HL Deb 15 June 1852 vol 122 cc705-62

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise for the purpose of asking your Lordships to give a second reading to a Bill, the importance of which I think will not be undervalued by any of your Lordships, and which has already received the assent of the other House of Parliament, after long and persevering discussions, by overwhelming majorities, both with regard to the principle and the details of the measure. It is a Bill for reorganising and for placing in a state of thorough, or at all events of comparative efficiency, the ancient constitutional militia force of this country. My Lords, after what has taken place during the course of the present Session—after the discussions in the other House of Parliament, and the manner in which it was there received, I can hardly entertain a doubt that the principle of this Bill, at all events, and I trust its details, will be acceded to by your Lordships, and will meet with almost unanimous concurrence at your hands. I may be permitted to remind your Lordships, that at the commencement of the Session, in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, an allusion was made to the possible, or rather probable, increase of the Estimates for the present year; and, although in that Speech Her Majesty made no distinct reference to the particular cause of increased expenditure, yet both in the speech of the noble Earl who moved the Address in answer, and in the speech of the noble Earl the late Secretary for the Colonial Department (Earl Grey), distinct reference was made, with regard to that expenditure, to an increase in the means of the internal military defence of this country. In commenting upon that speech, my Lords, I took the liberty at the time, sitting on the other side of the House, of stating to your Lordships that I was quite sure, on my own part and on the part of friends with whom I had the honour of acting, that no consideration of party feeling or party policy would lead us to withhold our support from any pecuniary expenditure which Her Majesty's then Government might think necessary for the internal defence of this country against the possibility of foreign invasion. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) who followed me concurred in the view that I had taken, and referring more immediately to the nature of the defence which it was intended to provide, adverted to the fact that even in the United States of America—the country of all others in the world, perhaps, the least exposed to any possibility of foreign aggression—there was kept up a force of regular militia, amounting, as I think he stated, to nearer 2,000,000 than 1,000,000 of armed citizens. My Lords, shortly after this discussion took place, Her Majesty's Government gave notice of the intentions they had shadowed forth in the Speech and in the Address in answer to it, by the introduction of a Bill for the purpose of establishing a militia force in this country. Thus there was, in the first place, a universal concurrence on all sides of the House that the internal defences of the country required for our protection from the possibility of foreign aggression some further means of efficiency than we at that time possessed; and, in the second place, Her Majesty's Government further asked and obtained the assent of the House of Commons to a Resolution that a militia force should for that purpose be organised. My Lords, I beg to say now, as I took the liberty of saying at the commencement of this Session, that I do not found my concurrence in the views of Her Majesty's late Government upon this subject on any immediate apprehension which I entertain with regard to the hostile intentions of foreign Powers towards this country. On the first occasion upon which I had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House in the character of a Minister of the Crown, I took occasion to express the belief which I then entertained—a belief which subsequent circumstances have tended still further to increase and strengthen—in the personal pacific disposition of the present ruler of the French Republic. If you ask me, therefore, whether it is upon any anticipation of hostile proceedings from the personal disposition of the Prince President I am induced to call for any additional means of defence, I answer that inquiry with the most distinct and absolute negative. If, however, you go on to ask me whether I consider that the state of France and of the Continent of Europe is so firmly established, and so free from the liability to interruption, as to render it safe and possible for us to rely for that which may take place in that or in other countries upon the actual disposition of the existing rulers of those countries, then I confess I must express with much more qualification the degree of confidence which I feel, with regard to the personal disposition of the French President, and which I have no hesitation in expressing. I cannot shut my eyes—I wish I could—to the fact of the frequent changes which have taken place within late years in the Government of France. I cannot shut my eyes to the fact, that in that country there are at this moment many unquiet spirits kept down by the stern rule of military discipline, but impatient of the control to which they are subjected, and among whom in various quarters feelings are entertained by no means friendly to this country. If you ask me further whether, in that state of things, looking to the great military and naval resources of France—looking to the nearness of France to the shores of this country, to her immediate means of transport, and to the large amount of force which, within a very short period, she could, if so disposed, throw upon our shores—looking to all these circumstances, if you ask me whether I think we ought to be content with our present means of security against any possibility of insult or invasion, I answer that question with no hesitation whatever. I say it would be the height of folly and the height of madness if we were content to shut our eyes to the possibility of any contingency, however remote and however unlikely, which should for the first time for centuries inflict upon this country the calamity of a hostile descent. My Lords, when the proposition of the late Government was brought before the House of Commons, although there was a general acquiescence in the necessity not only of increasing our defensive force, but of establishing a militia, a difference of opinion prevailed in that House to which I will not further allude—I do not wish to awaken any reminiscences which might possibly be painful to some noble Lords on the other side; but I may state that a difference of opinion prevailed in the House of Commons which led to a negative of the specific plan proposed by the Government then in office for the organisation of a local militia, and to the passing of a resolution declaring that it was necessary to introduce a measure for organising and establishing a general militia—or rather I should say for the purpose of amending and consolidating the laws for regulating and maintaining the ancient militia of the country. We arrive, then, step by step, at these conclusions:—First, that all parties are agreed that our existing means of defence are insufficient; next, that all parties are, for the most part, agreed that a militia force ought to be raised; and, thirdly, that the House of Commons entertain the opinion, upon which they subsequently acted, that that militia force should be, not of a local, but of a general character, in accordance with the ancient practice and the former laws upon the subject. That, my Lord, was the position in which affairs stood at the time when I, and those with whom I have the honour of acting, were called upon to take part in Her Majesty's Councils. We took that part in a position of some difficulty; we were much pressed with regard to the measures which we should think it necessary for the service of the country to endeavour to pass previous to the period anticipated by all, and desired by none more anxiously than by those who are charged with the responsibility of Government—I mean the dissolution of Parliament at as early a period as might be consistent with the due discharge of the public business. It is undoubtedly true that, if we had been so disposed, we might have declared that we were not bound by any obligation with regard to Bills which our predecessors had thought it necessary to introduce;—we might have said that we were not responsible for the position in which the country was placed, nor were we responsible for the judgment which our predecessors had formed that a militia force ought to be introduced; and there is no doubt that, by taking such a course, we might have saved ourselves for the moment from considerable difficulty, and might perhaps to a certain degree have prevented any risk to the popularity of our Administration with the country at large. Undoubtedly we were told this Militia Bill would be objected to—as any Militia Bill would be—upon various grounds, by considerable numbers of the population of this country: and objections were in fact taken to the particular force, and certainly upon very different grounds; and there was, no doubt, from the outset, an appearance of very considerable resistance being offered to the imposition of any such burden upon the country as would be imposed by the establish- ment of a militia. But, my Lords, we felt that we were not at liberty to indulge in any such personal considerations. We believed that our predecessors were right in their judgment that the establishment of some effective militia force was indispensable to the security of this country against aggression; and, being of that opinion, we felt—and I took the liberty of announcing it to your Lordships—that whatever other measures we might find it impossible or difficult to pass, this was one of the measures to which we thought it indispensable to obtain the sanction of Parliament previous to advising the Crown to appeal to the country by a dissolution of the existing Parliament. My Lords, I will add further, that I thought it was a matter of considerable importance that no delay should take place in putting the measure into shape, and passing it as soon as possible. At various previous periods the re-establishment of the militia force has been a subject of anxious and earnest deliberation on the part of those who, from time to time, have been charged with the government of the country. Periods have recurred in our history—in 1840, in 1845, and again in 1848—when some immediately anticipated difficulty, some disturbance of our foreign relations, has suddenly called the attention of the country to our want of preparation to meet the exigencies of a possibly impending danger. Then hasty preparations were commenced; but the moment the immediate apprehension ceased, the danger had no sooner passed over, than, from whatever motive—whether from a desire of ease, or from a wish to avoid Parliamentary difficulty—it was forgotten, and no precautions were taken against the recurrence of similar dangers in future. My Lords, in such a state of things I saw—I stated that I saw, and I now see—serious inconvenience and serious danger. I ventured to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that the more peaceable our relations with foreign nations might be, the more incumbent it was upon us to take—without the risk of exciting jealousy on their part—such means for permanently establishing the internal defences of the country on such a footing as might save us from the necessity, at a future period, of hasty, and therefore imperfect, preparation;—such preparations so undertaken, hastily and consequently most imperfectly exeeuted, would necessarily increase that very panic and alarm which they were intended to obviate, by providing too late the means of defence. It is not a little remarkable that that consolidation of the Militia Acts which is the basis of the existing law, was itself proposed in the interval between two wars. It was proposed and carried during the brief period of the Peace of Amiens of 1802, and was at that time introduced as a preparation for the possible recurrence of war by the Administration—I think—of Lord Sidmouth, and was supported by the separate authority of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, both of whom were out of office, not as a warlike measure, but as a measure of precaution to be taken in a time of peace. We therefore felt, my Lords, that it was our duty to proceed, at all risks, in carrying through such measures for the organisation of the militia as we might think most effective for the purposes for which they were intended, and at the same time least liable to those plausible and to those solid objections which may be fairly raised against any militia law. I have said that Her Majesty's Government were bound not to look to the question whether this measure was likely to be popular with the conntry or not; but I am bound to add, also, that if this measure has been at any time, or if it be now—of which, I beg leave to add, I have great doubt—an unpopular measure, the greatest possible credit is due to the House of Commons, or, at least, to the great majority of that House, who, in the face of an obviously impending dissolution of Parliament, have had the courage and the patriotism to prefer the effective defence of the country and the demonstration of the real exigencies of the State to any possible risks of personal unpopularity or personal inconvenience to which they might subject themselves at their approaching meeting, which they knew to be immediately at hand, with the constituents whom they respectively represent. We had to consider, then, in what manner we could best raise an efficient force, or a force which within a short period of time might be rendered efficient in case of need, and which might at the same time be least open to the various objections to which, on the ground of personal hardship, and in certain cases of oppression and injustice, almost any Militia Bill must be liable. I believe none of your Lordships entertain a doubt that, under the circumstances, some increase of the force of this country is necessary. Whether the British Army, small as it is for the extensive and laborious duties which devolve upon it in every quarter of the globe, be adequate fully to discharge those duties, is a question into which I will not now enter; nor do I think this the time for considering whether, looking at the great amount of its duties, and the constantly increasing calls which new acquisitions and new exigencies are making upon the British Army, that Army—excellent as is its discipline, and perfect as is its organisation—is sufficient to meet, with a due regard to the comfort of the soldiers, the various demands which are made upon it. But, clearly, if it be insufficient to meet those exigencies on the narrowest scale of a peace establishment, still less is it sufficient to meet any extraordinary exigency that may arise, and still less is it capable, with its present numbers, of meeting effectively the extraordinary exigencies of a sudden invasion by a well-disciplined army, thrown, at the notice of a few hours, upon the coasts of this country. I have heard that it has been asked in the House of Commons, "If that be the case, then, why do you propose the establishment of a militia force? Why don't you propose at once an increase of 10,000 or 20,000 men to the regular Army; for 10,000 disciplined British troops would be at once a more economical, and a more effective force, than 50,000 militia?" I speak, my Lords, with great respect on a subject upon which I am not competent to express an opinion, and in the presence of the very highest authority upon such questions; but I think that, in the first place, with regard to expenditure, it would be easy to show that 10,000 regular troops would, in point of fact, for the purposes for which the militia are proposed to be raised, be a more expensive force than 50,000 militia. It is very possible that, in entering upon the labours of a protracted campaign, or under circumstances where a great battle was imminent, upon which the fate of the Empire might depend, the noble and gallant Duke at the head of the table (the Duke of Wellington) would rather have for his support 10,000 organised and disciplined troops, whose firmness under severe pressure and whose coolness under fire had been tested, than 50,000 comparatively undisciplined and raw militia. But the case of a sudden invasion of this country—an invasion not for the purpose of permanent occupation, but of insult and aggression—would render necessary, not so much organisation and discipline, as that in which alone the British Army in this country is deficient, namely, the numbers and the masses which in that case would be so absolutely requisite. I will not enter into details on this subject, but I believe it has been stated over and over again that the utmost amount of regular infantry which could at the present moment be drawn together for the defence of this country from foreign invasion—setting aside the question of the troops in Ireland—would not exceed about 24,000 men, and adding to them 8,000 pensioners—which would be a large number for them—you would only have a force of from 30,000 to 32,000 men—a small force for the defence of the country against such an army as might attempt its invasion. But, observe, this is upon the supposition that from every garrison and from every fortified place in the country you are to withdraw every single man—that you are to leave all your shipping, your stores, your harbours, your garrisons, and your fortifications absolutely without a man to defend them; and yet your whole military force would only amount to some 30,000 men. Why, for the defence, upon the most moderate scale, of the fortified places which might be exposed to insult, the whole of these 30,000 men would not provide more than an adequate garrison. If, then, you were to add 10,000 men to the regular Army, in the case I am supposing—30,000 men being required for the defence of your garrisons—the force available for active service in the field, and with which to meet a foreign invasion, would only consist of some 10,000 infantry, and about 4,000 cavalry. If, however, instead of 10,000 additional regular troops, you have immediately available 50,000, 60,000, or, as is proposed by this Bill, 80,000 militiamen, you may, the emergency arising, allot 30,000 of those militia to the garrison duty, for which they would be perfectly well qualified, assisted by a comparatively small portion of the regular troops; and it is not too much to say that you would thus set free for the general service of the country from 20,000 to 25,000 out of the 30,000 regular troops who now constitute the whole of your defensive force; and whilst you thus make a large number of the militia available for service, not comparatively unimportant, but for which they are proportionately better qualified, releasing 20,000 to 25,000 regular troops, you will also still retain at your disposal from 40,000 to 50,000 militiamen to co-operate with the regular troops released from garrison duty. Instead, then, of an army of only 10,000 regular troops, you would have a force free to act in the field of from 20,000 to 25,000 regular troops, assisted and supported by an additional force of 40,000 or 50,000 militiamen—and in that respect their cooperation would be invaluable—while at the same time your garrisons and arsenals would all be placed in a state of perfect defence. I have stated then, my Lords, not undervaluing the inestimable advantages of the discipline and the organisation of the regular Army—not pretending for a moment to compare the individual militiaman with the individual soldier—I have stated the grounds upon which the Government preferred, for the defence alone of the country, a large augmentation of the militia to a comparatively small augmentation of the regular Army. But there are various other considerations which led us to the same conclusion. An augmentation of the regular Army, undertaken at a time of immediate pressure, would be open to constant question on the part of the House of Commons, and as soon as the immediate emergency bad passed over, Motions would be made, year after year, for the reduction of the force. Besides, let me take leave to say (and, although undoubtedly it is not a matter which ought to prevent your Lordships from taking any course you may think right, it is one which, under such circumstances, you ought not to omit from your consideration) that, by the establishment of a militia force, you indicate to all foreign countries that your motives are purely, strictly, and exclusively defensive. An augmentation of your naval power, and augmentation of your regular Army—the instruments of offensive as well as defensive warfare—might naturally suggest to foreign nations the propriety or expediency of a corresponding increase in their own corresponding forces; but when you limit your augmentation to troops whose services are not available for foreign warfare, but must be strictly confined to the defence of your own shores, you declare to foreign Powers in unmistakcable language that your intentions are perfectly pacific, and that your policy is exclusively defensive. I come now to the question of the peculiar mode which we have adopted for carrying into effect, with amendments, the established law of the country with regard to the militia. Let me remind your Lordships, before I go further, that that law is so absolutely and strictly the law of the country, that, without an Act of Par- liament in each successive year, the Crown has not the power, though it may have the desire, to dispense with the obligation of calling into actual operation the force which it is entitled to raise under the Act of 1802. I do not wish to enter, upon this occasion into any invidious comparison between the measure we propose and that which was submitted to the consideration of Parliament by our predecessors in office. I should not be inclined to do so under any circumstances, and I am inclined to do so the less because, with a regard for the public service which I should certainly have anticipated on the part of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), who preceded me in the office I have the honour to hold, he communicated to me privately and personally, the Bill which it had been his intention to submit to the consideration of Parliament; and I therefore feel myself under a double obligation not to return that courtesy by any hostile comments upon any portion of his Bill which may differ from that which the present Government have proposed. At the same time, I may be permitted to say that, although the measure introduced by the late Government was a Bill for the establishment of a local militia, yet that in two most important particulars it so far deviated from the character we usually affix to a local militia Bill, that with regard to those points I can see little difference between that Bill and the measure now submitted for your Lordships' consideration. Because a local militia conveys the idea of a force not only locally raised, but of one qualified and called upon to act only in its own immediate locality; yet it was stated by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) in the other House of Parliament, that he felt it to be a matter of the utmost importance that a force should be provided which would be applicable to service in any part of the United Kingdom in which its services might be required; whereas, also, the laws of the local militia strictly excluded the admission of substitutes, and required all persons balloted for to serve in person, the noble Lord and his Colleagues felt so strongly the inconvenience and hardship of such a provision, that he announced his intention of departing from that principle of a local militia, and of allowing the militia—local though they were, and consequently not entitled to substitutes—to provide substitutes, thereby placing them upon the same footing as men balloted for the general militia. With regard to the number of men proposed to be raised, there is, I believe, no difference between the present Government and their predecessors. I believe 80,000 men was the force which the late Government contemplated raising. There is, however, one difference with respect to the numbers, to which I think it right to call your Lordships' attention, because arguments may be used on the one side or the other as to the regulations which it has been thought necessary to introduce. The Act of 1802 renders liable to the ballot, and consequently to service in the militia, all persons not entitled to claim exemption between the ages of 18 and 45. The late Government felt the inconvenience and hardship of the liability to the ballot extending over so long a period; but I confess, for my own part, I cannot but think they fell rather into the opposite extreme when they announced that the militia should be drawn from men between the ages of 20 and 23 only in the present year, and in subsequent years made the ballot applicable to men of a single year alone. Now, observe how this arrangement would press upon the population. The Act of 1802 provided, I believe, for raising about 40,000 militia, independent of other corps, such as the City of London Militia and the Tower Hamlets Militia. Since that period the population of this country has doubled, and rather more then doubled; consequently I should say, with reference to the population generally, that the pressure of 80,000 men upon the whole population now is not a greater pressure than 40,000 would have been upon the population in 1802. The Act of 1802 proposed to subject to the ballot all persons between the ages of 18 and 45. The Bill of the late Government, with the desire, no doubt, of obtaining the most effective recruits—with the desire also, no doubt, of avoiding as far as possible interference with family ties and settled habits of life—proposed that a militia of 80,000 men should be raised, not from the population between the ages of 18 and 45, but from the population between the ages of 20 and 23. Now, observe, the proposal of the late Government was to raise the militia from persons whose ages extended not over 27 years, but over three years, and therefore the proposed ballot would press upon the class to which it applied with ninefold the force with which the ballot of 1802 affected the population at large. I think the computation made by the noble Lord who preceded me in office was, that one-fifth of the entire male population between the ages of 20 and 23 would be liable to be balloted for and serve in the militia. We have taken an intermediate course between that proposed by the late Government and that late down by the existing law; but a course approaching much more nearly to the regulation provided by the present law than to that recommended by our predecessors. We propose that persons shall be liable to serve in the militia who are between the ages of 18 and 35—a period within which the recruits will be in the full vigour of their age, perfectly capable of discharging the duties required of them for a period of five years, and many of them will be fit persons, if they think proper, after they have gone through the period of service, to volunteer for further service if required. I have stated that the numbers we propose to take are the same as those which Her Majesty's late Government proposed, but that we propose to take them within broader limits than those which they assigned; and I cannot help thinking that it was a strong feeling of the great pressure which would fall upon the population between the prescribed ages which was one of the grounds which led the late Government to depart from the principle of a local militia, and to introduce the permissive power of providing substitutes for those who, after being drawn by the ballot, were disinclined to serve. But we thought that the power of providing substitutes does not diminish the hardship with which the ballot falls upon the population which happens to be subjected to it. It may be a matter of little importance as regards pecuniary inconvenience to any of your Lordships—though there are not many of your Lordships, I fear, who are within the prescribed ages—but to that portion who are within the prescribed ages and some few happy individuals of that class there, no doubt, are among us, I say it would be little inconvenience to them if they happened to be balloted and did not find it convenient to serve in the force; pecuniary inconvenience it would be none to find substitutes to take their places; but when it falls upon the poorer classes of the population, the hardship of the ballot and the difficulty of finding substitutes are severely felt; and I am sure your Lordships will be of opinion that, as far as consistent with the exigencies of the public service, it is desirable to avoid letting the measure fall oppressively upon the great body of the people, especially when it is remembered that the pressure in the case of the ballot falls upon the people in exact proportion to their limited means. The Bill of Her Majesty's late Government, following the Act of 1802, proposed in the first instance to proceed to the ballot. Her Majesty's present Government considered with anxiety whether it was not possible altogether to dispense with the necessity of having recourse to a mode of proceeding so adverse to the feelings of the country, and involving so much additional expense and so much inconvenience and hardship to the parties upon whom it fell, and which, after all, in 19 cases out of 20, left the actual service of the militia force in the hands of the parties who were volunteers. I may here be permitted to advert to a point of fact, with the view of showing to what extent during the late war the system of exemptions and substitutes operated, and also with the view of showing the class of persons who actually served in the militia, and how small a portion of them were actually balloted for. In the county of Middlesex it became necessary to raise a force of from 2,000 to 3,000 men. This was so late as 1831, during the existence of the Grey Administration, and the last time, I believe, the ballot was in force. Well, to raise these 2,000 or 2,500 men, there were balloted for no less than 18,000 persons; and of those 18,000 persons, after going through all the preliminary process of the ballot, there were 15,000 or 16,000 exemptions claimed and substantiated, and consequently that number of men were exempted from serving, so that there were only from 2,000 to 3,000 men actually available out of a ballot of 18,000 persons; and out of that number there were only 120 men, and no more, who served, after all the expense of the ballot, the remaining 2,000 or 3,000 having volunteered as substitutes and received bounty from the ballot men. By the system of volunteering I admit that you get a class of the population which is not perhaps the most desirable in all cases, but out of which, let me say, very good soldiers are often made. But if this is the case with respect to volunteers, and if out of 2,000 or 2,500 men who are to he raised, only 120 are actually balloted men, and the remainder substitutes, it just comes to this, that after the operation of the ballot you obtain substitutes composed of precisely the same class of men, with all their imperfections, and with all their good and bad qualities, which you got by the system of volunteering, without the previous expense and inconvenience of the ballot. I am happy to say that we have little recollection of the delay, expense, and inconvenience attending the ballot; but let me just point out some few of the steps which are necessary to be taken in such a case. In the first place, according to the present law a general meeting must be held in each county as soon as possible after the 10th of October; then come the subdivision meetings, to appoint returns to be made out of all the men between the ages of 18 and 45; then notices are to be given to all persons claiming exemption; lists are to be made out of those who have not claimed exemption; notices of appeals from persons on the nominal list are to be given in; the lists are to be verified and returns made by the subdivision meetings to the clerk of the general meetings; each general meeting has to transmit the returns to the Secretary of State; instructions have then to be given to the subdivisions with regard to the quotas they are to furnish, and a second meeting of the subdivisions must be held to follow out their instructions respecting the quotas, subject to the revision of the general meeting. Three weeks after, a third subdivision meeting has to be held for the purpose of proceeding to the ballot, and notice must be given to the men who have been chosen by the ballot. In another three weeks a fourth subdivision meeting is obliged to be held for the purpose of calling upon the men who have ultimately been chosen by the ballot to show cause, if they can, why they should not serve in pursuance of that ballot. All these proceedings, from first to last, occupy a period certainly not short of three months; and the legal and other expenses of every description which are occasioned thereby, amount to a sum which fearfully swells the estimate of the general expense of a militia force, and all which, be it observed, is, under the existing militia law, borne, not by the country at large, hut by the county rates—the great bulk of the expense of the ballot, at all events, is borne by the county rates. I believe if any of the men volunteer in the regular Army, the expense of balloting to supply their places is borne by the country at large; but, as I said before, the great bulk of the expense of the ballot falls on the individual counties. We look upon this, my Lords, as a grievous and harsh burden upon the local finances of the country; and if the expense cannot altogether be avoided we desire, as far as possible, to throw it, not upon the individual counties, but upon the general funds of the country—the expenses connected with the levying, raising, and paying a militia force being undoubtedly incurred for the general purposes of the country. According to the existing law, not only the expense of the ballot, but of the bounties, is borne by the counties also. Now, we propose under this Bill to relieve the counties from these expenses, and throw them upon the country at large; but we hope and believe that in most cases we shall be able to dispense altogether with the tedious and expensive machinery of the ballot. We hoped that at the commencement of the Session; and the further information we have since received leads us to believe that in many, if not most, of the counties of England there will be no difficulty in rising the quotas by the introduction of the voluntary enlistment, without having recourse to the previous machinery of the ballot. A noble Friend beside me has reminded me that the bounties previously paid for substitutes were paid not by the counties, but by the individuals who were obliged to find the substitutes. If a man was chosen by ballot, he was either compelled to serve personally, or, if he declined to that, he was subjected to the pecuniary penalty of finding a substitute, which, as I before observed, fell heavily in proportion to his want of means. This inconvenience we propose and hope to be able altogether to abolish, by the introduction of the system of volunteering, and to throw the expense of providing bounties for the volunteers upon the public funds, and not upon individuals. With regard to any other modification of the existing law, I beg to remind your Lordships, also, that if this Bill do not pass, and if you do not suspend, as you have done from year to year, the operation of the ballot, the existing law, with all its inconveniences, expense, and necessary oppression, must come into operation on the 10th of October of the present year—for we have not thought it proper to do away with, but on the contrary we think it absolutely necessary to maintain, the right of the Crown, as a last resort, to call upon all its subjects to take their chance of the ballot to leave that powerful instrument in the hands of the Crown, but with the intention of using it only in the last resort, and in the case of a manifest and proved failure of the other means of raising a force. We do not propose to alter the character of the existing militia; and I lay great stress upon this, that we do not desire a force of a less constitutional character than that which the present militia law authorises to be raised—that Her Majesty's Government do not seek to obtain an army of reserve under the name of a militia; but a force subject as the present militia is to the command of the country gentry, who, in periods of danger to the country, have never hesitated to take their proper place in its defence, and who are entitled to receive, as they have received formerly, the confidence of the Crown in raising and commanding the force it is deemed necessary to raise. At the same time, my Lords, I hope your Lordships will not think it unfitting, with a view to the efficiency of the force, so far departing from the existing law as to make some alterations in the qualifications required for different ranks of officers in the militia. At present, as your Lordships are aware, the local qualification of holding landed property is required from all the superior rank of officers in the militia. We propose with respect to all the ranks below the rank of major, that instead of a property qualification being required, as at present, the fact of a person having the honour of holding a commission in Her Majesty's service shall be assumed as a sufficient qualification, although the man may not necessarily have any property qualification. At the same time, my Lords, I wish to guard myself against a misconception. We do not intend in the slightest degree to interfere with the discretion which is at present vested in the lord lieutenant in the selection of officers, and, that, although we permit persons in the rank of half-pay officers who are without a property qualification to be selected, it is left fully and entirely in the hands of the lords lieutenant of counties to choose them or not, as they please. The period for which we propose the militia shall be called out in each successive year is twenty-one days, liable to be diminished at the discretion of Her Majesty, by an order in Privy Council, to three days, in which case it would be nothing more than a mere muster, and liable also to be extended, if Her Majesty shall think fit, under certain restrictions in the Bill, to fifty-six days. I am bound to say that I do not think twenty-one days is a period in which a man can be manufactured out of a raw recruit into a perfect soldier; but at the same time I be- lieve I shall not be contradicted when I say that a period of fifty-six days under able and intelligent officers is quite sufficient to place the rawest country recruit in a position in which he will be fully capable of discharging all the duties which in the event of an invasion are likely to fall upon him; and that even in twenty-one days he will obtain such an amount of discipline as will give him a great advantage over a person who has not hitherto been subjected to any training. I may also mention that there is a provision in the Bill which is not immaterial, enabling Her Majesty to order increased pay to any militiamen who shall be attached to the service of the artillery, and shall do duty as artillerymen. I do not think that on the present occasion it is necessary to enter into the details of the Bill, or that there is anything further of such importance in it as to render it necessary specifically to call your Lordships' attention to it. There is a provision with the view of equalising the pressure on those liable to serve, that of the 80,000 men proposed to be raised, we shall only raise 50,000 in the present year, and the remaining 30,000 in the following year. By another provision the number of 80,000 men, in case of invasion, or the imminent danger of invasion, may be increased to 120,000 men. I may just be permitted to say further, before closing the observations which I have submitted to your Lordships, with reference to the practicability of raising the men by voluntary enlistment, and without having recourse to the machinery of the ballot, that we are now proposing a system which was in operation during the whole of the last war in regard to the militia in Ireland. Throughout the whole of the last war we had no difficulty, by means of volunteering alone, in raising the amount of force then required in that country; and I may be allowed to add, that in the course of the last war, out of the English and Irish militia together, there volunteered into the regular Army no fewer than 64,000 men; and I am sure that the noble and gallant Duke beside me will say that among them were found men who, after a very short period of service, were amply worthy to stand side by side with the old trained soldiers of the Peninsular war. We propose, then, my Lords, to revert to the original and well-known constitutional system of militia; but we propose to reverse the process which has hitherto taken place; and, instead of making the system of volunteering and substitutes subordinate to and fol- low upon the ballot, we propose to take the ballot as a last resource; and we confidently believe that in the great majority of counties we shall be able, without the expense attending the ballot and without any difficulty, to raise by volunteering the whole force which we think it necessary to raise—with this advantage also, that whereas the militia was in point of fact formerly composed of volunteers who received a bounty from those for whom they became substitutes, the bounty will in the present case be received direct from Government. So far as there are any provisions in the Bill which are inevitably a hardship on the public, I may say that our desire has been to mitigate, rather than to aggravate, the stringency of the existing law; that while on the one hand we did not think it consistent with the high and important duties which have devolved upon us to deprive the Crown, as a last resort, of the power of compulsorily providing for the defence of the country, we desired, on the other hand, to postpone that part of the measure, at all events, till the other has been tried; but we believe that in the course of the year we shall find that it will not be at all necessary to have recourse to such a mode of proceeding; but that the spirit of Englishmen will induce them to come forward as volunteers and tender their services, not only for the trifling duties which they will be called upon to perform as militiamen for a period of twenty-one days, or it may be of three days only; but even cheerfully to take upon themselves the performance of the effective duties which would devolve upon them, in case of its being necessary to embody them for actual service. With these observations, I trust your Lordships will give at least a general concurrence to the policy of a measure which, following in the first instance the recommendations of Her Majesty's late Government, but departing from it in respect to some of the details, we have thought it our bounden duty to attempt to carry through Parliament for the purpose of giving a perfect and entire security to this country, not only against any serious attempt at invasion, but against the possibility of a hostile aggression. I have therefore now, my Lords, to move the second reading of the Bill.

Moved—"That the Bill be now read 2ª."


said, that he felt the importance of the subject too entirely to remain quite silent; and at the same time, as he was not prepared to give a negative to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, it might be convenient that he should thus early state the grounds on which he assented to the measure now before the House. He could not, moreover, avoid stating the deep sense and strong conviction which lie had, fortunately in common with Her Majesty's Government, fortunately in common with all those Colleagues with whom he had recently acted, and fortunately, he believed he might say, in common with the largest portion of the reflecting public of the country, that it would be utterly unsafe to leave the defences of the country in the inefficient state in which they now were. He was aware that some unpopularity attached to those who supported a measure of this kind; but be that unpopularity what it might, he would never shrink from taking his share of that unpopularity, of putting the defences of this country in an efficient state. But having said that, and whilst he abstained from opposing the measure before the House, because he felt that, in the present circumstances of the country and of Parliament, if they did not pass that measure they could adopt no other that was at all calculated to give efficiency to those defences, he was equally bound to state, fairly and without exaggeration, the doubts and difficulties which rested on his mind with respect to the efficiency of this measure, and, above all, the efficacy of this measure if it was to be considered as a solitary measure for the increase and completion of those defences. Now, what was the nature of the exigency for which they had to provide? It was not the crisis of an invasion which was to lead to a long and protracted war, such as that which occurred in Spain, attended with all the sufferings and miseries which were always inflicted upon a country in the occupation of an enemy; but Parliament had to provide such means as that, if the attempt at invasion of our shores were for one moment successful, the invading force should be instantly met and crushed by an efficient and disciplined Army. Now, would this measure give an efficient and disciplined force? After the best consideration he had been able to give to the subject, he was compelled to come to the conclusion that it would not. He had obtained all the information he could as to the time, the means, and difficulty attendant on the formation of a soldier; and when he was told that they were to look to this Bill for that security which was essential to the country, he looked to what would be the effect of twenty-one days' training, to what would be the effect of forty-two days' training, or even of fifty-six days' training, in furnishing them with that material which they wanted. And he had been told by those who spoke from the best practical knowledge that the utmost expected from collecting a number of recruits for the Army, and drilling them for twenty-one days, was, that at the end of these twenty-one days they would be able to march in a soldierly manner, but that they would not be fit to be entrusted with firearms. He had been informed that twenty-one days would be required to drill them for marching alone, and that twenty-one days more would be necessary to put them in a condition to be entrusted with a musket. Was it a force of this kind that at the end of that time, or in the course of a year, or even of a few years, they were to regard as competent to discharge the great, the urgent, and immediate duty which might be cast upon them of meeting and contending with an experienced and powerful army? The greatest calamities might result from fancying that they had such an army when they had it not. If such an army were called on to act against regular and disciplined troops, and were defeated, the result would be owing not to the want of British courage and British spirit, but to the want of what, in the face of a regular disciplined army, was no less necessary than courage and spirit—the want of discipline. He would leave their Lordships to judge of the effect of the loss of a first battle from such a cause on the moral courage, influence, and resources of the country. But he had understated the case, for all the authorities that he had consulted agreed in the opinion that a twenty-one days' drill taking place all over the country would not be as efficient as a drill of the regular soldiers for the same period. The noble Earl had altogether passed over what he considered one great defect of the Bill, namely, the great uncertainty of collecting such a body of men together again when you once had parted with them. True, it was intended to adopt the volunteer system, and he agreed with the noble Earl that the ballot was unpopular, and that it ought to be dispensed with if possible; but, on the other hand, it was to be recollected that the men who would volunteer into the militia were a class of men who would be gathered from all parts of the country—that they would be of the most locomotive description—men who went about seeking for the means of existence, which they had not, and that they were equally ready to go to all countries where they thought they could improve their condition; and when it became necessary to call them together again, the whole time of the non-commissioned officers would be occupied in searching for and pursuing them from end of the country to the other, and in bringing them back to their colours, which many of them might have manifold motives for deserting. He, therefore, could not consider that the army raised under this Bill, was or could be an army to be relied on. Looking at this as a means of supplying an efficient force (and they must not be the dupes of the name of militia in other countries, where the militia had a totally different character from what it had in this country), he could not find in the history of any country, that a militia had been available for active service at all, with the sort of training which this Bill enacted. Bodies not of the regular Army had yet distinguished themselves; but they had been constituted in a totally different manner from this militia. The American milita bore no resemblance to this, either in constitution, training, or military habits; and yet he had been informed that some of the recently raised regiments of the United States showed themselves anything but qualified for acting in military service for a long time after they were called out. In the late Mexican campaign the American militia showed themselves exceedingly inefficient and difficult to manage. From the time of Washington to the present time, they had required to be efficiently trained for a considerable period. The landwehr of Germany was not a regular army; it was a powerful auxiliary force—an army of reserve regularly trained to serve as soldiers, who went into the field in their military habits and invested with their military character. Therefore no conclusion could be drawn by reference to those forces; and it would be placing the character and undoubted courage of Englishmen in a very false position if, under any circumstances, they should be opposed in action to the fire of a regular army, composed of the choicest disciplined troops, and should be compelled, in the first two or three actions, to retire, thus disgracing themselves in the eyes of their country, lowering themselves in their own estimation, and lowering the English character in the estimation of this and other nations, by their not having un- dergone that discipline which was indispensable for the field, and of which no courage, spirit, or energy could supply the want. In recent times there had been a most striking instance of this deficiency, which no national spirit or courage could supply. In 1831, the first year of the present King of the Belgians, that country was exposed to a violent attack from that portion of the former kingdom of the Netherlands from which it had been severed; and a conflict ensued between the troops of Holland and Belgium, in which the latter were signally and entirely worsted. What was the reason? What was the advantage that the Dutch had over the Belgians? It was not that the Dutch troops were more attached to Holland than the Belgians to Belgium: they had proved the contrary, but because the Belgian army was imperfectly trained, and, consequently, unable to meet the Dutch troops which had the advantage of training and discipline; and Belgium would have been overrun but for the succour it obtained from other Powers. This was further illustrated by the fact that those same troops afterwards in 1848 proved, that they were wanting neither in courage nor spirit; but that they possessed those soldierly qualities which were to be acquired under a Sovereign who well know how to inspire his troops with spirit and how to form an army. He was bound to say, therefore, that he did not feel confidence in this Bill as affording an army which could be depended upon for actual service. The noble Earl had touched upon the Militia Bill of the late Government. He wished not to enter into an invidious comparison between the two measures. The noble Earl undoubtedly had a right to ask whether he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) relied on that Bill as forming an efficient army. He was bound in candour to say that he believed it would not. But he had thought it expedient that, by slow degrees, the people of this country should, without being wholly taken from their occupations, be prepared and trained to the use of arms. He looked to that being done in the most easy and convenient manner. He looked to the possibility of the men being brought from a state of inefficiency to one in which they might be useful in keeping garrisons and towns in defence in cases of emergency. He stated no new opinion when he said that neither the militia proposed, nor any other short of an army of reserve, would secure that efficiency which was necessary for the defence of the country. He knew this view was adverse to that of many of his friends, who felt a constitutional repugnance to a standing army; but he felt that it would be childish to apply those cautions and safeguards which in another period were urged with propriety against the system of standing armies; and he thought it his duty to avow his opinion that the safest and most efficient of all forces would be found in the increase of the regular Army. In avowing this he considered not whether it was popular or unpopular. If he were in the other House, he should think it his duty to tell his constituents, that if they meant to be efficiently defended, they must make up their minds to be defended by a regular army. He felt the force of the objection of the noble Earl, namely, the security which the Constitution of this country provided against an unnecessary extension of the regular Army. The question might from time to time arise, whether the regular Army, once increased, ought not to be diminished, without having a due consideration for the state of the world which had required the increase. That was a danger he should be prepared to incur; but it was a danger to which this Bill, and every measure for a militia, was open. All these defensive measures were attended with expense and inconvenience. The vote for the militia could not be continued without the approbation of Parliament; and if the House of Commons should take a different view from that it now entertained—if other statesmen or more popular leaders should think the militia no longer necessary, it might be proposed to cut it off; and that might be done in every case. At the same time, if it afforded any facility for the formation of an army of reserve—for he would not insult an army of reserve by calling this militia one—he would accept it on that ground, believing that an army of reserve, properly constituted and disciplined, was capable of becoming nearly as efficient as a regular army. The old militia was so; but how did it become so? Not by 21 days' marching up and down the field, but because it was mixed with a regular army, imbibed its habits, and therefore became equally disciplined, and equally efficient, An army of reserve would be far preferable, and not more expensive; for the expense of this measure would prove much greater than the noble Earl imagined. In the existing state of things, when every thing was upon the move and change, when science was advancing, when habits and empires were changing, but when the universal character of that change was to give a greater impetus to military force in other countries than it had ever had before, this country ought to place itself at any expense in a condition that should enable it to repeal an attack, come from what quarter it might. He could not believe that, when the commerce and the wealth of this country had extended in the degree they had relatively to the commerce and wealth of other countries, thus presenting to those other countries, in the event of war, a greater prize to snatch at, than they had ever seen before—that the conclusion would be drawn, that this country was safe with a smaller force relative to the force of other countries than it had ever had before—in other words, that we, being the richest people in the world, were not rich enough to pay our watchmen. It was a duty which Government and Parliament owed to the country to place it in a condition of safety; and on that ground he was unwilling to offer any obstruction to the passing of his measure, though he had felt bound to point out its imperfections. He trusted that this imperfect measure would not be the only measure which Parliament and the country would have recourse to, for the purpose of placing England on that point of security which was essential to its glory, its independence, and its continued prosperity.


My Lords, I am certainly the last man to have any hesitation of opinion as to the relative advantages of meeting an enemy with disciplined or with undisciplined or half-disciplined troops. The things are not to be compared at all. With disciplined troops you are acting with a certain degree of confidence that what they are ordered to perform they will perform. With undisciplined troops you can have no such confidence; on the contrary, I am afraid that those who know the materials of which such troops would be composed, would be inclined to think the chances are that they will do the very reverse of what they are ordered to do. But, my Lords, we must look a little at the state in which we stand at the present moment. This country is at peace with the whole world, except in certain parts on the frontiers of its own distant dominions, where the operations of war are carried on by means of our peace establishment. You are now providing for a peace establishment; you are at peace with the whole world; you are providing for a peace establishment. I say that that peace establishment ought to have been effectually provided for long ago. If that duty had been performed, we should not have needed now to be told, as we have been now told by the noble Marquess, about the number of days and weeks it will take to train the militia recruits, of the futility of expecting anything to the purpose from troops composed of recruits who have undergone their three weeks' or their six weeks', or what time it may be, training. We have never, up to this moment, maintained a proper peace establishment—that's the real truth; and we are now in that position in which we find ourselves forced to form a peace establishment such as this country requires upon a militia. As to the regular Army, my Lords, I tell you that for the last ten years you have never had in your Army more men than enough to relieve the sentries on duty at your stations in the different parts of the world; such is the state of your peace establishment at the present time; such has been the state of your peace establishment for the last ten years. You have been carrying on war in all parts of the globe, in the different stations, by means of this peace establishment; you have now a war at the Cape on the very frontier of Her Majesty's dominions, still continuing, which you carry on with your peace establishment; yet on that peace establishment I tell you you have not more men than are enough to relieve the sentries at the different stations in all parts of the world, and to relieve the different regiments in the tropics and elsewhere, after services there—of how long do you suppose?—of, in some cases, twenty-five years, in none less than ten years, and after which you give them five years at home, nominally—for it is only nominally in a great many cases. There were, for instance, the last troops who were sent out to the Cape;—instead of keeping them five years at home, after their long service abroad, I was obliged to send out a regiment after they had only been sixteen months at home. My Lords, I tell you you've never had a proper peace establishment all this time. We are still at peace with all the world. Form now your peace establishment—your constitutional peace establishment; and when you have got that, see what you will do next. The noble Marquess, my noble Friend, if he will allow me so to call him, says he thinks he should prefer an army of reserve. An army of reserve! What is an army of reserve? Is it an army to cost less than 40l. each man all round? If he thinks that possible, I tell him that I think it impossible—that we can have no such thing. But what I desire—and I believe it is a desire the most moderate that can be formed—is, that you shall give us, in the first instance, the old constitutional peace establishment. When we have got that, then you may do what you please. My Lords, the noble Marquess says, very truly, that these 50,000, or 80,000, or 150,000 militiamen won't be fit for service in six months, or twelve months, or eighteen months; but I say they'll be fit, at all events, for some service; they will certainly be able to perform some duties, and certainly theyll enable us to employ in the field others who are fit for service; and in time they will themselves become fit for service. My Lords, in the last war I had great experience of the value of several regiments of English militia, and I can assure your Lordships that they were in as high a state of discipline, and as fit for service as any men I ever saw in my life even amongst Her Majesty's troops. It was quite impossible to have a body of troops in higher order, or in better spirit, or more fit for discipline than these bodies of British militia were at the commencement of the present century up to 1810; they were as fine corps as ever were seen; and, I say, no doubt these bodies of 50,000 men or 80,000 men, whatever the number may be, will be so too, in the course of time. Everything has its beginning, and this is a commencement of an organisation of a disciplined militia; in the same way as if you are to have a corps of reserve, you must have a commencement, involving some months for disciplining them before you could have your corps of reserve ready. You must make a beginning here, and see that it will take some months before you can form reserve regiments. The armies of England, who have served the country so well, are your Lordships so mistaken as to suppose that they were ever composed of more than one-third of real British subjects—of natives of this island? No such thing. Look to all your great services. Look at the East Indies. Not more than one-third of the soldiers there are such British soldiers. Look at the Peninsula; not one-third of the men employed there were ever British soldiers. Yet I beg your Lordships to observe what services those soldiers performed. They fought great battles against the finest troops in the world; they went prepared to face everything—ay, and to he successful against everything, or this country would not have borne with them. Not one-third of those armies were British troops, but they were brave troops, and not merely brave—for I believe every man is brave—but well organised troops. Take the battle of Waterloo; look at the number of British troops at that battle. I can tell your Lordships that in that battle there were sixteen battalions of Hanoverian militia, just formed, under the command of a nobleman, late the Hanoverian Ambassador here—Count Kielmansegge—who behaved most admirably; and there were many other foreign troops who nobly aided us in that battle, avowedly the battle of giants; whose operations helped to bring about the victory which was followed by the peace of Europe, that has now lasted for thirty-two or thirty-four years. I say, my Lords, that however much I admire highly-disciplined troops, and most especially British disciplined troops, I tell you you must not suppose that others cannot become so too; and no doubt, if you begin with the formation of militia corps under this Act of Parliament, they will in time become what their predecessors in the militia were; and if ever they do become what the former militia were, you may rely on it they will perform all the services they may be required to perform. My Lords, I recommend you to adopt this measure as the commencement of a completion of a peace establishment. It will give you a constitutional force; it may not be, at first, or for some time, everything we could desire, but by degrees it will become what you want—an efficient auxiliary force to the regular Army.


* My Lords, I concur in much that fell from the noble Earl opposite (Lord Derby) in the early part of his speech. I agree with him that this country ought to be placed in a state of more complete security against any attack with which we might be threatened. I also agree that the propriety of now taking steps for that purpose, does not arise from any special circumstances of the present times, but from considerations of a more permanent kind. If, therefore, I thought, that by passing this Bill, we should really improve the defences of the country, and create a useful militia, I should agree that this measure ought to be passed; but having given to the Bill now before us the best consideration in my power, I cannot regard it as calculated to have any such effect. This opinion is strongly confirmed by the remarkable speech we have just heard. In that speech the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) has laid down the principles which I think ought to guide our judgment on this subject, and from which I think it may clearly be deduced that the force to be established under the provisions of this Bill will be of no real service to the country.

My Lords, this Bill is merely a revival of the former militia system. With some slight modifications, and adaptations to the existing state of things, it will bring again into operation the provisions of the Militia Act passed in 1802. Being, therefore, merely a revival of the former system, we are enabled to judge from experience what will probably be its results. Now, my Lords, I am quite aware that the militia during the late war became as valuable a force as the noble Duke has informed us it was. The militia regiments, as he has told us, were in a high state of discipline and efficiency. But I must remind you that this was not at the commencement of the war. It was after these regiments had been for some years embodied, and it is a fact not to be lost sight of, that during the war, the militia being permanently embodied—kept together in barracks—marched from one part of the country to another—and held under the same strict military discipline as the rest of the army, composed to all intents and purposes a part of our regular force, and was in fact a second army. There was obviously no reason why such an army should not be as completely efficient, or nearly as efficient, as the army of the line. I say nearly as efficient, because the militia could not be equally well officered with the army, since of course the officers of greatest enterprise and energy naturally preferred that part of the army which was disposable for active service, and in which they could hope for opportunities of distinguishing themselves. The militia was, therefore, a second army, differing from the regular army in nothing except that it was not disposable for service out of the United Kingdom. It was also fully as costly to the nation as the regular Army. The pay of the men was the same, their clothing and barracks equally expensive, and the men composing it were equally withdrawn from the productive in- dustry of the country. So completely were these two descriptions of force of the same character, that the Ministers of the day, in their statements to Parliament of the available military strength of the country, invariably reckoned the militia and the Army together as constituting one regular force, while the volunteers and the local militia, after it was established, were spoken of distinctly.

The militia was also used during the war as a means of raising men for the regular Army of the line. Originally, as your Lordships are aware, militiamen were not allowed to volunteer into the line, but afterwards they were not only permitted but encouraged to do so, by the offer of large bounties. A careful examination of the figures would, however, clearly prove that this was neither a cheap nor an efficacious mode of raising men for the Army. The militia was raised partly by recruiting, and partly by ballot; but even the men nominally raised by ballot, were for the most part really obtained by bounty, only that bounty instead of being paid directly by the public, was paid by individuals in the price given for substitutes. The proportion of balloted men who served in person was always exceedingly small. About twenty-three out of twenty-six were substitutes in the English militia. In the Scotch militia only one per cent of balloted men served in person; and in Ireland there never was a ballot at all, except in the year 1803, for the army of reserve. The price paid for substitutes varied very much. At one time, for the army of reserve, it was as high as 100l. It was frequently as much as 50l. or 60l., and at one period in the Isle of Wight, it is said to have been as low as 10l. Upon the whole, it would be a low average to take 30l. as the price paid for substitutes during the war. This price was in general raised by what were called Militia Clubs, to which most of those who were liable to be drawn belonged, and by paying a guinea, or two guineas, were entitled, in the event of their being drawn, to have substitutes paid for, out of the funds of the club. Thus the real effect of the system was to levy men by an additional bounty raised by a tax of the nature of a poll-tax on the population; a system which the noble Earl (Lord Derby) has justly stated to be unjust to the working classes of the population. All, therefore, that you have a right to infer from the experience of the last war in favour of the militia is, that when permanently embodied and disciplined like the regular Army, it became after some time almost as efficient, being quite as expensive, and less disposable than that army, and being raised by a process, not really less costly to the country than that of getting recruits by large bounties, though the apparent expense to the Treasury was diminished by an arrangement which fell with oppressive and unequal weight on the lower classes of society. It appears to me that there is nothing in this experience to show that whenever we may have again the misfortune to be involved in war, it would not be our wisest course to provide, whatever permanent force may then be required, by an addition to the army of the line.

But if I am not mistaken, the object we have in view is a different one. What we now desire is to form, as a reserve during peace, and with a view to the defence of the country on the sudden occurrence of war, a militia which, without the heavy expense of keeping in permanent pay a large body of men, and without withdrawing so many hands from the ordinary industry of the country, shall be ready, when called upon, to meet any emergency which may arise. Now, my Lords, for this purpose, you have no experience whatever of the utility of a militia. Before the great revolutionary war, it was not the practice of the nations of Europe to keep on foot such large standing armies during peace as have since been maintained; nor under the system on which war was in those days carried on, was invasion at the commencement of a war, a danger which seems to have been thought of. At the beginning of the revolutionary war especially, no such danger existed; instead of being able to attack us, it was only by the most extraordinary efforts that France was enabled to defend herself from the attacks directed against her on every side by all the Powers of Europe united against her. Hence, when prior to the declaration of war, our militia was embodied, there was no danger of its being called into action until there had been much time to discipline and prepare it for the services required from it; and it is notorious that, for a very considerable time after it had been embodied, the militia was not in a state in which it could be relied upon. Even when some of the regiments had been long enough embodied to be considered fit to be sent to Holland, I have been informed by a distinguished officer who served there, that they were found ut- terly useless, and were no better than a rabble. Should we again be exposed to the calamity of war, and should we again, as in the last war, embody the militia under this Bill, I have no doubt that, as before, it would after a time, when so embodied and disciplined, become an efficient force. The noble Duke tells us that, in twelve or eighteen months, the militia regiments would begin to be useful. But I submit to your Lordships that this is not what we want: the only real danger to which this country is exposed is, from a sudden and unexpected quarrel leading to a declaration of war before we have time to prepare for our defence. If we have but a very little time to collect the scattered elements of our power, this great country possesses in its wealth and resources of all kinds, and in the number, the public spirit, and bravery of its population, the means of placing itself in a condition to laugh to scorn any attack upon our shores. It is a surprise only that we have to dread: a militia, therefore, which, as the noble Duke informs us, will begin to be efficient in twelve or eighteen months after it is embodied, is of no use whatever for that which is our real object; instead of twelve months, we shall not have twelve days to prepare to meet the only danger which can be serious; and the militia, therefore, which we require, is one which shall be constantly in readiness; and of which the services maybe commanded at a moment's notice.

Now, my Lords, in order to judge how far the militia to be constituted under this Bill, is likely to answer this purpose, let us in the first place consider what is the nature and extent of the service you can reasonably expect from such a force. You cannot, as the noble Duke has told us in such emphatic terms, trust for resisting trained and disciplined troops to anything but troops of the same description; you must rely, therefore, mainly on your Navy and your regular Army for the defence of the country. But you want, as a support and assistance to your regular troops, a large body of men who, without being usually withdrawn from the common occupations of civil life, shall be ready, when called upon, to come forward in defence of the country. They cannot possibly have the discipline and steadiness of regular troops; and in the absence of these advantages, they can only be rendered really useful by possessing individually such zeal, intelligence and skill, in the use of their weapons, as to make up in some degree for their wanting the knowledge of professed soldiers. With these qualifications, though they might be unable by themselves to do much, they would be highly useful as auxiliaries to the regular troops which you might be able to provide; but is it likely that on the terms you purpose to offer them, you will obtain the services of men possessing these qualifications? In addition to the bounty, your militiamen are to have only seven shillings a week, while in the north of England at this moment the common wages of a good labourer are twelve shillings per week; in the manufacturing districts they are considerably more, and are hardly so low as seven shillings even in those of the southern countries where the working population is the least well off. And for this small rate of pay, you must remember that all those who enter the militia bind themselves not merely to serve twenty-one days during peace, but further, in the event of war being declared, to serve in the embodied militia for five years, subject to all the restraints of military discipline; to be separated from their families, to be marched to the remotest parts of the United Kingdom, and to lead for that long time the life of a common soldier, without the prospective advantages to which a common soldier may look forward.

I cannot believe that any of the better class of labouring men would volunteer to serve on such terms as these. We know that even the career of the soldier is not regarded by men of that class as a good one. I believe that this is an opinion founded on a former state of things, which is now a mistaken one; and that the prospects of a labouring man who now goes into the Army with a determination to do his duty, are far from unfavourable, looking to his chances of promotion, to the various advantages held out to him under existing regulations, and to the right which is secured to him of retiring on a liberal pension after twenty-one years' service. But the militiaman will have no such prospects. Supposing him to be called upon to serve in the embodied militia during war, he has nothing to look forward to at the end of the war, or of his five years' service, but to be turned adrift, unfitted for most kinds of employment, and with the certainty of finding all the most profitable employments filled up by persons having the advantage over him from having continued at home. There is nothing, therefore, but the temptation of the bounty to induce men to engage in this service. If the 6l. bounty, or any considerable proportion of it, is to be paid down on enlistment, I have no doubt that the immediate possession of such a sum of money will tempt a considerable number of the least steady, least intelligent, and least industrious of the working population to enrol themselves in the force you propose to raise. But will men of this kind become, with three weeks' training, soldiers upon whom the slightest reliance can be placed? They will be much of the same class as, but, on the average, inferior to, the recruits usually obtained for the Army. But we know that a far longer time, as my noble Friend behind me (Lord Lansdowne) has already remarked, is required before a recruit, after joining his regiment, is expected to have acquired even a rudimental knowledge of his duties. Twelve or thirteen weeks is, I believe, the shortest time in which a recruit is expected to be able to take his ordinary guards, and two or three years are not considered more than is requisite to form a really efficient soldier. And this, you must remember, applies only to a few recruits brought into a disciplined regiment, where they are mixed up with a body of old and trained soldiers. When a large proportion of the soldiers of a regiment have at once to be supplied, far more time is required to render the whole body efficient. I remember perfectly well, when I had the honour of holding the office of Secretary at War, the then Commander-in-Chief, Lord Hill, and those experienced officers and excellent friends of mine, Sir Willoughby Gordon and Sir J. Macdonald, who at that time filled the situations of quarter-master and adjutant general, frequently assured me that a regiment, after returning from India, when it always requires to be renewed from the number of men discharged, ought not to be regarded as available for even peace service for at least a year, and ought to be left for that time in quarters where the attention of the officers can be exclusively directed to getting it into order, and to disciplining and training the newly raised men. And this, your Lordships will observe, applies to a regiment of which you have at least the skeleton to begin with, where the officers and non-commissioned officers, and some even of the privates, have experience in their duties. What will be the case with a militia, of which the men, the officers, and the noncommissioned officers are alike ignorant of their duties and of each other, and have everything to learn, except such of the officers as may happen to have previously served in the regular Army? Do you think that the militiaman, serving for three weeks at a time, will, in his whole five years' service (when he will have had just two weeks more training than is considered sufficient to qualify a recruit in a regular regiment to stand sentry) have acquired, even by the time you have dismissed him, an amount of military knowledge which will render his services of the slightest value, even if you can be sure that he will be forthcoming when called upon? A regiment composed entirely of such men must, for a long time after it is permanently embodied, be positively useless. But this is not all; you have further to consider what security you have that, after their first three weeks' training, these men will be found again when you want them? They must, if peace continue, be dismissed at the end of that time; and till they are wanted again for the next annual training, or till some danger makes it necessary to call out the force, you will have no right to exercise the slightest control over their actions: they may go where they like, and do what they please. The consequence is, that they will inevitably become scattered over the country in such a manner as to render it a matter of great difficulty to reassemble them. The necessity of getting work must lead them to disperse, even if they all mean honestly to fulfil their engagement. Your militiamen cannot be the labourers in regular and steady employment; such men cannot, either in the manufacturing or rural districts, be spared for twenty-one days every year.—much less can they risk being required to leave their homes and serve for five years, should war unfortunately be declared; the men enrolled must, therefore, of necessity belong for the most part to the class of casual labourers—the class whose place of residence is constantly changing, and who are compelled constantly to move about, according to the variations which take place in the demand for the kind of labour expected from them. It is perfectly well known that, from this reason, it is often extremely difficult in the interval between the quarterly payments of their pensions, to find the pensioners, if from accidental circumstances it is requisite to communicate with individuals amongst them when they do not expect to be wanted. But, of course, with regard to pensioners, you possess means of tracing them—which will be altogether wanting as regards the militiamen. Even, therefore, if the latter always mean to fulfil the engagement they contract by enrolling themselves, it will be very difficult to assemble them quickly when wanted; while, I fear, it would be very rash to calculate upon their being in general very solicitous upon this head. I fear you must lay your account for finding that a very large proportion indeed of such men as are alone likely to accept the terms you offer, will do so with no other object but that of pocketing the bounty, and at the end of the first period of training, walking off with it (as they may do with perfect safety), without the slightest intention of again appearing when called for; so that when the time comes for the second annual training, those who ought to present themselves for it will be scattered over every part of the kingdom; many of them will probably be in the Australian or Californian diggings, or in the Far West of Canada or the United States.

I would beg to call your Lordships' attention, as bearing upon this point, to the large proportion of desertions from the men raised for service of this kind, during the war. By the Act passed in July, 1803, there were to have been raised for the Army of Reserve, 49,880 men—the conditions of service in the Army of Reserve, I should say, were almost precisely the same as in the militia—the difference was so slight, that it may be considered merely an additional militia, under another name. The Act I have mentioned, having required the above number of men to be raised, it was found on the first of May, 1804, that there had been actually raised 45,492 men, of whom 2,783 only were balloted men, the rest being substitutes or recruits. Of the men raised, 44,071 had joined their regiments, and no fewer than 5,651 had deserted, or been claimed as deserters from other corps, and 2,116 had been claimed by the civil power for offences they had committed. These numerous desertions had occurred within the short period of ten months, from the time when the raising of this force was commenced, and yet your Lordships must remember that these men, from the time of their being enrolled, were not for a moment removed from the control of their officers, and were placed under all the restrictions of constant military discipline; if they missed a single parade or roll-call, they were liable to be pursued at once, and punished for their absence. The militia- men you are now going to raise will, on the contrary, at the end of their first training, have probably eleven months before they are again wanted, during which time they may go where they please, while the facilities which they will now enjoy for emigrating, or for going from one place to another within the United Kingdom, are incomparably greater than those which formerly existed. Looking, therefore, to what occurred when desertion was as difficult as it will now be easy, I do not think you have much right to expect that more than a very small proportion indeed of the men whom you may have trained for three weeks will be forthcoming when they are again called upon to serve.

I have, in the remarks I have hitherto made, assumed that you will succeed in raising the men as you propose—by voluntary enlistment; but I am far from believing that this can be depended upon; and if not, this Bill provides that, after the first of January next, Her Majesty shall be empowered to direct, by Order in Council, that they shall be raised by ballot. The ballot is to be conducted almost precisely in the same manner as formerly, and this Bill will bring again into operation, with very slight change indeed, the provisions of the Act of 1802. We are therefore bound, while we revive these almost forgotten provisions of the old law, to consider what will be their effect on the people who will become subject to their operation. My Lords, on this point I am saved from the necessity of troubling you with many of the observations I should otherwise have thought it right to offer by the speech of the noble Earl opposite (Lord Derby), who has already described to you far more forcibly than I could do, the oppressive operation of the ballot on the working classes, and the cumbrous, expensive, and inconvenient machinery by which it was enforced. While I listened to the noble Earl's description of these evils, I felt it difficult to believe that he could really mean to maintain the system which he thus strongly condemned; yet all those very provisions of the Act of 1802, which the noble Earl was so successful in proving to be in the highest degree oppressive and inconvenient, will be again brought into operation by the Bill which he invites us to pass, if Her Majesty's Government should fail in raising the required number of militiamen by voluntary enlistment before the first of January next. My Lords, I think it highly probable that the men required will not be thus procured, and that we must, therefore, look for the ballot being in a few months resorted to in order to obtain them. I am convinced that the noble Earl's description of the hardship with which it will operate on the working classes is in no degree overcharged. Take, for instance, the case of a superior mechanic or artisan, one of the sort of men who constitute a large proportion of the inhabitants of our great manufacturing towns, earning from 25s. to 5l. a week. Such a man cannot, of course, if drawn, serve in person—he cannot afford to risk the permanent loss of profitable employment by leaving it for three weeks for the training of a militiaman in peace; hut he can much less risk, as he would do by enrolling himself in this force, being-called upon if a war should suddenly break out, to join the embodied militia, to march to a distant county, there to serve for seven shillings a week, till the termination of his five years' engagement, under a!! the severe restrictions of military discipline, breaking up his home, and leaving his wife behind to be maintained out of the poor-rate. He will have the alternative of risking this total ruin (for to a man in his situation it is nothing less), or of submitting to the heavy fine imposed upon him by hiring a substitute. I have said that 30l is a low average for the cost of substitutes during the last war—looking to the present demand for labour, and the current rates of wages, I see no reason to suppose it will now be less. But that is a large sum for a working man to raise at once. It is true that he will be entitled, if he possesses less than 500l. (and, of course, the great majority of those drawn will not possess this sum), to claim half the current price of a substitute from his parish, whether he serves in person or not. But this provision of the law, though it in some degree mitigates its oppressive character towards the poor man, is open to another objection. It will impose a very serious burthen upon the parishes, and make a very considerable addition to those local burthens, of which we arc told that there is already so much reason to complain. If it could be supposed that the whole 80,000 men would have to be levied by ballot, and that none of those drawn would possess 500l., the charge to the parishes of England in the next two years might reach to 1,200,000l. Of course, the real charge would fall far below this maximum, but it must be expected to amount to a very considerable sum.

To return, however, to the case of such a man as I was speaking of; it seems to me that he could not fail to feel it as a great injustice that he should be compelled to choose between what might be utter ruin to him, or submitting to a fine of 15l. a sum to provide which at once would probably subject himself and his family to great inconvenience and privations, for two or three years at least. The law which imposed upon him this necessity could not fail to he regarded as exceedingly oppressive, nor can I here avoid remarking that when the militia is talked of as an old constitutional force, it seems to be forgot that the system which presses thus unjustly on the working classes, as compared to the higher ranks of society, a system which, while nominally equal, is in reality so grossly and cruelly unequal, has not even long prescription in its favour; it has not yet even a prescription of 100 years. It is notorious that the old feudal militia was furnished by those holding land directly from the Crown, according to the extent of their estates, and up to so late a time as the reign of Charles H. the same principle was recognised. By the Militia Act passed in that reign a man possessing 50l. a year, or 600l. in money and goods, was required to provide a foot soldier; a man having 500l. a year, or 6,000l., a horse soldier; those with smaller fortunes were to club together to furnish a soldier, and those with larger fortunes were to contribute accordingly. It was not until the year 1757, that ballot, on the principle now proposed to be again brought into operation, was for the first time established. My Lords, I am convinced, that to raise men in this manner, will, in the present state of society, be felt as a crying injustice by all the most intelligent of the working classes, who will best understand its operation and its practical inequality. At present I believe this class of men to be full of loyalty and devotion to their country, prepared to submit to every sacrifice which can be shown to be really necessary, in order to maintain its honour and safety, in which they feel their own personal welfare to be deeply at stake. But a sense of injustice, though the practical hardship may fall on a few individuals only, may alienate the whole class; and with a view to our security, we shall be far from being gainers, if we thus change the feelings of this most valuable class of the population—the very strength and marrow of the country—for the purpose of obtaining a nominal militia of 80,000 men, whose services would be of little value if we could command them, and which we shall not have the slightest security of being able to obtain when they are wanted.

There are other objections to this measure which seem to me well entitled to consideration. It must inevitably, it appears to me, interfere very seriously with the recruiting for the regular Army. I am aware that, with the view of avoiding such interference, men are to be eligible for the militia up to the age of thirty-five; but practically it will be composed of much younger men. It is impossible to suppose that men who are married and in settled occupations, will enter the force; those who do so will be pretty much of the same age and class as the present recruits of the Army. Now, it is well known that when the country is in a state of prosperity, and employment, as at this moment, is abundant, it is not found that even the recruits usually required to keep up the Army can be procured without a good deal of exertion. I find, on referring to the Army Estimates, that this year provision has been made for raising rather more than 11,000 recruits, including a proposed addition of 4,000 to the establishment of the Army. Last year the number of recruits provided for was 7,000; and it may, I believe, be considered a fair average to assume that from 7,000 to 8,000 recruits are annually required to keep up our ordinary establishment. But this being the case, is it possible that you can suddenly go into the market to obtain 80,000 men of the same description, by means of a higher bounty than you give for the Army, without very seriously checking the recruiting for the latter. If you are compelled to have recourse to the ballot, this interference will be much greater, because the price for substitutes will inevitably rise far above the amount of bounty authorised by this Bill. The experience of the last war is highly instructive upon this subject. Some fourteen years ago, when I had the honour of holding the office of Secretary at War, I had occasion to look into this subject, and my attention was called to a very able report, which I am sure the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Hardinge) will remember, as it was addressed to him when he held the same office in the year 1830. This report was prepared by the late Mr. Raper, a gentleman of remarkable industry and accuracy, who had been employed in conducting the militia business of the War Office during the greater part of the war. It contained a minute and detailed account of the practical working of the various measures which were adopted for raising men for the Army and for the militia during the memorable contest with France in the beginning of the present century, in which the country was called upon to make such prodigious exertions. In this Report, after giving in great detail the numbers of men raised from month to month, Mr. Raper proceeds to sum up in the following words, the results of his former statements:— Thus, then, it appears," he says, "that the ballot of 1803 reduced the ordinary recruiting from 1,827 men in a month, to an average of 688 per month (including the proportion supposed to have been raised for rank) for eleven successive months. The ballot of 1807, from 1,800 men, to half this number at the utmost; and two years afterwards, the recruiting having been brought to 1,100 per month, it was reduced by the direct or indirect effects of the ballot to an eighteen months' average of 600. The concluding words of the extract I have read, in which Mr. Raper speaks of the indirect effect of the ballot, refer to a remarkable circumstance which he had mentioned in a preceding passage of his report, that the ballot which was ordered in 1809 checked the recruiting for the Army not merely from the time of the passing of the Act which provided for it, but from that of the first bringing in of the Bill. I am not aware whether the present Bill has already had any similar effect—probably not; but if not, it must be because there is a firm persuasion in the country that the oppressive mode of raising men by the ballot will never really be brought into operation, and that, in point of fact, the militia, for raising which we are now providing, will never be effectively established. If it had not been for this persuasion, in which I fully share, I am convinced that both Houses of Parliament would, long before this, have had most unmistakeable evidence of the real feeling of the country upon this subject.

There is another objection to this measure, to which, if it was really likely to come into operation, I should attach much importance. I have endeavoured to show you that, under the terms you offer, you are only likely to obtain the services as militiamen of the least steady, least industrious, and least intelligent of the working population. Now, if you really succeed in giving these men, by your twenty-one days' annual training, any knowledge of military discipline, it appears to me that it will be attended with no slight danger, to turn thorn adrift at the end of their five years' service, with this knowledge, and without the slightest hold or control over them. When the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Hardinge) introduced his most useful measure for the enrolment of the pensioners, he justly stated it to be one great advantage to be expected from it, that it would be the means of ensuring for the side of order, instead of for the side of disorder, the services of all the old soldiers discharged from the Army, some of whom might otherwise, in times of civil commotion, be induced to take part with mobs, to which the presence of a very few men accustomed to military discipline would give a very dangerous character.

Since the noble Viscount stated this reason in support of his measure, there has been fresh and striking proof in France of the truth of his observation; and it has been found how much the danger of intestine commotion has been increased in that country by a system which leaves in the ranks of the population a number of persons trained as soldiers, but over whom the State preserves no control whatever. Looking, therefore, to the sort of persons who are likely to serve in the militia, either as substitutes or volunteers, and who, if the measure succeeds at all, will be left, at the end of five years, entirely uncontrolled, and with a certain amount of military training, it appears to me that this may hereafter be a source of considerable danger to the country. The population is at this moment generally contented, and free from political excitement—very much, I believe, owing to the prosperity of which they are in the enjoyment, and to the feeling that they have no cause of complaint against the Legislature or the Government; a state of things which is one of the happiest results of our recent commercial policy. But, my Lords, though this is the present state of things, we must remember that this country has not by any means been always exempt from seasons of agitation amongst the working classes, during which a disposition to violence and outrage has been manifested, rendering a display of military force necessary for the maintenance of the public peace. We know that so lately as 1840 and 1841, it was necessary to send troops at very short notice to Manchester and Birmingham; and, confident as I am that the measures which have since been taken, by relieving the industry of the nation from the im- politic restrictions to which it was formerly subject, have done much to avert the risk of the recurrence of such dangers, and of the distress which produced them, still it would be presumptuous rashness to assume that periods of popular excitement may not again occur; and if they should, it is obvious that the danger would be greatly aggravated if there were in the mobs, ready to take the lead in all acts of violence, some thousands of men of irregular habits, and partially trained as soldiers.

The noble Earl has referred to the measure for establishing a militia which was proposed by the late Administration; and though, in doing so, he has not imputed inconsistency to those who were parties to making that proposal, and who yet oppose the measure which is now before us, such imputations have been so largely made by others, that I feel myself bound to make some remarks, for the purpose of showing that there is no ground for this accusation. The noble Earl said that he would forbear from offering any hostile criticism on that intended measure of which he had been put in possession by my noble Friend who was at the head of the late Government. I thank him for that forbearance, and I will endeavour in return to avoid, as far as possible, going into the merits of the measure he has abstained from criticising. I will only so far discuss it as may be necessary for the purpose of showing that, whether it was a good plan or a bad one, it was at all events entirely different from that now before us, and founded on totally opposite principles. Your Lordships are aware that both measures were founded mainly upon plans of defence which had been in operation during the late war; but the distinction between them was, that we took for the foundation of our measure the Acts of Parliament for constituting the local militia, while the present Bill is founded on the general Militia Act of 1802. The distinction is an important one. The general militia, as I have shown to you, was during the war merely an addition to the regular Army; whereas the local militia was described by Lord Castlereagh, in bringing in the Bill for its establishment in 1809, as intended to be a force precisely of the kind which I have endeavoured to show you to be wanted—one, namely, composed of men who were not, even in war, to be taken from their homes or withdrawn from the ordinary industry of the country, except in the case of actual invasion or imminently impending invasion—a danger which this force was always prepared to meet. The noble Earl opposite, in describing the measure of Lord John Russell, stated that it differed from a local militia, properly so termed, in two important respects, namely, in admitting substitutes, and in making the force disposable in case of imminent danger in any part of the kingdom. The noble Earl was mistaken in considering this last to be a departure from the system of the old local militia. That force, as established in 1809, was disposable in case of actual invasion wherever the danger might threaten. In this respect it precisely agreed with the proposal of my noble Friend lately at the head of the Government. But the essential characteristic of the former local militia, as of that lately proposed, was that, except in such periods of actual and urgent danger, the men composing the force were not to be marched from their own counties, or to be kept embodied. It was this exemption of those who might enter into it, from being compelled to do permanent military duty, which made formerly so great a difference in the readiness of men to enter into the local as compared to the general militia, and which we trusted would again have had the same effect. But this is not the most material difference between the two plans for providing for the defence of the country. Lord Castlereagh, in the speech to which I have already referred, stated that the local militia was not to he formed in those counties in which there were adequate bodies of volunteers. Speaking from the reports of the officers who had just been employed to inspect the volunteer corps, he stated that the volunteers were at that time, both in numbers and discipline, all that could be required, and he proceeded to add that— So long as they felt inclined, and convenience permitted them to do duty, in the manner they then did, it was impossible he could imagine a force to which he would be more disposed to trust the fate and fortunes of the British empire. But he said— He must look forward to a time when the services of so large a proportion of the community would appear no longer called for by any pressing emergency. And he described the local militia as a force intended to take the place of the volunteers, when the return of peace, or the long continuance of the war, and the subsiding of the apprehensions which had been entertained, should have cooled the ardour of the volunteers. Every effective corps of volunteers was therefore to reckon towards the quota of each county, and local militiamen were only to be raised to supply the deficiency. Lord Castlereagh described this as intended to be a permanent arrangement, and as being even more suited to a time of peace than to a time of war; and I cannot help saying, that I think it was a very unfortunate error at the end of the war to depart from these views; and instead of keeping up the local militia—which I believe would have been capable of rendering very useful service—to keep up merely in name the regular militia, which must have cost us, since the Peace, a good deal above eight millions of money, without adding in the slightest degree to the real security of the empire. The plan of Lord John Russell was almost precisely similar to that of Lord Castlereagh; and it was its most distinguishing and important feature, that no militia was to have been raised in those counties which should otherwise provide the required quota of force, towards which not only volunteer corps but bodies of organised police were on certain terms to reckon.

I believe that much advantage would have resulted from this provision with regard to the police. It seems to me much to be regretted, that through what I regard as a very ill-judged economy, there is in most of the counties of England a very insufficient and ineffective police; and it is much to be wished that the magistrates had more generally availed themselves of the powers they possess under various Acts of Parliament, by constituting such a force in the several counties. It seems to me that allowing effective bodies of police to reckon towards the quota of force which each county was to have been bound to furnish, would have greatly tended to encourage the formation of a county police. This would have been still more the case if, as I think would have been highly advisable, a portion of the cost of the county police, like that of the metropolitan police, had been provided for by the Treasury.

I will go farther, and will say, that if the money which is now to be wasted on the proposed militia, had been applied to the establishment of a general constabulary, armed and trained on the Irish model, it would have done far more towards increasing our security in the event of war, than can be accomplished by the same expenditure on a militia, and would at the same time have rendered very useful and valuable services during peace.

My Lords, not only the establishment of police, but the formation of volunteer corps was to have been encouraged, on certain conditions, by the late Government. Your Lordships will remember, that there was, in the early part of the present year, a general disposition in the country to form volunteer rifle corps. When the change of Administration took place, applications had been made from several places for authority to form them, and it had been decided that that authority should be granted when the formation of the corps should be recommended by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, on condition that they should provide their own arms and accoutrements. It was intended that they should be required to find their own arms, not only to save the expense, but also to insure having these corps composed of men of a class that might safely be trusted, and likewise to facilitate their being trained. If the arms had been the property of the public, they could not have been left in the custody of the men without risk of loss, and thus their facilities of acquiring expertness in the use of their weapons, would have been materially restricted. I have reason to believe that upon these terms volunteer corps would have been raised sufficiently numerous to supersede any occasion for raising a militia. In the last war we had upwards of 340,000 volunteers under arms, in addition to an embodied militia, and the large Army then kept up; therefore, with our present population, 80,000 men, or a much larger number, might have been furnished without the slightest difficulty. In the rural districts, at least—perhaps it might have been different in the more busy seats of manufacture and commerce—the training of these volunteer corps sufficiently for all practical purposes, might have been effected without the least interference with the ordinary occupations of the people. Practice with the rifle would have become, as it is in Switzerland, a favourite amusement of the young men, as practice with the bow was with our ancestors. I cannot doubt that many of the principal landholders would have taken a pride in the formation of rifle corps, as they now do in raising bodies of yeomanry cavalry, and that in this manner a force of a very efficient description might have been obtained. I will ask your Lordships whether there can be any comparison as to the probable utility of such a force as this in the case of a sudden emergency, and that of a militia of mere mercenaries, such as it is proposed to raise by the Bill before us. I believe that if we had such corps of volunteers, by means of the electric telegraph and of railways, a large portion of them might in the event of an invasion, be collected in forty-eight hours on any point which might he attacked. When the country was in danger, not a man of them, who by any exertion could be at his post, would have been absent; and though they might not have been able to execute complicated manoeuvres in the field, or to stand in the shock of battle against the regular and disciplined troops of France or of Russia, surely the flower of the young men of England, armed with weapons of which they thoroughly understood the use, and supported by the regular troops and the formidable artillery which we have at our disposal, would have rendered an attack on this country by an invading force, an affair of extreme difficulty and danger. How far more useful would such a force be to us than an untrained militia, which the noble Duke has told the House would begin to be of some service in eighteen months after it was embodied, and which we have no security would be furthcoming when it was wanted.

I believe, that by giving this encouragement to the formation of volunteer corps, my noble Friend's measure would have provided the best possible description of reserve force against the danger of invasion, and would also have obviated all necessity of having recourse to the ballot. It was undoubtedly, in my judgment, the most important part of the whole plan. I greatly regret, therefore, that the present Administration should have reversed the decision to which we had come, and that they have determined to withhold the necessary sanction for the formation of those volunteer corps which it was in contemplation to establish when the change of Government took place. I understand that this course has been resolved upon under the apprehension that the formation of these volunteer corps might interfere with the voluntary enrolment of men in the militia. This seems to me a complete error. Whether you succeed or not in raising the militia by voluntary enrolment, it is, at all events, perfectly clear that it will be formed of a totally different class of men from those who, finding their own arms, would have gone into the volunteer corps. The latter would have been composed of the sons of the gentry and farmers, and the yeomanry of the country, men who never would think of exposing themselves, by enlisting in the militia, to be called upon to perform the duty of common soldiers in the embodied force for five years, if war should unfortunately occur. Hence the two descriptions of force could not at all have interfered with each other; and it is, in my opinion, a most unfortunate error to have refused to allow the formation of volunteer corps.

Lord John Russell proposed not merely to allow the formation of volunteer corps, but also to have encouraged the voluntary enrolment of men in the local militia. On this point the noble Earl opposite made a mistake as to the provisions of the proposed measure, which he said was only to have admitted of substitutes after the ballot, not of the voluntary enrolment of men in the force before the ballot had been held. Since the noble Earl spoke, I have referred to the draft Bill which had been prepared, and I have found, as I supposed, that the enrolment of men, provided they were of the same class as those who were to have been subject to the ballot, was not only to have been permitted, but to have been encouraged by reducing the period of service of those so enrolled as compared to that of balloted men. The nature of that service was also to have been rendered as little onerous as possible, not only by exempting this force from the risk of being embodied, except when actually and urgently wanted, but also by an arrangement calculated to enable the men to obtain the training that was required without leaving their own homes, and without materially interfering with their ordinary occupations. For this purpose three hours' exercise was to count as a half-day. It was also intended that only young men, before the age when they are usually married and settled in life, should have been liable to the ballot. By these provisions, the objections to that mode of raising men would have been greatly mitigated; at the same time, I am bound frankly to admit, that they would not, in my opinion, have been by any means removed, nor should I have considered the measure one which could properly be recommended to Parliament, had I believed that there was any risk under the arrangements we proposed, that the ballot would have to be brought into practical operation. I conceived that the authority given for having recourse to it—to use the noble Earl's words—in the last resort, would have acted merely as a stimulus to the formation of volunteer corps. My Lords, I regret to have detained you so long by this reference to a measure which has been abandoned, and which it is therefore no longer worth while to discuss. I will not attempt to state the many considerations in support of the plan which occur to me, but I venture very confidently to assert, that whether it were a good one or a bad one, it was, at all events, so different from that now before us, and founded upon so entirely opposite a principle, that whoever approves of the one, can hardly fail, from that very circumstance, to disapprove of the other.

Before I conclude, my Lords, I must beg your permission to make some few remarks on the general subject of the defence of the country—a subject of which the question before us forms, in fact, but one part, which cannot he properly considered without looking a little at the whole. My Lords, I cannot too strongly express my conviction that our main reliance for the safety of the country must be on our regular land and sea forces, and more especially on our Navy. We ought, in my opinion, under all circumstances to keep up such a naval force that on the breaking out of a war, no matter how suddenly it may occur, we may be perfectly certain of having from its very beginning a clear and undoubted superiority on our own shores, over any naval force which France or Russia, the only other two great naval Powers of Europe, can possibly bring against us. Considering that these Powers always keep on foot, in time of peace, armies at least five or six times more numerous than that which we have at home, our maintaining such a naval superiority is a measure strictly of a defensive character, of which they have not the slightest right to be jealous, and on which, whether they are jealous or not, we ought to insist. It by no means follows that the whole of the naval force which we maintain for the purpose of insuring our superiority in the Channel, in the event of war, ought always to be kept at home; on the contrary, I believe it to be better for the discipline of our ships, that a portion of them at least should not be at home; and I am sure that, with ordinary vigilance on the part of the Government, there is no danger of our not being always able to bring home in ample time, when wanted for our defence on our own shores, a part of the naval force, which may be on the Tagus or Mediterranean stations. I trust it could easily be shown that the necessity of being thus constantly prepared at sea was never overlooked by the late Administration.

The maintenance of our naval superiority greatly diminishes the amount of regular land forces we must keep at home in order to be safe, but it by no means supersedes the necessity of having always a respectable regular force ready on land. What we want, as I conceive, is such a force as to render it impossible to attempt an attack upon us with a comparatively small army. If we are so destitute of means of defence at home, that a comparatively small army could inflict upon us great and perhaps irreparable injury before we were in a position to repel the attack, I believe it to be perfectly possible that such an army might elude the vigilance of our Navy, and might be thrown upon our shores, and also that it might be worth the while of an enemy to attempt to strike such a blow. But if we are so strong at home, that nothing but a large, well-equipped army, carrying with it supplies for some little time, and a powerful artillery, with the horses to make that artillery available, could venture an attack, I am persuaded that the vessels required for the conveyance of such a force could not possibly be collected and bring it over in the face of a superior naval force. This, I believe, to be much more impossible than formerly, since the invention of steam, which has greatly added, as it seems to me, to the advantages we possess at sea. Hence, my Lords, I conceive it to be our policy to keep on foot such an army as may always be able, with the assistance of any irregular or reserve force we may have, to resist anything but a large army sent to attack us. Believing this to be all that is really required, I cannot regard our existing means of defence as nearly so inadequate as it is the fashion to represent them; and I am happy to think that a good deal was done towards increasing these means during the late Administration. I find, on comparing the force at home in January last with that which we found on the appointment of the late Administration in July, 1846, that the numbers at home of that part of the Army which is under the direct orders of the Commander-in-Chief, was, within three or four hundred men, the same at both periods, notwithstanding the heavy demands of the Kafir war; while, before we left office, arrangements had been made for bringing home from colonial service, without relieving them, two regiments, which, I am quite certain, may be spared with perfect safety from their previous stations. The estimates, also, which we had submitted to Parliament, provided for an increase of 4,000 rank and file in this part of the Army. In the artillery, there had already been an increase of about 3,000 men in our home force since July, 1846; and the estimates of the present year provide for a further addition of another thousand men, so that, in this description of force—that in which it is most necessary to be well prepared beforehand, as it takes the longest to form—we shall now have nearly double the disposable strength which we had at the commencement of Lord J. Russell's Administration. In addition to this, we have also, by the formation of the Dockyard battalions, and the increase of the Enrolled Pensioners, the means of rendering available, wherever it may be wanted, a much larger proportion of our regular force.

But, my Lords, though much has been done, I think more is still required to enable us, on the sudden breaking out of a war, to command the services of a considerable amount of regularly trained and disciplined troops on whom alone I am persuaded that it would be prudent to rely in meeting an enemy of the same description. I concur, however, with the noble Earl opposite, in believing that this cannot be accomplished by a mere augmentation of the regular Army. I believe, with him, that that measure, in the state of opinion of this country, and with the form of government which we enjoy, would not answer, because, if a considerable increase were made in the Army, I am convinced that in a little time the country would get tired of seeing a large force kept up with apparently little to do, and there would be such a pressure for the reduction of the expense on the Government, no matter of whom the Administration might be composed, that it would be absolutely inevitable to give way to it, since, after all, my Lords, public opinion happily rules in this country, whoever may be the Ministers who for the time conduct its affairs Hence, I think, that a large augmentation of the regular Army is not at all expedient, and that what we ought rather to look to is, first, that we should have the means of rapidly increasing its strength when an exigency may arise; and, secondly, that we should have the whole of the comparatively small force we nominally possess in a state of the most complete and perfect efficiency. With regard to the first, some of your Lordships who take an interest in these subjects may possibly remember that in the year 1847, when I had the honour of moving the second reading of the Bill for limiting the duration of military service, I pointed out that one object of that measure was gradually to provide as a reserve, a number of trained soldiers whose services might be commanded by the promise of an ultimate pension, and who costing in the mean time a comparatively trifling amount during peace, would afford a most valuable addition to our means of defence in war. Your Lordships may remember that on that occasion a strong objection was expressed by the highest military authority—an authority to which Her Majesty's then Government could not do otherwise than defer—to encouraging the soldiers of ten years' service to accept their discharge. I need not remind your Lordships how much importance was attached by the noble Duke, who has now left the House, to retaining the old soldiers of the Army in their regiments. Of course the opinion of the noble Duke is conclusive as to the value of the services of these soldiers. No one can doubt that what he states as the result of his great experience and knowledge must be accepted as correct, and it would be the height of presumption to question his opinion on such a point. Still, admitting the fact that to part with a considerable proportion of the soldiers of ten years' service would be an injury to their regiments, it may yet be a question whether it is not worth while submitting to this loss and inconvenience during peace, for the purpose of providing an effective and inexpensive reserve for the defence of the country during war. If the military objection to parting with soldiers of ten years' service could be overcome, I am persuaded that terms might be offered to them, which they would eagerly accept, and which it would be greatly for the interest of the country to grant them. Soldiers having the good-conduct mark might be permitted to take their discharge at the end of ten years' service, with the privilege of enrolling themselves to serve at home when required, in the same manner as the pensioners. They might receive the same enrolment money, and be called out for the same number of days with the same obligation of serving longer, when required, and might be allowed to reckon two years of service of this description, as equal to one year in their regiments, with a view to the acquisition of a right to pension. The effect of this arrangement would be, that taking eighteen as the age of enlistment, a soldier at the age of twenty-eight, and having a good-conduct mark, might claim his discharge, with a view to being enrolled, and that after having for twenty-two years faithfully performed the duties thus imposed upon him, when he would be fifty years of age, he would be entitled to the pension which, if he had continued in his regiment, he might under the existing regulations, claim after twenty-one years' service, and at the age of thirty-nine. Men thus enrolled, after having been disciplined by ten years' service, and having arrived at an age when, though they would generally be glad to settle and not to be marched about the world with their regiments, they would still retain all their strength and vigour, need not be confined to garrison duties, for which in general the enrolled pensioners are only fit, but might join the depots of their former regiments, when their services were required. They would there still find some of their former comrades, and these depots would in this manner, far more quickly than by any other arrangement which I have heard suggested, he raised to efficient second battalions on the breaking out of a war.

I attach not less importance to the adoption of arrangements by which the whole of our nominal force at home might be rendered really effective. Your Lordships are aware that from the severe nature of the service imposed upon our Army, the number of recruits annually required to supply the vacancies in its ranks from deaths, invaliding, and discharges, are very numerous. I have already stated that they may be calculated on an average at from 7,000 to 8,000. Hence, no small proportion of the depots at home of regiments serving abroad consists of recruits imperfectly trained, and upon whom, therefore, in time of need, no great reliance can be placed. The evil of this is aggravated by another circumstance. The depots of our regiments being expected to perform the services required from troops during peace, are necessarily often placed in quarters where no proper facilities exist for training recruits, and more especially for teaching them that most indispensable of the qualifications of a good soldier, skill in the use of the weapon which is placed in his hands. In the densely peopled manufacturing districts, and in this metropolis, where a considerable part of the home force is required, ground for carrying on ball practice with safety is not to be found; the consequence, I fear, is, that very many of the soldiers of our Army take their place in the ranks with little or no skill in the use of firearms. It is a popular complaint, but I believe to a great extent an unfounded one, that the firearms themselves are ineffective. The real evil is much more that the soldier has never been properly taught to use the arm, such as it is, which is entrusted to him. To such an extent is this the case, that I have, within these few days, been casually informed of a fact of which I had no suspicion while I was still in office, and when it would have been of more use to me to know it—a fact which seems so incredible that I can hardly even now believe it, though it is asserted with so much confidence by those who ought to know, that I cannot refuse credit to the assertion. It is, I say, stated, that not a few of the soldiers sent out by that unfortunate ship, the Birkenhead, to join their regiments at the Cape, for the purpose of being immediately employed in the field against the Kafirs, actually received their first lessons in loading and firing their muskets in the few days they were at Portsmouth prior to their embarkation. It appears to me, my Lords, that there is a great defect in this part of our system; that recruits ought not to be placed on the muster rolls of their regiments until they have gone through a complete system of instruction, and that for this purpose proper places for the instruction of soldiers should be selected in situations whore there is plenty of room for ball practice, and where every facility can be provided for every branch of military training. I can see no reason why our soldiers should not go through as perfect a system of training as those of some of the Continental armies are said to do, and why much of that instruction which is now given only to the sappers and miners, should not lie extended to the whole Army. I believe that this last kind of instruction would be of the greatest value. In reading many years ago the conversations of Napoleon at St. Helena, I remember to have been much struck by an observation made by him as to the mistake which he considered to have been committed by generals in modern warfare, in not following the example of that great military people, the Romans, and making more use of entrenchments and defensive works constructed by the labour of the soldiers. If my recollection does not deceive me, be said that an able general, with properly trained soldiers, would in defensive warfare fight almost as much with the spade as with the musket. Certainly Napoleon must be regarded as a high authority on such a question; and it appears to me that in the defence of this country, of which the circumstances are so favourable to such measures, it would add materially to the resistance which a regular force of inferior numbers could oppose to an enemy, if both the soldiers and the officers well understood the art of constructing such defences as might quickly be thrown up by themselves, with the assistance of the labourers resident on the spot. This would be of the greatest importance, as it is possible that regular troops might be supported by large numbers of militia or volunteers; and it is well known that a force of this kind, though comparatively useless in the open field, is often found to fight with great effect behind walls or entrenchments.

I am well aware that in such a war as the last, when the country was compelled to strain every nerve, and when men, as fast as they could be raised and disciplined, had to be hurried at once into the field, it would have been impossible to establish so elaborate a system of training for our troops as I have suggested; but in peace, when there is plenty of time for the purpose, I see no reason why this should not be done. All that would be necessary would be to recruit some seven or eight thousand men in advance of anticipated vacancies in the regimental establishments, so that no soldier should join a regiment until he had undergone at least a year of the most careful preliminary training and instruction that could possibly be given to him. This would of course occasion some additional expense, but it might be met in part by a reduction of the regimental establishments, which might certainly be made without any diminution of the real strength of the regiments, if instead of having a proportion of raw recruits, every soldier in the ranks had been thus previously trained. I believe it would facilitate this arrangement, and at the same time greatly promote the discipline of the Army, if the suggestion I have already thrown out for the formation of a constabulary on the Irish model were likewise adopted, because in that case many regiments now unavoidably broken up into small detachments might be kept together in quarters more favourable to their discipline. These arrangements, I am persuaded, would add materially to the real military strength of the country, and could be carried into effect, as I believe, for less money than you now propose to waste on a militia, which will be worse than useless.

I fear that a person so entirely without any pretensions to professional knowledge of military matters as myself, may appear to your Lordships to be guilty of some presumption in expressing the opinions I have now done; I can only say in apology that these opinions rest not on technical considerations, but on considerations of common sense; that I have been led to form them from the experience of not a very small number of years, during which I have had the honour of serving the Crown, in offices which have afforded me the opportunity of closely observing and becoming acquainted with the practical working of our existing arrangements; and that I have thought it my duty to submit to your Lordships the conclusions I have thus arrived at, on the all-important subject of our National Defences. In conclusion, I have only to sum up the arguments I have endeavoured to press upon your Lordships by saying, that I object to this Bill because I am convinced that the militia which it proposes to establish will be expensive, oppressive to the working classes, and at the same time, worse than inefficient. Irrespective of the questions of expense and of the oppression of the working classes, which it will involve, important as these questions are) my firm belief is, that by passing this Bill we shall place the country not in a better but in a worse state of defence than it now is, because, though it may give us a nominal militia of 80,000 men, we have no reason to anticipate that these men will be forthcoming when they are wanted, or that even if they are so, they will be of the slightest use in guarding against the only kind of danger which we have really to fear; while for the sake of creating this nominal force, we shall risk a very serious injury to the regular Army, which must form our real safeguard. Entertaining this opinion, I must say "not-content," when the question is put for the second reading of the Bill.


said, that if he were not satisfied Ministers would not feel it necessary in the then state of the House to follow the noble Earl through the various topics which he had discussed at such length, he would not have risen to address a few observations to their Lordships; for he thought that most of the points to which the noble Earl had referred, were more fit for discussion in Committee than on the second reading of the Bill. He would confine himself to two points connected with the subject, in which he had long felt a deep interest. The first was the view he took of the necessity of the present measure; and, secondly, his reason for accepting, and, as far as he could, supporting it. It was, probably, not so well known to their Lordships as it was to himself that for some time past he had enjoyed a rather unenviable notoriety, on the supposition that he had unwisely overrated or wilfully exaggerated the risk and danger which formed the groundwork of the present Bill—for he could not imagine that any Government would incur the trouble and obloquy of bringing forward such a measure unless satisfied of its imperative necessity. For a long time his opinions on the subject had afforded amusement to gentlemen at Peace Society meetings. But now he found that this phenomenon had occurred, that a large majority of the people of this country and both Houses of Parliament displayed a general concurrence in the absolute necessity either for this Bill or for some other measure of a similar nature. He thought it would be an unfortunate and dangerous thing if this conversion and change of opinion should be ascribed to passing events, or to the character of persons in high places. For himself, having held these opinions four years ago, it was unnecessary to say that his views had not been affected by persons, things, or events in France, but rested on the constant relations of the two neighbouring countries. There were, however, in France as well as in England many roads to a spurious and temporary popularity; but he saw no reason, grounded upon any personal characteristic of Louis Napoleon, for believing that he would use his power in a direction hostile to this country, unless he found that the honour and interests of the country he ruled were concerned in such a movement. He must say he had heard much from that side of the House that evening to which he could not refuse assent. He had always held the inefficacy of irregular troops as compared with a regular force. He did not think, therefore, either this Bill or that of the late Government likely to produce troops who, if called out to meet disciplined soldiers in the field, would be found to render effectual service to the country. But there were other services which they might perform besides those in the open field. He would assume that they would be raised and called together, and, if so, they might be thrown into our garrisons; for men might move a gun and fight very well behind stone walls who would not be capable of meeting regular and disciplined soldiers in the open field. They would thus meet the great exigency of the moment, and enable the regular troops to be moved for field operations wherever they might be wanted. He had perhaps put the case too strongly, and somewhat irreverently, in an expression he had made use of on a former occasion, and which had been made the subject of considerable misrepresentation—he had said that if a superior French force were to appear before the metropolis, the Lord Mayor would meet them with the keys of the city at one gate, while the Foot Guards marched out at the other. By this expression, he merely meant that such a city as London was indefensible, and that under the circumstances stated, it would be compelled to capitulate. He did not suppose that the French would take possession of Regent-street, or march their troops into the city, so long as it had not capitulated, and the inhabitants were determined to defend it. Wherever such a course had been adopted, the invaders had suffered loss. At Buenos Ayres a body of regular troops had been driven out from the city by men who were little better than savages. This was not the modern practice of war, and all that was necessary to justify his argument was to assume that the English Army were unable to meet the invaders in the open field. When Napoleon appeared before Vienna with 100,000 men in 1805, he did not march his army into the capital at once. A large Austrian army were then in Vienna, and the course which Napoleon adopted was to take up a station where his artillery commanded the town. The Austrians knew the city would be bombarded unless it capitulated; and the Royal Family, within twelve hours, left the city, the Austrian army retired beyond the Danube, and the municipal authorities came out to Napoleon with the keys. Every one felt that the French could not be left to bombard the town. But the strongest case was that of Milan in the late war. Charles Albert was under the strongest obligations to the Milanese, and he chivalrously retired before the Austrian army to defend the capital. He had 20,000 of his best troops at Milan, which was a fortified town; but when the Austrians came up with a park of artillery, and he felt himself unable to meet them outside the walls, Charles Albert marched out at one gate, while the mayor went out at the other with the keys of the city. The best troops and the best army in the world would be, under the same circumstances, reduced to the same extremity. His allusion to the Foot Guards was not intended to impeach the bravery of that distinguished portion of the Army, for he remembered too well their many brilliant services in the field. He had only used the illustration to express the impossibility of defending a wealthy, populous, and unfortified capital from within, when an enemy in superior force were at its gates. With these views he must give his warmest support to any Government which took measures to provide for the safety and defence of the country.

After a few words from Earl WALDEGRAVE, which were inaudible in the gallery,

On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative: Bill read 2ª accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.

House adjourned till To-morrow.

Back to