[TRAINING BILL.) Earl Spencer
moved the order of the day for the house resolving itself into a committee on the Training bill. His lordship observed, that this bill was one to which he could scarcely anticipate any objection. It was founded on the exercise of his majesty's undoubted prerogative, a prerogative which had never been disputed, that of calling out all those who were able to bear arms for the defence of the country against an invading army. The only question that could arise was as to the means of exercising that prerogative. Under the present circumstances of the country, and looking as we must do to the enormously increased power of France, it was evident that it was absolutely necessary that a large efficient force should be kept up ready for the exigency of the moment. The object of the present bill was to train to the use of arms 200,000 men, who might, in case of necessity, come in aid of the other force of the country. It was not to be said that because we had already a large force, that therefore it was unnecessary to resort to other measures; it should be remembered that, on our vast extent of coast, it was impossible strictly to guard every point; it was therefore the more necessary that there should be an efficient force ready to bear down upon any point where their services might be most wanted. Provision was made in this bill, that it should interfere as little as possible with the varied pursuits of the people, or break in much upon their convenience; and, at the same time, an option was given to those who might not wish, for various reasons, to be trained with the persons on whom this bill would generally operate, or who could not go out to be trained without great injury to their business, to pay instead a pecuniary fine. It was also provided, that the number to be called out should be balloted for, which was thought, and justly in his opinion, the fairest mode of choosing the persons to be trained, thereby avoiding all partiality. He was convinced that, when the bill was thoroughly understood in the country, the voluntary zeal and ardour of the people would render it unnecessary to carry the compulsory provisions into execution. The bill might not be immediately operative, but he looked forward to the most beneficial permanent effects from such a system. It 1085 was not merely at the exigency of the moment that he looked to the bill for aid to the country, but he considered it as a means of inspiring a military character into a large mass of the population of the country, and thus, in the midst of our commerce and our wealth, giving us also military strength, and enabling us to enter, fully prepared, into any future war, with the means of sending out of the country a large disposable force. He concluded by Moving, that the house should resolve itself into a committee on the bill.
said, it was not his wish to oppose any measure which his majesty's ministers considered necessary for the defence of the country, but he must beg leave to express his doubts as to the propriety or utility of the present bill. In considering this measure, he naturally looked to the present state of the military force of the country; and when he found that we had at present a volunteer force of from 3 to 400,000 men, in addition to the regular army and militia, he was induced to ask, where was the necessity of this measure? We had already a large force of a much superior description to any that this bill could give; a force which had arisen out of the voluntary spirit, the zeal and the ardour of the country; a force, in contemplating which, every man might sleep sound in his bed, and consider the country secure. Why then resort to compulsory means, when we had already a sufficient force, and when the country was already secure? To resort now to such a bill as the present, would tend to dishearten and discourage that voluntary force, to whom the country were so much indebted, by telling them that they were of little use; that, notwithstanding all their zeal and ardour, it was still necessary to resort to compulsory means to ensure the security of the country. He did not mean to insinuate that noble lords on the other side had any wish or intention to discourage the volunteers; but declarations had been made, which had gone forth to the country, and which certainly tended to damp the ardour and the spirit of those who had so loyally and so patriotically stepped forward in the hour of danger, to take up arms in defence of the country. How was such a force as the present to be properly disciplined? How was it to be officered? No means were pointed out by which such a force was to be rendered really efficient. A great expence would be incurred in carry- 1086 ing the provisions of the bill into execution; an expence for which he had not the least doubt that 400,000 volunteers might be provided, properly armed, accoutred, clothed, and officered; a force which, it was needless to say, would be of a much superior description to that which would arise out of the present bill. There was, besides, another objection to the present measure, arising out of a bill of a similar nature, brought forward at the commencement of the war; in which it was provided, that if a number of volunteers came forward, equal to six times the number of the militia, the compulsory provision of training should not he resorted to. Considerably more than that number of volunteers did come forward, and now, notwithstanding that, a new bill was brought in, to carry into execution a compulsory mode of training, and thus to substitute a force which was not known, nor ever had existed in the country, for one which had been already tried and found efficient. He was thoroughly convinced that nothing had tended in a greater degree to silence the boastings of the enemy, and shew him the futility of his schemes against this country, than that zeal and patriotism which had been so eminently evinced by the volunteers; and he appealed upon this subject to a noble lord (Moira) on the other side of the house, who, when commanding in Scotland, spoke in the highest terms of the quality and efficiency of that description of force. If, then, as he contended, the volunteers were an efficient force, where was the necessity of resorting to a measure for training a large portion of the population of the country to arms? The volunteers were, in fact, the trained population of the country, and trained in a manner greatly superior to the training which would be carried into effect under this bill. He agreed in the policy of training young men to arms, and making it a part of their education; but he thought it would be much better to give up the present bill, which could not, at any rate, be carried into effect for some time to come, and next session a bill might be brought in with provisions more adequate to the intended object.
The Earl of Moira
said, the viscount agreed in the necessity of having a, large efficient force under the present circumstances of the country; the only difference of opinion between them was as to the quality of that force. He had been appealed to by the noble viscount with respect to what 1087 was formerly uttered by him, as to the efficiency of the volunteer force of Scotland, and to that opinion he still adhered. At the time he commanded in Scotland, he not only undertook the defence of that country, but also of the northern parts of England; and had so high an opinion of the volunteer force, that he would have led them on with the utmost confidence against an invading enemy. It was in that confidence in the volunteers that he parted with the regular troops under his command, who were thereby rendered disposable for the service of the country in other quarters. This was not an overweening confidence, but a confidence founded upon an experience of the efficiency of the volunteer force, a confidence which he still maintained; nor would he hesitate to lead on such a force against any veteran army of France which could effect a landing here. The noble viscount had contended that our present force was sufficient for our defence: this argument might be good, if we could know at what point an enemy might attempt to effect a landing, or that he would only make the attempt at one point; but with our vast extent of coast, this was absolutely impossible, and therefore it became necessary to have a large efficient force in the country, ready for the exigency of the moment. He admitted, that the volunteers were of a much superior description of force to the force which could be procured under the present bill; but it was hot intended, as the noble viscount had said, to substitute this force for the volunteers, but to bring it in aid of them. The noble viscount had talked of expressions which had been used, tending to discourage and dishearten the volunteers; but he disclaimed any such intention in any of his colleagues in office, and maintained that what had been alluded to had been invidiously represented. Our present force, it was said, was sufficient for the defence of the country; but were they to look only to the defence of our coast, without considering the modes adopted by the enemy, of attacking the resources of our commerce and our prosperity in other quarters? No: he looked forward to a period when, if the war continued, we might, by means of our volunteer force, and the force raised under this bill at home, be enabled to send every battalion of regular troops out of the country, to combat the enemy in those quarters where they were attacking our resources and our interests. Were an enemy 1088 them to land in this country, he would lead on a volunteer army against them with the utmost confidence. It would be wise policy, in such a situation, not to risk a battle without absolute necessity; but, in the mean time, the peasantry trained under this bill might be most advantageously employed in firing from behind hedges and banks upon the columns of the enemy; who, unable to send out detachments, and perpetually harassed by this mode of attack, would ultimately be overwhelmed and completely defeated. He could not conceive by what mode of calculation the noble viscount had discovered that 200,000 volunteers could be raised for the same expence as would be incurred under the present bill. How those 200,000 volunteers were to be raised, it was beyond his comprehension to discover. As to the objection, that there was no provision for officering the men trained under this bill, it was not intended to officer them until the exigency of the moment might require it, but merely to train them to the use of arms, that, in the case of emergency, they night be employed with effect against an enemy, and in aid of the volunteers. He considered the bill to be well calculated for the purposes which he had mentioned, and its provisions to be well adapted to secure the objects intended to be effected.
The Earl of Westmoreland
contended, that the bill imposed a heavy burthen upon the country, without the probability of deriving from it any adequate advantage, There were, he believed, 15,000 parishes; and how were the men in these different parishes to be trained? how many serjeants and constables must there be? how many drums and fifes? what was to be done with the arms? were the serjeants to travel in post-chaises or balloons? There appeared to him to be no adequate provision for car, Lying the object of the bill into effect, The bill, besides, threw a slur upon the volunteers, by declaring that their services were inadequate. It had been said, that opinions given respecting the volunteers had been misrepresented; but was it meant to be stated, that all the newspapers, and all the short-hand writers, had been bribed to circulate a misrepresentation through the country? Were not other measures, not favourable to the volunteers, suggested by his majesty's servants, through the mouth of his majesty?
§ Lord Grenville
spoke to order. The noble lord was, he conceived, irregular, 1089 in discussing opinions uttered in another place, and Certainly in mentioning his majesty in the way he had just done.
The Earl of Westmoreland
said, if the expression he had used was improper, he would say, measures that had been announced by his majesty through the mouths of his servants.
§ Lord Grenville
again spoke to order, declaring it disorderly for any noble person to say, that his majesty spoke through the mouth of any member of parliament.
The Earl of Westmoreland
apologised for having used the name of his majesty in any way that was conceived improper; but contended that, in discussing the opinions used in another place, he had only done what had been done before, in the course of the debate. His lordship resumed his arguments against the bill, which, he contended, was not calculated to produce any advantage to the country.
defended the bill, which, he contended, was not near so rigorous in its provisions, as the bill of a similar description, brought forward when the noble lord (Westmoreland) and himself were in administration. The object of the bill was, to raise a force which might be rendered essentially useful, either by being incorporated with the regulars or the militia, or, in other modes, in the event of an attempt on the part of the enemy. It had been truly said, by a great and eminent character, that we might have, in this country, what an enemy could not bring with him—an armed people, whom no enemy could conquer. It was in this view that the bill was essentially important, as contributing materially to that great object. It had been insinuated by the noble viscount (Melville), that this measure was a breach of faith with the people, in as much as, by the last training bill, compulsory measures were not to be adopted, if the volunteers, to a certain extent, came forward. That bill, however, only authorised his majesty to suspend, in that event, the operation of the compulsory clauses; but did not, nor could, affect his majesty's prerogative to call out the people whenever necessary. The present measure was rendered necessary, in order to raise a force sufficient for the purposes for which it was wanted, and which would come in aid of the volunteers.
§ Lord Eldon
declared, that no man more highly approved than he had done, and that none could, at this moment, be more firmly convinced than he was, of the propriety and 1090 merits of the military measures brought forward by the noble viscount who spoke last. The measures of the ministry who succeeded the noble viscount, at the head of whom was that great man whose loss was now so justly deplored, he was also convinced, were the best which could be resorted to, in the situation in which the country was placed. These measures had also been approved of by the noble viscount; and he (lord Eldon) was only afraid, the noble viscount was not entirely aware of the nature of the present measures, introduced by those with whom he now acted, who had so loudly decried the measures of the noble viscount, and of his successor, as being totally weak and inefficient. The opinions of the present government, as to the volunteer force of the country, it was not his wish to judge of from any representations which had taken place out of the house. He must therefore collect it from what he should hear their lordships say in their places that night. He must, however, declare, that, in his opinion, to them this country was not indebted, alone, for safety from a foreign foe; but that, from their being collected together at the period when they were first embodied, was owing the existence, at this moment, of the constitution. The present bill, or any other which could have any tendency to degrade them, or to render their services less beneficial, he could never approve of. He alluded to the promises of ministers, to bring forward a complete military system; not a piece here and a piece there; but contended that, in this, they had completely broken their word; and that, after an interval of some months, first one part of their system, and now, at the distance of another month, another part of their system, had been introduced.
§ Lord Grenville,
after the able statements, in support of the measure, made by his noble friends near him, should not have thought it necessary to say a word on the subject, had it not been for the observations of the learned lord who spoke last. For the right hon. gent., now no more, to whom the noble and learned lord had alluded, no person could feel more strongly than he did. He had been his dearest friend; and when he had differed from him, it was with sincere regret; but, at the same time, he could not sacrifice to him his judgment, and every idea of propriety. With respect to the opinions of his majesty's ministers as to the volunteers, every individual member of administration in this 1091 house knew, that there was but one opinion among them. This opinion, he desired, might be collected, not from their words, but from their conduct. Had they not been among the first, not merely to countenance and encourage, but, themselves, to take a part in that service; and could it be supposed, that they wished to do any thing which should go to degrade and insult themselves and their comrades and companions in arms? For the government collectively too, he could declare that, so far from degrading, it was their wish to honour and protect the volunteers; to protect them were particularly against that foul insinuation which had been thrown out against them, that they had so little patriotism; as to be deterred, by misrepresentations and misconceptions, from performing their duty to their country. If, however, by saving the country, the noble and learned lord meant, that there was any dread that, but for their existence, our country was, at present, in danger, from its internal enemies, he could by no means follow him that length. He was convinced, it there were; among ourselves, any enemies to the constitution of this country, the occurrence: of the three last years must have been more than sufficient to bring them back into the path of loyalty. His lordship then proceeded to shew, that the present was not separate measure; but a part of the general military system, which the present government had resolved to adopt, and which the noble and learned lord could hardly have expected to see comprehended in one bill First, they had got rid of one measure which was universally acknowledged to be burthen some and unjust in itself; which had been unproductive, and, at the same time operated as a drawback on the ordinary recruiting. They then proceeded to introduce a limited endurance of service, with the double view of increasing the number and of introducing into the army a new order, superior in zeal and energy, as superior in knowledge. The volunteer force still existed; and now the present bill was brought in for the purpose of forming a force in addition to it, by which, in time, the whole country should be instructed in the use of arms. He informed the noble earl (West moreland), that it was the intention of the, present government to disperse 200,000 stand of arms among the people of this country; so far were they afraid of this that they even intended to instruct, then how to use them. Neither should they 1092 think it necessary to have them deposited in some castle or fortress; but should think, that in enabling every man to become habituated to the use of arms, and the people thus to become an armed people, while they in no wise endangered the peace of the country at home, they rendered it invulnerable against every foreign attack.
§ Lord Hawkesbury
entered into an investigation of the different measures alluded to by the noble lord; and particularly of the great advantages of voluntary services, which, he was convinced, would be greatly affected by the present measure; a measure which, in his opinion, would be equally expensive, and by no means so efficient as the voluntary force, He should not, however, press the matter to a question.
The Earl of Rosslyn shewed ,
that the volunteer service could not at all be affected by the present measure; which was not a substitute for, but an addition to, the volunteer system. He took a view of the different immunities, such as exemption from ballot for the militia, army of reserve,&c., which had been formerly held out to them; and maintained that, instead of being degraded, as it had been termed by this bill, it also went to encourage the entering into the volunteer corps, by exempting all such from the provisions of the bill. He asked, too, if it could be contended, that the same number of volunteers would continue having nothing but the August establishment, while the contributions were discontinued ? He adverted to what had fallen from the learned lord (Eldon) as to the volunteers being the saviours of the constitution; and trusted it could not even be insinuated, that such an idea was at all well founded, in the present state of the country.
§ Lord Eldon ,
in explanation, declared, that he had never either insinuated or. dreamt of such a thing. He had simply alluded to the volunteers at the time of their formation; and had attributed to them, he was convinced, correctly, that this country had escaped those destructive and desolating principles, by which the liberties of the rest of Europe had been overturned. —The question was then put, the house went into a committee, and the bill was reported.