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joyment in the contemplations of coming good, until the hours of time shall have run out, like the man who never ceas'd to believe, during sixty years, that he should, one day or other, ride in a coach and six. The following stanzas may not be unacceptable to such.
I PREPARE to record the first instance of one of the most eminent of the pleaders answering a case without a fee, and I think of it with all that astonishment of respect which never fails to confound the vulgar in their apprehension of things. Previously however to a consideration of the opinion of Mr. Erskine on the Volunteer establishment, I shall first endeavour to appreciate justly the moral, religious, and political character of a volunteer. A volunteer is a man who steps forth in the hour of necessity to defend his country, his king, his possessions, and to watch the safety and repose of his domestic family; such a man has the most lively affectionate impressions, aided by the strongest reasoning, to engage him in so honourable a service; his cause is so just against an invader, that he is rendered almost invincible by the pureness of motive which brings him into the field. Prowess is the effect of unsullied honour working in the mind, which never fails to produce acts of valour. I believe that, originally, many became volunteers that they might
wear fine regimentals, and parade the streets in them. These holiday soldiers did not, however, continue long in that state of military uselessness; they were, in the present armament, called to a severe attention to duty, and the practice of the manual exercise, that put an end to all trifling: some few, doubtless, finding that soldiering was no longer play, but work, sent in resignations; but these were truly inefficient men, and the sooner they left the ranks the better. The principle which directs and instructs the volunteer, will instruct him that having once engaged to serve, nothing ought to compel him to quit the post of honour but the real incapabilities of ill health, or other imperious circumstances. The severities of discipline should be approved, and held in admiration by the volunteer; he should hold in contempt all effeminacy, and like the true seaman teize and torment the lubber who sculks below deck when all hands are called, and who is generally punished by being what they call seized up in the mizen shrouds. Such is the spirit which has made the navy what it is. No petty excuses for a neglect of duty should be acknowledged, much less admitted. A volunteer who abandons his country in the hour of danger is a weak, dastardly poltroon, and resembles the landsman recorded, I believe, in the excellent work of Joe Miller, who being in a gale of wind, applied to the captain for his discharge. His messmate asked him if he was sea sick ? or
No," returned another of these brave fellows, “ He is not sea sick, he is only sick of the sea.” Of the same character are such volunteers (if there are any such) who having taken to arms would, on the approach of the enemy, wish to take to their legs.
The mind required to make a soldier or a seaman, should be composed of the rough materials of genuine hardihood and spirit, capable of deriding danger and of disdaining fatigue; but the lessons of service ought to have been taken from the regular troops, whose veteran officers could have improved the volunteer force to a high degree of perfection, that might have made them invulnerable to any attacks from a foreign foe.
The severe exaction of penalties from men whose desire it is to perform their engagements, is harsh and impolitic, and it has been entirely owing to injudicious magistracy that the question of the right of volunteers to resign has arisen. Why disturb the goodwill of the volunteers with doubts of the grace and honour (to use the elegant diction of Mr. Erskine) of their character. Men always endeavour strenuously to act up to the favourable opinion entertained of them by the world.
The distinctions drawn between the volunteer corps, the militia, and the army of reserve, with their
, several exemptions and liabilities, seem to decide the great question of the right of a volunteer to resign, and to settle it, that he has, since if he goes out of the corps he had engaged in, he takes nothing by the motion, or rather indeed has costs to pay, for he becomes liable to serve in the militia, or to find a substitute if he cannot serve. The act of the forty-second of
the present king, c. 66, contains the exemption of the volunteers from the militia, and their liability to serve therein if they discontinue the volunteer service; so that the fact is, and it is as it ought to be, that one way or other value is given to the state either in personal service, as in the feudal times, or else in money, which produces personal service from others. The ends of the country are either way answered. Perhaps it
may be objected that continual desertions would arise from the permission to resign, which would be fatal to the progress and completion of the volunteer corps. It is impossible to say what may be the effect now that they have been compelled to try the right to resign, by the process commenced against them, and the penalties exacted which have awakened in their breasts a doubt as to the justice of those deci. sions. The old proverb, Let well alone, is finely adapted to the subject; nothing could go on better than the volunteer system; the spirit of patriotism was raised in the country, armed cap-a-pie, and had swelled its enormous bulk to a size that would have terrified an invading host. And yet some little men of Power must needs punish with rigour men who would have continued to serve, if they could have done so, without endangering their healths, or being subjected to ruin from the nature of their occupations forbidding them to engage in other pursuits, and who must have paid for their dereliction; the rest were, perhaps, “ rascals, renegades, the scum of Britons, whose space would be better supplied when they had made it empty.”