Page images

lishments, we frequently see an office of account of an hundred pounds a year expense, and another office of an equal expense to control that office, and the whole upon a matter that is not worth twenty shillings.

To avoid, therefore, this minute care, which pro duces the consequences of the most extensive neglect, and to oblige members of Parliament to attend to public cares, and not to the servile offices of domestic management, I propose, Sir, to economize by principle : that is, I propose to put affairs into that train which

I experience points out as the most effectual, from the nature of things, and from the constitution of the human mind. In all dealings, where it is possible, the principles of radical economy prescribe three things: first, undertaking by the great; secondly, engaging with persons of skill in the subject-matter; thirdly, engaging with those who shall have an immediate and direct interest in the proper execution of the business.

To avoid frittering and crumbling down the attention by a blind, unsystematic observance of every trifle, it has ever been found the best way to do all things which are great in the total amount and minute in the component parts by a general contract. The principles of trade have so pervaded every species of dealing, from the highest to the lowest objects, all transactions are got so much into system, that we may, at a moment's warning, and to a farthing value, be informed at what rate any service may be supplied. No dealing is exempt from the possibility of fraud. But by a contract on a matter certain you have this advantage : you are sure to know the utmost extent of the fraud to which you

are subject. By a contract with a person in his own trade you are sure you shall not suffer by want of skill. By a short contract you are sure of making it the interest of the contractor to exert that skill for the satisfaction of his employers.

I mean to derogate nothing from the diligence or integrity of the present, or of any former board of Green Cloth. But what skill can members of Parliament obtain in that low kind of province ? What pleasure can they have in the execution of that kind of duty ? And if they should neglect it, how does it affect their interest, when we know that it is their vote in Parliament, and not their diligence in cookery or catering, that recommends them to their office, or keeps them in it?

I therefore propose that the king's tables (to whatever number of tables, or covers to each, he shall think proper to command) should be classed by the steward of the household, and should be contracted for, according to their rank, by the head or cover; that the estimate and circumstance of the contract should be carried to the Treasury to be approved ; and that its faithful and satisfactory performance should be reported there previous to any payment; that there, and there only, should the payment be made. I propose that men should be contracted with only in their proper trade; and that no member of Parliament should be capable of such contract. By this plan, almost all the infinite offices under the lord steward may be sp

be spared, — to the extreme simplification, and to the far better execution, of every one of his functions. The king of Prussia is so served. He is a great and eminent (though, indeed, a very rare) instance of the possibility of uniting, in a mind of vigor and compass, an attention to minute objects with the largest views and the most complicated plans. His tables are served by contract, and by the head. Let me say, that no prince can be ashamed to imitate the king of Prussia, and particularly to learn in his school, when the problem is, “The best manner of reconciling the state of a court with the support of war.” Other courts, I understand, have followed him with effect, and to their satisfaction.

The same clew of principle leads us through the labyrinth of the other departments. What, Sir, is there in the office of the great wardrobe (which has the care of the king's furniture) that may not be executed by the lord chamberlain himself ? He has an honorable appointment; he has time sufficient to attend to the duty; and he has the vice-chamberlain to assist him. Why should not he deal also by contract for all things belonging to this office, and carry his estimates first, and his report of the execution in its proper time, for payment, directly to the Board of Treasury itself? By a simple operation, containing in it a treble control) the expenses of a department which for naked walls, or walls hung with cobwebs, has in a few years cost the crown 150,0001., may at length hope for regulation. But, Sir, the office and its business are at variance. As it stands, it serves, not to furnish the palace with its hangings, but the Parliament with its dependent members.

To what end, Sir, does the office of removing wardrobe serve at all? Why should a jewel office exist for the sole purpose of taxing the king's gifts of plate ? Its object falls naturally within the chamberlain's province, and ought to be under his care and inspection without any fee. Why should an office of the



[ocr errors]

robes exist, when that of groom of the stole is a sinecure, and that this is a proper object of his department?

All these incumbrances, which are themselves nuisances, produce other incumbrances and other nuisances. For the payment of these useless establishments there are no less than three useless treasurers: two to hold a purse, and one to play with a stick. The treasurer of the household is a mere

The cofferer and the treasurer of the chamber receive and pay great sums, which it is not at all necessary they should either receive or pay. All the proper officers, servants, and tradesmen may be enrolled in their several departments, and paid in proper classes and times with great simplicity and order, at the Exchequer, and by direction from the Treasury.

The Board of Works, which in the seven years preceding 1777 has cost towards 400,0001.,* and (if I recollect rightly) has not cost less in proportion from the beginning of the reign, is under the very same description of all the other ill-contrived establishments, and calls for the very same reform.

We are to seek for the visible signs of all this expense. For all this expense, we do not see a building of the size and importance of a pigeon-house. Buckingham House was reprised by a bargain with the public for one hundred thousand pounds; and the small house at Windsor has been, if I mistake not, undertaken since that account was brought before us. The good works of that Board of Works are as carefully concealed as other good works ought to be: they are perfectly invisible. But though it is the

* More exactly, 378,6161. 10. 11d.

[ocr errors]

perfection of charity to be concealed, it is, Sir, the property and glory of magnificence to appear and stand forward to the eye.

That board, which ought to be a concern of builders and such like, and of none else, is turned into a junto of members of Parliament. That office, too, has a treasury and a paymaster of its own; and lest the arduous affairs of that important exchequer should be too fatiguing, that paymaster has a deputy to partake his profits and relieve his cares. I do not believe, that, either now or in former times, the chief managers of that board have made any profit of its abuse. It is, however, no good reason that an abusive establishment should subsist, because it is of as little private as of public advantage. But this establishment has the grand radical fault, the original sin, that pervades and perverts all our establishments : the apparatus is not fitted to the object, nor the workmen to the work. Expenses are incurred on the private opinion of an inferior establishment, without consulting the principal, who can alone determine the proportion which it ought to bear to the other establishments of the state, in the order of their relative importance.

I propose, therefore, along with the rest, to pull down this whole ill-contrived scaffolding, which obstructs, rather than forwards, our public works; to take away its treasury; to put the whole into the hands of a real builder, who shall not be a member of Parliament; and to oblige him, by a previous estimate and final payment, to appear twice at the Treasury before the public can be loaded.

The king's gardens are to come under a similar regulation.

The Mint, though not a department of the house

« PreviousContinue »