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is an alienation of part of the British people, by which they are deprived of the benefits of the constitution, and subjected to rigorous laws, from which every other individual is exempt.
The principal of these laws, which all the rest are intended to enforce, requires from every soldier an unlimited and absolute obedience to the commands of his officers, who hold their commission, and expect advancement, by the same compliance with the orders of the ministry.
The danger of adding to the number of men, thus separated from their fellow-subjects, and directed by the arbitrary determinations of their officers, has been often explained with great strength and perspicuity; nor should I have taken this occasion of recalling it to the attention of the house, but that I think it a consideration, to which, in all debates on the army, the first regard ought to be paid.
Colonel MORDAUNT spoke to the purpose following: Sir, the objection which the honourable gentleman has raised, will be most easily removed, by considering the words of the act by which the military authority is established, where it is by no means declared, that either officers or soldiers are obliged indiscriminately to obey all the orders which they shall receive, but that they shall, on pain of the punishments there enacted, obey all the lawful orders of their commanders.
The obedience, therefore, sir, required from a soldier, is an obedience according to law, like that of any other Briton, unless it can be imagined that the word lawful is, in that place, without a meaning. Nor does his condition differ from that of his fellow-subjects by an exemption from any law, but by a greater number of duties, and stricter obligations to the performance of them; and I am not able to conceive how our constitution can be endangered by augmenting an army, which, as it can only act in conformity to it, can act only in defence of it.
[The question at last was put, that the new-raised troops be incorporated into the standing corps, but it passed in the negative, 232 to 166.]
HOUSE OF LORDS, DEC. 9, 1740.
DEBATE ON TAKING THE STATE OF THE ARMY INTO CON
The duke of ARGYLE rose first, and spoke to the following effect:-My lords, as the present situation of our affairs may require an augmentation of our forces, and as the success of our arms, and the preservation of our liberties, may equally depend upon the manner in which the new forces shall be raised, there is, in my opinion, no question more worthy the attention of this august assembly, than what may be the most proper method of increasing our army.
On this question, my lords, I shall offer my own sentiments with greater confidence, as there are few men who have had more opportunities of being acquainted with it in its whole extent, as I have spent great part of my life in the field and in the camp. I commanded a regiment under king William, and have long been either the first, or almost the first man in the
army. I hope, my lords, it will be allowed, without difficulty, that I have, at least, been educated in the best school of war, and that nothing but natural incapacity can have hindered me from inaking some useful observations upon the discipline and government of armies, and the advantages and inconveniencies of the various plans upon which other nations regulate their forces.
I have always maintained, my lords, that it is necessary, in the present state of the neighbouring countries, to keep up a body of regular troops, that we may not be less able to defend ourselves, than our enemies to attack us.
It is well known, my lords, that states must secure themselves by different means, as they are threatened by dangers of different kinds : policy must be opposed by policy, and force by force; our fleets must be increased when our neighbours grow formidable by their naval power, and armies must be maintained at a time like this, in which
every prince on the continent estimates his greatness by the number of his troops.
But an army, my lords, as it is to be admitted only for the security of the nation, is to be so regulated, that it may produce the end for which it is established ; that it may be useful without danger, and protect the people without oppressing them.
To this purpose, my lords, it is indispensably necessary, that the military subordination be inviolably preserved, and that discipline be discreetly exercised without any partial indulgence, or malicious severities; that every man be promoted according to his desert, and that military merit alone give any pretensions to military preferment.
To make the army yet more useful, it ought to be under the sole command of one man, exalted to the important trust by his known skill, courage, justice, and fidelity, and uncontrouled in the administration of his province by any other authority, a man enabled by his experience to distinguish the deserving, and invested with power to reward them.
Thus, my lords, ought an army to be regulated, to which the defence of a nation is intrusted, nor can any other scheme be formed which will not expose the publick to dangers more formidable than revolutions or invasions. And yet, my lords, how widely those who have assumed the direction of affairs have deviated from this method is well known. It is known equally to the highest and meanest officers, that those who have most opportunities of observing military merit, have no power of rewarding it; and, therefore, every man endeavours to obtain other recommendations than those of his superiours in the army, and to distinguish himself by other services than attention to his duty, and obedience to his commanders.
Our generals, my lords, are only colonels with a higher title, without power, and without command ; they can neither make themselves loved nor feared in their troops, nor have either reward or punishment in their power. What discipline, my lords, can be established by men, whom those who sometimes act the farce of obedience,
know to be only phantoms of authority, and to be restrained by an arbitrary minister from the exercise of those commissions which they are invested with? And what is an army without discipline, subordination, and obedience? What, but a rabble of licentious vagrants, set free from the common restraints of decency, exempted from the necessity of labour, betrayed by idleness to debauchery, and let loose to prey upon the people? Such a herd can only awe the villages, and bluster in the streets, but can never be able to oppose an enemy, or defend the nation by which they are supported.
They may, indeed, form a camp upon some of the neighbouring heaths, or pass in review with tolerable regularity; they may sometimes seize a smuggler, and sometimes assist a constable with vigour and success. But unhappy would be the people, who had no other force to oppose against an army habituated to discipline, of which every one founds his hopes of honour and reward upon the approbation of the commander.
That no man will labour to no purpose, or undergo the fatigue of military vigilance, without an adequate motive ; that no man will endeavour to learn superfluous duties, and neglect the easiest road to honour and to wealth, merely for the sake of encountering difficulties, is easily to be imagined. And, therefore, my lords, it cannot be conceived, that any man in the army will very solicitously apply himself to the duties of his profession, of which, when he has learned them, the most accurate practice will avail him nothing, and on which he must lose that time, which might have been employed in gaining an interest in a borough, or in forming an alliance with some orator in the senate.
For nothing, my lords, is now considered but senatorial interest, nor is any subordination desired but in the supreme council of the empire. For the establishment of this new regulation, the honours of every profession are prostituted, and every commission is become merely nominal. To gratify the leaders of the ministerial party, the most despicable triflers are exalted to an authority, and
those whose want of understanding excludes them from any other employment, are selected for military commissions.
No sooner have they taken possession of their new command, and gratified with some act of oppression the wantonness of new authority, but they desert their charge with the formality of demanding a permission to be absent, which their commander dares not deny them. Thus, my lords, they leave the care of the troops, and the study of the rules of war, to those unhappy men who have no other claim to elevation than knowledge and bravery, and who, for want of relations in the senate, are condemned to linger out their lives at their quarters, amuse themselves with recounting their actions and sufferings in former wars, and with reading in the papers of every post, the commissions which are bestowed on those who never saw a battle.
For this reason, my lords, preferments in the army, instead of being considered as proofs of merit, are looked on only as badges of dependence; nor can any thing be inferred from the promotion of an officer, but that he is in some degree or other allied to some member of the senate, or the leading voters of a borough.
After this manner, my lords, has the army been modelled, and on these principles has it subsisted for the last and the present reign; neither myself, nor any other general officer, have been consulted in the distribution of commands, or any part of military regulations. Our armies have known no other power than that of the secretary of war, who directs all their motions, aud fills up every vacancy without opposition, and without appeal.
But never, my lords, was his power more conspicuous, than in raising the levies of last year; never was any authority more despotically exerted, or more tamely submitted to; never did any man more wantonly sport with his command, or more capriciously dispose of posts and preferments; never did any tyrant appear to set censure more openly at defiance, treat murmurs and remonstrances with greater contempt, or with more confidence and security distribute posts among his slaves, without any other