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plan of reformation, it would be one of my maxims, that, when I know of an establishment which may be subservient to useful purposes, and which at the same time, from its discretionary nature, is liable to a very great perversion from those purposes, I would limit the quantity of the power that might be so abused. For I am sure that in all such cases the rewards of merit will have very narrow bounds, and that partial or corrupt favor will be infinite. This principle is not arbitrary, but the limitation of the specific quantity must be so in some measure. I therefore state 60,0001., leaving it open to the House to enlarge or contract the sum as they shall see, on examination, that the discretion I use is scanty or liberal. The whole amount of the pensions of all denominations which have been laid before us amount, for a period of seven years, to considerably more than 100,0001. a year. To what the other lists amount I know not. That will be seen hereafter. But from those that do appear, a saving will accrue to the public, at one time or other, of 40,0001. a year; and we had better, in my opinion, to let it fall in naturally than to tear it crude and linripe from the stalk.*
There is a great deal of uneasiness among the people upon an article which I must class under the head of pensions: I mean the great patent offices in the Exchequer. They are in reality and substance no other than pensions, and in no other light shall I consider
* It was supposed by the Lord Advocate, in a subsequent debate, that Mr. Burke, because he objected to an inquiry into the pension list for the purpose of economy and relief of the public, would have it withheld from the judgment of Parliament for all purposes whatso
This learned gentleman certainly misunderstood him. His plan shows that he wished the whole list to be easily accessible ; and he knows that the public eye is of itself a great guard against abuse.
them They are sinecures; they are always executed by deputy; the duty of the principal is as nothing. They differ, however, from the pensions on the list in some particulars. They are held for life. I think, with the public, that the profits of those places are grown enormous; the magnitude of those profits, and the nature of them, both call for reformation. The nature of their profits, which grow out of the public distress, is itself invidious and grievous. But I fear that reform cannot be immediate. I find myself under a restriction. These places, and others of the same kind, which are held for life, have been considered as property. They have been given as a provision for children ; they have been the subject of family settlements; they have been the security of creditors. What the law respects shall be sacred to me. If the barriers of law should be broken down, upon ideas of convenience, even of public convenience, we shall have no longer anything certain among us.
If the discretion of power is once let loose upon property, we can be at no loss to determine whose power and what discretion it is that will prevail at last. It would be wise to attend upon the order of things, and not to attempt to outrun the slow, but smooth and even course of Nature. There are occasions, I admit, of public necessity, so vast, so clear, so evident, that they supersede all laws. Law, being only made for the benefit of the community, cannot in any one of its parts resist a demand which may comprehend the total of the public interest. To be sure, no law can set itself up against the cause and reason of all law; but such a case very rarely happens, and this most certainly is not such a case. The mere time of the reform is by no means worth the sacrifice of a
principle of law. Individuals pass like shadows; but the commonwealth is fixed and stable. The difference, therefore, of to-day and to-morrow, which to private people is immense, to the state is nothing. At any rate, it is better, if possible, to reconcile our economy with our laws than to set them at variance, - a quarrel which in the end must be destructive to both.
My idea, therefore, is, to reduce those offices to fixed salaries, as the present lives and reversions shall successively fall. I mean, that the office of the great auditor (the auditor of the receipt) shall be reduced to 30001. a year; and the auditors of the imprest, and the rest of the principal officers, to fixed appointments of 1,5001. a year each. It will not be difficult to calculate the value of this fall of lives to the public, when we shall have obtained a just account of the present income of those places ; and we shall obtain that account with great facility, if the present possessors are not alarmed with any apprehension of danger to their freehold office.
I know, too, that it will be demanded of me, how it comes, that, since I admit these offices to be no better than pensions, I chose, after the principle of law had been satisfied, to retain them at all. To this, Sir, I answer, that, conceiving it to be a funda- . mental part of the Constitution of this country, and of the reason of state in every country, that there must be means of rewarding public service, those means will be incomplete, and indeed wholly insufficient for that purpose, if there should be no further reward for that service than the daily wages it re ceives during the pleasure of the crown.
Whoever seriously considers the excellent argu
ment of Lord Somers, in the Bankers' Case, will see he bottoms himself upon the very saine maxim which I do; and one of his principal grounds of doctrine for the alienability of the domain in England, * contrary to the maxim of the law in France, he lays in the constitutional policy of furnishing a permanent reward to public service, of making that reward the origin of families, and the foundation of wealth as well as of honors. It is, indeed, the only genuine, unadulterated origin of nobility. It is a great principle in government, a principle at the very foundation of the whole structure. The other judges who held the same doctrine went beyond Lord Somers with regard to the remedy which they thought was given by law against the crown upon the grant of pensions. Indeed, no man knows, when he cuts off the incitements to a virtuous ambition, and the just rewards of public service, what infinite mischief he may do his country through all generations. Such saving to the public may prove the worst mode of robbing it. The crown, which has in its hands the trust of the daily pay for national service, ought to have in its hands also the means for the repose of public labor and the fixed settlement of acknowledged merit. There is a time when the weather-beaten vessels of the state ought to come into harbor. They must at length have a retreat from the malice of rivals, from the perfidy of political friends, and the inconstancy of the people. Many of the persons who in all times have filled the great offices of state have been younger brothers, who had originally little, if any fortune. These offices do not furnish the means
* Before the statute of Queen Anne, which limited the alienation of land
of amassing wealth. There ouglit to be some power in the crown of granting pensions out of the reach of its own caprices. An entail of dependence is a bad reward of merit.
I would therefore leave to the crown the possibility of conferring some favors, which, whilst they are received as a reward, do not operate as corruption. When men receive obligations from the crown, through the pious hands of fathers, or of connections as venerable as the paternal, the dependences which arise from thence are the obligations of gratitude, and not the fetters of servility. Such ties originate in virtue, and they promote it. They continue men in those habitudes of friendship, those political connections, and those political principles, in which they began life. They are antidotes against a corrupt levity, instead of causes of it. What an unseemly spectacle would it afford, what a disgrace would it be to the commonwealth that suffered such things, to see the hopeful son of a meritorious minister begging his bread at the door of that Treasury from whence his father dispensed the economy of an empire, and promoted the happiness and glory of his country! Why should he be obliged to prostrate his honor and to submit his principles at the levee of some proud favorite, shouldered and thrust aside by every impudent pretender on the very spot where a few days before he saw himself adored,- obliged to cringe to the author of the calamities of his house, and to kiss the hands that are red with his father's blood ?--- No, Sir, these things are unfit, - they are intolerable.
Sir, I shall be asked, why I do not choose to destroy those offices which are pensions, and appoint pensions under the direct title in their stead. I allow