« ПредишнаНапред »
A truly worthy commissioner, lately dead, made a public offer, a few years ago, of putting any of his neighbours' sons into the Excise; but though the offer amounted almost to an invitation, one only, whom seven years apprenticeship could not make a tailor, accepted it; who, after a twelve-month's instruction, was ordered off, but in a few days finding the employment beyond his abilities, he prudently deserted it, and returned home, where he now remains in the character of an hushandman.
There are very few instances of rejection even of persons who can scarce write their own names legibly; for as there is neither law to compel, nor encouragement to excite, no other can be had than such as offer, and none will offer who can see any other prospect of living. Every one knows that the Excise is a place of labour, not of ease; of hazard, not of certainty; and that downright poverty finishes the character.
It must strike every considerate mind, to hear a man with a large family, faithful enough to declare, that he cannot support himself on the salary with that honest independency he could wish. There is a great degree of affecting honesty in an ingenuous confession. Eloquence may strike the ear, but the language of poverty strikes the heart; the first may charm like music, but the second alarms like a knell.
Of late years there has been such an admission of improper and unqualified persons in the Excise, that the office is not only become contemptible, but the Revenue insecure. Collectors, whose long services and qualifications have advanced them to that station, are disgraced by the wretchedness of new supers continually. Certainly some regard ought to be had to decency, as well as merit.
These are some of the capital evils which arise from the wretched poverty of the salary. Evils they certainly are; for what can be more destructive in a Revenue office, than corruption, collusion, neglect, and ill qualifications.
Should it be questioned whether an augmentation of salary would remove them, I answer, there is scarce a doubt to be made of it. Human wisdom may possibly be deceived in its wisest designs; but here, every thought and circumstance establishes the hope. They are evils of such a ruinous tendency, that they must, by some means or other, be removed. Rigour and severity have been tried in vain; for punishment loses all its force where men expect and disregard it.
Of late years, the board of Excise has shown an extraordinary tenderness in such instances as might otherwise have affected the circumstances of their officers. Their compassion has greatly tended to lessen the distresses of the employment; but as it cannot amount to a total removal of them, the officers of Excise throughout the kingdom have (as the voice of one man) prepared petitions to be laid before the Honourable House of Commons on the ensuing Parliament.
An augmentation of salary, sufficient to enable them to live honestly and competently, would produce more good effect than all the laws of the land can enforce. The generality of such frauds as the officers have been detected in, have appeared of a nature as remote from inherent dishonesty, as a temporary illness is from an incurable disease. Surrounded with want, children, and despair, what can the husband or the father do? No laws compel like nature— no connections bind like blood.
With an addition of salary, the Excise would wear a new aspect, and recover its former constitution. Languor and neglect would give place to care and chearfulness. Men of reputation and abilities would seek after it, and finding a comfortable maintenance would stick to it. The unworthy and incapable would be rejected, the power of superiors be re-established, and laws and instructions receive new force. The officers would be secured from the temptations of poverty, and the Revenue from the evils of it; the cure would be as extensive as the complaint, and new health out-root the present corruptions.
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST NUMBER OF THE
To the Public.
The design of this work has been so fully expressed in the printed proposals, that it is unnecessary to trouble the reader now with a formal preface; and instead of that vain parade with which publications of this kind are introduced to the public, we shall content ourselves with soliciting their candour, till our more qualified labours shall entitle us to their praise.
The generous and considerate will recollect, that imperfection is natural to infancy ; and that nothing claims their patronage with a better grace than those undertakings which, beside their infant state, have many formidable disadvantages to oppress them.
We presume it is unnecessary to inform our friends that we encounter all the iuconveniencies which a magazine can possibly start with. Unassisted by imported materials, we are destined to create, what our predecessors, in this walk, had only to oompile.—And the present perplexities of affairs have rendered it somewhat difficult for us to procure the necessary aids.
Thus encompassed with difficulties, the first number of The Pennsylvania Magazine entreats a favourable reception; of which we shall only say, like the snow-drop, it comes forth in a barren season, and contents itself with foretelling, that CHOICER Flowers are preparing to appear.
Philadelphia, January 24, 1775.
PETITION TO THE BOARD OF EXCISE.
Honourable Sirs, In humble obedience to your Honours' letter of discharge, bearing date August 29, 1765, I . delivered up my commission, and since that time have given you no trouble.
I confess the justice of your Honours' displeasure, and humbly beg leave to add my thanks for the candour and lenity which you at that unfortunate time indulged me with.
And though the nature of the report and my own confession cut off all expectations of enjoying your Honours' favour then, yet I humbly hope it has not finally excluded me therefrom; upon which hope I humbly presume to in treat your Honours' to restore me.
The time I enjoyed my former commission was short and unfortunate—an officer only a single year. No complaint of the least dishonesty, or intemperance, ever appeared against me; and if I am so happy as to succeed in this my humble petition, I will endeavour that my future conduct shall as much engage your Honours' approbation, as my former has merited your displeasure.
"I am your Honours' most dutiful
London, July 3, 1766.
Herewith I present you with the Case of the Officers of Excise. A compliment of this kind from an entire stranger may appear somewhat singular; but the following reasons and information will, I presume, sufficiently apologize. I act myself in the humble station of an officer of excise, though somewhat differently circumstanced to what many of them are, and have been the principal promoter of a plan for applying to Parliament this session for an increase of salary. A petition for this purpose has been circulated through every part of the kingdom, and signed by all the officers therein. A subscription of three shillings per officer is raised, amounting to upwards of £500, for supporting the expenses. The excise officers, in all cities and corporate towns, have obtained letters of recommendation from the electors to the members in their behalf, many or most of whom have promised their support. The enclosed case we have presented to most of the members, and shall to all, before the petition appear in the House. The memorial before you, met with so much approbation while in manuscript, that I was advised to print 4000 copies: 3000 of which were subscribed for the officers in general, and the remaining 1000 reserved for presents. Since the delivering them I have received so many letters of thanks and approhation for the performance, that were I not rather singularly modest, I should insensibly become a little vain. The literary fame of Dr. Goldsmith has induced me to present oue to him, such as it is. It is my first and only attempt, and even now I should not have undertaken it, had I not been particularly applied to by some of my superiors in office. I have some few questions to trouble Dr. Goldsmith with, and should esteem his company for an hour or two, to partake of a bottle of wine, or any thing else, and apologize for this trouble, as a singular favour conferred on
Excise Coffee House, Broad Street, Dec. 21, 1772.
P. S. Shall take the liberty of waiting on you in a day or two.