THg GREAT ERCHECILJER JOB.
The origin of the office cannot be traced. It is, however, " coeval with the Conquest." At its outset, one department was a court of judicature, to inquire into the correctness of all claims upon the King; another acted as a check upon the Lord High Trea- surer, lest he should order the payment of more money than was due ; the third was a species of bank, where the Tellers, " sworn to receive all monies by weight and tale," kept their accounts by notches on a tally-stick,—the " Order," probably, in those good old times being incapable of keeping them in any other mode. The most useful part—that of inquiry—has long since been discon- tinued; the check upon the executive in the expenditure of money, and the Norman plan of banking, with all the forms adapted to the necessities of a barbarous age, have remained, with no other alte- ration than occasional additions to enable the business to be drag- ged ned qlonc,• The consequence is, a degree of absurdity, complexity, and vexation, we believe without a parallel. The forms are unlike any which are in practice elsewhere. The mode of doing business is inconvenient, or, to speak more correctly, utterly impracticable, to those who are unaccustomed to it : a mere receipt of money can seldom be effected in less than several days, and never at a particular time, without some previous notice and preparation. The terms used in the office are mostly incomprehensible to the living world : the language is unknown to all but the clerks, who are expressly taught it ; and the symbols they use in the place of figures are, according to the Report of the Commission of 1782, utterly useless even to themselves, as they cannot be cast up, " having no characters to express high numbers, as millions." The hours of business, originally adapted to those of the age, are become inapplicable to ours ; and we believe the employi!es, omitting the earlier attendance, have managed to restrict the public office hours from ten till one o'clock. As a set-off, we are assured " the hours for the discharge of the business of the current day frequently last [ye gods l] till three or four." When Mr. ROBERTS (first clerk to the Clerk of the Pells), however, was pressed upon the point of regular attendance, he admitted, that " in all offices there is occasionally a little relaxation of business, and advantage will be taken of it ;" —an advantage scarcely tolerable, when there are fifty holydays in the year, 'exclusive of Sundays.
Some of these points are so strongly and so naïvely put in Mr. VERNON*S evidence, that we are tempted to extract a portion. We should observe, that Mr. VERNON is a Treasury clerk ; and not, therefore, too quick at detecting official absurdities, and not at all disposed to exaggerate them.
" Would not great difficulties arise to any person unacquainted with the forms in receiving the money at the Exchequer ?"—" Certainly."
" Will you explain in what the difficulties would consist ?"—" When a stranger receives the instruments from me for a payment to be made to him at the Exchequer, he inquires what he is to do with them ; I tell him that he must lodge them at the Auditor's Office, Exchequer, and he will be informed the day he can receive. If he carries the instruments down on a Monday, they will say that it is not probable (on account of the press of business) that the instruments can be passed through all the departments under three or four days. I have taken warrants to the Ex- chequer on a Friday, and am told that Friday is a day only appropriated for issuing money on account of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, and it is also the day for making up the weekly certificate for the Treasury. The order for payment will be passed to the Pell Office to-morrow."
"In what office has this answer been given ?"—" In the Auditor's Office. I am told that there is an act of Parliament that the order should remain in the Pell Office twenty-four lours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are holydays : the party, therefore, cannot receive the mo- ney until Thursday."
" Have any complaints ever been made to you by persons on account of the inconvenience of receiving money at the Exchequer ?"—" I have known cases of great inconvenience resulting from it." " Do you find the mode of transacting public business at the Exchequer as expeditious and convenient as you find it at other great departments when you have payments to receive : at the Bank of England, for exam- ple?"—" If I go to receive dividends payable at the Bank on Stock, I go early in the morning, and I am despatched in eight or ten minutes. There is no process at the Bank which requires much time to be occupied with it : i have received eight or ten dividend warrants within the space of half-an-hour."
Mr. VERNON then describes the mode of procuring an order from any other public department upon the Bank.
"Of which draft you can avail yourself immediately ?"—" Certainly." " Being in like manner in possession of the complete documents neces- sary to authorize the receipt of a sum upon account of a pension from the Exchequer, you with the same expedition receive the money from that department?"—" Certainly not ; it would occupy a time of three or four days."
" Does any obstruction to business arise from the language of the formalities of the Exchequer ?"—"There is no obstruction arising from it; [receive the money under a debenture that I cannot read." This office, thus antiquated in its origin, barbarous in its forms and its language,. and inconvenient in its situation, its hours, and its modes of business, does not even possess, as our readers may suppose, the redeeming qualities of simplicity in its workings or unity in its objects, but has become more complicated with the lapse of time. Leaving out of view the payment of tontines, the management of fees and deductions from salaries for Land Tax, &e. and the business connected with Exchequer Bills, it combines in itself the somewhat discordant functions of an office of receipt, of payment (of two descriptions), of control, of audit, and of record. The functions of receipt and payment are vested in the Tellers, who are merely Ministerial officers : those of control, of audit, and of record, are divided between the Pells and the Auditor's offices, which possess a discretionary power. Their duty is to prevent the Treasury from procuring the issue of any money which has not been voted by Parliament for a specific purpose ; and this is the real constitutional function of the Exchequer,—a duty, however, which it discharges in a slovenly way. The legal authority is the final sanction of the Legislature to a grant, but as this " would be inconvenient to the public service" (lege, Government and its clerks), the issue is made upon the vote of the Commons. Passing this, the documents which direct an issue are various and compli- cated ; sometimes the orders are drawn in Exchequer Latin, sometimes in rigmarole English ; they vary in form, they vary in number, they are always more numerous than is ne- cessary,* and both time and labour are wasted in sending them backwards and forwards from the Treasury to the Exche- quer and from the Exchequer to the Treasury ; after all, they are frequently passed in an informal state. Sometimes these orders are given for lump sums, sometimes they specify the items ; oc- casionally the amounts are paid to other offices for distribution ; occasionally, as in the case of certain salaries and pensions, the Exchequer itself discharges the claim ; but—lest uniformity should pall—at times under a general authority, issued when the pension was first granted, whilst for others a specific order is requisite every quarter. These orders are all directed to the Tellers ; and the number of these officers often renders double or triple docu- ments necessary to enable the stun to be paid when one Teller has not sufficient in hand to discharge the demand. The Exchequer officers were originally paid by fees on all receipts and payments. This mode of remuneration has latterly been abolished; but the fees are still taken, for no other apparent object than to occupy time in calculating the sums due in making the entries and keep- ing the accounts. It should be added, that more money is always drawn out of the Exchequer than is necessary, merely for the sake of paying it back again. When money has to be paid in, it is paid in two distinct accounts and two distinct currencies (as we shall presently explain), though it is finally carried to the public fund. The Tellers are four in number, though the duties of their offices are precisely the same. We have alluded to the multiplication of documents this creates in payments. It has the same effect in re- ceipts ; all the entries and books being multiplied in proportion to the number of Tellers amongst whom a "head of revenue" is divided. These officers are still nominally the bankers of the state ; but the real business is performed by the Bank of England, whose clerks ride "backwards and forwards in a hackney-coach" on those days when the Exchequer is open. By these three gen- tlemen every operation of receipts and payments is transacted, and recorded in the modern way, for the use of the Bank. The trans- actions are then again narrated in the Exchequer fashion by about twenty Tellers' clerks and four " money porters," assisted by a de- tachment from the Auditors, and the Pells'. Excepting in paying fees, salaries, &c. to individuals, no money, however, passes ; the business having been previously performed elsewhere. The Ex- cise Office, for instance (and the routine is much the same in all the offices), pays its receipts into the Exchequer twice a week. To effect this, a (haft, technically called a "write-off," is drawn upon the Bank ; for that part of it which is to appear as the receipt from the Excise a cancelled note is given ; the amount of the tees is taken in cash. The note is then carried to the Ex- chequer; where, after a variety of forms have been complied with, it is paid to the Bank clerks, who carry it to the Tellers' account. When money has to be drawn out, a similar process takes place. The officers of the departments of receipts have long since been weary of marching to Westminster to perform their * The variety alluded to had its origin when the one department of the Exchequer was a judicial court. If the amount of a demand was the sub- ject of inquiry, it could not be paid without " an order of court :" hence the origin of an Exchequer "order ;" which is drawn in English. When, by an act of Legislature, or other competent authority, the amount was admitted to be due, and the sole question was the existence of the act, &c.; the demand was paid under a debenture (from debentur), and this instru- ment is drawn in Latin. As the court was a court of record, " no order was considered to be authoritative until it was entered or put upon re- cord;" hence, if we understand rightly, the origin of the Pell's Office. If this he wisdom, what is foolishness ? To enable the Solicitor of the Treasury. Mr. MAULE, to obtain a final order to receive 5001. (5,000/. ?) the following documents were prepared and signed.
1. A Royal Sign Manual Warrant to the Treasury ; 2. A Treasury Warrant to Auditor of Exchequer ; 3. A Treasury Issuing Letter ; and • 4. A Treasury Order to the Auditor and Teller of Exchequer.
All of which are founded on the general Privy Seal to the Exchequer, issued at the commencement of every reign." (Report, page 11.) The cu- rious in these matters may consult the Report, and the Appendix, for the names and forms of the other documents, especially p. 113-119. It should be added, that the above sum was the balance of an amount regularly voted by Parliament. parts in these weekly' Exchequer farces, as the troub.e might have • been prevented by directing the Bank to credit the Exchequer with the amount of the cancelled note. The fees are even more • troublesome than the public:payments, as there are three distinct tables, involving minute calculations. Mr. BEAUMONT, of the Customs, once proposed to the Exchequer that they should be paid quarterly: he forgot, simple man, that this public fund is kept a2 Messrs. Drummonds' , mixed up with the private account of one of the clerks. " If," said the official, "you do that, you shall not have the tallies." These documents are now superseded by re- ceipts ; they are the vouchers of the department in passing the account at the Audit Office, and are curiosities in their way. They can neither be read by. the party who pays the money, nor by the party who audits the. payment ; our readers may. be more success- ful. Let them guess at the subjoined sample, and give it up when they are tired. Thus far we can assist them. It is a receipt to Lord WALLACE ; it is written in abbreviated Exchequer Latin ; and the hieroglyphics above the signatures are the characters we for- merly -alluded to -as expressing sums which cannot be cast up.
Quantum suf. Those who are acquainted with business of any kind, will readily believe, that under such a system, the much- boasted-of " security- against error and protection from fraud," is found in the character of individuals, in the precautions (such as they are) of the other departments, and generally in the useless- ness of the fraud when perpetrated, rather than in any efficient check provided by the Exchequer. • It seems scarcely worth while to observe, that individuals (is it one of the securities ?) are sent to lock and unlock money-chests, without knowing the sums they ought to contain, and that all intercommunication respecting money is carried on upon unsigned slips of paper, with the amounts, -not in writing, but in figures; so that there is nothing, for instance, to prevent the bearer of it from turning 2001. into 1,2001.
The expense of the office is an important feature to tax-payers. We subjoin an abStract of its amount in 1829.
Auditor's Office. £ s. d.
Salaries 13004 9 2f Contingencies unknown from the want of do-
cuments, in an office professing to check all
the other departments of the state.
Pells Cffice. £7606 9 10 Contingencies 70 15 3 Tellers' Qffices.
Marquis Camden's Salaries 5700 0 0 Contingencies 312 2 11 Earl Bathurst's Salaries Rt. Hon. Charles Yorke's Salaries Spencer Percival, Esq.'s Salaries Four Money Porters Contingencies of the four departments, exclusive of Stationery, the expense of which is unknown £44792 4 9i
Of this sum, about one-fourth is paid for sinecures, so complete, that in the words of the return, " The Teller is empowered by his patent to appoint a deputy, who transacts all the business of the office. The Teller himself does not, nor has it been usual for him, to execute any part of it whatsoever." The Auditor is virtually a sinecure ; the porters, as will be seen, are paid indifferently well ; and there are five heads of offices, who have deputies to act for them " in the general super- intendence of the office during any occasional absence." The following gives an account of the salaries received for "re- sponsibility," and of those paid for work. s. d.
Total expense in salaries. 44296 2 41 Four Tellers at 27001. per annum.. £10860 One Auditor 4600 Five Heads of Departments .5400 Four Money Porters .. 1020 4 0 Deduct as wages 320 4 0 700 for Sinecures or" Responsibility" 20900 0 0 Salaries for Work 23396 2
The Commissioners recommend that the whole of the present machinery should be entirely swept away, and suggest the erection of a new office upon a new system. Into the merits and the ex- pense of this proposal, we shall probably enter next week. The subject itself, and some of the, remarks which accompany it, are too important to be discussed at the fag.eudofa.long article like this.
7677 5 1 6012 2 5800 0 5768 5 5396 14 1020 4 113 4
0 4 0 0
3 ESSENTIAL PARTS OF THE CONSTITUTION.
THE riorporation of Evesham have, after much and earnest deli- beration, agreed to an Anti-Reform wldress. The following para- graph forms part of this effusion of joint stock company wit.
"That the Corporation of Evesham has for upwards of five hundred years formed an integral part of that glorious constitution which, in our times, has successfully opposed the united world in 'arms, and has seen the emperors and kings of Europe pay homage on our shores to those in-
stitutions which had raised this kingdom to the arbitress of the desti-: nies of the nations around."
While NAPOLEON was 'on his way to St. Helena, his valet was one day summoned to remove, by the ordinary appliances, a cere tain cause of minute uneasiness from the hero's crown, which had escaped notice during the dangers of battle and- the exhaustion that followed defeat. The little insect, which has chosen the lord of the creation for his peculiar prey, was about to be consigned to the waves that proudly bore forward the Bellerophon and her noble burden, when, propping itself on one of the silky hairs of the im- perial brow, that had left its seat'along with its tenant, it thus, with tiny voice, bespoke the mercy of the imperial friseur. " Be- ware, my friend, how you hastily sacrifice to passing complaints and momentary uneasiness, a creature so intimately connected with the noblest part of the conqueror of the world. For twenty long years, I and my predecessors have maintained our places on his person. My grandfather accompanied him to Marengo ; my uncle lost a limb in his company at Austerlitz ; nay, I had a grand cousin twice removed that participated in the dangers of the siege of Toulon. For myself, I was present at the fatal field of "Waterloo. There is not an event in the glori- ous history of the Emperor, that has not been shared by him in common with our family. Can you, without trembling, consider of the danger of casting into the pitiless deep one who has consti- tuted for so many years so important a part of his glorious con- stitution ?—one to whose salutary tickling it has been so long ac- customed ? If I perish, do you think he will long survive ? No ; we have flourished, and we will fall together." -The friseur had a heart of stone ; with a loud " bah!" he cast from him the bit of paper which held the unfortunate pleader, and the mighty waters closed over it for ever. The Emperor speeded on his journey, and what became of him all the world knows. Mankind attributed his fate to Earl BATHURST, Sir HUDSON. Lows, and the bad air of St. Helena ; but the descendants of the drowned orator—for he left many in various parts of the world—have not failed to attri- bute the premature death of NAPOLEON to that unhappy instru- ment, so recklessly wielded, which separated from his godlike head the redoubtable companion of the rise and progress of his fame and prosperity. For NaPoaaoNeread Great Britain, and for — read Evesham, and tremble !