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to Lord Amherst, and the volunteer corps bill, were deferred till the next day.
A me trage from the Lords informed the House their Lord. ships had agreed to the friendly societies bill, the New Forest game bill, and the Guernsey corn bill.
DEFENCE OF THE COUNTRY. The Secretary at War moved the order of the day for the further consideration of the report of the general arining bill. He observed, that it was intended to propole several amend. ments, afterwards to have the bill printed, and then recommitted. He wished to suggelt, that it would be more convenient to let the bill go into a Comminilee, in order to make it as perfect as possible. If there was any doubt as to the principle of the bill, it might be debated at a future season.
Mr. Sheridan said, he agreed in the propriety of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman; it was his wish there should not be the least delay, but, on the contrary, that the measure should proceed with vigour, firmness, and energy. Although the bill had been read a second time, yet he apprehended ihe principle was open to discussion; and in any future stage, any Gentleman, if he objected to the principle, and thought the bill ought to stop, was at liberiy to state his objeclion. If this objection was only to the clauses, and not to the principle, then it would be proper to let the bill go into the Cominitiee. For the present, he would not enter into ihe meriis of the bill, or whether other measures ought or ought not to have been proposed. Many persons might have matter to throw out as to the general principle of the bill. When the bill was engrofled he fhould be happy to deliver his sentiments upon it, but he thought there ought to be no opposition to the re-commitment,
Mr. Kinnaird begged leave to differ from his right hon. friend who had just fat, down, as to the propriety of canvassing the principle of the bill in the present stage. With this opinion he should avail himself of the present opportunity of delivering his sentiments on the bill as it now Itood, before it was again submitted to the Committee. As to the fundamental ground of accusation against Ministers, fo far as ihis measure was concerned, he had to declare unequivocally that it had been delayed far beyond the period when it was powerfully required by the extraordinary cire cumstances in which the country was placed. He had strong objections to the time which, as the bill was now framed, would be necessary to reduce it even formally into effect. Before the business of raising the body which the bill proposed to discipline could be completed, a period of upwards of fix weeks would elapse, and he surely needed not to remind the House how imporiant it wasihat the least possible delay thould take place in carrying into effect a measure fo materially connected with the protection and security of the empire. It was not to be supposed that the whole complex machinery of the bill would be carried into effect in a moment. Was it to be supposed that as soon as the drum w?beat, a body of soldiers was to make their appearance in the field ? Was the sexion in throw afide his surplice, and lake up the musquets Were the people, after attending on the exercises of religion, to throw aside their prayer-books, and, taking up their arms, to be drilled in the church yard? To suppose that all this was be effected by the means which the bill proposed was altogether ridiculous, and could only tend to deceive the pub. lic. He felt it his dury also to animadvert on the ime which was proposed to be allotted for training the men to be raised. Was Government really serious in such a fuggestion? Did they really imagine that such a period was at all adequate 10 prepare men fi.r a live services in the field? If this was their opicion, he confessed he was very far from being inclined 10 give them implicit confidence at the present perilous crisis. He bad another important objection to ihe measure in its present form. The objection was, ihat the measure, so far from being clear and simple, was so complicated in iis machinery, that it would in a material degree embarrass the conduct of those appointed to carry the bill into effect. He had belides to say generally, that as a Member of Parliament he felt it his duly to be jealous of the foresight of ihe Ministers of the country in providing for the national security. But in the present instance the degree of forelight to be allowed to Ministers was to be estimated by their previous conduct, and in ibat conduct he had nothing to justify confidence in this forelight, He begged leave to call the attention of the House to the conduct of Ministers with regard to Hanover. In this instance there had been no sort of foresight of danger, no adequate preparation to meet it with firmness and effect. The hon, Member was proceeding to descant on this topic, when he was called to order by
The Secretary at War, who contended that this reasoning was totally inapplicable to the subject before the House.
Mr. Kinnaird resumed, and begged leave to contend, in opposition to the sentiments exprefled by the right hon Gen,
DEFENCE OF THE COUNTRY. sleman, that he was strictly in order. In introducing the Tubjcct of Hanover, he had done so merely with the view of thewing, by a particular inítance, what was his opinion of ihc general conduct of Ministers, and their claims 10 confia dence. li did not appear to him that in this view his obferva!ions were at all foreign to the subject before the House. He was aware that to che objectives which he had taken the liberty of Itating to the bill in its present forin, the usual answer in such cases would be given : Are you, who object to the measure proposed, able to offer one inore effectual in iis room " In seply to this, it was only necellary for him to say that he was entitled to rely on the wisdom and discretion of those whose dury it was to bring forward plans for the protection of the couniry at this momentous crisis. True it was, that after the incalure was bronght forward, every Member of Parliament was entitled to offer his opinion on iis expediency; and in addition to the objections against the difficully of the bill, he had one capital objection to the principle, and that was, that it did not give sufficient encouragement to voluntary offers of service, but depended on compulsory operation, a ń ode of raising a force for the defence of the kingdom, at all times to be avoided, if possible, in a free country. The bill appeared to cast a llur on the offers of volunteers, and it
ap: peared the object of Ministers to discourage them. He could Narc, on undeniable amhority, that many offers of voluntary service had actually been rejected. He begged leave to ask of Ministers why, at a time when it was so infinitely desirable to raise a large force for the defence of the empire, those mcans, formerly found so effectual, were at the present moment altogether abandoned ? Without being supposed to be ido ftrongly under the influence of national partiality, he might be permitted to say, that the cxperience of the last war Thewed what numbers of our best and bravest troops could be obtained from the Highlands of Scotland, and at the present moment this great source of military supply appeared wholly neglected. He would not now stand up as the advocale of fendil inftitutions, but when they could be rendered subfervient to principles of patriotism, they ought not to be overlooked by any Minister who looked to ihe real security of the couniry. The ben. Member descanted a good deal further on this point, and concluded by exprefling a hope that in the Committee fome of those imporiant modifications would be introduced into the bill 'which its present very imperfect forin requires.
Mr. Sheridan did not conceive that the speech of his hon, Friend contained a single objection in the postponement of the discussion on the bill will it had proceeded to some of 'iis other stages. He allowed that the bill did require some important alterations.
Indeed, it was impotible for any man reading the bill not to see ihat such alterations were indispenSable. The measure ii felf was, however, one 19 which it was impoflible to objećt ; for its principle was to rouse the Spirit, and embody ihe force of ihe country. . Though he differed with an hon. Genileman on the lanie bench (Mr. Windham) in many opinions which he had exprefied relative to the present firmation of the country, he cordially agreed wiin him in thinking that the spirit of the country was not yet raised to the level which the present situation of affairs demanded. The national spirit was indeed mending, but it was not sufficiently raised to the level of our circumstances. Spirited resolutions appeared on paper, but they were not fola
lowed up with corresponding energy. He might allude to a -, variety of proofs in suppori of this affertion. He knew that there was no want of exertions, on the part of Government, to complete the militia ; and as an instance of the neceflity of such exertions, he might take the liberty of Bating, that the regiment under the command of Lord Cranley, formerly consisting of 600 men, at present only amounted to 280; and that the other regimen: under the command of Lord Grantly, was nearly as detective ; fo that the two regiments of Surry militia, which ought to consist of 1,200 men, only contained about 600. He laid he had lately been in Hampshire, and that he found the faine opinion prevailed there as elsewhere, in respect to invasion. When people in that quarter talked of invafion, he knew that they were accustomed to say, that if their heads never ached will an invalion was attempled, they were certain their heads would never ache at all. From every circumstance, he was convinced that the real fact was, ihat the people of ihe country were not properly awake to a due sense of their danger; and there was an absolute necesity for their being imprelled with this belief before their true fpisil, and patriorison could be thown forih with all that energy which he knew they pofleffed. He thought that it was proper in make the bill as perfect as possible in the Committee, ere it was advanced 10 the last stage. His hon. Friend had found fault wiih the mcalure of the bill, because it had not been brought forward fooner. Whether these steps might, or should have been proposed earlier, he should not determine ; but he was thoroughly convinced that such measures were now absolutely necessary. He professed himself very ready to go into all those general or particular topics but he hoped that no hon. Member would be the means of occafioning delay liy stating objections, in the present stage, to a plan which ought to have the minds and heariś of all to go along with it, especially when no other mode of procédure more eligible could be proposed for the adoption of the Houfe. · Mr. Pirt said, that he could not agree in regard to the reasons alligned by the hon. Member, who withet to postpone the discussions on the bill till another stage of iis progress. He thought that the bill was liable to considerable objections, iti regard to its general tendency to procure within the time res quisite, a force suitable to the situation of the country. He hoped that any amendments that might now be proposed would tend to relieve the Committee of some degrec of trouble, As to the objections which had been stated by an hon. Member appofte to him (Mr. Kinnaird), though he had not been in the House at the cominencement of that hon. Meinber's speech, he conceived the general scope of his objection to be, that the measures propored were nor fufficiently adequate to the real object in view. Any objections he had heard stared, he thought, were perfeitly proper for the discussion of the Committee. for they could not be itated as amounting toob. jections to the principle of the bill. As to what had been said with regard to volunteer exertions, he hoped the Houfe would do him the juice to say, he had stated on a former occalion, as trongly as was neceffary, there very sentiments. He fill was inclined to think that some additional provisions ought to be introduced into the bill as to the voluiilary exentions of the country, and that every encouragement ought in be afforded to that object. He could not unite with the hon. Member (Mr. Kinnaird) that the present bill went to throw any degree of flur upon the people, by refusing their voluntary offers. He never understood ihat there was any thing in the bill tending to repress such offers; on the contrary, there was a clause to encourage volunteers, by holding out to them certain privileges of exemption in point of extent of service. He thought, however, that the encouragement given to them was not sufficiently extensive. He concluded by again presfing upon the House a due sense of the neceility of expedition in the adoption of the measures proposed by the bill, and haped that ihe Houle would not allow it to go out of their hands that evening, till it liad paffed completely through the Committee. VOL. IV. 1802-3.