Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 2, 1667-1668. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1905.
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THE general features of the financial situation of Charles II's Government have been set out in the introduction to the first volume of the present Calendar. In brief they may be recapitulated thus. (1) At the Restoration the Parliament made no provision for the debts of Charles I. or Charles II. The incoming King was left to handicap himself with those debts, or to repudiate them just as he should choose. (2) For the ordinary expenditure of the country the Parliament professed to have made provision by guaranteeing a revenue of 1,200,000l. per an. But the profession was almost instantly stultified. The Parliament's guarantee was not kept. The actual revenue fell short of it on an average by about a third. Furthermore this professed income of 1,200,000l. was itself calculated without due regard to the needs of the national expenditure. Even if it had been paid in full it was still insufficient for the ordinary needs of the state. (3) There did not exist at the time in England any proper machinery for anticipating revenue. Charles's officials were only gradually groping their way to the idea of such machinery. In order therefore to provide a working balance of cash for the Exchequer, Charles was driven to every species of ruinous expedient. He borrowed money at a heavy percentage, and farmed out every tax he possibly could in return for advances and loans from the farmers.
When the deficiency of the national income began to press upon him Charles was not niggard of his own. He turned the cash portion of his wife's dowry into the Exchequer; he sold Dunkirk to the French king, and turned the purchase money into the Exchequer; he mortgaged and finally sold Crown lands to the value of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and turned that also into the Exchequer. But nothing could save him. From the first day he set foot in England at the glorious and happy Restoration his government was financially doomed. Even if his financial difficulties had not been complicated and aggravated by the great plague, the fire of London, and by the first Dutch war, he could not have hoped to escape bankruptcy. Sooner or later it was bound to come. The Dutch war only brought it the sooner. But when it did come the shame of it did not lie at his door; it lay at the door of the House of Commons, and nowhere else.
In this volume of the Calendar these financial difficulties are gathering quickly round Charles's head, and we can now see a little more clearly the straits he was in, the shifts his officials in every department were driven to, as gradually and inevitably the country drifted to bankruptcy—the first acknowledged national bankruptcy in our history. The Treasury itself was abjectly in the hands of the bankers and tax farmers, of whom it was incessantly begging loans, and with all its importunity it could not raise ready cash sufficient for the services. It was reduced to working departmental expenditure on a credit basis of its own invention by issuing batches of orders (so much paper merely) to the Lieutenant of the Ordnance, the Treasurer of the Navy, the Paymaster of the Forces, and so on. These orders were simply assignations on distantly accruing funds. They represent a development of the idea of the tally of assignation and foreshadow in a clumsy, unscientific way, the later system of Exchequer bills. If the departmental Treasurer to whom a batch of such orders was issued as an imprest could not induce his creditors to accept the orders as payment, then he was left to raise a loan on them by pledging his own personal credit in addition. In this way, for instance, during the Dutch war, Sir George Carteret kept the British fleet at sea by raising yearly a quarter of a million on his own credit at a time when the Treasury Lords were unable to assist him and when the fleet would otherwise have had to be laid up in harbour. The working of the system at one end of it is succinctly explained in a passage of Pepys's diary. (fn. 1)
"Walking a good while with Sir Stephen Fox [Paymaster of the Guards], who among other things told me his whole mystery in the business of the interest he pays as Treasurer for the Army. They gave him 12d. per £ quite through the army with condition to be paid weekly. This he undertakes upon his own private credit and to be paid by the King at the end of every 4 months: then for all the time he stays longer [for his money in repayment] the Lord Treasurer [Southampton] allows him 8 per cent. per annum for the forbearance. So that in fine he hath about 12 per cent. from the king and the army [i.e. 5 per cent. from the army and 8 per cent. from the Treasury] for 15 or 16 months' interest, out of which he gains soundly, his expense [the total money so raised by him on credit] being about 130,000l. per an."
When the Parliament came to enquire into the accounts of public moneys it fell foul of this method of working the departmental services, and pretended in its factiousness to be outraged by the very idea of it. But the reader will find on every page of the present volume of the Calendar overwhelming proof not only that the device had the completest official sanction from the King in Council and from the Treasury Lords, and that it was systematised and safeguarded as far as ever the Exchequer and Treasury system of the time permitted, but also that the Treasury only resorted to it in the last extremity when its own borrowing powers were exhausted, and when its own system of credit tallies on the Customs and Excise no longer availed.
The payment of the seamen by ticket was a mere offshoot from this device thus adopted in a moment of direst need. In peace time the naval service took much more money than the Guards and Garrisons; in the time of the war it took four times as much. What was a comparatively easy problem for Sir Stephen Fox, Paymaster of the Guards, was a vastly more difficult problem for Sir George Carteret, Treasurer of the Navy. In the end neither the credit of the Treasury Lords nor his own private credit sufficed; ready cash could not be found for promptly and regularly paying off the ships' crews, and so at last resort was unwillingly had to payment by ticket. This was the one item in the financial system of the time which most inflamed the national mind and the mind of Parliament, and it formed the most sensational count in the charges against Carteret. The official reply as delivered by Pepys and again by Carteret both before the Commission of Accounts and in the House of Commons itself would have been crushing had not the Parliament and the nation alike been blinded by suspicion and faction.
To anyone who accepts the ordinary version of the history of Charles II's reign, such statements as these will be unpalatable, and the question will involuntarily rise to the lips why such financial straits at the very time that the Parliament had voted such lavish sums for the Dutch war?
(1) The war against the Dutch was declared on the 22nd Feb., 1664–5. The first supply which the Parliament voted for the war was the Royal Aid of 2,477,500l. Of that aid no money, not a single penny, came into the Exchequer before the 7th of the following April, 1665, and until the middle of the following July the moneys dribbled in comparatively slowly. This meant that during all months prior to the declaration of war, when hostilities were seen to be pending, Charles was obliged to equip himself for the war without Parliamentary aid; that for nearly two months after the war was declared he derived not the assistance of a penny piece from the Parliamentary grant, and that that grant only began to be of real help to him after the war had been in progress for five months. If he had possessed any efficient means of anticipating the receipts of the Royal Aid, of borrowing on the credit of it, the problem would have presented no difficulty, but it was just on this one feature of it that the financial machinery was deficient at the time of the outbreak of the war, and the Government was driven as a consequence to all the clumsy credit devices which have just been enumerated.
(2) The idea, which one meets at every turn in the Parliamentary debates of the time, that the provision which the House of Commons made for the war was ample, was even generous, is almost grotesque in its absurdity. The total supply specifically voted for the war did not reach 5,000,000l. In the same conflict the Dutch are said to have spent 11,000,000l. in money and to have incurred many more millions of debt.
(3) The money which the Commons voted for the war was not in reality available for the war. The Commons deliberately ignored the existing debt on the ordinary peace establishment of the country. They had ceased to trouble themselves about the shrinkage on the revenue assigned for the support of the administration. "With all my arithmetic," said Sir George Downing in the House, "I cannot make out the King's income to be 900,000l. per an." And as Secretary of the Treasury no one knew better than Downing. But the words fell on deaf ears. If the Parliament had done its duty and kept its word honourably it would have assigned the Royal Aid to meet the debt on the ordinary administration of the country, and would then have made specific provision for the war. Instead of doing this, the Parliament passed an appropriation clause ear-marking the Royal and the Additional Aid for the purposes of the war only. By so doing Parliament deliberately broke faith with the King. It turned its back upon its own undertaking to provide a permanent revenue of 1,200,000l. per an. for the support of the administration, and left him on the one hand to face bankruptcy in his ordinary administration, and on the other hand to carry on a first-class war with a ridiculously inadequate supply—a war, albeit, which was of their seeking, not his.
In the first volume of the present Calendar (Introduction, pp. xxviii–xxxv) tables of revenue and expenditure were given for the years 1660–6. In the following tables this information is brought down to the end of the year 1668, thus covering the period included in the present volume.
I regret keenly that it is not possible to give for the two years 1667–8, contained in the present volume, a full reliable account of the actual expenditure. This is due to the fact that the half-yearly "declarations of accounts" for those years no longer exist—if indeed they were ever drawn up by the Auditor or the Clerk of the Pells. It was from these half-yearly declarations that the account of the expenditure for the years 1660–7 was given in the introduction of Vol. I. of the present Calendar. In their absence I have been obliged for the years 1667–1668 to abstract and tabulate the Pells Issue Book, which is an exact duplicate of the Issue Roll. The result of this abstraction is given in the table hereto succeeding. But the Pells Issue Book does not give the total or anything near the total of the national expenditure (I use the term national expenditure as covering every branch of Charles's expenditure). It only gives an account of such portions of that expenditure as were paid for in actual cash. It is perhaps hardly necessary to explain that the revenue, of which the tabular statement has just been given, did not come, all of it, into the Exchequer in the form of cash. In very deed a great portion of it never came into the Exchequer at all. It was met before it arrived there, and was diverted into the stream of payments out—a stream flowing just the other way. This was effected by means of the device of tallies or orders of assignation. For example: The Farmers of the Customs, or the Farmers of the Excise, should nominally have paid all the rent of their farms into the Exchequer. But they never did. Acting on the quite proper authority of Treasury warrants they paid away money in large sums or small to this or that department or paymaster, to this or that creditor of the Government. By the fictitious process of striking a tally in the Exchequer these payments were accounted for in the Exchequer as "payments in," and on the production of the Treasury warrant of assignment the auditor allowed the amount on the Farmers' accounts, so that the Farmers themselves were fully covered. If the reader has grasped the working of this operation he will easily understand that the statement of revenue just given is a complete one, and that it covers two distinct classes of payments in, viz.: (a) Payments in made in the form of actual cash paid into the Exchequer. (b) Payments in not made into the Exchequer at all but made direct to creditors of the Government but accounted for in the Exchequer as payments in by means of tallies fictitiously stricken. When therefore we come to the reverse side of this process we shall expect to meet the same classification. The "payments out," the full total of the national expenditure, consisted of two similar branches, viz.: (c) Payments of actual cash paid out by the four Tellers of the Exchequer; and (d) payments out, made not by the Exchequer at all, but by the various farmers, &c., on the strength of Treasury orders of assignation. The half-yearly declarations give us the total of a, b, c, d. The Pells Issue Book only gives us c. In the absence of the "Declarations," therefore, we still want the item d, viz., a detailed account of payments which the Treasury made not in the form of cash, but in the form of wooden tallies or paper orders of assignation.
If the Exchequer series of Auditors' Order Books were in existence for the years 1667–1668, this could in all probability be given, but unfortunately they do not exist. The only remaining available source is the Treasury Order Book, which is calendared in the present volume. But the Treasury system was only in its infancy in these years, and as a consequence the early Treasury Books, laudable as were Downing's zealous efforts at systematisation, have none of the marvellous and beautiful system and completeness that characterise the Exchequer records of the same years. I therefore feel very dubious as to the possibility of compiling from the Treasury Order Book a reliable account of this item d, "payments out" upon tallies or upon paper orders of assignation.
I append to the above main tables of income and expenditure the following short abstracts of the Declared Accounts for the whole period 1660–8 of the chief departments of public income and expenditure, viz., the Customs, Excise, Army, Navy, Ordnance, Treasurer of the Chamber, Cofferer of the Household, Works, and a few subsidiary accounts.
The conclusion which I draw from these accounts is, broadly speaking, that the money which the Parliament voted for the Dutch war would have been about sufficient to provide for the growing debt on the ordinary or peace establishment of the country. That is to say, that averaged out over the whole period—1660–8—it would have sufficed to bring up the income of the administration to that 1,200,000l. per an. which the Parliament had pledged itself to provide. In this sense therefore it may be said that the Parliament left Charles to fight the Dutch without any aid whatever; although they had themselves promoted the war.
Total effectual yield of the Excise (calculated from the discharge) and therefore including salaries, allowances, interest, &c. (the actual cash yield to the Exchequer being less than the amount here stated by the amount of the said items of salaries, allowances, interest, &c.)
Prior to 1667, Sept. 28, the garrisons were paid and accounted for by their respective Governors. Only scattered accounts have survived, and it would be impossible to give a satisfactory statement. In a general way they may be taken to have required regularly from the time of the Restoration a yearly establishment of over 60,000l. a year.
In the above accounts the reader will have before him in an absolutely reliable and impartial shape the material from which he will be able to judge for himself as to the character of Charles's expenditure both in peace and war from the Restoration to the end of 1668, the date to which the present volume of Calendar extends. In one sense the modern student will be in an even better position to form his judgment thereon than was the Parliament of Charles when it set itself to examine into the expenditure of the Dutch war. For the Exchequer system of auditing and accounting in those days was such that it was almost impossible to present accounts quickly—say at the end of each year's expenditure. For instance many of the accounts printed in abstract above, although they concerned expenditure which had taken place in 1666 and 1667, were not declared until the year 1674, that is until years after the Parliamentary Commission for Accounts had expired. To any one who understands the Exchequer and departmental system of the time this will not cause the least surprise, and I need not waste words over the point. But the result was that when the Parliamentary Commission of Accounts sat, it had to be content with hastily improvised statements of accounts in which the important items of "surplusages" and "remains" could not possibly be correctly stated and in which further the full total of credits or items of discharge could also not possibly be set out fully, because those items not infrequently strayed beyond the time of the life of the Commission itself. To that extent therefore a modern student has before him truer historical material to work upon than had the Parliamentary Commission.
From the 31st October, 1665, to the 18th September, 1666, the Parliament had stood adjourned. When it met on the latter date the Dutch war was raging and the embers of the great fire, which had devastated London only a fortnight before, were still smouldering. In his speech to the two Houses on opening the session, Charles plainly indicated the need of fresh supply in order to carry on the war. An address of thanks was voted to the King for his conduct of the war, and then, as a preliminary to the consideration of further supply, the Commons, on the 21st of September, called for the accounts of the officers of the Navy, Ordnance and Stores. It seems clear that the calling for accounts was not a hostile or critical act on the part of the Commons, that it was not an act intended to embarrass the administration. The Royal Aid and the Additional Aid had been granted for the Dutch war. The appropriation clause had been moved by no less devoted a slave to the administration than Sir George Downing himself. It was perfectly natural that before considering further supply the House should call for an account of the expenditure of the moneys raised by the two aids, in order to see how much of the credits raised thereby still remained unexpended. The next step would be to estimate the probable cost of the war for the coming months, and then the House would have an idea of the amount of further supply which would be necessary. If the modern constitutional system had been in force, Charles's administration would have had these financial estimates ready cut and dried for the House when it met. But it was to Charles's disadvantage that such constitutional machinery had not yet been evolved. In a broad sense Charles's administration consisted of the whole body of his executive officials, the officials of the Household, of the Exchequer, of the Navy Office and so forth. If these officials had been one and all disqualified for sitting in Parliament, Charles would have seen the necessity of having some formal representative channel through which, some machinery by means of which, the views of the official world, the civil service and the military and naval services might be laid before the Houses. But almost all the chief members of these services had seats in one or other House, and that fact had the result of concealing from Charles the one main defect in the executive machinery of the country. He trusted to his various officials to represent in the two Houses the views or needs of the administration simply in their quality as private members and without system, without any organised coherent plan, without any prearranged understanding among themselves.
In a narrower sense the administration or the executive consisted of the King and the Privy Council. But equally here again there was an absolute lack of any co-ordination between the executive and the two Houses. There was no representative mouthpiece of the Privy Council through whom the views or needs of the executive could be put before Parliament. Not the slightest attempt was made to build a bridge between the executive and the legislature, and if a privy councillor spoke in either House he spoke simply as a private member, not as an official representative of the administration.
When Charles opened the Session he indicated in the very vaguest terms that more money would be needed for the war, and there he left the matter. The House must find out for itself, if it liked, how much money would be needed and how it had better be provided.
This is, I take it, the true significance to be attached to the action of the Commons in calling immediately for the accounts of the three chief heads of war expenditure—navy, ordnance, and stores. It was not an unfriendly act directed in a moment of suspicion against the King's administration, it was simply the most methodical way the House had of preparing for itself those estimates which in later and happier times would have been prepared for it by the various departments.
It was in this sense that the King and his executive—let us say the Court party—understood the motion, and not the slightest opposition was raised by Charles against it. Accordingly on the 26th September the accounts were delivered to the House in manner following—
(fn. 2) "Sir Philip Warwick [Secretary to Lord Treasurer Southampton] acquaints Mr. Speaker that he had several papers in his hands which were very necessary by way of charge to introduce the public accompt and were heretofore transmitted from the Lord Treasurer to His Majesty: which he opened and read to the House and after delivered the same in at the clerk's table.
Sir George Carteret, Treasurer of the Navy, produces a book of accompt of the public moneys by way of charge and discharge: part of which he read to the House and delivered the book in at the clerk's table.
Sir John Duncombe [one of the Commissioners of the Ordnance] produces two several books from the office of the Ordnance relating to the accompts of the navy stores, and after he had opened the manner of the accompt the books were delivered in at the clerk's table."
(fn. 3) Thereupon the House appointed a committee to inspect these accounts, and subsequently it ordered an account of Prize money and Chest money at Chatham to be brought in to that committee. The production of the accounts however whetted the factious zeal of a good many Hotspurs: and Pepys, who was easily moved to fear, was apprehensive that they would cause trouble. Sir W. Coventry thought however that they would soon weary of the business and fall quietly into the giving the King what is fit. But although Pepys (fn. 4) speaks of the severity with which the committee threw itself into the work of inspecting the accounts, and although as it went on he distinctly states that the King was troubled at it as having lost prestige by submitting to this way of examining his accounts, it is certain that the Committee was not severe, and that it was more concerned to dress a true account or estimate than to find out blots in the administration.
(fn. 5) "After dinner to work again, only the Committee and I, till dark night and by that time they cast up all the lists, and found out what was the medium of men borne all the war of all sorts and ended with good peace and much seeming satisfaction...
Sir W. Coventry tells me that the sub-committee have made their report to the grand committee, and in pretty kind terms, and have agreed upon allowing us 4l. per head ... [per man borne on the navy books] which I am sure will do the business.
... I do hear from Sir W. Coventry how the House have cut us off 150,000l. of our wear and tear from that which was saved by the King while the fleet lay in harbour in winter. However he [Coventry] seems pleased, and so am I, that they have abated no more and [that they in the House] do intend to allow of 28,000 men for the next year, and this day have appointed to declare the sum they will give the King, and to propose the way of raising it.
... Sir W. Coventry discoursed with in something of the Parliament's business. They have voted giving the King for the next year 1,800,000l., which, were it not for his debts, were a great sum. He says he thinks the House may say no more to us for the present, but that we must mend our manners against the next trial, and mend them we will."
These extracts from Pepys establish conclusively the fact that the calling for these accounts was only the Parliament's way of forming an estimate, and that on the whole a friendly spirit prevailed in the committee. This view is entirely confirmed by the Journal of the House. Sir William Lowther was the chairman of the committee which the House had appointed to inspect the accounts given in as above. The committee found the matter very intricate and named a subcommittee "to prepare and facilitate some matters in relation to the accounts." (fn. 6) But on the 11th Oct., i.e. in about a fortnight after its first appointment, the committee's report was ready and was presented to the House by Sir W. Lowther. A debate followed, and the House resolved to add to the "account and estimate" thus reported a provision of 30,000l. for sick and wounded. And on the following day the House went into supply. (fn. 7)
Thus far the procedure and temper of the House is perfectly clear. What happened in the next three weeks is not quite so easy to follow. It would appear that there was a strong feeling in the House against some of Charles's officials, especially Sir George Carteret, Treasurer of the Navy. Carteret was suspected of making a huge fortune out of his office, and although the disorder in the administration of the navy was not yet fully revealed, yet sufficient was known to make the Parliament feel profoundly uneasy. The inspection of the navy accounts had given the Hotspurs an inkling as to this disorder and had whetted their appetite. In addition, Charles's business in the House was very badly managed throughout the debates on supply. The committee for supply swayed irresolutely from project to project, from a stamp duty to a poll, then to a land tax, and finally to a poll and a land tax combined. Charle's officials, the court party, or let us say the administration, left the Parliament practically without a lead, left it to do its own simply because the government did not understand the art of putting the government's case before the House, or let us say rather of passing government business through the House in an organised business-like way. It is therefore not at all surprising that concurrently with the voting of supply the Commons should have turned back again and again to the question of the accounts themselves. There were some members who could not digest those accounts at all, and there were others who simply desired to fish in troubled waters. (fn. 8)On the 15 October, the Committee for Accounts was ordered to be moved to consider the discrepancy between the accounts presented by Sir R. Long (the Auditor of the Exchequer) and Sir Philip Warwick (Treasurer Southampton's secretary). (fn. 9)Three weeks later, Nov. 9, 1666, a proposal was made that a bill should be brought in for enabling certain persons to take an accompt of the disbursements of the public moneys upon oath, showing distinctly that the House had come to suspect the reliability of the accounts which had been submitted by the administration. On a division this proposal was lost by 118 to 107. But an alternative proposition was adopted in its stead—and one which practically came to the same thing.
(fn. 10) Resolved that His Majesty having been graciously pleased to command his officers to bring into the House of Commons their accounts of the receipts and disbursements of the public moneys raised to maintain the present war, that the Lords be desired to name a committee of their House to join with a committee of this House to the end the same accounts may be examined and taken upon oath.
(fn. 11) "Up and to the office; where Sir W. Coventry came to tell us that the Parliament did fall foul of our accounts again yesterday; and we must arm to have them examined: which I am sorry for. It will bring great trouble [i.e. work] to me and shame upon the [Navy] office."
The proposal was in itself so novel, was so implicit as calling into question the good faith of the administration, that when it was sent to the Lords they were taken quite aback. It seemed to the Peers to be so direct an infringement of the King's prerogative that before answering the message from the Commons they determined to refer the matter to their own committee of privileges "to consider of precedents, what hath been formerly done in business of the like nature." (fn. 12)
The point is constitutionally a most interesting one as showing the gulf that divided the executive from the legislative. The executive consisted of the whole body of the King's servants or officials. As such they were responsible in both money matters and conduct to him, not to Parliament. And for the Parliament to thrust itself in, to audit the accounts of those servants, to probe to the bottom of them by means of an oath was trenching on the King's preprogative. From their dilemma of offending either the King or the Commons, the Lords tried to save themselves by subterfuge. They searched for precedents bearing not upon the question of the accountability of the King's officers, but upon the question of form of the committee itself.
(fn. 13)"The Lord Great Chamberlain reports from the committee of privileges that they have considered the message from the House of Commons for a joint committee to examine officers' accounts upon oath, and have found many precedents of committees of Lords and Commons, but do conceive that all those precedents are only of such committees as are usually called conferences."
The attitude which the Lords took up will be more easily understood when viewed in the light of their treatment of the coinage bill—a bill which had been brought up from the Commons almost simultaneously with this messuage concerning the accounts. Conceiving that the coinage matters were (as all mediæval jurisprudence certainly taught) entirely within the Kingly prerogative, the Lords (fn. 14) appointed a committee to wait on the King with the bill before proceeding further in it, "to know whether it has his approbation, because it is conceived that His Majesty's prerogative is highly concerned therein." Five days later the King signified his assent that the Lords might proceed with the bill.
Such proceeding on the part of the Lords helps us to measure the distance which separates the constitutional practice of the Seventeenth century from that of our own time. And at the same time it helps us to an understanding of the extraordinary action of the Upper House with regard to the proposed Joint Committee of Accounts. The key to its action was its sensitiveness as to the royal prerogative. An enquiry into public accounts might be held, and even upon oath, but it was not for the Parliament to do it—it was for the King himself of his own free will to do it. This is quite manifestly the underlying thought. On the 22nd Nov. 1666, the Lords considered the report from their committee of privileges, and resolved to have a conference with the Commons, and on the following day, the 23rd Nov., the heads to be propounded at the conference were reported to the Lords by the Lord Privy Seal as follows: (fn. 15) "As to the matter [the Lords] are willing to agree to examining of accounts on oath, but as to the manner do not find it warranted by course of Parliament that any Committee of Lords and Commons upon any occasion have had the power given them to examine on oath."
The conference between the two Houses was held on the 28th November, and so far as one can grasp from the journals there is no indication that the Commons resented the attitude of the Lords in the matter. None the less the Lower House was determined to have its way. As a means of forcing the acceptance of the proposition it was decided to tack it on to the poll bill. On the 7th December a proviso to the poll bill was offered for taking an accompt upon oath of the public moneys, and on a division it was adopted by 118–83. (fn. 16) "The great proviso," says Pepys, "passed the House of Parliament yesterday, which makes the King and Court mad, the King having given order to my Lord Chamberlain to send to the playhouses and bawdy houses to bid all the Parliament men that were there to go to the Parliament presently. This is true it seems, but it was carried against the Court by 30 or 40 voices. It is a proviso to the poll bill that there shall be a committee of nine persons that shall have the inspection upon oath and power of giving others [? oaths] of all the amounts of the money given and spent for this war. This hath a most sad face and will breed very ill blood. Mr. Pierce tells me [it was] brought in by Sir Robert Howard, who is one of the King's servants, at least hath a great office, and hath got, they say, 20,000l. since the King came in." (fn. 17)
For some days the House perservered in this method of a tacking proviso, the Parliament growing daily in a worse humour, and the Court Party taking the whole project in high dudgeon as a mortal blow to the King's prerogative. Charles was heard to say that he would dissolve the House rather than pass the Poll bill with this proviso. Frantic efforts were made by the Court Party, (fn. 18) and it is quite apparent that they were in the end successful. For when on the 11th December the House reached the stage of nominating the Commissioners (fn. 19) who were to examine the accounts an amendment was carried that the whole proviso, which had hitherto been tacked to the Poll bill, should be made into a separate bill by itself.
This result was a clear victory for the Court Party, for it enabled Charles to pass the Poll bill and so get supply, whilst leaving it open to him to get rid of the objectionable separate Bill for Accounts in any way he could. And such was exactly the ultimate course of events.
The separate Bill for taking the Accounts of public Moneys was rushed through the Commons in two days, Dec. 12–13, and was carried up to the Lords on the 14 Dec. 1666, together with the Act for the Poll. (fn. 20)
Thereupon ensued a transaction which from the light it throws upon the constitutional theory and practice of the time is of even greater interest than the curious steps already recited. The Lords read the bill a first time on the 15 Dec., and four days later, on the 19th, committed it to a Committee of the whole House. On the very same day (fn. 21) it passed a concurrent resolution that the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Anglesey [who was Vice-Treasurer of Ireland], Lord Lucas [who was a devoted Cavalier], and Lord Ashley [who was Chancellor of the Exchequer], should consider of a petition to be presented to the King that he would be pleased to issue out a Commission under the Great Seal to Commissioners for taking the accounts of public moneys. The petition was drawn up on the following day, Dec. 20, and presented to Charles by the Lord Chamberlain and Lord Arlington, one of the Secretaries of State. Charles's reply is entered in the Lords' Journals, under date Dec. 29. (fn. 22) In this reply the King states that thought this way of taking such accompts has not been usual yet he consented to the proposal, and straightway indicated the names of the persons whom he had chosen to be Commissioners.
If such a transaction as this had taken place in the Twentieth century the modern member of Parliament would think that the veil of the Temple had been rent and the end of all constitutional Government had come. But the constitutional theory of the Seventeenth was far removed from that of the Twentieth, and this action of the Lords, which in later times would have preluded a cataclysm, only led to a mild quarrel between the two Houses.
At a conference on the 2nd Jan. 1666–7, (fn. 23) the Lords communicated to the Commons their petition, the King's answer, and their reasons for their conduct in this extraordinary affair—the condensed report of these reasons being that they, the Lords, had formerly agreed to a Committee of both Houses, but found no precedent for such a Committee to be empowered to take oath. As to a bill they found that an extraordinary way and that there was no necessity for, but had thought on an expedient which might make it as effectual as a bill and had accordingly drawn a petition to the King as above.
The Commons instantly (in a great heat, says Pepys) (fn. 24) resolved that such proceeding of the Lords was unparliamentary, there being at the time a bill thereon from the Commons depending before the Lords. Five days later the Commons adopted a series of resolutions containing reasons why they condemned the method of the Lords' proceedings, and thereupon a second conference was held. (fn. 25) Whether or not the Commons derived any satisfaction from this conference does not appear, but if they did it was all the satisfaction which they eventually obtained, for no further reference to the subject of the unconstitutional action of the Lords is traceable to the journals of either House. For want of a guide to the internal working of this parliament it is at this point a little difficult to reconstruct the play of party motive and the actual succession of event. It seems to me the more plausible interpretation that the Court Party was satisfied with the success of its manoeuvre in the Lords. The King had named his own commission and felt himself safe in the hands of his own nominees. He had besides saved the point of dignity by issuing the commission as his own act, as of his own grace. Having so secured himself there only remained the problem of killing the bill which the Commons had promoted and which still lay unconsidered in the Lords. The best way to do this was to pass the bill in the Lords with such amendments and in such a form as to make it distasteful to the Commons, when they might decide to drop it or the prorogation might strangle it. If this was the calculation of the Court Party it succeeded to a nicety. The Lords took up the consideration of the Commons' bill on the 19th of January, (fn. 26) made amendments in it on the 24th January, (fn. 27) and then sent it down to the Commons. The Commons were still debating these amendments on the 8th February, when they were summoned to the Upper House to hear Charles prorogue the Parliament. With his unfailing sense of humour Charles played the farce out to its finish by rating the Commons for having after all neglected to perfect their bill. "I looked to have had somewhat offered to me concerning the accompts of the money that hath been already raised since the war, which since you have not done I will take care (after so much noise) that the same be not stifled but will issue out my Commission in the manner I formerly promised the House of Peers, and the Commissioners shall have much to answer for if they do not discover all matters of fraud and cozenage."
With the instincts of a sportsman or else of a politician of incomparable craft Charles did not stop here. In the following month, March, 1667, whilst the Parliament still lay prorogued and whilst the management of the Dutch war was bringing deeper and deeper shame upon the country Charles issued out his Commission for the taking and examining the accounts of the moneys voted for the war, viz. the Royal Aid and the Additional Aid, the three months' tax of 70,000l. a month, and the prizes taken in the war.
The first Letters Patent appointing this Commission of Charles have not survived. They are not on the Patent Rolls nor among the Chancery Privy Seals, a disappearance which is highly significant. Charles and Clarendon may have connived at the destruction of them in the troublous times which followed. These first Letters Patent would appear to have passed the seal on or shortly before 21 March, 1666–7. (fn. 28)
As to the commission itself, its history is brief. Under the date 1 May, 1667, Pepys gives an account of the first meetings of the Commissioners which had taken place evidently in the course of the preceding few weeks.
(fn. 29)"After dinner my Lord [Lord Crew] took me alone and walked with me, giving me an account of the meeting of the Commissioners for Accounts whereof he is one. How some of the gentlemen, Garraway, Littleton, and others did scruple at their first coming there, being called thither to act as members of Parliament which they could not do by any authority but that of Parliament, and therefore desired the King's direction in it, which was sent for by my Lord Bridgewater who brought answer very short that the King expected they should obey his Commission. Then they went on and observed a power to be given them of administering and framing an oath which they thought they could not do by any power but by Act of Parliament; and the whole Commission did think fit to have the judges' opinion in it. And so drawing up their scruples in writing they all attended the King, who told them he would send to the judges to be answered and he did so: who have, my Lord tells me, met three times about it not knowing what answer to give to it and they [the Commissioners] have met this week doing nothing but expecting the solution of the judges in this point. My Lord tells me he do believe this commission will do more hurt than good: it may undo some accounts, if these men shall think fit, but it can never clear one account for he [an accomptant] must come into the exchequer for all this. Besides it is a kind of inquisition that hath seldom ever been granted in England and he believes it will never give any satisfaction to the people or Parliament but be looked upon as a forced packed business of the King, especially if those Parliamentary [Country Party] men that are of it shall not concur with them [the rest], which he [Lord Crew] doubts they will not, and therefore wishes much that the King would lay hold of this fit occasion and let the Commission bill."
Pepys' account is substantially confirmed by a State paper which undoubtedly belongs to the same period, March–May, 1667; and also by two other incidental references in the State Papers Domestic. (fn. 30) In April there was a report that they were to sit shortly, (fn. 31) and in the following month there is a more circumstantial statement to the effect that the Committee had requested the King to appoint judges to satisfy them how far they may legally proceed in their Commission. (fn. 32)
As a result of this application a Privy Seal was prepared on the 7th of May for a second or fresh Letters Patent and on the following day, May 8th, 1667, the second patent passed the Great Seal by immediate warrant. Fortunately this second patent has survived among the Chancery Privy Seals, although like its predecessor it is not enrolled on the Patent Roll.
John Earl of Bridgewater, Oliver Earl of Bolingbroke, Robert Earl of Aylesbury, Edward Viscount Conway, John Lord Lucas, John Lord Crew, Sir William Lowther, Sir Thomas Meeres, Sir Humpfry Winch, Sir Thomas Littleton, Sir William Thompson, Sir Thomas Osborne, Sir Thomas Gower, Samuel Sandys, Giles Strangwayes, William Garway, Edward Boscowen, John Jones.
Sir John Keling, Chief Justice, K.B.; Sir Orlando Bridgeman, Sir Mathew Hale, Chief Baron of the Exchequer; Sir Edward Atkyns, a baron of the Exchequer; Sir Thomas Twisden, a justice of the King's Bench; Sir Thomas Tyrrell, a justice; Sir Christopher Turner, a baron of the Exchequer; Sir Samuel Brown, a justice; Sir Wadham Windham, a justice of the King's Bench; Sir John Archer, a justice of the King's Bench; Sir Richard Raynsford, a baron of the Exchequer; Sir William Morton, a justice of the King's Bench;
and prizes taken in the war; being all moneys assigned or appropriated for the Navy and maintenance of the war, with power to administer oaths: five to form a quorum, of whom the Earl of Bridgewater, Earl of Bolingbroke, Earl of Aylesbury, Viscount Conway, Lord Lucas, or Lord Crew were to be members, and with obligation to certify examinations into Chancery. For the better execution of this Commission and discovery and punishment of all frauds touching the premises, it further constituted the abovesaid Lords and all the Judges of England and any five or more of them (the abovesaid six Lords and one of the Judges to form the quorum) by jury in all the courts to hear and determine the accompts aforesaid and all frauds and offences concerning same.
Early in June, 1667, we hear that the Commissioners having had conference with the judges now begin to act and send for parties in order to their examination. (fn. 33) But the unwillingness of the Commissioners and the disregard entertained for them generally is forcibly indicated by Pepys.
(fn. 34)"Sir G. Carteret and I to my Lord Crew to advise about Sir G. Carteret's carrying his accounts to-morrow to the Commissioners appointed to examine them and all other accounts since the war; who at last by the King's calling to them yesterday [June 4] and childing them will sit, but Littleton and Garraway much against their wills. The truth of it is, it is a ridiculous thing, for it will come to nothing nor do the King nor kingdom good in any manner I think."
This is the last discoverable reference to Charles's Commission. The diplomatic finesse which had originated it was turned into foolishness and confusion when the Dutch sailed up the Thames and when Charles saw that he would have to meet a still angrier Parliament than he had prorogued. So the Commission quietly expired and Charles prepared for the encounter.
On the 10 Oct., 1667, the Parliament met. From the very first Charles gave up any thought of contesting the point of dignity with the House. He gracefully conceded the whole principle. "His Majesty formerly promised," said the Lord Keeper addressing the Commons at the opening of the session, "that you should have an accompt of the moneys given towards the war: which his Majesty hath commanded his officers to make ready: and since that way of Commission wherein he had put the examination of them hath been ineffectual he is willing that you should follow your own method. Examine them in what way and as strictly as you please." (fn. 35)
Accordingly the legislative history of the Parliamentary Commission of Accounts is no longer an exciting one. On the 15 Oct. the Commons appointed the Committee to consider the former bill and to prepare a new bill by it. (fn. 36) On the 26th the new bill was introduced and read a first time. It ran its course uneventfully until on the 2nd December it was decided that none of the Commissioners should be members of the House. (fn. 37) The names of the Commissioners were adopted ten days later and on the 18 Dec. the bill was sent up. It passed the Lords on the following day and instantly received the royal assent by Commission. (fn. 38)
and of all moneys arisen by the Customs which have been applied to the service of the war, and of prizes taken during the war and of all other moneys raised or assigned towards fitting out ships in the late war. Further, the Act conferred on the Commissioners power to call before them all Treasurers, Paymasters, &c., &c., of the Navy, Ordnance, Victualling and Stores.
Lord Brereton (William Brereton, third Lord Brereton of Leighlin, in Ireland) was an Irish peer, and thus qualified to serve on the Commission as not having a seat in either House. He was the chief of the body of Commissioners, and throughout acted as its spokesman. By common consent he was allowed to be a man of great integrity, besides being possessed of high literary attainments. He was not a man to be gained either by the flatteries of the Court or the threatenings of his own affairs.
William Pierrepont, called the wise Pierrepont, was a younger son of the first Earl of Kingston, and brother to the Marquess of Dorchester. He had been a member of the Long Parliament, and in Feb., 1659–60, had been chosen one of the Council of State, but was not a member of the Pensionary Parliament. He was a man of severe reserve and of great detachment of mind. He was likely to act a moderate but unimpeachable part in such an enquiry. Under the date June 13, 1667, when the Dutch were in the Thames, Pepys mentions a rumour that the King had chosen Pierrepont to be a Privy Councillor. The rumour proved untrue, as he does not occur among the lists of Privy Councillors, but if there was any ground for the report it would seem more likely that Charles was casting about for good counsellors at that moment of supreme confusion rather than that he was trying to buy an independent man.
Sir George Savile was at the time of his appointment qualified to act as a Commissioner as not having a seat in either House. But within a fortnight of his appointment Charles created him a peer. He was nominated a Commissioner on the 19 Dec., 1667, and the warrant for his peerage as Baron Savile and Viscount Halifax is dated 31 Dec., 1667. This was undoubtedly a deliberate attempt on the part of Charles to buy one of the members of the Commission, but strange to say the promotion, in spite of Pepys' fears to the contrary, does not seem to have aroused criticism either in the Parliament or on the part of the public. When Pepys appeared before the Commission he found Halifax industrious on his side on behalf of his [Halifax's] uncle, Coventry—words which would indicate that Halifax was swayed to the side of the Court by his family interests as well as by his own recent advancement. But he does not appear on the whole to have taken a prominent part in the proceedings.
Giles Dunster. His personal history and bias have so far eluded my research. In Sept., 1671, a new office, that of Joint Surveyor General of Customs, was created for him in the Custom House with the handsome salary of 1,000 marks. As such an appointment was conferred by the Government (let us say by Charles) and not by the Parliament, it may have been by way of reward. He appears as Joint Surveyor General of Customs as late as 1679.
Sir James Langham, of Cottesbrooke, had been knighted by Charles at the Hague in 1660, and succeeded as second baronet in 1671. He was well connected by marriage, and had been elected a member of the Pensionary Parliament, but was unseated in April, 1662. He was a man of learning, and subsequently became a member of the Royal Society, but in the eyes of Burnet he was "a very weak man, famed only for his readiness of speaking florid Latin, which he had attained to a degree beyond any man of his age, but he was become a pedant with it, and his style was too poetical and full of epithets and figures."
Col. Henry Osborne was a younger son of Sir Peter Osborne of Chicksands Priory, co. Beds. The office of Treasurer's Remembrancer of the Exchequer had been in the family of the Osbornes ever since the days of Edward VI. The father, Sir Peter, had been Treasurer's Remembrancer of the Exchequer, and also for 28 years Governor of Jersey. John Osborne. eldest son of Sir Peter, was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Charles II., and had been created a baronet by him. Henry himself, the Commissioner, had at the Restoration received an ineffectual grant of the Governorship of Guernsey. That a man with such connexions would be on the Court side can hardly be doubted, and would seem to be further indicated by his subsequent promotions. Late in the year 1672 he was made Treasurer to the Sick and Wounded, and also one of the Esquires of the Body.
Sir William Turner was a draper of the city of London. He was a friend to the Nonconformists, and was undoubtedly regarded as a popular rather than a Court man. He was Sheriff of London in 1662–3, and Mayor in 1668–9. He subsequently became President of the two Hospitals of Bethlehem and Bridewell and member of Parliament for the city, and died on the 10 Feb., 1692–3. Pepys mentions him repeatedly in the Diary, and invariably with respect.
The next member of the Commission is in a sense the most remarkable, and there can be little doubt that his inclusion in the number was due to that anti-Court intrigue of the Duke of Buckingham's which sent him into temporary exile.
George Thompson was Pepys' "Col. Thompson with the wooden leg." He belonged to a family of fanatical sectaries, all of whom (his brothers Maurice and Robert as well as George himself) starting from nothing got great estates under Cromwell. George was a millenary at the time of the Rump, 1659–60, and with some thousands of others in St. George's-in-the-Fields, South-wark, declared for King Jesus. After the Restoration he took refuge with his brother Maurice at Lee, in Kent, and occupied himself with anti-royalist intrigues, and at one time, in Oct., 1661, there was a warrant for his arrest. As to the political bias of such a man there can be no question, but from a business point of view he was well qualified for the work, having under Cromwell served in the Customs, Admiralty, Ordnance and Trade and Plantations Offices.
John Gregory, the final member of the Commission, had evidently served under Sir Edward Nicholson whilst Secretary, and had also been employed at the Exchequer. Pepys speaks of him as "my old acquaintance, an under-standing gentleman," "my old Exchequer friend," and as an able and sober man Pepys got him to teach his wife the viol. Such a man would be a feeble member of the Commission, but from his official connexions would have a bias in favour of the Court.
Before turning to the treatment which the work of the Commission received at the hands of the House of Commons, it is necessary to survey the final report of that Commission, or what was in effect its final report. This report, which is here given in full, was never considered by the House of Commons, although it was the only product of the Commission's labours corresponding or answering to the terms of reference. A critical survey of it will bring into strong light the weakness and injustice of the position taken up by the House. The account is as follows:—
(fn. 39)An accompt of what monies were received for the maintenance of the war, and what disbursed for the same with the balance thereupon as it appears to the Commissioners for Accompts this present 3rd Nov. 1669.
(1) Prizes taken in the war did not form any part of Parliamentary supply. The House did not supply such a fund by vote. It could therefore not appropriate it. The distribution of the proceeds of prizes depended greatly upon the recognised maritime usage of the time which regulated the distribution of shares to the ships' crews, etc., and for the rest it depended entirely on the will of the Executive. Charles was no more bound to apply the proceeds of the prizes to the uses of the war than he could have been bound to apply a private legacy to the uses of the war. And if he did apply it to the war then he was only doing voluntarily that which no obligation save regard for the nation's honour compelled him to do. According to the Commissioners' own showing Charles applied 339,960li. out of prizes to the uses of the war. This statement may be compared with the fuller account of the prizes given supra, pp. xxii–iv.
(2) The eighteen month's tax had been voted in 1661 to make the deficiencies of the supply for the King's ordinary revenue. It was technically and really Charles's own; it was voted in effect for the maintenance of the administration generally in time of peace. As to not one single penny of this had the House the right to appropriate it, or even to expect that Charles should devote it to the war.
(3), (4), (5) Exactly the same remark applies to the Customs and the Excise and Hearth money. They had been granted for the maintenance of the administration in the time of peace. They formed the chief part of that 1,200,000l. per an. which Parliament professed to have guaranteed to Charles, and readers of the present series of Calendar volumes will know, as probably few of Charles's contemporaries knew, how fully assigned these revenues were, not merely up to the hilt but over it a long way. On an average they were assigned 12 months ahead of the actual receipts—assigned, that is to say, for the maintenance of the Guards and Garrisons, for Tangier, for the Navy, and so on and so on. To take money from these two sources for the use of the war was to deliberately starve the ordinary administration of the country by postponing assignments which were themselves often dated 18 months ahead.
Yet from these two funds the Commissioners themselves found that Charles had applied just about three-quarters of a million sterling to the uses of the war—nearly a year of Charles's effectual income as it then stood.
(6) Militia money. The position of this fund is a very curious one. By the Militia Act, 14 Car. II, c. 3, passed in 1662, the King was empowered in case of apparent danger to raise 70,000l. a year for three years dating from 1662, June 25, for the support of the militia. The money was to be levied by the Lords Lieutenants of the Counties, who were to proceed therein in accordance with the rules and proportions for assessment laid down in the act for the Eighteen Months Assessment. It is exceedingly difficult to say whether Charles ever availed himself fully of the powers given him by this Act. If a reliable opinion may be formed from the records of the Exchequer he only raised 2,000l. on the Act in the year 1662–3, and apparently nothing at all in the years 1663–4. As the Act expired on the 25 June, 1665, he was only left with one year remaining, which would produce him 70,000l. This and the balance of the militia money in the Exchequer gives something near the 72,541l. militia money which the Commissioners of Accounts found to have been applied by Charles to the use of the war. But apart from the question of the moneys raised under this head there is to my mind some doubt as to whether the House of Commons had the right to say in 1667 that certain moneys granted in 1662 were to be appropriated to a war which at the time of that grant was not even dreamed of. However, waiving this question the net result of the above brief criticism of the report just given is this. The only funds which could be legitimately considered as appropriated to the war were:—
|Eleven months tax||479,239||0||2½|
|Loans on the eleven months tax||159,555||10||0|
This total of four millions odd represents all the supply that the Commissioners of Accounts had any right to enquire into. It was the complete total of funds received by Charles up to the end of 1668 on all and every branch of supply which the House of Commons had the right to appropriate to the war. As against this total Charles accounts for nearly six millions.
|Moneys accounted for by the Executive||5,813,841||10||11½|
|Moneys within the right of the House of Commons to appropriate||4,355,047||6||10½|
|Balance (being moneys voluntarily accounted for by Charles's Executive as applied to the war)||£1,458,794||4||1|
The attentive reader will have noticed, however, that the Commissioners of Accounts deduct from the grand total a matter of a million and a half as having been, in their opinion, either not at all or not certainly applied to the war. If that deduction were true it still leaves Charles fairly even and quit, thus:—
|Receipts for the war||4,355,047||6||10½|
|Expenditure on the war||4,335,244||16||6¼|
But the deduction is not a true deduction. If made in good faith by the Commissioners of Accounts it only shows what is abundantly evident throughout, that the Commissioners never attained a thorough understanding of the Exchequer system and the audit system of the time. It is solely for the purpose of testing this statement of the Commissioners that I have printed the lengthy accounts set out above, pp. xvi–xxxiii. These accounts supply one half of the refutation of the Commissioners' mistaken arithmetic. The other half of the refutation of their arithmetic, and of all the mass of innuendo which they built thereupon will be found practically on every page of the present volume of Calendar. The extraordinary complication which appears on the surface of the Exchequer and Treasury system of the time is attributable to one fact, and one fact only. The revenue was not consolidated into one fund. All the various funds or sources of revenue were kept distinct like so many water-tight compartments. If a man obtained an assignment on a particular fund he was strictly tied to that fund, and he would have to wait until there was money in the Exchequer on that fund before he could get payment. If as a matter of favour or necessity he got his assignment transferred to some other fund the transaction, the cancelling of records in the Exchequer, the vacating of tallies, &c., &c., was a most complicated one. Similarly the imprests allotted to the departmental treasurers were like so many water-tight compartments, and the process of transferring imprests (or let us say credits) from one departmental treasurer to another was again a most complicated one. Suppose, for instance, the Lieutenant of the Ordnance considered that for the purpose of the war he required an imprest of 300,000l. to carry him through the next six months. He applied to the King in Council. The King in Council sanctioned the—let us call it—estimate, and an instruction in the form of a privy seal was sent to the Treasury to grant the Lieutenant of the Ordnance an imprest of 300,000l. The Treasury carried out the behest of the Privy Council by a Treasury warrant, ordering the auditor of the Receipt to make out paper to that amount (let us say 300 orders of 1,000l. each). The orders were made out in the Exchequer, were signed by the Treasury Lords, and were then delivered to the Lieutenant of the Ordnance. Having received them that official paid them away if he could induce the tradesmen to accept the paper orders, or else he raised loans on the paper orders and paid the tradesmen in cash. The paper orders themselves were not liquidated or turned into cash until the branches of the revenue on which they were drawn had moneys to their credit at the Exchequer.
This is a hypothetical normal departmental transaction. But now, suppose the Lieutenant of the Ordnance had been mistaken in his estimate. Suppose his office was found not to need 300,000l., but only 200,000l., or suppose it was decided by the Privy Council for any sufficient reason that it was more necessary at the immediate moment to replenish say the Navy rather than the Ordnance. It was then necessary to transfer from the Lieutenant of the Ordnance to the Treasurer of the Navy part, let us say 100,000l. of the imprest credit thus fictitiously created. This could be done by the Lieutenant of the Ordnance handing to the Treasurer of the Navy some of the paper orders which he had in possession—let us say 100 orders of 1,000l. each. The authorisation for this was given by a privy seal directed to the Treasury Lords, and by a Treasury warrant directed to the Lieutenant of the Ordnance. That officer then cleared himself in his accounts by taking credit for so much imprest or paper credit money transferred by him, and the Treasurer of the Navy was left to account for the imprest of 100,000l. in his own account.
It is abundantly clear, at least to me, that the Commissioners of Accounts never got to the bottom of this system of transfer of departmental imprests—in fact, from the persistent way in which they, throughout, treated an imprest as so much cash, I conclude that they never attained a real understanding of the imprest system at all.
When therefore the Commissioners say as they do above, that such and such moneys are to be deducted as not having been applied to the war, I read it that they were simply unable to follow the transfer of particular imprests from one department to another.
In a similar way the Commissioners disallowed the items of interest money paid by accomptants such as the Navy Treasurer (see infra pp. lxxiii–iv), in spite of the perfectly obvious fact that the payment of interest and over-interest was fully and properly authorised and regulated by the King, the Privy Council, and the Treasury Lords. (See the item Interest in the index to the present volume.)
For the general confirmation of the above view I appeal not to one page of this present Calendar of Treasury books, but to practically every page of it. By the aid of this Calendar the reader is now, at a distance of centuries, enabled to understand the Treasury and Exchequer system of the time in a way in which it was impossible for the Commissioners themselves to understand it, and to that extent the modern student is in a better position to adjudicate between Charles and his faithful Commons than the Commissioners of Accounts were in the year 1668.
In the above criticism I claim, not arrogantly, but calmly as a searcher after historic truth to whom names and cries and shibboleths are as nothing, that the main contention of the Commissioners of Accounts as set out in the report above is completely overthrown. Charles actually spent on the war, not only all the money which the House of Commons granted him for it, but also a matter of a million and a half more—money which he transferred from, and which was badly needed by, the ordinary departmental peace establishments of the country.
For the moment I pass by the interesting references to the actual working of the Commission itself—its methods of inquiry, and all the gossip which gather round it—especially in Pepys' pages and in his yet inedited MSS. The vitally interesting question is not so much the Commission itself as the House of Commons which stood behind it. How did the Parliament take the report of the Commissioners, and how did that report and their treatment of it affect the relations between the King and the Commons?
To my mind the point reached is one of the most crucial and fateful in all Charles's reign. Owing to their ignorance of the real state of the whole financial affair, owing to their being misled by their own Commissioners' report, owing to the spirit of faction having been fostered by the disasters of the war, the Commons instituted a vindictive attack on the administration, and grudgingly and tardily gave the King a hopelessly insufficient supply. Charles bore up against it as long as he could, eking out his insufficient revenue by the sale of Crown lands, and at last—literally starved out by his own House of Commons—he threw himself into the arms of France. He became a pensioner of Louis XIV. The responsibility for that disgrace rests with the English House of Commons.
Parliament had stood adjourned from the 19th December, 1667 to the following February. It reassembled on the 6th of that month and on the 14th of March 1667–8 following the Commissioners of Accounts prescribed to the House of Commons a narrative of their proceedings so far as they had gone. The House approved of the Commissioners' method and desired them to proceed (C. J. IX., 67).
Pepys (VII. 364) also refers to it. "They do lay little upon us [so] as to aggravate anything at present, but only do give an account of the dissatisfactory account they receive from Sir George Carteret. He tells them not any time when he paid any sum which is fit for them to know for computing any interest. They promise to give us account of the embezzlement of prizes."
Exactly a month later the Commissioners sent to the House a second report dealing in particular with Sir William Penn's embezzlement of prize goods. The proceedings on this head resulted in an order for Penn's impeachment. But this personal question need not detain us.
On the 24th April, 1668, Sir Robert Brookes acquainted the House that himself and Sir Nich. Carew, according to the order of the House, had attended the Commissioners of Accounts and received from them their exceptions to the accounts of Sir G. Carteret in writing: as also an extract out of their journal of some proceedings concerning his accounts which he delivered at the clerk's table.
This is practically the last reference to the work of the Commission before the adjournment of the House. On the 8th of May the Parliament was adjourned till the following August and this adjournment was by two successive postponements extended to October, 1669, so that as a matter of fact the House did not again meet for a year and a half. If Charles's motive in these successive adjournments was to shake off the attack on his administration by giving the Commons time to forget all about the Commission of Accounts, his hopes were quickly dashed. Parliament reassembled on the 19th October, 1669, and two days later the Commons called for a report from the Commissioners of Accounts. (fn. 40)
Accordingly on Tuesday, 26th October, 1669, (fn. 41) Lord Brereton presented to the House from the Commissioners of Accounts, a report of the state of some accounts "as they at present stand before us wherein we have met with some difficulties: which with some particular observations upon the said accounts and management of His Majesty's affairs we have presented to His Majesty and the two Houses."
On the 30th October, the House requested the Commissioners to bring in the answers and papers delivered by the several accomptants to the observations and objections made by the Commissioners in their report, and at the same time to bring in an accompt of the moneys received for the war and disbursed for the same.
These papers and accounts were delivered in on the 3rd and 4th of November. (fn. 42) One of them—the paper of accounts of moneys—I have already set out in full, and examined impartially. The House itself never approached the paper—never debated it at all although it was the only portion of the Commissions' report which corresponded to the terms of reference. It is difficult to resist the impression that the House of Commons deliberately skated lightly over that thin ice recognizing that even in the form presented the statement of accounts contained a complete justification of the executive. The Commons were intent on other prey. There was a strong animosity in the House against Sir George Carteret, and that animosity would not be baulked. Pepys' pages bear amplest testimony to this statement. Turning therefore from the main question of the statement of moneys to the more alluring question of personalities, the Commons on the 8th November voted to consider the Commissioners' observations. (fn. 43) Accordingly on the 11th of November the House took up the consideration of these observations.
Then the ledger book of Sir G. Carteret in 1664, and affidavits and some other papers relative to the particulars were also read and the Commissioners of Accounts declared their reasons and grounds of the said observation. (fn. 44) Carteret applied to be heard by Council on the matter of fact, but this was denied him on a division by 127 to 126. The debate was then adjourned.
Grey's account of this debate is fuller. He puts the observation I. thus: (fn. 45)
All moneys received by him out of the Exchequer are by the Privy Seals assigned for the particular services but no such thing is observed or specified in his payments, whereby he has assumed to himself a liberty to make use of the King's treasure for other uses than is directed.
Commissioners of Accounts. "Carteret's ledgers prove it and he has in effect confessed it because not practicable. Each sum, what and why are to be specified once every year to the Lord Admiral by the [Navy] Treasurer, by the Navy instructions and the state of the Treasury."
Colonel Thompson. 2,027,000l. assigned: for victuals [and] wages 900,000l. and only 613,000l. paid, which if all had been applied would have prevented discontent: 160,600l. in his hands of the King's money five or six months: the Navy unpaid when money in [hand] sufficient.
The Commissioners were called in and were desired to give a reason of their observations and why they so styled them. They did so and final consideration of their report was adjourned. Grey's account is here again much more full and instructive. (fn. 46)
A long debate thereupon ensued on the legal question of what the Commissioners' judgment implied, i.e. how far it was a judgment. The Commissioners were called in to explain their word observations and Lord Brereton said "in some cases we look upon ourselves as final Judges but in some only so far as to state matter of fact. In other cases where judgment of misdemeanour is to be and the nature of inquisitors then to leave the judgment to the House of Commons. The Commissioners have heard Carteret by his Counsel, and in the papers No. 8 and No. 9 Sir G. Carteret protested he has nothing further to say. They have always allowed of any warrant that directed the payment either from the King or Lord Treasurer."
So determined was the House to finish this matter of Carteret's before proceeding to Supply that it adjourned its sittings for three days from the 13th to the 17th November, in order to enable Carteret to produce to the Commissioners all the Exchequer warrants referred to above by Carteret as his justification.
The Commissioners called in and are asked whether they had any further matter to offer or report to the House. Lord Brereton declared that the Commissioners had received from Sir G. Carteret the copies of two warrants, one of 1665, November 20th, from the King to the Treasurer and Lord Ashley, the other of November 21st, 1665, from the Treasury to Sir R. Long, which he delivered in at the Clerk's table together with the Commissioners' report and further observations therefore. (fn. 47)
Grey I. 170, gives the substance of this observation as follows. The warrant was the 20th of November, 1665, and the Privy Seal subsequent to that warrant. (fn. 48) Many Privy Seals but not one penny to the victualler though to many other uses.
Thereupon followed a long and most interesting debate turning entirely upon Carteret's diverting money from their proper uses as prescribed by the privy seal. The account of this debate in Grey is very full. (fn. 49)
Carteret in his own defence said he had not paid one penny without sufficient vouchers for the use of the war. He borrowed 280,000l. on his own credit without security and with his credit kept the fleet abroad. He had always been an enemy to tickets.
(fn. 50)On the 20 Nov. 1669, the House resumed debate of report of Commissioners of Accounts.
(fn. 51)The Commissioners' second observation was as follows:—230,731l. 13s. 9d. is claimed as paid and deposited for security of interest, but no specification of time is made; whereby no judgment can be made how interest accrues, and the same cannot be allowed.
The Commissioners were called in, and were asked whether they had any further matter to offer or report to the House relating to the 2nd observation. Lord Brereton read a paper of reasons for their said observation, and delivered the same in at the Clerk's table, and was further heard thereunto.
(fn. 52) Lord Brereton. It is not clear to the Commissioners the necessity of borrowing money at all: neither are the persons of whom borrowed, the time or the occasion mentioned. They find by the Goldsmiths' accounts great sums are carrying on for interest.
Col. Thompson, another of the Commissioners. 100,000l. appears upon his ledger to be in cash, which they think was not really paid. It appears not to the Commissioners that the Privy Seal was grounded upon a due information to his Majesty.
Lord Brereton. He demands 10 per cent. as paid to the goldsmith, whereas he really paid but 9 per cent. The goldsmiths have gotten a new word and their taking more than 6 per cent. called nomine poenae money, which he understands not. Privy Seals pretended, but none brought to them by Sir R. Long.
viz., "the borrowing was joint betwixt the Lord Treasurer and the Treasurer of the Navy. Whatever money was borrowed the Lord Treasurer must necessarily receive it. Whatever was done was always in Council."
(fn. 53) On the 23 Nov. 1669, the House resumed consideration of the report of the Commissioners of Accounts.
(fn. 54) The third observation was read in effect as follows:- Several sums are charged as paid for provisions served into the King's stores by officers of the Navy, contrary to the King's instructions.
(fn. 55) Lord Brereton. Moneys paid by Sir G. Carteret contrary to the instructions of H.R.H. [the Duke of York, Lord Admiral] to the Commissioners of the Navy, and gives several instances.
The House Resolved that the further consideration of the 3rd observation be postponed until the observations which relate to the Commissioners of the Navy come into debate, and straightway passed to the next observation.
(fn. 56) The fourth observation was read in effect as follows:—Many bills are passed as paid for provisions, &c., without any particulars to vouchsafe the same.
(fn. 57)Then the fifth observation was read in effect as follows:—Large sums are charged as paid in one year, which were not paid till the following year, viz., 30,000l. and more in 1664, and 125,000 and more in 1665: and the Commissioners are heard as to their grounds and instances for the same. Then Sir G. Carteret informing the House that he must attend the House of Lords this afternoon at 3 p.m., the debate was adjourned.
(fn. 58)On the following day, 24 Nov. 1669, the debate was resumed. Carteret's Counsel was called to the bar, the 4th and 5th observations read, and the Counsel heard as to the matter of law and instances and circumstances relating thereto, and Commissioners of Accounts called in and heard, and the matter debated.
(fn. 59)Ayliffe, Counsel for Carteret. If in the same year his client has paid as much more as was omitted in the preceding year the thing is as broad as long. For imprest money by way of advance should the merchant be charged a debtor for it no man would deal. This may be used for the forwarding of stores for the King's use. They account in the Navy the Julian way, beginning the first of January, therefore that money might not be otherwise accounted for.
(fn. 60)At the conclusion the House resolved that Sir G. Carteret was guilty of a misdemeanour within the fifth observation of the Commissioners of Accounts.
(fn. 61)Then the sixth observation of the Commissioners of Accounts was read, and the Commissioners of Accounts attending, and the Counsel of Sir G. Carteret being called in and heard, the Commissioners gave further reason for this observation.
(fn. 62)The observation itself was in effect as follows:—175,000l. and more in imprests on several persons are brought to account as paid, whereof 47,000l. and more is not expressed to be stayed or re-charged by the Treasurers of the Navy, though the person have more moneys paid them and charged in the same account than would clear those imprests, and for that very service for which those moneys were impressed.
(fn. 63)Lord Brereton. The Commissioners of Accounts are not by the Act liable to observe the method of the Exchequer: they think the Exchequer as much to blame as Sir G. Carteret. He charges his imprest in the ledger but not in his cash book.
Mr. Ayliffe (Counsel). The Treasurer pays out imprest money by order of the Commissioners of the Navy, Comptroller and principal officer. This case is that of a constable who is no judge of the fitness of a warrant.
Lord Brereton. The Treasurer may refuse payments. The Comptroller of the Navy has written to Sir George Carteret about imprest money, and he has abated none. It is a manifest wrong to account for imprest money when none is paid.
(fn. 64)In the end the House resolved that Sir G. Carteret is guilty of a misdemeanour within the sixth observation of the Commissioners of Accounts.
(fn. 65)The Commissioners of Accounts being again called in, and placed by the bar of the House, the seventh observation of the Commissioners of Accounts was read in effect as follows:— (fn. 66)Moneys paid twice on several ships to one and the same person for one and the same time.
(fn. 67)The Commissioners: to one and the same person, moneys paid for one and the same service twice. The general stream of tickets went to Fenn. The article proved in several instances. It is a like case with that of imprests. Ninety instances of this article. The officers of the Navy checks upon one another.
(fn. 68) On the 3 Dec. 1669, the House proceeded upon the report of the Commissioners of Accounts.
The eighth observation of the said Commissioners upon the accounts of Sir G. Carteret was read in effect as follows:— (fn. 69)Several sums in clothes allowed the Treasurer, and the wages of those persons (where the clothes were so allowed) afterwards paid, and those moneys for the said clothes not stayed on the respective tickets.
The Commissioners being called in, Lord Brereton in the name of the rest was heard as to their grounds, reasons, and instances to the same, and Sir G. Carteret and his Counsel was heard in defence thereto, and afterwards they all withdrew.
(fn. 70)Grey's account of the debate is as follows:—
Eighth observation against Sir G. Carteret. "Several moneys allowed for cloathes which were not paid." This observation (say the Commissioners) is the least in value, but shows want of care in examining the sea books. Wade has had a private trade with the slop sellers, wherein he has cozened the King of 25,000l., but this will be most properly charged upon the Commissioners of the Navy.
Mr. Ayliffe, Counsel for Sir G. Carteret. This article inconsiderable. Either the ticket was not marked, and then his client not to blame that he did not deduct it. As to this money if he had notice to forbear he must pay it to the King.
(fn. 71)9th observation. Great sums appear by the Treasurer's cash books to be in his hands when the ships lay upon charge for want of pay, and seamen sold their tickets to relieve their necessities, &c.
10th observation. Several sums have been borrowed by him of the Goldsmiths for the service of the Navy, yet this money not received when borrowed, but part allowed to remain in the Goldsmiths' hands for months together, in which time it has been issued in parcels, and much of it to private hands and some for bills and tickets bought by the Goldsmiths or others at an under rate.
(fn. 72)And having heard the Commissioners for Accounts, and Sir G. Carteret and his Counsel in manner as aforesaid, the whole matter was debated.
(fn. 73)9th observation. Money in his hands, and the Navy unpaid when the fleet lay for want of pay as in Chatham business. 190,000l. as appears by Sir Robert Vyner's books, and by Alderman Backwell's books 50,000l. and upwards. His Royal Highness [the Duke of York] foreseeing this had utterly forbid it.
Mr. Ayliffe. [It is true there may have been great] sums of money if [by that word is] intended current money of the Exchequer, and not current money of England. Tallies and paper money is so there and the King's coin lodged there. In tallies he had in his hands great sums, but not in any other sense. In strict merchants' word there are no cash books, but ours are Exchequer books, which comprehend the orders and tallies as well as ready money. That the soldiers [sailors] had not money is a thing to be lamented, and [but] not to be helped, [the Treasurer of the Navy] having nothing but cash of tally and cash of order, but no cash of ready money. No Treasurer is accountable to an audit but for what moneys he receives: as to bonds and bills unless he has received moneys upon them he is answerable only for the bonds, &c. The 200,000l. was not received at the time it was promised to be lent; not lent till a month after, and so the Treasury was fed by them [?the goldsmiths] with parcels instead of the whole sum, by reason of the disorder the fire made, and the goldsmiths' being called upon by private persons for their own. In all the books of 1638, 1639, and 1640, moneys were accounted for in the preceding year, which were not paid till the subsequent year.
Lord Brereton. The goldsmiths say positively that Sir G. Carteret might have had the moneys if he had them not. Mr. Maynell said that from the time Sir G. Carteret borrowed the money he might have had it, and it was his own fault he had it not.
(fn. 74) On the 10th December, 1669, the day before the adjournment, the House resumed consideration of report of Commissioners of Accounts and in particular of the observations against Sir G. Carteret wherein the House had [already] agreed and [had already] voted Sir G. Carteret guilty of misdemeanours and the following resolutions were passed.
Resolved that the Commissioners of Accounts be desired to expedite their report of what further they have to add to their former report by the next meeting of the House after the recess and to make what speed they can to make returns into the Exchequer of such as shall be found indebted to the King.
On the 11th December, 1669, Parliament was prorogued until the 14th February following. On the 19th February, 1669–70, five days after reassembling it resumed the subject of the public accounts. Leaving the charges against Sir George Carteret the House fixed its attention on the subject of the prizes.
The Commissioners for Public Accounts being called in were acquainted that the estimate by them now delivered in had been taken into consideration and that the House intended to proceed in the matter of their former report concerning prizes on Saturday next, and were asked if they could be ready to bring in the state of that matter by that time, who answered that as to some part they were ready: [as] to others not fully ready. Therefore the House Ordered that the report of the Commissioners of Accounts concerning prizes be taken into consideration on Saturday morning next and the Commissioners are desired then to attend with what they have in readiness further to offer touching that matter.
A lengthy summary of the Commissioners' report on prizes is already in print (fn. 75) so that it is only necessary here to indicate its chief heads. The first part of the report is practically an examination of Lord Ashley's account of the prizes which is given supra, pp. xxii–iv. After estimating the payments other than war payments which had been made out of prize money the Commissioners turned to the question of the accounts of the prize ships and finally to the question of the embezzlements of prizes. They computed the embezzlements at more than 90,000l. not including the embezzlements committed in the two rich East India ships by Sir William Penn and others.
(fn. 76)Accordingly on the 26th February, the Commons proceeded to consideration of the report of the Commissioners of Accounts concerning prize goods.
The Commissioners being called in again and asked if they were now ready to make out proof in any particular of the report, acquainted the House that they were ready but their vouchers for that purpose were ready and not now here, but they should be ready to attend with them at such time as the House of Commons should appoint, and that within a day or two they expected an answer of some of the Commissioners for Prizes not yet brought in, after which they should be enabled to give an account of the whole. Whereupon it being left to them to appoint their own time, they nominated Monday come sevennight. Ordered that the Commissioners for Accounts be desired to attend this House on Monday week with their proofs and instances to make good their report concerning prizes. Ordered that the members of this House concerned in the accounts of prizes do attend the Commissioners for Accounts and clear their accounts with them by Monday week.
(fn. 77) The subject was not resumed until the 10th March, 1669–70. On that day the Commissioners of Accounts attending were called in and delivered in a list of prize ships and vessels continuing still uncleared, some of them remaining chargeable upon the Commissioners of Prizes in relation to several ports. They likewise delivered in a further report and state of accounts concerning Sir G. Carteret. The said list of prize ships and vessels was ordered to be read. The House then proceeded to the hearing the said Commissioners as to their proofs and instances for making good their report; particularly as to the ports of Bristol, London and Dover, wherein several members of the House, formerly Commissioners in that affair, in their several places answered thereunto. In the end the House Resolved that the further hearing upon this report and particularly that part of it relating to the port of Dover be adjourned till Monday morning next. The Commissioners of Accounts to attend then.
(fn. 78)The subject was resumed on the 17th March, 1669–70, when the House proceeded in the consideration of the matter concerning the public accounts, and the Commissioners of Accounts being called in and the report being read as to the twenty-one ships and goods therein not cleared at the port of Dover and the districts thereof where Sir Thomas Peyton, Colonel Strode, Sir Edward Massey and Sir Francis Clerke were Commissioners for Prizes: and Counsel being allowed and called in and heard at the bar to make defence in their behalf and the instructions of the principal Commissioners for Prizes, some letters from them to the Commissioners for Dover and other letters of theirs [the Dover Commissioners] to the principal Commissioners of Prizes were read and the matter fully heard at the bar.
(fn. 79)The first part of the debate was general as to the question of judging the Commissioners and allowing Council.
Confesses that they have not punctually followed the instructions but pleads the circumstances. These twenty-five ships were dismissed when the plague was as hot at Dover as at London and the Lords Commissioners [of Prizes] were remote either at Oxford or Salisbury. The ships themselves too brought in probationarily ships [being] formerly discharged in other ports, &c.
At this point the Commons' debates on the reports and proceedings of the Commissioners of Accounts cease. For the rest of the session, which lasted till April 11th, the House was engaged on Supply. Parliament was then adjourned until October, 1670, and when it reassembled in that month made not a single attempt to revive the subject of the moribund commission.
For the sake of convenience I have carried through to its close the account of the debates on this subject in the House of Commons without making reference to the treatment which the same subject received in the House of Lords.
The proceedings in the Upper House are admirably summarised in the volume of Historical MSS. report already quoted. (fn. 80) It is therefore only necessary here to recapitulate the final votes which the Lords' Committee arrived at on the subject of the Commissioners' "observations" dealt with so fully above.
Dec. 2. Observation one. Resolved by 10 to 1 that it has not been made to appear to the Committee by the Commissioners of Accounts that Sir George Carteret has assumed to himself a liberty to make use of the King's treasure for other uses than directed by justifiable warrant.
Dec. 10. Observation No. 7. Resolved that it not having been made appear that Sir George Carteret hath made any of these payments without sufficient vouchers, the Committee see no cause to conclude him faulty under this observation.
The tenour of these votes is in diametrical opposition to those passed by the Commons. The one condemned Carteret, the other absolved him—by implication the one condemned the Executive, the other absolved it.
Which view is correct? The answer to this question is contained in the present calendar. What this calendar reveals to us is the working of the machinery of the executive during a time of sore financial straits. The lasting impression which it leaves is that of an active, capable, honest body of officials struggling vainly against absolutely insuperable financial difficulties; insuperable simply because the Parliament had not kept its plighted word with the King: simply because the revenue which the Parliament had assigned never reached the estimate put upon it.
The Parliamentary Commission of Accounts did one thing. It partially opened Charles's own eyes to the truth of the situation. During the recess between Dec. 1669 and Feb. 1670 the subject was debated in the Privy Council, and the Commissioners of Accounts were themselves subjected to searching examination.
"The King also all the while examined at Council the reports from the Commissioners of Accounts," says Marvel, "where they were continually discountenanced, and treated rather as offenders than judges."
The examination revealed what it has been the purpose of the whole of this introduction to critically expound, and when Charles again met his Parliament his mind was a little clearer. For once he struck out straight, although even then his customary bonhomie did not entirely desert him. "When we last met I asked you [for] a supply, and I ask it now again with greater instance. The uneasiness and straightness of my affairs cannot continue without very ill effects to the whole kingdom. Consider this seriously and speedily. It is yours and the kingdom's interest as well as mine, and the ill consequence of a want of an effectual supply must not lie at my door. And that no misapprehensions or mistakes touching the expenses of the late war may remain with you I think fit to let you know that I have fully informed myself in that matter, and do affirm to you that no part of those moneys that you gave to me for that war have been diverted to other uses, but on the contrary, besides all those supplies a very great sum hath been raised out of my standing revenue and credit, and a very great debt contracted, and all for the war."
(fn. 81)"When the Commissioners of Accounts came before us" says Marvel, "sometimes we heard them pro forma, but all falls to dirt."
But that is a small matter. The really vital question to settle is whether the House of Commons had by Charles's words, by the words of his officials in the House, or by their own Commissioners' reports, had their eyes opened to the real financial condition of the administration. On the answer to that question depends the judgment of history as to the criminal responsibility for the Treaty of Dover.
In the present volume the Treasury minute book forms the text of the Calendar. All the other series of Treasury records are put into the form of a table accompanying the text year by year. It is therefore necessary to study the two—text and table—side by side. But there are occasional duplications. A minute of one particular day's date will order such and such a letter to be written. That letter will appear on the same day in the General Letter Book. Such entries are in effect duplicate, and I have treated them as such without troubling to note the double page reference. But if the letter in the General Letter Book is fuller in detail than the corresponding minute in the minute book, then I have imported into the text of the minute such words (sometimes in square brackets) taken from the letter itself as serve to elucidate the subject matter of the minute itself. As the full text of the letter itself can be easily found in the General Letter Book by its date, I have not thought it necessary in such cases to preserve a note of the page reference of the entry in that source.