the subject, that such provisions were utterly incompatible with the existence of a regular army. He desired their Lordships to reflect on what had been done for the military defence of the country since the commencement of the present session of Parliament. About 5 months had already elapsed, and all that had hitherto, been brought forward to perfect our military system was, to lay on the table of their Lordships a bill which he must be forgiven in pronouncing altogether nugatory. I struck him that the bill was quite inefficient to any great object, not only from the absence of many important previsions, but from the presence of others which were not only useless, but, in his view, highly reprehensible. How far the present objectionable clauses might be removed or amended, he would not now pretend to decide, though he certainly had no very sanguine hope, that even after every effort to improve it, the bill could be rendered adequate to any great permanent object. Considered as a separate measure, it was altogether inefficient. Viewed as a part of a whole, it was utterly incompatible with every other part of the system applicable to the crisis in which the country was placed. He was hardly required to repeat what he had said at the outset of his observations, that he had the most perfect reliance on the zeal and spirit of the volunteers in every part of the empire. At the same time he could not help saying, that the species of force most applicable to the national danger, was that which ministers were in duty bound to bring forward with the least possible delay. Of the courage of the volunteers it was impossible to entertain a doubt; and after the previous experience which had been obtained of the service of the militia, no man would pretend that they were not to be considered as a most important part of our national defence. Ministers, however, ought to have properly balanced the means of uniting and harmonizing the application of these different establishments, so as in the least possible degree to interfere with the military force of the country. So far, however, from having pursued this system, ministers had sacrificed the regular army to establishments, undoubtedly highly useful in themselves, but not applicable to circumstances of extraordinary danger. Instead of any encouragement being held out to the regular army, it had been thwarted, opposed, and embarrassed. He really was astonished at the language employed this evening by the noble Sec. of State. He had made use of an expression which, for his own part, was quite novel in the manner in which it had been applied. The noble Lord had spoken of the volunteers and the militia as an established force, and this he seemed to wish their Lordships to consider in contradistinction to our regular army. This was a sort of language which he professed himself utterly unable to comprehend. He allowed all due praise to the spirit of the volunteers and the militia, but he was desirous that they should be viewed on their proper footing. As to the army of reserve, he saw them in no other light generally than as a depot of recruits for the regular army. Some degree of triumph appeared to be entertained as to the present state of our military establishment. He could not imagine that the noble Lord opposite would persist in holding such language. As the best answer to any statement of this nature, he should wish to be informed, what augmentation had been gained for the regular army since the commencement of the last session? He did not at all mean to deny that the militia, as applicable to local service, might be viewed as to a considerable degree efficient. He was so far from wishing to hold them up in any inferior light, that one of his great objections to the bill was, that the filling up of the quotas for the militia had, by the provisions of the bill, been materially retarded. What he objected to was, that service in a volunteer corps protected not against one ballot for the militia, but against ballots even before the militia were completed. He begged leave to say, that the system pursued by ministers on this subject was essentially different from that pursued during the late war. He did not deny that the volunteer establishment, during the late war, was one which admitted of exemptions from the militia ballots, but the exemption was given under quite different circumstances. During the late war, the exemptions given to the volunteers succeeded the embodying of the militia; whereas, as the exemptions now stood, they accompanied and materially interfered with the filling up of the militia. But he begged leave to state, that this was not only the case during the late war, when the volunteers were first established, but after it was judged necessary to extend their numbers. Previous to this augmentation, the supplementary militia had been called for, and it was not till this additional force was filled up, that further offers of voluntary service were accepted. The exemptions given to the volunteers were really far beyond any idea which was entertained on the subject. Hardly two days elapsed after the General Training Act had been passed, before, by the single clause of. a commutation for Voluntary service, the whole act was virtually rescinded. He believed that the public at large knew nothing of this most extraordinary alteration. He could on his own behalf state, that though only at a distance of 26 miles from the metropolis, he knew nothing of the matter; and that he first was apprised of this new bill while he was busy in explaining the provisions of the General Training Act, and pointing out the superiority of voluntary offers of service. No sooner was it seen that a deficiency of volunteers was likely to be experienced, than ministers made known their views of these extended exemptions. The volunteer system unexpectedly increased much beyond what they thought necessary; and here again they stepped in to check and embarrass the exertions and enthusiasm of the people. The people were to be perpetually trifled with, and when volunteers did not appear in sufficient numbers, they were to be brought forward by threats of the General Training Bill. It was not at all his object to dispute, under particular circumstances, the right of the Sovereign to call out the population of the country. He must, however, strongly object to the clause in the bill by which that power was defined. As the clause now stood, the power professing to be vested in the crown was monstrous and unconstitutional beyond all previous example. He could not pretend to be so well versed as a noble and learned Lord who had preceded him, in what had been very properly styled the antiquity of the law. Many of the cases cited by the learned Lord did, however, appear to him quite inapplicable to the present age, and the present circumstances of this country. Much stress had been laid on the authority of Vattel, whose Treatise on the Law of Nations he had heard repeatedly styled a repository of the lumber of antiquity. He would net. enter the lists with the noble Lord as to the constitutional opinions entertained in the time of Hen. III. and Edw. I with respect to the power of the Sovereign to call out the population of the country. He did not controvert the doctrine of the Sovereign's right generally stated. In the present age, however, it was not to be received without a certain degree of limitation. It was the act not of the Sovereign personally, but of the Sovereign acting under the sanction and authority of Parliament. This was the only intelligible use of the right in a country professing to be governed by a system of laws fairly and justly administered. When the power was exercised at ail, it was to be generally and justly applied. It was not to be made the instrument of injustice, of partiality, or revenge. To suppose that it could be exercised in this way, would be to subvert the whole system of a free govt. To pretend that the prerogative of the crown extended so far, as that any individuals, could at pleasure be transferred, either to a regiment of the line, or to a militia regiment, was a position altogether monstrous and abominable. It was objected, and justly, to the odious and tyrannical govt, of France, that the people were liable to be driven to every species of military service. With what propriety, then, could ministers call on the people of this country to stand forth in defence of our constitution, if the monstrous power to which he had now alluded was sanctioned? His Lordship contended, that a clause in the bill did sanction such a power, and that this was the first instance of such an arbitrary arrangement in the whole annals of the country. He wished to know from what source such an odious doctrine was derived. It could not derive its origin from the feudal times, for there the terms of service were expressly limited. Was it from the example of the issuing of commissions of array? He conceived that it would be wasting time to shew that these commissions afforded no argument for the unconstitutional power granted by the bill. At the commencement of the civil wars, such a power was contended for by the crown lawyers; but all the ablest legal authorities of that day resisted it. Se convinced was the King of the illegality of the power, that it was not acted upon in any instance. After the restoration, it was not attempted to be carried into practice, and militia laws soon after were substituted in its room. His Lordship, after insisting on this constitutional point; with great force of argument, concluded by declaring, that the bill was very tar from meeting his approbation. He however declined entering on minor points till a future stage.

The Lord Chancellor,

in answer to the noble Lord who had just sat down, insisted that many of the objections of that noble Lord were irrelevant to the present stage of the bill. The question was not in regard to the propriety of the volunteer system as it generally stood, but whether the bill now before the House ought to fee read a second time as a bill designed to regulate and amend that system. The propriety of the general., principle had been recognized by former bills, and did not therefore admit of much animadversion. It was impossible for him to confine himself, his Lordship said, to the narrow limits he could have wished, from the turn the debate had taken. All the talents of the noble Lord, and all the talents connected with that noble Lord, or that were engaged with the former administration, could not, his Lordship was persuaded, have effected a more perfect or more complete system than that now introduced by the bill. To shew that such a, force was necessary, as could not have been immediately raised or so expeditiously raised in the regular way, his Lordship only requested the House to turn their attention to the circumstances that attended the resolution of this country to enter again into the war. All circumstances considered, it could not have been in the power of the noble Lord, or in the power of those who conducted the last war, to have raised a more efficient or a more numerous force in the same time. It was not fair, his Lordship contended, to criticise the measures of any administration with that severity with which the noble Lord had attacked the present administration. On the same principle, what might he not say of the former administration to which that noble Lord had belonged, and to which he himself was inclined to attach the greatest respect? It was impossible that in such circumstances as existed, any measures could have been adopted to produce more beneficial or more extensive effects than the present volunteer system was calculated to produce. No man, it is true, can deny, that a strong and numerous regular force is desirable and better in many respects than volunteers; but it must be allowed also, at the same time, that such a regular force could not so easily, nor in so short a time, be raised to an amount equal to the efficiency of the Volunteers. Had not the present administration, in this instance, acted upon the same principle as had been acknowledged last war? Should ever the volunteers be called into action, he had no doubt that their exertions would do honour to their country, and be a source of glory to themselves. Not a man among them, he believed, would survive a defeat. But the proper time, his Lordship argued, to take the different topics under consideration, was in the committee of the House, and not in the present stage of the bill, as none of the objections went so far as to deny the general principle. The noble Lord then went into a long discussion, in answer to Lord Grenville, on the royal prerogative to call out the people in case of actual danger. Against the restrictions which the noble Lord had imposed on that prerogative, he entered his most solemn protest, and argued the propriety of this prerogative, from the necessity of the case in which it was supposed to be exercised. This prerogative was claimed only in case of invasion, and the good of the country, and the safety of the people, would then require such a sacrifice, even independent of the law of the case, into which also, however, his Lordship went at considerable length. His Lordship here put a case; that should an invasion be made, and a landing effected when Parliament was not sitting, and at a time, perhaps, when Parliament could not constitutionally sit, what would be the result should this prerogative of the crown be suspended, or even so limited as to render it ineffective? If not a principle of law, let it not be made so. It will be difficult, however, to make it otherwise, while it must be recognised, in certain instances, as a principle of necessity or expedience.

Lord Grenville

said, he had never contended that the Sovereign had not a right, in case of invasion, to call upon the ser-vices of his liege subjects, because that the King had a right, representing the community, to call, in such a case of extreme necessity, upon the services of all his subjects for the public defence, was not only a constitutional principle, but formed a part of the essence of civil society. The thing which he objected to was this, that this bill, in carrying this principle into execution, gave the crown a power, not to call upon the whole or any class of the people, but upon any individual, and to place him in any regiment of the line, or militia.

Earl Spencer

thought the volunteer system as it stood, could not meet the approbation of the House. He was by no means an enemy to Volunteer Corps. He had the honour to belong to one since the year 1794, the period of their first formation, but he thought Administration bad begun at the wrong end, and instead of rendering the Volunteers an auxiliary force as they were intended, had, by the exemptions introduced, crippled the regular service. So much was this the case, that the Noble Lord (the Lord Chancellor), whose ingenuity was generally acknowledged, had been obliged lo have recourse to old arguments to support the measure, he was no enemy in general to the argumentum ad hominem, out he thought it was introduced with a very bad grace on the present occasion. Whatever might be the principle of the Provisionary Cavalry, under the former Administration, he could not sec the application of it in the present instance, Of the Provisionary Cavalry Act, his Lordship said, he himself had had the honour to approve, but under circumstances, and under regulations very different from the present act.

Lord Hobart

defended generally the conduct of govt, with respect to the exertions they had made for placing the country in a situation of defence equal to the exigencies of the present moment. This country now exhibited a force unexampled in its history of 628,000 men in arms, and he thought that the exertions of the present administration, in getting forward so large a force, were equal to the exertions of any former minister, even when every allowance was made for the difference of the present times, which required considerably greater exertions than were necessary in any former war. The greatest military force that this country possessed for its defence in that period of the last war, when it was at the highest, amounted to 175,000 regulars and militia, and l68,000 volunteers; but now the whole force of the United Kingdom amounts already to 628,000 men in arms, a number, too, which is daily increasing us the vacancies in the militia are filled up. Most of the noble Lords who had spoken, appeared, and with great reason, to be much attached to that part of our force which was called regulars: he could assure them that that part of our force, was at psesent very nearly as high as at any period of the last war; we had now of that description, 98,000 in G. Britain, Ireland, and the islands in the Channel; but he had been always accustomed to consider the militia also on the footing of regulars. Above two-thirds of their number were already completed, and their number, as he before stated, was daily increasing as their vacancies were filled up. The measures that had been taken were calculated to give confidence to the country, and to assure every man that there was nothing to be feared even from the loudest threats of the enemy. The force of the country, in fact, was such as to enable every man to look forward with tranquillity and confidence to the enjoyment of the advantages of our happy constitution.

The Duke of Montrose

did not oppose the volunteer system, nor the principle of the bill, but objected very strongly to some of the clauses, and particularly to that clause in which, after the necessity of encouraging the volunteers to go upon permanent duty was admitted, the guinea bounty, which was proposed for an inducement to them, was to be laid out in necessaries at the discretion of the commanding officer: he disapproved of this, as taking away the inducement which was held out; and as to the article of great coats, which were stated to be so necessary, he believed there were very few volunteers who were not already possessed of great coats, which, whatever might be their colour, were sufficient to keep them warm: even if they had not great coats, a blanket, in actual service, might answer the purpose as well. If they wanted these things, however, they ought to be got, whatever was the expence. He had not so poor an idea of the resources of this country, or of any other country, as to suppose they could not afford to provide that which was absolutely necessary to enable their soldiers to take the field. In speaking of the perfection to which volunteers might be brought by skilful officers, he took notice of the volunteers with which he was best acquainted, the volunteers in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, who had made such a proficiency, that it was allowed by military men that they were perfectly fit to take the field with regular troops. General Simcoe, and other general officers, had borne similar testimony of volunteer regiments in other parts of the United Kingdom. He had heard military men, of great experience and judgment, say, that the first qualification for soldiers was the intention to fight: in this qualification he supposed none of the volunteers of the empire would be found deficient. He concluded by expressing his disapprobation of the exemptions which were granted, and of some other parts of the bill, but wished that it might go to a committee.

The Earl of Westmoreland

said, he was not surprised that there existed a difference of opinion upon this important subject. In considering it, however, it was necessary to take a view of the real situation in which the country stands. We were at present, engaged in a war for the purpose of deciding, not whether we are to maintain our present high rank among the nations of Europe, but whether the British empire was any longer to enjoy existence. Our commercial strength depends upon our military strength. We must recollect, that our enemy is as regardless of the lives of his soldiers or subjects, as he is of those of his enemies. Such being the case, we must therefore powerfully feel the necessity of strong exertions. He was persuaded, that the spirit which prevailed in the country was amply sufficient to enable it to encounter its dangers. So long as there existed any apprehension of invasion, it was necessary to guard against it; and the system which had been adopted was the most proper for that purpose. We must recollect the great number of vulnerable points on our coast, and how near our metropolis is situated to the coast of the enemy. It was impossibly for the country to supply a regular army, sufficiently numerous for its immediate defence, without the assistance of the armed population. The only question was, how is that to be obtained? For his part, he could not see any means more efficacious than those which ministers had adopted. As to the excellence of an armed peasantry, he thought it was quite ideal. Had any person asked him, previous to any of the discussions on the volunteer bill, why he preferred volunteers in the present situation of the country, he would have answered, that it was because the volunteer system was one which did not interfere with the militia, army of reserve, or the recruiting of the regular army. The objections stated against the system constituted the very reasons for which he approved of it. It was not from theory alone, but from practice, he grounded his opinion. The militia force was already nearly completed. The volunteer system lessened the number of balloted men, but increased the number of substitutes. The volunteers were much greater sufferers than if they had actually endured the bal- lot. The very circumstance of handling arms inspired great numbers of young men, who were volunteers, with a military spirit, which encouraged the recruiting of the regular army. This he experienced during last war, when a proportion of 50 out of 600 volunteers entered yearly as recruits for the regular army. The volunteer system did not tend to interrupt offensive operations, for it would certainly be the greatest madness not to provide in the first place for our safety at home. He thought his Majesty's servants stood upon safe grounds, when they had thus far followed the steps of their predecessors. Never was there such a large force collected in such a short time, and for that his Majesty's ministers were justly entitled to the approbation and the thanks of the country, for their great exertions and attention to the public interest. During the present war, we had already reason to be thankful that we have defended our own possessions, taken those of the enemy, and blockaded their own ports, so as hitherto to prevent them from putting their schemes into execution. He had every reason to believe that the measures which govt, had adopted, and which the present bill went to improve, would be the means of continuing those blessings to the country which we had hitherto enjoyed.

Lord Auckland

said, he by no mean? entertained such gloomy apprehensions as some noble Lords appeared to do, respecting the probable duration of the war, or the final result of it: he hoped that the end of it would be, that France would not be permitted to retain her dominion over the continent of Europe; but whether the termination of it was near or at a distance, the country had this year placed itself higher than ever in the opinion of all nations, and might be justly proud of its military strength. If he was asked his opinion, whether 628,000 men in arms were: enough for the defence of the country in the present circumstances, he should say, he believed the number was considerably more than we wanted. Although, of course, every noble Lord must wish the country to be in the most perfect state of security, yet then: were certainly some limits to be placed to the number called out in its defence, and that upon different considerations: 1st, as to economy, can we afford to pay such au immense number of men? and 2ndly, in point of prudence and general policy, is it right, beyond what is necessary, to extend the military spirit indefinitely among all classes of the nation? These were questions he should not then pretend to discuss. He thought the exertions of administration had brought forward a number of men completely adequate to the defence of the empire, and that there was little more wanting than to make the system already adopted as efficacious as possible.—The question for the second reading of the bill was then put, and carried without a division. It was accordingly read a second time, and

Lord Hawkesbury

moved, that it be committed on Thursday se'nnight, being the first day of meeting after the recess.

Lord Harrowby

stated some objections as to the delay which would thus be occasioned; and wished some earlier day to be appointed, as he conceived it to be of the utmost importance that volunteers should go upon permament pay and duty as soon as possible.

Lord Hawkesbury

said, that there was nothing in the bill that would occasion any necessity for its being hurried through its remaining stages. He understood, that upwards of 30,000 volunteers had already gone upon permanent pay and duty, in the manner proposed by the bill; and he had every reason to think that a great many more would, in the mean time, pursue the same plan to perfect themselves in their discipline.—The motion for the bill being committed on Thursday se'nnight, was then agreed to, and the House, at II o'clock, adjourned till to-morrow.