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low me to be the best judge of my own interests; I am aware of the increase of expense, but I consider my own interest more secure by the expenditure, than by the economy which you suggest,' But another reason, and a far more important one for a statesman to consider, is, that if you under-pay office, you tempt men by indirect means to do that from which, under the circumstances of adequate remuneration, their moral principle would revolt-you encourage an under-hand system of fees, and perquisites, and gratuities, no matter whether legal or illegal-you debase a character of service, which is, and ought to be, remunerated not by money only, but by honour and consideration also—and you prostitute the best feelings of public men at the shrine of a sordid parsimony.
It would be, perhaps, but fair, to admit that the government, or rather the governments, of this country are responsible for much of the existing misconceptions respecting revenue and expenditure, in consequence of one single insulated circumstance in the manner of carrying on public business—namely, the non-separation of the national debt from the current expenditure of the country, in the public accounts. For the current expenditure the existing government is responsible for the establishments, for their necessity, for their efficiency; but for the payment of the interest of the national debt, it has no individual character of responsibility. To provide for that payment is the business of the nation at large. Its amount is not regulated by discretion, which is the case in establishments. It remains, for the most part, one and the same, immutable, a fixed quantity, and must remain so until, on the one hand, it be discharged, or, on the other hand, it be diminished;-two alternatives, the 'one of which is all but impossible, and the other, it is to be feared, more than improbable, with the exception of the effect of a small real sinking-fund. This mode of presenting for observation the Financial Accounts of the year saddles the government exclusively with an odium to which (as already contended) it has no exclusive claim. The proportionate extent and influence of the national debt, as compared with the current expenditure of government, will be appreciated by any person who will take the trouble of inspecting our scale. If it be necessary that the ministers of the day should be considered as stewards of this great national mortgage as a kind of committee appointed to communicate on the subject of it to parliament and to the country-why should they not appoint an exclusive day for its consideration, and thereby rid themselves of that unreal responsibility which the present system of confused and blended accounts gratuitously throws upon them? We beg not to be understood as taking any extravagantly dark and gloomy view of the national debt, which we would thus desire to see separated from
the current expenditure of the government establishments; on the contrary, we would ask if it be not, after all, a plain truth, that this country, at the present moment, (depressed as it may be), is ten times more able to support and maintain its present debt and its present establishments, than it would have been able to maintain one-fourth part of that debt and of those establishments in the reign of Queen Anne? May not a period arrive, at which this country may be able to sustain a debt twice. as great, without one-twentieth part of the inconvenience now endured, collectively and individually? Undoubtedly, no man of fair information and common candour will deny that these questions may be reasonably answered in the affirmative. He may, indeed, doubt as to the existence of any future period when such speculations may be realized. With respect to public debt, the country have learnt a lesson which will not be easily forgotten; they have learnt that, to carry on a war-expenditure much greater than the current supplies of the year, must inevitably entail upon posterity a charge and inconvenience, which ought to make the country more than unwilling to consent to the recurrence of such anticipation of future resources. Occasions may arise in which no sacrifice ought to be considered as too great. Such have arisen heretofore; and mighty sacrifices have purchased good too great to be estimated in pounds, shillings, and pence.
Sic species terris, vitæ sua forma, suusque
Dîs honor,-IPSA sibi tandem sic reddita MENS est.'
If national honour and the good of man again require such a sacrifice, undoubtedly it ought again to be made; but if ever it be so made, it will be made with a more accurate appreciation of the consequences than was felt by those whose measures incurred the existing debt, or by the people, who were strictly, and all but unanimously, consentient to the enactment of those measures.
If a private individual, a country-gentleman, for example, has a rental of 6,000l. per annum, and a rent-charge upon it of 4,000l. per annum, his expenditure, if he be a prudent man, is necessarily limited to his real surplus, namely, 2,000l.; and if he has the reputation of having a rental of 6,000l., and an acknowledged expenditure of only 2,000l., supposing that he has no special motives for economy, he sustains the imputation of niggardliness, from the apparent disproportion between his income and expenditure. Precisely the converse effect takes place with respect to the government: the government having an income of sixty millions per annum, more than forty millions of which, if duly analysed, will be found to belong to the annual charge of the existing debt, has the reputation of being criminally lavish with respect to its establishments, the expenses of which are blended together, most
gratuitously and unfortunately, with the interest of the debt.* If the accounts were kept strictly separate, the extent of the expenditure for which the government were really responsible would be found to be less than one-third of the whole; whereas now, the line of distinction between the two is not in the slightest degree preserved.
If this point be pursued in greater detail, the inconvenience of the present system, as affecting the government itself, will be more apparent. In the Finance Accounts (vide scale, column 4), the collection of the revenue amounts to 5,245,876l.; but of this expense, 3,983,2781. † is incurred in the collection of that part of the revenue which is required for the repayment of the interest of the national debt; for, supposing the public faith were to be preserved, the necessity for the expense of that collection would equally exist, whether there were any establishments or not. It may be true that the government have the patronage of the persons employed in this collection; but any advantage which may be derived from that patronage is more than counterbalanced by the unpopularity attaching to the government from its presumed connexion with the existence of that national burthen. To restate, therefore, the proposition, which, we think, will be made demonstrable by the linear scale-out of an expenditure of 60,154,135l., the sum of 39,801,0317. is applied in payment of the interest of the national debt, for which the public faith is pledged; 3,983,2781. is incurred in the collection of the revenue necessary for the exclusive payment of that interest; and only 16,369,8281. (of which 1,262,5981. is for the expense of collection, leaving 15,107,230l. for establishments alone) is the limit of that expenditure, which is made necessary by the existence of the establishments, and for the maintenance of which the government is exclusively responsible. And yet the government gratuitously takes upon itself the unpopularity incident to a presumed responsibility for an expenditure of sixty millions. Again (columns 5, 6, and 8), the current army expenditure is stated to be 7,579,6311., the navy
* Since this Article went to the press, we have observed, in the Times' newspaper of the 22d of November, a report of Mr. Hume's speech on the address, containing the following passage:-The rental of the country had been estimated at forty millions: the taxes amounted to sixty millions, which was a rental and a half levied to support an extravagant expenditure.'
The whole revenue collected being
The expense of collecting which is stated to be.
The net revenne, therefore, is
£52,416,945 But of this net revenue there is payable to the national creditor, 39,801,931, proportion of collecting which is 3,983,2781. This last item, then, must be subtracted from the 20,353,1067., composing the total annual expenditure, for which government is strictly responsible, and this sum will be reduced to 16,369,8287., including the expense of 1,262,598., for its collection.
5,849,1197., the ordnance 1,567,0871. What is the fact? that from the army must be deducted 2,906,9417.; from the navy 1,593,6291.; from the ordnance 373,4831.; and then it will be found that the current expenses are reduced, for the army to 4,672,690l.; for the navy to 4,255,490l.; for the ordnance to 1,193,6041.* What possible reason can be shown for not considering the half-pay and pensions as genuinely part of the national debt? Every person who has looked into the subject is well aware that a retiring pension, or a superannuation allowance, well understood, amounts to neither more nor less than a deferred annuity, or rather payment of salary. The soldier, or civil servant, when he enters the public service, enters it on the national faith being pledged to his receiving, at a future period, and subject to contingent events, a certain recorded amount of retiring pension; and if the principles on which salaries are apportioned be correct, it will be found that the retiring pension, though a charge to the public when it may become due, is economy to the public in the first instance, inasmuch as the individual, while serving, receives a proportionately less degree of salary. Nay, more; the difference between the salary which he ought to receive, and would receive if he had no retiring allowance secured to him, would, if it had been paid to him in current salary, have been sufficient to purchase for him, at an Assurance Office, a deferred annuity equal to the amount of this retiring pension. But it would be superfluous to remark, that no control could be exercised over him he had himself been entrusted with the exercise of the economy necessary to secure this deferred annuity. The state, therefore, by the principle of superannuation allowances, virtually compels him to act on principles of economy, as in the operation of those principles the interest of the state is materially concerned.-If those positions be just, where is the distinction between the public creditor and the public retired annuitant? If a man bring six thousand sovereigns in gold to the Bank, and purchase, with those sovereigns, stock in the Four per Cents. at par, he is entitled to look to the public for an annuity of 240l. per annum, in lieu of the sovereigns so exchanged; he is entitled, also, at any time to sell that annuity, whether the purchaser give him more sovereigns
Vide Linear Scale.
+ Parliamentary History, New Series, vol. vii., p. 287.
Speech of Mr. Ricardo, May 1st, 1822:
The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that these annuities were part of the debt of the country. This he (Mr. Ricardo) admitted.' Speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Bexley), May 24, 1822, vol. vii., p. 737 :
The resolutions to which the house had agreed, recognised the military and naval pensions granted during the late war, and also the civil superannuations granted by consent of parliament, as a charge on the public, and as forming part of the public debt.'
or fewer than he originally gave himself: in other words, he has given a quid pro quo,' and he has a right to appeal to the national faith for the maintenance of the bargain. Now, let us revert to the case of the retired annuitant: he has sold his personal services to the state, on the faith of receiving a retired allowance, under certain circumstances. The state, in consideration of that contingent claim on itself, has paid him, in current salary, less than he otherwise would have been entitled to receive. Can the state break faith with him, without committing as decided an act of spoliation and injustice as if it broke faith with the public creditor? Is it consistent with good faith, without any previous reservation of the power to do so, to compel the public creditor to receive 140l. per annum instead of 240l., which, by the terms of the preceding illustration, he was entitled to receive? The only distinction is this that the public creditor has, by law, a power of re-exchanging his annuity for capital whenever he chooses to do so. The public retired annuitant, in most cases, is prohibited by law from making that exchange; but this is no sort of hardship on him, as at the period of his entering into the service, whether civil or military, he was duly informed that that restriction was incident to the transaction.
Any person who has followed us with attention will perfectly understand the nature of the transaction familiarly known by the name of the dead weight,' upon which so much observation has been made within and without the walls of Parliament. The effect of this operation was to enable others to do what the retired annuitants were by law prohibited from doing, namely, to exchange annuities for capital. If the state were bound to pay five millions per annum as a life annuity, being the amount of the half-pay and retiring allowances of the combined military, naval, and civil services; and if those five millions could be equitably considered as partaking strictly of the nature of a short annuity, with this exception, that, from the uncertainty of human life, the precise period of its termination could not be ascertained; and if it were thought more expedient to spread that annuity of five millions over a greater number of years than the calculations of the duration of human life made it probable that it would cover, if continued in the character of a life-annuity, determinable by the deaths of the individual parties, this transaction must be considered as an exchange of a short annuity of a higher amount for a long one of inferior amount. It is to be remarked, that although the effect of such substitution was to saddle posterity with a burthen, to which it otherwise would not have been subjected, yet the means of supporting that additional burthen, when incurred, might have been furnished by the remission of taxation