Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 9, 1689-1692. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1931.
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Parliamentary Provision Of Supply For War Purposes
The Parliamentary proceedings with regard to the provision of extraordinary supply for the war have very little of the interest which attach to the above related proceedings concerning the civil or ordinary peace revenue of the country. At all times in English history Parliament was ready to vote money for a war with France, and the question of deciding from what sources the money or supply should be raised was always a matter of party bickering or of class interest. The principles of taxation, the problems of the incidence of taxes were still undreamed of as a science, and in the main the sources of supply which were ultimately decided upon by William's Parliaments were those of the two preceding reigns. The Commonwealth pattern of a fixed assessment was dropped and the sheet anchor of Revolution as of Restoration finance remained the Land Tax (aid or subsidy of so much per on real estate income) and the Poll. The statistical import and interest of these two forms of tax will be appreciated from the tables of revenue printed below, pp. cxcvi, cciv. But in themselves they imply or involve no new form or principle of taxation.
Similarly the extension of the list of indirect taxes, taxes on imported commodities or on articles of Excise, present no new principle or form of taxation. Even the abolition of Hearthmoney did not lead instantly to the evolution of a new form of tax to take its place, for it was not until a date outside the limits of the present instalment of Calendar that the tax on windows and the tax on bachelors was instituted, and the tax on the tonnage of ships was simply a direct copy of a French tax. It was not until 1694 (outside the range of the present volume) that an absolutely new source and principle of taxation was broached in the institution of Stamp Duties.
But when we turn from the question of science, viz. the principles of taxation, to the more purely historical question of financial machinery, we are struck at once by the record of actual progress which the close of the 17th century reveals. On the one hand, the House of Commons laid the foundations of a Parliamentary system of annual estimates and of Parliamentary scrutiny of accounts, and on the other hand the system of Parliamentary guarantees for loans on supply led naturally and inevitably to the institution of the Bank of England. In their primary aspect both these developments operate as adjuncts to or elaborations or extensions of the old Exchequer system. But at the same time the expansion and progress which their institution implies were so tremendous that they foreshadowed and portended the ultimate disruption and supercession of that Exchequer system. The process took a century and a half to accomplish, but its foundations and starting point were set down in the administrative acts chronicled in the present instalment of Calendar.
In the first place, as to the Commissioners of Accounts, it is not a secret that from time immemorial the one pride and glory of the English Exchequer system was its audit system. Not merely was that audit system severe and exact, but it had shown itself through centuries of history to be capable of expansion, to be capable of meeting new problems of finance and new forms of accounting. So long as the King's revenue was mainly derived from royal lands the Exchequer Court Auditors of Crown revenues were sufficient for the needs of the nation's accountancy. But when extraneous or "foreign" sources of revenue became more important than Crown land revenues the Auditors of Imprests were instituted to take cognisance and control of the new domain.
Now it might be thought or expected that when Parliament took over this Executive machinery, as it is supposed to have done at the Revolution of 1688, it might or could have been content with christening it with a new name without disturbing its character or function. Whereas the Executive had been under Charles II. the King's Executive, it was now the Parliament's. Whereas the financial machinery of the Exchequer and the audit machinery of the Exchequer had been the King's, they were now the Parliament's. Why, therefore, change them? Why expand and disrupt them? Why institute something different in their place?
The answer is very simple, but it is such an one as should make one chary of accepting text book phrases. The King's Executive of the Stuart type did not instantly and completely pass over into the Parliamentary executive of the constitutional regime immediately upon the Revolution of 1688. The perfect cycle of that evolution was not accomplished for another century, and the whole history of the 18th century is pregnant with the problem of that evolution.
Any disingenuous student of history who wishes to realise how incisive was William III.'s control of his executive, how personal was his interference in it and his influence upon it will find abundant proof in the present Calendar. Before any Parliamentary body or merely representative assembly can step into the position of the monarch as the controller of the executive it has perforce to develop a Cabinet system, and such a development means much more than a mere crystallisation of party politics. Throughout the reign of William III. the essential conditions for such a development were lacking. Indeed, I should not hesitate to say that Charles II. went further towards building a bridge for the emergence of the principle of Parliamentary control of the Executive than William III. did or ever could have done. In reality, therefore, the instinct of William's Parliaments in instituting the Commissioners of Accounts was a perfectly true instinct, in spite of the chaotic confusion and lack of management and order and leadership which characterised Parliamentary debates of the time. The House of Commons had, indeed, no other expedient as a means of control.
The Presentation Of Annual Estimates And Accounts
How far did the Revolution of 1688 lay the foundation for the modern Parliamentary practice of annual estimates and accounts? It will be seen from the following outline of events that the progress made by William's Parliaments was as gradual and uncertain in this matter as it was in the matter of the settling of the King's revenue. Prior to 1688, as far as the Parliament was concerned, its only conception of the financial device of estimating was in connection with special transactions as and when they arose, for instance when it voted an aid for building the 27 ships in 1675 or for the disbandment in 1677. As far as the King and his Executive (let us say his Privy Council) was concerned, the device of estimating was only employed when a new establishment was to be drawn up and authorised. Beyond this casual and intermittent recourse to the practice of preparing a special estimate now and then, there was no conception on either side of systematically employing departmental estimates for the purpose of forecasting each coming year's probable expenditure and using such forecast for the purpose of squaring expenditure by revenue. Parliament left it to the King to make ends meet on his income, and on his side the King had no council to guide him beyond the tale of ever-growing debts in each of his departmental offices. That is to say, he acted as a householder does whose only financial guide is his bank pass book.
Indeed, this question of annual Departmental estimates is entirely unrelated to 17th century Parliamentary practice. For example; at the beginning of Charles II.'s reign the House of Commons had formed its own estimate of normal departmental peace expenditure, had fixed a total of 1,200,000 for such expenditure and had pledged itself to give the King an annual revenue to that amount for the whole of his reign. Theoretically and actually this procedure implied nothing in the way of laying down a normal of annual expenditure by departments, such a normal that is as Parliament would insist upon and as the King's Executive was bound by. Once the King was put in possession of his income he could distribute and apply it as he pleased. He could vary his establishments for the Army, Navy, Civil List, etc., just as he pleased without the slightest responsibility to Parliament and without submitting to it any statement of what he had done. It was due to this constitutional situation that the reign of Charles II. never evolved the principle or the practice of annual estimates. Parliament did not call for them from the King ; therefore the King did not call for them from his own Executive. In administering his finances he was preoccupied mainly with the hand-to-mouth problem of finding ready money for the services and of watching the course of the respective departmental debts. Similarly the guiding principle of his Lord Treasurer in the exercise of his function was purely administrative. He, too, was preoccupied almost exclusively with the ready money problem and the debt problem. Early in 1662 Treasurer Southampton wrote in the following terms to the Duke of York, the Lord High Admiral (fn. 1) :
"That I may the better inspect the charge of his Majesty's Navy and make provision for it I shall likewise beseech your Highness that I may have an account of what ships since have been sett out and will remain out the 25th December last, with the numbers of men borne on the several ships respectively for the whole time they were out and for those that will still remain out the 25th of December last : and that I may compare it with the account given me out of the Exchequer I likewise desire that I may be certified what moneys have been paid for the use of his Majesty's Navy for wages, Yards, Victualler's stores, etc., from 1660, June 24, to 1661-2, January 1, and what debts are owing on the accounts thereof. The Victualler has lately been with me representing the greatness of his arrear and the necessity of present supply to uphold his credit. I have promised him an assignment of 50,000l."
The report from the Navy Commissioners to the Duke of York in response to this request reveals the same attitude of mind in the Departmental Chiefs. They present a forecast of the charge of the coming summer Guard of the Seas and an estimate for the standing stores of the Navy in harbour for one year, and conclude with a list of the ships in pay. That is to say, they give no conspectus of total annual expense of the Navy nor any plan of apportioning it to income.
In November of the following year the Lord Treasurer gives his reasons to the Navy Treasurer why the assignments to the Navy cannot be increased and adds (fn. 2) :
"The last half-year's expense of the Navy (when we hoped for a considerable retrenchment) hath absolutely frustrated all my hopes." ... "Now, God knows, this must be done very imperfectly and lamely, because we must assign upon the half-year to end at Michaelmas next that which is for the expenses of Lady day next."
Such a method of conducting the national finances without the guidance of yearly estimates rigidly enforced meant that systematic economy and scrutiny or overhauling of expenditure was absent and that matters drifted year after year until the Departmental debts became intolerable and the situation generally hopeless. Then a desperate eleventh hour review of expenditure was made by the King in Council and a scheme of "retrenchment" or cutting down of expenditure was ordered. In the whole of the 25 years of Charles II.'s reign two such "retrenchments" in Departmental expenditure were formulated, viz., in 1668 and 1676.
The inner history of the retrenchment of 1668 is typical of both attempts, the initiative resting throughout with the King in Council in the first place, and the whole episode proclaiming itself as abnormal and completely unrelated to any modern conception of annual estimating. Under date the 29th July, 1667, the Privy Council Register contains the following resolution (fn. 3) :
"Whereas his Majesty did this day declare his resolution to practice the rules of thrift and good husbandry in all the commendable parts thereof and as a principal one did intend forthwith to revise and contract his expenses as much as might possibly be done : in order thereunto his Majesty was pleased to appoint the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury together with the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Bridgewater, the Earl of Anglesey, the Lord Arlington and Mr. Secretary Morice to be a Committee of the Board to take into serious consideration all the several branches of his Majesty's expenses and issues and what proportions of each may best and most conveniently be retrencht and spared for the future ; and from time to time to make such representations thereof to his Majesty in Council as they shall conceive most expedient for his Majesty's service."
The Committee did not report until a matter of four months later, and the record of its deliberations in the interim is not forthcoming. The King's attitude towards this report was very decided, for when Charles seriously applied himself to business his financial acumen was superior to that of his Ministers. The Privy Council record of the proceedings upon the presentation of the report is as follows (fn. 4) :
"Whereas the Committee appointed by order of this Board of the 29th of July last to consider all the several branches of his Majesty's expenses and what proportions of each might most conveniently be retrenched have in pursuance thereof reported to his Majesty an account of their proceedings therein, together with a report for reducing his Majesty's expenses and issues to 1,242,855l. 16s. 8d., which his Majesty being pleased this day again to take into consideration and finding the same no ways proportionable to his income hath thought fit and doth accordingly hereby recommend it to the said Committee to take a review of his expenses and issues, and thereupon to make a further reduction so as his Majesty's charge and expenses may be brought to 700,000l. per annum or as near thereunto as is possible : in order whereunto their Lordships are desired to meet to-morrow, being the 16th inst., at 3 of the clock in the afternoon at the Council Chamber in Whitehall."
The proceedings of the Committee were probably not so much dilatory as hampered ; for a further long interval ensued before its findings were reported and resolved upon in Council. On the 16th March, 1667-8, a partial scheme of retrenchments covering 14 offices (including the Army, Ordnance, Household and Chamber) was sanctioned by the King in Council and ordered to be put into operation as from the then coming Lady day. With regard to procedure it is very noticeable and significant. The papers or details of these reduced Establishments were communicated to the Departments concerned direct from the Privy Council, not through the Treasury, and the Treasury was reduced to writing to know if they had received this material "that they may govern themselves accordingly." At the same time the Treasury submissively ordered its clerks to keep a book of Establishment of these new retrenchments thus communicated to it.
Thereafter the work of the Committee would appear to have languished, and two months later the King was driven to reanimate it. The Committee was revived with additional instructions. (fn. 5)
"It was this day ordered that the Committee of this Board formerly appointed for retrenching his Majesty's expenses be revived and that the Duke of Ormonde, Lord Steward of the Household, and the Earl of Carlisle be added to them ; and that they all consider by what ways the interest which his Majesty is daily obliged to pay for moneys may be saved, his debts paid and his expenses so abated that he may come to live within his revenue."
In this renewed order the action of the Treasury side of the Committee was more energetic. The Treasury Secretary was ordered to prepare all the accounts of the year, and when finally in the following July the result was presented to the King in Council the scheme on the face of it fairly covered the revenue and expenditure of the country. This scheme thus at last evolved is entered in extenso in the Privy Council Register (fn. 6) and is to be found printed in Calendar of Treasury Books, Vol. VIII., pp. 1651-2, from a copy in the Egerton MSS. The Order in Council which adopted and enforced the scheme is as follows (fn. 7) :
"Upon reading this day at the Board the annexed report of the Committee to consider the several branches of his Majesty's expenses and issues, his Majesty, taking the same into consideration and well approving thereof, did order that the Treasury Lords be and are hereby authorised and required to cause all the particulars of the said report to be put in due execution."
It is, perhaps, only necessary to add that in the course of the following months, August to November, further investigations were made as to the debts resting on the separate Departments and certain alterations and additions were made in the scheme on the 18th and 26th September, 1668, by the two following orders (fn. 8) :
"Whereas several material branches of his Majesty's expense are omitted in the list annexed to the Order of 22 July last, and some other rules of the said Order are impracticable, the said Order and list and rules are hereby referred to the Committee appointed to consider of the several branches of his Majesty's expenses and to the Treasury Lords to insert such other branches and alter and add such new rules as they find most conducing to his Majesty's service."
(fn. 9) "The Committee appointed on the 18th inst. having met and considered thereof, did this day present to his Majesty in Council their opinion that such particulars may be inserted in an additional Order as are already observed to be omitted, viz. (hereupon follow 26 items detailed, mainly personal) all which additions and explanations being read this day, his Majesty well approved thereof and did order the Treasury Lords to put same in execution."
Up to this point it is legitimate to state that all the Treasury proceedings had been in subordination to and at the direction of the King in Council. But in adopting the scheme of retrenchment Charles had directed the Treasury to see the same put in operation. When the Treasury set themselves to carry out this order their deliberations had momentarily an appearance of greater independence and consequently of greater constitutional importance. But when we find the Treasury Lords entering "upon the business of settling his Majesty's expenses on the several branches of the revenue ... or of establishing the revenue to his Majesty's expenses," it becomes quickly apparent from the nature of their resolutions that they were simply concerned with cash problemthe problem of allotting and apportioning or disposing the revenue, or let us say officially appropriating it.
This is strongly brought out in the wording of the Order in Council which was made on the 23rd November, 1668, on the presentation of the Treasury proposals (fn. 10) :
"Whereas the Treasury Lords offered to the King Oct. 28 last a proposal for assigning and distributing his Majesty's whole revenue for the expenses of one year in pursuance of the Orders in Council of 22 July and 26 Sept. last : and his Majesty having this day brought the same to the Board and caused it to be read, upon serious consideration his Majesty was pleased to declare his approbation thereof with these alterations made by his own hand, viz. :
that in charging the Customs, April, May and
June, 1670, be assigned for the Navy, Ordnance
and Tangier in lieu of Sept., Dec. and Jan.,
1669, and that Sept., 1669, be appointed for
the Treasurer of the Chamber.
Dec., 1669, for the Great Wardrobe.
Jan., 1669-70, for ambassadors.
And it was ordered by the King that the Treasury Lords cause the said proposal and every part thereof with these alterations to be put in execution."
Furthermore, even the appearance of independent deliberation on the part of the Treasury was not maintained. When the Duke of York as Lord Admiral presented to the Treasury a demand for repairs necessary to the Navy the Treasury Lords replied :
"My Lords have given to the King a state of the revenue, which lies before him, for his view according to what his Majesty and Council may best judge, and my Lords desire his Highness to interpose [so] that this paper [may] be speedily considered."
Throughout the whole of this 1668 retrenchment episode the Treasury acted simply as a subordinate office to the Privy Council, taking orders from it, acting in submission to it, communicating the Council's decisions to the departmental offices and meekly asking for copies of such Orders as went over its head direct from the Privy Council to those offices.
And if the Treasury was weak in deliberating retrenchment, it was still feebler in enforcing it. The scheme of 1668 and all the constructive measures which accompanied it represented too abnormal a situation for Charles's Executive to build constitutional progress upon. Nearly two years after the retrenchment had been formulated the Treasury Lords appealed to the King in Council to revive the Committee of Retrenchments in order to consider the Wardrobe :
"The ordinary allowance is but 16,000l. per an. : this year they have had above 40,000l. and yet more is demanded and no account hath yet been brought in."
Such an entry is proof that the scheme of retrenchment had no positive compulsive sanction behind it. It had been imposed by Order of the King in Council. But the King was dealing with his own revenue and by the same authority by which he imposed the retrenchment he could abrogate it. In the second scheme of retrenchment there is an actual proviso to this effect (see the terms of the Order in Council of 28th January, 1675-6, Calendar of Treasury Books, Vol. V., p. 116). When this happened the Treasury was helpless.
Three years after the retrenchment scheme of 1668 the stop of the Exchequer precipitated a second scheme on similar lines. The details of the complete limits to the annual expenditure in each and all the Departments is set out in the royal warrant of 29th January, 1671-2. But a comparison of the figures of actual expenditure for the subsequent years of Charles's reign reveal the futility of the scheme of these limits. The net outcome therefore is that neither of these explosive retrenchment schemes taught either the King or the Treasury the necessity of yearly estimates covering the whole field of expenditure and rigorously enforceable.
Occasionally and at irregular intervals we find the Treasury Lords calling for an Establishment estimate ; for example, in 1671, of a year's expense of the Household or of the Forces, and in 1674 for the Wardrobe, Chamber, Jewel House and Works from the Privy Council.
But subsequently to the second (the 1676) scheme of retrenchment the Treasury, under the inspiration of Danby, made a considerable step forward in constitutional practice :
"A state of the present charge on the revenue is ordered to be prepared and a scheme for the service [or expenditure] of the year."
"The Lord Treasurer directs a state to be made of the whole revenue of England and of all the charge thereupon and how each particular branch is charged and in arrear and how the next year's service may be provided for."
But the likelihood or the possibility that this step might have grown into a regular system of annual estimates was swept away when Danby left the Treasury and the rest of the reign reveals no further attempt at yearly estimates on the part of Charles's Executive whether in the Treasury alone or the Treasury and Privy Council combined.
When we turn from the reign of Charles II. to that of James II. we meet with an incident which indicates a development of Treasury routine. In January, 1686-7, the Treasury sent a circular letter to each of the offices or departments, 15 in all, calling for an account of debts and arrears owing in or by each of the said Departments.
The advance in constitutional practice which this step indicates consisted in the completeness with which the Treasury comprehended the whole range of executive offices or Departments in this operationthe fighting services (Army, Navy and Ordnance), the Household (Cofferer, Chamber, Wardrobe, Robes and Jewels), the Exchequer (for all annual payments), the Works, Mint and bankers' debt. In previous years only disjointed and separate statements of debt had been called for and that too not at the beginning of an Exchequer year but at any time in the course of the year.
But the circular stands alone, and of course an estimate, of debt standing on a Department is essentially different from an estimate of that Department's projected expenditure for a forthcoming year. The former could not be repaired by retrenchment ; the latter could be pruned, and thereby some constitutional check on expenditure could be exercised.
Apart from the above Treasury entry, the Privy Council Register under date 21st October, 1687, (fn. 11) furnishes evidence of the combined exercise of the Kingly prerogative in the matter of estimates. On that day James II. announced to his Privy Council :
his decision to have 4,000 marines for next year, 1st January, 1687-8, to 31st December, 1688. Mr. Pepys, as Secretary to the Admiralty, is to take care that the King's directions be issued to the Navy Commissioners for their preparing estimates in due form for the victuals and wear and tear and wages of the said men.
It will be seen that William III. proceeded in exactly the same manner, ordering an Establishment as a mere act of his prerogative and of his executive authority and calling for an estimate without the slightest reference to Parliament.
From this brief running commentary it is clear that prior to the Revolution of 1688 the constitutional concept or practice of annual estimates of expenditure was non-existent. How far did that Revolution create or evolve such a concept? In considering this question it is necessary to emphasise that the general survey of accounts which Parliament undertook, during its attempts at fixing the King's revenue and which have been described at length (supra, pp. xxviii, xxxviii, xlv), had no relation to a system of annual estimates of expenditure as drawn specially for the guidance of Parliament in making annual grants of supply. Such a general survey of revenue and expenditure at the commencement of the reign was comparable to the investigations of the Privy Council in the retrenchments of 1668 and 1676. The result arrived at by such a review was intended to be permanent, that is, to endure normally for the lifetime of the Sovereign, and no further review was contemplated.
Similarly it would be incorrect to infer that clauses 6 and 13 of the Act of Rights, 1 Wm. and Mary, Sess. 2, c. 2, relating to a standing Army and the frequent meeting of Parliament, resulted inevitably in annual meetings of Parliament and in annual grants of supply. Even the idea that the Mutiny Act was an annual Act and necessitated an annual meeting of Parliament and annual supply, is incorrect, for there was a gap of several years between the Mutiny Act of 1696-7 (8 and 9 Wm., c. 13) and its successor Act, that of 1701 (13 and 14 Wm. III., c. 2). Theoretically, if permanent and sufficient provision had been made for William and Mary as it had been for Charles II. and James II., and if no wars had intervened, there would have been no need for further supply, whether annual or other, for the rest of William's reign, whatever might happen about the Mutiny Acts.
The birth of the concept of annual supply (necessitating annual estimates) must therefore be sought in the mere course of events or circumstance of the early years of William III. reign.
From the outset of his reign William exercised his prerogative rights quite as uncontrolledly as James II. had done in the matter of framing Establishments without reference to Parliament, and his Treasury officials proceeded in the same way in the matter of calling at periods for a statement of Departmental debts (see, for example, the series of letters of 30th December, 1689, to ten Departments for such a statement similarly in October, 1690 (fn. 12) ). On the 14th March, 1688-9, William declared in Council that he judged it necessary to have in his service at sea 10,000 men [marines] for a year, for whom timely provision of sea victual is to be made, and doth therefore order that the Admiralty Commissioners do cause a declaration to be made of the charge of the victuals for the said 10,000 for one year and to present the same to the Privy Council, (fn. 13) and that in the meantime the said Commissioners do give all necessary orders for such a provision of victual to be made. Two days before this he had ordered in Council commissions for 14 Regiments of Foot, six of Horse and six of Dragoons for Ireland. (fn. 14)
Now in the preceding week in his speech to the two Houses on the 8th March, 1688-9, William recommended providing 20,000 men for reducing Ireland and such a Fleet as would be mistress of the seas, and added : "I will engage my solemn word to you that whatever you shall give in order to these public ends shall be strictly applied to them." (fn. 15)
The first of these subjects (the provision for the reduction of Ireland) was referred to a Committee of the whole House for considering the state of Ireland, and to this Committee there was delivered an estimate of the charge for one year of an expeditionary force of 22,330 men, Horse, Dragoons and Foot, and of a Train of Artillery for same. (fn. 16) There is no trace in the Privy Council Register or in the Treasury records of the origin of this estimate. It had apparently been called for by the Duke of Schomberg (on the King's verbal order) from the Secretary at War and the Ordnance Office on the 14th March (before the appointment of the Grand Committee), and had been communicated by the Executive to the Commons Committee apparently at its request. The total estimate printed in full in the Journals amounted to 714, 117l. 6s. 4d. Thereupon the House voted half the necessary sum for these Forces, practically cutting the estimate in two, voted the levy money and Ordnance, and sufficient to provide for the upkeep of the Forces for six months, with a pledge that the other half would be provided if the war in Ireland "should so long continue."
The second subject, that of the Fleet, was considered on the 23rd March in Grand Committee and on its report the House resolved that the King be humbly desired to direct an estimate to be sent to them "what Fleet will be necessary for this summer service."
In this case again there is no trace in the Privy Council Register or in the Treasury records of the preparation of the estimate, which can only mean that the order for its preparation was a direct verbal order from the King. Three days later Mr. Hampden, as a member of the Privy Council, acquainted the House that he had received from the King, through Secretary Nottingham, an estimate of the charge of wages, victual and wear and tear for one year for 50 ships of war, 15 small ships and eight fire ships with 17,155 men for the Narrow Seas and the Mediterranean and 22 ships and two fire ships, with 4,540 men, for the Plantations and convoys. (fn. 17) The total estimate for the 12 months amounted to 1,128,140l. This estimate was referred to the Committee which was already considering the King's standing revenue, and on the 5th April the Committee reported practically confirming the estimate. (fn. 18) By separating the ordinary or, let us say, the peace establishment of the Navy (including the Summer and Winter Guard) from the total naval provision which the King had asked for, the Committee reduced the estimate to 832,568l. ; on the perfectly proper assumption that the peace establishment of the Navy would be provided for out of the King's standing revenue. Towards the balance of 832,568l. thus arrived at, the House on the 25th April voted supply of 700,000l. "toward the occasions and service of the Navy." (fn. 19)
It will be noticed that in this case the sum voted was less than the approved estimate. The reason was that it was still considered an open question what part of the King's ordinary or fixed revenue should be devoted to the Navy. In a series of Committee recommendations two days later, (fn. 20) April 27th, it was proposed that 600,000l. should be fixed on the King's revenue as for the Navy and Ordnance. This would have more than covered the amount required to provide fully for the estimate.
As far as the House of Commons was concerned, this first Session up to the adjournment on the 20th August, 1689, contributed nothing further to the solution of the problem of an orderly presentation of yearly forecasts or estimates of expenditure. But when on the 28th June, 1689, William called the two Houses before him to urge them to greater expedition in their proceedings, he threw out a suggestion which offered a possibility of great constitutional development (fn. 21) :
"The necessary expense of this year will much exceed the sums you have yet provided for it. And that you may make the truer judgment in that matter I am very willing you should see how all the moneys have been hitherto laid out and to that end I have commanded those accounts to be speedily brought to you."
The House made no reference to this offer of the King's and the Session ended on the 20th August without either side having achieved anything towards the solution of the problem of Parliamentary control of finance through regular Departmental estimates.
But during the recess William was more prescient and energetic. He had accounts and estimates prepared, though of these again there is no record in the Privy Council Register or in the Treasury Minute Book or entry books, (fn. 22) and when he met Parliament on the 19th October, 1689, he informed them thereof :
"That you may be satisfied how the money has been laid out which you have already given I have directed the accounts to be laid before you when you think fit to call for them." (fn. 23)
The House immediately sat down to the question of supply, and on the 24th October, and in response to the King's invitation, called for the said accounts and at the same time desired from the King a "state" or estimate of the war for the ensuing year (fn. 24) :
"Ordered that Sir Henry Capell [one of the Commissioners of the Treasury] be desired to bring in an account of the state of the war for the last year."
"Resolved that an humble address be presented to his Majesty by such members as are of his Majesty's most honourable Privy Council that he will please to direct that a state of the war for one ensuing year be prepared, to be brought to this House."
The King readily assented, and on the 1st November (fn. 25) the accounts of the war expenditure from 1688, December 28, to 1689, September 29, were brought in by Sir Henry Capell, and at the same time
the Earl of Ranelagh as Paymaster of the Forces presented to the House the state of the war for the ensuing year (fn. 26) as to the Land Forces for the English and Dutch Forces in England, the English Forces in Holland and the Forces in Ireland, all which he said he delivered in by his Majesty's command.
Sir Thomas Lee presented to the House a state of the Navy for the ensuing year.
Sir Thomas Goodrick presented to the House a state as to the Ordnance.
The House read these "states" or estimates, and on the following day, 2nd November, 1689, voted supply of two millions for the reduction of Ireland and the prosecution of the war against France both by sea and land. (fn. 27)
We have only a brief account of this day's debates, but it is clear from it that the House derived from these estimates only vague ideas of the armed forces proposed for the ensuing year, and that no serious attempts were made to test the estimate : that indeed it had the haziest conception of the constitutional use of an estimate. The debates show, that is, that the House wavered between a discussion of figures and a discussion of policy (fn. 28) :
Sir Thomas Clarges : The Forces now in pay are 70,000 Horse, Foot, etc. ... though we are in a state of war we need not above 25,000 ... I think 40,000 men may be taken out of this Establishment.
The Earl of Ranelagh gives an account of the Establishment and rectifies Clarges' mistakes.
Mr. Garroway : ... I would have a true state of the number of men. It is no matter whose Regiments they are. I would have accounts brought here by somebody that will allow [or avouch] them.
Sir Thomas Clarges : I am not of capacity to say how many men may serve for Ireland, but I would have his Majesty moved to declare the numbers for next year.
Col. Birch : It is not known to me whether we are to have 30,000 or 40,000 men. That will be in due time ... therefore I move that 40,000 men may be for the next year's Establishment in Ireland.
Sir John Trevor : The question is whether you will consider the numbers of men or a lump of money. I am for men, and if you appropriate not the money it may be applied either to the Navy or the Dutch and not for Ireland and neither done at last. I do not understand that what is sent to you [in the way of these estimates by the King] is an answer to your address. If you compute for 36,000 men I would venture to give for 50,000. I am sure it is more proper for the King. We are not a Council of War, but representatives of the people to assist him. We are but to supply according to the numbers of men. ... I move that the King may send us the state of the war.
Sir Henry Capel : Several of the Council attended the King about the Admiralty and the Army and the state of both is delivered to the House as approved of by the King.
Sir John Trevor : Capel goes a great way, but those who gave in that state of war to the King understand war no more than himself.
Sir George Treby : ... What is wanting to this state of war? You would have some estimate of the war ; you have called for accounts for this day's work and contented yourselves with all materials requisite and believed you would accept this given as a state of the war. Should you have more it is but in order to giving money. Now having this before you, it is enough to inform your judgments as proper to guide your vote.
Some further light is thrown on the above debate and on the attitude of the House towards these tentative and imperfect "estimates" or "states of the war" by the debate which took place a fortnight later on the defect of Ordnance (fn. 29) :
Mr. Hampden : Your money has not been diverted from the Navy, Army nor Ordnance. The King has not received by 150,000l. of what you have appropriated. ... I can make out that many a 10,000l. is come short of what you have given.
Sir Henry Goodrick : All this now demanded is made within the compass of one year. ... There is no old debt at all of Sir Thomas Chichley's time, but this is for stores actually [bought and served into the Ordnance] since 'twas in the King's service.
Sir Thomas Clarges : I think it very extraordinary that the Ordnance should make these reports here. It's to the Treasury they ought to apply. ... This is making us Commissioners of Accounts by bringing these accounts to us.
Sir Thomas Lee : I find one Office draws on another. Gentlemen will see by the accounts of the Treasury that the seamen cannot be paid.
Mr. Sacheverell : ... I must wonder how 900,000l. all comes under Lord Ranelagh's care [as Paymaster of the Forces]. ... How can it come about that the armies of Holland and England come to 900,000l.?
Earl of Ranelagh : 981,000l. paid me. I shall explain how that sum has been issued. There are four Armies in being : the English Army in Holland, the Dutch and the English in England, and the Army in Ireland. I have nothing to do with the Dutch Army, but all passed in my name, but was received by a Dutchman Paymaster to that Army. An account has been given to the Committee. I cannot carry all the figures in my head, but when you require it it shall be done. The King paid the arrears of the Army that came over to him from King James ; they were 22,230 men. They went from my care to Mr. Harbord. So that all paid [by] me is about 360,000l. [towards] clearing the Dutch and English Armies. ... Though you gave much the last Session, yet not for the Forces in England ; [but] for those in Holland and Ireland only.
Mr. Sacheverell : I hope Ranelagh will not take it ill if I ask him a question or two. ... If it can be made out that there never were 50,000 men I would know if there was not 1,400,000l. spent and no Army paid? Suppose 35,000 Foot at 2l. [20l.] a head pay officers and soldiers, that is 700,000l. Suppose there are 15,000 Horse and Dragoons, paid them in 50l. a man and that not above 1,500,000l. [in all].
Earl of Ranelagh : I hope that by virtue of my memory you will not put me to give account of every foot of things. When the last Session the account was called for the charge was 1,700,000l. per an.
Mr. Garroway : ... How they could have so many men as 50,000 I think no man can make out.
Sir Thomas Clarges : You are told the charge was 50,000 men. That number being never here cannot come to 1,400,000l.
Sir Christopher Musgrave : I think this is a good account that has been given, but I would have it brought into the House in writing.
Now with regard to this debate it is to be noted that the accounts of the actual payments to the Forces in these years, 1688-9, were not produced to the House of Commons until 1707, a matter of 18 years after the event. In the absence of full and properly audited figures, the heads of the service departments, Army, Navy and Ordnance, were all present in the House, but with the exception of the Earl of Ranelagh, who was Paymaster General of Guards and Garrisons, none of those Departmental chiefs assisted the House or even attempted to elucidate the figures. The House was confused by trying to understand why the estimate of March, 1688-9, had proved unreliable and at the same time why the money granted on that estimate had not supplied the services included in the estimate.
Looking back, it is easy to comprehend the confusion. The services, or let us say the Establishments, were entirely in the hands of the King. He could give out as many commissions as he pleased for the raising of Regiments and he could authorise the establishments for those Regiments by his sign manual. When the House asked him for his forecast of the cost of the war for a year he calculated for just such numbers of men and ships as he thought fit. After the House had voted the money in accordance with the figures which the King or his officials submitted to them he could, in perfect good faith, alter the establishments or vary his dispositions without the slightest responsibility to the House. If he kept within the grant and estimate, well and good. If not, then the House was bewildered simply from lack of leadership. The King's officials had not developed the habit of authoritatively putting forward the King's business by submitting authentic figures and explaining authentic accounts, and on its side the House had not developed the realisation of the connection between establishments and estimates, that is to say, the cardinal principal that supply should be voted on a reliable official estimate and that the establishment included in such estimate should be fairly stable for the period covered by the supply.
When the new Parliament met on the following 20th March, 1689-90, it was still, as much as its predecessor, without leadership and devoid of guidance in the form of reliable estimates. It voted a supply of 1,200,000l. on the 1st April, 1690, after a debate which had taken up the whole of the preceding day and which revealed a recurring state of uncertainty as to facts and figures.
In A Grand Committee On The Supply (fn. 30)
Sir Christopher Musgrave : I must believe that what is requisite for carrying on the war has been weighed before we came hither.
Col. Austin : None tell us what will serve the King and those near him yet do not tell us what is required.
Sir Thomas Clarges : These accounts of the revenue are a little puzzling. It is a hard matter to be clear in it in a Committee of the whole House (and so reckons up what has been given, etc., and what is in arrear, etc.). ... I think that 20,000 men, considering our alliance with Holland, are as many as we need. As to the greatest reckonings we can make, we know it was said 36,000 men, and now they say, thank God, we have 16,000. I have the honour to be in the Army and have seen the establishment for 80,000l. per mensem for 40,000 Foot and 10,000 Horse. ... I cannot tell what to advise, but I would have it proposed what sum will defend us till we meet again and what they have towards it. Before we come to [fix] a sum, let the Honourable persons [members of the Privy Council] explain what condition we are in and what is necessary now.
Sir Paul Foley : We have strange accounts of the revenue (and so reckons up the account given in by Sir John Lowther). I hope we are not at a loss for so much money as is spoken of. Let us have a fair account. The lowest account amounts to more than what the Navy and Army [? have had], but if not laid out for the Army and Fleet surely there is more reason to have things before us. I move that the House [? the King] may be moved that an account be brought in of the money [already voted] and how disbursed.
(fn. 31)Mr. Hampden [Chancellor of the Exchequer] : ... There was a great debate yesterday about accounts, but this I will say, it is the King's desire and [the desire of] all I have the honour to serve with that you should know them. I have sent for all the Auditors. I wish you would take the account I have, and I say it is a true account and will be justified : three-fourths of it are ready to be justified by the vouchers to Christmas. But take the account your own way.
Sir John Lowther [First Lord of the Treasury] : ... There is no money in the Treasury except the appropriated money. I know not of one shilling in the Treasury. ... (Then he gave an account of the charge of the Navy). ... In my poor opinion I think it impossible to carry on the war without 1,500,000l. before Michaelmas.
Sir John Thompson : ... the last Parliament the lists [of the Forces] did not appear to be 50,000 men and for them was computed 1,400,000l. Now it comes to 1,500,000l. ... We shall never come to a right state of things till we know what Forces we have.
But these debates of November, 1689, and March, 1690, were destined to prove pregnant with results. They bore important fruit in two different directions. (1) They led the House of Commons to appoint Commissioners for the Public Accountsa matter which is referred to at greater length below, p. cli ; (2) they led to a more systematic and useful presentation of estimates from the King's Executive.
The Parliament had been adjourned from the 23rd May, 1690, to the 2nd October, whilst the King was engaged in the subjugation of Ireland. On the reassembling on the 2nd October he made the following references in his speech to this question of accounts (fn. 32) :
"I have already made it evident how much I have preferred the satisfaction of my subjects before the most solid advantages of the Crown by parting with so considerable a branch of its inheritance [as Hearthmoney] : and it is no less apparent that I have asked no revenue for myself but what I have readily subjected to be charged [as a fund for borrowing upon] for the uses of the war.
I did at my departure give order for all the public accompts to be made ready for me against my return, and I have commanded them to be laid before the House of Commons, by which they will see that the real want of what was necessary beyond the funds given and the not getting in due time that for which funds were assigned have been the principal causes why the Army is so much in arrear of their pay and the stores, both for the Navy and Ordnance, not supplied as they ought to be.
I hope, therefore, there will need no more upon that subject than to lay before you, gentlemen of the House of Commons, the state of what will be necessary for the support of the Fleet and Armies (which cannot possibly admit of being lessened in the year ensuing) and to recommend to your care the clearing of my revenue so as to enable me to subsist ... and therefore a present consideration must be had of the arrears of the Army which shall likewise be laid before you and for all which I must desire a sufficient and timely supply."
On the 8th October the House sat down to the question of supply and at once ordered the public accounts to be brought in and laid before it on the following day, and that such members of the House as were of the Privy Council should move the King that a state of the war for the ensuing year should be laid before it on the following day. (fn. 33)
This message was conveyed to William by the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, and in reply the King at once ordered the Earl of Ranelagh as Paymaster of the Forces to give the House a list of the Land Forces, the Admiralty Commissioners to give it an estimate as to the Navy and the [Principal] Officers of the Ordnance similarly for the Ordnance.
On the following day, (fn. 34) the Earl of Ranelagh acquainted the House that he had by his Majesty's order prepared a list or state of the Land Forces for the next year ready and that his Majesty had declared that no more thereof should be used within his own Dominions than were absolutely necessary and that besides what the said state amounted unto the Army was in arrear 800,000l., and he delivered the said state or list in at the Clerk's table, when the same was read.
This list is entered in full in the Journals and constitutes the first genuine estimate in the modern sense which had as yet been submitted to William's Parliament. It gives the names, numbers and pay of each Regiment of Horse, Dragoons and Foot, showing a total force of 69,636 men at an annual cost of 1,910,560l. 7s. 0d.
At the same time the Vice-Chamberlain submitted to the House a book of the public accompts. This he delivered in and it was ordered to be re-delivered to the Treasury to prepare an abstract for the House.
At the same time also Sir Thomas Lee, one of the Commissioners of the Admiralty, submitted an estimate of the Navy for the ensuing year, including the Ordnance. This was in a much more abbreviated form, but it succinctly stated the number of men required for the Summer Guard, Winter Guard and convoys, together with the ordinary of the Navy and the building programme, for all which the estimate reached 1,791,695l. 1s. 6d.
At the same time Sir Thomas Littleton [as Treasurer of the Navy] delivered in an accompt from the Office of Ordnance, in which they demanded for the ensuing year ("which by reason the state of war is not yet adjusted can be no otherwise estimated than in gross") for the Ordnance one-eighth part of the whole charge of the Navy and one-sixth of the part of the Army.
(Two days later, however, (fn. 35) the Ordnance Office submitted a detailed estimate of the Ordnance for 1691, "the charge of the war in the Office of the Ordnance for land and sea service for the year 1691" yielding a total of 418,591l. 19s. 4d.)
On the following day, (fn. 36) the 10th October, 1690, the House in a Committee of Supply resolved that the estimate of the Navy to be set out for the year 1691, including the Ordnance and for the building the new ships and a dock at Plymouth, is reasonable, and that a sum of 1,791,695l. be raised for that purpose.
On the 13th October the House resolved to grant a supply for maintaining an Army of 69,636 men, "being the number of the Land Forces which his Majesty has been pleased to signify to this House that he thinks necessary for the next year's service." On the following day (fn. 37) the House fixed this supply at 2,294,560l. for an Army of 69,636 men, General Officers, garrisons, ordnance, hospitals and contingencies.
Concurrently with this display of estimates for the purpose of guiding the House in voting supply the Executive submitted to it a series of detailed accounts (fn. 38) :
(1) Relating to the Ordnance from 1 January, 1688-9, to 30th June, 1690, and of the stores of the Ordnance. This accompt came direct from the Ordnance to the House through Sir Thomas Littleton.
(2) Of loans borrowed upon the public revenue and taxes between 5th November, 1688, and 27th June, 1690.
(3) Of the victualling of the Navy between 25th November, 1689, and 30th September, 1690.
Accounts Nos. 2 and 3 were presented by Mr. Jephson as from the Treasury, as was also the account of the Navy on the 24th October.
Two days after receiving these accounts the House ordered
"That all persons who have from the 5th November, 1688, to the 30th June, 1690, received any public money for the use of the Army, Navy or Ordnance do bring in to this House a particular accompt of their respective receipts and disbursements by this day week." (fn. 39)
When it is borne in mind that the ordinary Civil Establishments were supposed to be already and permanently provided for out of the King's ordinary revenue it will be seen that the three estimates submitted as above to the House practically covered the remaining national expenditure and that therefore by this step we are on the threshold of a reliable system of annual estimating. The machinery of preparation was still inchoate and the procedure was irregular. The House asked the King to order the estimates almost as a favour, and on his side the King gave his orders direct to the Departmental chiefs over the heads of his own Treasury Lords, and even over the head of his Privy Council. There is no trace in the records of either body of the preparation of these particular statements.
It is further very noticeable that on this occasion there appeared to be no questioning of the estimates. The House accepted them in toto as they stood and voted corresponding or identical supply with remarkable complaisance and alacrity. A year later, however, in the Session 1691-2, the House of Commons had felt its feet. It approached the estimates in a thoroughly loyal spirit, but manifestly conscious that they were not to be taken as a matter of course ; that they were subject to debate and alteration. The method of procedure was practically identical with that of the Session 1690-1. The House first of all resolved to grant supply and then ordered that those members of the House who were also members of the Privy Council should humbly desire the King
"that there be laid before the House a state of the war for next year's service in relation to the Fleet and the Land Forces." (fn. 40)
Thereupon the King gave direction to the Admiralty Lords to lay before the House an estimate of the charge of the Navy, and to the Earl of Ranelagh to similarly submit "a list of what Forces his Majesty thinks fit to maintain the next year."
The Navy estimate was submitted on the 9th November by Sir Richard Onslow (as one of the Admiralty Lords), and at the same time Lord Ranelagh as Paymaster General of the Forces
"acquainted the House that the King had been pleased to command him to deliver to the House a state of the war for the next year's service in relation to the Land Forces : and that he had it." (fn. 41)
On this occasion both sets of estimates were referred to the Grand Committee of Supply.
The Grand Committee [which meant simply the whole House in Committee] went critically through the Navy estimate between the 14th and 18th November ; fixed the monthly rate for naval ordnance, victuals, wear and tear and wages, and on the latter date voted a supply of 1,575,890l. for the Navy for the year 1692. This figure was less than the Admiralty estimate by a matter of 279,164l. (fn. 42)
On the following day the Grand Committee took up the consideration of the Army estimates : and after the Earl of Ranelagh had submitted (again "by command of the King") a further statement showing the distribution of the proposed Army Forces, the House without difficulty accepted the total members proposed by William, viz. 64,924 men for the year 1692. But when it came to details the House again showed itself critical and determined. It first of all called for separate estimates (fn. 43) for the Forces in Ireland, England, Scotland and the West Indies, and similarly separate estimates for staff, hospitals, artillery, transport and garrisons, and finally
Ordered that the Lord Ranelagh, the officers of the Ordnance and the Commissioners of the Navy do respectively lay the said estimates before this House.
It will be noticed that by the wording of this final vote the House of Commons took the initiative out of the hands of the King in this matter of setting the estimate on foot.
The procedure which ensued followed strictly the lines of the order. On the 28th November (fn. 44) Sir Thomas Littleton (as one of the Navy Board) submitted the estimate of the Ordnance, the Earl of Ranelagh that of the staff and garrisons. The Commissioners of Transportation not being members of the House had to be brought to the Bar of the House, and there they delivered in the estimate of the transport. (fn. 45)
In the course of the discussion of these estimates the House first of all made changes in the pay of the Dutch Forces, bringing them to a level with that of the English Forces, then called for a statement how far the revenue of Ireland could contribute to the support of the Army in Ireland, (fn. 46) and finally adopted a long series of 42 resolutions on the 2nd January, 1691-2, (fn. 47) covering the whole field of the details of these estimates. The outstanding feature of the said resolutions consisted in the removal of the Garrisons from the vote of supply and the placing it on the [King's or the ordinary] revenue. This meant that as far as the Garrisons at home were concerned the House was indifferent to the estimate and left it to the King as coming practically out of his own pocket :
10. "Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that the establishments of their Majesties' Garrisons and Forts for the year 1692 be paid out of the public [i.e. the King's] revenue."
A similar resolution was come to with regard to part of the Ordnance vote :
18. "Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that the seventh head of the estimate for the Ordnance is not to be considered by this Committee, being part of the ordinary."
On the whole estimate for the Forces the House made a slight reduction, and further it saddled the revenue of Ireland (after carefully and exhaustively considering the state of that revenue) with a contribution of 165,000l. towards the upkeep of the Forces in Ireland.
But in addition to thus criticising and amending the Departmental estimates the House of Commons in this Session made two further considerable advances in constitutional practice. Instead of considering each estimate in a watertight compartment and voting supply for each service, as the House had done in the Sessions of the preceding year, 1690-1, it voted supply as a general credit without reference to particular services, and thereby left itself unhampered for the more deliberate and leisurely scrutiny of the estimates as a whole : and in the second place the House made a very decisive use of its own creature, the Commissioners of Accounts. It called upon that body not merely for accounts of income and expenditure from the Revolution up to Michaelmas, 1691, (fn. 48) and for accounts of salaries and fees, but also for computations of the Civil List. Modern practice would tend to condemn this last item for a Committee of Accounts is not concerned with computations or estimates. But the step shows that the House was deliberately if somewhat unguidedly forging for itself a new constitutional procedure. I shall return to this subject more fully in dealing with the Commissioners of Accounts, and desire for the moment merely to point out that in calling for such accounts directly or independently from its own creature, the House practically declared its independence both of the King and the Treasury in this particular matter of accounts.
I need not particularise the proceedings of the House in the following years, 1692-3 and 1693-4, over the service estimates, as they followed the pattern of those of 1691-2 faithfully, save that in the case of the Army estimates the House reverted to its former practice of a separate vote for each service, Navy and Army, before taking up supplyshewing that it had not yet settled down to a fixed routine of estimates debate and procedure. Whereas for the 1692-3 estimates the House made more regular use of the Treasury and less use of its own creature, the Commissioners of Accounts, for the purpose of obtaining purely Departmental or purely Exchequer accounts, it went back on this procedure in the case of the following year's estimates, 1693-4, see infra, p. clxx. But in the matter of the avenue through which the estimates were prepared and submitted the House and the King alike still ignored both the Treasury and the Privy Council. (fn. 49)
In the Session 1694-5 the action of the House of Commons was practically the same as in the preceding three years, so far as concerned the war services, that is to say the Navy, the Army and the Ordnance. They humbly addressed the King asking him to let them have the war estimates for the coming year ; the King personally ordered his Executive officials (an Admiralty Lord for the Navy, the Paymaster General, the Earl of Ranelagh, for the Army) to deliver such estimates, and these officials submitted the estimates direct as members of the House. The House and the King and the departments officials one and all once more ignored the Treasury and the Privy Council. The Treasury in special was not as yet part of the estimates machinery, much less was it the moving and controlling agency in the process of preparation and submission of the estimates. And again when the House had obtained the war estimates it made very little alteration in them. It even went so far in its complacence as to vote the Army supply in a single total vote without particularising the sub-heads in a long series of resolutions, as it had done in the years 1692-3 and 1693-4. (fn. 50) The only point in connection with the war estimates in which it assumed a critical attitude was with regard to the quotas of the confederated Allies. It called for a complete statement of the quotas and passed a resolution that there should be equality of participation.
But in another direction this Session achieved a notable, even a revolutionary, advance in constitutional practice. The House invaded the domain of the King's ordinary revenue and it surveyed the whole circle of the ordinary service expenditure of the countrythe Civil Service, the ambassadorial service, the more intimate expenditure connected with the royal state, royal Household, Privy Purse and so on. Since the early days of the debates in William's first Parliament this subject of the King's own and of the ordinary peace or civil expenditure had disappeared from Parliamentary debate save for the two votes referred to on p. cxliii, supra. This was of course only natural, in view of the fact that by voting certain revenue for life and other revenue for term of years the Parliament had professedly finished with the subject and wished to hear no more about it until the time came to renew that part of such revenue which had been granted for term of years. Until that time came the King was left to carry on these ordinary services unaided, but at the same time unhampered by criticism. If he could make ends meet well and good ; if not, it was his own look out. Parliament would not help him. This is the reason why no civil service estimates were dreamed for the first five years of William III.'s reign.
But in his speech to the Houses at the opening of the Session in November, 1694, William had reminded them that the Act for the Tunnage and Poundage (that part of his "own" revenue which had only been granted for term of years) expired at the then coming Christmas (see supra, p. lxxxiv).
The immediate reply of the Commons to this appeal was to renew the grant of the subsidy of Tonnage and Poundage for another five years from 1694, December 25th (6 and 7 William and Mary, c. 1). During the debates in the Commons on the Bill for this Act the House voted to earmark a sum of 300,000l. out of this fund as for the war supply anno 1695. This appropriation idea was not only adopted in the Act, 6 and 7 William III., c. 7, but was made applicable to each of the five years for which the subsidy was granted. (fn. 51) I have already characterised the similar action of the House in the year 1690 (see supra, p. lxxxii). But a far more important development arose out of this appropriation idea. During the debate on the 12th January, 1694-5, on war supply the House ordered that the Treasury Lords should lay before it "with all convenient speed" a state of the revenue [i.e. the King's own revenue, or the peace revenue] from Michaelmas, 1693, to Michaelmas, 1694, with the loans, debts and charges upon it, and (2) an account of the establishment, charge and expense of the Civil List for the same twelve months.
At the same time the House ordered its own creature, the Commissioners of Accounts, a similar statement of the revenue and abstracts of the receipts from the Excise, Customs, Post Office and small branches. This curious duplication shows the light in which William's Parliament looked upon the Treasury. In its eyes the Treasury was an executive office completely under the jurisdiction of the King, totally on his side of the constitutional fence, and as being answerable directly and only to him so far as concerned the King's own or the peace revenue. Therefore whilst they applied to the Treasury as the proper source for the peace revenue accounts, they insisted upon having a confirmatory statement from their own Commissioners of Accounts.
Both these bodies obeyed the instructions of the House, and three days later submitted the required accounts, Mr. Guy as a member of the House and at the same time as Secretary to the Treasury submitting those which had been prepared by the Treasury detailing the King's revenue and the loans, anticipations and pensions, etc., charged thereon, whilst Mr. Foley for the Commissioners of Accounts presented a much briefer and more perfunctory abstract of the net yield of the Excise, Customs, Post Office and small branches. (fn. 52) Three weeks later these accounts let us say Civil Service and Household accountswere completed by Sir Stephen Fox presenting from the Treasury Lords an account of fees and salaries payable at the Exchequer, royal bounties and contingencies or extraordinaries.
The whole of this material was considered in Grand Committee, and on the 22nd February, 1694-5, a series of resolutions reported from Committee was adopted by the House. These resolutions practically covered the entirety of the Civil List as it was understood at that time the Household, the Civil Service, Ambassadorial service, pensions and so forth.
Looked at from the point of view of later constitutional development, it is easy to see that the step thus taken by the House of Commons in this Session was a necessary and harmonious one. None the less, it was an act of usurpation. At all times and without dispute, war supply or extraordinary supply, was within the right and purview of the House of Commons, but up to the date of these resolutions the kingly state and the ordinary Civil Service was the private right of the King and had been always respected as such. From the point of view of legality the sole ground on which the House could justify its intrusion into this private kingly domain was that it had granted the Customs and certain portions of the Excise, etc., for the support of the kingly state etc., or the Civil List. But it was by no means agreed even then that this formality of grant was not in itself also an act of usurpation. There is something more than a mere academic interest in this question. For the slowness with which the Post Revolution Parliament evolved the constitutional machinery of Parliamentary estimates and Parliamentary grants of supply and Parliamentary scrutiny of departments and departmental accounts was due mainly to the disputed and uncertain legality of its procedure therein. The proper opportunity for a comprehensive review of the Household expenditure and Civil Service expenditure was at the commencement of the reign, and as the House had signally failed to accomplish this during the confusion of the years 1688 and 1689 and as it had equally failed to make adequate permanent provision for the ordinary or peace expenditure, it had morally no right to go back on the subject in 1695, and its doing so was unjustifiable by the then accepted constitutional theory and practice.
In the successive acts of usurpation which shaped the final outcome the House of Commons was favoured not so much by William's personal indifference to English Parliamentary institutions as by his intense preoccupation with his life's workthe war with Louis and also by his absences abroad. So long as he could keep Parliament disposed for war and liberal with supply for war he recked nothing of the constitution.
It was thus that our modern constitutionalism was shaped in this matter of Parliamentary control of finance : and the most decisive step of all was achieved by these resolutions of February, 1695. The resolutions were as follows (fn. 53) :
On the 22nd February, Sir Thomas Littleton reported from the Committee of the whole House to whom it was referred to consider further of Ways and Means for raising the supply for the war against France that they had proceeded upon the charge of the Civil List from Michaelmas, 1693, to Michaelmas, 1694, the consideration whereof was referred to them and had come to several resolutions thereon.
In the form finally agreed to by the House these resolutions were as follows :
(1) That the charge of the Cofferer of the Household's Office for ordinaries and extraordinaries be a sum not exceeding 90,000l. per an.
(2) That the charge of the Treasurer of the Chamber's Office be a sum not exceeding 30,000l. per an.
(3) That the charge of the Great Wardrobe be a sum not exceeding 12,000l. per an.
(4) That the charge of the Office of the Robes be a sum not exceeding 4,000l. per an.
(5) That the ordinary charge of the Office of the Works be a sum not exceeding 6,000l. per an.
(6) That the charge of the Royal Gardens be a sum not exceeding 2,000l. per an.
(7) That the ordinary charge of the Office of the Stables on settled allowances be a sum not exceeding 8,376l. 7s. 6d. per an.
(8) That the extraordinary charge of the Office of the Stables during the war be a sum not exceeding 10,000l. per an.
(9) That the charge of Foreign Ministers for ordinaries and extraordinaries be a sum not exceeding 30,676l. 7s. 7d. per an.
(10) That the charge for [the King's private pensions and royal] Bounty money be a sum not exceeding 20,000l. per an.
(11) That the charge of fees and salaries payable at the Exchequer over and above what paid to the officers of the Customs, Excise, Post Office etc., or by the Receivers of those revenues be a sum not exceeding 50,000l. per an.
(12) That all pensions or annuities charged as part of the Civil List above the sum of 200l. per an. except the charity of 350l. 10s. 0d. per an. to Christ's Hospital be suspended during the war.
(13) That all other pensions and annuities payable out of any branches of the revenue except as aforesaid be suspended during the war and that no other pension already granted or to be granted shall be paid during the war.
(14) That the charge to the Band of Pensioners be a sum not exceeding 6,000l. per an.
(15) That the charge to the Queen Dowager be a sum not exceeding 12,000l. per an.
(16) That the charge to the Prince and Princess of Denmark be a sum not exceeding 50,000l. per an.
(17) That the charge for secret services be a sum not exceeding 10,000l. per an.
(18) That the charge of the Privy Purse during the war be a sum not exceeding 30,000l. per an.
(19) That the charge for the [Jewel Office for] plate and jewels be a sum not exceeding 4,000l. per an.
(20) That the charge for contingencies, liberates of the Exchequer, printers' bills, messengers' bills of the [Exchequer] Court and Receipt of the Exchequer, incidents to Commissioners of Accounts, [Crown] law charges, surplusages of [Sheriffs'] accounts, rewards for apprehending highwaymen, rewards to Receivers [General of Taxes], etc., be a sum not exceeding 40,000l. per an.
(21) That the charge for the payment of the late Queen [Mary's] servants and debts for the year 1695 be a sum not exceeding 50,000l.
A comparison of the figures contained in these resolutions with the actual figures of the Civil List expenditure, as shown in the Declared Accounts, infra, will serve to show to what extent the will of the House was observed by the King. Actually the King was, or would have been, quite within his rights in ignoring the whole series of resolutions. But the point is immaterial ; for time was on the side of the House. It had taken the first step, albeit a step of usurpation. It had laid down limits for Household and Privy Purse and Civil Service expenditure, and to make the revolutionary process complete all that was now necessary was for the House to annex the Treasury itselfto detach it from the King and to attach it to Parliament or to the Constitution. From the moment this should come about the Treasury would become the departmental mechanism by means of which the normal process of estimates would be carried on whereby the House would enforce its will on the Sovereign instead of being the departmental mechanism by means of which the Sovereign carried on independently of the House. But the development did not come about within the limits of the present instalment of Calendar.
The Commissioners Of Public Accounts
I have already, supra, pp. cxxix, cxxxvi, described the confusion of the early debates of William's first Parliament in November, 1689, and March, 1690, when it attempted a scrutiny of accounts. Although the Poll Act had been granted specifically for the conquest of Ireland, the House could not feel assured from the accounts which William submitted to it that the grant had been applied to the purpose to which it had been appropriated. Out of the confusion of those debates there arose the conviction that the only guarantee of appropriation was a more systematic presentation and inspection of accounts. At first the House had the idea of doing this work by means of a Committee and such a Committee was appointed "to inspect the expenses of the war the last year." (fn. 54)
But it was quickly realised that even a standing Committee was useless for the purpose, and that nothing but a body of Commissioners ad hoc could cope with the intricacy of the subject. Within less than a month of its assembling, William's second Parliament followed a hint which had been thrown out by Mr. Hampden, Chancellor of the Exchequer, a few days before, and passed a resolution (fn. 55)
"That a Bill be brought in upon the debate of the House to appoint and enable Commissioners to take an accompt of all public moneys since the 5th day of November, 1688."
A proposal that no member of the House should be a Commissioner was negatived on a division, and on the 20th May (fn. 56) the House ballotted for the selection of nine members as Commissioners, (fn. 57) viz. :
Col. Robert Austin, Sir John Mathews, Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Sir Benjamin Newland, Sir Thomas Clarges, Sir Robert Rich, Sir John Guise, Sir Joseph Williamson and Mr. Kent.
But finding, two days later, that Mr. Kent was an accounting official to the Crown, he was struck out and his place was taken by Mr. Thomas Coulson, of London, merchant.
With the adjournment on the following day the whole Bill was lost, (fn. 58) and when the House reassembled in October it took up the matter afresh. On the 9th October, 1690, a Bill was ordered to be brought in "for the examining and taking the public accounts." (fn. 59) On the 24th December the House ballotted for the names of nine members as Commissioners and chose as follows (fn. 60) :Sir Robert Rich, Sir Thomas Clarges, Paul Foley, Col. Robert Austen, Sir Matthew Andrewes, Sir Benjamin Newland, Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Sir Peter Colleton and Robert Harley.
The Bill passed the Commons on the 26th December as "an Act for appointing and enabling Commissioners to examine, take and state the public accounts of the kingdom," was agreed to by the Lords on the 31st December and received the royal assent on the 5th January, 1690-1. (fn. 61)
On the following day Parliament was adjourned and it did not meet again until the following October. (fn. 62) As soon as it settled down to business the House ordered the Commissioners for Public Accounts to lay before it a state of the incomes and issues of the public revenue from the 5th November, 1688, to the 29th September, 1691, "with their observations thereupon." (fn. 63)
Such an order serves to illustrate the difference between these Commissioners for Public Accounts and the modern standing "Public Accounts Committee" of the House. The purpose of the modern standing Committee is to safeguard or to guarantee the faithful appropriation of public money. Ultimately this was the very purpose towards which the House in 1690 was trying to grope its way, but the process of evolution was slow and tentative and the number of these special Commissions for Accounts, with a general ill defined purview over the whole range of revenue accounts, is almost endless before we reach the modern Public Accounts Committee. To-day the Public Accounts Committee deals with the appropriation account, and it has for its servant the Comptroller and Auditor General. It presumes as a condition precedent that complete estimates have been prepared in the Treasury and have been canvassed and settled in the House, and its purpose is to see that actual expenditure is in accordance with such settled estimates. In 1690, on the other hand, the Treasury was not used in the process of preparing estimates : Civil Service estimates as such did not exist : the naval and military estimates were prepared in the Departments and taken straight to the House over the head of the Treasury. Indeed, the House looked upon the Treasury as part of the King's executive and entirely controlled by and subservient to the King, as something set over against the House, if not actually alien to it in interest ; just in the same way in which the House looked upon the Privy Council. And if the House so far distrusted the Treasury as to avoid using it, it was precluded from the assistance of the wonderful audit system of the Exchequer. All that audit system, the pride of English administrative history, existed for the help and guidance of the King in his revenue, not for the help and guidance of the House in voting supply. Although, therefore, the House had already systematically adopted the device of appropriation clauses, it had no available mechanism for seeing that such clauses were faithfully obeyed by the King's executive. All it could do was to appoint a Commission which would prepare such accounts as were demanded by the House or which should scrutinise such accounts as were referred to it. Such a body of Commissioners so appointed was in a sense antagonistic to or a scrutiniser of the Treasury and the Exchequer, indeed to the whole of the King's executive, and would continue to be so until the King's executive became the Parliament's executive.
It is this constitutional aspect of the problem which explains the fact of the House referring to the Commissioner of Accounts rather than to the Treasury for these accounts of the revenue and expenditure.
On the 30th November, 1691, the Commissioners (fn. 64)
acquainted the House that they had prepared a statement of the incomes and issues of the public revenue 1688, November 5th, to 1691, September 29th, with their observations thereupon.
The account (fn. 65) was delivered in the form of a book and all the members were ordered to attend on December 3rd to consider same, and meanwhile no member was to take the said book out of the House.
The gist of the Commissioners' observations is sufficiently revealed by a series of orders which the House made at the conclusion of the debate on the 3rd December and the 12th December (fn. 66) :
Ordered that the Commissioners appointed for taking the Public Accounts do lay before this House a list of all such persons who have salaries and have made the King pay the charge of passing their patents and passing their accompts as also the taxes upon their offices.
Ordered that the said Commissioners do lay before this House a list of those that have great salaries and have upon slight pretences got them increased and who have had extraordinary bills of incident charges easily allowed.
Ordered that the said Commissioners do lay before the House a list of the salaries which were granted upon special reasons and which are still continued though the reasons are ceased.
Ordered that the said Commissioners do lay before this House a list of the excessive fees that are exacted and taken by the officers that have great salaries allowed them for execution of their places and for which no legal precedent appears to justify the same.
Ordered (fn. 67) that a Bill be brought in to unite and annex the Duchy of Lancaster and the revenues thereof to the Crown, and for the bringing those revenues into the Exchequer.
Ordered that the Commissioners appointed for taking the Public Accounts do lay before this House the particulars by which they observe that the charge of the Civil List is increased by pensions and allowances by [sic for to] persons discharged of their offices.
Resolved nemine contradicente that the salaries, fees and perquisites of all offices under the Crown exceeding 500l. per an. shall be applied to the use of the war, except the salaries to the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Commissioners of the Great Seal, the Judges, Foreign Ministers and to the Commission Officers serving in the Fleet and Army. (fn. 68)
Fortunately we have an account of the debates of the 3rd and 12th December which led up to the above resolutions, and that account brings out very strongly the antagonism between the Executive and the Parliament, between the Treasury as part of the King's executive and the Commissioners of Accounts as servants or instruments of the House of Commonsan antagonism which was bound to endure so long as the Treasury was looked upon as appurtenant to the King and not to the Parliament.
This exacerbation of feeling as between the King's Treasury officials and the House of Commons Commissioners is brought out vividly in the memoirs of Sir John Lowther, who was afterwards the first Lord Lonsdale. At the time he was First Lord of the Treasury, and his account is of course strongly prejudiced (fn. 69) :
"I found we were called to make brick without straw : the counsel taken at Court had hitherto been to ask less of Parliament than was necessary for fear of offending them : and the Parliament accordingly gave less than was asked : so that when we entered into the Treasury the Navy had not received anything for a quarter of a year nor the Army so much as any subsistence for near eleven weeks, and so proportionably every other thing was at a stand, great debts, no money, nor any credit but [save the] 1,200,000l. to be borrowed upon the revenue. The King was then to go into Ireland ; and in some measure to acquit ourselves and to let him know what he was to depend upon from the Treasury I prepared a scheme setting forth the indispensable occasion for money and how much of the aforesaid sum of 1,200,000l. ought to be applied to each head of it : which was approved by the King and the rest of the [Treasury] Board and accordingly was made the measure and rule of our disposing of the money that summer : and by that scheme there was not allotted for the pay of the Army after the King should land in Ireland any more than 150,000l., though that Army consisted of above 45,000 men, and though every other service was pinched to make up that sum, ... And in the winter the Parliament was called upon for a further supply, which was granted, but upon funds of four or five years distance in good part of it. The inconvenience of which was that the Army and Navy were paid in tallies which they were forced to sell at extravagant loss, some even for 25 per cent. [discount]. Besides that, all merchants and tradesmen made the soldiers and the Navy Board pay abundantly dearer for everything by reason of the uncertainty of the credit, all which loss fell as well upon the nation as the Forces. But without considering this, several uneasy people and seekers of offices (a sort of men that Parliaments have never wanted, and who abound the more by finding murmur and complaint always the surest way to succeed in their pretensions, and who will one day ruin the nation) made complaints as if the luxury of the Court and I know not what extravagancies had embezzled the money.
And thus the Commissioners of Accounts made 14 observations of mismanagements, as they called them ; but some so frivolous, some so little understood by [the Commissioners] themselves and all so mistaken that though the burden of answering them laid wholly upon me, 'twas no difficult task to justify our conduct before the Parliament ; and nothing came of it."
In Grey's account of the debates of December 3rd and 12th, 1691, (fn. 70) however, we have the reverse side of the picture :
Sir Thomas Clarges : The Lords have ordered the Commissioners of Accounts to send them their accounts under their hands and seals. I would know whether they should go in person to the Lords or are the Commissioners to send their Secretary with the accounts?
Mr. Thomas Howard : I heard my name read in this book of accounts for 50l. and 100l. [paid] to Mr. Kingsmill and myself. Both have had pensions from King Charles paid all this while and in King James's time ; and application has been made to this King, who made some objections to persons' names : but it is in my name and I do receive it. I am sorry it has gone so far. I owe all to the protection of the Government, but nothing to the bounty of it.
Sir John Thompson : I stand amazed that in the best times and Governments things should be in such darkness ... The accounts are amazing things. We were told last Session "Country gentlemen understand not accounts," and now it appears the Commissioners of the Treasury do not. If they understand not secret service, then they are not fit for their places. ... I would know whether the [Treasury] Secretary or the [Treasury] Lords understand your accounts ... so much given to members ... captains of ships put in for money ... I would have the House begin with themselves. I do declare I never had one penny from the King nor ever will have.
Sir John Lowther : As to that part of the discourse by the gentleman that spoke last I agree that I am not fit for my place [as First Lord] in the Treasury. I shall be much easier out of it ... as for the [Commissioners' statements of the] accounts, I dare be bold to say some things are mistaken, and some of importance omitted and nothing in them but [what] was transmitted last Session. You have an account of 18 millions to raise a dust to blind you. All the Aids amount not to 11 millions, not much above 10 millions. ... Not having yet had the copy of the [Commissioners'] accounts I cannot say much. As for King James's debt upon the Revolution of the Government, the Receivers did very wisely to pay themselves. The next thing objected to is in the accounts of tallies struck before moneys came in. 'Twas for no more than 200,000l. borrowed of the city at a time and that at the beginning of the year when sea and land [services] are at the greatest charges. People will not go on if neither money nor credit. Some services press more than others, as Navy stores, wear and tear. ... If you strike not tallies of credit beforehand, 'twill cost at the end of the year 200,000l. or 300,000l. It had been worth the while of the Commissioners to have consulted the several officers of the Ordnance. I did hope this as well worthy of observation as the rest. For secret service, in the beginning of the reign there was a great deal. Though remote from the heads you will find for the future much less. ... As for money to members [of Parliament], you see all before you, and is there anything like corrupting of votes? I believe if all that sum were tendered to some persons they would not do so base a thing : and if I would reflect upon the Government I should say it is a great fault in allowing so little money for secret service. Cromwell gave more at a time for secret service in the Court of France than all this comes to. [As] for the plate [delivered out of the Jewel House for the equipage] of ambassadors [and which the Commissioners of Accounts report that all ought] to be returned, there is now a trial depending with Lord Castlemaine and all diligence possible used in it. As to Lord Griffin, in all ages at all times accounts have passed by privy seal. ... As for Ireland, the musters were taken in winter, when the Army was at the weakest, and the irregular time of the musters was to the disadvantage of the Army not of the nation. There are some things that I wonder have escaped their observation. ... The King took his own dividend in the East India Company, 7,000l. [and applied it] to pay them [the Navy], nay the very Crown Jewels, if I may say so.
Sir Thomas Clarges [one of the Commissioners] : Lowther has frankly arraigned the Commissioners. ... He tells you they have omitted several material things : but the Commissioners could not proceed farther, not having the particular accounts of the Army, Navy, Ireland or the Ordnance before them.
Sir Christopher Musgrave : I would know why these accounts were not brought to the Commissioners in due time.
Sir Thomas Clarges : We sent out above 300 precepts. The last time given [for reply] was a day in June, but we had none of those accounts, though sent [for by us] article by article. We did desire that the Accomptants in Ireland should make oath there and answer the objections. We could not have those accounts brought to us in any time.
Sir Stephen Fox [Paymaster of the Forces in Ireland] : I only desire to appeal to the Commissioners whether I did not appear according to their summons. They gave me liberty to state my accounts in two months, but since [that time they gave out that] they could not take any more accounts till they made their report here [in the House of Commons].
Sir Thomas Clarges : If they [the Departmental Treasurers] did not obey our order we had no manner of coercion as the Commissioners of Brook House, who had power of committing to prison upon contempt. I tell you [the House of Commons] in general once for all we [the Commissioners] have punctually observed your order in the accounts of incomes and issues.
Sir Christopher Musgrave : If accomptants make not up their accounts in three years, what can the Commissioners do. ... I think it reasonable that in a year and a half they be brought to your auditor, whereas now all is in the dark.
Sir Thomas Clarges : When we called for the account of the King's Household we found some accounts not made up in ten years, as the King's Chamber, etc. Of the taxes since Charles II. [his accession], no account has been made these 30 years.
Sir Christopher Musgrave : You [the House of Commons] say but 7 per cent. shall be given for interest and they give 9 per cent. Your funds will miscarry when you so increase your interest. As for the Land Tax it was a certain fund and needed not to increase interest.
Sir Thomas Littleton [Treasurer of the Navy] : I take it that this fund of credit [provided in the Land Tax] was to take up money before it came in. The occasions of the Government pressed them so far that they could not take up [or borrow] half they wanted.
Sir Stephen Fox [Paymaster of the Forces in Ireland] : We have ever struck tallies of anticipation : 'tis impossible as the Government stands to have done otherwise. The necessity is unavoidable and we had not done our duties to the nation if we had done otherwise.
[After running upon the question of free patents to officers and exorbitant fees to officers, the House returned to the subject of secret service money paid to Parliament men.]
Sir John Lowther : This is not a matter at all that comes into the cognisance of the Commission of Accounts. The Lords of the Treasury think it a part of their duty not to inquire into [secret service payments which concern] matters of State as foreign ministers and members of this House.
Mr. Foley [one of the Commissioners] : After the death of Mr. Jephson [the Secretary to the Treasury] we had his clerk, Mr. Squib, before us, who said it was the King's pleasure not to have account of sums of [secret service] money.
Mr. Comptroller Wharton : I had a friendship for Mr. Jephson and I think he did deserve it. Something he told me after he had been with the Commissioners of Accounts and positively he affirmed "that no sum of money was paid but what was justifiable," and the nature of the thing he told me too : sums were given to two members [of Parliament] for discoveries : the members never touched it themselves, but handed it to two persons who made the discovery.
Sir Thomas Clarges : We did send to Mr. Jephson, who did open himself very reasonably in the matter. He thought the precept was not full and desired it to be explained, and he had it in the words he desired. He then did tell us, as Mr. Wharton said, "that it was for a service of such a nature" that he thought it of no service to the Commissioners to have it known ; but if they insisted on it they should have it : but a week after he died.
Sir Robert Rich : When Mr. Jephson was pressed at our Board he was asked "what he hesitated at." He said some in both Houses were concerned, in the [one House] one [member] and in the other House four. He said positively "it was not for their own use, but upon discoveries, to others, but positively not to themselves."
(It was whispered that part of this money [20,000l.] was for the purchase of Nottingham House at Kensington.)
Macaulay's brief reference to this debate is as misleading as it is inadequate. From the point of view of the constitutional problem of co-ordinating the King's Executive with the Parliament, it is a debate of prime importance and signally illuminating. On the side of the King's executive there was no attempt at constructive leadership of the House. The First Lord of the Treasury spoke only as if in personal self-defence, as did also the Paymaster of the Forces and the Treasurer of the Navy. Not one of these Ministers of the King made a coherent attempt at elucidating the accounts, or at explaining the methods of the Exchequer and of the Departmental Paymasters, or at submitting a broad synopsis of the national finances. On the other hand, the House had had dished up to it by its own Commissioners of Accounts a document of amazing ignorance and one which the King's Ministers ought to have had no difficulty in riddling. As it was, the whole debate ran upon personalities and suspicions. That is to say, the House of Commons was as badly organised for constructive Parliamentary criticism as the King's executive was for constructive Parliamentary leadership.
If the Commissioners of Accounts had been in organic touch with the Executive as part and parcel of the same machine, they would have had a ready explanation as to the method of taking in loans or raising money on voted supply, or as to the method of observing appropriation clauses in votes of supply ; they would have had expert guidance in the handling of declared departmental accounts and in the construction of a national balance sheet. Instead of this, they antagonised the Executive by proceeding as a roving inquisition. Of course, nothing different could have been expected from the conditions of their appointment and from the loosely organised governmental system of the time.
The report which they presented has been preserved in the archives of the House of Lords, and it is printed in extenso in the 5th appendix to the 13th Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, pp. 356-434. The statement there set out should be compared with the authentic figures of the 'abstract' of the public revenue as printed below, pp. ccivccxvii. The Commissioners arrive at a figure of 18,018,586l. 2s. 6d. as the total revenue of the country for the three years ended 1691, September 29th, as against a total of 8,693,331l. 3s. 6d. shown in the 'abstract.' The difference between these two figures is to-day easily explicable. In every case the Commissioners include departmental remains as income ; they set out the gross receipts, including all tallies of anticipation and assignment, and deductions of Army pay, and accomptants' voluntary charges, which were frequently only transfers, and so on : furthermore they include all loan money as incomethis latter item alone being 7,885,704l. 14s. 6d. It would have been quite possible for the Commissioners of Accounts to have made out a case for their procedure on the understanding, that is, that they had frankly explained to the House of Commons that both sides of their statement of account were swollen with contra or duplicating or balancing entries. But this was not done and the final impression left on the mind of the House was that an actual revenue of 18 millions had been raised and had been dissipated in unauthorised ways whilst the Army and Navy had been starved. As against this impression the actual truth of the matter was that less than half that amount of revenue had been raised, that whilst all the services had been stinted the Army and Navy had had first consideration, and that in the want of ready money the services could only be worked by borrowing up to the hilt on supply the very first moment that pledgable supply had been voted by the House. As will be seen in a moment, the House itself showed its consciousness of this fact by the borrowing powers which it thenceforward inserted in its various bills of supply.
For the moment I am not so much concerned with the actual figures presented by the Commissioners or even with their observations. The interesting problem which centres round this episode is the constitutional status of the Commission itself, as compared with the constitutional status of the modern day standing Committee of Public Accounts. In a more or less embryonic form all the factors of modern-Parliamentary financial proceedings were existent in 1690appropriation of supply, authorised borrowing powers, fairly reliable estimatesbut there was no co-ordination between these factors simply because there was no co-ordination between the Executive and the Parliament. And instead of being a connecting link between the two the Commission of Accounts was an exacerbating and disruptive force. It was frankly partisan. (fn. 71)
The Commissioners' abstract of revenue is followed by a memorandum setting out the accounts not brought in to them or not complete, and so forth. This is a brief and business-like document and entirely proper. But in their separate paper of "observations" the Commissioners raise what are in the main purely technical points which should and easily could have been solved by conversation with the departmental Paymasters or accomptants concerned, if only there had been loyal co-operation between themsuch questions, that is, as the difference between real and fictitious loans in the Exchequer ; the striking of tallies of loan on credit of supply before the actual taking in such loans, and so on. All these questions are elucidated in the present volume of Calendar and are shown to concern or to be part and parcel of a rational and long established routine. Take, for instance, the point just named concerning tallies of loan. As soon as supply was granted by Parliament for this or that service, the credit raising machine was set to work in order to get moneys quickly for those services. If the supply appropriated was 300,000l., let us say, to the Guards and Garrisons, the Treasury Lords at once procured a privy seal and thereupon ordered the making out of tallies and orders in the name of the Paymaster of the Guards and Garrisons as if for repayment of loans. The first issue might be for 100,000l. These were practically blank repayment orders not bearing interest, and the Paymaster was left to negotiate them on his own in the open market. He assigned them by endorsement to any purchaser and the Treasury then added a further endorsement making interest commence from the date of the payment of the purchase money.
In those cases in which the orders bore interest from the date of issue to the Departmental Treasurer that Treasurer sold the order subject to the interest accrued up to date of sale from the date of issue, and he himself in his accompt was charged or did voluntarily charge himself with that interest.
The whole procedure was one by which money was raised in the quickest possible way for the service concerned and interest was either accounted for or only commenced from the actual date of the purchase money being paid into the hands of the Departmental Treasurer or Paymaster. In flat misunderstanding of this procedure, the Commissioners assert that it "increases the interest very much above the rate allowed by the law." This statement is incorrect and ought never to have been reported to the House of Commons, and most assuredly never would have been reported to the House if the Commissioners of Accounts in 1690 had been as organically in touch with the executive and departmental system as is the modern Committee of Public Accounts through its chief adviser, the Comptroller and Auditor General.
It would be easy to go through the remainder of these "observations" of the Commissioners in a similar way and to practically hamstring them all.
The remainder of the story of the successive bodies of Commissioners for taking the Public Accounts can be summarised more briefly.
In December, 1691, (fn. 72) it was proposed to enlarge the time for the existing (the first) body of Commissioners, and a Bill was accordingly brought in on the 1st January, 1691-2, for reviving the Act of the preceding Session in order to their perfecting the stating the accompts in which they had made progress, the Bill being entitled "An Additional Bill for appointing and enabling Commissioners," etc. (fn. 73) The Bill duly passed the Commons with the significant addition of a clause prohibiting the Commissioners from holding place or office.
When the Bill was brought up the Lords decided to add to the Commissioners four persons who should not be members of the House of Commons, and as the result of a ballot the following were chosen :
Sir Philip Meadows.
Mr. Hampden, junr.
Sir Cyril Wich.
This action of the Lords led to a quarrel with the House of Commons, as the latter body insisted that in all Acts that have ever passed for taking accompts of public money the Commissioners have been always named by the Commons only ... the power of granting supplies to the Crown is vested in the Commons as an essential part of their constitution and the taking and examining the accompts thereof is of right in them also, and they being the representatives of all the Commons no Commoner can be named but by them.
In spite of two conferences the Lords would not give way, and the Bill was accordingly lost.
The Lords' reasons for adhering to their amendments (fn. 74) are very instructive. They wished to have the power of cross-examining the Commissioners on the accounts (as they had already actually done) and they rightly considered that it would be easier to deal with persons who were not members of the House of Commons. The reply of the Commons was that it would be practically useless for the Lords to make such inquiry.
In the end, by means of a proviso irregularly tacked to the Poll Bill, the Commons carried their measure into effect by main force.
The last and finally abortive conference with the Lords took place on Saturday, the 13th February, 1691-2, and at the next meeting of the Commons on the following Monday, February 15th, the tacking clause was added to the Poll Bill in these words (fn. 75) :
"That an Act made the second year of their Majesties' reign, intituled an Act for appointing Commissioners to examine, take and state the public accompts, be continued unto the 25th day of April, 1693, and the like allowances for the clerks and the Commissioners named in the said Act other than such of them as are now Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral : and that the rest of the said Commissioners or any four of them shall and may execute all the powers in the said Act contained : and that the said Commissioners or any four of them have hereby power to take an accompt of all monies that have been or shall be given in this present Session."
The Lords had perforce to pass the Poll Bill and with this clause attached it received the royal assent on the 24th February, the final day of the Session. (fn. 76)
The Houses reassembled on the 4th November, 1692, and eleven days after, (fn. 77) on the 15th November, Mr. Foley presented to the Commons from the Commissioners of the Public Accounts an accompt of the incomes and issues of the public moneys. As this report was presented in response to an Order of only five days previously, it is clear that the report was ready drawn. This account, the second annual account, covers the financial year from 29th September, 1691, to 29th September, 1692. It is preserved amongst the archives of the House of Lords and is printed in extenso in Historical MSS. Reports XIV., Vol. VI., pp. 130-178.
Of this document it may be said at once that it is business-like and free from all the blemishes which made the report of the preceding year worse than useless. It takes into revenue only the balance of unrepaid loans : it preserves clearly the difference between the gross receipts and the net receipts from the Customs and Excise and other branches of the revenue, and it arrives throughout at totals which come very near the totals stated in the Treasury Revenue Accounts abstracted infra, p. cciv seq. The difference between the two sets of figures is easily explicable, seeing that the Treasury Revenue Accounts include the full and final figures, whereas the Commissioners' figures were compiled before the final items for the year were obtainable. The Commissioners' totals are therefore slightly under the Treasury's totals.
As far as methods of auditing are concerned, therefore, this report of 1692 marks a big advance on the report of 1691, and it shows that the Commissioners had put themselves to school under the Treasury officials and were coming to a better understanding of the national accounts and of their own business as an auditing or traversing body, assistant to, rather than antagonistic to, the executive. This report is disfigured by none of the innuendoes and observations which had rendered their first report useless.
The main impression left on the mind, however, is that even so and still the Commissioners missed the true conception of their function. Their proper procedure would have been to call for a statement from the Treasury of the national income and expenditure for the year instead of wasting their time by compiling their own (necessarily imperfect) statement, and thereupon to have sat down to the auditing of the Treasury statement, not so much from the point of view of the correctness of the figures as from the Commons' point of view of appropriation. But, of course, such a criticism is easy to us to-day, with our knowledge of the later harmonious constitutional development, which became possible only when the House assumed control of the executive and built on that foundation the essentials of the modern financial machinery of the State.