the civil list expenditure, and any claim to a surplus for a fixed amount. The king still retained other large sources of revenue which were not included in the civil list, and were free from the control of parliament. The revenues from which the civil list had been defrayed were henceforward to be carried into, and made part of, the aggregate fund. In their place a fixed civil list was granted—at first of £723,000 per annum, to be increased to £800,000 on the falling in of certain annuities to members of the royal family. From this £800,000 the king’s household and the honour and dignity of the crown were to be supported, as well as the civil service offices, pensions and other charges still laid on the list.
During the reign of George III. the civil list played an important part in the history of the struggle on the part of the king to establish the royal ascendancy. From the revenue appropriated to its service came a large portion of the money employed by the king in creating places and pensions for his supporters in parliament, and, under the colour of the royal bounty, bribery was practised on a large scale. No limit was set to the amount applicable to the pensions charged on the civil list, so long as the sum granted could meet the demand; and there was no principle on which the grant was regulated. Secret pensions at the king’s pleasure were paid out of it, and in every way the independence of parliament was menaced; and though the more legitimate expenses of the royal household were diminished by the king’s penurious style of living, and though many charges not directly connected with the king’s personal expenditure were removed, the amount was constantly exceeded, and applications were made from time to time to parliament to pay off debts incurred; and thus opportunity was given for criticism. In 1769 a debt of £513,511 was paid off in arrears; and in spite of the demand for accounts and for an inquiry into the cause of the debt,Indebted-
civil list. the ministry succeeded in securing this vote without granting such information. All attempts to investigate the civil list were successfully resisted, though Lord Chatham went so far as to declare himself convinced that the funds were expended in corrupting members of parliament. Again, in 1777, an application was made to parliament to pay off £618,340 of debts; and in view of the growing discontent Lord North no longer dared to withhold accounts. Yet, in spite of strong opposition and free criticism, not only was the amount voted, but also a further £100,000 per annum, thus raising the civil list to an annual sum of £900,000.
In 1779, at a time when the expenditure of the country and the national debt had been enormously increased by the American War, the general dissatisfaction found voice in parliament, and the abuses of the civil list were specially singled out for attack. Many petitions were presented to the House of Commons praying for its reduction, and a motion was made in the House of Lords in the same sense, though it was rejected. In 1780 Burke brought forward his scheme of economic reform, but his name was already associated with the growing desire to remedy the evils of the civil list by the publication in 1769 of his pamphlet on “The Causes of the Present Discontent.” In this scheme Burke freely animadverts on the profusion and abuse of the civil list, criticizing the useless and obsolete offices and the offices performed by deputy. In every department he discovers jobbery, waste and peculation. His proposal was that the many offices should be reduced and consolidated, that the pension list should be brought down to a fixed sum of £60,000 per annum, and that pensions should be conferred only to reward merit or fulfil real public charity. All pensions were to be paid at the exchequer. He proposed also that the civil list should be divided into classes, an arrangement which later was carried into effect. In 1780 Burke succeeded in bringing in his Establishment Bill; but though at first it met with considerable support, and was even read a second time, Lord North’s government defeated it in committee. The next year the bill was again introduced into the House of Commons, and Pitt made his first speech in its favour. The bill was, however, lost on the second reading.
In 1782 the Rockingham ministry, pledged to economic reform, came into power; and the Civil List Act 1782 was introduced and carried with the express object of limiting the patronage and influence of ministers, or, in other words, the ascendancy of the crown over parliament. Not only did the actCivil List Act 1782. effect the abolition of a number of useless offices, but it also imposed restraints on the issue of secret service money, and made provision for a more effectual supervision of the royal expenditure. As to the pension list, the annual amount was to be limited to £95,000; no pension to any one person was to exceed £1200, and all pensions were to be paid at the exchequer, thus putting a stop to the secret pensions payable during pleasure. Moreover, pensions were only to be bestowed in the way of royal bounty for persons in distress or as a reward for merit. Another very important change was made by this act: the civil list was divided into classes, and a fixed amount was to be appropriated to each class. The following were the classes:—
1. Pensions and allowances of the royal family.
2. Payment of salaries of lord chancellor, speaker and judges.
3. Salaries of ministers to foreign courts resident at the same.
4. Approved bills of tradesmen, artificers and labourers for any article supplied and work done for His Majesty’s service.
5. Menial servants of the household.
6. Pension list.
7. Salaries of all other places payable out of the civil list revenues.
8. Salaries and pensions of treasurer or commissioners of the treasury and of the chancellor of the exchequer.
Yet debt was still the condition of the civil list down to the end of the reign, in spite of the reforms established by the Rockingham ministry, and notwithstanding the removal from the list of many charges unconnected with the king’s personal expenses. The debts discharged by parliament between 1782, the date of the passing of the Civil List Act, and the end of George III.’s reign, amounted to £2,300,000. In all, during his reign £3,398,061 of debt owing by the civil list was paid off.
With the regency the civil list was increased by £70,000 per annum, and a special grant of £100,000 was settled on the prince regent. In 1816 the annual amount was settled at £1,083,727, including the establishment of the king, now insane; though the civil list was relieved from some annuities payable to the royal family. Nevertheless, the fund still continued charged with such civil expenses as the salaries of judges, ambassadors and officers of state, and with pensions granted for public services. Other reforms were made as regards the definition of the several classes of expenditure, while the expenses of the royal household were henceforth to be audited by a treasury official—the auditor of the civil list. On the accession of George IV. the civil list, freed from the expenses of the late king, was settled at £845,727. On William IV. coming to the throne a sum of £510,000 per annum was fixed for the service of the civil list. The king at the same time surrendered all the sources of revenue enjoyed by his predecessors, apart from the civil list, represented by the hereditary revenues of Scotland—the Irish civil list, the droits of the crown and admiralty, the 4½% duties, the West India duties, and other casual revenues hitherto vested in the crown, and independent of parliament. The revenues of the duchy of Lancaster were still retained by the crown. In return for this surrender and the diminished sum voted, the civil list was relieved from all the charges relating rather to the civil government than to the support of the dignity of the crown and the royal household. The future expenditure was divided into five classes, and a fixed annual sum was appropriated to each class. The pension list was reduced to £75,000. The king resisted an attempt on the part of the select committee to reduce the salaries of the officers of state on the grounds that this touched his prerogative, and the ministry of Earl Grey yielded to his remonstrance.
The civil list of Queen Victoria was settled on the same principles as that of William IV. A considerable reduction was made in the aggregate annual sum voted, from £510,000 to £385,000, and the pension list was separated from the ordinary civil list. The civil list properQueen Victoria’s civil list. was divided into the following five classes, with a fixed sum appropriated to each:—