The interest of the debate on the second reading of the Militia Bill in the House of Commons last night, was not of that particular character which was expected : the debate was not very political, either in its complexion or in its result; and the points to which the reader most recurs were chiefly of a national, and yet, if one may so say, of a technical character,—namely, those which bore on the actual neces- sity for the measure, having reference to the existing means of defence, and those which showed the especial objections or advantages of the par. titular scheme as compared with any other Militia scheme, or with an ex- tension of the Army instead of it.
The ex-Premier, and some of his supporters, opposed the second read- ing. The attack was led by Sir DE LACY EvAres ; who at once moved as an amendment that the bill be read a second time that day three months.
If they were to have any bill at all, he preferred that of the late Govern- ment; but he thought the most practicable, most effective, and most econo- mical means for placing our military armament at home on a satisfactory footing for defence, would be to concentrate at home the troops which were now worse than uselessly spread over our Colonies. Upon a careful con- sideration of the whole subject, he had come to this estimate, that we had 1000 men too many at Corfu, where a total of 2000 should suffice ; at St. Helena, 400 too many; in Australia, 1500 too many; in our North American Colonies, 6000 too many ; in the West Indies, 4000 too many ; in Ceylon, 500 too many ; or upon the whole, in- cluding 1600 from the Cape, a force of 15,000 men who are now usebassly engaged in the Colonies, weakening our defences at home, and involving a much larger expenditure in their cost than would be necessary at home. He had no doubt that by the removal home of these troops, a saving of from 200,0001. to 300,0001. per annum might be effected in the estimates for the maintenance of these troops. Mr. Rica seconded the amendment, in a speech addressed to the refu- tation of the assertion made by Mr. Walpole at a former stage of the dis- cussion—that in the event of an enemy's landing we could not bring more than 25,000 men to bear against him. Premising his opinion that the Yeomanry force is good in principle, what- ever derision may have been incurred by the Yeomanry itself, and that its principle might be advantageously extended so as to be made available for the defence of towns as well as of the rural districts, he went on to suggest in detail the existing means of extemporizing a great defensive force. We have a Consta- bulary force of 14,000 men in Ireland ; 15,000 Policemen in this country might be armed and trained to the use of arms; we have 10,000 men in the Dock- yard Battalions, and 13,000 of the old Pensioners, who, though useless for field operations, might be stationed in defence of towns and forts. From these sources we have a force of 50,000 men ; three-fourths young, able, and active. In addition, we would have an auxiliary force, either according to the present Yeomanry system, or under the Volunteer system lately pro- posed ; and he thought we might calculate altogether upon an armed force of 200,000 men. The expense of the force of Pensioners, according to esti- mates he had made, would not exceed 50,0001. a year, and the cost of en- rolling and training the Constabulary and Rural Police would be about 30,0001. The expense of the Volunteers or organized local corps would of course depend upon their numbers.
Mr. FREDERICK PEEL admitted the propriety of taking measures to complete the defences of the country ; but he objected to the particular plan propounded by the Ministers, that the force it would provide would be costly out of all proportion to the quality of the service obtained ; that the devices for obtaining the men would fail so far as they were volun- tary, and would be intolerably oppressive as soon as the ballot was re- sorted to ; and that after all the force was of a most objectionable nature. He had heard much of the constitutional character of the Militia force, but he did not believe that any trace of its constitutional character was to be found in the bill before the House. The Crown had the power of issuing commissions of array ; it had the power of making use of the Militia for the purpose of quelling riots and suppressing insurrections ; but, for the first time, they were now depriving the Crown of making use of this force for those purposes, and were saying that a militia force could only be embodied in case of actual invasion, or of imminent danger of invasion. He sub- scribed to the wise remark of Lord Hardwicke, made at the end of the reign of George the Second, against the Militia Bill then brought forward—"1 never was more convinced of any proposition in my life than of this, that nation of merchants, of manufacturers, of artisans, and countrymen, de- fended by an army, is vastly preferable to a nation of citizen-soldiers."
Sir ROBERT PEEL dissented from and contested the particular expe-
diency and practical necessity of the measure before the House. In the course of a long and somewhat discursive speech, he gave his opin-
ion that the means of foreign invasion could not be prepared in any foreign country witheiut detection by the vigilance of our diplomatic agents
Bone of his digressions, he avowed great political sympathy as well as per- „I regard for Lord Palmerston ; in another, of considerable length and Vaboratiou, the successive phrases of which evoked "great cheering” and a great counter-cheering alternately from the Ministerial and Opposition beaches, he declared himself "a Liberal Conservative Free-trader," pre- to give his support to Lord Derby," and strongly impressed with the and and lelief, that Lord Derby will "mould his political character accord- ing to the exigencies of the times and the temperate expression of public
Lord Jonsr Rinissrr. said, it was bectguse he felt that the country re- „dreg further -defences—because he felt that its defences ought to be bet- ter organized than they now are—that he could not consent to the second mating of this bill ; for he believed that it would prove at the end of a sear or two an utter delusion as a measure of defence. ' Be would state what he conceived our real danger to be. He did not ap- prehend a sudden invasion; but we had near us a powerful neighbour, with whoa we had many times gone to war, for various reasons which he reca- pitulated. He could not think the world so changed that we might not, ne- gotiations having been exhausted, be driven once more to war. Should this rake place, we could not calculate on the time we had on former occasions been allowed for preparation—the improvements in the arts of war would pre- vent that. It was therefore not enough merely to recur to what we had done on former occasions. Then, as regarded the necessary remedies. It is true that 150,000 men could not be suddenly landed, but several smaller bodies miAt, and 24,000 infantry and 17,000 cavalry are not an adequate force with which to repel them. He asked the Government why, if their mea- sure were of the same character as his own had been, they had opposed his; and why, if its principle were different, they complained of opposition from his side of the House ? Defending the late bill, both as to principle and de- tail, he adverted to the opposition he had given to Lord Palmerston's propo- sition, and proceeded to strictures on the present measure. ” What I say is, either form a force that you can depend upon from their high spirit and great love of country, or on whose enthusiasm and moral energy you can rely ; or else form soldiers by dint of discipline, not caring from what source you get them. But in the present case you have neither the one advantage nor the other." " One part of the bill is inefficient, the other part oppressive. The provisions for the ballot he described by the latter epithet, and characterized them as such as ought not to be used except in the greatest emergency, and would be re- sisted by the country. For these reasons, he considered that the bill ought to be opposed, and the rather that its principal provisions were founded on the old militia system, which his Government had, on consideration, delibe- rately rejected. But it was not for the Government to say that, if this bill were refused, the House did not care for the defences of the country. It EIS their duty to devise another plan, or to resign ; though this latter course he knew Lord Derby did not mean to take, for the Ministers were like the pheasants, and were not to be brought down before the 1st of October. For himself, he should not advise a large increase to the standing army, but thought much might be done by a proper organization of the Pen- sioners, and by an embodied Militia 10,000 or 12,000 strong, properly disci- plined ; and though he was not for weakening our military Colonial force, we might withdraw our soldiers from colonies which are not military : 6000 or 7000 men might thus be gained. By all these means, duly worked out, we should have,_ with our present army, an effective force of 100,000 men. He also recommended a better arrangement of our military depots. Being very anxious for the defence of the country, he much regretted that Government had brought in such a bill. He had intended to assent to the second read- ing, in order to amend it in Committee ; but on consideration this had ap- peared impracticable, and he should therefore support the amendment.
Lord Paratimsrox said as he rose, he had hoped such a measure as this, one essential for the best interests of the country, and one the principle ot"which was admitted by all parties, would have been discussed solely with a view to the defence and security of the realm, and that no party feeling would have mixed itself up with the proceedings of the present night.
Be had witnessed the course of Lord John Russell and the other opponents of the measure with surprise and pain. Lord John had done it with practised Parliamentary skill, but two members of the late Government had opposed the measure with arguments which would equally have held good against the former bill, which they would doubtless have supported. For the first time`they had heard from Lord John that a militia was not the proper force for the defence of the country, and had also heard a series of new proposals for that purpose. Entering into the invasion question, Lord Palmerston said that the improvements of science entirely prevented our arguing upon any old data, and a night might bring over an army from Cher- bourg, and various points might be assailed at once. " But it is said we should know beforehand if any preparations were made. I say you might not know ; because, by the internal arrangements of rail- wars, the distribution of troops are such that 50,000 or 60,000 men might be collected at Cherbourg before you knew anything of the matter ; and those who have seen what those immense works are must be per- fectly aware that any number of men could walk from the quay into their vessels as easily as they could walk into their barrack-yard. A Right would bring them over ; and all our naval preparations, be they what they might, could not be relied on to prevent the arrival of such an expedition as no batteries or gun-boats we might have on our shores could be relied on to prevent the landing of the expedition when it had arrived. The history of all times and of all nations, and the history of our own nation in especial, proved that a large force, when it is determined to land, will land against all opposition whatever. Besides, can you reckon that the invading force shall be one, and directed against one point only.? There are many points against which an expedition may concurrently sail : one portion of the force might land in Ireland ; another on a distant part of our own island ; while a third, designed for the Metropolis, might land on the coast over against the Metropolis. Our limited garrisons would be in such a case divided and distracted : if we heard of an expedition landing in Ireland, everybody would say, Send all the forces to Ireland!' and than an expedition landing on the Southern coast would not find a force adequate to resist it. I therefore say that the present amount of the standing army, adding the Pensioners, is not sufficient to meet an emergency of that kind. As to the Marines, on whom some gentlemen eclat, they would be required to go on board ship, and cannot therefore be reckoned on as part of the home garrison." Ile was opposed to any large addition to our standing army : we might have 80,000 militia for what 8000 troops would cost. He was of opinion that this is a good measure : the difference between it and the measure the late Govern- ment made a vital question is, that in the latter compulsory service was the rule and voluntary service the exception, while in the new bill the reverse was the case. Humorously depicting the "discriminating ballot" of the late bill, which was to bring in none but good and virtuous men, he de- dared he had a better opinion of the people of England than those who had expressed such fears as to the characters the new ballot would bring in. lie might be deceived by the simplicity of his nature—(Shouts of laughter.) —but he believed that a very excellent force would be summoned by this
The other speakers were Mr. NEWDEOLTE, Colonel CharrEnroM, Mr. PHILIP HOWxaD, and Sir Join( Pawnsorces in support of the bill ; Honor against it. On the motion of Mr. iichrearr, the debate was ad- journed till Monday.