Page images
PDF
EPUB

virtues of no less importance which are to be acquired under a reverse of fortune, and which are equally becoming in those who are called to suffer :- there are the virtues of adversity endured and adversity resisted; of adversity encountered and adversity surmounted. The recent example of Germany has furnished an illustrious instance of fortitude and perseverance, and their fortitude and perseverance have had their merited reward. These are lessons which I trust this country has not to learn. Eng. land has never shown itself deficient in firmness and magnanimity; it is unrivalled in resource; it has always been foremost in the career of honourable exertion, and it has only to maintain its accustomed vigour and perseverance, to effect the restoration of general tranquillity upon terms consistent with the dignity of its own character, and the security and interest of Europe.

The question upon the address was carried without a division.

October 18. 1796.

The House having resolved itself into a committee to consider of that part of His Majesty's speech, which respected invasion, and the paragraph being read as follows,

“ You will feel this peculiarly necessary at a moment when the enemy has openly manifested the intention of attempting a descent on these kingdoms. It cannot be doubted what would be the issue of such an enterprise; but it befits your wisdom to neglect no precautions that may either preclude the attempt, or secure the speediest means of turning it to the confusion and ruin of the enemy;" —

Mr. Pitt rose:

After the unanimous vote which the House gave upon the first day of the session, and their general concurrence in that part of the address which respects a foreign invasion, it would be doing injustice to the feelings which were then expressed, were I to make any apology for calling their attention to the subject on the present occasion. I shall not detain them therefore a single moment in showing the propriety of laying before them at so early a period the measure which I mean this day to propose. It is equally our duty and our interest by every means in our power, and by every exertion of which we are capable, if possible, in the language of the address, to preclude the attempt, and at the same time to take such measures of defence as shall cause the invasion, if it should be attempted, to issue in the confusion and ruin of the enemy. I shall not at present go much at large into the detail of preparations, but merely suggest a general outline of defence, which, if it should be approved of by the committee, may be particularly discussed when the bills are afterwards brought in upon the resolutions. The general considerations are few and obvious. The natural defence of this kingdom, in case of invasion, is certainly its naval force. This presents a formidable barrier, in whatever point the enemy may direct their attack. In this department, however, little now remains to be done, our fleet at this moment being more respectable and more formidable than ever it was at any other period in the history of the country. But strong and powerful even as it at present is, it is capable of considerable increase, could an additional supply of seamen, or even landsmen, who in a very short time might be trained to an adequate knowledge of the naval service, be procured. For this purpose I would suggest a levy upon the different parishes throughout the kingdom -- an expedient precisely similar to that which was practised with so much success nearly two years ago. This levy, however, I would not confine as a mode of supply for the sea-service. It is certainly of the highest importance both for the internal defence of the country and the security of our foreign possessions, that all the old regiments should be complete. But every one must be sensible, that from the numbers in those regiments who have fallen a sacrifice to sickness and the fortune of war, a more expeditious, method must be adopted for their completion, than the ordinary mode of recruiting supplies, in order that the country may be able to avail itself of this arm of strength. I would propose, therefore, in the first place, a levy of fifteen thousand men from the different parishes for the sea-service, and for recruiting the regiments of the line. The committee, however, must be sensible when a plan of invasion is in agitation -a scheme, which almost at another time would not have been conceived, and an attempt, which, by any other enemy than that with whom we have now to contend, might have been justly deemed impraeticable - that à more enlarged and a more expensive plan of prevention and of defence is necessary.

In digesting this plan there are two considerations of which we ought not to lose sight. The first is the means (which must not be altogether new) of calling together a la force, sufficiently strong to frustrate the attempt, keeping our naval force entirely out of view; and secondly, to adopt such measures in raising this force as shall not materially interfere with the industry, the agriculture, and the commerce of the country. It will be for the House to decide upon the degree to which the former consideration ought to be permitted to interfere with the latter. A primary object will be to raise, and gradually to train, such a force as may in a short time be fit for service. Of all the modes of attaining this object, there is none so expeditious, so effectual, and attended with so little expense, as that of raising a supplemental levy of militia, to be grafted upon the present establishment. I should propose that this supplement shall consist of sixty thousand men, not to be immediately called out, but to be enrolled, officered, and gradually trained, so as to be fit for service at a time of danger. The best mode of training them without withdrawing too many at one time from their regular pursuits, will be to embody one-sixth part in regular succession, each to be trained for twenty days, in the course of which they may become toler. able proficients in the military exercise. With respect to the mode of conducting the levy, the returns that have been lately made from the different counties, show the present levies to be extremely disproportioned, and that the clause in the act which

provides against this abuse has never been executed. Accordingly we find that in some counties the proportion is one out of seven, and in others one out of three. It will be expedient therefore to regulate the future levy, not by the proportions now existing, but by a general estimate of the inhahitants who are able to bear arms.

The next consideration which merits attention is the manner in which the troops are to be furnished, which I think ought to be generally from all parts of the kingdom, and that an obligation be imposed upon those who are balloted, either to serve in person or to provide a substitute ; and the better to preserve the general proportion, that this substitute be provided either from the parish in which the person balloted resides, or from a parish immediately adjoining. It will be proper also to remove the present exemption from those who have more than one child, on the express condition that they shall not be called upon to serve out of the parish in which they live. The mode of traine ing only one-sixth part of the whole, twenty days in succession, as it will only withdraw ten thousand at a time from their usual occupations, consequently will not much infringe upon the general order of the community. Of course they must be provided with some sort of uniform, but it will be of the coarsest kind, and such as may be purchased at a small expense. A sufficient number of arms will also be in readiness for supplying each man in the moment of danger.

Another measure which I would suggest to the committee is to provide a considerable force of irregular cavalry. The regular cavalry on the present establishment is certainly by no means inconsiderable, and the yeomanry cavalry, which from their numbers are sufficiently respectable, we have found to be highly useful in securing the quiet and maintaining the internal tranquillity of the country. But with a view to repelling an invasion, the more that this species of force is extended the greater advantage is likely to accrue from it, as an invading enemy, who must be destitute of horses, can have no means to meet it upon equal terms. Besides, it is a species of force which may be provided in a mode that will be attended with almost no expense to the public, and with little hardship to individuals. In order to calculate the extent to which these irregular cavalry may be raised, it is necessary to estimate the number of horses which are kept for pleasure throughout the kingdom, and by raising the levy in this proportion we shall have the satisfaction to think that it will fall upon those only who have a considerable stake to defend. By the produce of the tax, which is as good a criterion as any of the number of horses kept for pleasure, we find that, in Scotland, England, and Wales, they amount to about two hundred thousand, one hundred and twenty thousand of which belong to persons who keep only one horse of the kind, the rest to persons, some of whom keep ten and various other proportions. It certainly would not be a very severe regulation when compared with the object meant to be accomplished, to require ope tenth of these horses for the public service. I would therefore propose that every person who keeps ten horses, shall be obliged to furnish one horse and a horseman to serve in a corps of cavalry; - that every person who keeps more than ten borses, and a number falling short of twenty, after furnishing a horse and horseman, for the first ten, shall subscribe a proportionate sum for the rest, which shall be applied to defray the general expense;that those who keep twenty shall furnish two, three of thirty, &c. and that those who keep fewer than ten shall form themselves into a class, when it shall be decided by ballot who, at the common expense, shall furnish the horse and the horseman. These troops thus raised will be provided with uniform and accoutrements, formed into corps, and put under proper officers. And surely when the means are compared with the object to be attained and the expense to which individuals will be subjected, with the security of the property which they possess, no one will complain that that end or that security is purchased at too

dear a price.

« PreviousContinue »