London, Volume 5
Captain Becroft, or some other of our recent visitors to the Niger, was requested by of the sable potentates of that region to bring him, from England, a couple of brass guns, and a strong chest with iron bands and padlocks. His Majesty wished for nothing more--if he had these he had everything. The guns would bring him in money, and the chest would keep it safe. This negro prince must have been a philosopher: Locke, Montesquieu, Bentham--not of our theorists upon government has ever simplified its principles to such an extent. In practice, however, all governments have been much of a mind with the monarch sage of Nigritia. The treasury is the key-stone of the arch of Government. To get money, whether by brass guns or taxes, and to keep it safe, whether in a chest with iron bands and locks, or in a Treasury, or in a , these constitute the whole duty of a statesman. There, then, in that building which figures at the top of the present paper, is deposited the talisman that keeps together the social fabric of the British empire. The seal of Solomon possessed not a tithe of its mystic power.
We smile at the idea of a negro prince's treasury being formed out of the chest, perhaps, of some sailor who may have died on the voyage out. The transformation is not a whit more startling than that by which the royal Treasury of England was manufactured out of a cock-pit. When bluff Harry VIII. had stripped Wolsey of , and some other valuable possessions, he
|constructed there for the amusement of his leisure hours, a tennis-court, a cock-pit, and a bowling-green. The scenes of the more healthy and humane amusements of tennis and bowling have left no trace behind them, but we can track the cockpit through all its transmutations--from a place where cocks fought to a place where polemical divines and jobbing politicians wrangled, until it settled down into a Treasury.|
In the year of grace , thus wrote Mr. Edward Hatton :--
At that time, therefore, the Lord High Treasurer seems in a manner to have been little more than a tenant at will in the Cock-pit. The Cock-pit was still the cock-pit in those days, not the permanent office of the treasurer, much less was it Treasury. It might have pleased her Majesty Queen Anne to direct the Lord High Treasurer, Sydney Earl of Godolphin, who was
to occupy some other apartments, the property of the crown. Nay, the Lord High Treasurer had not the whole Cock-pit to himself, his secretary and clerks; for
(as yet there was neither
) also found a domicile in the Cock.pit. Then the Treasurer transformed the Cock-pit, by his temporary occupancy, into a Treasury; now the Treasury transforms its principal occupant, , into the Lord of the Treasury. In those old times the man made the office; in ours the office makes the man. Formerly the nation was governed by statesmen; now it is governed by offices and establishments. The machinery which man has made whirls its maker about with or against his will.
But to return to the Cock-pit. Pennant republished in his
an old print of the Horse-Guards (that is, of the stables adjoining the Tilt-yard, occupied by the horse-guards) in the time of Charles II., in which the Cock-pit,--the future Treasury of England, occupies a tolerably conspicuous position. The picture is in good moral keeping. Charles, with his spaniels, is lounging in front, with an empty and expensive cockpit behind him, which in the reign of his niece was to be converted by the
Godolphin into a well-filled Treasury. This is the part of the Treasury buildings which fronts ; the venerable, antique, somewhat moss-grown pile, stuck in between the smugness of the dowager Lady Dover's round house and the equal smugness of the bastard Hellenism of the new Board of Trade. This is in good moral keeping too. The Treasury looks like an old shrivelled usurer, in an old-fashioned dress, standing between smart gentlemen arrayed in Stultz' last device.
The old office of Godolphin, however, is but a small part of the modern Treasury. Indeed, to judge by a plan of the interior in the King's Library, in the , it would appear to be almost entirely occupied by the hall of entrance, the porter's and watchman's lodges, and other subordinate receptacles. The offices of the more important functionaries are in the large building behind which fronts the esplanade in . It is not every man who is gifted with the power of painting pictures with words, as was the case with the
| gifted author of Londinum Redivivum; and, therefore-or because of its brevity --we select his account of the rise and progress of the Treasury buildings as we at present find them:-- |
Malcolm, a man of almost as few words as ideas, simply tells us what the building is. Dodsley, who in favoured the world with a description of London, and who having, in his earlier years, like Joseph Andrews, worn livery, and, like his prototype, picked up a knowledge of criticism, pronounces judgment on its merits :--
is at a loss which to admire most--the resolute manner in which the architect has crammed something from every school of architecture into his truly
building, or the equally resolute manner in which his critic has crammed something from every jargon of criticism's Tower of Babel into his remarks. From Dodsley's book, by the way, we learn that the name Cock-pit still prevailed in his day.
Where the Treasury of the Kings of England had its abiding place-or, more properly, as we shall show in the sequel, where its , or Platonic idea, lodged before it took up its abode in the Cock-pit, were hard to say. , which, in the reign of Edward I., was literally the King's strong-box, was, in his time, lodged in the cloisters of . Madox, in his
intimates this while enumerating the duties of William de Eston, admitted to be
which is still of the designations of the auditor of the receipt.
(the Chancellor of ),
is which came into use at an early period in order to distinguish between the financial Exchequer and the court of justice of that name. The Treasury is not the only department of executive government which, having in rude and early times been invested with judicial powers in certain classes of cases, has given rise to a tribunal which, retaining its old name, has become in time exclusively judicial. The Chancery is still presided over by the Chancellor, but chancellors in our days are judges and no longer prime ministers. The Court of Admiralty is a law court in which the Commissioners of the Admiralty have no voice. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is undergoing the process of transmutation into a Court of Appeal, in which permanent, salaried judges will soon come to preside; and the Court of Exchequer has long ceased to have any connexion with the Lord of the Treasury or the Chancellor of . It was originally a court in which controverted cases arising out of the collection of the revenue were decided. It is the lowest in rank of the courts of , and this has been explained on the ground that it was originally erected solely for the king's profit, which was considered an object inferior to the general administration of justice to the subject. As a superior Court of Record it was established by William the Conqueror, as part of the Aula Regis, and reduced to its present order by Edward I. The Chancellor of for the time being is nominally of the judges, but the real acting judges of Exchequer are the Chief Baron and other barons created by letters patent. The last Chancellor of who sat in a judicial capacity was Sir Robert Walpole, in the case of Naish against the East India Company, in the Michaelmas Term of . His interference was rendered necessary by the Judges being equally divided in opinion. The Judges are called Barons on account of their having been originally chosen from among the parliamentary Barons. Formerly the Court of Exchequer was held in the king's palace. Its treasury was the great deposit of records from the other courts; writs of summons to assemble the parliament were issued by its officers; and its acts and decrees, as they related almost entirely to matters connected with the king's revenue, were not controlled by any other of the king's ordinary courts of justice. It now consists of divisions: exercises jurisdiction in all cases relating to the customs and excise, and over revenue matters generally; the other is subdivided into a court of common law, in which all personal actions may be brought, and a court of equity. Private plaintiffs were originally enabled to bring their actions in this court by a fictitious allegation that they were the king's debtors: this lie was only dispensed with by Act of Parliament in the year of William IV.
All these strict injunctions were however insufficient at times to keep loose livers from following the injunction of Sir John Falstaff,
says Maitland, speaking of ,
Various have been the derivations assigned by etymological financiers to the name Exchequer. The favourite appears to be that which accounts for its origin by the legend of the board being covered with a chequered cloth, on the squares of which the various sums of money were deposited with a view to aid the defective arithmetic of early times. This may or may not have been the case, but the age which can be suspected of having recourse to such a rude and simple device may also be conceived primitive enough to have had no better place of deposit for the treasure than a strong chest, like that of our African potentate. The facility with which the monks--or, supposing them to have been innocent, the more adroit thieves whose scapegoats the holy fathers became--got at the money in favours the notion. So do the singularly ambulatory propensities with which appears to have been endowed in early times. Kings thought no more of whisking away their Exchequer from place and depositing it in another, than modern gentlemen do of transporting their portmanteaux by railroad.
(), says Matthew of Paris,
Again, in the year of Edward I., Maitland, quoting Madox, says:--
This looks not unlike making the good city itself his Exchequer, and, indeed, our kings, down to the time of Hampden and ship-money, when men grew restive and would understand the joke no longer, appear, when in want of money, to have dipped their fingers in their subjects' pockets much more liberally than into their own. The idea of allowing money to
in the pockets of the citizens for the use of government does not appear to be, after all, an original discovery of the century.
During the Wars of the Roses, and during what Clarendon has called
it is equally difficult to ascertain the precise locality of . This, however, is owing to the In these unsettled times each party had its own Exchequer, and it was rather a delicate task to undertake to decide which was the true . Henry VIII.'s Exchequer was in the possessions of the suppressed monasteries, and that of his daughter Elizabeth in the pockets of all the rich men who came in her way. After the Restoration, Charles II. had an Exchequer, but he contrived to ruin its credit.
|So it will be seen that the permanent, stationary character of the Treasury is not of much older date than the period at which we commenced our narrative of the rise and progress of the Treasury buildings.|
The theory, however, of the British Treasury was much the same during the nomade period of its existence that it has continued to be in its settled and citizen-like life. There was from the beginning a treasurer whose office it was to devise schemes for raising money, to manage the royal property to the best advantage, and to strike out the most economical and efficient modes of expenditure. He had even then the control of all the officers employed in collecting the customs and royal revenues, the disposal of offices in the customs throughout the kingdom, the nomination of escheators in the counties, and the leasing of crown lands. Then, as a check upon the malversation of this officer, there was , the great conservator of the revenues of the nation.
said Mr. Ellis, Clerk of the Pells, when examined before the Finance Commissioners,
This is still the broad outline of the Treasury--of the Finance department of State of Great Britain. The enormous magnitude of the empire has caused the subordinate departments of Customs, the Mint, &c. to expand until they have attained an organisation, an individual importance, a history of their own. The different modes of transacting money-business, rendered necessary by its greater amount and more complicated nature, have altered the routine both of the Treasury and Exchequer; the changed relations of king and parliament have subjected the Treasury and Exchequer to new control and superintendence. Still their mutual relations and the part they play in the economy of the empire remains essentially the same as in older times.
The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, for the office of Lord High Treasurer has for many years been put in commission, have their office at , in the building whose history we have attempted to trace, where business is transacted daily from to . , or more properly
has its office at , Whitehall-yard, where the hours of business, say our official informants,
The Chancellor of , who seems formerly to have been looked upon as a depute of the Lord High Treasurer, has in these later times been not unfrequently the same person with the Lord of the Treasury. He is always of the Treasury Commissioners, and the peculiarity wherein his office differs from the offices of the rest is simply this, that upon him devolves the trouble of fighting the financial battles of the administration of which he is a member in the .
The old forms of transacting business were long retained with a desperate fidelity in . The obsolete make-shifts of tallies and other antediluvian methods of keeping accounts were continued in after the
| very milk-women had got ashamed of them. The regulations under which public moneys were received at until a very recent period had been established by immemorial usage, and more particularly fixed by the Statute and William III., c. . By the section of that Act the Teller is bound to receive and make entry of all sums by weight and tale when tendered at his office; and, according to the ancient course of , to throw down immediately a bill of the sum, written upon parchment and signed by the Teller or his deputy, into the Tally Court, where the person making payment received his acquittance. It was from the various stages of this primitive process that the officials of Exchequer derived their strange designations. There was the Clerk of the Pells (pellis, a skin), who engrossed the bill upon parchment. There was the Clerk of the Pipe, who tossed it down through a pipe or funnel to |
In the words of the Commissioners of Finance in ,
This absurdity had been pointed out years before, but no attempt had been made to amend it. In the Commissioners of Accounts had expressed themselves as to the forms then in use, and which continued in use up to , thus:
This was the form of transacting business at the Exchequer--the mere form; for while the officers of were laboriously performing these old tricks, the real business of finance was transacted by clerks of the Bank of
| England. For about a century the Bank sent down to persons duly authorised to examine and receive its own notes. By order of the Statute Geo. III. the Bank clerks so attending at were bound to receive cancelled bank-notes from the Receivers General of Customs, Excise, Stamps, and the Post Office (all which departments kept their money at the ), and to give each Receiver General credit for them with the Teller as for so much cash. The custom too prevailed of receiving through the medium of the Bank clerks not only these branches of the Revenue, but all moneys paid to the Teller on the public accounts; the general use of paper-money having made it necessary to adopt that course in order to verify the notes presented at , and enable the Teller, consistently with his own responsibility, to accept them in payment of the revenue. In short, all payments nominally made into were received by the Bank, and all moneys nominally issued from were also paid by the Bank, and it was only by a |
as Mr. Ellis expressed it, that money appeared to be received and paid by .
This grave fooling did not merely keep a set of intelligent men, who might have been usefully employed, doing nought earthly but translating the record of the business transacted in their names by the Bank clerks out of the intelligible language of English book-keeping into a mixture of dog Latin and hieroglyphics which themselves understood only in part, and which nobody else understood at all; it did not only cost the nation for the sustenance of these persons thus employed upon what was neither useful, ornamental, nor instructive; it was a source of serious annoyance to all persons who had moneys to receive at , and who were unacquainted with its usages. They experienced great difficulty in obtaining the necessary instruments from the Treasury; and on application at , a delay of or days was frequently experienced in passing the instruments through the offices. Nor was even this the worst. The deleterious influence of the system extended itself to the finance ministers. Men of genius and powerful character the country undoubtedly has had in this department; but to a great extent their abilities were paralyzed by the engine with which they had to work. They devised ingenious schemes for raising a large revenue in the manner likely to be least felt by the tax-payers, and expending it judiciously; but the incomprehensible formulas of concealed from them the working of their own plans. It was impossible to obtain clear statements of accounts-nobody knew how much money was expended, or where it went to. All was groping in the dark. Talent, integrity, perseverance, were thrown away in the attempt to work out good by the hocus-pocus of .
At last the time came when It could be endured no longer. From the recesses of the wayward goblin--the
(or, as Scotsmen would call him,
), which for more than a century had taken the work out of the hands of England's finance-ministers, and transacted it after a fantastic and grotesque fashion of his own,
But as is usually the case with exorcised spirits, he tore the patient he possessed strangely as he went out of him. He evacuated his fortress, doing at the same time all the mischief he could. When Dousterswivel's familiar was exorcised from the mine at Glenwithershins, the bonfire the boys made of the machinery, wheel-barrows, &c.,
| spread over the whole |
the alarm of invasion. And when
were ordered to be discontinued in keeping the accounts of the empire, and consigned to the domestics of the Houses of Parliament to heat the stoves with, they set both Lords and Commons in a blaze. The burning of the Houses of Parliament was the last mischievous freak of the goblin which had so long haunted ;--he soared on their flames to his native empyrean, laughing at the human fools he had teased and thwarted to the last.
The old formalities of have been abolished--a good riddance. But it is easier to get rid of a bad system than to invent a better; and, considering the pertinacity with which the abuses of have clung to us, that is, though true, a tolerably strong expression. Comptrollers were substituted for the long array of clerks of the pells, the pipe, and the tallies; money was received and paid into and out of the national treasury with something of the same intelligible simplicity which characterised these transactions among private individuals; it became possible for ministers to see how every farthing of the national money went, if they had a mind and would take the trouble to do so. But that all possibility of speculation had not been done away with has been pretty plainly demonstrated by the gigantic swindling of Solari, Rapallo, and Smith. The truth is, that a bad old system has been abolished, but that no system has been substituted in its stead. is like the man out of whom devils had been cast: it is
If care be not taken to occupy it, the old tenant may return, bringing with him, in all likelihood, some of his demoniac kindred worse than himself.
A treasury, we have said, is the key-stone of the arch of government. Let us vary the metaphor. The Treasury of Great Britain is the keep of the fortress in which the Administration strengthens itself--for a minister's tenure of office in this country is but a series of parliamentary sieges and defences. The
of the fort of office at is most skilfully placed. It stands in the centre of the fortifications. The War-office, the main-guard, is immediately in front; and the Admiralty, like a horn-work thrown out before, keeps watch and ward with its semaphore. , the quarters of the Premier and Secretary of State, are in the rear, judiciously covered by the keep. And so long as the Premier's banner is seen waving over this central strong-hold so long are his troops assured of pay and
bold, merry, and faithful.
The personal associations of the Treasury are scarcely so interesting as those of and Admiralty, topics which have already been discussed in London. In the case of the latter we forget the mere business-organisation of desks, stools, clerks, ledgers, and minute-books; the fancy is carried away to the heroes sent forth by that machinery, and of their exploits in all quarters of the earth. and Admiralty are poetical; the Treasury is prose itself. Even the Lord thereof-or, as he would once have been called, the Lord High Treasurer--if he is viewed in his capacity of financier (and not of Premier, which in general he is), appears little better than a sort of land-steward --certainly upon a most Brobdignagian scale, but retaining all the commonplace of the character, magnified, if possible, by the colossal dimensions of the business he manages. And as for the clerks-but the clerks in Government-offices are a race to whom we have as yet scarcely paid sufficient attention.
They arc of kinds--the upper and the under; the former rather disdaining
| the humble designation of clerks and aspiring to be secretaries. In respect, both classes agree: they are clerks for life. Their rise in the world, like that of a caged squirrel turning a mill, must be limited to the building in which their work is done. They may be advanced from the bottom to the top of their |
but out of it there is for them no egress. Their mind shrinks and accommodates itself to its shell; they become not men of the world, but men of the office. Their jokes are interchanged, their cares are communicated to, their holidays are shared with, the inmates of their own or the neighbouring offices. They have cant phrases and conventional allusions no else can understand. They, the officials, are a people apart; when they go into a mixed company it is like going among foreigners.
It is a mistake to imagine that familiarity with great objects expands the mind; on the contrary, familiarity reduces the objects contemplated to the scale of the mind itself. Switzerland has produced no poet, and Ossian is apocryphal. All our poets have been town-bred, or, at least, brought up amid scenery which the hunters of avalanches, and mountains rising above the snow-line, and cataracts, call tame and common-place. Alpine scenery impresses only impressible minds--cultivated minds: if a Swiss or Scotch Highlander by accident get civilised, the rocks, glens, and corries which drew poetry out of a Byron have been spoiled to him by being familiar from boyhood. He is like to whom Shakspere has been spoiled by having been made to spout him at an elocution-class for a tin medal. Talk not of Swiss and : to like is not to be able to appreciate. There is no improbability in Byron's assertion that his dog was the warmest friend he ever had; yet Byron knew many who were better than a whole litter of puppies. So with our clerks in Government-offices. The strokes of diplomacy, the evolution of national power which strike intelligent by-standers with admiration or awe, arc to them mere tricks of the trade, inspiring in them no more lively emotions than a cleverly-drawn bargain by his master does in a wholesale shoemaker's apprentice. And yet our clerks are proud of knowing, or being thought to know, all the technical details of political business, and on the strength of that knowledge take upon them to instruct everybody in everything. It is a pleasure to watch the odd contortions of countenance with which they listen to any pronouncing an opinion on some incident in the wars of Scinde or China, who does not even know the kind of paper on which a despatch is written, or how the leaves of office-copies are fastened at the upper right-hand corner with green ribbon. Your Government-clerk generally occupies a neat cottage in of the suburbs, within comfortable walking-distance of his office, for the sake of digestion, and, in case it should rain, on a good line for 'busses. A number of Government-clerks will generally be found to have settled down upon neighbouring houses, as rooks do upon neighbouring trees; partly, it may be, because what are local recommendations to are so to the whole of them, but still more because, like the rooks, they enjoy a neighbourly
About the same hour of the morning they may be seen issuing from their respective doors, after leisurely and comfortably shaving, breakfasting, and brushing, and uniting slowly into stream, like drops of water on the glass of the window, they move leisurely townward together. Staid decorous men--as all who can keep a place of routine duties for years must be, with the quiet consciences which doing nothing wrong if people do nothing very
| particularly good inspires-and with the comfortable state of body produced by regular easy work, sufficient to keep men from fretting about other matters and not enough to make them fret about itself--are easily amused. Their topics of conversation may be counted on your fingers: in Spring and Autumn they discuss the change from a winter dress to a summer , or . In summer they talk of yester-evening's walk, and in winter of yester-evening's drive homewards, and the incidents of bad sixpences, new 'busses on the road, &c. These varied by remarks on asparagus, oysters, and other |
form the staple of their discourse which has whiled away their time on the road into town for years. As they drop into their respective dens even this slender vivacity subsides: they become mere copying, fetching, and carrying (of intelligence, however, as well as papers) machines. It is a beautiful arrangement in the mechanism of the human mind which enables man to put forth just so much of his thinking powers as the necessity of his sphere may call for. Your true clerk or secretary, if touched by a question, begins to think as the larum of a clock begins to whir when touched; but left unquestioned, he proceeds with his mechanical duties thoughtless. These congenial souls return homeward in a more straggling line of march; the married men (official characters either marry very early in life or not at all) betake themselves direct to their families as in duty bound; the bachelors are sadly addicted to dining out. They are well-drilled, however, always come to time in the morning, and, as they advance in life, learn the necessity of husbanding their strength. If you take up your station on their homeward road between and P.M., you are certain to see them walking homeward with very red faces and steps so steady as to betray an effort. The house of a Government clerk is rather a favorite place of visit for ladies of a certain age, especially if he be a bachelor and addicted to a fine garden.
These are your head clerks, and also, be it noted, your clerks of the old school. A new generation is rising up with more assumption and less character; and whatever philosophers say, every man endowed with the artistical sense requires character, that is, individuality, in the men whom he is to respect. The youngsters positively affect literary tastes; nay, some of them have perpetrated tragedies and treatises on statesmanship (by which term they understand dissertations on red tape, folding of letters, and other official incidents), statistics, &c. Their sphere of greatness is in literary and scientific societies, where they contrive to make themselves of importance by always having some driblet of exclusive information to communicate. They are remarkable of an evening for the whiteness of their kid gloves, and the martinet precision with which they retain their hats in their hands.
The subordinate government clerk is a hybrid between the government messenger and the clerk properly so called. He is, perhaps, the happiest of the whole family. The time was when his leg of mutton baked, with the potatoes done in the dripping-pan, was duly brought to him on a Sunday from the baker's about o'clock, and he never sits down to dinner on that day at with a decanter of sherry before him, but he thanks Providence with all the fervour of a Pepys for his advancement. After such a has occupied a stool in the office for several years, he is generally sent, as a step in his advancement, to carry a confidential message to some chargé--d'affaires, or to execute some small commission in of the colonies. An Englishman fresh from London is such
| a rarity there that his society is courted by the and young officers, and the , after having remarked, , in an assertion meant to pass muster as an interrogation not to be answered, lest the answer be different from what is wanted-- |
--asks him once to dinner. The poor clerk is bewildered with his greatness: at , and similar occasions, he is the butt of the young scape-graces who have got hold of him, but he knows it not, though their jokes are pretty broadly practical-he is in good company. Abroad he was in request because he was from home; at home he is an oracle, because he has been abroad. Projectors of a continental tour take Mr. --'s opinion as to the best mode of travelling, and the most interesting routes, because he has been abroad, and is an official character. In his office he is promoted to a small room, back, down pair of stairs from the ground-floor, which he has all to himself. His salary is augmented, sufficiently to enable him, with the aid of frequent invitations to dine out from citizens about to make the grand tour, to indulge himself of a Sunday in the manner above alluded to. And he remains for life an oracle on the rise and fall of stocks, and the changes of empire--a
mind ye, who knows things they get into the newspapers--the source of information for writers of leaders in the daily prints, and for the representatives of the new constituencies of the year , as superior clerks are the accredited crammers of ministers, and the aristocratic members of the legislature when condemned to make a speech in parliament.
The subordinate clerk is, in cases out of a , a Cockney; and the Cockney character is indelible. The upper clerks consist of a pretty equable apportionment of the natives of the kingdoms. All become subdued to the element in which they live--
But they take the official impress or mould with different degrees of facility or completeness. The Irishman retains most of his individuality; his wild spirits, and carelessness of what people think, are incapable of adopting any other habits than those which nature prompts. The Englishman becomes sufficiently officialised to be known at once for what he is. But it is the Scotsman, pliant, yet tough,
who becomes office all over. The gregarious nature of Scotsmen is amazing. At intervals flocks of them wing their way southward, and settle down like locusts upon every green herb. The oldest irruption in the memory of living man was that which brought, among others, the illustrious historian of British India. The next was that which brought Wilkie, and the ex-chancellor, Baron of St. Andrews. All do not find accommodation in public offices; but it is astonishing how many find their way in at these periodical migrations; and more than any others they become mere office furniture. They think minute-books, look ledgers, and walk like stools trundled from place to place. They are endowed with all that condescending propensity to lecture which characterised Sir Richie Moniplies of the ancient house of Castle Collops. And pet amid all this ossification or petrifaction of the human: soul there is adrop of kindly feeling left at the core-concentrated like the liquid drop of brandy in the heart of a frozen bottle-at least for their countrymen.
Enough of these occupants of Government offices-at , in , , , the , and the Tower. Any of the body may be taken as a sample--
But the present seemed the fittest opportunity that has occurred in
|our wanderings through London to describe a family of its zoophytes more exclusively peculiar to it than any British family. The Treasury is the centre of their kingdom--the hole of the queen-bee.|
Few of the statesmen who have presided at the Treasury have been remarkable for anything but their statesmanship and the general high character of British gentlemen. They afford little to gossip about. Godolphin, as we have already heard Mr. Hatton avouch, was
and esteemed both by his queen and country. Some of his contemporaries told a different tale-but let that pass. Walpole was
in the conversational acceptation of the term. Good-natured, and withal somewhat ponderous, without intellectual tastes, and coarse in his sensuality, yet with a remarkable talent for governing, he held the reins of power with a more tenacious hand than any statesman who has succeeded him, except the Pitt. He held them firmly, but without apparent effort; whereas Chatham's was an incessant parade of vigour without the strength to keep hold. Apart from mere animal pleasures, governing seems to have been the only employment or pastime for which Walpole had a taste. It was the thing he came into the world to do, and he could, or cared to, do nothing else. When turned out of office by Pulteney he affected to be resigned, but could interest himself in no other pursuit. He yawned and went to sleep in his chair after dinner, fell into a lethargic state for want of exercise, and slept himself into his grave in no time. Lord North resembled Walpole in his goodnature. Indeed, good-nature is a more common feature of the English statesman than any other. Harley was good-natured; Walpole was good-natured; North was good-natured; Fox was good-natured. But North had not Walpole's power. His greatness was the result of accident. He was kept in office by there being no else capable of taking it from him. Neither had he Walpole's intense passion for governing, and he managed to enjoy life in his own quiet and complacent way after he was turned out of office. Pitt II. had the governing instinct quite as strong as Walpole, but he had inherited something of the despotic temper of his father; and was anxious that his power should be acknowledged as well as felt.
is scarcely applicable to him, yet he was fond of a social carouse in his hours of relaxation. It is doubtful whether Pitt would not have been a greater man had his father drilled him less. The power of language and the power of action are rarely possessed to the same degree by individual. With Pitt the talent for governing was an instinct, but the power of oratory (and he possessed it too in high perfection) was in a great measure artificial. It had been drilled into him in youth. There was fluency, and the sentential forms of logic; but there was no play of fancy, no imaginative power, properly speaking, no close reasoning. In modern times the parliamentary displays of a minister attract an undue share of attention, and Pitt is consequently judged fully more by his speeches than his actions. This is to do him injustice; for all his father's care and all his own sedulous efforts could not raise his oratory to the height to which native genius, aided by cultivation, carried Burke, Fox, and Windham. Look to his actions, however, and these oratorical rivals seem dwarfed beside him. The boy grasped the helm of state and held it to the last. He was of Carlyle's born kings. The people's instinct taught them this; and
We are not writing a history of England, but describing the buildings of its metropolis, and calling up their associations, or we might easily recount a long bead-roll of unobtrusive great men who have here
or otherwise. For our purpose enough has been said.
After all, England's Treasury contrasts strangely with the schoolboy notions of a Treasury that cling to us. Here are no ingots of gold and silver, no stores of jewels, no piled--up substantial wealth. Plainly-dressed men, with about as much small-change as may suffice for the expenses of the day in their pockets, go out and in. Scraps of paper are handed about with large sums written or engraved on them. The abstract idea of money inhabits the empty halls: the power of endowing men with a magnetic power of attracting gold to them after they issue from the doors is there-nothing more. It is like the chests full of sand which the Spanish Jews are said to have received in pawn from the Cid; and to have guarded with scrupulous care, believing they contained the hero's plate and jewels. The chests contained something better than gold--the Cid's
and the Treasury contains something better still--the collective faith of the British nation, which is not a
state. The unseen, remote wealth at the command of this vacant Treasury exceeds what eastern imagination, piled up in the cavern, opened to Aladdin. A British monarch's eye may well gaze on the structure with complacency. And therefore is it appropriately placed where, white-gleaming through the foliage, it is the object that meets her gaze as she looks from her palace-window in the morning. It is to be hoped that the young scions of royalty are duly impressed with the importance of the wondrous pile which the early lights show to such advantage in the fresh and balmy hours of the young day.
The Treasury, as might have been anticipated, occupies a prominent place in political caricatures and lampoons. A series of broadsides which combine both characters, with pictures above and doggerel below, levelled at Walpole, and also at some of his opponents, the year before he was turned out of office, for the most part lay the scene in its neighbourhood. The , entitled
is an allegory of
under the protection of Justice, shooting an arrow at Walpole, in his easy chair; defended by
The are assembled on the esplanade in , and Walpole's armchair is placed right in front of the Treasury, at that time a building of only years' standing. The female figures representing
in this engraving, remind of the Laird of M'Nab's order to a sculptor to make him figures of Time and Eternity, to be set up on either side of his gate.
Another of the series alluded to is entitled
John, the hero of North Britain (Duke of Argyle), seated on the box of a coach and , urging the horses to mad speed with a huge claymore, driving over all in his way right to the Treasury gate. The Earl of Chesterfield is postilion. In the headlong haste of the driver the coach is upset, and poor Carteret is bawling from the inside,
while William Pitt I., trundling pamphlets in a wheelbarrow,
| exclaims, |
and Sandes roars out,
Hogarth about the same time introduced the Treasury candidate as
scattering guineas, which he scoops with a ladle out of a full wheelbarrow among the mob.
Gilray has immortalised an apparently less, but in reality more, dangerous attack upon the Treasury than that recorded by the anonymous caricaturist of Walpole and the Duke of Argyle. Dundas and Pitt have just got themselves snugly ensconced in the Treasury, and closed the grated door. The forces who have carried the place for them by storm are approaching for their pay. There is the courtier-like editor of the
there are bludgeon-men, newsmen with their tin trumpets, errand-boys, and grim grenadiers and highland soldiers in their kilts, all thronging forward with bills to be discharged. The place, it is clear, has not yet been made tenable, though it is necessary that a belief in its being impregnable should prevail; for the new premier, with finger on his lips, is whispering through a crevice to the gentlemen that it is desired they will have the goodness to come to
It would occupy too much space to recount all the devices by which metaphor and allegory have attempted to represent the Treasury and its influence. Now it is a well from which fatigue-parties of soldiers with suction-hose are pumping up guineas-now it is a deposit bank from which a premier abstracts money to enable a queen to make up a private purse (sack, rather) in order that she may tolerate him in office. There is something so substantial about the Treasury that squeezing it in to otherwise empty-words and pointless pictures they at once acquire a meaning. It is a very god-send to the unhappy political limners and scribblers who are scarce of ideas. It is, like Falstaff, the cause of wit in the witless. Everybody may be conceived to have a feeling of some kind towards the Treasury: he may be a statesman who wishes to have it well replenished; he may be a tax-payer who thinks too much of his substance is drained into that reservoir; or he may be a pensioner, or would-be pensioner, anxious to have it tapped. The mere name of
is sure to excite in some way or other; and the wits and witlings know this so well that they have rung the changes on it till it has become as monotonous and commonplace as any triplebob major. From the wit of Charles II.'s time, who advertised a Treasury to let, to Tom Brown the younger's hue and cry after the sinking-fund which had been lost, or stolen, or had
every rhymester and copper-plate scratcher among them has had
'Tis time the venerable institution or building were left to repose, for whatever of wit there may originally have been in the allusion, and there never was very much, has been rubbed off like the thin coat of plating from a bad shilling.
Sarcasm has a short life, love is undying. The affection of the devotees of the Treasury--of a Treasury--of any Treasury, will long outlive all jokes at it.
No, it is the Amphitryon who pays for the dinner. The military chest is the cement of an army, the Treasury is the cement of a government. Towards it, the eyes of all connected, however remotely, with the holders of power, are devoutly and incessantly turned. The maimed soldier or: sailor; the widow and orphans of the warrior or civilian
| expended out in his country's cause; the highest officers of state; the metropolitan policeman; and many whose claims upon the dividends of this great bank are much more equivocal, all think of it, and dream of it with affection. is their prayer; they could kiss the very lime that roughcasts the building. It is a serious subject for them: the Society for the Suppression of Vice, they think, ought to have restricted its efforts to putting down all newspaper squibs and caricatures against the Treasury. That is too sacred a subject for a joke. They speak of the Queen and constitution, but they think of the Treasury-
Dr. Johnson never passed a church without taking off his hat, and Cavaliero Roger Wildrake, though he rarely crossed the threshold of , duly observed the same ceremony. There are people who take off the hats of their hearts whenever they pass the Treasury, and, as in the other case, this act of homage is not confined to those who have the . Perhaps those who have little chance of being admitted within the sanctuary are most fervent in their devotion, as poor Dick Whittington, before he left his native village and discovered that mud not gold covered the streets of London, entertained a more intense veneration for it than the veriest Cockney born within sound of Bow bells. The very monomaniacs (who threaten, if they go on to increase as they have done of late, to outnumber some of the less numerous sects of longer standing-as, for example, their moral antipodes, the Quakers) feel in their disjointed intellects the amiable awfulness of the Treasury. How else can we account for McNaughten's taking up his position on its steps?