TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE EXCHEQUER BILL FRAUD.
OM readers may remember, that at the time of the NEWPORT-. MONTEAGLE ,job we exposed the braggings of thellIG/obe about the wondrous doings of the Whigs in Exchequer Reform ; showing that the change was inevitable, and proving that the financial saving by their management was really little or nothing. Our dis- sent, it seems, might have proceeded further. According to the account of their organs this week, they left the Tory abuses where they found them, and that in a point of daily occurrence. The constitutional importance of the Exchequer—the preventing of money from being used by the Executive that has not been voted by Parliament—we do not deny ; but, practically speaking, the ge- nuineness of Exchequer Bills bears more directly and constantly upon the wellbeing of the public, than the larger function of Lord MONTEAGLE to carry out the determination of Parliament to stop the Supplies. The last is not very likely to happen : when it became probable, attention would be turned towards the Ministry, and the affair could not be concealed. If even the Executive could make their demand secretly, it must be known to the Exchequer clerks, it must be known to the clerks at the Bank of England. But the Whigs, undertaking to reform an evil which the Tories were considering when they were turned out, actually leave the evil where they find it, and an evil that may affect the properties of many people. Such is the excuse of their own organs • but it is a question whether the unbusiness-like habits of the Whigs did not actually remove a check established in the Old Exchequer, costly and cum- brous as was the office. Under the old system, the " Office for the Issuing of the Exchequer Bills" was a branch of the Auditor's Office, under the superintendence of the Chief Clerk (the Auditor- ship being a sinecure.) Orders for the manufacture of the peculiar paper on which Exchequer Bills are printed were given by the Senior Clerk of the Office for the Issue of Exchequer Bills with "the cognizance" of the Chief Clerk of the Auditor : the paper itself was made " under the very strict inspection of a su- pervisor deputed by the Auditor to attend the paper-mill during the process ; who, among other precautions which he is charged to exercise, is to take care that no single sheet of the paper shall exist 'beyond the quantity transmitted to the Auditor"; and a similar process was undergone for preparing the copperplates, and printing the im- pressions, except that the printing took place at the Exchequer, under " a similar superintendence." Under such a system, it seems impos- aible that fraudulent issues could have taken place without speedy detection, unless by collusion between the Auditor's representative and the Head Clerk of the Office for Issuing Exchequer Bills, or between this last-named functionary and the host of papermakers, engravers and so forth. Two most important questions, therefore, arise. Were these precautionary checks of the Old Exchequer transferred to the New ? If they were not, the facility offered to fraudulent issues is as obvious as the scandalous neglect towards the public. If the same processes against fraud were un- derstood to be adopted, then it becomes important to trace the chronology of the fraudulent issues. If they have occurred since the remodelling of the office, there is a fair presumption that greater negligence (if not collusion) must exist somewhere than was found in the Old Exchequer. At all events, the public have a right to be informed, at the close of the investigation, whether the old or any other checks exist in the office ; andif so, by what agency they could have been defeated. Had the advice we urged ten years ago been followed, that Mr. Eters, the head of the old Pells Office, and the suggester of the most important changes, should have been appointed to the post of Comptroller at his salary of 1,400/. a Irear, instead of being pensioned off to make room for a Whig at 2,000/., this fraud would most likely not have taken place. For Emus knew the workings of the old system, and what was necessary, what not.
A question strongly agitated, as may be imagined, by Exchequer Bill holders, is whether Government is bound to make up the loss to the parties ? The name of the head officer of the Exchequer is the thing which gave validity to the bill ; and if that name is forged, the responsibility legally rests with the party taking an in- valid document. In some cases this may lead to hardship, but not to so much as would appear at first sight. The questionable na- ture of the original transactions, from the high rate of interest, the repeated deposits by the same parties, when they would natu- rally take advantage, some time or other, of the turn of the market to sell, and the reported anxiety respecting the identical bills being returned, should all have excited suspicion ; and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion, that the original lenders, if not a sort of receivers, must have resolved to take their chance. Bond Jule holders are, no doubt, in a different position ; but transactions in Exchequer Bills, of such high amounts as Mr. Sarni appears to have confined himself to, are surely not untraceable like the transfer of sovereigns. Though they bear no endorsement, the books of the stockbrokers must show the particulars of each transfer' until they are traced back to the first issuer to the public. If he indeed is insolvent, then, probably, a claim lies against the Government ; for, in the absence of proof to the contrary, we cannot divest ourselves of the intspicion that the whole of this monetary confusion is at the door of the late Ministry or its agents at the New Exchequer, and that had all the checks of the Old Exchequer been properly applied, the 'forgeries could not have been committed. If this suspicion should
be realized, then we think Government are bound to bear bond fide holders harmless.
As usual when dealing with Exchequer mysteries, the Globe has exhibited a pompous inflation, and a ludicrous air of self-satisfac-
tion at its sources of secret knowledge. In an article attributed by some of our contemporaries to an official hand, the Exchequer organ thus alludes to Mr. SMITH, as if conciliating a witness to be feared, since there was no necessity for referring to him at all- " The salary of Mr. Smith was, we believe, 6001. a year, which he had an- ticipated would have been advanced to 700!.; but his hopes being defeated by the economy that has been carried of late into all the public offices, be had re- course to forgery as a temporary expedient ; and from a sum of 5004 has been led, by those of whom it is believed he has been the dupe, to the enormous amount of his forgery which we have above stated. Surely remuneration should be regulated not simply by the few hours of time required, which has too frequently been the Treasury standard of value, but by the amount of trust re- posed, and the extent of integrity required."
A more profligately impudent defence was never set up. What Mr. Ssirrn might have anticipated we do not know : in 1830 his salary was 520/. a year, since raised to 600/.—a not unhandsome remuneration for a brief daily attendance at an office where his labours were not heavy or his task difficult. As for "the amount of trust reposed," it was, under the old system, simply the custody of certain papers, the number of which was strictly limited, and for every one of which he had to account. But, sup- posing that as much trust was originally reposed as seems to have been reposed, most improperly, of late years, what a notion of morality must that mind possess which can plead the "low and niggardly salary" of 600/. a year as a sort of set-off to any dis- honesty! But if "integrity is hardly to be expected when the pay [600/. a year] of a party employed is not commensurate with the importance of his services," [filling in and entering printed forms, &c.] what a state will this country be in whenever she goes to war ? An officer on active service has all his time "occupied with his duties " ; liable to be called to exposure, privation, danger, and death, at any hour of the day or night ; and to expend part of his "low and niggardly salary" on professional outfits ; " trusted " often with a large amount of property, constantly with lives, and with knowledge on which lives and victory itself depend. Accord- ing to the new philosophy of the New Exchequer, our officers, though not "morally justified" (wonderful admission !) in decamp- ing ‘s.i.th such part of the military-chest as they can finger, or sell- ing secrets to the enemy whenever their pay is inadequate to their anticipations, can "hardly be expected" to resist the " temp- tation " of doing so !
"We said," quoth the moralist, "and we say again, that integrity is hardly to be expected where the pay of a party employed is not commensurate with the importance of his services. Human nature is weals enough, without tempta- tion being heedlessly brought into action against its natured infirmities." 1 ! !