Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 4, March - April 1659. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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Thursday, April 7, 1659.
Resolved, that Mr. Morrice, one of the members of this House, by reason of his indisposition of health, shall have leave to go into the country for a month, notwithstanding the order for calling over of the House.
Lord Fairfax presented a petition on behalf of lame soldiers and widows, for the payment of their weekly pensions. (fn. 1)
A Committee was appointed (T. B. and others (fn. 2) ) to consider of it, and report their opinion therein to the House; to meet to-morrow.
Mr. Scawen reported from the Committee for the Inspections into the Accounts and Public Revenue: (fn. 3)
A brief view of the public revenue, both certain and casual, with the ordinary expence of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, respectively in the three nations, for one year, together with a state of the public debts, as the same doth appear to the Committee.
He was called upon to bring it up, but made signs that the clerk might fetch it, he having not done his report, and the clerk fetched it. The Report was read. (fn. 4)
Sir Arthur Haslerigge. I never saw any thing done so exactly and so speedily as this. I have seen the sense of the House, of their kind acceptance of the report. Let them have the thanks of the House.
Resolved, thanks accordingly. (fn. 5)
Mr. Annesley. This is one of the saddest mornings that ever I had in my life. I see an incurable disease, unless you apply a cure presently. I beg you will refer it back. I would have some general resolution, before you commit it.
A debt increasing 400,000l. per annum must needs undermine all, in conclusion. I will instance in one case. The charge of ships in dock is almost 50,000l. per annum. (fn. 6) I know no need of this. I doubt much has gone by in the—. (fn. 7) I would have but sixpence per pound allowed for discovering; which haply may pay all your debts. There will be enough to undertake the search.
Judges had once but 300l. per annum, now 500l. They had then fees, and they take them now, notwithstanding. Officers in Ireland have high salaries. I would not have your civil charge mixed with your military. Let them be divided. The civil has eaten it out.
Sir John Northcote. You are in an incurable consumption. You are not bound to pay the debts that are accrued without your consent. The modesty of the soldiers is great. I would have them paid off; but, before you espouse it, inquire who contracted it; and whatever any Parliament contracted, let us set our shoulders to pay it.
Mr. Trevor. If the proverb be true, "a disease one knows, is half-cured." I shall not enter into how much we owe: we are engaged to pay it. I would have it cared for how to retrench your charge. I would have it referred back to your Committee, to propound the remedies.
Sir Arthur Haslerigge. Though you have heard of a great debt, you have not yet made it yours. It is exceedingly necessary to retrench so as to balance your income and charge. Refer it back to the Committee. Officers are multiplied. Consider what it was before: so much in the pound; now constant salaries.
We can get no rents from our tenants. They are exceedingly scarce, both in city and country. I had no hand, many of us had none, in making war, nor the Dutch peace. (fn. 8)
Lord Marquis Argyle. There are two things in this report, income and out-going. It is a good motion to take such course as that your debt may not increase. Let your first step be, a good previous vote.
Major-general Kelsey. There is a further attendance upon that vote than you are aware of; that is, to call home your fleet. Your readiest way to make peace with Spain, is to de clare to prosecute the war with effect. I would have it referred back to a Committee.
Sir Henry Vane. To send it back to the Committee, will not give a remedy. Let it be debated in a Grand Committee, some days in the week; every member to lay it to heart. Let the report be fully debated. You take it up upon trust.
The very 1,300,000l. will sink us. It was weak, ever to think otherwise. The blessing of God will never go along with it. It is impossible for the Committee to serve you there. (fn. 9) This is your very blood, and ought to be as precious as blood. It is a bad time to set up with a debt of two millions and a half. (fn. 10) A rot has got amongst the merchants. They break every day, ten at a time.
Mr. Secretary. This account is fully stated. It is the first full account that has, come in, these eighteen years. I am glad you will take this into consideration. It is well said, "it is your life and blood."
It is happy, that after so many great things passed, and so many millions lost, you come now to understand the state of your affairs fully. I dare not oppose any thing of my own knowledge to the report. My business never was to meddle with money.
I find not the debt so great; nor all risen since his Highness had to do with the Government. A great part of the debt was upon the old footing. The officers brought it into the Commonwealth; otherwise, how the mistake comes I know not.
There is not above 5 or 600,000l. since 1653. Such re ductions have since been made, as have saved you many millions; upon the new buildings, 23,000l. (fn. 11) Those warrants I saw. I only speak by what I hear.
The Report makes Ireland 70,000l. more than it is. The debts of Scotland and the navy are dear, as is the debt upon Jamaica. (fn. 12) Care is taken to pay the soldiers' arrears and growing pay. Less than half, there, will defray it. They must have acres. The debt of Flanders, as it is reported; (fn. 13) the Excise debt the same. There is due from the Excise 100,000l. So that, by these defalcations, the whole debt will be but 1,384,000l. or thereabouts.
The Committee have estimated the summer ships at 50, and the winter ships at 35. There are upwards of 16,000 men now at sea; so that the charge will be more as the ships are more. There was nothing undertaken but for your safety. Your officers have not increased- your charge. They have been good husbands.
The Long Parliament had great actions. The armies in England, Scotland, and Ireland, in 1652, came to thrice the sum. It is hard to make it good that 1200 ships are lost. (fn. 14) Your charge then, was upwards of seven millions; now, four millions.
Customs and Excise were not so much as now, by 120,000l. per annum; so that your incomes then fell short, two millions almost. I say not that it was not necessary. I cannot find that, in any case, we have been in the whole above 800,000l. besides the Spanish war. There are revenues of Dunkirk, as Excise and customs and contributions. That, in a short time, may go a great way in the charge.
Every man will, no doubt, set his hand and heart to it to bring your charge down to your revenue. About a year since, a reducement was agreed on, which would have saved a great deal, and have brought the yearly charge to near 600,000l.; but we could not do it without money to pay off, nor was it so proper for the Council as for the Parliament. Another consideration was, to abate the charge of collecting the Excise, which in farming has much lessened it.
I hope we are all clear of misemploying your money. I would have it sifted to the bottom. If any be faulty, let them be punished. I would have this considered, and some present course taken to raise some money.
Resolved, that the debate upon this report be adjourned until Saturday morning next, and then taken up again; and that nothing else do then intervene. (fn. 15)