HL Deb 18 March 1808 vol 10 cc1179-82

The house resolved itself into a committee on the Mutiny bill. On the clause being read for allowing men to enlist for life,

The Duke of Gloucester

restated the opinion he had delivered on a former occasion, on the merits of the system of limited service. It was a system almost universally approved, not only by the ablest generals of foreign nations, but by the most experienced military men of this country. It was a system that was gradually improving, and that promised the fairest results. He was sorry that such a moment as the present should be seized to interrupt its progress; and so convinced was he of the mischiefs that must arise from that interruption, that he must beg leave to propose as an amendment, That the words granting the power of enlisting for life, be left out of the clause.

Lord Boringdon

was a friend to the system of limited service; but various reasons concurred to induce him to agree to the clause, because it must be obvious that a very different system was necessary with respect to our colonial and our home defence. If the house but duly considered the extent and distance of our settlements, and the immense expence incurred by sending out men to India, for example, they must be convinced that an enlistment for seven years would by no means answer the object with regard to the Colonies.

Lords King

arid Darnley supported the plan for limited service, and complained that the present clause was inserted in the bill only with an insidious intention to undermine it.

The Earl of Buckinghamshire

was convinced from experience that a mixture of the two systems, of limited and unlimited service, was best calculated for the various circumstances of the defence of the empire.

Earl Grosvenor

was loud in the praises of the limited system. It alone could gain us the hearts as well as the arms of soldiers, and without their hearts, their arms would be of little avail, in the moment of difficulty and danger to which the country might perhaps be soon exposed.

Lord Melville

took a retrospective view of the state of the army, and of the various plans that had at different times been devised for recruiting it. He disliked the frequent interference of the legislature in what regarded our military establishment. In his opinion, it was best entrusted to the care and management of the chief executive magistrate; and it was found of late to improve and flourish under the auspices of the illustrious personage to whose hands the sovereign had confided it. The country never had an army so numerous and well appointed as that it had to boast of at the present moment: and how was that army acquired? Not by any one plan or exertion; not by metaphysical recruiting, and a philosophical investigation of the moral propensities and habits of men; but by a combination of various plans and various exertions, adapted to the nature and employments of men as they were to be found, and to the varying situation and exigencies of the country. Of all the plans to which the present flourishing state of the army might be ascribed, the Additional Force bill, and the enlisting from the supplementary militia into the line, he conceived to have been the most efficacious. But as no one system or exertion had raised our military force to its present amount and perfection, so no one plan or exertion would be sufficient to maintain it in that desirable state. A variety of systems and exertions must conspire to accomplish this wished-for object. He was, therefore, for blending and uniting the two systems, respecting the, merits of which noble lords seemed to be so much divided.

Lord Sidmouth

agreed with the noble viscount, as to the advantages derived to the army from volunteering from the militia, but differed with him in his opinion as to the present system of enlistment. His lordship entered into a detail of the measures adopted for recruiting the army during the last and present wars; and contended that the system of recruiting now in operation was the only measure to which the late administration could look with confidence for keeping up the army, without resorting to compulsory service, Which, on every ground that could be stated, it was so desirable to avoid. His lordship said he had entertained doubts as to the system introduced two years ago, though he had given it his support as an experiment then necessary, in consequence of the failure of the Additional Force act. That system had succeeded in the most ample manner, and had more than equalled the ordinary mode of recruiting and the additional force bill put together. He Was satisfied that the old mode of recruiting would never be sufficient of itself, without some subsidiary system, such as the army of reserve. By the new system we had procured a force better in quality, in stature, and in morals. He was, therefore, of opinion that any thing which might go to deprive the country of any part of the benefit arising from the system of limited service must be prejudicial, and ought to be avoided.

The Earl of Moira

shewed, in a contrasted point of view, the advantages of engaging men for a limited period of service, rather than for life, as affecting the soldier himself and his family; and, from a view of the picture, gave a decided opinion in favour of Mr. Windham's system.

The Earl of Westmoreland

denied that there was any intention to put an end to the new system. All that was sought by the present clause was, to give the old and established military practice a fair and equal chance with the system lately introduced.

Lord Holland

said the house and the country had heard a good deal of a ship projected by a noble friend of his (earl Stanhope) which possessed the property Of sailing against wind and tide. After all that the system of a right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) had done, his lordship was convinced no adequate, idea of its merits could vet be formed;. it had never yet got fair play; but had been obliged, at least during the greater, part its course, like the vessel of his noble friend, to sail against wind and tide.

The Duke of Gloucester

replied to the different arguments which had been adduced in support of the clause; which, on being put, was carried, and the amendment negatived without a division.