Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 1, 1660-1667. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1904.
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When Charles II. returned to England at the Restoration, there were three financial problems of the first magnitude confronting him and his Goverment. Firstly there was a large standing force of Army and Navy, the current cost of which had for long overstrained the resources of the country, and the very existence and presence of which was a menace to Charles II.'s throne: a force moreover which would never consent to its own disbandment until its long overdue arrears were paid. Secondly, there were debts of both Charles I. and II. which had to be in honour discharged. Thirdly, provision had to be made for the ordinary yearly revenue and expenditure, and for the supply of a working balance of cash for the Exchequer.
(1) As to the first of these, no thoroughly satisfactory account is now obtainable. In the first place such imperfect accounts as are preserved in the Commons Journals do not distinguish the amounts due to the land forces from those due to the fleet, and in the second place there is no clear statement of the amount due as arrears to the forces (land and sea) at the moment of the Restoration as distinguished from the amount which grew due from the moment of the Restoration onwards owing to the current daily growing charge of the said forces.
At the moment of the Restoration the pay of the land forces amounted to 55,000l. a month, and the pay of the navy to 6,000l. a day. By November of 1660, after a partial disbandment had taken place, the current or "growing" charge of the forces still undisbanded came to slightly over 32,000l. (fn. 1) a month. Conjecturally, therefore, the growing charge which had accrued from the 1st June, 1660, to the 1st November might be about 200,000l. As the total debt in November is stated at over 680,000l. this would leave about 480,000l. due at the Restoration as arrears to the forces, land and sea. This item is to be understood as arrears solely and entirely due for wages to regiments and ships. It is quite independent of the debt of the Navy, and also independent of a further sum of 248,049l. 8s 0d. stated in the debt of the Navy (see infra) as due for wages to the fleet.
(1) An ordinance of the Convention Parliament for a three months' assessment of 70,000l. a month to date from 1660, June 24, confirmed by the Act of 12 Car II., c. 2. (The whole of this three months' assessment was not intended for the disbandment but only to the extent of certain assignations thereupon amounting to a little over a third of the whole.)
(4) A grant of certain unstated arrears due upon two assessments made under the Commonwealth, viz.: (a) Twelve months' assessment from 1659, June 24. (b) Six months' assessment from 1659, Dec. 25 (12 Car. II. c. 26).
As to the actual course of the disbandment the following accounts from the Commons Journals throw a partial light upon it. The accounts state generally the name of the disbanded regiment but not the names of the ships paid off; but I am here concerned only with the financial side of the transaction.
|(fn. 2)Sums paid to regiments disbanded and ships paid off in England and Scotland up to 1660, Nov. 6 ...||250,402||18||5¼|
|Sums due to regiments still to be disbanded and ships still to be paid off on the above date ...||435,416||10||4|
|Other sums due on casual and uncertain charges||150,000||0||0|
|Against which there is provision as follows—|
|Parliamentary grants for disbanding the forces by land and sea:—|
|(1) Assignations on the three months assessments (three months from 1660, June 24, at 70,000l. a month) ...||63,000||0||0|
|(2) Poll bill, 12 Car. II. c. 9 and 10, granted entirely for the disbanding, estimated to produce ...||210,000||0||0|
|(3) Two months assesment from 1660, Nov., at 70,000l. a month, granted entirely for the disbanding, 12 Car. II., c. 20, estimated to yield ...||140,000||0||0|
|Leving a balance due to be found for the said disbandment as follows ...||422,819||8||9¼|
By the 23rd November a further sum of
had been paid towards the disbandment and
the balance then due on the disbandment
alone is stated at ...
Recd. towards the
Paid for disbanding to
date by land and sea ...
|Three months' assessment||36,907||19||8||Still due for same ...||352,134||16||10|
|Two months' assessment||137,256||5||6|
The only other account existing in the natural archives concerning this transaction is the account of Nelthorpe and Lawson, who acted as Treasurers under the Commissioners for disbanding the Army. It must be carefully borne in mind that this account is not homogeneous with the above accounts already given for the Commons Journals. For whereas Nelthorpe and Lawson's account concern the Army or landforces entirely, the accounts given above from the Commons Journals concern both land-forces and ships. It is therefore not possible to put them side by side for purposes of comparison and argument.
(fn. 3)James Nelthorpe and John Lawson, Treasurers at Wars thereto appointed by warrant of the Council, dated 1660, June 2, by the warrant of the Commissioners for disbanding the Army of 1660, Oct. 10; of sums received
|Three months' assessment||83,000||0||0|
|Two months' assessment||140,000||0||0|
|Six months' assessment||420,000||0||0|
|Arrears for two Commonwealth assessments|
Of this sum there was paid for the disbandment of the Army alone only 341,637l. 6s. 9½d. (See note below.) There is, therefore, a problematical balance of 500,000l. Were the Commonwealth soldiers fully paid by means of the abovesaid sum of 341,637l. 6s. 9½d., and did the whole of this remaining 500,000l. go to paying off the sailors? I cannot at present answer this question. But it is clear that the disbandment of the soldiers was not proceeded in after Feb. 14, 1660–1, and that the regiments then remaining were formed into Charles's standing army of guards and garrisons. If so, such regiments thus continued in service may have got their arrears at some time or other in whole or in part, or they may not. The fact that such regiments were continued on the establishment will account for their arrears not appearing in Nelthorpe and Lawson's account above. One fact is at any rate quite certain, viz. that in the regular yearly accounts of Stephen Fox, the Paymaster of the Guards and Garrisons from Jan., 1661, there is no reference whatever to any further payment of the arrears of the Cromwellian soldiers. (fn. 4)
With regard to the Navy, there is an even greater and more regrettable paucity of material for information. The probability would appear to be that the arrears due to the crews of the ships which were actually paid off before the end of 1660 were fully paid out of the above specified Parliamentary supply, but that the arrears due to the ships retained in commission after that date were not immediately paid, and that they went to swell the general account of the floating debt of the Navy. If so, they must form an item (but an item which I have found it quite impossible to disentangle) in the yearly accounts of Sir George Carteret, the Treasurer and Paymaster of the Navy.
|(fn. 5)(1) Debt of the Navy in charge before the King's coming in||429,950||12||0|
|Charges from the Restoration to 1660, Nov. 10||248,049||8||0|
(2) A similar account stated down to the 5 Dec., 1660, and showing a total of 699,720l. 8s. 9d. for the debt due before 1660, June 24, together with the growing charge of the Navy from that date to Dec. 5.
With regard to this item the faithful Commons could not wipe it out instantaneously. They had to be content with making such spasmodic provision for it as they were capable of in the keen financial distress of the time. Such provision as Parliament made for this item was contained in various grants of supply (detailed below) the proceeds of which grants were appointed to be paid into the Exchequer. This provision had the effect of keeping the Navy debt floating from year to year, and of throwing upon the Exchequer the onus or duty of coping with that debt as best it could (by the aid of such extra supply so granted), alongside of or together with the onus which already rested upon it of providing for the yearly charge of the Navy out of the fixed income of the Government. In the accounts of the Exchequer and of the Audit Office, this method of dealing with the matter had the effect of confusing the account of the floating debt of the Navy with that of the growing charge, so that it is now almost hopeless to disentangle the two. This subject will be better dealt with below in the account of the receipts and issues of the Exchequer. From these it will appear (as well as from the contemporary accounts of the Treasurer of the Navy) that so much was issued yearly to the Treasurer of the Navy and accounted for by him without discrimination between the two items of debt and growing charge.
In contradistinction to this method of dealing with the floating debt of the Navy, it must be carefully borne in mind that the supply voted for the disbanding of the forces by land and sea had been voted specifically ad hoc, and that as a consequence the money was not appointed to be paid into the Exchequer, where it might have been confused with the other independent revenue of the Crown. Instead of this, it was appointed to be paid at the Guildhall in London to certain treasurers (Sir Richard Browne, Sir John Langham, Sir William Wheeler, Sir William Vincent, Thomas Rich, Sir George Cartwright, Sir J. Bunce, and the Chamberlain of the City of London for the time being (fn. 6)). As a consequence of the arrangement thus prescribed, it will be found that in the records of the Exchequer and of the Treasury there are very few references to this disbandment. No money was paid into the Receipt on account of it, none was paid out of the Receipt on account of it, and therefore Treasurer Southampton was not called upon at any point with regard to it to exercise his administrative powers as Lord High Treasurer of England.
The second financial problem which the Restoration Government had to face was that of liquidating the debts of Charles II. and his father. As to those of Charles II. himself, Burnet is responsible for the absurd statement that at the King's happy return they amounted to nearly a million sterling. If that were so, then Charles must during his eleven years of exile have borrowed a matter of 90,000l. annually, irrespective of the sums of money conferred upon him voluntarily from various sources. Anyone acquainted with the correspondence of the exiled court will easily regard such an assumption as preposterous. But what Charles II.'s debts at the Restoration actually amounted to cannot be stated, for the simple reason that no account of them was ever submitted to Parliament. In consequence, no specific grant was ever made by Parliament for liquidating them. That is to say, Charles was left to liquidate them himself as best he could out of such annual revenue as the Commons eventually provided for him. What this was will be seen below. One result of this method of dealing (or not dealing) with the subject was that the payment of such debts was left entirely to the Exchequer, and the record of it should therefore occur in the documents of the Exchequer and of the Treasury To a certain extent this will be found to be the case. In the present volume there are the following references to such debts.
The above are the only private debts of Charles II. incurred during his exile and settled by him after the Restoration of which any clear record occurs in the present volume. They are comparatively trivial in amount. If there were others, as there very well may have been, then he may either have shirked the payment of them or have settled them out of his privy purse or by the grant of pensions or of leases of Crown lands. There is no record whatever of his privy purse expenditure and of course the Lord Treasurer had no voice whatever in or jurisdiction over the direction of payments out of the King's privy purse. So that we are here reduced to surmise. But as will be seen below the amounts actually paid yearly to the privy purse account out of the Exchequer were comparatively small and there is little likelihood that Charles could spare a penny of the money for any but his own immediate personal needs—such as they were. As to the question of Charles's grants of pensions and Crown leases see below p. xx–i. At any rate it will be noticed that (as far as he met them in cash at all) Charles met these debts of his exile out of his own revenue in the Exchequer—that is to say out of the revenue of 1,200,000l. per an. which the Parliament had granted (or nominally granted) to him for defraying the current expenses of the country. He did not ask for and did not get any special grant from Parliament for the liquidation of them.
It was a very different matter, of course, when the question of Charles I.'s debts was broached. These could by no principle of justice be thrown on to that king's son, and it therefore rested entirely with the Parliament either to repudiate them in toto or else to take the burden of them upon itself. From the very first in the Convention Parliament the resolution was firmly taken that these debts must be honoured. Certain of them were in no sense personal debts of Charles I. They represented money obligations formally and publicly taken upon itself by the Long Parliament before Pride's Purge. A report of these debts was accordingly ordered to be prepared and to be inserted in the bill for the grant of the Excise to Charles II. (fn. 7)
Certain other of these debts, however, were distinctly Charles I.'s own, having been incurred by him during the first Civil War. As to these no legal obligation rested upon the shoulders of either Charles II. or of the Convention Parliament. Nevertheless that Parliament determined to take them up and honour them—a resolution which can only be admired for its magnanimity, when we consider the severe financial trouble of the first years immediately succeeding the Restoration. The estimates of these debts, as prepared by the Committee of the Convention Parliament, was as follows:—
Ordered: That it be reported to the House as the opinion of this Committee, that the debts hereafter-mentioned, are such as the Parliament is bound in honour to take care of, which now stand charged as underwritten.
Memorandum The afore-mentioned debts were all charged by His late Majesty, and [are such as] His present Majesty is engaged in honour to see satisfied; and are humbly offered to the Parliament, by this Committee, as debts which in honour they are bound to take care of.
When, however, the Pensionary Parliament was confronted with the question of providing supply for these huge debts it was driven by the sheer force of events to the conclusion that what the Convention Parliament had projected was impossible to be performed. It had already found its resources unequal to the task of providing fully for the disbandment of the army and navy. The Parliament, therefore, in the end ignored the whole subject. Accordingly the list of the debts of the Long Parliament was not appended to the Act for the Excise as finally granted to Charles II., and no specific provision was made for the above-said personal debts of Charles I.
The result of this conduct of the Parliament was that the onus or odium of dealing or not dealing with these debts of his father was thrown upon the shoulders of Charles II. He was left to do as he pleased in full light of the knowledge that whatever he did would have to be done out of his own resources, that is out of the annual revenue of 1,200,000l. nominally settled upon him by Parliament for the carrying on of the government of the country. That Charles should under such circumstances have done anything at all towards paying his father's debts reflects most signally to his honour. He paid some of them in cash out of the Exchequer and for others he gave assignations upon his revenues from the Excise and the Customs and other branches. The proof of these payments therefore appears diversely in the issues of the Receipt and in the yearly accounts of the Excise and Customs, &c. But from whatever branch of the revenue the payment was actually immediately made, the ultimate fund from which it was drawn was the annual revenue granted to him purely and simply for the maintenance of his kingly state and of the government of the country. In addition to this actual liquidation in cash, Charles granted pensions and leases of Crown lands as a further form of repayment for moneys lent, goods supplied or service done to his father. The incessant worry which this matter caused to his staunch and upright Treasurer, the Earl of Southampton, is apparent, ludicrously almost and yet pitiably apparent, throughout the present volume. He was literally driven to distraction, not merely by the claims of the applicants, but also by Charle's good-natured desire at every possible point to meet the demands of such applicants by means of grants of leases of Crown lands, or by the bestowal of pensions or by gifts of royal bounty. In order to determine how far Charles really went towards liquidating his father's debts, it would be necessary to work through the items of 'crown leases,' 'pensions,' and 'royal bounty' contained in the index to the present volume, and to compare the names of the recipients with the names of Charles I.'s creditors set out in the pages of the Commons Journal quoted above. The references which the present volume contains to such of these debts as Charles actually paid or proposed to pay in cash are as follow:—
It only remains to be added that when the Parliament subsequently at different points of time reinforced the King's ordinary revenue by means of special grants of aid (see below), the preamble of those grants bore no reference to the question of these debts of the Civil War time. The whole subject was discreetly passed over in silence by the faithful Commons.
There remained a third class of debts outstanding at the Restoration and calling for consideration, viz. the civil debts accruing from the days of the Protectorate. These the Convention Parliament quite naturally declined to consider for a moment, with the exception of certain special administrative items of debt of the years 1659–60. (fn. 8)
In attempting any judgment of Charles's first Parliament for thus failing to fulfil the highly honourable purpose announced by the Convention Parliament, it is necessary to keep well in mind the extremity of the financial distress of the time. The idea is generally held that Charles could just as easily have obtained a revenue of two millions as of one million from the Commons at the Restoration, and that the blame for his not getting it is to be laid at the door of Clarendon's constitutional scruples. Such an idea will not bear a moment's examination. For the first few years immediately succeeding the Restoration, the Commons grudged nothing that it was humanly possible for them to do, but the situation was too much for them, just as it was too much for Charles himself. They had not even been able to provide adequately for the disbandment and for the debts of the Army and Navy, and in the growing financial troubles alike of the country and of the Government it was all the Commons could do, it ultimately proved more than they could do, to avert a national bankruptcy. It was from sheer inability therefore that they finally shelved the question of meeting the debts of the late King's administration.
(3) The third great problem which the Restoration Parliament had to face was the question of providing a suitable revenue for the administration of the country. As the administration was, according to the political theory of the times, the King's administration, the method adopted was that of granting him for life certain funds or sources of income which together with the really hereditary or private revenues of the Crown would, or were calculated to, yield a fixed yearly income of 1,200,000l. for the support of the kingly state, meaning by that not merely the dignity of the Crown but also all the civil and military expenditure of the country. I have already in another connexion (fn. 9) detailed the step by which the Parliament secured, or thought it had secured, this revenue for the Crown. Up to a certain point the Parliament struggled heroically to keep its word, and when the sources of revenue which it had assigned to the Crown proved inadequate to produce the determinate sum of 1,200,000l. per an. it reinforced those sources by other subsidiary or added grants. The Excise was put up from an estimated 300,000l. to an estimated 400,000l. per an. and an imposition on hearths and stoves was granted to the King as part of his yearly revenue from 1662, March 25. All the financial troubles of Charles's regin resulted from the fact that the revenues so assigned proved, even when thus twice reinforced, inadequate to produce such a revenue of 1,200,000l. for the Crown. Every page of the Treasury records of the period bears lively evidence, in Treasurer Southampton's turgid but manly sentences, of this fact and of the keen official anxiety and distress which resulted from it. It reflects the highest credit on Charles's ministers, on the civil administration generally, that they should have struggled on as they did under such difficulties. In the essay just referred to I have briefly indicated the general nature of the shortage. The conclusion there pointed out will be more clearly illustrated by a detailed survey of the revenue and expenditure of the Government during the seven years 1660–7, covered by the present volume.
Table A below (pp. xxviii–ix) gives the annual receipts from those sources which were intended to produce the fixed yearly revenue of 1,200,000l. Table B (pp. xxx–i) gives the annual receipts from other Parliamentary sources of revenue specially granted for various purposes (in the main for the Dutch war). (fn. 10) Table (C) (pp. xxxii–iii) gives the annual expenditure. Table (D) (p. xxxiv) gives the totals of tables A and B combined; and finally table (E) (pp. xxxiv–v) gives a comparison of the estimated as compared with the actual receipts from certain main heads of the hereditary revenue of the Crown. These tables will serve to bring out in greater detail the conclusions drawn in the essay referred to as to the remarkable shrinkage in the yield of the revenues assigned for the support of the State. They will bring out at the same time and even more clearly the parallel fact that the national revenue, ordinary and extraordinary alike, went in the main in legitimate channels of national expenditure—the Navy first, always first, then the Army, then the royal household and so on. The myth that Charles II. poured all the money that he got into the lap of his mistresses ought to at last disappear. In the table of the annual expenditure (table C, pp. xxxii–iii) there are five items which might be looked upon askance and with a sceptical eye. To prevent any misunderstanding about them, I may point out at once that these items are as legitimate in the main as any of the other items of the national expenditure. These are (1) allowances and annuities. These consist largely of payments to the Duke of York and such like. The names and sums are stated quite plainly in the records both of the Treasury and the Exchequer. (2) Rewards and royal bounties. Here again the names and sums are plainly stated in the records, and they will be found largely accounted for in the present volume (see in the index under the head 'royal bounty' and 'pensions'). (3) Extra-ordinaries of various natures. These are also plainly stated items and perfectly legitimate in their nature. They are also largely accounted for in the present volume. (4) Secret and special service. As far as the mere issue of the money is concerned, these are also accounted for in the present volume. But of course there is, quite properly, no account of the expenditure of the money so issued, that is to say, there is no statement anywhere of the particular purpose for which any of such issues were made. (5) The final item, 'fees and annuities', contains the whole Civil Service of the country, the Exchequer and Treasury officials, the Judges and so on.
But whilst table C shows fairly that the national revenue was expended on legitimate and proper items of national expenditure, and that it did not by any means go down the throats of greedy mistresses, there is one important item it does not reveal, and that is the growing debt on each of these heads of administrative expenditure. All that these tables in the aggregate show is how much money had been received in the Exchequer from certain sources, how much had been paid out for certain purposes. As the Exchequer system stood at the Restoration, it was no part of the duty of its officials to prepare a statement of debt standing on the various branches of the administration, and so ill organised was the Treasury system during the years of Southampton's Treasurership—the years covered by the present volume—that it was equally out of the question for the Treasury to prepare such a statement; the simple reason being that the Treasury had not the requisite control over the administrative or departmental finance.
Total Yearly Payments into the Exchequer on account of the hereditary revenue of the Crown and of Parliamentary grants in aid as above, including loans, Queen dowry, and money from the French King: and total yearly expenditure.
For a total of these 6¾ years (1660, June to 1667, March) the average fixed revenue of the Crown including Hearth money was 837,777l. and excluding Hearth money the annual revenue (fixed and hereditary) of the Crown as assigned by Parliament was only 739,675l. per an. as against an estimated yield of 1,200,000l. expected therefrom.
As far as the contents of the present volume of Treasury Records is concerned, the above tables of figures will explain succintly enough the real nature and cause of the financial troubles of the Government and will account for Treasurer Southampton's despair as evinced in his letters herein. But as growing out of this larger question there is one further aspect of Southampton's financial administration which requires a word of elucidation. A scrutinising eye will be struck with one remarkable feature in the present volume, and that is the complete lack of control exercised by the Lord Treasurer over administrative expenditure. A modern Chancellor of the Exchequer confronted with a disastrous shrinkage in the revenue would naturally set himself to cut down expenditure. Why did not Southampton do the same? He did not for the simple reason that he could not. He had not the power that a modern Chancellor of the Exchequer has. The Treasury system was still in its cradle. Generations had yet to elapse before it had gathered momentum enough to secure control of departmental expenditure. At the time of the Restoration, the Lord Treasurer of England was not a high official standing at the head of a firmly organised Treasury system capable of withstanding the Crown on the one hand and the great departments on the other. The Lord High Treasurer was in very deed and truth a servant of the Crown, bound to do the bidding of the Crown would he or would he not. That high function which is now exercised by the Treasury, viz. the control of the estimating and the apportioning of the national expenditure was exercised in the days of Charles II. not by the Lord Treasurer but by the King in Council, and if Southampton had any share in that high function it was as a member of the Privy Council or as a member of the Government. In his mere capacity as Lord Treasurer he had no such function; for instance he will be found throughout the present volume making reports like any subordinate official to the King in Council on the most trivial matters, such as petitions for pensions or grants of Crown leases. As Lord Treasurer his main function was to see to the proper working of the Exchequer, and this meant in the main that he should take care that all issues of money out of the Exchequer should conform to those methods which centuries of past English history had evolved as constitutional safeguards to preserve the King's revenue from peculation. What he could do Southampton manfully did, but it will be found consistently throughout the present volume that such exercise of independent judgment on his part was limited to pointing out to Charles here and there, in this particular case or that, and always by way of humble report to the King, that such and such grants of pensions or bounty or leases were impossible in the then state of the Treasury. He attempted no control of the Paymaster of the Forces, or of the Treasurer of the Navy or of the Cofferer of the Household, and so on. All such control was exercised directly by the King in his Privy Council. In order to understand the standpoint of the 17th century, the modern reader must assimilate the idea that the King was living on his own, that the fixed revenue of the country was his, his for life, that the administration was his, that the army and navy, the civil service, the ambassadorial service and the judicial system were his, and that in regulating his expenditure he was dealing with what was constitutionally his own. The only external force that could constrain him in regulating his expenditure was not his Lord High Treasurer who was only his servant, but the Parliament. And the Parliament interfered only at moments of volcanic explosion, decisive moments which mark successively the stages of our constitutional growth.
When Parliament had by the steps detailed above made such provision as it could for the nation's debts and for the King's revenue, its function ended as far as the Treasury system was concerned. But when that function was ended there was still one most difficult problem remaining unsolved, one which from its very nature the legislature was not called upon to consider and which therefore rested for its solution entirely upon the administration itself. That problem was how to provide a sufficient balance of immediate cash to enable the administration to pay its way until the King's revenue should at last begin to trickle in to the Exchequer. This is of course not a peculiar but quite a common problem, for in every state revenue comes in during the course of or at the end of a financial year, while expenditure begins instantly with the commencement of the year and must be met forthwith. Modern devices for solving such a problem by anticipating revenue are perfectly simple; they consist in raising credit in some form or other on the security of the incoming taxes. Such, however, was the ignorance of the Exchequer officials of the 17th century on this point that it took Charles's servants seven years to grope their way to anything like a proper system of raising credit on the incoming revenue. During those seven years, the period covered by the present volume, the Treasury tried every conceiveable and clumsy method of anticipating the revenue receipts by means of credit. Certain taxes were turned over or hypothecated to the City as security for loans thereon, and as a consequence such taxes were ordered to be paid in, not to the Exchequer, but to the Chamberlain of London at the Guildhall. In other cases portions of taxes were similarly hypothecated and assigned to particular private bankers. In the essay quoted above I have detailed these various curious financial expedients and it may save time to remit the reader to it. References illustrative of each and all of these experiments in finance will be found strewn throughout the present volume. The following is a typical instance, and the reader who desires to follow the subject further may do so by working the item of 'loans' in the index.
pp. 378–9, Treasurer Southampton to Sir Robert Pye [Auditor of the Receipt]. "Whereas Mr. Robert Vyner His Majesties Goldsmith hath undertaken to advance the sume of 100,000l. for His Majesties great and weighty affaires in Ireland which by His Majesties express command is to bee secured and repaid him out of the assessment of the 1,260,000l. (lately granted to His Matie by Act of Parliament) within the counties of Northampton, Warwick with the city of Coventry, Worcester with the city of Worcester, Derby, Salop and Leicester; and a warrant under the Great Seal of England is passing accordingly; you are to take especial care that in the meane time and untill that warrant bee passed noe part of the monies arising upon that assessment within those places bee otherwise disposed of or diverted from him. And if any of those monies have been already paid into the Exchequer you are to make stay of it till you receave further order from me for issuing of it out to the said Mr. Vyner for the purpose above-mentioned. Or if any of the Receavers of the assessments within those counties shall tender the payment thereof into the Exchequer that you direct them to the said Mr Vyner at his house in Lumber Street in London: Mr. Vyner being obliged to strike tallies for the same."
The credit which the Government raised by this method of hypothecating particular taxes, or particular portions of taxes, proved, however, quite insufficient to meet its current cash needs, and it was finally driven to a systematic adoption of the ruinous expedient of farming the main sources of the hereditary revenue of the Crown. The Customs, the Excise, Hearth money, and a little later Wine Licence Money were one after the other granted in farm to private individuals, not to mention a whole host of subsidiary items of revenue, such as the duty on sea coals, greenwax, French shipping, &c., as to which see the item 'Revenue' (farms) in the index. The sole and determining motive involved in all these farming transactions was the stipulation which the Treasury made that the grantees should make an advance on their respective farms before entering on the enjoyment of them. In the case of the Customs, for instance, this advance amounted to 200,000l. In the case of the Country Excise farms each separate farmer was to advance a quarter's rent of his farm before entering on the enjoyment of it, and so on for the other species of farms. Such advances were of course, merely loans to the Government in anticipation of and secured upon the incoming yearly revenue. In the case of the Customs the Treasury dealt with sound and reliable people, and as a consequence it experienced comparatively little trouble in connexion with this branch of revenue. But in the case of the Excise it was very much the reverse. The difficulty which Charles's Government experienced in getting in the revenue from the Excise will be found exemplified on almost every page of the present volume. As it was impossible to grant the whole excise revenue in a single farm, it was cut up. Following the precedent of Cromwell's time, the Excise of London was assigned as a single farm, whilst the Country Excise was farmed by separate leases covering each individual county. In its anxiety to get decent offers for these separate county farms, the Treasury appealed almost pitiably to the Justices of the Peace to forward the service by nominating good, responsible and loyal persons to bid for the farms. The estimate which the Treasury set upon the value of these county farms is set out in full on p. 402 infra; and the extent to which it realised its expectations can be seen from the terms of the leases actually concluded (see pp. 423–31). In some cases bids could not be got for the lease of certain counties, and the Treasury had to fall back upon inviting the previous sub-commissioners to undertake the farm, in other cases the bids were too low, and in others again the bidders absolutely declined to agree to make any advance on their farm. And when the Treasury had at least succeeded in letting the country farm its troubles instead of being at an end were increased twofold. Lessee after lessee defaulted on his farm, and the lease had to be resumed to the State or granted to another. And where the lessees actually stuck to their guns they were incessantly petitioning the distracted Lord Treasurer for the allowance of defalcations. The curious reader will be able to follow out the whole of this subject by means of the items Excise (farm) and Excise (arrears) in the index. It ought, however, to be added that there was ample justification for this backwardness on the part of the country farmers. The Excise was a highly unpopular form of taxation, and instead of being made more popular by the farming process it was made less popular, and at the same time more easy to evade. The populace, who might have hesitated to resist the King's officer, did not scruple to flout and assault the servants of a mere farmer. And the Justices of the Peace instead of assisting the farmers often sided openly with the resisters. Time and time again Southampton was driven to remonstrate with the Justices and to exhort them to assist the cause of the revenue. The language which the Treasurer used in these appeals is at times astonishing in its weakness.
p. 531. Circular letter from Treasurer Southampton [to the Justices of Peace in the various Counties] concerning the complaints received from the farmers of Excise as to daily abuses and affronts given to their officers in the execution of their duty; the rescuing of distresses by tumults and uproars, "and themselves many times forct to quit the place." Requests them of their good affections to give all assistance to the said farmers' officers, this being "a great branch of His Majestie's revenue and settled upon him by a law in the execution of which you are required to be assisting," or failing a settlement of disputes, then to return the matter in controversy to the Treasury to the end order may be taken therein.
Other numerous instances of ineffectual and despairing appeals from the Treasury to the itinerant Justices and to the Justices of the Peace in the various counties will be found collected together in the index under the item Excise (frauds). Besides this unpopular nature of the tax there can be no doubt that the official estimate of its yield had been an exaggerated one. Many of the farmers found that they had burnt their fingers, and when the plague came the Excise was the one branch that suffered most severely. This will be apparent from the items of receipt on pp. xxviii–ix. supra.
Brief reference remains to be made to the subject of the Crown lands and revenues. Although all sales of these lands made during the civil wars and under the Common-wealth were quashed at the Restoration, the Crown did not instantly enter into possession of its ancient inheritance. The records of these ancient possessions had been scattered during the usurpation and had to be gotten together at the Restoration from various sources (see the item in the index Crown lands (surveys)). Until the Exchequer records could be ransacked and the lands brought back into charge (see p. 11) the Exchequer officials had to fall back upon such discoveries of concealed Crown lands as were made voluntarily by informers. There is a long list of such discoveries in Vol. VIII. p. 37 of the Commons Journals, and many more will be found recorded in the present volume (see the items 'discoveries' and 'Crown Wastes' in the index). As a consequence of this slow and probably in the end partial recovery of the ancient estates of the Crown, the receipts of revenue from this source only mounted slowly. It was quite three or four years before they reached a respectable figure and they never reached the estimate which the Restoration Parliament put upon them. (See the receipts, detailed, under the head of 'Receivers General' in the table supra, pp. xxviii–ix). In this they only shared the same fate with many other estimated items of the Crown revenue of the time.
In the above introduction I have not attempted to exhaust all the points of historic interest in the present volume. My sole object has been to elucidate and illustrate one point only, viz. the financial difficulties which beset Charles's Government on every side from the very first moment of his return from exile. By implication such an elucidation is bound to throw a strong light upon the constitutional side of the history of his reign, as well as upon the equally vital subject of his foreign policy. Charles was driven into the arms of Louis XIV. simply by his financial distress—a distress which was brought upon him more by the irony of events and by the sins of omission of his faithful Commons than by any sins of commission of his own.
It is necessary to add a word as to the plan and purpose of the present volume; which is intended to form the first volume of a new series of Calendar of Treasury Books. A reference to pp. 1–3 of the introduction to Vol. I. of the Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers, 1729–30, will explain the situation. When a calendar of Treasury records was first projected, it was thought fit to confine it to the bundles of loose Treasury Board Papers. Six volumes of this calendar were brought out covering the years 1557–1728. The work was then stopped, as it had become apparent that such a calendar was omitting the very material which possessed the greatest historical value. Accordingly when the calendar was again set on foot, its plan was altered, and it was made to include in its scope the Minute Books and Warrant and Order and Letter Books and such like, as well as the loose Treasury papers. From 1729 onwards, therefore, the calendar is entitled a "Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers," and can fairly lay claim to being a comprehensive resumé of all Treasury records possessing historical value. This arrangement however, unhappily, left the Treasury Books (the Minute Books and the various Entry Books) for the time prior to 1729 hanging in the air uncalendered. It has now been decided by the Treasury to go back over this period prior to 1729, and to calendar the Treasury Books separately. By this means the historical world will have at its disposal a complete calendar of Treasury records for the period prior to 1729 by means of the two parallel and concurrent series of Calendars of (a) Treasury Papers (b) Treasury Books, and from 1729 onwards by means of the single combined Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers.
The materials for this supplementary Calendar of Treasury Books have been already succinctly described in the introduction to Vol. I of the Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers, 1729–30. In the case of the present volume alone they consist of the 14 volumes of entry books styled "Early money and the warrant books," and described in the abovesaid introduction pp. x–xv. Although these 14 volumes roughly cover the whole period of Southampton's Treasurership, there is internal evidence that they are very incomplete and that much has been lost. (fn. 11) It is to this fact that must be attributed the partial and, on certain points, unsatisfactory nature of the historical material contained in the present volume. There is another reason for this also. All these 14 volumes, covering the years 1660–7, were kept by Sir Philip Warwick, who was secretary to the Treasury Lords and to Treasurer Southampton. Although better as a man than his successor, Sir George Downing, he was not nearly so good as an official. Warwick's (or Southampton's) entry books are unsystematic and scrappy to a degree, whereas from 1667 onwards, under Downing's inspiration, the routine of Treasury business and Treasury bookkeeping was systematised and regulated in a remarkably thorough and able manner. It is deplorable that for the years 1660–67, years which covered the first of Charles's Dutch wars, and which laid the basis of all his later financial troubles, the Treasury records should be so incomplete and so unsatisfactory. It would almost seem that towards the end of his life Southampton's spirit was completely broken by the incessant worry of his thankless task, for from the time of the Dutch war and the Plague his entries grew fewer and fewer and always more laconic and insignificant. It is impossible to peruse these records of his official activity without being filled with intense admiration for the moral fibre of the man, but it is equally impossible to evade the conviction that the fabric of the Treasury system nearly suffered shipwreck under him. Even worse might have happened had he been succeeded by a single individual as Lord Treasurer, but at his death the Treasury was put in commission and the commission had at its disposal the services of Sir George Downing, a doubly perjured traitor, but a most capable official. It is from the date of this commission, 1667, that the history of the Treasury as an independently organized department of State machinery really begins, and it is from this date also that the regular series of Treasury records begin. As compared with the period subsequent to 1667, the period of Southampton's treasurership possesses a transition character—with the Treasury still as merely one aspect of the Exchequer, and with the Lord Treasurer at times as still little more than a Privy Councillor. And it is to this transitional character of the Treasury system under Southampton that is to be attributed the unsatisfactory nature of the records covering the years of his office.
In conclusion, one purely technical point remains to be made clear. The plan of the present Calendar of Treasury Books prescribes that the text of the Calendar shall be furnished by the Minute Book year by year, and that the various warrants, letters, &c., in the concurrent series of Entry Books shall form a tabulated appendix accompanying the text of the Minute Book year by year.
As during the years of Southampton's treasurership there was no Treasury Board, there was consequently no formal record of minutes. Southampton's resolutions on matters submitted to him—resolutions which at a meeting of a body of Commissioners would have been drawn up into a formal minute—simply take the shape of an order scribbled on the face or dorse of a petition or case, &c. As it happens these are mostly mere orders of reference made on petitions. In order to secure uniformity between the present volume and the succeeding ones, it has been necessary to treat all such orders as virtual minutes, and to make them into a text as if representing a Minute Book, whilst putting into the tabular appendix all warrants, letters, &c. This plan is unimpeachable as a mere matter of arrangement, but it has had the result of giving the prominence of large type to the least interesting and valuable portion of the records. From 1667 onwards, of course, when the regular Treasury Minute Book begins, this will not be the case; the text of the Calendar will possess the chief value as representing the Minute Book, which is pre-eminent among the Treasury records.