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Debate On The Bill For The Punishment Of Mutiny And Desertion

Title:     Debate On The Bill For The Punishment Of Mutiny And Desertion
Author: Samuel Johnson [More Titles by Johnson]


The house being resolved into a committee for the consideration of the bill for the punishment of mutiny and desertion, and for the better payment of the army and their quarters, etc. sir William YONGE desired that the twentieth and twenty-sixth clauses of the late act might be read, which were read as follows:

XX. It is hereby enacted, that the officers and soldiers, so quartered and billeted, shall be received by the owners of the inns, livery-stables, ale-houses, victualling-houses, and other houses in which they are allowed to be quartered and billeted by this act; and shall pay such reasonable prices as shall be appointed, from time to time, by the justices of the peace, in their general and quarter-sessions of each county, city, or division, within their respective jurisdictions: and the justices of the peace aforesaid, are hereby empowered and required to set and appoint, in their general or quarter-sessions aforesaid, such reasonable rates, for all necessary provisions for such officers and soldiers, for one or more nights, in the several cities, towns, villages and other places, which they shall come to in their march, or which shall be appointed for their residence and quarters.

XXVI. That the quarters, both of officers and soldiers in Great Britain, may be duly paid and satisfied, be it enacted, that every officer, to whom it belongs to receive the pay or subsistence-money, either for a whole regiment, or particular troops and companies, shall immediately, upon each receipt of every particular sum, on account of pay or subsistence, give publick notice thereof to all persons keeping inns, or other places where officers or soldiers are quartered by virtue of this act: also appoint them and others to repair to their quarters, within four days at the farthest, after the receipt of the same, to declare the accounts or debts (if any shall be) between them and the officers and soldiers quartered in their respective houses: which accounts the said officer or officers are hereby required immediately to discharge, before any part of the said pay or subsistence be distributed to the officers or soldiers: provided the said accounts exceed not for a commission officer of horse, under a captain, for one day's diet and small beer, two shillings; for one commission officer of dragoons, under a captain, one shilling; for one commission officer of foot, under a captain one shilling; and for hay and straw, for one horse, sixpence; for one dragoon or light horseman's diet and small beer, each day sixpence, and hay and straw for his horse, sixpence; and also not to exceed fourpence a-day, for one foot soldier's diet and small beer.

He then spoke to the following effect:--Sir, whether there is any real difficulty in the clauses which you have now heard read, or whether there are such passages as may be easily understood by those who have no interest to mistake them, and which are only clouded by an artificial obscurity, whether they are in themselves capable of different meanings, or whether avarice or poverty have produced unreasonable interpretations, and found ambiguities only because they were determined not to be disappointed in their search; whether this law is disobeyed because it is misunderstood, or only misunderstood by those who have resolved to disobey it, the committee must determine.

It has been for many years understood that innholders and keepers of publick-houses were obliged by this law to supply soldiers quartered upon them with diet and small beer, and hay and straw for their horses, at such rates as are mentioned in the act; nor can I discover that these clauses admit of any other interpretation, or that any other could be intended by the senate by which it was enacted. The pay of the soldiers, sir, was well known to those who gave their consent to this law, it was intended by them that the soldiers should be supplied with necessaries, and it could not be meant that they should pay for them more than they received; they, therefore, established the rate at which they were to be furnished, and fixed the highest rate which the wages of a soldier allow him to pay.

This interpretation was, as I suppose, from its apparent consonance to reason, universally allowed, till the inhabitants of Ledbury, whither soldiers had been sent to suppress a riot and enforce the laws, found their apprehensions so sharpened by their malice, that they discovered in the act an ambiguity, which had, till that time, escaped the penetration of the most sagacious, and, upon comparison of one circumstance with another, found themselves under no obligation to give any assistance to the soldiers.

They therefore, sir, not only refused to afford them victuals at the accustomed rates, but proceeding from one latitude of interpretation to another, at length denied them not only the privilege of diet, but the use of kitchen utensils, to dress the provisions which they bought for themselves, and at last denied their claim to the fire itself.

The soldiers, exasperated not only at the breach of their established and uncontested privileges, but at the privation of the necessaries of life, began to think of methods more speedy and efficacious than those of arguments and remonstrances, and to form resolutions of procuring by force, what, in their opinions, was only by force withheld from them.

What might have been the event of this controversy, to what extremities a contest about things so necessary might have been carried, how wide the contest might have spread, or how long it might have lasted, we may imagine, but cannot determine; had not a speedy decision been procured, its consequences might have been fatal to multitudes, and a great part of the nation been thrown into confusion.

Having received an account of the affair from the officers who commanded at that place, I consulted the attorney-general what was the design of the law, and the extent of the obligation enforced by it, and was answered by him, that the sums which were to be paid for the diet of the men, and the hay and straw for the horses, being specified, it must necessarily be intended, by the legislature, that no higher rates should be demanded;--that the power granted to the justices of peace was wholly in favour of the soldier, and that they might lessen the payment at discretion in places of uncommon cheapness, or years of extraordinary plenty, but could not increase it on any occasion.

Another dispute, sir, of the like nature was occasioned by the late scarcity at Wakefield, where the justices, upon the application of the innkeepers, made use of the authority which they supposed to have been reposed in them by the act, and raised the price of hay and straw to eight-pence, which the soldiers were not able to pay, without suffering for want of victuals.

On this occasion, likewise, I was applied to, and upon consulting the present attorney-general, received the same answer as before; and transmitting his opinion to the place from whence I received the complaint, it had so much regard paid to it, that the additional demand was thence-forward remitted.

The letters which those two learned lawyers sent to me on this subject I have now in my hand; and hope their opinion will be thought sufficient authority for the interpretation of an act of the senate.

Nor is their authority, sir, however great, so strong a proof of the justness of this interpretation, as the reasonableness, or rather necessity of admitting it. The only argument that can be produced against it, is the hardship imposed by it on the innholder, who, as it is objected, must be obliged by the law, so understood, to furnish the soldiers with provisions for a price at which he cannot afford them.

But let it be considered, how much more easily the landlord can furnish them at this price, than they can provide for themselves, and the difficulty will immediately vanish. If soldiers are necessary, they must necessarily be supported, and it appears, upon reflection, that their pay will not support them by any other method. If they are obliged to buy their victuals, they must likewise buy fire and implements to dress them; and what is still a greater hardship, they must sell them, and buy new, at every change of their quarters; if this is impossible, it will be allowed not to be the meaning of the senate, upon whose wisdom it would be a censure too severe to suppose them capable of enacting impossibilities.

But to the innholder, sir, whose utensils are always in use, and whose fire is always burning, the diet of a soldier costs only the original price paid to the butcher; and, in years of common plenty, may be afforded, without loss, at the price mentioned in the act. It cannot, indeed, be denied, that, at present, every soldier is a burden to the family on which he is quartered, in many parts of the kingdom; but, it may be reasonably hoped, that the present scarcity will quickly cease, and that provisions will fall back to their former value; and even, amidst all the complaints with which the severity and irregularity of the late seasons have filled the nation, there are many places where soldiers may be maintained at the stated rates, with very little hardship to their landlords.

However, sir, as this interpretation of the act, though thus supported, both by authority and reason, has been disputed and denied; as some lawyers may be of a different opinion from those whom I have consulted; and as it is not likely that the practice, thus interrupted, will now be complied with as a prescription; I think it necessary to propose, that the price of a soldier's diet be more explicitly ascertained, that no room may remain for future controversies.

Mr. SANDYS then rose, and spoke as follows:--Sir, I am very far from thinking the authority of these learned gentlemen, whose letters are produced, incontrovertible proof of the justness of an interpretation of an act of the senate, where that interpretation is not in itself warranted by reason, nor consistent with the preservation or enjoyment of property. Much less shall I agree to support their interpretation by a new law; or establish, by an act of the legislature, a kind of oppression, for which, however tacitly submitted to, nothing could be pleaded hitherto but custom.

The burden, sir, of a standing army, is already too heavy to be much longer supported, nor ought we to add weight to it by new impositions; it surely much better becomes the representatives of the nation to attend to the complaints of their constituents; and where they are found to arise from real grievances, to contrive some expedient for alleviating their calamities.

A heavy and dreadful calamity, sir, lies now, in a particular manner, upon the people; the calamity of famine, one of the severest scourges of providence, has filled the whole land with misery and lamentation; and, surely, nothing can be more inhuman than to choose out this season of horrour for new encroachments on their privileges, and new invasions of the rights of nature, the dominion of their own houses, and the regulation of their own tables.

The honourable gentleman, sir, has mentioned places where provisions, as he says, are still to be bought at easy rates. For my part, I am fixed in no such happy corner of the kingdom; I see nothing but scarcity, and hear nothing but complaints; and shall, therefore, be very far from admitting now such methods of supporting the army, as were thought too burdensome in times of plenty; nor will combine in laying a new tax upon any class of my countrymen, when they are sinking under an enormous load of imposts, and in want of the necessaries of life.

Sir William YONGE replied, in the manner following:--Sir, nothing is more easy than outcry and exaggeration; nor any thing less useful for the discovery of truth, or the establishment of right. The most necessary measures may often admit of very florid exclamations against them, and may furnish very fruitful topicks of invective.

When our liberties, sir, are endangered, or our country invaded, it may be very easy, when it is proposed that we should have recourse to our swords for security, to bewail, in pathetick language, the miseries of war, to describe the desolation of cities, the waste of kingdoms, the insolence of victory, and the cruelty of power inflamed by hostilities. Yet to what will those representations contribute, but to make that difficult which yet cannot be avoided, and embarrass measures which must, however, be pursued.

Such, sir, appear to me to be the objections made to the methods now proposed of providing necessaries for the soldiers; methods not eligible for their own sake, but which ought not to be too loudly condemned, till some better can be substituted; for why should the publick be alarmed with groundless apprehensions? or why should we make those laws which our affairs oblige us to enact, less agreeable to the people by partial representations?

In the discussion of this question, sir, is to be considered whether soldiers are to be supported, and whether it will be more proper to maintain them by the method of ascertaining the rates at which they are to be supplied, or by increasing their pay.

One of these two ways it is necessary to take; the provisions are already fixed at as high a price as their pay will allow; if, therefore, they are expected to pay more, their wages must be increased.

For my part, I shall comply with either method; though I cannot but think it my duty to declare, that, in my opinion, it is safer to fix the price of provisions, which must sink in their value, than to raise the pay of the army, which may never afterwards be reduced.

Mr. GYBBON then spoke, to this effect:--Sir, I agree with the honourable gentleman, that if soldiers are necessary, we must make provision for their support. This is indisputably certain; but it is no less certain, that where soldiers are necessary, restraints and regulations are necessary likewise, to preserve those from being insulted and plundered by them, who maintain them for the sake of protection.

The usefulness, sir, of this caution seems not to be known, or not regarded, by the gentleman whose proposal gave occasion to this debate; for, by enacting laws in general terms, as he seems to advise, we should leave the unhappy innkeeper wholly at the mercy of his guests, who might plunder and insult him under the protection of the legislature, might riot, as in a conquered country, and say, "To this treatment you are subjected by the determination of the senate."

The unhappy man, sir, could have no prospect, either of quiet or safety, but by gratifying all the expectations of his masters; returning civilities for insolence, and receiving their commands with the same submission that is paid in capitulating towns to the new garrison.

If it be necessary to ascertain the price, is it not necessary, at the same time, to ascertain the species and quantity of provisions to be allowed for it? Is a soldier to fatten on delicacies, and to revel in superfluities, for fourpence a-day? Ought not some limits to be set to his expectations, and some restraints prescribed to his appetite? Is he to change his fare, with all the capriciousness of luxury, and relieve, by variety, the squeamishness of excess?

Such demands as these, sir, may be thought ludicrous and trifling, by those who do not reflect on the insolence of slaves in authority, who do not consider that the license of a military life is the chief inducement that brings volunteers into the army; an inducement which would, indeed, make all impresses superfluous, were this proposal to be adopted: for how readily would all the lazy and voluptuous engage in a state of life which would qualify them to live upon the labour of others, and to be profuse without expense?

Our army may, by this method, be increased; but the number of those by whom they are to be maintained, must quickly diminish: for, by exaction and oppression, the poorer innkeepers must quickly become bankrupts; and the soldiers that lose their quarters, must be added to the dividend allotted to the more wealthy, who, by this additional burden will soon be reduced to the same state, and then our army must subsist upon their pay, because they will no longer have it in their power to increase it by plunder.

It will then be inevitably necessary to divide the army from the rest of the community, and to build barracks for their reception; an expedient which, though it may afford present ease to the nation, cannot be put in practice without danger to our liberties.

The reason, for which so many nations have been enslaved by standing armies, is nothing more than the difference of a soldier's condition from that of other men. Soldiers are governed by particular laws, and subject to particular authority; authority which, in the manner of its operation, has scarcely any resemblance of the civil power. Thus, they soon learn to think themselves exempt from all other laws; of which they either do not discover the use, and, therefore, easily consent to abolish them; or envy the happiness of those who are protected by them, and so prevail upon themselves to destroy those privileges which have no other effect, with regard to them, but to aggravate their own dependence.

These, sir, are the natural consequences of a military subjection; and if these consequences are not always speedily produced by it, they must be retarded by that tenderness which constant intercourse with the rest of the nation produces, by the exchange of reciprocal acts of kindness, and by the frequent inculcation of the wickedness of contributing to the propagation of slavery, and the subversion of the rights of nature; inculcations which cannot be avoided by men who live in constant fellowship with their countrymen.

But soldiers, shut up in a barrack, excluded from all conversation with such as are wiser and honester than themselves, and taught that nothing is a virtue but implicit obedience to the commands of their officer, will soon become foreigners in their own country, and march against the defenders of their constitution, with the same alacrity as against an army of invaders ravaging the coasts; they will lose all sense of social duty, and of social happiness, and think nothing illustrious but to enslave and destroy.

So fatal, sir, will be the effects of an establishment of barracks, or petty garrisons, in this kingdom; and, therefore, as barracks must be built when innkeepers are ruined, and our concurrence with this proposal must produce their ruin, I hope it-will not be necessary to prove by any other argument, that the motion ought to be rejected.

Mr. PELHAM spoke next, in terms to this purpose:--Sir, though I am not inclined, by loud exaggerations and affected expressions of tenderness, to depress the courage or inflame the suspicions of the people, to teach them to complain of miseries which they do not feel, or ward against ill designs, which were never formed, yet no man is more really solicitous for their happiness, or more desirous of removing every real cause of fear and occasion of hardships.

This affection to the people, an affection steady, regular, and unshaken, has always prompted me to prefer their real to their seeming interest, and rather to consult the security of their privileges than the gratification of their passions; it has hitherto determined me to vote for such a body of troops, as may defend us against sudden inroads and wanton insults, and now incites me to propose that some efficacious method may be struck out for their support, without exasperating either the soldiers or their landlords by perpetual wrangles, or adding to the burden of a military establishment the necessity of contentions in courts of law.

I know not with what view those have spoken, by whom the proposal first made has been opposed; they have, indeed, produced objections, some of which are such as may be easily removed, and others such as arise from the nature of things, and ought not, therefore, to be mentioned, because they have no other tendency than to inflame the minds of those that hear them against an army, at a time when it is allowed to be necessary, and prove only what was never denied, that no human measures are absolutely perfect, and that it is often impossible to avoid a greater evil, but by suffering a less.

The question before us, sir, is in its own nature so simple, so little connected with circumstances that may distract our attention, or induce different men to different considerations, that when I reflect upon it, I cannot easily conceive by what art it can be made the subject of long harangues, or how the most fruitful imagination can expatiate upon it.

It is already admitted that an army is necessary; the pay of that army is already established; the accidental scarcity of forage and victuals is such, that the pay is not sufficient to maintain them; how then must the deficiency be supplied? It has been proposed, either to fix the price of provisions with respect to them, or to advance their wages in some proportion to the price of provisions. Both these methods seem to meet with disapprobation, and yet the army is to be supported.

Those who reason thus, do surely not expect to be answered, or at least expect from a reply no other satisfaction than that of seeing the time of the session wasted, and the administration harassed with trivial delays; for what can be urged with any hope of success to him who will openly deny contradictory propositions, who will neither move nor stand still, who will neither disband an army nor support it?

Whether these gentlemen conceive that an army may subsist without victuals till the time of scarcity is over, or whether they have raised those forces only to starve them, I am not sagacious enough to conjecture, but shall venture to observe, that if they have such a confidence in the moderation and regularity of the soldiers, as to imagine that they will starve with weapons in their hands, that they will live within the sight of full tables, and languish with hunger, and perish for want of necessaries, rather than diminish the superfluities of others, they ought for ever to cease their outcries about the licentiousness, insolence, and danger of a standing army.

But, not to sink into levity unworthy of this assembly, may I be permitted to hint that these arts of protracting our debates, are by no means consistent with the reasons for which we are assembled, and that it is a much better proof, both of ability and integrity, to remove objections, than to raise them, and to facilitate, than to retard, the business of the publick.

The proposal made at first was only to elucidate a law which had been regularly observed for fifty years, and to remove such ambiguities as tended only to embarrass the innholders, not to relieve them.

To this many objections have been made, and much declamation has been employed to display the hardships of maintaining soldiers, but no better method has been yet discovered, nor do I expect that any will be started not attended with greater difficulties.

In all political questions, questions too extensive to be fully comprehended by speculative reason, experience is the guide which a wise man will follow with the least distrust, and it is no trivial recommendation of the present method, that it has been so long pursued without any formidable inconvenience or loud complaints.

Hardships, even when real, are alleviated by long custom; we bear any present uneasiness with less regret, as we less remember the time in which we were more happy: at least, by long acquaintance with any grievance we gain this advantage, that we know it in its whole extent, that it cannot be aggravated by our imagination, and that there is no room for suspecting that any misery is yet behind more heavy than that which we have already borne.

Such is the present state of the practice now recommended to this assembly, a practice to which the innkeepers have long submitted, and found it at least tolerable, to which they knew themselves exposed when they took out a license for the exercise of that profession, and which they consider as a tax upon them, to be balanced against the advantages which they expect from their employment.

This tax cannot be denied at present to be burdensome in a very uncommon degree, but this weight has not been of long continuance, and it may be reasonably hoped that it will now be made every day lighter. It is, indeed, true, that no unnecessary impositions ought to be laid upon the nation even for a day; and if any gentleman can propose a method by which this may be taken off or alleviated, I shall readily comply with his proposal, and concur in the establishment of new regulations.

With regard to barracks, I cannot deny that they are justly names of terrour to a free nation, that they tend to make an army seem part of our constitution, and may contribute to infuse into the soldiers a disregard of their fellow-subjects, and an indifference about the liberties of their country; but I cannot discover any connexion between a provision for the support of soldiers in publick-houses, in a state of constant familiarity with their countrymen, and the erection of barracks, by which they will be, perhaps for ever, separated from them, nor can discover any thing in the method of supporting them now recommended that does not tend rather to the promotion of mutual good offices, and the confirmation of friendship and benevolence.

The advocate CAMPBELL next spoke, in substance as follows:--Sir, whence the impropriety of raising objections to any measures that are proposed is imagined to arise I am unable to discover, having hitherto admitted as an incontrovertible opinion, that it is the duty of every member of this assembly to deliver, without reserve, his sentiments upon any question which is brought before him, and to approve or censure, according to his conviction.

If it be his duty, sir, to condemn what he thinks dangerous or inconvenient, it seems by no means contrary to his duty, to show the reason of his censure, or to lay before the house those objections which he cannot surmount by his own reflection. It certainly is not necessary to admit implicitly all that is asserted; and to deny, or disapprove without reason, can he no proof of duty, or of wisdom; and how shall it be known, that he who produces no objections, acts from any other motives, than private malevolence, discontent, or caprice?

Nor is it, sir, to be imputed as a just reason for censure to those who have opposed the motion, that no other measures have been offered by them to the consideration of the committee. It is necessary to demolish a useless or shattered edifice, before a firm and habitable building can be erected in its place: the first step to the amendment of a law is to show its defects; for why should any alteration be made where no inconveniency is discovered?

To the chief objection that was offered, no answer has yet been made, nor has the assembly been informed how the innkeeper shall be able to discover when he has paid the tax which this law lays upon him. This is, indeed, a tax of a very particular kind, a tax without limits, and to be levied at the discretion of him for whose benefit it is paid. Soldiers quartered upon these terms, are more properly raising contributions in an enemy's country, than receiving wages in their own.

Is it intended, by this motion, that the innkeepers shall judge what ought to be allowed the soldier for his money? I do not see, then, that any alteration is proposed in the present condition of our army; for who has ever refused to sell them food for their money at the common price, or what necessity is there for a law to enforce a practice equally to the advantage of all parties? If it be proposed that the soldier shall judge for himself, that he shall set what value he shall think fit on his own money, and that he shall be at once the interpreter and executioner of this new law, the condition of the innkeeper will then be such as no slave in the mines of America can envy, and such as he will gladly quit for better treatment under the most arbitrary and oppressive government.

Nor will the insolence of the soldier, thus invested with unlimited authority, thus entitled to implicit obedience, and exalted above the rest of mankind, by seeing his claim only bounded by his own moderation, be confined to his unhappy landlord. Every guest will become subject to his intrusion, and the passenger must be content to want his dinner, whenever the lord of the inn shall like it better than his own.

That these apprehensions, sir, are not groundless, may be proved from the conduct of these men, even when the law was not so favourable to their designs; some of them have already claimed the sole dominion of the houses in which they have been quartered, and insulted persons of very high rank, and whom our ancient laws had intended to set above the insults of a turbulent soldier. They have seen the provisions which they had ordered taken away by force, partly, perhaps, to please the appetite of the invader, and partly to gratify his insolence, and give him an opportunity of boasting among his comrades, how successfully he blustered.

If it be necessary, sir, to insert a new clause in the act to prevent lawsuits, which, however advantageous they may sometimes be to me, I shall always be ready to obviate, it is surely proper to limit the claim of one party as well as that of the other, for how else is the ambiguity taken away? The difficulty may be, indeed, transferred, but is by no means removed, and the innkeeper must wholly repose himself upon the lenity and justice of the soldier, or apply to the courts of law for the interpretation of the act.

The question before us is said to be so free from perplexity, that it can scarcely give occasion for harangues or disputations; and, indeed, it cannot but be allowed, that the controversy may soon be brought to a single point, and I think nothing more is necessary than to inquire, if innholders shall be obliged to provide victuals for soldiers at a stated price, what, and how much the soldier shall demand.

The power of raising money at pleasure, has been hitherto denied to our kings, and surely we ought not to place that confidence in the lowest, that has been refused to the most exalted of mankind, or invest our soldiers with power, which neither the most warlike of our monarchs could constrain us, nor the most popular allure us to grant.

The power now proposed to be granted, is nothing less than the power of levying money, or what is exactly equivalent, the power of raising the money in their own hands, to any imaginary value. A soldier may, if this motion be complied with, demand for a penny, what another man must purchase at forty times that price. While this is the state of our property, it is surely not very necessary to raise armies for the defence of it; for why should we preserve it from one enemy only to throw it into the hands of another, equally rapacious, equally merciless, and only distinguished from foreign invaders by this circumstance, that he received from our own hands the authority by which he plunders us.

Having thus evinced the necessity of determining the soldier's privileges, and the innkeeper's rights, I think it necessary to recommend to this assembly an uncommon degree of attention to the regulation of our military establishment, which is become not only more burdensome to our fellow-subjects by the present famine, but by the increase of our forces; an increase which the nation will not behold without impatience, unless they be enabled to discern for what end they have been raised.

The people of this nation are, for very just reasons, displeased, even with the appearance of a standing army, and surely it is not prudent to exasperate them, by augmenting the troops in a year of famine, and giving them, at the same time, new powers of extortion and oppression.

Mr. WINNINGTON spoke to this purpose:--Sir, I have heard nothing in this debate, but doubts and objections, which afford no real information, nor tend to the alleviation of those grievances, which are so loudly lamented.

It is not sufficient to point out inconveniencies, or to give striking representations of the hardships to which the people are exposed; for unless some better expedient can be proposed, or some method discovered by which we may receive the benefits, without suffering the disadvantages of the present practice, how does it appear that these hardships, however severe, are not inseparable from our present condition, and such as can only be removed by exposing ourselves to more formidable evils?

As no remedy, sir, has been proposed by those who appear dissatisfied with the present custom, it is reasonable to imagine that none will be easily discovered; and, therefore, I cannot but think it reasonable that the motion should be complied with. By it no new imposition is intended, nor any thing more than the establishment of a practice which has continued for more than fifty years, and never, except on two occasions, been denied to be legal. It is only proposed that the senate should confirm that interpretation of the act which has been almost universally received; that they should do what can produce no disturbance, because it will make no alterations; but may prevent them, because it may prevent any attempts of innovation, or diversity of opinions.

Sir John BARNARD spoke next, to the following effect:--Sir, whether the interpretation of the act which is now contended for, has been universally admitted, it is impossible to know; but it is at least certain, that the practice which is founded upon it, has in many places never been followed, nor, indeed, can it be made general without great impropriety.

Many of those, sir, who are styled keepers of publick-houses, and on whom soldiers are quartered under that denomination, have no conveniency of furnishing provisions, because they never sell them; such are many of the keepers of livery stables, among whom it is the common method to pay soldiers a small weekly allowance, instead of lodging them in their houses, a lodging being all which they conceive themselves obliged to provide, and all that the soldiers have hitherto required; nor can we make any alteration in this method without introducing the license and insolence of soldiers into private houses; into houses hitherto unacquainted with any degree of riot, incivility, or uproar.

The reason for which publick-houses are assigned for the quarters of soldiers, is partly the greater conveniency of accommodating them in families that subsist, by the entertainment of strangers, and partly the nature of their profession, which, by exposing them to frequent encounters with the rude and the debauched, enables them either to bear or repress the insolence of a soldier.

But with regard, sir, to the persons whom I have mentioned, neither of these reasons have any place; they have not, from their daily employment, any opportunities of furnishing soldiery with beds or victuals, nor, by their manner of life, are adapted to support intrusion or struggle with perverseness. Nor can I discover why any man should force soldiers into their houses, who would not willingly admit them into his own.

Mr. COCKS spoke to this effect:--Sir, the practice mentioned by the honourable gentleman, I know to be generally followed by all those that keep alehouses in the suburbs of this metropolis, who pay the soldiers billeted on them a composition for their lodging, nor ever see them but when they come to receive it; so far are they from imagining that they can claim their whole subsistence at any stated price.

It is apparent, therefore, that by admitting this motion, we should not confirm a law already received, but establish a new regulation unknown to the people; that we should lay a tax upon the nation, and send our soldiers to collect it.

General WADE rose, and spoke to this purpose:--Sir, I have been long conversant with military affairs; and, therefore, may perhaps be able to give a more exact account, from my own knowledge, of the antiquity and extent of this practice, than other gentlemen have had, from their way of life; an opportunity of obtaining.

It was, sir, in the reign of king William, the constant method by which the army was supported, as may be easily imagined by those who reflect, that it was common for the soldiers to remain for eight or ten months unpaid, and that they had, therefore, no possibility of providing for themselves the necessaries of life. Their pay never was received in those times by themselves, but issued in exchequer bills for large sums, which the innkeepers procured to be exchanged and divided among themselves, in proportion to their debts.

Such was the practice, sir, in that reign, which has been generally followed to this time, and the rates then fixed have not since been changed; and as no inconveniency has arisen from this method, I can discover no reason against confirming and continuing it.

Mr. PULTKNEY spoke next, in the manner following:--Sir, those that have spoken in defence of the motion, have accused their opponents, with great confidence, of declaiming without arguments, and of wasting the time of the session in a useless repetition of objections. I do not, indeed, wonder that the objections which have been raised should have given some disgust, for who can be pleased with hearing his opponent produce arguments which he cannot answer? But surely the repetitions may be excused; for an objection is to be urged in every debate till it is answered, or is discovered to be unanswerable.

But what, sir, have those urged in defence of their own opinions, who so freely animadvert upon the reasonings of others? What proofs, sir, have they given of the superiority of their own abilities, of the depth of their researches, or the acuteness of their penetration?

They have not produced one argument in favour of their motion, but that it is founded on custom; they have not discovered, however wise and sagacious, that it is always necessary to inquire whether a custom be good or bad; for surely without such inquiry no custom ought to be confirmed. The motion which they would support, is, indeed, useless in either case, for a good custom will continue of itself, and one that is bad ought not to be continued. It is the business of the legislature to reform abuses, and eradicate corruptions, not to give them new strength by the sanction of a law.

It has been urged, sir, that the law in reality exists already in that the act has been interpreted in this sense by the attorney general; and that his interpretation is generally received. This is then the state of the question: if the practice, founded upon this sense of the act, generally prevails, there is no need of a new clause to enforce what is already complied with; if it does not prevail, all that has been urged in defence of the motion falls to the ground.

I do not doubt, sir, that this custom has been received without many exceptions, and therefore think it ought still to remain a custom, rather than be changed into a law; because it will be complied with as a custom, where there are no obstacles to the observation of it; and it ought not to be enforced by law, where it is inconvenient and oppressive.

While the soldier, sir, is moderate in his demands, and peaceable and modest in his behaviour, the innkeeper will cheerfully furnish him even more than he can afford at the stated price; and certainly, rudeness, insolence, and unreasonable expectations, may justly be punished by the forfeiture of some conveniencies. Thus, sir, the innkeeper will preserve some degree of authority in his own house, a place where the laws of nature give every man dominion, and the soldier will continue a regular and inoffensive member of civil society.

The absurdity of leaving the soldier at large in his demands, and limiting the price which the innkeeper is to require, has been already exposed beyond the possibility of reply; nor, indeed, has the least attempt been made to invalidate this objection; for it has been passed in silence by those who have most zealously espoused the motion. The account given by the honourable gentleman of the reason for which this regulation was first introduced in the reign of king William, is undoubtedly just; but it proves, sir, that there is no necessity of continuing it; for the soldiers are now constantly paid, and therefore need not that assistance from the innkeeper, which was absolutely requisite when they were sometimes six months without money.

It has been urged, sir, with great importunity and vehemence, that some expedient should be proposed in the place of this, which so many gentlemen who have spoken on this occasion seem inclined to reject, and which, indeed, cannot be mentioned without contempt or abhorrence. That the soldiers should know, as well as their landlord, their own rights, is undoubtedly just, as well as that they should have some certain means of procuring the necessaries of life; it may, therefore, be proper to enact, that the innkeeper shall either furnish them with diet at the established rates, or permit them to dress the victuals which they shall buy for themselves, with his fire and utensils, and allow them candles, salt, vinegar, and pepper. By this method the soldiers can never be much injured by the incivility of their landlord, nor can the innkeeper be subjected to arbitrary demands. The soldier will still gain, by decency and humanity, greater conveniencies than he can procure for himself by his pay alone, and all opportunities of oppression on either side will, in a great measure, be taken away.

I cannot but express my hopes that this method will be generally approved. Those that have opposed the establishment of an army will be pleased to see it made less grievous to the people; and those that have declared in its favour, ought surely to adopt, without opposition, any measures, by the pursuit of which it may be borne with fewer complaints, and less reluctance.

[The consideration of this question was deferred, and the chairman having moved for leave to sit again, it was resolved to proceed on this business upon the next day but one, in a committee of the whole house.]


The order of the day being read for the house to resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, to consider the bill for punishing mutiny and desertion, and the better paying the army and their quarters,

Sir William YONGE spoke, in substance as follows:--Sir, the last day which was assigned to the consideration of this bill, was spent in long altercations, in vague and unnecessary disquisitions, in retrospective reflections upon events long past, and in aggravating of grievances that may never happen; much sagacity was exerted, and much eloquence displayed, but no determination was attained, nor even that expedient examined, by which those objections might be removed which appeared so important, or those dangers obviated which were represented so formidable and so near.

I hope, sir, part of the time which has intervened between that debate and the present day, has been employed by the gentlemen, whose scruples were so numerous, and whose caution is so vigilant, in contriving some methods of maintaining the army without oppressing the victuallers, and of providing for our defence against foreign enemies without subjecting us to the evils of discontent and disaffection, which they impute to the present state of the military establishment.

To object for ever, and to advance nothing, is an easy method of disputation upon any question, but contributes very little to the increase of knowledge: an artful and acute objector may confound, and darken, and disturb, but never assists inquiry, or illustrates truth.

In political questions, sir, it is still more easy and less ingenuous; for all political measures are in some degree right and wrong at the same time: to benefit some they very frequently bear hard upon others, and are, therefore, only to be approved or rejected as advantages appear to overbalance the inconveniencies, or the inconveniencies to outweigh the advantages.

It is, sir, the proper province of a senator to promote, not to obstruct the publick counsels; and when he declares his disapprobation of any expedient, to endeavour to substitute a better: for how can he be said to sustain his part of the general burden of publick affairs, who lays others under the necessity of forming every plan, and inventing every expedient, and contents himself with only censuring what he never endeavours to amend?

That every man, who is called forth by his country to sit here as the guardian of the publick happiness, is obliged, by the nature of his office, to propose, in this assembly, whatever his penetration or experience may suggest to him as advantageous to the nation, I doubt not but all that hear me are sufficiently convinced; and, therefore, cannot but suppose that they have so far attended to their duty, as to be able to inform us how the present inconveniencies of this bill may be remedied, and its defects supplied.

To show, sir, at least my inclination to expedite an affair so important, I shall lay before the house an amendment that I have made to the clause, pursuant to a hint offered the last day by an honourable member, "That all innholders, victuallers, etc. shall be obliged to furnish soldiers with salt, vinegar, small beer, candles, fire, and utensils to dress their victuals, and so doing shall not be obliged to supply the troops with provisions, except on a march."

I am far, sir, from thinking the clause, as it will stand after this amendment, complete and unexceptionable, being conscious that some articles in it may require explanation. The quantity of small beer to be allowed to each soldier must necessarily be ascertained, in order to prevent endless and indeterminable disputes; for one man, sir, may demand a greater quantity than another, and a man may be prompted by malice or wantonness to demand more than health requires; it will, therefore, be proper to limit the quantity which must be furnished, that neither the soldier may suffer by the avarice of his landlord, nor the landlord be oppressed by the gluttony of the soldier.

With regard to this question, sir, I expect to find different opinions in this assembly, which every man is at liberty to offer and to vindicate; and I shall take this opportunity of proposing on my part, that every man may have a daily allowance of three quarts. One quart to each meal may be allowed in my opinion to be sufficient, and sure no gentleman can imagine that by this limitation much superfluity is indulged.

There are some parts, sir, of this kingdom, in which cider is more plentiful, and cheaper than small beer; consequently, it may be for the ease of the victualler to have the choice allowed him of furnishing one or the other; it will, therefore, be a very proper addition to this clause, that the innkeepers shall allow the soldier, every day, three quarts of either small beer or cider.

That penal sanctions, sir, are essential to laws, and that no man will submit to any regulations inconvenient to himself, but that he may avoid some heavier evil, requires not to be proved; and, therefore, to complete this clause, I propose that the victualler who shall neglect or refuse to observe it, shall be subject to some fine for his non-compliance.

Mr. PELHAM spoke to this effect:--Sir, I cannot omit this opportunity of observing how much the burden of the army is diminished by the judicious regulations invariably observed in the late reigns, and how little the assignment of troops is to be dreaded by the victualler.

In the reign of king William, sir, before funds were established, while the credit of the government was low, the measures of the court were often obviated or defeated by the superiority of the discontented party, and the supplies denied which were necessary to support them, and in expectation of which they had been undertaken, it was not uncommon for the towns in which the troops were stationed, to murmur at their guests; nor could they be charged with complaining without just reasons: for to quarter soldiers upon a house, was in those days little less than to send troops to live at discretion.

As all supplies, sir, were then occasional and temporary, and nothing was granted but for the present exigence, the prevalence of the opposition, for a single session, embarrassed all the measures of the court in the highest degree; their designs were at a stand, the forces were unpaid, and they were obliged to wait till another session for an opportunity of prosecuting their schemes.

Thus, sir, the soldiers were sometimes five months without their pay, and were necessarily supported by the innkeeper at his own expense, with how much reluctance and discontent I need not mention. It cannot but be immediately considered, upon hearing this account of the soldier's condition, with how many reproaches he would receive his victuals, how roughly he would be treated, how often he would be insulted as an idler, and frowned upon as an intruder. Nor can it be imagined that such affronts, however they might be provoked, would be borne without return, by those who knew themselves not the authors of the provocation, and who thought themselves equal suf-ferers with those who complained. When the innkeeper growled at the soldier, the soldier, it may be supposed, seldom failed to threaten or to plunder the innkeeper, and to rise in his demands as his allowance was retrenched.

Thus, sir, the landlord and his guest were the constant enemies of each other, and spent their lives in mutual complaints, injuries, and insults.

But by the present regularity of our military establishment, this great evil is taken away; as the soldier requires no credit of the victualler, he is considered as no great incumbrance on his trade; and being treated without indignities, like any other member of the community, he inhabits his quarters without violence, insolence, or rapacity, and endeavours to recommend himself by officiousness and civility.

In the present method of payment, sir, the troops have always one month's pay advanced, and receive their regular allowance on the stated day; so that every man has it in his power to pay his landlord every night for what he has had in the day; or if he imagines himself able to procure his own provisions at more advantage, he can now go to market with his own money.

It appears, therefore, to me, sir, that the amendment now proposed is the proper mean between the different interests of the innkeeper and soldier; by which neither is made the slave of the other, and by which we shall leave, to both, opportunities of kindness, but take from them the power of oppression.

Mr. CAREW next spoke as follows:--Sir, the amendment now offered is not, in my opinion, so unreasonable or unequitable as to demand a warm and strenuous opposition, nor so complete as not to be subject to some objections; objections which, however, may be easily removed, and which would, perhaps, have been obviated, had they been foreseen by the gentleman who proposed it.

The allowance, sir, of small liquors proposed, I cannot but think more than sufficient; three quarts a-day are surely more than the demands of nature make necessary, and I know not why the legislature should promote, or confirm in the soldiery, a vice to which they are already too much inclined, the habit of tippling.

The innkeeper, sir, will be heavily burdened by the obligation to supply the soldier with so many of the necessaries of life without payment; and, therefore, it may be justly expected by him, that no superfluities should be enjoyed at his expense.

But there remains another objection, sir, of far more importance, and which must be removed before this clause can be reasonably passed into a law. It is not declared, or not with sufficient perspicuity, that it is to be left to the choice of the innkeeper, whether he will furnish the soldier with provisions at fourpence a-day, or with the necessaries enumerated in the clause for nothing. If it is to be left to the choice of the soldier, the victualler receives no relief from the amendment, to whose option, since he must suffer in either case, it ought to be referred, because he only can tell by which method he shall suffer least.

Mr. CORNWALL spoke in the manner following:--Sir, it is not without the greatest diffidence that I rise to oppose the gentleman who offered the amendment; for his abilities are so far superiour to mine, that I object without hope of being able to support my objection, and contend with an absolute certainty of being overcome. I know not whether it may be allowed me to observe, that the difference between our faculties is, with regard to strength and quickness, the same as between the cider of his county and that of mine, except that in one part of the parallel the advantage is on our side, and in the other on his.

The cider, sir, of our county is one of our most valuable commodities; so much esteemed in distant places, that our merchants often sell it by the bottle, for more than the soldier has to give for the provision of a day; and of such strength, that I, who am accustomed to the use of it, never was able to drink three quarts in any single day.

If, therefore, sir, the soldier is to have three quarts of this cider, when small beer is not easily to be procured, not only the innkeeper, but the army will be injured; for what greater harm can be done to any man, than to initiate him in a habit of intemperance? and what outrages and insolencies may not be expected from men trusted with swords, and kept, from day to day, and from month to month, in habitual drunkenness by a decree of the senate?

Sir William YONGE replied to this purpose:--Sir, I know not why the gentleman has thought this a proper opportunity for displaying his eloquence in the praise of his own cider. That he loves his own county cannot be wondered, for no passion is more universal, and few less to be censured;-but he is not to imagine that the produce of his native soil will be generally allowed to excel that of other counties, because early habits have endeared it to him, and familiarized it to his particular palate.

The natives of every place prefer their own fruits and their own liquor, and, therefore, no inference can be drawn from approbation so apparently partial. From this prejudice I am far from suspecting myself free, nor am desirous or industrious to overcome it: neither am I afraid of exposing myself to all the censure that so innocent a prepossession may bring upon me, by declaring that, in my opinion, the cider of my native county is of equal excellence with that which this gentleman has so liberally extolled.

Mr. CORNWALL answered to the following effect:--Sir, how little I expect victory in this controversy I have already declared, and I need not observe of how small importance it is what soil produces cider of the greatest excellence and value; since, if there be other places where the cider is equally esteemed, and purchased at the same rate, it is yet more necessary to provide, by some exception, that the soldier shall not be entitled to demand, of the victualler, liquor to more than thrice the value of his pay, nor be allowed to revel in continual drunkenness, and to corrupt his morals, and enervate his limbs by incessant debauchery.

But since, sir, the preference due to the cider of my county has been denied, in my opinion, with great partiality and injustice, I think myself obliged, by all the laws of honour and gratitude, to stand up once more to vindicate its superiority, and assert its value.

The laws of honour, sir, require this from me, as they oblige every man to stand forth a vindicator of merit slighted and oppressed; and gratitude calls loudly upon me to exert myself in the protection of that to which I have been often indebted for a pleasing suspense of care, and a welcome flow of spirit and gaiety.

The cider, sir, which I am now rescuing from contemptuous comparisons, has often exhilarated my social hours, enlivened the freedom of conversation, and improved the tenderness of friendship, and shall not, therefore, now want a panegyrist. It is one of those few subjects on which an encomiast may expatiate without deviating from the truth.

Would the honourable gentleman, sir, who has thus vilified this wonder-working nectar, but honour my table with his company, he would quickly be forced to retract his censures; and, as many of his countrymen have done, confess that nothing equal to it is produced in any other part of the globe; nor will this confession be the effect of his regard to politeness, but of his adherence to truth.

Of liquor like this, sir, two quarts is, undoubtedly, sufficient for a daily allowance, in the lieu of small beer; nor ought even that to be determined by the choice of the soldier, but of the innkeeper, for whose benefit this clause is said to be inserted, and from whose grievances I hope we shall not suffer our attention to be diverted by any incidental questions, or ludicrous disputes.

Mr. GORE then spoke to the following effect:--Sir, that the allowance of two quarts a-day is sufficient, and that to demand more is a wanton indulgence of appetite, is experimentally known, and, therefore, no more ought to be imposed upon the innkeeper.

Nor is this, sir, the only part of the clause that requires our consideration; for some of the other particulars to be provided by the victualler, may easily furnish perverse tempers with an opportunity of wrangling: vinegar is not to be had in every part, of the kingdom, and, where it cannot be procured, ought not to be required; for neither reason nor experience will inform us that vinegar ought to be ranked among the necessaries of life.

Sir William YONGE made the following reply:--Sir, by the alteration now made in the clause, the innkeepers are effectually relieved from a great part of the burden which, in my opinion, this act has hitherto laid upon them; the necessity of furnishing the soldiers quartered upon them, with provisions at the stated price, whatever might be the scarcity of the season or of the country. That this was the intention of the act, is asserted by those whose reputation and promotion are sufficient evidences of their ability in the interpretation of our laws.

The innkeeper may now either accept or refuse the limited price, as it shall appear to him most consistent with his interest; nor will there be, for the future, any room for murmuring at unreasonable demands, since he may oblige that soldier whom he cannot satisfy, to please himself better at his own expense.

The choice of the liquor is, likewise, wholly referred to the innkeeper; for the words in the clause requiring that he shall furnish three quarts of small beer or cider, he complies, indisputably, with the law by supplying either; and, therefore, the value of cider in any particular county is not of much importance in the question before us; if cider be more valuable than small beer, it may be withheld; if it be cheaper, it may be substituted in its place; so that the innkeeper has nothing to consult but his own interest.

That this is the meaning of the clause, is, I suppose, obvious to every man that hears it read; and, therefore, I see no reason for any alterations, because I know not any effect which they can possibly have, except that of obscuring the sense which is now too clear to be mistaken.

Sir John BARNARD spoke next, to the effect following:--Sir, though it should be granted, that the clause before us is intelligible to every member of this assembly, it will not certainly follow, that there is no necessity of farther elucidations; for a law very easily understood by those who make it, may be obscure to others who are less acquainted with our general intention, less skilled in the niceties of language, or less accustomed to the style of laws.

It is to be considered, that this law will chiefly affect a class of men very little instructed in literature, and very unable to draw inferences; men to whom we often find it necessary, in common cases, to use long explanations, and familiar illustrations, and of whom it maybe not unreasonably suspected, that the same want of education, which makes them ignorant, may make them petulant, and at once incline them to wrangle, and deprive them of the means of deciding their controversies.

That both innholders and soldiers are, for the greatest part, of this rank and temper, I suppose, sir, every gentleman knows, from daily observation; and, therefore, it will, I hope, be thought necessary to descend to their understandings, and to give them laws in terms of which they will know the meaning; we shall, otherwise, more consult the interest of the lawyers than the innholders, and only, by one alteration, produce a necessity of another.

I am therefore desirous, sir, that all the difficulties which have been mentioned by every gentleman on this occasion, should be removed by clear, familiar, and determinate expressions; for what they have found difficult, may easily be, to an innholder or soldier, absolutely inexplicable.

I cannot but declare, while I am speaking on this subject, that in my opinion, two quarts of liquor will be a sufficient allowance. If we consider the demands of nature, more cannot be required; if we examine the expense of the innholder, he ought not to supply soldiers with a greater quantity for nothing. It is to be remembered, that small beer, like other liquors, is charged with an excise in publick-houses; and that two quarts will probably cost the landlord a penny, and as we cannot suppose that fire, candles, vinegar, salt, pepper, and the use of utensils, and lodging, can be furnished for less than threepence a-day, every soldier that is quartered upon a publick-house, may be considered as a tax of six pounds a-year--a heavy burden, which surely ought not to be aggravated by unnecessary impositions.

[The committee having gone through the bill, and settled the amendments, the chairman was ordered to make his report the next day.]


The report was read, and the amendments to the clauses in debate, which then ran thus:--

That the officers and soldiers to be quartered and billeted as aforesaid, shall be received, and furnished with diet and small beer by the owners of the inns, livery stables, alehouses, victualling-houses, etc. paying and allowing for the same the several rates mentioned.

Provided, that in case the innholder on whom any non-commission officers or soldiers shall be quartered, by virtue of this act, (except on a march,) shall be desirous to furnish such officers or soldiers with candles, vinegar, and salt, and with either small beer or cider, not ex-ceeding three quarts for each man a-day gratis, and to allow them the use of fire, and the necessary utensils for dressing and eating their meat, and shall give notice of such his desire to the commanding officers, and shall furnish and allow them the same accordingly; then, and in such case, the non-commission officers and soldiers so quartered shall provide their own victuals; and the officer to whom it belongs to receive, or that does actually receive the pay and subsistence of such non-commission officers and soldiers, shall pay the several sums, payable out of the subsistence-money for diet and small beer, to the non-commission officers and soldiers aforesaid, and not to the innholder or other person on whom such non-commission officers or soldiers are quartered.

The question being put whether this clause should stand thus,

Mr. CAREW spoke to this effect:--Sir, though it may, perhaps, be allowed, that the circumstances of our present situation oblige us to support a more numerous army than in former years, surely no argument can be drawn from them that can show the necessity of a profuse allowance to our soldiers, or of gratifying their desires by the oppression of the innholders.

If, sir, the designs of our enemies are so malicious, and their power so formidable, as to demand augmentations of our troops, and additions to our natural securities, they ought, surely, to impress upon us the necessity of frugal measures, that no useless burdens may be imposed upon the people.

To furnish two quarts of beer, sir, every day for nothing, is, undoubtedly, an imposition sufficiently grievous; and I can, therefore, discover no reason for which an allowance of three should be established; a proposal injurious to the victualler, because it exacts more than he can afford to allow, and of no benefit to the soldier, because it offers him more than he can want.

Sir William YONGE spoke next, to this purpose:--Sir, if it is an instance of misconduct to spend upon any affair more time than the importance of it deserves, I am afraid that the clause, to which our attention is now recalled, may expose us to censure, and that we may be charged with neglecting weighty controversies, and national questions, to debate upon trifles; of wasting our spirits upon subjects unworthy of contention; of defeating the expectations of the publick, and diverting our enemies rather than opposing them.

But, sir, as nothing has a more immediate tendency to the security of the nation than a proper establishment of our forces, and the regulation of their quarters is one of the most necessary and difficult parts of the establishment; it is requisite that we think no question of this kind too trivial for our consideration, since very dangerous disturbances have often been produced by petty disputes.

The quantity, sir, of small beer to be allowed by the victualler to those soldiers who shall provide their own victuals, was disputed yesterday, and, as I thought, agreed upon; but since this question is revived, I must take the opportunity to declare, that we ought not to assign less than three quarts a-day to each man; for it is to be remembered by those who estimate the demands by their own, how much their way of life is different from that of a common soldier, and how little he can be charged with wantonness and superfluity, for drinking more small liquor than themselves.

There are few members of this house, who do not, more than once a-day, drink tea, coffee, chocolate, or some other cooling and diluting infusion; delicacies which the soldier cannot purchase; to which he is entirely a stranger, and of which the place must be supplied by some other cheap and wholesome liquors.

If, sir, those gentlemen whose close attention to the interest of the innholder has, perhaps, abstracted them, in some degree, from any regard to the necessities of a soldier, will consent to allow him five pints a-day, I shall contend no longer; for though I cannot agree that it is a sufficient provision, yet, as other gentlemen, equally able to judge in this subject with myself, are of a different opinion, I shall show my regard for their sentiments by desisting from opposition.

Lord BALTIMORE spoke in substance as follows:--Sir, I am not able to discover any necessity of compromising this debate, by taking the mean between the two different opinions, or for denying to the soldiers what every labourer or serving-man would murmur to be refused for a single day.

I believe, sir, every gentleman, who examines the expense of his family, will find that each of his servants consumes daily at least three quarts of small beer, and surely it is not to be required that a soldier should live in a perpetual state of war with his constitution, and a constant inability to comply with the calls of nature.

General HANDASYD spoke to the following purpose:--Sir, the inclination shown by several gentlemen for a penurious and scanty provision for the soldiers, must, in my opinion, proceed from an inattentive consideration of their pay, and will, therefore, be removed, by laying before them an account of his condition, and comparing his daily pay with his daily expenses.

The whole pay of a foot soldier, sir, is sixpence a-day, of which he is to pay fourpence to his landlord for his diet, or, what is very nearly the same, to carry fourpence daily to the market, for which how small a supply of provisions he can bring to his quarters, especially in time of scarcity, I need not mention.

There remain then only twopence, sir, to be disbursed for things not immediately necessary for the preservation of life, but which no man can want without being despicable to others and burdensome to himself. Twopence a-day is all that a soldier has to lay out upon cleanliness and decency, and with which he is likewise to keep his arms in order, and to supply himself with some part of his clothing. If, sir, after these deductions, he can, from twopence a-day, procure himself the means of enjoying a few happy moments in the year with his companions over a cup of ale, is not his economy much more to be envied than his luxury? Or can it be charged upon him that he enjoys more than his share of the felicities of life? Is he to be burdened with new expenses lest he should hoard up the publick money, stop the circulation of coin, and turn broker or usurer with twopence a-day?

I have been so long acquainted, sir, with the soldier's character, that I will adventure to secure him from the charge of avarice, and to promise that whatever he shall possess not necessary to life, he will enjoy to the advantage of his landlord.

Then the advocate CAMPBELL spoke in substance as follows:--Sir, I am far from intending to oppose this proposal of five pints, though, upon a rigorous examination, it might appear more than the mere wants of nature require; for I cannot but declare that this question has too long engaged the attention of the house, and that the representatives of a mighty nation beset with enemies, and encumbered with difficulties, seem to forget their importance and their dignity, by wrangling from day to day upon a pint of small beer.

I conceive the bill, which we are now considering, sir, not as a perpetual and standing law, to be interwoven with our constitution, or added to the principles of our government, but as a temporary establishment for the present year; an expedient to be laid aside when our affairs cease to require it; an experimental essay of a new practice, which may be changed or continued according to its success.

To allow, sir, five pints of small beer a-day to our soldiers, for a single year, can produce no formidable inconveniency, and may, though it should not be entirely approved, be of less disadvantage to the publick, than the waste of another day.

[An alteration was made to five pints, instead of three quarts; and the bill, thus amended, was ordered to be engrossed, and a few days afterwards, being read a third time, was passed, and ordered to the lords, where it occasioned no debate.]

[The end]
Samuel Johnson's non-fiction: Debate On The Bill For The Punishment Of Mutiny And Desertion