The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 6, 1714-1727. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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SPEECHES and DEBATES In the Third Session of the First Parliament of King George I.
Anno 4. Geo. 1. 1717.
The Parliament being met on the 21st of November, the King open'd the Session by a Speech to both Houses as follows.
King's Speech at opening the Third Session.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
I Am very glad I have been able to bring the Sitting of Parliament into a more proper and usual Season of the Year: I hope such an early Meeting will not only be a Benesit to the Publick, but a Convenience to your private Affairs.
"As I have always had at Heart the Security and Ease of my People, so I never kept up any Troops but for their Protection, and have taken every Opportunity to disband as many as I thought confistent with their Safety. I have reduc'd the Army to very near one Half, since the Beginning of the last Session of Parliament, and lessen'd them to such a Number as will neither be a Burthen to my good Subjects, nor an Encouragement to our Enemies to insult them.
"You cannot but be sensible of the many Attempts which have been set on Foot to disturb the Peace of Europe, and of these Kingdoms: They only pretend not to see, who are not afraid of them. But as no Application has been wanting on my Part to preserve the publick Tranquility, I have the Pleasure to find my good Offices have not been altogether unsuccessful, and have Reason to hope they will, in the End, have their full and desir'd Effect.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"I question not but you are very well pleas'd to find that your Endeavours for lessening the National Debts, have at the same Time raised the publick Credit; and that whatever was propos'd for that End is actually and compleatly effected. This Success must chiefly be attributed to that just and prudent Regard you have shewn to Parliamentary Engagements.
"It was with the View of procuring and settling a lasting Tranquility, that I demanded the extraordinary Supply which you granted me last Session. The Credit, which this Confidence repos'd in me, hath given us Abroad, has already been so far effectual, that I can acquaint you we have a much better Prospect than we had. I have order'd an Account to be laid before you of the very small Part of that Supply which as yet has been expended; any farther Issues that may be made of it, shall be also laid before you: And you may be assured, that every Part of it shall either be employ'd for your Service, or sav'd to the Publick.
"I have order'd to be laid before you a State of the Deficiencies of the present Year, and the several Estimates for the Service of the next; which you will find considerably diminish'd. I rely upon your making the necessary Provision for them; not doubting of the Continuance of that Zeal for the Good of your Country, which hath been so eminently conspicuous in every Session of this Parliament.
"I cannot in Justice avoid putting you in Mind, that several Arrears of Pay and Subsidy, incurr'd before my Accession to the Crown, are claim'd by Foreign Princes and States: I shall order them to be laid before you, to the End you may put them in a Method of being examin'd and stated; which will very much tend to the Honour and Credit of the Nation.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"I could heartly wish, that at a Time when the common Enemies of our Religion are, by all Manner of Artifices, endeavouring to undermine and weaken it both at Home and Abroad, all those who are Friends to our present happy Establishment, might unanimously concur in some proper Method for the greater strengthening the Protestant Interest: of which, as the Church of England is unquestionably the main Support and Bulwark, so will she reap the principal Benefit of every Advantage accruing by the Union and mutual Charity of all Protestants.
"As none can recommend themselves more effectually to my Favour and Countenance, than by a sincere Zeal for the just Rights of the Crown and the Liberties of the People; so I am determin'd to encourage all those who act agreeably to the Constitution of these my Kingdoms, and consequently to the Principles on which my Government is founded.
"The Eyes of all Europe are upon you at this critical Juncture. It is your Interest; for which Reason I think it mine, that my Endeavours for procuring the Peace and Quiet of Christendom, should take Effect. Nothing can so much contribute to this desirable End, as the Unanimity, Dispatch, and Vigour of your Resolutions for the Support of my Government.
The King being retir'd, and the Commons return'd to their House, the Lord Hinchinbroke reported the Address of Thanks, which was agreed to, and the next Day presented to his Majesty, by the whole House, as follows.
The Commons Address of Thanks.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
'We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, crave Leave to express our Gratitude to your Majesty, for your most gracious Speech from the Throne.
'Our Minds are fill'd with the most lively Sense of your Majesty's. Regard to your People, in bringing the Sitting of Parliament into a more proper and usual Season of the Year. And as your Majesty has been graciously pleas'd to consider the Convenience of our private Affairs in this early Meeting, we shall endeavour to answer your Majesty's gracious Intentions, by improving it, as much as we are able, to the Benefit of the Publick.
'We are highly sensible of the Concern your Majesty has shewn for the Welfare of your People, by the Reductions you have been pleas'd to make, from Time to Time, of the Land Forces, so soon as the Posture of Affairs render'd it safe to these your Kingdoms. It is our peculiar Happiness to see our selves govern'd by a Sovereign who is not influenc'd by any Notions of Greatness that are inconsistent with the Prosperity of his Subjects; and who proposes to himself the Ease of his People, as the chief Glory of his Reign.
'We acknowledge, with Hearts full of Duty and Gratitude, your Majesty's unwearied Endeavours to prevent the many Attempts which have been set on Foot to disturb the Peace of Europe, and the Quiet of these Kingdoms; and have the more Reason to apprehend the ill Consequences of such Attempts, since there are those who, as they would be thought to see no Danger in them, give us Reason to believe that they would not be troubled at their Success. We are therefore firmly resolv'd, in the most effectual Manner, to support your Majesty in such Measures as your Majesty, in your great Wisdom, shall judge necessary to procure the Establishment of the Tranquility of Europe.
'We receive, with the greatest Satisfaction, your Majesty's gracious Expressions and Assurances touching the extraordinary Supply granted last Year; and will chearfully grant your Majesty such Supplies as shall effectually provide for the publick Service.
'It is with unspeakable Sorrow of Heart, that we observe the many Artifices which are made Use of by the common Enemies of our Religion, to undermine and weaken it both at Home and Abroad; And as we have the most grateful Sense of the tender Concern which your Majesty has been pleas'd to express for the Protestant Religion, and especially for the main Support of it, the Church of England as by Law establish'd; so we are resolv'd, on our Part, to consider of the most effectual Methods for strengthening the Protestant Interest of these Kingdoms.
'It is a Pleasure to us, that the Eyes of all Europe are turn'd upon us at this critical Juncture, since we have thereby an Opportunity of shewing the World the just Confidence we repose in your Majesty, and our unshaken Resolutions to support your Government in such Manner, as shall enable your Majesty to settle the Peace of Christendom.
To which the King return'd the following Answer.
The King's Answer.
"I Thank you for the repeated Assurances you have given me, in this dutiful and loyal Address, of your affectionate Support and Assistance in the present Juncture of Affairs. I expected no less from a House of Commons so affectionate to my Person, and so zealous for the publick Welfare.
Nov. 25. The House began to enter upon Business, and voted a Supply, in general, to his Majesty.
Motion for a Supply for maintaining the Land Forces for the Year 1718. ; Debate thereon.
Dec. 4. A Motion was made for a Supply for maintaining the Guards and Garrisons in Great Britain for the Year 1718, according to the Estimate laid before the House. This Motion was oppos'd by Mr Shippen, Sir William Wyndham, and Mr R. Walpole, which last made a Speech, wherein, besides the common Topick of the Danger of a Standing Army in a free Nation, he insisted on four principal Points, viz. 'I. That whereas they were given to understand, that the Army was reduc'd to 16,000 and odd Men, it still consisted of above 18,000, which was one third Part more than the Number of Land Forces in Great Britain amounted to formerly in Time of Peace. II. That there was no due Proportion observ'd, either between the Number of Horse, Dragoons, and Foot, or between the Number of the Officers and Soldiers that were kept standing; insomuch, that of about 11000 l. which the Pay of a reduced Regiment of Foot amounts to, near 7000 l. goes towards the Pay of the Officers, and 4000 l. only to the private Soldiers. III. That the keeping up so great a Number of Officers, was, in effect, the maintaining of an Army almost double of what was intended, since the Soldiers that were wanting to compleat the Companies and Regiments, might be raised with a Drum in twice four and twenty Hours. IV. That the Pay of General Officers, which amounted to above 20,000 l. was an Expence altogether needless, and unprecedented in Time of Peace.' All these Particulars Mr Walpole enlarged upon, and made good his Assertions by proper Vouchers. Mr Craggs, Secretary at War, answer'd Mr Walpole. He said, 'That in all wise Governments, the Security of the State is the Rule chiefly to be regarded; and that his Majesty, both in the Augmentation and the Reduction of his Forces, had not only consulted the Safety, but likewise the Ease of his People. That though, as was suggested, the Nation paid at present near 18000 Men, yet there were only 16347 who could give any Jealousy, unless some People should think our Liberties in Danger, from the Chaplains, Surgeons, Widows of Officers, and such harmless, inoffensive Persons, who were included in the first Number: That therefore there are not much above 4000 Men more now in Great Britain than there were kept up after the Peace of Ryswick, which Number must be thought very moderate by all who wish well to the present happy Settlement, considering that the Embers of an unnatural Rebellion lately extinguish'd were still warm, and the Discontents industriously fomented by the Enemies of the Government; That the Parliament had ever contented themselves with fixing the Number of the Forces that were thought necessary to be maintain'd, but had left to the Crown the Manner of reducing and modelling that Number; and therefore, if they should now do otherwise, it would be but an indifferent Return to that gracious and tender Regard, which, on all Occasions, his Majesty has shewn to the Security and Ease of his Subjects. That after all, it is no less a Piece of Justice than Matter of Prudence, to keep up as great a Number of Officers as possible; for, besides the Occasion which the Nation may have for them for the future, it is but reasonable to acknowledge the past eminent Services of Gentlemen, who having been brought up to no other Trade but War, had no other Way to subsist and provide for themselves and Families.' Mr Craggs was back'd by Mr Aislabie (fn. 1), Mr Hampden (fn. 2), Mr John Smith (fn. 2), Mr Coventry (fn. 3), Member for Bridport, Col. Bladen (fn. 4), Mr Barrington Shute, and Sir Joseph Jekyll, who chiefly insisted on the Necessity of keeping up 16000 Men, at least, one Year longer. Sir David Dalrymple (fn. 5) was of the same Opinion, and to that Purpose urg'd, 'That the Discontents run still as high in Scotland as before the late Rebellion; for which he alledg'd several Reasons.' Mr Walpole, Mr Bromley, Mr Freeman, General Erle, and some other Gentlemen, were of Opinion, That 12000 Men were sufficient; and the Debate having lasted 'till a Quarter past Six, the Question was going to be put, Whether the Number should be 16 or 12000? When Mr Shippen standing up, made the following Speech.
'I congratulate the honourable Person below, [General Lumley] on his being restor'd to the good Opinion of the learned Gentleman who spoke last; [Sir J. Jekyll,] for it is not long since he [See p. 138.] complimented, I will not say flatter'd, another, at the Expence of that honourable Person, and most of the General Officers in this Kingdom.
'But as to the Question before us, 'tis my Misfortune to differ from that learned Gentleman in all he hath advanc'd, which, when strip'd of some Excursions, may be reduc'd to these two Propositions:
"I. That the only Danger of continuing the Army is the Expence of it.
"II. That we ought to comply with the Number of Forces propos'd, because it is demanded by the King, who is the best Judge of our Necessities."
'I do not object to the first Reason, that the Phrase is ambiguous, and that it is difficult to know what he means by the Danger of the Expence; but, if I understand him, the Answer is obvious. For though the Expence is doubtless a Matter highly deserving the Consideration of this House, whose Business and Duty it is to dispose of the publick Money with the utmost Frugality; yet it is by no Means the chief, or only Argument against keeping up an Army in Time of Peace. The chief Argument, with great Submission, is, That the civil and military Power cannot long subsist together; that a standing Army in Time of Peace will necessarily impede the free Execution of the Laws of the Land. And 'tis therefore very extraordinary that the Expence should be thought the only Danger, to use his own Terms, of a standing Army, by a Person whose Profession and present Station oblige him to make those Laws his first Care; and that it should be urg'd as such in this Place, where so many Millions have been chearfully granted for the Defence of them.
'The second Reason is no more conclusive than the first, as I hope to make appear in the Sequel of what I have to offer.
'Gentlemen have insisted much on the great Grace and Favour shewn in reducing the Army since the Beginning of the last Session; and I presume not to say, that we were deceiv'd into the Vote then given for maintaining thirty two thousand Men, because we always proceed with the utmost Caution and Circumspection, and because the deep Designs of the Swedish Plot, which occasion'd such terrible Apprehensions amongst us, have since been fully discover'd to the World.
'But however wisely it was then done, I hope never again to see, either the same Number, or near the same Corps, after some artful Reductions, continu'd in this Nation in Time of Peace, on any Pretence, on any Apprehensions whatsoever.
'I will not trouble you, Sir, with my Remarks on the Fallacy of those Reductions. They have been sufficiently expos'd by a Gentleman [Mr R. Walpole] who is better inform'd of the Secret of that Affair, and who, I am glad to find, when he is contending for the Service of his Country, is no more afraid than my self, of being call'd a Jacobite, by those, who want other Arguments to support their Debates.
'Our present Consideration is, whether there are any Reasons to induce us, as our Circumstances now stand, to keep up above sixteen thousand Men, with Officers for almost double that Number; and whether, if we should consent to keep them up, we should act, as his Majesty desires we should, agreeably to the Constitution of these Kingdoms, and consequently to the Principles on which his Government is founded.
'Now in Virtue of that Freedom of Speech we are all intitled to, I beg Leave to declare my Opinion, That the keeping up the Number propos'd, is so far from being necessary to our Protection, that it will be inconfistent with our Safety, and an excessive Burthen to his Majesty's good Subjects. Nor do I think it possible any Arguments can be invented, none I am sure have been yet offer'd, to incline a House of Commons at this Time, when we are in a profound Tranquility, some domestick Feuds excepted, to submit to that, which every Member, every Lover of Liberty must own, abstractedly consider'd, to be a Grievance; and such a one as ought never to be submitted to, but in that most desperate and deplorable Circumstance, where it is to be chosen as the less Evil.
'I know these Assertions interfere with what is laid down in the second Paragraph of his Majesty's Speech. But we are to consider that Speech as the Composition and Advice of his Ministry, and are therefore at Liberty to debate every Proposition in it; especially those which seem rather calculated for the Meridian of Germany, than of Great Britain.[#]
'Tis the only Infelicity of his Majesty's Reign, That he is unacquainted with our Language and Constitution; [#] and 'tis therefore the more incumbent on his British Ministers to inform him, That our Government does not stand on the same Foundation with his German Dominions, which, by Reason of their Situation, and the Nature of their Constitution, are oblig'd to keep up Armies in Time of Peace. Nor is it in the least to be wonder'd at, that his Majesty, who hath spent the earlier Part of his Life in those Dominions, should think sixteen, or even thirty two thousand Men, might be continu'd in so rich and powerful a Nation as this is, without being a Burthen to it. But when he shall come to understand, that the smaller Number in Time of Peace would be destructive to that Security and Ease of his People, for which he expresses so tender a Regard, he will doubtless be convinc'd, that those act most conformably to their Duty and his Interest, who, as true Subjects of Great Britain, are against continuing more Troops, than have been usually thought and found sufficient, in the same Situation of Affairs, for the Support of the Crown and the Safety of the Kingdom.
'I am therefore at a Loss to conceive how Gentlemen can perswade themselves, that the complying with this extraordinary Demand would promote his Majesty's Service. For it supposes not only a Distruct, but a Weakness in the Government; as if neither the Affections of the People at home, nor the Treaties of our Allies abroad, were to be depended on: Which is a Thought so injurious, so contradictory to some solemn Assurances from the Throne, that no one will presume to advance it openly in this House, or elsewhere; and yet it is all, in my humble Apprehension, included in this Motion. Nothing indeed can alienate the Hearts of the People from his Majesty; but such Attempts have formerly prov'd fatal to Princes of less consummate Wisdom and Virtue. Nor are we to imagine, that the same Grievance is not equally mischievous in the Reign of a good Prince as of a bad one. 'Tis sometimes more so, because less expected, and less guarded against.
'Surely his Majesty will have no just Cause to doubt the Continuance of that Zeal for the Good of our Country, which, he is pleas'd to say, hath been so eminently conspicuous in every Session of this Parliament, if we make the Fate of other Nations a Document to ourselves on this Occasion; if we think, that the keeping up a larger Number of Forces, than is absolutely necessary, too dangerous an Experiment to be often repeated.
'Let Gentlemen look round Europe, and they will find, That some of the freeest and brave People in it have, by this very Method, lost their Liberties They will find, that the civil Power was from Time to Time drawn in, by pretended Exigencies, to allow and maintain an armed Force in Peace; which, as they at first thought, and were instructed to believe, was intended to add Strength to their Authority; to secure them in the Possession of their religious and political Rights; to watch the ambitious Designs of their Neighbour Nations; and to preserve the Ballance of Power. Glorious Intentions, if they had prov'd real! But though they us'd all possible Precautions; though they made it the Condition of their Establishment, that the Forces should be disbanded, when the extraordinary Occasion for which they were rais'd ceas'd, yet they perceived too late that their Condition was not binding; That they had erected a Power superiour to themselves; That the Soldiery, when they had tasted the Sweets of Authority would not part with it, and, that even their Princes, after these temporary Concessions made to them, began to think, that ruling by an Army was a more easy, a more compendious Way of Government, than acting under the Restraints and Limitations of the Laws of their Country. And now they wear the Chains, which they put round their own Necks, and lament the Loss of that Freedom, which they unhappily consented to destroy, and which could never have been destroy'd without their Consent.
'But there is no Need of fetching Arguments on this Subject from Foreign Nations. Our own is too well acquainted with the Effects of continuing an armed Force in Peace, not to apprehend every Thing from it, be the Pretence never so specious.
'Twould be mispending your Time, to recount the Mischiefs which have from hence happened to this Nation; and I will not run back to former Reigns. But I cannot forbear observing what [Mr Snell] my very good Friend near me hath already hinted, that it was the great Grievance complain'd of in the Bill of Rights, and was that from which the Revolution was to deliver us. King William himself, after the Peace of Ryswick, could not obtain above ten thousand Men, though he had then a more enterprizing and a more powerful Prince to deal with, than any now in this Part of the World. And the Proceeding of that House of Commons must be ever justified by those, who have the least Concern for our Constitution, notwithstanding some ungrounded Insinuations, that it involv'd us in a long and expensive War. Besides, it is every Year declar'd in the Act of Mutiny and Desertion, That the keeping up a standing Army in Time of Peace is against Law; and as the Freeing us from it was one of the Ends of the Revolution, so no doubt the Preserving us for ever from an Attempt of the like Nature, was one of those innumerable glorious Advantages proposed by the Act of Succession.
'But it hath been urg'd, That the Consent of Parliament reconciles all; and that Forces so continu'd are not to be accounted a standing Army, because they are intended to keep out a standing Army; which with the noble Lord's Leave, [Lord Molesworth] who makes the Distinction, is a Notion too fine, too chimerical to be maintain'd.
'I know indeed it is explained both in the Bill of Rights, and in the Act of Mutiny and Desertion, that the keeping up a standing Army in Time of Peace is illegal, only, if done without Consent of Parliament: Now this in no Sort weakens the Argument, as to the Inconvenience and Oppression of which I am speaking. For tho' the Parliament, in these declaratory Laws, seems to put in its Claim only against the Incroachments of the Crown, from whence it suppos'd such Oppressions were more likely to come, than from the Representatives of the People; yet the Consent of Parliament cannot alter the Nature of Things, cannot hinder the same Causes from producing the same Effects. An Army, tho' kept up by the Consent of Parliament, will, like other Armies, soon know its own Strength, will in Probability pursue the Dictates of Self-Preservation, and rather choose to dissolve that Authority with which it is incompatible, than tamely submit to its own Dissolution. An Army, tho' kept up by Consent of Parliament, if it hath no Enemies Abroad, will be apt to make Depredations at Home; and I wish there hath not been something of that Kind done this last Year: I wish we have no Complaints from some of our own most considerable Parliamentary Corporations, of Soldiers demanding free Quarter, and insulting the chief Magistrates for exerting the Power we have lodg'd with them, and endeavouring to redress the Grievances of the poor Inn-keepers and Inhabitants. Nay, the Consent of Parliament is so far from altering the Nature and Genius of Armies, that a Parliament Army, consisting of about the Number now demanded, once committed greater Outrages, and gave a deeper Wound to the Constitution, than all the Armies of the Crown have ever done; and that Army was the Creature of a Parliament which had establish'd itself. But, if we were to admit for Argument's Sake, that the Consent of Parliament could make Armies more tame and ductile than they would otherwise be, I think, however, it would not be adviseable for a Parliament, that intends to act rationally and agreeably either to the Principles on which his Majesty's Government, or its own Power is founded, to familiarize a military Force to this free Nation. For the very Name and Terror of it would, without Oppression, awe and subdue the Spirits of the People, extinguish their Love of Liberty, and beget a mean and abject Acquiescence in Slavery.
'Sir, We have already suspended some Laws, and repealed others, to comply with the Necessities of the Administration: But pray let us not go farther, let us not go on to continue the Army, or the greatest Part of it: For so long as it is continued, so long is the whole Constitution suspended, or, at least, in the Mercy of those whom we arm against it.'
Mr Lechmere moves for committing Mr Shippen to the Tower, on Account of some Expressions reflecting on the King's Speech. ; Debate thereon.; Mr Shippen committed Prisoner to the Tower for reflecting on the King's Speech.
The Expressions in the above Speech, which are distinguish'd with a [#] gave Offence to several Members, and in particular to Mr Lechmere, who having taken them down in Writing, urg'd, 'That those Words were a scandalous Invective against the King's Person and Government, of which the House ought to shew the highest Resentment, and therefore mov'd, That the Member who spoke those offensive Words should be sent to the Tower.' Mr Lechmere was seconded by Mr Spencer Cowper (fn. 6), and back'd by Sir Joseph Jekyll (fn. 7), and some others: Upon which Mr Robert Walpole said, 'That if the Words in Question were spoken by the Member on whom they were charged, the Tower was too light a Punishment for his Rashness; but as what he had said in the Heat of this Debate might have been misunderstood, he was for allowing him the Liberty of explaining himself.' Mr Snell, Mr Hutcheson, and some others, spoke also in Behalf of Mr Shippen, intending chiefly to give him an Opportunity of retracting or excusing what he had said, which Mr Shippen not thinking proper to do, a great Dispute arose, upon the Question, Whether the Words taken down in Writing were the same as had been spoken? A Member having suggested, That there was no Precedent of a Censure passed on a Member of the House for Words spoken in a Committee, Sir Charles Hotham (fn. 8), Member for Beverley, produc'd Instances of the contrary; and, on the other Hand, Mr Shippen having maintain'd what he had advanc'd, it was, at last, resolv'd, by 196 Voices against 100 That the Words taken down in Writing were spoken by Mr Shippen. It was then about Nine in the Evening, and it being moved and carried, That the Chairman leave the Chair; Mr Speaker resum'd his Place, and Mr Farrer reported from the said Committee, 'That Exceptions having been taken to some Words spoken in the Committee, by William Shippen, Esq; a Member of the House, the Committee had directed him to report the Words to the House.' Which being done accordingly, Mr Shippen was heard in his Place, and then he withdrew. After this it was mov'd, that the Question might be put, 'That the Words spoken by William Shippen, Esq; a Member of this House, are highly dishonourable to, and unjustly reflecting on, his Majesty's Person and Government.' This occasion'd a Debate that lasted 'till past Eleven; when the Question being put, was carry'd in the Affirmative by 175 Voices against 81; and thereupon it was order'd, 'That William Shippen, Esq; be, for the said Offence, committed Prisoner to his Majesty's Tower of London, and that Mr Speaker do issue his Warrant accordingly.'
A second Debate concerning the Land Forces.
Dec. 5. The Commons went again into a Grand Committee, to consider farther of the Supply, and a Debate arising concerning the Number of Men for Guards and Garrisons in Great Britain, and Jersey and Guernsey only, without including the Forces Abroad, viz. the Plantations in America, the Garrisons in Minorca, Gibraltar, Placentia and Annapolis, and of the Islands Bahama and Providence, Mr Jefferies, Member for Droitwich, made the following Speech:
Mr Jefferies's Speech thereon.
'I Shall not waste the Time of the Committee in making an Apology for meddling in this Question; since I apprehend whatever I can yet call my own to be at Stake in the Event of it. Whether the Army shall be disbanded or continued in Time of Peace? Whether we shall be govern'd by the Magistrate, or the Soldier? Or, whether we shall be bond or free? are, in my Opinion, Questions of the same Import.
'I think myself justify'd in saying this, from the Examples of most Countries in Europe. They were once free; but if it be inquir'd, how, from the State of Fredom, they sunk into Slavery, it will appear, that their common Ruin has proceeded from the Continuance of regular Troops in Pay, after the Occasion for which they were rais'd was over.
'That this Island has retain'd its Freedom longer than the Countries on the Continent, has been imputed to its Situation, which not being so much expos'd to the Incursions of its Neighbours, there was not the like Pretence for keeping up regular Troops. But the Preservation of our Liberties to this Time, is, in my Opinion, rather to be ascrib'd to the due Sense our Forefathers had of the Danger the Publick underwent from intrusting Princes with a standing Force in Time of Peace; and also to the Measure observ'd by the House of Commons, in giving such Supplies only, as enabled the Prince to live in the full Enjoyment of his Prerogative, without putting it into his Power to affect the Liberties of the Subject.
'From the first credible Account of Things in this Kingdom down to King Charles II's Time, I can find no Instance, where the Crown kept up regular Troops in Time of Peace, that of Richard II. excepted.
'He liv'd in a tempestuous Age; he had Wars Abroad, and Commotions at Home. The first Rebellion, headed by Wat Tyler, was compos'd without shedding the Blood of any one of the Rebels, save Tyler himself: The King gave them good Words; they laid down their Arms, went Home, and were all pardon'd. Another Rebellion of the Men of Kent and Essex broke out, which occasion'd the King's raising an Army of forty thousand Men. The Rebels apply'd by Petition to have their Liberties and Franchises allow'd them. But the King spoke to these in a different Style; and told them, Slaves they were, and Slaves they should be. Five hundred of them were cut to Pieces in the Field, and fifteen Hundred of them were afterwards executed in cold Blood.
'This Severity aw'd the Nation for a while. But, the Discontent of the People afterwards increasing, about the thirtieth Year of his Reign a Parliament was call'd, and to use the Historian's Words, left I should offend any tender Ear, 'all Endeavours were us'd to procure such a Parliament, as would concur with the King's Designs.' Before they met, Forces were rais'd 'to attend and guard the Parliament; which might at the same Time be an Awe upon any refractory Members.' Touching the Numbers of which this Army consisted History is silent: This only we are given to know, that four thousand of them were Archers, and that many of them were Cheshire-Men. It is not to the present Purpose to go over the Extravagancies of that Parliament.
'Into what a State Things were brought by that King's Conduct, appears from an Observation made by the same Historian, who says, 'That the King having thus establish'd his Power, and put himself beyond all Opposition, thought himself secure, and an absolute Prince. But it being laid upon such a Foundation, as begat many Discontents among the People, all the Fabrick prov'd weak, and was soon follow'd with lamentable Ruin.' When that King's Affairs grew desperate, an Oath was requir'd from the Duke of Lancaster, afterwards Henry IV. that he should cause the King to send Home the Cheshire Guard, which was accordingly done.
'I observe in the Debate it has been taken for granted, That the Crown of England has a Right to a Number of regular Troops, under the Denomination of Guards. This is a Notion I can by no Means give into. It was not so ab Antiquo.
'The first Guards we hear of, the Yeomen of the Guard, which were constituted by Henry VII. being of another Kind, were in Charles II's Time. That Prince immediately after his Restoration, got together a small Number of Guards, which at first seem'd to be meant only to add to the Equipage and Splendor of the Court. But it soon appear'd, that he had other Views: The Guards, by adding Men to Troops and Companies, and Troops and Companies to Regiments, were insensibly increas'd; so that in the Year 1677, they were got up to five thousand eight hundred ninety Men. Few Sessions pass'd, but they were taken Notice of in the House of Commons, and though Money was not ask'd of Parliament for their Support, yet they occasioned a general Uneasiness.'
'About that Time there was a Prospect of War with France, on which Pretence an Army was rais'd. But the War not proceeding, an Act pass'd, which gave the King six hundred and nineteen thousand three hundred and eighty eight Pounds for disbanding the Army. When the Parliament met again, they were told from the Throne, 'That the Forces were still kept on Foot for the Preservation of our Neighbours, who otherwise had absolutely despair'd, and for preserving what was left in Flanders; and that the King was confident no Body would repine at the Employing that Money, which was rais'd for the disbanding of the Army, for the Continuance of it.
'This did not satisfy the House, and they came to a Resolution, 'That it was necessary, for the Safety of his Majesty's Person, and preserving the Peace of the Government, That all Forces, rais'd since the twenty-ninth of September 1677, should be disbanded.' Whereupon that Parliament, which went under the Name of the PensionerParliament, was dissolv'd.
'The new Parliament which met on the first of March following, had the same Apprehensions of regular Troops. Money was given to disband them, and the Act directed, that it should be paid into the Chamber of London; and Commissioners of their own were appointed to see it apply'd to that Use. Whatever Diffidence of the King this might imply, I do not find that any Member lost his Liberty for Freedom of Speech on that Occasion. The Opinion that Parliament had of a standing Army, appears in the Resolution they came to, 'That the Continuance of standing Forces in this Nation, other than the Militia, was illegal, and a great Grievance and Vexation to the People.
'I shall now take Leave to consider the Arguments advanc'd for continuing sixteen thousand three hundred forty seven Men for the ensuing Year.
It is said, 'That there is a disaffected Party in the Kingdom, which makes an Army necessary.
'If this Argument will prevail, 'tis strange it has not prevail'd for six hundred Years past, since no Period within that Time can be assign'd, wherein this Argument was not as strong as in the present.
'During the long Controversy between the Houses of York and Lancaster touching the Right of Succession, in which each Side had its Turn of being uppermost, one would think it should have been natural for the prevailing Party, in order to their Security, to have insisted on the Continuance of their regular Troops, at least for a Time. There was a Pretender to the Crown, who had a strong Party in the Nation, and the Government was insecure 'till the Spirit of Rebellion was suppress'd. It might then with an Appearance of Reason have been insisted on, That the Taxes on the Disaffected should be increas'd, that those, who occasion'd the Expence, should bear the Burthen 'till the Danger was over.
'Why this Sort of Reasoning did not then prevail is obvious. They saw it was unsafe to trust any Prince, even one of their own setting up, with such a Power, which, if ill apply'd, might enslave them.
'Another Period of Time I shall take Notice of is, that of Queen Elizabeth's Reign. The Disaffection to her in the Beginning of it was great, occasion'd by the Reformation in Religion, and the Application of Ecclesiastical Revenues to secular Uses. Many Plots there were against her Life. Spain, one of the greatest Powers in Europe at that Time, attempted an Invasion, and a more proper Juncture could not have happen'd, wherein to have ask'd for an Army. But instead of that, the greatest Part of the Forces then got together to oppose the Invasion consisted of Militia, and as soon as the Armado was scatter'd, the Army was disbanded. That Queen being sensible, that the true, the only Support of the Crown, was the Good-will and Affections of the People.
'Another Argument brought for the Continuance of the Army is, 'That the denying it does insinuate a Distrust of his Majesty.'
'How disingenuous and unparliamentary a Way of Arguing this is, let Gentlemen judge: For to draw that sacred Name into a Debate, must put every Body to Pain, who takes the other Side of the Question, in Regard it may be constru'd, that the stronger the Argument is, the greater is the Distrust.
'But this Reasoning, in my Opinion, turns quite another Way, and instead of implying a Distrust, argues the greatest Regard to the Safety of his Majesty's Person and Government. Who can answer for the Caprice of an Army, when once establish'd?
'Although no Man living has a greater Esteem than my self for these honourable Gentlemen, who have with so much Bravery serv'd their Country in a military Way, nor shall any Man go farther in rewarding their Services; yet the common Experience of Mankind demonstrates, That it is not reasonable to expect an Army should be always in the same Humour. Augustus Cæsar liv'd in great Peace and Security with the Prætorian Bands, which had put an End to the Roman Liberties; but the Case was different with his Successors; for of twenty-six Emperors, no less then sixteen were pull'd to pieces by their own Soldiers. Did not the Army here in England, in the Times of Usurpation, if I may be allow'd to name them, in a short Space change the Government into ten several Forms? What Treatment did the Parliament, who had rais'd and supported them, meet with from them? They beset the House, repuls'd many Members who would have come in, others they dragg'd out even by the Legs, and at length they were all turn'd out, and the Doors shut up. I say this with the more Assurance, having had the Account from an honourable Person, lately dead, who was an Eye-witness of it. This Army, 'tis true, which consisted of about seventeen thousand Men, afterwards brought in King Charles the second. But that Prince soon disbanded them, being well aware that the same Army which brought him in, should their Minds change, might again turn him out.
'This Objection, drawn from a Distrust of his Majesty, deserves another Name. 'Tis an honest, 'tis a reasonable Jealousy of the growing Power of the Crown, which those that went before us always avow'd. May it not with Parity of Reason be said, That because I will not consent, that the King shall by his Proclamation raise Money without Parliament, that this is a Distrust of his Majesty? Because I will not consent to give up Magna Charta, and accept of a new Patent at Pleasure, may not this likewise be call'd a Distrust of his Majesty? But suppose from an Opinion of the Virtue of the Troops; from an Opinion, that Men in Power will not make an ill Use of it; that those who may be Masters, will chuse to continue Servants; that Men under the same Circumstances will not do the same Things; and that we should consent for ourselves, to deposite our Liberties in their Hands for a while; will any one say, that we have an Authority also to consent on the Behalf of those we represent? A Sum of Money, a Jewel, or other valuable Thing is committed to my Care; I without the Owners Consent leave it in the Possession of another, although the Person with whom I left it, does not actually embezil the Money, or detain the Jewel, yet do I break my Trust by putting it into his Power so to do.
'It is self-evident that, by keeping up such a Number of Forces, who may, when they are dispos'd, controul the Power of the civil Magistrate, the Strength and Security of our Constitution is at an End, and that we have no other Rule of Government left, than Will and Pleasure. The Notion I have of Slavery is the being subjected to the Will of another; and notwithstanding the Rod be not always on my Back, or the Dragoon in my House; yet, if it is not in my Power to prevent its being so, I am no longer free. After Augustus had establish'd his eight thousand regular Troops, the Roman Constitution was as much at an End, as it was in Nero's Time. Although the Tyranny was not by Augustus exercis'd with the like Severity it was by his Successors; yet, from the Time his Power became irresistible, the Romans were Slaves.
'Another Argument us'd for this Number of Troops is, That there are no Thoughts of establishing them; but only continuing them for a Year.
'If the Notion be true, which no Gentleman in the Debate has deny'd, That the Number of disciplin'd Men now contended for, are sufficient to dictate to the greatest Number of undisciplin'd; I desire to know who shall dare to bid them go Home? 'Tis said indeed the Parliament will not provide for them: Why may not they then, as others in their Circumstances have done, provide for themselves? Is it reasonable to think, that Men will starve with Swords in their Hands?
'I am sensible, that I have too much trespass'd on Gentlemen's Patience. I shall say no more; but that Bodies Political as well as Natural, have their Periods: Governments must die as well as Men; ours is grown old and crazy; and tho' she hath surviv'd her Neighbour, yet I fear her Day approaches.
After Mr Jefferies had ended his Speech, Sir Thomas Hanmer spoke as follows:
Sir Thomas Hanmer's Speech in the Debate concerning the Land Forces.
'I cannot forbear troubling you with a few Words upon this Subject, tho' I can neither flatter myself with the Hopes of convincing any one, nor pretend to be able to offer any Thing to your Consideration, which has not in a better Manner been urg'd already. But I am truly concern'd for the Mischiefs which, I think, we are giving Way to; and if I cannot prevent them, it will be a Satisfaction to me at least to protest against them.
'All Gentlemen who have spoke in this Debate, have, for their different Opinions, agreed in one Thing, to press very much the Argument of Danger; and the only Question is, on which Side the Danger lies; whether to the Government, without a military Force to support it; or to the Constitution and Liberties of Great Britain, from that military Force, if it be allow'd to continue in it.
'As to the Dangers which threaten the Government, I think I am not willing to overlook them. But I hope we may be excus'd, if we cannot be convinc'd of Dangers, which no Man, that I hear, pretends to explain to us.
'Abroad the State and Circumstances of Europe happen to be such, that I think it is hard to suppose a Time possible, when there shall be less Appearance or Apprehension of any immediate Disturbance to this Kingdom. The three great Powers, those which are most considerable in themselves, and of nearest Concern to us, I mean the Empire, France and Holland, are so far from being at any Enmity with us, that they are all of them our fast Friends and Allies, at least we are told so, and hear very often a great deal of boasting upon that Subject, whenever the Administration of the Government is to be extoll'd, and the Merits of it are to be set forth to us. Upon those Occasions we hear of nothing, but the wise and useful Treaties which have been made, the great Influence which we have acquir'd in foreign Courts and Councils, and the solid Foundations which are laid for our Security. But when, in Consequence of these great Things, we come to talk of reducing Forces, then I observe the Language is quite turn'd the other Way, then we are in the weakest and most insecure Condition imaginable, there is no Dependence upon any Thing, and we must even be thought disaffected to the Government, if we will not believe that we are surrounded on all Sides with the greatest Dangers.'
'But in the midst of these Contrarieties and Contradictions I think we need not be at any Loss what our Conduct ought to be; if we will but have Regard to those plain Rules and Maxims which have always been observ'd in the like Cases with that which is now before us.
'It would certainly be an endless Thing, for an House of Commons to enter into the Secrets of State, and to debate upon the different Views, and Interests, and Intrigues of Foreign Courts; what Jealousies are among them, and what Treaties are on Foot to reconcile them. If we take such Things into our Considerations, to guide us in Questions concerning our own Guards and Garrisons here at Home, we shall be in a Labyrinth indeed; and must be compell'd at last to put an absolute Trust in the Government, because they only know the Truth of such Matters, and from them we must be content to receive whatsoever Account they think fit to give us of them. But the only Thing proper for us to look to is, what is plain and obvious to the Sense of all Mankind, I mean, When are the Times of present Peace. There need no Resinements of Politicks to know that, and I will venture to say, that during such Times of Peace no remote Fears, no Arguments drawn from Contingencies of what may be hereafter, have ever yet brought this Nation into a Concession so fatal to Liberty, as the Keeping up of standing Forces, when there is no other Employment for them, but to insult and oppress their Fellow Subjects. I say there has hitherto been no Precedent of that kind, and the Misfortune of this Case is, there will need but one Precedent in it; one wrong Step taken, in this Particular, may put an End to all your Claims of Rights and Privileges.
'And on the other Hand I beg it may not be taken for granted, that if we dismiss our Soldiers, we shall therefore leave ourselves naked, and void of all Protection against any sudden Danger that may arise. No, Sir, Providence has given us the best Protection, if we do not foolishly throw away the Benefit of it. Our Situation is our natural Protection; our Fleet is our Protection; and if we could ever be so happy as to see it rightly pursu'd, a good Agreement betwixt the King and People, uniting and acting together in one National Interest, would be such a Protection as none of our Enemies would ever hope to break through.
'It is a melancholy Thing to me to hear any other Notions of Government advanc'd here, and that his Majesty, either from his private or his general Council, should ever upon this Subject have any Thing inculcated to him, but this great Truth, 'That the true and only Support of an English Prince does and ought to consist in the Affections of his People.' It is That should strengthen his Hands; it is That should give him Credit and Authority in the Eyes of other Nations; and to think of doing of it by keeping up a Number of Land Forces here at Home, such a Number as can have any Awe or Influence over the great Powers on the Continent, is, I think, one of the wildest Imaginations that ever enter'd into the Heart of Man. The only Strength of this Nation must always consist in the Riches of it; Riches must be the Fruits of publick Liberty; and the People can neither acquire Riches, nor the King have the Use of them, but by a Government founded in their Inclinations and Affections.
'If this be true, then of Consequence it follows, That whoever advises his Majesty to aim at any additional Security to himself from a standing Army, instead of increasing his Strength, does really diminish it, and undermine his true Support, by robbing him of the Hearts of his Subjects. For this I take for granted, that as there are but two Ways of Governing; the one by Force, and the other by the Affections of the People govern'd, it is impossible for any Prince to have them both. He must chuse which of the two he will stick to, for he can have but one. If he is Master of their Affections, he stands in no need of Force; and if he will make Use of Force, it is in vain for him to expect their Affections. For it is not in Nature, and it can never be brought to pass, that Men can love a Government, under which they are loaded with heavy Taxes; and pay a considerable Part of their Estates to maintain an Army, which insults them in the Possession of the rest, and can turn them out of the whole whenever they please.
'With Submission therefore, the Argument is taken by the wrong End, when it is said, There are great Animosities in the Kingdom, the People are disaffected, and upon that Account there is a Necessity of keeping up an Army. It concludes much righter the other Way; that is, dismiss your Army, and give no other Cause of Suspicion that any Part of the Constitution is to be invaded, and the People will be well-affected. Upon any other Foot than this, what Minister will ever care, whether he does right or wrong? It is not his Concern, whether the People are easy or uneasy; his Army is his Dependence: Nay, and the more by his wicked Counsels he exasperates and enrages the People, the stronger he makes his Pretence for maintaining and increasing that Army which supports him.
'What I have said, I confess, goes upon a Supposition, that the Numbers contain'd in the Estimate, and in the Question before you, do make an Army formidable enough, and able to enslave this Nation; of which indeed there remains no Doubt with me. In the Manner those Forces are constituted, I think, a Prince who would wish to be arbitrary, could desire no more; and if he had all the Power in his Hands, I think, for his own sake he would keep no more.
'Of what Nature the Reductions have been other Gentlemen have so fully explain'd, and I believe it so generally understood, that it will be needless for me to dwell upon it. But the Short of the Case is this, That out of thirty two thousand Men, thirteen Regiments only have been disbanded, which do not amount to more than five or six thousand, besides a few Invalids, which were taken from the Establishment of the Army, and put upon the Establishment of the Hospital. So that there are the Corps now subsisting of more than twenty five thousand Men, which Corps may be fill'd up to their entire Complement whensoever the Government pleases, and that even without any Noise, or Notice taken. For the Case is very different in that Respect, where the Regiments are few, and those kept compleat: There, if the Numbers allow'd by Act of Parliament are exceeded, it must be by raising new Regiments, which is easily seen and known. But where the Corps are kept up with only a few Men in them, and some Recruits will always be necessary for them, there, if the Government is willing to be at the Charge, they may keep the Numbers up to what they please, and it is impossible to know when the Parliamentary Standard is exceeded, and when not. Thus therefore stands our Account: In the first Place, the Publick is to pay eighteen thousand Men; in the next Place, the Number of effective Men is to be sixteen thousand three hundred forty seven; and if those are not sufficient to exercise Dominion over us, yet, in the Manner they are kept together, they are equivalent to twenty five thousand Men; the Charge is inconsiderably less, and the Terror, which is the main Thing, is not at all abated.
'For the taking this dangerous Step, the only Justification I hear Gentlemen offer for themselves, the only Shelter they fly to, is the great Confidence which is to be repos'd in his Majesty's just and gracious Intentions; of those I will entertain no Doubt; I believe his Majesty is too good to be suspected of any arbitrary Designs. But yet there is a general Suspicion, which I will never be asham'd or afraid to own; because it is a Suspicion interwoven in our Constitution; it is a Suspicion upon which our Laws, our Parliament, and every Part of our Government is founded; which is, That too much Power lodg'd in the Crown, abstracting from the Person that wears it, will at some Time or other be abus'd in the Exercise of it, and can never long consist with the natural Rights and Liberties of Mankind. And therefore whatever Opinions we have of his Majesty's Goodness, and how much soever he deserves them, we should still consider, that in this Place we are under a distinct Duty to our Country, and by that Duty we should be as incapable of giving up such an unwarrantable Trust, as his Majesty, I am persuaded, would be incapable of abusing it, if he had it in his Hands. Those we represent will expect, and they ought to expect from us, that they should not only continue to enjoy what belongs to them, as Englishmen; but that they should hold it still by the same Tenure. Their Estates, their Lives, and their Liberties they have hitherto possess'd as their Rights; and it would be a very great and sad Change, and such as shall never have my Consent along with it, to make them only Tenants at Will for them.'
The Committee of Supply come to several Resolutions.
Dec. 6. In a Committee of the whole House on the Supply, the Commons came to twelve several Resolutions.
It not being in the Compass of our Design to recite them all, nine of them being, without any Opposition, agreed to by the House, and to be found at large in the VOTES of this Session, we shall only quote those three Resolutions of the Committee, as gave Rise to some SPEECHES and DEBATES; which, for the better Understanding thereof, it will be necessary to do. They are as follows;
1. That the Number of effective Men to be provided for Guards and Garrisons in Great Britain, and for Jersey and Guernsey, for the Year 1718, be 16347, commissioned and non-commissioned Officers included. II. That a Sum not exceeding 681,618 l. be granted to his Majesty, for defraying the Charge of the said 16347 effective Men for Guards and Garrisons, and other his Majesty's Land Forces in Great Britain, Jersey and Guernsey, for the Year 1718. III. That a Sum not exceeding 130361 l. 5s. 5d. be granted to his Majesty, for the Charge of Half-pay to the reduced Officers of his Majesty's Land Forces and Marines, for the Year 1718.
Motion for recommitting three of them. ; Debate thereon.
The first of these Resolutions being read the second Time, a Motion was made, that the same be recommitted; upon which there arose a warm Debate, and most of the Members who spoke in the Debate of the 4th Instant, [See p. 154.] spoke either for or against the said Motion: But the Question being put thereupon, it was carry'd in the Negative, by a Majority of 175 Voices against 125; and then the first Resolution was agreed to by the House. The second Resolution being afterwards read a second Time, a Motion was made, that the same be recommitted, which occasion'd a fresh Debate. Mr Robert Walpole, who made the most remarkable Speech, urg'd, 'That by the Method that had been follow'd in the Reduction of the Army, the Nation was put to an extraordinary and needless Charge.' Which he endeavour'd to prove, 'By entering into the Particulars of the Regiments that were kept standing; shewing the Disproportion between the Foot, and the Horse and Dragoons, which last were most grievous and oppressive to the Country; and suggested; 'That by reducing the Army in another Manner, the full Number of Land Forces already voted, might be kept up, and yet near a hundred thousand Pounds saved to the Nation, besides the Pay of General Officers, which, he doubted not, all Gentlemen would readily acknowledge, with him, to be an unnecessary Expence.' This Overture was listen'd to with great Attention, and particularly by Sir Joseph Jekyll, who, being desirous to know what Mr Walpole had to propose, to save so confiberable a Sum to the Nation, declar'd his Opinion for recommitting the second Resolution above-mention'd, which was carry'd without dividing. It was also resolv'd, That the last of the three above-recited Resolutions be recommitted.
Debate concerning the Charge of the Land-Forces.
Dec. 9. The House resolved itself into a Grand Committee, to take into Consideration the second Resolution, viz. for granting to his Majesty the Sum of 681,618 l. which had been recommitted. Mr Craggs, who spoke first, said, 'That having already agreed to the Number of Troops, it was but natural and reasonable to grant the Sum necessary to maintain those Troops; that the Commons had never enter'd into the Particulars of the Regiments, whether Horse, Dragoons, or Foot; but contenting themselves with fixing the whole Number, had wholly left the regulating of that Matter to the Crown; and therefore he hoped, they would not shew less Regard to his Majesty, or repose less Confidence in his Wisdom, of which they had seen so many Instances, particularly both in augmenting and reducing of the Army.' Mr Craggs was seconded by Mr Aislable, Mr Lechmere, Mr Treby, Mr Yonge, Sir Richard Steele, Gen. Carpenter, Gen. Wade, Gen Stanwix, and others: But, on the other Hand, Mr R. Walpole, represented, 'That the best Way for the Commons of Great Britain to acknowledge his Majesty's most gracious Intentions for the Good of his Subjects, was to point out to him the Means of rendering those good Intentions effectual; that this might be done by disbanding or dismounting eight or nine Regiments of Dragoons, whereby the Country would be eased of a great Burden and Oppression; and that by this, and some other Reductions, of which he made mention, a considerable Sum of Money might be saved to the Nation; as well as by taking off the Pay of the General Officers, and other useless Contingencies.' Mr Walpole was back'd by Sir Joseph Jekyll, Sir Thomas Hanmer, Sir William Wyndham, Mr John Smith, and Sir Thomas Cross; and, on the other Hand, the Courtiers endeavour'd to shew, either that the Reductions proposed were impracticable, or would not answer the End intended thereby. But some General Officers having said, 'That for their own Parts, if their having no Pay could any way contribute to make the Nation easy, they readily acquieseed,' They were taken at their Words; and the Question being put, That a Sum not exceeding 650,000 l. be granted to his Majesty, for defraying the Charge of 16347 effective Men for Guards and Garrisons, and other his Majesty's Land Forces in Great Britain, Jersey and Guernsey, for the Year 1718, the same was carry'd in the Affirmative, by 172 against 158. And this Resolution was the next Day reported and agreed to by the House without Opposition.
Debate concerning the Land-Tax.
Dec. 11. In a Grand Committee on Ways and Means to raise the Supply, after some Debate upon the Question, Whether two or three Shillings in the Pound be laid upon Land, it was by 164 Votes against 97, carry'd for the latter. There were great Struggles to save the odd Shilling, but it would not do; for the next Day Mr Farrer reported the Resolution of the Committee, which was agreed to by the House; and a Bill was ordered to be brought in accordingly. This Bill, with an unusual Dispatch passed through both Houses in ten Days.
Debate concerning the Half-Pay Officers.
Dec. 18. Mr Freeman and Mr Hutcheson, upon examining the Lists of Half-Pay Officers that had been laid before the House, represented, That there were three Sorts of Officers in the said Lists, who, in their Opinion, had no Title to the said Half-Pay, viz. the Warrant-Officers; those under Age, and therefore uncapable to serve; and the Officers who had Civil Employments. Mr Craggs (fn. 9), Col. Bladen, Mr Aislabie, and Mr Lechmere (fn. 10), in Answer to those Objections, said, 'That the Half-Pay had never been deny'd to Warrant-Officers; and as for Officers under Age, they were very few in Number, and their Half-Pay given as a Recompence for the Services of their Fathers or near Relations.' However, after a Debate, it was resolved to present four Addresses to his Majesty on that Head.
Debate concerning the Scarcity of Silver, and lowering the Gold Species.
Dec. 19. Mr Aislabie, took Notice of the great Scarcity of the Silver Species, which, in all Probability, was occasion'd by the Exportation of the same, and the Importation of Gold; and propos'd, That a speedy Remedy might be put to that growing Evil, by lowering the Value of the Gold Species. He was seconded by Mr Caswall, Member for Leominster, one of the Sword Blade Company: But Mr R. Walpole, who did not expect such a Motion, said, 'This was a Matter of so great Importance, that it ought to be well weigh'd and maturely consider'd, before the House came to any Resolution thereupon.' It was accordingly resolv'd to consider of it the next Morning in a Committee of the whole House.
Dec, 20. Mr Aislabie renew'd the Motion he made the Day before, relating to the Coin, and was seconded by Mr Caswall (fn. 11), who made a Speech, on the various and respective Values which, at different Times, Gold and Silver Coins have born, with respect one to the other, according to the Plenty or Scarcity of either; and suggested, 'That the Over-valuation of Gold in the current Coins of Great Britain, had occasion'd the Exportation of great Quantities of Silver Species; and to that Purpose, laid open a clandestine Trade, which of late Years had been carry'd on by the Dutch, Hamburghers, and other Foreigners, in Concert with the Jews and other Traders here, which consisted in exporting Silver Coins, and importing Gold in Lieu thereof, which being coin'd into Guineas at the Tower, near 15 Pence was got by every Guinea, which amounted to about 5 per Cent. and as these Returns might be made five or six Times in a Year, considerable Sums were got by it, to the Prejudice of Great Britain, which thereby was drain'd of Silver, and over-stock'd with Gold: Concluding, that in his Opinion, the most effectual Way to put a Stop to this pernicious Trade, was to lower the Price of Guineas, and all other Gold Species.' This Speech was received with general Applause, and it was resolv'd in the Grand Committee, and unanimously agreed to by the House, That an Address be presented to his Majesty, to issue his Royal Proclamation, to forbid all Persons to utter or receive any of the Pieces of Gold call'd Guineas, at any greater or higher Rate than one and twenty Shillings for each Guinea, and so proportionably for any greater or lesser Pieces of coin'd Gold. This Address being presented to his Majesty, a Proclamation was issued accordingly.
Dec. 22. The King gave the Royal Assent to the LandTax Bill, and then the House adjourn'd.
Second Debate relating to the Officers on-Half-pay.
Jan. 22. The Commons, in a Committee of the whole House, consider'd farther on the Supply, and Mr Hutcheson urg'd. 'That the Lists of the Half-pay Officers were charg'd with many who had no Right to it: He was strenuously supported by Mr R. Walpole, who particularly objected against allowing Half-pay here to the Officers of the 13 Regiments lately reduc'd in Ireland. Mr Craggs answer'd them; and Mr Walpole having suggested that Mr Craggs had not been long in Office; this last readily own'd, 'That tho' he could not boast of so much Experience in Affairs, as a certain Gentleman, yet this he was sure of, that, though a Novice, he would, ten Years hence, be of the same Opinion he was of at present, and not imitate them, who chang'd theirs, as they were in or out of Place.' Hereupon Mr Walpole appeal'd to the Committee, 'Whether, while he had the Honour to be in Employment, he had not declar'd his Opinion as freely as he did at present, particularly in relation to the Matter now before them?' Mr John Smith, Sir Henry Bunbury (fn. 12), Member for Chester, and Sir William Wyndham, supported Mr Walpole, and all of them did Justice to the Officers who had serv'd their Country in the two last Wars; excepting only against the Abuse which had been made of the National Bounty, in granting Half-pay to those that did not deserve it. On the other Hand, Mr Aislabie, Colonel Bladen, Sir Charles Hotham, Sir Richard Steele, General Wade, Mr Lowndes, and several others, supported Mr Craggs; and Mr Boscawen, said, 'That, in his Opinion, the Officers who had lately serv'd against the Rebels in Scotland, and in the North and West of England, had no less merited than those who had serv'd many Years in foreign Wars, since by suppressing a most unnatural and detestable Rebellion, they had deliver'd their Country from its most dangerous Enemies.' But though the Court Party, instead of about 130,361 l. to which the List of Half-pay for 1718 amounted, would have been contented with 115,000 l. yet a Motion being made, and the Question put, That the Chairman leave the Chair, it was carry'd in the Affirmative, by 186 Voices against 148.
Farther Debate relating to the Half-pay Officers.
Jan. 24. The House went into a grand Committee, to consider farther of the Supply; particularly in relation to Half-pay; and Mr Hutcheson and Mr Walpole chiefly insisted, 'That the Officers of the 13 Regiments reduc'd in Ireland, ought to have been plac'd on the Establishment of that Kingdom.' The Lord Viscount Broderick (fn. 13), Member for Midhurst, endeavour'd to justify the Ministry there, and represented how hard the Case of those Officers would be, if they were struck off the English Establishment. To which Mr Walpole reply'd, 'That 'twas Matter of Surprize, that an End had been put to the Session of the Parliament of Ireland, without making Provision for the said Officers.' After this it was agreed to strike off the List of Half-pay all the Minors under sixteen; several Warrant Officers; the Officers of the 13 Regiments reduc'd in Ireland, and the Chaplains not provided for; Notwithstanding which, the Courtiers still demanded 115,000 l. for the List of Half-pay; but upon the Motion for the Chairman to leave the Chair, which was carry'd without dividing, the Speaker resum'd it, and the farther Consideration of that Matter was put off to the next Day.
94,000 l. granted for the Half-pay List.
Jan. 25. The Commons went again into a Committee of the whole House on the Supply, and the Courtiers renew'd the Demand of 115,000 l. for the List of Half-pay. On the other Hand, the opposite Party were for reducing that Sum to 80,000 l. But Mr Walpole having propos'd 94,000 l. the same was readily accepted on both Sides.
Then Mr Freeman mov'd, 'That the Vacancies in the Guards should be supply'd by Half-pay Officers:' But the Question being put thereupon, it was carryd in the Negative by 164 Voices against 156.
An Address for supplying all Vacancies in the Troops, (the Horse and Foot Guards, and Horse Grenadiers excepted,) with Half-way Officers.
Mr Speaker having resum'd the Chair, Mr Farrer immediately reported to the House, 'That the Committee had directed him to move, and it was accordingly resolved, That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that all Va cancies which shall happen in the Troops upon the British Establishment be supply'd by Half-Pay Officers, or Officers reduc'd in Great Britain of the same Rank, except in the Horse and Foot-Guards, and Horse-Grenadiers.' The said Address was accordingly presented to the King.
The King's Answer thereto.
Jan. 27. Mr Boscawen acquainted the House, that his Majesty had commanded him to inform the House, "That Orders should be given, pursuant to the above Address, his Majesty being desirous, on all Occasions, to contribute, as far as in him lies, to the Ease of his People." After this, Mr Farrer reported the Resolutions on the Supply, which were agreed to, and may be seen at large in the VOTES of this Session.
Debate concerning the Mutiny Bill.
February 4. The House resolv'd itself into a Grand Committee, upon the Bill, For regulating the Forces, and for Payment of the Army, &c. After reading the Bill, and the Articles of War, Mr Hutcheson excepted against the Clause, enacting, 'That it shall and may be lawful to and for Court Martials to punish Mutiny and Desertion with Death, urging, That a Court Martial was never allowed of in England in Time of Peace, as being inconsistent with the Rights and Liberties of a free People; and mov'd, 'That the Offences committed by the Soldiery be cognizable and punish'd by the Civil Magistrate.' Sir William Thompson answer'd Mr Hutcheson, and the latter was seconded by Mr Edward Harley, who, to shew the Danger of a standing Army govern'd by Martial Law, quoted a Book written by a noble Member of the House, intitled, An Account of Denmark. Hereupon Lord Molesworth, [Author of that Book,] endeavour'd to shew, 'That this was not a parallel Case; that the present Posture of Affairs in Great Britain was vastly different from the State of Things in Denmark at that Juncture; and that the Commons having already declar'd it necessary to maintain the standing Forces, it was no less necessary to keep those Forces within the Bounds of Duty and Discipline, by the ordinary Rules of Martial Law, as was ever practis'd in all civiliz'd Nations.' Sir Gilbert Heathcote having back'd the Lord Molesworth, Mr Hungerford said, 'He remember'd a remarkable Passage in The History of the Revolutions of Sweden, which was, That one Bung, a rich Burgher of Stockholm, who had much contributed to the keeping up a standing Army, was the first that was hang'd by Martial Law. General Lumley and some others were of Mr Hutcheson's Opinion; and, on the other Hand, Sir Joseph Jekyll was for keeping up the Martial Law, at least, one Year longer.' But the main Dispute fell between Mr Craggs and Mr Robert Walpole, who in the Heat of Argument could not forbear letting drop some sharp Reflections. Mr Lechmere, in Answer to what Mr Walpole had advanced, viz. That a Court Martial in Time of Peace was altogether unknown in England, shew'd to the contrary, 'That the Court of Admiralty, which is allow'd in Times of Peace as well as of War, has an equal Power in relation to Seamen, with a Court Martial in Relation to Soldiers. At last, about Eight in the Evening, the Question being put, That the Clause relating to the Punishment of Mutiny and Desertion should stand as express'd in the Bill, it was carry'd in the Affirmative by a Majority of 247 against 229.
The Mutiny-Bill passes the House.
Feb. 12. The engrossed Bill, For punishing Mutiny and Desertion, &c. was read the third Time, and the Question being put, That the said Bill do pass, it was carried in the Affirmative by 186 Voices against 105: This great Majority was ascrib'd to Mr Walpole's voting with the Courtiers, and his having declar'd to his Friends, 'That tho' in the Debate about this Bill, he was for having Mutiny and Desertion punish'd by the Civil Magistrate, yet he had rather those Crimes should be punish'd by Martial Law, than not punish'd at all.
Debate on the Merchant's Petition relating to the Trade to Sweden.
Feb. 27. The House proceeded to take into Consideration the Matters of the Petition of several Merchants and Owners of Shipping, and other Petitions which had been presented to the House, in Relation to the Trade to and from Sweden: And the Extracts of the Letters between the Secretaries of State, and his Majesty's Residents in Holland; and also the Memorials which Mr Jackson presented to the Regency of Sweden, and the Answers to them, were read: After which Mr Jackson being call'd in, Mr Craggs ask'd him, whether he was of Opinion, That if the Trade were open'd with Sweden, our Merchants would be upon a better Foot than they are at present? Mr Jackson answer'd, 'That, in his Opinion, the contrary would happen: For now that the Sweden are distress'd for want of our Commodities, particularly Corn and Salt, they are inclin'd to facilitate to us, underhand, the Purchase of their Iron; whereas if the Prohibition of Trade with them was taken off, they would immediately provide themselves with what they want; and knowing at the same Time, that there are amongst us a Set of Men, who make it their Study and Business to embarass the Government, the Court of Sweden would be more stiff than ever, and render the Purchase of their Iron more difficult to us.' Some Members being offended at Mr Jackson's Expression, viz. A Set of Men, cry'd out, Custody, Custody: But the more moderate contented themselves with putting him upon explaining himself: Hereupon Mr Jackson reply'd, 'That he meant the Merchants who presented unreasonable Petitions.' This being by some look'd upon rather as an Aggravation than an Excuse, the Cry of Custody, Custody, was repeated; but Mr R. Walpole brought him off, by suggesting, 'That that Gentleman had liv'd so long in a despotick Government, where Petitions and Representations of that Nature are accounted capital Crimes, that he had forgot the Rights and Privileges of his Countrymen; and therefore mov'd, that his unguarded Expressions might be excus'd; Nobody opposing Mr Walpole, Mr Jackson withdrew. Then the Petitioners, and some other Merchants being call'd in, and farther heard, they represented among other Particulars, 'That since the Prohibition of Trade with Sweden, they bought Swedish Iron of the Dutch 4 l. per Ton dearer than before; and that whereas the English were formerly; about 30,000 l. per Annum, Gainers by the Trade with Sweden, they now lost about 90,000 l.' But this was contradicted by Mr Craggs, who suggested, 'That the Exports from Stockholm for England had never amounted to 120,000 l. in one Year; and therefore the Difference of the Profit and Loss could not come up to this last Sum.' The Merchants being withdrawn, Mr Heysham spoke in their Favour, and made a Motion, upon which the Question was proposed, That an Address be presented to his Majesty, to take into his Consideration the State of the Trade with Sweden, and that such Measures might be taken, that his Majesty's Subjects, and those of his Allies, might carry on the said Trade in the same Manner. Hereupon there arose a warm Debate, in which Mr Craggs represented, 'That such an Address would be derogatory to the King's Honour, and even a Reflection on the Parliament, who had desir'd his Majesty to prohibit all Commerce with Sweden; and that on the other Hand, such an Address was altogether needless, since his Majesty's Wisdom would not fail to apply all proper Remedies to the Evil that was complain'd of.' Hereupon Sir William Wyndham said, 'That the Prohibition of Trade with Sweden having been thought convenient, when there was some Grounds to fear an Invasion from thence; now that Apprehension was entirely over, it would be no Reflection either upon the King or his Parliament, to take off the said Prohibition; and that he wonder'd we should distress and endeavour to ruin a Prince and Nation, who have ever been the Support of the Protestant Interest, and whom, by Treaties, we stand obliged to defend and protect.' After this it was resolv'd by a Majority of 201 Votes against 111, to adjourn the Debate 'till that Day Month.
March 17. Mr Boscawen acquainted the House, That he had a Message to the House, sign'd by his Majesty: Which was as follows, viz.
King's Message for an additional Number of Seamen.
HIS Majesty being at present engag'd in several Negotiations of the utmost Concern to the Welfare of these Kingdoms, and the Tranquility of Europe; and having lately receiv'd Information from Abroad, which makes him judge that it will give Weight to his Endeavours, if a Naval Force be employ'd where it shall be necessary, does think fit to acquaint this House therewith; not doubting but that in case he should be oblig'd, at this critical Juncture, to exceed the Number of Men granted this Year for the Sea-Service, the House will, at their next Meeting, provide for such Exceeding.
An Address thereon.
Upon this Sir William Strickland mov'd, 'That an Address be presented to his Majesty, to return his Majesty the Thanks of this House, for his unwearied Endeavours to promote the Welfare of his Kingdoms, and to preserve the Tranquility of Europe; and to assure his Majesty, That this House will make good such Exceedings of Men for the Sea Service of the Year 1718, as his Majesty in his Royal Wisdom shall find necessary to obtain those desirable Ends.' This Motion being seconded, and the Question put thereupon, was carry'd without dividing.
Mr R. Walpole's Observation on that Address.
It is very remarkable, that the Spanish Embassador having about this Time expostulated concerning the great Preparations for sending a Fleet into the Mediterranean, Mr Walpole said, 'That such an Address had all the Air of a Declaration of War against Spain.
The King's Answer to the above Address.
March 18. Mr Boscawen acquainted the House, That their Address had been presented to his Majesty; and that he was commanded by his Majesty, to return his Majesty's hearty Thanks to this House, and to assure them, that his Majesty shall think himself oblig'd, in Return of the great Considence they have repos'd in him, not only to use the utmost Oeconomy that shall be consistent with the real Interest of his Subjects for this ensuing Year; but likewise to apply his most earnest Endeavours to prevent future Burthens to his People, by establishing a lasting Peace and Tranquility.
March 21. The King went to the House of Peers, and the Commons attending, his Majesty gave the Royal Assent to several Bills.
After which the Lord Chancellor read his Majesty's Speech to both Houses of Parliament, as follows, viz.
The King's Speech at putting an End to the Third Session.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
I Cannot put an End to this Session, without returning my hearty Thanks to so good a Parliament, for the Dispatch which has been given to the publick Business. You will, I hope, in your private Capacities, feel the Convenience of an early Recess; and I am persuaded the Publick will receive great Benefit, by the seasonable Zeal and Vigour of your Resolutions in Support of my Government.
"Nothing can add so much to the Credit and Influence of this Crown, both at Home and Abroad, as the repeated Instances of your Affection to me. This Steadiness and Resolution of yours, will, I hope, enable me to procure, against your next Meeting, such Treaties to be concluded, as will settle Peace and Tranquility among our Neighbours.
If through the Blessing of God my Endeavours to this End prove successful, I shall have the Satisfaction to silence even those who will never own themselves convinc'd; and to let all the World see plainly, that what I have most at Heart, is the Good and Welfare of my People, who may then be eas'd in their Taxes, and enrich'd by their Trade.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
I must return you my particular Thanks for the Supplies you have so chearfully granted, and for the late Instance of your Confidence in me. I promise you, that my Endeavours shall not be wanting to make Use of both to the best Advantage for the Good of my People.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"The Practices which are daily us'd by a most restless and unhappy Set of Men, to disturb a Government by whose Clemency they are protected, require our utmost Attention and Vigilance. I must therefore recommend it to you, that in your several Stations and Countries, you will endeavour to quell that Spirit of Disaffection, which our common Enemies are so industrious to foment.
Then the Lord Chancellor prorogu'd the Parliament to the 20th of May; after which they were farther prorogued to the 11th of November.