網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

longer than these individuals, to have granted a larger allowance to them, and to have still retained these two gentlemen as commissioners at their full salaries. Such would have been the course adopt ed, if the Treasury had been inclined to do what was incorrect. But it had acted differently, and solely with a view to public advantage. In the other way, ministers would have imposed a heavier charge upon the public; but the present course showed that that they had a bona fide intention to advance the public service, and pay the utmost attention to principles of economy.

Mr. Hobhouse told the Chancellorofthe Exchequer, that the House had not laughed, because they found a scion of a noble house taking up an honourable profession, nor had they laughed at his abandoning that profession. What they had laughed at, and what the country would laugh at, if these votes were passed, was, that noble scions, who could not get briefs at the bar, managed to get themselves on the pension-list. He would venture to say, that never had any government before received so much independent support as the present government had received; but that support must cease, when it was found that the pension lists were filled with the sons of the ministers.

Mr. Peel acknowledged, in most grateful terms, the support he was receiving, and had received, from the Whigs. So far from being insensible to the value of that "independent support," most sorry should he be to lose it; and never, to the latest day of his existence, could he forget the conduct pursued by the gentlemen on the other side of the House on the great

measure of last session. The manner in which they gave their support to the government, at that time, could never be forgotten by him; and the conduct pursued by them on that occasion reflected the highest credit on the political parties of this country. In regard to the pensions themselves, Mr. Peel did not seem inclined to make any vigorous stand in support of them. They were not, he said, the result of any ministerial job, nor of any special rule of the existing government; but were in conformity to the rule of former governments; and the intention of ministers was plain, from their having stipulated with the Admiralty, that the gentlemen in question should be removed from the superannuation-list on the first opportunity.

Under the ordinary

rules by which these matters were governed, it was a vote which ministers were justified in laying before the House; but still it was only a mere estimate, which the House would allow or reject, as it thought proper.-And the House rejected it, by dividing 121 for the vote, and 139 against it.

Another reduction, connected with the navy, had been attempted by sir James Graham moving, that the salary of the Treasurer of the Navy ought not to be allowed. He did not contend for the abolition of the office. Mr. Burke, in 1782, and the Finance Committee in 1817, had reported in favour of its continuance; and when it was protected by such high authority, he would not advise the House to dispense with it; but he thought the salary ought to be saved, by attaching the office to some other held by a privy-councillor. That there was nothing in the duties of the office incompatible with such

an union, was evident from the fact, that of late years, that union had always existed. From 1782 to 1790, the late lord Melville had held it, while he was an Indian Commissioner, the latter office, however, yielding no salary. In 1790, he became president of the Board of Control, with a salary, but still retained the Treasurership of the Navy. From 1791 to 1801, he had held it along with the office of a Secretary of State. When he retired from office in 1801, the Treasurership of the Navy was taken by lord Harrowby, separate from any other situation; and it was so held by different individuals down to 1807, when Mr. Rose succeeded to it, and for the first time added to it, that of the Vice-presidency of the Board of Trade. In 1814, lord Goderich held the office conjointly with the Presidency, and afterwards with the Vice-presidency of the Board of Trade, and ever since that time the two offices had been conjoined. Thus, for nearly two-thirds of the whole period since 1782, the Treasurership of the Navy had been held by men filling other laborious and efficient offices; and, therefore, its duties could not be such as to justify a large and separate salary. All the real duties were done by the Paymaster; the only difference between him and the Treasurer being, that the latter was personally responsible for monies paid, while the former was not. Ministers, in truth, had already held out a hope, that they would discontinue the office of Paymaster of the Navy as soon as a proper opportunity occurred; and, by so doing, had expressed their opinon, that one of the two offices was superfluous. The resolution moved by sir James was,-"Re

solved, that it is the opinion of this House, that the late vacancy in the office of Treasurer of the Navy afforded to his Majesty's ministers an opportunity for effecting a saving for the country of 3,000l. a year, without any violation of existing engagements, and without any detriment to the public service."

Ministers maintained, that, as it was admitted that the office ought not to be abolished, no good purpose could be served by cloaking its real duties under the pretended duties of another. Nobody denied that the duties of the office were important, and, for a long time, had been constantly increasing. The work done by that officer, was not the work of the old Treasurer of the Navy, but combined the work of the old Treasurer and Paymaster of the Navy. Considering the great control which the Treasurer had over large sums of public money, it was only right that he should be a person of rank and dignity, whose station in the House and in society would be some pledge for the respectability of his conduct. Every one who had looked into the affairs of the navy must be aware, that of late years immense improvements had been made as to the pay, the prizemoney, and the pensions, of those employed in it, all of which had emanated from the Treasurer of the Navy; and, though not universally, for the most part, from such Treasurers of the Navy as had held that office undivided and undisturbed by the cares of another office. There was another still more important fact. Great defalcations had often taken place in that office; several cashiers had lost their accounts; several clerks had run away much in debt. Now

every defalcation in public money, which had taken place since 1782, had taken place in the offices of Treasurers who were holding other offices at the same time, and whose attention had been called away by the claims of those offices from their more natural duties. The Finance Committee of 1817 had recommended neither the abolition of the office, nor the union of its duties with those of another. Its recommendation had been, to reduce the salary, which it considered too large, to a level with that of the Paymaster of the Forces, viz. 3,000l. a year. To this recommendation the government had rigidly adhered, first reducing the salary to that sum, and afterwards to only 2,0001. The duties of the office were such as rendered it necessary that it should be kept a distinct office. The Paymaster was only the deputy or attorney of the Treasurer, and had no responsibility. When the office was attached to the Presidency of the Board of Trade in 1826, the salary of the latter office was only 3,000l. a year, and the union was made to raise it to 5,000l. But it had never been intended that the two offices should always be united. The President of the Board of Trade might happen to be a member of the other House of Parliament; but it was absolutely necessary that the Treasurer of the Navy should be in the House of Commons. It had been found more expedient now to annex to the Presidency of the Board of Trade the office of Master of the Mint; and the Treasurership of the Navy stood on its own merits, admitted to be an office which ought not to be abolished, and with emoluments even lower than the salary which

the Finance Committee had recommended

Mr. Huskisson said, that he considered ministers bound to consent to the present motion, unless they meant that their own resolutions, unanimously agreed to by the House on the 12th of February, were to be treated as a mere delusion; for this appointment had immediately followed these resolutions. Next, he maintained, that parliament, in 1826, had distinctly recognized the principle, that this office should not be held as a separate office. On that occasion the House divided on the question, whether there should be an independent salary given to the President of the Board of Trade. The numbers on the division were, for the resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer-Ayes, eighty-seven; Noes, seventy-six ; so that the majority in favour of ministers was only eleven. On finding such to be the temper of the House, Mr. Canning "expressed his regret that the smallness of the majority would prevent him from persevering in the course, which, as a matter of principle, he had conscientiously supported; but which, as a matter of expediency, he now felt himself bound, under all the circumstances of the case, to abandon. The expression of opinion had, undoubtedly, been very strong, and his Majesty's government would not further press the measure. As it seemed to be the wish of the House, they would consent to the union of the ancient office of the Treasurer of the Navy with that of the President of the Board of Trade." Mr. Huskisson contended, that, by that declaration, that the salary of the Treasurer of the Navy should be added to

that of the President of the Board of Trade, a distinct pledge was given that the office of Treasurer of the Navy should not be held in future as a separate office; and that view was confirmed by what had since taken place. Since that time, three Treasurers of the Navy had been appointed, and not one of them had held it as a separate office. The present was the first instance, for twenty-three years, in which it had been dissevered from some other efficient office. He himself had held it along with the Presidency of the Board of Trade; and if any credit was to be given to the opinion of a person who had filled both offices, he would say to every gentleman about to vote on this question, "Dismiss from your mind all apprehension that, if the duties of both offices are appropriated to either of the right hon. gentlemen, it would produce any embarrassment to public business." It might produce some embarrassment to the head of the government, who made the appointment, but this embarrassment would not be of any formidable nature. He would only have to choose between two persons equally able.

Mr. Peel said, the House was bound to consider the intention with which this appointment had been made, before they censured the government; and if the House adopted the proposition before them, it would not be the discharge of an imperative duty, but an act of gross injustice. In 1828, when a schism-to which he could never allude without feelings of regret -took place between some members of the government, and rendered alterations necessary, Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald was appointed to

the offices of President of the Board of Trade, andTreasurer of the Navy. At that time lord Melville protested against the union, having no other view than to provide for the efficiency of the naval service; considering it, however, to be the expressed wish of the House, that the offices of Treasurer of the Navy, and president of the Board of Trade, should be united, the individual holding them having a salary of 5,000l. a year, lord Melville was told, that his objections must be overruled, and the appointment be made in obedience to the views of the House. So matters continued, until the health of Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald broke down under the labour of the united offices. Government then felt it was high time to depart from the intention of parliament, if that departure could be effected consistently with those views of economy which were ever present to the minds of his Majesty's ministers. If the government had not consulted both the efficiency of the public service, and the saving of public expense,-if they had wished only to make out a specious case for parliament, instead of throwing themselves upon the justice and upon the equity of that House, they would have retained the Master of the Mint, and continued the offices of President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy as they found them. If this course had been followed, not one word would have been said about it; but when they had adopted another and better course, by which they had saved the country 2,2007. a year, those who called so loudly for retrenchment and economy, began to complain. The argument from the other side

of the House proceeded on the mistaken supposition, that what government had now done was the same with what had been proposed to be done in 1826. There lay the error. What was proposed in 1826 was, to add 3,0007. a year to the public expenses: what the government had done now was to save the public 2,2007. a year; and though it might still be argued that the House had expressed the opinion, that the two offices should not be separated, yet it must not be forgotten that that opinion was founded -exclusively founded on considerations of economy. Those considerations, far from being lost sight of in the present arrangement, had been strictly observed; and he could not bring himself to believe that the House would censure ministers for departing from the views of the House, when those views were founded only on motives of economy; and when, by so departing from those views of the House, the government had saved the country 2,2001. a year, In 1818, the Finance committee reported, that they thought the salary too large, and recommended that it should be reduced on future appointments, and and placed, as to emoluments, on a level with the Paymaster of the Forces. The same committee intimated, that the salary might be reduced to 3,000l. a-year. What had the government done on the present occasion? Had they adopted the recommendation of this committee? No, they had gone far beyond it; and, instead of reducing the salary to 3,000l. a year, they had reduced it to 2,000l. ayear, and placed the office on the same footing with that of Paymaster of the Forces. The House might

think this salary too great,-they might reduce it, but a sense of equity and justice must prevent the imposition of the censure now proposed. If not, these reports of committees were not beacons to warn a government from danger, but they were false lights that lured them to their ruin. "Away, then, with reports of committees; let us have no more, if such were to be the consequences of them. The whole course of the present government had been the very reverse of creating patronage. They had sought reduction in every quarter, and had been employed more industriously in nothing than in actually diminishing the amount, and limiting the future sources of patronage. They looked for support to public opinion, and they felt that, relying upon that, and steadily pursuing the course which they considered most likely to deserve it, the influence of such patronage might be dispensed with. Greatly, indeed, should he be disappointed if the vote of that evening should convince him, that they were mistaken in such reliance, and that they required such influence. The House would, no doubt, exercise its own discretion as to the motion before it, and if, after what they had already done, they should think proper to adopt the present proposition, he would bow with submission,but would still have the satisfaction of thinking, that the censure had been undeserved. If they passed a censure on that government which had done most in the way of economy and retrenchment, they would hold out to their successors the folly of relying on public opinion, in lieu of that patronage which other administrations had so profusely exercised." The House

« 上一頁繼續 »