The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 9, 1734-1737. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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SPEECHES and DEBATES
In the Third Session of the Second Parliament of King George II. BEING
The Eighth Parliament of Great Britain.
On the First of February the Parliament being met according to their last Prorogation, a Message was brought by Sir Charles Dalton, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, from the Lords authoriz'd by his Majesty's Commission, (viz. His Royal Highness Frederick Prince of Wales, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council (fn. 1), the Lord Steward of the Household (fn. 2), the Lord Chamberlain (fn. 3), the Duke of Argyle, the Duke of Richmond, the Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Scarborough, and the Earl of Islay,) desiring the immediate Attendance of the Commons, in the House of Peers, to hear the Commission read; and Mr Speaker, with the House, going up to the House of Peers, the Lord Chancellor sitting with several other Lords on a Form, between the Throne and the Woolsacks, spoke as follows:
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"We are commanded by his Majesty to let you know, that as it is not convenient for his Majesty to be here this Day in his Royal Person, he has been pleased by Letters-patent under the Great Seal, to Authorise his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and several Lords therein mentioned, to do every Thing in the Name of his Majesty, which ought to be done on the Part of his Majesty in this Parliament, as may more fully appear by the Letters-patent."
The Letters-patent being read, the Lord Chancellor, as one of the Commissioners, read the following Speech to both Houses:
My Lords and Gentlemen,
In Pursuance of the Authority given us by His Majesty's Commission, under the Great Seal, amongst other Things, to declare the Causes of his holding this Parliament, we are, by his Majesty's Command, in the first Place, to observe to you, That his Majesty acquainted you last Year, that he had, in Conjunction with the States General, given his Approbation of certain Preliminary Articles, concerted and agreed upon between the Emperor and France, for restoring the Peace of Europe; and that a farther Convention, concerning the Execution of them, had been communicated to Him by both those Courts; and that Negotiations were carrying on by the several Powers engaged in the late War, in order to settle the general Pacification.
'We are now commanded by His Majesty to inform you, that the respective Acts of Cession being exchanged, and Orders given for the Evacuation and Possession of the several Countries and Places, by the Powers concerned, according to the Allotment and Disposition of the Preliminary Articles, the great Work of re-establishing the general Tranquility is far advanced; however, it is His Majesty's Opinion, that common Prudence calls upon us to be very attentive to, and observe the final Conclusion of this new Settlement of such considerable Parts of Europe. It is to be hoped, that a general lasting Tranquility will follow this Restitution of Peace, and that the Renewal of Friendship and Alliances, for the Preservation of it, among the several Princes and Powers of Europe, will remove all Dangers and Apprehensions of any new Troubles and Disorders; but His Majesty apprehends, that an indolent Security, and too great a Disregard to future Events, may occasion Mischiefs more easy to be prevented, than to be remedied; and that it would be very unadviseable to leave ourselves in so defenceless a Condition, as to encourage any Enterprizes, which the Enemies to the Public Peace may have vainly suggested and flattered themselves with the Hopes of.'
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
'His Majesty has ordered the proper Officers to lay before you the Estimates for the Service of the current Year; as soon as the Circumstances of the Times would permit, His Majesty was pleased to make such a Reduction of some Part of the Public Expences for the Ease of his People, as was consistent with the Peace and Safety of his Kingdoms, the Security of our Commerce, and the Honour and Interest of the Nation.'
My Lords and Gentlemen,
'His Majesty has been graciously pleased to direct us to acquaint you, that He hath seen with the greatest Satisfaction the unwearied Application of this Parliament, in framing good Laws for advancing the Prosperity, and securing the Welfare of His loving Subjects; and that it hath been one of His Majesty's principal Cares to enforce them by a due Execution, with the strictest Regard to the Rights and Properties of his People, no Invasion whereof can with any Colour be suggested by the most malicious Enemies of the present Establishment. Whilst this hath been our Condition, His Majesty cannot but observe, that it must be matter of the utmost Surprise and Concern to every true Lover of his Country, to see the many Contrivances and Attempts carried on in various Shapes, and in different Parts of the Nation, tumultuously to resist and obstruct the Execution of the Laws, and to violate the Peace of the Kingdom. These Disturbers of the public Repose, conscious that the Interest of His Majesty and His People are the same, and of the good Harmony, which happily subsists between Him and His Parliament, have levelled their Sedition against both; and in their late Outrages have either directly opposed, or at least endeavoured to render ineffectual some Acts of the whole Legislature. His Majesty in His great Wisdom thinks it affords a melancholy Prospect to consider to what Height these audacious Practices may rise, if not timely suppressed, and that it deserves no small Attention, that they may go on to affect private Persons in the quiet Enjoyment of their Property, as well as the general Peace, and good Order of the whole. His Majesty apprehends it to be unnecessary to enlarge upon a Subject of this Naturo, and therefore hath commanded us barely to mention it to you, who, by the constant Tenor of your Conduct, have shewn, that you consider the Support of his Government, as inseparable from the Preservation of the Public Tranquillity and your own Safety.
The Members being returned to the House, Mr. Speaker reported the Speech from the Lord Chancellor, and upon a Motion for an Address of Thanks, the same was agreed to, and is as follows.
The humble Address of the House of Commons to the King.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
'We your Majesty's most Dutiful and Loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, return your Majesty our most humble Thanks for the Speech delivered by your Majesty's Command to both Houses of Parliament.
We see with great Satisfaction, the happy Prospect of the final Conclusion of the general Pacification of Europe, and when we remember your Majesty's unwearied Endeavours to prevent this Nation from being involved in the Calamities of a destructive War, and your constant Application in contributing to the utmost of your Power towards the great Work of restoring Peace, from the tender Care and Concern which your Majesty has always shewn for the future Peace and Prosperity of your People, as well as for the common Welfare of Mankind, we make no doubt, but that your Majesty will continue to co-operate with your good Allies, that the Conclusion of the Peace may be attended with a general and lasting Tranquillity.
'Duty and Gratitude to your Majesty, and a due Regard to our own Interests and Security will engage us not to neglect any necessary Precautions, which may best conduce to enable your Majesty to disappoint and defeat all groundless Hopes and Expectations, which the deluded Enemies of the public Peace may have vainly suggested and flattered themselves with.
'And we beg Leave to assure your Majesty, that we will chearfully and effectually raise the Supplies necessary for the Service of the Current Year, and support your Majesty in all such Measures as shall be found requisite to preserve the Peace and Safety of the Kingdom, the Security of our Commerce, and the Honour and Interest of your Majesty and your Dominions.'
Most Gracious Sovereign,
'Your faithful Commons cannot without a just Indignation observe the Spirit of Faction and Sedition, which has lately mafested itself in traducing and misrepresenting the Legislature, in contemning all Authority, and in open Defiance of the Laws of the Land.
'It is with the highest Sense of Duty and Gratitude, we acknowledge your Majesty's Goodness, not only in your ready Concurrence to all such wholesome Laws as have been from Time to Time prepared by your Parliament, but in your constant Care to enfore them by a due Execution, with the strictest Regard to the Rights and Properties of your People, and without the least Colour or Shadow of any Design or Attempt to stretch or violate the known Laws of this Realm.
'We cannot sufficiently express our Abhorrence of the many wicked and detestable Practices, which the Disturbers of the public Repose have secretly fomented and openly carry'd on in tumultuously resisting and obstructing the Execution of the Laws, and violating the Peace of the Kingdom.
'And we your faithful Commons do assure your Majesty, that being fully persuaded that the Preservation of the public Tranquility, and our own Safety, are inseparable from the Security of your Government, we will support your Royal Authority in suppressing and subduing all seditious and riotous Attempts that threaten the very Being of our happy Constitution, and the utter Subversion of those Liberties, which have been made the specious Pretence for committing those outrageous Disorders.'
To this the King returned the following Answer:
The King's Answer to the Commons Address.
His Majesty returns this House his Thanks for their most Dutiful and Loyal Address, and shall always esteem their Zeal and Affection for his Person and Government, as the best and most acceptable Return for his constant Endeavour to render this Nation happy and flourishing both at Home and Abroad. His Majesty relies upon the Wisdom of his Parliament, to frame such Laws as shall be necessary to strengthen and support the Authority of his Government, in preserving the public Tranquility, and securing the Rights and Properties of his People; and his faithful Commons may depend upon him for a just and due Execution of them.
A Petition, complaining of an undue Election for the County of Norfolk presented.
Feb. 2. A Petition of the Freeholders of the County of Norfolk, complaining of an undue Election and Return for the said County, being presented to the House, and read, it was ordered to be heard at the Bar of the House on the Third of March; and that Lists, with Respect to the said Election, be delivered on the 23d of February.
But is dropt.
March 2. A Motion was made, that the Petitioners might be at Liberty to withdraw their Petition; which was granted; and Mr Speaker was ordered to issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown, to make out a new Writ for the said County, in the Room of William Wodehouse, Esq; who had died after his Election, and against which the said Petition was presented.
'Tho' this Election was thus given up, yet there was one Thing relating to it worth Observation.
Resolution of the House upon Lists of Electors that are to be objected to.
The Resolution of the House relating to the delivering of Lists of controverted Voters, in Pursuance of which the Lists, with respect to this controverted Election, had been ordered to be delivered, is as follows, viz 'That in all Cases of controverted Elections for Counties in England and Wales, to be heard at the Bar of that House, or before the Committee of Privileges and Elections, the Petitioners should by themselves, or by their Agents, within a convenient Time, to be appointed either by the House or the Committee of Privileges and Elections, as the Matter to be heard shall be before the House, or the said Committee, deliver to the sitting Members, or their Agents, Lists of the Persons intended by the Petitioners to be objected to, who voted for the sitting Members; giving, in the said Lists, the several Heads of Objection, and distinguishing the same against the Names of the Voters excepted to; and that the sitting Members should, by themselves, or by their Agents, within the same Time, deliver the like Lists on their Part, to the Petitioners or their Agents.
Lists deliver'd in Consequence of the same. ; Complaint relating thereto.
In Pursuance of this Resolution, the Petitioners for the County of Norsolk, and the sitting Member Sir Edmond Bacon, who supported the Election of himself and the other Member deceas'd, deliver'd Lists to each other respectively, but in the Lists deliver'd by the Petitioners to the sitting Member, all the material Heads of Objection that could be made against any Voter for a County, were set against the Name of almost every Voter they excepted to; which the sitting Member thought contrary to the Resolution, and therefore represented, That the Resolution had been agreed to, in order to save Trouble and Expence; and prevent either Party's examining Witnesses to an Objection he could not fully prove, and then flying from that to another, and thence to a Third, &c. That if either Party thought he had several Objections to any one Voter, each of which would be of itself sufficient, he ought, by the Resolution, to fix upon that Objection which he thought he could most clearly prove, and distinguish that Head of Objection only against the Name of that Voter; by which Means the other Party might prepare proper Proofs or Materials for supporting the Right of his Voter against that Objection: But in the Manner the Lists had been deliver'd to him, it would be vastly troublesome and expensive to prepare proper Proofs for supporting the Right of a Voter against every Objection that could be made; and if he prepared to answer one Objection only, he might at last find himself obliged to answer another, for which he could not then possibly have an Opportunity to prepare: That if the Method in which the Petitioners Lists were drawn up should be admitted, it would render that Part of the Resolution quite useless, which relates to the distinguishing the Heads of Objection against the Names of the Voters excepted to; for if all the Heads of Objection that could possibly be made against any Voter, should be set against the Name of every Voter, it would be the very same with making no particular Objection at all, which would leave both Parties as much at Liberty to vex one another, and to take up the Time of the House unnecessarily, as if no such Resolution had ever been made: And lastly, that in the particular Case then before them, it would be a very great Hardship upon him; because in the Lists he had delivered to the Petitioners, he had strictly conformed to the Resolution of the House, which would give the Petitioners a very great Advantage over him; therefore he desired they might be ordered to amend their Lists, and to put them in that Method which was prescribed by the Resolution.
To which 'twas answered, That by the Resolution it was not intended to limit either the Petitioners or the sitting Member to the making but one Objection only against each Voter excepted to; nor could it be supposed that the House meant any such Thing when they agree'd to that Resolution; because it would be doing Injustice to both, to limit them to the making but one Objection to a Voter against whom they had several material Objections; therefore it was to be presumed, the Resolution intended only to oblige each Party to explain and expressly mention the several Objections they were to make against each Voter excepted to, which was the Method the Petitioners had taken with respect to the Lists they had delivered; and by that Method the sitting Member might know what to do, and could be put to no greater Expence or Trouble than the Nature of the Case required; for if he found that any one of the Objections proposed was well founded, and would probably be sufficiently proved, it would be quite unnecessary for him to put himself to any Expence or Trouble in supporting the Right of a Voter, who, he knew, had no Right; nor could the Time of the House be unnecessarily taken up, because each Party would begin with examining Witnesses as to that Objection which he thought the strongest, and which he thought he could the most fully prove, and if he found he had fully proved that Objection, he would proceed no further, nor trouble himself or the House with proving any other Objection; whereas if his Witnesses for proving that Objection should not, in their Examination before the House, come up to that which they had declared to him in the Country, which was often the Case, it would be Injustice to preclude him from proving any other Objection, when he found he neither had nor could fully prove the Objection he had first insisted on; therefore they did not think themselves obliged by the Resolution to amend their Lists, or to deliver them in any other Manner than what they had done: However, that they might not be thought to intend, and as they did not desire to take any fort of Advantage of the sitting Member, they were willing to amend their Lists, and to put them in the very same Method with those delivered to them by him; so that it would be quite unnecessary for the House to interpose in the Affair, or to come to any new Resolution, or Order, upon that Head.
This Compliance in the Petitioners prevented a Reply, and likewise prevented the House's coming to any new Resolution, or to any Determinaation, for explaining their former Resolution; so that the Point in dispute remains undetermined, and, if no new Law be made for regulating the Elections for Counties, it may be the Subject of some future Debate.
The Flint Petition.
Upon the same Day, viz. Feb. 2. and immediately after the proper Orders were made for hearing the Petition from Norfolk, as before mentioned, a Petition of Sir John Glynn, Bart. complaining of an undue Election and Return for the Borough of Flint, in the County of Flint, was presented to the House and read; and 'twas order'd, That the Matter of the said Petition should be heard upon Tuesday, March 8, then next; which Order was afterwards put off, to Thursday, March 24, when the House proceeded to the Hearing of the Matter of the said Petition; and the Petition, and the last Determination of the House, concerning the Right of electing a Burgess to serve in Parliament for the said Borough, made May 21, 1728; and also the standing Order of the House, made Jan. 16,1728, for restraining the Counsel at the Bar of that House, or before the Committee of Privileges and Elections, from offering Evidence touching the Legality of Votes for Members to serve in Parliament for any County, Shire, City, Borough, Cinque Port, or Place, contrary to the last Determination of the House of Commons; were read.
Then the Counsel for the Petitioner were heard; and the original Poll, taken at the said Election, being produced; and the Title thereof, and the total Number of Votes for each Candidate, being read; they examined several Witnesses, touching the Behaviour of the returning Officers at the Time of taking and closing the said Poll, and the Declaration of the Number of Votes, and of the Majority, and touching a Scrutiny to be had, and the Manner of making the Return, and the Declaration of one of the returning Officers, and the Instructions to him given by the sitting Member previous to the Election, and other Occurrences at and after the Election: After which the said Return, dated May 16, 1734, on which Day the Poll was closed, being read; the Counsel for the Petitioner were further heard, as to the Merits of the Return; when they insisted, that the Counsel for the sitting Member should proceed to justify the Return, before the Merits of the Election should be proceeded upon: As to which Point the Counsel for the sitting Member were heard by way of Answer, and the Counsel for the Petitioner by way of Reply; and then the Counsel on both Sides being, according to Direction, withdrawn, the following Motion was made, viz.
That the Counsel for the sitting Member be directed to proceed, in order to justify the Return for the Borough of Flint, before the Merits of the Election are proceeded upon.
Upon this Motion there was a long Debate, and the Question being at last put, it was carried in the Negative, by 205 to 166.
After which, the further Hearing of the Matter of the said Petition was ordered to be adjourned to Tuesday then next; when the Counsel for the Petitioner proceed in their Evidence; and having proposed to qualify several Persons, whose Votes for the Petitioner appeared, upon the original Poll taken at the said Election, to have been disallowed by the returning Officers, they examined Benjamin Hughes, one of the Church-Wardens of the Parish of Flint, at and before the Time of the said Election, in order to qualify one of the said Persons; and a Paper being by the said Witness produced, purporting to be the Church and Poor Rate for the Borough of Flint in the Year 1733, the Counsel for the sitting Member (having cross-examined him, and examined a Witness in relation to the said Paper) objected to the admitting of that Paper in Evidence: As to which Objection, the Counsel for the Petitioner were heard by way of Answer, and the Counsel for the sitting Member by way of Reply; and then the Counsel on both Sides being, by Direction, withdrawn, the following Motion was made, viz.
That the Paper produced by Benjamin Hughes be admitted in Evidence, as the Rate for the Church and Poor of the Borough of Flint for the Year 1733.
The Hearing adjourned.
Upon this Motion there was likewise a Debate, but upon the Question's being put, it was carried in the Negative; and then the further Hearing of this Matter was ordered to be adjourned till Thursday Morning then next
On that Day the Counsel for the Petitioner examined several Witnesses, and produced Evidence, in order to qualify several Persons, whose Votes for the petitioner appeared, upon the original Poll taken at the said Election, to have been disallowed by the returning Officers; and on the Tuesday following, being April 5, they examined several Witnesses, and produced Evidence, in order to add to the Poll of the Petitioner several Persons, who offered to vote for him at the said Election, but were refused by the returning Officers; and having proposed to add to the said Poll Matthias Rogers, by proving that his Landlord paid Scot and Lot for the Tenement, in which the said Matthias Rogers inhabited, they thereupon acquainted the House, that they intended to offer the like Proof, as to the other Persons; upon which they were directed to withdraw, and upon their being withdrawn, the following Motion was made, viz.
That the Inhabitants of the several Boroughs of Flint, Rhydland, Caerwys, Caerguerley, and Overton (including Knolton and Overton Foreign) renting Lands or Tenements, for which the Landlords thereof only pay Scot and Lot, have a Right to vote in the Election of a Burgess to serve in Parliament for the Borough of Flint in the County of Flint.
Upon this Motion there was also a long Debate, and the previous Question being proposed, viz. Whether the Question should be then put? It was upon a Division carried in the Negative by 149 to 115; so that there was no Question put upon the Motion: After this the Counsel were again called in, when they proceeded in their Evidence, by examining Witnesses, and producing Evidence, in order to add to the Poll of the Petitioner the said Matthias Rogers, and several other Persons, who offered to vote for the Petitioner at the said Election, and were refused by the returning Officers.
The Hearing adjourned.
Next Morning, the House, according to Order, proceeded to the further hearing of the said Matter, when the Counsel for the Petitioner examined several Witnesses and produced Evidence, in order to disqualify several Persons, who voted for the sitting Member; after which the further Hearing was ordered to be adjourned to Tuesday the 19th, on Account of Easter Holy Days.
Resumed. ; Adjourned.
Accordingly, on the 19th, the House resumed the Hearing of the said Matter, and the Counsel for the sitting Member being heard, they examined several Witnesses touching the Occasion of examining upon Oath into the Qualification of the Electors, and of protecting the Poll; and touching the Threats and abusive Language offered to the returning Officers, and an Assault upon one of them; and the Declaration of the Number of Votes, and the Demand of a Scrutiny; and the Manner of declaring the Majority, and other Transactions at and after the Election: And the Record of Nist Prius upon an Information prosecuted against Richard Williams, Clerk, for the said Assault upon John Roberts, one of the returning Officers, being produced; the Verdict of the Jury, by whom the said Richard Williams was convicted of the said Assault, was read: After which the further Hearing was ordered to be adjourned till next Morning.
More Witnesses examined.
Next Day, and the Day following, the Counsel for the sitting Member examined several Witnesses, and produced Evidence, in order to disqualify several Persons, whose Votes for the Petitioner appeared, upon the original Poll taken at the said Election, to have been disallowed by the returning Officer, and whom the Petitioner's Counsel had endeavoured to qualify; and in order to disqualify several Persons, who offered to vote for the Petitioner at the said Election, and were refused by the returning Officers, and whom the Counsel for the Petitioner had endeavoured to add to his Poll; and likewise they examined several Witnesses, in order to justify the Votes of several Persons who voted for the sitting Member, and whom the Counsel for the Petitioner had endeavoured to disqualify.
The Hearing resumed.
On Tuesday the 26th, when this Affair was again resumed, the Counsel for the sitting Member proceeded further to justify, as last mentioned; and then they examined Witnesses, and produced Evidence, in order to qualify several Persons who offered to vote for the sitting Member at the said Election, and were refused by the returning Officers; after which they examined several Witnesses, and produced Evidence, in order to disqualify several Persons, who voted for the Petitioner at the said Election.
Counsel for the sitting Member sum up the Evidence.
On Thursday the 28th, the Counsel for the sitting Member summed up their Evidence: Then the Counsel for the Petitioner were heard by way of Reply; and examined several Witnesses, and produced Evidence, in order to justify the Votes of several Persons, who voted for the Petitioner at the said Election, and whom the Counsel for the sitting Member had endeavoured to disqualify; and also to disqualify several Persons, who offered to vote for the sitting Member at the said Election, and who were refused by the returning Officers, and whom the Counsel for the sitting Member had endeavoured to add to his Poll; and also to discredit and contradict several Witnesses, examined on the Part of the sitting Member: After which, Part of the Information prosecuted against Richard Williams, Clerk, for the Assault upon John Roberts, one of the returning Officers, was read; and the Counsel for the Petitioner having finish'd their Reply, the Counsel on both Sides were ordered to withdraw.
Thus the Hearing of the Matter of the said Petition being finished, and the Counsel withdrawn, the following Motion was then made, viz.
Sir George Wynne declar'd the sitting Member.
That Sir George Wynne, Bart. is duly elected a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament, for the Borough of Flint in the County of Flint.
Upon a Division.
Whereupon, Sir George Wynne, the sitting Member, having been first heard in his Place, and afterwards withdrawn, as usual in such Cases, there ensued a long Debate; and the Question being at last put, it was carried in the Affirmative upon a Division, by 158 to 107.
Having thus, as we proposed, given our Readers a full Account of the Proceedings upon controverted Elections, this Session, we shall now proceed to give an Account of more important Debates.
Speech of the Lords Commissiokers taken into Consideration. ; Motion for a Supply.
February 3d, The House proceeded to take into Consideration the Speech of the Lords Commissioners, appointed by his Majesty for holding that Parliament, to both Houses of Parliament, and the same being again read by Mr. Speaker, a Motion was made, That a Supply should be granted to his Majesty; whereupon 'twas resolved, That the House should next Morning resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider of the said Motion.
Committee for the same.
On the 4th, the Order of the Day being read, for the House to resolve itself into the said Committee, the said Speech of the Lords Commissioners was ordered to be referred to the same; and the House having then resolved itself into the said Committee, they resolved,
That it was the Opinion of that Committee, that a Supply should be granted to his Majesty; which was on the Monday following reported and agreed to by the House Nemine contradicente.
On the 9th, the House, according to Order, resolved itself again into the said Committee, and came to the following Resolutions, which were reported, and all agreed to by the House, viz.
That ten thousand Men should be employ'd for the Sea Service for the Year 1737, beginning from Jan. 1, 1736: That a Sum, not exceeding 4 l. per Man per Month, should be allowed for maintaining the said 10,000 Men for 13 Months, including the Ordnance for Sea Service: And that a Sum, not exceeding 219, 201l. 6 s. 5 d. should be granted to his Majesty for the Ordinary of the Navy (including half Pay to the Sea Officers) for the Year 1737.
On the 18th, William Young, in a short Speech shewed the Necessity there was for keeping up the same Number of regular Forces that were kept up the proceeding Year, and moved, That it be resolved by the said Committee, that the Number of effective Men to be provided, for Guards and Garrisons in Great Britain, and for Guernsey and Jersey, for the Year 1737, should be (including 1815 Invalids, and 555 Men, which the six independent Companies consist of for the Service of the Highlands) 17,704 Men, Commission and Non-Commission Officers included: That a Sum, not exceeding 647,549 l. 11 s. 3 d ½ should be granted to his Majesty, for defraying the Charge of the said 17,704 Men: That a Sum, not exceeding 215,710 l. 6 s. 5 d ½ should be granted to his Majesty, for maintaining his Majesty's Forces and Garrisons in the Plantations, Minorca and Gibraltar, and for Provisions for the Garrisons at Annapolis Royal, Canso, Placentia, and Gibraltar, for the Year 1737.
Speech against the Motion.
This Motion being objected to by Sir John Barnard, Mr. Pultney and others brought on a Debate, which was manag'd by Sir William Young, the Honourable Henry Pelham, Sir Robert Walpole, and others for the Motion, whose Arguments, to avoid Repetition of what we have already seen on that head, we shall give the Reader in one connected Speech.
Whatever impracticable Notions some Gentlemen may entertain, I believe there is no Maxim more true, than that Force is necessary for the Support of Government. And this Force, in its own Nature, can be no other than a Military Force. For in every Society it is absolutely necessary to have a certain Number of Men properly armed and disciplined, for protecting the Society against foreign Invasions, as well as for preventing the Weak from being oppressed by the Mighty, and for putting the Laws of the Society in Execution against Offenders of every Rank and Degree. Tho' this Force, Sir, as kept up by our Ancestors, is now deny'd by some to have been a Military Force, yet a very little Consideration will teach us that it was properly so. It consisted chiefly of the Militia of every Country, who for that Reason were all properly armed and disciplined, and obliged to answer the Call of those who had the Command over them; but of latter Ages, and since Mankind have begun to apply themselves to Arts and Industry, they have neglected to breed themselves up to Arms and Military Discipline, and therefore it has been found necessary in most, and especially in our neighbouring Countries, to provide and maintain a certain Number of Men, whose chief Business it is to breed themselves up to the Art of War, and who for that Reason are called regular Troops. To them the Defence of the Society both against Invasions from without, and Insurrections from within, is chiefly intrusted, and by that means the rest of the People of the Society are enabled to pursue Trade, Manufactures, Agriculture, and other industrious Employments, with greater Application and Assiduity than they could possibly do, if they were every now and then obliged to withdraw from their Labour, in order to learn their Exercises as Soldiers, or to march against a foreign or domestic Enemy.
This, Sir, is the chief Reason that Arts and Sciences have of late flourished so much in Europe, and it is by this Method only that Trade and Industry can be supported and encouraged in this Kingdom; therefore I shall not suppose that any Gentleman will be against our keeping up any Number of regular Troops. The only Question that can come this Day properly before us, is, What Number of regular Troops may be sufficient for protecting this Island against any foreign Invasion, and for supporting our Government in the Execution of the Laws of their Country? With respect to this Question, Sir, we ought to consider, that in a free Country as this is, and, I hope, will for ever remain, tho' every Man enjoys many Advantages by the Constitution, yet that private Good is, and always must be, attended with this public Inconvenience. It must farther be owned, that it begets and supports Parties, Factions, and Divisions among the People in general; and when the Government is not provided with a sufficient Military Force for a necessary and just Support, those Parties and Factions are apt to come to Extremes: The Discontented, let the Motives of their Dissatisfaction be never so unreasonable, are apt to raise Insurrections, and to break out into open Rebellion, when by the Imbecility of the Government they conceive Hopes of obtaining, by Force, those Ends which they neither were intitled to, nor could obtain, by the Laws of their Country; the necessary Consequence of which is, that the People are always exposed to the Misfortunes of a Civil War; and in such a Case we have in our own History melancholy Proofs, that the prevailling Party but seldom shews any great Regard to that very Constitution, the Support of which was at first, perhaps by both Sides, made the sole Pretence for engaging in War.
To this general Consideration, Sir, we ought to add another which is peculiar to this Kingdom: It is not only peculiar to this Kingdom, but is in itself of a most peculiar and a most extraordinary Nature. In this free, this happy Country, we have a Party amongst us, and a considerable Party too; who are every Day labouring to destroy that Freedom to which only they owe their very Existence as a Party, who are every Day contriving Plots for putting an End to that Happiness in which they themselves share. When I say this, I believe, I need not tell Gentlemen, I mean the Jacobites and Papists in the Kingdom, I believe or at least I wish that this Party has not of late gained Ground among the better Sort, but I am afraid, Sir, it is owing only to the dread of a Military Force, that the inferior Rank of People are kept so quiet as they have of late Years been. But, Sir, I am far from thinking the Principles of Jacobitism to be quite extinct even among the better Sort. If we should leave the Government unprovided of a sufficient Military Force, it would immediately revive their Hopes; and if they should again break out in open Rebellion, they would certainly be joined by all the Abandoned, the Profligate, and the Desperate, who will generally chuse that Side, as being that from which they may expect the greatest Reward in case of Success; in which Case we should again be obliged to fight for our Liberties, and the most fortunate Event would be attended with great public Loss, and with many private Calamities.
But setting aside the general Interests of the Government, I don't see, Sir, as our common People are now disused to Military Discipline, that even private Property can now be secure against Rogues and Pilferers, if as in other Countries they should form themselves into Gangs. At least, Sir, there might be a great deal of Mischief done, before they could be suppress'd and brought to Justice. Then with regard to Mobs and Tumults, we find by Experience, that regular Troops are of great Use, not only for preventing any such from happening, but for quelling and dispersing them after they have happened, and that without any great Mischief's being done of either Side: Whereas if we had no regular Troops to be employ'd in such Services, tho' the Civil Power might perhaps at last be able to put an End to the Tumult, and to seize and punish the Rioters; yet 'tis certain, the Mob or Tumult would always be gathered to a great Height before the Civil Power could effectually interpose.
With respect, therefore, to the protecting our People against Invasions, I shall now, Sir, take the Liberty to consider what Effect our keeping, or our not keeping, up a sufficient Number of Land-Forces, might, and probably would have upon our foreign, Interests, and what still more nearly concerns us. All our Neighbours, Sir, are highly sensible of the great Inequality between Militia and regular Troops. Experience has often shewn what a vast Number of the former may be attacked and put to Flight by the latter, they therefore now put their only Confidence in their regular Troops; and every Nation in Europe is now respected and esteemed by the rest, in proportion to the Number of regular Troops they have in their Pay. Therefore, to preserve that Respect and Esteem which we ought always to have among our Neighbours, we ought to keep up a considerable Body of regular well-disciplined Troops; because if any of our Neighbours should begin to despise us, they would of course begin to insult, and perhaps to invade us. This, Sir, would keep our Sea Coasts in a continual Alarm, and might expose many of our maritime Counties and Cities to be plunder'd and ravaged by a Handful of foreign Troops, landed in any Corner of the Island. I do not suppose, Sir, that a Handful of any Sort of Troops would be able to conquer the Island; but if we had nothing but Militia to send against them, they might do us infinite Mischief, before we could gather and form such a Body of Militia as would be able to oppose them.
From these Considerations, Sir, I must be of Opinion, that it is no way consistent with true Wisdom and Policy, or with the Peace and Security of the People, to diminish the Number of regular Forces we have at present on Foot. It is the least Number has been kept on Foot for many Years, and Experience has shewn us that from such a Number there are no Inconveniences to be apprehended; but on the contrary we have felt many good Effects from keeping up that Number, and even from augmenting it now and then as Occasion required, provided as has always been the Practice since the Accession of his Majesty's Royal House, they are likewise upon Occasion reduced. It would be too tedious to recapitulate all the Advantages we have from thence acquired; but in general it must be granted, we have for near these 20 Years enjoyed a most profound Tranquility both at Home and Abroad, which is chiefly to be attributed to our keeping up such an Army as made our Enemies both at Home and Abroad stand in Awe, and to the other prudent Measures which his Majesty and his glorious Father have during that Time pursued. Even but lately, when the greatest Part of Europe were involved in War, we were lest at Liberty to pursue our Trade through all Parts of the World in Peace and perfect Security; and by the small Addition we made to our Army, and the Augmentation of our Fleet, we not only preserved our own, but we contribute greatly to the restoring of the public Tranquillity; nay more, we acquired Accessions of Trade that are of infinite Advantage to this Nation. In short, Sir, we set Bounds to the ambitious Views of the Victorious, and convinced them, that if they endeavoured to pursue their Conquests any further than was consistent with preserving the Balance of Power in Europe, we were not only resolved, but would be ready to interpose with such a Force as would be sufficient to stop their Progress. This, Sir, was what made them so ready to hearken to equitable Terms, to Terms which did not essentially vary from the wise Plan his Majesty, in conjunction with his Allies the States General, had been pleased to propose for restoring the Tranquillity of Europe.
Since therefore we have experienced so many Advantages from keeping up the present Number of regular Forces, since we have felt the Expence to be but inconsiderable, and the Inconveniency none; since no Danger can be apprehended during his "present Majesty's Reign, I cannot think any Gentleman of this House would be for diminishing the Number, even tho' there were no particular Reason at present subsisting for keeping up the same Number we had last Year.
But, Sir, there are in my Opinion three very strong Reasons peculiar to the present Times for continuing the same Number at least for this next ensuing Year, two of which are of a foreign, and the third of a domestic Nature. There is, 'tis true, no War at present subsisting between any of the Christian Princes or States of Europe; with respect to any such War the public Tranquillity may properly be said to be restored; but it cannot be said that the Tranquillity of Europe is altogether restored, nay, that it may not upon a very trisling and impossible to be foreseen Event be disturbed. The Muscovites are already engaged in a War against the Turks, and 'tis more than probable the Emperor's Arms will soon be turned the same Way. As yet the other Powers of Europe seem to have nothing but peaceable Inclinations to all public Appearance; but we do not know how long that serene Appearance may hold: There are some of them who have seldom long remained at Quiet, when they found the Emperor involved in a War with the Turks; and if they do not take the Opportunity for attacking the Emperor, it is to be apprehended they may think it a proper Opportunity for making Incroachments upon some other of their Neighbours: Tho' perhaps no such Thing may be intended directly against this Nation, yet we ought not to put ourselves out of a Capacity to fulfil the Engagements which our own Interests and our Treaties point out, if any such Encroachment should be attempted, whether upon ourselves or our Neighbours.
Besides, Sir, as the System of Affairs in Europe seems to be very much altered by the late Treaty between the Emperor and France, and as the Terms of that Treaty are as yet in some measure a Secret to the Public, who will take it upon him to say. but that there may be some secret Conventions between those two Powers, which may be found prejudicial to the Neighbours of both? In such a case, that Treaty, instead of being a Foundation for establishing the general Tranquillity, would prove a Firebrand for rekindling, perhaps, the most general and the most furious War that ever was in Europe: A War, in which this Nation could not avoid being one of the principal Parties concerned; and therefore, I must think we cannot with Safety disband any of the Forces we have at present on Foot, till this new System of Affairs is thoroughly understood, and its Consequences seen through, which they cannot be till all the secret Articles of that Treaty are fully discovered.
The third Reason for keeping up the same Number of Forces, at least for this ensuing Year, is, as I have said, of a domestic Nature, and founded upon that Spirit of Discontent and Dissatisfaction, which has been so industriously spread over the whole Nation, and has of late produced Mobs, Riots, and Tumults, almost in every Corner of the Kingdom. I am persuaded every Gentleman that hears me will join with me in saying, his Majesty's Government, ever since he came to the Crown, has been so mild and just, that no Man can really have the least Reason to complain. It cannot with Justice be said his Majesty has ever attempted the least Incroachment upon the Liberties and Privileges of the Subject in general, far less can any private Man complain that he has met with Injustice or Oppression; yet there is such a Spirit of Dissatisfaction and Sedition gone forth, that the lowermost Rank of our People are every where ready to fly in the Face of the Civil Magistrate; and even the Acts of the whole Legislature. Those Acts, Sir, that have by almost every Gentleman in this House been allowed to be for the general Good, have been most heinously insulted, and misrepresented. I shall not pretend to shew how this seditious Spirit has been raised, or to what it is chiefly owing; but while it continues, I must say, it would be very unwise in us to dismiss any Part of our regular Army; for if we can but keep the People quiet till they have Time to think and consider, the Ferment will subside when they find their Dissatisfaction groundless. This may probably be the Effect of keeping up our Army for the ensuing Year; because in that Time the Minds of the People may be quieted, and while we have such an Army, those who are disaffected will not dare to take any Advantage of the Discontents they have raised, nor will they dare to push those they have seduced upon any violent Measures: Whereas, if we should at this Juncture disband any great Part of our Army, the disbanded Soldiers would probably join with the Discontented, which might produce Consequences I tremble to think of; but this House will, I hope, prevent my Fears, by agreeing to the Motion for this Resolution.
Speakers against the Motion, Mr. Pultney, Sir J. Barnard, Mr. Shippen, Mr. Sandys.
The Speakers against the Motion were William Pultney, Esq; Sir John Barnard, Mr. Shippen, Mr. Sandys, with others; and their Arguments were to the following Effect.
As I am not, nor do intend to speak against our keeping up any Standing-Army at all, I have no present Occasion to take Notice of the Arguments that have been made use of for shewing the indispensable Necessity of such a Measure: However, left it should be thought, that I am likewise of Opinion, that a Government cannot now be supported, nor the Laws put in Execution, without a Body of what we call regular Troops, and which were unknown in the Times when the Spirit of our Constitution was best understood, permit me to give some Reasons for my being of a contrary Sentiment. I know, Sir, that all our Neighbours have now fallen into a Method of keeping up a large Body of regular Troops; but it is not for the sole Reason, that such Troops must always have a great Superiority over Militia, or that a Government cannot be supported without the Assistance of such Troops; it is because among most of them, I may say among all of them, some sort of absolute and arbitrary Government has been lately introduced; and for supporting such a Government, it is absolutely necessary to keep up a Standing-Army. But there was a time, Sir, when the Practice of keeping up a Body of regular Troops for the Purposes of a Government and Ministry, was as little known in these Countries as till within these sixty Years they were in ours. In such a Country a Body of regular Troops must always be much preferable to a Body of their Militia, most of whom we may suppose never touched a Sword or a Gun, before it was put into their Hands upon that Occasion; but in a Country where no regular Army is kept up, and proper Care taken to exercise and discipline the Militia, and to infuse a martial Spirit into all their Subjects in general, I can see no Reason why a Body of Men, who have for seven Years been bred to hard Labour, to the Use of Arms, and to military Discipline, without any Pay, should not be as good as a Body of Men bred up for the same Time to Military Discipline, with Pay, and by Reason of that Pay, bred up in Laziness and Idleness: On the contrary, I should think the former would be better able to endure the Fatigues of War; and I am certain no Man's Courage was ever improved by a State of Laziness and Idleness, which for some Years past has been the Case of our Army.
A Soldier, Sir, may learn all his Exercises to Perfection in 3 or in 6 Months; and after he is once Master of his Exercises, he is as good a Soldier as he ever can be without seeing Action. He may then make as good a Figure at a Review as the oldest Veteran; but for making a good Figure in a Day of Battle, it depends upon the Courage and the Experience of the Soldier, neither of which, but especially the latter, can be acquired any other Way than by having been frequently in Action. Therefore, Sir, I see no Reason why a Militia may not be as serviceable as our present Army, since they might have all the Advantage which regular Troops can enjoy except Experience in Action, which our Army knows almost as little of as our Militia. Now with respect to the Military Exercises, and to the making of a Figure at a Review, I believe a Man, who is five Days of the Week at Plow, or any other industrious Employment, and two Days at his Military Exercises, may in half a Year, or a Year, become as much Master of the latter, as he that is two Days of the Week at his Military Exercises, and the other five sotting or carousing at an Ale-House or Gin-shop. Upon the whole, Sir, I will venture to say, that if the Militia of this Country, or any Country where the Spirit of the People has not been broke by Arbitrary Power, were properly regimented, and put under the Command of Gentlemen of Honour and Courage, instead of being commanded by Shoemakers and Taylors, they might in a Year or two be as properly called regular Troops, as any mercenary Regiment can be, which is composed of Officers and Soldiers, who never had Occasion to look an Enemy in the Face, unless it was a Gang of Smugglers, or a Mob of Pick-pockets; and while there is a Man in the Kingdom, who has been in Action, a Regiment of Militia would have as good a Chance to have some of them among them, as any Regiment of mercenary Troops can have, after a Peace of 20 or 30 years Duration. I shall readily grant, Sir, that a Regiment of Veteran Soldiers, a Regiment composed chiefly of Officers and Soldiers who have been frequently in Action, may be much superior to a Regiment of the best disciplined Militia; but I cannot admit that a Regiment of mercenary Troops, who never saw an Enemy, has any Advantage over a Regiment of Militia, well disciplined and properly commanded: It never can be thought that there is any Difference in the Goodness of the Men; and if there is not, I can't for my Life find out where the Preference should be given to the regular Troops. For which Reason I shall always be of Opinion, that a Country may be governed, the Laws executed, and the People protected both against Invasions and Insurrections, by a regular Militia, as well as by a mercenary Army; and in a free Country I am sure the former is a much more proper Defence than the latter.
What we now call Regular Troops, or Standing-Forces, have produced, and always will produce, the most fatal Consequences in every Country where they are kept up. In such Countries the People in general not only neglect, and have no Encouragement to breed themselves up to the Use of Arms and martial Discipline, but they are taught from their Infancy to tremble at the Name of a Soldier; by which means the bravest, the most warlike People may, in the Space of one Century, be rendered the most dastardly and effeminate. They put their whole Trust in what they call their Army; and if that Army happens by the Chance of War to be cut off, there is no finding another that dares look a victorious Enemy in the Face, which is the Reason that every such Country has at last become an easy Prey to some foreign Invader: Whereas, in a Country where they have no Army to trust to, the Government must necessarily take care of the Militia, the whole People are bred Soldiers from their Infancy, and an invading Enemy finds them like the Hydra's Heads; if they have the good Fortune to cut off one Army, they immediately find another more formidable grow up in its stead; for such a People may be killed, but they cannot be conquered. I am surprized, Sir, to hear it said, that Arts and Sciences cannot be promoted, nor Trade and Industry encouraged, but by the keeping up of Standing-Armies, for I have often heard, and often thought that Standing-Armies are destructive to all the Arts of Peace. It may as well be said, that neither the one nor the other can flourish but in Countries where Arbitrary Government is established; for Arbitrary Power has in all Countries been the certain Consequence of keeping up a large Standing-Army. In such Countries they may have the good Luck to have a Prince, or an Administration, that encourages Arts and Sciences, and protects Trade and Industry; but that Period is generally of no long Continuance, and Barbarism, Ignorance, and Idleness always succeed. In this Kingdom we know that Arts and Sciences were introduced, and Trade and Industry established, long before we had such a Thing as a Standing-Army; and I believe, Sir, Gentlemen will find, that since the Nation has been at the Trouble and Expence of keeping up a Standing-Army, those Arts and Sciences have not at all gained Ground in this Country.
In the Grecian and Roman Common Wealths their Tradesmen and Labourers gained Laurels in the Field of Battle by their Courage, and returned to gain a Subsistence for themselves and Families by their Industry; but when they began to keep Standing-Armies, their Soldiers, 'tis true, for some time gained Laurels in the Field, but they returned to plunder, and at last to subdue their Country; which put an End to their Freedom, and of course to every Thing that was Praise-worthy among them. God forbid our Fate should be the same! 'Tis a Mistake to imagine our Tradesmen would be drawn away from their Labour by breeding them up to Military Discipline; on the contrary they might be brought to use it as their Diversion, and then they would return with more Alacrity to their usual Labour. In former Times our Holy-Days, and even Sundays, were employ'd in the Exercise of the Long-Bow and other warlike Diversions; and I must think that such Days would be much better employ'd in that Way, than in sotting at an Ale-House, or loitering in a Skettle or Nine-Pin Ground; but such a Change of Manners is not to be introduced without the Assistance of the Government, and some proper Laws for that Purpose; and I am convinced our Government will never assist, as long as we furnish them with a Standing-Army; for a Standing-Army is in all Countries a most useful Thing to those in Power, and a well-disciplined Militia a most dangerous Thing to those who are grasping at more than they ought to have.
I shall readily agree with the honourable Gentleman, that every Government must have a Military Force for its Support, and must make use of that Military Force when Necessity requires. But the Military Force that is required for preserving a People from Invasion from Abroad, or Insurrection at Home, and that required for strengthning the Hands of an Administration, are very different, A legal and limited Government ought to be provided with a free and legal Military Force depending upon the sole Will and Pleasure of the Governor; a Military Force which he may make use of for breaking, as well as for executing the Laws of his Country. Such is our Regular Army according to its present Establishment. They are not free Subjects, they are Soldiers, not governed properly by the Laws of their Country, but by a Law made for them only; and all depending upon the sole Will and Pleasure of the King. This may in Time make them look upon themselves as a Body of Men different from the rest of the People; and as they, and they only, have the Sword in their Hands, they may at last begin to look upon themselves as the Lords, and not the Servants of the People. They will obey and execute your Laws whilst you make such Laws as please them; but if you should begin to make such Laws as may be disagreeable to them, they will neither execute nor obey your Laws; they will make Laws for themselves and one of the first, you may depend on't, will be, a Law for dissolving your Assembly: They have done so before, and they may do so again, if ever they should happen to be under an ambitious King or General. I know it may be said our Militia depend as much upon the sole Will and Pleasure of our Governor, as our Regular Army; but it is not to be supposed they would so readily join in overturning the Laws of their Country, as a Mercenary Army would, when properly garbled, and if our Militia should be brought under any new Regulations, which must be done, before they can be made useful, proper Care might be taken, for putting it out of the Power of any Man to make a bad Use of them.
I know it has been said, that Liberty is attended with a Licentiouness of Manners, which begets Factions and Animosities against the Government; but admitting that to be true, no Argument drawn from the Abuse of a good Thing, ought to serve for its being abolished. Tho' I cannot at all see how a free Country is more liable to dangerous Convulsions than an enslaved one. In a Country where the Government is limited, and the People free, there may perhaps be more room for Party and Faction, than in a Country where the Government is absolute, and the People dare not complain; but, Sir, even in a free Country, and under the most limited Government, while those in Power do their Duty, while they consult the Inclinations of the People, and refrain from all manner of Oppression either public or private, no Party, no Faction can become dangerous to the Government, tho' it has no Regular Troops to trust to. Such a Government will always have a great Majority of the People in their Interest, and tho' there may be some who, from private Views, may be dissatisfied with the public Measures pursued, yet they will for their own Sakes remain quiet and peaceable; for no Man of common Sense will rise in Arms against an established Government, unless he is sure not only of general Discontent among the People, but that the general Discontent is got to such a Height as to make the Majority of the People ready to fly to Arms for their Relief or Preservation. Of this the glorious Reign of Queen Elizabeth is a most convincing Proof. I believe hardly any History can parallel so long a Reign so little disturbed with Faction; yet if we consider the Circumstances that attended her Accession to the Crown, we shall be surprized that her Reign was not torn with the most violent Party Divisions and State Convulsions. One of the Steps of that glorious Queen was to overturn the Religion she found established in her Country, a Religion supported by a great Party at Home, and prosessed and protected by the greatest Part of Europe: At the same Time she knew she had a Pretender to her Crown, and a most dangerous Pretender too, a Pretender who was of the Religion then established in the Country, a Pretender who was in Possession of a Kingdom of her own, a Kingdom within the same Island, and a Kingdom which could vindicate the Rights of their Queen with as brave and as fierce Armies as ever marched from any Country; and what still added to the Danger, the Pretender was not only Queen of Scotland, but Wife to the Dauphin, and afterwards to the King of France. From such Circumstances, what Factions, what Commotions, what violent Convulsions were not to be apprehended; yet that wise Queen, without any Standing-Army, established herself upon the Throne, established the Religion she professed, triumphed over all her Enemies, and after a Reign of 43 Years transmitted the Crown in Peace to her next lawful Successor, without ever having been disturbed by any Party or Faction's rising in Arms against her, except one in the North, and some few Commotions in Ireland, neither of which ever became considerable.
In a free Country, indeed, when those in Power make a weak or a wicked Use of their Power, or make any Attempts upon the Liberties of the People, a Party will certainly form itself against the Government, and such a Party as cannot be withstood but by means of a numerous and mercenary Army; but in that Case, Sir, the Government becomes the Faction, and as soon, Sir, as Government degenerates into Faction, there is a Necessity for its being supported by a Standing-Army, for it can support itself no other way, and it is by that way alone that it can destroy the Liberties of a People; some outward Forms may be preserved, but the Government, in Substance, becomes from that Moment Arbitray. Faction is an ugly Name, in a free Country always bestowed upon those who oppose the Government; but whether they, or the Government, best deserve the Name, depends upon the Measures pursued by each. To prevent Faction and civil Discord has in all Countries been the plausible Pretence of those who secretly aimed at the Establishment of Arbitrary Power: In most of our neighbouring Countries that Pretence has had the wished-for Success, but I hope it never shall in this; for it is much happier for a People to be in a continual Danger of Civil Discord, or even of Civil Wars, than to be in a continual State of Slavery. A Civil War is an Imposthume, it may be troublesome, it may be painful while it lasts, but it carries off any contagious Matter that may be lodged in the Body, and generally brings Health and Vigour for many Years after; whereas despotic Power is an Ulcer, a Gangrene, which admits of no Cure, nor can receive any Comfort.
I believe, Sir, no Gentleman ever suspected me as favouring Disaffection to our present happy Constitution in Church and State. I have as bad an Opinion of Jacobites and Papists as any Gentleman of this House can reasonably have, but I never thought that either our Jacobites or Papists were for establishing Arbitrary Power: I am sure very few of them are. We maintained our Liberties when the whole Nation were Papists; we may lose them now we are Protestants; and if we should, it would make many Men Jacobites who are very far from being so at present. People under Oppression always hope for Relief from any Change: If the Liberties of this Country should be once overturned, the worst we could expect would be only changing one Slavery for another. Even the truest Lovers of Liberty might be prompted by Revenge to become Jacobites, in order to disappoint and punish those who had cheated them out of their Liberties. I do not believe there can ever be a Party in this Kingdom for establishing Arbitrary Power, unless it be our Ministers and their Creatures. An Itch for Arbitrary Power seems, indeed, to be epidemical with respect to that Sett of Men: Our Ancestors have known Ministers, Sir, who have been insected with it, and who have transmitted the Infection down to their Successors, tho' of a different Party and Interest. We may again have such Ministers; and for that Reason, chiesfly, I am against keeping up a numerous Standing-Army, because, according to its present Regulation, it is too much under the Power of Ministers: And I own that I am for trusting no Minister with my Liberty. Some Minister or other may some Time or other make use of it for attaining to that which so many of them have seemed to long for.
There are, 'tis true, Sir, too many Rogues and Thieves in the Kingdom; there are, I believe, some great ones who are not yet discovered, but I doubt much if a numerous Standing-Army will contribute either to their being discovered or punished. With respect to any of those little Pilferers that have of late been seized and hanged, I am sure it cannot be said the Army has been, in the least, assisting. They have all been apprehended by the Country People, or by the common Thief-catchers; which is a Trade, I hope no Gentleman of the Army will ever be desired to undertake, unless the Thief be some Person of a very eminent Degree. I do not know that the Army has ever been employ'd in any Sort of Thief-catching, except with respect to those Thieves called Smugglers; and the Reason of the Army's being necessary for that Purpose is, that our Taxes are so many and so high, and have been so long continued, that the People begin to look upon Smugglers as their Friends, and therefore will not be concerned, nor run any risk, in apprehending or opposing them. And indeed, Sir, I think it should be very unreasonable if the Army was not useful in some shape or other, especially to those who keep it up. When our Soldiers serve against Smugglers, they serve their own immediate Masters, and the Country People have learned to look upon that Service as proper to the Army. But if we had no Taxes but such as the People thought reasenable, and if those Taxes were applied to Uses which the People thought necessary for their Preservation, they would be as ready to join the Hue and Cry against a Smuggler, as they are now against a House-breaker or Highwayman. I am persuaded there is nothing contributes so much to the Increase of Criminals of all Sorts among us, as the great Number of Regular Troops we keep up; the common Soldiers mix among the Vulgar, and by their Example, they propagate a Spirit of Lewdness, Idleness, and Extravagance in every Country and City of the Kingdom; I wish even some of the Officers may not in this Way be a little to blame. The Credit and Subsistence of a Merchant, a Tradesman, or a Labourer, depends upon his Character: If he gets the Character of a lewd, profligate Fellow, no Man will trust or employ him; for this Reason he is obliged at least to be a Hypocrite, and so can do no Mischief by his Example; but the Credit of a Soldier depends upon his doing his Duty, and his Subsistence depends upon his Pay; if he does his Duty he may be as lewd and profligate as he pleases, and as openly as he pleases, consequently may do great Mischief by his Example. In all Countries the young and high-metalled are proud of keeping Company with Soldiers; they learn their Manners, and soon begin to imitate them in their Vices; by so doing they lose their Characters, and when no Man will trust or employ them, if they cannot get into the Army, they must rob or steal for Subsistence.
Among a certain Sett of People, Sir, I have observed, that Mobs are represented as most hideous Things. I confess they ought not to be encouraged; but they have been sometimes useful, tho' I own they are never expedient. In a free Country I am afraid a Standing-Army rather occasions than prevents them; where a Magistrate has a Guard of Regular Troops to trust to, he is apt to neglect humouring the People, he despises, and sometimes oppresses them; in which Case, the People, as long as there is any Spirit among them, will certainly grow tumultuous. If a Tumult happens with any just Cause of Complaint, a little gentle Usage, and calm Reasoning, generally prevents any Mischief, and prevails with the People to return to their Duty; but a Magistrate with an Army at his Back will seldom take this Method, for few Men will be at the Pains to persuade when they know they can compel. But in a free Country, if a Tumult happens from a just Cause of Complaint, the People ought to be satisfied, their Grievances ought to be redressed; they ought not surely to be immediately knock'd on the Head, because they happen to complain in an irregular Manner. To make use of Regular Troops upon every such Occasion, is like a tyrannical School-Master, who never makes use of the soft Arts of Persuasion and Allurement, but always makes use of the Rod; such a Man may break the Spirit, but never can improve the Minds of his Scholars.
I do not know, Sir, what the Hon. Gentlemen mean by that Respect and Esteem which we ought to have, among our Neighbours; surely, Sir, this Respect and Esteem never can encrease in the same Proportion as our Regular Troops encrease; surely Gentlemen don't think that we are to be respected only according to the Regular Troops we have in our Pay: In that Case there are several Princes in Germany who would deserve more Respect than we; there is hardly a Kingdom in Europe that would deserve so little; and I am sure those who keep up their Hundreds of Thousands, as some of our Neighbours do, would have no Occasion to shew us any Regard or Esteem. But I believe the Case is directly otherwise. For my own part, Sir, I am so far from being of that Opinion, that I think I can venture to make it appear, that the more Regular Troops we keep up in time of Peace, the less we shall be respected or esteemed by every one of our Neighbours: They know we have no Frontier to defend, nor fortified Towns to garison, and therefore they will conclude our Government would never be at the Expence of keeping up a large Body of Regular Troops, if they were beloved or esteemed by their own People. They will conclude that such a Body of Troops is kept up, only to keep the People in Obedience; and a Government which does not enjoy the Affections and Esteem of their own People, will certainly be despised by Foreigners, and they know at the same Time, that the People must be fleeced in order to maintain them. Whereas, when those in the Government of this Nation do their Duty, when they enjoy the Affections and Esteem of the People in general, tho' we had not a Regiment of Regular Troops in the Kingdom, our Neighbours know we could in a few Months appear in the Field with our Hundreds of Thousands of Regular Troops as well as they, besides an irresistible Navy, by means of which we could carry Terror and Desolation to every Part of their Sea Coasts, and at the same Time protect our own from any Insult.
It is not therefore, Sir, to our keeping up a large Body of Regular Troops in time of Peace, we owe any Part of that Respect we may have among our Neighbours; it is to our Naval Power, to the natural Bravery of our Men in general, and to our Government's possessing the Hearts of their Subjects. From hence it is we derive our Security; and the keeping up of a large Body of Regular Troops in time of Peace, will derogate from every one of the three. It will render it impossible for us to keep up such a Naval Power as we might otherwise do: It will propagate a Spirit of Effeminacy and Cowardice among all those who are not of the Army; and it will always contribute towards rendering our Government hateful to the People in general. For this Reason I will be bold to say, that if ever any of our Maritime Counties or Cities be plundered by a small Party of foreign Regular Troops, it will be owing to our keeping up a Standing-Army. Considering the Extent of our Coasts, we cannot have so much as one Regiment, nor half a Regiment, at every Place where a small Party may land; such a Party may therefore plunder and lay desolate a great Part of the Country before any of our Regular Troops can come up to oppose them; and the Effeminacy, and Cowardice, into which the Inhabitants, by an entire Disuse of Military Exercises, may fall, will instigate our Enemies to make many such Attempts.
I am really very much surprized, Sir, to hear it said, we have felt no Inconvenience from our Army. Besides the Danger to which our Liberties are exposed, is not the great Debt we still owe, and the many Taxes we still pay, in a great Measure owing to our keeping up so numerous an Army in time of Peace? Can it be said that the Quartering of Soldiers is no Inconvenience to those poor People who are subject to that extraordinary Burden? Is it not a very great Expence, as well as a great Inconvenience to every public House in the Kingdom? And can we imagine our Soldiers are always so civil in their Quarters as never to be guilty of any Insolence or rude Piece of Behaviour? I hope I shall be forgiven when I wish that some of the Gentlemen who tell us so could be metamorphosed, for a few Weeks only, into a Country Inn-keeper, or Alehousekeeper, with a handsome Wife, or two or three pretty Daughters, whose Virtue and Well-being he might be supposed to have some Concern for: I believe such Gentlemen, upon their Return to this House would shew a little more Sympathy; I believe they would allow our Inn-keepers and Alehouse-keepers might live at a less Expence, and with a great deal of more Ease and Quiet, if they had no such Inmates, at least not so many, as they are now generally plagued with. But this is not all: Can any Gentleman say our Liberties can never be in Danger from a Standing-Army? Have they not once already been overturned by an Army, which was raised and paid by Parliament? An Army, wherein the very Officers were put in by the Parliament, or by those whom the Parliament had named, which rendered it more the Creature of the Parliament, than it is possible for our Army upon its present Footing to be. For tho' our Regular Troops are at present kept up by our Authority, we are not certain our Authority will be sufficient for disbanding them, whenever we have a Mind, our being in no Danger from his present Majesty signifies nothing: Under a good King, we ought to adopt no Custom, nor make any Precedent, which a bad King may make a bad Use of.
Whatever our pacific Measures may have done, I am persuaded, Sir, neither the late Preservation of our own Tranquillity, nor the Restoration of the public Tranquillity, was owing to the Army we kept up, or the Addition we made to it. As to our own Tranquillity, it is certain our remaining quiet, was the utmost that could be hoped for by those who began the War: Our not joining against them was the greatest Favour they could expect from us, and therefore it would have been ridiculous in them to have disturbed our Tranquillity, because it would have forced us to join against them. And as to restoring the Tranquillity of Europe, I am sure it cannot be said to have been restored upon the Footing of any Scheme or Plan proposed by his Majesty: I am sure his Majesty never did, nor ever would propose to add such a large Dutchy as that of Lorain to the Dominions of France. On the contrary, we know the Peace was clapt up between the two chief contending Powers without our Knowledge, without our Advice or Assistance; and I wish we may not find it was clapt up on Conditions which may prove disagreeable both to us and our Allies.
I shall grant, Sir, that the System of Affairs in Europe seems to be altered by the late Peace; but I cannot think either of the contracting Parties has a Design of making any immediate Incroachment upon us or any of our Allies. The Maxims they have of late pursued for distressing us are more slow and more effectual than they were some time ago, when they had other Ministers to direct their Affairs. I dare say, Sir, there is not a Court in Europe that has now a Thought of invading us or our Allies, for if that were the Case, our Ministers at those Courts would certainly have discovered such a Design: Their Wisdom, their Care, and their Penetration, are so well known, it is not possible to suppose such a Design could be kept concealed from them; and if there be no immediate Design, there is no Occasion for us to prepare against it: On the contrary, if we suspect any distant Views, and such only, (if our Ministers at foreign Courts have done their Duty) we can suspect, we ought in the mean Time to save as much as possible, in order that we may be the better able to oppose such Designs, when any Attempts shall be made for carrying them into Execution.
But, Sir, if we can suppose any Alteration made by the late Peace, with respect to the System of Affairs in Europe, it must be occasioned by a real Conjunction and thorough Union between the Emperor and France: It must proceed from a Concert between those two Potentates for prescribing Rules to the rest of Europe, or for joining together in order to make Incroachments upon some of their Neighbours; and in that Case the War which the Muscovites are already engaged in, and which the Emperor will probably be very soon engaged in, against the Turks, is a Sort of Pledge for securing the Tranquillity of the rest of Europe; because it will prevent the Emperor's being in a Capacity of executing his Part of any such Concert. Then again, if we suppose that no such Alteration has been made by the late Peace, but that France may take that Opportunity, as she was formerly wont to do, of attacking the Emperor or some of those, who, according to the antient System, are his natural Allies, it is at the same Time reasonable to suppose that we would not be so far wanting to ourselves as to stand by the Spectators; in such an Event, it is not the first Time the Emperor, in conjunction with his Allies, has supported successfully a War against the Turks, and at the same Time set Bounds to the Ambition of France, even when he had not the Muscovites to assist him, and at a time when we had no such numerous Standing-Army in Britain as we have at present.
But, Sir, it is impossible to imagine or expect a time when all the Princes of Europe will be not only in profound Peace, but without any Views or Designs of making Incroachments upon one another. If we are not to diminish our present Army till such a time happens, if we are not to pass the River till it runs dry, it is ridiculous ever to think of passing, or to expect a Diminution. Against secret Designs and sudden Invasions, we may always defend ourselves by means of our Fleet; and there is no Gentleman of those who oppose a Land Army that is against our keeping the Royal Navy always in good Repair, a considerable Number of Seamen always in Pay, and to encouraging Military Discipline among our Men in general; but when we are ourselves at Peace, we ought always to take that Opportunity to ease ourselves of the Expence of maintaining a Land Army. Are we to keep up a Land Army for the Defence of our Allies? No, Sir; they have fortified Towns, and numerous Garrisons to defend them against any sudden Attack; and if they do their Duty towards themselves, if they keep the Fortifications of their Frontier Towns in good Repair, and such a Body of Regular Troops in their Pay, as is necessary for defending their Frontier, we shall always have time to raise or to hire an Army for their Support, before they can be brought into any great Danger.
I am sorry to hear, Sir, there is so much Discontent, and so many Tumults in the Nation: but upon such an Occasion to bring his Majesty's Name, or his Majesty's Government, into Question, as I observe they too often are, is not fair; I must beg Leave to say, I do not think it altogether decent. I am sure there is no Man in the Kingdom that ever thought himself wronged by his Majesty, but I shall not say so much with respect to his Ministers. Therefore, if there be any Discontents in the Nation, we are to suppose the Nature of our Constitution points it out to us to suppose that such Discontents are owing to the Measures pursued by the Ministers only; and if we examine the History of this Nation for some Years past, we may easily see how they have been raised, and to what they are chiefly owing. During the late great War, the People of this Nation were subjected to many new and heavy Taxes, and a great public Debt incurred. Every Man was then sensible of the Debt contracted, every Man then felt severely the Taxes he paid, but every Man comforted himself that in a few Years of Peace the Debt would be paid off, and most of the Taxes abolished. We have now enjoy'd a Peace of twenty five Years standing, and yet now we find the public Debt near as large as it was at the End of the War, and all the Taxes but one, as high and as heavy as they were in any time of the War. In this long Tract of peaceable Times, the People have not felt themselves relieved from any one Tax, except a Part of the Land Tax, and even that Tax is as high in Britain now in time of Peace, as it is in France in time of War. Thus the People have been long disappointed, and now at last they begin to despair of ever seeing themselves relieved from the heavy Burdens they groan under. There may be several other Reasons; there are some which I could mention, but this is the chief Reason of the Discontent being so general, as I am afraid it is; and I am sure the keeping up of a numerous StandingArmy in time of Peace, is not a proper Method for removing this Cause of Discontent. So far from it, Sir, that I am afraid it is one of the principal Causes of all that Dissatisfaction so much insisted on; for a free Government cannot be supported but by having the Affections of the Generality of the People.
To imagine, Sir, that our Government would be in any Danger from the disbanded Soldiers joining with the Discontented is without any Foundation; for there are many Soldiers would be glad to be discharged, there are many of them would be glad to return to their former Labour and Industry, and there are some who would be entitled to Chelsea-Hospital; of these there are not perhaps a great many, for of late we seem to have taken more Care to make a fine Figure at a Review, than a brave Stand in a Field of Battle; so that we have not at present many old Soldiers in our Army; however there are some, and they would be glad of being put upon the Establishment of Chelsea-Hospital. By this means a Reduction might be managed so as not to discharge a Man who did not look on it as a Favour; and surely it is not to be supposed that those Men who had just received a Favour from the Government would join with any Party against the Government; nor would the Number of disciplined Soldiers in the Kingdom be diminished by such a Reduction; for, as the Officers would all be put upon half Pay, both Officers and Soldiers would remain in the Island, and would be ready to assist in the Defence of their Country against any Invasion or Insurrection, and act as bravely as if they were in full Pay and Regimented.
I hope, Sir, I have now shewn, there is no Force in any of the Arguments made use of for our keeping up the same Number of Forces we had last Year, nor any Danger to be apprehended from a Reduction; but I cannot leave this Subject without representing to Gentlemen the Danger our Constitution is exposed to by keeping up such a numerous Army. Such Representations have, 'tis true, often been made, and enforced with more Strength than I am Master of, but I think they ought to be repeated as often as there is Occasion. The Number we have at present, especially considering how easily and how soon they may be increased to double the Number, I will be bold to say, is sufficient for trampling upon the Liberties of this Nation; and the longer they are kept up, the more sufficient will they be for that Purpose; because the People will every Day grow less apt or able to vindicate their Liberties, and our Army will every Day grow the more cemented, and consequently the more fit for such an Undertaking. Oliver Cromwel, when he turned every Member of this House out of Doors, when he bid one of his Soldiers take away our Mace, that Fool's Bauble, as he called it, had not a much more numerous Regular Army than we have at present on Foot; and tho' the Army under King James II. behaved in a more honourable Manner, yet such a Behaviour is not much to be depended on; for I am convinced even that Army would not have behaved as they did, if the Discontented had not had an Army to repair to; or if proper Measures had been taken to garble them a little before Hand.
But, Sir, without any open and violent Attack upon our Liberties, like that made by Oliver Cromwel, our Constitution may, by means of our Army, and the many other Posts in the sole Disposal of the King, be undermined, and at last, to use the Military Expression, entirely blown up. It may come to be laid down as a Maxim, that an Officer or Soldier ought to be as observant of his Orders in this House, or at Elections, as he ought to be in a Camp or a Field of Battle; and that Courage and Experience in the Field are never to be regarded, however serviceable they may have been to his Country, if they happen to be joined to a Backwardness for the Minister's Measures in the House. Nay it may happen, that the making of a proper Interest at Elections, or the giving of a right Vote in the House of Commons, shall be deemed the only Service, the only Merit worthy of Preferment in the Army; and considering how many Officers are in Parliament, considering how many must always be in Parliament as long as we keep up the same Number of Forces we have at present, I may venture to say, that if such Maxims should be established and pursued, it would be in the Power even of the most wicked Minister, to have always a Majority at his Command in both Houses of Parliament. In which case our Parliaments, like the Senate of Rome under their Emperors, or the present Assemblies of the States in most of our neighbouring Kingdoms, would serve only for giving Countenance to the Schemes of our Ministers, and for rendering them more bold in their Oppressions.
At present, Sir, we have more Reason than usual for being afraid of such Maxims. Several Officers have been lately removed from their Commands in the Army; Officers of almost every Rank and Station, and Officers who could not be accused of any Neglect or Contumacy in their Military Duty; therefore some People take it upon them to say, that they were removed for some Neglect or Contumacy in that, which with respect to such Maxims may be called their Parliamentary Duty.
They had the Misfortune to differ from some Gentlemen in their Sentiments, and they had the Honesty to declare their Sentiments freely, and to vote accordingly in Parliament; soon after this they were removed from every Post they had in the Army, without any Cause assigned: What can the World think of such Removals? And I am sure every Gentleman of this House, who believes that they were removed for voting in Parliament according as their Conscience and their Honour directed them, must join with me in Opinion, that it is now high time to think of reducing our Army, and of putting the Military Force of the Kingdom upon some Footing very different from what it has been upon for many Years past. It is now the very Beginning of a Session: If we now resolve upon a Reduction, we may have time to contrive and pass a Bill for regulating our Militia so as to make it useful; but if we should now resolve upon continuing the same Number of Regular Forces, I am sure, no Gentleman can expect a proper Concurrence or Assistance in any such Design, and therefore I am sure no Gentleman will venture to propose any Schemes for that Purpose; for many Objections may be made against the best Scheme that can be proposed, and those who have not a Mind to agree to any Scheme, will always pretend to think the Objections unanswerable; so that unless the Question for a Reduction, at a time of so profound a Tranquillity, be approved by a Majority of this House, no Man can expect the Approbation of the Majority to any Scheme he can propose; and no Man will chuse to propose a Scheme which he is sure will be rejected.
From what I have said, Sir, I think it will appear, that the Question now before us is not, Whether by keeping up the same Number of Forces, we shall continue to neglect our Militia, for one Year longer? But whether we shall continue to neglect it for ever? This, Sir, is truly the Question now before us; and I leave it to every Gentleman who has a Regard for the Constitution, or for the Liberties of the People, or for the Honour and Safety of his native Country, to consider what may be the Consequences of his agreeing to such a Question? For my own Part I have done my Duty; and if I should see our happy Constitution overturned, and the Liberties of the People destroy'd; if I should see our Maritime Cities and Towns plundered, and the Honour of the Nation exposed by that Spirit of Effeminacy and Cowardice which will soon prevail among all those who are not of our Army, and perhaps at last among them likewise, I shall at least have this Comfort left, that I have done my Duty in this House.
Sir Robert Walpole.
The Reply was by Sir R. Walpole, and to the Effect as follows, viz.
I should be extremely glad to hear a Method proposed by which we could provide for our Safety both at Home and Abroad, without keeping any Troops in our Pay; but the honourable Gentlemen who now seem to be for a Reduction, tho' they have told us our Neighbours keep up their Regular Troops only for supporting their Arbitrary Power, and tho' they have talked a great deal of the Militia, yet they have proposed no Scheme for making the Militia of this Kingdom useful, nor have they shewed us any Method by which we can defend ourselves against the Regular Troops kept up by our Neighbours, unless it be by keeping up some of our own. What Reasons our Neighbours may have for keeping up such large Bodies of Regular Troops as they do, or, whether the Militia of this Country, or any Country, may be so well disciplined as to be made equal to Regular Troops, are Questions which I do not think very material at present; because, 'tis certain every one of our Neighbours do keep up large Bodies of Regular Troops, and it is as certain that our Militia, according to their present Regulation, would be of no Use for defending us against such Troops; therefore till our Militia are made useful, till they are so well disciplined as to be able to defend us against Regular Troops, we can put no Trust in them, we must keep up a sufficient Body of Regular Forces; and as soon as I see such a Militia in this Kingdom as may be safely entrusted with the Defence of the Kingdom, I shall then most readily agree to the Disbanding of every Regiment we have in our Service, but that I am afraid will not, at least for some Years, be the Case.
Give me leave farther to say, that tho' I wish, Sir, as much as any Gentleman in this House, our Militia could be made as good as Regular Troops, yet in my Opinion, the Thing is impossible. There is nothing, I'm afraid, but Necessity or Pay, can make Men be at the Trouble and Fatigue of training themselves up to the Use of Arms and Military Discipline; and as the People of this Nation are not now under any Necessity of so doing, I do not think you can ever get any Number of them to submit to such Discipline, unless you pay them for the Trouble they are at, and for that Part of their Time at least which they employ in that Way. By Necessity I mean that natural Necessity which Men are brought under by the Circumstances of the Country they live in. In former Ages all Europe was divided into a great Number of little States or Principalities, each of which was in some manner independent, and therefore they were often making Inroads upon, and plundering one another: Many of these little Principalities were often united under one King or Governor; but each of them had so much Power within himself, and was so independent of the chief Governor, that they were very tenacious of whatever they either pretended or thought to be their Right, and their Quarrels were oftner decided by the Sword than by the Laws of their Country: This laid every Man under an immediate Necessity of accustoming himself to the Use of Arms and Military Exercises; and indeed most of them neither thought of nor practised much of any other Sort of Employment. But ever since Europe has been reduced under the Dominion of a few powerful Potentates, the People live in Security; those of the same Kingdom or State have their Differences decided by the Law, and the Differences that arise between two great Sovereign States are oftner decided by Treaty than by the Sword; therefore the Generality of the People in each State being free from those Apprehensions their Ancestors were perpetually under, have long since neglected the Use of Arms, and have applied themselves to Arts and Industry; but this general Neglect of martial Discipline has made it necessary in each Country to keep up a Body of Regular Troops; and this is the true and the natural Reason for introducing that Custom in very Kingdom and State now in Europe. The supporting of Arbitrary Power cannot be the Reason in every one of them, because Regular Troops are kept up in all the free States of Europe, and according to the Exigencies and Power of their Government in as great Numbers too as in those where Arbitrary Power has been established.
In this Country, Sir, the People live in the same, or rather greater Security as those of any other Country in Europe, and for the same Reason the Generality of them have neglected, and will always neglect to train themselves up to War. They are now under no natural Necessity of studying or practising that Art; and if you should pretend to lay them under a legal Necessity, I am afraid you will find it impracticable. Such a Law, or such a Scheme, may appear extremely easy in Speculation, but I am convinced when you come to the Execution, at this time you would meet with insurmountable Difficulties. Let us consider, Sir, that for keeping the Militia always well disciplined, you must have them out at least twice a Week to learn or to practise their Exercises. If you should make Sunday one of the Days, you may depend on it many of the Clergy, of all Sects and Persuasions, would look upon it as an Incroachment upon them, and would therefore preach against it; from whence many of your People would refuse to obey such a Law out of a Scruple of Conscience; so that we might perhaps have Martyrs for keeping holy the Lord's Day, which might at last produce a religious Civil War in the Kingdom. Two Days out of fix is what no labouring Man can spare; nay, even one Day out of six, to be spent in military Exercise, without any Pay, would be hard upon a poor labouring Man who had a Family to provide for: It would be a Tax, and a severe Tax too, upon every labouring Man, and every Man of Business in the Kingdom. Their Time is their Estate, and therefore it would be taking one sixth Part of their Estate from them, which, considering how low our Estates are rated to the Land Tax, would be near equal to six Shillings in the Pound upon Land. For this Reason all the labouring Men, and all the Men of Business in the Kingdom, would think it a great Grievance, to be obliged to spend one Day of the Week, besides Sunday, at their Military Exercises; and what would our Landed Gentlemen, and our rich Merchants and Shop-keepers think, what would those Gentlemen of this House who now seem to be so fond of a well-disciplined Militia, think of being obliged to get up two Days of the Week, at five or six o'Clock in the Morning, wet or dry, to take a Musket upon their Shoulders, and to spend the whole Day in painful Exercise and Fatigue? It would therefore I believe be impossible to oblige all the Men of the Kingdom to list themselves in the Militia, and it would be unjust to oblige a few only, unless you paid them for that extraordinary Service.
Gentlemen may talk, Sir, of making the People use Military Exercises by way of Diversions; but 'tis certain the People will always chuse their Diversions; if you establish any Diversion by a Law, it becomes a Duty, and ceases to be Diversion: The People will then look upon it as a Business, and a very troublesome useless Business too. Besides, Sir, no Man that minds his real Business or Occupation, repairs to any Diversion till his Business be over, therefore no Man has any set and unalterable Time for his Diversion; even Sunday itself is often incroached on, when necessary Business requires. If you appointed one or two certain Days every Week for Military Exercise, which would be absolutely necessary, such Appointment would often interfere with People's other. Affairs, with those Affairs by which they are to get their Bread, or provide for their Families; and if you sent them to their Officers for Leave of Absence, the obtaining of such Leave would probably become a Tax upon every Man that had occasion for it, and the Tax would rise in proportion to his Ability, and the Urgency of his Business. We may from hence see, it is impossible to establish Military Exercise as a Diversion: Such an Attempt especially, if it were enforced by Law, would raise a most general Discontent and Murmuring, and would consequently expose our present happy Establishment to greater Danger, than it can ever be exposed to by keeping up a small Regular Army, and leaving the rest of the People to pursue some industrious Art or Employment, or to follow such lawful Diversions as they themselves shall chuse, without any Let or Disturbance.
Therefore, Sir, while we are surrounded with Neighbours who keep vast Armies of Regular Troops continually on Foot, I must think it absolutely necessary for us to keep up some Regular Troops of our own, for defending our Coasts and maritime Cities from secret and sudden Invasions, and considering the Extensiveness of our Sea Coast, and the present unsettled State of Affairs in Europe, I cannot think a less Number sufficient than that we have now on Foot. But, Sir, whatever may be said, whatever can be said, in favour of a well disciplined Militia, can be no Argument for a present Reduction of our Regular Forces; because no Man can say our Militia is now under any tolerable Sort of Discipline, or that they are such a Military Force upon which our Government can depend either for its own Support, or for the Protection of the People; and I must think it would be a Sort of Madness to give up that, or any necessary Part of that upon which only we can now depend for our Safety and Protection, till we have provided something in its stead, upon which we may with some Reason depend for our Security, at least against foreign Invasions.
Henry Pelham, Esq;
The next who spoke on the same Side was the Honourable Henry Pelham, Esq.
My Honourable Friend who sits near me has so fully answered the Gentleman who spoke against the Motion, that I believe every Gentleman here is convinced, that there is an absolute Necessity of our keeping up a Number of Regular Forces in this Nation. But, Gentlemen, give me leave to take Notice of two or three Things that were thrown out by the Honourable Gentleman over the Way.
The Honourable Gentleman, Sir, seemed to be very apprehensive of the Effects which the Army may have upon the Courage and Morals of the Subjects. For my Part, I am so far from being of Opinion, our Regular Army tends to depress the natural Courage or the Spirit of the rest of our Subjects, that I am convinced a Regular Army of Natives, well cloathed, well paid, and kept under an exact Discipline, will in every County tend to raise the Spirit of the People, and to make their Men in general affect to imitate that Courage, that Regularity of Manners, and that Discipline, by which they see so many of their Countrymen, perhaps their Relations, rise to Honour and Preferment; for if an Army be kept under proper Discipline, and Preferments justly disposed of, a regular and virtuous Behaviour in private Life, as well as an exact Performance of his Duty as a Soldier, will always be made necessary for intitling a Man to Preserment in the Army; and if the Youth and High-metall'd of every Country are apt to keep Company with, and imitate the Soldiers, an Army, under a right Government, will always be of greater use towards establishing Virtue and Morality among the People in general, than any other Sett of Men, not excepting even the Clergy, can be. Indeed, if your Government be in vicious Hands, if Favours and Preferments in the Army be distributed only to the Lewd, the Debauched, and the Profligate, your Army, like every other Sett of Men who depend upon such a Government, will contribute towards corrupting the Morals of the People, and under such a Government the Militia would do the same; for Preferment in the Militia, as well as in the Army, must always depend upon the Government.
Liberty, Sir, does not depend, it never did depend upon the Government's having or not having a Regular Army in their Pay. The Liberties of a People must always depend upon their Virtue. The Armies of a virtuous People will protect their Liberties; and a luxurious, vicious People will sell them to the first Purchaser, whether they have a Standing-Army or no. The Romans had great Standing-Armies long before they lost their Liberties, and when they did lose them, Sir, the Standing-Army was on the Side of Liberty, at least on that Side that had the greatest Shew of it. We have now several free States in Europe who keep up, who have long kept up numerous Standing-Armies. In Holland, in Venice, in Poland, they keep up Standing-Armies, without thinking their Liberties can from thence be in any Danger. In Sweden it was their Army that restored their Liberties; and in this Country it was our Army that restored our Liberties in the Reign of King Charles II. and it was our Army that preserved them in the Reign of his Brother King James. In all Countries the Army will follow the general Bent of the People from whence they are drawn, and if the general Bent of the People be towards Slavery, they will do as they did some time since in Denmark, they will make a free Gift of their Liberties: Then, indeed, an Army may be so modell'd, as to prevent the People's resuming the Grant they have made; but such an Army must not be an Army like ours, it must not be an Army whose very Existence depends upon the annual Consent of the People, and whose Pay depends upon the Grants annually made by a Parliament tenacious of their own and the Nation's Rights. In this Country I hope the general Bent of the People is no way inclined towards Slavery: I am sure some Gentlemen have lost a great deal of Pains if it is. And if there be a Spirit of Virtue and Liberty among the People, the same Spirit must prevail in our Army, which is drawn from the People, and commanded by some of the best of the People; therefore it can never be supposed our Army will countenance or support any Measures that may tend towards establishing Arbitrary Power.
As to what has been insinuated as if Soldiers were no better than the Slaves of Power, whatever it may be in other Countries, the Soldiers of our Army, Sir, are as free as any other of our Subjects. They are governed by the Laws of the Kingdom, as all other Subjects are. There is, 'tis true, one Law which relates particularly to them; but that Law is fixed and certain, and publickly known; a Soldier from thence knows his Duty, and if he behaves like a good Subject, and does his Duty as a Soldier, he can be subjected to no Punishment; he is not under the Arbitrary Will and Pleasure of any Man in the Kingdom, no not even of the King himself. Our Soldiers are not, nor can they suppose themselves a Body of Men different from the rest of the People, on account of their being subject to a Law which relates to them only. Every Corporation, every Society, almost every Sort of Tradesmen in the Kingdom, have the same Reason to think themselves a Body of Men different from the rest of the People; for every one of them are subject to some Laws which relate only to the particular Corporation or Society of which they are Members, or to the particular Trade or Profession they are of. Our Militia are in the same Circumstances; they are already subject to a Law which relates to them only; and whatever new Laws you may make for regulating our Militia, I hope you would not take the Command or the Power over them out of the Hands of the Crown; for such a Regulation, as it happened to be once before, I should look on as a total Subversion of our present happy Constitution. I can therefore see no Reason why we should think our Liberties in greater Danger from a Standing Regular Army than from a well disciplined Militia: I am sure it is as much the Interest both of the Officers and Soldiers of our Army to preserve our Constitution, as it can be of any Sett of Men in the Kingdom. The Behaviour of the Army under Oliver Cromwel can be no Argument against our present Army: Our Constitution was then overtuned; a Sett of Men who had got into this House, had murdered their King, had annihilated the other House, had excluded even from this House every Man who would not join with them in all their Measures, and by these Means had assumed to themselves an Arbitrary Power: In such Circumstances the Officers of the Army thought they had as good a Title to take the Government of the Nation to themselves, as to leave both the Nation and themselves under the absolute Power of any Sett of private Men in the Kingdom; and what was the Consequence? That very Army, as soon as they could find an Opportunity, restored our Constitution.
Arts and Sciences, Sir, are the certain Product of Liberty and Security; and Ignorance and Idleness are as certainly the Product of Slavery or a State of War. The Security of the People being once established, it may for some Time be preserved without any Regular Troops; but Security makes them neglect to train themselves up to the Art of War, and then a Standing Army becomes necessary for their Defence; especially if their Neighbours are provided with great Numbers of Regular Troops. This is the natural Course of Things; it is, I believe, impossible to alter it by any Regulation. The Security of the People of this Kingdom was established, and Arts and Sciences began to flourish, before we had any Standing Army; but a total Neglect of Military Discipline was not then so general as it is now, nor were our Neighbours provided with such numerous Bodies of Regular Forces; therefore it might then be possible to preserve the Security of the People without a Standing-Army, and yet now the Case may be, and I think is, quite otherwise. Our Neighbours are fully sensible of the great Neglect of Arms and Military Discipline among the Generality of the People of this Kingdom: They know how much superior their Regular Troops are to your Militia; and if you had no Standing-Army they would be ready to insult you, to invade you, upon every Occasion; therefore to protect the People against foreign Invasions, a small Number of Regular Forces is absolutely necessary, and I do not think it can be less than it is at present.
Then, Sir, with respect to Insurrections and civil Commotions, we may know from Experience, and from late Experience too, how ready a factious Party are to fly to Arms, tho' they are certain of the Majority of the People's being against them; for the Battle is not always to the Strong, nor is Victory chained to the most numerous Army. In the late Rebellion, I hope it will not be said the Majority of the People were on the Side of the Rebels, and much less can it be said the Majority of the People had any Inclination or Occasion to fly to Arms for their Relief or Preservation; yet that Faction flew to Arms without any just Provocation, depending for Success upon the small Number of Regular Troops we had then in our Pay; and if it had not been for that Number of Regular Troops, small as it was, those factious Rebels might probably have overturned our Government, and with it, our Liberties. The Case will always be the same, Sir, when you reduce your Army too low, some Faction or another will fly to Arms, and in these several bloody Contests, our Constitution and Liberties will probably at last be made a Sacrifice; for tho' a State of perpetual Discord and Civil War may perhaps be better than a State of abject Slavery; yet we find in most Countries the People have at last chose to submit to Arbitrary Power, rather then to continue under, or renew the Miseries of a Civil War. Queen Elizabeth, 'tis true, had great Reason to dread Insurrections and Convulsions at the Beginning of her Reign. She altered the Religion she found by Law established, and she had a Pretender to her Crown of that very Religion; but the Religion which was then established by Law, was far from being established in the Hearts of the Majority of her People; and her Establishing by a new Law that Religion which was before established in their Hearts, gaired her not only the Hearts, the Hands, and the Purses, of the Majority of her People, but proved her great and her chief Security against the Pretender to her Crown. This secured the Peace of the Nation at Home, and none of her Neighbours having then any great Number of Regular Forces in their Pay, it was not necessary for her to keep up a Standing-Army, for securing her People against foreign Invasions. His present Majesty will I hope upon every Occasion find he has the Hearts, the Hands, and the Purses of the Majority of the People at his Command; I am sure he has thro' his whole Reign highly deserved it; but it cannot be said that our Militia are now so good as they were in Queen Elizabeth's Time, nor the Protestants now so much united amongst themselves, or so zealous in the Defence of their Religion; and as every one of our Neighbours now keep in continual Pay vast Armies of Regular Troops, it may now be absolutely necessary for us to keep up a Standing-Army, tho' it did not appear to be so in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.
I shall not say, Sir, that all the Jacobites are for Arbitrary Power; but I am sure the Consequence of their succeeding in their Scheme would be the Establishment of it; and as for the Papists, if they understand the Religion they prosess, they must be for Arbitrary Power; for their Religion can be supported by nothing but Ignorance or Arbitrary Power: In former Ages it was supported by Ignorance, and now that Veil is pretty well removed, it can be supported by nothing but Inquisitions and Arbitrary Rule; we may therefore suppose, if the Papists amongst us should ever get the Government into their Hands, they would establish a despotic Sway, in order to restore and support the Religion they profess. As for Ministers and their Creatures, I do not know but many of them may have an Itch for Arbitrary Power; but they are not the only Persons infected with that Disease: It is a Disease incident to other Men, I'm afraid to most Men, as well as to Ministers; and we know by Experience, in this Country as well as in others, that Ministers have been opposed, have been hanged or beheaded, under a Pretence of their endeavouring to usurp Arbitrary Power, by Men who have committed that very Crime as soon as they found an Opportunity.
I believe, Sir, it cannot be said our Soldiers are the most abandoned Sett of Men in the Kingdom. I could name some other Setts of Men that do more Mischief by their Example. Some of the abandoned, do infinitely more. Soldiers may be lewd, profligate Wretches, but where there is one so, I hope, there are at least ten otherwise; and the Example of ten will always have a greater Effect than the Example of one. But if the Majority of the Army were supposed to be such Wretches, it could be no Argument for disbanding them; it would only be an Argument for taking some Method to put them under a better and stricter Government; for 'tis certain the Military Law may be made much stricter and more severe than the Common Law can be made; therefore the Army may be made to promote Virtue by its Example; and if any Sett of Rogues should venture to oppose the Civil Power with Force of Arms, surely a few Regular Troops would be of great Use for suppressing such a Gang. From what happens while we have an Army, we are not to judge of what may happen while we have none, or but a small one; none but Smugglers have lately dared to oppose the Civil Power with Force of Arms; but if we had few or no Regular Troops, I make no Question but other Rogues, even Housebreakers and Highwaymen, would follow the Example of the Smugglers: While we have a sufficient Number of Regular Troops, no Sett of Rogues dare venture upon any such thing; if they did, I hope no Gentleman of the Army would think it beneath him, to march against those who appear in Arms against their Country.
I must say, Sir, I am sorry to hear any Gentleman of this House make the most distant Insinuation in Favour of Mobs and Tumults. If any Magistrate should oppress or injure the People, they may have recourse to, and will be relieved by, the Laws of their Country. To seek for Redress in a mobbish tumultuous Way is certainly illegal, and is often attended with Mischief to the Innocent as well as the Guilty. Rogues generally take the Opportunity of such public Calamities to plunder without Distinction; and the Malicious take Occasion to satisfy their own private Malice and Revenge: It ought therefore to be the chief Care of every Government to prevent Mobs, or suppress them as soon as possible; and no Method can be so effectual, as to have a few Regular Troops ready to obey the Call of the Civil Magistrate upon such Occasions; but you cannot have a few Regular Troops in every Part of the Kingdom ready to answer the Call of the Civil Magistrate, if you reduce any Part of the Number you have at present on Foot.
Sir, the Respect and Esteem we have among Foreigners does not depend upon our Regular Troops only, it depends likewise upon our Navy, and the great Number of Regular Troops they know we could have, and could maintain, in case they should provoke us to War; for this Reason we are justly more respected and more feared than some other States who keep in continual Pay as many Troops as we do; because they keep up in Time of Peace as many as they could have or maintain in case of War; and have no such Navy either to protect their own Coasts, or to infest those of their Enemy. But, surely, we are more to be dreaded by our Neighbours, when they know we can immediately, upon a Rupture, send out a superior Fleet, with an Army of 5 or 6000 Regular Troops on board, to plunder and lay waste their Country, perhaps for several Miles up from their SeaCoast, than we should be, if they knew we could send nothing but a Fleet against them, which could only bombard some few of their Sea-Port Towns: And while we have such an Army as we have at present they cannot propose to do us so much Mischief upon a Rupture, by landing small Parties here and there in the Island, as they could propose to do, if we had no Regular Troops, or a less Number of Regular Troops, to oppose the Landing of such Parties, or to intercept them in their Return to their Ships.
'Tis true, Sir, we cannot have a great Body of Regular Troops in every Part of that Island where an Enemy might land; but the small Body of Troops we have may be cantoned so as to have at least a Regiment at or very near every Place where an Enemy could expect any Plunder worth their while; and one Regiment, with the Assistance they would upon such an Occasion get from the Country People, would be sufficient to oppose the Landing of a very large Party, or at least to stop their Progress; for one Regiment of Regular Troops would add greatly to the Spirit even of our Militia, and would encourage them to take Arms for the Defence of their Property. But supposing the Army we have at present not sufficient for guarding all our Maritime Counties, it may be an Argument for putting our Militia on a better Footing; but till that is done, it is an Argument for increasing rather than for diminishing the Number of Forces we have now on Foot. And while our Army consists of natural-born Subjects of Great Britain, no Foreigner can, from our keeping a few Regular Forces in Pay, suppose our Government does not enjoy the Affections and Esteem of their own People: A mercenary Army of Foreigners kept up in the Kingdom might give Occasion for such Supposition; but an Army of Subjects will always be liable to the same Affections with the rest of the People, and will therefore always be a very improper Instrument for supporting a hateful Government, or for keeping a disaffected People in Obedience.
Every Convenience in this Life, Sir, must be attended with some Inconveniencies; the Inconveniencies attending our keeping up so small a Number of Regular Forces are so few and so small a Consideration, it may be properly enough said we have felt no Inconveniencies from our Army; the Meaning of which is, we have felt no such Inconveniencies as ought to be regarded. If we had never since the Peace kept up above one Half of what we do at present, the Saving that way would have paid no considerable Part of our Debt, and therefore could not have freed us from any of our Taxes; and the Quartering of Soldiers is so far from being thought an Inconvenience or Expence to any County or City in general, that most Parts of the Kingdom are desirous of having Soldiers among them; because it consumes a Part of their spare Provisions, and can be no Burden or Inconvenience to any but those who keep public Houses, most of whom get more by what the Soldiers spend in their Houses, than the Expence of their Quarters can amount to. As for the Insolence or rude Behaviour of the Soldiers, if any such Thing happens, which I am convinced seldom does, the Landlord is sure of getting Justice done him in the most summary Way, by a Complaint to the commanding Officer; and if he should fall of it in that Way, he may get Redress by complaining to a Justice of Peace; or for any Assault, Battery, or the like Misdemeanour, he may have an Action or Indictment at Common Law against a Soldier, as well as against any other Man in the Kingdom. And as for our Liberties, I can see no Reason why our Soldiers should not be as careful of them as any other Sett of Men in the Kingdom; for very few of the Officers, and none of the Soldiers, can propose to better their Condition, but must necessarily make it a great deal worse, by subjecting themselves and their Country to Arbitrary Sway.
Now, Sir, with respect to the present Situation of our Affairs both at Home and Abroad, and the Reasons that may from thence be drawn for keeping the same Number of Forces in our Pay, at least for this ensuing Year; whatever may have been the Effect of our late Measures, 'tis certain, that if the late Peace between the Emperor and France be not such a one as it ought to be, it is so far from being an Argument for reducing our Army, that it is a strong Argument for increasing it; for if by that Peace the Emperor and France entered into any Concert for prescribing Laws to the rest of Europe, or for incroaching upon any of their Neighbours, now is the proper Time for breaking that Concert, either by Force or by Treaty, because the Emperor is not now in a Condition to perform his Part of that Concert, or at least not in such a Condition as he will be, after he has brought the Turks to submit to what Terms he shall please to impose. If immediate Force should be sound necessary, we must greatly increase our Army; and if it should be proposed to be done by Treaty, by reducing any Part of our Forces, we shall derogate from the Weight we may have in any Treaty to be set on Foot for that Purpose. But if there is really no such Concert between the Emperor and France, as I believe there is not, have we not some Reason to apprehend that France and her Allies will lay hold of the present Opportunity for gaining some new Advantage, or for making some new Conquest, from the Emperor, or from some of his Allies? And while we are under such reasonable Apprehensions, can it be said the present is a proper Time for us to reduce our Army?
We are not, 'tis true, Sir, to keep a Land Army for the Defence of our Allies, nor do any of them desire we should: They are all of them at vast Expence in keeping up numerous Land Armies, and fortifying and keeping in Repair their Frontier Towns, in order to provide for their own Defence; but we stand engaged by Treaty to furnish some of them with a Body of Regular Troops as soon as they shall be attacked, and this Engagement we could not perform, it we should reduce our Army to a less Number than it consists of at present. I shall likewise admit that we might in a Year or two appear with great Armies in the Field, tho' we had not near so many Regular Troops in our Pay as we have at present; but in that Time some of our Allies might be reduced to the last Extremity, and perhaps obliged to submit to a Peace on any Terms. We all know how easily and how soon France reduced the whole Kingdom of Spain after the Death of their last King; which could not have been done, if we had been ready to have sent a great Number of Regular Troops to the Assistance of the Party we had then in that Kingdom: By this Means the following War became much more heavy and expensive than it would otherwise have been; so that we paid severely for the little Frugality we made use of in reducing our Troops after the Treaty of Ryswick; and if ever such a War breaks out again, the Consequence will be the same, if we should render ourselves unable to assist our Friends with a large Body of Troops, at the very Beginning of the War.
Thus, Sir, I think it must appear that from the present Situation of our Affairs Abroad, no Reason can be drawn for an immediate Reduction; and from the present Situation of our Affairs at Home, there is I am sure as little Reason for a Reduction; for let the national Discontents at present proceed from what they will, when those Discontents are come so great a Length as to break out in Mobs and Tumults in several Places of the Kingdom, it is not surely a proper Time to make a great Reduction of our Army. I am as sorry as any Gentleman can be, to find so many of our People uneasy and discontented; and I must be the more sorry, because I am certain they never had less Occasion. It is not the Debt we owe, it is not the Taxes we pay, nor the Continuance of those Taxes, that are the true Causes of our present Discontents. The Debt we owe was contracted for preserving our Religion, our Liberties, our Properties, and every Thing that can be dear to a People. Our Taxes must be continued till that Debt is paid, and our immediate Preservation must in the mean Time be taken care of. For this Purpose no Expences have been incurred, but what the Wisdom of the Nation hath thought absolutely necessary, nor any Taxes imposed or continued but such as are the least burdensome to the People. We must therefore look some where else for the Cause of our present Uneasiness, and 'tis well known where we ought to look for it. There is a Party amongst us who have been labouring for many Years to overturn our present happy Establishment; they can approve of no Debt that has been contracted, nor of any Taxes that have been or shall be imposed for the Support of that Establishment they are labouring to destroy: By Means of the Scribblers and other Tools they imploy, they have persuaded Multitudes of People, that our Debt was unnecessarily incurred, and that a great Part of it might have been paid off, and the Taxes consequently abolished, if we had not every Year, for many Years past, run ourselves to a vast public Expence, for which there was not the least Occasion; like petty-fogging Lawyers, who always find Fault with an honest Attorney's Bill, in order to persuade the Client to leave him and employ them; and as few Men are themselves good Judges of the Case, such Petty-foggers too often succeed; but when they do, the Client always finds his Lawyer's Bills more extravagant, and his Affairs at last entirely ruined. The Case would be the same with this Nation, if ever that Party should prevail. I hope they never will. However it must be confessed, it is well known, that by Means of the daily, weekly, monthly, and occasional Libels they publish, and by Means of the many Orators they have in every Place of public Resort, they have poisoned the Minds of many of his Majesty's Subjects; in which their late Success is chiefly to be ascribed to the Law lately passed against the Retail of Spirituous Liquors; for tho' every Man of Virtue or Sense in the Kingdom must approve of that Law, yet it is certainly disagreeable to the lower Class of People, of which our Mobs are generally composed. This Law I say, Sir, this most necessary Law has added greatly to the Success of the disaffected Party amongst us: Nay it has made them so daring as to direct their Libels against the Parliament itself: They have of late even attempted to diminish that Veneration which our People have always most justly had for Parliaments; but this I am no way surprised at; for that Party have never shewed any great Liking to Parliaments; and if we should disband any great Part of our Army, they would probably shew their Dislike in a Manner more effectual, or at least more dangerous, than that of Writing or Talking.
There may perhaps, Sir, be some Soldiers in our Army who would be glad to be discharged, but I am sure there are not many, unless it should be with a View of getting new Levy-Money in a little Time after; and if they should be disappointed in that View, they would list with the Discontented for nothing. But, Sir, if we should in a Time of general Discontent, and when Insurrections are justly to be apprehended, offer to disband any of our Soldiers, there are many who would desire to be discharged, not with a View to return to Labour and Industry, but with a View to join whoever should appear in Arms against the Government; for among Rebels, a disciplined Soldier may expect to be made a Serjeant or Corporal at least; and every Serjeant would expect to be made an Officer. Chelsea Hospital could receive but very few of the Disbanded; it could not receive one half of those who would expect to be put upon that Establishment; and those who found themselves disappointed, would certainly imitate their Betters, they would join with the Disaffected; so that in every Light we can consider it, a present Reduction would be a diminishing the Power of the Government to preserve the Peace of the Kingdom, and an increasing the Power of the Disaffected to disturb the Quiet of the People; and that at a Time when the Power of the latter has been, by a most necessary Law, greatly increased. In a little Time, perhaps in a few Months, these Discontents may subside; the lower Class of our People will find they can live without the Use of Spirituous Liquors, and that they live more healthfully than with them; they will then join with the rest of the Kingdom in their Approbation of that Law, and then a Reduction will not be so dangerous as it is at present.
Sir, I have already shewn why any Army under a lawful and regular Government, can never be supposed to behave in the same manner the Army did under Oliver Cromwel; and if any Attempts should be made to undermine our Constitution by means of those Maxims we have been frightened with, the Parliament would interpose, the Army itself would mutiny against such Maxims; but I cannot see why we have at present any Reason for being afraid of such Maxims; for I am sure no Man will pretend his Majesty would, or could be prevailed on to cashier any Officer for voting or behaving according to Honour and Conscience. The Behaviour of an Officer may be influenced by Malice, Revenge, and Faction, under the Pretence of Honour and Conscience; and if ever any Officer of the Army, because his Majesty refused to comply with some very unreasonable Demand, should resolve to oppose in every Thing the Measures pursued by his Majesty and his Ministers, I should think any Man a most pitiful Minister, if he should be afraid of advising his Majesty to cashier such an Officer. On the contrary, I shall leave it as a Legacy to all future Ministers, that upon every such Occasion it is their Duty to advise their Master, that such a Man is unfit for having any Command in his Armies. Our King has by his Prerogative a Power of placing, preferring, and removing any Officer he pleases, either in our Army of our Militia: It is by that Prerogative chiefly, he is enabled to execute our Laws and preserve the Peace of the Kingdom: If a wrong Use should be made of that Prerogative, his Ministers are accountable for it to Parliament; but it cannot be taken from him or diminished without overturning our Constitution; for our present happy Constitution may be overturned by Republican as well as by Arbitrary Schemes. Therefore it must be left to his Majesty to judge by what Motives an Officer acts, and if he thinks an Officer acts from bad Motives, in Duty to his People, in Duty to himself, he ought to remove him.
The only Question, Sir, now before us is, Whether we ought to keep up the present Number of Forces for this ensuing Year? Next Year the same Question must again come before us, and then every Gentleman may again vote as he pleases. There may be Reasons peculiar to the present Time, I think I have shewn some very sufficient and peculiar Reasons for keeping up the same Number for this ensuing Year. In so doing I am sure I have done my Duty; and if the Nation should be insulted and invaded by Foreigners; if a Civil War should break out, and spread Desolation and Murder over the whole Island; if the Jacobites should prevail, and our Religion, our Liberties, and our Properties should be thereby rendered precarious; I shall have some Consolation in this Reflection, that I endeavoured as much as I could to prevent our exposing ourselves to such Miseries.
Division 246, 178.
The Question being at last put upon the Motion for keeping up the same Number of Troops, it was upon a Division carried in the Affirmative by 246 to 178.