Conclusion

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Institute of Historical Research

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William A. Shaw (editor)

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1931

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'Conclusion', Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 9: 1689-1692 (1931), pp. CCCXV-CCCXVII. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=104758 Date accessed: 20 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Conclusion

The present Introduction covers Vols. IX. and X. of this Calendar and carries the financial history of England from the Revolution up to the establishment of the Bank of England. In spite of the complexity of the financial machinery and in spite of the elementary and inchoate conceptions of William's statesmen as to public funds and debts and as to Departmental responsibility there was one unifying principle at work throughout the years 1688-1695. However blindly that principle worked it gave to these opening years of William's reign a clearly marked unity of form, a clearly marked line of development.

At the outset of the reign Parliament was still under the shadow of Tudor and Stuart conception of the King's revenue as a static provision for the ordinary administration of the country, a provision made once for all at the opening of the reign and for the King's life. The constitutional disputes of the year 1689-90 undermined this conception, but rather by postponing provision than by directly challenging the conception itself. As a consequence, in the end, Parliament made an incomplete or partial and insufficient provision for the King's revenue, and afterwards supplemented it only at irregular intervals and by way of dole, not by way of systematic review and reinforcement. But the fighting services could not be treated in this way. Parliament was driven to assume financial responsibility for these services during the war and it proved to be impossible to separate the war time responsibility from the peace time responsibility. As a necessary consequence Parliament had to assume responsibility for the peace estimates of the Army, Navy and Ordnance. Thereupon the idea with which Parliament had started in 1689 (viz. of allowing the King a fixed sum of 700,000l. per an. for life for the support of the Guards and Garrisons and Navy Ordinary) had to be dropped.

In this way the peace time establishment of the fighting or defence services was cut clean out of the purview of the King's revenue. From that moment William's revenue became purely or distinctly a Civil List revenue.

This was the first step in the constitutional process by which the kingly revenue became narrowed from a national revenue to a purely personal Civil List revenue in the modern sense. This first step was complete by the time of the foundation of the Bank of England. But no further step in the process was taken during the rest of William's reign.

As a consequence from 1695 onwards to William's death his revenue, or Civil List money, covered the whole civil administration of the State, the Civil Service, the Judicial Service, the Ambassadorial and Consular Service, the Pension Service, all Civil Departmental Services as well as the Royal State. It was left to a later reign to achieve the second step in this evolution, viz., the cutting out the ordinary Civil Administration and the confining the Civil List, or the King's revenue, solely to the Royal State.

To us this evolution seems perfectly natural. To William so much of it as accomplished itself under his gaze seemed incomprehensible and unjust ; for the simple reason that whilst he remained saddled with the financial responsibility for the whole ordinary Civil Government of the country the provision for it was insufficient and inelastic. The peace Executive was starved and only he bore the blame. This moral antithesis between his perfectly just claims and the blind instinctive constitutionalism of Parliament underlay the whole of William's reign and embittered his life. The seeds of the misunderstanding were sown in these opening years 1689-95, for after 1694 the Parliament completely gave up any idea of adjusting the Civil List revenue to the requirements of the ordinary peace Executive. The financial debates of the five preceding years fixed the framework of that development which proved such a cross and bitterness to him but which now seems quite harmonious to us.

Wm. A. Shaw.
10 April 1931.