Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of his Majesty's prerogative in some measure useless. Somes thing more therefore was necessary. His Majesty had a right to call out all his subjects; but the intervention of Parliament was now necessary to enable him to call them out with effe&t. The object of the bill then was, to authorise his Majesty to prepare his subjects io act withieffect, in case ihe appearance of the enemy should render an exertion of his prerogative in calling them out indispensible. Such then being the nature and tendency of the bill, he thought that it would experience no opposition, but would be allowed to pass with thai celerity which its importance demanded. If any person had objections to the principle, This was the time to propose them. If none were made, then the bill would go into the Committee, when their Lordships might suggest any amendments which they should think proper.

The Duke of. Cunberland rose and said, that to the object of the bill, which upon its face purported to be the “Defence of the Country," it was impossible any objection could be urged. What he had formerly thrown out went merely thus far, that he apprehended, in a measure of this imporiance, too short an interval was allowed between the printing of the bill and the discussion of it.

We were now called upon to defend not only our lives, but what to Britons must be of far greater importance than life itself, our liberties and our honour. We were now, 10 defend ourselves against an overbearing usurper, who insolently had threatened to put to death all whom he found in arms against him. That he would meet with the most disgracefui defeat, he had no doubt, but it became us to be prepared. There was no concealing the magnitude of the danger. To avert would require diligence and activity, but wiih diligence and activity it might be averted. He did not with to see the couniry plunged into a security-the result of apathy and ignorance ; but he wished that its security should be derived from a full apprehension of the danger being more than counterbalanced by the magnitude of the spirit and prepatation which would be employed to meet that danger. His advice to his countrymen, to those who had the happiness to be born Britith subjects, would be, to be prepared for the worst, and not to be led away by the sentiment, which 'he was forry to find had obtained currency, that invasion was

P 2

impullible

!

[ocr errors]

impossible. The vigilance and activity of the usurper required an equal vigilance on our part. Every effori was to be called forth, but if the country were not wanting to itself, the result would be disgrace and defeat to our enemies, and eternal glory to the British empire.

Lord Mulgrave rose, and at some length expreffed his fatisfaction with the bill. It held for its object the defence of the country, and to that none could urge any objection. No person could doubt that it was his Majesty's undoubted prerogative to call upon the services of all his subjects in case of invasion. The change produced by the lapse of a long period in the habits and military duties of mankind, bad rendered it necessary for Parliainent to interfere, in order to give effect to that prerogative. A preparation was now neceffary, which some centuries ago there was no occasion for. The King might call out his subjects, but it was necessary that they should previously be disciplined, in order to meet the difcipline which should be opposed to them. The principle of the bill, which went to produce this state of discipline, he with all his heart approved. It was the period at which it was introduced that he lamented. Why was it not brought forward before? Confidering the time that must necessarily elapse before the provisions of the bill could be carried' into execution, he feared that, by the neglect of having it put off so long, ir could hardly be productive of any benefit for the present year. Considering that we were at war fince the 8th of March, and the menacing tone of our enemy ever lince the treaty of Amiens, what could we think of the forefight and wisdom of Ministry, that only at this time of day thought proper to rouse the energy of the country! To the treaty of Amiens he had many objections, and had always been ; against the surrender of Malia. But he voted in favour of

that treaty for this purpole, that all might be convinced of the imposibility of remaining at peace with the existing government of France. This conviction was produced.

But when we perceived that the most adverfe to conviction were convinced-ihat the nation were almoft unanimoufly of opinion that the aggressions and insults of our foe were hardly to be endured, and that ever since the month of October last, what could we think of the wisdom and forefight of those Ministers who only now were making preparations against the danger? He expresied his refpect and efteem for the Ministers collectively, with many he was particularly connected; but if his deareft friend were to be guilty of what appeared to him neglect and indifference, he could not at the present moment be filent. This was not a time to give way to the feelings of partiality. When the country had been so ready to go along with them, he was astonished at the aparhy of Ministers, who seemed to be afraid of express fing their sense of our danger, and alarming the country. The country ought to be alarmcd.' He did not meani che alarm of fear or iimidiiy, but that sense of danger that would naturally lead to the adoption of meafures to avert it.' He had been told, and indeed he himself had obferved, that there was too great an apathy in the country. Why was This the cafe? Because the people expected the alarm from Government. They had been accustomed to a Government whose vigilance, promptitude, and foresight, had averted dangers unequalled, both by their magnitude, and in the rapidity with which they fucceeded each other. Now when the alarin was spread, such was the spirit of the people, fuch were their readiness ro fecond the exertions of Government, that even this meafure, with all the compulfion which it went to exercife, was the most popular that ever had been introduced into Parliament. He highly approved of the measure, because he saw infinite advantage in it for future periods. Now that the spirit of the country was effe&tually roufed, he expressed his confidence that every attempt of our fre against us would be attended with disgrace on his part, and glory and fuccess on ours.

Lord Welimerland said, there could be no doubt entertained of the extent of his Majesty's prerogative, in calling for the perfonal fervice of all claffes of his subjects; the peculior effect of this bill was, by previous discipline and orga*nization, 10' make them more serviceable than they would otherwife be, when the occasion of exerting that prerogative might occur. Notwithstanding the general conduct of Mi

biltry was represented by the noble Lord who fpoke last as **Weak and tardy, his Lordihip contended, that the present meafure, when taken in connection with the other preparations, and the efficient system by which it was preceded, fhewed a vigour and exertion that had never been furpafied, The peace of Amiens he considered as an experiment, that had convinced the country no peace could be expected where one of the parties only was inclined to that ftate. The con

fequence

[ocr errors]

fequence he must regret, with respect to that peace, was the necessary reduction of the army which it occafioned : to this he wholly attributed the deficiency of the militia on the breaking out of the present war, and not to any negligence on the part of the respective Lords Lieutenants As to the charge of sardiness, he doubted whether the bill, if it had been brought forward sooner, would have had the same support throughout the country. We were now in a fruation when," he that hath a sword let him gird himself therewith, and he that haih not, let him sell his garment to buy one." The preparations now so generally made, his Lordihip thought the most likely means of preventing the attempt of the menaced invasion; but if, contrary to that expectation, it fhould, in fact, take place, he iruted that neither the country at large, nor London in particular, would feel any alarm, but be ready, as they were amply provided with the means, to retrieve the character they lost on ihe invasion of the Roman CÆSAR.

Lord Hobart expressed himself much surprised at the ob. ject and tendency of the speech delivered by the noble Lord (Mulgrave) who spoke jlast but one, particularly as he had reason to believe his Lordship was a friend to the principle of the bill. His speech appeared to be made for no other purpose but to depreciate the Government in the eyes of the country; but was it posible, his Lordship asked, for the bill to have been so well received in the country, if the conduct of Government had been so weak and tardy as had been represented ?-In the present situation of affairs, his Lordthip could not conceive what advantage his noble Friend proposed to the country, by this studied animadversion on the past conduct of Government. He had said that the people took their tone from the tone of Government, and seemed to condeinn the latter, for not sooner rousing the country from a state of listless indifference and inactive apathy. For what purpose was all this? Why, at the present moment, should his noble Friend assert that Government had fallen short of their duty ? The point, however, had in no degree been establilhed. His noble Friend had upheld, as he himself would uphold, the conduct of the late Administration, in times of trying exigencies. Was it meant, however, by thus timing this panegyric, to infinuate that if they had now been entrusted with the conduct of public affairs, the present measures would not have been so long delayed? If so, why, it may be asked, in a

[ocr errors]

period of scarcely less danger, the year 1798, did not this fame Admioillsation bring forward a similar measure? The arguments now advanced would lead to the inference, that they were culpable in not doing so. In fact, however, as had been said by the noble Lord, who spoke last, the propriety of a measure must depend on the peculiar circumstances of the moment in which it was brought forward. Government, however, were not firictly changeable with weakness and inattention, bec use they exerciled 'heir judginent in selecting the tine in which a particula neafure should be brought forward. Let the House reculle. what had previously to this measure been done. The militia were called oul, the supplementary militia added, the segular twice increased, and an army of reserve established.

Now all these plan of operation were necesarily carried on by the same persons What we foresaw, therefore, would have arisen, if they had all been undertaken at once. He could not speak accurately of the state of preparation in which France mighi at this moment be, but it was much greater than he conceived, if the forces of the country wouid be ready to act with any possible effe&t before the winter preparations, now suggested by the present bill, would be ready to oppose them. He was aware that the preparatiuns on the other side of the water were great; they were great also here, and adequate to repel them. Ape proving, as the country was acknowledged to do, of the

pre sent measure, it was too much to take that opportunity of charging Government with criminal delay, and doing nothing in iis preparations. He professed the greatest respect and friend thip for the noble Lord who broughı forward ibis charge, but he would not have the conduct of Government arraigned on grounds so untenable, without riling to speak in is defence.

Lord Winchelsea spoke in favour of Ministers as to not bringing forward all their plans of preparation at once. Such a conduct must necessarily, he thought, have been productive of great confusion.

The question was then put and carried.

The bill then went through the Committee, and the report ordered to be received the next day. . Adjourned.

HOUSE

« ZurückWeiter »