14 SEPTEMBER 1850, Page 11



A HOMMLY proverb sets at nought the bird that respects not its own domicile. In similar predicament with the feathered tribe stood the members of the Government in the late and still pending issue between official emoluments and more stinted allowances.

he could not be expected to make self-damaging disclosures, further than was unavoidable from the stringency of interrogative compulsion : consequently, the representations made by them to the Salaries Committee may be held to be an ex-parte statement ; and the deficiency of information from this cause has not been supplied by any suspended or renegade employe volunteering from experience more full and impartial revelations. The uniform con- sistency in the depositions indeed, forms one of their most remark- able features. From the testimony given it would seem, that none of those delights which the uninitiated were wont to imagine per- tain to place are unalloyed, or =embittered by some disagree- able accompaniment or consequence. Official salaries may be suffi- cient as times go, and in a few instances considerable ; but what are they, it has been urged or insinuated, against other peo- ple's incomes, or against the many sacrifices entailed by them? —against seven or eight hours' daily attendance in Parliament— against the wearying drudgery of the bureau—and against the entire neglect of all private and family affairs ? Power is doubt- less: dear to exercise, but after all it is only "a bed of roses "— sweet, but prickly—and occasions many a sleepless pillow. Then as to the patronage, so much dilated on, it is the most distressing adjunct of an English Minister : it occasions him most perplex- ity and dissatisfaction; for, however well-intentioned he may be, he can never indulge it without disobliging a dozen applicants for one he pleases, and thus multiplying enemies far more rapidly than adherents.

Whether craftily meant or not, all these shadings-off and mag- nified drawbacks have obviously one concurring tendency— namely, to make Ministers easy in their places by allaying the restless appetite of rivals or the begrudgings of the public : but the application of a few general tests will promptly reduce their plausibilities to their intrinsic value. Sir Robert Peel informed the Committee that he never knew an

instance of a Bishop resigning: did he ever know one of a Minister, except on compulsion ? The times have been when a Ministry would resign if it could not command a respectable majority in Parliament ; but such times have passed. Examples there are of Administrations that have gone on session after session with very small majorities indeed—thirty or forty, or even ten or five to back them : they have even been content to hold on with no ma- jority at all—to be repeatedly beaten in their places, and still cling to them. Public offices, therefore, must have some peculiar attractions which more than counterbalance all their disgraces and inconveniences. Hands are sometimes wanted and advertised for in other employments, but never to fill the civil offices of the Go- vernment. Those who have once served are always ready to serve a second time ; and if a vacancy does happen, what a rush there is from all points—town and country—to -fill it!

The plain conclusion is, that direct emolument, or compensation of some kind, does amply reward the holders of public offices. If not, why this excess of competition for them? It may be that a generous ambition animates aspirants—that power is sought to compass patriotic designs—or pride or vanity to be enrolled in the Queen's service may be the motive. All these, however, are money or money's worth—a satisfaction of human wants or desires ; and ought to be considered accordingly in any contemplated adjust- ment of the scale of remuneration.

Considerations of more general and impressive import urgently

solicit attention. Ever since the alteration of the currency in 1819, the country has been tending towards a new standard of value ; and the impulse in this direction has been greatly accelerated by Corn-law and Tariff reforms. Continental or American prices in the staple articles of consumption, it is probable, will be the near and abiding settlement. For this monetary revolution some new arrangements .will assuredly be wanted ; though not to fall on one elsss exclusively. In the benefits of low prices and abundant har- vests no reason exists why placemen should not share in common with others; but good reasons exist why they should not share in a greater degree or proportion. Concerning one order of function- Ones there cannot be any hesitation—the salaries of the Judges having been avowedly raised on the ground of the greater ex- pensaveness of living, their return to a preexisting status of income and expenditure must be wholly free from objection. But the principle referred to applies to all classes of officials, for the plain reason that it applies to all classes of the community : all are descending, yielding a little to the pressure of universal cheapness, except taw living on annuities, or other fixed sources of re- Venue. Tithe-recipients, too, at least those that have commuted, may be exceptional, their incomes being already graduated to the price of corn. But landlords cannot claim exemption ; and indeed some have already felt the necessity of meeting the new regimen by an abatement of rents. As respects those who live on profits, there is probably no wide margin for further aocommodation, pro- fits having already, it may be conjectured, fallen nearly to their

minimum level through the competition of capital. In several counties rural wages have been reduced ; and the fall in the price of labour would doubtless have been general, both in skilled and unskilled occupations, had it not been kept up by the unusual de- mand consequent on prosperous years. It only awaits the recur- rence of adverse seasons, we apprehend, to cause a decline of re- muneration in all employments.

Lawyers are well known to have suffered a great diminution of emoluments ; and if a class more independent than any in position, fortified as it is by a species of monopoly and its own by-laws, has been unable to maintain its antecedent palmy state, how can plow- men hope to escape ? It is obvious' however' that for any great economical purpose to be compassed by official retrenchments, they must not be limited to the staff or executive of the Government. Here, doubtless, are clustered some of the chief birds of prey ;. but the number is small, and unless the lower as well as top branches can be pruned down, no great aggregate result would be obtained. From a return of the charge for Parliamentary offices, quoted in another part of this paper,* it appears that the total ex- pense of the staff of the civil departments does not exceed 71,600/. per annum. Five, ten, or twenty per cent reduction from this sum, would not yield any national saving of moment : but the application of a more exte,nded rule of economy, which we shall explain, would be more effectively productive. In missionary and other public collections' it is the pence, not the pounds, that tell. It is only by indirect taxation that a large revenue can be raised; the number, not the magnitude of contri- butions, making the great heap. It is by applying this principle to official reductions as well as imposts that a great saving can alone be accomplished. From a Parliamentary return of 1828 it appears, that the total number of persons of every grade employed in the public departments amounted to 22,912; and their salaries to 2,788,909/. But that return did not include Judicial offices, the Diplomatic service, the Colonies, nor the Royal Household. Had these been included, the number of plowmen would not have been greatly short of 25,000, and their emoluments would have exceeded three millions. Here is some- thing to cut at, worthy of attention, if not of public agitation, in the way of obviating existing disparities from vicissitudes in. incomes and prices.

s Statistics of the Inquiry into Parliamentary Offices, page 883.