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very few estates in the kingdom that have not at some period or other, since the Norman Conquest, been vested in the hands of the king by forfeiture, escheat, or otherwise. But, fortunately for the liberty of the subject, this hereditary landed revenue, by a series of improvident management, is sunk almost to nothing; and the casual profits arising from the other branches of the census regalis are, likewise, almost all of them alienated from the crown; in order to supply the deficiencies of which, we are now obliged to have recourse to new methods of raising money unknown to our early ancestors, which methods constitute the queen's extraordinary revenue." This will be the subject of the ensuing chapter.
OF THE QUEEN'S EXTRAORDINARY REVENUE.
There is a manifest duty incumbent on all members of the commonwealth to contribute towards the support of those institutions whereby civil society (without which mankind could not live in a manner conformable to their honourable nature, and the objects for which they were created) is maintained and perpetuated, and they are secured in the enjoyment, not only of their lives and property, but of all the advantages belonging to civilisation. No man can refuse to perform this duty without offending against natural law, and consequently against the obligations of a Christian; because the social state is a portion of secondary natural law,1 and that institution cannot be supported except by the contributions of the citizen. And here it may be well to remind the reader, that natural law is not the law which governs man in what is vulgarly called a state of nature, but that law which is agreeable to the nature of man, and the ends for which he was created.2
The trifling amount of the hereditary patrimony of the crown, when compared with the great and various exigencies of state in peace and war, render it necessary (as we have already seen) to have recourse to methods of raising money unknown to our early ancestors, which me
1 Hooker, Eccles. Polit. b. i. § 10. Pufendorf, Dev. de l'Homme et du Citoyen, 1. ii. c. v. vi. and 1. i. c. iii.
- Hooker, ibid. Pufendorf, ibid.; especially 1. i. c. iii.
thods constitute the queen's extraordinary revenue. And this is a subject of very great constitutional importance, not only from the necessity of supplies for carrying on the government, but because the right of the commons to grant or refuse them, and the control of parliament over the revenue when granted, constitute the very keystone of the liberties of the realm.
"These extraordinary revenues are (as Blackstone informs us)1 usually called by the synonymous names of aids, subsidies, and supplies; and are voted, as we have formerly seen, by the commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled. When they have voted a supply to her majesty, and settled the quantum of that supply, they usually resolve themselves into what is called a committee of ways and means, to consider the ways and means of raising the supply so voted. And in this committee every member (though it is looked upon as the peculiar province of the chancellor of the exchequer) may propose such scheme of taxation as he thinks will be least detrimental to the public. The resolutions of this committee, when reported to, and approved by a vote of the house, are in general esteemed to be (as it were) final and conclusive. For though the supply cannot be actually raised upon the subject till directed by a vote of the whole parliament, yet no monied man will scruple to advance to the government any quantity of ready cash, on the credit of a bare vote of the House of Commons, though no law be yet passed to establish it."
Before entering on the subject of the particular sources whence the supplies are drawn, it is proper to consider the mode in which they are granted, appropriated, and applied.
On the grant of supplies little need be said, that sub1 Blackst. Com. b. i. c. viii. p. 308, and to end of chapter.
ject having been treated elsewhere.1 The distinction" between the committee of supply and the committee of ways and means is important to be kept in'mind. The committee of supply is a committee of the whole house, appointed by the house at the beginning of every session, in consequence of the order of the 18th February, 1669, for considering the amount of the supply voted to the crown for purposes of state. And as it takes its origin from the aids demanded by the crown, it can properly have no cognisance of any matters but such as are laid before the House of Commons, by direction of the crown, for the public service; and therefore, if at any time it is thought expedient to vote a sum of money in the committee of supply, which is not intended for the service of the army, or navy, or ordnance, or any other aid demanded by the crown, the house must, in order to entitle the committee to take the matter into their consideration, enable them to do so by voting a special instruction to that effect . And here, again, the house have imposed another restraint upon themselves in the exercise of that most valuable and important privilege, " the sole right of granting away the money of their fellow-subjects;" for by a resolution of the 11th Dec., 1706, which upon the 11th of June, 1713, was declared to be a standing order, the house resolved, "That they will receive no petition for any sum of money relating to the public service but what is recommended by the crown." And the uniform practice of the house has applied this order, not only to petitions for public money, or for money relating to the public service, but to all motions whatever for grants of money, whether the grounds of such applications have been public or private.2
The committee of ways and means is (excepting as to
1 Chap. vii
2 Hatsell, Precedents, vol. iii. p. 194-196.
its functions) in all respects similar to that which has just been described; but its object is to find out modes of raising the supply which the house (upon resolutions reported from the committee of supply, and agreed to by the house,) have granted to her majesty: and the first consideration attending this proceeding is, that the money proposed to be raised upon the subject, by loans or taxes, or any other mode, should not exceed the sum already granted in the committee of supply. It is, for this reason, incumbent on the chancellor of the exchequer, or whatever member of the house proposes the ways and means for raising money for the service of the current year, to explain and to shew to the house, by a detail of the sums granted for the several services, that the amount of those sums will be a sufficient justification, in point of quantity, to the committee of ways and means to adopt such measures, and to impose such taxes, as shall be then recommended to them. And Mr. Hatsell lays it down, that this proceeding (arising out of that regard and attention which the House of Commons ought at all times to shew towards the people, that the burdens imposed upon them may not be larger than the public exigencies require,) ought, for this reason, if for no other, to be most strictly adhered to.
The committee of ways and means, being specially appointed for considering such propositions only as may raise the supply granted in the current session of parliament, ought not, nor can properly take any other matters into their consideration, without particular powers given them for that purpose by instruction from the house; and therefore, where it is found necessary to impose taxes, or to charge duties, which are not applied towards the service of the year, this, if done in the committee of ways and means, must be by special authority of the house; but it may as well be done, and, indeed, with more propriety, in