« PreviousContinue »
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
This being the day appointed for Mr. Wilberforce's motion respecting peace, at 40 clock there being only 28 Members present, the House of course adjourned. •
HOUSE Of Lords.
Friday, May 22.
MILITIA ARTILLERY BILL.
The Order of the Day, for the second reading of the Militia Artillery Bill having been read,
The Earl of Radnor rose, and stated his objections to the Bill at length. His Lordship began with noticing the object of the Bill, its avowed principle, and the peculiar circumstances from which it originated. He said, in a war of the singular nature of the present, it undoubtedly was necessary that the army should be well supplied with artillery-men, and that every proper means of training men to the service of the guns should be cultivated, with a view to assist and reinforce the artillery corps. The constitutional troops of the country, the Militia, had been looked to with a view to that object. A meeting of militia officers, his Lordsliip, informed the House, had been held, when the subject was taken into consideration* and certain resolutions had been come to, the effect of tendering to Government their assistance in respect to training men to the artillery service. He confesses that he had been one amongst other militia colonels, who had concurred in those resolutions, and he was now sorry that he had joined in that concurrence, because he had not been aware to what extent of construction their offers would be carried, and the manner in which advantage would be taken of the/n. In every regiment of militia, the colonel, if he felt a proper zeal for the service^ took pains to train a certain number of men to the guns. As a colonel of militia, he had thirty men at a time in training for that purpose, and by the authority of the Bill, as soon as he had made the men equal to all the points of artillery duty* the whole of the thirty might be seduced from him, without his having the power to stop any one of them who applied for his discharge. When they were gone, the next thirty might be taken from him in the fame manner, by which the colonels and officers of the militia would be converted into mere drillVol. HI. S s serjeants
Terjeans for the supply of the standing army» This his Lordship complained of as a very unhandsome return to the militia officers, for their zeal for the defence of the country; and he owned he felt it personally as a peculiar hardship, as he had last year been authorised by the county of which he was Lord Lieutenant (Berkshire) to make an offer to Government of forty men trained to the artillery, which offer his Majesty'j ministers thought proper to refuse. Another view in which the Bill appeared to him to be likely to operate in a way highly injurious to the militia, and which, from the critical circumstances of the times, he thought extremely impolitic, was, the destructive effect it must necessarily have on the discipline of the militia regiments. If a commanding officer disapproved os the conduct of any private in his regiment, or that private was conscious that he had done something to merit either censure or punishment, he had.nothing to do but to fay he was bred to the sea, or wished to enroll himself in the royal corps of artillery, and immediately obtain his discharge; for his commanding officer had no option, but was obliged to give it him on his demand. His Lordship reasoned at considerable length on this particular, and the clause being compulsory, as it struck directly at the discipline of the militia, and must necessarily weaken the authority of the colonel or commanding officer, and lessen the respect in which the men had been accustomed to hold him. He next 'discussed the effect of suffering one in ten of all the privates to be discharged into the corps of artillery, as it might upon the whole of the militia amount to so large a number, thatwould very seriously thin the ranks and take away from the strength of that constitutional force, and render it not only less respectable, but less adequate to the internal defence of.the country. In respect to the clause enacting that his Majesty's Lieutenants and Deputy-lieutenants respectively, of the county to which the regiment out of which the private men shall be discharged, belong, and also the colonel or commanding officer, and every commissioner! officer, duly commissioned by the commanding officers of such regiment, shall be empowered, by beat of drum, to raise volunteers to be enrolled as private men, in the room of those discharged, his Lordstiip objected to it on various grounds, and complained in very pointed terms of the clause which enacts that the colonel or commanding officer sliould be entitled to receive ten guineas to be applied in providing other private men to replace those discharged. His Lordship said, it indirectly conveyed a very unpleasant insinuation against the commanding officer, and put him into a situation in which militia' colonels ought not in his opinion to be placed. His Lordship
stated stated a great variety of animadversions on these and other topics which the clauses of the Bill suggested, declaring his strong objection to those clauses he had noticed, which would ■induce him to oppose the Bill. He said he had ever understood that the militia was considered to stand in some respects higher than the regular army, and in others lower; but this Bill appeared likely to put the militia much below the army, to weaken its strength, and to degrade and wound the feelings of the officers. He sliould therefore object to the Bill's being Tead a second time.
LordGrc/ivillc, in a sew words, assured the Noble Earl, that no idea of wounding the feelings of the commanding officers of the militia had been entertained by those who had been concerned in framing the Bill, and he should be extremely sorry if the Noble Earl, who so peculiarly, and in so honourable a manner distinguished himself by his zeal and attention to the service, as a militia colonel, should really imagine that he was at all degraded, or in any degree deprived of his authority as a commanding officer by the Bill. With regard to the militia standing higher in some respects than the army, and lower in others, he knew of no such distinction. Both were equally -entitled to stand high in the opinion of the country ; nor ought any distinction to be made between them. His Lordship spoke of the great importance of the object of the Bill, which went to take seafaring men out of the militia, and send them on hoard the navy, and to assist and strengthen the artillery corps, by enabling such of the militia-men as chose to enroll themselves in the artillery, to require their discharge of their commanding officer. With regard to the first of these objects, the Noble Earl had not urged much objection, and therefore it ■was unneessary for him to enter into arguments to prove what he believed their Lordships in general would readily concur in, that under circumstances of such uncommon exigency as the present, it was of greater advantage to the Public, that seafaring men ffiould serve on board the navy, than in the ranks of the militia. With respect to that part of the Bill which had for its object the authorising and directing colonels and commanding officers of the militia, to grant their discharge tc» such men as chofc to require it for the purpose of enrolling themselves in the royal corps of artillery, he really saw it in a very different light from that in which the Noble Earl had viewed it. The number of men who would probably require their discharge, he did not imagine would be any thing like what the Noble Earl had conjectured; and if the principle was right, to strengthen the corps of artillery, by selecting men from the militia, after the ratio of only one in ten, surely it
IS S 2 could could not be improper to carry that principle into effect by the most certain means. His Lordship said a word or two in reply to the several objections that had been taken by Lord Radnor to the different clauses, and concluded with declaring that he should give his support to the Bill.
'T/x Marquis Touutifoend said, it would hardly be suspected that he was not a friend to the militia, having had the honour of first suggesting the plan of that constitutional force, and been not a little instrumental in carrying it into execution, in spite os a great variety of objectionb, founded upon false notiuns of its principles. If he saw any thing in the present Bill, that real'y tended to weaken the militia,or to lessen the respect due to its commanding officers, he would most readily concur with the Noble Earl in opposing its being read a second time; but it really did not appear to him to be liable to the objections that had been urged against it. The Noble Earl had laid great stress on the circumstance of the militia officers having those men taken from them, whom they had taught the service of the guns, and had said, it was actually converting the militia officers irifo drill-serjeants. That was not the cafe ; but surer ly if the militia could be applied to the training up of men for the artillery, it would be applied to a very useful purpose. The Marquis stated several other reasons for his supporting the Bill.'
Lord Romney expressed himself \o be concerned to have heard such arguments from the Noble Marquis, who he had expected would have withheld his approbation from a Bill which in his mind was calculated to undermine the whole system of the militia. His Lordship said, he thought it incumbent on him to take part in the debate, as he had been the person who had brought in the Bill in the House of Commons, for reducing into one Act of Parliament the militia laws •, and as a friend to the rnjlitia, he could not sit silent, when a Bill was under discussion which departed so violently as the present Bill did from the original principle of the militia. He thought the Noble Earl entitled to the thanks of every man who was a srieud to the militia, for haying stated his objections to the present Bill, with so much force and ability; to those reasons he heartily subscribed, and he must say that not the least objectionable part of the Bill was that which directed the colonels and commanding dicers to grant discharges to their men when required, for the purpose os enrolling themselves in the corps of artillery without limitation, for so he considered the operation os the Bill would prove. He declared he was sorry to see a militia Bill brought into Parliament, because he had observed, that every such Eill had departed by little and little from the 1 original original principle of the militia. This Bill was undoubtedly a more violent departure from that principle than any preceding one, and threatened to undermine the militia system altogether; he mould therefore hold it his duty to oppose it.
Earl Spencer rose to support the Bill, as a measure calculated essentially to conduce to the benefit and advantage of the public service, at a time when every thing that could be done to further that important end was highly necessary to be attended to. His Lordstiip declared, he was himself a sincere friend to the militia; he had served in it several years, indeed till other important duties called him from it, and if he thought the present Bill tended to injure the militia, he should himself object to it; but he was persuaded it did the militia no injury, ?nd would do the navy and royal artillery essential service. His Lordship urged the great importance of contributing to the better manning of the navy, by every possible means, and after a few more arguments in favour of the Bill, declared he should give 1) is vote for it. »
The Earl of Hardtuicke also spoke in savour of the Bill; His Lordship stated what had passed at the meeting of, militia colonels, to which the Noble Earl who opened the debate had alluded, and said, it was upon their suggestion and offer to train, men to the guns in their respective regiments, that the present Bill had been owing. At that meeting the resolutions proposed, with respect to the propriety of offering to assist Government at the present arduous crisis, had passed unanimously, because it was considered as a sit means of evincing the steady loyalty and firm determination of the militia to conduce by every means in their power to the general defence of the country. His LoTdship said, he had not altered his opinion upon the subject since he delivered it at the meeting to which he alluded. He approved of the present Bill, and it should have his support. ,
The Marquis of Buckingham said, he had endeavoured to prove himself a friend to the militia, and had spent many years of his life in that service, and no man could be more thoroughly convinced than he was, of its essential use to the country. Impressed with this opinion, he could not but be conscious that the militia and the Public were highly indebted to the Noble Marquis, who spoke lately, for the verv great assiduity and attention he had so honourably shewn to that service; but he could not help differing with him entirely in respect to the present Bill, which he thought highly prejudicial to the militia, and not a little disrespectful to its officers. His Lordship went into a very ample discussion of the principle of the Bill, its avowed objects, aud the means it held