« ПредишнаНапред »
building more, and had been busied in filling his dock-yards, his magazines, and arsenals, with everythin necessary forfitting out his navy with the greatest celerity. He concluded by vindicating his friends from the charge, that they acted from no other motive but the design of getting the present ministers removed, and taking their places; and expressing his opinion in favour of a larger establishment than that Proposed. he question was then loudly called for, and the resolution areed to. On Wednesday, Dec. 8, the house having resolved itself into a comimittee of supply, The secretary at war rose, and proposed the army establishment for the ensuing year. Before he stated to the committee the outlines of that establishment, he begged leave to submit a few general observations to their attention. The estimates he then held in his hand, contained the detail of a military establishment, larger, both in the amount of the expenditure it would require, and in the number of men to be maintained, than any former peace establishment in the history of this country; and the grand question for the consideration of the committee was, whether circumstances then existed which rendered such an enlarged establishment ncCessary On the decision of that question, would depend the justification of his majesty's ministers in proposing it: for on no other ground than necessity, could so extraordinary an establishment be proposed or vindicated. If that question were resolved in the affirmative, then it was for parliament to determine, whether the plan and the description of that extraordinary establishment was such as would ensure to the country the
advantages of protection and security. As proofs of the existing mecessity of such an increased establishment, the honourable secretary mentioned the circumstances of Europe, the relative situation of this country and the neighbouring owers, the overgrown power of rance, the military character and enterprising spirit of the present French government. Moreover, the committee had to consider that France was complete master of the Netherlands, had Holland wholly under its controul and dominion, and had likewise the undisputed command of the whole course of the Rhine, of the Maese, and the Scheldt, with all the fortresses situated on their banks. The committee were to reflect, that it was the first time they had been called upon to form a peace establishment under such a remarkable change of circumstances; and to make adequate provision against the power of a sole neighbour, whose resources had been so considerably increased and extended. He was astonished at the language of Mr. Fox, who said, he saw nothing in the circumstances of Europe, to justify a greater military establishment than had been maintained during the last peace. Let gentlemen consider what was the situation in which the country was then placed. During a great part of that peace, Holland was united to us in ties of the strictest friendship; the Netherlands were still in the possession of Austria; and the whole course of the Rhine, from Alsace to the sea, belonged to powers entertaining the most pacific views to this country. Again— what was the peace establishment of France? He had no wish that ours should bear any thing like a proportion to that of France; but unquestionably the force kept up by by a rival power, was a matter deserving serious attention. (The righthon. member here gave a minute calculation of the present state of the French army; but the statement in round numbers will be sufficient for understanding the argument.) He stated that the number of French regiments of cavalry, was 84 ; and that their number was upwards of 46,000. The demibrigades of infantry of the line were 110; which with 30 demi-brigades of light infantry, formed a total of $41,000. There were ten demibrigades of veterans for garrisons, consisting of upwards of 13,000; and 26,000 formed the number of the artillery, pioneers, and other descriptions of that army. The gross number of the whole army was about 427,910. There were vast numbers of people trained to arms, who could be called into immediate action. These consisted of the gendarmerie, and other classes of irregular troops. These, added to the regular army, would form a total very little under 929,000 men. Having gone through this statement, the right hon. member resumed the course of his argument. There were two objections, he continued, to the plan he had proposed: 1st. The maintenance of a standing army was unconstitutional, and even dangerous to the existence of liberty in a free country. This he admitted, if it were not subject to the controul of parliament; but if it could be shown that, from the relative situation of this country and foreign powers, the support of such an establishment was essential
army to a certain extent had been kept up in this country since the ara of the revolution. The circumstances of Europe required it; and the most enlightened statesmen, and the most ardent lovers of liberty, were forced to admit its necessity. The necessity of a standing army to a certain extent was therefore admitted : this extent was to be regulated by circumstances; and if a large establishment were necessary, the same arguments which favoured a small establishment would apply to one much larger with equal force. Necessity was the single ground in both cases for any establishment at all.—2nd. The other objection he had alluded to, was drawn from considerations of oeconomy. It was contended, that we must husband our resources, must support public credit, must accumulate wealth during the period of repose which was afforded us by peace. It appeared to him, that public credit would be best supported by holding out to the country the prospect of security founded in a strong system of defensive preparation. #. he asked, was wealth to be accumulated without security ? And how was security to be attained with reference to the British empire, without a strong naval and military establishment: The present system of a military establishment would, he trusted, be found adequate to that purpose; while it
would appear, as far as possible,
consistent with the most rigid system of economy. The right hon. secretary then laid before the committee a statement of the general outlines of the establishment proposed to be kept up for the ensuing year; and as the estimates were in gentlemen's hands, he might be ex
cused from descending to minute
particulars. particulars. It was proposed that three regiments of horse-guards should be kept up; which with 27 regiments of dragoons, would form an establishment in a great measure the same as the establishment of the cavalry at the last peace. The 21st regiment was to be kept up in the room of the 5th regiment, which had been disbanded. The regiments were to consist of eight troops, sixty rank and file; and of this number, ten out of each troop were to be dismounted. By that arrangement, a sum exceeding 50,000l. would be saved to the public. The result of this plan was, that of cavalry 17,250 would be the total number. As to the infantry, it was intended to keep the three regiments of guards on their present footing: they would consist of 75 in each company, and their total number would be 6060. The rest of the army would consist of 102 battalions of foot. The regiments were to be kept up as far as the 93d. The 2d battalion of the royals, a corps long distinguished, and the 2nd battalion of the 52nd, a regiment admitted to be one of the finest in the service, were to be retained. The regiments in India were to be kept up on the full complement of 100 men in each company. Of twelve regiments of colour, six had been reduced, and six were to be continued in the service. Those would form companies of 75 men each, and their number would be 4,158. Those reiments had been found of great use in several parts of the service where European troops could not have acted with advantage. Of the for reign corps only four regiments were to be continued; those were the regiments of Stewart, which behaved with such gallantry in Egypt,
and three Swiss regiments, which al
together would not exceed 3,533. No alterations were to be made in the arrangements of the rifle and staff corps, which would continue on the same footing as last year. The whole of the force to be maintained was therefore 128,999, in which he included the troops that were to serve in India. With respect to the general distribution of this force, it would not be expected by the committee that he should speak minutely on the present occasion. He should just observe in general, that 60,000 rank and file, including 15,000 cavalry, were intended for the service of Great Britain and Ireland. For the plantations, 30,000 were destined. In India 18,000 were to be employed. At present, there were in India, of British troops, seventeen battalions; of these three would be sent home, so that the nun:ber then would be fourteen battalions, beside cavalryFor the support of this establishment, the sum required was 4,150,000l. including the troops acting in India: [Here Mr. Fox, in a whisper across the table, asked whether in the number of men to be employed for England, the garrison battalions were included.] The secretary at war resumed his speech:—As a much more advantageous and useful way of employing the out-pensioners of Chelsea-Hospital, it was intended to form seven new garrison battalions. The appellation of invalids he had long considered as an objectionable distinction. According to the proposed plan, those men formerly characterised as invalids would perform a very important duty; while a, difference of expense, amounting to about 5000l. a-year. would form the whole of the additional burden on the Public. .
this new regulation, a great proportion for #; .. be performed; and a considerable number of the regular troops formerly occupied in this service would be left disposable for any other purpose that might be required. He proceeded. The total expense of the army, for the year 1803, would not exceed the sum of 5,280,000 l. In this calculation, only one or two articles were omitted. There was no estimate of the full pay of the retired officers. The expense of the Chelsea pensioners was not brought into the account, because that expense would depend on the expense attending the new establishment of the garrison battalions. There was, besides, the expense of the military college, and the military asylum. When he stated, however, that the whole expense of the army establishment for the next year, would not exceed 5,500,000l. he put the house in possession of a tolerably correct view of what would be the actual expenditure. Taking this as the real amount of the expense, it was less by 2,060,000l. than during the last year, and was less by 10,130,0001. than during the last-year of the war: it differed from the army estimates of the last six months, by 65,000l.; for though the number of men maintained was greaterby about 8000, yet there had been savings to such an amount in different articles, as to create that difference. There was a difference of 300,000 l. in the simple article of the barrack department from the expense of last year. The righthon. member then entered into a.statement of particulars relative to the imputed unwarrantable reduction of the public force. From this statement it appeared, that, at that moment, there were upwards of 250,000 men, who
could, at a very short notice, be ready to take the field, excluding those in India; which, indeed, i. of the force applicable to
e defence of this country, he had uniformly kept out of view. He hoped he was not demanding too much of the committee, when he asked of them to declare candidly, whether those facts did not satisfactorily exculpate ministers from the charge so frequently, so loudly, and so unjustly, brought against them, of negligence in the conduct of the public service; supineness to such a degree, as to leave the country unprepared for the assertion of its rights, and the maintenance of its honour. The secretary at war concluded by moving, “That 66,000 men be employed for the service of Great Britain and
Ireland, for the year 1803.”
Sir W. W. Wynne condemned the conduct of ministers, in disbanding such forces as they were not bound to discharge from the terms of their enlistment. Such, he asserted, was the case in many instances; particularly with respect to the second battalions of the 68th and 85th regiments, which were composed of dräfts from the Irish militia, who wereenlisted originally for general service. He did not approve of the increase of the standing army; and thought it would be better to rely on our militia, as a more constitutional force.
The secretary at war, in explanation, stated, that though the second battalions of the regiments alluded to by the hon. baronet were actually not intitled to their discharge
at the conclusion of the war, yet,
as such an impression prevailed among the men, it was conceived, that it would be unfair to take advantage cf the ignorance under which they might originally have enlisted. Lord Temple observed, that it had been frequently denied that any considerable reduction had for some time taken place in the land forces; but what was the fact? Why, that since June last, when 95,000 men were voted, the cavalry had been reduced not less than one half, the infantry very considerably, the garrison battalions broken, and one half of the West-India regiments disbanded, and that at the time when intelligence was received of the landing of general Leclerc in St. Domingo with a force from which very well grounded apprehensions were entertained as to our own colonies. To these undeniable facts he appealed in contradiction to the very positive assertions of the minister on a former day. He also understood, that this practice of disarming continued even down to October last; and that on the 22d of that month, the very night on which ministers determined to dispatcha remonstrance on the affairs of Switzerland, orders were issued to persevere in the system of disarming. Such were the vigorous means which ministers employed to second that remonstrance. On the 23d of October, Mr. Moore, a gentleman justly high in the confidence of the secretary of state, was sent off in a mysterious manner; and soon after made his appearance at Constance, conferring with the agents of the Swiss insurgents, as the avowed emissary of the British government. It was, notwithstanding, asserted, that ministers did not implicate the honour of the country in that transaction; but for his part he saw no. reason to hope, that the honour of the country was at all considered in that interference. He should
assent to the motion; and candidly acknowledged, that he and his friends, as had been objected to them, approved of the ineasures, but disapproved of the men. (A general laugh.) Mr. Sheridan then began a most brilliant, eloquent, and argumentative speech, to which we are sorry cur limits will not permit us to do complete justice. Notwithstanding the existing differences of opinion, there was one thing, he observed, in which they all coincided : it was, that the crisis in which we were placed, was so big with tremendous importance, so pregnant with weighty difficulties, so full of apprehensions and dangers, that the house and the country had a right to know what were the intentions and the views of those, by whose exertions we might expect to be extricated from the complication of embarrassments, and snatched from the very brink of destruction. One of the circumstances he most regretted in that debate was, the references that had been made to the characters and abilities of persons supposed to be fit to fill particular offices. He was sorry that his honourable friend near him, made any allusion even to one man, whom of all men upon earth he most loved and respected; be. cause he did view the crisis to be one of such moment and peril, and because, if ever there was a time in which we should prove to the people of England, that we were above all party feelings, that we were above all party distinctions, that we were superior to any petty scramble for places and power, that time was the present.—He ad
verted to the cre of Switzerland.
An honourable gentieman had asserted, that we had nothing to do with the case of Switzerland, no