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assured these gentlemen, that as this was a war-tax, it would certainly cease with the war. J he resolutions were then agreed to, and the
report received the next day; upo« which a hill was framed, brought in, and passed into a law in a few days.
Alarms respecting an Invasion Means proposed by Ministers/or (he Safety of the Kingdom. Motion of Air. Dundas in the House of Commons to that Effect. Detail of the Plan—Debate on that Subject—In the Commons— In the Lords. Alien Bill—Debates on that Subject. Debates in the House of Commons on the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Bill for tnore effectually manning the Nury—Debates on that Subject. Debate on the Slave Trade—Slave-Carrying Bill—Slave-Restraining Bill.
THE continued threats of invasion, which had been held out by the enemy, seem to have • excited the apprehensions, and roused the attention of the British ministry soon after the meeting of parliament; and on the 11 th of January a message was sent by bis majesty to each house, soliciting their attentiou to that important subject. It was, however, some time before a plan could be matured to the satisfiiction of ministers for the defence of the kingdom; and the necessity of agitating the subject in parliament deferred its execution, till the face of affairs in Europe began to asi-ume a different appearance, and till the kingdom was in part relieved from the alarms excited by the formidable preparations on the opposite side of the channel. On the 8th of February, Mr. Dundas moved for the introduction of a bill to enable his majesty to call out a certain portion of the supplementary militia, and incorporate them in the companies of the regular militia. The bill was passed with little of debate ; and on Tuesday, March 27, the same mi nistcr rose in pursuance of a notice
given the preceding day, to move for leave to bring in a bill, to enble his majesty to take measures for the more effectual security and defence of these realms, and to indemnify persons who might suffer injury in their property by the operation of such measures. It wal an affair of the greatest importance, and he was aware, that on a motion for a bill of so general a description, gentlemen would ask, " whether we are not now in possession of a navy, which would render futile every attenipt of the enemy to invade our coasts ?** This he was ready to admit. But, notwithstanding the splendor of our naval character, there existed circumstances at that moment which rendered it imprudent to rest the defence of the country on one branch of its force.' It might probably be asked, "a not our army the greatest we eveT had? and can we not defend the country by means of the regular forces and the militia?" But notwithstanding these guarantees, he would not altogether rest on them our security and safety. Mr. Dundas then made some remarks on the spirit and zeal that distinguished the voluntary ■voluntary exertions of the great body of the people in the different corps of yeomanry and county cavalry; these, he observed, were known friends of their country, and ready to romc forward in its defence. But while he felt these sentiments of confidence in the genual disposition of the people, he should think that the executive government did not enable the zeal and spirit of the country to come fcrward most effectually, were a measure like, the present not adopted and pursued. Many reasons might be assigned tor the zeal which distinguished the present period ; however, it was sufficient to mention one, viz, that we were figtttiiig for the deepest stake that ever the country had at issue in any conte.cj. 1"bis was the opinion of wise men, even in the early stages of the French revolution. Mr. Unn.'as next made soiit remarks oa the conduct of the French contention relative to their multiplied attempts to introduce anarchy among the people of England, by the emissaries of sedition and revolt. Happily, however, he remarked, the eril spirit had been observed larking insidiously in the silence of the haunts sacred to sedition, and the enemies of order. Toe honourable secretary did not think it necessary to enter into a detail of the acts of parliament to prove that such was the state of things at that period, he thought it enough to mention it generally. — He said t »as now his wish to state the object of the bill; in truth, it had t*o or three objects of importance connected with it. Alftady some counties had exprcs-ed i wi»h to adopt measures in their ■itare similar. For instance, Dorset, where propositions were made ij Uu men of property, which in
duced the sheriff to hold several meetings; but as from the nature of his office, he could only call out the posse comitatus in cases limited by circumstances of mere local urgency, these meetings had nti other effect than giving a collected expression of the patriotism of that county. In other counties, the lord lieutenants had done more; but it was doubtful whether l/uy could go beyond certain bounds. Jt was th» object of this bill to provide Tot every possible emergency, by giving a power to his majesty to discover who were the persons prepared to ap[>ear in arms, to embody for their own defence. Another provisioa of the bill was to see what number of the inhabitants of certain districts would be able to act as pioneers, or in other laborious situations. He also remarked, that in the crisis of real danger, some persons might be influenced by motives of personal safety, or the natural wish of preserving their property, which might lead some to withdraw from their country: the present bill, however, would provide, that should the property of individuals be destroyed by a marching army, or fall into the enemy's hands, or be taken for the service of the country, indemnification should be rendered according to its value. The other provisions were, that in the event of its being necessary to employ persons as pioneers, to remove stock, or assist in facilitating the carriage of military stores, proper compensation would be made. The bill, he observed, was intended to give a power of embodying also a portion of the regular militia, and en.,.loving thein in the defence of the country.— Upon these broad principles of justice, he was confident, the spirit of the country would be exerted;
and he believed that there was nothing that could infuse confidence into a people, and make them feel that their security depended on the measures taken for their defence, but enabling them to unite to defend themselves. Mr. Dundas next made some remarks on the conduct of certain individuals in this country, who, under the pretext of a parliamentary reform, were corresponding with the enemy on subjects highly treasonable. It must be obvious, that, however plausible associations for reform might be at other times, the present was not a period fit either- to propose or discuss that question. After making some observations on the conduct of the French relative to Genoa, Venice, and Switzerland, who had announced, he said, to their troops, that every battle gained, was an advantage over England—such an enemy, he said, it became us to oppose, who sought for nothing less than the destruction of our fleet, the annihilation of our commerce, and the overthrow of our constitution. He then moved, "That leave be given to bring in a bill to enable his majesty more effectually to provide for the security and defence of these realms, and to indemnify ]>ersOiis who may suffer injury in their property by the operation of such measures."
General Tarleton did not rise to oppose the motion; but whatever mitjht be the. danger apprehended by ministers, he believed there did not exist in the country any body of men exclusively attached to France. The country, however, bounded in military resources, which, if rightly managed, would enable it to resist any enemy. Jn his opinion, the best way of providing lor our defence would be
to examine the parts most vulnerable, and there put ourselves in a situation to resist the enemy. He could not be so well informed as ministers relative to the preparations going on in France; but it did not appear to him that they were such as could induce a belief in the probability of a speedy invasion. That they meant to make an attempt was evident, by the preparations in their dock-yards; and though much had been said of the impracticability of a successful descent on our coast, whatever was the situation of some places, he entertained no doubt of the practicability of landing. The general observed, that the military operations of France were conducted on a plan different from that of any other European power; a plan which had abolished the old trans-, port system, while it facilitated the debarkation of troops; this, joined to the uncertainty where the enemy would land, induced him to recommend that all the attention of government might be directed to the defence of the metropolis, in the environs of which, he thought the efficient force of the country ought to be concentrated. He remarked, that it was no information to the French, and that he was therefore in order when he stated, that between London and any part of the coast there was no fortified place to resist the progress of the enemy. If they effected a landing, it must be at a considerable distance from the metropolis, perhaps I SO miles, which wouhi take them six days to accomplish their march, during which period an advantageous situation might be taken to defend the capital. The general concluded by Sav'no> ''ia* he had thrown out these observations from a sense of his duty to the house and the coun
try, but that he would not oppose the measure.
General Delancy said a few words in answer to general Tarleton. He remarked it was not true that no preparations had been made to put the country in a proper state of defence. The illustrious commander in chief had, he knew, with great productive diligence, applied himself to the consideration of t e stare of the Country, and was able to draw out the forces to the best advantage.
Sir William Pulteney approved the plan which had that day been offered to the house, although he could have wished that a "similar one had been brought forward at an earlier period: but it was not yet too late, and for the lateness of it, the country had only to use greater exertions. He agreed with the honourable general, that the metropolis ought to be guarded with a very great force; and also all the other great towns throughout the kingdom. With regard to the assertion of the right honourable gentleman (Mr. Dundas), that there was a lar^e body of people in the country who wished to favour the designs of the enemy; for his part, he was sure that there were scarcely any of such a description; and if there were, they must he very few. Whatever opinions might have been once entertained concerning the French, he would nature to say they were now ian«ed. He knew that many in a moment of warmth, W say things of which they ards repented, aad there was
circumstance that could serve to . the spirit and indignation of •fc country more effectually than the recent example of Switzerland.
Mr. Nicholls did not rise to oppose the measure, but to declare
it as his opinion, that all the exertions which could be made in consequence of th;s plan could produce but little tffect, if the present system of coercion in Ireland was continued. There was no chance of making any effectual resistance whilst the people of the sister kingdom were kept down and oppressed; for the remaining part of the empire, he observed, could be but feebly supported. He made some remarks on the success of the French, relative to Austria and Rome; and said, that Naples and Spain were in danger of experi- .' encing the same fate. No person could lament the fate of Switzerland more than he did. But what was the cause of their calamities? It was the divisions which had existed among them, which prevented them from making the nccessary preparations to resist an invation. Such, he said, must be the fate of this country, if that dreadful division existed between England and Ireland. It was of the most serious importance to consider of lenient measures, and the wellwishers of the British constitution should try all means, and do every thing in their power, to put an end to those dreadful divisions.
Mr. Wilberforce conceived it necessary for him to rise to give his support to the present measure; because he perceived there were some gentlemen on the opposite side of the house who, although they pretended to support it, yet gave it a kind of secret opposition. In his opinion, it became every man to be unanimous on an occasion like the present. He made some remarks upon what had fallen from the honourable baronet relative to the measure not having been adopted sooner. He observed, that for these three or four years past, the F same same plan was acted upon in spirit, and that similar measures, all tending to the defence of the county, had been adopted during the whole of that time. In that country, which he had the honour to represent, he could say, that great numbers of the people, who had never been in the habit of understanding military affairs, had come foi ward long ago, and < ffered their services for the defence of the country.
The people of York highly approved of the conduct of his majesty's present ministers, which they knew to be directed to the safety and advantage of the country. He would not trouble the house with any more observations, he found it necessary thus to declare what were the sentiments of his constituents, as well as to express the satisfaction he felt at hearing the present plan proposed.
Mr. Buxton said a few words in support of the present measure, and observed that he had proposed something similar in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, where it had been approved of; and it was determined that carts and waggons should be in a state of readiness to carry away the property of farmers living near the coast.
Mr. Dundas rose to make a short reply to the honourable baronet, relative to the plan being attended with no expence: he said, no gentleman could suppose, that persons being employed in the business of being trained, &c. should have no compensation, though many of the volunteers had come forward and refused any pay at all.
Mr. Hobbouse rose to ask, whether persons under this plan would be, forced to serve?
Mr. Tierney said he highly approved of the measure, and should fiave contented himself with giv«
ing it his silent vote, had not an honourable gentleman thrown out some ungrounded assertions against gentlemen on his side of the house, by saying that they had made a secret opposition to the intended plan. This he observed was an illiberal insinuation, and such as he might naturally expect to come from that quarter. "But 'said Mr. Tierney) I will tell that honourable gentleman, that I am as animated in the cause of defending my country as he can be." When any gentleman in that house, he added, , proposed a measure which he conceived had a tendency to promote the interest of the empire, he would ask, whether that man could be a friend to his country, or acted in a manner becoming a member of that house, who from any little petulance should sneer at what had been offered from the best intentions? For his part, he did not consider himself bound to give a blind support to any measure, though he highly approved of the present.
Mr. Wilberforce rose to explain, and said, he only meant to state to the house, that the language which had fallen from gentlemen on the other side of the house was not like that warm and cordial expression of sentiment which was naturally to be expected in a crisis so essentially different from all others that had ever occurred. In such a crisis, he thought, all ought to be'united, that the people of the country without doors might be ready to put into execution those plans which the house might think proper to adopt.
The chancellor of the exchequer rose to make some remarks on what he termed the unwarrantable language thrown out by the honourable gentleman on the other side of the house towards his honourable