Imágenes de página
PDF

Out of this state of things has arisen, or probably, if we should speak more accurately, this state of things has been made the pretence for disputes upon two points—precedence and pay. Either of them is of itself enough to cause a deadly feud; but when the two unite, and are stirred up by cunning hands who delight to fish in troubled waters, and sympathetically hate all unpaid Commissioners, it would be hard indeed if there did not result a commotion as ' right-royal' as ever delighted the visitors of Donnybrook—such a commotion as has recently shaken the Record realms to their foundation.

In the present instance, we doubt whether there was any real misunderstanding upon the subject of station or precedence. The Secretary appears to have been incautious in the application of the term "Sub-Commissioner" to persons who were not appointed to that office; but there is a great deal of matter in the evidence to shew, that the only person to whom the question is really of importance, perfectly well understood what was the character of the situation which he occupied. If there has been any real misunderstanding, there is no doubt that that is pro tanto a proof of defective management, since all engagements might, and ought to be made in such manner as to render any such misunderstanding impossible.

Misunderstanding as to "pay" is even more dangerous, and, unfortunately, not so easily avoided. If the nature of the service is uncertain, so must be the remuneration. You may approximate, and talk of proportions, and analogies, and settle a very pretty confusion in the mind; but there are services, and especially some of those connected with literature, which cannot be settled beforehand by any proportion, or analogy, or rule of three or four, or algebraic equation, or even by Mr. Babbage's machine. Now what are the pecuniary cases which have arisen in the present instance?

One gentleman hoping to get something very like a sinecure place under the Commission did, in the year 1831, certain work for which he does not appear to have made any charge, and has not received any recompence. His case is recommended to the Treasury.

Another gentleman wished to be paid £50 for a preface; the Secretary objected; the Board was appealed to, and determined in favour of the applicant. His case is sent to the Treasury.

Another gentleman was employed under the old Commission upon a work whiah has been properly suspended by the new. His case is sent to the Treasury.

Another gentleman, who was engaged at an annual salary of £150, with liberty to do 'over-hours'work, thought himself entitled to £268. 16*. for his 'over-hours' exertions in arranging some of the Records which were removed upon the destruction of the Houses of Parliament. This claim coming to the Secretary with others from the same gentleman, amounting to £82. 10*., and a frightful blank, which was afterwards filled up with £52. 10*.—all having relation to 'over-hours' labour, and all earned during eight months of the year 1835, made him, it is said, "very angry." His anger lighted up a great deal of dormant patriotism, and led to an appeal to the Commissioners, who thought that £84 ought to stand in the place of the £268. 16»., and made various other deductions. This gentleman's case is also sent to the Treasury,

It is obvious that all these cases are complaints against a public board, of their not having been sufficiently liberal of the public money; a description of complaints which certainly merits attention if it be only on account of its novelty. The New Record Commission has furnished the first example in our times, of a public body whose penuriousness is recommended by a committee of economists to the generous consideration of the Lords of the Treasury!

Nothing of this sort occurred under the old system. Who ever heard of a rebellion of editors, record keepers, and clerks, against Mr. Caley, because they were not paid enough? He lived and died, 'good, easy man,' amongst the grateful plaudits of those for whose advantage he drew upon the public purse. His successor must indeed be a simple person, not to perceive and walk along so easy a road to fame.

"What thanks, what praise, whilst Caley's hand supplies;
How chang'd the scene if Cooper but denies I"

But the promoters of the present inquiry would have us believe that, however penurious the Secretary may have been towards them, the same feeling has not influenced his conduct in other instances, where more fortunate individuals have been concerned. The inquiry was preceded by rumours of transactions ' that would not bear the light,' and respecting which one gentleman professed to possess unquestionable evidence. Upon the strength, partly, at any event, of these assertions, the inquiry was granted, and, whatever other people may think of it, has been conducted one would fancy to the hearts' content of its promoters. Well;—where are these transactions? Where is this evidence? The Committee have wielded a spear as powerful as Ithuriel's, and what concealed and crouching demon have they raised? We cannot discover any one. The threatening was terrible, but the storm has been harmless as the mimic thunder of the stage.

The Secretary's accounts were kept upon a bad system, but that was rectified by the Commisioners themselves, before the appointment of the Committee. The badness of the system originated in the heavy incumbrance of debt which the present Commission inherited from its predecessors, and the same cause prevented the earlier adoption of a better plan. The imperfection of the old system of account-keeping is admitted on all hands, but there is no proof of peculation. The accounts have been audited by the Commissioners; re- audited by the Treasury; and sifted by the Committee; and no one of them has found anything wrong in them, except three pence overpaid to a Sub-Commissioner.

But he has laid out money of the Commission in the purchase of books,—and he has a considerable private library. Scandalous insinuation 1 There is not a shadow of proof that the books, whether wisely bought or not, were applied, or ever intended to be applied, to other than Commission purposes.

But he has expended large sums in searches in foreign countries for diplomatic and literary documents connected with England, the results of which are contained in various volumes called Appendices, which are not yet published. The sum thus expended appears to have been about half as much as was supposed, and there is no proof that it was one penny more than was necessary for the purpose. The object to be gained by these researches was noble and large-minded; an object which was declared to be desirable as long ago as the days of Carte and Bishop Nicolson.

But he has compiled a book for the guidance of his foreign correspondents, and, with the intention of making known what documents relating to this country exist upon the Continent, has " traitorously" caused it to be printed. Foolish as the act seems, it is true, and equally so, that he compiled this work, for which he consulted more than 2000 volumes, gratuitously, neither claiming nor receiving recompence for it; and that his primary object in framing it was to save expense by letting his correspondents see what portion of their literary treasures he was already acquainted with. A foreigner who was employed to find out inaccuracies in this work, ultimately discovered that Heikbronn was printed ' Heilbronn,' and gave evidence of that atrocious fact before the Committee.

But the worst remains behind! Being desirous of getting the work of the Commission done morereasonably than is consistent with the notions of right and wrong entertained by the Record keepers, he has got together some five or six young gentle, men with the design of having them instructed in the diplomatic art, and whose scrrices the Commission pays with 40/. per annum. "Here's a villain! Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a school for young transcribers; and whereas before, in the Caley times, there were few transcribers but Record keepers, who thereby gained eighteenpence per folio, thou hast caused these boys to be used, and, contrary to the King, his Crown and dignity, thou wilt not pay the Record people more than fourpence." Who that is connected with the Records will not unite in the just judgment of that great Chief Justice Cade, " Away with him! Hang him with his [Secretary's] pen and ink-horn round his neck."

To these charges, and others such as these, the Honorable Committee gave the most patient and commendable attention. They do not appear to have been weary of anything except the defence. We have followed them through the immense mass of the evidence, both oral and documental; we have contrasted the statements in the Report with those in the evidence, and the evidence of the different witnesses with one another, and we are bound in justice to the Commissioners to assert, that a more complete failure than that which is exhibited by the case brought against them, it has seldom been our lot to meet with.

Any one who reads the Report alone, will perhaps come to a different conclusion. But if he wishes to do justice, he must do more than that. Above all, he must not depend upon the edition of the Report recently published by Ridgway, as a pamphlet, with notes. Those notes are evident emanations from the same, not spirit, but spite, which has before shown itself in other quarters. He must trace the Report to its authorities, remark how often the evidence which is relied upon, is contradicted or explained; how often a seeming contradiction in testimony is nothing more than the testimony of several persons to different things, or to the same thing at different periods. Evils which the Commissioners have no power to rectify are charged against them, as if they existed only by their permission; acts done by the Secretary, subject to the approval of the Board, or in pursuance of their general or special directions, are represented to be done by his own uncontrolled authority; whatever has been well done is passed over without notice; whatever has been done imperfectly, either on account of want of funds, or want of authority, or from the incompetency of the instruments employed by the Commissioners, is trumpeted forth, and we would almost say, exaggerated. Peculiar instances are adduced as evidence of general usage; and sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from haste, and sometimes apparently from a feeling which we would rather not name, facts and documents are represented in a way which it would require a great deal of ingenuity to reconcile with what is ordinarily called accuracy. Our limits, which we have already exceeded, will not allow us to exemplify these assertions by contrasting the report with the evidence; if we could do so, we should find the Commission, although "cramped by the incompleteness of its original powers," urging upon the Government the adoption of plans which would fully remedy all abuses, but performing, in the meantime, what even the Committee declares to be "many and important services j" reducing the payments for literary labour, for transcription, for printing, to an amount which, when contrasted with the sums formerly paid, is really extraordinary; publishing works to the merit ofwhich the evidence contains " many and valuable testimonies;" discarding the old cumbrous folio size, and substituting the more commodious and cheaper octavo; increasing the gratuitous distribution of their works threefold ; and, according to the admission which we have before quoted from the Report, making progress in methodising the Records, and rendering them generally available; carrying on useful and well-conducted operations of this nature in some of the Record Offices, preparing Calendars, reducing fees, and reforming inconvenient regulations.

But all this is done by an unpaid body, through the agency of a Secretary. This appears to bea constitution distasteful to the majority of the Committee, They therefore recommend that the present body should be superseded by a Commission composed of three paid Commissioners, in whom all the power of the Commission is to be vested, except that of determining what Records should be printed, upon which point they are to take the opinion of five or seven unpaid gentlemen, who are to be united with them in the Commission for that single purpose.

Besides the powers now vested in the Record Commission, it is proposed that the custody of all the Records should be taken from the present keepers by Act of Parliament, and vested in the three paid Commissioners.

In this age of ' organic changes,' nothing ought to surprise us; not even we suppose the proposal of vesting the custody of all the Records in such a body as the Record Commission; nor the appointing " three single gentlemen" to perform the comparatively nothing-to-do of the Record Board. Upon this point we might say a great deal, but nothing half so well worthy of attention as the following opinion of Lord Biougham.

"My opinions are, I believe, well known to have been unfavourable to the existence of Boards composed of persons not able to give a regular attention to the duties cast upon them, and leaving the business chiefly in the hands of the subordinate officers (whom they arm with their authority); and for reasons too obvious to require being stated. But although, in general, I should prefer a Board of a small number of paid Commissioners, it is quite clear that this principle can only be applicable to cases where there is regular occupation for such a Board, and I have always been decidedly of opinion that the Record Commission does not fall within the description of cases to which this principle applies. Mr. Allen has clearly shown this, and I really can conceive no measure more entirely without justification than the appointment of a Record Board of paid Commissioners would be."

We have scarcely left ourselves room to say a word or two about the debt of the present Commission. The old Board left an actual debt of between 15,000/. and 16,000/. besides various extravagant works which it was absolutely necessary to carry on to a certain degree of completion at an expense of some 9,000/. or 10,000/. more. Placed in this situation, and the Government refusing to pay off the debt, the present Commission was obliged to adopt one of two courses ; either to suspend all operations for several years, and thus discharge the debt, or to proceed with works such as they thought fit to be prosecuted, paying off the old debt, and contracting a new one in its place. They adopted the latter course, and their debt now amounts to about the sum paid out of their grants on account of the old Board. In the Report it is represented that the Board adopted the former course, and contracted the new debt after it had paid off the old one; but the evidence and the papers in the Appendix seem to prove the contrary. It is clear from the Parliamentary returns, that during the period within which it is stated in the Report that the Board suspended its proceedings, it had commenced and was prosecuting some of those works which have sprung entirely from itself. The debt therefore, to whomsoever it may now be due, is really and substantially the debt of the old Board, and not of the New.

DESCENT Of HENRY SMITH, Esq. Alderman Of London.

Mb. Urban, Abingdtm-st.Jan.2. have stated, was to exhibit Henry

IN your number for August last, Smith's connexion with the House of

you have noticed a Volume of Collec- Smith, of Campden, in the County of

turns by the late Charles Perkins Gloucester; and although that point Gwilt, Esq. relative to Henry Smith, was not established by such legal evi- Esq. Alderman of London, so well dence as the inquirers after truth are known for the munificent appropria- always anxious to produce, yet it might tion of his large estates to charitable be affirmed, that such strong, and to

■ses. One object of the writer, as you all reasoning minds highly probable grounds had been brought forward for the proof, that little doubt could be entertained of the fact, though the precise link was defective.

Independently of the arms allowed to Henry Smith, on the occasion of his funeral, being those of the Campden family, with a fleur-de-lis on the Fess (the filiation of a sixth son), the appointment of so many trustees, blood relations of the Campden family, as developed in the Pedigree appended to the Notices, was too extraordinary a circumstance to have been of accidental occurrence. Mr. Gwilt, with much force remarks (page 20), "If Henry Smith were a relation of Thomas Smith of Campden, such a choice of trustees, executors, and overseers, will not appear extraordinary; but if he were

Thomas Smith, of Gloucestershire. S.

Thomas =p John 3. Rich—Sarah, da. 4. George.not so, then the statement exhibits one perhaps of the most singular instances of accidental and incredible appointments to trusts that has ever appeared."

The publication of this volume hasled to the discovery of the pedigree subjoined, which not only indicates the precise descent of Henry Smith from the House of Campden, through a sixth son, but elucidates the coat quartered with the arms of Smith on the monument at Wandsworth (Barry of six in chief three wolves' headserased), shewing that his mother was an heiress of the name of " Wolphe." It exhibits moreover the connection of the family of Jackson, which was before established by the wills referred to in Mr. Gwilt's volume.

a fessbetween three saltiers Or. =p

Smith,
of Camp-
den.Gloc.

[ocr errors]

Smith, 2d son.

ard.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

* This match is corroborated by the pedigree of Clarke in the Vis. of London (Vine. 119. 495, in Coll. Arms). William Clarke, of London, by his wife Sarah Danvers, had issue Benjamin C. of London, John, Ezekiel, Dorothy ux. Henr. Vincent, and Sarah ux. Henrici Jackson.

« AnteriorContinuar »