Page images

of the succeeding year, but that it shall be entirely lapsed, sunk, and lost; so that government will be enabled to start in the race of every new year wholly unloaded, fresh in wind and vigour. Hereafter no civil-list debt can ever come upon the public. And those who do not consider this as saving, because it is not a certain sum, do not ground their calculations of the future on their experience of the past.

I know of no mode of preserving the effectual execution of any duty, but to make it the direct interest of the executive ofii. cer that it shall be faithfully performed. Assuming, then, that the present vast allowance to the civil list is perfectly adequate to all its purposes, if there should be any failure, it must be from the mismanagement or neglect of the First Commissioner of the Treasury; since, upon the proposed plan, there can be no expense of any consequence which he is not himself previously to authorize and finally to control. It is therefore just, as well as politic, that the loss should attach upon the delinquency.

If the failure from the delinquency should be very considerable, it will fall on the class directly above the First Lord of the Treasury, as well as upon himself and his board. It will fall, as it ought to fall, upon offices of no primary importance in the State; but then it will fall upon persons whom it will be a matter of no slight importance for a Minister to provoke: it will fall upon persons of the first tank and consequence in the kingdom, - upon those who are nearest to the King, and frequently have a more interior credit with him than the Minister himself. It will fall upon masters of the horse, upon lord chamberlains, upon lord stewards, upon grooms of the stole, and lords of the bedchamber. The household troops form an army, who will be ready to mutiny for want of pay, and whose mutiny will be really dreadful to a commander-in-chief. A rebellion of the thirteen lords of the bedchamber would be far more terrible to a Minister, and would probably affect his power more to the quick, than a revolt of thirteen colonies. What an uproar such an event would create at Court! What petitions, and committees, and associations, would it not produce! Bless me! what a clattering of white sticks and yellow sticks would be about his head ! what a storm of gold keys would fly about the ears of the Minister! what a shower of Georges, and thistles, and medals, and collars of esses ? would assail him at his first entrance into the antechamber, after an, insolvent Christmas quarter !. -a tumult which could not be appeased by all the harmony of the new year's ode. Rebellion it is certain

2 Collars of esses are said to be so called, from the links of the chain-work being shaped like the letter S.


'there would be; and rebellion may not now indeed be so critical an event to those who engage in it, since its price is so correctly ascertained at just a thousand pounds.

Sir, this classing, in my opinion, is a serious and solid security for the performance of a Minister's duty. Lord Coke says that the staff was put into the Treasurer's hand to enable him to support himself when there was no money in the Exchequer, and to beat away importunate solicitors. The method which I propose would hinder him from the necessity of such a broken staff to lean on, or such a miserable weapon for repulsing the demands of worthless suitors, who, the noble lord in the blue riband knows, will bear many hard blows on the head, and many other indignities, before they are driven from the Treasury. In this plan, he is furnished with an answer to all their importunity,- an answer far more conclusive than if he had knocked them down with his staff: “Sir, (or my Lord,) you are calling for my own salary,– Sir, you are calling for the appointments of my colleagues who sit about me in office,- Sir, you are going to excite a mutiny at Court against me,- you are going to estrange his Majesty's confidence from me, through the chamberlain, or the master of the horse, or the groom of the stole.”

As things now stand, every man, in proportion to his consequence at Court, tends to add to the expenses of the civil list, by all manner of jobs, if not for himself, yet for his dependents. When the new plan is established, those who are now suitors for jobs will become the most strenuous opposers of them. They will have a common interest with the Minister in public economy. Every class, as it stands low, will become security for the payment of the preceding class; and thus the persons whose insignificant services defraud those that are useful would then become interested in their payment. Then the powerful, instead of oppressing, would be obliged to support the weak; and idleness would become concerned in the reward of industry. The whole fabric of the civil economy would become compact and connected in all its parts; it would be formed into a well-organized body, where every member contributes to the support of the whole, and where even the lazy stomach secures the vigour of the active arm,

This plan, I really flatter myself, is laid not in official formality, nor in airy speculation, but in real life, and in human nature, in what “comes home" (as Bacon says) “to the business and bosoms of men.” You have now, Sir, before you, the whole of my scheme, as far as I have digested it into a form that might be in any respect worthy of your consideration. I intend to lay it before you in five bills. The plan consists, indeed, of many parts; but they stand upon a few plain princi.

ples. It is a plan which takes nothing from the civil list with : out discharging it of a burden equal to the sum carried to the public service. It weakens no one function necessary to government; but, on the contrary, by appropriating supply to service, it gives it greater vigour. It provides the means of order and foresight to a minister of finance, which may always keep all the objects of his office, and their state, condition, and relations, distinctly before him. It brings forward accounts without harrying and distressing the accountants : whilst it provides for public convenience, it regards private rights. It extinguishes secret corruption almost to the possibility of its existence. It destroys direct and visible influence equal to the offices of at least fifty members of Parliament. Lastly, it prevents the provision for his Majesty's children from being diverted to the political purposes of his Minister.

These are the points on which I rely for the merit of the plan. I pursue economy in a secondary view, and only as it is connected with these great objects. I am persuaded, that even for supply this scheme will be far from unfruitful, if it be executed to the extent I propose it. I think it will give to the public, at its periods, two or three hundred thousand pounds a year; if not, it will give them a system of economy, which is itself a great revenue. It gives me no little pride and satisfaction to find that the principles of my proceedings are in many respects the very same with those which are now pursued in the plans of the French minister of finance. I am sure that I lay before you a scheme easy and practicable in all its parts. I know it is common at once to applaud and to reject all attempts of this nature. I know it is common for men to say that such and such things are perfectly right, very desirable, but that, unfortunately, they are not practicable. O, no, Sir, I no! Those things which are not practicable are not desirable. There is nothing in the world really beneficial that does not lie within the reach of an informed understanding and a welldirected pursuit. There is nothing that God has judged good for us that He has not given us means to accomplish, both in the natural and the moral world. If we cry, like children, for the Moon, like children we must cry on.

We must follow the nature of our affairs, and conform our. selves to our situation. If we do, our objects are plain and compassable. Why should we resolve to do nothing, because what I propose to you may not be the exact demand of the petition, when we are far from resolved to comply even with what evidently is so? Does this sort of chicanery become us? The people are the masters. They have only to express their wants at large and in gross. We are the expert artists, we are

I am

the skillful workmen, to shape their desires into perfect form, and to fit the utensil to the use. They are the sufferers, they tell the symptoms of the complaint; but we know the exact seat of the disease, and how to apply the remedy according to the rules of art. How shocking would it be to see us pervert our skill into a sinister and servile dexterity, for the purpose of evading our duty, and defrauding our employers, who are our natural lords, of the object of their just expectations! I think the whole not only practicable, but practicable in a very short time. If we are in earnest about it, and if we exert that industry and those talents in forwarding the work which, afraid, may be exerted in impeding it, I engage that the whole may be put in complete execution within a year. For my own part, I have very little to recommend me for this or for any task, but a kind of earnest and anxious perseverance of mind, which, with all its good and all its evil effects, is moulded into my constitution. I faithfully engage to the House, if they choose to appoint me to any part in the execution of this work, (which, when they have made it theirs by the improvements of their wisdom, will be worthy of the able assistance they may give me,) that by night and by day, in town or in country, at the desk or in the forest, I will, without regard to convenience, ease, or pleasure, devote myself to their service, not expecting or admitting any reward whatsoever. I owe to this country my labour, which is my all; and I owe to it ten times more industry, if ten times more I could exert. After all, I shall be an unprofitable servant.

At the same time, if I am able, and if I shall be permitted, I will lend an humble helping hand to any other good work which is going on. I have not, Sir, the frantic presumption to suppose that this plan contains in it the whole of what the public has a right to expect in the great work of reformation they call for. Indeed, it falls infinitely short of it. It falls short even of my own ideas. I have some thoughts, not yet fully ripened, relative to a reform in the customs and excise, as well as in some other branches of financial administration. There are other things, too, which form essential parts in a great plan for the purpose of restoring the independence of Parliament. The contractors' bill of last year it is fit to revive; and I rejoice that it is in better hands than mine. The bill for suspending the votes of custom-house officers, brought into Parliament several years ago by one of our worthiest and wisest members, 3 — would to God we could along with the plan revive the person who designed it !- but a man of very real

3 This was William Dowdeswell, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1765. See page 42, note 9.

integrity, honour, and ability will be found to take his place, and to carry his idea into full execution. You all see how necessary it is to review our military expenses for some years past, and, if possible, to bind up and close that bleeding artery of profusion; but that business also, I have reason to hope, will be undertaken by abilities that are fully adequate to it. Something must be devised (if possible) to check the ruinous expense of elections.

Sir, all or most of these things must be done. Every one must take his part. If we should be able, by dexterity, or power, or intrigue, to disappoint the expectations of our constituents, what will it avail us? We shall never be strong or artful enough to parry, or to put by, the irresistible demands of our situation. That situation calls upon us, and upon our constituents too, with a voice which will be heard. I am sure no man is more zealously attached than I am to the privileges of this House, particularly in regard to the exclusive management of money. The Lords have no right to the disposition, in any sense, of the public purse; but they have gone further in selfdenial than our utmost jealousy could have required. A power of examining accounts, to censure, correct, and punish, we never, that I know of, have thought of denying to the House of Lords. It is something more than a century since we voted that body useless: they have now voted themselves so. The whole hope of reformation is at length cast upon us, and let us not deceive the nation, which does us the honour to hope every thing from our virtue. If all the nation are not equally forward to press this duty upon us, yet be assured that they all equally expect we should perform it. The respectful silence of those who wait upon your pleasure ought to be as powerful with you as the call of those who require your service as their right. Some, without doors, affect to feel hurt for your dignity, because they suppose that menaces are held out to you. Justify their good opinion by showing that no menaces are necessary to stimulate you to your duty. But, Sir, whilst we may sympathize with those in one point who sympathize with us in another, we ought to attend no less to those who approach us like men, and who, in the guise of petitioners, speak to us in the tone of a concealed authority. It is not wise to force them to speak out more plainly than they plainly mean. But the petitioners are violent? Be it so. Those who are least anxious about your conduct are not those that love you most. Moderate affection and satiated enjoyment are cold and respectful; but an ardent and injured passion is tempered up with wrath, and grief, and shame, and conscious worth, and the maddening sense of violated right. A jealous love lights his torch from

« PreviousContinue »