Preface

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Institute of Historical Research

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Author

William A. Shaw (editor)

Year published

1898

Pages

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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'Preface', Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers, Volume 2: 1731-1734 (1898), pp. I-V. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=91703 Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Contents

Preface

The plan of the present volume of Calendar is similar to that of the preceding volume (“Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers, Vol. I.”). In the selection of sources, however, two changes, both suggested by experience, have been made.

Firstly.—The calendaring of the series entitled “Declarations of surpluses” has been discontinued. The entries in this (short) series of volumes relate only to the accounts of the Aggregate Fund, the General Fund, the South Sea Company's Fund, and the Account between the Exchequer and the Sinking Fund—the latter of these four items being only a deduction from the former three.

The substance of these entries is contained in quarterly statements in the “Money Book,” where the figures of the income and liability of the General and Aggregate Funds are given at full, quarter by quarter (see pp. 123, 132, &c., infra).

Secondly.—The calendaring of the series of the “Public Disposition Book” has also been discontinued.

In preparing the money table (which appears year by year as Table II. in the present Calendar), the authorities or sources have been taken in the following order:—

(1.) “Money Book.”

(2.) “King's Warrant Book.”

(3.) “Order Book.”

(4.) Miscellanea, such as “Warrants not relating to Money,” “Letter Book,” “Customs Book,” “North Britain Book,” &c.

The entries in the “Money Book” represent such payments as were initiated or voted directly by the Lords of the Treasury. They are mostly, but not by any means invariably, duplicated in the “Order Book.”

The entries in the “King's Warrant Book” represent such payments as originated rather or nominally with the King, and concern, but not invariably, gifts of Royal Bounty or pensions, Royal presents to Ambassadors, &c., the Privy Purse, the Royal Household, and so on. These entries are, as a rule, but not invariably, duplicated in the “Order Book,” and not in the “Money Book.”

A third series of payments, viz., mostly, those to Colonial Governors, appear in the “Order Book,” without previously appearing in either “Money Book” or “King's Warrant Book.” Similarly, and as a matter of course, periodical payments made under a previously dated dormant warrant appear, but not invariably, in the “Order Book” alone.

The entries from sources (4) “Miscellanea” do not require particularising. They concern only payments for special establishments or purposes.

The question of the relation of the “Public Disposition Book” to the above enumerated four sets of sources is a most difficult one. But in the main that relation appears to be as follows. Sets of payments, whether derived from or entered in sources (1), (2), (3), or (4), may be lumped together to form one total, and included in one letter of direction, authorising the payment of that total out of such and such a fund. Clearly, therefore, it is at once impossible and unnecessary to work the “Public Disposition Book” in compiling Table IL, the entries being merely duplicate, without in many cases containing any of the details which would enable a complete identification to be made with the entry, say, in the “Money Book.” For example, certain payments, say to the undersheriffs of London and Middlesex, appear in the “Money Book” for rewards for arrests of highway robbers and murderers. As a rule, these entries will also appear in the “Order Book.” In both, the details of the reward (the person claiming, the person arrested, the crime committed) appear in full, and render an identification of the two entries perfectly easy. In the “Public Disposition Book” no details appear. The net sum only appears as one item in a long table of items forming one total. So for payments of Royal bounty; so for payments for special services to His Majesty, and so on. When, therefore, as frequently happens, the payment is one which occurs again and again, and is for an exactly similar amount, it is impossible to identify the item in the “Public Disposition Book”—though it is morally certain that the entry in this latter is a duplicate of one either in the “Money Book,” or the “Order Book,” or the “King's Warrant Book,” or two or more of them.

Probably seven-eighths of the entries in the “Public Disposition Book”are of the above nature. There is one small but important class of payments which do not fall under this category, and which appear to be peculiar to the “Public Disposition Book,” viz., payments on account of imprests. An imprest was simply a credit fund of so much, opened for such and such an establishment—Army, Navy, Ordnance, &c., &c.—to draw upon. These imprests appear once for all in Table II., from whatever source they may be drawn. The various separate smaller payments exhausting the imprests appear in the “Public Disposition Book,” but in such a way as to render the identification of the particular imprest account almost impossible. To enter those separate smaller payments in Table II., as well as the imprest itself, would be to double the amount actually paid to any source, say the Navy. By rejecting the smaller items, therefore, and by standing entirely by the imprest, it is possible to form a tolerably correct idea of the sums actually paid to any of the establishments. It may be feared that by such a course the details of the payments exhausting such and such an imprest are lost. This, however, is not so. As a rule, the items exhausting the various imprests to the great offices or departments — the Royal Household, or the Navy, &c.—were voted separately and specifically by the Lords of the Treasury, and they appear in the “Minute Book,” from which source they are stated in the present Calendar in the text. As far as it is humanly possible to deal with so perplexing an authority as the “Public Disposition Book,” it seems safely certain that none of the details contained in it are omitted from the present Calendar.

On the other hand, it must be borne in mind by students making use of Table II. that certain minor payments (such payments, that is, as are intended on account of or as going towards exhausting a certain imprest or credit) appear in the “Money Book” or “Order Book,” and as coming from such a source they are necessarily entered in the Table. In so far as such entries do actually appear, they will lead to a falsification of the account if any attempt is made to treat them as homogeneous items and to add them up. The greatest care, therefore, is needed in the use of this Table for statistical purposes.

As to the general bearing of the documentary matter contained in the present Calendar on the financial history of England under George II., it has been thought desirable to postpone the general introduction until the close of the reign is reached, an arrangement which will make possible a general introduction of a more complete nature, and which will further enable papers of accounts (e.g., Statements of the National Debt or of the Sinking Fund, &c.) to be treated with more detail than is possible either in the Calendar itself or in a brief introduction.