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undoubted right, he ought not to be compelled to receive as a favour.
This bill also destroys the great principle of rotationby which I mean the important privilege of every freeman, not to be subject to military service, but in a just proportion of time with other freemen of his vicinage. This appears to me to be a most important privilege. The militia consists of all the people the entire male population. They have their rights not only as between them and the government, but as between each man and the residue. All cannot be called forth at a time, or the country would become a desert. Hence the right of each man is, that he shall only be called into actual service in just rotation with all others. To declare by law that one class shall absolutely serve for one, two, or ten years, is entirely unjust and illegal. Substantially, it makes them regular soldiers. Suppose the war should terminate with the year-then one class will have borne the whole burthen. No such injustice takes place if we use them as militia ought to be used. If we require their services according to the intrinsic nature of the force, and as the rules of justice require, all will be right. They should be ordered out for short periods, and be often relieved during a campaign, so that no one class should be compelled to serve for a longer time than its equal tour of duty may demand. Let it not be urged that so short a service will prevent their improvement in the military art. The error is, in requiring of the militia a service to which they are incompetent, and for which they were never designed. The militia were not intended and should never be relied on to fight pitched battles with a disciplined foe. They are only calculated to serve as an irregular auxiliary force, to harrass and distress the enemy, upon a sudden onset. The sooner they are brought into action after they leave their homes the better. They must have brave men to command them, and be employed in a service suited to their nature and genius. In a service adapted to them they will render essential aid. Thus employed, they dare to follow wherever their officers dare to lead. In a camp they will learn little that is good ; there perhaps you may discipline select corps composed of the flower of your youth, but the militia masse will learn little else than bad habits, and to become disgusted with your service. Let us then abandon the vain expectation of compelling the militia to do the duty and supply the place of regulars. Let us respect their rights, and they will be most useful. If we trample their privileges under foot they will be less dangerous to the enemy than to their oppressors.
It is most worthy of remark that in the act of 1795, all these essential characteristics of the militia force are carefully preserved. That act provides that they shall be called from the parts most contiguous to the place of danger. That they shall not serve more than three months in any one year; and each man only in due rotation with every other able bodied man of the battalion to which he belongs. This act is entitled, as I before remarked, to the most profound respect, as a correct exposition of the constitutional powers of the federal government over the militia of the states--not only because it was enacted whilst Washington was president, and Hamilton his counsellor, but from other circumstances. It is a revised law--a former act, passed in 1792, had been found defective. It was enacted at a time when the go. vernment would naturally be disposed to execute all the authority vested in it, directly after the formidable insurrection in the western counties of Pennsylvania was crushed, and when a foreign war had been recently expected. It is a precedent well worthy to be followed but of late years its principles have been disregarded. The time of service has been doubled, by acts already passed. Now we are to quadruple it. We have rejected or disregarded its other wholesome provisions and restraints ; and boldly demand an entire authority and control over the male population of the country.
But, Mr. Speaker, it is apparent to me that this bill not only destroys the characteristic principles of the militia force, but that it prostrates at once the most important personal rights of our citizens, and also of our state governments.
This bill will deprive all the citizens who shall fall under the drafts, of their dearest personal rights. You force them, against their will, to be soldiers for a whole year. You drag them from their wives, their children, their occupations, their professions and trades. You consign them to the camp, and to the hardships and toils of a common soldier. You ruin them. Take the farmer from his plough-the tradesman from his shop the labourer from his employment, and what but ruin can await men of moderate means and large families, depending upon daily industry for maintenance and support? When they return, at the close of the year, they will find their farms unproductive and in ruins--their customers gone-their business passed away into other hands, and their families in want. What will become of men, with small means, dependent upon daily and steady exertion? What will become of tenants who cultivate the lands of other men? Of the mechanic or labourers on whom this lot may fall? They will, I repeat it, be ruined. Besides, whilst we thus injure and destroy their families, we at: the same time make slaves of them. We deprive them, for a year, of the inestimable right of civil liberty. We place them under martial law-expose them to military tribunals-to ignominious punishment-perhaps to death itself, for asserting what they believe to be their unalien, able right. You make them slaves to their officers, many of whom will be their inferiors in worth and standing in society—perhaps to beardless boys, who having never been taught themselves to obey, are sure to be insolent and overbearing in command.
Such will be the inevitable fate of your militia soldiers, if they are to perform this cruel service.
And why are they to be thus imposed upon ? Will it be answered that it is to save the country? There is no necessity, sir, to save the country by such means. The people do not require us they will not permit us thus to save them. What consolation will it be to them to be saved at such a price? If this war continue, as it probably will, another year, 100,000 more must be provided. The whole country may be impoverished and ruined. We ought to remember that we are legislating for Amer. ican freemen. We may assure ourselves that our countrymen possess this honourable trait of character, that whilst they will be ever ready to submit to us if we are in the right, they will be equally on the alert to resist, if we are in the wrong.
This bill also attacks the rights and sovereignty of the state governments. Congress is about to usurp their undoubted rights; to take from them their militia. By this bill we proclaim that we will have their men-as many as we please—when and where, and for as long a time as we see fit, and for any service we see proper. Do gentlemen of the majority seriously believe that the people and the state governments will submit to this claim ? Do they believe that all the states of this union will submit to this usurpation ? Have you attended to the solemn and almost unanimous declaration and protestation of the Legislature of Connecticut? Have you examined the cloud arising in the east ? Do you yet perceive that it is black, alarming, portentous? Do you wish to put a match to it, and to plunge the country into discord and civil war? And when the enemy is at hand ? No, you do not-you cannot mean to bring about such ills; you must see the necessity of union at such a time as this.
I speak not in the language of menace. But let me entreat you to desist from this course of measures. Give up, I entreat you, all the harsh features of this bill. Indeed you want no new act. The existing laws are sufficient for all fair purposes. Give up also, I conjure you, by the best interests of our common country-give up all the other acts you contemplate for raising armies by compulsion. Rely upon it, the people will not support you in such measures. Let me again ask you, as practical men, do you seriously believe that every state of this union will submit to your compulsory system ? Suppose
reduce the middle and southern states, which may be disposed to submit? You will either invite them, by their interests and feelings to join in the opposition, or you expose them to burthens to which the others successfully object. Thus they will be punished for their loyalty and devotion. Be re-assured, by me, that these measures are not required to defend the country. You have no right to defend the country by such means. Such a defence will leave it not worth defending. It is not for me to offer any advice to this majority--but listen to me, for a moment longer; hearken to my earnest entreaty; that you defend the country by constitutional means; by such
means as the people have been accustomed to, and which will command public confidence and approbation-give up, I again pray you, these cruel plans of compulsory service. Be warned, in season, that if you do not, you will convulse this union to its very centre. Disguise them as you may, the people will discover the entering wedge of conscription. Let your defensive efforts be on our own soil-a few well disciplined regiments properly posted and commanded, aided by the militia, will perform wonders. Remember that recently less than 1500 men have foiled and driven back with disgrace the best appointed and most numerous army that Britain has ever had in Canada. Raise armies by voluntary enlistment only. Be under no apprehension of failure. Employ trusty officers in the recruiting service. Furnish them with money and keep them constantly supplied. The offers you hold out are abundantly sufficient to command men-if they are not, encrease them. Encourage volunteer corps ; arrange your militia under the existing laws; arm them; but call them not from their homes until they are wanted. Respect their rights and interests. Cultivate their good will by attending to their comfort and wants. Leave them to their own commanders. Interfere not with the state governments respecting their militia, but encourage them to make exertions for the common defence. Pass an act guaranteeing the pay of the militia, which may be advanced by the states. Pursue a constitutional and conciliatory course, and you may safely rely upon the strength, valour, and patriotism of the people.
A Speech of Sir John DUNNING, ( afterwards Lord Ash
burton) on the bill for punishing persons suspected of being pirates.
! 6 Sir John Dunning, was born at Ashburton, in Devon. shire, in 1731. After studying some time with his father, who was an attorney, he entered at the Temple, and on being called to the bar, soon rose to eminence in his profession: he obtained a seat in Parliament, and became one of the most distinguished members of opposition at this period.