Page images

lords, the same animals to-day cringing behind a counter, and to-morrow swelling in a military dress; we have seen boys sent from school in despair of improvement, and entrusted with military command; fools that cannot learn their duty, and children that cannot perform it, have been indiscriminately promoted; the dross of the nation has been swept together to compose our new forces, and every man who was too stupid or infamous to learn to carry on a trade, has been placed, by this great disposer of honours, above the necessity of application, or the reach of censure.

Did not sometimes indignation, and sometimes pity, check the sallies of mirth, it would not be a disagreeable entertainment, my lords, to observe, in the park, the various appearances of these raw commanders, when they are exposing their new scarlet to view, and strut. ting with the first raptures of sudden elevation; to see the mechanic new modelling his mien, and the stripling tottering beneath the weight of his cockade; or to hear the conversation of these new adventurers, and the instructive dialogues of school-boys and shop-keepers.

I take this opportunity, my lords, of clearing myself from any suspicion of having contributed by my advice, to this stupendous collection. I only once interposed with the recommendation of a young gentleman who had learned his profession in two campaigns among the Russians; and whom, yet neither his own desert, nor my patronage, could advance to a commission. And I believe, my lords, all the other general officers were equally unconsulted, and would, if their advice had been asked, equally have disapproved the measures that have been pursued.

But thus, my lords, were our new regiments completed ; in which, of two hundred and fifty officers who have subsisted upon half-pay, only thirty-six have been promoted, though surely they might have pleaded a juster claim to employment, who had learned their profession in the service of their country, and had long lan

guished in penury, than those who had neither know- . ledge nor capacity, who had neither acted, nor suffered, any thing; and who might have been destined to the hammer, or the plough, without any disreputation to their families, or disappointment to themselves.

I have been told indeed, my lords, that to some of these officers commissions were offered, which they refused ; and for this refusal every reason is alledged but

! the true ; some, indeed, excused themselves as disabled by age, and infirmities, from military service ; nor can any objection be made to so just a plea. For how could those be refused in their age the comforts of ease and repose, who have served their country with their youth and vigour?

Others there are, my lords, who refused commissions upon motives very different ; in which, nevertheless, some justice cannot be denied. They who had long studied, and long practised their profession ; they, who had tried their courage in the breach, and given proofs of their skill in the face of the enemy, refused to obey the command of novices, of tradesmen, and of school. boys : they imagined, my lords, that they ought to govern those whom they should be obliged to instruct ; and to lead those troops, whom they must range in order. But they had forgot they had out-lived the time when a soldier was formed by study and experience, and had not heard, in their retreats, that a colonel or a captain was now formed in a day ; and therefore, when they saw and heard their new commanders, they retired back to their half-pay with surprise and in. dignation.

But, my lords, the follies of last year cannot be easily rectified, and are only now to be exposed, that they may not be repeated. If we are now to make new levies, and increase the number of our land-forces, it is, in my opinion, incumbent upon us to consider by what methods we may best augment our troops, and how we may be able to resist our foreign enemies, with

out exposing the nation to intestine miseries, and leaving our liberties at the mercy of the court.

There are, my lords, two methods of increasing our forces; the first is, that of raising new regiments; the other, of adding new men to those which already subsist.

By raising new regiments, my lords, we shall only gratify the minister with the distribution of new commissions, and the establishment of new dependence ; We shall enlarge the influence of the court, and increase the charge of the nation, which is already loaded with too many taxes to support any unnecessary expence.

By the other method, of adding a hundred men to every company, we shall not only save the pay of the officers, which is no slight consideration, but what seems (if the reports raised by the ministry of our present danger be true,) of far more importance--shall form the new forces with more expedition into regular troops : for, by distributing them among those who are already jastructed in their duty, we shall give them an opporportunity of hourly improvement ; every man's comrade will be his master, and every one will be ambitious of forming himself by the example of those who have been in the army longer than themselves.

If it be objected, my, lords, that the number of officers will not then bear a just proportion to that of the soldiers, it may be answered, that the foreign troops of the greatest reputation have no greater number of officers, as every one must know who is acquainted with the constitution of the most formidable armies of Europe. Those of the king of Prussia, or of the various nations by which we were assisted in the late war, either as con. federates or mercenaries, have but few officers. And I

very well remember, my lords, that whenever they were joined by parties of our own nation, the inequality in the number of the officers produced contests and disputes.

The only troops in Europe, my lords, that swarm with officers, are those of France; but even these have fewer officers, in proportion to their private men, in

time of war; for when they disband any part of their forces, they do not, like us, reduce their officers to halfpay, but add them to the regiments not reduced, that the families of their nubility may not be burthened with needy dependants, and that they may never want officers for new levies.

There are many reasons, my lords, that make this practice in France more reasonable than it would be in our kingdom. It is the chief view of their governors to continue absolute, and therefore their constant endea. vour is to keep great numbers in dependence. It ought to be our care to hinder the increase of the influence of the court, and to obstruct all measures that may extend the authority of the ministry; and therefore those mea. sures are to be pursued, by which independence and liberty will be most supported.

It is likewise to be remembered, my lords, that a French officer is supported with pay not much larger than that of a private soldier among us; and that there. fore the argument which arises from the necessity of frugality, is not of the same force in both nations.

There is yet another reason why the French are un. der the necessity of employing more officers than any other nation : the strength of their armies consists in their gentlemen, who cannot be expected to serve with. out some command : the common soldiers of the French army are a mean, spiritless, despicable herd, fit only to drudge as poineers, to raise entrenchments, and to dig mines; but without courage to face an enemy, or to proceed with vigour in the face of danger.

Their gentlemen, my lords, are of a very different character; jealous of their honour, and conscious of their birth, eager of distinction, and ambitious of preferment. They have commonly their education in the army, and have no expectations of acquiring fortunes equal to their desires by any other profession, and are therefore intent upon the improvement of every oppor

tunity which is offered them of increasing their knowledge and exalting their reputation.

To the spirit of these men, my lords, are the French armics indebted for all their victories, and to them is to be attributed the present perfection of the art of war. They have the vigilance and perseverance of Romans, joined with the natural vivacity and expedition of their own nation.

We are therefore not to wonder, my lords, that there is in the French armies an establishment for more gentlemen than in other countries, where the disparity be. tween the military virtues of the higher and lower classes of men is less conspicuous. In the troops of that nation nothing is expected but from the officers; but in ours the common soldier meets danger with equal intrepidity, and scorns to see himself excelled by his officer in courage or in zeal.

We are therefore, my lords, under no necessity of burthening our country with the expence of new commissions, which in the army will be superfluous, and in the state dangerous, as they will fill our parliament with new dependants, and our corporations with new adherents to the minister, whose steady perseverance in his favourite scheme of parliamentary subordination will be perhaps the only occasion of these new levies, or at least has hindered the right application of our stand. ing troops. For what reason, my lords, can invention or imagination assign, why the troops who had been for some time disciplined, were not rather sent to the assistance of Vernon than the new marines, except that some of them were commanded by inen, who had obtained seats in the other house, and who by their settled adherence and avowed fidelity to the minister, had re. commended themselves too powerfully to be rashly exposed in the service of their country to the bullets of the Spaniards.

So great, my lords, has been the minister's regard to Parliamentary abilities, and so strict his gratitude to his

« PreviousContinue »