Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

bursements of the army, navy, and every public establishment, I am ready to admit, that as far as this proposition goes, it forms a subject worthy the consideration of the house; and the magnitude of it appears to be such, that no man can say what will be the effect of it, or to what particular measures it may lead. Yet, Sir, the honourable gentleman, bringing before the house considerations of such extensive views, and of such high importance, adopts a very singular mode of proceeding. He does not think proper to offer matters so momentous and compli. cated in their relations in a direct manner to parliamentary discussion, but states them as the objects of a collateral inquiry, and introduces them immediately after his motion for retrenchment in the offices of government. But certainly the honourable gentleman will not deny that there is an extreme difference be. tween both objects: for the check which he proposes on the public expenses very much exceeds in importance that reform which he wishes should take place in the establishment and salaries of public offices. The distinction between these two objects being so evident, as the latter does not form any part whatever of the proposition formerly submitted to the house by the hou. nourable gentleman, nor of the notice which he gave of his motion of this night, I must consider the manner of introducing it not only irregular, but inadequate to the magnitude of the inquiry which he proposes to establish. I also think it necessary to remind gentlemen, that the objects which it comprehends, form the grounds of my motion for the appointment of the committee which has been this night chosen by ballot. I stated in general terms, previous to my bringing forward that motion, the various points to which the attention of the committee was to be directed; but I could not, until I had appointed that committee, proceed to offer, in a specific manner, each of these points. I therefore only stated, that it was my wish and desire to move, as an instruction to the committee, that after inquiring into, and ascertaining the whole state of the finances of the country ; after reviewing the whole amount of the debt which had been incurred during the war ; after investigating

[ocr errors]

the provision which had been made to meet it; after considering the probable amount of the total expense of public service for the whole of the year 1797, and the suis now applicable for defraying it ;-I say, Sir, after taking these steps, it was also my intention to move that further instruction should be given to the committee to exercise a full power in forming and digesting a plan for controlling the public expenditure, and to inquire into, and report upon, the best and most practicable means for obtaining a diminution thereof. I therefore, Sir, am not a little surprized, after stating these measures in general termsmeasures which I contend have been sanctioned by the unani. mous concurrence of the house, in consequence of the appointment of the committee for the professed and acknowledged consideration of those very objects, that the honourable gentleman should now bring forward a motion to the same end, and without any previous notice whatever. The instruction for the committee, the nature of which I had thus before stated in general terms, I held in my hand ready to move, when the honourable gentleman brought forward his motion; for I certainly did not think any new proposition on the same subject could be urged, after an express declaration of my desire that the most speedy and effectual measures should be taken, which went to retrench the great and heavy expenses of war, and were of infinitely superior magnitude to any diminution that might be expected in the salaries of the public offices.

Without entering at this moment into a particular discussion, whether there exist any specific grounds to authorize the house to proceed to a reduction of useless offices, or to a retrenchment of profuse salaries, I can only say, that it is not my wish to oppose an inquiry to that effect. But I feel I shall not do my duty to the house and the public, if I were to agree to any other examination than that which I have proposed, and which has received the concurrence of the house. The honourable gentleman has, however, neglected many important, and, indeed, necessary considerations in suggesting his motion. He seems, in the first place, have been unmindful that the

limits of the proposed reduction should be expressly declared. He next forgets, that the steps which have been already taken to effect the same end, should be submitted to the consideration of parliament, as a guide to direct their measures; and above all, that no ill-founded hope may be raised without fully looking into the subject on which the decision is to be formed. If it can appear that retrenchment, both in the number and expense of public offices, is calculated to promote the public service, I am convinced there is no man in this house that will oppose it. But the question now before us is, what are the specific grounds on which the honourable gentleman brings forward his motion? It is incumbent on him to point out, in a decisive manner, abuses which are said to exist in the performance of duties, or in payments for services which are not done for the public. I know, Sir, how very easy it is to give credit out of doors to the reports of abuses in sinecure places and pensions; but I really believe it is a subject as much mistaken as any other of a public nature. I therefore think, in whatever way the inquiry may terminate, that it will not be of much utility. If it can be shewn that there are strong grounds for correcting abuses, much may be gained for the public good; but if, on the contrary, it shall appear that there are no specific grounds to warrant a strong measure of that kind, and that the idea of the prevalence of abuses in the offices of the state is erroneous, much also is gained by removing an opinion, which might otherwise diminish the national confidence. Offices of very different descriptions come within the honourable gentleman's motion : the first which present themselves to notice are absolutely necessary, and in respect to them the inquiry fairly stated is, whether or no the number of offices is more than the different duties of them require; and secondly, whether the reward for the exercise of the various talents and industry necessary for the due execution of them is too great ? It might also form a most important consideration, whether the same talents, the same diligence, and perseverance, at present employed in the performance of the duties annexed to these offices, might not be rewarded in an equal or superior manner, were they applied to and exerted in the ordinary pursuits of life? I have, Sir, no hesitation in saying, that it is an unjust idea to imagine, that the abilities and labour devoted to the service of the public should not be paid as well, and to the full as liberally by the public, as those which are applied in private life to the interest of individuals, and which are rewarded by individual compensation. Next to the offices which I have noticed, and which must be viewed in a necessary light, I come to those which relate to state duties. Many of them are attended with considerable expense for the maintenance of the relative duty they should hold to the high ranks in life of those, near whom they are placed. If we look into the various offices connected with the army, the navy, and the revenue, we shall find, that the wages they receive are not higher than those they might earn by an equal exertion in private life, from individuals; and, therefore, Sir, the real state of the question appears to be, whether they are paid in a larger way by the public, than they would be by particular persons, for the performance of equal services. I only state this, that gentlemen may turn it in their minds, and not be induced to take up the matter in a general view. There are unquestionably offices of another description-of less business and with fewer duties attached to them; but I think it necessary to observe, that they arise out of our ancient manners, and are, in fact, the remnants of former times, attached to the splendour of Majesty, and attendant on the dignity of monarchy. I am not inclined to say what should be the exact sum for duties of this kind. I only maintain, that such offices have ever existed; and such has been the custom of all countries which have been governed by monarchis. This custom has been interwoven in our constitution, and forms an appendage to our mixed government; not for the display of idle parade ; not for the loose gratification of idle vanity, but sanctioned by the authority of our ancestors, and continued for the dignified consistency of appearance in the king of a great and free people. Having noticed this branch

of public duties, I shall only observe, that though not included in the first class, they should notwithstanding be considered as connected with your constitution of mixed monarchy. Another description of offices is of a more invidious nature than any

I have yet mentioned. I allude to sinecure places, which, notwithstanding the ridicule and severity with which they may be commented on by some gentlemen, are capable of being looked at with the

eye

of reason. I shall; Sir, shortly state the principles on which they stand. They stand on the invariable .cus. tom of this country; they are recognized by the solemn decisions of parliament. It will not, I trust, be denied, that the fair principle of honourable remuneration has ever been held a sacred consideration. It will not, I hope, be contested, that a provision and retreat for a life devoted to the public service, has ever been deemed a just and irresistible motive for conferring permanent rewards,

The question then presents itself, whether, at the instant when one common sweep is designed, to remove all offices in which actual duty is not performed, remuneration for actions done in the service of the state is a wise, a just, and an useful principle? Another inquiry will naturally arise, and that is, whether the mode in which they are distributed is more liable to abuse than any other? In the consideration of this question, I will not confidently maintain that the first principle of remuneration may not sometimes be misapplied, as it frequently depends on chance, discretion, and various causes, which it is

for me to enumerate. It may also be objected, that it cannot be ascertained by a precise rule how to reward precise merit. But then, Sir, I say, can any other method more efficacious, more independent of abuses, and less liable to errors, be adopted? Can any other mode be pointed out in which chance and discretion are to be completely laid aside ? Supe pose, Sir, for a moment, that even an application to parliament should be made the constitutional way of bestowing this kind of Tewar ds; can it be imagined that such a proceeding would pro

unnecessary

VOL. III.

« ZurückWeiter »