HL Deb 18 December 1854 vol 136 cc426-9

wished to ask the noble Duke the Secretary of War a question with regard to the embodiment of the Irish and Scotch militia. By the powers which the Government now possessed, they could enrol and embody no less than 40,000 of those Scotch and Irish troops; he very much regretted that they had not thought it right to do so in March or April last, for, if they had, in all probability they would now have got 30,000 out of these 40,000 men together, and he did not think it was too much to suppose that, had they been embodied at that early period, one-half at least would have volunteered into the line, and thus they would have been able to add 15,000 trained men to our army in the Crimea.. However, that was not done; and now, at the eleventh hour, when they had received news of the losses sustained by our army both by pestilence and in action, it was found necessary to send to Scotland and Ireland to raise soldiers to fight for their country. He did not think it was too late to embody those men at present, so as to form a strong reserve, ready in a short time for active service. They knew how rapidly the English militia had been embodied and disciplined, and what a fine soldier like appearance they presented; and he was convinced, that if the whole of the Irish and Scotch militia was embodied, we should in three months have a large body of men trained, and prepared, and ready to volunteer into the line. In 1814, when we were at war with France, the battalions were constantly recruited by fresh militiamen; and, at Waterloo, a great part of the veteran troops known as Wellingtonians were in America and other parts of the world, and the English army, recruited by militiamen, was considered only an indifferent army; but those militiamen behaved with a courage and daring which were worthy of their more expe- rienced brethren. He, therefore, hoped to see that, instead of the Government looking to foreign countries for soldiers, the Irish and Scotch militia would be called out and trained at once, so that, on the resumption of hostilities, such as volunteered might be ready to go out. He was of opinion that our soldiers already in the Crimea would a great deal rather have these sturdy young militiamen drafted into their battalions than trust to the aid of foreign troops enlisted in a mercenary spirit. The militia had always stood their ground when they had been engaged, but it was not certain whether foreign mercenaries would exhibit the same firmness. The sturdy militiamen would be good hands at the sort of work which our troops had to perform in the Crimea; but nearly all our soldiers knew from a work which, he hoped, was a school-book in the regimental schools—the Rev. Mr. Gleig's Battle of Waterloo—that, although 13,000 Hanoverians behaved as nobly as our own men, the Belgian cavalry could not be induced to stand for any time under fire. The Government made a great secret of whence it expected to get those foreigners, lest the Emperor of Russia should interfere to prevent our getting them. He did not think the Emperor of Russia cared one pin where we got them from, and that, as a man of good sense, he would prefer meeting foreign mercenaries rather than our own sturdy militiamen. He therefore wished to know how many of the Irish and Scotch militia regiments had been ordered to be embodied, and how many more were afterwards to be embodied?


said, he did not think it right or necessary to enter now into a discussion with the noble Earl upon the subject of a Bill which stood for a third reading that night, or whether it was necessary, in addition to the militia, to have the aid of foreign troops. As to the noble Earl's question, he begged to remind him that when he said the Government ought to have embodied the Irish militia in March or April, he seemed to forget that there was then no Act of Parliament constituting the Irish militia, either for enrolment or embodiment. The difficulty was, that the Government had not done what it had not the power to do. The Bill was afterwards passed on the proposition of the Government for the enrolment of the militia in Ireland and Scotland; and so far the Government deserved the credit for their prescience of the necessity rather than blame for not having done in the spring that which Parliament only enabled it to do in the summer. The noble Earl, however, had extended his complaint against the Government. On a former evening he only said that the Government should have enrolled and embodied the militia sooner. The noble Earl informed the House the other night that no one knew as much of the Irish militia as he did; and, if that were so, he must be aware that there were reasons connected with the measure which had prevented the Government from enrolling the militia in Ireland and Scotland until five or six weeks ago. Preparations absolutely necessary as to the officers and other preliminaries rendered it impossible for the enrolment of the Irish militia to take place at an earlier period. In answer to the question of the noble Earl, he (the Duke of Newcastle) had informed him the other night that nine regiments of militia had been ordered to be embodied, for it had been found in Ireland that regiments were enrolled with greater facility when they were to be embodied immediately than when embodiment was to take place at a more distant period. Thus nine regiments, numbering about 6,000 or 7,000 men, had been embodied. The whole Irish militia to be enrolled amounted to about 27,000 men, and other nine regiments would be embodied almost immediately; but he was not prepared to assure the noble Earl that the whole militia would be embodied. It was desirable to embody those regiments first which were in the most forward condition as regarded officers and the readiness of obtaining men, but he had reason to hope that ere long all the Irish regiments would be embodied. He might make the same remarks with respect to Scotland; and, as to England, he stated the other evening that it was intended to embody a very large proportion, if not the whole, of the militia; but there were considerable difficulties in the way arising from the want of sufficient barrack accommodation.


rejoiced to hear that it was intended to embody the constitutional force of the country, and felt certain that the appeal to the Irish people would be responded to by every class. Never was the service more popular, whether in the ranks of the Army or in the best school for reinforcing the regular forces—the militia. The measure to which the House gave its assent last Friday (the Enlistment of Foreigners Bill) was most discreditable to its propounders, and most disparaging both of the resources of the country and the spirit of the people. What would the Emperor of Russia think when he found that he had only to redouble his efforts to drive into the sea the heroes of Inkerman, and that henceforth we could offer no resistance to his ambitious designs, save through a body of paid foreigners? He very much feared that our gallant force would gain less by the assistance of these foreign troops than they would lose by the conviction which would be forced upon the Emperor of Russia's mind that it only needed one blow to destroy all the resources of England. He warned the Government that, if the measure was passed, it would be universally disliked by the people, who considered that Englishmen were able to fight their own battles, and to guard the honour of their country without the aid of foreigners, and he would remind the Government that, whatever might have been the conduct of the German troops in the 18th century, yet now there were some German Governments which did not stand very high in the estimation of this country.