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Debates on the Army Estimates.- Petitions against the Property-Tar.-Vote
against its continuance.—The War Malt. Tar is abandoned by the Minister. - The Budget.
The discussion of the army estimates, my had been made in that House, it as has already been hinted, was pur- had been resisted on a principle whol. sued to a great length. , In the House ly unconnected with any party feel. of Commons in particular, the debates ing—it had been resisted by a body of on this subject were protracted from men acting independently of any adnight to night, and were not termina. ministration-he meant the country ted till the 6th of March. We shall gentlemen of England, who had inva. give some sketches of the principal riably united in their hostility to a speeches delivered on these occasions, measure of that nature. As for his because, although they did not lead own motives on this particular occato any change in the original proposalsion, he conld solemnly assure the of the ministry, they are valuable as House, that he was wholly uninfluenrecords of the state of public feeling ced by any personal feeling towards with respect to the consequences of any individual whatever. In compamilitary force and splendour, at a time rison with such a question as that be. when the glory of our arms might have fore them, he cared not who was in or been supposed likely to make us relax who was out of power ; but he called somewhat of our ancient prejudices. It on the country at large to think and will be seen, that a salutary suspicious. to act for themselves to look at the ness was still kept alive among us, and extent of the means they possessed, that the ministry, no less than the op.' and at the extent of the danger to be position, reprobated in the main every apprehended, and to decide on the esidea of departing permanently from tablishment that was advisable with the old and constitutional jealousy of reference to both those considerations. extensive military establishments.' In Without desiring the House to go far an early stage of the discussion, some back to precedents, without referring very striking observations were made, them to the sterner periods of British in a speech of much candour and man- history, he thought it might do no liness, by Mr Frankland Lewis. This harm to remind them of one instance gentleman observed, that," whenever of the inflexible manner in which par. the proposition of a large standing ar. liament formerly discharged its duty
on this subject. He alluded to their ducting from the returns all that was conduct towards King William-that derived, as by the professional man, sovereign who had been the seal and from the mere employment of time, the confirmation of our liberties or as by the farmer from mere personal from whom, nevertheless, the parlia- labour, it would appear that the rement of his time tore those Dutch venue actuallyproceeding from the land guards, who had been his companions and stock of the country, did not exceed in all his victories. But without 130 or at least 140 millions. When going so far back for examples of the it thus appeared, that even in time of conduct of the country gentlemen in peace the country was called upon by parliament, he would refer to a period the state for half its revenue, that of between thirty and forty years ago, there was danger of its soon arriving at when Mr Pitt, with all his eloquence, the end of its resources, let the House with the force of his government, and consider what mu-t happen, should we with a case incomparably stronger unfortunately be plunged into another than that of the present time, attempt. war. Last year the right honourable ed to press the expediency of expend. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as ing 400.0001. of the public money in an apology for touching that sacred fortifications. What was the event ? deposit the sinking fund, had declared It was not Mr Fox or his party by that taxation had found its limits. It whom the proposition was effectually appeared, then, that the expence of resisted. It was by the country gen. our peace establishment was nearly tlemen of England, headed by Mr equal to that which, under any cirBastard, then member for Devonshire. cumstances, the country could defray.
The numbers on the division respect. How was this situation of things coming it being equal, Mr Cornwall, the patible with that high tone which it Speaker, gave that casting vote which behoved the country to maintain, and secured the country from the danger which could only be maintained by that with which it had been threatened.
economy in peace, which would afford The same spirit of liberty, the same us the means of waging war with suclove for their country, and for its con- cess? These considerations pressed stitution, would, he trusted, animate the more nearly, when the House the country gentlemen of the present looked at the mass of petitions on their day. In his opinion, the estimates table. He verily believed, that the proposed by his Majesty's govern- distresses of the people at the present ment were founded on a perfectly false moment were of a magnitude not sufview of our means, and of our danger. ficiently appreciated. And in what What were our means ? the interest consisted the danger which required of the national debt was forty mil. this immense peace establishment ? lions ; from this we could not relieve We were, as far as the assurances of ourselves. It was proposed to vote a ministers went, confirmed in our alli. peace establishment of nearly twenty- ances, and being thus bound cordially one millions. To pay these conjoint together, there was less danger of this sums, the annual peace taxes must ex- union being dissevered from jealousy, ceed sixty millions. If the income. than there was of any alliance ever tax had any one good quality, it was, made in Europe, of which England that it afforded the opportunity of formed a part. Where, then, was the estimating the national property. De- need of this establishment ? As the
See New Parliamentary History, vol. xxv. p. 1096.
of France was destroyed, there they were even more safe now than was surely no military danger to be at that period, or than they ever were apprehended on her account.
while the chain of the French colonies kept up men at Cambray and Condé, remained unbroken. About 4000 men it was perfectly needless to keep them would, in his opinion, be amply suffiat Colchester and Chelmsford ; in cient for them. Another important short, if our army was to be kept in subject was Canada, which, he believe France, we did not want it here. The ed, as far as frontier went, was strongsame might be said respecting a large er rather than weaker than it was benaval establishment; it was not requi- fore; for the possession of Upper Cared. Neither France nor Spain had nada materially strengthened Quebec. any navies at all. As to our troops There was a force of Canadian militia, for foreign stations, they appeared so excellently di-ciplined, that full re large beyond all possible necessity. liance might be placed on it, as to its There were to be 11,000 men for Gib. assistance in case of danger. Respectraltar ; but there was no reason why ing Ireland, it was a melancholy suba higher number of men were wanted ject; his idea was that there should for the Mediterranean now than was be a specific enquiry into the real state necessary in 1791, when the establish- of that country, for we only know ment was between 4000 and 5000 that there is a great degree of local men. In the Ionian islands there were disturbance about tithes; but there to be 3500. , He would call upon was no symptom of rebellion against the House to consider the nature, the government. There could thereterms, and principles of that acquisi- fore be nothing to occasion the contition, in order to see what grounds there nual employmeat there of 25,000 men, were for any danger arising in those except to assist the police, and their islands. It could not be from Russia, aid was not grounded on any positive or from Austria; for it was by the con- or actual necessity. In referring to currence of those two powers that we the unhappy state of Ireland, it was took possession of them. It was impossible to refrain from lamenting surely not to protect ourselves against the course which England had heretothe inhabitants; for they conceived fore pursued, and was still pursuing that our coming was from a disposi. towards her. Every application had tion to deliver them from the thral. been resorted to, to suppress the
condom under which they had previously sequences of the evil, but none to relaboured. He must therefore think move its cause. He would not inthat 12 or 1500 men would be a num. deed, in referring to this painful topic, ber fully adequate for those posses- call on them to repeal at once the sions. The same might be said of whole of their accumulated system, Batavia and Ceylon, and even of in but he trusted that a sufficient inducedia itself, where, if we were anxious ment appeared on the face of the questo find an enemy, we had to seek him tion, to impress in the proper quarter on the frontiers of Napaul or Thibet. the necessity of resorting, as soon as He therefore thought that all our fo. it was possible, to the diffusion of a reign establishments were too large; better system in that country. As to and he was sure the House would England, the military establishment think that 14 000 men for the West was also extraordinary, and the motive Indies was out of all proportion. In for its existence worse. We were now 1791 the establishment for those colo. to depart from the old system of col. nies was not more than 2000, and surely lecting our revenue, and to employ a
military force against smugglers. The vil government, and especially subject cutters' heretofore employed by the to the control of parliament. The ancustoms and excise departments were cient jealousy against a standing army, to be suppressed, and the navy vessels it ought to be recollected, was against to be employed in their place. He such a force being maintained in these was old-fashioned enough to object to realms, and not so much from disapthis sort of arrangement on a variety probation of that which might be kept of grounds—he preferred the King's up in our foreign possessions. This was forces to be in an auxiliary state to the expressed in the bill of rights, as it was customs, and not their principal ; be in the mutiny bill founded on the bill sides, the alteration would lead to the of rights. He approved of the practice bribery and debauchery of the sole which had been introduced in modern diers—a change most fatal to their times of bringing the army kept up in character and discipline, and yet one our foreign possessions under the connecessarily arising out of the new ha- trol of parliament, as well as that mainbits into which they would be thrown. tained within these realms. The inBut even if a case of danger could be crease of men which the present peace made out, he thought we had lost establishment required, was small, comsight of maintaining the best species of pared with the increased greatness of force. The militia furnished the most the country.” eligible defence for the country, and, Mr Brougham rose on the conclu. with an auxiliary force of twelve orsion of Mr Yorke's speech, and exfourteen thousand regulars, it would pressed much indignation at “the cool be quite sufficient for all the duties calm tone with which that gentleman which the army would have to perform." had laid down principles, unknown to
In reply to Mr Lewis, Mr Yorke the purity of our fathers, and repugmaintained, “ that the enormous extent nant to the spirit of the constitution." and wealth of the British empire ren. He expressed his conviction that the dered it indispensibly necessary that more the calculation was followed up, we should have some standing army, the less would the proposers of this if we meant to preserve the blessings unexampled establishment gain by the that had been handed down to us by scrutiny; and they would gladly reour ancestors. Such, he asserted, had sort to general arguments and the vibeen the practice of the country ever sions of remote danger drawn from the since the Revolution, at which time a military spirit of Europe. If we might standing army was first established, apprehend danger from this spirit at and had continued to the present time. some future time, a plain man would He therefore apprehended that there ask, why we should not wait a few could be no possible objection to the years, and save ourselves and our repractice. Nobody would be more sources till the danger manifested itready than himself to admit, that a le. self. It was evident that the results gal and constitutional jealousy ought of the last victory had been such, in to be exercised on this subject, as far the dismemberment of France, that as related to a standing army being though that country had the wish to under the control of the crown; but revenge itself, and though we could the amount of the jealousy ought not not trust either its monarch or his fato go beyond the proportion of the mily, the state of Europe and the
ago amount of the army. Nobody was grandizement of our own military chamore anxious than himself that the racter left us less to fear from our nastanding army should be under the ci- tural enemy (as France has been called), than at any time since the revolu- of the right honourable gentleman, as tion of 1688, or even long before that to the bugbear of a standing army epoch. And this was the moment which had frightened the opposition when it proposed to establish a perpe. side of the House, had provoked him tual military force which had never to enter his protest against those prinbeen contemplated when all Europe ciples, and endeavour to recall to the was leagued against us, not even at House the feelings of better times." times when war was actually raging! The general statements of these It was a fact, as to which the Chancellor members were answered by Mr Wel. of the Exchequer might satisfy himself lesley Pole, the Chancellor of the Exby figures, to which he loved so well chequer, and Lord Castlereagh. Ac. to refer, that in the Seven Years War, cording to them, the apprehensions of when we defeated France in all quar- these gentlemen had been excited by ters of the globe, our military force regarding too exclusively the ex facie was not half that which was now large amount of the armed force to be proposed as a peace establishment. maintained, and neglecting to take inBut they were told it was a chi. to due consideration the great increase mera to suppose that an army could of our colonial possessions on the one be dangerous to the constitution ; that hand, and on the other, those alteraan army was the most innocent and tions in the situation of affairs at home harmless of all establishments. With which we have already seen alluded to out enquiring into all the waysin which by Mr Yorke. The largest item in an army might be injurious to the the estimates was the army of 25 000 constitution, was it not enough to
men for Ireland. But we are concernprove the danger, that it bore with it ed to say, that Mr Peele laid before an immense system of influence, which the House but too sufficient an exwas not the less injurious to the inte. planation of the circumstances which rests of the people, or less fatal to the had appeared to demand that force. constitution, because it was not in the On this occasion, and on the subse. hands of a responsible minister who quent one of a motion made by Sir might be questioned day by day in John Newport, for an enquiry into the that House (though questions of late state of the sister kingdom, details had not been answered), but in the were produced, which proved abun. hands of a person intimately connect. dantly, that from whatever causes they ed both by interest and blood, with might have arisen, the disturbances in a power which was neither lords nor that country were still of the most excommons, nor cabinet, but the crown tensive and alarming nature, and that itself? Was there no danger to be without an armed force equal to that apprehended from the traffic which proposed, the public security could might possibly take place between not be expected to be maintained. the crown and powerful individuals, The navy estimates were brought who in return for commissions might before the House by Sir George Warengage their families to serve the render, and the proposed establishmonarch politically, and themselves to ment of 30,000 seamen, was agreed to serve him military? In conclusion, after considerable discussion, partly of he apologised for having, perhaps, a very disagreeable and personal nawasted more time than they deserved ture. on the propositions which' had that From the commencement of the night been advanced, but the unwar session, the subject connected with firantable principles, and the cool talk nance, which occupied most of the