Sat 19th May 1810
The Memorial from the Court of the City of London to the King about Walcheren was originally rather strongly-worded but ministers obtained a revision.
Mr Waithman’s original proposal, which was adopted by the Court, refers to City ‘grief and indignation’ at the recent ‘unwise, ill-digested, ill-conducted and calamitous’ expedition to the Scheldt whereby the blood and treasure of Britain have been ‘scandalously wasted’.
It accused HM’s confidential advisers of being ‘regardless of the sufferings of the people and the honour of the King’ and ‘insensible or indifferent to the dangers and impending fate of the country’. They have instead engaged in ‘contemptible squabbles, intrigues and cabals, disreputable to government and ruinous to the country.’
It attributes a long train of grievances to ‘the corruption and abuse of the state and the consequent want of constitutional parliamentary control over public expenditure and the ministers of the Crown,’ which latter it designates as irresponsible. The merchants prayed for an enquiry into the plans and instructions upon which the expedition was based, and into the conduct and competence of the commanding officers, and they beseeched HM to instantly reconvene parliament to do so.
The ministerial revision is a humble approach to HM for his graceful condescension in convening parliament to consider ‘the disastrous failure of the Walcheren expedition’ and to consider ‘the unhappy dissensions that have prevailed amongst ministers’ which we fear may prejudice the interests of the nation. It prays for an enquiry into causes.
The King says ‘no – it will be for my parliament to consider appropriate action’.
Sat 19th May 1810
The Edinburgh Review has written a summary of the ministry’s recent measures, which concludes with a fundamentally important point:
“The authors of our calamities cannot prevent a House of Commons debate on their acts. They have not yet defended themselves. They first sought to make Castlereagh the scapegoat but finally accepted joint responsibility.
“Our prospects in this war have become dismal. Europe’s confidence in England has evaporated. Every country that has sided with us has been partitioned and its government impoverished; the young impressionable King of Sweden lost Finland and was forced to abdicate; The Portuguese fled their country, and the brave Spanish peasantry are being sacrificed by their officers. There is not one ruler from Porto to Petersburg who is willing to talk with us. Even the Americans under Madison are moving closer to France. We have monopolised all the goods of the World but cannot sell them.
“All ministers say is that ‘the King is very old and has reigned for half a century.’ It seems they think his removal from the scene will solve everything. It remains to be seen if the ministry can retain the submission of country MPs to get everything approved and covered-up. If they succeed, this Review will be at the forefront of those demanding the punishment of the responsible people.
“If ministers say there is no blame, they are not representative of the people; if they say it is inexpedient to apportion blame (because they would be thrown out) we will have conclusive proof that ministries are beyond the power of the people. The concept of responsibility for ruling on behalf of the people, the idea of representative democracy itself, will be shown to be a sham.
“The House of Commons will then act solely in its money-raising role as an instrument of taxation. That would complete the alienation of government from people.
“This endless war has revealed a perpetual truism – that there is an intimate connection between foreign policy and the happiness of the people. We need to watch our rulers.”
Sat 2nd June 1810
The Livery of London assembled early January to receive the Sheriff’s Report concerning presentation of the City’s Address to the King. Normally, they would present it at a levee but public levees were discontinued in 1805 as the King is functionally blind. The Lord Mayor attended the next private levee intending to present it but was intercepted by a Secretary of State who asked for it saying he would save the Mayor the trouble. The Mayor said he would give it to no-one except the King. Now ministers say the King already knows what it says and refuses to receive it at a private levee. They say he desires it be presented to the Secretaries of State.
Only the two universities and the Corporation of London have the historical right of direct petitioning. A freeholder of Middlesex noted that constituency had petitioned several years before and been required to deliver it to a Secretary. On the change of ministry after Pitt, their petition had been found with the seal unbroken in that Secretary’s office. This is more like the reign of Charles II than George III, one said.
There was much anger. One Constitutional prerogative is access to the King. It distinguishes despotisms from popular governments. It was proposed that the Livery reassert its right to petition H M on his throne, characterise ministerial denial as a ‘flagrant violation of right’, that complaints against ministers are useless if they can only be submitted to ministers and that whoever advised the King to not receive this Address had violated the Constitution, etc.
The Lord Mayor, sheriffs and a preponderance of the members agreed. Only Sir William Curtis, Sir James Shaw, Sheriff Atkins and a few others disagreed.
More evidence of ministerial rip-offs was presented. Waithman said the related families of Hertford and Castlereagh received £40,000 a year of public money. £31,000 of this is for offices managed by their nominees. Perceval’s family gets £46,000 a year in the same way. A job in the ministry is like winning the lottery.
It was resolved that the Address be published in the daily newspapers.
Sat 2nd June 1810
The City of London has held an election. It has 26 wards and 17 were contested. It is the first time in 40 years that City representation has attracted so much interest. 35 new members were returned and they are all people critical of the government.
Had the election been held a few days earlier, the original critical Address of Alderman Waithman would have gone to the King. Instead, Alderman Atkins was there to put the ministry’s craven demands and he got his amendment. His supporters have now been heavily reduced in numbers and influence.
Farrington Without is the biggest ward and Waithman won that with 713 votes. The next biggest, Farrington Within, returned two new faces. New candidates won in Cripplegate Without and Aldersgate. In most wards those members who had voted for the original Address received thanks and support.
There are rotten wards in the City just like rotten boroughs in the country. In the six wards Billingsgate, Bridge, Broad Street, Candlewick, Tower and Walbrook the total votes cast was 723. These wards return 63 members. In the six biggest (more democratic) wards 2,376 voters return 64 members.
Sat 2nd June 1810
The rumour of Lord Melville’s return to power has its basis in an offer of the job of Colonial Secretary that Perceval made to Melville’s son, Robert Dundas. Dundas said he would have to ask Dad and Dad said he wanted a job too.
Perceval said giving Melville a job might have been possible for Pitt but he himself found it too difficult. He said if Melville would give his support, he would commend the King to grant him an Earldom.
Melville replied that Perceval must be crazy if he thought the King would grant him an Earldom. He said he would vilify Perceval’s administration to everyone.
Sat 2nd June 1810
More bad news for the ministry. Sir George Villiers has £300,000 missing from his account. He is Paymaster of the Marines. It is another result of the measures of Fox’s brief liberal ministry that did so much for the people – they established the Board for Auditing the Public Accounts.
It is somehow satisfying to know Villiers has been caught and rather less so to observe the general impunity of those who steal. The immense sum missing from Sir George’s cashbox is not one hit – he had been milking the accounts for years. The public fear is that the whistle-blower is in for a desperately hard time.
Villiers took over the Paymasters job from Gabriel Stewart in 1792. Since then no audit of the account has been attempted. Villiers’ First Clerk was Edmund Waters who is said to have had the management of everything.
The procedure of the Paymaster’s Office is to estimate the cash requirement for the coming month and draw that amount from the Bank of England. This gave rise to an unused fund in the Paymaster’s control that would have incrementally grown had it been allowed to accumulate. Its like Melville at the Admiralty.
An attempt was made several years ago to penetrate the obfuscation of the Marine Paymaster’s accounts and a tentative figure of £284,000 was thought to be missing at end 1804. Villiers then produced his own account which introduced some formerly unknown transfers and appeared to reduce the amount due on his personal account to £250,000 at end 1804. He has now resigned the Paymastership and been appointed to a diplomatic post in Spain where British expenditure is unregulated.
The King has particularly favoured Villiers with the use of Cranbourne Lodge and the Paymaster fitted it out sumptuously. Villiers is said to have confined his expenditure in the Lodge to agricultural experiments.
The investments of Villiers’ First Clerk Waters on the other hand have been of many sorts. He has been merchant, manufacturer, contractor, broker, builder, ironmonger, stage manager, warehouseman, dealer and chapman of every known commodity. He had just returned from a business trip to America when this fraud was exposed.
Villiers has for long had a close relationship with the King and has been rewarded with two sinecures – Marshall of the Bahamas Islands and Registrar of the Admiralty Court at Gibraltar.
He is replaced by General Phipps, the brother of Lord Mulgrave who himself is currently First Lord of the Admiralty. Phipps is said to have agreed to keep the Marine funds in the Bank of England and not make the monthly withdrawals.
In an similar but unrelated matter, Joseph Hunt, the Clerk of the Deliveries of the Ordnance (effectively treasurer of the Board of Ordnance), was also criticised by the Board for Auditing the Public Accounts. The deficiencies in his accounts exceed £80,000. He was not required to give any securities and in February he left the country for America. We suppose he will return.
The independent Board for Auditing the Public Accounts is also about to announce the results of an enquiry into the Prize Agency. Apparently there is a gung-ho attitude to records there as well.
Mon 2nd July 1810 Extraordinary
Whitbread moved for a House of Commons enquiry into the Scheldt expedition. It was a close vote with the ministry going down 178 / 171.
Tues 3rd July 1810 Extraordinary
The Earl of Chatham wrote a report on his expedition to the Scheldt on 15th October 1809 but he presented it directly to the King on 15th January 1810 and the formal position is that he declines to inform the ministry of its contents. The narrative is believed inter alia to implicate Admiral Strachan who, likewise, has been unable to get a copy.
On 10th February the report was returned to Chatham and on 14th February he gave it back to the King with one paragraph deleted. The House of Commons is infuriated by Chatham’s end-run around their authority. A long debate ensued which the ministry lost 221 / 188. Castlereagh and Canning both voted against Perceval.
Chatham has resigned his job as Master-General of Ordinance. He was then examined in the House of Commons concerning the Walcheren debacle.
Jack Fuller MP for Sussex, put several questions to him which both the Earl and the House ignored. When Chatham withdrew, still without answering, Fuller became distressed. He said “God damn me Sir, I have as much right to be heard as any man who is paid for filling the place he holds.”
The Speaker told the House that a member had used unparliamentary language, a breach of the privileges of the House, and he named him Fuller. He ordered the MP to withdraw. Fuller declined. The Chancellor of the Exchequer ordered he be arrested. Fuller went out and sat in the lobby. When he heard the result of the vote, he rushed onto the floor of the House and shouted ‘that insignificant little fellow in the wig has not the authority to arrest a representative of the people. He is the servant of the Members not their master’.
It took the Serjeant-at-Arms and four messengers to restrain Fuller. He was discharged from prison two days later after expressing contrition. He then returned to the House to receive a formal reprimand from the Speaker.
Sat 7th July 1810
The Earl of Chatham has complained to the House of Commons about Admiral Sir Richard Strachan, his naval commander in the joint operation at Walcheren. The Admiral never mentioned any problem in his dispatches. It seems British forces have not yet evolved much expertise in combined operations.
The ministry’s first defence was that the expedition was made at the behest of Austria. This did not accord with Austrian communications of the time which actually indicated strong disapproval. The Austrian minister at Antwerp told his government that a British descent on the Weser or the Elbe four to six weeks earlier would have been of great help.
Sir Lucas Pepys does not come out well either. He is the army’s chief medical officer and was supposed to investigate the fever on Walcheren but declined to go ‘on the grounds of his health’ and sent Dr Blane instead.
Sat 28th July 1810
Lord Porchester has chaired the parliamentary inquiry into the Walcheren Expedition and has presented his findings to House of Commons:
He says it was the most oppressive job he had ever attempted. This was the noblest armament that had ever been sent on overseas service by a British government – 39,000 troops, 37 capital ships, 29 frigates, 31 sloops, 5 bomb vessels and 23 gun brigs. Both its size and its failure has astonished all Europe. His conclusion was that ‘defeat might have been augured from the beginning’ as indeed every distinguished naval and military authority had foretold.
After the defeat of Sir John Moore’s army in Spain (see the Iberia chapter) the sick and injured remnant that had been brought back from Corunna was incapable of service; their arms and equipment were largely useless, yet the minister had misled parliament with assertions of their fitness for immediate redeployment at Walcheren.
A second embarrassment was, with 25,000 men out of service, we could not find an extra 15,000 in the whole of England although the people have been paying for an immense army for years. Ministers concealed this – it only came to light in the course of this enquiry.
As regards planning, Castlereagh’s letter to the CiC says he has no information on the numbers of enemy troops in Holland or on the state of military preparedness there but a great number of troops on Dutch coastal defence had just been marched into the interior (supposedly to reinforce French armies in Austria) and the Brabant coast was less well-defended than it might ever be again. Sir David Dundas, the CiC, took the advice of five staff officers before replying. He told Castlereagh the intelligence was insufficient to form an opinion and he expressly warned against proceeding until it had been improved. He then described two modes of attack should the intelligence support it. He was formerly a commander at Antwerp and knew the defences were designedly strong enough to withstand a siege until the whole force available in Paris, Westphalia and Flanders should arrive to reinforce it.
We have the recent example of Sir Sidney Smith at Acre if we were in any doubt about this sort of matter.
General Calvert was even more damning. He noted that the forts on the Scheldt must be taken before the fleet could pass up the river to take positions where a bombardment of Antwerp might be attempted. Taking those forts and besieging those towns could not be completed before enemy reinforcements arrived.
Colonel Gordon described the enterprise as ‘a most desperate measure’. General Broderick took a similar view. Only General Hope, by assuming the precise strength of the enemy was known and our force adequate for that, allows an inference that the attack might have been attempted but concludes that it would have done little good if it succeeded and great damage if it failed.
Castlereagh was undeterred by this advice and sought the opinions of naval men who have been having a good war and might be expected to be more optimistic. Sir Home Popham commended the plan if it could be launched before mid-June.
Somehow the ministry ignored the army advice and Popham’s condition and launched its own plan of attack. Lord Mulgrave was as ardent as Castlereagh that the country needed a victory and Antwerp was to be it. We were going to capture the French fleet in Brabant, destroy the arsenals and dockyards of Antwerp, and make the Scheldt unnavigable. It is probably true that, had the siege been successful and Antwerp fallen to the British army, it could have been provisioned by sea and held indefinitely by a maritime power like England.
The ministry failed to supply bullion to the commanders, which is as important as guns and ammunition.
Castlereagh’s actual instructions refer to ‘a second, ulterior, simultaneous operation’. On 23rd June Castlereagh told the CiC he had the King’s agreement to attack and it then became apparent that this ‘second operation’ was to render the Scheldt unnavigable by some extraordinary and undescribed ‘coup de main’.
The expedition had totally one pilot for the navigation of the Scheldt while that man (Johnson, a dashing but notorious British smuggler) said every ship would need a pilot to navigate the many sandbanks. Castlereagh’s plan for taking Antwerp was in the alternative – either we take it by assault or by bombardment. The military opinion was that neither method could hope to succeed. It was adequately apparent that the expedition’s objects could not be achieved (unless the gates of Antwerp were opened to us) and the army was to be sacrificed for some other unknown political object.
A second aspect of the enquiry related to the seasonal infectious disease encountered on Walcheren. This was well-known to professional men – it arises in late summer and declines in October. It is a recurrent fever from which few perfectly recover. Over 14,000 British troops caught this disease. The ministry was aware of it because a minister (Lord Mulgrave) had served on the island in 1794 and his men had suffered from it at that time. The report says it was intolerable that the thousands of sick troops owed their warm clothing, blankets and medicines to smugglers and not to official suppliers who were delayed by administrative procedures.
It is a recommendation of this enquiry that the Secretary having conduct of the war be empowered to control all aspects of it. The epidemic was reported to the ministry on 2nd September whereas Castlereagh resigned on 8th September and Lord Liverpool’s first response to it was in a letter dated 17th September. Ministerial action was taken on 4th November and the final evacuation of Walcheren was effected on 23rd December. This delay was largely attributable to ministerial squabbles.
The best defence of the ministry was that the expedition was to relieve pressure on the Austrians. In fact the Austrian Emperor, then holding Court at Buda on the Danube, requisitioned a British assault on Italy, Spain or north Germany and his minister did not know where Walcheren was. Besides the rejection of Austrian preferences, the size of our army could hardly have had much significance in relieving Austria in consideration of the numbers of men engaged in that campaign.
The report concludes that the expedition should not have been attempted. That it was a waste of brave men and that it was forced upon the country ‘by the rashness, ignorance and impotence of those who planned it’.
Castlereagh rose to answer. He is the minister most closely identified with the project. He characterised the Enquiry as partisan. It was concurrent with another Enquiry into the same subject by the Judge Advocate General. He denied that the expedition had really been tried. The latter part had not even commenced – it was abandoned. No true view could be formed unless the whole plan had been attempted.
He had not answered the Enquiry’s questions on the five military and one naval opinion he had sought prior to the proposed expedition because he was not obliged to produce those opinions to the House. The written opinions of Generals are always tentative and full of caveats whilst their verbal advices were supportive and optimistic. He noted that, having seen the files, there had been no written opinions given to the previous ministry on Sidney Smith’s expedition to the Dardanelles or on Popham’s invasion of Buenos Aires. It was clearly not the practice of British ministers to obtain written military opinions on expeditions. The precise course of expeditions and the extent of resistance they encounter are ‘unknowns’. One trusts to the judgement of the man-on-the-spot to make the best of it.
Castlereagh noted the Earl of Chatham’s instructions to Sir Richard Mordaunt on the Rochefort Expedition (in 1759 – which completely failed) said ‘nothing will annoy the enemy more than an attack on Rochefort – do your best to burn or destroy the docks, arsenal and shipping’ and parliament voted their thanks for Mordaunt’s failure.
The City has estimated the expedition cost £15 millions; the opposition say it was £5 millions. I can tell you it was less than £1 million. Most of the troops were sent over in the fleet – the charter of transports (the expensive part of any expedition) was minimal.
France and Austria had just fought the battle of Aspern. Their losses were several tens of thousands of men. How could we not share in the sacrifice and disallow 40,000 British troops from attacking Brabant, keep them safe at home, and leave Austria to decide the matter alone? We imperatively had to show solidarity. Antwerp was a temporary weakness in French defences. Much of the garrison had gone to fight in Austria. General Brownrigg estimated French troop strength in Brabant at 30,000 men including the naval crews. The ministry’s information about Antwerp (from a secret source) revealed there were prospects of capturing it by a coup de main. We expected to take it by escalading and there was the historical precedent of Breda and Bergen-op-Zoom (which quickly fell to Dumouriez in the Revolutionary War). Had not Copenhagen surrendered to avoid continued bombardment? Copenhagen had outworks, Antwerp had none.
It was in British commercial interest to try and seize Antwerp. Had we seized and retained the city we would have had an impregnable base for subversion. Who is to say that the people of northern Europe might not rise against the French? (the King of Hesse and the Duke of Brunswick had both shown some disposition to espouse the English cause). We had just fomented an insurrection around Stralsund. It was worth the risks.
It was not on a cold assessment of risk that General Wolfe ascended the heights of Quebec or Nelson made his attacks off Copenhagen and Trafalgar or Sir J Stuart at Maida (the late expedition at Calabria). England must dare to take chances. (cheering and universal applause)
The debate goes on but nothing material is revealed. Ministers get off 275 / 227.
Sat 18th Aug 1810
Edinburgh Review No XXX; Review of the state of the parties at end 1809:
This article is addressed to the British people whose opinions are supposed to direct parliament and thence the cabinet but seem in fact to be disintegrating into partisan squabbles.
The root of all our problems lies in the state of the people and nowhere else. If the people are inculcated in corruption and depravity, they have no hope of improving their representation. To demonstrate this would take more space than we have. We ask you to rely on the reputation of this journal and trust our assertion of the fact.
There is no more middle ground in politics. The country has been chopped in two – the courtiers who favour arbitrary power and the democrats who favour revolution and Republicanism. A tiny residue is comprised of the old Constitutional Whigs whose great talents, love of liberty and moderation have left them with neither power nor popularity. The schism is characterised by greater excess – each group increases as the calm and neutral centre, on which the Constitutional Whigs take their ground, diminishes.
This country’s best hope to preserve its liberties is for the Constitutionalists to end their useless neutrality, take one or other of the contending positions and endeavour to moderate proceedings from within by the weight of their characters and the force of their arguments. It is our belief that the Whig leaders should conciliate then moderate the demands of the people. The present popular leaders will lead their followers into early graves. They must be replaced by thoughtful and moderate people or not only will the monarchy and the aristocracy be extinguished but the Constitution as well.
Our critics say the Constitution is made of sterner stuff – there have always been people hankering to monopolise power and others wishing to give democracy a chance. Why should we worry now?
It is true that the rich, the submissive and the mentally-indolent will always favour the status quo while the desperately poor, the enterprising and the malcontented will favour change. The dynamic relationship between the representatives of these groups underlies the vigour of our system. The proponents of oligarchy and democracy are restrained not just by the Constitution but by the indifference of the people who, like spectators at a fight, enjoy the skill of the contenders.
This dynamism was maintained until very recently because the great mass of the people took no interest in political organisation. They had their predictable way of life and wished only to preserve the even tenor of their lives.
Should this great sleeping mass awake and takes sides we will have civil war. Those neutral spectators are becoming partisan fanatics. Some wish to invade the playing-field and partake in the competition. The nature of our society has changed and the lower orders have been raised to a greater importance than they hitherto held. The revolutions in America, France and elsewhere resulted from a failure to recognise and accommodate this change. The events of the last twenty years satisfactorily account for the present state of our society. The increased appeal of democracy is revealed in the immense and increasing circulation of Cobbett’s Political Register and similar newspapers.
The success of plebeian revolution, the exalted status of low-born men under it, the exposure of weakness in monarchy and aristocracy and the degraded state of those institutions in revolutionary countries, have excited the masses everywhere.
On the other hand, the failure of anti-Jacobin propaganda, the predictable uniformity of oligarchical short-comings, the palpable mismanagement of successive administrations, the burden of taxation and the peril of imminent invasion have convinced many that change is essential.
This latter group greatly outnumbers the former. Today when one considers an administration, one looks for haughtiness, falsehood and corruption and overlooks achievement. There is nothing so base that cannot be said of politicians.
After twenty years of arrogant hostility Britain is left alone, without a single ally, in imminent expectation of invasion. Our people on average have a third of their income taken from them in taxes. Patronage has increased threefold over the same period. We should not be surprised by a general feeling of discontent and distrust and a suspicion that our vaunted Constitution is not as good as we make it out to be. If the whole population takes sides, one part behind Cobbett and Sir Francis Burdett and the other behind John Gifford and John Bowles, it is clear that civil war is inevitable.
We have unwittingly stimulated the roots of this potential rebellion by the repeated expressions of contempt and derision expressed between the parties. The advocates of strong government have exasperated their opponents with menaces and abuse and defended the indefensible simply because it forms part of their familiar scene. Their needless ostentation of power and their resolution to use it for unjustifiable and offensive ends has antagonised us all. This unfortunate tone, which was first brought into being by Pitt, has been maintained by his successors with less reason and is a principal cause of popular alienation.
There are three points that the democrats insist upon and which should be granted – the retrenchment of our national expenditure, the punishment of delinquent politicians and the reform of elections to permit the return of popular representatives.
Sat 25th Aug 1810
The House of Commons debated the Third Report of the Committee of Public Expenditure on 19th March 1810. MPs seemed generally convinced of the need to economise. The national debt now totals about £784 millions and annual interest payment required to service it is £30 million (under 4% interest rate).
Martin said the value of pensions paid annually by the British government now exceeds £1.5 millions. Pensions were limited under Burke’s Bill to £1,200 p. a. but had incrementally increased to over £2,000 p. a. This should be brought under the control of parliament, he said.
Martin deplored the increase in the King’s influence which was readily apparent, not just from pensions, but from the increases in the army, navy and ordnance. In 1780 we had 837 general officers, now we have 2,080 all receiving their commissions from the King. The costs of maintaining the navy and the ordnance has tripled in 30 years. To these traditional areas of royal patronage he should add the new Barrack Establishment (the unit building army barracks near all major towns – £45,000 in salaries, £9 millions in business), the Transport Board and the Board of Control. Every new colony we obtained from the Dutch or the French created its own crop of places that contributed to the King’s influence. It was manifestly apparent that the influence of the King had increased.
Creevey complained that the Third Report was produced two years ago and nothing had yet been done. He said there were glaring abuses in this very House:
- The Registrar of the High Court of Admiralty, a place in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Perceval) has a reversionary interest, pays £18,000 a year, $8,000 of which is paid in fees for access by suitors.
- The droits of Admiralty amounted at the time of the report (1808) to £8 millions of which £2 millions can be accounted for. The Attorney General says these droits are the absolute property of the King but what does he want £6 million for?
- The proceeds of the subsequent sale of the Dutch and Danish fleets and merchantmen were droits and must have been an immense source of funds.
- The Bank of England is today protected by government in a deal whereby it withholds the issue of specie from its customers and gets to manage the burgeoning public debt. In return it supports the ministry with the votes it commands in parliament. Can those Bank Directors who are MPs discharge their duty to their constituents by differing from the ministry?
- It is the same with all the other great commercial institutions of the City. The India Company has extensive debts in England, £32 millions of debt in India, and their expectation that the ministry will foot the bill assures their votes.
- On assuming the government of England, a minister pays-off all the power centres of the country in return for their support in whatever scheme attracts his or the King’s attention.
- What about the Scottish pensions list and the pensions on the 4½% stock? In 1784 there were two MPs pensioned on the 4½%s, today there are seventeen of them, all inevitably voting with the minister. That 4½% stock was raised for a specified purpose – not the paying-off of MPs.
- Licenses to trade with the enemy are another source of influence for the King. Every member of the Board of Trade knows the extent of licences issued to MPs. MPs also have a huge share of government contracts.
- When Huskisson was Secretary of the Treasury he got himself appointed Agent for Ceylon. As Agent he submitted the accounts of that new colony to himself as Treasury Secretary for approval.
These are the sort of questions that this House should be asking to clarify the increase in the King’s patronage, Creevey thought.
Dundas for the ministry said that the Board of Control was not involved. It only had two writerships for India and even those nominations were subject to the Directors’ approval.
Baring thought the granting of licences to trade with the enemy did empower the King. British trade was now carried on by licence not law – its more like Turkey than Europe, he said. He was sure the Treasury obtained great patronage from the sale of licences but Baring had found it difficult to learn how they used the fund.
Perceval said if Baring, with all his resources, cannot discover how the fund is used, it must be OK.
Barham said the danger was this – two merchants apply for a licence to trade to the same place; one gets his issued first and commences his voyage first and likely arrives first; he gets the best prices. The other arrives later to find the market glutted – that was the abuse that merchants detested.
Rose said that no such thing could happen – the Licensing Board met six days a week; every licence was issued the day after application; it was a public office where everyone could see what was being transacted.
Bankes conceded that, where there was both an efficient office and a nominal one covering the same function, we should cancel the nominal ones as they fall vacant. However he did not wish to deprive the King of his means of rewarding services. Perhaps the best compromise was to incrementally abolish sinecures and replace them with pensions, he thought.
Perceval said the House would never agree to so materially diminish the prerogative of the King.
Whitbread said the power of a King should not derive from sinecures but from the affection and confidence of his people. He thought the House of Commons would have to grasp the nettle of reform and should do so sooner rather than later.
Sat 6th Oct 1810
Lord Wellesley commended the King to accept Canning in the ministry. The King told him he would accept no-one who was unacceptable to Perceval.
Sat 17th Nov 1810
House of Commons debate on parliamentary reform:
Brand MP said we have 70 MPs returned to this House by the proprietors of rotten boroughs. We have huge new towns in the Midlands with no representation at all. There is a Constitutional parliamentary power to relieve depopulated boroughs of their duty to return a member. We should do that and transfer the seats to where they are needed in the new industrial towns.
What right had the constituencies of Gatton and Old Sarum or the submarine constituency of St Mawes to return an MP? The basis to parliamentary representation should be both property and population, not property alone. This intention can be inferred from the acts of our ancestors. Those rotten boroughs were well-populated when they received the right to send a representative. Now thirty boroughs have less than fifty voters each, few of whom are resident.
In the counties, property was the basis to the elective franchise and the vote is accordingly given to free-holders alone. This might safely be extended to copy-holders who have almost equal property rights. We are after all no longer a feudal society!
In the towns the vote should be given to every householder who pays parochial or other taxes.
These measures are not ostentatious or even difficult to effect and they have the advantage of stifling for a long time the recent clamour for better representation.
There is the notional question of compensation to the borough proprietors for their loss of political influence resulting from these reforms. He thought they had no legal claim but they would suffer a genuine pecuniary loss. Some part of the revenue should be ear-marked for compensation. Brand feared that, unless some practical step was taken to rehabilitate the representation, the country would become a military dictatorship.
Whitbread noted that Pitt had opened his political career with an attempt to reform the representation and had been defeated by a majority of only 21. Pitt’s argument was that England lost America because the decisions of the House of Commons were manipulated. Now America is well on the road to becoming our greatest competitor. It is clear that a large number of MPs were sympathetic at that time. The subject was debated again in 1793 on Earl Grey’s motion and again in 1797 and now it was coming-on again. Sir Francis Burdett made some propositions last year that deserved better than they got.
The people cannot expect the House of Lords to represent them. Everyone knows how the King used the addition of Scotland and recently of Ireland (in the creation of the United Kingdom) to issue a huge number of new peerages out of thin air. Is it not fulgently apparent that a man of property, capable of commanding a few seats in the House of Commons, instantly becomes the King’s target for a new Lordship? This sort of representative will be biased in favour of property rights and dismissive of the social rights of the people. Such peers as nominate MPs to seats in the House of Commons expect their servants to perform (“no, no” from the Treasury Bench).
Whitbread had no objection to navy and army officers serving as MPs. They derive popularity from their martial victories and exchange it for a seat. But he thought that they should not do both jobs at the same time. He concluded by recalling that both the Pitts, father and son, and Fox all agreed that a reform of the Commons was essential for the welfare of the country and Pitt had added the telling sentence – ‘without it, no honest minister could continue in office.’
Canning for the ministry said the argument for reform was based on the supposition that a great body of people in the country were discontented – its nonsense. Everyone is content, except for a handful of terrorists and anarchists who are spoiling to disrupt the smooth harmony of our system any way they can. They say the Commons has become too weak to be respected and too despicable to be feared. They want reform to make the Commons omnipotent and destroy all other power centres. Sir James Mackintosh in his book on the French Revolution admired a reformed Commons as a means to emasculate the King and the Lords. He really regrets writing that now.
The fact is that this ‘corruptly-administered little country’ has withstood France longer than all the autocrats and oligarchs of Europe. All European countries have their limited monarchies and incorporated aristocracies but only England has its House of Commons. This is the reason why we have been saved and they have fallen, Canning said. The people are in fact a menace. They are always for war at the outset. They goaded Walpole into a war and that cost him his administration. It was the people who pushed us into the American War with all that sorry tale and now they have pushed us into this endless war with France. The people are a doubtful stick to rely on.
Canning added that votes of members for rotten boroughs were unpredictable – there is no telling how they might vote. They do not inevitably support the ministry. Reform is dangerous. We should resist it as long as possible.
Tierney said the votes of the House after debating the Convention of Cintra and the Walcheren Expedition revealed that reform was essential.
Sat 8th Dec 1810
George Villiers, the King’s friend and Paymaster of the Marines who, over a good many years, has drawn some £300,000 from the public funds for personal purposes, is apparently mad. No-one can get any sense out of him.
His estate is valued at about £100,000 and where the rest of the money went is still unexplained.
Sat 25th May 1811
Two cases on tax evasion have been heard at the Exchequer Sittings:
In the first the Solicitor General said the 90% tax on tea encouraged smuggling all along the Channel coast. He noted that in former cases the Captains of Indiamen who smuggled tea in this way had customarily been fined £200. The offences were routinely discovered by comparison of the loading manifest done at Whampoa with the out-turn at London. In the instant case he withdrew his prosecution of the Captain as only 4 cases out of 18,000 were short and the involved Captain was making his first voyage.
The second case involved Purdy and Warding, Collectors of Taxes in Norfolk. The farmers of the area generally were liable to pay about £3 – £4 in taxes but the Collectors added an extra Pound. The farmers never checked the paperwork and relied on the Collectors’ representations until the instant case. The Collectors were substantial farmers themselves (they farm both land and tax) and should have known better.
Sat 8th June 1811
London, 23rd December – George III is suffering a recurrence of his old disease. The Doctors say it has been brought-on by the death of his daughter Amelia.
Perceval has presented a plan of Regency to the Prince of Wales and that Prince has declined to comment on it. The Prince says that on the last occasion of the King’s illness, the two Houses voted for a Regency first and he wants that procedure followed again. He has nevertheless circulated Perceval’s plan around the Family and it has drawn a Protest signed by the other seven Royal Dukes. They say the restricted Regency proposed by Perceval is inconsistent with Royal Prerogative – either you are a King or you are not.
Perceval said that his was the only legal course – we went through all this in 1788 and, after endless debate, parliament identified this course of action. Nevertheless, Perceval moved a debate on the subject in parliament.
Ponsonby moved the Prince of Wales be made Acting King for the duration of George III’s illness. It was defeated. The House of Commons then agreed to offer the Prince a limited monarchy as a Regent and a Regency Bill was passed.
The Prince was disgusted and wrote Perceval to tell him it was unconstitutional but Perceval was implacable. After the irresistible power of George III, a weak monarchy is preferable to the ministry.
The City grieves with him. The Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Commons of London send in an Address complaining of:
- the ministry’s ‘criminal deception of parliament and people’ during George III’s former incapacity (the King was sick in 1804, see below, but Addington concealed it);
- the terms of Regency (prerogatives withheld or curtailed) which evidence the ministry’s ‘unfounded mistrust’ of the Prince of Wales, and that
- the ministry had become a new and unconstitutional Estate in the Realm.
The City says it offers the ardent zeal of a free and united people in the Prince of Wales’ support. The Prince invited the Aldermen round to kiss hands and assured them he will always rule Constitutionally. Perceval, Lord Wellesley and most of the cabinet were present, looking despondently at the floor and shuffling their feet. The London papers are generally saying the City has expressed the views of the whole nation – it is a trying time for the oligarchs.
Tues 11th June 1811 Extraordinary
Arising from the medical history of the King’s disease which has been revealed to the House of Lords, Earl Grey has discovered that the King was deranged between 12th February – 23rd April 1804, that being a time during which he requested for and received treatment. The King has always put-off medical treatment for his disease until the last possible moment because he has no liking for it. The last time it occurred, the King was contending with Addington’s new ministry and Hanover had been occupied by France. The disease seems to arise when the King learns of unwelcome events that he is unable to effectively change; they are an affront to his determination to control matters.
The House of Commons was only made aware of the King’s disposition in 1788 / 89, 1801 / 2 and the present recurrence. It is now apparent from the medical history that there was this fourth period in 1804 when the Lord Chancellor, John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon, was using the King’s name and performing the Royal functions but the King was effectively incapable of reigning. Grey is shocked.
He recalls that it was during that time that John Scott told the House he had the King’s instruction to gift certain estates to the Duke of York. There were also some Bills passed during the period upon which Scott applied the Great Seal of England (and someone presumably procured George’s signature).
Whitbread moved that the Journal of the House of Lords be examined to prove the dates of incapacity.
Tues 11th June 1811 Extraordinary
The Prince of Wales wants Lords Grenville and Grey to form a ministry but, as his Kingly powers as Regent are incomplete, they demur and Perceval gets a reprieve.
Sat 15th June 1811
The Prince of Wales received Perceval’s cabinet members on 7th February. Each member kissed hands in sequence. The Regent spoke with none except the Lord Chancellor to whom he confided that he would not attend parliament next week.
Before the audience, the Regent instructed that the two busts of, respectively, the late Duke of Bedford and Charles James Fox, which had long been displayed in the sitting room at Carlton House, be removed into the audience chamber and placed at the head of the room. This was done a few hours before the cabinet members arrived. It was an eloquent gesture to Perceval.
Sat 27th July 1811
Perceval has offered the Prince of Wales an increased establishment, subject to parliamentary approval which he controls, but the Prince has turned him down and referred him to Adams MP to whom the Prince had earlier averred he would never accept an increased allowance whilst the English people were labouring under such onerous taxes. All Perceval could do was to tell the House those facts that the Prince had assumed Adams would tell to the MPs.
Perceval knows the Prince wishes to change the ministry. He knows the Prince prefers to have the liberal Whigs in power under Lord Grenville and Earl Grey.
Sat 17th Aug 1811
Whitbread told the House of Commons on 25th February 1811 that the British people have been astonishingly tolerant and supportive of George III for the last 20-25 years. The present ministry now threatens to jeopardise this devotion by its criminality.
When the King had his first episode of disease in 1788 / 89 no-one wanted to believe it until Lord Thurlow, the then Lord Chancellor, announced it to both Houses. On 15th February 1801 the King was again unwell. An attempt to debate the subject was made but withdrawn when Pitt promised to tell the House if it should become serious.
A few years thereafter Lord Eldon, the then and now Lord Chancellor, came to the House with a legislative Act for which he purported to have received the King’s assent. It was at this time that Pitt resigned his office after a ministry of 17 years; Sidmouth became Speaker and Addington became Prime Minister. On 11th March the medical bulletins on the King’s health were stopped by order of the new ministry which persuaded the people that the King was recovering. In fact he remained incapable and the functions of monarchy were assumed by Addington’s ministry.
Between 12th February – 10th June 1804 the King’s was placed under the control of his doctors but the same cessation of medical reports occurred after 24th March. Throughout these 2½ months only Eldon was able to see the King. As several of the cabinet ministers involved in this – Sidmouth, Castlereagh, Yorke, St Vincent – are still alive, it appears we have a coterie of politicians who remain available for enquiry and who were involved in illegality, but Whitbread most particularly blamed Eldon.
Two great political events occurred during the King’s illnesses in 1801 and 1804.
In the latter year the parties coalesced and Addington was defeated and resigned. It was then Pitt’s wish that a joint government would be formed to unite the two great political leaders of the House. The only minister with access to the King was Eldon although there is no record of his communications with the sick King that is available to parliament. Eldon was questioned about the King in the House of Lords and Addington was questioned in the Commons. Addington said government is proceeding normally. Addington of course had no personal access to the King and relied on medical reports. On 5th and 6th March 1804, Eldon says he received the King’s commands to alienate some Crown Lands and on 9th March he came to parliament with a Commission supposedly signed by the King transferring an Estate to the Duke of York. He was questioned as to the state of the King’s mind and averred inter alia that he (Eldon) would never act unconstitutionally.
One of the Lord Chancellor’s functions is to protect lunatics. At that time the doctors report that the King’s judgment was ‘in eclipse’ although the ministry recently disclosed that there were odd days when the doctors certified the King to be lucid. There is no such temporary recovery permitted in our lunacy laws – Chancery recognises precedents for the proposition that both a lunatic’s derangement and his recovery must be proved. The practice of the Court excludes the concept of temporary insanity. Indeed, in the 1802 case of Ridgway v Barton, Lord Eldon held that the jurisdiction of the Chancery Court extended beyond mad people to those of weak intellect, to protect them from those who might dispose of their property. Eldon’s opinion was not extended to the King whose keys were retained and whose property was alienated by the highest Chancery Judge. Whitbread wished Eldon to confirm or deny that he took the keys to the King’s escritoire and refused to return them.
On 26th March 1804 another Message was brought from the King by Eldon which Whitbread now wishes to make the subject of a further debate. He called for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry.
Castlereagh for the ministry said none of the then ministers would have received the King’s commands unless they were all convinced he was sane. He said Whitbread was wrong – Eldon was not the only minister to visit the King between 12th February – 23rd April 1804; Sidmouth had visited on 10th and 19th March. The King signed some more Bills on 23rd March. On 26th March he discussed the Irish militia. On all these occasions the doctors’ confirmed the King’s fitness to deliberate.
Castlereagh accused Whitbread of ignoring ministerial acts during the previous illnesses and queried why he should be raising this old 1804 subject only now. He categorised the accusations as entrapment and asserted a time-bar on enquiries into old matters. Castlereagh said the King was mentally competent whenever the medical reports ceased. There were indeed many periods of temporary recovery and ministers had taken the doctors’ advice and sought the King’s commands only when the doctors said he was competent to give them. They had not thought it appropriate to trouble parliament by publishing these informal advices. In fact the King was slowly recovering throughout and his abilities increased by the day but up-dated medical reports were not requested to track the improvement; we just asked for reports at the beginning and end.
At one point Sidmouth told parliament it was unnecessary to suspend regal functions and Pitt, who was then in opposition, agreed that no communication be made to MPs. Grey took a contrary view and Sidmouth revealed to the House that the King’s improvement was confirmed by the doctors. Grey was satisfied and merely said if the King’s malady continued much longer parliament would have to deal with it.
The alienation of Crown Lands to the Duke of York occurred during one of these intervals of sanity, Castlereagh said. Eldon had the doctors’ informal approval for his interview with the King at that time. On 9th March the King gave his assent to the Mutiny Bill – does Whitbread think ministers should have permitted the Mutiny Act to expire?
Yorke said he had conversed with the King during the period of his supposed incapacity in 1804 and found him perfectly rational.
Whitbread said he would like to hear the responses of Sidmouth and Bathurst (two of the implicated ministers). Bathurst said Castlereagh has said it all. Sidmouth was silent. Whitbread then reiterated that the King was legally insane at the times of numerous ministerial acts done in his name. Perceval shook his head, which annoyed Whitbread – “you should do more than toss your head.” He accused Sidmouth and Perceval of being dumb because they had no alternative.
Whitbread’s motion for an inquiry was then voted and defeated 198 / 81.
Sat 14th Sept 1811
The Duke of Grafton, Chancellor of Cambridge University, is dying and John Henry Manners, the Duke of Rutland, is one of two candidates for his replacement. Manners has written to the University Senate stating he has the support of the Prince of Wales and Perceval and inviting them to vote for him.
The other candidate is the present Vice Chancellor, the Royal Prince Frederick William, Duke of Gloucester, and he has also written to the Senate. He made no claims based on his standing in the country. He noted that he is the only member of the Royal Family to have received an English education; that he was tutored at Cambridge and has a long record of respect for the institution’s laws and traditions, and that he is affectionate to the university’s prospects, etc.
The Senate elected Prince Frederick William.
Is it possible that a new era in the history of British administration is dawning? An era of civil and religious freedom over patronage. At the Senate vote Gloucester polled 464 against Rutland’s 350.
Sat 12th Oct 1811
Death in London, mid-April 1811 – Sir William Addington, 80 years. He was Magistrate of the Public Office at Bow Street for 28 years. He was active in the suppression of all the many protests that occurred in London 1797 – 1803.
He arrested Hadfield, the Duke of York’s ex-orderly, who shot twice at George III in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1800. He ascertained Hadfield’s madness long before the Court seized of the case was convinced of it. However the abuse Addington received for his opinion procured his resignation and was a continual source of later irritation for him.
Sat 12th Oct 1811
Romilly (Sir Samuel) wishes to restore the rigour of the statutes to the criminal courts. On his motion, the House of Commons has debated a new law. The incidence of a particular type of theft – from dwelling houses – has increased and the public are fearful. A few years ago the House of Commons exempted theft from the person (pick-pockets) from capital punishment. Thefts from residences were formerly treated as thefts from the person. Romilly’s new law requires the reinstatement of capital punishment on conviction for theft from within a dwelling house. It has just had its first reading.
MPs hold that the key to deterrence of crime is heavy punishment and our statute book is replete with capital offences and those requiring banishment (generally to Botany Bay).
Frankland MP for Thirsk, said the law must be clothed in grave austerity – dread of detection is the aim, he said. He thought the actual punishment is less important than the way it is held over the suspect by the Judge – in a way to excite the criminal’s moral apprehension. Frankland had interviewed some magistrates and they were quite satisfied with the powers they already held. He said it is a peculiarity of a free country that its law should provide for severe punishments – thus was the liberty and happiness of the people maintained.
Sir John Anstruther agreed. He thought new offences were regularly created by the Legislature in accordance with the prevalence of any particular crime, as in this case. The awards were generally harsh and remained on the statute book after the problem had been contained. The result was a shocking penal code and this was its advantage – the public believed its protection was proportional to the severity of the sentence.
However Anstruther detected a problem – the harshest punishments were seldom awarded because the Judge had a discretion to mitigate awards. Anstruther thought this discretion should be strictly limited by describing the common aggravations that accompany crime, listing them in the ordinance, and removing the Judge’s discretion where they are present. He ridiculed recent awards in which convicts had received multiple death sentences and then been gaoled. He thought a proper sentencing policy would reduce crime – that is the purpose of law.
MacDonald said there were many cases of victims declining to prosecute offenders because they feared the punishment would be disproportionate to the crime. There was also evidence that, if a theft was comparatively small, the victim might decline to involve himself in the inconvenience of a trial. Theft was a capital crime but only one thief in a thousand is hanged. Thieves take comfort from both the uncertainty of detection and the beneficial effects of good mitigation on their sentences. Juries seemed to arrogate to themselves a discretion on sentencing – they repeatedly seek to influence the Judge’s award with pleas for clemency, etc. MacDonald thought all these features had to be addressed before the fear of the law could be reinstated amongst the public.
Lord George Grenville said punishing small crimes with death was counter-productive. Only fifty years ago we had 160 separate offences punishable by death. What would tourists think of us? It is unChristian. Severe punishments are relics of feudalism. He observed that the Empress Catherine of Russia alleviated her people from most of the onerous punishments of the Russian code and no bad effects ensued.
Abercromby produced a list of committals and trials of cases of theft which had involved stealing in a dwelling house to illustrate the reluctance of victims to pursue their remedies at criminal law (the usual reason for a case to not proceed):
Not only are Complainants increasingly reluctant, but in last sessions a woman was charged for theft of a £10 banknote (a capital offence) but was found guilty by the Jury of theft of 40/- (also a capital offence but for which a gaol sentence will invariably be substituted). These Jurors are sworn before they act and everyone of them must have committed perjury in this case – to avoid a judicial murder they voluntarily became judicial perjurers.
In the last ten years the records show 895 people were tried for theft, 155 acquitted and 414 convicted of stealing less than 40/-. It is likely that a large number of people are being exempted from the proper rigour of the law by errant Jurors who produce verdicts contrary to facts. What is more astonishing than this routine miscarriage of justice, is that MPs profess surprise that it is occurring – the very people who are supposed to be best informed of what is going-on in the country.
Perceval said MPs must have firmer nerves. Judges should award capital sentences whenever the law required it. It would have a wonderful effect on the crime rate, he forecast. The purpose of law is to diminish the incidence of anti-social acts. Harsher punishment = greater deterrence. The statistics concerning shop-lifting were even worse than stealing from a residence – in the last five years 598 people have been committed for shop-lifting, 120 were tried and 20 convicted but not one of them was executed. In the same period two servants had been hanged for stealing in a dwelling house.
Romilly said that at the beginning of George III’s reign 60% of people convicted of capital offences were executed and 40% were pardoned and gaoled; now only one in seventeen (6%) is executed. We should shape our laws to accord with our punishments. Nearly all our criminal laws are proposed by the ministry and pass without debate.
The Bill was then voted (79 / 53 in favour) and committed for second reading next week. Two precisely similar Bills (but for stealing in shops and in bleaching grounds) were committed at the same time.
Sat 2nd Nov 1811
The Prince of Wales is pursuing his policy of overt justice and has re-appointed his brother the Duke of York to command of the British army on 25th May 1811. When the King, who is said to be still unwell, heard of it he was overjoyed. He said it was the ‘warmest wish of his heart’.
Sat 2nd Nov 1811
London, 31st May – The Morning Post and Evening Courier have for long continued daily articles referring to the King’s improving state of health. Both are pro-ministry papers. Now the King has ridden a horse and the papers have a report under the title ‘H M’s reappearance in public’.
George III recently exhibited swelling of the legs which the doctors assume to be a form of dropsy – this was the reason for prescribing the horse rides. We understand he is usually cheerful and well-behaved when in the presence of the doctors but reverts to irritability and unpredictable behaviour when his relatives visit. He believes he is adequately recovered to resume the Crown and gets very angry should others disagree.
On Wednesday Dr Willis’ ‘gentlemen’ arrived by post chaise and were immediately admitted into Windsor Castle. Their arrival is the main evidence for a relapse but it is also the case that the gala set for Wednesday has been postponed by the Prince of Wales to the following Wednesday. It is rumoured this was done in the hope the King will by then be improved. The Queen has pleaded with the doctors to alleviate the strict regime her husband is under but the experts and the Privy Council all want it to continue.
Sat 9th Nov 1811
London, 4th June – George III is 73 years old today. The Prince Regent and the Royal Dukes of York, Cumberland and Sussex have arrived at Windsor to celebrate. The Queen will hold a party at Frogmore Lodge.
Sat 30th Nov 1811
Lord Melville, Baron Dunira and MP for Midlothian, has died. He normally awakes at 7 am and when he did not appear the servant went in and found him lying in bed on his side with his head cradled in one arm and the other extended down his side.
He was a man of strong friends and strong enemies. He was in turn Treasurer of the Navy, Secretary of State and First Lord of the Admiralty, in which last position he was greatly esteemed by British naval officers. At the time of his death he was still a Privy Councillor, Lord Privy Seal for Scotland and Governor of the Bank of Scotland.
Melville became an advocate in 1764 and was soon after made Solicitor General. In 1775 he became Lord Advocate for some ten years.
Robert Dundas, his son by his first wife, is MP for Edinburgh and President of the Board of Control. He succeeds to Melville’s titles and must vacate the seat for Edinburgh on his elevation to the House of Lords.
Perceval has proposed the Prince of Wales appoint Lord Moira to the vacated position of Lord Privy Seal of Scotland. These political jobs are fully within the gift of the minister – Perceval should get his way.
Sat 14th Dec 1811
Lockhart introduced a complaint by an elector from Stafford. That man had approached his MP, Richard Mansel Philipps, 1st Baron Milford in the Irish peerage, (NB – Philipps was MP for Pembrokeshire) for advice how to release his son from service in the marines and the MP had said he would arrange it for 50 Guineas.
Lockhart made enquiries and learned that the practice of discharging marines by payment was not only legal but customary. The elector paid Philipps a negotiable Manchester Bill to £50 plus some £1 and £2 notes but the marine was not subsequently discharged. The elector enquired and Philipps said he had paid the money to Tucker, the Secretary of the Admiralty, and received Tucker’s assurance that the marine would soon be released.
Some months passed and the elector again enquired, this time directly to Tucker, from whom he was told that the 50 Guineas had not been received. He then paid another 50 Guineas at the proper office and the marine was discharged.
The Manchester Bill that the elector had tendered to Philipps in part payment was later returned having been negotiated by a grocer at Wimbledon to discharge a debt of Philipps MP.
The elector then commenced an action against the MP at the Surrey Session in Spring 1809 for ‘obtaining money by false pretences’. The MP had never responded to the Writ and the entire Judiciary up to Ellenborough had declined the elector’s request to order the attendance of the MP fearing it might be construed as an interference in the privileges of the House. The elector had accordingly petitioned the House of Commons for the redress of his grievance.
It was agreed to call Philipps to the House next week to answer his constituent’s charge.
Sat 14th Dec 1811
The House of Commons, debated the reappointment of Duke of York as CiC British Army on 6th June:
Lord Milton moved that the Duke had resigned in embarrassing circumstances (the ‘Mrs Clarke case’ – see below and the Europe chapter) in March 1809 and should not be re-employed. The House of Commons investigated the matter deeply but reached no conclusion. We were generally uncritical of Mrs Clarke’s evidence. Mrs Clarke has since published a book about her involvement in the matter which seems to suggest she is mischievous. She has a way of stating facts that pervert them. She has been examined judicially and her credibility brought into question. One part of her evidence caused the Lord Chief Justice to suggest that there were grounds to charge her with subornation of perjury and she has herself since confessed to receiving money for her evidence.
Once you hold a doubt about her credibility and reconsider all the other evidence, the case against the Duke becomes far less convincing and even doubtful, Milton said. Indeed the barrister Peter Alley, who was Counsel to Colonel Wardle, has said Stokes confessed to him that he (Stokes) would be getting £2,000 a year as a result of his part in the effort to restore the Duke of York to Commander-in-Chief. At the time we considered the Duke’s evidence to House of Commons there appeared to me to be a ‘case to answer’ but it was equally apparent that, had he been charged, he would quite likely be honourably acquitted for he would have responded to Mrs Clarke’s evidence with other evidence supporting his own case. “I think he was the victim of a conspiracy” said Milton.
Sat 25th Jan 1812
The Lord Chancellor has read the Prince Regent’s speech closing this parliamentary session. Why the Regent did not read his own speech is not explained but there is a belief gaining ground that the Regent has a Viceroy over him. The Address approves the interchange of militias between England and Ireland. The Duke of York had to order a limited amnesty to permit Irish militias to worship in England in the Catholic way. The Lord Chancellor then prorogued parliament to 22nd August 1811. Many MPs are staying in London as they expect a recall should the King’s condition change. They hope it does as the Regent is keen on Catholic emancipation.
Sat 2nd May 1812
When Melville died the Prince Regent intended to leave vacant the office of Lord Privy Seal of Scotland until his full regal powers had been acknowledged. The minister pressed him to appoint Lord Moira but Moira knew the Prince of Wales’s views and declined. The minister then pressed the claim of Melville’s son and the Prince of Wales approved it, subject to a special term in the patent that Dundas’ appointment becomes void once the Regent is made King.
Thurs 7th May 1812 Extraordinary
Some cabinet ministers are trying to remove Perceval. He is offered a Viscountcy (Viscount Hampstead) and the Duchy of Lancaster.
If he accepts, Wellesley gets the Treasury, Huskisson the Exchequer, Holland Foreign Affairs, Moira Home Affairs and Castlereagh the Colonies. Sidmouth gets President of the Council. Wellesley Pole gets the Board of Control (ousting Dundas whom the faction propose to banish to India as Governor-General)
Sat 9th May 1812
The London newspapers have been talking for months about the increasing debility of George III however it is said by insiders to be just a ministerial puff based on non-committal reports from the doctors.
In fact, according to the King’s friends, he is in fine physical fettle and eats and sleeps well. His memory is clearer, both recent and long-term, and he is more often lucid than not.
Sat 16th May 1812
The Queen has received a medical report on her husband. George III gets upset whenever Dr John Willis comes into his presence. Willis is the man who introduced the ‘carrot and stick’ approach to the King’s rehabilitation. He uses physical restraints when the King is refractory and the King hates it. He is unused to limits on his actions.
Willis says he can treat the King only when he is open to reason but, whenever he sees the Doctor, he gets emotional. This week he has refused his dinner three times. He is no doubt hungry but fasts because Willis wants him to eat.
Sat 13th June 1812
The New Quarterly Review commenced publication in November 1811. The Editor believes existing journals are unsatisfactory. The Edinburgh Review is, he says, a moral and political rag at odds with majority opinion in the country. The Quarterly Review is indecisive and has fallen under the influence of a gang of speculative politicians who are too few to form a party. The British Review is also indecisive and is connected with the views of visionary philanthropists whose opinions have already done damage to several West Indian colonies. It lacks an appreciation of the importance of commerce.
Editor Courtenay of the New Quarterly Review refers to the large number of small parties in parliament. He does not explain. We suppose he means:
- The group of 6 peers and 3 commoners under Lord Sidmouth (Addington) who have good intentions but little talent; they are somewhat aligned with the Grenvillites but have fundamental differences with both Grenville and the Fox party on policy. Sidmouth is best known for his opposition to the seizure of the Danish fleet at Copenhagen. It is believed in London that, if we had not done it, Napoleon would have taken the ships himself, but Sidmouth continues to deplore the incident. He is an honourable man but not the brightest star in the firmament. Both Pitt and Grenville supported him as Prime Minister after the former resigned. He was persuaded to join in the senseless outcry against Melville and ultimately joined with Fox to the consternation and disapproval of George III. Perhaps his most important contribution was in defence of the established church against the growth of sectarianism.
- Canning’s ‘little senate’ of Leveson Gower, Sturges Bourne, Huskisson and Dent (with one or two others) is another faction. Dent of course is the fiscal wizard who proposed the dog tax with its distinction of working dogs and pleasure dogs which the ministry ignored and taxed all alike. Canning’s group is mainly concerned for the accumulation of their power. Canning was educated politically by the friends of Fox with the idea of inducting him into their group, but he took a different path and came into office under Pitt. That gave him the opportunity to rise from an inferior job at the Foreign Ministry to its command but he was unable to satisfactorily resolve his relationship with Castlereagh and it became generally supposed from his inconsistency then that he wanted Perceval out and Lord Wellesley in as Prime Minister with himself continuing at the FO and Huskisson as Chancellor. They may have been capable ministers but this line-up would never have obtained the approval of the House. In any event Canning and three of his supporters resigned and that was an end to it.
- Wilberforce can sometimes command up to thirty MPs – the Thorntons, Babington and that group of religious people, Bankes and Stephens (before he was made a Master in Chancery). The great thing about Wilberforce is that he always votes with his conscience. Bankes is the same but he is so keen on economy, except in his own lifestyle, that he annoys everyone. It is Bankes who has almost single-handedly introduced the present predilection of appointing Committees to review costs of departments. Ultimately the thrust of Bankes’ economies is to weaken the King who needs to reward meritorious service. This idea of economy is contemptible empiricism – an attempt to obtain popularity by opposing customary expenditure and diminishing the authority of ministers.
These groups keep aloof from the parties and from each other.
- The fourth group is Sir Francis Burdett’s group of democrats. They are six.
Mon 22nd June 1812 Extraordinary
The Prince of Wales has written to the Duke of York saying he is ready for monarchy and he wants Grey and Grenville to be informed. They have replied to the Duke that it is impossible for them to join the present government. They remind him of their disclosures in 1809 and 1810 when he previously asked them to form a ministry. They can assume office only on a program to grant Catholic emancipation.
Mon 22nd June 1812 Extraordinary
The Prince of Wales intends one of the two vacant blue ribbons for the liberal Duke of Norfolk. George III will have a relapse when he hears about it.
Mon 22nd June 1812 Extraordinary
A new Household Bill has passed. The old King’s household is reduced to 28 people to be named and controlled by the Queen. The Civil List is augmented £70,000 a year to meet these reduced costs. They are separate from the incoming King’s costs. A further £10,000 a year is to be paid to the Queen from the Duchy of Lancaster for her personal needs.
The Exchequer will pay the Regent £120,000 a year but £70,000 is earmarked for settlement of his debts and he gets only £50,000. Its all free of income tax. Thus George IV will be getting £50,000 less from parliament than George III.
Sat 27th June 1812
The Regent has again asked Grenville and Grey (via the Duke of York) to form a part of the ministry and they still say they must have his agreement to Catholic emancipation before they can join. He is known to be personally agreeable to it. Certainly the Irish expect him to grant it.
Sat 27th June 1812
Sir Francis Burdett proposed a reply to the Regent’s Address to Parliament which is rather outspoken, even for that gentleman:
The valour and resources of this country have been lavished for 18 years in preventing the oppressed from gaining freedom. The grasp of despotism and persecution has hardened. In distant regions we have overturned one despotism only to resurrect our own version of it in its stead in order to maintain corruption at home. Only in those countries where people understand their rights (Napoleon’s Republics) have we been opposed. All our former allies have disclaimed a connection with us. They have spent hundreds of millions in support of our formidable and unprincipled league until, at last, we fight alone.
Now our own country is devastated and our resources almost exhausted by the sacrifice required to maintain those European sovereigns who cannot rely on the support of their own people. The British people condemned this crusade at the outset, well knowing that a war on the freedom of others was an attack on their own freedoms. A system of terror was resorted to by successive ministries – false alarms excited, spies and informers hired, the offence of ‘constructive sedition’ created, new-fangled treasons invented, the safeguards of personal liberty removed, forts (called barracks) were erected throughout the land and the freedom of every man was placed at the disposal of those officials who call themselves servants of the King but are in fact agents of a rapacious oligarchy.
Under this system most of our treasured freedoms have been swept away. In the name of revenue collection and in the guise of legal proceedings, the dwellings of Englishmen have been entered, their books scrutinised by numberless mercenary agents appointed by the Crown. Financial rapacity has been created between landlord and tenant as the Crown has deemed itself co-proprietor of every estate with a prior claim on the tenant’s funds in the name of the Land Tax. A vast acreage of landed property has been confiscated under this pretext.
Using the pretence of Stamp Duty, the oligarchs have seized on the bequests of the dead in their passage to the living so that there is no longer a man in England who can be said to be the proprietor of anything. Property of every description is now controlled by the minister.
With these changes have come changes in our military designed to relieve the soldier of all fellow-feeling for his neighbour. He is now isolated in barracks and depots, flogged for trifling offences, and incrementally disabused of the rights he formerly had under the Constitution. He has been conditioned to act as the instrument of tyranny. Mistrustful of the full effectiveness of this conditioning of the soldiery, the ministry has brought 30,000 German and other nationals into the British army with privileges not possessed by any British soldier. Today large portions of the army and whole districts of the country are under the command of German officers. Many of our regiments have been obliged to wear German uniforms. The English militia, which has long been a bastion of Englishness, became suspect and was swapped with the Irish militia to create two instruments of reciprocal oppression. Our English militia in Ireland has been brutalised by applying Martial Law on the benighted citizens of that country. Enrolment in these local militias has introduced every man in England to the system of army discipline we practise and the daily use of the lash.
Having brought the cowed populace into submission, the ministry was opposed by only the press which then became the object of its vengeance. The unconstitutional use of ex officio Informations by the AG and the selection of Jury men, have been mentioned before; but more recently we had Lord Ellenborough publicly anticipating guilt before he had heard the defence case. The sentencing policy for political libels has become incrementally heavier until today they outweigh the awards for the majority of felonies – heavy fines, long imprisonments in jails remote from the convict’s home and relatives, solitary confinement, onerous terms for good behaviour bonds that are the necessary pre-condition for release – we have re-created the Court of Star Chamber with the trifling difference that Star Chamber had no juries whereas the Crown now picks an accommodating one for itself, and to somewhat protect a political judge from public recognition of his factious character.
We bring these ills to the attention of Your Highness with the observation that the sole underlying cause of all our problems is the lamentable state of the representation. If the people were genuinely represented their grievances would be addressed. The 18 years of war with France have empowered ministers to reduce Constitutional rights, sink the country in huge debts and cultivate corruption. They have permitted rapacity in the Prize Courts, ruined manufacturing and commerce and created vast numbers of paupers whose poverty, when compared with those pensioners and placemen on whom so much public money has been lavished, should not endure a moment were it not for the ready availability of military force to the ministry.
Sat 4th July 1812
Burdett has again been criticising the war effort. He has moved another Answer to the Regent’s Address after his first (above) sunk without support:
The £12 millions we spent in Spain every year is wasted. The Spanish Cortes holds only 2-3 towns in the entire country.
In Sicily since 1805 we pay the Court £300,000 every year and pay £1.5 millions for the upkeep of our troops and in return the Court of the Two Sicilies in exile at Palermo intrigues and conspires against us.
With America we have waged a commercial war over the Orders-in-Council which we say are imperative to maintain our maritime supremacy. The Americans think those Orders are negotiable. Why have they not been told the truth. After the Berlin and Milan Decrees were announced, we passed an Order on 11th Nov 1807 which, given the elimination of the trade of the other maritime nations, was directed at America and was an attempt by us to solicit American mercantile support to amend their government policy and obtain French approval for the import of our colonial goods in American bottoms into Europe.
The number of British men under arms now approximates 807,000 including the militias. The entire population of England is 8 million plus 2 million for Ireland. One tenth of our population (20% of our manpower) has been removed from agriculture and manufacturing and put into barracks.
The national debt passed £600 millions in 1811, etc.
Whitbread and Tierney supported Burdett’s amended Answer and many of the formerly-submissive country MPs as well but the debate was lost 209 / 136.
Sat 11th July 1812
The Regent wishes to promote education amongst the children of soldiers. It appears to be an emulation of ancient Persia. General Officers, Regimental Colonels and Commanders of Corps are all required to nurture Regimental Schools. The children’s’ minds are to be impressed at an early age with order, regularity and discipline based on a veneration for the established British religion. The schools are to be conducted on military principles following the system of Dr Bell, which has been successfully employed at the Royal Military Asylum. The teachers will be Sergeants. Bell’s system has the children conducting much of the daily business of the school themselves. Girls may also partake if circumstances permit.
Army chaplains are also required to nurture these schools by frequent visits, by critical scrutiny of teachers’ activities and regular reporting to COs.
The purpose is twofold – to relieve the soldier of concern for the education of his children and to inculcate bravery and loyalty in the children.
Sun 12th July 1812 Extraordinary
Perceval has warned the Prince Regent that Catholic exclusion is a fundamental ministerial policy and cannot be changed. He is said to have offered his resignation if the Regent disagreed. He seems bigoted but at least he is frank about it. Patently there is another power centre (English owners of Irish estates) that opposes emancipation as much as the King. The Catholics now know that whilst Perceval is in office there is no prospect of their burdens being alleviated. That will influence the Irish vote.
The Regent also wanted Perceval to invite some of the liberal Whigs into the ministry but they have all refused and Perceval is not keen. So long as the people remain apathetic he should prevail.
Sun 12th July 1812 Extraordinary
A deputation of Birmingham merchants has interviewed Perceval and reported their distress due to the Orders-in-Council. Perceval said they had made a strong case but there was nothing he could do.
Levison Gower told parliament on 4th March that he had received a petition signed by thousands of distressed manufacturers and workers in Staffordshire addressed to the Prince Regent which he was required to deliver personally. Since then there had not been a Levee for three weeks (petitions are commonly presented at levees).
Lord Milton is in the same position with a petition of the people of Yorkshire. Levison Gower suspected ministers were taking advantage of the King’s illness to deny the people their Constitutional channel to notify grievances.
Sat 18th July 1812
Benjafield was the Editor of the London Morning Post. He published an article about the Prince of Wales and a certain lady. The ministry threatened to prosecute him but he was not afraid. They then bought him out.
When the ministry’s nominee Weltje bought the shares of Morning Post, Benjafield was removed. At the same time the Commissioners for liquidating the Prince of Wales’s debts commenced paying a gentleman named Tattersall an annuity which that man routinely forwards to Benjafield. Tattersall demanded a Bond of the Commissioners in £10,000 as security for his liability under the annuity to Benjafield. The Prince of Wales provided this Bond.
Recently Benjafield has been negotiating to exchange his annuity for a ‘place’ in the gift of the ministry. He has been offered a place but rejected it. His complaint is that his annuity is now subject to the new Income Tax and has become less valuable. Benjafield says he must receive the contractually agreed amount or he will complain.
Sat 18th July 1812
Benjamin Walsh MP has been tried at Old Bailey and found guilty of seven felonies all connected with converting over £15,000 of the Solicitor General’s property (Sir Thomas Plomer) to himself.
Walsh first made his money running the national lottery. He is the son of a Bank of England Director and thus a trusted man.
The Judge, Sir Archibald McDonald, did not proceed to judgment as he disagreed with the Jury’s guilty verdict. He agreed the facts established a fraudulent intention and the appropriation also had been proved but he found these two elements fell short of the evidence necessary to establish larceny.
As a result Walsh obtained a pardon from the Prince Regent.
The House is now taking a high moral tone in prospect of expelling him. They say the House is not precisely a Court of Justice and is not bound by ‘the technical totems of the law’. The Ministry says MPs are charged with the security of the public purse; Walsh’s friends say it was merely a transaction between two private people.
Burdett says any MP who gets thrown-out can approach his constituents and get re-elected – that is how ‘fair and open’ elections work. The House should have confidence in the judgement of the people.
Burdett complained that the Commons always fudged its criticisms. There were far better cases recently which would have gone swimmingly:
- When Steele was Treasurer for the Navy he was found to have helped himself to £19,000 but when caught he gave it back and, as he is a nice chap, we forgave him (Steele was not an MP).
- Another case involved Joseph Hunt, MP for Queenborough, who evaded the law and went to Portugal where we might easily have arrested him, having assumed the government there, but did not do so. He then went with the Portuguese Court to Brazil where we also had the power to arrest him but he remains free and in receipt of two British pensions, totally £1,000 a year, granted in 1802 and 1804 respectively.
- Next is George Galway Mills, MP for Mitchell, who was adjudged a debtor in King’s Bench to an enormous amount (£30,000+) and, to avoid his creditors, bought a seat in this House whilst in prison. His creditors petitioned the House not to invoke members’ privilege but we did. Mills reflected on the great amount at stake and decided this House’s privilege was a slender rod on which to stake his possession of it. He emigrated to the Americas.
- Then there was the case of M/S Boyd Benfield & Co, bankers to the nation, to whom Pitt lent £40,000 and never saw it again. Pitt himself recognised it as an act of misplaced trust and sought no protection for it but it got glossed over anyway.
Sat 15th Aug 1812
The maritime rights of neutrals were fixed in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht which was signed and ratified by England, France, Holland, Portugal, Prussia and Spain and formed the basis to international law on the subject.
The Treaty provides that:
- The ship’s flag covers the cargo – enemy goods under a neutral flag are neutral goods; neutral goods under an enemy flag are enemy goods.
- The protection of a neutral flag does not extend to contraband, arms & ammunition or military stores.
- When a belligerent’s ship visits a neutral ship on the high seas it will stay out of cannon reach. The visit is made by a few men only.
- Neutral ships may trade from an enemy port to an enemy port or from an enemy port to a neutral port.
- The ports disallowed to a neutral are those under real blockade – i.e. invested, besieged and likely to be taken – to which access is dangerous.
These terms have been incorporated in every subsequent treaty that involves maritime rights. The British assert this agreement was modified in the Seven Years War by the Rule of 1756 which disallowed a wartime trade to a neutral that had been unavailable to him in peacetime, e.g. trade with European colonies that was restricted to the mother country in peacetime, could not be engaged in by neutrals during war. The development of International Law is achieved by war, the victor getting his amendments incorporated. The Rule of 1756 was thus arguably adopted in international law after 1763 but is irrelevant to the instant matter.
The Order-in-Council of 16th May 1806 proscribed all neutral maritime trade. The Orders of 1807 permitted neutrals to again trade provided they came to Britain before continuing on to destination. This made London the commercial capital of the world (by becoming the entrepot for all colonial goods available to neutrals) and made international trade contribute to British costs of war. It was welcomed by British merchants and recognised by politicians as the route to global hegemony.
Napoleon’s Berlin Decree of Nov 1806 responded to the Order of May 1806 by blockading British trade to Europe; the Milan Decree of Dec 1807 responded to the Order of Nov 1807 by denationalising every neutral ship that visited England or paid British tax. Effectively France was conceding all trade to England but denying her a market in the territories she could influence – the Continental System. This caused great amounts of British capital, that had been invested in colonial goods and domestic manufacturing, to become frozen in the warehouses of England and gave birth to the great smuggling trade and the Licensing system that have characterised the British economy in recent years of the war. Smuggling caused the incorporation of the Netherlands into France and the occupation of the Hanseatic towns by French garrisons to close the popular smuggling routes of the English. This French response gave birth to the Licensed trade which was an acknowledgement of the failure of the British restrictive policy.
The British ministry overlooks the Order of 1806 and categorises the Order of 1807 as retaliation for the Berlin Decree, and the consolidated Order of 1809 as retaliation for the Milan Decree, thereby affecting an apparently responsive national posture.
Sat 15th Aug 1812
Earl Grey has spoken eloquently in House of Lords in late March on what he sees as the main issues of the day.
He says the ministerial attempt to influence popular opinion against the Catholics is evil. The war in the peninsula is going badly – the French have occupied a series of towns in the south and Wellington (with 62,000 men) is on the defensive. Finally there is an influence behind the throne which parliament should condemn and he, Grenville and the others will not take office until the House of Commons agrees to bring an end to it.
There is an attempt by several parliamentarians to form a united ministry. Mulgrave and Harrowby both said there is no usurper in the cabinet but Moira agreed the ministry must be changed.
Sat 22nd Aug 1812
The Livery of London wishes to petition the Regent. They asked him if they could present their petition in person as usual. He said he would have to follow Ryder’s advice (the Secretary of State).
Ryder told them their petition would be received like any other petition from town and country. All the other petitions have been via members of House of Lords or Commons which the ministry intercepts.
Sat 22nd Aug 1812
The merchants of Manchester and Salford wish to call a meeting to agree a wording for a Petition to the Regent. 154 merchants called the meeting at the Exchange Buildings. In the meantime the Petition of the Livery of London that could not be presented to the Regent is circulating in the country and the ordinary citizens of Manchester also decided to Petition – they have not done that before.
As a result the merchants’ of Manchester postponed their meeting. They first tried to find an alternative venue where they would not be disturbed by the common people but failed. A great mass of working men assembled at the Exchange Buildings at the appointed time of the merchants’ meeting. They broke into the Buildings and trashed them. Many valuable items were broken. The army was called, the Riot Act read and the crowd was dispersed. A few arrests were made.
Sat 22nd Aug 1812
Under the Licensing system, French wine and brandy is brought to England. The wine is taxed at £5 per ton; brandy £10 per ton. After the duty is paid the goods are to be sealed in the ship until the commensurate quantity of sugar, coffee or whatever has been exported. Then the importer must export the wine but he may sell the brandy in England if he wishes (there is no substitute for French brandy).
Sat 22nd Aug 1812
House of Commons, 13th April – Richard Spooner has led a delegation of Birmingham merchants to demand the repeal of the consolidated Order-in-Council of April 1809. Perceval said it cannot be done.
George Rose said France and England are like two men with their heads in a bucket of water – its just a matter of who can hold-out longest. That overlooks a material fact – the economy of France is far less dependent on trade than we are.
Tues 6th Oct 1812 Extraordinary
John James Bellingham, an impecunious merchant from Liverpool, waited in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11th May and when Perceval arrived at about 5 pm, he shot the Chancellor through the heart. Perceval died instantly in the arms of his brother Lord Arden. Bellingham said he wished he himself was dead too.
A witness Spottiswood saw two tall men running unusually fast through Westminster Hall immediately after the sound of the shot. Because of the timing and their speed he wondered if they were connected with the shooting. No-one corroborated Spottiswood.
Couriers were dispatched throughout the country to announce the event.
It was General Gascoigne, MP for Liverpool, who identified the murderer. Others said they had seen him in the gallery recently. Bellingham had a second loaded pistol which he surrendered. He confessed that personal resentment had motivated his act. His business failed over a year ago for which he blamed the political administration of the country generally and not Perceval specifically.
The House of Lords was hearing mercantile petitions against the Orders-in-Council at the time.
Castlereagh started to question Bellingham but then thought better of it saying he should tell it to the Judge. Bellingham said once he had decided to act, he watched the Commons for two weeks to see how best it could be accomplished. His decision was prompted by the most recent ministerial rejection of his claims. It had been a heated meeting after which he had been told to ‘go away’ and do whatever mischief he liked. He felt no remorse. He said he acted with justice.
His particular grudge concerned services he had provided to government in connection with his Russian trade, services which had never been recompensed. He had petitioned Perceval, the Speaker, General Tarleton and some others for payment but had always been rejected. On the last occasion, a fortnight before the murder, he had petitioned the Secretary of State and had an interview with his clerk Becket. He had also written several letters.
Six weeks earlier he had been accused in Bow Street Magistracy in respect of a complaint from the Governor of Archangel that was sent to Riga and forwarded to London. He said the Russian accusation was unjustified and he wanted redress.
Before Bellingham could say anything more to the Magistrate, Castlereagh, who was attending the proceedings, intervened and told Bellingham it was not the time to make his defence, but merely to answer the charge. Bellingham replied to Castlereagh that he would do what His Lordship thought best. He would allow the country to judge his act at the trial.
When he was taken out of Court to the coach to send him to Newgate some of the passers-by applauded him amid shouts of ‘Burdett for ever’. It was feared the mob might try to release Bellingham until some Life Guards arrived.
Bellingham lived at 9 New Milman Street, Bedford Row with his wife Mary and three young sons. The house was visited and searched but the results are unavailable. Several people recalled seeing him about the Commons recently and in the coffee room. Others mentioned Perceval had alluded to the possibility of his assassination recently.
Bellingham was sent to Newgate.
At his trial on 15th May he complained the papers he needed to establish his defence had been withheld. The AG was prosecuting and said the papers were available on the table should Bellingham need them. The Defendant requested an adjournment to call several witnesses from Russia. This was refused. He was allowed to address the jury and complained of ministerial injustice and cruelty. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Sat 10th Oct 1812
The Livery of London is smarting under its sudden inability to petition the King. It is an ancient right which they do not want to lose. They have issued a Proclamation:
- They deplore the corruption and unconstitutional acts of the ministry.
- They are ashamed that the resources of the country are increasingly diverted to the minister’s friends in undeserved pensions and sinecures.
- They abhor the substitution of paper money for gold and its inflationary effects.
- They say the whole country knows that Perceval and Castlereagh traffick in seats in House of Commons and reinstated the Duke of York as CiC when the people wanted him gone. They want both ministers prosecuted.
- They deplore the years of commercial restrictions that have bankrupted so many merchants and impoverished the nation.
- They resent French émigré and German officers commanding British troops.
They had expected the Prince Regent, whose public views were those of the country, to remedy these many problems but he remains without the Crown and has been prevailed upon to maintain the oligarchs in power, the very people who have corrupted parliament to their personal advantage.
And they implore the Regent to dismiss his perfidious ministers.
Sat 17th Oct 1812
Frankfurt Journals to 7th July have arrived via Basra and contain English news to 20th June:
Perceval’s death caused the rest of his group to try to re-allocate jobs. They were prepared to bring in Lord Wellesley and Canning, but essentially wished to maintain their own ascendancy and policies in cabinet. Lord Liverpool conducted the negotiations in mid-May, which were exclusively about the Catholics, but they failed. Wellesley was strongly of opinion that Perceval’s policies were against the national interest and inimical to the happiness of the people. Then the rump of Perceval’s group decided to soldier-on but too many MPs were opposed.
Stewart Wortley in the House of Commons moved an Address to the Regent to form a new ministry. He wants to ensure an election. That might bring-in a popular administration rather than the trumped-up deal amongst the old gang of oligarchs that Castlereagh et al intend. Castlereagh led the opposition to Wortley but was unable to convince the House. Wortley’s proposed Address was carried 174 / 170.
Castlereagh and Yorke then complained to the Speaker that some of their supporters had been busy and had been deprived of a vote. A desperate search of the building was held to round-up ‘yes-men’ and Castlereagh strong-armed the Speaker to have a new count on the basis the previous result did not reflect the opinion of all the members. The Speaker then permitted a second vote which the ministry won 176 / 174.
Wortley was incensed. Whitbread said the ministry could not save itself from the negligence of its supporters. He called for a legal expert to advise the House on its Constitutional position. He thought the decision had been reversed by trickery but he could not convince the House.
The Regent asked Lord Wellesley to form a government and he replied, if he was the minister, he would certainly emancipate the Catholics. This important subject is finally due for debate at end June and all the Lords have been summoned to attend. Wellesley was unable to entice Grey, Grenville or any of that liberal faction to join him. Neither could he co-operate with the late ministry as its toppling had not been consensual.
On this failure, the Regent sent for Moira but he declined the prime ministry and offered only to mediate between Wellesley and Liverpool. This was unsuccessful. On 2nd June the Regent offered the job to Wellesley again. The Grenville faction were only agreeable to coming into power with a majority in the cabinet whereas Wellesley was only offering four places out of twelve or five out of thirteen. Wellesley had to turn down the Regent a second time and Moira was back in the hot seat.
Moira supposes, with his and Erskine’s votes likely to go with Grenville, the liberals could have a majority in a thirteen member cabinet. That was where the situation stood at early June.
Bellingham’s death may not have been in vain.
Sat 31st Oct 1812
The House of Commons has voted a present of £50,000 to Perceval’s widow and an annuity of £2,000 a year. The eldest son with get £1,000 annuity until his Mum dies, then assumes her £2,000 annuity.
Sat 7th Nov 1812
London, 20th April – the Court of Common Council (the representative body of London business) has obtained a complete triumph over the ministry. The officials pressed every button they had in the City and called-in every favour but they failed to prevent Londoners from expressing their grievances to the Regent.
The ministry sent minders to influence the Bank, the India Company, the merchant bankers, the joint-stock firms, the public boards and many contractors and commissioners dependent on these premier commercial bodies but the merchants had also canvassed the whole City and ministerial attempts to reduce the turnout largely failed.
A magnificent attendance was obtained at the Common Council’s meeting and a large number of Londoners signed the City’s Address to the Regent asking him to dismiss the ministry, which has become popularly known as ‘the domestic administration’ as it contains mainly relatives of the Minister.
Sat 14th Nov 1812
London, 20th June – The new cabinet:
- The Earl of Liverpool, formerly Lord Hawkesbury, is First Lord of the Treasury;
- Pitt’s pupil, Vansittart is Chancellor of the Exchequer – he will benefit from that unanswerable line ‘it accords with the system of Mr Pitt’.
- The Geordie John Scott, known as Lord Eldon, is again Lord Chancellor. He is the man who has made signal indecisiveness a route to power. Older parliamentarians still fondly recall his 9-hour speech as AG in the prosecution of Horne Tooke which was fundamental to that man’s acquittal; his talent for ambiguity is unique.
- Castlereagh is Foreign Minister. On the eve of war with America, the public might think they are being trifled with. We hope Castlereagh will recall that, in relations with America, we must convince a greater number of people than with European countries. He has the vivacity of an Irishman but we hope he will control his pride and temper and remember he now represents one of Europe’s leading powers.
- Lord Yarmouth has Home Affairs – he is a justly modest man.
- Lord Melville has the Admiralty where his speculative genius is well recalled.
- Of the others, there is little to be said.
Sat 21st Nov 1812
Banks MP’s Sinecure Office Bill is being read for the second time. It abolishes 200 of the offices that the King and his Minister use to buy support. It is Banks’ intention that sinecures should be progressively replaced by pensions:
Chancellor Vansittart opposed it. The proposed amalgamations of offices would obscure individual responsibility. A man can only be responsible for himself and those he appoints to his offices (over whom he holds the power of dismissal).
Depriving the Chief Justices in the Court of King’s Bench and Court of Common Pleas of their power to sell offices without compensation until £2,000 a year in vacancies had arisen, was simple robbery. If the value of disposable offices was less than £2,000 in any one year they will receive nothing.
Castlereagh also opposed it as its ultimate effects were unforeseeable.
The Bill prevents the King (and his minister) from granting offices to anyone who has not performed some public service. Castlereagh says that is unconstitutional. Under the Bill, such a person has to serve five years before qualifying for reward. Many people of merit will be deterred from public service by its gratuitous nature. The King will find himself surrounded by an even greater concentration of rich aristocrats who do not need sinecures. The tendency of this Bill is to elevate the power of the House of Lords.
The number of offices to be abolished will severely diminish the power of the King. Some say the King’s power has grown too great, but he now has to contend not just with the aristocratic landowners but the burgeoning desires of the City. The thrust of this Bill is directed at the King-in-Waiting.
W Dundas and Colquhon, Scottish MPs, protested the loss of Scottish offices that is envisaged in the Bill. These had been guaranteed to Scotland by the Act of Union.
Banks defended his Bill. The national revenue and expenditure had enormously increased in recent years and the minister’s patronage along with it. It used to be the case that the King’s influence was concentrated on the church, the military and his Chartered Companies but now there was a vast army of people from all walks of life all over the country who are dependant on the King for their income. It has also become apparent that many private bankers and merchants had liaised with the minister to their advantage.
Patronage is not approved by the people. It has become derogatory of the King. We should reinstate the monarchy to its former pristine quality. The jobs that will be abolished by this Bill are just those for which no conceivable justification can be made – jobs that entail no work. The passage of this Bill will restore the public’s faith in their elected representatives – it tends to suggest that we are not in parliament for the money. Instead of sinecures, which the public hate, we can reward conspicuous service with pensions.
The House then voted 134 / 123 in favour. The Bill will come-up for third reading shortly.
Sat 12th Dec 1812
Marquis Wellesley protested against Perceval and his group and resigned on 19th February 1812. He says he has been accommodating in cabinet, even when he thought he was right and Perceval wrong, but it did not produce a more consensual attitude in Perceval. He is confident that the policy of restricted warfare in the peninsula and an inflexible attitude to Catholics are both wrong. He says we should send all our troops to his brothers in Iberia and seriously try to eject the French; we should give the Catholics something to hope for. Perceval wont do either thing so Wellesley is resigning.
His brothers are doing their best and he cannot support them properly. He notified the Regent and Perceval of his decision and Perceval unilaterally sought to instantly oust him in a furtive way by pressing the Regent to replace him with Moira, Castlereagh, Sidmouth or any other of his group. By this act Perceval had forfeited Wellesley’s respect. He says he might act ‘with’ Perceval in future but never again ‘under’ Perceval. He might agree to serve under Moira or Holland.
Sat 19th Dec 1812
Bellingham was hanged on 18th May. Whilst awaiting execution he told Sheriff Heygate that he had been referred from minister to minister and office to office before his claims for services provided in Russia were finally rejected. He commended ministers to attend more closely to the grievances of their supplicants. ‘Had my case of Russian oppression been brought before parliament, none of this would have happened’.
Before the executioner put the cap over his head, Dr Ford asked him if he had any final words. He started to talk about Russia and his family. Ford stopped him and called him to pray. When the cap was again offered he asked to be exempted its use. Ford said that was impossible (the effect of hanging on facial expression might disturb the spectators).
It was raining and the crowd was small. They shouted ‘God bless you’ repeatedly. Ford continued praying for a while after Bellingham had been prepared. On the seventh stroke of 8 am the trap door opened. He only fell about 2 feet and remained visible to the crowd. The lower part of the gallows was enclosed to conceal the men who were pulling on his legs. He remained suspended until 9 am when he was cut down, loaded on a cart, and delivered to St Bartholomew’s Hospital for dissection.
Sat 16th Jan 1813
Political Register 11th April:
Sir Samuel Romilly has visited Bristol which city he hopes to represent in the Commons. The London Morning Chronicle has reported the event in a thoroughly dishonest way. A reader would suppose that Romilly was welcomed and cheered and a large number of people listened to his speech and attended his dinner.
In fact Romilly was unable to address the people because they shouted him down. There was a group of his supporters present with cards printed ‘Romilly’ in their hats but the Bristol weavers removed the cards and tore them up and the candidate’s supporters were too few to respond.
Romilly’s dinner more or less commenced with a toast for Tierney, who is now seen as an inveterate placeman – he so abandoned his principles in the last parliament as to be rejected by his constituents in Southwark. It set the tone for the dinner.
It was the other candidate, ‘Orator’ Hunt, who received all the plaudits of the people. He spoke for 90 minutes elucidating the many ways that the major Whig faction has been helping itself to public money.
The most important events at Bristol are entirely absent from the Morning Chronicle’s account.
Sat 10th April 1813
Political commentators in London have been considering the difficulty of forming an administration. No one faction has a majority but none is willing to compromise its policies in a coalition. Lords Grey and Grenville are staying out unless they can bring in Catholic emancipation and repeal the Orders-in-Council. It is rare for any British politician to voluntarily refuse office but these two have done so repeatedly. In their absence, the country continues to be governed by the rump of Perceval’s group. They have no national popularity and limited parliamentary support.
The Regent has had Wellesley and Moira running around trying to create ministerial alliances but to no effect. Failing in that, he has allowed the former ministers to remain although the House has already voted its lack of confidence in them.
Wortley notes British exports in 1812 are running at about £10 millions less than 1811. The revenue over the same period has declined by £3 millions whilst expenditure has increased by £5 millions. All silver and gold coins have disappeared from circulation and only paper remains. With expenditure exceeding income, and the balance being met by paper money, the nation faces inflation and bankruptcy.
Lord Milton, the popular liberal MP for Yorkshire, says we should not continue a ministry in office after it has been voted incompetent in the House. Vansittart, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is an advocate of paper currency. How can we have these people (like Vansittart) governing the country when 8 years ago they were deemed unfit to serve and Pitt and Fox laid aside their differences to form a government of national unity to keep them out of power. They have twice been forced out of office and now the time for their third expulsion has arrived.
Vansittart defended the ministry. He said the House of Commons had previously interfered with George III’s right to appoint a minister. When we resolved that the Commons may advise the King as to who to appoint, George dissolved parliament and called elections. It was then stated that the King has a clear Constitutional right to appoint whomsoever he likes as minister. If it were not so, this country would be a turbulent democracy instead of a limited monarchy.
Sir T Turton lamented the ministry’s attempt to appoint officials to the Regent’s household. If the Regent is surrounded by ministerial sycophants spewing their biased advices, he would become a useless charge on the nation. He thought, as the House had voted in 1803 to expel these people who comprise the present ministry, they should vacate their offices and stand aside.
A review of the Royal Household since the Revolution (1688) revealed that senior officials – Lords Chancellor, Lords Chamberlain, Lords Steward of the Council, Masters of the Horse – seldom changed with the ministry. There appeared little precedent for a ministry interfering in the Household. The attempt appeared intended to establish a second cabinet around the Regent that was not amenable to parliamentary oversight.
The British way is for the two Houses to debate and approve the minister’s proposals whilst the King retains the power to select the minister from amongst the representatives, which power arises only after the people have chosen their representatives by election.
Sat 8th May 1813
According to the 1810 Pensions List of the Navy:
- 31 Commissioners of the Admiralty, their wives and clerks receive more in pensions than all the wounded naval officers of England.
- 13 daughters of deceased Admirals and Captains receive less than a commissioner’s widow.
- The sinecures of Lords Arden, Camden and Buckingham are greater than the total of all naval pensions. Buckingham’s sinecures alone would fund the navy’s victualling departments at Chatham, the Downs, Dover, Gibraltar, Malta, the Cape, Heligoland and Rio and still leave £5,466 in the Treasury.
- Capt Johnson, who lost an arm, gets £45 a year and Lt Chambers, who lost both legs, gets £80 whilst the clerk who runs the Admiralty ticket office gets £700. On this basis Lord Arden is worth 1,822 Captain’s arms or 964 Lieutenant’s legs.
Such are the rewards for naval service.
Sat 15th May 1813
Lords Buckingham and Camden have been stung by publication of the income from their sinecures at the Treasury – they are both Tellers of the Exchequer. On 21st November they directed that a third of their emoluments from the Tellerships be paid into the Bank of England as voluntary contributions to the public purse.
Sat 4th Sept 1813
Lord Temple, now Marquis of Buckingham, is the head of the richest family in England. He owns five great family estates and has amassed about £2 millions cash, the proceeds of his ancestor’s employment as Teller of the Treasury.
Temple is a frugal chap. Apart from the maintenance of Stowe, which his uncle (George Nugent Grenville Temple, son of George Grenville, one of George III’s earlier ministers) decorated before he died, he has only spent a little money on his new house in Pall Mall.
Sat 25th Sept 1813
A couple of unidentified old coffins – one lead, one stone – have been found at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The Prince Regent attended their opening. The lead coffin contained the martyr Charles I. When they lifted the body, the head fell off revealing the irregular axe fissure – the parts had only been glued together.
A check of the records revealed that an application had been made to bury Charles I in the Chapel of Henry VII in the church of Westminster Abbey but was denied by the then government as likely to form a focus of discontent. A further application later in 1648 to bury him at Windsor was approved as Charles I had been sovereign of the Order of the Garter and some other Kings (Henry VI, Edward IV) were already there. At first it was planned to ensconce him with Henry VIII in Cardinal Wolsey’s tomb-house but Henry’s suppression of the Catholic abbeys and monasteries was thought to make him an unsuitable partner for eternity so Charles went in with Edward IV who was his lineal ancestor.
The stone coffin contained the skull and limbs of Henry VIII. The coffin of Jane Seymour was placed nearby.
Sat 9th Oct 1813
The best bit of patronage in Lord Chancellor Eldon’s gift is the Secretaryship of Bankrupts. He has given it to Burrell, a relative of his wife. Its worth at least £4,000 a year.
Sat 9th Oct 1813
The House of Commons has debated an instance of election malpractice:
The Royal Duke of Cumberland inherited one of four trusteeships for the borough of Weymouth. He seems to have since disposed of the other three trustees (who were all commoners) and assumed control of the borough himself.
He wrote a letter to Stewart, an important resident in the borough, requesting he support Johnstone for election. Johnstone is the candidate of Sir James Pulteney. Cumberland required Lord Liverpool to provide a place to Johnstone. The Writ ordering the election has been bought and retained by Cumberland. It cannot be received at Weymouth.
The ministry says there is a Committee investigating election malpractice and any debate in the House will usurp that committee’s function.
Whitbread expostulated that the ministry had itself protested a similar event in the last Hampshire election and now they took the opposite course. This inconsistency is particularly egregious because the Order of the Day is for debate on a Bill concerning other abuses in the same Weymouth election. This House should try to identify itself with the correction of election abuse, he thought.
Whitbread and the liberals were defeated 45 / 57
Sat 16th Oct 1813
Sir Samuel Romilly is trying to repeal the law that makes shoplifting (of 5/- or more) a capital offence. He has succeeded twice in the Commons but has just been rebuffed (for a third time) in the Lords.
Sat 6th Nov 1813
Burton Morris, Judge of the Palace Court (with jurisdiction in London), has published a new tariff of fees. He wishes to raise an additional £2,000 a year of which £500 is for himself. His act may relate to the recent legislative attempt by Banks MP to reduce patronage available to the Judiciary. Morris has taken this action alone and no discussion with the other judicial officers has occurred.
Crutchley, a Proto-notary of the Palace Court, objected. He was accused by Morris of misconduct and suspended from duty. He has now petitioned parliament for relief.
Jonathan Raine MP said Judge Morris had done no wrong and the petition should be dismissed.
Sir Francis Flood said it usually required an Act of Parliament to revise court fees but Morris is a sound chap.
Wynne said he doubted the Court of King’s Bench could seize jurisdiction in a case involving the administration of the Palace Court and it was a proper matter for parliament.
Brand said Judges can limit or reduce fees, why not let them increase them too?
Lockhart said there are a million Londoners under the jurisdiction of the Palace Court and the matter should be clarified.
MPs then voted 16 / 3 to form a committee. As there was not a quorum in the House, the vote was disregarded.
Sat 1st Jan 1814
The census of 1811 revealed that London’s population was just over 1 million at that time. The next largest English towns are Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Plymouth in that order, with populations of between 50,000 – 100,000. There are eight more towns with a population of over 20,000.
In Scotland both Glasgow and Edinburgh have a population of a little more than 100,000 and Paisley, Aberdeen and Dundee have over 20,000.
The total population of England and Wales now just exceeds 10 millions.
Sat 26th March 1814
House of Commons, 21st June – The Duke of Leeds has been criticised concerning the Helstone election in Cornwall. He used to live near Helstone and the local electors, who have incorporated themselves, agreed to sell him the borough. He bought it at the market rate (equating with the amount of the poor rate, then £1,700 a year for Helstone) which he agreed to pay on behalf of the electors. He later removed and his castle became dilapidated.
Most of the bribery in Cornish elections is done by the clergy – at Tregony and Penryn for example. At Helstone the important clergyman was the Reverend Grills who had the King’s living for that parish and was also Chief Alderman.
In 1804 the Duke was unable to have the electors agree the former price, such was the effect of war on the local economy. Sir Christopher Hawkins bought a share for £5,025, believing it was a progressive step towards a seat in the Lords for himself. Leeds took-up the remaining share at £1,700 and nominated the banker Hammersley and the barrister Horne as his MPs.
Now one of the incorporated electors had asked the Duke for a job for his son and received no reply. He was aware of the case of Grogan, who is now in Newgate Prison for agreeing to pay the debts of the Corporation of Penryn which elected him in return for that agreement. Grogan’s situation appeared indistinguishable from the Duke’s and, in the absence of a job for his son, this present complaint was made.
Davis Giddy MP said the Duke’s acts were customary.
Tremaine MP said the Corporation of Helstone is comprised of respectable people who manage their borough professionally. He thought parliament might reasonably order that all the boroughs be thrown open, each to hundreds of freeholders, but it would be unjust to single out the Duke alone for this trivial offence.
The House of Commons then voted and Leeds was absolved of wrong-doing 55 / 52.
Brand MP said this is precisely what is wrong with parliament. There is a need for reform. Aristocrats from the House of Lords nominate MPs to the House of Commons. The sale of seats like Helstone is a frequent occurrence. He agreed with Tremaine – Helstone should be turned into one of the Hundreds.
Sat 23rd July 1814
The Prince Regent has appointed Sheriffs to all the counties of England and Wales. They serve for a year.
Sat 19th Nov 1814
The country is in uproar over a ministerial attempt to increase the price of bread. A revision to the Corn Laws has been moved in the Commons whereby a swingeing duty would be placed on imported grain, sufficient to amount to a prohibition.
The proposal is that when domestic grain costs 63/- per quarter (28 lbs), the tax on imported grain is 24/- per quarter. The tax decreases as local prices increase until it is totally absorbed at 87/- per quarter. The intention is to artificially support the value of agricultural land, maintain the rents and revalue the land-owners who have not had a good war.
Landowners have been comparatively disadvantaged by the malt tax and the tax on agricultural horses. Their land holdings are public knowledge and cannot be concealed like merchant profits and they have consequently been contributing full rate to the income and property taxes. Formerly people mostly brewed their own beer but the malt tax closed that loophole and moonshining and smuggling had consequently increased which is no good to the landowners – indeed it only benefits the hoi polloi.
On the other hand limiting grain supply to domestic production inevitably means dearer bread. The ministry wants to give the landowners a hand and is probably very sorry about the price of bread.
Rose has been leading opposition in the House of Commons and he has become a national hero.
The ministry took fright at the number of Petitions coming in and sought for delay. It moved a committee be formed to report after six months.
Sat 11th March 1815
Canning has made an uncannily perceptive speech in the House of Commons which received much applause. It was in the debate on the peace treaty.
He said the extraordinary thing about the war was that a small country like England had been able to exert itself sufficiently to successfully contend with the ‘delusive and enthusiastic spirit of liberty’ in a bigger country like France. All Europe is examining our recipe for strength and we have become the model for future government.
We are entering a new age. We will not have to force our system on Europe, the Kings recognise its superiority. Nurturing commerce creates national wealth – the country with the deepest pockets wins the war.
Sat 18th March 1815
Vansittart has told the Governor of the Bank of England that the ministry does not expect to require either a new loan or an issue of Exchequer Bills this year. As soon as it became known on the Stock Exchange the 3% consols rose to 67.
Sat 1st April 1815
House of Commons 25th July – The punishment on conviction for Treason is legislatively amended. Hanging and quartering are retained but the excision of the bowels and throwing them in the face of the dying traitor is rescinded. The Bill has been sent to the House of Lords for their approval.
Sat 15th July 1815
In February 1814 the British government lost its ability to claim a substantial part of its normal revenue due to a fire at the London Customs House which destroyed most of the records of imports and exports for the year.
At the time it was said to have been an accident but an Irishman named John O’Connor has just revealed it was arson. He had been pressed into British military service a few months earlier but had repeatedly deserted to rejoin his family. He had formerly been a sailor for many years under the name Maurice Nelligan. He said he was offered a fabulous sum by unidentified merchants to burn the records. He used phosphorus immersed in water, so the fire started long after he had left the basement.
Sat 29th July 1815
Vansittart has introduced a new tax. It makes an annual charge on every male employee. A clerk costs £4.4.0 a year; if two clerks are employed they cost £7.10.0 each. Shop assistants are £3 each; two or more shop assistants are £4 10.0 each. Managers and foremen are £3 each. Boatmen are £1.10.0 each. Waiters are £4.10.0.
Taxpayers have been declaring their personal servants as business employees and this new Act will close the loophole.
He has raised tobacco tax by an additional £3 per pound.
Manufacturing trades pay a tax depending on the nature of their product.
Sat 5th Aug 1815
The ministry’s attempt to legislatively raise the price of bread to assuage the landowners has back-fired.
Serious riots in London have required that the army be called out against the citizens and numerous Londoners have been killed.
Some buildings were burnt by the mob.
Sat 5th Aug 1815
Lord Cochrane escaped from the King’s Bench prison three weeks ago and was only re-arrested when he arrived in the House of Commons, apparently intent on making one of his intemperate speeches.
Sat 23rd Sept 1815
Castlereagh has quantified the Regent’s debts in the Commons at £330,000. Their settlement with public money will keep him quiet and manageable.
Sat 23rd Sept 1815
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told House of Commons on 7th June that he will increase the tax on newspapers. There will be an extra ½d Stamp Duty on each paper sold and 3/6d tax on each advertisement displayed.
The Editors have protested but the Chancellor asks them to recall that their greatly increased circulation is mainly attributable to public interest in the acts of ministers. The ministry makes the news and the Editors profit from it. They should pay for that.
Sat 21st Oct 1815
A tax on legal proceedings was debated in the House of Commons. It might appear objectionable and is not intended to discourage litigation but legal costs are already high and an extra 4-5% on the total will hardly be noticed. It was approved.
Sat 11th Nov 1815
In 1780 a law was enacted whereby all government contracts must contain a clause indicating no MP could participate in the profits of the contract. Some of the government Boards empowered to make contracts omit this clause. Recent contracts for the purchase of ordnance for the forces lacked the clause and two MPs were known to be participating in the contracts of another Board. Whitbread asked why. Castlereagh said it was an oversight.
All editions of the Bombay Courier for 1816 and 1817 are missing from my copy.
Sat 14th Feb 1818
This year’s British revenue has a surplus in the stamp duty and Customs but a deficit in the Excise due to the great expansion of private home brewing and distilling. Overall the government has a little more money than anticipated and the 3% consols have rallied at 80¼ / 80½. The premium on India bonds is £123 and they are expected to go higher.
Sat 28th Feb 1818
An Englishman has been arrested at Boulogne for debts incurred in England for which judgment has already been entered against him here. He pleaded that the court had no jurisdiction but the French judge said he had dealt with many similar cases previously and he found against the Defendant. He said he would have had no jurisdiction if there had been no judgment.
It thus appears to be the French position that Englishmen who evade their creditors in England by emigrating to France can be held accountable for their debts if judgment has first been obtained here.
Sat 28th Feb 1818
Henry Willock, the British Consul at Tehran, has written to the Bombay Governor about our Royal Family:
Princess Charlotte’s baby was still-born and she herself survived only a few hours on 5th or 6th November. Our hopes are dashed for a clear succession to the Crown. None of George III’s other sons have produced children and, unless one of them does so, this will end the House of Brunswick’s reign on the British throne.
He says Charlotte was a devout admirer of Napoleon – perhaps it is just as well she has gone.
Sat 25th April 1818
The death of the Regent’s only child (Charlotte) in childbirth has raised a question over the succession. The three persons nearest the throne and having children are the King of Wurtemburg, his brother the Prince Paul and his sister Frederica Bonaparte. The wife of a Bonaparte being third in line to the British succession has stunned the ministry.
If the succession is to remain with the House of Brunswick, one or other of George III’s sons must have a child and they have all been briefed.
Charlotte’s husband Leopold is distraught at the loss of his family and has returned to his Electorate of Saxe Cobourg.
Sat 13th June 1818
Lt General Floyd, colonel of the 8th dragoons, has died in London of gout of the stomach. His regiment, being based in India, is one of the most lucrative in the gift of the King. It is conferred on Lord Edward Somerset.
Sat 4th July 1818
The Semarang has arrived from the Gulf with the overland mail bringing European news to April:
The Royal Dukes are belatedly getting married now the uncertain succession has opened-up opportunities for them. There are two ways for a Prince of the Blood to marry – either he gets the permission of the King-in-Council or, if he is 26 years or older, he can notify his intention to the Privy Council. If neither House of Parliament objects within a year, his application is approved.
There is ministerial support for all the Royal Dukes to have £30,000 a year. The House of Commons will shortly vote the additional funds to improve their marriage prospects. The country members are pouring into London to oppose the Royal allowances – they like the Royal Family to be poor. Tierney has asked Castlereagh what happens to the King’s £60,000 a year now he is unwell and retired. Can we divert some of that to the Princes? What about the £100,000 a year for Windsor. The Queen already has £68,000 a year and the two Princesses £13,000 each. There seems to be plenty of money for the support of the King in his old age.
On a review of all the facts, House of Commons did not vote the extra funds that Castlereagh demanded. It was first supposed he would try to find the money from the Consolidated Fund but he later obtained House of Commons approval for payments to some individual Dukes.
Sat 4th July 1818
The army establishment under the Mutiny Bill is now 133,600. Some MPs thought it might reasonably be reduced. America had reduced its army to 8,000 on ratifying the peace with us which had permitted us to reduce our Canadian force to 5,000. In Europe we have to maintain our share of the allied force maintaining the Bourbons (British regiments in France and India total 42,892). Ireland is a conquered country and always requires force to suppress the people. At home there is endless unrest in the industrial districts. But all these calls plus a prudent reserve did not amount to 133,600 men.
Palmerston said we must also protect the lives and property of our industrialists from the people. The House then voted 63 / 42 to maintain the army establishment.
Sat 11th July 1818
There seems to be a slight local difficulty with the Elector of Cassel. His daughter was supposed to marry the Duke of Clarence. The Elector is now recommending his three nieces, the children of the Landgrave Frederick, instead.
The Landgrave’s third daughter was thought to be already betrothed to the Duke of Cambridge. There are few traditional allies available to the Royal Dukes from whom to pick brides.
This sudden British demand for Protestant Princesses has deranged the market.
Sat 25th July 1818
The Anglican Bishops have asked the ministry for more churches. Our existing buildings can contain half of the population. In London they can house less than 15%. Getting people into church is good for morals. We can influence them with sermons and give them social things to talk about afterwards.
The ministry has approved the request and agreed to donate £1 million to the construction of new churches. Many families rent their own pews but the new initiative will create free pews as well.
Sat 5th Sept 1818
The Royal Duke of Clarence has proposed marriage to Amelie Adelaide Louise Therese Caroline of Saxe-Meinengen. She is 26 years old and her mother is ruling the Electorate. Her siblings are minors.
Sat 5th Sept 1818
The costs of representation in the Commons have greatly increased. According to a Bury newspaper, Mr Crespigny has sold the Borough of Aldborough for £32,000 and the buyer is now collecting individual votes at £40 each. Aldborough returns two MPs.
Sat 10th Oct 1818
Britain has been holding a general election in May 1818. The towns of Aylesbury, Bristol, Coventry, Exeter, Gloucester, Hull, Ipswich, Liverpool, Lincoln, Lancaster, City of London, Nottingham, Preston, Worcester, Yarmouth, York and the counties of Wiltshire, Kent, Devonshire and Middlesex are examples of electoral districts where the number of electors is adequate to deter direct purchase.
The towns of Berwick, Bridgewater, Carlyle, Cricklade, Evesham, Hereford, Leominster, Penryn, Taunton and Weymouth are constituencies with a few tens or hundreds of electors. They offer greater opportunity for purchase.
Sat 14th Nov 1818
In January 1818 the City merchant George Cowan became bankrupt and absconded to Rotterdam. The creditors discovered his whereabouts and applied to the Lord Mayor of London for help. He sent bailiff Brand to Rotterdam with a warrant for Cowan’s arrest. The Dutch government was decidedly opposed to our act but Lord Clancarty our ambassador was able to have the warrant recognised on his agreement to reciprocal treatment for Dutch creditors enforcing debts in England.
On hearing of Clancarty’s success, Brand returned to Rotterdam, found Cowan walking in the street and arrested him. Dutch passers-by attempted to intervene and prevent the execution of the warrant but Brand, by showing and handling his pistol, was able to keep them at bay. The Dutch authorities provided an escort to take Cowan to the Hague where he was gaoled pending for the departure of the next packet.
The following morning Cowan asked the gaoler for coffee for his breakfast and whilst the guard was away he hanged himself (concealing assets in a bankruptcy is a capital offence in England). Brand then attended Cowan’s house in Rotterdam and discovered various assets – cash, jewels, bank-notes, watches – which he seized and brought back to London.
Sat 27th Feb 1819
The Globe, 10th September – Henry Hunt sent a Petition to Minister Sidmouth for the Regent and Sidmouth refused to deliver it. The Minister says the Petition purports to be from citizens of London and Westminster and he avers that is untrue.
Hunt says the Petition was the unanimous wish of a meeting of 5,000+ people held at Palace Yard (the place used by the Livery of London for meetings).
It is a remonstrance against the unconstitutional acts of the borough-mongers who have usurped the government of Britain. He asks for its return so he can get it to the Regent by some other means.
Hunt notes that Sidmouth is the first official to his knowledge to have interposed himself between the ruler and the ruled.
Sat 20th March 1819
House of Commons, 8th Oct – Application of the Consolidated Fund in 1817 in Pounds Sterling:
|Civil List to the King||1,028,000|
|Salaries to Judicial officers||64,000|
|Salaries to auditors of the public accounts||54,000|
|Salaries to officers of the Mint||15,000|
|Pensions to the Royal Family||348,000|
|Interest on part 50 million Florin Russia loan||131,000|
|South Sea Company deficiency||3,000|
|Bounties to naval officers for slaves freed||4,000|
Sat 10th April 1819
1,400 British seamen and 12 Lieutenants are to be re-employed to form a coast guard on the Kent and Sussex coast. The navy has been so rapidly run-down that this will be a welcome if isolated bit of good news for the tars. Smuggling along the south coast has continued to flourish since the war and the ministry wants to deter it.
Sat 8th May 1819
The Lords of the Treasury have permitted all British and foreign Bible Societies to export bibles from London free of duty.
Sat 5th June 1819
The new wives of the four Royal Dukes are all pregnant. The Duke and Duchess of Kent are coming to England for her accouchement.
Sat 21st Aug 1819
London, 6th April – One of the electoral districts belonging to the Duke of Newcastle is Boroughbridge. The Duke employed Lawson as MP but that Member failed to endorse the Duke’s policies. As a result all the electors that supported Lawson’s action over Newcastle have received notices of eviction from their tenements.
Lawson then negotiated and, in return for his (Lawson’s) resignation from the House, obtained the Duke’s permission for all the ejected farmers to be restored to their houses at the same rents.
By alleviating the electors of this hardship Lawson earned their gratitude and they returned him to the Chiltern Hundreds, confounding the opposition of the Newcastle faction.
Sat 4th Dec 1819
The minister got the Tax Report Bill passed the Commons 182 / 68. It seems our representatives are intent on increasing our taxes whilst reducing our commerce.
Sat 26th Feb 1820
There is a report in Calcutta that all future vacancies in the British army will be filled from the half-pay list. It accords with the economy forced upon the ministry by the distressing economic conditions.
Sat 6th May 1820
House of Commons, 14th December 1819:
Lord John Russell moved a debate on parliamentary reform. He said too many towns were unrepresented in the Commons. Eliminating just a few boroughs, as the late Samuel Romilly had commended, would make a difference.
Long ago we ceased receiving representatives from Malden. We granted elections (by the King’s Writ and by Act of Parliament) to the counties of Cheshire and Durham. Haverford West was allowed to send representatives in Henry VIII’s reign. Other places were enfranchised up the reign of Charles II.
By the Act of Union the King was prevented from increasing the membership and an unintended side effect of that was to permit the continuance of small boroughs which sell the suffrage and have occasionally been punished (Cricklade, Aylesbury) by this House for so doing. Fossilisation of the franchise has prevented the new towns from obtaining representation. As a result this House is no longer truly representative of all the people.
In 1778 Manchester was a village of less than 3,000. Now it is home to 110,000. Not long ago Leeds was the same diminutive size as Manchester, in 1811 it contained 62,000. In that same year (there was a census) Birmingham had 85,000, Halifax 63,000 and Sheffield 35,000. These rapid changes require parliamentary action. All these towns are commercially important and should be enabled to defend their interests and state their grievances in this House. (Editor’s Note – The commonality amongst these towns is that they pay no tithes to the church, probably the reason the merchants selected them in the first place)
When Pitt sought to reform the representation in 1782 he was defeated by the absence of petitions from the new towns requesting for it. Well, now we have them. It was also argued that our ability to make war and raise taxes would be constrained by representatives of commercial districts. Montesquieu long ago answered that fear in his review of the history of the Republican governments of Genoa and Venice which reveals no such difficulties.
The membership of this House divides into four groups – Members for counties, for boroughs, for Cornwall and for the Cinque Ports. Our Constitution does not depend on a Charter but is an accumulation of legislation to ensure the fair division of power between King, Lords and Commons. In the same way, representation in the Commons balances the interests of counties, cities and boroughs. Montesquieu thought it the most perfect Constitution. It is a magical thing and should not be abandoned. We merely need to demonstrate to the people that when a defect manifests we are disposed to correct it.
I propose four Resolutions:
- Those boroughs that are notoriously corrupt shall cease to return MPs.
- Those seats to be given to large towns and counties.
- That we consider how best to deter, detect and prevent electoral corruption.
- That the borough of Grampound do cease to return MPs.
Normanby seconded. He thought Cornwall should not be famous for its production of tin, copper and MPs. He noted Manchester was unruly whilst Derby and Leicester (both represented) were not. He thought the people were irritated to the limit of their endurance and some redress must be offered them. If the people are not opposed to us the Constitution will stand more firmly.
Castlereagh for the ministry feared any reform would be understood as a sign of weakness. He agreed with the concept of punishing some boroughs to deter the others. The principle had been admitted in the last session and 3 or 4 boroughs had been identified but the difficulty in disenfranchising them was judicial not political. He believed a Bill had been sent to the other House during last session in respect of one borough. The impolicy of bringing people to London for enquiries had delayed development in the other cases – the House has been very busy. He thought each case must be dealt with individually on its merits. He expected it would be impossible to disenfranchise the Cornish boroughs. The householders had an express right to vote. How could these householders be distributed amongst the electorate of the counties? Practically, only a few boroughs in the other counties might be amenable to the process. Russell’s proposal is only a partial remedy – it is too theoretical and abstract. Detailed investigation is necessary. The House needs to consider what would become of electors of disenfranchised boroughs. Russell proposes to infringe on their rights. Castlereagh concluded by reiterating his complete agreement.
Tierney thanked Castlereagh for the ministerial agreement to reform. He noted that householders in boroughs were mortal and their votes end with their lives. We just have to cease permitting new ones to take-up the same rights. He understood Castlereagh to say he would bring-in a Bill to disenfranchise Grampound and transfer those seats elsewhere.
Russell then withdrew his proposals, pending for Castlereagh’s Grampound Bill.
Sat 3rd June 1820
George III died at 8.30 pm at Windsor Castle. All the church bells in London are being tolled. The late King was born on 24th May 1738 (which became 4th June after the 11-day correction of the calendar). He was enthroned in Oct 1760 and married in September 1761. The couple had seven sons and five daughters of whom six and four remain alive. The Regency commenced on 6th February 1811.
Sat 10th June 1820
Ponsonby has proposed in the House of Commons, now the King has died, that they enact legislation permitting automatic renewal of all patents, warrants and commissions of civil, army and navy officers.
Ponsonby’s motion is a thrust against the Law Officers. It will deprive the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General of a windfall in fees. The other unfortunates are those barristers who were appointed on patents of precedence – their powers under the patent are automatically extinguished on the death of the monarch. It is also supposed that commissions to JPs will need renewal.
Sat 17th June 1820
George IV has dismissed parliament and indicated its recall in a couple of weeks. He is reported to have dismissed the ministry as well but they decline to be dismissed. The ministry’s newspaper the Courier denies it whilst the others refer to advices from confidential friends of ministers that they have all been sacked.
Sat 24th June 1820
Bells’ Weekly Messenger, 13th March – The British ministry has been obliged by the new King to call a General Election. There is a general feeling that some measure of parliamentary reform is requisite and that parliament should be something more than the instrument of the King whom it has historically rewarded with a Civil List beyond the means of the people to pay.
Castlereagh is heading the financial reform. He occasionally gets an addition to the Civil List approved on the grounds that some previous allowance will be discontinued and in this way – give a bit, take a lot – has whittled it down quite successfully.
It could not have happened under George III.
Its the most public aspect of increased power of the landowners over the Regent whose reduced position facilitated the parliamentary coup.
Sat 24th June 1820
Bells’ Weekly Messenger, 13th March – The House of Commons contains the following representatives:
- 40 English counties return 80 Knights of the Shire;
- 25 cities return 50 citizens;
- 167 Boroughs return 334 Burgesses;
- 5 Boroughs (Abingdon, Bunbury, Bewdley, Higham Ferrars and Monmouth) return only one burgess each;
- Oxford & Cambridge Universities return 4 members;
- 8 Cinque ports return 16 Barons.
- Wales returns 24 MPs,
- Scotland 45 (and 16 representative Peers to the House of Lords) and
- Ireland 100 MPs
making a grand total of 658 MPs.
Sat 15th July 1820
London newspapers, 13th March 1820 – It appears the ministerial negotiation with the Royal Family is concluded and a new agreement for shared power reached. The result is that the Civil List is to be increased by £500,000 a year.
Tierney and other liberal Whigs have been predicting that the impoverished state of the country guarantees that the Civil List would continue to shrink. This increase will be an unpleasant surprise to them and would have made the matter a keen issue in the elections had it been disclosed earlier.
When James II abdicated, the King’s hereditary revenues became known publicly. On the accession of William III that King was allowed a Civil List. It appears the parliamentary intention was to retain the hereditary revenues of the Stuarts for the people and pay a fixed sum for the maintenance of the Crown.
The House of Brunswick has little connection with either the Stuarts or the House of Orange. It would seem difficult for them to claim hereditary revenues from this country. Even if the Brunswick family can establish a claim, it must involve the liabilities that the Stuarts were exposed to including the expense of maintaining both the army and navy.
Actually the income of the Royal Family is considered to have become a Constitutional assignment of the people. It is not to be compared with, for example, the Estate of the Duke of Devonshire. It is the quid pro quo for good government.
In the wording of his Address to Parliament on 27th April 1820 the then Privy Council required George IV to specifically declare his agreement to the ministry disposing of his interest in the hereditary revenues.
Sun 13th Aug 1820 Extraordinary
Excluding members of his own Royal Family, George III created three hereditary Dukedoms during his reign. They were conferred on the Percy and Montagu families in 1766 and the Wellesleys in 1814.
The Montagu Dukedom expired the year of its creation with the death of the childless Duke.
The other Dukedoms that expired during George III’s reign were on the Fitzroy, Powlett, Douglas, Bertie, Pierrepoint, Holles-Pelham, Brydges and Egerton families. They were respectively Dukes of Southampton, Bolton, Dover, Ancaster & Kesteven, Kingston, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Chandos and Bridgewater.
Another list of Marquisates given and surrendered is also published.
Sat 30th Sept 1820
House of Commons, 1st June – Holme Sumner made a motion for a Select Committee to report on the state of agriculture. The ministry and the liberal Whigs opposed it, a rare example of their mutual interest, but the country members were in favour and it passed 150 / 101.
The agricultural lobby deny they wish to enhance the price of grain – they say they are motivated solely by a wish to relieve distress amongst their farm labourers.
On a later day, Robinson MP successfully had the enquiry limited to frauds practised under existing agricultural Regulations.
Sat 7th Oct 1820
House of Lords, 26th May – Lansdowne has been speaking on the State of the Nation. He thinks an important element in ministerial attempts to restore national wealth should be the stimulation of trade.
He says the London shipping interest developed Canada as a source of timber for English ship-building and procured a prohibitive tax on timber from the Baltic to protect their investment and profits. The ministry co-operated because they needed more revenue but the tax was presented as a temporary measure to ameliorate the complaints of the Baltic traders. The shipping interest want the tax applied permanently but it is detrimental to this country’s overall interest as the Canadian firs lack the qualities of Baltic masts. Lansdowne thinks the ministry should attend to the national interest before it attends to its friends.
If our commercial policy is to be shaped by the momentary interests of those people profiting from it and not based on the sound principles of free trade, it jeopardises the country’s wealth. Profit precedes quality, a higher rate of replacement adds to the cost of operating British ships comparative to other more prudent nations, and our control of the seas, for which we have just won international recognition, is threatened.
Formerly the trade with Russia and Prussia in Baltic timber was done in British ships and was paid for in British manufactures. We still get the sale of our manufactures. At the Leipzig Fair each year it is the Russians, Prussians and Poles who buy our manufactures but our timber trade has moved to distant Canada where we spend £500,000 a year more on procurement than we formerly spent in the Baltic timber trade.
We tax French wines at £143 the tun and the less-popular Iberian wines at £95 the tun. As a result the formal trade in French wines reduced by £200,000 last year. We should be trying to make our trade reciprocal. We can reasonably expect France to receive British manufactures in return for our purchases of wine and brandy. The prohibitive duty on superior French silks might be reduced if we concurrently made some one-off grant to the silk weavers of Spitalfields.
There was also a general handicap to British trade contained in those Statutes that predicate a particular minimum tonnage of ship for a particular trade. That meant many overseas ports are hardly accessible to us (because our ships are too big) and a coasting trade upon foreign shores is impossible. In Asia we have excluded all British mercantile activity from the tea trade. Even the India Company should give way to the national interest, he thought. As the law presently stood Asian trade can only be legally done in ships of 400+ tons. The Company employs 20,000 tons using 2,500 seamen whereas the new free trade in Asia already employs 60,000 tons and 4,000 sailors. Our merchants are excluded from tea trade while Americans monopolise supply to France, Holland and Germany.
If a British ship goes to South America for silver it must return here before going to India whereas the Americans often circumnavigate the globe in their voyages. Moreover their smaller ships give them access to all the little ports and rivers of Asia and South America whilst ours have to anchor miles offshore and lighter their cargoes in and out. The newly independent countries of South America are keen to trade and they pay in silver.
Lansdowne said trade can be developed by thoughtful regulation. It may take time to experience the benefits but that is no reason to neglect it. He proposes a committee be formed to enquire into British foreign trade. It was agreed.
Sat 14th Oct 1820
House of Lords, 16th May – Stanhope thought the policy of exclusively encouraging British manufacturers should be revisited. Successive ministries have endeavoured to increase British exports to bring greater wealth into the country. When work was abundant it had produced a huge increase in population as parents sought to get their children into jobs and increase the family income.
Since the end of the war our European neighbours had continued a species of Continental System to our great disadvantage. The real benefit of manufacturing was to supply our own wants using our own people. The increasing use of machinery in agriculture and industry diminished the jobs available. The result has been a great increase in utilisation of the Poor Rates which value now exceeds our entire civil and military budgets for 1792.
The statistical evidence reveals that landless people pay a third of their income in tax whilst landed people pay half or more. The last session of parliament produced additional taxation of £3 millions. Stanhope suggested allotments of marginal or waste land be turned over to the poor for their own production. This system is employed in Ireland and they have no Poor Law at all. We should also encourage small fishing business and improve the roads so the produce can be distributed more widely. In Manchester today one can earn 10/- (50p) a week by working a 17 hour day but only young healthy people can tolerate that. As a result the award of transportation, which is supposed to be a punishment for crime, is looked upon as a Godsend.
Liverpool (formerly Hawkesbury, the great exponent of City interests) said Stanhope is a benevolent man but his ideas are absurd. Mechanisation has been the salvation of Britain. It has enabled us to make markets in countries where workers receive less pay than ours. All marginal land is already farmed. We continually consider ways of extending fishing industry.
Stanhope’s proposal was then negatived without a division.
Sat 14th Oct 1820
House of Lords, 16th May – Lord Archibald Hamilton queried a ministerial proposal to create a fifth Baron of the Exchequer for Scotland. The Scottish Judges had said it was unnecessary. The business of the Scottish Treasury is done by the Remembrancer who delegates it ‘lock, stock and barrel’ to his nominee. That man calls the Barons to assemble and reports to them. They have only to agree or dissent. His job involves less than two months a year, mainly travelling time from London however, the nominee’s duties are said to be so great that no fixed reward is placed on them – effectively he sets his own salary. This is arrant jobbing, Hamilton thought.
Sir Walter Scott is a Principal Clerk of Sessions in the Scottish Judiciary. The job is supposedly demanding and full time yet Scott produces more private publications than Hamilton has time to read.
Hamilton is a deputy Lieutenant of a county. He is ashamed to be the man who calls out the army to suppress starving people when this sort of patronage exists and seems to be increasing.
Castlereagh for the ministry said its actually an economy. The Scottish Exchequer Court could not be assimilated to the English one because in Scotland it was a court without appeal. The appointment of Sir Peter Murray as fifth Baron had in fact saved Scotland £1,000 a year.
Tierney disagreed. He thought it was a disgrace. The gallery was then cleared for an hour whilst discussion continued. When the reporters re-entered, Hamilton’s motion was defeated 189 / 177.
Anecdotally the political reporter later learned from co-operative MPs that it had been revealed the Lord President of the Scottish Exchequer Court was Sir Peter Murray’s brother-in-law.
Sat 28th Oct 1820
House of Commons, 5th May – Brougham has told the House that an English King may have no property. The matter of personal ownership of possessions was settled when the Baron holding the Duchy of Lancaster became King of England. On that occasion his Duchy lands and property became Jura Corona.
Even treasure cannot be owned by a King. When one of the Kings Edward sought to dispose of naval stores to the Earl of Devonshire, the transfer was adjudicated and was held incapable of performance under the King’s sign manual. The jurist Lord Coke held the decision to be correct. Later James I gifted some prize ships to Lord Ashley under the sign manual and was likewise criticised by Lord Clarendon who held that the law required such type of transfer to be done under a warrant of the Great or Privy Seal, the same as grants from the Exchequer.
Such was the uniform opinion of the law in English history until the ministry of William Pitt.
In 1795 an Act of Parliament was passed permitting George III to hold, buy and sell private property. It was extended to include copyhold land and permitted the King to become the copyhold tenant of one of his subjects. Brougham thought this had diminished the dignity of the King and should now be amended.
Brougham said he was not proposing to relieve the Monarchy of the revenues it had accumulated in the intervening years, without offering something in return. He wished it recollected by the House that whenever hereditary revenues and droits had been given to a Monarch, it was solely to enable Him to support the costs of the state. In consideration of this intention, shipping wrecks upon the coasts of England belonged to the Crown because the King used the proceeds to provide a coastguard against piracy. It is the same with the other droits – they are all supposedly applied to some national purpose.
For a long time the King has had no responsibility to fund any national efforts but the droits continue to accumulate for his account. During George III’s reign they were worth £13.7 millions.
It was not just the Crown that retained a revenue that was not due to it. The Anglican Church was permitted to charge tithes that were expressly to be applied to the maintenance of the poor. However, by a series of prior Acts (passed in the reigns of Henry, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth), the Church was largely relieved of its obligation to the poor and only a portion of the tithe income was subsequently spent that way.
Brougham proposed that the King’s droits should be treated like the Church’s tithes. He noted that the salaries of the Bourbon King of France, the Stadtholder of Holland and the American President were all fixed and published but no-one knew the income of the British King. In Thomas Paine’s book, the King of England is said to have an income of £800,000+ a year for a pleasant duty, and Paine typically added that he could find a good many people who would accept the job at £500 all in.
Brougham had asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer Paine’s assertion but had failed to obtain his agreement so he was raising the matter before the House himself.
The preamble to the Civil List usually says the £900,000 annual grant is for the costs of the Royal Household and to support the honour and dignity of the Crown. Officers on our Foreign Service, the Judiciary, the Board of Treasury, etc., receive their incomes from the Civil List Revenue and not from the King. It is suggested by the ministry that any inquiry into the King’s income would of itself impugn the dignity of the Crown. Previously there was no problem, now there is a problem. What has changed?
What is very apparent from a casual glance at the Civil List accounts for 1814 that have just become available is that the entire subject is engulfed in a fog of obscurity. It arises from the complex way used to classify Royal expenditure. All that can be said is that some Royals get their income from the Civil List and others from the Consolidated Fund; how much those incomes are is incalculable.
Looking down the Civil List one finds all sorts of people accompanying the King – the Rector of St Bodolphs, the Church Wardens, a school teacher, a mayor, a French minister, a lay corporation, the Astronomer Royal, the Master of the Horse and the Master of Ceremonies, etc.
During George III’s reign there were six alterations to the way the Civil List is operated and eight parliamentary interventions to pay debts on the List. This revealed that granting a lifetime income would be a waste of time. We should proceed on a more regular basis so the amount could be varied to suit the circumstances.
Payments to ambassadors, Secretaries of State, Treasury officials, Judges, the Speaker and similar officers might readily be separated from the rest of the List and regularised.
The section of the account for ‘contingencies’ was inscrutable. Some attempt should be made to estimate contingencies. They should be voted by parliament in the same way the military expenses called ‘extraordinaries’ are voted. The whole subject needs examination and review.
Returning to the matter of ‘droits’, which all disappeared into the murky depths of the Civil List, they represent a fund that, for consistency, should be controlled by parliament. Its not a question of abuse or suspicion of abuse but rather of transparency and Constitutional right.
There are many types of droits, although the predominant one involves prize money of the navy and (somewhat) the army. In 1807 a lunatic died and, being legally incompetent, his Estate of £137,000 fell to the Crown as a droit. In 1808 an estate of £49,000 and in 1809 another of £62,000 both came to the Crown as no heir could be identified in either case. This was windfall income over which House of Commons had no control – it might have been used in all sorts of ways that parliament would reprobate.
But the overwhelming balance of droits was due to prizes – the Dutch fleet in 1803 produced £1,030,000 and the Spanish treasure fleet £2.2 millions. After the Peace of Amiens we seized and sold all French shipping in British ports without declaring war. Those droits went to the Crown. Our seizures caused the detention of all British nationals then in France, maintenance of whom fell to parliament.
The only reason these droits went to the Crown and not to the captors was because Britain was not at war with the Netherlands or Spain or France at the time we took their property. In 1806 George III in his Address from the Throne remitted £1 million of this droit income to the people and we thanked him for it. It was the first occasion since the Revolution that a King had offered money to parliament and we should have been more attentive. In a constitutional monarchy, parliament funds the King and not vice versa.
One of the major recipients of benefit from the droit income was Sir Home Popham who did some peculiar things in South America and elsewhere which the minister of the day did not permit to be debated in this House (the East India Company’s private invasion of Buenos Aires). Accordingly Popham got his pay-off in several payments from the Civil List. That better than anything illustrates the type of payment that the Civil List might be applied to – a slush fund for official bribery.
There is also the 4½% duty on West Indian goods that goes to the Civil List for the Crown. This fund is charged with £700,000 a year and does not appear to belong to the country at all.
On an earlier occasion Charles II took the Dutch fleet at Smyrna without declaring war and as a result British forces were overwhelmed and we had to sue for a humiliating peace. These acts during peacetime can go wrong yet we seem to find them irresistible. It is these piratical British acts of war that make our neighbours anxious and fearful.
We are now at the beginning of a new reign. This is the time to reassert parliamentary supremacy by jealously controlling all available public funds. And Brougham moved for agreement to consider the Civil List, the droits and the 4½% West Indian duty together.
Canning said the 4½% duty was granted to the Leeward Islands to pay-off some quit-rents and meet some local expenditure. From the outset the income from this duty was used to fund pensions and had continued through four reigns. Chatham and Burke were both paid from the 4½% duty income. It is obviously not a slush fund, he said.
In George III’s reign £9.7 million was paid into the Civil List in respect of prizes and £4.3 million was paid out to captors and their legal advisers. The rest was spent subventing all those pensions payable from the 4½% duty (inter alia Nelson, St Vincent and Wellington), to individual members of the Royal Family and for the costs of entertainment of foreign princes, all of which expenditure had been known to parliament.
Canning said it is absurd to infer, as Brougham has done, that ministers are willing to go to war merely for personal financial gain. The Crown has managed the fund sensibly and there is no reason to transfer control to parliament. Britain is not like America – the King is a power centre in his own right. He selects his Minister, he controls the Church, receives the loyalty of the armed forces and has the loudest voice in Judicial appointments. He holds many reins on daily life.
Brougham explained. He had not thought ministers would go to war to obtain droits but that, when they ordered the commission of warlike acts without declaring war, they inevitably obtained them.
Sir James Mackintosh categorised Canning’s information as fallacious. The Civil List is one of the last relics of feudalism which we have been dismantling piecemeal since Magna Carta. Foreigners complain when we war with them without declaring ourselves. They look at the result and conclude we do it for the money. How do we answer them? Now Europe is at peace, we should take the chance to settle this matter not just for ourselves but to alleviate international concern.
It is also a reasonable parliamentary intention to give the King a regular income, one that is not subject to fluctuations acquired through means of doubtful justice. Piratical income diminishes the dignity of the King more than enquiring into his financial sources.
The Danish droits were worth not £1 million as Brougham supposes but £2 millions and the British mercantile community at Copenhagen was injured by that action and later claimed for £200,000 compensation for lost business. They asked to be paid from the droits fund and were refused although the claimants in the Spanish treasure case had been settled in that way. Clearly there is a substantial part of the British mercantile community in Copenhagen who would disagree with Canning.
George III closely guarded this fund and brooked no interference in it. £300,000 a year of Royal Family expenditure is paid through the Consolidated Fund because we could not get the King’s agreement to use the Civil List. A succession of Ministers have bartered the Constitution for royal favours. Parliament should make a start on going through all the miscellaneous payments and reduce the obfuscation that surrounds the Civil List. The fact to keep in mind is that the Civil List contains funds that can be disbursed by King or Minister without informing parliament. That has to stop.
Tierney said the King had made no sacrifice although the people had paid everything they could pay and more. Here in the Civil List we have a great source of unaccountable wealth to mitigate the distress of the nation.
Vansittart said the acts that comprised droits had not invariably caused war, and he adduced the example of the occasion when we impounded the Russian ships in 1801. He thought that act probably averted war, and relations later improved, after which we gave the ships back.
Sir J Yorke asked if the officer who had conducted the souchong and congou expeditions (Amherst’s embassy to Peking) was rewarded with a pension from the 4½% West Indian duty but received no ministerial answer.
Sat 9th Dec 1820
The office of Comptroller of the Exchequer Bills Account, which is worth £1,000 a year and has been held by Pollard until his recent death, has been abolished by the Treasury Auditor. The job involves a quarterly signature on the accounts. This is in pursuit of the parliamentary intention to remove sinecures as they fall vacant and replace them, if appropriate, with pensions.
However, the Lords of the Treasury overruled the Auditor, revived the office and gifted it to Kirkland.
Sat 16th Dec 1820
The lax morality of British Customs Houses is well known and parliament has acted to deter abuse. A penalty of £500 has been enacted against anyone offering a bribe to a Customs officer, whether he accepts it or not.
Sat 9th June 1821
The elective franchise of Scotland is composed of 3,100 Scots, mainly freeholders. The ministry, at least since the days of Dundas Sr., has been well aware of the value of these voters. Whoever has the ear of this small group controls Scotland and the remaining populace of 2 millions is politically irrelevant.
Ministerial patronage is naturally focused on the voters but recently it seems to have been inadequate to retain their submission. There have been Freeholders Meetings around Scotland that are mostly in favour of political reform.
Sat 21st July 1821
The House of Commons has been considering Bathurst’s suitability as President of the Board of Control. Canning bestowed the job on him when he himself sought for another appointment. Pitt’s East India Act gave no income to the government supervisors on the Board of Control, because to do so would require they resign from parliament due to the provisions of Queen Anne’s Act.
To reward Board Members under Pitt’s Act, the annual patronage conceded by the Company Directors to the politicians was set at 2 Writers, 26 Cadets and 4 Assistant Surgeons a year. This is worth about £12,000 on the current tariff. By having the Company pay the Board with patronage, the Controllers can be considered as unpaid and remain in parliament, fully available to, and supportive of, the ministry.
It is a matter for congratulations that the country now has Bathurst in control of the Board. He is rich enough to be uninfluenced by monetary temptations. The only concern of parliament is the extent that Pitt’s Act brings the Company within the control of the ministry, regardless of parliamentary oversight.
Everyone well recalls when the first Lord Melville was President of the Board of Control. During those many years, India was peopled with Scots from Melville’s constituency. His influence over the voters of Scotland enabled him to fix a succession of sedition trials at Edinburgh in 1790s and defeat the reasonable aspirations of the people.
When Castlereagh was President of the Board of Control, India was inundated with Irishmen and the powerful people of Ireland were brought within the ministry’s control. Castlereagh was criticised for selling a seat in the House of Commons for a writership, so the ramifications of this patronage can extend beyond India.
English members of the Commons are hopeful that, with Bathurst in charge, patronage will flow to Englishmen this time.
Sat 22nd Sept 1821
George IV has complained that procedure at Levees has not been well organised and two people, whom it was not his intention to knight, had in fact received that honour.
‘The Lord-in-Waiting will be pleased to ensure that no-one is presented for knighthood unless with the prior sanction of one of His Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State’.
Sat 29th Sept 1821
Scarlett has proposed a fund be created for the care of the poor in sickness and old age. It is revolutionary. If a whole nation is given access to the Poor Rate it will soon cause a loss of energy and enterprise, the very things we wish to nurture and encourage in our workers. Supporting workers in sickness and old age is the first step towards their enslavement.
The Swiss enacted an interesting law several years ago whereby every couple wishing to marry had first to pay the equivalent of £4 into a fund for the helpless and infirm.
In mid-1770s the Poor Rate in England was £1.5 million; in 1783 it was £2.4 million; in 1803 it was £4.3 million; in 1813 £6.1 million. It seems to be the case that, regardless of peace and war, Poor Rates increase.
When first enacted by Queen Elizabeth, the Poor Rate was intended solely for the sick and the old but had since been extended to all poor people. The House of Lords examined the matter and concluded that the Poor Rate inculcates dependence, diminishes household economy and enhances immorality.
Now the Pound is restored to its proper value (see the Economy chapter for this unique achievement), we should fix a maximum entitlement to the Poor Rates.
Sat 16th March 1822
Baron Graham of the Somerset Assizes has queried the practice of imprisoning witnesses until their cases come-up for hearing. If the witness has property, or is known in the locality, the magistrate might take sufficient securities or the witness’ own recognizance to bind him over to appear but poor witnesses are invariably gaoled.
His attention had been drawn to the matter by an 11-year old farm worker who had been in prison for the three summer months pending for a convenient time to try a felony allegation in which the lad is to give evidence. If the defendant was found guilty, it was doubtful he would be punished as severely as the witness.
Graham noted the practice of imprisoning witnesses pending for trial was common throughout Italy but he thought the British judiciary should investigate alternatives.
Sat 15th June 1822
George IV has obtained a cession of Kew Green from the inhabitants of that village. He has bought the adjacent mansion of Mr Hunter and has now bought the lease on Barrister William Selwyn’s land which includes most of the Royal Gardens and the pagoda site.
The locals are expectant that the new King will restore the Royal Gardens of Richmond and Kew to their former splendour.
Sat 15th June 1822
The Royal Burghs of Scotland are the jewel in the Ministerial crown – who ever controls the Burghs controls Scotland. They are the means whereby the country can be bought for a fraction of its value. The Commons is debating them but any expectation of reform is out of the question. Their value was so clearly displayed by Dundas in Pitt’s ministry that it is inconceivable they would voluntarily be interfered with.
Sat 17th Aug 1822
English farmers remain implacably opposed to the continuation of high taxation. Norfolk and Suffolk farmers have been particularly vociferous. They ridicule the government proposal to increase taxation for the purpose of refunding part of the increased take to landowners in agricultural subsidies.
Sat 28th Sept 1822
The liberal Whigs have queried the cost of British diplomatic missions abroad. The account of expenses appears at Part 3 of the Civil List. Castlereagh says the missions represent the country and must be prestigious. The liberals think poverty in the rural parts of the country should be addressed first.
The ministry has defended the costs of the Lords of the Admiralty and the Post Office and been defeated in each case (Liverpool’s only success was to retain jobs for two Post Masters General – one runs the office, the other reads the mail) and these diplomatic costs were yet another similar case. The liberals say £150,000 a year can be saved without reducing the service. On this occasion the liberals lost 274 / 147
Sat 14th Dec 1822
George III made a Will on 2nd June 1774. He died 29th Jan 1820 and the distribution of his Estate is now being considered by the Ecclesiastical Court. The late King did not appoint Executors which is a matter for judicial consideration. The Court says all the assets of a King must transfer to his successor on death.
The King’s Will is in the possession of Olive, a lady who has claimed for the last couple of years that she is the daughter of Henry Frederick, the Duke of Cumberland. She has produced it to show George III bequeathed £15,000 to her. She received the Will from the Earl of Warwick in the presence of the Royal Duke of Kent in 1815. Effectively, Olive’s claim is on George IV who is judicially deemed to have inherited all his father’s assets.
The Court’s view is that no such claims are maintainable in English law. The King is pre-eminent; no Court can have jurisdiction over him without infringing his pre-eminence.
An examination of the Wills of British sovereigns down to Alfred the Great has failed to identify a precedent for Probate in the Ecclesiastical Court. Indeed, so far as the Ecclesiastical Court archive is concerned there is only one King’s Will on file – Henry VIII’s – and it is a copy. There was no indication on it of the Estate having been subjected to Probate.
There was one item in the Rolls of Parliament involving Henry IV who died a pauper and his Executors declined to act. The Archbishop of Canterbury was then given the King’s assets for sale but Henry V requested they be sold to him and it was done.
However it was enacted (16th Richard II) that Kings have a Constitutional right to make Wills. George I had exercised that right but no Probate of his or any other sovereign’s Will had occurred. Neither had any King come to the Ecclesiastical Court for Letters of Administration.
On this basis the Ecclesiastical Court concluded it must lack jurisdiction. It believed itself subject to the control of the Courts of Chancery (and the Common Law, if it exceeded its jurisdiction).
Olive’s claim was dismissed, the hearing was delayed and ‘Princess Olive’, as she is popularly called, was arrested and taken to the King’s Bench Prison where four merchants went bail for her.
Sat 4th Jan 1823
Brougham has addressed the House of Commons on the King’s influence on parliament. One part of his speech dealt with the India Company. The Company and the ministry were always tolerably well together.
In 1790 the number of cadets appointed was 120; in 1820 it was 570. It was said in Whitehall that the ministry had one fourteenth of the appointments directly, i.e. in 1790 it had had 8. By 1820 it controlled 38 jobs. Indirectly, the ministry now influenced some 400 more annual appointments.
Amongst other patronage of the Crown, he mentioned 27,000 officers in the army and navy of whom 73 sit in this House. These people are all controlled by the Crown, witness the turning-out of officers on half-pay without reason.
In the colonies there are 150 new posts and several times that in civil jobs, altogether 800+ places.
Departments regulating public spending, national debt and collection of revenue had all greatly increased their establishments during the war. Jobs in government departments used to be in the gift of department heads but now it was all controlled by the Treasury.
1,200 church livings are controlled by the Crown.
In 1780 there were 200 peers, now there are 378.
Castlereagh spoke against the motion. He thought it was not an attempt to reduce the King’s influence but an attempt at parliamentary reform. It was then voted and defeated 101 / 216.
Sat 25th Jan 1823
The Vicar of Leigh near Manchester appointed the Rev Burkett to a living at the chapel at Astley and the villagers objected. They wished to appoint their own man to minister to them. The chapel is within the diocese of Chester and the bishop of that city was asked to intervene. He issued a Writ de vi luica removenda requiring the Sheriff to bring the objecting villagers before the court.
The Sheriff led 20-30 assistants to the chapel but was confronted by 300 villagers who declined to obey him. He then obtained a detachment of dragoon guards from Manchester. By the time they arrived the crowd had swelled to a thousand.
The government party nevertheless forced their way into the chapel on Sunday and installed Burkett. There was some damage to the church and minor injury to members of the congregation. Burkett conducted the service but the villagers said they would oppose him again next week.
Sat 29th March 1823
The Chiltern Hundreds are divisions of counties made by King Alfred and since then annexed to the Crown. The Hundreds retain their own judiciary appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Each judicial steward receives a salary of £1 per annum. As it thus qualifies as an office of the Crown, anyone accepting a Stewardship is automatically disqualified from serving in the House of Commons. This is the significance of the Chiltern Hundreds today – it provides a simple means of resigning from an elected position in the Commons.
(Editor’s Note – Under its early kings England was divided into tithings, hundreds and counties, regulated under a written code by King Alfred. The divisions represent the ecclesiastical partition of the country that was left undisturbed by the Saxons. As a general rule a Deacon (decanus) led a tithing; a decanus ruralis led a hundred and a bishop led a county. These divisions were not equal either in area or population. In the Kingdoms of Kent, South Saxon and West Saxon, the land was divided into ‘hundreds’, possibly denoting 100 villages, such as Croydon Hundred, Effingham Hundred, Rygate Hundred, Tandridge Hundred, etc. Sussex had 65 hundreds whilst Yorkshire (where hundreds were called wapentakes) had only 26 and Lancashire 6.
Every Briton had to join his local social organisation on reaching 12 years of age and incur a duty to work and fight for the community. The ‘wapen’ of wapentakes refers to weapons and suggests a military purpose of the divisions but they were also units where matters of local interest could be discussed and agreed.
Originally, there were judicial functions in all the divisions – tithing, hundred and county – but the arrival and dispersive effect of the Saxons mitigated that. With its insular state, the settled division of lands in England and in the absence of rights for the people to defend, the tithing courts fell into disuse although a trace of the hundreds still existed in 19th century and were used for political not social purposes as this article reveals.
Disputes, such as there were, were a matter of enforcing the agreed boundaries of each farmer’s strip, maintaining the roads and bridges and preserving the old Roman forts in case of invasion, recalling the Scandinavian predilection for rape and pillage along the coasts of North West Europe every summer.)
Sat 12th April 1823
Considerable numbers of Scottish Earls, Viscounts and Barons forfeited their peerages during the reigns of Willem III, Queen Anne, George I and George II. A good many of them were restored by arrangement with George III but there are still over 30 families (15 Earls, 3 Viscounts and 14 Barons) who remain commoners.
Sat 19th April 1823
The introduction of treadmills into the London prisons is having a desirable effect. At Southwark Sessions in September 1822 there was not one prisoner for trial. The improvement is attributed to the terror of the Brixton Treadmill.
Sat 7th June 1823
The Scotsman has published a statement of the costs of administering British colonies in the year ended December 1820. Mostly they are in America – Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Bermuda, Bahamas, Windward & Leeward Islands and Jamaica. There is also the Cape and Mauritius on the way to Asia, the bases in the Mediterranean – Malta, the Seven Islands and Gibraltar. In Africa we have Sierra Leone and the Gambia. Finally there is Heligoland in the North Sea.
Altogether local revenue collected and expended was £1.9 million but they cost £1.6 millions more to administer. This was in a time of peace and would be more expensive in war.
There are only two ways to make a colony pay – either we tax them more than they cost or we develop an exclusive commerce with them. The latter appears preferable but if we cannot make our connection profitable we should make them independent. The Scotsman suggests there is not a single advantage we get from the colonies that we would not get if they were sovereign states themselves. We are already the cheapest manufacturer in the World. These colonies would chose to buy British even if they were free.
The example of the United States is instructive. We thought those were the most valuable colonies we had. We all thought their loss would impoverish us. When the colonists first proposed independence we were astounded and implacably refused it. They took it anyway and what has been the result. Since 1784 we have continued to enjoy every advantage and our trade is presently twelve times what it was in 1780s. Not only that, but we no longer pay to administer and defend the place. So long as we can supply them cheaper than they can supply themselves, this benefit will continue. We send them manufactures; they send us agricultural produce – its perfect.
France has lost almost all her colonies but she gets all the exotic products she needs. There is not a country on the planet that will refuse to sell goods. France is not paying any more than she did when she bought from her colonies. There might have been an argument for colonisation of countries with unique products but that ended with the war. All the exotic spices of the Moluccas are now available in Cayenne, Ceylon, India, etc. Even tea is grown in Java and Brazil as well as China.
Sat 21st June 1823
House of Commons, 20th February:
Lord John Russell mentioned the borough system of representation. He intends to make a motion for electoral reform on 11th March and had been shocked to hear the ministry was opposed it.
Canning said the ministry needed more time. It thought that examining the Charters whereby the boroughs were owned was too inquisitorial of the owners. Its not a question of the numbers of voters – everyone knows Old Sarum has two – its commercial discretion; boroughs are just another form of investment. Parliament should not be directing commercial men how to invest their capital.
Abercromby said the information was available from the returning officers without inspecting the Charters.
Peel for the ministry said eventually it would involve examination of the Charters.
Lord John Russell said he would be satisfied with the returns.
Peel said he could not commit the ministry.
On a division the ministry won 128 / 90
Sat 21st June 1823
Canning has told the electors of Harwich, whom he will represent, that his foreign policy will be one of strict neutrality so England may use her unique financial clout to act as the arbiter of Europe.
Sat 12th July 1823
The House of Commons is considering the belligerent stance of the Bourbon family towards Spain. Lord John Russell has observed that, having spent a thousand million Pounds to put the Bourbon family back on the French throne in the expectation of securing peace in our time, it was incumbent on the ministry to clear themselves of the suspicion that they would financially support a French invasion of Spain.
Sir Robert Wilson recalled that, at the time the House considered the Treaty of Chatillon, the then Foreign Secretary (Castlereagh) stated Britain was not bound to guarantee the French crown to the Bourbon family. He hoped Canning would not follow a different line.
He said Castlereagh had become enmeshed in the Holy Alliance and a British representative attended the Congress of Verona – were we bound by the majority vote at that Congress? If so, our policy invalidated the Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement, made usurpers of the House of Brunswick and exposed our islands to Cossack occupation.
Canning reiterated his intention of strict neutrality.
Sat 4th Oct 1823
The people of Edinburgh have petitioned in late May for improvement of their representation in House of Commons. The city has over 105,000 inhabitants who occupy buildings with a rental value of over £400,000. Since Union, Edinburgh has returned one representative to parliament.
The number of qualified electors is 33 of whom 19 select their successors. The inhabitants are thus excluded from the selection of any of these 19 people. The other 14 are called Deacons and are elected by a very restricted franchise. The property owned by these 33 electors is worth £2,800.
Dundas, the MP for Edinburgh, said the electorate is fixed in the Act of Union. Any attempt to reform the electorate of Edinburgh will infringe on the chartered rights of the city’s corporation. The petition was tabled.
Sat 19th July 1823
A recent decision of the King’s Bench revealed that a King cannot make bequests. George III sought to provide ‘Princess Olive’ with £15,000 and his Will was found to be ineffective. A King’s property belongs to his successor at death. Parliament is now debating the King’s Property Bill. George IV has invested a considerable sum from the Civil List on his buildings at Brighton. They consequently must be public property.
Peel said the present Act was intended to clarify the King’s ownership of those things he bought from his privy purse. Peel said the freehold of the Brighton Pavilion had been bought from the privy purse. He thought the additions and improvements had also.
Warre doubted Peel’s suggestion – he recalled there was a long list of items for Brighton in the Lord Chamberlain’s account.
Peel insisted everything to do with the land and buildings was paid from the privy purse. Only the contents were public property.
Sat 20th Sept 1823
The House of Commons is debating some amelioration of the punishments for certain crimes. The capital offences of impersonating a Chelsea pensioner and destroying woollen goods are to be made transportable. The Black Act which inter alia makes the sending a threatening letter a capital offence is to be repealed.
Sat 4th Oct 1823
House of Commons is in the course of preparing an Act that will vest the ownership of wild birds and animals (game) in the Lords of the Manor on which the animal is captured. Only Lords of the Manor will be able to sell game to the people.
One half of the prisoners confined in Bridewell Prison in Hampshire are there for poaching. The availability of game is a safety valve in times of poverty – it allows the country people to maintain their existences.
However there is also an organised commercial poaching service which supplies the butchers in towns and this is what the landowners object to. Cobbett has petitioned that no further restriction on game be enacted. A House of Commons committee has reported that the Game Laws are unenforceable and should be repealed. A registration system of hunters and retailers is proposed. Cobbett’s petition was tabled.
There is very little European news of the type appropriate to this chapter in the early editions of the China newspapers. The following articles are from the Canton Register or Friend of China. In view of the interests of the subscribers to those papers, the flavour is decidedly commercial.
Vol 7 No 8 – Tues 25th Feb 1834
UK Taxes – the repeal of the stamp duty on mineral waters has passed. Many capitalist associations are meeting in London to press for abolition of the tax on windows and houses.
Vol 7 No 18 – Tues 6th May 1834
Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine – With criminal apathy, the representatives of the people of England allowed the Irish Coercion Bill to pass. Now the Irish are almost in rebellion against the assessed taxes. Heat and violence are expended on the consequences of bad government while popular indifference is shown to the principles of good government.
If one’s watch runs fast it is useless to continually move the hands – one needs to adjust the mechanism. The scholar of Heracles examined the top of his leaking wine cask but could find no crack. When recommended to check the bottom he angrily said ‘can’t you see the wine is disappearing at the top?’
Our government continually complains about waste but does not identify its root cause. It is like a doctor treating symptoms not causes. The politician today talks of palliatives. It is useless to talk to him about the organic problem.
The English people now prefer to defy government than to improve it. This is a consequence of the recent changes being insufficient. The reformed House of Commons cannot provide the attention we want and the people have ceased to expect it. Instead of pressing for more Constitutional improvement, which has anyway been denied, they have become revolutionary. The policy of the government was to lead the people into thinking that Constitutional changes would improve their lot. Now the concept of Constitutional reform is disgraced amongst the populace and in its place resistance is arising. The problem is one of obedience. It involves the coming struggle between property and rapine.
These two principles of ‘letting-out’ and ‘damming-up’ – giving head and giving check, conceding the means while refusing the end, making the people sensible of their power whilst telling them they are in fact powerless to achieve what they want, exciting and denying expectations – have brought us to a state from which no-one can see the way out. The public is disturbed and no longer seeks its remedies by improving government. This is a frightful sign.
Vol 7 No 19 – Tues 13th May 1834
The Spectator – Shopkeepers, brokers, artisans are all forming associations to magnify their voices in the common wish to repeal the assessed taxes (on houses and windows – a taxpayer is supposed to return the full number of servants, dogs, horses and windows in his house, all of which are subject to taxation). They say in their meetings that they will never pay. So far the resistance is passive and it will have to be very general to have any effect. We do not expect taxpayers generally to unite in opposition to this law but the government will have to take quick and effective measures to enforce payment before resistance can become general.
Vol 7 No 43 – Tues 28th October 1834
Earl Grey, as First Lord of the Treasury, has announced his new cabinet. It contains Palmerston as foreign secretary and Charles Grant as President of the Board of Control.
Vol 7 No 51 – Tues 23rd December 1834
The late Prime Minister of England (Grey) has quoted Napoleon:
“I have fallen, not in consequence of the combination that was against me, but because I opposed the spirit of the age. The Bourbons will for a time act in accordance with that spirit, but they will soon fall back into their old habits, and then the irresistible power of the age will destroy them; and this too will be the fate of all the old governments of Europe if they do not adapt their policies to the necessities of the times.”
Vol 8 No 30 – Tues 28th July 1835
Madras Standard, 2nd June 1835 “Valediction to Joseph Hume MP”:
He is hated by the corrupt members of Church and State. Hume started his political career when reform was uncertain, when popular representatives in the Commons numbered 20-30 men. His opposition to the government was based on a system used by the Condottieri as described by Machiavelli (the condottieri were contract soldiers, mercenaries, employed by the City States of North Italy in their wars). The Condottieri adopted a united front and spared each other as much as possible.
Hume had a particular advantage – he came from the people and owed no favours to anyone in power. He was simple in his habits and satisfied with the moderate capital he had amassed. He was extremely motivated and vigorous as is often typical of Scots. The energies that ordinary people invest in accumulating wealth he employed in gratuitous service to the people.
At that time the Commons was filled with commercial politicians – country gentlemen, lawyers, bankers and rich merchants. These people were usually engaged in business or, if retired, too old to be active.
Hume’s approach was unique. He simply examined the machinery of our oligarchical system and exposed its workings to the people. Nothing dampened his perseverance. Although the two parties abandoned him, the press reported his work and the public welcomed it. As a result of his exposés, even the Liverpool and Wellington administrations were shamed into cost reductions. They were forced to appoint Committees of Enquiry to provide shelter to their corrupt colleagues and to refuse the just demands of the people.
In this way Hume contributed to the reform movement more than any other person. Each reduction he obtained curtailed the means of the enemy.
The Duke of Wellington contributed unintentionally to the collapse of the oligarchical system he espoused – he was unable to distinguish between a political society and an army. An army carries out the orders of its general; the greater the economy and vigilance of its departments, the greater the efficiency of the army; an oligarchical system can only be maintained by spending the public money in maintaining the tools of popular suppression.
But a population rises as the pressure on it is relieved. Every reduction of pressure that Hume requested and Wellington approved, diminished the latter’s power and encouraged the people.
Hume was undismayed by threats, indifferent to sarcasm and maintained an imperturbable good nature, leaving his character to speak for itself. Hume’s incessant detection of abuses gradually revealed to the people how they were really being treated and ultimately shook the foundation of oligarchy.
Oratory and talent could never have accomplished what Hume did by perseverance and industry.
We mention all this because it is the duty of the people to honour a man to whom they are so fundamentally indebted.
Now the Reform Bill has encouraged many others to join Hume. There are still many powerful people living on public money, albeit reduced in numbers, and intensely hostile to Hume. This is the strongest motive we have for continuing our support.
Vol 8 No 51 – 22nd December 1835
In 1830 the India Company’s supporters in the Commons numbered 62 MP’s, of whom ten were Directors. Those Directors were returned by three proprietory boroughs, four boroughs containing totally 850 votes, one Scottish burgh and one Scottish county with 161 voters. MP’s receive £300 p a but these ten Directors brought a patronage to bear upon the votes of the House of more than £250,000 derived from their share of the average number of annual Company appointments:
|1 writership to China @ £10,000 68 writerships to India @ £5,000 468 military, medical & civil appointments @ £500||£ 10,000 £ 34,000* £234,000|
* The figure must refer to 6 – 8 writerships to India @ £5,000.
This excludes the local patronage for India House and the company’s shipping, the supply of stores to India and the Directors’ own trade.
51 of the Company’s MPs are shareholders or contractors of the Company. Of these, 28 were returned by proprietory boroughs. This group of 62 MP’s controls 100 votes in Company General Meetings. A vote at that time required possession of £2,200 invested in Company stock so 62 MP’s had at least 220,000 reasons for maintaining the monopoly.
18 MP’s had served the company in India of whom six received pensions from the company of £1,000 – £2,000 p a. There were in fact only two MP’s in the House who had resided in India but had not been servants of the Company.
Apart from this group of 62 there are other MP’s who receive the Company’s money or influence.
17 Peers own 31 votes in Company meetings. They have relatives holding another 18 votes. These 49 votes are worth £107,800
Hence 79 politicians and their relations possessed 149 votes, which value was increased to £2,700 by the memorable compromise promoted by Mr Charles Grant – that sometime President of the Board of Control, sometime shareholder of the Company. It is not possible to evaluate the proceeds that individuals made in jobbing Company stock – under Villiers it dropped to 191 but under Macaulay it rose with every communication. The late Charles Grant was the most able Company Director to ever buy a seat at Westminster but he was actually devoted to monopoly as the policies of his sons demonstrate. Thanks to the Reform Act this Director’s bench has been broken-up.
Vol 9 No 40 – Tuesday 4th October 1836
Tait’s Magazine, May 1836 – The Corn Law rhymer:
- An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.
- When nations require change, the danger is to those who oppose it.
- When a nation changes its opinions it cannot be governed as before.
- Aristocracy is a law against nature. Men accountable to no-one can be trusted by no-one.
- Separate an individual from society and he cannot increase his wealth. The means is connected to the end. All accumulation beyond subsistence is derived from society.
Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839
Galignani’s Messenger (London), 8th October 1838 reciting an article in the Marseilles Semaphore:
A commercial treaty has been made between the French and British ambassadors on the one hand and the Porte (the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire) on the other. It was dated in September 1838 and sent to Europe for ratification.
It abolishes the existing Turkish government monopolies and import duties effective next March (1839) and substitutes a flat 5% import tax for the previous 3% tax. Foreign merchants will in future be allowed to trade with whoever they like. Austria and Prussia have notified the Porte that they will honour the status quo and will support France and England in maintaining the peace.
Vol 12 No 24 – 11th June 1839
Review of Baynes’ History of Cotton Manufacture:
The invention of spinning machines in England created and stimulated cotton farming in America. The cheapness of slave-picked cotton ensured the American supply was competitively priced. There is now more cotton harvested from the Mississippi states than the Atlantic states. Although it is cheap, the organisers must be satisfied with its profitability as the area under cultivation is extended year after year. This increase of production in America stimulated British industry to extend mechanisation of spinning of the thread to the knitting and weaving of fabrics.
This is how distant nations influence each other – they become mutually dependent. It guarantees peace. If America declares war on England it inevitably declares war on its own cotton-producing states. Now 9% of the British population is involved in the cotton trade and nearly 50% of our exports (and two thirds of British public revenue) are from cotton goods. This trade has risen from obscurity to staple in little more than fifty years and it is still growing.
Vol 12 No 27 – 2nd July 1839
The horse brigade of the Royal Artillery has gone north to the Midlands to deal with social unrest. They are taking 4 six-pounders and plenty of grapeshot for crowd control. Another troop of horse is standing-by.
Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840
Spectator, 14th September 1839, recited in Bengal Hurkaru, 20th Nov 1839 – Taxes make cheap things dear. They tempt the multitudes to fraud and perjury. Recently an unbribed exciseman found nearly 100 illicit distilleries within a ½ mile of St Paul’s Cathedral. These private distillers reap fortunes while their more scrupulous neighbours appear in the bankruptcy courts. Occasionally a fraudulent distiller is caught and fined. Does he care?
When Lord Ripon was Chancellor of the Exchequer he was visited by a tobacco manufacturer who said he bought his snuff for less than the duty on it by first getting a permit. The duty was then about 1,200% and the temptation at the Excise Office and Customs House to issue spurious permits was irresistible.
America taxes British manufactures heavily but dealers in Massachusetts sell them at a loss and grow fat. A huge smuggling operation was detected. Bales of broadcloth worth 20/- per yard are wrapped in flannel worth 2/- per yard and the like. The involved parties are all Yorkshiremen.
This is not a matter of honour, integrity, principle or national character – its simply an example of great risks winning great profits. Heavy taxes are a permanent temptation to defraud the revenue. Fraud is commonplace and more or less considered fair. Men who might pause before robbing an individual of a penny will not hesitate to rob the country of millions. Governments are supposed to minimise allurements to crime. Judges while trying thieves, repeatedly scold shopkeepers for alluring thieves with displays of valuable goods. Why cannot governments foresee the effects of high taxation?
Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840
Liverpool Mail – It is not surprising, when we face aggression in every part of the world, that ministers cannot preserve the peace in Birmingham, Bolton, Manchester and similar places.
Whigs are not strong enough to be ruffians so they are irredeemable cheats. They are ridiculous because they are dishonest. Whigs are represented in Canada by Lord Durham, in London by Lord John Russell, in Constantinople by Lord Ponsonby, in Washington by Fox, in China by Elliot and in Wigan by the mayor who signs his correspondence with a bishop’s cross.
Vol 14 No 44 – 2nd November 1841
The elections are over and it has been a disaster for the liberals. The conservatives have a majority of over 70 (291 : 368). The present government must resign.
Lord John Russell is disappointed. He told the City:
“As you know income has been inadequate to defray expenses. We thought the reduction of Customs duties that we legislated for would eventually generate more income while concurrently getting the necessaries of life to the people at reasonable prices. We wanted to free trade with the colonies for the same reason. Our opponents said we were buying votes. Our proposals were defeated and an election called.
“The cities and boroughs have supported us but the counties have overwhelmingly rejected us. We have previously abolished slavery in our colonies and destroyed the monopoly of privilege in our municipal corporations. We have made protestants and Catholics equal and thus secured the loyalty of Ireland. All these measures were opposed by the Tories.” etc….
Vol 14 No 52 – 28th December 1841
The British elections in the Autumn of 1841 brought in the Tories. They won a majority of over 70. The Whigs were thrown out for protecting the landowners by continuing the Corn Laws. Peel has reduced the duty on imported grain, lowered the retail price of grain and price fluctuations have diminished.
The government now has to pay for events in Canada, China and the Mediterranean and the costs of maintaining an adequate force in those jurisdictions. The new government will issue £9 millions in Exchequer Bills towards 1842 expenses. Income tax has been reintroduced to make up the revenue. It will fall mainly on the new commercial class.
Vol 15 No 11 – 15th March 1842
In this edition the Editor publishes statistical data on the various rates of duty on tea since 1740 and on coffee and the product to the government that resulted. The figures support the Editor’s contention that the rate of duty is predicated on the effects of smuggling on the revenue to which the government merely responds.
Friend of China, 1st April 1842 edition:
The 1839 English revenue from spirits was £8 million. Excluding moonshine that’s a gallon for every man, woman and child and costs each at least 15/- per year.
At about the same date, the revenue of Russia was 600 million Roubles of which a quarter came from duties on wines and spirits.
Friend of China, 21st April 1842:
A hundred people (the maximum allowed in the public gallery) marched to the Commons on 10th February to the cry “give us bread and labour” to object the lack of both. They listened to Robert Peel’s speech then adjourned to Brown’s Coffee Shop where it was agreed “the government measures just announced held no prospect of relief for the people and insulted their patience and suffering. The proposals indicate the landed aristocracy have no sympathy for the poor and their selfishness will destroy the country.”
Vol 15 No 21 – Canton Register, 24th May 1842
After the resignation of under-secretary Backhouse, the remaining staff of the Foreign Office under Lord Aberdeen is as follows:
|Under-secretaries Precis writer Private Sec’y to Aberdeen Messenger of state papers Junior Clerks||Viscount Canning, H U Addington W B Stopford C G Dawkins Archdeacon Goddard S Ponsonby, son of Viscount Duncannon C Spring-Rice, son of Lord Monteagle.|
Owing to the quantity of slave-trade business, four new clerks are being attached to the Office
Friend of China, 26th May 1842:
This edition contains a derogatory poem about Robert Peel. He has become unpopular in England due to the shortfall of government revenue and his re-instatement in peacetime of the reviled war tax on incomes. The poem is entitled ‘The Eel Peel’:
Dissect this statesman, probe his patriot zeal; Tis surface, what his name imports, mere Peel. And from that name, should we deduct a letter, Behold ‘tis Eel, than which, none fits him better.
Friend of China 7.7.42 edition
Peel’s new low duties are being denounced by the farmers as revolutionary. The initial impulse for free trade was made by Manchester and particularly by the member for Stockport (Cobden).
Vol 15 No 28, 12th July 1842
6th report of the London East India and China Association, presented at their office at 2 Cowper’s Court, Cornhill, 3rd March 1842:
We congratulate the membership on the adoption by government of some few of the measures we have pressed upon it.
Lowering the import duty on sugar to 26/- for foreign and 24/- for colonial and East India Company sugar does not provide adequate differential to ensure a market for our members. The committee received opinion from principal importers of colonial sugar and discussed it with government. The result in parliament (Peel’s budget) was unsatisfactory and we will try again with the Earl of Ripon, the President of the Board of Trade.
Friend of China, 14th July 1842:
The Editor’s solution to British financial booms and busts:
England should repeal all duties and imposts on trade and instead raise its revenue from a ½ – 1% tax on all real property both in England and its colonies. This will finance the Empire and permit its occupants to eat, dress and buy luxuries all at market cost. We would become the cheapest country in the World; all our countrymen who have left because of the expense would return; a flood of wealth would flow through the Empire.
Friend of China 8.9.42 edition
Corruption of democracy in England:
Sudbury is an outstanding example of a rotten borough. An Indian named Dyce Sombre, grandson of the Begum Sumroo of Sardhana wished to become an MP. He bought this borough for himself and his colleagues. A flagrant case has since been made out against him to the Election Committee and it appears quite likely that they have no choice but to disenfranchise Sudbury.
It is a borough of weavers and 150 are on the register as freemen but only very few of those inhabit the sort of housing that is sufficiently valuable to entitle them to vote. The Governor of the Court of Guardians for the relief of the poor of Sudbury, John Crisp Gooday, said men openly receive money or its promise from both Whig and Tory candidates but still take the Oath (that they have not been bribed) and vote. He says this increases immorality.
What some voting weavers say is that it is easy to omit the word ‘not’ when mumbling the Oath to the clerk (that they have not received money) and thus they swear to the truth. Another way to avoid the Oath is to hold the Bible in such a way that one kisses one’s own thumb instead of the book-cover when making Oath. But as a general rule, most voters nowadays do not scruple at all and just perjure themselves. Gooday has commented as follows:
“After the general election of 1835 a man came to me who wanted to be a witness in a trial I had coming on. I knew that what he proposed to say was untrue and told him so. He said he came to serve the party and asked me what he should swear. I told him to go away. He said he did not mind which side paid him. Later he appeared as a witness at Bury St Edmonds for the other side and gave evidence exactly opposite to what he had offered to say for my client. Of course he was broken in cross-examination but his guilt remains. After deliberately perjuring themselves these people become callous to the truth. This is a solitary case but it corresponds with the general system of demoralisation produced by the vices and crimes consequent upon the drunkenness, debauchery and bribery at elections in this borough.
“The January 1835 election was more corrupt than any prior or since. I have calculated the expenses attending that election in Sudbury and, to my knowledge, if equally divided amongst all the electors, it comes to £30 – 35 per head. I know that some respectable people were not bribed and that 25 people did not vote. This means the actual receipt per voter was nearly £35.
“The candidates and their election committees know these poor men cannot resist such handsome bribes. There are 600 men on the electoral register. I know 400 were bribed and deliberately perjured themselves. Since then there have been two further elections but no candidate has come forward to contest the seat because of its high cost. As a result the same corrupt MP who has long ‘represented’ Sudbury has been returned unopposed each time and he had hardly to pay anything.”
Mr Gooday then gave details of the last ten elections, inter alia:
“The general election of June 1837 was exceptional. The voters had neglected their work as voting day approached in the expectation of large bribes but the candidates had agreed not to bribe anyone. Much hardship resulted. The candidates and the resident committee men are the cause of this trouble. The bribery oath must be repealed – the voters are overwhelmed by temptation and the oath serves no useful purpose.”
Friend of China 15.9.42 edition
London news as at 4th April 42:
- Peel’s new Customs tariff and the income tax have been approved by the Queen. Peel says he will reduce the tea duty if he can find other items to make up the revenue.
- Money is very cheap due to lack of commercial confidence.
- Notwithstanding the foregoing, English commercial and manufacturing firms are in a desperate state and many have failed.
Friend of China 6.10.42 edition
The new British tariff has become law. The contempt with which government has treated the City for the last 50 years is at an end. Peel has promoted free trade principles to the point there can be no returning to the old ways.
The magnitude of the interests in grain, sugar and coffee did overly influence the government to protect them from free trade. Now it is proposed to permit foreign grain to be milled in bond, a proposal contemptuously rejected by the land-owners previously. Perhaps corn spirits will also be distilled in bond? The colonial trade must obtain advantage from any such measures.
For residents of England, the diminished costs of consumption will offset the new income tax while for foreign trade there will be real benefits.
The land-owners with parliamentary power are now so committed to free trade that they cannot resile when it comes to repealing the Corn Laws.
The China war has ended and, provided there is no drain in Afghanistan, the government should increasingly be in surplus. Part of this will defray the reduced duties on coffee and foreign and colonial sugar but we people in the China trade stand to get nothing. We have good grounds to appeal for justice and demand the tea duty be reduced. The duty must be below 1/- per lb to increase consumption
Friend of China, 13.10.42 edition
Peel has agreed not to allow a differential duty in favour of Assam tea. Well done!
We effectively pay our West Indies colonies £7,000,000 per annum (the value of the revenue lost if the import duty applied to coffee and sugar from other countries was applied to West Indies). In return we sell them an annual total of £3,500,000 of commodities which they could get nowhere else more cheaply.
Canadian timber is admitted to England at a preferential duty over Baltic, producing a notional annual loss in revenue of £1,500,000. We export goods to Canada to a gross value of £2,000,000.
The colonists say that Empires must operate a protective system. Economists have valued this protection to British colonies at between £31 – 36 millions per annum. Mr James Deacon Hume, a Customs official for 39 years and Secretary of the Board of Trade for 11 years, calculates the total cost to the British people of supporting colonial trade in this way at £50 millions per year. Perhaps this was in Peel’s mind when he repudiated the Company’s request for preferential duty on Assam tea.
Friend of China, 12.1.43 edition
Comparative annual revenue of European countries in 1841 in Sterling:
Friend of China 9.3.43 edition
The celebrated French poet and Deputy, de la Martine, has spoken about the opium war:
‘You say that England outrages the universe to force her markets? I neither accuse nor excuse England … Yet I may assert that a wide difference exists in the conquests made by the industrial principle – however violent and unjust they be – and those consummated by a brute and military system.
‘Where conquering Rome trod she left a desert. What have Tyre, Carthage and England left? Colonies, people, civilisation, new groupings of consumers and producers.
‘Unjust as the … Opium War may be, if we raise our thoughts to the philosophic height of historic reason, is no compensation to be found? Who knows but the first shot fired … hath burst asunder the portals of a new world? Who knows that it has linked in one communion four hundred million active men with Europe.? If so, how vast a future opens on us gentlemen.’
‘What great effects from trivial causes spring?
- In 1668 a few grains of tea was brought to the Governor-General of the Indies and today entire fleets are employed in furnishing its consumption to England, Russia, Germany; the mighty exchange of two worlds.
- Forty years since they presented a cotton plant to the Egyptian Pasha … one half of the Mediterranean navigation now bears the cotton of the Nile into Europe.
- Fifty years since an English machinist discovered the incalculable force of expansion, the steam engine was invented.
‘What results Gentlemen from these three coincident industrial facts occurring in the same age? A second creation of the geographical, political, moral and commercial world. The extremes of the Earth have approached; languages, races, interests, religions have been fused. The result for all humanity has been an increase of force and unity that God alone could compute.
‘In short these result from a certain and nigh future, the realisation of that Chimera of all conquerors and all creeds, universal monarchy: but at the time, the monarchy of intellect, commerce, industry and thought.’
Friend of China, 8.6.43 edition
Recent London Times leader:
“We can make treaties at the cannon’s mouth but in truth we are no diplomatists. The present cabinet seems unable to escape from the labyrinth into which My Lord Palmerston had wandered …. Our trade withers away and our revenue declines exactly in proportion as we look back to a lesser trade not in our power and overlook a greater trade within our grasp.
“All home interests are neglected, trades combine and memorialise in vain; after months of wasted labour they sink into apathy, and wonder at the infatuation of the minister who can dally endlessly with foreign powers, and pay no regard to the thousands at home kept for years in an agony of suspense as to what shape their business may be forced to assume.”
Friend of China, 24.8.43 edition
Comments on smuggling from ‘an established publication’:
The law loses its moral authority when tax is set so high it tempts to evasion and then punishes the offence. It is only necessary to examine the tariff of a country to know if smuggling is widespread in it or not.
Spain enacts a high import duty. British exports to Gibraltar exceed £1 millions. These exports are almost exclusively 7 million pounds of tobacco which is smuggled into Spain.
France permits its traders to bond goods intended for smuggling so no duty is paid on it en route. British duty evaded by French smugglers (mainly £500,000 of brandy) in 1831 was estimated at £800,000 exclusive of tobacco. British duty on tobacco is 90% and ¾ of the duty payable on tobacco in Ireland is avoided by smuggling. The Board of Trade indicated in 1840 that at least 48% of French silks imported to England paid no duty.
On the other hand British goods to the value of about £2 millions are smuggled annually into France across the Belgian frontier and some through the channel ports. The Belgian intermediaries used dogs to effect their smuggling and in the decade 1820 / 30 a total of 40,278 smuggling dogs were caught by French Customs and destroyed.
In 1822, 385 boats and 52 ships were seized by the British preventive service in the act of smuggling. In 1831 the preventive service cost £700,000 – 800,000; 116 smugglers were in British gaols and 64 more were pressed into serving in the Navy. The total cost of the Customs and Excise departments in 1840 was £2,309,611. In 1835 there were 11,600 Customs officers and 6,072 Excise officers.
Friend of China 31.8.43 edition
Summary of British news received by the June overland mail:
- The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel have reiterated the late King’s concerns about Ireland in 1833 and a huge force has been sent to maintain the Union. Recruiting is commenced to increase every regiment, except those serving in India and China, by 60 men.
- Goulburn has published the national account and we are £2 millions short. Peel over-estimated the Excise by £1.2 millions and the Customs by £0.75 millions. If you exclude the one-off receipts, like the ransom from China, its even worse. But we believe the crisis has passed and with the Income Tax starting to arrive and the improved business climate, there should be a surplus soon.
Friend of China 31.8.43 edition
The liberal newspaper Editors of London are angry with Lord Aberdeen for taking no reciprocal action after the French seizure of Otaheite (Tahiti).
Surely the World is big enough for both England and France?
French colonisation can only benefit England and vice versa. Honourable rivalry with France will quicken our energies and coerce our home government into finally evolving a proper system of colonial administration to replace the jobbery and mal-administration that now characterises it.
- See the 19th May 1810 article above for the text of this Address.↵
- The inference seems to be that impoverished British officials were sent to Spain to replenish their funds, rather like a devalued Boyi Manchu might get appointed as Hoppo at Canton – in the China chapter. British money sent to Spain in the six years of our government of Iberia totalled 265 millions, according to the Treasury, but no account of expenditure was kept and was and is unknown. Wellington used to joke that he received 50,000 sovereigns but signed a receipt for 100,000.↵
- A basin was nearing completion at Antwerp for the accommodation of 50 capital ships – it was lack of warships that frustrated Napoleon’s intended invasion of England↵
- Which was later said to be the sinking of an immense amount of French shipping in the stream where the obstruction could be protected and maintained by British gunboats off shore. This ‘second operation’, together with the evacuation of the Batz fort shortly before the arrival of the British expedition, suggests Dutch involvement. Closing the Scheldt would have restored AngloDutch control of the N W Europe trade routes (rivers) into the heart of the continent. On the other hand, France considered the expected coup was a voluntary surrender of Antwerp, hence Napoleon’s arrest of the town’s commander for treason.↵
- John Gifford published the Anti-Jacobin Review and John Bowles was a frequent contributor. The magazine consistently opposed the ideals of the French Revolution. James Mill was an occasional contributor too.↵
- Perceval said he had not drawn his Chancellor’s salary since he was appointed First Lord of the Treasury.↵
- John Nicholl MP said the King had disposed of £4 millions to captors. He gave £1 million to the people and the residue also had been applied to the public service.↵
- There seem to be about 60 MPs the Bank can rely upon for votes, many of them also involved in the India Company, or as shipowners and/or insurance brokers.↵
- The India Company also can call on about 60 MPs for support. Debates on India are generally not attended by the country members. Commonly there are less than 100 MPs in the House when India is debated. The Company legislates for itself.↵
- Burdett was given such short notice of the date fixed to debate his motion that he was unable to arrive from his country residence in time. The other liberals were either unprepared or lacked the information to argue on his behalf and his motion was easily defeated. The case would appear to be dealt with under a clause in the 1689 Bill of Rights “proceedings in parliament shall not be impeached or otherwise questioned in any other court or place.”↵
- Mackintosh’s book “Vindiciae Gallicae” was written to repudiate Burke’s untutored book on the French Revolution. He wrote of influencing a tyrannical King and a slavish aristocracy. Mackintosh was a splendid man. He would not approve the way the representation has developed in Britain.↵
- The Convention of Cintra was advantageous to France; the Walcheren expedition was expected to be given the keys to Antwerp. Neither failure resulted in serious ministerial criticism. Interestingly no MP is saying that revolution and political reform in France facilitated military despotism – that is only in the newspapers.↵
- Perceval’s intransigence enforces on the Prince the realisation that he is never going to be King until his father dies. It flavours all his subsequent activities. It should be noted here that this is the beginning of the decline in monarchical power in UK which starts with the excesses of George III as parliamentary justification, continues with William and largely concludes with Victoria whereafter the monarchy is no longer a power centre except in so far as the ministry allows it. The parliamentary means of asserting control over the Royal Family is through the public purse.↵
- The medical reports are reproduced in the newspaper but not cited here.↵
- He had received a barrage of abuse from the sick King after the death of Tsar Paul.↵
- Willis is the man who uses physical restraint and psychology to treat the King↵
- Some English militias have been hesitant to shoot English democrats but the Irish have less trouble on that score, and vice versa. Catholic emancipation is the overt reason the Regency remains limited.↵
- The ancient Persians removed infants from their families and conditioned them in academies to fight, to ride and to tell the truth. Mentioned in Toynbee’s Study of History.↵
- Actually Walsh bought his seat and, if expelled, may have to buy another. Since the trial Walsh has declared himself bankrupt with a single prominent item in his Statement of Assets – £5,000 being the cost of one parliamentary seat.↵
- Pitt brought them into the loans bidding to break the City ring. This shortage relates in part of Melville’s unauthorised payments at the Admiralty.↵
- A pristine summary of the legal basis to commercial war and one that is still today misrepresented by historians.↵
- The expression Luddite today refers to a man who wishes to revert to a former way of life. It is used to characterise the peoples’ response to their conditions at this time as backwards-looking. This article rather suggests Luddism was more properly a protest against the division of spoils resulting from the mechanisation of production.↵
- Glasgow was the second city of Britain at this time.↵
- British debt-based financial policy, which empowers the capitalist base, was incrementally adopted by all Europe. The attraction of using money before it was earned was irresistible to the Kings and their ministers and they all readily accepted loans from bankers. Within a couple of decades of war’s end the extent of European debt approximated $4 billion – about 110,000 tons of silver. See the Economy chapter.↵
- The amendment is for practical reasons. Intestines are slippery and smelly and once excised are difficult to get hold of.↵
- Its one of those unpredictable events. Cochrane escaped and brought himself to ministerial attention just as Napoleon escaped and London found itself in need of more gold and silver. The result is several years of accumulation for Cochrane as Admiral of the Chilean Navy. See the Europe and South America chapters for more.↵
- The great constitutional change at this time does not appear to have been expressly legislated. It is the devaluation of the Monarchy and the rise of the Minister. A similar process is later applied to the land-owners in the House of Lords through the effect of the bond market becoming the best investment for savings. This centralises political power on a small elected group in the Commons – an hierarchical improvement that permits the oligarchs to consider and later introduce universal suffrage without a loss of power.↵
- Formerly 3/- per advertisement. The new rate reflects the large numbers of advertisements and the inability of the Press to publish them quickly. There is a constant backlog. It is also the case that London newspapers charge double for advertisements during general elections. The usual advertising rate in the big London daily papers is between 10 – 16 guineas per insertion. The Chancellor is persuaded that advertisers will willingly pay a bit more. The next paragraph indicates the cosy basis to the relationship between the worst Editors and Politicians.↵
- So was Queen Caroline who spend much time in Italy with Napoleon’s sister. Charlotte’s death was widely grieved in Britain. Had she succeeded to the Crown, the connection with Hanover would have been broken and that territorial cause of repeated war removed from political consideration.↵
- The author of this article mis-states the Constitutional basis to being King of the United Kingdom. According to Mackintosh in Vindiciae Gallicae, 1688 established that British Kings are not enthroned hereditarily. At that time Dr Burnet’s tract maintaining William III ruled by conquest was disapproved by the Commons. There remains only election. Since 1688 British Kings are appointed by Act of Parliament.↵
- There is a report dated 21st August 1819 in the Asia chapter indicating the establishment of H M Regiments in India is 22,550 men.↵
- Merchants in the Danish case; naval officers in the Spanish.↵
- Note the crime is offering a bribe not receiving one.↵
- Prisons were privately run until about mid-19th century. Brixton was designed for about 180 prisoners but generally had considerably more. Its introduction of the tread-wheel was emulated elsewhere. The punishment complied with the judicial award of ‘hard labour’ and continued all day. It was applied to male prisoners only.↵
- This appears to have been the American insight leading the dismantling of the British Empire – why pay to administer and defend colonies when all that is required of them is their commercially-available resources. However, America still relies on some British colonies, island bases, for projection of power.↵
- Canning eulogised debt-based finance in an earlier article and here is the reason he is captivated by it – the country with the greatest amount of money, or more precisely credit in a debt-based system, may influence prices everywhere. Disapproval of a foreign country’s policy is expressed in a sell-off of its assets by British holders using Rothschild’s new ‘short-selling’ technique. Its a lucrative matter for those ‘in the know.’↵
- This is not the famous Act of a decade later after the potato bight and the famine but another revenue-raising Act of the same name about which I have not been able to discover anything.↵
- Horse-riding terms.↵
- A long overdue and fascinating biography has been published by the American Philosophical Society, largely from a detailed trawl through manuscript collections, newspaper articles and books of the period. Hume’s own papers were burned. It is called “Joseph Hume, The People’s MP,” 1985, and is the diligent scholarship of Ronald K. Huch and Paul R. Ziegler.↵
- The diplomatic doublespeak in the last sentence is code for ‘we expect the same deal’. This Turkish agreement was the precedent for British policy towards China. Prior to these alterations, the Ottoman Empire had three levels of Customs duty on trade. A low 3% level was for fellow Muslims; a middling tax was for Jews and Zoroastrians and the highest tariff was for Christians.↵
- To convert the basis of British revenue to a Land Tax would never be conceded by the owning class who have just obtained supremacy over the monarchy. Their numbers are now swollen by Judges, City bankers and stock-brokers who also hanker for estates. Taxing land diminishes the income of the owners of the country. It cannot be done in the British system – it introduces French principles by the back door.↵
- Sombre’s wife is a daughter of the Earl St Vincent. Sardhana, his fief in India, is an important producer of Company opium.↵
- See the Europe chapter generally and the Economy chapter specifically for the denunciation by Lloyd’s of London in the Sat 6th June 1812 newspaper. This is an early statement of ‘vices and crimes’ in the community, examples of Lord Cochrane’s analysis of political management at that time – “put a rogue in charge and everyone’s a rogue.”↵
- The India Company ‘discovered’ tea estates in Assam in 1820s when it assumed the government of that province but it did not promote the production of tea in its own lands until it lost its near monopoly of the China supply. In the British style of economy there’s more money trading goods than producing them.↵
- This is true at the import / export level of trade statistics but misleading when compared with the profit / loss of farming the sugar / coffee on the estates. There is a persuasive argument in the Economy chapter on this subject.↵
- The anomalously low land tax receipts in England are due to the political power of the landowners. Between George III’s coronation and 1841, 6,810,000 acres of United Kingdom land were privatised (“enclosed” in the quaint terminology of the texts). A British government is financed by a charge on the labour of British workers not on the assets of British people. This acreage includes Pitt’s great raffle of land during the early course of the wars with France.↵