« ForrigeFortsett »
this country, but they were Germans-the natural subjects of our own sovereign, who preferred an honourable exile to an ignominious servitude; and who were bound by allegiance to the same sovereign with the natives of this country. As to the value of their services, it would be seen from the perusal of the different Gazettes which were published in the course of the summer. There was no action in which part of this gallant corps was not foremost in every danger. It did not appear to him that the noble lord had laid before the House sufficient grounds for the production of papers; but he thought, it would not be sufficient for the House barely to reject the motion on this ground. He thought that the House should not allow itself to be supposed to concur in the idea of its being illegal and unconstitutional to employ foreign troops, and that it would be well, that the new parliament should have its opinion some way understood of the legality and propriety of continuing the present system of employing every means of carrying on offensive warfare which presented itself in the present circumstances.
Mr. Ponsonby objected especially to the latter part of the noble lord's speech, and expressed a confident hope that, in no case, the House would be led indirectly to express an opinion upon a measure totally unconnected with the motion before them. He would put it to the candour of the House, and to that of the hon. gentlemen opposite themselves, whether or no the noble mover had said a single word as to the expediency of employing foreign troops in the British service? But the noble lord who spoke last had thought proper to bring forth arguments against a speech delivered in the last session of parliament, and of which he was sure not twenty members present had heard one word. He had listened with the greatest pleasure to the explanation given by the noble lord, as it proved that no unconstitutional measure had been adopted, and he was ready to join in the praises bestowed on the German Legion, which he thought they deserved; but, at the same time, he must observe, that the noble mover was not the only one who had mistaken the meaning of the Order which was the object of the motion; he was sure, on the contrary, that the whole country, as well as himself, had understood it as giving to the Germans in our service permanent rank in the British
army. People were apt to be swayed by the obvious meaning of terms, and were not certainly bound to know that in the phraseology of the War-office, 'permanent' meant 'temporary.' This it appeared was the real meaning. He should however like to know if the noble lord, in consequence of his eminent services, had been promised a permanent possession of his office, how he would feel when, at the conclusion of a peace, or perhaps twelve months afterwards, he should be told that permanent meant only temporary, and be accordingly desired to resign his situation.-The very natural misconception arising out of the wording of the Order, led the nation at large to believe, that German officers were to have permanent rank with British officers in the British army. But as he now understood, from the noble Secretary at War, that those officers were only to rise gradually in their corps, according to their seniority, all he could say was, that if this was intended as a recompence for the services of the German Legion, and if they had received it as such, they were certainly the most disinterested soldiers in the world, and the cheapest to be rewarded. At the same time, he thought that the word permanent was not the most accurate expression which could be used in this country in speaking of military concerns; it could not strictly apply to any of our military establishments, and he thanked God that the British army itself was not permanent, but would be disbanded, in fact, unless kept together from year to year by the renewal of the Mutiny Bill.-When he first heard of permanent rank being granted to the German officers, he thought that there had been something peculiar in the constitution of the German Legion, which made that order peremptory on government, and he had heard with equal surprise and satisfaction, by the noble lord's explanation, that there was no intention of giving those foreign officers command in our army longer than the period under which they had been engaged by the sanction of parliament; if so, there was nothing in the Order hostile to the constitution, and he saw no objection to the measure. As to the censure passed generally by the noble lord on those who entertained sentiments adverse to the Germans in our service, he begged leave not to be included in that number.-He felt the value of their services as much as any man; he felt that generals, officers, and
men, had fully done their duty; and he was above entertaining vulgar prejudices against foreigners, especially when fighting in the same cause. Still it was natural in a free country to look with jealousy to foreign troops. As the case stood, and considering the state of Europe, he saw no danger in the power vested in the crown to employ foreign troops; but if, as every one had supposed, the words of the Order implied the meaning they seemed to convey, if the crown had over-stepped the bounds set to its power, in that respect he thought that no measure could be more deserving of parliamentary censure. As it had been explained by the noble lord, it was a most harmless, unintelligible measure; but if it was acceptable to the German Legion, it was, he would repeat, a cheap way of rewarding their services.
Sir H. Mildmay, in consequence of the philippic which the noble Secretary at War had uttered against those who favoured the motion, thought it necessary to guard himself against the imputation of cherishing any undue prejudices against the German Legion, or of being committed by his vote in support of his noble friend's motion upon the general question as to the policy of employing foreign troops.
Lord Milton deprecated the employment of foreign officers in the manner in which he understood they had in some instances been employed, and wished to ask the noble Secretary at War a question. If he understood the noble lord rightly, he had stated, that the German officers, while they enjoyed simply a temporary rank, were only empowered to command the corps to which they belonged. But had not baron Linsingen been in the command of a district in this country, and had he not, in consequence, had English militia regiments under his orders? The noble lord might allow that this was improper before the issuing of the Order in question; but did the issuing of that Order render it proper? For his part, he thought such a power would be improper under any circumstances; and here he wished to guard himself against the imputation of vulgar prejudices, being supposed to consider the original employment of the persons composing the German Legion as wrong. They came to this country under peculiar circumstances, and although he could not agree with the noble lord in looking at them as subjects of the king of England, which they were not nor ever had been, but must regard
them as subjects of the elector of Hanover; yet still they were so connected with the head of the British government, that it was by no means improper to receive them in England, when the circumstances to which he had alluded drove them from their own home. He would not refuse any favour to them which it was consti. tutional to grant; but he would refuse to place them in situations which none but British subjects ought to be allowed to fill, But he must protest against the appointment of any foreigner whatever to such commands as he had adverted to. He had no objection to their being employed in commands abroad, but he did not like to see them in command in this country, except in their particular corps. In this distinction he conceived himself founded on the true principles of the constitution.
Lord Palmerston said, the noble lord had completely misconceived him. Although temporary rank in the British army in general did not give command in other corps, yet by a particular article in the articles of war, arising out of the act by which they were originally embodied, the officers of the German Legion were rendered as competent to such command, as if they had possessed permanent rank. It appeared, therefore, that the recent Order did not, as the noble lord imagined, give to the of ficers of the German Legion a power which they did not before possess. With regard to the general alluded to, the truth was, that he never did command a district; there was, however, nothing in the law of the land to prevent it.
Lord Milton repeated his persuasion, that baron Linsingen had for some time actually commanded the eastern district, in the absence of lord Chatham.
Lord Palmerston observed, that upon lord Chatham's retirement from the command of the district alluded to, another British officer was immediately appointed to succeed him. Baron Linsingen had commanded merely the depôt of the German Legion.
The Hon. General Stewart could not possibly consent to give a silent vote when the merits of his fellow-soldiers were under discussion. He bore testimony to the gallantry of the German Legion, whose services he had witnessed on various occasions in the peninsula. Indeed, so highly did lord Wellington, the illustrious general who commands our armies on the peninsula, and whose conduct was the theme of universal applause, so highly
duct of the German corps too under the direction of colonel Bock at Salamanca, was the subject of universal praise, and in the quarter master general's department, he knew some German officers who, he thought, ought to be preferred to British officers. Besides great clearness and diligence, many of them possessed advantages acquired before the war in the peninsula, and had enjoyed peculiar opportunities for qualifying themselves for the respective situations they occupied. Under all those circumstances, he thought the House should express the sense they entertained of the services of the German Legion, instead of cavilling at the meaning of the words in the Order. The hon. officer concluded with asking pardon of the House for trespassing upon its attention; but he felt it due to truth and justice to bear his testimony to the conduct of a too often misrepresented although highly meritorious corps.
did he think of the fidelity and valour of that body, that he did not hesitate to confide the direction of one of the most valuable corps of his army, namely, the light division, to a German officer, (general Alten). Why then, after such a proof of well-merited confidence in real service, should it be deemed unsafe to commit an English district to the command of a German? Why, while those meritorious officers were entrusted with the command of an army abroad in the midst of war, should they be thought unfit or unworthy to take the command of our army at home? Notwithstanding the partiality he naturally felt for English troops, and particularly British cavalry, yet the Germans had so eminently distinguished themselves in the peninsula, he fully believed, that upon the continent there was but one feeling among the British army upon this subject, and as to the general merits of the German Legion. But let those who saw them not in service, look at the Gazettes for an account of the conduct of these deserving foreigners, and they would be found to have eminently signalized themselves upon all occasions. Such was, indeed, the impression they made, that if the British army could be canvassed, which he was aware would be irregular, he had not the slightest doubt that the grant of permanent rank to the officers of that Legion would have been universally approved of, which grant he, among others, certainly understood to have been the purport of the Order under consideration. According to an arrangement at present upon the continent, any British officer who went into the Portuguese service, was advanced a step in rank; but no such advance had ever been objected to by other British officers. No, such was the liberal feeling of British officers, that they were never found to object to the rewarding of merit. These gallant men were only found to murmur when young men, as was formerly the case, were promoted before merit and experience, merely through undue influence and connection. But British officers would never object to the due promotion of foreigners, particularly where their merit was so eminent as that of the German Legion, and who could doubt that merit? He himself had the honour of commanding a German corps, namely, the First Hussars, which had done more than any other corps on the continent, and a more gallant or more effective body of men he had never met with. The con-him
Lord Milton, in reply to an observation from the gallant officer, which observation seemed peculiarly addressed to him,thought it necessary to state that his reason for deprecating the grant of a military command to any foreigners at home, although such foreigners as the gallant officer mentioned were invested with high command abroad, was simply this: that in the one case the command was in Portugal, while in the other it was in England, where, according to the constitutional precept and established policy, foreigners were excluded from any such authority.
Mr. Canning professed that his mind was inexpressibly relieved by the explanation which the noble Secretary at War had given of an Order, which, until that hour, he certainly understood, in common with the noble mover and the right hon. gentleman opposite, in common with the pubic, and, as it now appeared, in common even with one of the gallant leaders of that army with which the German Legion was immediately connected, to import no less than the communication of permanent rank to the officers of that Legion, in the sense in which that term was usually interpreted in the British army. The import of that Order seemed to have been nothing less than permanent rank to the officers of the German Legion. He must say again, that his mind was inexpressibly relieved by that explanation, because it proved, that in fact, the law and the constitution had not been violated. It gave great satisfaction to learn that the
considerable degree of jealousy would have been excusable. In the best and earliest times of our renovated constitution no-in the reign of that hero to whom we were indebted for that constitution-in the case of the very troops which had been called in to secure the establishment of that constitution-in the case of the Dutch troops in the service of king William, although that great sovereign and benefactor of the country descended almost to supplicate on his knees the House of Commons to allow him to retain his own guards, they would not permit it as soon as the necessity for their presence ceased to exist. Calling all this to mind, he could not consider apprehensions upon such a subject altogether groundless; and he was convinced that, not with an unwise and unprecedented zeal, but in the spirit that had thus grown up with the constitution itself, it would have behoved every man in that House to look at the Order in question, had its purport been such, as until that night it had universally been supposed to be. Although he certainly was not in the habit of paying the noble lord who had made the present motion many compliments, he could by no means indulge in any sneer against him, for having brought under the consideration of parliament a document so enigmatical, as even to deceive the companion in arms of those to whom it related. On the contrary, he thought the noble lord was in the present instance entitled to the gratitude of the House and the country, for having produced the explanation which had been afforded by the noble Secretary at War, and for having thus put him (Mr. Canning) in a situation which permitted him, instead of supporting the noble lord's mo tion, to pay him a compliment, and vote against it.
Order in question was so ineffective as the noble lord had described it to be, for whatever might be his sense of the merit of the troops to which it referred, earthly consideration could have induced him, as a member of that House, acting upon constitutional principles, to have lent his sanction to such a measure, had it possessed the character which he and the country had erroneously attributed to it. To all that had been said of the services of the brave German troops he most heartily subscribed; and if any question had arisen with respect to their merits, the House must feel that the gallant and generous testimony just borne to those merits by a kindred spirit, would have been conclusive on the subject. Unquestionably, the utmost deference was due to the representations of that gallant general, but it was no disparagement to him who had spoken so much to their credit and his own, to say, that while that hon. officer looked at the question with a military eye, it became the House to consider it with a view to its bearing on the constitution. While he cordially concurred in all that had been said, and in all that could be added in praise of the German troops, he could not let his feelings, or the consideration of the existing crisis, so far overpower his duty to his country as to forget (as he thought the noble Secretary at War seemed at one time to forget), that it was necessity alone that justified their employment. Although no man, rationally considering the circumstances of the times, could object to their employment, yet it ought always to be remembered, that to employ them was the exception and not the general rule. Looking, therefore, at the Order as it had been generally understood as it had been understood by the public as well as by himself-an understanding, he must observe, mainly supported by the comments with which it was accompanied at the time the Order was issued in publications, which, though certainly not authorised, were widely circulated an understanding, of which the report of that night's debate would convey to the country the first contradictionhe must say, that it would have involved a principle from which it would have been imperative on him utterly to dissent. Nor was it surprising then, that this Order, apparently identifying foreigners with our own army, should have excited considerable astonishment. Nay, remembering the constitution in its purest state, even a
Lord Folkestone rose in reply. He said that if he was pleased at some things which he had heard that night, he was beyond measure ashamed at other things which he had heard. When he had seen our young men and officers adopting German dresses, and Germanizing themselves as much as possible, undertaking every thing German; and so attached to the fashion of the day as in deference to it to cast off every thing English, he felt disgust at it; but when he now heard the German soldiers preferred to the British from a high authority, he felt the greatest pain. When a gallant general said that they were better than the British
General Stewart rose to order, and said, he had never made such an assertion. He had only spoken of one corps, the first Hussars, whom he stated as the admiration of the army.
Lord Folkestone continued. He understood him distinctly to have spoken of other military departments also, in which he had given the preference to the Germans. The compliment to the Germans he considered rather extravagant; but the gallant general having denied the words imputed to him, he should relinquish that topic, and proceed to advert to the speech of the noble Secretary at War, who had taken occasion this night to reply to statements and arguments which he had brought before the last parliament. But the reply of the noble Secretary he felt to be quite ineffective, first, as to the statement that baron Linsingen commanded the eastern district; he maintained that it was correctly true, that this baron, as commander of the district, ordered out the garrison of Ipswich (among which garrison were some English militia), in order to review it, and that he had done several other acts in the quality of commander of the district. B baron Linsingen was not the only foreign officer in such a situation, for there were in fact four or five other foreigners invested with such commands. Thus was the Act of Settlement outraged; but it had become a habit with certain persons to treat acts of parliament with evasion and indifference, as in the present instance, where though the law expressly prohibited such employment of these foreign officers, and stated that they were only to be allowed commands in their own particular corps, "inasmuch as they could best drill them, from being acquainted with their language and manners," yet not the slightest regard was paid to this wholesome constitutional provision. According to the act originally constituting the German Legion, the ground alleged for appointing German officers, was, that from their acquaintance with the German language and manners they were best fitted to discipline and command such corps; but what ground of utility or expediency could be alleged for appointing such officers to command in the British army? Here the Act of Settlement was violated without any thing like a plea; but so were other acts also. For example, according to the act relating to the constitution of the 60th regiment, not one of that corps was ever to serve out of Ame
rica. Yet the prescription of the act had been wholly overlooked. In fact, one battalion of this regiment was now serving in the peninsula. He did not mean to find fault with such employment of that battalion, but with the manner of sending it out. He objected to the violation of the law. Why was not application made to parliament to repeal the law, if found objectionable, instead of acting directly in its teeth-instead of treating the law, and consequently the legislature, with con tempt? No man would object to such employment of them, if ministers, instead of breaking an act of parliament, would come to parliament and point out the necessity of such a change of destina tion. Parliament would, no doubt, attend to any application to remove an exceptionable law;-but it seemed too much trouble to pay due respect to parliament. It was a shorter course to do as men pleased themselves, than to consult others, and particularly a superior authority. The Secretary at War appeared fonder of looking over the map of Europe than the Act of Settlement, or the constitution, but the latter were in his opinion fully as deserving of attention as the mer. How great had been the solicitude of parlia ment to render the provisions of the Act of settlement effective. Not only at the Revolution did our ancestors refuse to allow Dutch troops to stay in this country, but on the accession of the House of Hanover, there was an act in the very first year, which had directly in its contemplation the employment of Hanoverian troops. It was against this very description of force, that our ancestors shewed a constitutional jealousy at the time of passing the Act of Settlement. Even in the reign of George 1st this jealousy had not subsided, but statutes were passed to guard against the appointment of any foreigner to any place civil or military, in this country: and making that provision a specific clause even in every naturalization Bill.
With respect to the challenge of the gallant officer to look to the Gazettes, in order to ascertain the achievements of the German Legion, he had taken occasion to review those Gazettes, because a similar desire had been before expressed to him by others, and he was happy to find that in glory, as it appeared from the losses, the British army was not inferior, compared with those highly-applauded, those particularly-favoured foreigners. For what was the comparison? Why, let the House