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CASE OF THE OFFICERS OF EXCISE; WITH REMARKS ON THE QUALIFICATIONS OF OFFICERS, AND ON THE NUMEROUS EVILS ARISING TO THE REVENUE, FROM THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE PRESENT SALARY: HUMBLY ADDRESSED TO THE MEMBERS OF BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT.
As a design among the Excise officers throughout the kingdom is on foot, for an humble application to parliament next session, to have the state of their salaries taken into consideration; it has been judged not only expedient, but highly necessary, to present a state of their case, previous to the presentation of their petition.
There are some cases so singularly reasonable, that the more they are considered, the more weight they obtain. It is a strong evidence both of simplicity and honest confidence, when petitioners in any case ground their hopes of relief on having their case fully and perfectly known and understood.
Simple as this subject may appear at first, it is a matter, in my humble opinion, not unworthy a parliamentary attention. It is a subject interwoven with a variety of reasons from different causes. New matter will arise on every thought. If the poverty of the officers of Excise, if the temptations arising from their poverty, if the qualifications of persons to be admitted into employment, if the security of the revenue itself, are matters of any weight, then I am conscious that my voluntary services in this business, will produce some good effect or other, either to the better security of the revenue, the relief of the officers, or both.
. WHEN a year's salary is mentioned in the gross, it acquires a degree of consequence from its sound, which it would not if separated into daily payments, and if the charges attending the receiving,
and other unavoidable expenses were considered with it. Fifty pounds a year, and one shilling and nine pence farthing a day, carry as different degrees of significancy with them, as my Lord's steward, and the steward's laborer; and yet an outride officer in the Excise, under the name of fifty pounds a year, receives for himself no more than one shilling and nine pence farthing a day.
After tax, charity, and sitting expenses are deducted, there remains very little more than forty-six pounds; and the expenses of horse keeping, in many places, cannot be brought under fourteen pounds a year, besides the purchase at first, and the hazard of life, which reduces it to thirty-two pounds per annum, or one shilling and nine pence farthing a day.
I have spoken more particularly of the outrides, as they are by far the most numerous, being in proportion to the foot walk as eight is to five throughout the kingdom. Yet in the latter, the same misfortunes exist; the channel of them only is altered. The excessive dearness of house rent, the great burthen of rates and taxes, and the excessive price of all necessaries of life, in cities and large trading towns, nearly counterbalances the expenses of horse keeping. Every office has its stages of promotions, but the pecuniary advantages arising from a foot walk are so inconsiderable, and the loss of disposing of effects, or the charges of removing them to any considerable distance, so great, that many outride officers with a family remain as they are, from an inability to bear the loss, or support the expense.
The officers resident in the cities of London and Westminster, are exempt from the particular disadvantages of removals. This seems to be the only circumstance which they enjoy superior to their country brethren. In every other respect they lie under the same hardships, and suffer the same distresses.
There are no perquisites or advantages in the least annexed to the employment. A few officers who are stationed along the coast, may sometimes have the good fortune to fall in with a seizure of contraband goods, and that frequently at the hazard of their lives: but the inland officers can have no such opportunities. Besides, the surveying duty in the excise it is so continual, that without remissness from the real business itself, there is no time to seek after them. With the officers of the customs it is quite otherwise, their whole time and care being appropriated to that service, and their profits are in proportion to their vigilance.
If the increase of money in the kingdom is one cause of the high price of provisions, the case of the Excise officers is peculiarly pitiable. No increase comes to them-they are shut out from the general blessing-they behold it like a map of Peru. The answer of Abraham to Dives is somewhat applicable to them, "There is a great gulf fixed."
To the wealthy and humane, it is a matter worthy of concern, that their affluence should become the misfortune of others. Were the money in the kingdom to be increased double, the salary would in value be reduced one half. Every step upwards, is a step downwards with them. Not to be partakers of the increase would be a little hard, but to be sufferers by it exceedingly so. The mechanic and the laborer may in a great measure ward off the distress, by raising the price of their manufactures or their work, but the situation of the officers admit of no such relief.
Another consideration in their behalf, (and which is peculiar to the Excise,) is, that as the law of their office removes them far from their natural friends and relations, it consequently prevents those occasional assistances from them, which are serviceably felt in a family, and which even the poorest, among the poor, enjoys. Most poor mechanics, or even common laborers, have some rela tions or friends, who, either out of benevolence or pride, keep their children from nakedness, supply them occasionally with perhaps half a hog, a load of wood, a chaldron of coals, or something or other, which abates the severity of their distress; and yet those men thus relieved, will frequently earn more than the daily pay of an Excise officer.
Perhaps an officer will appear more reputable with the same pay, than a mechanic or laborer. The difference arises from sentiment, not circumstances. A something like reputable pride makes all the distinction, and the thinking part of mankind well knows, that none suffer so much as they who endeavor to conceal their necessities.
The frequent removals which unavoidably happen in the Excise, are attended with such an expense, especially where there is a family, as few officers are able to support. About two years ago, an officer with a family, under orders for removing, and rather embarrassed in circumstances, made his application to me, and from a conviction of his distress, I advanced a small sum, to enable him to proceed. He ingenuously declared, that without the assist