HL Deb 15 December 1854 vol 136 cc344-72

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


said, that he would not trouble their Lordships with any lengthened statement with reference to the Bill; but he had been greatly surprised to ascertain, from various quarters, in the course of the day, that there existed an impression out of doors that what the noble Earl who commenced the opposition to this Bill on the previous evening (the Earl of Ellenborough) said might be, really was the intention of the Government, namely, that the Government intended that the militia and the British forces generally should be removed from this country for foreign service; and that their object in asking for power to enlist foreign troops was to use such troops in place of English ones for garrison duty in this country. He was quite certain that no noble Lord, whatever might be his opinion as to what might be done under the Bill, would for a moment imagine that it was the intention of the Government so to use the power to be intrusted to them. He would readily and at once admit that if there was a possibility of such an event, it was the bounden duty of Parliament to take precautions against it. He was also ready to admit that, looking to the Bill as drawn, it might by possibility be converted to such a purpose; and as, though he did not think it possible that it could be so used by any Government that could hold the reins of power in this country, he thought it desirable that the Bill should be so altered as that the intention of the Government and of Parliament should be clearly manifested, and he was, therefore, prepared to strike out of the first clause the words which seemed to bear this construction, and to insert in the second words which should specially prohibit any such use of the measure. So far from there being any desire on the part of the Government to quarter foreign troops on this country because we were parting with our own, he could only say that he believed the state of the country was such that we might, if necessary, part with every armed man in these realms without substituting for them any other force. Still less would it be likely that, under such circumstances, the Government, instead of raising an additional militia or other English force, would seek foreign troops to protect our shores and to keep the peace here. Had he supposed that such an impression could for a moment have existed in the minds of any class of the community, he would not only have removed it in the speech which he made on the previous day, but would have taken care that the prohibition which he now proposed should be inserted in the Bill. That prohibition he proposed to insert in order to show that the sole object of obtaining power to bring foreign troops into this country was, that, as we could not, of course, have a depôt in a foreign country, men enlisted abroad should be brought here and formed into battalions, and, as soon as they were ready for service, should be conveyed to the Crimea, or to whatever country might then be the theatre of war, to fight against our foreign enemies. The number of men who were to be in this country at one time had been limited at 15,000, because that was about the limit fixed by the similar statute passed in the year 1806—in which the limit was 16,000—and because it was thought that the impossibility of transporting men to the seat of the war immediately upon the conclusion of their training, owing either to its being an unfavourable time of the year or to a scarcity of the means of conveyance, might at times render it necessary to keep that body of foreign troops in this country. If, however, any noble Lord preferred the lower limit of 10,000 men, he should not object to such an alteration being made in the Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the said Bill.


My Lords, my noble Friends who took objection to this Bill on a previous occasion were, it now appears from the statement of the noble Duke, perfectly justified in taking the course which they adopted. I objected on constitutional grounds to a Bill which gave a power to the Crown which the noble Duke is now willing to abandon, and which I considered not merely dangerous, but wholly unnecessary. It is, my Lords, another and a strong proof of the careless manner in which the Government consider great measures affecting the military strength or the country, that it is now stated by the noble Duke to be a matter of indifference to the Government whether the number of the men to be at one time in this country be 15,000 or 10,000—a difference which, taking the usual proportion of men actually serving, and those undergoing training, would be an actual difference in the military force of the country of 20,000 men. if the number to be at one time under drill are to bear to those employed on active service the same proportion which the companies of Her Majesty's regiments left in England bear to those employed elsewhere—namely, one-fourth—this Bill, as originally framed, is a Bill for ultimately embodying 60,000 foreigners. I think the best course to pursue would be to withdraw the present Bill altogether, and at once to lay on the table an amended Bill, which might be taken into consideration on Monday next. To do so would be a more Parliamentary method of proceeding, and only one day would be lost. But if the noble Duke does not acquiesce in that suggestion, I must proceed as I originally intended. My Lords, since last I addressed you on this subject, it has been my duty to reconsider in the interval the reasons for which I then objected to the Bill, and also to consider the arguments which were adduced in its favour; and I must say that that further consideration has only tended to confirm me in the opinion that this is a Bill, the principle of which ought not to receive the sanction of your Lordships. Of its overwhelming and commanding necessity, no proof whatever has been advanced; and, in the absence of such proof, I think it most proper to adhere to constitutional principle. I was rejoiced, my Lords, the other night, to hear a noble Earl, who sits upon the cross-benches (Earl Grey), notice an expression which fell from the noble Duke in reference to the conduct of those on this side of the House who objected to this Bill—I mean that it indicated almost—indeed, I am not sure that the word "almost" was used—a want of patriotism on our part that we should thus impede a measure intended to meet the necessities of the country. I have read, and indeed, unfortunately, I can recollect, that at the commencement of the present century, measures for the defence of the country, brought forward by successive Governments, were the constant theme upon which persons of all parties expressed their opinions with the utmost freedom in Parliament. All men were then united for the defence of the country against foreign invasion, as they are now for the prosecution of this war; yet Mr. Pitt, the late Lord Grey, Mr. Windham, Lord Grenville, and all the first men of that day—giants in comparison with many of those who hold office in these days—men of unsuspected patriotism, never hesitated to state, and to press with the utmost freedom of Parliamentary language, objections to the several measures successively brought forward. I humbly, and at a great distance, presume to follow in their steps. I am not prepared to compliment away any portion of those constitutional principles to which I have always adhered, and to which I shall continue to adhere for the rest of my life. I am aware of the imputations upon my patriotism and my motives to which I shall be subjected, but I shall not permit them to have the smallest influence upon my conduct, and shall strictly adhere to that course which, in my own opinion, is the most proper one. Noble Lords who have hitherto expressed their intention of supporting the war are considered to be inconsistent if they refuse absolute confidence to Her Majesty's Government with respect to the measures which they bring forward as the best adapted, in their opinion, to the furtherance of that object. My Lords, between supporting the war and supporting the Ministers, there is the greatest difference which can possibly exist between any two things of the most dissimilar kind. I am the oldest supporter of this war—I supported it long before my noble Friend at the head of the Government. I mentioned to one of Her Majesty's Ministers as far back as April, 1853, that I was confident this war was coming; that I was quite sure the Emperor of Russia never would depart from the position he had taken in sending Prince Menchikoff to Constantinople, or from the demands he had then made. During the Session of 1853, I earnestly entreated your Lordships not to delay proceeding with a Bill for altering the Government of India, on the special ground that we were threatened with danger in the East, and of the necessity of putting our house in order. There was a provision in that Bill, as introduced into the other House, enabling the Government of India to add three regiments to their force. I objected to that; but so urgent did I think the necessity of strengthening Her Majesty's Government, that I laid upon your Lordships' table a Bill containing these clauses, entreating your Lordships to pass it, that we might thereby gain three months in adding to that force. But, my Lords, I went much further; I went to the utmost limit of Parliamentary privilege, and I asked you, towards the end of that Session, to delay a Bill for the repeal of a tax, thinking it the most impressive manner in which you could indicate to foreign Powers your determination to adhere to the course you had adopted, and to put a stop, if you could, to the ambition of Russia. That again was rejected; but it shows my support of the war. From the beginning of the last Session I fatigued your Lordships by my constant reference to it. I entreated you to make the country strong everywhere. I entreated you to add to the naval as well as to the military force, and I expressed my conviction that what had been done was utterly insufficient, and you now ask us to pass this Bill, interfering with constitutional principles, because you have adopted no such measures. Your own weakness, the consequence of your rejection of the advice which was offered to you, is made the ground upon which we are to supersede the constitutional principles of this country. My Lords, I went further; I said, "Be secret," for secrecy is one of the great foundations of success in war; and yet the object of the expedition to Bomarsund, and the expedition to the Crimea, are, weeks before those expeditions can sail, made public in the newspapers. Information is given to your enemies of the most valuable description, and given, through the newspapers, by Ministers, whom I entreated to consider the importance of secrecy. ["No, no!"—"The Times!"] I am not speaking of the Times, I am speaking of the Cabinet, and I say that the secrets of the Cabinet are sacred. The object of those expeditions never should have been named by any Member of the Government; but named it must have been by some one, because there it was, a Cabinet secret, and it became, somehow or other, public, and public to the great injury of the public service. Again, my Lords, I said, "Timely preparation in war is everything." With timely preparation you might accomplish almost any object; and without it you might fail in all; or succeeding, you might succeed only with a great sacrifice of treasure and blood. That too was neglected. No timely preparation was made, and it is because no timely preparation was made that we are again asked to make a humiliating confession of our weakness by passing this Bill. This is the support which I throughout have given to this war. I admitted it to be from the first a just, a necessary, and a politic war, but I told you at the same time that it was a statesman's war. I said that it was a far-seeing war in its object, and that, though popular at first, I feared greatly that, unless you had a constant succession of successes calculated to captivate the public mind, the objects of the war were so thoroughly statesmanlike that it would be extremely difficult to maintain throughout the steady and constant support of the public. You have that support now; but when I look to the losses which we have sustained, and to the extreme ignorance, as I think, of Her Majesty's Ministers, and when I consider that their rejection of the advice which has been offered to them has led to those losses, I confess that I do not look forward with confidence to the long continuance of the popularity of the war, which the measure now proposed is more than anything else calculated to destroy. Well, my Lords, now as to confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers. I never professed any confidence in them as a war Government, and I stated my reasons for entertaining a contrary opinion. I admitted their great civil abilities and their great knowledge of political economy; I admitted that it was probable that on most subjects connected with civil administration I might see reason to acquiesce in their views; but I did think that the very character of their minds had a bias—by leading them constantly to look only to the progress of national questions, to the improvement of the country, and matters al- together of a civil character—was to a certain degree calculated to prevent them from being very energetic prosecutors of a war which must necessarily tend very much to depreciate and undermine these advantages; and, without any disrespect to my noble Friend at the head of the Government, I did venture to say that I did not think it extremely probable that he would succeed in doing well a thing which he so thoroughly hated as carrying on a war. I confess that Her Majesty's Ministers are extremely clever gentlemen, and that they all possess abilities far above mediocrity, but very few of them possess the great abilities which we have seen in the former times to which I have referred. With one exception, they possess, too, the most extraordinary character for making good speeches, of an extraordinary length, which was ever at any time possessed by any Cabinet. The only person who apparently is not possessed of that extraordinary faculty is my noble Friend at the head of the Government; or, if he does possess that faculty, in mercy to us he spares us; and I must say that in that respect, if not in any other, he is the best Minister who ever sat upon those benches. What is the great public mischief, however, is the very equality of ability which pervades Her Majesty's Cabinet. It is the absence of any great and commanding ability—the presence of ability I admit far above mediocrity—but the presence of so many very nearly equal persons, and in great numbers in the same Cabinet, which I am convinced impedes, instead of facilitating, the transaction of public business. I believe that among them what is called the Ballot is an open question. I strongly recommend them to introduce it for their own internal improvement; for there is no measure which would so much tend to strengthen them—against whom personally I have no animosity—and to strengthen them especially for the transaction of public business, as the expulsion by ballot of one-third of their number. It is a matter of perfect indifference who go. I do not think that it signifies one rush to the public, so equal are they; but I am quite sure that the remaining two thirds would conduct the business of the country a very great deal better than it is conducted at present. Now, give me leave to say that, in those distant times, when we had great statesmen in the possession of great offices, they condescended to assign reasons for great public measures; and when they produced measures for the national defence, they went, as I can recollect, into most elaborate details, showing what was the strength of the Army, the strength of each corps, the manner in which recruiting had been successful, the extent to which, in successive years, recruits had been added, and from what sources they had been derived. Every fact which was known to themselves was made known to Parliament, and upon those data Parliament was asked to proceed in framing measures for the purpose of improving the national defences. But the noble Duke has given us no information whatever. If we are to look to the news- papers for information, as we do now with more confidence than in former times, we are told, day after day, of the extraordinary success of the recruiting—in this week so many hundreds, in that more than 1,000 recruits have been obtained. If that be true, so far from its being a reason for this Bill, it is the very reason why we should not think of it, because if, by the ordinary process, we can thus add to our forces, why adopt a measure which is in contravention of constitutional principles? But, my Lords, I say, and always have said—and I speak from the experience of past times—that by far the most efficient mode of strengthening your army by recruits is to maintain at all times a militia full up to its complement, and popular with the country. Get a man, no matter how, into the militia; your chance of obtaining him afterwards as a soldier in the regular army is vastly increased, and you at the same time obtain a soldier perfectly qualified for service, and infinitely better for your purpose than one who has never been instructed at all. I say, therefore, strengthen the militia; do everything you can by every means to increase it to its full complement; make it the foundation of your military system, and, doing that, depend upon it you will be able to maintain national interests by the national arms, and will not be compelled to go begging in the antechambers of every petty Prince on the Continent for recruits to Her Majesty's forces. Who are those foreigners whom the noble Duke proposes to Her Majesty to bring to this country? We are told that it would be indecorous to mention the names of those German Princes or others until the Bill has passed, as no regular communications can be made with them until that time. But, I ask, is there any understanding with any of those Princes, or is there not? Can we not be told what understanding there is, and what reasonable anticipations Ministers have? Are they going to take this leap in the dark? The noble Duke may take a leap in the dark; but it is rather a serious thing to leap in the dark when you drag an army behind you; and it will not do to ask the country to violate a constitutional principle for a great object, and then, when you have done it, to find that you have not attained that object. Her Majesty's Ministers ought to have made the fullest inquiry, and to be thoroughly satisfied that the measure will be successful, before they proposed it. I can imagine a state of things under which neither I nor any one could object to the temporary passage through this country of a limited German force. I can imagine that there may remain those feelings of friendship on the part of the King of Hanover to the Queen and people of this country which actuated that Sovereign in former times. I can imagine that the King of Hanover may entertain those feelings, but that he may be unable to give us assistance with his forces, owing to pecuniary difficulties. In that event, I should have no hesitation to accept of his assistance, by placing under Lord Raglan 5,000 or 6,000 of his magnificent troops, who rendered such good service in the last war. Under those circumstances, to admit for a short time the disciplined forces of a foreign Power, I should not object; but we are not told to expect that. We are told to expect formed men, but not formed battalions. Well, what sort of men will they be? They must either be, in those countries in which there is a conscription, men who have been discharged from duty by the lapse of time, and with respect to whose enlistment it is impossible that Her Majesty's Government can have any assurance, because they must be scattered through the whole of Germany or the Continent; or they must be persons now in the service of different German Princes. Will any one of those German Princes dare to join with the Allies, and declare against Russia? No; they dare do no such thing; and if they will not join you openly, they must have recourse to the petty disgraceful course of conniving at the desertion of their own troops. I can see no other mode in which the assistance of foreign soldiers can be obtained. But, suppose those soldiers to be brought here, give me leave to ask the noble Duke where he means to put them? We were told last night that there was this objection to embodying at once the militia of the country—that there were not sufficient barracks. Are these foreigners to occupy the barracks which might otherwise be given to the militia; and on that account are the militia not to be embodied, or are the militia to occupy barracks, and are the foreigners to be billeted upon our families? Why, the noble Duke knows that it is impossible—that it would not be borne; and that if we get men it will be impossible to keep them in this country, unless you put them under canvas. There is another question which I wish to ask. I beg to inquire, if these men are to be engaged in Her Majesty's service and are to be formed into battalions, why they are to come here? This is not the straight way to the Crimea; and why send every Swiss rifleman who may wish to discharge his gun at the Russians in the Crimea round by London and the Bay of Biscay? Is that the way that any of those aspirants to military glory and British pay should go from the banks of the Maine and the Weser to the Crimea? The noble Duke is following precedent, no doubt; but in the last war, when Austria wanted all her subjects, when half Germany was against us, and no rivers were open to us but the Elbe and Weser, it was absolutely necessary that those men should come through this country and be formed into battalions; but that is not the case now. All the railways are open; their shortest way is by Trieste, and not by Hamburg. The best place for the formation of their depôt is the Ionian Islands. There they can look after "those worthy Greeks," "that noble people"—refresh their recollections of antiquity, and alter the opinion, perhaps, which they originally entertained of that "great people." However that may be, that is the place to form the depôt. The depôt becomes a reserve. It is near the Crimea; the road is shorter, and you avoid all the difficulties of this Bill. Take your foreigners, if you please, to the Crimea, but don't take them through England—don't offend us with their presence—don't give them our barracks or our billets. Why come down to Parliament for this measure to enable them to shoulder the militia out of England into the Mediterranean, and out of their barracks into the street? Send them by railway to Trieste, and from Trieste to the Ionian Islands. There you will have them ready for service, and no one will greatly object to it. I say this with the greatest confidence—the more facilities Parliament gives the Government for the formation of foreign regiments, the less trouble the Government will take to raise English regiments. The whole is a question of standard and bounty. Raise your bounty and lower your standard, and you have your men. Keep your standard as it is and lower your bounty, follow the principles of political economy, go to the cheapest market, get the worst article, come and tell us that you have so many Germans now fighting our battles—do that, and add that you have expelled the Englishman from your army and have substituted the foreigner for him. My Lords, I must say that it appears to me, that of all the measures which I recollect, under any circumstances, produced at any time, by any Government, this is the most ungracious towards a generous and a confiding people.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now," and insert "this day Six Months."


said, that the House had not been favoured with any arguments from the Government in support of this measure, and, notwithstanding any imputation of want of patriotism to which he might subject himself, he should oppose it. He believed the proposal of the Government to be highly objectionable, and calculated to repress, and not to encourage, that spirit of noble enthusiasm which had hitherto animated the population of this country; and he was confident it would prove to be not only unconstitutional, but unpopular, for it amounted to a confession that our constitutional means were exhausted. He must protest against the assumption that any Peer on that side the House, who might be venturesome enough to oppose any proposition of the Government, was either factious or unpatriotic. He was himself engaged to no man, and there were many other Members of their Lordships' House whose conduct was influenced by an entire devotion to the honour and glory of the country, and by an anxious desire to carry out in the most effective manner all measures that might be necessary to bring the Present war to a favourable termination.


said, he apprehended that the argument used by his noble Friend (the Duke of Newcastle) was, not that the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government should not be discussed—for that was the clear duty of Pariiament—but that noble Lords opposite should take into consideration the great difficulties which must be met by Government in carrying on a great war, and should approach the discussion of their measures with a desire to consider them calmly, with the view of ascertaining whether they were required by the necessities of the times, and not for the purpose of making them a handle to appeal to the passions of the people, the result of which must only be to embarrass Government. It appeared to him that there had been, both in that House and out of doors, a most singular misapprehension of the in- tentions of Government in bringing forward this Bill, and also with respect to the object and principles of the Bill itself. He imagined that Her Majesty's Government disapproved as much as noble Lords opposite the principle of generally employing foreign troops; and he was convinced that every Peer in that House, and every man throughout the country, would always prefer that its battles should be fought by Englishmen. It was not, however, because Englishmen were not ready or able to fight the battles of their country—it was because a policy, which might or might not have been right, had so reduced the military establishment of the country in time of peace that on the sudden outbreak of a war with a great military Power, and when it had become necessary to send out reinforcements commensurate with the interests at stake, it was necessary to have recourse to a measure of this kind for a temporary purpose. It must also be borne in mind that Government had no compulsory means of enlistment, and he believed that no Government would ever be able to employ compulsory measures with effect. It would be a warning to the country and to future Governments not to reduce their military establishments too low in time of peace, and also a warning to calmly consider, in time of peace, the best means of raising their military establishment in cases of sudden emergency. It might be disagreeable to have recourse to foreign troops, but the question was, whether it was not expedient under present circumstances. The objection which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) so enlarged upon in the conclusion of his speech was, he apprehended, at once disposed of by the Amendment suggested by the noble Duke the Secretary of War. There would, therefore, be no question on the point of constitutional doctrine, and he thought that any mention of the constitution had been most unfortunately introduced by the noble Earl opposite. He (Lord Wodehouse) understood the object of the Bill to be this—that whereas it required some months to make men trained soldiers, there were a number of the troops of other countries, who had been enlisted for a certain time, and were now on the point of being discharged, and who were both at liberty and willing to enter into the service of other countries, and in this case Government would be able to collect a number of soldiers already trained, and send them to the seat of the war as quickly as possible. If the Government were unable to continue to reinforce Lord Raglan's army with a number of trained soldiers, this expedient was surely one which they ought to adopt. Under these circumstances, he trusted the House would take a dispassionate view of the case, and, looking on the measure as one of public necessity, would consent to the Bill as proposed by Government.


said: A speech of a more depressing character to the feelings of the country than the one just delivered by the noble Lord I have never heard. He has stated that we are going to raise foreign troops from the necessity of the case. He has stated that we are obliged to have recourse to this expedient for the purpose of fighting the enemies of our country. Expressions more degrading, I think, were never uttered in the British House of Parliament, or more likely to urge the Emperor of Russia to prosecute the war, and to depress the spirit of this country. I could not believe it possible that any British Peer in this House, at this moment, could have uttered so cringing, so debasing, and so degrading an expression—


I must protest against the expressions of the noble Earl as far too strong—really what I have said does not deserve such epithets, and the noble Earl must be under entire misapprehension of what I did say. The noble Earl has used expressions so extremely strong that I trust the House will allow me to explain. When I say the necessities of the case oblige us to have recourse to foreign soldiers, because we have not a sufficient number of soldiers of our own, I state the main reason why we want foreign soldiers. If we have enough of our own, why employ foreign troops? Having reduced our Army too low in time of peace, we must for a time have recourse to trained foreign soldiers. That, I apprehend, is stating a fact as a good reason for this measure. I maintain that my words are such as any British Peer may use; that the argument I used with the best and fairest intention, in defence of the Government proposition, ought not to be characterised in terms not often applied to the language of any gentleman.


I assure your Lordships I strictly adhere to the expressions I used. I will not retract any of those expressions in the smallest degree. My opinion is, that the idea expressed by the words of the noble Lord conveys senti- ments degrading to the people of this country, and will convey to the Emperor of Russia an idea that the military affairs of this country are in an exhausted condition. The noble Lord must know that, in using the expressions I did, I used them in their strict sense as a Member of Parliament, not stating that his idea is degrading to himself personally. The effect produced on the minds of every one is, that the idea is itself degrading—the people of England are reduced to the necessity of employing foreign legions to carry on a war which has been designated by the Ministers themselves as a war for freedom and for the protection of the free interests of the people of Europe.


I rise merely for the purpose of saying that, although the noble Earl has used expressions not usually used by one gentleman towards another, if I understand what he now says, I may be satisfied with his explanation. The noble Earl commenced by saying he would not retract the expressions, but he afterwards said he did not intend them to apply personally to me, but merely to an argument of the kind.


I shall make no use of any expressions of the kind. I am not called upon to make any apology to the noble Lord. The expressions I used were of that character and that open nature which I am entitled to use in Parliament as a Member of Parliament, not meaning them in any way or in any sense whatever but the sense in which a Member of Parliament is entitled to discuss a great question. The noble Lord has stated truly that the reason this country is reduced to this lamentable condition is because, during a long period of peace, so necessitous seemed to be the wants of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or so desirous were the people to cut down the expenditure for the national defences, that when suddenly, as he states, we are called upon to go to war, we have not the means of carrying it on. I should like to ask the noble Lord opposite, which party in this House has been most accustomed to call for great reductions of the national forces? I should like to know where the call for these great reductions spring from—if not from too great a concession to the feelings of the commercial interests, backed up by those hon. and noble Gentlemen who now carry on the Government? It cannot be fixed on any on this side of the House; the charge, if it be a charge at all, falls with greater force on noble Lords opposite than on us. I conceive it to be one nf most important features in war that the taxes raised for carrying it on, taken out of the pockets of the rich, should be put into the pockets of our own poor; and if we are to raise taxes to pay troops, for God's sake pay troops of your own nation, and do not pay troops of foreigners; let the taxes be for the purpose of at least giving assistance and support to the families of your own soldiers. I can conceive nothing more thoroughly disagreeable to the feelings of this country, or more detrimental to its best interests, than the proposition now before us. I think the first effect of it will be to repress the national ardour, and the next effect to interfere with the recruiting of the militia. if it is believed that foreign troops are to be employed to carry on the war, there will be found a great disinclination on the part of the people to enlist, and those who have been anxiously and earnestly at work in raising English troops will not continue in the same disposition. I am confident there is no need for this mode of raising troops, and that this measure will be one of the greatest dampers on the hearts and minds of the people, who are now eager to enter the service of the Crown and meet the exigency of the time. I can understand how such a measure may be necessary at sonic future period. It might be found necessary to raise troops among what are called the "oppressed nationalities," to raise Poland and other nations connected with the Government of Russia against that Power; then I can perfectly well conceive the necessity for such a Bill as this; but at present trust neither the Government nor the people are ready to carry on war in this manner. The time may come when the necessities of the case may make it perfectly justifiable to raise the oppressed nations, and to call upon those people to join us in operations of a military character against the forces of Russia; but to make the proposition so early in the war is to me a subject of depressing character, and I could not have believed that any statesman would have called upon us to put our hands to such a work, at the present moment. I, for my part, repudiate the notion of enlisting those disaffected people against their own Sovereign, convinced as I am that the power of the country, the readiness of the people, and our great resources, if brought into play under good guidance, will be amply sufficient to meet the emergency, and that this mode—so depressing and so degrading in itself—is perfectly unnecessary.


said, he thought the noble Earl would feel that the line he had taken was not the most judicious or advisable, when discussing a cause in which all classes were united. He thought that it was no very great spectacle, either for our Allies or our enemies, to see in that House one noble Lord bandying unworthy epithets with respect to the argument of another, and that, when all classes were so singularly unanimous, it was a dangerous mode of conducting argument to make an uncalled-for attack on the commercial part of the community. Nor did he think the observation upon "peace establishments" fell with a good grace from the noble Earl, when the Government to which he belonged only added 5,000 men to the Army and 2,000 men to the Navy, and then declared that everything had been done which could possibly be expected. Sometimes, in cases such as these, it was worth while to look back to what had been done on former occasions, and this morning he looked over the debates of 1804, and he found, with one exception, exactly the same arguments used against the Bill of that year as were used now. It was said to be unconstitutional. That point had been much dwelt upon, and he must say, judging from the degree of danger to the constitution from the presence of 16,000 foreign troops during the period of the last war, we need not very much fear their presence here now. He believed it was mere talk to apprehend any such danger, and that they might have double the number of foreigners in this country without risk of any harm to the constitution. The noble Earl seemed to think there would be really more danger in having foreign troops in this country than if they were sent to our Mediterranean colonies. He thought there might be some danger in filling our Mediterranean colonies with foreign troops, but he was perfectly sure there would be no danger in organising them here. The intention of the Government was now made clear by the alteration of the words adopted from the two preceding Acts, and he was perfectly sure that the misrepresentations which had been attempted would fail in creating any alarm in the minds of the people of England. The other argument was, that foreign troops were not so efficient as English troops; but any one who had read the history of the Peninsular war would know that the Duke of Welling- ton entertained a very high opinion of the services of the Portuguese, and the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) had the other evening borne the strongest testimony to the extreme efficiency of the German troops during that war. The only difference in the arguments was this: the noble Earl said, "It may be quite right to have foreign troops, but not in the beginning of the war;" and the opponents of the previous Bills said, "You have already 100,000 Englishmen in arms, what is the use of adding some few thousands of foreigners to them?" The noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) made a very proper distinction when he said, he supported the war, but he did not support the Ministry. That was perfectly intelligible; but if he thought the Ministers were not the persons to carry on the war, that ought to be brought to an issue, and the question decided whether the present Government was to carry on the war or not. According to the description of the noble Earl, a War Ministry should have at its head one giant, and the more idiotical the rest of his companions the better. As he had just observed, if it were thought the Ministers were not fitted for war, let it be decided whether they should continue in office or not; but he entreated them not to come back, after making patriotic and conciliatory speeches at the beginning of the Session, and upon every measure introduced with the disinterested and single-minded purpose of carrying on the war with vigour, endeavour to create unfounded prejudice against those measures. If they took that course he had no hesitation in saying for himself, and he was sure he might say for his colleagues also, that it would be utterly impossible to carry on the war with any real vigour or efficiency.


did not see why we should rely upon foreign mercenaries when there was such a readiness on the part of the people of this country to come forward and enlist. His noble father commanded certain German troops, and he could, therefore, hear the best testimony to the gallantry of the Hanoverians, Brunswickers, and others who served with the British army during the late war. But circumstances now were widely different, because, during the late war, Germany and England were engaged together in a war upon a common enemy. All the Germans, except Saxony, were with us in that contest, and it was then well to enlist the Germans and Hanoverians under the rule of the So- vereigns of the respective countries. If Germany were now fighting with us against the common enemy, he should support, the present Bill, but, under existing circumstances, he considered it so dangerous and unnecessary that he should be compelled to record his vote against it.


said, that he felt obliged to vote in favour of the Bill, to which, however, he saw great objections. Two reasons would guide his vote. The Government came forward and told the House that they were in want of men, and that this measure would enable them to obtain them. He was not, in such a case, inclined to take upon himself the responsibility of opposing them. He believed that, in the present state of their forces, there was an immediate want of men ready trained for action, and Government had said that this measure would give them men who would be immediately serviceable, and he could not, consequently, incur the responsibility of refusing. He agreed with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) that they had had a very meagre explanation, and that they had no means of ascertaining what had been done in the way of enlistment in this country, and what was the number of recruits which had lately been obtained. Although the Army at the time of the former war was much greater than it was now, with an increased population, and although he believed that the recruiting for the regular army had not at any time been greater than it had been during the present year, and the military spirit of the country might have been appealed to with still greater effect, still, if Government said that they wanted men ready trained for war, and could obtain them thus, he was willing to take the measure on their responsibility, For, if Parliament were to refuse the first measure so proposed and so offered to them at the early part of the Session, it would have a dangerous effect upon the country, and abroad. However loud they might be in the denunciations of Russia, and however zealous in their professions for the glory and interest of their own country, if, when called on in such a manner by Government, they were to hesitate, even on what lie agreed were sound principles, he thought that such hesitation would be most mischievous. With regard to the measure he should hold himself perfectly blameless, for the responsibility must rest with the Government; but, looking to the pressure upon Government, and to the effect which an adverse vote that night would have upon foreign nations, he could not bring himself to vote for the rejection of the Bill. When, however, the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) expressed his surprise that it should be thought that it was part of his intention to employ these foreign troops at home, he fell into an error. One of his (the Marquess of Clanricarde's) earliest recollections was the remembrance of the German troops which were quartered in Ireland during the late war, and it was natural, when the precedent of those days was cited, and when it was proposed that foreign troops should again be introduced into this country, to suppose that they would be quartered in the country as formerly—it might be, for the purpose of again resisting foreign invasion or of quelling disturbances—but it was natural to suppose that they would be used in every case in which the native troops were used. On this ground he thought the Bill should not have been introduced without the most positive necessity. Whether such a necessity existed he did not know; but he took it on the authority of Government, who said that by this Bill they would get ready and serviceable troops which were urgently required at the moment, and he threw the responsibility on them.


My Lords, I Concur, almost from the beginning to the end, in what has fallen from my noble Friend who has just sat down, but I cannot concur in his conclusion, because it appears to me to be contrary to the whole tenor and argument of his speech. He admits the force of the objections that have been raised to this Bill on constitutional grounds, and the inconvenience and danger of adopting the course proposed by the Government. He admits that the Government have shown a very meagre case with regard to the plea of necessity that they have put forward; but he says, as long as the Government asks for troops to carry on the war, so long is the House bound to grant the troops that the Government ask. Now, my Lords, so long as the Government, acting in the discharge of their Government duties, and more especially so long as they are prosecuting a war of this consequence and magnitude, I hold that very great latitude should be given to them, and that they should be supported so far as support can possibly be given to them consistently with constitutional principle, even at some sacrifice of private feelings. But, in the discussion which has taken place to-night, the powerful speech of my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough), delivered with more than his usual eloquence, ability, and power, has completely disposed of every part of this question, and that speech has never been attempted to be grappled with by one Member of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for the Foreign Department (Lord Wodehouse) has taken exception to the terms in which my noble and gallant Friend (the Earl of Hardwicke) has characterised the arguments he used. But, without intending anything disrespectful to the noble Lord opposite, I entirely concur with my noble Friend in thinking that the arguments on which he rested his case—the plea of necessity that he put forward in such piteous tones to the House of Lords for the purpose of inducing them to adopt a measure bad and unconstitutional in itself—is one degrading to the Government to bring forward, and humiliating to the country to accept, That plea of necessity—of so-called, but not proved necessity—is the only reason that induces my noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde), contrary to his own judgment, to give to the Government the support of his vote, while to us (the Opposition) he gives the benefit and support of his speech. I hope, after what has passed this evening—after the alterations the Government have at once consented to introduce, the moment that feeling had been excited out of doors by this Bill—but alterations which they ought not to have been ready to make if they had really had in view those momentous considerations involved in the measure—a measure not even brought forward on the sole plea of necessity, as an objectionable, but as a last and unavoidable remedy—I say, my Lords, if the measure had been brought forward in that character and under such circumstances, the Government ought to have been prepared to adhere to and vindicate every syllable of it; but because it is not a well-considered Bill, and because they did not themselves care to say whether the number of hired foreign troops in this country was to be 10,000 or 15,000—seeing that they had not considered the objects and calculated the effects the Bill would produce—for these reasons, in the first moment of a cry out of doors, to alter, even to modify, and, I admit, to improve the measure—I hope that these alterations, so made under the circumstances, and that submission to opinion out of doors, will speak for themselves, and that they will furnish a complete answer to any charge made against noble Lords on this side of the House of unfairly harassing the Government. My Lords, so far as the great question is concerned, we have carried forbearance to the utmost. [The Duke of ARGYLL: Hear, hear.] The noble Duke cheers in a very ironical manner; but I ask him whether he does not consider it to be a matter of forbearance when, upon a question involving the deepest interests of the country and great constitutional principles, we are satisfied that Government should call Parliament together to discuss such a measure not ten days before the necessary breaking up of Parliament; and when, in consequence of the short space of time which we have left us for the discussion of the public business of the country, we not only permit them to introduce that measure and read it a second time without opposition and without discussion, without even having it printed on the morning on which the discussion should have taken place, but allow them to proceed to the next stage on the very following day? When was a Bill of so much consequence, on which there was a material difference of opinion in the House, and a difference of opinion (which the Government have been obliged to admit) out of doors—when was a Bill of that kind permitted to pass with so much haste and so little consideration? Now I hope I have sufficiently answered the taunting cheer on the part of the noble Duke opposite with reference to the forbearance manifested by this side of the House. My Lords, I say, if this Bill be justified on the plea of necessity, that is a necessity for which Her Majesty's Government ought to be responsible. The noble Earl the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Earl Granville), in reply to some observations which had fallen from my noble and gallant Friend behind me (the Earl of Hardwicke) on the reduction of the military establishments in time of peace, thought it necessary to advert to the little progress which was made during the short time my noble Friend and myself held office, in raising those military establishments. During the ten months for which we held office, I will venture to say that, although we were by no means satisfied we had done everything which might have been required towards the in- crease of the naval and military establishments, yet that a greater increase was made in the number, amount, and efficiency, both of the naval and military departments than had been made for the space of ten or twelve years previously. It was not only that we added 5,000 men to the army and 2,000 to the navy; I should like to know what Her Majesty's Government would have done at the present moment if, in 1852, we had not raised and organised, in spite of much opposition, the militia of the kingdom? it is very convenient for noble Lords now to laud the militia as an invaluable corps and a supplementary army; but did we not meet with opposition in attempting to institute that corps?—what predictions of failure and of inability to carry out our plans—what predictions of a want of public spirit in the nation, of the necessity of having recourse to the ballot, and of all the other elements that could tend to defeat our object? Yet we triumphed over all that opposition in the House; we found no opposition out of the House. At the end of that time, when we had raised the militia to an amount beyond which you have not attempted to carry it since, we are told now, forsooth, that we did nothing in 1852 towards remedying the deficiency of a peace establishment! Is that all? I ask the noble Earl opposite to consult the noble Lord the Commander in Chief of the Forces if he is of that opinion. I ask the noble Earl to inquire of him what was the state of the artillery, of the guns and gun carriages, and what were the means of carrying on a war, if it had come upon us within a twelvemonth of 1852. I ask the noble Earl to inquire of the noble Commander in Chief where Her Majesty's Government would have been at this moment but for the provision of guns and carriages made in 1852. I might go further. I will ask the noble Earl to go to the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, and to inquire of him what he thinks of the introduction, in the course of these ten months, of no less than nine screw line-of-battle ships, which never would have been afloat at this moment but for the exertions—to which justice has never been done—of my noble Friend (the Puke of Northumberland). From no feeling of pride on my own part, but from a feeling of the justice that is due to my colleagues in that Administration, I will say that in those ten months more was done for strengthening the army and navy in time of peace and secur- ing efficiency in case of war, for the administration of the military and naval services and the increase of our naval force, than had been done in many years previous, or than, I believe, has been done since, until the immediate pressure of the moment began to be felt. But now we are told that this is a case of necessity, and that the war has come upon us all of a sudden. But the war has not come all of a sudden upon any single person, except upon Her Majesty's Ministers. The whole of the rest of the world anticipated the war for the last two years—or for the last eighteen months at all events. And for the last eighteen months you ought to have been levying forces and increasing by every means both the regular army and the militia, so as to relieve you from this degrading necessity, as I will continue to call it, to come to Parliament before the first year of the war is well over, and to say that you have not the means of carrying it on without the aid of foreign troops. I will not go through all the arguments that have been used with regard to the means you have of raising these German troops; from what quarters you are likely to derive them, and whether with or against the consent, or with the contrivance, of their respective. Sovereigns—I will not ask whether, under those circumstances, you are likely to obtain the best and most valuable troops; but this I will say, that the preamble of the Bill of 1804, to which the noble Duke has made reference—the preamble of that Bill thought it necessary to recite that, "whereas there was a large number of foreigners ready and anxious to take arms in our cause, and to join with us in combating the common enemy, but cannot be admitted into the Royal service without the consent of Parliament," therefore it had been thought fit to make an application to Parliament for leave to take them into our pay.


The recital is the same as ours.


Have you recited that there are a large number or foreigners partaking of your sentiments, involved in the same interests, having the same objects in view with yourselves? Can you recite that?


No; but the other recites what we do.


if the other recites only what Her Majesty's Government do, it recites very little indeed. The other recited that there was a very large body of men anxious and willing to enter our service. The Government knew from whence they were to come, on what kinds of service they could be employed, and for what reasons and to what extent they could be relied upon; for those reasons the Government demanded the permission of Parliament to incorporate them in our army. But you, where are you going to get your large body of men? You will not say. I do not believe you know. I think it is extremely doubtful whether you are likely to get them at all, either with or without the consent of the petty Sovereigns of Europe whose subjects they would most likely be. But you say you must have them. How many do you require? What is the amount of your necessities? What number will you seek of those indispensable German troops without whom you cannot carry on the war.


the Emperor of Russia would be extremely obliged to me if I would tell him.


You have already told the Emperor of Russia that without German troops you are unable to maintain the honour of your country. The noble Duke thinks he has said something exceedingly smart; but when he comes to ask the House of Commons for leave to incorporate them, and for a sum of money to pay them, he will be obliged to state the real number, whether five or fifty thousand, for whom he makes the demand. Therefore, really, do not tell me that the amount of your requisition upon Germany is kept a secret from the Emperor of Russia. But I think it is as great a secret to Her Majesty's Government, both the number wanted and the number you are likely to obtain. But let the amount be what it may, you have declared it a matter of paramount and overwhelming necessity that you should have those German troops. I think it was stated on the other side of the House that, so far as Parliament is concerned, the Government might engage those troops on their own authority, but that they could not introduce them into the country. I cannot subscribe to any such proposition. My noble Friend has shown quite conclusively what would be the shortest way to pass these troops into the Crimea. You yourselves say you do not want to keep them in this country, and in that you only speak the opinion of the country, who do not want ever to see them, or have anything to do with them at all. But if it is absolutely necessary that you should have those troops, and if you have the power of employing them without the sanction of Parliament, you have not the power of bringing them into England. Yet if you choose to take upon yourselves the responsibility of intrusting to such hands the honour and the safety of the country—for nothing short of a question of the safety of the country can justify your course—then I say, take that responsibility upon yourselves alone, ask the House of Commons, if you will, to pay them, but do not ask Parliament to sanction that course, nor to put their fiat, which I am sure I for one never can do, to the assertion that the necessities and the honour of the country demand the employment of a mercenary band. It has been from the earliest times—from the period of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire down to the period at which Alfieri penned those memorable words, Del non suo ferro cinta, Pugnar con braccia di streniere genti"— from all times, and in all countries, the hiring of mercenaries has been the surest mark of the weakness of a nation, and the certain sign of approaching decay. I do not believe that England is in that state. I do not believe that, if proper measures were taken to raise a proper amount of troops, you would have any difficulty in finding as many soldiers as you desired. I am told that at the present moment, although you have somewhat lowered the standard, yet you might with safety lower it considerably further. I believe that lowering the standard, and increasing the bounty, would soon bring a considerable addition of men to your ranks. But I am also told that even at present you refuse a man who has reached the age of thirty years. Now, you want this particular increase at this particular moment. You want it for an immediate occasion, and for a period of some three or four years. Now, I want the Government to tell me, upon that question, whether the men of thirty years of age, in the full power of manhood, and in the greatest activity both of body and mind, are not for four or five years' service infinitely preferable to the lads of seventeen or eighteen whom you are sending out to the Crimea, to a pestilential climate, and to all the toils, hardships, and difficulties in which our troops are now engaged? Lower your standard, increase, if need be, the bounty, increase the age at which you will admit soldiers into the army, and depend upon it you will have no difficulty. If you will tell the country what number you want, a sufficient number will be found to maintain the honour of the country; but I tell you this—if you tell the country that her means are exhausted, and that we must have recourse to foreign troops, because British troops cannot be found or will not come forward, or are too raw and undisciplined to be trusted, then you extinguish the feeling of the country and damp the whole national spirit, which is now entirely and altogether with you. Encourage that spirit, for God's sake, for it is the safeguard of the country; it is the bulwark to which you have to trust; it is, under Providence, your main prospect of carrying this war to a successful and honourable issue. But if you wish to damp that spirit and run counter to the feelings—perhaps I might call them the prejudices—of the country, you check that national ardour which is at this moment of critical importance to the nation's fate—if you intend that to be the result of your legislation, then and not unless, you will press this Bill.


The noble Earl who had just sat down referred, in a tone of considerable harshness, to a word—which escaped from me in comment upon one of his observations. I do not wish for a single moment to continue any tone of asperity in this debate. I will tell the noble Earl opposite exactly what I meant. I cannot doubt for a single moment that the noble Earl and his Friends are anxious to support any measure which they believe to be absolutely essential for the interests of this country; but I do protest against the noble Earl assuming to himself the merit of extraordinary magnanimity. I do not believe that the noble Earl would oppose the Government in any measure he thought absolutely essential for the safety of the country, but the noble Earl takes every opportunity, whether a real or supposed one, of detracting from the merits of the Government, and importing party spirit into the debate. But what I most complain of in the noble Earl is, that, after the only valid objection which could possibly be alleged to this Bill, founded on ambiguous wording, has been removed, he has continued to speak of this Bill as an unconstitutional measure. I freely admit it would be an unconstitutional measure, if the Government had ever dreamed of bringing in foreign troops to supply the place of the militia of this country, and to use them for the purposes of internal regulation. No such intention ever existed for a single moment in the mind of the Government. They followed the words of the Act of 1804; but as soon as it was pointed out by the noble Earl, in this discussion, that it was capable of bearing such an interpretation, my noble Friend the Minister of War came forward voluntarily, and said that, if the words could possibly bear such a meaning, he was willing other words should be used expressly to exclude such signification. There is another point on which I complain, not of intentional, but of unintentional unfairness on the part of the noble Earl opposite. He goes on to talk—and all the arguments of the noble Earl, which almost pass the fair limits of debate, are founded on this—he goes on to talk of the damping character of this measure, as a confession of weakness—a declaration that we are reduced to it as a last necessity. He asks us, what is the "absolute necessity" of the Bill. Really, my Lords, there are degrees of necessity and of expediency. We do not say Britain will absolutely sink if we do not get foreign soldiers. All we say is, that going into this war, after many years of peace, after a peaceful policy tending much to reduce the standing army of this country, we now find ourselves engaged in a great operation, for which we require an immediate addition to our forces, and that, although we have perfect and absolute reliance fully as great as that which noble Lords can place on the spirit and energies of this country—although my noble Friend behind me has himself told me that the volunteering for the militia and the recruiting for the line are going on at an increasing ratio (God grant they may long continue to do so!)—nevertheless, upon an immediate emergency, we thought it our duty to be prepared for all possible contingencies; and, although we do not say that it is an absolute and indispensable necessity, such as the noble Earl describes it to be, we do say that it may probably be most important to have the aid of some foreign troops. I say we do not come to Parliament in a cringing spirit. We do not represent before the Emperor of Russia this country as having exhausted its resources. We say we are but beginning to draw upon our resources—we are confident they will be sufficient; but we say we are engaged in a great and important operation; and I will ask the noble Lords how they will reconcile with their consciences all their appeals to passion—which I will say partake more of the character of claptrap than anything I have ever heard in this House. Talk about the hire of mercenaries, when the noble Earl knows himself that the noblest victories won under the Duke of Wellington were won partly by the assistance of those whom the noble Earl degrades as hirelings! Ay, and the noble Duke, a colleague of the noble Earl, who is intentionally absent on this occasion because he cannot agree in the noble Earl's objections to the Bill—that noble Duke came forward the other night and told you that a nobler part was never played than that of those whom you are now stigmatising as mercenaries. But it is pretended that there are distinctions between the cases. Not only was there no distinction in respect to their being mercenaries; they were many of them not subjects of the same Sovereign. But the noble Earl goes on and points out another distinction. He argues as if there were no common interest. We believe that there are bodies of men who will be willing to assist the troops of England in this war, because it is a European war. We believe the analogy is precise. We believe the German Legion took part in the victories of Wellington, because they believed that there was being fought on the plains of Spain a contest not national, but European, and that every fortress taken and every victory gained was a fortress surrendered by tyranny, and a battle won in the cause of freedom. We believe this legion will go with precisely the same feeling. Do not misrepresent our language; do not tell us we say that the resources of England are exhausted. We deny it—we say they are not only not exhausted, but that we are only beginning to draw upon them; but we say that Lord Raglan and his gallant army are engaged in a great and possibly a perilous undertaking. How will you reconcile it with your consciences if by your rejection of this measure you prevent the Government placing at Lord Raglan's disposal, for immediate operations, seine 10,000 or 15,000 gallant, possibly German troops, interested as you are in repulsing the power of Russia, and in reducing his great stronghold in the Euxine? Although I do not believe that noble Lords opposite are guided by unpatriotic motives, I believe they have allowed themselves to be led away by the claptrap language I have just spoken of, which ought to have no weight at all in deciding your Lordships' opinions.


hoped, although the noble Duke had unfortunately revealed the secret whence these troops were to be raised, that the Emperor of Russia would not bear of it. But the noble Duke had fallen into a mistake with regard to his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond), who, in making a few observations upon presenting a petition yesterday, stated that he made them then because he should he unable to be present at this debate, as he was going down to-day to take the command of his regiment.

On Question that "now" stand part of the Motion, their Lordships divided:—Content 55; Not Content 43: Majority 12.

Resolved in the Affirmative. House in Committee accordingly.

Amendments made: the Report thereof to be received To-morrow.

House adjourned till To-morrow.