Mr. Secretary Yorke
moved the order of the day for going into a Committee on the Volunteer Consolidation Bill. The House having resolved itself into a committee, the rt. hon. Secretary proceeded to propose some new clauses. The first was, to invalidate any agreements that might have been entered into between masters and servants, by which the latter were prevented from entering into volunteer corps. The next was a clause to repeal a clause in a former bill, compelling the parish to pay the drill Serjeants; they are in future to be paid out of the public purse. These clauses were agreed to.—The next was a clause authorising the commander of a corps, in case of any member misbehaving himself, to deprive him of that day's pay, or else to disallow that day as one of his day's of exercise.
said, the clause now proposed would have some effect, but still he did not think it would be sufficient. He had prepared some clauses upon this subject, which would go a little farther. One of them was to give the commander of a corps a power to order any member misbehaving himself while under arms, into custody during the time the corps remained under arms; to inflict fines as high as 5s.in cases of non-attendance, not taking care of their arms, &c. He did not think that this would give any offence to the volunteer corps, because it certainly was not an unnecessary severity. He meant this to be a general clause applicable to all corps. If a person should feel himself dissatisfied with these regulations, which he did not think probable, still they had the power to resign. But he entertained no apprehensions upon the subject, and he should certainly take an opportunity of proposing them in some stage of the bill.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, he very much approved 832 of the regulations suggested by the right hon. gent, but he was apprehensive that some corps in town would feel a degree of jealousy upon the subject. They were in many respects different from most of the corps in the country; they received no pay, and many of the members who kept shops, who perhaps had only one apprentice, or perhaps none, would feel themselves much hurt at being fined so heavily, when they really could not leave their business without the greatest inconvenience. But as to the power of ordering a member under an arrest for misconduct while under arms, he thought there could be no objection to it.
§ Colonel Eyre
thought there was no occasion for further regulations, and therefore should object to these clauses.
The Marquis of Titchfield
approved entirely of the ideas of Mr. Pitt upon this subject, and thought they were highly advantageous to the volunteer system. If he might presume to offer any thing in addition to that which came from so high an authority, it would be, that the point of discipline to which the clause referred, should be judged of by a military council in the way of a court martial, subject to the approbation of the commander of each corps.
Mr. Secretary Yorke
thought both the clauses which he had proposed, and those proposed by the rt. Hon. gent., might be adopted, for they were not in the least inconsistent with each other. He approved of this system of imprisoning volunteers among themselves for the day, when they were under arms, if they had misconducted themselves in the ranks; and he thought the ideas submitted to the committee by that rt. hon. gent, very good. He dissented from the mode in which Mr. Pitt's clause proposed to levy the fines, but thought they should be submitted to a court martial, as had been hinted by a noble marquis: he thought also, that all these proceedings for fines and penalties should be subject to the approbation of the commander of each corps, &c.
thought, that, generally speaking, it was impolitic to impose on volunteer corps any other fines than those which originated with themselves.
said, that he had not so distinctly, perhaps as he might have, stated what he meant by misconduct of a volunteer under arms; he did not mean general misconduct, for which the commander had power already to punish him, in some degree, by expressing displeasure, ? he did not mean to 833 give a general latitude to the commander to punish in the specific manner he proposed for general misconduct, but he meant to apply the punishment he proposed, if any volunteer underarms, should particularly misbehave, should neglect his arms and accoutrements, or cloathing, in any remarkable manner, or should behave himself indecently, or act contrary to most of the rules and regulations of the corps, then some punishment might follow, and that the punishment should be specific in order that there should be no doubt what the result must be of such misconduct. Perhaps the better way would be to take the clause of the rt. hon. gent, first, and then that his (Mr. Pitt's) clauses might be brought up and read, so that the committee might the better understand the meaning of them; which course was adopted. He proposed that persons misbehaving in the way he stated, should be imprisoned in their own corps for the day they were out, &c. That in some instances the fine should be as high as 5s.; in others, no higher than Is. to be regulated by the fact, whether the party incurring the forfeit contributed to the poor's rate or not, Mr. Pitt professed himself very happy to hear the sentiments of the noble marquis on all occasions, and particularly on the present. He did not entertain any doubt of the propriety of the court martial suggested by that noble lord, provided the sentence of the court martial was made subject to the approbation of the commander, but he owned he thought the summary power of other punishment might be more effectual than the fines themselves.—After some further conversation, the clause of the Secretary of State was received and agreed to, as were all his other clauses. After which Mr. Pitt proposed his clauses, which, he said, he submitted to the committee without saving any thing in their behalf at present. The first clause for providing for the fines being read,
The Attorney General
thought, as a permanent system, the clause a very wise one, but doubted whether it was advisable to adopt it at the present moment under all circumstance, He was afraid it might be, under all the circumstances, endeavouring to do too much; it was better, perhaps, to do a little less, although the system was defective, than by endeavouring to make it perfect, possibly in some measure to overturn it. He was afraid of proceeding too far upon the compulsory system with volunteers; that might be reserved in case his Majesty should call forth his subjects under the compulsory enrolment.
suggested, that much of the, objections which seemed to be misnamed 834 against too much of the compulsory system being applied to volunteers might be done away, by making a distinction between those receiving pay, and those who did not. He thought, upon a moderate computation, the system he proposed would improve the military discipline of 150,000 men in a very short time; an object well worth attending to at this important crisis: and this he meant as applicable to those who might not come forward, under an invitation, to put themselves on permanent duly, which, after all was the very best way to make them good soldier. This was a matter not to be neglected, for we might look for the event in which we should have to resist the enemy, in the course of a few weeks at farthest; now he could have no hesitation in saying that might be done effectually by the volunteers, discreetly mixt with the forces of the line; and to do so effectually, care should be taken of the improvement of the volunteers in their discipline. Pie felt this so forcibly, that he must press it upon the House.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
agreed with the Attorney General upon this subject, that it was dangerous to try to accomplish too much in the system of military exercise of the volunteers; but he thought the volunteers had already made great progress in that matter. It was supposed that 25 days would be sufficient to instruct them tolerably: now, there were hardly any of them who had not been instructed for 40, and some of them for more than 60 days He was persuaded that Parliament had acted wisely in giving the volunteers an opportunity of acting as they have, and be could not help thinking that the degree of discipline they had acquired already, would afford us all a degree of confidence, not only in their further improvement, but also warrant our reliance on their sufficiency to meet any veterans of the enemy. He conceived, that at this moment, the volunteers had attained such a degree of discipline as no one at the time of their first establishment had any idea of, nor even at the time when the first volunteer bill was introduced; and he owned that he contemplated with astonishment, as well as satisfaction, the degree of perfection at which the volunteer system was now arrived, and this justified the hope that a very large portion of the volunteers of England, mixed with the regular troops, were fit to meet the veteran troops of France, and that our meeting of them so would give us nothing short of hope and full confidence of immediate success. But he did entertain strong doubts of the propriety of this clause, on the ground which had been stated by his 835 learned friend, the Attorney General. He observed, that in the last war, the volunteers were only 150,000, and yet they answered the purpose for which they were intended; no one complained of their inefficiency in the course of the last war; they achieved a great object in the course of their services in Ireland, although they were neither half so numerous, or under any such regulations as they are at present. His main object was, that regulations of the volunteers should be Lift as much as possible to the volunteers themselves; that Parliament should interfere as little as possible with the internal regulations and management of volunteer corps, and particularly in the system of inflicting penalties, He had no doubt of the efficacy of the system recommended by the right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) as a permanent system; but the doubt was, whether there was not some risk in adopting it at the present moment.
said, he certainly was willing to hope with the right hon. gent, and to believe, and even to be confident, that there was indeed a very considerable portion of the volunteers of Great Britain, who, in concert with the regular force, would be of great Utility in the contest which we are now to expect; but he could not disguise from the House, because he could not disguise from himself, that very many of the volunteers were in no degree advanced to that state of discipline in which we could wish to see them, and in which it was indispensably necessary they should he in, before, they could be essentially serviceable to their country, when called out for its defence, and in support its existence. There was an error in the judgement of many gentlemen who had spoken upon the subject of the military discipline of the volunteers of England from the brilliant corps or the metropolis, whereas it was notorious that many corps in the country were it; nothing like the same state; many of them had but just received their arms, which under the many difficulties with which we had encounter, was not to be wondered at But from what he himself knew and from the credible information he received from others, from the various fluctuations and uncertainty that were incident to this system there were many of think in a state in which it was impossible to say they were any thing approaching that situation described by the right hon. gent. He did not say that many of the volunteers, who may in the course perhaps of three weeks be put to the proof, and may have to meet wish the veteran troops of France, that they would not acquit themselves with honour in union with 836 troops of the lire, nor that ultimately they would not be successful in the contest for the defence of the country; that was not the question to be now discussed; the question now was this: What was the most speedy mode of making the volunteers efficient for the purposes of action, with as little ices of blood as possible? For that was to us the most interesting part of the subject, and with the care of which that House was entrusted.—As to what has been said of the volunteers of Ireland in the last war, it did not apply to the present case. They had lone; been called out, and had been on permanent duty for months, and some of them for years, and acquired the qualities of veteran troops, which was not hitherto the case with the present volunteers. He did not say there was any doubt that our volunteers would meet and defeat the veteran troops of France, but the question was, what was the best mode to make them meet the enemy with the best chance of saving the effusion of British blood? He was not to be told what the volunteers were the last war; for no man would say, however serious the apprehensions of invasion was during the last war, that the danger was then any thing like the danger with which we were threatened now. There never was a period in which the preparations for invading this country, were upon any tiling like the scale of the present preparations; so much so, that Parliament had already expressed its sense to that effect by the measures it had brought forward. It had, indeed, once thought of making many regulations upon the discipline of the volunteers; but had afterwards confided that subject to the discretion of ministers, in the hope that much would have been done, but ministers disappointed that hope, and therefore Parliament ought now to act for itself.—As to the idea of not attempting to do too much, it was observable that, if these regulations were likely to have a bad effect on the volunteer system, the hopes which he entertained that many of them would consent to be put upon permanent duty, by which they would certainly be subject to much more rigour, were very ill founded; he did, however, entertain sanguine hopes they would, in great numbers, accept of the invitation to be put on permanent duty, as the very best means to make them a good military force, and to exercise ourselves before the French come was the best mode of enabling us to meet them when they do, not only with a certainty of triumph, but also with a reasonable expectation of conducting the contest with as little effusion as 837 possible of British blood. He should be glad if every volunteer in England could put himself for awhile on permanent military duty: but that in the nature of things, was impossible; there were many who could not possibly so engage. He admitted that much had been done already, but that was no reason why we should not do as much more as possible. This was a matter to be considered most seriously. Comparisons between this and the last war were absolutely idle. The whole of the preparations of France for invasion last war were hardly equal to an advanced guard of one of its numerous posts at present. He did not disparage the merit of the volunteers, nor was he insensible of what they had already done; he only enforced the necessity of doing every thing that was in Our power to meet, upon the best 'possible advantage, the enemy, and that in a few weeks to decide a contest, on which not the interest or welfare, but the existence of this country, was at stake. Neither did he wish to disparage the valour of his countrymen. He knew what men contending for their freedom and existence, unarmed and undisciplined, could do; nor had lie any idea that the efforts of a whole people, such as Briton, would not be ultimately successful although they might be undisciplined, If knew that every freeman ought to be a hero in such a contest, and he was confident that few, indeed, a mong us, would disappoint the expectations of their country in that extremity, should we come to But that was not question. The matter for the consideration of the House, was, what was the best mode for meeting the tremendous and awful, contest, which must he expected in a few weeks, upon a rational expectation of spilling as little British blood as such a contest Can possibly admit The crisis was at a certainly approaching, it would be our own fault we were not prepared for it. It would be the fault of that House if it should not do every thing in its power to prepare for it. No man in the kingdom ought to have any reason hereafter to reproach himself with negligence upon such a subject.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
desired to make one or two observations which he had omitted to state when discussing She proposition of the right hon. gent. He must deny that experience shewed the necessity of the measure recommended. He had heard of no complaints made by any corps, as to an insufficiency of internal discipline. He adverted to the provision for with-holding a certain part of the pay 838 of the volunteers while upon military duty, which he considered as likely to tend, in a considerable degree, to the maintenance of good order and discipline. This, in effect, went to subject the volunteer to a mulct who should misconduct himself while under arms.—The question being loudly called for, a division took place, when there appeared
|Majority against the clause||1|
§ The remaining clauses and schedules, &c. of the bill were then gone through by the Committee; the report was received by the House pro forma,and the bill ordered to be again recommitted for Monday.