Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Sheridan explained, and said, that he had heard the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down affirm, that he (Mr. Pitt) had not been in the House when the hon. Member fMs. Kinnaird) had commenced his speech, staring his objections to the present bill. He thought the right hon. Member (Mr. Pitt) might have also said, with equal propriety, that he had not been in the House when he (Mr. Sheridan) had taken the liberty of offering a few words on the occasion; for the sentiments he had then given, feemed to have been totally misunderstood by that right hon. Gentleman. For his part, he saw no improper aspersion, Nur, or even discouragement offered in the present bill against the voluntary exertions of the country

Mr. Kinnaird explained.

Mr. Windham obferved, in allusion to what had fallen from Mr. Pitt, that the right hon. Gentleman had of late spoken so much on different sides of the House, that he was at some loss to conceive whether he alluded to him, or the hon. Member on the same bench with him (Mr. Sheridan); but in answer to both him and the other Member, who charged him (Mr. Windham) with depressing the spirit of the country, he would say, that his object, in endeavouring to impress upon the country a due sense of its danger, was only to bring up the apprehensions of the country to a level with that danger; convinced that when that was done, there would be no want of spirit on the part of the people: but those who were really chargeable with depresing the popular fpirit, were those whose duty it was to have brought forward this measure long since, and had deferred it to the present moment. He could not coincide with the hon. Genileman: on the same bench (Mr. Sheridan) who deprecated discutlion in the present stage of the bill, because he thought discufiion now would throw many lights upon the subject, which would better enable the Houfe to form deciGive opinions upon the subject, and go into the Committee better prepared to suggest amendments when neceffary, and thus put the bill into a perfect shape, with much more expedition than by hura rying it crudely, and without discullion, through the Committee now, wiih a view to recommit and debate it at a future opportunity. [Here the bill was accordingly recommitted to-> Committee of the whole House.).

The Secr.tary at War then role to state what were the general heads to which the alterations which he ineant to propofe would apply. The first of these was the mode in which the force

ft

To pre

to be disciplined should be enrolled. As io the expediency of
the enrolment, he believed that no difference of opinion pre-
Vailed. This was indeed necessary to their being at all ap-
plied to any efficient purposes. It was in the first place pro-
posed to vest the Lord Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenants
of counties with the power of calling for the services of all
within the ages specified by the bill. The next step would be,
to issue orders to the proper officers 10 leave notices with the
householders in the refpective parishes, who would be requir-
ed within a given period to make their return. An hon. Gen-
tleman had alluded to the scandalous deficiency of the quota of
the militia 1o be furnished by the counties. He was aware
of the existence of this evil, and great criminaliiy was impur-
able to the subordinale officers, through whose negligence
and stupidity the grofleit frauds were committed.
vent the recurrence of these frauds, it would be necessary to
put it out of the power of the stupidity or the ignorance of
the inferior officers to repeat such scandalous negligence.
Unless such precautions were taken, the returns would be so
loose and unsatisfactory as wholly to defeat the important
end which the bill p opored to have in view. With fuch al-
terations, calculated to make the returns more correct and
satisfactory, he trufted that the enrolment would be con-
ducted without difficulty or embarrassinent. But indeed all
depended on the exertions of the gentlemen in the different
counties, in having the measure reduced to practice within
the shortelt possible time. If those whose lituation in life,
and na tural influence over the lower orders were only for a
few weeks to devote themselves to the objet of facilitating
the execunion of the act, he was confident that it would be
carried into effect in a much shorter period than it could be
by any positive resolution on the subject. The bill was
worded in such a way as all bills of a similar nalure mur be
expressed ; but by the exertions of disinterested, generous,
patriotic zeal, the rime necessary for carrying it into effect
might be materially shortened, and the object much more
effectually accomplished. The Committee did not require
to be reminded, that without fuch a spirit as that to which he
referred, all enactments of the Legislature muft neceffarily be
tedious in their application. The next point 10 which he
thought it neceffary to advert, was the manner in which the
forces were to be allembled. The arrangements on this
fubject would of course, in the first instance, be left to the
Lord Lieutenants of the different counties.

They would be

Thc

[ocr errors]

4G 2

the belt judges of the mode in which the alarm Mhould be given, in case of invasion. When the signal of alarm was given in any of the counties on the coast, then the first class of the force proposed to be trained to the use of arms should be immediately directed to march to the head quarters of the army in that district, or to any other place where their services inight be considered most useful. If this class was not fufficiently extenfive for the exigency of the moment, then of course the services of the other claffes would be required, and they would receive correspondent orders. The next point to which he withed to allude was the mode of obtaining offers of voluntary service. The bill as it now stood had been obje&ted to on this ground, by an hon. Genileman (Mr. Fox) whore opinions on all subjects had very great weight. He had paid attention to the suggestions thrown out on ihat occalion, and he meant to introduce into the bill such altera. 'tions as he believed would meet the hon. Gentleman's ideas. He meant to propose, that in districts where a sufficient nuin. ber of offers of voluntary service were made, the operation of the bill should cease. With respect to the services of the volunteer corps already formed, he intended that fome new tegulations should be formed applicable to the case of invafion. He begged it, however, to be understood that thefe regulations would be introduced in another bill, and would not at all counteract the principles of their briginal offers of service. It was the fixed unalterable determivation of Government not to violate those terms of fervice which' were originally adopted. If a corps, 'accepted by Government, limited their services to a particular liroet, he would allow ihat beyond that street their services could not be compelled without a voluntary offer on their part. The fondamental principle adopted by Government was, 'ihat when an engagement was formed, it should be adhered to with the uimoft fideliry. He had now only to advert to the role in which the force to be 'embodied under the bill was to be trained and exercised. As' to 'the period in the year to which the exercise 'was originally propofed to be extended, he had no difficulty in saying that he approved of the suggestion for extending i!.' The particular day alloired fór the service as it now stood was, he believed, conceived to be liable to very considerable objection. So far as Scotland was concerned, he meant that the claufe for appointing the training on Sunday should be totally inapplicable. In England he was aware that the same objection mighi 10 a certain

degree degree exist, and with the view of remedying every incon venience which might arise on the subject, it was proposed to grant to the Lord Lieutenanıs of counties the power of appointing such days for exercise, as to themi, under all the circumstances of the case, Mould seem the least objectionable, and the most agreeable to all parties concerned. This was an alteration brought forward from respect to those persons of tender consciences whom the clause, as it originally stood, might have displeased. The right hon. Genele. man having touched on these points, concluded by expressing his readiness to hear with satisfaction whatever improve ments in the measure might be proposed, aud to adopt them, if they appeared to him calculated to give ir greater force and efficacy.

Lord Casilereagh said a few words on the mode in which the enrolment inight be formed. He suggested, that, long before the whole process required by the bill was gone through, the Lord Lieutenants ihould be empowered, as soon as the act was passed, to receive voluntary offers of service. In this way delay would be avoided, and from the moment that the act was passed the discipline of a great proportion of the force to which the bill referred would be going forward with alacrity and effect.

Mr. Kinnaird declared that if the suggestions of the noble Lord were carried into effect, the grand source of his objection to the measure would be removed.

Mr. Pitt next rose, and at considerable length canvalled the general provisions of the bill. That the time allotted for exercise must be extended, he believed every member of the House would admit, and he was glad to find chat his right hon. Friend (the Secretary at War) had expressed his convi&ion of the necessity of this alteration. As the bill now ftood, it would be quite imposible to enter with effect on the discipline of the force proposed to be embodied till the spring of the succeeding year. It was an object infinitely desirable that the period for completing the enrolment (hould be shortened as much as pollible, and nothing was more efsential than 10 prevent the inaccuracy of the levy to be raised. The suggestion of his noble friend tended in a confiderable degree to remove the objections which he had to the present provisions of the bill.on ihis subject. The bill to a certain degree professed to look to the preference of offers of volunlary service, but in his opinion iss provisions on this fiead were pot fufficiently explicit.--The great object at the pre

fent sent moment was to obtain offers of this kind to as large an extent as possible, while the process of regular enrolment was going forward according to the rules which the bill prescribed. If, during the interval occupied in going through this process, a sufficient number of offers of voluns tary service could be obtained, then the application of the provisions of the bill would be unnecesfary, and a molt important object would be obtained with a view to the real fecurity of the country.

He was sure that he need not, as a Member of that House, as possessing any regard to conftituional principles, enlarge on the preference at all times to be given to voluntary above compulsory service. The fuperiority was at once obvious, and while this mode was superior in point of feeling, it was no lefs fo with referenc.; to real efficient service. The means of accomplishing this moft clesirable object were obvious and fimple. It was only necessary to invest the Lord Lieutenant with the power of issuing a proclamacion immediately after the passing of the act, inviting offers of voluntary service, and enabling those appointed to collect the return, to ascertain the wilhes of the people. This would be the mode applicable to counties generally; and in parilhes ihe vestry might, without diffi, culty, collect the wishes of those to whom the invitation was addressed. In this invitation not merely the first class, but all the claffes prescribed by the bill, or even to the age of fixty, or beyond the age of fifty-five, if voluntary.offers could be obtained, might be included. A report might, without any confiderable delay, be made by the Lord Lieutenants i bis Majesty, who might order an iarmediate proportion of those making voluntary offers of service to be received. Of course the discipline of those so received would be foon without in, terruption. This was a provision which could not but, if properly reduced in practice, materially contribute to the expedition which was fo infinitely delirable. There was however a provision of a different defcription, which would promote the fpeedy application of the bill in a still more eflectual manner. The provision to which he alluded was, that without waiting for the enrolment at all, to fix for a particular county the quota which, on a fair calculation, it was supposed was a faic proportion ; and if before a par: ticular day fpecific voluntary offers of service to the amount of three-fourths or four.fifihs of the whole num. ber were obtained, to fufpend the operation of the bill in that coun'y or district. In such a cale as this, minute ac.

curacy

« ZurückWeiter »