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fleet, the first line of defence, and the land batteries, the second line which the Duke proposed to erect, it was necessary to have an increased force, and Lord Palmerston strongly urged the formation of a militia of 100,000 men.
Encouraged by the reception which had been accorded to him by the Prime Minister, and by the known views of the Foreign Secretary, the Duke on February 8, 1847, drew up a fresh memorandum, which contains ample evidence of the alarm which he felt. In this memorandum he assumed that, if war with France broke out, an attack on the shores of England would be immediately attempted, and that, if the British fleet were defeated, a battle would have to be fought on the soil of England for “the possession, sovereignty, and independence of the British Empire." But we had only 50,000 soldiers in the British Islands, and there were not 5,000 who could be employed “on any service whatever without leaving standing at their posts without relief all men now on duty, whether in guard of the Queen's person or her palaces, of naval arsenals and stores, of the the Bank, of the Tower, or elsewhere." Men, therefore, from the Duke's standpoint, were urgently necessary; and the Duke recommended that the militia, which he computed at 150,000 men, should be “raised, organised, trained, and disciplined ;” and that 20,000 men should be added to the recruiting companies and depôts of the regular regiments of the army serving abroad. In addition to this substantial increase to our military force, the Duke thought it essential that works of fortification should be erected to secure existing harbours and roadsteads, and that fortified harbours of refuge should be constructed at Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Dover, and Newhaven or Seaford.
This formidable memorandum was circulated among the members of the Cabinet, together with a printed minute, and the heads of a draft Bill, prepared by Sir Robert Peel's Administration, for reviving the militia. The Cabinet, however, thought that when the session had already begun it was hopeless to find time to consider the many matters with which the memorandum dealt; and that the state of the finances,
burdened with the heavy cost of the Irish famine, and the proximity of a general election, made it inadvisable to deal with the subject immediately. Lord Palmerston, indeed, made a vigorous protest against delay; but men like Lord Grey and even Lord Auckland agreed with Sir Charles Wood and Sir George Grey in declaring that postponement was inevitable. Nothing accordingly was done during the remainder of the Parliament. But after the dissolution Lord John took the matter into his own hands and drew up the following memorandum for circulation in the Cabinet :
September 21, 1847. I propose in this memorandum to treat only of a militia force for the United Kingdom.
The object to be attained is to have a sufficient number of men enrolled and organised, who might be available for the defence of the country on the first breaking out of war. The reasons urged by the Duke of Wellington against a force of disbanded soldiers appear to me to be very formidable.
What I should propose, therefore, in the view of raising a considerable force without too great a strain on the finances of the country, is as follows :
1. That the Local Militia Acts, passed at the end of the last war, should be taken as the model for the proposed enactments. Officers of the army, not belonging to the counties, to be admissible to any rank under that of lieutenant-colonel.
2. That the men should be raised in the counties by beat of drum ; and, if the numbers should be deficient, the poor law unions should furnish the remainder in proportion to their population.
3. That the present militia staff should be used for the purpose of recruiting for the local militia.
4. That the number of men to be raised for Great Britain should be 72,000. The expense of keeping that number out for training and exercise for two months in each year would be one-sixth of keeping the whole number embodied [i.e. for a whole year], or 12,000 at £40 a man= £480,000.
5. That in Ireland, where a similar force would not acquire steadiness with so short a training, four regiments should be raised, to be called respectively, the Leinster, Ulster, Munster, and Connaught Militia.
6. That each of these regiments should consist of 1250 menin all 5000 men ; that they should not be obliged to leave the United Kingdom, but be disposable in any portion or station of Great Britain.
7. The cost of this force, at the same rate of £40 a man, would be £200,000.
8. The whole annual cost of the proposed force would thus be £480,000 + £200,000= £680,000. The produce of one penny in the pound income tax is about £700,000 in Great Britain. The cost of clothing and arms at the commencement is to be added, but it may safely be affirmed that, at the yearly charge of one penny in the pound additional income tax, the country would have the benefit of an increase of 72,000 organised, and 5000 drilled troops to the force at present available to repel invasion.1
During the next few months a good deal of correspondence took place on the plans which were thus formulated; and the modest scheme of defence which Lord John had sketched in September showed a constant tendency to grow. Before the end of the year the Cabinet had two other plans before it. (1.) Lord Palmerston desired to reorganise the regular militia, enro'led either by voluntary enlistment, or if necessary by ballot, consisting of 140,000 men, and liable to serve in any part of the United Kingdom. (2.) Mr. Fox Maule, the Secretary at War, believing, with Lord John, that it would be a hardship to take balloted men from their homes and business, and that the hardship would be increased if the ballot took place in time of peace and the men were embodied on the outbreak of war, desired to postpone the organisation of a regular militia till the outbreak or approach of war made it indispensable; and in the meanwhile to rely on a local militia, liable except in case of invasion to serve only in their own counties; and to encourage the formation of a volunteer force.
Lord Palmerston's objections to Mr. Fox Maule's scheme were stated and re-stated by him in long letters to Lord John
i Sir C. Wood wrote in reference to this memorandum : ‘Dear Lord John, - There is no gainsaying this, but it is hard upon us to have to make up for the deficiencies of our predecessors. -Yours, C.W.!
in December 1847 and January 1848. These elaborate letters are far too long to quote in this biography. But, apart from the evidence which they afford that Lord Palmerston shared the alarms of the Duke of Wellington, they have an interest of their own; for they anticipate the objections which Lord Palmerston urged in 1852 to Lord John's Militia Bill, and which led to the final defeat of Lord John's Administration.
In the meanwhile the discussion, which had been chiefly confined to the Cabinet and to its advisers, had extended to the general public. A letter of the Duke of Wellington's, written in confidence to Sir John Burgoyne early in 1847, was suffered through Sir John's indiscretion to appear a twelvemonth afterwards in the columns of a newspaper; and the public was alarmed to find that, in the opinion of the first soldier alive, the whole south coast of England—with hardly an exception—was open to invasion, and that the country had no means of opposing a hostile force. The effect which this letter produced on the public mind must be evident to any one who has read one of the most famous of Mr. Cobden's pamphlets, ‘The Three Panics.' The pain which its publication gave to its author will be seen from the following note :
STRATHFIELDSAYE: January 7, 1848. MY DEAR LORD,- I assure you that no person saw with more pain than myself the publication in the newspapers of a confidential letter from myself to the Chief Engineer. I heard in the Athenæum that this letter had been shown about, and had been commented upon; and after inquiry I found that it was true, and I saw a copy of it! But I never could discover in what manner it had got out. But I understand that Sir J. Burgoyne entrusted my letter to his daughters, who communicated to their friends not only in Sussex but in Ireland ! I have been in communication upon this subject with the Master General of the Ordnance ever since the formation of your Lordship’s Government. I communicated to him all that had passed between me and the former Master General, the whole of which had been seen by Sir Robert Peel.
Nothing can be more legitimate than a confidential letter from the Commander-in-Chief to the Chief Engineer. He had been
in constant confidential communication with Lord Anglesey and me, and I could not think it possible that a word that I should write would ever be read by the public.
My opinion has invariably been that the effectual and indeed only safe mode of bringing the important subject of that letter to the cognisance of the public was by the Government itself, and I cannot state how much I feel that this letter should have been published, which certainly treats of the whole subject, past, present, and future.—Believe me, ever yours most faithfully,
WELLINGTON. I will attend your Lordship in London whenever you will send for me.
Forced on by the prevalent excitement, and unable to reconcile the contrary views of his colleagues, Lord John drew up the following memorandum, which was printed and circulated confidentially to the Cabinet on January 10:
The question of national defence is now likely to obtain that public attention which two years ago it seemed so little likely to command. At the same time, the Government must be careful not to exaggerate the danger, any more than to overrate the security, of our position.
France is the country nearest to us as a neighbour, most formidable as a rival, and with whom we have at once the most frequent opportunities of friendly concert and the greatest probability of irreconcilable quarrel. The danger of war, it must be observed, will be greatly increased if the two countries are in an unequal state of preparation. For, if both are unprepared, both will take some time to prepare before hostilities are begun ; if both are prepared, both will be unwilling to rush into war at the hazard of severe and instant retaliation, or at least of successful repulse. But, if one is prepared and the other is not, from the moment when war becomes probable the State which is prepared becomes eager to take advantage of its superiority, before the balance of forces can be restored by measures of recruiting and equipment.
In August 1840 and in August 1844 we were in considerable danger of sudden hostilities without much previous time for preparation. Thus it is clear that hostilities may break out suddenly,