Edmund Burke.

Correspondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; between the year 1744 and the period of his decease, in 1797 (Volume 2) online

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nagement, the want of a real concurrence in
opinion may possibly be concealed, but the chief
part of the delusion will be on ourselves, because

4 Economical reform.


we may be led to count upon a strength which
may fail us when we have most reason to call for
it. The next thing which I should beg leave to
observe to my friends is, that if you do not in
some way or other resolve to correspond with
other places which have a common object in view,
for the support and pursuit of it through more
sessions than one, my opinion is, that the petition
ought not to be undertaken. The great consti-
tutional remedy of petition is fallen into discredit
enough already, by being thrown into the House
and neglected ever after ; so that I do not wish it
to suffer any further diminution of weight and
authority from our example in neglects of that
kind. I certainly must wish that my proposition
should have the support of the place I represent ;
but I had rather seem to be abandoned, than that
the voice of the people should appear to have lost
its efficacy and virtue. I trust that the merits of
the measure may carry it through, in spite of the
coolness of Bristol and the weakness of its repre-
sentative, (I mean the representative concerned
in bringing the business forward,) and then what
I am most concerned in will happen, that you
will, in common with others, derive some benefit
from it, both with regard to your liberties and
your properties. The court has spoken out very
distinctly : you are to consider whether you are
to speak your sentiments or not : I mean, sup-


posing that you do think that the public money
ought to be well accounted for, and that it ought
not to be employed for corrupt influence, but for
national service. This, at present, is the question,
and the whole question ; in which, whether you
think yourselves concerned or not, it is you that
must determine.

I should have written to you before, and I
should write now to others of our friends, but that
I have a tumour in the tendon of my wrist, that
makes writing a little painful to me. You will,
therefore, be so good as to talk over this matter
with Mr. Merlot, Mr. Harford, Mr. Noble, and
the rest of our friends who are men of weight in,
or with, the corporation. I think to make my
motion as soon as possible after the call of the
House. I may not find people disposed to bring it
forward as soon as I wish, but there can be a
difference of only a very few days.

Mrs. Burke has been ill for some days past ;
and though (I thank God) better, is yet not well.
Remember all here cordially to you and yours.

I am; my dear Champion, most faithfully yours,




Dublin, January 27, 1780.


I do not know in what terms to express my
obligation to you, for permitting me to be the
means of making known your sentiments to peo-
ple here 5 , and particularly to those friends among
whom you do me the honour to rank me. I
should have expressed my sense of your goodness
sooner, had not Mr. Forbes' delay on the road,
my having remained in the country to the last
hour of the vacation, and my desire of knowing
what effect so masterly a vindication would have
on the minds even of the most rash and pre-
judiced, prevented me. The truth is, nothing
else is talked of; and if there be any who still
choose to persist in error (I ought to say, malice)
after having read it, they have regard enough for
themselves not to avow it. I have had copies
taken, and used every means to publish what, to
the disgrace of my countrymen, I am obliged
to term a justification, except that of printing it.
In that I dare not venture to disobey your injunc-
tion. Exclusive of those you particularly men-
tion, I have shown it to the heads of parties

* See letter to Thomas Burgh, Esq., given in the 9th
volume, octavo edition, of Burke's Works.


and circles, and to those who had been most
forward in hazarding opinions. I have had the
sentiments of the provost in writing, as he hap-
pened to be out of town ; they are, in fact, those
of every person I have conversed with, whose
sentiments are of any value. As to me, were
I totally destitute of judgment and affection, how
must my vanity be wrought upon in being held
out to the world, on entering the career of life,
as your friend and correspondent.

I wish I had something to communicate from
this country worthy of your attention. Some
improvement in our constitution, a revival of the
old disputes about Poyning's law, the judicature
of our House of Peers, and the institution of a
national bank, seem to be the great objects of
speculation in politics and economy. Most of
those I have conversed with seem to be averse
to the introduction of the former of those topics.
Every thing is quiet throughout the country ; no
disorders or irregularities of any kind, a most
wonderful and unexpected consequence of forty
thousand young Irishmen in arms 6 . I am, my
dear sir, with my best wishes for your happiness,
and that of your family,

Your affectionate and much obliged
humble servant,


8 The volunteers of Ireland.


I should do injustice to my friend Watt. Burgh,
if I neglected to mention, particularly, his very
high sense of the honourable mention you make
of him.


An Attempt towards a Plan for laying the Foundation
of Economy in the Administration of Public Money,
and for the better securing the Independence of

IT is taken for granted, that the objects will be
considered as desirable, if the means be practica-
ble, and the quantity of the reform be worthy of
the public attention.

I cannot answer for the impracticability arising
from the unwillingness of interested persons to
forward, or their active endeavours to frustrate,
the design ; but I engage that there is no imprac-
ticability arising out of the nature of the subject
matter, or from the tendency of the plan to
obstruct any real public service.

As to the quantity and importance of the
benefit proposed, in point of economy, I calculate



that it will be a public saving of about two hun-
dred thousand pounds a year, which, at five per
cent., is the interest of four millions of money ;
and with regard to corrupt influence, it takes
away employments tenable with a seat and worthy
of a gentleman's acceptance, equal to those of
fifty members of parliament ; besides other innu-
merable retainers and dependents from possession
of emolument, from hope of obtaining it, and from
fear of the exercise of various powers of the crown,
which are here proposed to be taken away.

It must be considered only as a rough sketch,
which will admit many alterations and many
improvements; and, being only a beginning, it
ought to have the property of facilitating other
reformations, and not of impeding them. I hope
it has that property.

It is confined to the constitution of the civil
government and civil offices, and not to the
administration of them. A wise and honest ad-
ministration of the crown-revenue will do far
more ; but what is here laboured is, to form an
economical constitution for the state.

What is proposed to be changed.

First Branch: The King's separate jurisdic-

As there are various jurisdictions separated


from the crown, and yet administered by the
king, there is much confusion, much unnecessary
expense, and much vexation in the management
of them. I propose to reduce the whole to simpli-
city, order, and economy, by uniting all these
scattered jurisdictions to the crown, and to the
ordinary administration of the districts in which
they lie.

1st, To unite the principality of Wales to the
crown; all offices of the principality to be sup-
pressed ; all possessions sold ; all ancient claims
extinguished by a prescriptive act, and all arrears
compounded for.

The chief-justice and one judge of circuit to remain ;
but, like the other judges, not to be capable of seats in
parliament. The eldest son of the king to retain, as for-
merly, all his styles and titles.

2nd, To unite the duchy of Lancaster to the
crown, and to extinguish all its offices. The lands,
rents, houses, honours, and superiorities, to be sold
for the public benefit ; except any forests and
woods, which shall remain in the hands of govern-
ment, until a particular regulation shall be made
on that special subject.

3rd, To unite the duchy of Cornwall ; to sell all
Y 2


lands, rents, acknowledgments, &c., &c., and to
suppress the offices, courts, &c., of that duchy.

The right of the crown in mines, to be sold.

(Quere, of the county palatine of Chester ?)

4th, To suppress the Marshalsea court, and all
its offices.

5th, The Cinque Ports jurisdiction to be abo-
lished. What forts are thought fit to be really
kept up, to be turned into ten-shilling military

6th, As a landed estate is the worst estate that
the public can possess, and as the act of Queen
Anne, by limiting the crown to the grant of short
leases, has little or nothing improved the revenues,
but greatly increased the influence, I propose
that the crown lands, rents, manors, revenues, &c.
&c., should be sold and applied to the public ser-
vice. It will be found a cheap way of borrowing

7th, Forest lands to be sold. A commission is
proposed to the principal gentlemen in each county
in which they lie, (being justices of the peace,)
with the assistance of the lord lieutenant of the
county, and the surveyor of the woods, to survey
them accurately, and to settle what parts may be
fittest to remain for public woods, for the future


supply of the royal navy. The rest to be sold
without loss of time. These sales carry with them
the suppression of, 1 st, the surveyor-general's office
with all its attendant charges ; 2nd, the two chief-
justices-in-eyre with all their suite.

This leaves the king's houses and parks.

Second Branch : The State Offices.

1st, The office of Secretary of State for the
Colonies, to be suppressed. This, with under
secretaries, clerks' office, stationery, fire and candle,
&c., I compute a saving of 10,000 a year, besides

Business to be done, as formerly, by the southern secre-
tary of state.

2nd, The Board of Trade (as wholly useless and
very mischievous,) to be suppressed; a saving of
about 20,000 a year, besides seven members of

As part of their powers are by act of parliament, they
must be taken away by the same, and their business
done by the council as formerly ; when it was at least
as well done. The Irish business is done so at present.


Third Branch : The King's Household.

The king's household is upon a constitution of
a very complicated nature, and formed to cause
and cover all sorts of prodigality. It has no less
than three treasurers ; the treasurer of the cham-
ber, the treasurer of the household, and the third
under the name of the cofferer of the household.
None of these are in the least necessary; and
whilst they remain, no good economy can be in-

All these departments are separated from one
another ; and as they pay expenses incurred -with-
out any authority from the treasury, that board,
which ought to know what can or what cannot be
spared for more important services, finds the
civil-list overpowered with debt before it can take
any precautions against it, and is really unable to
control any waste whatsoever. The charges of the
court are removed from the eye and cognizance of
the responsible minister of finance ; I propose,
therefore, to abolish the offices,

1st, Treasurer of the household.

2nd, Treasurer of the chamber.

3rd, Comptroller.

4th, Cofferer.

5th, Board of green cloth.


6th, All the offices of the kitchen, cellar, spicery,

The whole household to be under the lord steward of
the household, and the master of the household ; who
are to regulate with the treasury the number of tables to
be kept ; and according to the rank and importance of
those tables, to fix certain payment per cover at each
table ; which, with the wines, are to be furnished by con-
tract. The said contracts to be previously approved by
the board of treasury, and the prices paid on the certifi-
cate of the steward of the household that the contract has
been honestly performed. Contractors to give credit for
game, fruit, and fish, furnished from the king's ponds,
parks, and gardens.

N.B. This method of contracting by the head, is the
course of the economical courts of Europe.

The business of the treasury of the chamber, to be
executed by the board of treasury.

Fourth Branch : The Lord Chamberlain's Office.

1st, To suppress the great wardrobe and all its

2nd, The office of wardrobe-keeper abolished.
3rd, Removing wardrobe to be abolished.
4th, Master of the robes to be abolished.

Furniture wanted, to be certified by the vice-chamber-
lain, approved by the lord-chamberlain, and the estimates


laid before the treasury. Bills to be paid there, on the
chamberlain's certificate that the contract has been
honestly performed.

Furniture to be under the housekeeper ; clothes under
the groom of the stole, who is to direct the king's prin-
cipal valet-de-chambre, or his deputy ; both accountable
to the vice-chamberlain. Duty as before.

N.B. The chamberlain keeps five or six clerks, who
are more than sufficient for all real wardrobe duties. If
the chamberlain and vice-chamberlain inspected a little,
not the worse.

5th, The jewel-office to be wholly suppressed.

The care of the jewels, plate, &c. to be given to the

6th, Groom-porter and his yeomen abolished,
and all the other smaller unnecessary offices in
this department ; which will make a saving, as I
judge, of about 1500 a year more.

Office of captain of the yeomen of the guard,
not to sell the lieutenancies ; which are to be given
gratis to officers of ten years' service in the army
or navy. Men of quality alone to be capable of
lieutenancy, viz. : sons or grandsons of peers, in
the male or female line. The captain to be, as he
generally is, a peer.

The sale of yeomen's places a very ample addition to
the pay.


The band of gentlemen pensioners to be re-
duced to twenty 7 . The places in the band not to
be sold, but to be always given to an officer of ten
years' standing of the army or navy, and a gentle-
man of family below the dignity of peerage.

Fifth Branch : The King's Stables.

To be dissolved, the offices of

1st, Master of the fox-hounds and harriers.

2nd, Master of the buck-hounds.

3rd, All the higher offices of the stables under
the master of the horse, (except the equerries,
gentlemen of the horse, and purveyor,) to be
taken away.

Such hounds as the king shall use, to be provided by
the master of the horse or senior equerry ; who is to
keep such as are really wanted, with a proportionable
number of huntsmen and hounds, to be furnished by
contract. Horses, &c., to be kept by contract.

Sixth Branch : The Board of Works.

To be wholly abolished.

Business to be done by a surveyor of the king's build-
ings, who is to be a builder by profession, and incapable
of a seat in parliament. The gardens to be kept by a

7 That number sufficient.


gardener, under the same disqualification. No new work
or repair, in expense above fifty pounds incurred in the
whole within one month, to be undertaken without an
estimate, certified by the lord-chamberlain, or vice-cham-
berlain on examination, and previously approved by the
treasury, and an order given accordingly.

Seventh Branch : Exchequer.

1st, Auditor, after the present possessor, to be
reduced to a fixed salary of 3000 a year. All
fees to be sunk for the public.

2nd, Tellers to be reduced to 1200 a year, in
the same manner, after the existing possessors and
grants in reversion.

3rd, Chamberlain to be brought, with the same
restrictions, to the same fixed salary.

4th, Usher, ditto.

5th, Auditors of the imprest, a fixed salary of
1200 a year each, after the present lives.

6th, Paymaster of the pensions to be abolished.
Allowance for pensions to be reduced to a fixed
sum, except upon address of parliament ; none to
be granted except on such address, until the
whole is reduced to the sum proposed, viz. :
60,000 a year.

Eighth Branch : Ordnance.
The civil branch of the ordnance to be abolished.


The naval ordnance to be under the commissioners of
the navy. The military under the war-office, with the
aid of the chief-engineer, &c. As much of that business
as possible to be done by contract.

Ninth Branch : Pay Offices.

1st, Paymaster of the forces.

2nd, Treasurer of the navy.

These offices to be reformed. No money is to
be issued from the exchequer to these offices.
When orders are given for the pay of troops, that
payment is to be made by these offices in drafts
on the Bank of England, to the amount of the
sum that shall be imprested by the exchequer to
the bank, to answer these drafts.

The manner of accounting in the exchequer by these
offices to be accommodated to the real state of the busi-
ness ; and quere, Whether this paymaster's money being
thus paid into the bank, the bank may not find it worth
while to transmit the money for troops serving abroad,
and thus save one and a half per cent, to the public ?

Tenth Branch : The Mint.

To be abolished, and the coinage contracted for
with the bank.

Eleventh Branch : The Customs.
All the patent sinecure offices, after the present


lives, to be abolished ; and their fees to go to the

Business to be done by the deputies, where there is
any to be done ; which deputies are hereafter to be con-
sidered as principals.

Twelfth Branch: The Privy Purse.
To be reduced to .36,000 a year.

The 12,000 saved, to be applied as a provision to
two of the king's children.

This is the incipient form of the "plan" referred to by Mr.
Burke in a speech on Ecconomical Reform, made in Dec.
1779, a memorandum of which accompanies the MS. After
urging the necessity of such a measure, and the propriety
of bringing it forward at that particular period, he concluded
with the following explanatory matter :

" I have a plan that I think will serve for a basis (it is no
more) for public economy and reduction of influence. I have
communicated it to a very few friends by whose approbation I
am strengthened, and I will communicate it to more who will
make it worthy of being brought into Parliament. When it
is thus matured, I mean to propose it to the consideration of
the House, as soon after the Christmas recess as possible.

" It will not be advisable to open all the particulars. Pro-
jectors see no difficulties, and critics see nothing else ; and
when any new propositions are made without their explana-


tions, their qualifications, and a full stating of their grounds,
they are very liable to be decried ; especially where men's
interests are concerned in decrying them. But I will venture
to state the end and object I aim at, though not the means.
I will state, too, the limits I fix to myself in what I shall pro-
pose to the House : I mean a regulation, substantial as far as
it goes ; it will give to the public service two hundred thou-
sand pounds a year.

" It will cut off influence equal to the place of fifty members
of parliament. I rely more on this, than on regulations of
disqualification, on which I intend to add very little to those
for which I have voted on other questions. Take away the
means of influence, and you render the disqualification un-
necessary ; leave them, and no disqualification can ever wholly
prevent their operation on parliament.

" My plan stands in the way of no other reformation, but
on the contrary it tends exceedingly to forward all rational
attempts of that kind. It certainly cannot make a careless
minister an economist ; but the best minister will find the use
of it, and it will be no small check on the worst ; for its main
purpose is to correct the present prodigal constitution of the
civil executive government of this kingdom ; and unless this
be done, I am satisfied no minister whatever can possibly
introduce the least economy into the administration of it.

" As to my limits, the first are the rules of justice ; and
therefore, I do not propose to touch what any private man
holds by a legal tenure.

" The second are the rules of equity and mercy. Where
offices may be suppressed, which form the whole maintenance
of innocent people, it is hard (and hardship is a kind of injus-
tice,) that they who were decoyed into particular situations of
life by our faults, should be made the sacrifice of our penitence.
I do not mean to starve such people. The removals will fall
almost wholly on those who hold offices by a tenure, in which


they are liable to be, and are, frequently removed, for accom-
modating the arrangements of administration ; and surely the
accommodation of the public, in a great case like this, is full as
material a cause for their removal, as the convenience of any
administration, or the displeasure of any minister.

" The third is the service of the state. No one employment
really and substantially useful to the public, and which may
not very well be otherwise supplied, is to be retrenched, or to
be diminished in its lawful and accustomed emoluments. It
is what I conceive to be neither political nor rational in any
sense to do ; and this I shall fully explain hereafter.

" The fourth is, that the fund for the reward of service,
or merit, is to be left of sufficient solidity for its probable

"The fifth is, that the crown shall be left an ample and
liberal provision for personal satisfaction, and for as much of
magnificence as is suitable with the burthened state of the
country ; perhaps some may think it more than is decent.

" I propose the idea with the properties and the qualifica-
tions I have now expressed, however presumptuous it may
appear, with an humble and honest intention ; and I will spare
no pains to digest and ripen it. I trust it will give confidence
to the people, strength to the government, and make our state
of war vigorous, and our state of peace and repose really
recruiting and refreshing."

The whole speech is already published in Hansard's
Debates ; but it has been thought right to insert this part
of it here, as it tends to illustrate the course which Mr.
Burke pursued upon what he considered one of the most
important labours of his public life.



Beconsfield, April 4, 1780.


During the session, I wished often and earnestly
to write to you my sentiments upon what was
going on, and to receive yours. But the state of
my health, with the extent and nature of the
business in which I was engaged 1 , allowed me

1 The bill for Economical Reform, first brought into the
House of Commons by Mr. Burke in this session of parliament.
He gave notice of his intention, and the preceding outline of his
plan, on the 15th of December, 1779, and introduced the bill
on the llth of February following, when he delivered the cele-
brated speech which, perhaps, more than any other of his
speeches, establishes his claim to be considered the first orator
of that day. He afterwards spoke with great ability on the
same subject, whilst the bill was before the House ; but being
opposed in the manner he describes in this letter, most of the
important clauses were rejected or mutilated in the committee,
and the bill lost on the 23rd of June, by the chairman being
voted out of the chair without reporting progress. The bill
was again brought into the House by Mr. Burke on the 5th of
February, 1781, and was lost on the motion for a second reading,
on the 26th of the same month. In the following year, when
Mr. Burke was paymaster-general of the forces, in the Rock-


no leisure to do any thing I had a liking to.
When I came hither I was so wasted by fatigue

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