§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, that, although he did not intend to propose any amendment with a view to the rejection of the Bill, he still adhered to the opinion which on more than one occasion he had expressed in their Lordships' House and elsewhere, that instead of bringing forward Session after Session these temporary measures for the suspension of the militia ballots, it would be very much better to repeal the original Act altogether, and entirely to abrogate the militia system. This was now the twentieth or twenty-first time their Lordships had been called on to support Bills similar to the present. Owing to the changed state of society, and to the great alterations which had been introduced of late years into the mode of warfare, the militia was no longer a force to which it would be safe, or indeed at all practicable, for them to look for defence in case of this country being attacked by some other Power. At any period, and under any circumstances, it would be at best but a questionable protection to the country, for it was a force which could not be brought into active service until twelve months after the period when war had broken out. The principles of foreign policy which had been adopted by England of late years rendered it now more than ever imperative that the country, instead of looking for protection in the hour of need to such a shadow of an army as the militia, should have at its command a military force of enormous numerical power and in the highest state of discipline. If they were to continue to pursue an oppressive policy towards other countries, and if they were to go on alienating from themselves the good wishes and kind offices of the great armed Powers of Europe, they ought to be prepared for that war which the hostilities they were provoking might at any moment bring upon them. Some principles of foreign policy which had been lately announced as if they were novel, 140 were, in fact, trite and commonplace. It was said, an Englishman was entitled to protection wherever he might go. No doubt, British subjects residing in foreign lands had a right to expect that they should be protected from injury and indignity so long as they conducted themselves with propriety, and submitted to the laws and customs of the country in which they were sojourning. That was a doctrine which had not the merit of novelty, for it had been propounded a thousand times, and every one was familiar with it. The enthusiastic cheers, however, with which the enunciation of this trite principle in another place had been received on a recent occasion, and the classical allusion to the resemblance which ought to exist between the character of a British subject and that of a Roman citizen, would seem to give the colour of truth to the conjecture that much more than met the ear was intended in the use of these plain and commonplace words. Doubtless it would be a very grand and enviable prerogative for an Englishman to enjoy—that of being permitted to stalk over the Continent with an air of insolent assumption, as though he belonged to a class of beings superior to those with whom he was mingling, and had a right to be released from the tedious obligation of paying deference to the laws, habits, and customs of the country in which he was sojourning. No doubt it would be a very fine thing for an Englishman to expect that, wander wherever he might, he was to be at liberty to do whatever he pleased, and that in all his transactions he was to be protected by the strong arm of his native country. But there was another aspect in which the question was to be viewed. It should not be forgotten that, if the British citizen was to have the immunities of the Roman citizen, he would have to submit to the conditions on which alone the latter was permitted to enjoy those immunities. There must be always at home an army ready and able to protect our citizens in the enforcement of the rights to which they might think fit to lay claim abroad. But it was absurd to think of comparing the Government of Rome with that of England. Ancient Rome was essentially a military Power—arms were its chief study—war was its chief object—conquest was its desire, and war was to be the means by which conquest was to be continually achieved. There was nothing for which the Government of Rome more anxious- 141 ly longed than occasions of war, for the ambition of the people was military, and the population were soldiery in habits and sympathies. But our position was quite different. Our system was adapted to peaceful, not warlike practices. Our desire was not to make war, but to make money. All the professions, and, indeed, all the provisions of our Government had a tendency to that grand object. It was foreign to the wishes and to the tastes of Englishmen that England should constitute herself the general enemy of mankind, and that, having intruded her subjects into foreign countries, she should enforce any unreasonable demands they might choose to make on those countries, and protect them at the sword's point in the pursuit of any fantastic and irrational courses which it might suit their caprice to adopt. At all events, if British subjects were to do such things abroad, and if the national character of England was to be identified with these outrageous proceedings, it was a sheer delusion to suppose that they would be respected as the Roman citizen would have been respected, who acted in a similar spirit, unless indeed there was a military force at home ready and competent to afford to the British citizen the same protection, and to insure him the same immunity that the Roman citizen had at all times at his command. Such practices as had been sanctioned by our foreign policy of late years, might be attempted with some security in cases where both nations were equally strong, or in cases where they were equally weak; but it was madness for a country to offer indignity and menace aggression which took no means for her own protection, and was resolved to remain defenceless. Circumstanced as England now was, nothing could be more absurd, nothing more irrational than that she should pursue such a course. Surely it was not for her, situated as she now was, to offer indignities to armed States which were desirous of war, and only too willing to wreak upon her that vengeance which in some cases had been treasured up for centuries. Surely it would be a more prudent, as it was at all times a more dignified, course to abstain from using big words, under the idea that we might do so with impunity. It had also been laid down as an axiom that it was the duty of the British Government to sympathise with other Governments cooperating with their subjects in a search after rational liberty; but if we waited un- 142 til the Governments of the Continent cooperated with their subjects in tin1 pursuit of liberty we should not be called upon for I the exhibition of our sympathy at any very early period. Did our Government, however, wait until the King of Naples cooperated with his Sicilian subjects in the attempt to gain what were called liberal institutions before we expressed our sympathy for one of the parties? Or did we wait for the concurrence of the Austrian Government with its Italian subjects before our Government avowed its sympathy for the latter? This vaunted sympathy assumed, then, a somewhat questionable and dangerous character. It was not long since some "sympathisers" invaded our North American colonies. Let us beware lest we obtain on the continent of Europe the same unenviable notoriety which attended the American sympathisers. If for the sake of economy we made up our mind to remain weak at home, we must for the sake of security be content not to give offence abroad. It was not difficult to understand that a noble mind might indulge in the aspiration of elevating the position of a British citizen on the Continent, and of extending the sympathy of England to nations desirous of placing themselves on the same level with ourselves in the enjoyment of liberal institutions; but there were Powers on the Continent which would not permit us to carry out such views unless we were prepared to do so at the cost of war. It might be all very well for the Government to say and do as it had done, if we had forty sail of the line and 100,000 soldiers at our disposal, as well as 10,000,000l. in the Treasury; but it was extremely dangerous to take such a line of conduct when we had not at our disposal a fleet larger than that possessed by France, and not equal to one-third of that which Russia could in a few weeks bring, filled with troops, to the mouth of the Thames—when we had not at our disposal one corporal's guard, nor a single florin in our Treasury. If, in the present temper of the House of Commons and the country, the Government was unable to maintain the national defences in a state of efficiency, it ought, at least, to abstain from giving offence to nations with arms in their hands, and ready and desirous to use them to our injury.
§ EARL GREY
said, that the noble Earl who had just sat down began by stating that as this Bill had already been passed for some twenty or one-and-twenty years 143 in succession, the time had arrived when the power of balloting for the militia ought to be abolished, instead of suspended from year to year. The noble Earl then went on to state that this country was in a deplorable state of weakness, in comparison with other nations. Now, he must say that, on neither of these points did he (Earl Grey) agree with the noble Earl. With respect to the militia ballot, he was of opinion that, in the existing state of society, the great probability was that, if they were ever to be engaged in a war, it would be necessary for them to revise the laws relating to the militia. He thought it prudent, therefore, that an annual Suspension Bill should be passed on that subject. With respect to their state of preparation in case of any sudden outbreak of war, he could not admit that the position of this country relatively to others had suffered depreciation recently; on the contrary, he believed that the position of the country had changed, not for the worse, but the better in respect to preparedness for a sudden outbreak of war. Let him remind the noble Earl that, in the first place, of late years, very large sums had been laid out in works calculated to strengthen the coast defences of the country, whilst harbours of refuge were in progress of formation, as well for the protection of our navigation and commerce, as with reference to any war or invasion that might occur. More than that, there was also at their disposal a force—an entirely new force, and one that had been created within a very few years, the enrolled pensioners, amounting, he believed, to about 15,000 men, who were quite capable of undertaking the defence of their coasts and garrisons as well at home as in the colonies, and who thereby made disposable an equal number of the regular army. Again, as regarded preparations for war, it should be recollected that another great change had taken place within the last few years—he referred to the increase in the artillery force in this country. This, as their Lordships were aware, was a kind of force which it took a longer time to create than was required to organise any other portion of their military service, and which, for that reason, it was least possible to obtain on a sudden emergency; and whilst considerable reductions in the Army itself had taken place during the present year, yet that reduction had not extended to the artillery, which was, on the contrary, some 2,000 men stronger than it was four years 144 ago. The noble Earl had alluded to the military power of Continental States; but there was not a more fallacious mode of estimating the real strength of a country than to look merely at the force which it had actually on foot. If we wished to estimate the strength of this country, we must look to the vast dormant power in the spirit of the population, which would speedily be available if the country should ever be involved in serious danger; and, above all, it was necessary to look to the state of our finances. It was his conviction that, looking to the state of our finances—to the rapid progress of wealth and industry owing to the state of the finances, this country was advancing, in real and substantial power, more rapidly than its rivals. He was not a little surprised at hearing the noble Earl assert that we had not a disposable florin in our treasury, because he had recently seen a notification in the Gazette that, notwithstanding the large reduction of taxation which had taken place, there was a not inconsiderable amount of surplus applicable to the reduction of the debt in the last quarter. He believed that if the country were called upon to make a great effort, and in these days it must be a great pecuniary effort, no other State in the world could so easily raise a great sum of money at a moment's notice. Much to his (Earl Grey's) surprise, too, the noble Earl had proceeded to show that it was peculiarly incumbent upon them to have a large force at their disposal, inasmuch as it had been announced that they were going to adopt a new foreign policy. He could only say, however, that he had not heard of any such announcement. On the contrary, what he had heard argued on that (the Government) side of the House and elsewhere was, that Her Majesty's present advisers had only resolutely maintained that which had for a very long time been the policy of this country. The noble Earl also referred to a quotation which had been made elsewhere as to the policy of Rome, and said that it implied we were to follow the maxims of Rome as to universal commerce. He certainly did not so understand it. He believed that Rome, when it was an inconsiderable Italian State, had adopted that policy; but he believed that, at all events since the time of Cromwell, England had acted on the same policy; and he was not aware it had been stated lately, on the part of the Government, that they were disposed to do anything but to act on that long-recog- 145 nised and established policy of this country. For his own part, he earnestly hoped and trusted that, notwithstanding the opinion of the noble Earl as to the weakness of the country, we were amply strong enough still to maintain that policy which had been maintained since the time of Cromwell; and that every Englishman, in whatever part of the world he should be, would find the shield of this country and its reputation over his head. The noble Earl had also said that there was something strange in the statement that sympathy was to be shown for countries engaged in contests for their freedom, and had remarked that they ought to remember that those parties who had invaded one of their most important colonies a few years ago adopted the name of "sympathisers." For his own part, however, he trusted that whilst. Englishmen retained the name of Englishmen, they would continue to maintain a feeling of sympathy for people that were struggling for their liberties in other countries. He would only repeat, that while there had been great reductions in the naval and military establishments of the country, she was still placed on such a footing that no other Powers, great or small, could insult her honour with impunity.
§ After a few words from the Earl of GLENGALL,
§ On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative; Bill read 3a accordingly, and passed.