§ Mr. Creevey
rose and said:*—Mr. Speaker; I rise in pursuance of the notice I have given, for the purpose of bringing before the consideration of the House and the public an act of parliament, which passed* From the original edition, printed by Ridgway, Piccadilly.754 in the year 1817, and which is entitled, "An Act to enable his Majesty to recompense the services of persons holding, or who have held, certain high and efficient civil offices." This act, I apprehend, Mr. Speaker, is little understood by this House, and still less by the country; and yet it is an act as injurious to the interests as it is insulting to the feelings of the people. Let me add, too, that it is utterly subversive of both the principles and the practice of the monarchy. Although I was a member of this House, when the act in question was passed, I was not then in England, otherwise my vote would undoubtedly have been given with those who opposed the bill. As, however, it is understood this act has been lately brought into operation for the first time, the present appears a very fit occasion for a revision of it; the general circumstances too of the times give a great additional importance to the subject.
The title of the act, as I have observed, is "An Act to enable his Majesty to recompense the services of persons holding, or who have held, certain high and efficient civil offices." But there never was a title more destitute of all foundation in truth. His majesty, Mr. Speaker, has no more to do with this act than you, Sir, or myself; except, indeed, as being the instrument of his own servants. The act may be truly said to be, an act to incorporate the dealers and traders in politics, in this country, into a company or corporation, under the firm or title of high and efficient public men, or high and efficient public pensioners; and with the same precise and methodical division of the profits of the concern, that always takes place in any other trading body. The sum of 42,000l. per annum, charged in perpetuity upon the consolidated fund, is the joint stock of the company created by this act; and which, by the provisions of the charter, is divided according to classes in the following manner:—The first class, consisting of the first lord of the Treasury, the three secretaries of state, the chancellor of the Exchequer, and the first lord of the Admiralty, are to be each entitled to 3,000l. per annum, for life, provided the time of their respective services in office shall have amounted to two years altogether; whether at one and the same time, or by patch-work, by the piece or the job; and then, as if this term of two years' service was too severe a condition to be imposed upon the first 755 and most distinguished class, another pension of 3,000l. per annum is given to them without any limitation at all; and though the period of service may not have exceeded two days, or even two minutes. These, then, are the provisions for the first class, seven pensions of 3,000l. per annum each for six persons. The second class comprises the chief secretary for Ireland and the secretary at war, and provides three pensions of 2,000l. per annum each for such persons as shall have held these two offices for five years. The third class consists of the joint secretaries of the Treasury and first secretary of the Admiralty; and for such persons as have held these offices for five years, six pensions of 1,500l. per annum each are provided. The fourth class includes the under secretaries of state, the clerk of the Ordnance, and the second secretary of the Admiralty; and after ten years' service in these offices, six pensions of 1,000l. each are given to I such persons as have held them. These are the provisions of this memorable act.
I need scarcely observe to you, Mr. Speaker, that, from the earliest period of our history to the year 1817, the kings and queens of England have been allowed the privilege of discovering for themselves the meritorious services of their servants or subjects, and in the same way they have been uniformly recognised as the estabblished fountains of all honours and rewards; if, indeed, the services of a subject have been so distinguished, that the means of the Crown were inadequate to render him a corresponding recompense, then it has been the practice of the sovereign to apply to this House for its co-operation; and here, again, the House has been allowed likewise to have an opinion of its own, before it gave away the money of its constituents. But these antiquated notions, Mr. Speaker, are all utterly exploded by this bill, both the king and the parliament are now saved all farther trouble upon this subject; merit in public men is settled for the first time, and once for all by act of parliament, and a monopoly of the article is vested by this bill in that corporation of high and efficient public men who are the objects of it. His majesty, as I observed before, has nothing in truth to do with this bill; he cannot alter or vary any of the provisions of the company's charter, nor can he travel out of it. He cannot, for instance, grant pensions of 3,000l., or 2,000l., or 1,500l. per annum, to any other subjects in his dominions han those who are specified in the bill.
756 By the civil list act of 1732, c. 82, his majesty is precluded from granting to any other subject than a member of the royal family a pension exceeding the sum of 1,200l. per annum; and by the same act, the sum total which the royal bounty can dispense in pensions amongst the whole of the nation, is limited to 90,000l. per annum. By the bill in question, the secretaries to the Treasury even are provided with pensions exceeding in amount what the Crown has the power to bestow; and this compact corporation of high and efficient public men have divided amongst themselves a sum of 42,000l. per annum, being nearly half of what the sovereign is permitted by law to grant amongst the whole of his subjects. The king's sign manual, I admit, is necessary to give a perfect title to these pensions, but this is all; and as the high and efficient pensioners are themselves the confidential advisers of the Crown, there will be little difficulty on this subject. I confess, Mr. Speaker, under all these circumstances, I think it would have been a more manly course in this corporation, a proceeding too, less insulting and degrading to the sovereign, to have set up a seal of their own, rather than have given his majesty the trouble of applying his sign manual; or if his majesty's name must be introduced by them into this bill, then I think its title ought to have been, "An act to enable his Majesty to act as Secretary to his own Servants." Having stated the substance, Mr. Speaker, of this extraordinary bill, I proceed, Sir, to trace its origin and history. Upon examining the Journals of this House, for the year 1817, I find this bill was ordered to be brought in by Mr. Davis Gilbert, Mr. Bankes, and the viscount Castlereagh; and I further find, that those two gentlemen, and the noble lord, were members of a select committee, which was appointed in that session, for the specific purpose of examining the public revenue and expenditure of the kingdom, and more particularly for examining what reduction could be effected in the latter, without detriment to the public service; and, lastly, I perceive, that the bill in question was recommended in the very first report from that finance committee. To a superficial observer, Mr. Speaker, it certainly does not appear the most obvious mode of diminishing the public expenditure to create a perpetual charge upon the people of 42,000l. per annum, to be divided in pen- 757 sions; nor does it appear a very decent proceeding, that amongst those, who recommended or created those pensions, are to be found the very persons who are eventually to enjoy them. But this House, Mr. Speaker, is a privileged place; things may be done here, which would never be thought of in any other assembly in England. As, however, this corporation of high and efficient public men has frankly and boldly asserted, in the preamble to their charter, their undoubted right to these pensions, and has stated at the same time the grounds upon which such rights are founded, let us examine their title upon their own showing. The preamble to their act runs thus: "Whereas the abolition and regulation of various offices will deprive the Crown of part of the means by which his majesty has been hitherto enabled to recompense the services of persons holding high and efficient civil offices, it is expedient and necessary, and consistent with sound policy and proper economy, that other means should be afforded his majesty, of recompensing, &c., &c."
It is here necessary for me to state, Mr. Speaker, that seven or eight bills, having for their object the abolition and regulation of different offices, were brought into this House at the same time, and by the same persons who introduced the Pension bill; and as these bills constitute the foundation and justification of the Pension bill, I must beg the House to accompany me in going through them one by one. I must request, too, in a particular manner, the attention of the hon. member for Corfe Castle, who is considered, in truth, the author of all those bills, and that he will do me the favour to correct me, if I am guilty of any inaccuracy or mis-statement upon this occasion. It is at all times a practice as unjust as it is unwise, to overstate any question; but with so strong a one as I have at present to deal with, it would be quite unpardonable to do so.
The first act, then, that I begin with, Mr. Speaker, is the 57th Geo. 3rd, c. 60, the title of which is "An Act to regulate certain offices in the Court of Exchequer in England;" and it enacts, that from and after, and upon the termination respectively of the present existing interests in the under mentioned offices, viz. the king's remembrancer, clerk of the pleas, clerk of the pipe, controller of the pipe, marshall, foreign apposer, purveyor, and re- 758 ceiver general of green wax; lord treasurer's remembrancer, clerk of foreign estreats, clerk of the Nichills, controller of first fruits, and in the Alienation office three commissioners, the receiver-general, two entering clerks, master in Chancery, and the solicitor of the exchequer, the duties thereof, respectively, shall be discharged by the officers appointed to hold the same in person, and not by deputy. And the act further provides, that upon all future vacancies in such offices, the lord high treasurer, or the commissioners of his majesty's Treasury, are to regulate the duties as well as the emoluments of such offices, and to appoint proper persons to fill the same; the fees now payable to such officers being to be applied in payment of future salaries; and if any balance of such fees shall remain, after payment of such salaries, the same is to make part of the consolidated fund. This, Mr. Speaker, is the first of those acts of reform, for which we have been called upon to pay in return 42,000l. per annum, in perpetuity, to be divided amongst our high and efficient public men. And what, let me ask, is the extraordinary favour done the public, in having the duties of these offices performed by the persons who enjoy the profits of them? Why should it not be so? Why, indeed, are we to wait till all the existing holders of these offices are dead, before so obvious a regulation is to be put in practice? And above all, let our high and efficient public men explain to us, where we are to discover "the necessity and expediency and sound policy, and proper economy" of giving them immediately and from hence forth 42,000l. in perpetuity, as the purchase of an act, which is merely a prospective act of regulation, which only transfers the patronage over a certain number of offices from the Crown to the Treasury, and which even records the doubt entertained by its own authors, whether in point of economy, any advantage at all is to be derived from it to the public.
The next act, Mr. Speaker, is the 57th Geo. 3rd, c. 61, the title of which is, "An Act to abolish the offices of the wardens, chief justices, and justices in Eyre, north and south of Trent," and its preamble runs thus: "Whereas the office of warden, chief justice, and justice in Eyre, of his majesty's forests, chases, parks, and warrens north of Trent, and the office of warden, chief justice, and justice in Eyre, 759 of his majesty's forests, chases, parks, and warrens south of Trent, are offices of considerable emolument; and by reason of disforesting of many of the great forests, and enclosing of others of such forests, and the regulations which have from time to time been made relative to the land revenues of the Crown, the efficient duties of the said offices have in a great measure ceased, and it is therefore expedient, that such offices should, upon the termination of the present existing interests therein be abolished," and the same offices, subject to such conditions, are abolished accordingly. Now I apprehend, Mr. Speaker, upon the case thus stated by the preamble to this act itself, the only doubt which reasonable men can entertain is, whether the public ought to forego the advantage of this projected reform during the lives of Mr. Villars and Mr. Grenville, the present holders of these sinecures, or whether these offices ought not to be abolished forthwith. Our high and efficient public men, it seems, have very different views upon such subjects; they are always for the public postponing their claims to those of the sinecure men; their attention to the latter is as uniform as it is unbounded; in each of these reform bills we shall see, Sir, that they always approach the sinecure men with a kind of apology, and an assurance at starting, that nothing is father from their intention than to make the slightest encroachment upon their property. When, however, the same high and efficient public men come with their own claims for pensions, waiting, or postponement of claims, is the last thing that occurs to them; in their view, the public have nothing to do but to support both the sinecure man and the pensioner, and both at the same time. Witness, Sir, the occasion I am now referring to. Two sinecures of 2,000l. each per annum are to be abolished upon the deaths of Mr. Villars and Mr. Grenville; and for the purpose of indemnifying our public men for this prospective contingent loss to the trade of politicians, a fund of 42,000l. per annum is created for them in perpetuity, at the expense of the public, and with immediate possession. Let me observe, Mr. Speaker, in this place, that the ground upon which there is so strong and universal a feeling in this country against the existence of all sinecure offices is, that, in truth, such sinecures are neither more nor less than so many pensions. What then are the people to think, when they are 760 made to purchase and pay for these sinecures by corresponding pensions, greater in amount, and perpetual in duration? This, Mr. Speaker, is a perfectly new principle, it is the first time it has made its appearance in the Statute Book. I shall have occasion presently to show, it is in direct opposision to all former precedents on such subjects; and so be it always remembered in future, that we are indebted for this modern improvement to that committee of finance, which was appointed for the specific purpose of diminishing the public burthens, for the abolition of useless offices.
The third act of reform, Mr. Speaker, from this finance committee of 1817, is the 57 Geo. 3rd, c. 62; and the title of it is, "An Act to abolish certain offices, and to regulate certain other offices in Ireland." This act enacts, that, from and after the termination of the present existing interests therein, the offices of surveyor-general of the Crown lands, keeper of records in the Birmingham Tower at Dublin, keeper of the records of parliament, clerk of the paper office, accountant to the board of general officers, secretary to the said board, corrector and supervisor of his majesty's printing press, compiler of the Dublin Gazette, master of the revels, seneschal of his majesty's manors, accountant-general, supervisor of accounts in the barrack department, barrack master of the royal barracks, shall be wholly abolished. And it is farther enacted by the same act, that the offices of clerk of the council, muster-master-general, pratique master of the port of Dublin, storekeeper of the customs in the said port, shall, after the termination of the existing interests therein, be executed in person, and not by deputy; and thus the patronage over these latter offices is transferred upon future vacancies from the Crown to the lord lieutenant of Ireland and the lords commissioners of the treasury, with the absolute discretion as to the amount of future salaries, &c., &c and, by a farther clause in this act, the offices of commissioners of the board of works in Ireland are to be abolished, subject always to all existing interests in the persons now holding the same. In remarking upon this act, I wish very much that our high and efficient public men would point out to us such of these offices so to be abolished prospectively in Ireland, that they would have condescended to fill: what it is, in 761 short, that they have lost: because, Sir, if it be true, as I suspect it is, that they have taken to themselves 42,000l. per annum in perpetuity, as the compensation for that, which it is almost morally certain they could never have possessed; then I must be permitted to say, they have been raising money for themselves under false pretences; a practice, Mr. Speaker, which in societies less polished than this is known by the name of swindling, and which here, I presume, I may be permitted to call parliamentary swindling.
The next act, Mr. Speaker, from the finance committee, is the 57 Geo. 3rd, c. 63, and the title of it is, "An Act to regulate the Offices of the Clerks of the Signet and Privy Seal." The provision of this act is, that, subject to the existing interests in the persons holding the offices of the clerks of the signet and privy seal, the duties of the said offices shall be performed in person, and not by deputy; and then, as in the preceding acts of regulation, the patronage over these offices is merely transferred from the Crown to the Treasury. This act again, though one of mere prospective regulation only, is made one of those claims upon us by our public men, and for which, upon principles of "necessity, and expediency, and sound policy, and proper economy," we are to pay them 12,000l. per annum in pensions for evermore.
The next act is the 57 Geo. 3rd, c. 64, and the title of which is, "An Act to abolish certain offices, and regulate others in Scotland." the various provisions of this act are, that, subject to the existing interest in the person holding the office of keeper of the great seal for Scotland, his majesty shall not grant a greater salary to the person holding such office than 2000l. per annum; and in like manner, and so subject to such existing interest as aforesaid, his majesty shall not grant a greater salary to the person holding the office of keeper of the privy seal for Scotland than 1,200l. per annum; that, subject to existing interests of the persons holding the offices of keeper of the signet and lord register of Scotland, the duties of keeper of the signet shall be performed by the lord register, and that the salary of the latter shall be limited to 1,200l. per annum; that every cashier and receiver-general of excise in Scotland, thenceforth to be appointed, shall discharge the duties thereof in person, 762 and not receive an higher salary than 1,000l. a year; that persons, to be thenceforth appointed to the offices of knight marshal or vice admiral of Scotland, shall receive no salaries for such offices; then it is farther enacted, that after the termination of the existing interests in the offices of auditor of the exchequer in Scotland, king's remembrancer in the exchequer, lord treasurer's remembrancer in the exchequer, presenter of signatures in the exchequer, keeper of the general register of seisins, clerk to the admission of notaries, director of chancery, clerk of the chancery, clerk of the court of admiralty, the duties of the same offices shall be discharged by the persons appointed to perform the same in person: and then follows the same clause as in the former acts, which transfers the patronage over these regulated offices from the Crown to the Treasury, and with the same discretion as to the amount of future salaries; and by the following clause in the same act it is enacted, that after the termination of existing interests in the following offices, videlicet, one of the clerks of the pipe in Scotland, clerk assistant to the general surveyors and inspectors of taxes, controller-general of the customs, receiver of bishops rents, inspector of wheel carriages, Gazette writer, inspector-general of roads, all such offices shall be thenceforth abolished. Upon this last act, I can only repeat the observation I have before made respecting the act from the finance committee, which relates to Ireland. Will our high and efficient public men have the goodness to point out to us which of these last-mentioned offices in Scotland, so prospectively abolished as aforesaid, they would have condescended to fill; and will they inform us, why the other offices in Scotland may not be prospectively regulated as they are by this bill, without our paying 42,000l. per annum in perpetuity to our high and efficient public men, in return for the favour of such regulation?
The next act, Mr. Speaker, from the finance committee of 1817, is the 57 Geo. 3rd, c. 66. And I must beg the particular attention of the House to the title of this act, because it is in every respect worthy of the quarter from whence it comes. It is called, "An Act to amend an Act of the twenty-second Year of his present Majesty, for suppressing or regulating certain offices therein mentioned, so far as relates to the Office of 763 the Board of Trade." This act of the twenty-second of his late majesty, amongst various other offices, abolishes the board of trade altogether; and when, therefore, a committee appointed by this House for the specific purpose of reducing the public expenditure, by abolishing useless offices, brings a bill into parliament to amend that act, one might reasonably expect, that the economical provisions of that act were to be still farther extended; instead of which, it turns out to be a bill to repeal and not to amend that act; and a vice president of a board of trade is again created, with a salary of 2,000l. per annum. So much for this economical, reforming, retrenching committee of finance of 1817, and so much for those principles of "necessity, and expediency, and sound policy, and proper economy," upon which our high and efficient public men claim to be entitled to 42,000l. in perpetuity, in compensation for offices which are regulated or abolished by this committee.
The next act, Mr. Speaker, is the 57 Geo. 3rd, c. 67; and it is "An Act to regulate certain offices in, and abolish others in his majesty's mints in England and Scotland respectively." And it enacts, that the office of warden of his majesty's mint in England, upon the termination of the existing interest therein, shall be abolished; and that, after the termination of the existing interest in the office of controller of the mint in England, the duties thereof shall be performed by the person holding the same and not by deputy; that the office of governor of the mint in Scotland, after the termination of existing interests therein, shall be held by the master of the mint in England; and that the different offices in the mint in Scotland, upon the termination of existing interests therein, shall be abolished.
And, now, Mr. Speaker, I am, fortunately for you, Sir, and for the House, arrived at the last of these economical acts of the Economical Committee of Finance of 1817, I mean the 57 Geo. 3, c. 84. The title of this act is, "An Act to regulate the offices in his majesty's exchequer in England and Ireland respectively," and its preamble runs thus: "Whereas the offices of auditor and tellers of his majesty's exchequer in England and Ireland respectively, and of clerks of the pells in England and Ireland are offices with respect to which it 764 is expedient that a more economical execution of the duties thereof respectively, after the termination of the present existing interests therein, should be adopted." And then the act makes a prospective transfer accordingly of their different patent places from the Crown to the Treasury, enacting, that the duties thereof shall be performed by the persons holding the same, and not by deputy; and leaving the provision, as to salaries, at the sole and absolute discretion of the Treasury. This last act, Mr. Speaker, as the House will see, is one of pure prospective regulation only: one should have thought, that the preamble to this act had stated a sufficiently obvious ground for its necessity; but this makes the last of those concessions from our public men, for which they demand an instant remuneration of 42,000l. per annum as pensions.
Having now gone through these different acts of reform, which emanated from the Finance Committee of 1817, it will be for the House and the country to decide, whether the different prospective reductions and regulations in public offices which they contain, have been of such singular national importance as to justify our public men in entrenching themselves by bill against all further encroachments upon their trade, in protecting themselves by act of parliament against all future losses, with a very decent indemnity for such as have already occurred. This pension bill, Mr. Speaker, ought to be regarded by the House and the country, as an eternal monument of the danger of permitting a minister of the Crown to delegate the duties of the executive government of the country to a committee of this House. Had we communicated directly with the Crown and its responsible ministers upon this subject, as I shall show you presently we were always accustomed to do, it is utterly impossible this degrading Pension bill could ever have found its way into this House. Is there a single person in this assembly, who is of opinion, that if the noble lord opposite had brought down a message from the Crown, stating his majesty's gracious wishes, that for the relief of his people this House would undertake the regulation or reduction of all useless establishments—is there any one, I say, who thinks the noble lord would have advised his majesty to have added to such message, a hint to this 765 House, that his servants might be no losers by this national economy; that some device might be hit upon for protecting them at least, from all consequences of such public improvement? It is utterly impossible, that the noble lord, or any other minister, could have entertained for a moment the thought of such an outrage; and yet, a select committee of this House, named by a minister of the Crown, has accomplished this very object with as much facility as any mere ordinary matter of course. Such, Sir, is the difference between living under the old-fashioned monarchy of this country with responsible ministers, and under this new executive government—a committee of this House, named by a minister of the Crown. Amidst the various obligations we owe to this new executive government, the committee of finance of 1817, we ought not to be unmindful of its merits in having repealed, in many cases, the statute of the 6th of queen Anne; one of the provisions of that act enacts, that any member of the House of Commons accepting an office of profit under the Crown shall vacate his seat, and return to his constituents to take their opinion of his conduct; the tellerships of the exchequer, and various other offices, regulated by the finance committee, were offices of 'this description; the pensions, therefore, which are designed as substitutes for such places, ought, had there been any consistency in the finance committee, to have been subject to the same conditions with the offices for which they were given, and to have vacated the seats of all members of this House who accept of them. Let me, by way of illustration, remind the House of a case within the recollection of most of us. Mr. Yorke, then member for Cambridgeshire, accepted the office of one of these tellerships of the exchequer, he vacated his seat, and was rejected by his constituents, never more to be returned by them. Mr. Yorke has some reason to regret, I must admit, Sir, that he did not receive his reward under the new dynasty of Corfe Castle, in preference to that of the House of Hanover, for had he done so, in money even he would have been a gainer; as, coming within the first class of pensions, he would have had 3,000l. per annum, instead of 2,700l., the profits of the teller-ship; and above all he would have been relieved from the expense and mortification of his rejection by his constituents.
766 As proofs of the superior advantages we used to enjoy under the uniform practice of the monarchy, up to the usurpation of its functions by the finance committee in 1817, and as inducements to the House to return to such wholesome courses without delay, I shall now proceed, Sir, to give specimens of what used to be the practice, with both the Crown and this House, when overpaid or useless offices were to be regulated or abolished. I begin, Sir, with the act called the Civil List act of 1782, c. 82. And here it may be useful to refer to the message from the throne, which preceded that act, and which was delivered to the House by lord John Cavendish, then chancellor of the exchequer. This message, which was delivered the 2nd May, 1782, runs thus: "his majesty has found with concern, that notwithstanding the two several payments of the civil list debt, and the subsequent increase of the civil list revenue, a considerable debt is since incurred. His majesty therefore desires the advice of the House of Commons as to the mode of discharging that debt, and preventing the like in future, without laying any new burthen on his people, whom it is ever his wish as much as possible to relieve." On the 6th of May, in that year, a bill was ordered, nemine contradicente, to be brought in upon that message, and the persons who were to prepare and bring in the same were Mr. Burke, lord John Cavendish, Mr. Secretary Fox, the lord Althorpe, Mr. James Grenville, Mr. Frederick Montague, Mr. Attorney and Mr. Solicitor General; all official and responsible persons; and the following preamble to that bill, when brought into the House, was in every respect worthy of its constitutional origin. "Whereas his majesty, from his paternal regard to the welfare of his faithful people, from his desire to discharge the debt upon his civil list without any new burthen to the public, for preventing the growth of a like debt for the future, as well as for introducing a better order and economy in the civil list establishment, and for the better securing the liberty and independence of parliament, has been pleased to order, that the office, commonly called or known by the name of the third secretary of state, or secretary of state for the colonies, the office or establishment commonly called or known by the name or description of the board of trade and plantations, the offices of lords of police 767 in Scotland, the principal officers of the board of works, the principal officers of the great wardrobe, the principal officers of the jewel office, the treasurer of the chamber, the cofferer of the household, the offices of the six clerks of the board of green cloth, the office of paymaster of the pensions, the offices of master of the harriers and fox hounds, and also the office of master of the stag hounds, should be suppressed; be it therefore enacted, &c. &c." and the same offices were all so abolished accordingly. What a contrast, Mr. Speaker, is presented by the language of this act, coming as it does through the responsible ministers of the Crown, to the fawning preamble of the Pension bill from the finance committee, with all its tender consideration for our high and efficient public men. We have no pensions, Sir, created by this bill to reimburse our public men for the loss of different offices abolished on this occasion. On the contrary, it is enacted, by the seventeenth clause of' this very bill, that, "for the better regulation of the granting of pensions, and the prevention of abuse and excess therein," the Crown shall not for the future grant a pension greater in amount to any subject than 1,200l. per annum, nor more than 90,000l. per annum in the whole. If, then, on the occasion I am now referring to, when the minister of the Crown and this House were all of opinion, that reduction of offices and reduction of pensions should go hand in hand, upon what possible pretext is it, that this finance committee has induced the House to adopt this new and hitherto unheard-of principle of paying our public men this enormous sum of 42,000l. per annum, for losses supposed to he sustained by them from remote prospective regulations of offices only?
If, Mr. Speaker, it shall be said, that the offices abolished by the 22nd Geo. 3, were offices held at the pleasure of the Crown, and not by patent, and that therefore that act does not apply to the offices abolished or regulated by the finance committee, then I beg, Sir, to refer the House to the act of the 23rd Geo. 3, c. 82; an act which may be truly said to run on all fours with the regulating acts of the finance committee, and which I am perfectly convinced must be considered by all reasonable men as quite conclusive on this subject. The title of the act is, "An act for establishing certain regulations in the receipt of his majesty's ex- 768 chequer." This act, be it again observed, was brought in by Mr. Burke, Mr. Secretary Fox, and lord John Cavendish, all official and responsible servants of the Crown at that time; and it recites, that in the receipt of his majesty's exchequer there are several useless, expensive, and unnecessary offices; and that the emoluments arising from other of the offices in the exchequer are become excessive; and that the mode of paying the officers by allowances, fees, and gratuities, is inconvenient, both to the public and individuals. And then come the various enactments of the bill, viz. that the offices of the two chamberlains, tally cutter, and usher, upon the deaths of the then possessors, are to be abolished; and the offices of the auditor of the exchequer, the clerk of the pells, and the four tellers of the exchequer, upon the deaths of the then possessors, are to be subject to the following regulations; that is to say, the whole profits of the auditor are to be a salary of 4,000l. per annum, those of the clerk of the pells 3,000l. per annum, and those of the four tellers of the exchequer 2,700l. each.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we all know what these different offices in the exchequer have been worth: the two unreduced tellerships of the exchequer, which were held by the late marquis of Buckingham and the present lord Camden, produced, during the late war, between 20 and 30,000l. per annum each. The auditor-ship of the exchequer, which, according to the commissioners of public accounts, was from 7,000 to 8,000l. in 1780, would have produced, if unreduced, 60 or 70,000l. per annum during the late war. These offices were indeed prizes for our high and efficient public men; two or three of such offices alone produced more in amount, much more, than all the offices put together, which make the subjects of regulation by the finance committee; and yet, Mr. Speaker, it never occurred to any of our public men in 1783, that they had a claim upon the public to be supported by pensions, in return for these great and important regulations and reductions, which they themselves introduced into the offices of the exchequer. Nothing, certainly, can be more striking than the contrast between our public men then and now: on that occasion, the ministers of the Crown reduced the great patent offices of the exchequer, from being offices of exorbitant profit down to 769 places of limited definite value, leaving the patent and the patronage still in the Crown. The ministers of the present day, by the means of a finance committee, transfer these same reduced patent offices from the Crown to the Treasury, leaving the improvement in economy quite indefinite, and at their own discretion; and then they take 42,000l. per annum to themselves, in pensions, as a compensation to the Crown, forsooth, for the loss of that patronage which they themselves had taken from it.
When the act of 1783 passed this House, the old duke of Newcastle was Auditor of the Exchequer, lord Hardwicke was first teller, lord Northington the second teller, Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox were both in office; Mr. Pitt too was then upon the stage, and taking an active part upon these very subjects; he himself having introduced a bill into this House, about that period, to abolish various patent offices in the Customs; and, without meaning to give offence to any man, I may be permitted to say, Mr. Speaker, that the persons I have mentioned were as worthy of being considered "high and efficient public men" as any statesman we have now living; and yet, Sir, as I have before observed, it never entered the imagination of any of these distinguished persons, that the abolition or regulation of offices was to be paid for by pensions to the servants of the Crown.
If any other case were wanting to confirm what I am now stating to have been the invariable practice up to the year 1817, of abolishing or regulating useless offices, without the public being called upon to pay for such obvious improvements, such case is to be found in an act, which passed so recently as in the year 1807. Here, again, this act was introduced by official responsible servants of the Crown, by sir John Newport, lord Henry Petty, Mr. O'Hara, and Mr. Parnell, the two first the Chancellors of the Exchequer for England and Ireland, and the two latter gentlemen Lords of the Treasury for Ireland. By this act, Mr. Speaker, a great variety of patent offices in the customs in Ireland are regulated or abolished, the united amount of which in value would equal, or nearly equal, the whole of the offices which have come under the consideration of the Finance Committee, and offices too, which will be found to be for the most part in the possession of the aristocracy and principal 770 gentry of Ireland. And yet, Mr. Speaker, no compensation is to be found in that act to the high and efficient public men of either Ireland or England for those improvements, or to any other persons, excepting the clerks.
And now, Mr. Speaker, having finished my case, it is for the House and the country to decide, whether our affairs were not more judiciously and prosperously conducted, under the old and uniform practice of the monarchy and its constitutional advisers, than under this new dynasty of Corfe Castle and a Finance Committee. We are 600,000,000l. more in debt now, Mr. Speaker, than when the bill of 1789 was passed: I presume that will not be advanced as a reason why we should purchase economy from our public men now, and not have done so then; but, in short, Sir, I feel confident, that when this ministerial pension bill of 1817 shall be thoroughly understood by the country, when it is recollected that it conies from a committee, named by a minister of the Crown; and formed for the express purpose of relieving the people by reduction or regulation of public offices—when, in addition to this, it stands uncontroverted, that this bill is without precedent, and in direct violation of all former laws and usage upon the same subject—I say, Sir, I do feel the greatest confidence, that sooner or later this act will be taken from the Statute book. I am not now, Sir, about to ask the House to come to such a decision: I shall defer that motion to another opportunity: I am now only going to ask for that information, which the pension act itself directs to be annually given. It is a tolerably degrading motion for a member of this House to make, I admit; but as long as this act remains a law, I am compelled to ask, on behalf of the nation, how their account stands between the sinecure men and the pensioners, under these acts; how many of the former are dead; how many of the latter are coming into existence. When these returns are made to the House, I shall be able to shape my course accordingly. At present I shall conclude, Sir, by moving for "An account of all profits which have accrued to the public from the abolition or regulation of offices under or by virtue of the different acts of the 57th of his late majesty hereinafter mentioned, that is to say, c. 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 66, 67, 84;" and "An address for an account of any pension or pensions granted by his ma- 771 jesty's sign manual, under and by virtue of an act passed in the 57th of his late majesty, c. 65."
said, that after the attack which the hon. member had made upon the Finance Committee of 1817—after his having said that the proceedings of that committee were an abominable outrage—the House would perhaps be surprised to hear that that hon. member himself was a party to the principles recommended in the report of that committee; that he and his friend near him (Mr. Bennet) were as much committed by the principle of that measure as either the noble marquis or himself. In order to prove what he said as he went on, he would read a resolution which had been passed in that House on the 31st of May, 1810. A debate had arisen out of a variety of resolutions proposed in a Finance Committee, of which he (Mr. B.) was chairman, in 1808. In that committee one set of resolutions had been proposed by Mr. Henry Martin, another by the late Mr. Perceval, a third by the right hon. member fur Waterford (sir J. Newport), and a fourth by himself (Mr. Bankes). Upon the merits of these resolutions various debates had taken place, after which a resolution was passed by the House (and he believed the hon. member for Shrewsbury was teller on that occasion), declaring that it was expedient to grant to the Crown full and ample means to reward its high and efficient servants, and that in any attempts to abolish or regulate such places, a strict regard should be had to the existing interests in those offices. The hon. member had said, that he was absent from the House when the 57th of the king was passed. This was matter of regret to the country, as no doubt had the hon. member been present, they would, by his able advice and assistance, have been prevented from running into the numerous errors into which it was now said they had fallen. But, in 1810 the case was different; for it happened, that on the very day, when the resolution to which he had just alluded was passed, the hon. member and lord viscount Milton were tellers upon a division which took place early in the evening. Now, if the hon. member was a party to the measure (as he must have been if he were present and did not dissent from it), what, he would ask, had since happened to justify him in altering his opinion? Having said so much, he now came to the bill itself. His 772 hon. friends opposite knew that, though he gave his accordance to the general principle of the measure, yet he was opposed to some of its details. He had always been anxious that there should be a certain limitation to pensions. At the time of the passing of Mr. Burke's bill, that great statesman had left the great offices of the Exchequer as he found them; they were sinecures, and intended to be applied for the remuneration of civil servants who had deserved well of their country. The 22nd report of the committee of Finance had alluded, in some degree, to that part of Mr. Burke's consideration; and had stated, that sinecure offices might be usefully employed in particular instances, either in rewarding a peerage granted for public services, or securing a retreat for those who had deserved public favour. Mr. Burke had said in his speech, when touching upon the subject of sinecures, that he had regarded many of them as fundamental parts of the constitution of this country (as he believed they were equally of others), as furnishing the means of rewarding public servants, who ought to have an ulterior dependence to look forward to the attainment of; beyond the daily wages of the Crown; and that this prospect could not be upheld unless some reservation were made to enable the Crown to supply it; unless, in fact, a suitable equivalent were provided, in the place of such sinecures as the House should deem it necessary to abolish. Why did not the hon. member declare the principle of this bill an outrage, when he (Mr. Bankes) opposed Mr. Perceval upon some of its provisions, a week before the death of that minister, and when the hon. member had assisted him in that opposition. There were those who declared for measures, not men; and who derided any attachment merely confined to individuals, instead of embracing principles: it remained for the hon. member to explain to which practice he adhered, and how it came to pass that the same individual who had in 1812 and 1813 voted for one principle, should now, without any qualification, venture to pronounce it a most abominable outrage. It was the first time that he had heard such terms applied to the principle of the bill.—The hon. member had represented, that this bill, instead of economizing for the nation, had entailed upon it a permanent expenditure of 42,000l. a year. 773 That was the effect which he seemed anxious to ascribe to it, which he wished to have propagated among the people of England, and to be harangued upon at their public meetings; where they were to be told that the nation was paying 42,000l. a year for a bill of economy; No doubt he (Mr. Bankes) was to be held specially responsible for the declared effect of the measure, and the hon. member considered as one who had been shocked at it from the outset: he was no doubt to be held as belonging to this corporation of statesmen, who had a right to put their hands into the pockets of the people, and who had usurped the royal patronage; for it was another part of the hon. mover's object to draw a distinction between the patronage of the king and the acts of ministers, and to show that the bill took away from the Crown a source of emolument to vest it in ministers. Such an assertion was too strong for the House; indeed, he thought it would prove too gross fir those public meetings which took place in many parts of the country. Every body knew that his majesty conferred these places, acting under the advice of responsible ministers. But what be principally begged of the House to do, was, not to let the hon. gentleman escape from his implied assent to the whole principle of a bill at the time of its discussion, to which he now applied such violent epithets. The hon. gentleman could not have seriously intended that the House should believe the bill had imposed an expense of 42,000l. a year upon the country. Did the honourable gentleman not know that the bill of which he had so loudly complained, had effected a saving by the reduction and abolition of particular offices? Did the honourable gentleman not know that for the pensions granted, there had been large salaries saved? In the Court of Exchequer alone, the new regulations had caused a saving of several thousand pounds. He would then say to the hon. member, and to his friends (if he had any) who were prepared to support him on the present occasion, that they could not concur in the hon. member's sentiments that night without admitting that they had been very foolish, or very factious before, or were very inconsistent now. Suppose they were to repeal the bill alluded to, would they not in point of strict justice, be obliged to reinvest the Crown with the use of the same 774 sinecures which had subsisted before the bill? They should give the Crown what the Crown had abandoned, in carrying into effect the regulations enacted upon their recommendation. He, for one, would never be a party to so great an injustice as to revoke a settlement with the Crown, without re-enacting the same provisions which had been abandoned in virtue of the engagement with parliament.
said, the hon. gentleman had taken great pains to advocate the cause of his own child; and to demonstrate its vigour and its promising appearance; but, instead of showing that it was a strong and healthy child, he had only proved to the House, that it was one of the most ricketty bantlings that ever was produced, and should have been strangled at the moment of its birth. The hon. gentleman had said, that he (Mr. Bennet) had given his assent to the resolution of 1810; this statement was rather unfortunate, for he was not then in parliament. It was in 1812 that he came into parliament; and in 1813 the hon. gentleman produced his bill for getting rid, as it was said, of sinecure places. He had been told that he voted for those bills; and no doubt the assertion was correct. He would say further, that if any hon. gentleman were to produce a bill for their abolition, he should be again disposed to give his support to the measure. But the House might recollect, that in 1817, when that bill to which such frequent allusion had been made was passed, he did join in opposing it; because he could not give his assent to one particular part of the bill—namely, that which was now under discussion. He felt then, as he did now, that the bill was a great outrage; and if that was his feeling at the period of its being passed, he was disposed to consider it as a still greater outrage at the present time. Adverting to what had fallen from the hon. member, with regard to the recommendations of certain committees, he begged to express his opinion that if there was one thing more than another upon account of which that House had much to answer for to the country, it was the habit of granting committees for particular purposes; and, after such committees had applied themselves to the examination of the matters referred to them with the greatest assiduity and care, of treating the result of their labours with scorn and contempt—a habit of receiving reports, and of rejecting the 775 conclusions to which they had arrived. These were the committees which were presided over by chairmen who never afterwards—the reports have been so brought in—troubled themselves by referring for a single moment to what had taken place while they were in the chair. And here he might truly say, that he did not know of any one gentleman who had so often been chairman of economical committees, who had promised much, and who had performed so little, as the hon. member for Corfe-castle. He knew no man whose acts were more disproportionate to his words. If he were required to name the most extravagant and wasteful member of parliament that had sat for years in that House, who had voted away with the most lavish profusion, millions of the public money, while he had dissected the application of the most minute and insignificant sums—the member, in short, who had nibbled at the cheese-parings while he left the entire cheese altogether in other hands—he could point out no person so properly as the hon. member for Corfe-castle. The hon. gentleman had talked much of that high respect for public opinion which the gentlemen who undertook office must necessarily be supposed to entertain. Great as their respect might be, he (Mr. Bennet), speaking from his own experience, could only declare that he never knew any one of those gentlemen, however large his fortune might be, who refused to accept an addition to that fortune in the same moment that he took office. This was most unfortunately true; and if he were called upon for the proof, he should say, that no case could be more in point than that of the Grenville family. He would read a short statement of their allowances in pensions and salaries of sinecure offices. It would not perhaps occasion much surprise, because their moderation was known to every body! In the year 1795, lord Grenville became an auditor of the Exchequer, at the regulated salary of 4,000l. per annum, so that he received during the whole of the period for which he held the office (22 years) 88,000l. of the public money. Mr. Thomas Grenville was presented with the sinecure office of chief justice of Eyre, with a yearly salary of 2,000l.; and he took altogether no less than 44,000l. In 1763, the late marquis of Buckingham was appointed first teller of the exchequer. He enjoyed this office for the space of 56 years, and taking the 776 average salary at 10,000l. a year, which he thought was rather below the mark, his lordship must have derived from the public purse during that period the enormous total of 560,000l. Lord Braybrooke, another branch of this family, in 1762, was presented with a sinecure appointment of not less than 3,000l. a year; and up to the present moment, consequently, he had taken 180.000l. altogether. By the paper which he held in his hand, it appeared that from the earliest of the periods he had named, up to the present year, the Grenville family—professing (according to the doctrine of the hon. member for Corfe-castle) so high a respect for public opinion—had shared between them no less a sum that 872,000l. The object of the present motion was, in effect, to ascertain whether the crown was to be subject to any control in the disposal of pensions and places. The hon. gentleman had talked about the result of such a motion being to leave the crown bare. Bare! bare of influence? Good God! to hear the hon. gentleman talk, one would suppose that the Crown no longer possessed any influence whatever in the country. It was indeed proposed, as expedient and practicable, to effect the reduction of the four tellerships of the Exchequer, of the two chief-justiceships of Eyre, and of the auditorship of the Exchequer, altogether seven places. But surely these were not the only places to which the Crown could present. He hoped it was not meant to be contended, that secretaries of state and clerks of the council must become also clerks of the pipe, or surveyors of green wax. Enough, and more than enough, would still be left to the Crown to give away. All these seven places had been granted in reversion: of latter years they had been given to the sons of the chancellors of England. But was it because any gentleman spoke of the propriety of their being reduced, that the hon. member for Corfe-castle was to talk of the Crown being left-bare? The Crown, as it had been well and truly said, possessed in these days an influence which met a man at every corner, which he was sure to experience in every situation of life. No condition was too exalted or too humble to escape its operation. But when they said so much about diminished influence, he must beg to read what were the amounts of sinecures and pensions which the Crown yearly gave away, or appointed to, according to official returns made 777 up to the 5th Jan. 1820. These amounts, as they stood on his list, were as follow: For England, per year 132,000l.; for Ireland 71,000l., besides pensions for patents 4,000l., pensions to foreign ministers 52,000l., pensions on the 4 and a half per cent duties, about 36,613l.; making a total of 295,613l. But, in addition to this sum, the House must consider the amount of the pensions on the consolidated fund, which were pensions more or less subject to the approbation of parliament; and they must observe, that all this statement was exclusive of the pensions granted to the various branches of the royal family; chargeable, indeed, on that fund, and amounting to about 186,000l. per annum. It might, perhaps, be fairly said, that directly or indirectly, the pensions paid to the various appointments of the Crown, either with, or exclusive of, the approbation of parliament, amounted to considerably upwards of 464,000l. Yet the hon. gentleman talked of their wishing to leave the Crown no influence. But he (Mr. Bennet) had sufficiently shown that the great reduction was proposed to be applied to seven places, which the Crown nominated to. There were other 30 or 40 inferior appointments, which none of those gentlemen who must feel so high a respect for public opinion, could hold without discredit to themselves. But the important fact was, that for the payment of these salaries or pensions, 42,000l. were added, in effect, to the burthens of the country. Then, as to the disposal of these places, what security had the country for the discretion or the propriety with which they were granted away? It was notorious that the greater part of these places was given away in return for acts of political jobbing; that they were given in order to enable ministers to carry some political purpose or other, either in or out of that House. There was no man who knew any thing of the history of this country for the last 100 years, and would give himself the trouble of taking Beetson's "Political Index" in his hand, who would not find that such places were, for the most part, bestowed upon men who made a sale of themselves, of their principles, and of their votes, for certain sums of the public money—men, who either by themselves, or by the persons they sent to fill their places, thus pledged themselves to support the ministers of the Crown, in every measure they might propose. So far from public merit being the surest and 778 best claim for such situations, it was nothing but the utmost political baseness which would entitle a man to indulge the hope of filling any of them. As to the rights of the Crown, in the sense in which the hon. gentleman had been pleased to look at them, be did not understand the meaning of the words. The rights of the Crown were given for the protection of the interests of the people. He knew not what the hon. gentleman meant by talking of the right of the Crown to dispose of large sums of public money to unworthy persons. There was no right more binding on the Crown, than to protect the people; and none more sacred or undoubted in the people, than the right they possessed of keeping or of disposing of their own property. If a right existed in the Crown to grant pensions or sums of public money by its own appointment, it was one that was so vested in the clear understanding that it was not to be abused. He meant to say distinctly, that the influence of the Crown was too great in the country from one end of it to the other. It was too great in the House of Lords; and for the proof of the numbers of votes which the Crown, by some means or other, had at its disposal within those walls, he need only refer hon. members to the majorities which they reckoned there every day. To show that the hon. gentleman, however, had sometimes a glimmering of right feeling, and a true sense of the state of the country, especially when he took up his pen in his capacity of chairman, he would read a short extract from the 3rd report of the finance committee in the session of 1810. [Here the hon. gentle' man read a passage from the report to this effect—that no public offices of any description were originally created for the mere purpose of giving lucrative employments to the disposal of the Crown; the fact being, that, originally, specific duties had been attached to all of them, which, either from the alteration of manners or customs, or from the nature of the arrangements subsequently made in respect of them, had either been dispensed with or allowed to be performed by deputy, &c.] Yet now the same hon. gentleman ventured to tell the House, that they must either restore these matters to their old system of abuse, which was bad enough, or to their new system of reform, which wag still worse. With the exception of one of them (Mr. Peel) there was not one of the 779 secretaries of state who had not served his time to the sort of political corporation which existed on the other side of the House; or who, as having served his time, might not receive his pension whenever he should think fit to take it. Every one must have observed, that of late years this principle of granting pensions had grown to such an extent, as to startle and alarm the country. It was a little too much, that official gentlemen, having remained in their capacities for the space of a few years only (in some cases for not more than one or two; and in one instance, which had been recently taken notice of, for the space of less than one year), should be entitled to consider themselves as pensioners upon the country, for the remainder of their natural lives. A word as to county meetings. He should like to see the hon. gentleman present himself at one of those county meetings which he had in so sneering a manner adverted to: for he would venture to say, that no greater detection of the character of a human being ever yet took place, than in such an assembly would be made of the character of the hon. gentleman. He would find, that the jury of public opinion was of a very different nature from a jury of parliament; and that his real character was made known, instead of his being held up, as he had often been held up in that House, for the advocate of retrenchment and of political improvement. He would be told, that while he watched with a patient and scrutinizing eye, the appropriation of a few paltry pence, or shillings, he gave his aid to an unlimited squandering of pounds; he would, in a word, be at length discovered to be a staunch supporter of the government, in every measure of immoderate expenditure; however he might at times have been the advocate of some petty system of insignificant retrenchment.
The Marquis of Londonderry
should feel it necessary to detain the House but for a very short time; because, to a motion which had for its object the return of certain resolutions which parliament had agreed to, he could feel no objection. With respect to the speech of the hon. mover, and still more to the speech of the hon. gentleman who had just sat down, he must be allowed to say a few words. And he could not help acknowledging on this occasion, the extreme gallantry with which the hon. gentleman who spoke last, had come forward in aid of the hon. 780 member for Appleby. But he regretted that the hon. gentleman's prudence was not equal to his gallantry; for, notwithstanding that the hon. member for Westminster (Mr. Hobhouse), who had had a pretty considerable experience in matters of this sort, had offered his services to support the battle of the member for Appleby, the hon. gentleman seemed to have declined his offer. He thought he acted unwisely in so doing; and that he would have done well to have availed himself of an ally, who had been long accustomed to this kind of service. At the same time, he doubted whether the talents of the hon. member for Westminster would have proved sufficient to cover the retreat of his friends. The hon. member for Shrewsbury, however, actuated only by his feeling of gallantry, had determined to rush to the charge; and it was for the House now to ascertain what was the ground which he occupied. He had informed them, that he was not present when the foundation of the measure adopted in 1817 was laid in 1810—when its principle was laid down, and received the support of that very hon. gentleman who had brought forward the motion of to-night. One might almost be tempted to believe, on the credit of the strenuous support so given by the hon. member, that there was a certain period of one's life beyond which the political memory of man went not—a period beyond which no man was to be considered answerable for past political acts. A very convenient doctrine this, and very readily adopted by some of the gentlemen on the other side! The fact was; that when, in 1810, the principle of the measure in question was laid down, the hon. member for Appleby did give it his strong support. The other hon. gentleman protested that he was not a party to the measure of 1810, but admitted that he might have supported the bill of 1817, on the same grounds that he had supported many bills that had contained some provisions that were in contrariety to his own opinions; namely, that he was willing to get something—to take the rough with the smooth. But both hon. gentlemen were in error in one respect: these sinecures were never retained for the sake of the Crown; they were retained by the Crown for the sake of the country. They were a mode of rewarding public services; and a mode which, before it was adopted, had been long very loudly clamoured for. Now, 781 the hon. member for Appleby had done the most unfair thing in the world; for he required that the House should put altogether out of their recollection, seven years of their opposition to the bill of the hon. member for Corfe-castle, in favour of about as long a period during which he had contended for its repeal. And now the hon. gentleman wanted to put to sea again in his fleet of thirty or forty grievances and pensions. His (lord L's.) objection to the bill of 1817 was, that it conferred on the Crown a power of giving away pensions without any control of parliament. It was, therefore, on a principle of regard for the public expenditure that his opposition had proceeded. The objection of the hon. mover was really most singular, though he did not mean to say, but that the hon. gentleman, viewing the matter with the experienced eye of a sagacious politician, might possibly be very right. But the hon. gentleman would not at all object to a bill that should give the Crown the power of appointing to pensions, provided (in the hon. member's own words) "it had been brought forward under the old dynasty." If it had originated under George 3rd for instance, he would have made no objection at all. The hon. member would not have objected, if it had been under what he called the true reigning dynasty, to confer on the Crown so unrestrained a power. As for the hon. member for Shrewsbury, if he would only make a calculation, and add it to the many others in his pocketbook—if he would make only one additional but good natured calculation—(for the character of the last which he had read was rather sour and unpleasant)—he would be enabled to state to the House, how much government, under the bill in question, might have given, and how little it had given away. No reproach at least would be made to government of any thing like excess in this, particular. But the hon. gentleman seemed to think that the effect of that bill was, to erect gentlemen on the ministerial side of the House into a sort of corporation, of which the members at their pleasure granted pensions to one another, without even going into the presence of the Crown to ascertain its pleasure on the subject. If it should ever happen that the hon. gentleman and his friends should once more come into office, the only difference between them and their political opponents would be, that the bill, in question 782 would give them the power of conferring the same pensions on individuals without any service to plead, as he said were now taken by those who had many years of service to plead. He should say nothing of the good taste with which the hon. member had quoted a list of names, some of which were borne by parties still living: he did not think it very fair; but he did think it most unfair that the hon. gentleman should not have resorted to some historical explanation of his list. When he spoke of emoluments, he should have contrasted them with the public services for which they had been granted. In the case of the late marquis of Buckingham, he might have said how much of his emoluments that nobleman had given up. He did not know how it was, but during the number of years for which both himself and the hon. gentleman had sat together in that House, he had never heard him make the slightest allusion to this list before. He did not know whether the hon. gentleman wore winkers or no; but his vision did not seem sensible of any objects till they got exactly opposite to him. [Much laughter.] He confessed that this sudden perception of abuses—this little neat pocket-book kind of statement—seemed to be connected with some recent transaction, that had brought the objects exactly within the view of the hon. gentleman. As there was no statement that could come from the hon. member with a much worse grace than this, so there was nothing in the whole course of this session that had been much more painfully received. He did not think the House would feel disposed to admire the crane-necked research of the hon. gentleman into the emoluments derived by the various branches of a distinguished family from the public. The noble lord concluded by saying, that, notwithstanding the air of determined purpose with which the member for Appleby had come down to the House, and that severity of manner which was at all times so alarming in the person of the hon. gentleman, he (lord Londonderry), while he should offer no objection to his motion, saw nothing to which it could lead, that the House would feel disposed to entertain.
§ Mr. Creevey
rose to reply, and said, that he could not be persuaded by the noble marquis that his motion was ill-timed. On the contrary, he felt it was a motion which the House ought to entertain. He had been accused of having 783 changed his opinion as to the principle of the bill. Now, in this he felt no reproach: he was now sure that he had formerly been wrong; and it was not extraordinary that a man should at one time see a question in one view, and, at another time in another. One thing, however, he was sure of—that this change in his opinion had not been effected by getting into office. It could not be said that his opinion was influenced by lucre. All he knew was, that the act was an extremely bad one; and he would do the best that in him lay to get it repealed. It had been said that he was willing that the Crown should grant pensions, though he could not approve of the act by which the grant of them was regulated; he had said no such thing. All he had said was, that if the proposers of this law had been sincere, when they held it out as an equivalent to the Crown for the loss of sinecures, they would have placed a certain sum at the command of the king for the granting of pensions, and not have specified the places to the holders of which the pensions were to be granted. He had said, that official men formed a corporation who, by this act were to distribute money among themselves. The noble marquis had said, that if his (Mr. C.'s friends) came into place, they also would form this corporation. No doubt of it. Whoever were ministers would have the power to grant pensions among themselves in a scandalous manner. Public men would necessarily lose in character by this act; which could not finally be permitted to remain. All he could say was, that he would do his best to have it repealed; and he thanked the noble lord for advertising the country, that such a measure would be so ill-received by those in office. There were many in that pure, uncorrupt, and immaculate House, to whom the repeal of this bill would be a matter of serious dissatisfaction; but still he would, at a very early day, give the noble lord an opportunity to speak again on this subject; although it did not appear to be a very palatable one to the ministers of the "new dynasty."
Sir R. Heron
said, he had, at the time of its being proposed, protested almost alone against this bill, and had declared that under the operation of it, the people would again call for sinecure places, as the least of two evils.
§ The motion was then agreed to.