HL Deb 21 June 1808 vol 11 cc958-9

On the motion that this bill do pass,

The Earl of Selkirk

renewed his objection to the measure. He wished it to be confined to the age between 18 and 25; and thus it would have the effect of training the whole body of the youth of Great Britain to the use of arms. He was anxious the bill should be freed from the inconvenience and difficulties under which other measures of this nature were known by experience to be liable. Above all, he wished to abolish the ballot; with that view he should move an amendment, to omit in the preamble of the bill the words "and balloted."

Earl Stanhope

supported the motion. He was desirous the bill should rest on the principle of the militia act, not on the principle of the modern acts. He wished it to approach in its nature to the old posse comitatus of that great man king Alfred: that was the true ground on which to build on a large scale the means of defending the country against invasion, the danger of which was more real than many people were disposed to imagine. Such was the kind of force most likely to make a solid and secure opposition to an invasion; not your large standing armies. Austria, Prussia, Italy, and all the old governments, which fell like ninepins before the attack of the French, had such armies; but they were not such a force as he thought should and might now be organized in this country, and on which alone it must rely for its defence and security.

Lord Hawkesbury

observed, that the principle of the old posse comitatus was excellent in theory; but like most things which were very specious in theory, it was most inconvenient and insufficient in practice. What the state of the country now called for was, a force permanent in time of peace and of war; and which, by providing such permanent means of defence to co-operate with the already existing force, would provide the means of permanent resistance to a permanent danger. He therefore did not see the use of the amendment.

Lord Sidmouth

distinguished between the plan of his noble friend (lord Selkirk) and that recommended by the noble earl. His noble friend was for so modelling the measure as to make it operate in training the whole body of the youth of the country to the use of arms. In that plan he willingly acquiesced; but if the amendment of his noble friend should be rejected, he should give his support to the present bill, as approximating next to that which he thought would best accomplish the object which government had in view, and which the nature of the times made indispensably necessary.

After a few observations from lord Radnor, lord Selkirk's amendment was negatived without a division.

The Earl of Radnor

proposed an amendment to secure persons balloted for in the training act, from serving in the local militia. This amendment, after a few words from lord Hawkesbury and lord Stanhope, was also negatived; after which the bill was passed.