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frescoes which disfigure their walls, and whether an image of Oliver Cromwell should be set up under their roof.*

Although the tender of advice is an almost self-condemned attempt, still, it may be remarked, that an opportunity for usefulness of a signal character, and a most decided improvement in our financial usage remains at the service of a House of Commons anxious to set its mark upon the annals of Parliament. Such a House, with all the persistency of Joseph Hume, and with all the eloquence it could muster, should urge the Government to make one, and but one annual statement of estimated expenditure; and it should insist that the statement of probable outlay made in March should be adhered to, even during the dog days. As our incoming moneys are invariably presented to Parliament in a single bag, called the Budget, possessing but one mouth and one bottom; so also should our outgoing moneys be put together before the House of Commons, in one bag, fashioned in as simple a manner. But Parliamentary practice assigns to the national receipts, and to the national expenditure, usage diametrically different. The sums to be paid away are laid upon the Table of the House in many bags, called by different names, and constructed in different ways; and these bags are opened and closed, whenever opportunity affords a chance. A fragmentary, interrupted treatment of the imposition of fiscal burthens would not be for an instant tolerated; the taxation of each year is reviewed, always, in a consecutive and coherent manner. The same method should be applied to those charges which necessitate that taxation. A master in finance has told the Commons, and that not once only, that their power of exercising any real control' over the public purse, depended upon their 'permitting no deviation, except under very grave and exceptional circumstances, from the principle of one estimate of expense, and one of revenue,' applicable to each Session.†

Certain as is the wisdom of that counsel, equally certain would be the difficulty of enforcing it. A large public meeting, swayed by impulses which sway an Empire, whose very being is the creature of party strife, cannot conform itself always to times and seasons. Take for example the present Parliament. What chance had a new Member of comprehending, even to a partial degree, the financial operations of his first Session? For he had not sat through three days of business, before he

*Hans. Deb.,' 3rd series, 164, 165. † Mr. Gladstone, July 23rd, 1866. February 18th, 1867. Ibid., 185, 499.

'Hans. Deb.,' 3rd scries, 184, 1292.


was called upon to pass votes of excess, supply votes, and votes 'on account;' and thus to sanction, merely as a prelude to the regular estimates, an expenditure running backward to the year 1872, and onward to the 31st of March, 1875.


The abrupt dissolution of 1874 was the cause of that financial complication. The result it produced, should not be contrasted with the wise counsel given by the author of that dissolution. That statesman, doubtless, kept within his rule, and considered that very grave' circumstances had arisen compelling a deviation from the principle he so earnestly had advocated. Moreover, if he cared for such a mode of defence, an arrray of precedents might be pleaded towards his justification. For somehow or other, grave and exceptional' circumstances occur, apparently, every Session, judging by the experience of the last ten years! Not one single year, since 1864, has passed by, in which the original estimate of expenditure proved sufficient, and was not largely swelled beyond its first dimension by the addition of retrospective and prospective demands to answer past and future excesses.


A large margin, obviously, must be allotted to every Government to meet cost arising from unforeseen emergencies. Yet, at least, the Commons might reasonably require an approximate statement of that margin, and might insist on a stringent reckoning if it were greatly exceeded. And though formal precautions never prove a strong bulwark against habits of long standing caused by the pressure of daily life; still some practical device might be contrived to impede a too facile passage through the House of those supplementary estimates,' which each Session so invariably witnesses. No special usage is prescribed for these documents; yet, as their design is to make fresh demands for objects which Parliament had amply considered, and, as it thought, had amply met, excuse rarely can be drawn for those new demands out of the chapter of accidents. The show of a becoming penitence might surely be required from ministers, who thus openly confess that they are frail miscalculators? The drapery of white sheets, and an ignominious position at a church door, was the punishment, under ecclesiastical law, for errors of frailty; and analogy suggests that a minister guilty of such a fault should stand forth, and apologise in a Committee of the whole House' for his financial irregularity, and beg, at its hands, the acceptance of his supplementary estimate. In all seriousness, these estimates are too easily floated out amid the daily deluge of papers which are the sessional torment, or delight of our representatives; and Chancellors of the Exchequer, or Secretaries to the Treasury, like-minded

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like-minded to the present holders of those offices, would gladly accept any check upon the importunity of those who escaping in the recesses of Whitehall the burden and heat of the night in Westminster, are the authors or suggestors of those excess demands.

And, trusting that the importance of the subject will excuse more dry minutiae of a dry subject, it may be noticed, that occasionally in Committee of Supply the money votes run off in a rapid and unbroken stream over the Chairman's lips, and are accepted without remonstrance by those around. A sensitive member of the community, but not of the House, who chances to see the load of taxation piled, with such seeming heedlessness upon his shoulders, feels a natural soreness. The provocation, however, is more seeming than real; no opposition was offered to those votes, because, in truth, no opposition was possible. Still, a hint may be received, even from the feelings of a galled tax-payer. The House might gain practical aid, and offence might be avoided, by a classification of the miscellaneous estimates, by the concentration of the pages specifying grants which can be considered unquestionable into one page, to be taken in one aggregate vote. Examination might prove that many items of Civil Service expenditure, though nominally submitted for discussion, no longer are capable of dispute. Either they are small rills of cost springing from emotional impulses which acted on us in past years, such as allowances to 'distressed Poles,' contributions which it would be ungenerous to deny; or else they are grants based on national compact, such as allowances to Dublin hospitals, or payments in discharge of equivalents under the Treaty of Union with Scotland. That union has brought its own equivalent; it assuredly justifies an annual donation of 21007.

In conclusion, the fact that responsibility for outlay which is to come, rests chiefly on the Government, and that responsibility for outlay which is past, remains the special charge of the House of Commons, does not restrict the field for rightly directed efforts after economy. Well-grounded opposition does arrest expensive tendencies, if exerted at the outset. A proposed large outlay on a harbour, was very recently prevented, or at least delayed; and the Commons, by an undoubted indication of their determination not to entertain such Army Estimates, were presented during the Session of 1848, compelled a subsequent reduction of those estimates to the extent of 3,000,0007.* Yet what, it may be asked, does the popular


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* Hans. Deb.' 3rd series, 144, 2158. Public Income, &c., Return (366), Sess. 1869, Part II., p. 704.


method of advocating economy by repeated attempts to cut down the estimates do, but harm? Being efforts directed against the settled disposition of the House, as a rule those efforts fail. And this is the result of these repeated failures; they have discredited the sacred cause of thrift, retarded the realisation of salutary financial reforms, and obscured the operative action of Parliament upon the estimates. That action, working over a wide area and to important ends, can only be obtained by the united pressure of the community and of Parliament, pushing the body politic into the way it should go; so vast is that body, that it must 'move altogether, if it move at all.' National expenditure is the expression of national life; that expenditure and that life are, of necessity, linked with the very existence of a ministry; hence nothing but an influence affecting the whole tenor of that existence can create a wise and universal spirit of economy.

The power of the Commons formerly rested wholly upon their control over the public purse, because thereby they controlled monarchs. That control is still the source of most of their authority, because it endows them with a direct claim upon the people's regard. But in the very directness of that claim lies its peculiar almost terrible character. Unfaltering in operation, it suffers no escape from evil, or good repute. Respect, or disrespect stand at the heels of every trustee of other people's money; his choice must lie between these two attendants upon that duty. Yet, fence it how you may, it is a duty most liable to misconstruction. The money grants which yearly come before Parliament are many in number, and large in amount; and yet they are passed, almost invariably, without reduction. Much also has been spent on purposeless fortifications, and unstable ships; and for this, at first sight, Parliament seems directly to blame. That this is an error we have endeavoured to explain. Parliament is to blame if the permanent officers of State remain free to act as faithless or foolish stewards of the supplies which Parliament intrusts to them; but as expenditure depends upon administration, the Executive is primarily responsible both for the demand, and the application of those supplies.

If the scope of the financial function discharged by the House of Commons is not very clearly appreciated, even within its walls; and if that scope be more limited, than is commonly supposed,-necessity the more rests upon the House to make the power it does possess, a distinct and visible force. Sir James Graham, whose words cannot be slighted, felt regret at the willingness which the House evinced to accept proposals he was once compelled to make, for augmented outlay


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upon the Navy; he knew those demands to be just; yet he remarked, that he would have been better pleased, had the Commons been less easily intreated to grant so large a sum.' Something of the same feeling, also, appears in that hard saying, that the tendency of the House of Commons is to alleviate taxation, and to increase expenditure.

There exists, however, a security against misconstruction of inestimable value, which Parliament both deserves and enjoys. It is known to all, that the hidden things of dishonesty' do not lie concealed either in Westminster or Whitehall; that the era of jobs and sinecures is over; that our expenditure is freed from the taint of undue influence; and that a wise application of our resources is the desire and object of the Legislature. The knowledge also that, aided by those able officers who superintend the receipt and distribution of public money, and by the action of the Committee of Accounts, Parliament does strictly scrutinise into the national disbursements, must diffuse, as time passes, an increasing and a wholesome influence.

But a just appreciation, so rightly accorded to Parliament, should not tempt that assembly to suppose that it is above criticism because it is above suspicion, and to forget that the charge of money is a charge ever demanding a jealous watchfulness.

This article has not carried us beyond the outworks of our subject; those who desire to penetrate further throughout the whole range of study afforded by our Parliamentary Government, may gladly avail themselves of the assistance of Mr. Alpheus Todd. With the utmost care and research he has compiled a very complete commentary on the working of our political organisation, and on the duties intrusted to our public Departments. Did we not esteem a Canadian as one of ourselves, surprise might be felt that so valuable a contribution to English constitutional literature, should have been sent to us from across the Atlantic.

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ART. IX.-1. Our Seamen,' an Appeal. By Samuel Plimsoll, M.P. London, 1873.

2. Reports of the Royal Commission on Unseaworthy Ships. Presented to Parliament in 1873 and 1874.

3. Debates in Parliament on the Merchant Shipping Bills of 1875.


HERE can be no doubt that the questions raised in the above publications and debates must receive the early

*Sir J. Graham, 'Life,' &c., by Mr. Torrens, M.P., ii. 568.


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