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the faults of his office instantly become his own. Instead of a public officer in an abusive department, whose province is an object to be regulated, he becomes a criminal who is to be punished. I do most seriously put it to administration to consider the wisdom of a timely reform. Early reformations are amicable arrangements with a friend in power; late reformations are terms imposed upon a conquered enemy : early reformations are made in cool blood; late reformations are made under a state of inflammation. In that state of things the people behold in government nothing that is respectable. They see the abuse, and they will see nothing else. They fall into the temper of a furious populace provoked at the disorder of a house of ill-fame; they never attempt to correct or regulate ; they go to work by the shortest way: they abate the nuisance, they pull down the house.
This is my opinion with regard to the true interest of government. But as it is the interest of government that reformation should be early, it is the interest of the people that it should be temperate. It is their interest, because a temperate reform is permanent, and because it has a principle of growth. Whenever we improve, it is right to leave room for a further improvement. It is right to consider, to look about us, to examine the effect of what we have done. Then we can proceed with confidence, because we can proceed with intelligence. Whereas in hot reformations, in what men more zealous than considerate call making clear work, the whole is generally so crude, so harsh, so indigested, mixed with so much imprudence and so much injustice, so contrary to the whole course of human nature and human institutions, that the very people who are most
eager for it are among the first to grow disgusted at what they have done. Then some part of the abdicated grievance is recalled from its exile in order to become a corrective of the correction. Then the abuse assumes all the credit and popularity of a reform. The very idea of purity and disinterestedness in politics falls into disrepute, and is considered as a vision of hot and inexperienced men ; and thus disorders become incurable, not by the virulence of their own quality, but by the unapt and violent nature of the remedies. A great part, therefore, of my idea of reform is meant to operate gradually : some benefits will come at a nearer, some at a more remote period. We must no more make haste to be rich by parsimony than by intemperate acquisition.
In my opinion, it is our duty, when we have the desires of the people before us, to pursue them, not in the spirit of literal obedience, which may militate with their very principle,- much less to treat them with a peevish and contentious litigation, as if we were adverse parties in a suit. It would, Sir, be most dishonorable for a faithful representative of the Commons to take advantage of any inartificial expression of the people's wishes, in order to frustrate their attainment of what they have an undoubted right to expect. We are under infinite obligations to our constituents, who have raised us to so distinguished a trust, and have imparted such a degree of sanctity to common characters. We ought to walk before them with purity, plainness, and integrity of heart,— with filial love, and not with slavish fear, which is always a low and tricking thing. For my own part, in what I have meditated upon that subject, I cannot, indeed, take upon me to say I have the honor to follow the sense of the
people. The truth is, I met it on the way, while I was pursuing their interest according to my own ideas. I am happy beyond expression to find that my intentions have so far coincided with theirs, that I have not had cause to be in the least scrupulous to sign their petition, conceiving it to express my own opinions, as nearly as general terms can express the ob ject of particular arrangements.
I am therefore satisfied to act as a fair mediator between government and the people, endeavoring to form a plan which should have both an early and a temperate operation. I mean, that it should be substantial, that it should be systematic, that it should rather strike at the first cause of prodigality and corrupt influence than attempt to follow them in all their effects.
It was to fulfil the first of these objects (the proposal of something substantial) that I found myself obliged, at the outset, to reject a plan proposed by an honorable and attentive member of Parliament,* with very good intentions on his part, about a year or two ago. Sir, the plan I speak of was the tax of twentyfive per cent moved upon places and pensions during the continuance of the American war. Nothing, Sir, could have met my ideas more than such a tax, if it was considered as a practical satire on that war, and as a penalty upon those who led us into it; but rin any other view it appeared to me very liable to objections. I considered the scheme as neither substantial, nor permanent, nor systematical, nor likely to be a corrective of evil influence. I have always thought employments a very proper subject of regulation, but a very ill-chosen subject for a tax. An equal tax
* Thomas Gilbert, Esq., member for Lichfield.
upon property is reasonable ; because the object is of the same quality throughout. The species is the same ; it differs only in its quantity. But a tax upon salaries is totally of a different nature; there can be no equality, and consequently no justice, in taxing them by the hundred in the gross.
We have, Sir, on our establishment several offices which perform real service: we have also places that provide large rewards for no service at all. We have stations which are made for the public decorum, made for preserving the grace and majesty of a great people: we have likewise expensive formalities, which tend rather to the disgrace than the ornament of the state and the court. This, Sir, is the real condition of our establishments. To fall with the same severity on objects so perfectly dissimilar is the very reverse of a reformation,-I mean a reformation framed, as all serious things ought to be, in number, weight, and measure. Suppose, for instance, that two men receive a salary of 8001. a year each. In the office of one there is nothing at all to be done; in the other, the occupier is oppressed by its duties. Strike off twenty-five per cent from these two offices, you take from one man 2001. which in justice he ought to have, and you give in effect to the other 6001. which he ought not to receive. The public robs the former, and the latter robs the public; and this mode of mutual robbery is the only way in which the office and the public can make up their accounts.
But the balance, in settling the account of this double injustice, is much against the state. The result is short. You purchase a saving of two hundred pounds by a profusion of six. Besides, Sir, whilst you leave a supply of unsecured money behind,
wholly at the discretion of ministers, they make up the tax to such places as they wish to favor, or in such new places as they may choose to create. Thus the civil list becomes oppressed with debt; and the public is obliged to repay, and to repay with an heavy interest, what it has taken by an injudicious tax. Such has been the effect of the taxes hitherto laid on pensions and employments, and it is no encouragement to recur again to the same expedient.
In effect, such a scheme is not calculated to produce, but to prevent reformation. It holds out a shadow of present gain to a greedy and necessitous public, to divert their attention from those abuses which in reality are the great causes of their wants. It is a composition to stay inquiry; it is a fine paid by mismanagement for the renewal of its lease; what is worse, it is a fine paid by industry and merit for an indemnity to the idle and the worthless. But I shall say no more upon this topic, because (whatever may be given out to the contrary) I know that the noble lord in the blue ribbon perfectly agrees with me in these sentiments.
After all that I have said on this subject, I am so sensible that it is our duty to try everything which may contribute to the relief of the nation, that I do not attempt wholly to reprobate the idea even of a tax. Whenever, Sir, the incumbrance of useless office } (which lies no less a dead weight upon the service of the state than upon its revenues) shall be removed,
when the remaining offices shall be classed according to the just proportion of their rewards and services, so as to admit the application of an equal rule to their taxation, when the discretionary power over the civil list cash shall be so regulated that a minis