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lice ut sit finis litium. Constantly taking along with me, that an extreme rigor is sure to arm everything against it, and at length to relax into a supine neglect, I propose, Sir, that even the best, soundest, and the most recent debts should be put into instalments, for the mutual benefit of the accountant and the public.
In proportion, however, as I am tender of the past, I would be provident of the future. All money that was formerly imprested to the two great pay offices I would have imprested in future to the Bank of England. These offices should in future receive no more than cash sufficient for small payments. Their other payments ought to be made by drafts on the Bank, expressing the service. A check account from both offices, of drafts and receipts, should be annually made up in the Exchequer, - charging the Bank in account with the cash balance, but not demanding the payment until there is an order from the Treasury, in consequence of a vote of Parliament.
As I did not, Sir, deny to the paymaster the natural profits of the bank that was in his hands, so neither would I to the Bank of England. A share of that profit might be derived to the public in various ways. My favorite mode is this: that, in compensation for the use of this money, the bank may take upon themselves, first, the charge of the Mint, to which they are already, by their charter, obliged to bring in a great deal of bullion annually to be coined. In the next place, I mean that they should take upon themselves the charge of remittances to our troops abroad. This is a species of dealing from which, by the same charter, they are not debarred.
One and a quarter per cent will be saved instantly thereby to the public on
very large sums of money. This will be at once a matter of economy and a considerable reduction of influence, by taking away a private contract of an expensive nature. If the Bank, which is a great corporation, and of course receives the least profits from the money in their custody, should of itself refuse or be persuaded to refuse this offer upon those terms, I can speak with some confidence that one at least, if not both parts of the condition would be received, and gratefully received, by several bankers of eminence. There is no banker who will not be at least as good security as any paymaster of the forces, or any treasurer of the navy, that have ever been bankers to the public: as rich at least as my Lord Chatham, or my Lord Holland, or either of the honorable gentlemen who now hold the offices, were at the time that they entered into them; or as ever the whole establishment of the Mint has been at any period.
These, Sir, are the outlines of the plan I mean to follow, in suppressing these two large subordinate treasuries. I now come to another subordinate treasury, -I mean that of the paymaster of the pensions ; for which purpose I reënter the limits of the civil establishment: I departed from those limits in pursuit of a principle ; and, following the same game in its doubles, I am brought into those limits again. That treasury and that office I mean to take away, and to transfer the payment of every name, mode, and denomination of pensions to the Exchequer. The present course of diversifying the same object can answer no good purpose, whatever its use may be to purposes of another kind. There are also other lists of pensions; and I mean that they should all be here
after paid at one and the same place. The whole of the new consolidated list I mean to reduce to 60,0001. a year, which sum I intend it shall never exceed. I think that sum will fully answer as a reward to all real merit and a provision for all real public charity that is ever like to be placed upon the list. If any. merit of an extraordinary nature should emerge before that reduction is completed, I have left it open for an address of either House of Parliament to provide for the case. To all other demands it must be answered, with regret, but with firmness, “ The public is poor.”
I do not propose, as I told you before Christmas, to take away any pension. I know that the public seem to call for a reduction of such of them as shall appear unmerited. As a censorial act, and punishment of an abuse, it might answer some purpose. But this can make no part of my plan. I mean to proceed by bill; and I cannot stop for such an inquiry. I know some gentlemen may blame me. It is with great submission to better judgments that I recommend it to consideration, that a critical retrospective examination of the pension list, upon the principle of merit, can never serve for my basis. It cannot answer, according to my plan, any effectual purpose of economy, or of future, permanent reformation. The process in any way will be entangled and difficult, and it will be infinitely slow: there is a danger, that, if we turn our line of march, now directed towards the grand object, into this more laborious than useful detail of operations, we shall never arrivo at our end.
The king, Sir, has been by the Constitution appointed sole judge of the merit for which a pension is to
be given. We have a right, undoubtedly, to canrass this, as we have to canvass every act of government. But there is a material difference between an office to be reformed and a pension taken away for demerit. In the former case, no charge is implied against the holder; in the latter, his character is slurred, as well as his lawful emolument affected. The former process is against the thing; the second, against the person. The pensioner certainly, if he pleases, has a right to stand on his own defence, to plead his possession, and to bottom his title in the competency of the crown to give him what he holds. Possessed and on the defensive as he is, he will not be obliged to prove his special merit, in order to justify the act of legal discretion, now turned into his property, according to his tenure. The very act, he will contend, is a legal presumption, and an implication of his merit. If this be so, from the natural force of all legal presumption, he would put us to the difficult proof that he has no merit at all. But other questions would arise in the course of such an inquiry, that is, questions of the merit when weighed against the proportion of the reward ; then the difficulty will be much greater.
The difficulty will not, Sir, I am afraid, be much less, if we pass to the person really guilty in the question of an unmerited pension : the minister himself. I admit, that, when called to account for the execution of a trust, he might fairly be obliged to prove the affirmative, and to state the merit for which the pension is given, though on the pensioner himself such a process would be hard. If in this examination we proceed methodically, and so as to avoid all suspicion of partiality and prejudice, we must take
the pensions in order of time, or merely alphabetically. The very first pension to which we come, in either of these ways, may appear the most grossly unmerited of any. But the minister may very possibly show that he knows nothing of the putting on this pension; that it was prior in time to his administration; that the minister who laid it on is dead : and then we are thrown back upon the pensioner himself, and plunged into all our former difficulties. Abuses, and gross ones, I doubt not, would appear, and to the correction of which I would readily give my hand : but when I consider that pensions have not generally been affected by the revolutions of ministry ; as I know not where such inquiries would stop; and as an absence of merit is a negative and loose thing; one might be led to derange the order of families founded on the probable continuance of their kind of income; I might hurt children ; I might injure creditors;— I really think it the more prudent course not to follow the letter of the petitions. If we fix this mode of inquiry as a basis, we shall, I fear, end as Parliament has often ended under similar circumstances. There will be great delay, much confusion, much inequality in our proceedings. But what presses me most of all is this: that, though we should strike off all the unmerited pensions, while the power of the crown remains unlimited, the very same undeserving persons might afterwards return to the very same list; or, if they did not, other persons, meriting as little as they do, might be put upon it to an undefinable amount. This, I think, is the pinch of the grievance.
For these reasons, Sir, I am obliged to waive this mode of proceeding as any part of my plan. In a