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MB. FLOOD MOVES AN ADDRESS TO HIS MAJESTY, STATING THE EXPENCES OF THE COUNTRY, AND PRAYING A REDUCTION OF THE ARMY.
''PHIS day, Mr. Flood, after dwelling on the heavy expences of the country, and the greatness of the military force, declared, that a retrenchment in the military establishment had become absolutely necessary; he therefore moved, "That an humble address be presented to His Majesty, laying before His Majesty the said report; expressing also, that since that period, an augmentation of His Majesty's army hath taken place in this kingdom, whereby the military expences thereof have been considerably increased, that ever since, this nation has been running faster and faster into debt; and, notwithstanding great additional burdens, by new taxes, has yet been unable to restrain the public expences within the limits of the public income. And humbly submitting to His Majesty's royal wisdom and paternal benevolence, that it is the wish and prayer of His Majesty's faithful Commons, that the opportunity of the present conjuncture may not be omitted for making such reduction in the peace-establishment of the army, and such retrenchment of military expences, as may enable Your Majesty's faithful Commons, by a just economy, in all other points, to prevent the perpetual accumulation of national debt; a system ruinous, in the end, to the most opulent nation, but speedily destructive to a kingdom so limited in resources as this."
The motion was supported by Mr. Denis Brown, Mr. Molyneux, Mr. Luke Gardiner, Sir H. Cavendish, Mr. Corry, Mr. Hartley, and Mr. Browne (of the College.)
It was opposed by the Attorney-general (Mr. Yelverton), Mr. Pelham (Secretary), Mr. Conolly, Sir Hercules Langrishe (the Provost), Mr. I. H. Hutchinson, Mr. Ogle, and Mr. Grattan, who said,
Sir, I rise to speak on this subject, which has been frequently before the House already. The question is, 'Will you withdraw from the common cause that quota of troops which hitherto you have maintained? Are the circumstances of the country such, as you think, demand it? and if you are weak enough to think so, will His Majesty assent to that opinion? There never was a time when we could make reduction with a worse grace, because this country is now as eminently happy in trade, as Britain is the reverse.
In 1769, England possessed, almost unrivalled, the trade of all the world: she possessed America, and owed 150 millions less than she owes at present. Ireland had no trade at all, and her constitution was denied; yet, at that day, it was thought wise to augment the army; and shall we reduce it now, when we have obtained a free constitution, and a free trade? when we have obtained a judge's bill, a limited mutiny bill, an habeas corpus bill; when every thing that we have demanded, has been conceded? Shall we at that moment withdraw our quota of troops? Before she obtained those advantages, we said to Britain, that provided she would acknowledge our constitutional and commercial rights, we would stand or fall with her; and when they have been acknowledged, to the full satisfaction of every man, it is proposed to withdraw the support of our army. Suppose, instead of saying we will stand or fall with Britain, we had said, "And when these things shall be done, (when our rights shall be acknowledged and established,) we will then, in return, withdraw from you the support of our army:" and yet, in effect, this is the proposal at present made. I do not entirely agree in all that has been said of gratitude: we owe no gratitude but for the plantation trade; but this we owe to England, and to our own honour, that me should not depart from an old covenant. The navy of England protects our trade, and we, as an equivalent, pay 70,000/. a year to maintain the troops destined to serve in the plantations: this is not a dear purchase for partaking that which has cost England so many millions. Has success made us niggardly, and shall we become unkind to England, just at the moment she has shewn kindness to us? We have, indeed, held out the language of magnanimity to England, and shall we fail in the performance? No, there are many other places to make retrenchment: we grant a pension list of 80,000/. a year, yet complain of 70,000/. paid to an army, paid for the protection of the British navy. We may, indeed, make very great reductions in the army extraordinaries; we may make great reductions in the revenue department, and in others: those reductions will, I trust, far exceed the pay of our augmentation. These are retrenchments that ought to be made, but the number of our forces ought not to be diminished.
Mr. Conolly said, "I am against the reduction of the army. The augmentation was my measure, and I hope to see it go on and prosper."
The question was then put, when there appeared, Ayes 58, Noes 132; Majority against the question 74.
Tellers for the Ayes, Mr. Molyneux and the Hon. Denis Browne. for the Noes, Sir Hercules Langrishe and Mr. O'Hara.
November 10. 1783.
OIR H. CAVENDISH this day moved, to take into consideration the resolution of the 28th October last, viz. "That the condition of this kingdom requires that all practicable retrenchments be made in its expenses, consistent with the interest of the kingdom, and the honourable support of His Majesty's government."
The motion was seconded by Mr. Mason, and was supported by the Attorney-general (Mr. Yelvertou).
Mr. Flood, (who, in consequence of illness, was obliged to speak sitting,) proposed an amendment. He said, the military establishment afforded ample room for retrenchment, and that it would be proper to direct the economy of government to that object, and not leave a latitude to administration to pursue whatever measure they pleased. He then moved to amend the resolution by adding, "That the military establishment of this country in particular, will admit of considerable retrenchment, inasmuch as 12,000 men are at present sufficient not only to maintain the defence of this kingdom, but also to afford Great Britain abroad, as many men as were granted to her use by the augmentation; and inasmuch as many and important savings may be made in the expense of maintaining that number of 12,000 men."
This was supported by Mr. Denis Browne, Mr. Molyneux, Mr. Parsons, Mr. Arthur Browne, and Mr. Brownlow. It was opposed by Major Doyle, General LuttereH, Mr. Denis Daly, and Mr. Grattan, who said,
I never gave a vote with more satisfaction in my life, than the vote I gave a few nights ago on this subject. I voted against the retrenchment of the military peace-establishment, to preserve the honour of the nation.
This motion has been put to-night upon a question which has been determined already, by a decision of this House. This establishment has been continued fourteen years.
When it was proposed before, it was moved that an address should be presented to His Majesty, accompanied with a report of 1768. To present such a report would be giving the idea that we could reconsider that report of 1768: that report was then before the administration, and men of the first characters were parties in that report; it was made before the augmentation took place; it was made by the right honourable gentleman who voted for the augmentation in 1769. The question of this night set out with a fair prospect of illsuccess; it is wanted to go into the establishment of 1751; but that is impossible. The first thing which stands in your way, is the additional pay to dragoons; you must strike off the pay to the dragoons, and the increase of pay to the infantry, and the allowances for expences. A soldier has to encounter expences in every article. Does the right honourable gentleman mean to go back to the middle of this century? Since that period the rent of lands have increased one-third ; in order, therefore, to go back, you must lower the price of land, and even that would not be sufficient; you must alter the price of hay and oats, and all the necessaries of life. Making every allowance, what great advantage does he boast of? What would be the saving if the military establishment be reduced to what it was in 1751? In the pay of dragoons 5,100/. and 1,500/. in the pay of infantry: the half-pay must be broke: all expences together amount to 368,000/. The gentleman's political schemes are like nostrums; they will not answer the end proposed. The.gentleman's arguments go to the question of the augmentation: but are we to take from the kingdom part of the support of the empire, merely to save to Ireland an expense of 52,000/. per year? for I can make it appear it is no more. You cannot decide for this motion with honour to your country. The revenues in 1769, when you voted this augmentation, were less; but the revenues for the last two years have increased 100,000/. per year. The free trade is a resource which we have not yet derived the benefit of; but it is such a resource as we had not when we voted the augmentation in 1769; you had not such resources as you have now.
What has been the change of affairs in England? Great Britain has added millions to her debt. You were the propounders of the augmentation, when the kingdom was labouring under every disadvantage in point of trade. Will gentlemen tell you now, that, animated with the spirit of liberty, being now in a superior situation to what you were in 1769, the maintaining of 15,000 men is distressful to Ireland? Every argument in favour of the augmentation in 1769 is in favour of it now; and will you now plead inability, in order to withdraw the covenant? I admire economy as much as any man; but will a generous nation make excuses for breach of a covenant! A nation which has two millious and a half of men, and the benefit of the plantation trade, and an increasing revenue, is such a nation unable to support 15,000 men? This is a question of empire, and not of party.
I have heard in this House great professions of gratitude; and are we now to be told we want gratitude, or are we to banish the idea of generosity from these walls? 1 say, you owe to Great Britain the plantation trade. You have now an interest in the empire of England, to defend it against any attack of the House of Bourbon, and you are only to maintain a part of the army for the general defence of the empire; to maintain 15,000 men. It is but justice to maintain them, for Great Britain has increased her navy, which is for the protection of this kingdom as well as Great Britain; you are necessarily bound to contribute in some shape or other; and you are asked to continue the army of 15,000 men. Strike off all idle expences; look to the accounts, look to the civil establishment, there is an increase of 200,000/.; but the military establishment ought not to be cut off. Apply the amputation where necessary; but do not disband the army. The spirit of the people of England is in favour of Ireland; it is unwise to make her regret those periods in which she gave you advantages: there was a firmness and moderation in the conduct of Irishmen then, and the high character of Ireland will be advanced in adhering to the same conduct now. Great Britain was the object of your heart in 1769, and will you in 1783, be considered as wanting faith? for in 1782, you told Great Britain you would stand or fall by her. Will you now sully the honour of the Irish nation, by disbanding 3,000 men, for saving of 50,000/., in order to take from England those men which you augmented in 1769, before you received any benefits?
No man has a greater respect for the people than I have; but with respect to the present question, it is for the honour of the nation these men should be maintained.
This is not a question of equalization; the point to be decided is, whether the expences of your army can be diminished? can you diminish the pay of a soldier a halfpenny per day? You cannot do it, or you must first order the prices of the necessaries of life to be less. It is not the object or wish of the people to pick the pocket of a poor soldier a halfpenny a day. I think it is for the interest of my country, that these 15,000 should be maintained, as they are part of the army, for the whole empire. I am for making all practicable retrenchments. Let us go into the committee, and see whether you cannot make other retrenchments. This question has been pretty fully discussed; I shall only add, that, as far as I know