§ Major Palmer moved, That the house should resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Report on Mr. Palmer's Petition.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
gave his consent to the motion, on the ground, that a Committee would afford the most satisfactory mode, according to the opinion of the honourable mover, for discussing the merits of the case: he begged, however, to be understood as by no means, from his acquiescence in this step, giving his concurrence to the measure, or assenting, in any degree, to the principle of opening anew an arrangement long closed.—The house having gone into a Committee,
§ Major Palmer
rose and spoke as follows: —Sir; Before I state the grounds of the motion I mean to submit to the consideration of the house, I beg leave to say a few-words in explanation of the reason which has induced me to come forward on this occasion. I trust I shall stand acquitted of any impropriety in being the advocate of what may be considered, in some degree, my own cause. I am fully aware of the difficulty and delicacy of my situation, and how much I stand in need of the patience and kind consideration of those whom I have the honour to address, to enable me to execute what I have felt my duty to undertake. The difficulty I speak of consists solely in that apprehension which I conceive must be natural to any one, like myself, unaccustomed to address this house, and which I think may have occurred even to those whose abilities justified a confidence in themselves, which I only derive from a conviction that, in the present instance, no talents on my part can be requisite.—I beg to assure the house, that whatever my own feelings maybe, I have not a wish to excite an interest with them beyond that of honouring me with their attention, and doing that impartial justice in this case to which, if their own, they might conceive themselves entitled; and that I have no motive in personally bringing it forward, but to conduct any discussion that may be necessary on the part of the Petitioner in such a manner, as to shew how much he wishes to avoid the slightest personal disrespect to those with whom it may have been his misfortune to have differed on this subject, and those of whose liberality in leaving it to the unbiassed decision of the only court to 162 which he can appeal, no one will be more sensible than himself.—Sir; I mean, as shortly as possible, to occupy the attention of the house; and to this effect, shall merely move to read the Report of the Committee, and follow it with a motion conformably to the observations therein contained. Should such motion meet the approbation of the house, it will be unnecessary for me to give it further trouble; but in the event of a difference of opinion, I humbly beg leave to express my wish, that I may be allowed to take an early opportunity of answering the objections which may occur to any hon. gentlemen who have read the Evidence upon which this Report is founded. In doing this, sir, I presume not for a moment to prevent other hon. gentlemen from offering their sentiments; particularly those to whom I feel so highly indebted for the pains they have taken in the investigation of this business, and that time and attention they bestowed upon it in the Committee. But having, as I hope, made myself master of the subject, I think an earlier reply on my part than I believe is customary with the mover of a question, may tend, perhaps, in some measure, to shorten this discussion; and should I be so fortunate as to answer such objections to the satisfaction of the house, I am sure the advocates in the cause will not regret any trouble I may be the means of saving them in its defence, nor feel the less inclined, in case of failure on my part, to render me that assistance I may stand in need of.
The Report of the Committee having been read, Major Palmer submitted the following Resolution: viz. "That this house is of opinion that Mr. Palmer is entitled to the sum of £. 1,500 a year, together with £. 2. 10s. per cent. on the net revenue of the Post Office exceeding the sum of £. 240,000; to be paid up from the 5th of April 1793, and during his life, according to the provisions of his Appointment of 1789; deducting the sum of £. 3000 a year received subsequent to the 5th of April 1793."
§ Mr. Long
rose and said:—I cannot avoid acknowledging, that I feel very great astonishment at the house being now called upon to express their sentiments upon an arrangement which they had specifically decided upon several years before, and which I have always considered to be a transaction perfectly satisfactory to the public mind. A Committee was appointed in 1797, upon whose Report parliament 163 decided against the merits of a Petition precisely similar to this, and I cannot conceive upon what grounds the hon. gent. hopes that the present house of commons will act so inconsistently with their former opinion as to agree to the present motion. The grounds of their former decision were, that Mr. Palmer had failed in the performance of his agreement. Mr. P. was hound to fulfil the duties of the station in the Post Office to which he had been appointed; he failed in that respect, and upon that failure he was removed. Mr. P. was first suspended for refusing to obey the orders of the Post-Masters General, for endeavouring to throw the Post Office into confusion, to create unnecessary expence, and to render the delivery of letters late. [Here the right hon. gent. read various extracts from Mr. Palmer's Correspondence with his Deputy Mr. Bonnor.(a)]
§ (a) Letters from MR. PALMER to MR. BONNOR; delivered to the Postmaster General by MR. BONNOR.— [Report, p. 66.]—Salisbury, October 16th, 1788.—DEAR B.—I hear, by Lloyd, of the fag you have at Bow Street: whoever the villain is, I hope it will be brought home to him, and that severe example may put a stop to these frauds so disgraceful to our office. You have not been able, I suppose, to see Rose about Morse's application.—If you could send to Chinnery about it, or get some answer or other for Morse, I should be glad. I will write to lord W. to-morrow; he is going on just right: I hope you have kept his letters, as they would justify any thing ever so absurd or extravagant.—The lesson I would have given Wilson is this; that it is impossible for me, or any one the most ignorant, not to be sensible to the shameful conduct of the business, or charges of his bills, and not officially to condemn it; at the same time, I have recommended lord W. to pay it, and shall continue to do so: as, having made the charge, if he recedes from it, it will be proclaiming himself a rascal. I think lord W. saw Wilson himself, and give him orders to spare no expence, &c. if so, that should be the point pressed by Wilson.— I shall advise him to see Wilson, who must be d—d firm with him; insist on every article being just; that he has charged nothing for his trouble, that 200l. could not pay his loss in his other business, by attending to this, which made him very ill;—the first time his character was called in question, to be suspected and treated in this164
§ After the perusal of letters like these, I cannot forbear mentioning my surprize, that it is possible for the committee to have sent in such a Report as that which I now hold in my hand—a Report recommending Mr. Palmer's regard to economy! when the fact established by the letter respecting Wilson proves so gross a want of it upon Mr. Palmer's part. The charge of creating unnecessary confusion in the Post Office I think is amply substantiated by certain arrangements recommended with respect to the inferior persons in the Comptroller General's Office. It was said in these letters that one of the persons so recommended, instead of doing his duty would employ his time in quarrelling with his superiors. The late delivery of letters is also mentioned in the letters to be a probable consequence of some of the arrangements recommended. After all this, it
§ manner, after all he has done for the office, the world will cry shame on it; that to get down the price for carrying the Mail, &c.—that they understood they should always have 3d. a mile the first price; that in obeying my orders, and assisting to get it down to a penny, he got the ill-will of all his partners and friends; that he saw they would not do it much longer, if they had not their old price, and what they deserved, for they lost, Cod knows what by it; but if he was to be treated in this shabby way, he knew, what he had to do, and should take care of himself, &c. &c. &c. This is a private hint and advice from your friendship to him; that you know I shall not object to his taking any merit to himself, to get him out of his present scrape.—The matter should be quietly to throw this load upon his lordship; let him be bullied, perplexed, and frightened and made apprehensive that his foolish interference may even occasion a rising of the mail prices at 20,000l. per annum difference to the office: Think of all this, for he must not escape this bout; the fun would be to get Wilson to a board, and let him bamboozle his lordship with his slouch and his slang and his blackguard. Wilson must be well lessoned; tell him lord W.'s declaration to me in his letter about the bill, but that I shall still advise payment. I hope to get to Bath ere the post goes off; if I should, any thing in your letters there to answer.— Your's truly, J. Palmer.—Can any thing be so gross as lord W. sending his letter to me open to Braithwaite, and desiring him165
§ would have been highly improper had the Treasury permitted Mr. P. to retain his situation any longer; and upon such premises
§ to give his opinion on a surveyor for Scotland, without saying a syllable to me, who am just returned thence? But I know the gentleman pretty well, and his shallow views.
§ Isle of Wight, May 22d, 1789—DEAR Bonnor,—I should rather imagine, by your letter, that the deed could not be done effectually, without betraying that some pains on our parts were taken to effect it; unless therefore a thorough and complete dust could be kicked up, and a glorious confusion, better forbid the account being taken at all, and assume a merit in preventing mischief. You will however determine as you see fit, that which may be best. The horse fell with me about two miles this side Southampton; he was so stunned that he rolled on my leg, and lay on it so that I feared it was broke, but thank God it is whole, though much bruised; take care therefore, and be cautious of riding your mare again, after the hints she has given you. Poor Toby had given me two or three gentle warnings, which I was fool enough to neglect. Our best compliments to the ladies; Mrs. Palmer is very indifferent; the girls well.—Ever your's truly, J. Palmer.—All unite in love to Tom and Charles.
§ Wilderness, September 30th, 1790.— DEAR BONNOR;—You have managed vastly well.—If, like Trappolin, I was made king for a day, I should say like him, I believe, Take me these two coxcombly lords to —. The soreness of the business is —Lord W. just after my last return from Scotland, went into a curious investigation, and a sort of reform of that Office without the least communication whatever with me, and in the coarsest manner to Oliphant; made some confusion, and did nothing. The business will now be really and effectually done, and without advising with his Lordship, and I will defy them to undo it. I sent to them for the papers and reports, or copies of them, by Hasker. They sent word being official papers they could not part with them, but would send me copies; which they have not done. Every thing being nearly finished, the only way I could comply with their orders, if they should think proper to repeat them, would be to send to Freeling, that, as by my directions he had carried into execution many regulations for the improve166
§ I must assert and argue that Mr. P. is entitled neither to the 1,500l. per ann. nor to the increased revenue of the Post
§ ment of the correspondence, &c. which had already been productive of good effects, it was the Postmaster General's pleasure that he should, as far as he possibly could, put it back in the same irregular and confused state he found it:—But they are not such miserable fools to press it.—They will be entering some absurd resolutions, that the Comptroller General having done so and so, that in future no regulations shall take place, without first having their sanction.—I really have always felt, that every material alteration, &c. should have their sanction; but that it is impossible with lord W. to do this, and unless the constitution of the office was altered, it must be so if they insist on it.—I certainly could expose them most damnably; but 3 or 4,000 a year must not be trifled with; though if it was not for the children, I should like to lead them, on to a downright quarrel, and a thorough exposure of them. If there were men of sense at the head of the department, I could not have a dispute with them.—I have sent your letter to Lott, which is vastly well; I have told him to inform the proprietors where the fault lay. You see, that I ought not to hazard the most distant possibility of these worthy peers saying to me, You do not pay the contractors their money. I hope a few days will complete all your accounts and work up the rubbish, that you and Mrs. Bonnor may have a quiet dip in the sea, and be set up for the winter. I think of passing through town in my way to Bath, about the 10th or 12th of next month; and if you think it necessary, will meet Sir Benjamin and the partnership. I should wish my accounts to be given to Maskelyn soon as Gosnell can, to look over against I come up. Soon as you return from the sea, I shall want to talk to you about a new and general Post Office Act, which I have occasionally mentioned to you, and other matters. Will you see Maskelyn, and let all the guards and incident bills be now settled; for that insidious Lord W. though be has himself occasioned the delay, exclaims about the poor people. Day, and all together, would soon do it; the sooner too we can send in the proposed Officers, and their arrears, &c. the better. Your's ever, J. PALMER.—Hope to reach Hastings to-morrow.—It is certainly right167
§ Office with official services. I perfectly recollect, that this was not only the impression upon my own mind, but also upon
§ to take care of every paper that passes betwixt the Postmaster General and me.
§ Hastings, October 3d, 1790.—DEAR BONNOR; The worthy Peers, you see by their last letter, have left me no alternative, but we must go to the Treasury: 'Tis unpleasant, bitch'd as I have been there, but it must be done. My last letter proves every disposition on my part to go on well, and the troubling Mr. Pitt rests with them. As I shall write them a very full and decided answer, that we may close entirely on the business, it is necessary for me to have many papers, and Lloyd to copy some. All the papers that were laid before the Commissioners—my letters to Lord Walsingham, and his that occasioned them—Allen's narrative, tis in the bureau, I believe; Day and Lloyd can find them, I think—and every paper you can think of that may be of use to refer to. Do you likewise look out Lord W.'s numerous correspondence, his minutes, &c. and recollect some instances of his throwing the correspondence into confusion, but for my stopping his order given. You recollect the particular circumstances I allude to. Pack Lloyd down in the coach with the materials. Will you send a porter to Mr. Jackson, Old Palace Yard, for a small turtle he has given Mr. Harris, and let Lloyd bring it with him. Though the conduct of the Lords is the very thing I ought to wish, and must end well, yet it revives old quarrels and feelings, and fevers me in spite of myself. D— them, I never can be absent to get a little bathing or quiet, but this is the case. I think they will look small.—You may trust Sir B. in confidence, but beg him to mention nothing of it. I mean you to shew him the papers that have past. I wish you would call on Boydell, congratulate him on being Mayor, and say all civil things from me to him of his spirit, encouragement of genius, &c. for we may want him, and Braithwaite you know is his intimate; but of this we'll talk further when we meet. In a hurry, Your's ever, J. PALMER. —Send me a copy too of their last minute.
§ Brighton, October 26th, 1790. DEAR BONNOR; Will you see the principal Clerks, and say, as from yourself, that in the present situation of matters, you think the Postmaster General will sign their warrant directly; by way of shewing how ready168
§ that of my glorious and lamented friend Mr. Pitt (with whose confidence upon this very subject I was frequently and particularly
§ they are to take my recommendation, if I will only submit it to them. You had better therefore simply send the Officers names, and the sums allotted to each.— The inclosed papers need not go, unless they chuse to canvass the matter, which I don't think they will do. Nobody, therefore, should go down, but do you send it them, and say any thing you please yourself. I thought it better, as art official letter, to date it from the Post-Office. Excuse to Stow my not answering a letter I had from him; how much I am pleased with his exertions, and that I shall see him soon.—I think Johnson, or any other expectant friends, should have their minds made easy, and be told how safe every thing is, and their officers being the better settled for this very brulée.—I have the pleasure to tell you I have had a long conversation with Lord C. this morning, and a gentle and friendly jobation for basting the peers. He will see Mr. Pitt himself, and enter fully into the business; and I hope and believe we shall now have it clearly and definitely settled; but this must not be mentioned, nor his name.— Tell Bartlett to look over all the letters betwixt me and lord Walsingham, and he will find some copies from me, though they can be scarce made out, which shew that I foretold it must come to this issue if he persisted in his conduct; and used every method myself to prevent it.—Will you send likewise for the copy of what they last sent to the Treasury, which they mean as a sort of reply or observation on my last letter; because I should have it to refute to Lord C. if necessary. I go with him, Thursday, to Chisselhurst. He wants to see the copy of the actual Treasury Warrant for my appointment, and the Postmaster General's appointment of me in consequence of it. Bartlett will find them all in the right-hand drawer of my desk; send therefore all of them by return of post. He will look over all the acts, and every part of it, to see if he cannot work out a little law to go on ere he sees Mr. Pitt—I keep the three minutes you have sent to show lord C. As to their query about 2 oz. franks, I suppose some person's frank under 2 oz. has been charged by mistake, and this is their way of enquiry, and doing business. They are certainly charged according to the acts,169
§ honoured) that Mr. Palmer accepted the 3000l. a year as a full compensation of all emoluments he could fairly claim, independent of his personal services. I am ready to allow, that Mr. Palmer's Plan has done very great and extensive service to the public, and upon that ground, indeed, my revered friend, Mr. Pitt, always felt a very strong reluctance in dismissing him from his office. On that ground, too, if it were now to be made a question, whether the remuneration given were sufficient or not, I might not be averse to the entertainment of it; but, when the question is brought forward upon the dry principle of the execution or non-execution of the agreement between Mr. Palmer and the public, I must maintain that the case is against Mr. Palmer.
§ and there cannot be a more regular officer than Coltson: speak to him upon it. As to the good woman at Bagshot, she seems a friend of mine, and to have given the Peer a dressing for interfering in her department. But why should we send a Surveyor when the Peer has made the enquiry and examination, and say what should be done. He is the Surveyor, and should have finished his business; for Freeling cannot go down and report against the Postmaster General.—Freeling may as well go down though, and follow his directions; and I hope the old woman may be spunk, and refuse to apologize, and bid them kiss her b. for the office is not worth holding; and if the Surveyors visit them on this stuff, they will have nothing else to do. Freeling should go to the Secretary, and look at Lord Chesterfield's minute, as I cannot return this. I think, by your account, the discipline of the Inland Office goes down, which will be no bad thing. It is not impossible but they may get into a tolerable confusion there, as the dispute is known amongst them. I wish, if you can send it by return of post, to have my former letter to Lord Walsingham, to shew Lord C.— I think Johnson might take huff at some of the officers not observing his directions, and keep out of the Inland Office; and Stow and Austin, quietly if they could, and without apparent design; let Brown and Ruddick take their situations. Brown would be disregarded, and Ruddick would dispute with the officers, instead of enforcing obedience. We should by degrees get an hour or two later in the delivery; by degrees, in a week or two: I think it might be170
§ Major Palmer:—Sir; The right lion, gent, having stated every objection to this motion that I am aware of, with the permission of the house, I will now reply.— It is contended in the first place, that this is an old question already decided, and for that reason should not again be brought forward; particularly after the decease of Mr. Pitt, who was a party in, the transaction. It is of this, sir, Mr. Palmer complains, that Mr. Pitt being a party should also have been the judge; and with respect to the renewal of this question, I trust I shall explain to the satisfaction of the house, that the fault does not rest with Mr. Palmer.—A Committee of this house was appointed in the year 1797 to inquire into the nature of Mr. Palmer's Agreement with government, and
§ quietly and cautiously managed, if even little or no notice was taken of their not coming early, or absence. The coaches must be kept to their duty, as they have not interfered with them. Ever, Dear B. Your's most truly, J. Palmer.—You will of course mind your cue with the Peers, and be as well in their grace as you can. I return with lord Camden to Chisselhurst, Thursday; and shall be in town Friday or Saturday, I think; but I wish it not to be known.—I forgot to say, send a copy of the Postmaster General's patent too, if you can get it. They will let one of our officers copy it at the Treasury, if you will send to Mr. Mitford, though I think you will find one amongst the old papers.
§ Bath, November 23d, 1790.—Dear B. —Lord Camden is returned to town, or Owen's letter would be excellent; a right sketch. I shall keep it for him, as I shall state in my answer the inutility of the Secretary or Postmaster General's Clerks places: the latter is not of long standing; was a mere job at first. Jackson once gave me the history of it. I wish you could get him to dine with you, and the subject might easily be introduced. Have you yet sent my friend Abbot the correspondence, as Mr. Pitt is willing to confirm any powers to me the act of parl will allow; I really think they might, in some shape or other, be made out sufficiently strong, and independent of the noble Peers. Did Bartlett mention to you they had been telling their story to the king? Pretty masters! so they complain to Domine of the great boy. Your most truly, J. PALMER.171
§ to report their opinion thereon. This Committee were afterwards instructed to inquire into the causes of Mr. Palmer's Suspension, and to report their opinion on that, as well as his Agreement; but before the Evidence was closed, the right hon. gent, the chairman, (Mr. W. Dundas), who held a considerable office under government at the time, without the slightest communication with the Committee, or the least previous notice in the house, moved a third order, rescinding the two former ones, and instructing the Committee not to report their opinion upon the Evidence, but the Evidence alone. The consequence was what may easily be imagined; that at the time the subject was discussed in the house, this mass of Papers had scarcely been examined by an individual member, and those who from their political situation were led to oppose the measure, merely read partial extracts from this Evidence, and Mr. Palmer's private letters; which, I am ready to admit, unexplained, were sufficient to prejudice him in the opinion of many as to his conduct in the office.—Sir: I do firmly believe, that had that Committee been allowed to make a Report on the Evidence, as originally instructed, Mr. Palmer would have received then, the justice he hopes for now, and been spared the anxiety, fatigue, and expence of the many years which have since elapsed.—Theright hon. gent, has also stated, that Mr. Palmer consented to the settlement of the present allowance he receives. Admitting this to be fact, I cannot think it an excuse for the breach of an Agreement to have compelled an individual to submit to an injustice he was unable to resist; but, sir, in noway whatever did Mr. Palmer consent to this settlement; on the contrary, he invariably declared, "That though Mr. Pitt, to suit his political convenience, might dispense with his services, he could not dispense with the engagement he had entered into." I can produce a letter of Mr. Palmer's in proof of this, but have no wish to read it to the house, as it might tend to revive feelings I am anxious to suppress. I shall, therefore, merely state, that it is an answer to the present earl Camden, who was-kind enough to mediate on the occasion. Upon Mr. Pitt's decision being made known, Mr. Palmer in an interview with lord Camden expressed in the strongest terms his sense of the injustice which had been done him, and his determination to procure redress. Lord Camden shortly172
§ after wrote to Mr. Palmer at Bath, again recommending forbearance, and Mr. Palmer in his answer repeated his former sentiments, declaring that it should be only with life that he would relinquish his exertions to obtain justice*.—From that time to the period of the Committee in 1797, Mr. Palmer endeavoured by every conciliatory means to procure his object. He first presented a memorial to the Board of Treasury, stating all the circumstances of his agreement, and requesting the fulfilment on their part. To this Memorial, alter repeated assurances that it should be taken into consideration, he at length received an answer, after eight months delay, stating, "That their lordships conceived 3000l. per annum for his life a sufficient compensation for his services, and that they did not think themselves justified on the part of the public in making a further allowance." To this Answer Mr. Palmer sent a strong remonstrance, which he concluded by declaring, "That if their lordships should be still disinclined to admit his Claims, it was his intention to appeal to Parliament." Mr. Palmer waited some months longer before he received the Answer to this remonstrance, when he was finally informed "That their lordships saw no reason to alter their former determination."—Now, sir, I appeal to any hon. gent, in this house, could the Board of
§ *The following is the Letter alluded to by the hon. gent. See Woodfalls Debates, May 31, 1799.
§ "Bath, Aug. 6. 179.3.—My dear Lord; I have the honour of your letter, and am truly vexed that I should differ in opinion from your lordship, whom I so highly esteem, or that I am driven to pursue a conduct not perfectly consonant to your wishes. Nothing but the respect I bore to your lordship and lord Camden, to your judgment and Mr. Pitt's situation, induced me to act in the manner I have done. Two sessions of parliament have passed over, I have been suffered to sink quietly with the public, and turned out of my office with not half my agreement. The apprehensions of my friends, too, being excited that I might be deprived of every thing, perhaps, think me fortunate in the allowance granted me. I find it therefore every way necessary that this should be explained to the public, and when it is, I do not believe a man in this country so far from thinking me ungrateful, but will be satisfied I have been most infamously treated."173
§ Treasury have produced the slightest proof, or had they believed that Mr. Palmer had ever been satisfied with the settlement they had made, would they not at once have expressed their surprise at his application, and have given him a direct and positive refusal, instead of keeping him so long in a state of suspense, and not even at last venturing a hint at consent on his part, or making a single answer to all the facts and arguments he had urged for the fulfilment of his agreement.—Disappointed in his first attempt, Mr. Palmer on the present occasion presented a Petition to his majesty, stating the peculiar hardship of his case, that in an agreement with the Government which on their part had been broken, he was precluded an appeal to the laws of his country. On the grounds of this Petition, the late administration consented that a similar one should be presented to this house, and a Committee appointed to examine the former Evidence and report their Observations upon it. I have understood from Mr. Palmer, that the noble lord, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, (lord H. Petty) was so good as to suggest the propriety of this Committee being a select one, and to point out the description of members of which it should be composed, in order to obtain the object of their appointment; viz. a fair and impartial Report upon this Evidence. I have also understood from an hon. gent, the chairman of that Committee, that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer fully consented to this appointment; and I therefore trust, that that right hon. gent, at least will not object to the question, on the ground of its having been before settled.—With respect to this Report, I am afraid that it may almost appear an impertinence on my part, the attempting to defend it; but I trust that the Committee who drew it up will make allowance for my situation, and at any rate acquit me of the least want of respect towards them, or gratitude for the trouble they have taken on Mr. Palmer's account. These Observations in fact speak for themselves; nor should I deem it necessary to trouble the house with a discussion of them; but that I am anxious to explain some parts of this Evidence, which I hope I shall be enabled to do to the satisfaction of hon. gentlemen, who may require an explanation upon those points, to which the Committee, on their liberal though strictly just view of the subject, may not have paid that minute attention which I174
§ have done.—The first observation of this Report states as follows: "That the parts of Mr. Palmer's Petition, which alledge his invention and execution of a most useful Plan for the reform and improvement of the Posts of this country, and which he undertook at his own risk and expence, have been substantiated; and also, that it appears that Mr. Palmer met with very great difficulties in the progress of his Plan, in consequence of a determined and continued opposition from the Post Office, the most experienced officers in that department having declared the Plan, previous to its execution, to be impracticable, and injurious to Commerce and the Revenue." —With respect to this observation, I shall only say, that strongly as it is expressed, no one without reading the Evidence, can form an idea of the extent of the opposition Mr. Palmer met with, and every one who does read it must be convinced, that had Mr. Palmer failed in this Plan, undertaken at his own risk, and declared impracticable, no other person would have attempted it. —The Committee next observe "That the parts of Mr. Palmer's Petition, which alledge an Agreement made with him by the right hon. William Pitt, Chancellor of his majesty's Exchequer, in 1784 (and afterwards modified in 1785), by which Mr. Palmer was to have an appointment in the Post Office for life, with a salary annexed of 1,500l. per annum, and also a further allowance of 2l. 10s. per centum on the future increase of the net annual Post Office Revenue beyond 240,000l. have been substantiated." Nothing I think can be clearer than this Observation; the Evidence contains in the first place, Mr. Palmer's Statement of his original terms, which stands uncontradicted; (b) secondly,
§ (b) Extract from Mr. PALMER'S Evidence, —[Report, p. 3.]— Was there any written Agreement between, you and the Board of Treasury, relating to the Appointment you lately held in the Post Office? No.' —Was there any verbal Agreement made with the Treasury, for the Reform and Improvement of the Post Office and its revenue? Yes; with Mr. Pitt, through his secretary, Dr. Pretyman.—What was that verbal Agreement? I left some Papers with Dr. Pretyman, stating, that if my Plan succeeded, for the Reform and Improvement of the Posts, I demanded for my life 2½ percent, on the future increased175
§ the Correspondence betwixt the present earl Camden and himself, and also Mr. Palmer's Letters to Mr. Pitt, fully proving the modification of these terms (c) and, lastly,
§ revenue of the Post Office, beyond the present net profits, and not to have one shilling if I did not succeed in my Plan; this happened in the spring 1784. The answer brought to me by Dr. Pretyman, (private secretary to Mr. Pitt,) was, that the terms were thought fair, and would be fully complied with, provided the Plan succeeded.—Have you ever asked for a copy of the Papers delivered in to Dr. Pretyman? No, I did not; nor kept one myself. I believe it will not be denied on the part of administration, that such a Paper was delivered to Dr. Pretyman, and such an Answer was returned by him.
§ (c) Copy of Mr. Palmer's Letter to the Right Hon. Wm. PITT. May 5th 1785. — SIR,—I had the honour of your letter on my return from Portsmouth, and immediately wrote to the contractor at Nottingham to forward the carriages, &c. Soon as he is prepared, I will obey your commands in carrying the plan into execution on that road.—I have settled the regulations for the Cross Post from hence to Portsmouth; the alteration is much to the satisfaction of the different towns it will accommodate, and it starts next Monday.—They will now have a direct and expeditious post guarded, six times a week, instead of a slow and circuitous one unguarded, only three times a week. The terms with the contractors, merely the exemption from the turnpike tolls, and the allowance of guards, so that government will save the greater part of the old expence.—I had agreed for the London Mail to be conveyed to Portsmouth on the same terms, as the inhabitants had petitioned for the new mode, and were doubly anxious for it, their mail having been robbed a few months ago; but Mr. Todd, instead of sending letters to the postmasters to observe my directions for that purpose, sent the same surveyor who was so industrious to defeat the plan on the Bath road, last Friday only to Portsmouth, to agree with the different postmasters to convey the mail seven miles an hour, for which they are to be paid an extra sum per mile more than the usual charge (This price was 9l. per mile instead of the old charge of 4l. 13s. 4d.) which was to commence the very day I came there. I could therefore give the postmasters no direction176
§ the Evidence of Mr. Pitt himself, (d) The third Observation states "That in the year 1784, certain regulations, for an increased postage and restrictions in
§ for that road, Mr. Todd chusing to do this without giving me the least information of his intentions. By this improvement at last, supposing it even to be kept up to, government is at a much higher expence for conveying the mail than even before, instead of saving almost the whole of it. The inhabitants will have only four hours betwixt the arrival and departure of their mail, instead of twelve, as they would have by mine, and it remains unguarded: this he has done without any sort of communication with my agent on the business, though he sees him almost every day, and I believe has fully understood from government, some time past, that the new plan was to be extended over the whole kingdom. Since my absence from town, he likewise has thought proper to suffer an entire alteration in the mode of delivering the letters, so that those by the new plan, instead of being delivered early in a morning, are not delivered till almost too late in the afternoon to send an answer. In this the comptroller is as much or more blameable than himself. In short, they wilt remain firmly agreed together, to take each their turn to do the Plan all possible mischief. I am sure, sir, if you could be aware how complex a business it is, and how difficult to unravel what (though simple in itself) they-have made so perplexed, to teach the postmasters the new regulations, which will enable them to do their duty in a plainer manner and less liable to mistakes, to settle the different parts as I proceed, so as to fit in with the general plan, and suffer no present mischief involved as you are in such various and greater concerns, you would yet spare a few minutes, I am sure you would, to put a stop to the rascality of that office, and to leave my mind free to pursue my Plan, without having it taken up with guarding against and curing their shameful practices. I want no sort of assistance from them; all I desire is, that they may not be suffered to do injury.—The state of the interior management of the Post Office business is full as bad or rather worse than I stated in the Memorial I had the honour to submit to the Treasury; the mistakes are innumerable, and the daily loss of the revenue very great, nor can it be otherwise on the present system; the remedy for it177
§ "franking by way of tax, were made, from the suggestions contained in Mr. Palmer's Plan; and that the before-men-
§ is even more plain and simple than that for the exterior department; and if you will permit me, I will regulate it in less than a fortnight, to your's and the public's satisfaction, even at a less expence to government than the present mode, and with much more ease to the different officers; indeed the plan cannot be further extended, till I am suffered to establish regulations within the office to fit the new ones without, as the new and old plan now act against each other. Having obtruded thus far on you, sir, with my complaints, I must beg leave to trespass a little further, and have done. It. is nearly approaching to three years since I first submitted my plan to your judgment, that you kindly encouraged it, and I attended your commands in town. I have sent a statement of my journies, attendances, &c. to my good friend lord Camden, for your inspection, by which you will see that, exclusive of my expences, almost the whole of my time and attention from October 1782 to the present moment, has been employed in this business; and I submit to your justice, whether the expence actually incurred, prior to the first trial of my Plan, the 2d August last, should not now be paid, and my appointment made out.—Your obliging message by Mr. Pratt, before the trial, that if the Plan did not succeed, I should be fully paid for my expence and trouble, if you recollect, sir, I disclaimed, and chose to sit down in that case with my disappointment and loss, and let my reward rest only on my success.—My time and attention, prior to the trial, I do not recount; though, if I discovered any ingenuity, activity, or perseverance through it, my family might have been benefited by their exertion to other objects.—The success of the Plan, sir, I believe, has exceded both your's and the public's expectation. I am sure it has my own in some points, though not, in others, but it has not fallen short in one. A circumstance, I believe, almost as new to administration, in the various plans that are submitted to them as a popular tax, which the Post Tax really is, where the accommodation has been given with it.—It incurred no new expence or inconvenience in the old establishment, even in the trial, but what was occasioned by the opposition from the General Office.—It conveys the Mails in half178
§ tioned sum of 1,500l. per annum was granted to Mr. Palmer, as a commutation of his right to the per-centage on
§ the time they used to be, and guarded under regulations that will, in a great measure, enforce themselves; and where it has been carried into execution, has immediately occasioned an increase of revenue to the Post Office.—It having been proved, that it is scarce possible for greater neglect or abuses to prevail than in the conduct of the old Post; that, in consequence of it, a great share of the correspondence was carried on by coaches, to the detriment of the Post revenue; that the new tax, coupled with the old plan, would have increased such defalcation, which the statement given into the treasury, comparing the great improvement of the revenue from the tax upon the new, opposed to the old establishment, have been very fully proved.—It was promised in the plan, to give the improved expedition and security to the great roads from London, and some of the cross roads, for the payment of 3d, per mile, the allowance for guards, and an exemption from turnpike tolls.—The contracts are now made for the greater part of the kingdom from London for the allowance of guards, and the exemption of turnpike toils only. Likewise for all the cross posts, six times a week instead of three, so as to make those posts as regular and perfect as the general one.—This accommodation will be given to the public, and the arrival and departure of the mails all over the country will now be regular, expeditious, and safe, on plain, simple, and certain principles, instead of the reverse. It will not only save many thousands a year in the expences of the riding work, &c. but, in consequence of the superior mode of conveyance to any other, add very greatly to the revenue, by the increase of correspondence through the Post Office.—In the progress of this business, I have had every possible opposition from the Office; I have neither spared trouble or expence to inform myself in every department of it, so that I might carry my plan completely into execution, and defeat their repeated attempts to ruin it. I have been perfectly open and kept no one secret from government, or derived one shilling advantage from any contract, but acted in every respect to the best of my judgment to the public; nor can I gain the least advantage from my agreement, till I have completed the plan over the179
§ 90,000l. being the amount of the first year's produce of the said Tax. The modification of the original Agreement
§ whole kingdom, as my per-centage on the increased revenue from the tax, without the accommodation, will not pay the very great expences I am obliged to incur in the establishing it. I have only to thank you, sir, for the very warm and steady support I have received from you in this business, without which, indeed, it could not have succeeded; and to hope, in addition to the rest of your favours, you will excuse this long letter. I have the honour to be, &c.
§ J. PALMER.
§ Copy of a Letter from Mr. PALMER to the Right Hon. J. J. PRATT; annexed to Mr. PALMER'S Letter, sent to the Commissioners of Enquiry, May 21, 1788.—London, Oct.22, 1788.—DEAR SIR;—I beg you will express to Mr. Pitt, in the strongest terms, my gratitude for his very liberal and handsome conduct, and that I hope he will not think me either dissatisfied or ungrateful in wishing you to state a few necessary circumstances to him for the more complete settling of my appointment, expences, &c. Mr. Pitt perhaps may recollect, I am sure I fully understood, that the plan was to be first tried; and if it succeeded, the tax was to be grounded the following year on the accommodation, and that I was to take my per-centage on the improved revenue from such tax, as well as every other improvement and reform mentioned in my letter: [To pay all my travelling expences, to have no salary, but two and a half per-cent. on the net profits that may arise to the Post Office, over and above its present annual profits, from the advantages that may accrue to it from my plan being carried into execution, the increased speed, postage, safety, reform of packets, &c. or from any farther reforms of œconomy, improvements, &c] But on my seeing Mr. Pitt, ere I left, town to prepare for the first trial, and his mentioning the Coal Tax was to be given up, I took the liberty of recommending the Post Tax in its room, pledged myself for the success of the plan, and sent Mr. Pitt the necessary papers; it was adopted, and the expected improvement to be given with it rendered it not unpopular. The 1500l. a-year Mr. Pitt is so good as to propose, is a noble offer; yet you are sensible, as I must now remove my family to London, I cannot live there, with the increased ex-pence such an office must create to me, for180
§ consisting in the addition of 90,000l. to 150,000l. which was the average amount of the Post Office Revenue
§ a guinea less. My per-centage therefore, on every other object of reform or improvement mentioned in my letter, I understand from Mr. Pitt will be fully secured to me. I do not know a fairer way of rating this, than by taking an average net yearly profit on the ten years prior to the tax being laid, then see what addition the year's tax has made, suppose 80,000l. or 100,000l. or whatever it may be, add that to the other averaged net profit, and my per-centage to be reckoned on the further increased net revenue beyond that sum. In regard to my three years expences up to this time, for I first came to town on it in October 1782, I would submit to Mr. Pitt, whether the simplest and fairest way of settling it would not be thus; I now owe to Mr. Cam, and some bills I have put off the payment of, above 4000l. more than I did in October, 1782; the receipts of my theatres indeed being lessened form a part of it, but I impute that to my want of attention to them, as other amusements in Bath, since the peace, have been more, profitable than during the war. My family expences have been the same as usual, or rather less, except from this last, severe illness of Mrs. Palmer's. Mr. Pitt therefore would not think it right that I should be a poorer, man now than I was at that time. Let my salary therefore commence from October 1782, when I was first employed, and that be considered as the payment of all my expences, which have been enormous, and I then receive nothing for my trouble, &c. As these expences have been incurred on account of the Post Office, it will of course be paid from thence. Mr. Pitt will not object to my travelling expences being paid me for the next two or three years, as I must, during that time, visit every office in the kingdom, inspect minutely into them, and settle correctly all necessary regulations, besides establishing the remainder of the General and Cross Posts, and adding new ones; as these expences would swallow up my salary, and the profits on the percentage can increase only by degrees. Mr. Pitt is sensible of the trouble and anxiety I have had, that I have a great deal yet to do, and the constant attention it will require to make and keep the plan perfect, and the great benefit it is to the country; and will, I am sure, think it just181
§ at that time, making together an aggregate of 240,000l., on the excess of which the per-centage was to commence, instead of the previous actual Revenue
§ that my profits should be such as to set me above temptation, and enable me to lay by a good fortune for my family. I trust therefore to his generosity, that if they should be deprived of me ere I have effected it, he will recommend a proper provision for them, as a reward for any good I may have been an instrument of his giving to the country.
§ Copy of a Letter from the Hon. J. J. PRATT to Mr. PALMER. — Brighthelmstone, Oct. 24th 1785—DEAR PALMER; I gave Pitt your letter; and I think though he does not quite allow all you mention to be a fair demand, that you have reason to be satisfied with what he seems willing to grant; he likes your proposal for drawing the average of the net revenue of the Post-Office for ten years; and afterwards adding the tax, and giving the two and a half per-cent. upon the surplus as you state it. He seems willing to allow that your salary of 1500l. a year should commence when he came into office last, which is now very near two years, and he is certainly not accountable for any delay prior to that period; and this I own I think a very handsome offer. With regard to your expences being paid after your salary is fixt, if you remember, I told you you would find some difficulty in carrying that point, and I think it cannot be given, for in your first proposal the 2½ per-cent. was to cover your expences, which would only be considerable for the first year or two, and the improvement on the revenue would amply pay you. The present settlement is only a modification of your first proposal, and I think fairly takes in that part of it. I dare say you will find no difficulty in having it secured to your family, if any thing should happen to you. This business seems now to be drawn to a conclusion. I own, as far as I have been concerned, I cannot think of pressing any thing more. The offer in my opinion is liberal, and the manner in which it has been explained still more so. You will be to consider whether it will satisfy you. Pitt seems to think that the appointment should be such as to secure you against any change of administration. He goes to town on Wednesday, and I think if you were to call or send, he would very likely see you; but if you should not see him then, he comes182
§ "of 150,000l. as originally proposed." The Evidence on this is equally clear: the original terms acceded to by the minister were "That Mr. Palmer was to have
§ to stay the beginning of next week. I am sincerely yours,
§ J. J. PRATT.
§ Copy of a Letter from Mr. PALMER to the Rt. Hon. Wm. PITT; in Dec. 1785.—SIR;— I am much obliged to you for your kind declaration of yesterday by Mr. Pratt. Mr. Attorney General is so good as to give you this from me. He sees very clearly the necessity I every day feel more and more of my appointment being immediately made out. I cannot too strongly express my obligations to you, for your wishes to give me every power the law will admit of. Whatever manner you determine, sir, to have it done in for the present, will be perfectly satisfactory to me; but unless it is considered as a permanent one, and if the Post Office can entertain a hope that any arts of theirs may overturn it, I am ruined. I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient humble servant,
§ J. PALMER.
§ Copy of Mr. PALMER'S Letter to Rt. Hon. Wm. PITT. — General Post Office, Dec. 30, 1788.—SIR;—I should not have troubled you in the present situation of public affairs, but from the extreme inconvenience I experience in my arrears not being paid up, and the anxiety I feel to have my emoluments finally settled by you, under whose encouragement, and sanction I had the honour to commence, and have perfected my undertaking for the improvement of the Posts. I believe it is unnecessary to repeat my engagements; but lest it should have escaped your memory, sir, I beg leave to state, that, if I succeeded, I was to have 2l. 10s. per cent. on the future encreased revenue of the Post Office for my life from its commencement, and to be paid for my expences and trouble from the time I was first employed, till the plan was suffered to be carried into execution. This sum was to include my salary for every duty of office, my traveling expences, &c. A subsequent engagement was afterwards acceded to on my part, with a view only to my being established in the office, and getting possession of such powers and authority over its ofcers, as could alone enable me to proceed with effect. In this settlement, I repeatedly requested of the Postmaster General, that I might be allowed to take my appointment for the present with its powers183
§ 2½ per cent, for his life from the commencement of his Plan, if it succeeded; but not a shilling in the event of failure."
§ only, and without any emolument whatever. This proposal not being agreeable to their lordships, and as they did not approve of the mode of payment partly by a salary of 1,500l. per year, and partly by a per-centage, they commissioned me to propose to you, sir, as a final settlement of the business, to wave my claims to the per-centage altogeiher, and to receive a salary of 3,000l. per year certain. But you, considering the mode of payment originally settled by a per-centage, as the best security for the public accommodation and the revenue, I agreed for the present to take my office in any manner the Postmaster General might think proper; at the same time declaring, I should not desire to hold my appointment if I did not fully succeed in performing all my engagements with you; and if I did, I hoped those entered into with me would be equally regarded; which you was so good as to promise me should be fulfilled when I had completed my plan, and should come forward with my claims. I have the happiness to understand, sir, that my conduct in this business has met your approbation; and I take the liberty to observe, for your further satisfaction, that the contracts for the conveyance of the mails, are now made at 20,000l. per ann. less than I originally proposed and engaged for; that I have likewise exceeded my promise in the rate of speed, the regularity and extension of the posts through the whole kingdom; and that particularly to the city of London, the early and regular delivery of the letters is far beyond my promise, or the expectation of the most sanguine of my friends, and even at this unfavourable season. I beg leave therefore, sir, to express my hopes that you will order a payment of such sum as you may think just for my time and trouble, from October 1782 to 1st August 1784., when my plan was first carried into execution; that an average be struck of the nett Revenue of the Office up to that time, and that a sum equal to 2l. 10s. per cent, on its increased annual Revenue be paid me, which is to include my salary, all travelling expences, &c. whatever sums I have received from the Office to be deducted from this account. That in future, a sum be paid me quarterly, in a proportion within the supposed yearly amount of my per-centage, and the ba-184
§ This low per-centage was to include every object from which the improved Revenue might arise; and, indeed, it was a leading
§ lance to be paid me every year on settling the accounts in the April quarter. I take the liberty, sir, likewise to propose for your consideration, whether the juster as well as simpler mode of regulating the accounts, and fixing the sum from which my per-centage is to commence, will not be by first stating the gross produce of the British and Foreign postage, and then deducting from it the Postmaster's salaries, payment for conveyance of the Mails either by horse or carriage, for guards, and for dead and missent letters, and the per-centage to commence on the nett Revenue after these deductions, as they are the only charges under my controul; and I ought not to be benefited or injured by an increase or decrease of expence that does not form a part of my plans, and which I cannot check. I hope, Sir, it may not be imputed a vanity in me to mention, that though Mr. Allen (as appears by his narrative) derived upwards of 12,000l. per year from his very partial improvements of the Cross Posts only, the regulations I have introduced, independent of their effect on the General Posts throughout the country, have increased that particular branch of the Revenue more in the course of two years, than he did during the whole forty years he farmed the same. It may not be improper to add, that I have long since had in contemplation various other plans, which I conceive to be of the greatest consequence to the correspondence of the kingdom, and more particularly of the metropolis and its neighbourhood, which I should ere now have digested and carried into execution, had the settlement of my affairs left my mind sufficiently at ease for that purpose. I have the honour to be, &c. J. P.
§ (d) Extract from Mr. PITT'S Evidence.— [Report, p. 26, 27.] Was a proposal on the part of Mr. Palmer, for the improvement of the Posts, and more expeditious conveyance of the Mails, submitted to you in 1784?—To the best of my recollection it was: the subject had been before mentioned, I believe in 1782, and was brought forward again in 1784.—Do you recollect generally what answer you gave to this Proposal, after having considered it?-—No answer was given, that I recollect, in writing, and the subject was repeatedly discussed at different times. I cannot185
§ feature in the Plan, that the great advantages which the public and commerce were to derive, would justify an increase of Postage, which otherwise could not have been laid with effect. I believe it may be in the recollection of many gentlemen present, that previous to this Plan, notwithstanding the penalty attached, a great part of the correspondence of the country was carried on by coaches and other means, to avoid the tedious and insecure conveyance by the post. Mr. Palmer, in the first instance, proposed to the minister an increased Postage in lieu of an intended Tax on Coals, and pledged himself for its being productive. When it was found necessary to give him an appointment in the Office to superintend his Plan, this nominal salary of 1,500l. a year was given him in lieu of his per-centage on 90,000l. being the estimated produce of this Tax, which was added to the previous revenue of 150,000l. making 240,000l. before his per-centage commenced. The per-centage on 90,000l. would have been 2,250l.; therefore, the 1,500l. a year was in fact
§ therefore at this distance of time undertake to give any account of any one specific answer, but the general result of what passed I conceived to have been, that the terms of Mr. Palmer's Proposal appeared to me to be fair and reasonable, and that I was desirous of carrying it into execution, conceiving it would be of great public benefit; the outline of those terms, as proposed in 1784, I believe was, that Mr. Palmer should have some appointment for life, to superintend the execution of his proposal, with an allowance annexed to that appointment of 2l. 10s. per cent, on the amount of the increase which it might produce in the Revenue. The appointment which took place afterwards, I believe in 1786, differed from that which had been in contemplation, and which I had originally intended to have acceded to; the difference was in consequence of legal objections arising from the Post Office Act.—Under such an appointment for life, as you have described to have been originally intended, do you conceive the enjoyment of it could depend on the will and pleasure of the Postmaster General?—If such an appointment had taken place, and could be legally carried into effect, the enjoyment of it certainly could not depend on the will and pleasure of the Postmaster General; and such an appointment, I con-186
§ 750l. less than the original agreement. But, Mr. Palmer was so satisfied of the ultimate advantages he should procure for his family, that he expressed himself contented with this arrangement, as settled by lord Camden's letter, in which he tells Mr. Palmer, that he is to look to his growing per-centage as an ample payment for his trouble and expence; and that in case of any accident to himself no doubt a provision would be made for his family. [Vide note (c)] The Committee next observe, "That the draft of an appointment for life, with the specified salary and percentage according to agreement, was made out, but not confirmed, to Mr. Palmer, in consequence of certain legal objections, arising from the Act of 9th of Queen Anne, establishing the Post Office; but that Mr. Palmer having at this time partly executed his plan, a temporary appointment was made out to enable him to proceed with it." This, I think, cannot be disputed; the Draft of the intended Appointment being in the Evidence, (e); and Mr. Pitt's testimony,
§ ceive, could have been vacated on no grounds but such as would, by process of law, vacate any other appointment for life made by competent authority.—By whose authority was the draft of the original warrant made, to which the legal objecting was made? I am inclined to believe, that it was drawn up in consequence of different discussions on the subject, probably in consequence of suggestions from Mr. Palmer; but I rather believe prepared at the Treasury, or by directions from thence, and communicated to the Attorney General, though there is no trace that I know of for preparing it, or for a reference to the Attorney General.
§ (e) Draft of a COMMISSION; being the intended APPOINTMENT sent from the Treasury to the Attorney General. [Report, p. 43.] Whereas it has been represented unto us, that the appointment of a fit and proper person, to be Comptroller and Surveyor General of the Revenues of our Post-office in Great Britain, will greatly contribute to the advancement of the same: and whereas JOHN PALMER has been recommended unto us for that purpose, he having invented, and partly carried into execution, a Plan for extending and improving the Posts, and for the more safe, expeditious, and regular conveyance of the Mails within our said kingdom; which has already proved highly beneficial to the trade and187
§ "that it was drawn up in consequence of the conversations that had passed, and would have been carried into effect but for these legal objections." [vide (d)]— The Report goes on to state, "That a subsequent appointment, dated the 11th day of Sept. 1789, was granted to Mr. Palmer, under the Postmaster General; by which Mr. Palmer was constituted Surveyor and Comptroller General of the Post Office, with a salary of 1,500l. per annum, and an allowance of 2l. 10s. per centum, on the future net increased annual revenue beyond the sum of 210,000l.; subject to a proviso, that such per-centage should not be affected, on the one hand, by any future grants or pensions charged on the Post-Office revenue, nor on the other hand, by addition rates of postage, or by any diminution or increase in the packet expenditure; and which salary and per-centage
§ commerce thereof; we do therefore appoint him, for and during his life, Surveyor and Comptroller General of the General Post-Office of Great Britain, with all its connections and dependencies of postmasters, contractors, deputies, accomptants, comptrollers, all surveyors, clerks, sorters, window men, letter receivers, carriers, messengers, and other officers and servants thereunto belonging; giving and hereby granting, for us, our heirs and successors, to the said John Palmer, full power and authority to Suspend any such officers or servants for neglect of duty, or of such instructions or directions as they have already received, or shall hereafter receive, from our Postmaster General or the said John Palmer, for the above purposes, as well as for the better conducting the business of the said office. And in order to a due and strict examination of all expences incurred in the management of the said revenues, it is our will and pleasure, that no bills whatever respecting the same shall be paid, till they are examined and signed by the said John Palmer or his deputy, who are hereby authorized and required to call for such accompts, and order the same before them, from time to time, when they shall judge it necessary. And we having taken into our loyal consideration, the good and faithful services of the said John Palmer, for the advancement of our revenue, and the advantage of the commerce and manufactories of our kingdom of Great Britain, by greatly accelerating the conveyance of our mails188
§ "were directed to take place, and be computed, from the 2d day of August 1784, when the execution of the Plan first took place." Now, sir, I think the house must allow, that Mr. Palmer having made the original Agreement, so fully performed on his part, he would not voluntarily have accepted tills subsequent Appointment, so inferior both in powers and profits. But, how was he situated, in consequence of the legal objection to his original appointment, on the faith of which he had undertaken, and partly executed his Plan, and which objection might have been removed by a new act of parliament? Mr. Palmer, to prevent the utter ruin of his Plan by the delay and the inveterate opposition it met with, accepted a temporary appointment from the Treasury to enable him to proceed in the execution of it, leaving the final settlement till he had compleatly fulfilled his engagement, (f); and it was
§ and packets, are also graciously pleased, as well as a reward for such services, as to encourage him to continue his exertions for furthering the same, to give and grant for us, our heirs and successors, to the said John Palmer, an Annual Salary of 1500 l. to be paid to him without deduction or abatement of any sort, out of the revenues of our said Post Office; together with a further Allowance of such sum of money, annually, as shall be equal to 2½ per cent, on the Surplus of the said Revenues, on making up the accompts, at over and above the sum of l. which accompts it is our will and pleasure shall continue to be made up, and the balance struck in the same manner as at present, in which, for the purposes aforesaid, no additional pension or charge on the said revenue of the General Post Office shall be included, as a deduction from the net revenue on which the said per-centage shall be calculated, except for salaries and expences actually incurred in the management of the same.
§ (f) Extract from Mr. PALMER'S Evidence. [Report, p. 3.]—How long did that objection of the Attorney General impede the proposed appointment? About a year.—When was any thing more done in this matter? In 1786.—What took place then? I found it so necessary to take some kind of appointment, to give me a power for the further establishment of my Plan, and Improvement of the Posts in Scotland, that I desired for the present they would give me an appointment in189
§ not until the year 1789, after the Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry so strongly in his favour, and his letter to Mr. Pitt, entreating the fulfilment of his original Agreement, that he at last received this Appointment, when the arrears of salary and per-centage were paid up after about seven years delay, [vide (c)] The difference betweeen the Appointment of 1789 and the original one was this: the original Appointment was to have been held for life, independant of the Postmaster General, giving Mr. Palmer his low per-centage on the improved revenue without any restriction whatever, [vide (c)] The subsequent Appointment precluded Mr. Palmer his per-centage on, the future encreased postage, which the merits of his Plan might enable government to lay; and, instead of being for life, under the crown only, was made out during pleasure, and under the Postmaster General. — Now, sir, I appeal to this house, if it was possible that Mr. Palmer would have incurred all this trouble, anxiety, hazard, and expence, to place himself at last in the power of his opponents, or at the mercy of any administration who might wish to get rid of a projector after having secured the benefits of his Plan? But, Mr. Palmer, unfortunately for himself, acted with too little reserve at the outset; judging of the integrity of the government by his own, having made the Agreement, he at once laid himself open
§ any way whatever as to profits, so as it gave me any power to proceed with my plan; when an appointment was given me, Mr. Pitt assuring me at the same time, that my agreement should in every respect be completed to my satisfaction.
§ (g) Extract from Mr. PALMER'S Evidence. [Report, p. 5, 6.]—ABOUT the period of the Appointment of the 11th September 1789, had you any conversation with Mr. Pitt, relative to the powers that appointment conveyed to you under the Postmaster General? I always expressed my apprehensions to Mr. Pitt of the possible interference of the Postmaster General; and the ill consequences that might follow both to the plan, myself, and the public, should it prove so, from the want of those powers agreed to be given me in the commission of 1785. Mr. Pitt assured me, I need entertain no apprehensions on that score, and that my agreement was equally valid, as if sanctioned by an act of parliament.—At the time of your appoint-190
§ to his employers, merely asking the necessary powers to fulfil it on his part, relying on their good faith for a similar conduct. On receiving this subsequent appointment after the compleat execution of his Plan; too late to enforce his original terms, he could only complain of the failure on their part, and express his apprehension for the consequence. This apprehension was relieved by the assurance of Mr. Pitt, that he should not be interfered with, that though nominally under the Postmaster General, he was virtually under the Treasury, who would always protect him in the conduct of his Plan, and that his agreement was equally valid as if secured by an act of parliament, (g)—The Report continues to observe, "That Mr. Palmer was paid his specified salary and per-centage, from 2d day of August 1784, up to the 5th day of April 1793, according to the aforesaid directions and provisions of the said Appointment of the 11th day of Sept. 1789." This, sir, is the Appointment under which the Committee recommend Mr. Palmer to be paid, not amounting to the half of that original Agreement, which they declare him to have substantiated, and of which it was the Opinion of the most eminent Counsel upon this Evidence, that a court of law would have compelled a specific performance, had the bargain been made with an individual instead of the government of the country; (h)—The next Observation states,
§ merit of the 11th September 1789 being made out, did Mr. Pitt give you any assurances, of the protection of the Board of Treasury against any controul or interference on the part of the Postmaster General?—I was assured by Mr. Pitt, that I should feel myself equally protected by the Treasury, as if the Commission in October 1785 had been carried into execution; and there was little probability of any interference to the prejudice of my plan.—Did you ever consider yourself as acting under the controul of the Postmaster General?—No; upon all occasions, where any directions of theirs were not prejudicial to the public service, I acted agreeably to their wishes; when I thought otherwise, I resisted their commands, and asserted my independence of their power or authority, and that I held my office agreeably to my commission of 1785, and virtually under the Treasury.
§ (h) OPINION of Counsel on the Evidence reported by a Committee of the House of Com-191
§ "That the salary of 1500l. a year having originally been accepted as a commutation for per-centage, is not to be considered as implying the discharge of official duties, and liable to be discontinued with a discontinuance of those duties; but to have been granted to Mr. Palmer, together with his per-centage on the Post-Office revenue beyond 240,000l. as a fair and reasonable compensation for his invention, and his risk and trouble in carrying his Plan into effect; and that the advantages arising from it, which have enabled government considerably to increase the postage of letters, agreeably to the principles laid down in his original Plan, are permanent to the public; but Mr. Palmer's advantages
§ mons, as to the Agreement made with Mr. PALMER for the REFORM and IMPROVEMENT of the POST OFFICE and its Revenue, and as to his Suspension.—WE have perused the evidence contained in the Report of the Committee appointed to consider of the agreement made with Mr. Palmer, for the reform and improvement of the Post Office, &c. and we are of opinion, that by that evidence, the agreement, as insisted upon by Mr. Palmer, is proved; by which as was originally made, Mr. Palmer would have been entitled to the per-centage upon the increase of the then net revenue of the Post-Office; and that by the agreement as after modified, he was entitled to 15001, a year, and a per-centage upon the net revenue exceeding 240,000l. a year. And we are of opinion, that Mr. Palmer has fully performed his part of the agreement, much to the advantage of the public. We are also of opinion, (which is indeed impossible to doubt) that if a patent had been granted to Mr. Palmer as originally intended, nothing which has since passed could have deprived him of the benefit of his agreement: because all that is imputed now to Mr. Palmer arises from misunderstandings and disputes be tween the Postmaster General and him, and which could never have existed if a patent had been granted to him as originally intended, under which he would not have been in any respect dependant on the Postmaster General. We are also of opinion, that though by the appointment which was granted to Mr. Palmer, different from that originally intended, he was made subject to the controul of the Postmaster General, (because by the constitution of the Post Office, as established by act of parlia-192
§ "must terminate with his life." This is merely the deduction from a former Observation relative to the commutation of the per-centage on the tax estimated at 90,000l. by which Mr. Palmer was a loser of 750l. perann as I have already explained. —The Committee further observe, "That if the appointment, originally promised to Mr. Palmer, and upon the faith of which he stated himself to have undertaken the full execution of his Plan, had been carried into effect, the causes which led to his suspension could not have occurred, as he would then have been free from the controul, and independant of the Postmasters general. And, that. Mr. Palmer appears, in all his arrangements, to have paid great attention to economy as well
§ ment, no patent could be granted to him, by which he was to act independantly of the Postmaster General) yet there is nothing in the above-mentioned evidence which ought to deprive him of the benefit of his agreement, nor which could in a court of justice have that effect. It is established by this evidence, that the public derived from Mr. Palmer's exertions all the benefit which he had held forth as likely to accrue from them; and that he had acted with diligence and with perfect integrity in the discharge of his duty. And although we do not approve of the letters written by Mr. Palmer to his deputy, Mr. Bonner, which are the grounds for depriving Mr. Palmer of the benefit of his agreement, and we do not mean to say that a subordinate officer in any department ought not to behave with respect to his superiors, we think those letters are far from a sufficient ground to deprive him of that benefit. We also think it very doubtful whether a Court of Judicature would have thought that any attention ought to be paid to those letters, because, they were written in confidence to his deputy, and under an impression (though probably ill founded) that the Postmaster General were unfavourable to him, or from mistake, or misconception, were thwarting or impeding him in the execution of his plan. And we think it appears from evidence, that the deputy who communicated those letters to the Postmaster General, and thus betrayed his private confidential correspondence, was himself worthy of no credit, and acted a very blameable part in the transaction with White, as appears from the report. J. MANSFIELD, T. ERSKINE, V. GIBBS, WILLIAM ADAM. 24th April 1799.193
§ as improvement, and to have acted with strict integrity, having at the outset of his arduous undertaking procured the conveyance of mails at 20,000l. a year less than he proposed, and government contracted for; and we observe, that in the four years only subsequent to his leaving the office, viz. from 1793 to 1797, the excess in the expenditure amounted to upwards of 145,000l. beyond that of the four years previous to his suspension and during his management."—I shall take this opportunity of defending Mr. Palmer's conduct in the Office, and those private letters the grounds of his suspension; and I most earnestly request the attention of the house to this explanation, as I think it must satisfy the doubts of honourable gentlemen who entertain any on the subject; and I shall rely with confidence in their liberality, in not wishing to persevere in an opinion, should I give them just grounds for altering it. With respect to the consistency recommended by the right hon. gentleman, I think that must operate in favour of the Petitioner, as the only opinion that has ever been expressed by the house of commons on the subject of Mr. Palmer's claims, is the report of the committee which I am now reading. In defending Mr. Palmer's conduct, my chief regret is, in being obliged to state any thing that may be unpleasant to the feelings of the noble lords who suspended him; as I am convinced, however anxious their lordships might have been to be released from a person who disputed and denied their authority over him, it was far from their intention to injure Mr. Palmer in his character or fortune. This conviction proceeds from the evidence itself, in which the noble lords, though obliged to come forward in defence of their own conduct, speak with a warmth of Mr. Palmer's personal integrity, which could only have proceeded from their desire to do him justice in that respect; (i) and lord Walsingham, who from the suggestions of
§ (i) Extract from Lord WALSINGHAM'S Evidence.—[Report, p. 29 and 30.]—Had you ever any reason to entertain a doubt of the personal integrity of Mr. Palmer?— No; never in the smallest degree. Extract from the Earl of CHESTERFIELD'S Evidence. Had you ever any reason to entertain a doubt of the personal integrity of Mr. Palmer?—I desire to abide by the answer given by lord Walsingham.194
§ others had been led, in many respects, to doubt the merits of the plan, declares to Mr. Palmer in a letter, "That he has well deserved his salary, and per-centage, for which the faith of government is pledged to him." (k) Now I should think that such evidence might be conclusive, in which the very person who suspended Mr. Palmer from his office, and who even disputed his services to the public, declares his conviction of the pledge of government, and the incorruptible integrity of the petitioner, a failure in which could alone have forfeited such agreement.— These letters are meant to establish three charges: first, that Mr. Palmer recommended the payment of an exorbitant bill; secondly, that he signed a false account; and lastly, that he created a delay in the delivery of the letters with the view of throwing the blame on the Postmaster General.—The first charge relates to a Mr. Wilson, by whose means, being the principal contractor, Mr. Palmer was enabled to convey the mails at 20,000l. less than he had originally proposed and government agreed for. Surely, this fact alone establishes Mr. Palmer's integrity. I believe it is pretty well understood the advantage, more or less, that has been taken by individuals in contracts with government? and had Mr. Palmer been inclined to have availed himself of it, he might have done it in this instance.— During a temporary residence in Ireland, his deputy informed him by letter, that lord Walsingham had been making a most improvident agreement with Mr. Wilson for the establishment of two mail coaches to Cheltenham, for the accommodation of his majesty. I leave the house to judge of the mischief to be apprehended from this interference, by which a set of contractors who, by Mr. Palmer's management, had been reduced to one third of
§ (k) Letter from Lord WALSINGHAM to Mr. PALMER, dated Dec. 28th, 1787.—[Report, p. 99.] I have long wished to see that point cleared, of your plan costing less than the old one; for I have understood, invariably, that it cost more, but that the benefit overpaid the expence. Be it one or the other, it was a most fortunate regulation, and you will well deserve the salary and commission on the increased revenue, for which the faith of government, is pledged to you, Your's, &c. W. Read, and forward this to Groves.195
§ their original price, (l) were thus tempted to break their engagements with him, in the hope of making more advantageous terms with their lordships. The wonder was, how, after such interference, Mr. Palmer could keep them to his own reduced price; and so far from deserving censure, I think he was entitled to some credit for obviating a difficulty in which he could not be interested but for the public advantage, to which his own bore so small a proportion. The best method he could adopt he did. By his immediate remonstrance he obliged the engagement of one coach only instead of two, thereby saving the half of the intended expence; but knowing the value of Wilson, who had been the first to take those low contracts, which others had refused, Mr. Palmer was anxious to retain him in the concern, and therefore in this letter referred to by the right hon. gentleman, he desires his deputy to tell him, that though he was sensible of the exorbitance of the charge, yet in consideration of his former good conduct, he should not expose him by refusing the payment, and would therefore recommend lord Walsingham to settle it. In fact, his lordship's extravagant order to spare no expence would have justified Wilson's bill in any court of law. But, after all, Mr. Palmer, as stated in the evidence, obtained the abatement of a considerable charge, on account of commission, which otherwise would have been paid. This private
§ (l) Extract from Mr. PALMER'S Evidence.— [Report, p. 37.]—Is the new mode of conveyance by the mail less expensive than the old mode, and how?—By my first proposal, the conveyance for mails was to have been 3d. per mile each way per day, which on £ 4,000 miles, being the number which the coaches travel (as appears by a paper before this committee) would have amounted to £. 36,000 per year. I reduced this charge to 1d. per mile, which saved the public £. 24,000 per annum.
§ Extract from MR. PALMER'S Letter to MR. PITT, dated May 5, 1785.—[Report, p. 46.] It was proposed in the plan, to give the improved expedition and security to the great roads from London, and some of the cross roads, for the payment of 3d. per mile, the allowance for guards, and an exemption from turnpike tolls. The contracts are now made for the greater part of the kingdom from London for the allowance of guards, and the exemption of turnpike tolls only.196
§ letter at the same time expresses a wish to the deputy, that Wilson in his interview with lord Walsingham might give his lordship such a specimen of what he might expect from meddling with persons of his description, as would prevent a future interference so prejudicial to the interests of the public. The right hon. gentleman has denominated this transaction a gross want of economy on the part of Mr. Palmer, who, in one instance, had saved more than 20,000l. a year to the public; yet, without imputing to him a wilful misrepresentation, I cannot but complain that he should have formed his opinion upon the mere perusal of this private letter in the evidence, when, if he had attended to Mr. Palmer's explanation, it must have have convinced him of the fact being directly the contrary of what he has asserted; and that Mr. Palmer's only motive in writing this letter to his deputy was for the public good. For, had he wished for a moment to have encouraged this fraudulent charge, as it is called, he had only to have been silent; as, in that case, lord Walsingham must, and would have paid the whole of the bill, from which Mr. Palmer made the deduction above mentioned; and the proof that lord Walsingham would have paid the whole is this, that his lordship made still more extravagant contracts after this period, than this very one which Mr. Palmer, from motives of policy, and to satisfy Wilson, and deter lord Walsingham from further mischief, recommended to be paid. But to enable the house to judge fairly against whom this charge should stand, and what would have been the effects of their lordships contracting generally for the mails instead of Mr. Palmer, I beg leave to state the difference betwixt Mr. Palmer's contract for the only mail coach he agreed for, (I mean for the accommodation of his majesty) and those made by their lordships. The contract made by Mr. Palmer in 1789 for the royal mail, was at the rate of 8l. per day; those made by the Postmaster-General, before and after his suspension, were at the rates of 18l. 9s. 13l. 14s. 14l. 2s. and 21l. 5s. per day, being from double to nearly treble the price Mr. Palmer contracted for; and his thus endeavouring to rescue the public in the best way he could from the imposition was made one of the charges against Mr. Palmer! (m) It is lastly, to be observed,
§ (m) Extract from Mr. PALMER'S Evidence.197
§ that the private letter, the foundation of this charge, is dated in October 1788, nearly a twelvemonth prior to his appointment under the Post Master General. —The second charge relates to a man named White, who was employed on the roads, and who kept an account of travelling expences with Mr. Palmer's deputy. On the latter complaining to Mr. Palmer of this man's neglect, and that he could not bring him to an account for monies advanced, Mr. Palmer sent for White, and after taking him to task for his misconduct, desired a Mr. Hasker, the superintendant of the mails, and of these
§ —[Report, p. 34.] Do you recollect having had any transactions with a person of the name of Wilson, in the Post Office? I do.—State what they were?—During my absence in Ireland, in 1788, on official business, my deputy sent me two of lord Walsingham's letters, authorising two mail coaches a day, for his majesty's accommodation whilst at Cheltenham, to be established at any expence. I disapproved of the very improvident and extravagant mode by which this very proper accommodation was to be carried into effect; and finding on my return Mr. Wilson the contractor much elevated by being allowed to contract with the Postmaster General in a way so much more beneficial to himself than on the terms to which he had been, after much trouble, reduced by me (as I had got the contracts down from 3d. to 1d. per mile, being a saving of £. 20,000 a year) I refused to sign the accounts of Mr. Wilson, and left him to settle with his lordship, who at first disputed the payment. Thus circumstanced between the two parties, I wrote the letter to my deputy of the Kith of Oct. 1788; for on consideration of Mr. Wilson's other merits with the public, in having engaged in mail contracts which others had declined, and he being then very necessary in the concern, it appeared prudent in me to protect him; and I likewise thought it expedient to obviate the mischief which might again arise from the Postmaster General's interference with the contractors, which appeared extremely dangerous both to the revenue and myself; however, on a meeting with Mr. Wilson, I prevailed on him to make a deduction in this charge for commission; the consequence of this was, that their lordships left me to make the next contract, in 1789, for the Royal Mail, which I did for 2d. per mile only, and 150198
§ people, to assist this man in the recollection of the various journeys he had performed, and to make out a fair bill accordingly. This was done, and the whole that Mr. Palmer meant by telling his deputy in a letter that he was glad this bill was paid as being an aukward business," was a mere caution for his future conduct; as however just this bill was, and actually below the sum advanced, Mr. Palmer was unwilling to encourage a precedent liable to abuse, that of allowing the payment of the smallest sum, for which the proper voucher was not produced. (n)—But it may well be imagined,
§ guineas to two of the contractors for their trouble in conducting and overlooking the whole business. The next coach, in 1791, (I being in Scotland) their lordships contracted for at 1s. per mile; the following year, 1792, after my suspension, at 6d. per mile; in 1794, at 9d. per mile; in 1795, at 1s.; and in 1790, at 9d.;1 but the fair way of taking these expences is, for the whole expences of the coaches for each distinct year to be taken together, by which, and from the account before the committee, it will appear that the contract made by me, in 1789, was at the rate of £. 8 per day, and those made by the Postmaster General, before and since my suspension, have been at the rates of £. 18. 9s. £. 13. 14s. £. 14. 12s. and £.21. 5s. per day.
§ (n) Extract from Mr. CHARLES BONNOR'S Evidence. [Report, p. 30.] Did you receive any letter from Mr. Palmer, relative to the passing the Accounts of Robert White? I have in my pocket a letter from Mr. Palmer on that subject.—Have you any objection to produce that letter?—None; it is dated the 27th of August 1790. Read that part of the letter which relates to this subject?—I will. It is as follows: "I am glad White's Bill is signed, for that was "the aukwardest business before the Treasury." [The Letter shewn to Mr. Palmer, and acknowledged by him to be his hand-writing.]—Did you give White any orders in what manner he was to prepare his Accounts? No.—Did you sign White's Accounts when made out?—No. Was it your custom to sign most of the Accounts of the office before they were sent to the Accountant-General?—It was. —Can you state any reason why you did not sign White's Accounts?—From the moment the Comptroller General suggested the idea of having false vouchers prepared199
§ that in the progress of this plan, amidst all the opposition Mr. Palmer met with, and the various description of persons he was obliged to employ on the roads, that-many sums might have been charged, of which an exact account could not be kept. But, with respect to the account in question, it was not in fact signed by Mr. Palmer, nor is it produced in the evidence as signed by him; therefore, if there could have been a doubt as to the purity of his motive, no charge was established.— But to prove how little Mr. Palmer could be personally interested in the payment of this bill, and how totally unworthy of credit the deputy who brought forward the charge, I beg leave to read to the house an extract of a letter from the deputy to Mr. Palmer, relative to this subject, contained in the evidence, page 34, to which I earnestly request their attention, this deputy being the only witness upon the next and last charge.—Extract of a Letter from MR. BONNOR to MR. PALMER, dated June 1791.—"Another source of great and unquestionable loss to me, attended also with circumstances of embarrassment and perplexity never to be overcome, arose from the depredation committed upon my papers, when my desk and book-case were broke open and rifled, and my red box was stolen away. It is to this event I have to attribute almost all the confusion I have experienced to arise from the want of keening a regular account of all cash matters; and I may very fairly consider it as the occasion of my losing some hundreds of pounds; for I was in the habit of transacting money concerns with different people about the office, who kept no account at all; and when my account was lost, I was left at the mercy of their ignorance of my fair claims at least, which subjected me to
§ for making good deficiencies in the Accounts, I declined being in any respect a party to such a business; and the Superintendant of the Mails, Mr. Hasker, was called upon by the Comptroller General to act with, and instruct White, in the doing it. It was to the Comptroller General, and not to me, that the rough drafts of those Accounts were shewn, previous to their being fairly written out for signature; and the same reason that induced me to decline taking any part of the business was my reason for not signing thern when prepared.200
§ the same alarming consequences that a bad principle in them might have occasioned. I had instances in the adjusting one account only, which are sufficient to confirm my apprehensions, though I do not imagine there was any design to injure me; but in certain periods of White's account, against which I happened to have memorandums of different sums I had advanced to him, there were omissions to the amount of between 300l. and 400l. and against such part of his account I had no check at all; the sums he had omitted he perfectly recollected when I brought them forward; but he was unable to recollect any omissions but such as I was able to point out, although in certain parts of the Account, the proportionate amount of monies admitted are so out of all comparison below what was advanced for similar periods under the dates, as to do away all doubts as to the omission of articles, to my irretrievable loss, and to a very severe amount; as between the month of Feb. 1787, and March 1788, which was one month only before those papers were stolen, no more than 25l. 13s. is charged against him, although the usual demand for the months preceding was, upon the average, 25l. per month, and the subsequent considerably more, so that at the lowest computation I must be a loser of more than 200l.—2nd. In doing this, Sir, I hope I may be allowed, first of all, to suggest, that by making myself responsible, as I hitherto have done, for all the consequences of the loss of official documents, which it was not in my power to prevent, as well as from the various unquestionable advances of cash on your private Account, of which no entry can be shewn, I certainly placed myself in a situation, which, however proper for me to sustain while things were in a progressive state of arrangement, ought not to subject me eventually to the making good to the utmost extent those losses which do not arise from my own personal misconduct, however certain it is that such must be the case to a very severe degree."—The Deputy here confesses, that he only could be, and asserts that he actually was, the loser to a considerable amount by White's neglect.—About two years after this circumstance, upon Mr. Palmer's suspension, White, at the instigation of the Deputy, wrote a latter to the Post Master General, accompanied with an affidavit that these201
§ Accounts were false. In his Examination before the Committee id 1797, as appears by this Evidence, he expressly states, that this letter and affidavit, (the particulars of which he did not recollect) were drawn up by the Deputy, by whose desire he copied them, and swore to the contents of the latter; that it was from the Deputy himself he received the order to make out the accounts with Mr. Hasker, and that the whole amount had been advanced and laid out in the service, but that, in some instances, from the loss of vouchers, sums had been charged from memory only to make good the deficiency. (o) Lord Wal-
§ (o) Extract from the Evidence of ROBERT WHITE. [Report, p. 13.]—WHAT are the contents of the affidavit which you took before the Lord Mayor?—Respecting Accounts belonging to the Post Office.—What are the facts contained in the affidavit?— Relating to nothing else but the Accounts, which are travelling and incidental expellees.—What did you swear in that affidavit about those Accounts?-—I do not recollect the particulars; the letter stated the particulars.—What was the general effect that you swore about the Accounts?— Respecting the accounts, by order of the Comptroller General and his Deputy; made out the Accounts according to their order.—Did you say in that affidavit, whether the Accounts were true or false?— They were made out to cover a deficiency of a sum advanced.—Who advanced the money you speak of?—The Deputy Comptroller General; I suppose on account of the Comptroller General; but that I cannot say.—Who ordered you to make the Accounts out?—The Deputy Comptroller General.—Who told you how to make them out?—Under the direction of Mr. Hasker.—What was the occasion of the deficiency in your Accounts?—Through Vouchers being mislaid, in many instances, and lost.—Did you charge the money in those Accounts, the Vouchers of which were lost?—There may be articles charged in the Accounts from memory only.—Did you charge any articles which you do not remember to have paid, although you had lost the Vouchers?—No.— How came you to write a letter to the Postmaster General?—By the directions of the Deputy Comptroller.—How came you to make an affidavit?—By the same direction.—Who told you what to write?—The same person.—Who wrote the letter?— Myself.—Who saw it before you signed202
§ singham on being questioned as to this point declares, "that he has no reason in that or in any other instance to impute to Mr. Palmer any private interest of his own in making up the office accounts." (p) And this Charge was considered altogether as so frivolous, that Mr. Hasker himself, the agent in this business, and who attended the Committee for the purpose of being examined, was not even called upon, but has continued in the Post-Office to this day, and whose salary, with that of various other officers, were considerably raised after Mr. Palmer's suspension, though he had endeavoured in vain whilst in office, to procure them a trifling addition to their incomes. This, indeed, was one of the chief grounds of dispute with the Post-masters General; for instance, this Mr. Hasker's salary was originally 100l. a year, Mr. Palmer applied repeatedly for an addition to it of only 50l. a year without effect; but, before he had been dismissed from the Office a twelvemonth, Mr. Hasker's salary was raised from 100l. to 700l. a year.—The last Charge relates to the delay in the delivery of the letters. With respect to this, it has been contended by Mr. Palmer's Counsel, that his private letters would not be received as evidence in a court of justice; but, I wish not to stand a moment on this ground, and am ready to admit these letters, however unworthily betrayed. All I contend and mean to prove is this; that they bear no relation to the fact they are meant to substantiate. I am ready to allow that these letters at the moments in which they were written shew a desire on Mr. Palmer's part, not to create, but rather to encourage an existing and growing neglect amongst the subordinate officers, the consequence of the disputes betwixt their superiors, probably conceiving at such moments no other remedy than bring-
§ it?—The Deputy Comptroller General.— Who told you what to swear?—The same person that drew the affidavit up.— Who drew the affidavit? The same person.
§ (p) Extract from Lord WALSINGHAM'S Evidence. [Report, p. 28.]—COULD Mr. Palmer's personal interest be at all affected by the settlement of White's Accounts?—I have no reason whatever to impute to Mr. Palmer, in that or in any other respect, his having any private interest of his own upon the making up of the Office Accounts.203
§ ing this disorder to its crisis. But, as Mr. Palmer states "these were only transient thoughts which seldom outlived the day, and were never, upon any occasion, acted on;" nor is there a single passage throughout these letters to prove the contrary. The last of them, extracted from a long and confidential correspondence, drawn from Mr. Palmer at moments of irritation which I believe few tempers could have withstood, is dated in October 1790; and during the whole of this period, not the slightest complaint appears to have been made on the part of the public or the Post-masters General. The actual delay took place in 1792; and, with the exception of these private letters, the last of which was written nearly two years before, the Post-masters General confess that they have no other Evidence to prove this charge than the bare assertion of the Deputy; (q) and I appeal to the house if any credit should be given to such testimony. But, sir, I shall go further, and prove who did create this delay, that it was the sole act of this very Deputy, by establishing a check upon the charge-takers in the Office, as explained in the following Minutes betwixt the Post-master General and himself, contained in the Report, p. 100.—Minute of Post-master General—General Post Office, March 11, 1792.—" The Post-master General desire to know whether Mr. Bonnor has, or has not, taken off the cheques which had been recently imposed, and which the Post-master General never saw till they had been carried into execution, and which they have as yet given no orders to remove. If these cheques do essentially delay the deliveries, Mr. Bonnor is at liberty to postpone them; but if they do not, and will answer the effect that was intended by them, they should by
§ (q) Extract from the Earl of CHESTERFIELD'S Evidence.—[Report, p. 9.]—What other proof had your Lordship, except the declaration of Mr. Bonnor, that the late delivery of letters was occasioned by Mr. Palmer?—We had at that time no other proof.—What proof had your Lordship, except the declaration of Mr. Bonnor, that Mr. Palmer wished to throw the Post Office into confusion, and to attribute the cause of such confusion to the Postmaster General?—Mr. Bonnor being called upon to prove the assertions he had made, furnished the Post-master General with the letters I have now in my hand.204
§ "all means be continued. W. Ch."—MR. BONNOR'S Answer. General Post Office, March 13, 1792.—"One only of the new cheques has been discontinued, and that is the cheque on the Charge-takers. The time lost by it was very considerable; but that loss of time proceeded not from the operation of the cheque itself, but from the ignorance and incapability of some of the Inland Officers, whose deficiencies it has been the peculiar merit of this cheque to detect, &c."— It here appears, that this check which had been removed was the sole cause of this delay, and this at once explains the difference betwixt the delivery the week before and week after Mr. Palmer's suspension on the 7th of March, as stated by the Postmaster General.—But, I should have observed, that these letters were not the grounds of Mr. Palmer's suspension, but of its continuance. The nominal ground of suspension, was merely the refusal of the key of his door to his deputy whom he had suspended, and who on being restored to his situation by the P. M. G. came to demand his key in an impertinent manner, after the hours of business, without producing their lordships authority. All this is explained in the evidence, and that Mr. Palmer did deliver up the key the moment it was properly applied for. (r) However,
§ (r) The Report of THOMAS LLOYD, First Clerk in the Comptroller General's Office in the General Post Office.—[Report, p. 65.]— Who saith, that between seven and eight o'clock in the evening of Tuesday the 6th of March 1792, Mr. Bonnor, the Deputy Comptroller General, called at the Comptroller General's Office and enquired of this Informant, if Mr. Palmer, the Comptroller General, was within—that this Informant answered, that he was; and thereupon Mr. Bonnor desired this Informant would immediately wait upon Mr. Palmer, and desire him to send the key of his (Mr. Bonnor's) room, in the said Comptroller General's Office. That this Informant accordingly waited upon Mr. Palmer, and delivered the said message; to which Mr. Palmer replied, that he should not send Mr. Bonnor the key he required; and desired this Informant further to acquaint Mr. Bonnor, that unless he immediately left the office, he (Mr. Palmer) would send for a couple of constables to shew him the door; which message this Informant immediately delivered to Mr. Bonnor; who thereupon went away. (Signed)205
§ sir, the house may well suppose that a trifle like this was not the real ground of rupture; but the disputes betwixt the Postmaster General and Mr. Palmer, which had continued so long, had at last arrived to that extremity, it was impossible they could go on together. He was continually denying their authority, and remonstrating with them and with the Treasury upon their interference to the prejudice of his plan; their lordships on their part, naturally jealous of their own power, and having a better opinion of their talents for business than Mr. Palmer gave them credit, for, chose to act upon that opinion, and not to be considered as cyphers at the head of their own department. How far it might have been for the advantage of the public, that their lordships had been content to leave Mr. Palmer in the management of his plan, is not for me to determine; but I think it natural to suppose that a man like him who had invented and brought this plan to bear amidst the almost insuperable difficulties that surrounded him, was more likely to preserve and still further to improve it, than noble-
§ T. Lloyd. Chesterfield House, March 7th 1792. Witness, James Lambert (in the absence of the Solicitor).
§ Copy of a Letter from Mr. LAMBERT to Mr. PALMER, dated 8th March 1792; together with a Minute of the P. M. GI. dated 7th March 1792.—[Report, p. 91.] Mr. Lambert presents his respectful compliments to Mr. Palmer; has received the favour of the note, but not in time to wait on him before ten o'clock. He therefore takes the liberty of sending Mr. Palmer the enclosed minute of the P. M. Gls. and if the bearer should meet with Mr. Palmer at home, the key may he delivered to him.—Mr. L. is sorry to be the bearer of a disagreeable message, but it was not in his power to avoid it.—If Mr. Palmer should have any objections to give up the key, he will be pleased either to state them in writing, or Mr. L. will wait on him at any hour Mr. Palmer may appoint. Cray's Inn, 8th March 1792.
§ (Minute.) The Comptroller General is hereby directed to deliver immediately to Mr. Bonnor, the Deputy Comptroller General, or to Mr. Lambert, Solicitor to the Post Office in the absence of Mr. Parkins, the key of the Deputy Comptroller General's room. W. Ch. The key was delivered immediately to the messenger who brought Mr. L.'s letter. March 7th,—92.206
§ men whose habits in life were not calculated for the business; who on coming into office, had to learn that business from their own subordinate officers, the old enemies of the plan, and who were so liable to be displaced before they could attain any competent knowledge of it, that in the space of only six years, there were eight different Postmasters General to conduct the various and complex branches of this extensive concern. Without detaining the house by reading them, I would ask any hon. gentleman who may have seen the Postmaster General's minutes contained in this evidence, if it was possible Mr. Palmer could proceed in the improvement of his plan with such interruption? And yet these minutes were selected from, numberless others in proof of their lordships anxiety not to impede him; I would refer to the deputy's opinion of these minutes, expressed on the margin of one of them. (s) What possible interest could
§ (s) Minute of the Postmaster General; with MR. BONNOR'S Remarks. [Report, p. 99.]— General Post Office, August 4, 1791. The great object which the P. M. G. had in view was, to justify themselves, and not to censure others, but expose the impossibility of the Comptroller General's Clerks being under the necessity, by their lordships' Minute, of doing the duty of messengers, and of the business of the office being interrupted by Mr. Bonnor's doing the duty of the Clerks. One of the rules which Mr. Bonnor lays down is a bad one; viz. "in all cases where the P. M. G. assert or direct a thing, he is to pay the most implicit deference to it, and enforce it immediately, waving at once all opinion of his own, & c."
§ Mr. Bonnor's Remarks. "There is no "replying to this without risking a quarrel; "but in this part of the P. M. Gl.'s object, their lordships must understand by "the D. C. Gl.'s last Minute on the subject, that they failed completely."
§ On the contrary', it is the P. M. G.'s constant desire, and was so stated in the first Minute which their lordships ever made in August last; viz. "that every person should represent against the impropriety or inexpediency of any order the P. M. G. may give, as their lordships will be as ready to revoke it, as they can be to give it, if it is fraught with any material objections;" therefore Mr. Bonnor is to understand that the P. M. G. are always willing and desirous to receive all necess-207
§ Mr. Palmer have in quarrelling with their lordships? Had they let him alone, he never wished to interfere with their patronage or power. These very private letters, the only pretence that has ever been set up for his dismissal, prove that he would have agreed with them had it been possible. What does he say in one of them? (The hon. gentleman here referred to the letters in the Report, p. 60.) "I really have always felt that every material alteration should have their sanction, but that it is impossible with lord Walsingham to do this." Again, in another letter, "Though the conduct of the lords is the very thing I ought to wish, and must end well, yet it revives old quarrels and feelings, and fevers me in spite of myself? d—n them, I never can get a little quiet or bathing but this
§ ary information upon the points about which they are giving direction. The P. M. G. are utterly at a loss to know, after the quotations they have made from their Minutes, where is the positive order "not to employ a substitute for Crompton," as Mr. Bonnor knows the order was the direct reverse; viz. that the Comptroller General was expressly allowed a substitute, only he was to take him from the messengers, not from the letter carriers.—Mr. Bonnor's Remarks. "This would employ "more time than the whole of their official "duty requires; to represent, to vindicate "their representations; to produce proofs; "maintain arguments, in 9 out of 10 of "which, though right, they would be "obliged to yield; and 9 out of 10 of the "points disputed, not worth saying 3 "words about, or bestowing 3 minutes "upon; and so create fresh correspondence and fresh disputes."
§ Whenever Mr. Bonnor discovers oversights or errors in the P. M. G.'s Minutes, of which there are probably many, he should always point them out; sometimes they arise from miscopying, oftener perhaps from real mistakes, but never deliberately or intentionally. The P. M. G. observed, that no messenger was allotted to any other officer but the Comptroller General: in answer to which Mr. Bonnor cites Mr. Commins, the Chamber-keeper, whose duties are all domestic, and certainly not those of a messenger, for he is to keep the door, the stationary, the coals, to overlook bills, to pump the well, & c. therefore that is no case in point.—Mr. BONNOR'S Remarks. "It certainly is strictly,208
§ "is the case." Can any thing picture his real feeling and regret at these disputes more strongly than this, for there can be no doubt of his sincerity here, as he little thought at the moment, the use that was afterwards to be made of these letters? Can it be wondered that he should have thus confidentially expressed his resentment at their lordship's conduct, when to their very faces he denied their authority? And should no allowance have been made for those feelings at seeing his reputation, his fortune, and the public interest thus sacrificed, by the wanton and vexatious interference of a power he had never been taught to acknowledge, and which was totally incompatible with the nature and terms of his agreement in undertaking a plan for the success of which he was wholly responsible? (t) And here I
§ unless Mr. B.'s Statement of his duties is erroneous, which the P. M. G. does say is the case.".
§ The Comptroller General was distinctly allowed any one of the messengers to be in waiting, vice Crompton, and they were to be exempted from all other duties during that time, for which see the words of both Minutes; and if Mr. Bonnor had applied to any one of the extra messengers, they probably would have undertaken it without much reluctance. If the misconception was accidental in Mr. Bonnor, it was by no means blameable; but no man who reads the P. M. G.'s two Minutes can say, that the business of the Office was interrupted by their lordships refusing to the Comptroller General the substitute he wanted in Crompton's stead. W. Ch.
§ (t) Extract from MR. PALMER'S Remonstrance to the Treasury, January 6, 1796.— Although it docs not seem necessary to justify my subsequent private conduct, in order to support my previous legal claim, vet I am far from wishing to appear capable of disrespect without provocation, and I trust it will be allowed that my feelings have been severely tried; for in the first instance, the unmerited opposition experienced to my Plan from all branches of the Post-Office; and the impossibility of Conducting it, if controuled, made me naturally jealous of every interference; but this disposition was wearing away, and I entertained the hope that former animosities would cease. This hope was considerably supported by the growing attention and confidence of the successive Postmasters General, till the appointment209
§ entreat the house to allow me to read one letter only from Mr. Palmer to the Postmasters General, which I think is but
§ of lord Walsingham, who frequently wrote to me for official information, and expressed opinions very flattering both to myself and my Plan, and among many others, I received from him the following note, viz. "December 28th, 1787. I have long wished to see that point cleared, of your "Plan costing less than the old one, for "I have understood invariably, that it cost "more, but that the benefits overpaid the "expences. Be it one or the other, it "was a most fortunate regulation, and "you will well deserve the Salary and Commission on the increased Revenue, for which "the faith, of Government is pledged to you.— "Yours, W."—In answer to this note, I gent his lordship such information as might have completely satisfied his mind on the subject, though the accounts under his own controul, if properly examined, must have rendered any explanation, either from myself or others, unnecessary; and surely those documents only should have satisfied him on a point which involved the most material interests of the office under his inspection. While these friendly communications were passing, the Commissioners made their Report respecting the Post Office, in which so much commendation is bestowed on my plan and conduct. Lord Walsingham, having procured this Report, previous to its appearing at your lordships' board first communicated the contents to the old officers; and then, after taking every clerk out of my office, to Windsor, kept them at an inn there for near three months, at the public expence, and loss of their services, in order that they might privately copy the Report; and when I requested of him a perusal, or such information as related to myself, it was not only refused, but my own Clerks declared themselves laid under strong injunctions by his Lordship, to keep the matter perfectly secret from me. These circumstances naturally created a desire for investigation; and I afterwards discovered that, notwithstanding his Lordship's apparent friendship, and although nothing appeared inimical to any other Officer, yet the following Notes were inserted in the margin, in his own hand-writing, respecting myself and my Plan, viz. Where the Report mentions "The improvement of the Revenue by my Plan, and declares my merits," Lord Walsingham remarks210
§ fair after the exposure of his private correspondence. The letter I mean is dated in October J 790, during the period of these
§ —"There is no proof of the improvement of the Revenue, the expence exceeds the former by 18,000l. per year." Where the Report says, "By which the correspondence of the Kingdom is improved, and the Revenue increased,"— his Lordship writes Not so." To the Commissioner's Declaration, That they had examined with great attention the numerous documents and information furnished by both parties"—his Lordship wrote, "No documents in opposition to the measure produced." On the Commissioners' further remarks, proving the Plan and its effects beneficial, his Lordship wrote, "Nothing like it." Where the Report notices the great defalcation of the post, previous to my Plan, by Letters and Packets going by Coaches, and that they had been sent by post since the reform—his Lordship wrote (what the acknowledged superior speed of MailCoaches must have rendered improbable) viz. "Many Merchants' Letters are now "sent as Parcels by the Flys and Diligences." And where the Commissioners say, "Under these circumstances we are of opinion that Mr. Palmer is justly intitled to "the compensation he claims, being a "very small part of that Revenue which "his integrity, activity and zeal have "created, exclusive of the numerous advantages accruing to the public and commerce,"—his Lordship wrote, "Not a "word true." Now, my Lords, these remarks, made on the Report from which your Lordships were to. learn the state of the Post Office, and the merits and claims of its Officers, evidently tended to deprive me, clandestinely, of a certificate, on which, in a manner, my title to the reward for which I had been years labouring, and on which all my prospects depended. It is to be observed, that they were made by his Lordship, when apparently my friend, although not only Office documents and accounts, but those furnished by me, and not objected to by him, would then, and will now, ascertain, beyond the possibility of refutation, that the Report, which has never since been questioned, was true, and his Lordship's doubts and contradictions groundless. As another of the numberless instances of Lord Walsingham's want of candour, I must refer to the dispute which arose respecting my projected improvements of the Scotch Post, which211
§ disputes, being a strong remonstrance on their conduct. I beg to observe that there are two copies of this letter in the evidence,
§ his supercession of my powers in that kingdom completely stopt. The Postmaster General having, after this dispute, sent a Letter to Mr. Pitt, containing charges against me, on my challenging them to fix a single blot on any part of my conduct: I was desirous of answering these charges, but prevented by assurances from the Postmaster General, that the Letter was merely private, and would be thought no more of; I was likewise to experience in future no more vexatious interference in my executive department. However, Lord Walsingham's conduct soon revived the disputes, and I was afterwards much surprized to find that this private Letter had been entered up as a recorded accusation against me in the Office Books, without giving me an intimation on the subject, or an opportunity to answer it. I appealed to your Lordships, desiring to be heard, as well respecting these charges, as the injuries sustained by the impediments to my Plan; but the Letter having been addressed to Mr. Pitt, and not to the Board, no official answer could be received. I was therefore under the necessity of sending to the Postmaster General, the Minutes entered in Appendix [No. 9.—here, following] urging a regular production of the charges, and full investigation of my conduct; and likewise, that such resolutions might be entered at your Lordships' Board, as might secure my proceeding with safety to myself, and advantage to the public. This offer was declined, and no attempt made to substantiate the charges, but again a line was proposed to be drawn between us, and again delayed till the Postmaster General took an opportunity of ending the matter by my suspension, without assigning any specific charge; and I am confident, that if assigned, it would merely have been such as might have endangered the loss of a patron to an officer whose sole claim depended on patronage, but could never have been sufficient to do away rights acquired by specific agreement, and past services. MINUTE referred to in the above Extract.—Comptroller-General's Office, April 14, 1791. The Comptroller-General informs the Post-Master General, agreeably to the declaration they have before obliged him to make to them, that he considers his commission as held under, and himself responsible ultimately to the Lords Commissioners212
§ lord Walsingham having complained that the one produced by Mr. Palmer did not contain the whole of the original as pro-
§ of his Majesty's Treasury only, by his agreement, as well as by their warrant of appointment, originating with them. He has informed their Lordships, his motives for not answering several of the Post-Master General's minutes, which he trusts cannot but be satisfactory to them. The same reasons will prevent him from answering any others their Lordships may send, but such as appear to him absolutely necessary. He is anxious, that their Lordships may not consider this conduct as meant in the least disrespectful to them. It arises from that regard every individual has a right to pay to his own interest, peace, and character.—From a conviction, that it is impossible for him to proceed to necessary and extensive improvements in the correspondence of the kingdom and its Revenue, or to preserve those he has already carried into execution from ruin under his present powers—from this conviction only, he Claims from Government those powers originally promised him. —The Comptroller-General is informed, that the Post-Master General's Letter to Mr. Pitt, does not come officially before the Lords of the Treasury; and that there would be an impropriety, as the matter stands at present, in the Comptroller-General's answering it to the Treasury, though its having been entered on the Post-Office Books makes it an official charge against him. That the properest method to be taken, will be for the Post-Master General to address it to the Lords Commissioners of his majesty's Treasury; and at the same time to send with it copies of all other Letters, or Papers, that may have been entered on the Books, since the Comptroller-General's first appointment, that may accuse him of misconduct, or in which any doubt may be expressed of the merits of his Plan, the expence of its establishment, and the conduct of it. Its effects on the Revenue, and the injury or advantage it may be to the Public, or wherein Government may have been deceived, and led into the making an improper agreement with the Comptroller-General, and in what parts the Plan may have failed in the expectations held out to the Public, as well as the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury.— These, with all other observations their Lordships can make, together with all information they can gain from their old-213
§ duced by his lordship; I therefore beg leave to read the whole of this letter, to satisfy the house that Mr. Palmer had no motive in omitting part of it but to save unnecessary trouble to the reader— Putney Oct. 12, 1790—"My Lords; I am concerned your lordships attempt to supersede my commission; and the ill effects which I apprehend may arise to the correspondence of the country, from your "further interference with my regulations, oblige me to apply to the minister "for his accustomed support, by whose "warrant I received that commission, and "to whom only I consider myself responsible for my conduct; for though I am "nominally under the Postmaster General "I am virtually under the Treasury.—The "original warrant, which I have the honour to inclose your lordships, will shew "you, that it was intended I should hold "my office under the crown, and not the "Post-Office, for reasons too obvious to "the minister. This warrant being submitted to the opinion of the Attorney "General, he advised, that, according to "the present constitution of the Post-"Office, my employ could be legally held "only under the Postmaster General, by "a warrant, from the Treasury, directing "them to grant such appointment, with "the powers expressed in it. It was "therefore made out in the manner I now "hold it, as a matter of present necessity.
§ est, most experienced, and confidential Officers, will be necessary to accompany the said Memorial. The Comptroller-General, therefore, requests their Lordships will have the goodness to send the above Papers as early as they conveniently can, for the information of the Lords of the Treasury, that he may be enabled to answer them us soon as possible.—Their Lordships remark, that his second question was meant for insult, obliges him to say, that such meaning was; and ever has been, very distant from his thoughts towards their Lordships; his disposition being as little inclined to give an insult, as to put up with one.—Their Lordships will be sensible, he could put the question in no other shape to them, when they recollect, on every occasion, where an increased price has been demanded for conveying the Mails by a Cart, such demand has been at once invariably complied with by their Lordships; but when required for the conveyance by a Coach, and their Lordships have been assured that the terms were even less than the Mails could be conveyed for214
§ Your lordships therefore venturing to supersede a commission granted me under a warrant from the Treasury to former Postmasters General, for services the Lords Commissioners had expressed themselves so partial to, and under such particular circumstances, as will appear by the inclosed Treasury minute; contradicting too the orders given by them. in consequence of their circular letter to all Postmasters in the year 1785, has, I think, been rather a hasty and ill-advised measure, and not consistent with that judgment and temper which usually guide your lordships' conduct. No man, I am sure, in this kingdom is more sensible than I am to the necessity of proper subordination, or to the respect due to the nobility of this country, or has higher obligations to them; and I am sure I cannot give a stronger proof of it, than in still retaining my respect and esteem for your lordships, after the very unhandsome and unprovoked conduct you have used towards me. Both your lordships, on accepting your appointments, knew my situation in the office, and found me in the uncontrouled exercise of the powers the warrant from government had directed to be given me; your lordships have an undoubted right, if you saw me at any time, proceeding wrong, or any ill effects arising from my conduct, to report it to the Trea
§ by a Cart on the same Road; though twice informed of this by the Comptroller-General, and pressed by every reason he could urge, why such demand should be immediately complied with, and the ill consequences of delay pointed out, yet their Lordships thought proper to refuse such payment, without permission being first obtained from the Treasury, and chose to protract the application for such payments for near three months.—The Comptroller-General knows of nothing in his department, which has at any time whatever called for their Lordship's interference; the ill consequences arising from their Lordships so frequently taking upon themselves to intermeddle in the management of his plan, he has too often experienced; of which the lords of the Treasury as well as the Public, will be fully informed in his Memorial to their Lordships, which will accompany his answer to the Post-Master General's Letter to Mr. Pitt, or to the charges against him, which their Lordships may send to the Treasury. J. P.215
§ sury; but I challenge your lordships to put your finger on one single blot committed by me, from the moment I took my appointment till this time. Why, therefore, this wanton interference, threatening me, and insulting and disgracing valuable officers, who are known to be attached to me, and at a time when they are particularly distinguishing themselves for the good of the service? Indeed, my lords, if you persist in such treatment of, them, I shall not have an officer of any value remain with me, if they can possibly get situations in any other employ.—Your lordships have been informed of the disgraceful opposition to my plan, before I came into office, which made it necessary for the minister to give me powers to act as I pleased in the arrangements of the posts and conducting its business: the inclosed letters to all Postmasters will show it. And can it be supposed, that after the success and beneficial effects which were the consequence of those powers being given me, I am to be deprived, of them, and expected to conduct so complex and difficult a business, or extend my plan with less powers: that rev regulations should be submitted in ah office so liable to change, to every Postmaster General to check or controul them, and to do which he must either advise with the officers under me, or those most active in a former opposition to ruin my plan. If this were the case, however well disposed your lordships may be, do you think it could exist, or the public be long in possession of its benefits?—Mr. Pitt, my lords, has made a purchase of my ingenuity and judgment, such as it is, and I am to act upon that judgment, and no other person's is whatever, subject, if I do wrong, to your lordships' observations and report to the Treasury. Nor is this by any means new to the office: Mr. Allen, for a very partial improvement of the Cross Posts, not only had the whole power and management delegated to him, but the estate itself, and that without any controul whatever; nor would he even inform the Postmaster General of any part of his plan. As soon as they were satisfied, from his character, and the few hints he gave them, that it would be a benefit to correspondence, and some advantage to the revenue, so far from being jealous of parting with their authorities, they solicited government that they might do 216 it, and gave him every possible encouragement. He had a complete farm of those Posts during his life; the time he held it forty two years, and got, by his statement, above 12,000l. per year by them —1 have the satisfaction to remark to your lordships, when I began the improvements in the Cross Posts, though the revenue was decreasing, that during the short time I have managed them, its Revenue has increased considerably more than in the whole forty-two years Mr. Allen farmed them: indeed nearly double, notwithstanding the enormous increase of franks. The more extensive and superior advantages correspondence derives from mine, the public as well as your lordships must be sensible to; he had the whole of the increased revenue, and the most uncontrouled power in the management of these Posts. I have two and a half per cent, on the whole revenue of the office, and am expected, for that consideration, to conduct and improve the whole Posts of the kingdom: and your lordships command me to manage this plan, of so much greater magnitude, in trammels and fetters. From this feeling, I have delayed carrying into execution many of my plans, which would have given great accommodation to the public, and proved very popular, as well as productive to the revenue, because I would not submit them to the judgment of others, and render myself liable to a renewal of former opposition.—In respect to any commands your lordships may think proper to send me, I must observe, both our appointments and powers are derived from the same source, though for different considerations; your lordships for that for which all power is delegated, to do good—mine, not only to do future good, but for having done great good in the department we both act in, preceding my appointment, which the former Post-Master General were expressly ordered to give me for these purposes and services. Whenever therefore your lordships, from mistake or ill advice, shall send me any commands that I think may go to mischief instead of good, I shall most certainly not observe them; and if I apprehend ill consequences from any you may think proper to send to any of the officers under me, I shall take the liberty, for your lordship's sakes as well as my own and the public's, to contradict them; for if I had not done this in more 217 than one instance, Lord Walsirigham, with the best intentions, would have thrown the business into extreme confusion, and have placed himself in a very unpleasant situation with that public.— I beg leave therefore, and that in the most earnest manner, and from the real esteem and respect I entertain for both, to caution your lordships from further interference till Mr. Pitt's pleasure be known; for I am responsible only for my own acts, and you know not how delicate and dangerous an engine you are playing with.—When I reflect on this conduct of your lordships, I am struck with astonishment, nor can I in any way account for the haste and violence of it; I am sure if Mr. Todd had been at home, it never would have happened. —I wrote to vour lordships I should be in town in a few days, and do myself the honour of waiting on you, when I hoped every thing might be adjusted to your satisfaction. You would not wait this short absence, but send me your peremptory decision; contradict orders given by former Post-Masters General to Mr. Oliphant to obey my directions; supersede my commission, and send him papers to invite complaint and opposition against necessary regulations in his office, and which I am bound to overlook by my commission, as well as all others concerned in the correspondence of the country.—Why is the percentage indeed given me, but to interest me in the care of every thing whatever by which the revenue of the office may be affected? Your lordships cannot be injured in your fortune by a mismanagement of it; I may, and that to the ruin of my income. —When you read the inclosed letters from Mr. Freeling, I think it impossible but your lordships, must feel a concern for the conduct you have so hastily pursued; and the pain you have given to the mind of so worthy an officer, and be yourselves astonished at it; and when the whole of his report comes before you, and you see the labour and fatigue he has undergone, it cannot be but that you will order him some reward for his great trouble, and the services he has done; and as your lordships have thought proper to appeal to Mr. Oliphant for his conduct, I have the fullest reliance on the truth and candour of that gentleman's report. I have the honour to be, & c. J. PALMER.—Mr. Palmer here asserts most positively his independ- 218 ence of the Post-master General, and declares he shall obey no orders which he conceives may tend to mischief instead of good: Had he been mistaken in his construction of his own appointment, should he not have been set right at the time? Mr. Pitt knew of this letter, and Mr. Palmer's assertions were never denied; but the dispute was made up as others had been; and the last would have been accommodated, even after the production of the private letters, had the Post-Master General consented; for Mr. Pitt was satisfied with Mr. Palmer's integrity, and with his answer to the charges brought against him (u) but, after all that had passed, and the disclosure of this private correspondence, a reconciliation was hardly to be expected; the minister, therefore, finding himself obliged to dispense with, the services of one party, the weakest gave way, and Mr. Palmer on retiring from office, was made as liberal an allowance as, I suppose, was thought adviseable under the circumstances; for had he continued to have received the full benefit of his Agreement, the public might naturally have enquired why he had been dismissed, and the whole affair have been exposed to their observation and censure.—With respect to the latter part of this Observation of the Committee, relative to the excess in the expenditure, as it does not affect the question of the Agreement, I should not trouble the house upon it; but, as I understand it has been objected to, and that Mr. Palmer has been accused of misrepresentation, I feel myself compelled to notice it. [Mr. Long here rose to state his objection to this part of the Report, as being unfounded, and reflecting upon the conduct of the Post-Office; particularly that of a very meritorious officer, Mr. Freeling.]—Major Palmer continued: I trust, Sir, notwithstanding what has been observed by the right hon. gent. I shall convince the house that Mr. Palmer has in
§ (u) Extract from Mr. PALMER'S Evidence. —[Report, p. 6.] How came you to know, that the answer given to the first body of charges, made against you by the Postmaster General, was satisfactory to Mr. Pitt?—I understood so both from the late and present lord Camden.—Have you any reason to know, that the answer to the second body of charges was satisfactory to Mr. Pitt?—I understood from both those gentlemen, that they were equally so.219
§ no part of this Evidence stated that which is not strictly true. Upon this excess in the expenditure, I shall beg leave to read his own words. The question to Mr. Palmer is, "What has been the excess in the "expenditure in the General Post-Office, "during the period of your suspension, "beyond the average during the period of "your management?—A. 187,848l. in the "whole."—I must here observe, that the Committee, not being aware of the period of Mr. Palmer's management, took an average of the four years previous and subsequent to his suspension, which makes the amount of 145,000l. stated in their Observation. The next Question is as follows; "Do you mean to say, that if you had "continued in your situation or Comptroller General in the Post-Office from "the period at which your suspension took "place till the present time, the Post-Office revenue would have been benefitted to the amount you have just stated? "—A. In answer to this I beg to observe, "that in the execution of the various plans "I proposed to government, when left to "my own judgment, I have not failed in "one, and have invariably completed them "at less expence than I had proposed. "The accommodation and revenue likewise have turned out greater than I had "promised; looking therefore to the "great expenditure in the establishment "of my Penny-Post plan, since my suspension, so much beyond what I had "proposed, and pledged myself not to "exceed, in that petty branch of the "posts, as well as from other circumstances, I have no scruple in declaring "that, had I been in the controul of the "expenditure of the Post-Office, I do in "my conscience believe a very great part "of the sum of 187,848l. would have been "saved to the public. I beg likewise to "add, that I am not conscious, on any "occasion whatever, of having appropriated one shilling of the public revenue to my own use, or connived at such "improper conduct in others; or of ever "having received the least compensation "for any office, contract, or benefit I have. "obtained for others, or that I have ever "made one bargain or regulation that has "not been beneficial to the public, or ever "had even a thought, or used an expression, that was not ultimately meant for "the public good."—Their lordships, who were present, fully admitted the latter part of this statement, but denied the former relative to the excess, and promis- 220 ed to bring further Evidence to rebut it; but after the Committee had been kept open some days for this express purpose, their lordships declared, that they had nothing further to produce; and the Committee closed with this assertion of Mr. Palmer's, which has remained uncontradicted to this time. However, I must request to state one fact to justify Mr. Palmer with the house in the opinion he gave on this point, and especially as it was brought forward by their lordships themselves in proof of their good management of the office after his suspension.—Lord Walsingham states in the Evidence, that after Mr. Palmer's suspension they carried into effect a new Penny-Post plan which he had refused to submit to their judgment, and that the gross revenue had encreased from 11,000l. to 29,000l. a year. The following is Mr. Palmer's explanation of this improvement in the Evidence, "2. "Did you any time suggest a Plan for the reform of the Penny-Post Office?—A. I did, and to this effect; I offered to the Board of Treasury, about the autumn of 1791, as I had before done to the Commissioners of Enquiry, to take a farm of the Penny-Post Office for my life, at a rent equal to the highest net Revenue it ever produced, as a full compensation for my general plan and the execution of it, and in satisfaction for my salary and percentage. This offer being declined, I afterwards proposed that the additional expence of this reform should not exceed, at the utmost, 4,000l. per annum; whereas the excess, over and above the former expence, has now amounted, as appears by the account now before the Committee, to 16,000l per annum, and the net increased Revenue, instead of equalling my salary and percentage, has only amounted to about 1,600l. per annum over and above the former pro- duce previous to the reform, notwithstanding the additional tax, which I "think must of itself have amounted to 2 "or 3,000l. per annum.—" I will not fatigue the house by enumerating the various other instances in which the public have suffered by a want of management on the part of the Post-master General, but solicit their attention to the following statement in proof of the injury the Post-Office Revenue must have sustained by Mr. Palmer's dismissal.—On examination of the Account of the gross and net produce of the Post-Office from the year 1723 to 1808, as laid before this house, by deducting the 221 net produce of each year from the gross, which leaves the expenditure, it will be seen, that during the ten years previous to Mr. Palmer's Plan and his coming into office, viz. from April 1774 to 1783 inclusive, the expenditure had gradually encreased 100,000l. a year, the average expence of these ten years being 209,170l. a year. The average expenditure of the following ten years during Mr. Palmer's management, viz. from 1784 to 1793 inclusive, was 209,061l.; so that Mr. Palmer not only at once checked this vast growing expenditure, but even somewhat reduced it below the previous average; notwithstanding the great additional expence incurred by his Plan in conveying the mails seven times a week to above 400 towns, which either had only a three day post or no post at all, and the encreased salaries to Post-masters, whose duties were thus doubled; and with this disadvantage too; viz. that the last of these ten years (the year 1793) was during his suspension; the expence of which was above 17,000l. beyond any of the previous years during his management. In the ten years subsequent to his dismissal; viz. from 1794 to 1803, the expenditure encreased to 339,596l. being an excess of 130,535l. beyond the average of the former ten years; and the expenditure of the four last years, viz. from 1804 to 1807 inclusive, has still further encreased to the sum of 418,367l., being an increase of 209,306l. a year beyond the expence of Mr. Palmer's management. Thus, though Mr. Palmer, after the com-pleat establishment of his Plan, left the Post-Office with a less expenditure than he found it, that expenditure is now more than doubled, amounting to an excess of 2,000,000l. since his suspension, and an annual encreased charge of above 200,000l. The Revenue has, indeed, encreased to a great amount; this, however, has not been the result of any new improvements, but has arisen from the extension of the Plan and the mere increase of postage, which could not have been laid but for the benefits resulting from it; but the encreased postage on letters does not encrease the expence of their conveyance, and Mr. Palmer therefore feels warranted in asserting, that a very great expenditure must have been unnecessarily incurred. In making this statement, I mean no reflection upon the Officers in the Post-Office, more especially the gentleman who has been alluded to, at the head of that department under the Post-master General, 222 being an old and esteemed friend of Mr. Palmer's, who was introduced by him to the office long before the appointment of the Postmaster General in question, and who was selected by their lordships as the fittest person to succeed Mr. Palmer; though they were far from countenancing him whilst Mr. Palmer was in office.— But, without wishing it to be understood that no one could conduct Mr. Palmer's Plan but himself, I think the house will agree with me in the principle, that where the head of a department is personally interested in its management, and has an in dependant power to enforce his regulations, that economy is more likely to be attended to, than where he is not interested; and I must again contend for Mr. Palmer, that if he was not justified in disputing with the Post-master General on the public account, he was justified on the ground of his own interests, and the original Agreement, giving him the uncontrouled management, of a Plan; which it is absurd to suppose for a moment that he would have undertaken upon any other conditions.—With respect to the difference betwixt lord Walsingham's opinion of the advantages of the Plan and Mr. Palmer's, no one reading the Evidence with attention, and those documents to which Mr. Palmer refers, extracted from the very papers which his opponents brought forward against him, but must be convinced of the correctness of his statement; and that lord Walsingham, whose mind had been warped in the first instance by the enemies of the Plan, could never get rid of his prejudices; but was always more anxious to discover a defect, than to assist Mr. Palmer in its execution. And, let me appeal to any honourable gentleman who may have come here with an unfavourable opinion of this case; has he read the whole of these Papers? not only has he read them, but has he read them attentively? For I do not consider that there is a page in this voluminous Evidence, that is not material, and many parts require some applications understand.—Mr. Palmer, aware of the difficulty of impressing the whole merits of his case upon the members of this house, and deprived of the advantage which the vilest criminal enjoys of appealing to the laws of his country, sought the advice of the most eminent counsel he could apply to on this Evidence. Their opinion confirmed his Agreement to the fullest extent, and declared, that in a court of justice it could 223 not be withheld. The Evidence has since been referred to a Committee of this house, who have substantiated every assertion made by your Petitioner. Can, then, any hon. gentleman who has not read the whole of this Evidence vote, in opposition to such testimony? The tenth and last Observations of the Committee are as follow: "Your Committee observe, That under "the circumstances before stated, the salary of 1,500l. a year being commuted "for the percentage on the tax of 90,000l. "Mr. Palmer has a claim to a continuance of the salary of 1,500l, a year; "and it appears to your Committee to be "only consistent with justice and public "faith, that Mr. Palmer should be secured "therein: and also in a continuance of his "specified percentage from the 5th of "April 1793, and during the continuance "of his life, to be calculated and paid "under the same regulations as it was "paid up to that period, pursuant to the "appointment of the 11th of Sept. 1789, "deducting the 3000l. per annum received "subsequent to the 5th day of April 1793. "—And your Committee have lastly to "observe, They fully concur in the sentiment expressed by the Commissioners, "who reported on Mr. Palmer's Plan and "Merits in the year 17S8: viz. That the "remuneration proposed to be allowed to "Mr. Palmer will be but a small part of "that revenue, which his integrity, activity, and zeal have created, exclusive of "the numerous advantages accruing to "the public and commerce."—If I have satisfied the house of the justice of the former observations, I trust they will agree to the last, and the motion framed upon it. With respect to the amount of this claim, if it is in itself just, I trust such an objection will not weigh a moment against that strict observance of public faith, which I believe on all other occasions this house has kept. One instance I beg leave to quote, as it must be fresh in the recollection of the house. I mean the case of Messrs. Chalmers and Cowie, which was referred to a Committee*. But the
§ *Messrs. Chalmers and Cowie, undertook to import a large quantity of Herrings from Sweden in the year 1806, during the apprehension of a scarcity. These Herrings were accordingly purchased, but in consequence of an embargo, their arrival in this country was delayed, until the alarm of scarcity had subsided, when the cargo was spoiled for want of pur-224
§ Committee in their case reported only the Evidence; Mr. Palmer's Committee have their Observations on his Evidence. These gentlemen could not prove a contract with government; Mr. Palmer's Committee and his Counsel declare that he has fully proved his contract. Without imputing the least blame to these gentlemen, it so happened, that the country did not derive one shilling benefit from all the expence which they had incurred: in Mr. Palmer's case the country has received nearly a hundred ibid the profits that he asks, and the country must continue to enjoy their profits, whilst the advantage to Mr. Palmer's family must terminate with his life. Lastly; these gentlemen, though they would have been considerable losers but for the liberality of parliament, intended no risk in the outset, beyond the fair adventure of a mercantile speculation; Mr. Palmer en the contrary, sacrificed his time, his comforts, his health, his property, every thing dear to him in life, for the attainment of an object ill which his own sanguine mind alone anticipated success, and in which had he failed, he only could have been the sufferer. With this distinction in the cases, the liberality of this house gave these gentlemen two thirds of their claim; I can hardly think therefore, it will refuse Mr. Palmer at the recommendation of its own Committee, a sum not exceeding the half of what a court of justice would compel the payment. And, after all, what is this sum which is to tempt the house to do that which its members individually would not, could not do? If the debt is acknowledged, the amount of the arrears is a stronger argument for its payment, and these arrears, as nearly as I can guess (for it must depend on the estimate of the taxes), would not exceed 70,000l. I beg the house to consider, that Mr. Allen enjoyed nearly the whole profits of his partial improvements, and that for above forty years he possessed an income of from 12 to 14,000l. a year. Mr. Palmer only bargained for a fortieth part of his emoluments, and improved even this branch of the Revenue which Mr. Allen farmed (the Cross Posts) more in two years, than Mr. Allen had clone in his whole life. But, the advantage to the country in point of revenue turned out so far beyond expectation, that by the sub-
§ chasers. The petitioners estimated their loss at 36,000l. the house of commons voted them 25,000l.225
§ sequent appointment, Mr. Palmer was restricted in his percentage on the future encreased Postage, which has since been laid, and which the minister in proposing to the house has invariably justified upon the merits of his Plan; and the house must be aware, that though the encreased Postage has improved the Revenue, it, certainly has diminished the correspondence, or prevented that growing increase with the increased population and commerce of the country, so far injuring the Petitioner. Suppose these improvements had never been effected, and that the Posts were now in the state in which Mr. Palmer found them; would not a minister be glad to make the agreement that was then entered into? Why, then, the agreement having been performed, and the country so long in the enjoyment of those advantages which it must continue to enjoy whilst the country exists; is it consistent with the honour and dignity of this house to refuse their petitioner the half only of that small proportion to which the faith of government was originally pledged? Plow many honourable gentlemen are now present whose fortunes equal and far exceed the sum claimed by this report. I would ask fairly, has there been a capital amongst the whole acquired with more credit, to its possessor, or advantage to the country, than Mr. Palmer's; I can assure the house and appeal to many of Mr. Palmer's friends for the truth; that had he confined his labours to the improvement of his private property, judging by the success of others, he might by this time have realized a larger capital than the vote of this nights may give him. And would it not be hard, after such sacrifices, that he should become at last a loser;—Sir, I have now said all that I shall presume to trouble the house with in favour of this motion, and there is but one more point to which I request their indulgent attention. It has been urged by friends, that I should endeavour to compromise this claim: not from a doubt of its justice; but that from the uncertainty of the line that government might take, it were better, if possible, to secure a part, than risk the whole of what the Committee have recommended.—I shall, therefore, and I hope without offence, state my real sentiments on this subject. I cannot think that my friends would themselves adopt the advice they recommend, or that they would not incur the danger they wish me to avoid. I cannot think that a compromise is the feeling 226 of this house, nor can I for a moment, suppose that it is the wish of the right hon. gentleman, the guardian of the honour as well as interests of the public. If he is satisfied of the justice of the Claim, I am sure his character, his language, and his conduct, warrant the conviction that in this case, he will neither sacrifice the interest of Mr. Palmer, nor the honour of his country. Sir, this is an Agreement, or it is not: it has been performed on Mr. Palmer's part, or it has not: it has been advantageous to commerce, and the public, or it has not: it has improved the revenue beyond all expectation, or it has not. The Evidence upon these points has been referred to a Committee of your own house, and it is upon their decision Mr. Palmer feels bound to abide. He has toiled hard through life for the attainment of this object; it is for him at last to reap the benefit; nor can there be an honourable gentleman in this house who would wish me to sacrifice his pride and his feelings to my own security. If he has created this fortune he should be the disposer of it, and whatever he may think fit to leave his children, it is from him alone they wish to receive it, for they would rather exist upon the remnants of that property he sacrificed for the public good, than meanly accept a pension from the government, for which they could claim no merit to themselves, which could only reproach them for the desertion of their parent, and serve as a remembrance, of his misfortunes.
—During the many years which I have had the honour to possess a eat in this house, it has seldom, if ever, fallen to my lot, to witness a Claim brought forward with a more ingratiating propriety of manner, than that which has just been introduced by the hon. gent. Indeed, so powerfully has that manner interested my feelings, that nothing but the most imperious sense of my public duty could now induce me to rise as his opponent. It is strictly correct, as my right hon. friend (Mr. Long) has already stated, that Mr. Pitt, upon his immediate acceptance of Mr. Palmer's Plan, did think he had concluded a very advantageous bargain for the country, and that he did also think the inventor of the Plan intitled to the perfect fulfilment of his Agreement for that great, and growing benefit which the country, through his ingenuity, had obtained. But, if I concede this much to one side of the question, I feel myself equally bound to assert upon the other, that it was 227 Mr. Pitt's original and unchanging sentiment, that this bargain (such as it was) should be fulfilled strictly, to its utmost extent by both of the contracting parties: so that the benefit of the country might at least go hand in hand with the profit of the individual.—That great and enlightened statesman, my deceased friend (Mr. Pitt), had his country's lasting welfare invariably in view, and being most deeply impressed with that principle, he found himself compelled to cancel that Agreement so far as it lay with him, that posterity (after all the circumstances which had come to his knowledge) might not reflect upon his judgment or his honour for keeping inviolate on the part of government, a contract made with an individual, who had himself notoriously and confessedly infringed upon every principle of duty and subordination. In order to illustrate observations so very strong as I find myself compelled to make, I shall refer only to Mr. Palmer's own letters, to those unpardonable letters, which display a spirit of intrigue, I should hope without parallel among the persons entrusted with the official interests of thecountry.—[Here the right hon. gent. read parts of the Letters referred to by Mr. Long.] After reading this acknowledged proof of Mr. Palmer's mal-practice while in office, I must at once make this general deduction, that as these letters displayed plans pregnant with serious mischief to the interests of the country, and suggested the commission of disorders even in that very department of the Post Office which Mr. Palmer was himself appointed to superintend; I must contend, that as a measure of prudence, nay, of justice to the public, Mr. Pitt could have done nothing short of countenancing his dismissal from office. Then, let me ask, if the facts were so flagitious as to call for his dismissal, abruptly and suddenly, from the exercise of his official duties, were they not still more abundantly cogent to cancel this Agreement? I am persuaded that the house will do justice to the memory of my deceased friend, that truly great man (Mr. Pitt), the justice and unwarped impartiality of whose public conduct was always proverbial, by believing, that nothing but the clearest conviction upon his mind of Mr. Palmer's having forfeited by his misconduct all claims upon government, could ever have induced him to set aside an Agreement to which he had ever become a party.—Indeed, I must contend, that Mr. Pitt acted with signal liberality; 228 nay, I am almost inclined to call it, an intemperate liberality, in allowing Mr. Palmer the very handsome and ample provision which he did: for by the express wording of the Appointment, it must appear, that the percentage upon the increased revenue, was a mere stimulus held out to him for more active and enterprising services while in the execution of a specific official trust, and it was only while he continued to discharge the one, that he could possibly be entitled to claim the other.
§ Mr. Croker.
—Sir; as a member of the Committee whose Report is now under consideration, I beg to offer my opinion upon the present occasion. I have, however, to premise, that there is one point in this Report upon which I had the misfortune to differ from those gentlemen with whom I was acting, though it is but fair to confess that on deciding upon the question, the great body of the Committee were against me.—The point to which I allude is the Claim of Mr. Palmer to the salary of 1500l. per annum, which he contends was a modification of part of those rights which grew out of his Agreement, and not an income attached to his continuance in office.—This, sir, is the only point upon which any difference of opinion arose; for, in respect to the remainder of his Claims, they are established beyond even the shadow of a dispute, and I am really at a loss to imagine upon what possible ground they can be for a moment resisted. —I am afraid, by what has fallen from a right hon. gent, that the amount of the sum claimed in right of this Agreement is the great bar to its fulfilment. Why, sir, it is this very amount that so incontestably proves the merits of the case; for the sum demanded by Mr. Palmer is but a fortieth part of those emoluments which the country have absolutely received from the exercise of his Plan, and which could not have accrued to us without it; and if the documents before the house do not substantiate this assertion, I am content to wave his right to any thing. How then, in the face of such a glaring fact as this, can any objection be made to the performance of a bargain, the fairness of which is universally admitted?—Great stress has been laid upon the Letters which have been read to the house; but I would ask to what do these letters amount? Do they impeach the character of Mr. Palmer? no; for what do the noble lords declare in the Evidence before us? Lord Walsingham being asked by the Committee, "If he had ever. 229 any reason to doubt the personal integrity of Mr. Palmer?" answers, "No; never in the smallest degree I" And, on the same question being put to lord Chesterfield, he desires to abide by the answer given by lord Walsingham; in short, the whole these letters go to prove is, that Mr. Palmer under the influence of vexation could no longer command his temper; but, from beginning to end, they most clearly evince, that the great object he had in view was the good of the public.—It is also to be observed, that these Letters, so much insisted upon, were not the cause of Mr. Palmer's suspension. He was suspended for refusing to deliver a key to one of his own officers, and these letters were not known of at that time, but were written years before, in confidence, to his Deputy, in answer to the complaints this deputy was continually making of the mischievous interference of the Post-Masters General; and they were now raked up out of old disputes, which had long been made up and passed over.—The fact is, the Post Masters General had, in a moment of irritation, so committed themselves by suspending him about this trumpery key, that they were glad to avail themselves of these ex-post-facto-letters, delivered up by a viper, to find another key to let themselves out of the scrape they had got into; so that Mr. Palmer, in the first place, is suspended without any justifiable cause being assigned; and he is ultimately dismissed, because he has been improperly suspended!—I do not for a moment wish to dispute the right of the government to dispense with Mr. Palmer's services; but, it is ridiculous to make his dismissal from office a plea to get rid of his Agreement, because the one has nothing whatever to do with the other.—Sir; Mr. Palmer does not appeal to us as a suspended officer soliciting a restoration to his office; he stands forth as a creditor demanding the payment, of a debt. The great machine for which this debt has been incurred is working at this moment, and will continue to work while this country shall endure, and so long shall we continue to reap the benefits of it, while the very small share of those benefits claimed by Mr. Palmer must cease with his life.—Sir, the whole jut of the affair amounts to this: here is a specific Agreement before us, which the government acknowledge to have entered into; the faith of the country is pledged for the performance of it: and that pledge must be redeemed.—Being of opinion, as 230 I have already stated, that the arrears and continuance of the 1,500l. per annum is objectionable, I shall move for that part of the Resolution to be expunged; but in respect to the remainder, why, sir, his claim to that can be no more disputed, than the possession of an estate which descends by inheritance. If, therefore, any objection should be made to passing this amended Resolution, I shall then vote for the whole, and endeavour to go as near justice as I am able.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer.
—It is with infinite reluctance that I rise upon this occasion, for the task which I have to perform is irksome to my feelings, but at the same time it is so essentially blended with my sense of public duty, that I cannot possibly avoid it; indeed, if any thing could tend more than another, to make an impression upon the house in favour of the petitioner, it is the speech of the honourable gentleman who opened, the debate; for, certainly, it was urged with every point, and enforced with every argument that such a subject could or would endure. It was calculated to impress the house with high respect for the petitioner, and to give very great importance to the discussion of his claims. I really feel myself in an unfortunate predicament, in being obliged to differ widely from the hon. gentleman, and my situation is rendered more irksome, when, as the ground of that difference in opinion, I am forced to assign very disagreeable reasons. I wish to have the house thoroughly apprised, that in case they acquiesce with the claim now before them, their vote will positively substantiate upon the country a demand for no less a sum than 97,000l. immediate payment, and an additional yearly onus of 10,000l. during the life of the petitioner; for such, according to every enquiry which I have made, (and very copious information has been returned to me) would be found the smallest remuneration which Mr. Palmer would be authorised to demand of the treasury, should the grounds of the present petition be admitted, and receive the sanction of parliament. I neither do nor will attempt, to say, that the amount of a debt should ever overturn the justice of it; or that the magnitude of the sum claimed by Mr. Palmer, should operate as any reason for refusing the claim itself if satisfactorily established. But, when the consideration of amount is coupled with the recollection of Mr. Palmer's 231 faulty and disobedient conduct, then I must say, that a pause, a serious and attentive pause, ought to take place before that claim is granted. Let it be understood, that if the vote of this house establishes the present demand, it will go all the length of operating as a most dangerous precedent; for it will go even to the length of rewarding unworthiness; at least, if any judgment is to be formed from the evidence upon the table, and indeed, it is impossible not to form a judgment upon that evidence, and I am free to say, that from the most attentive consideration I can afford to the case, the same reasons which prevailed to dismiss Mr. Palmer from his official trust operated still stronger to cancel the agreement, and to annul it for ever. How was it possible for government to preserve a compact with a man, who was himself violating the main principle of all governments, by industriously fomenting a spirit of insubordination, and holding forth a studied example of contempt and disobedience to superiors in office? Mr. Palmer had been appointed to watch over and protect a particular branch of the revenue, and though his own personal integrity in that situation certainly stood unimpeached, yet the spleen and petulance of his disposition had tended to produce effects nearly as prejudicial, as ever his dishonesty could have done. The principles of gentlemanly honour prevented him, indeed, from practising a fraud himself, but the criminal suggestions of anger and revenge induced him to sanction the fraudulent practices of others, and to encourage the injury of that very revenue out of which he was at the moment vitally supported. Let me ask, how is it possible Mr. Palmer could expect to have an agreement fulfilled between the public and himself, when he was teaching his own deputies in office, how to inconvenience that very public, and how to counteract that very service, and those very resulting benefits, for which he himself was to be so liberally rewarded?—It could not be. For those reasons, the minister was more than justified in cancelling the agreement; for if he had kept any compact with so bold an offender, he would neither have been justified to his conscience, or in the eyes of his countrymen. Mr. Palmer's own letters are an ample proof of his offence.— [The right hon. gentleman here read extracts from the letters, vide (a)] Prom these letters, I must positively contend, 232 that if even the appointment and agreement had passed the great seal, yet upon the production of such testimonials, there would be an abundance of evidence whereon to found a scire facias, and have the patent rescinded. I can confidently appeal to all the gentlemen of the long robe in the house as to the verity of my legal remarks: nay more, if a bill of indictment had been preferred, whether Mr. Palmer might not have been convicted of a conspiracy? Then, will this house for a moment entertain a claim with so impeached and flawed a title? Or will it sanction by its grant the repetition of such dangerous conduct? I feel persuaded that, this house will not. Upon the whole, I do not think Mr. Palmer has any further claim on the justice of this country; and I am certain, that if Mr. Pitt had attempted to countenance his claims, or to have restored him to office, the gentlemen who now advocate the petitioner's case, would have been the loudest in their condemnation of the minister. I am sorry to make any remark that may appear personal to the supporters of the petition, but I must observe, that it will prove an extraordinary encouragement, to the multiplication of claims upon government, if every discontented man, be the nature or expediency of his demands ever so preposterous, can ensure to his support the whole embodied phalanx of opposition, merely because an enforcement of the claim may embarrass his majesty's ministers. In fact, it is hardly possible to attribute otherwise than to party spirit, and a desire, perhaps, to add one single vote to their minority, the conduct of gentlemen on the other side of the house. To every impartial mind it is impossible to detach the reward of Mr. Palmer's services from the contemplation of those services still remaining actively engaged for the public. Both the salary and the percentage had only a reference to Mr. Palmer's official situation. The first was given as a specific purchase of his time and personal attendance, and the other was added as an inciting spur to his genius. Both were clearly intended to stand or fall together, and in my opinion, it is impossible for any ingenuity of construction to disconnect them. Impressed as I am with this thorough conviction, I cannot do otherwise than give the present claim my decided reprobation.
§ Mr. Windham.
—I cannot, sir, at all admit, that the mode adopted in arguing this 233 question, is either a mode suited to the character or functions of this house, or that it is a mode (as has been dexterously pretended) favourable to the interests of the party. It has been said, 'we will agree not to deprive Mr. Palmer of the benefit of what he claims, but upon grounds on which he might have been deprived by Saw; and in so doing, (such is the inference)-we put his cause upon the most advantageous grounds; for, surely, no government or legislature can be considered as acting harshly by an individual, when, in the exercise of its discretion, it only withholds from him advantages, from the possession of which, if actually vested in him, the law itself would have removed him. —Sir, I both deny this inference, and I deny, that the proper way for the house to examine this question, is to enquire how-it would stand, if considered as a point of law. The fact shall be, if the right hon. gentleman pleases, that the terms of the Agreement would warrant the construction which he puts upon them, and that a court of law, following the rules of interpretation which they might think it right to observe, would declare Mr. Palmer's Claim to the percentage to be forfeited, in consequence of the misconduct, which has forfeited his place for life. But, I am yet to learn, that a house of parliament in judging a matter of this sort, is confined to the rules which may be binding on a court of law; or that courts of law may not be bound, on a thousand occasions, and most properly bound, by rules that do not in the particular instance coincide with the substantial justice of the case. Have we never heard of the maxim 'summum jus, summa injuria,' and is there not notoriously, in the system of our own jurisprudence, a provision made for cases in which the decisions of mere law would be contrary to that which justice and equity would prescribe? In fact, the very courts which are meant thus to supply what is defective in others, and to correct those rules which in many cases stand in the way of justice, are themselves subject to constraints from which, in particular instances, they would desire to be free, as leading to decisions different from what would be directed by mere unfettered justice. In the interpretation of Wills how often does it happen, that the property must be made to take a course different from that which the testator himself may fairly be presumed to have intended? What, therefore, would be the sense or justice of taking as a rule for 234 the resolution which this house should come to in a case submitted to its justice and to its liberality, the decision which a court of law might find itself compelled to give, if called upon to say what would be the legal effect of a written instrument conceived in such and such terms? I beg, therefore, wholly to protest against this ingenious turn, by which the right hon. gentleman, conformably enough to the habits of his former life, would take this case out of the general consideration of justice and equity, on which it ought to rest, and put it upon the issue of what a court of law should decide in interpreting the words of a particular grant. We have, not only the words of the grant before us, but the whole of the merits of the case; and it is upon the view of these merits, combined with all that belongs to the character of this house and of the country, that it is becoming and fitting for us to decide.—Three questions present themselves to our consideration; What was the bargain originally made? Has that bargain been made good on the part of government? By what means has Mr. Palmer forfeited his claim to it i—With a view to the last of these questions, it is desirable to say a word or two upon the first, and to recall to the house, what the nature and character was of the bargain originally made. It was not a mere grant to Mr. Palmer of a fixed remuneration formed according to the ideas then entertained of the merit of his Plan, but a reward placed upon the best possible footing on which rewards, in such cases, can be made to rest; namely, such as should make the advantage to the projector rise or fall in exact proportion to the service which he should be found to have rendered—a rule that can be liable but to one objection on the part of the public; namely, that of the proportion having been taken originally too high; but which, if not objected to on that account, (as it never had been), can hardly be objected to afterwards, on account of the absolute profits which, in observance of that proportion, it shall be found to produce. Whatever the fact may be, we shall never venture to avow, that we refuse to make good to Mr. Palmer the reward that was promised, because the advantages of his Plan to the public have turned out so much greater than was expected.—What is said, is, that his Claim has been forfeited by his misconduct; and as this is a plea which has not, in the general nature, of it, any thing 235 to make it incapable of being true, it is necessary that its validity should be examined.—The original engagement made with Mr. Palmer was an allowance of 2½ per cent, to be computed on such increase in the revenues of the Post-Office as could fairly be ascribed to the effects of his Plan. It was a remuneration given for services already performed, and involved in it no consideration of any thing to be done by Mr. Palmer in future. The proof is that had Mr. Palmer at that moment wished to retire into the country, or, from health or liking, or any other cause, declined all further concern with government, there was nothing in the world to prevent him. His bargain was complete, and if his Plan produced any gain to the public he had nothing to do, in order to receive his proportionate part, but either to attend himself, or to furnish to some one a proper letter of attorney.—This was the bargain which unquestionably Government was ready to make with him, and which, I believe, was actually concluded. But it was thought, that a change in part might be advantageously made, and that instead of paying Mr. Palmer wholly in a percentage, part of what he was so to receive might be converted, beneficially to the public and profitably to himself, into an office to be held by him under the Post-Office, and he be enabled thereby to superintend the execution of his Plan, and thus to increase at once the public revenue, and his own profits.—To this Arrangement, nothing could be objected; supposing the equivalent to be justly taken, and supposing always that Mr. Palmer had no objection to being further employed instead of retiring with the fruits of the service which he had already rendered. Nobody could ever have suspected, that by accepting an office and a salary in lieu of part of what was to be paid him in another form—that by converting, as it were, part of his property into an annuity, —he was to alter the tenure by which he held all that was not so converted, and was to exchange what was absolutely his, for a sum, being only in a small proportion larger, which any misconduct of his own, real or imputed, or the mere pleasure of another, might at any moment take away from him. A doubt might not unreasonably be entertained, whether this would be true with respect even to the particular part converted, it might be said, this office was given you partly with a view to future services, but partly with a 236 view to what was passed; and so far as it was a recompence for the past, it ought, if forfeited to be replaced to you in its original form. But, it is perfectly monstrous to contend, as is now done, that in virtue of the small portion so converted, the whole of what was due to him, and what was actually agreed for, should, from that moment, become precarious and contingent, instead of absolute and certain. No such bargain can be admitted but upon the faith of documents expressed in terms the most positive and precise, and leaving nothing in doubt as to the meaning intended to be conveyed. It cannot be left to be inferred or collected, or to stand on rules of technical interpretation, or on the doubtful testimony of persons, speaking as to their opinion of what, was intended at the time, and who however respectable, are themselves very much in the situation of parties. It is not to be believed, but upon proof the most compulsory, that any man of good and sound understanding would make a bargain so disadvantageous to himself. There is no proportion between the price paid and the advantage to be gained. Mr. Palmer by accepting the office proposed, would hope, no doubt, to increase the Post-Office revenue, and thereby, besides the credit which he would gain, to increase his own profits. But what a bargain would he have made, if for the chance of this additional gain, he should have put into jeopardy the whole of what was already secured to him! Yet this is the situation in which the hon. gentlemen contend he had been willing to place himself. You have consented, say they, to be paid partly by a percentage and partly by an office, in other words, to accept an office in lieu of a part of your percentage. From the office you are immoveable, in fact at pleasure, but certainly for misconduct, and as we cannot distinguish between the grounds on which one part of your payment is made, and those on which another is made, but must consider them all as resting on the mixed and joint views of, reward for the past and engagement for the future, whatever has the effect of forfeiting one part must forfeit the whole; and as it is clear, that after such misconduct as you have been guilty of your salary must go, it follows by necessity, and by connection of parts, that however it may have been given you on the principle of a reward, and may have remained in its original form of a percentage, the rest must go likewise. Was 237 there ever so ingenious and satisfactory an argument? Mr. Palmer must feel half reconciled to the loss of all that he thought himself entitled to, when he finds it wrested out of his hands by such a masterly and dextrous piece of logic! The worst of the argument is, that it will do as well the other way, and that if the parts of his grant are so connected, that they must all stand or fall together, it may be asked, why the salary should not follow the law of the percentage, as well as the percentage that of the salary? The percentage, it is plain, was clear reward and nothing else: it was given for service past, and could not well be forfeited, in the circumstances of the case and while the public was actually enjoying the benefit of it, by any thing that should be done afterwards. It would be just as good, therefore, and in fact better argument, to say, that as the salary was in part given as matter of reward, this was a case in which office and salary was not, as in other cases, forfeited by misconduct, but should be continued in part at least, even though the party should have acted in such a way as would have amounted to a forfeiture in any other circumstances. The truer decision however is, no doubt, that the salary was forfeited, and nothing else. Mr. Palmer consented to convert a part of the property which was already his by an absolute and indefeasible right, viz. his percentage, into property of another description, and which it was fair to consider as subject to the condition by which such property is usually held. When he took an office in lieu of a part of his percentage, it might be contended, and not without plausibility, that, he took it subject to all the chances to which such office was exposed: though even there I should be inclined to maintain, that if in the number of those chances, removal at pleasure was to be included, the interpretation would be rather a hard one. But forfeiture for misconduct I should not think hard, even though it involved in it, as it does in the present instance, a loss and punishment to Mr. Palmer beyond that of the mere salary, namely, the loss of all that increase of profit which the possession of the office was likely to produce upon the great body of his income, viz. the percentage, which he still retained. This loss I think Mr. Palmer has fairly incurred in the present instance. But to extend the construction to the whole of what had been given him, and to say, that having turned one part of what he had into sa- 238 lary, the tenure of the salary was to attach instantly on all that remained, is a construction not less extravagant than if you were to extend the same to any property which he held in land or in the funds, which he had derived from bequest, or inheritance, or acquired by his private industry.—It is needless in this point of view to touch upon any topic, even if such there should be, by which the delinquency imputed to him might in any degree be extenuated or excused. Though pleas to that effect are not so entirely wanting as some may suppose, taking into consideration the means employed against him, and the little scruple felt by many of those whose arts he had to encounter, yet it is better in argument wholly to give up their part of the case, and to consider his conduct in office not only as being, what it certainly was, in the highest degree culpable, but as totally incapable of defence or mitigation. All that it is necessary to say is, that the delinquency was not of a sort, as indeed what delinquency is? that could work a forfeiture of rights which had been completed before the crime was committed. The opposers of the Claim, sensible that it was not upon those grounds that resistance to it could be maintained, have had recourse to the terms which, at-a subsequent period, Mr. Palmer had been fain to accede to, when the only option allowed him was between those or none. The mere statement of such an agreement in an answer to any use to be made of it as concluding against the future claims of the party. Mr. Palmer finding himself opposed by men who had all power in their hands, was willing, as most other persons would have been in the same circumstances, to consider rather what he could get than what he might think himself entitled to. The moment the ministry were in possession of the letters, to which to-day also, so much triumphant reference has been made, Mr. Palmer was at their mercy. With such a battery to play off against him, the moment he should set his foot in the house, he could not have stood before them for an instant. He would not have obtained a hearing. The house, it may now be hoped, not being taken by surprise, nor borne down by the long established authority which then ruled it, will be more disposed to listen to reason; and, as one of the first proofs of such a disposition, will never consider an acquiescence on the part of Mr. Palmer in the terms dictated to him, 239 as an admission that what was so offered Was equal to the fair amount of his demands. His consent to accept what was then offered, that is to say, all that he could then hope to get, was not an act that could, with any justice, in my opinion, be quoted against him, as prejudicing any claim which he might otherwise be thought to possess. His claim must remain such as it was originally: and it is upon this Claim that the house is called upon to pronounce; judging, not according to the rules which some have proposed as the guide of its judgment, but on those principles of general equity, which would seem more suitable to the character of a legislative assembly, deciding between an individual and the public. Was the bargain made with Mr. Palmer, originally, an unfair, or improvident one? Was it not, on the contrary, such as the public would be glad to repeat, could the advantages of his Plan be obtained at no cheaper rate? Can it be said with any truth, that a bargain so circumstanced, has been forfeited by his misconduct, however justly that misconduct has forfeited the office which he accepted in lieu of part of it? And if the reward due for service already performed, and of which the public are now enjoying the fruits, cannot well be forfeited by misconduct of a subsequent date, would it be consonant to the justice or creditable to the character of the house, that they considered as a surrender of Mr. Palmer's right, the acceptance on his part of a smaller sum, when the rejection of what was then tendered must be considered as nothing less than a renunciation of all further hopes?
§ Sir John Newport
stated himself to have been a member of the Committee; which had bestowed upon every transaction connected with the case, the most particular and deliberate attention. He then read various extracts from the Evidence detailed before the Committee, upon the face of which he contended that Mr. Palmer's Claim for remuneration was clearly made out and established.
Sir Francis Burdett.
—Since I have been a member of this assembly, I believe it has never been my reproach that I have been found the champion of needless extravagance, or the advocate of a wanton profusion with the public money. Yet, much as I respect the maxims of economy, I am so far from esteeming them paramount to the claims of justice, that I must rise to give the present ques- 240 tion my decided approbation and support. A great deal of personal acrimony has escaped from the right hon. gentleman (the chancellor of the exchequer) and an attempt, rather insidiously, I must think, has been made by him to reduce this question into the narrow shape of a mere party measure. I regret that any thing of this kind has occurred, because in my sincere belief, no case was ever submitted to the consideration of the house, in which party feelings or party canvas has had less connection.—In respect to this case, exclusive of the clearness with which it is made out, I never recollect either to have heard or read of one coming before parliament with stronger recommendations in every respect. In the first place, here is the report of the commissioners of enquiry; next, here is the report of the committee whom we appointed to investigate its merits; and, lastly, here are the digested professional opinions of four of the first legal abilities in the kingdom, namely, lord Erskine, lord chief justice. Mansfield, the present Attorney General, sir Vicary Gibbs, at Mr. Adam—all of these strictly corresponding and representing the claims in so strong and positive a light, that it is almost impossible to add any thing in support of their authority.—To appreciate the merits of this case positively, it may perhaps be worth our while to consider it first comparatively, and to take a retrospective glance at contracts which government have been in the habit of entering into with others. And, really, when I survey these on the one hand, and contemplate Mr. Palmer's agreement on the other, they appear to me so extremely opposite in principle, so strangely different in practice, that I cannot reconcile it to my conscience, even to class them under the same denomination. One striking instance of this inequality is manifest in the contracts respecting the Dutch prize ships, where commissioners for ascertaining the value of the cargoes receive often 5 per cent, on the amount, and actually for not doing one single act of benefit to the public; or in any way whatever deserving such extravagant remuneration. Now, really, when we hear cases like these attempted to be placed in the same scale with Mr. Palmer's, our common reason is insulted. In most of the contracts hitherto made, the advantages of the contractor arise out of the excess in the gross expenditure, which it consequently becomes his interest to aggravate and in- 241 crease, by every possible means; while, in this agreement of Mr. Palmer's, his emoluments are merely to grow out of the net increased revenue of the Post Office in recompence of his plan, whereby the interests of the public are inseparably interwoven with his own.—Sir, I have, in the course of this debate, heard a number of letters read by gentlemen on the opposite side, by way of refutation to the claim; but, I cannot perceive they have any thing to do with the specific agreement entered into with Mr. Palmer; on the contrary, they appear to me perfectly unconnected with it. If, indeed, they can prove by these letters the failure of Mr. Palmer's plan, and that the Post Office revenue has derived no increase from his exertions, why, then, I perfectly agree with them, that the whole affair falls to the ground. Or, should they prove, from any thing contained in them, that the revenue falls short of the stated amount, in that case, I am willing to allow that Mr. Palmer should only be paid to the absolute extent of the advantages which have accrued; and, as far as I understand, it is upon this principle he desires to be judged. But, upon what mode or system of calculation he is to be paid a yearly salary of 3,000l. and his agreement cancelled, I am really at a loss to determine. In fact, sir, the gentlemen opposite seem to be puzzled themselves, in respect to this affair, and shift their position so frequently in the course of the argument, that it is rather difficult to know upon what ground they wish to tight the question; first, it is an Agreement; now, it is not an Agreement; then, we are told of the difficulties of the times, and the necessity of a rigid economy. Sir, I am most sensibly alive to the misery of the times, and no one, I believe, can more feelingly deplore them; but I am so thoroughly convinced of the justice and equity of Mr. Palmer's Claims, and so perfectly aware of the general feeling of the country towards them, that if the gentlemen on the Treasury bench will but do justice to the individual, I am content they should throw upon my shoulders the whole blame of the transaction, and hold me out to the people as the extravagant spendthrift of the public revenue.—Sir, one argument (if it may be so termed) brought forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to me to be the most absurd assertion I ever heard of. The right hon. gent, attempted to persuade the house, that the 2½ per cent. 242 as well as the 1,500l. a year, were both intended and given as a salary incidental to the office of Comptroller of the Post Office, and that both those remunerations should cease with the functions of the office. Now if that were the case, how happens it, that every officer who has been appointed subsequent to Mr. Palmer's dismissal, and has had exactly the same duties to perform—how happens it, I say, that he has not had the same salary? Why, it is evident, because no other officer ever did the services out of office which Mr. Palmer did; no other officer ever added millions to the revenue of the country. Why, then, it is indisputable, that this allowance was granted to Mr. Palmer as a remuneration for having given to the public a Plan replete with every advantage of profit and convenience.
§ Mr. George Johnstone
observed, that the mode of attack adopted by the opposition members that night appeared to him quite of a novel complexion; for he believed that this was the first occasion upon which gentlemen sitting upon the treasury bench had been reproached for a too scrupulous regard of the public money, and held out to the nation as over-cautious misers of the enormous trust reposed in their discretion: and he could not avoid remarking as something additionally extraordinary, that the present advocates for a profuse generosity, were the very persons who were clamouring in every man's ears against the increasing hardships of the times, and the necessity of a reduced expenditure. The two parties seemed completely to have shifted their ground while arguing the present case; for now ministers were violently blamed, merely because they followed these prudential maxims so long recommended by their adversaries. Whatever might be the event of the present question, he must assert, that his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, simply performed his duty, by resisting all doubtful demands upon the public purse, of which that house was the natural guardian, and was bound by every just principle to protect from spoliation with the same anxiety as any individual would his private property.
§ Lord Henry Petty,
after recapitulating and enforcing several of Mr. Windham's remarks, proceeded to state, that leave to bring in the present petition, had been applied for while he held the situation of chancellor of the exchequer; that without pledging himself in the slightest degree, 243 for any support to the case, he had given his consent that a committee should be appointed to investigate and report upon the Claims, because (though at that time he was entirely unacquainted with the justice of the case) he felt that Mr. Palmer had produced such signal and extensive advantage to his country, that any demand he might bring forward for remuneration was at least entitled to an attentive consideration.—Since that period, however, he had seriously examined the mass of Evidence now before the house, and through the whole chain of it, he had found abundance of proof, however the ingenuity of some gentlemen had laboured to distort the plain fact, that Mr. Palmer was entitled, by every tie of honour as well as gratitude, that could be held binding to a nation, to receive the full and entire compensation which he claimed.— With respect to the wild theory affected to be raised in the course of this debate, that the purchase-money bargained for Mr. Palmer's Plan escheated back to government as a forfeit, when they chose to dismiss him from his official employ, it really was too idle and paradoxical to require a serious reply. Let the house, for an instant, draw any parallel case: Suppose an ingenious artificer comes to the board of admiralty; and says "I have invented a machine which shall destroy the French fleet in Brest harbour at a single blow, will you buy it of me for 20,000l.?" The board, after some experiments, are convinced of its efficacy, and agree to the purchase. Afterwards they say to the inventor, "No person can understand the application of this machine so well as yourself, and we wish to engage your personal services to superintend the enterprize. We appoint you to the command of a man of war, and will pay you such an allowance while we retain you in the navy." The inventor never desired this appointment, but he accepts it, he completes the object of the enterprize, and the French fleet is destroyed; but, while this work is about, he conducts himself improperly in his ship, and disobeys the chief in command; the Admiralty immediately dismiss him from the service, and his conditional allowance ends with his employment. So fir all is proper; but would any man be found, who should say this man had not a claim, a just and legal claim upon the Admiralty Board, for the 20,000l. which they had originally bargained fur the purchase of his invention, 244 and which invention had already answered every purpose it had promised to effect? —No, he did not think were was any man in the united kingdom, who would come forward to start so preposterous and dishonest an idea. Now, let the house, at a single glance, compare this imaginary case with the real one, and find, if it could, one jot of distinction between their merits. He really considered Mr. Palmer's case to be so indisputably established, that he would not occupy the time of the house with any additional comments; all the duty that remained to him was to refute in the general face of the house, any insinuation, that the support given to the petition by his friends or by himself, resulled from any thing in the likeness of party spirit. He protested, individually, that he had not conversed upon this case with any of the gentlemen who usually did him the honour to concur in sentiment with him, and that even Major Palmer himself must have been ignorant till that moment of the nature of the vote which he now certainly should give.
§ Sir Thomas Turton
—Sir having myself formed one of the Committee appointed by the house to examine into the merits of Mr. Palmer's Agreement with government, I feel it a peculiar duty to otter my sentiments upon the present consideration of the Report.—Sir; I could wish the house to recollect, that the manner in which this Committee was selected, was agreed to by every one interested for or against the present question, as the fairest and most impartial mode that could be adopted. It was comprised, in the first place, of all the county members, of all the representatives of the great mercantile cities, of gentlemen of the long robe, and of merchants, and I challenge any gentleman in this house to produce from the earliest records of parliament, a committee more qualified to ascertain the merits of the case at issue, or more likely to administer equal justice to the public and to the individual.—Sir; I can boldly aver, that there never was a body of gentlemen who paid a more strict and constant attention to the subject before them, or who went more fully and essentially into the whole of the Evidence during a long and laborious investigation. The result of that investigation is now before you, and they there declare themselves of opinion, "That Mr. Palmer has fully proved his Agreement, and is justly entitled to the sum he claims."—Now, sir, I am far from asserting, that this house is 245 bound implicitly to abide by the decision of its own Committee, because all those who have bestowed as much of their time and attention to this case as the members of that Committee, are certainly as well qualified to judge of its merits; but, sir, as there are, undoubtedly, many honourable gentlemen present, who from the pressure of other business, have found it impossible to go through the printed Evidence before them, I do say, sir, that as many gentlemen as are in their own minds conscious of their want of information on the subject, are bound in honor, either to agree with the Committee which they themselves have delegated, or to give no vote whatever upon the subject—one of these two things I think we have a right to ask of them.—Sir; it appears to me, the whole argument on this subject resolves itself into one plain question; Was there an Agreement, or was there not?—Sir; Mr. Pitt himself acknowledges the Agreement; and I believe no one in this house will question either its fairness or moderation. Mr. Palmer, it appears, was to increase the public revenue by means of a reform and improvement he undertook in the Post Office department. He was to embark his time, his fortune, and his fame in this experiment. If his exertions succeeded, he was to receive a fortieth part only of the emoluments which would in consequence accrue to the country; but, if he failed, (no matter from what cause) government were bound to make him no compensation whatever, either for his time, trouble, anxiety, loss, and the total neglect of all his other concerns in life: even the goodness and the purity of his intentions were not to be taken into consideration; but he was to be left liable to encounter ruin, penury, and mortification as the reward of a mistaken zeal for the good of his country.—Thus, sir, in this extraordinary and unprecedented bargain, the country were to incur no risk whatever. It was morally and physically impossible they could sustain any injury. In the event of failure, Mr. Palmer alone was to suffer the whole of the loss; but, if his Plan succeeded, why then, sir, for every twenty shillings the country was to come into the possession of, Mr. Palmer, the projector and inventor of the means by which these twenty shillings were acquired, was to receive six-pence, and that during his life only.—There is one feature in this Agreement to which I would particularly direct the attention of the house. Mr. 246 Palmer does not, with the prudent calculation of a worldly-minded man, say to the government, "I will organize this Plan, I will prove to you that it is feasible, and having brought you to this conviction, you shall pay me such a specific sum for the invention, and whether hereafter the scheme continues to succeed or no will be a matter of indifference to me." No, sir, Mr. Palmer's language to the minister is this—"The contract submit to you shall not place it in the power of the public to reproach you with having made an improvident bargain: they shall not have it to say, you have extravagantly expended a sum of money upon a projector whose Plan, though successful to a certain degree, is yet very inadequate to the injudicious reward he has received: what I request is this, that at the end of each year an account be taken of the Post Office receipts, and out of this gross sum all the expences incidental to the establishment shall be disbursed, and then, from the clear net monies paid into the treasury beyond the old amount, I demand my percentage of sixpence in the pound." —Here, sir, are no speculative advantages, no ideal emoluments; before the inventor is to be thought of, we are to see these emoluments and to feel the benefit of them; and when we have satisfied ourselves of their reality, and we are absolutely in the enjoyment of them, then, and not till then, Mr. Palmer is to reap the benefit of his Agreement.— Sir, it is upon this principle Mr. Palmer wishes to be judged; produce the Post Office accounts. If we have not benefited by his plan, he has no claim upon us; but if, on the contrary, it should appear, that the country has derived and is deriving an immense annual income from his services, why then, sir, I assert, and I feel confident that the public will bear me out in the assertion, that he ought, in justice and in honour, to be paid up to the amount of his success. Sir; it has been advanced by a right hon. gent, that Mr. Palmer, from disputing the commands of the Postmaster General, was found unfit to retain his official situation in the Post Office; and that by his acting so as to oblige the Treasury to discharge him, he deprived the country of many advantages his continuance in office would have insured to them.—Sir; in the first place, I deny that it was necessary to discharge Mr. Palmer for disobedience to the Postmaster General, because he never acknowledged their authority, but I am ready to admit, with the right hon. gent. 247 that the public suffered materially in a prospective view, from Mr. Palmer's dismissal. But, sir, the right hon. gent, appears to forget, that Mr. Palmer is not asking the country to reward him for the services he would have performed, had he been permitted to give them; he only demands his percentage upon that sum of money which he has actually put us in possession of.—Sir; there can be no deceit, no sophistry in this. You have the money, or you have not: prove the latter and his Claim vanishes. But if you admit the former, it is clearly substantiated. Now, sir, if for the sake of argument, I were to suppose that Mr. Palmer had justly incurred his dismissal, and rendered himself incapable of continuing his services to the public, why, sir, even in this view of the affair, the fault would carry along with it its own punishment, for this agreement so links the interests of the public with that of the individual, that the one cannot suffer without the other bearing a proportionate participation. If the government did not chuse to continue. Mr. Palmer in office, it was a circumstance much to be regretted; but still, they had an undoubted right to select their own officers; and it was at their choice either to retain him or dismiss him. They had the most unqualified right to dispense with his services; but they could not, in honor, or in equity, dispense with his Agreement; unless indeed they gave up all the advantages accruing from it, and reverted back to the old injurious system, from which his talents and perseverance had rescued them.—But it seems on the suspension of Mr. Palmer, the government discontinued the usual payment of his percentage, and settled an annuity of 3,000l. upon him for his life. Now, sir, I should be glad to know by what right the original agreement is to be annulled, and this pension foisted on Mr. Palmer in lieu of it? Did Mr. Palmer consent to this arrangement? No. Did he accept the 3,000l. a year as a compensation for his percentage? No. Why then, sir, the contract on his part remains unbroken, and he is entitled to the full and complete benefit of it.—But, sir, the right hon. gent, has stated, that the 3,000l. a year was rather more than the yearly percentage at that time amounted to; and that it was conceived Mr. Palmer would be a gainer by this arrangement. Now sir, the right hon. gent, must himself be aware of the fallacy of this argument; because he knew that 248 the revenue which the percentage grew out of, was increasing every hour, and that before the next settlement could arrive, Mr. Palmer's percentage would overtake and leave behind it this 3,000l. a year which they now hold up as an advantageous settlement to the projector.—Mr. Palmer was aware, that during the infancy of this system his emoluments would be small; but he looked forward to a progressive extension of them from the increasing commerce of the country, and the facility and convenience which his Plan held out to its correspondence. So, sir, that under these circumstances it is an abuse of words to say that this Treasury manœuvre was played oh' in kindness or even fairness to Mr. Palmer; for in right of his Agreement he would at this time be receiving 10,000l. instead of 3,000l. a year, and this fact is at once the strongest and most incontestible proof of his merit and ability.—But sir, I blush to say, that it was the extent of Mr. Palmer's success, and the almost incredible emoluments arising to government from his scheme, that precluded him from the benefit of his contract. Had Mr. Palmer succeeded in a smaller degree he had been safe, and had five or six other projectors succeeded afterwards in the same proportion up to the present revenue, their separate obligations would all have been thankfully discharged, and the government have congratulated themselves on such provident bargains. But, sir, because one man undertakes a hopeless reform, and after succeeding in defiance of all calculation, carries the revenue he has so reformed, to the climax and acme of perfection, the ministers find out that it is excessively presuming that any one man should dare to make such an impertinent display of his genius and talent, and therefore he is to be paid, not for what he actually has done, but for what it was supposed he might be able to do. During the time this plan was on its trial and its success deemed chimerical, the projector had singly to encounter all the expence, trouble, and fatigue, together with such a hydra train of difficulties as would have driven almost any other man to have thrown up the contract in despair; in the mean time, the government, who were to reap almost the exclusive benefit of his exertions, suffered under none of these vexations, unless in their own imaginations.—But sir, when the persevering ability of Mr. Palmer had triumphed over every obstacle, and crowned his Herculean labours with 249 success, then the government awaken from their idle visions of apprehension, to the solid and absolute enjoyment of an immense revenue, while Mr. Palmer, in his ruined fortune and impaired health, feels the reality of the evils he had to contend against; and the promised reward of his toils, the honest and hard earned fruit of his ingenuity, eludes his grasp, and leaves him only the heart-rending reflection, that his confidence in the word of a minister, his imprudence in imagining that the public faith pledged by him, was an obligation as valid as the written contract of any other individual, have subjected him to this mass of injury and oppression.—But, it is said, Mr. Pitt decided on these Claims. Mr. Pitt was a party concerned. Nor can I (greatly as I esteemed him) surrender my judgment, in a case where the aid of common sense is alone necessary to form it, even to him.—But, sir, it is plain from Mr. Pitt's conduct, and from his Evidence, that he was not satisfied with himself. It is plain he attempted to persuade himself, that by the mode adopted, he was not doing injustice to Mr. Palmer; but he did not succeed. Perhaps this is some excuse to his zealous partizans, whose feelings may be not quite so nice, for their conduct and language tonight.—Sir; there has been an objection urged this night in opposition to the Claims of Mr. Palmer, which I can scarcely conceive the right hon. gentleman serious in offering to the consideration of a British house of commons; namely, the amount of those Claims. Sir, the sum mentioned, 100,000l. has no other foundation but in the unworthy motive of deterring gentlemen by its amount from supporting the motion. Surely it is enough that we have so long withheld from an individual that which is so honestly his due: but that we must make the very extent of this injury a pretence for further injustice! As well might the mortgager who neglects the punctual discharge, of his obligation, resist the settlement of the arrears on the ground of its accumulation. Why, sir, in fairness and inequity, Mr. Palmer has the most unqualified right to the compound interest upon the money so unjustly detained from him; and I assert, without the fear of contradiction, that an English jury would award it to him.—The right hon. gent, has also expressed his apprehension, that if this Claim is once admitted, no future session will pass without similar applications. Sir, I do trust for the credit of 250 the country, that no parallel instance of national ingratitude can rise up to cover any future minister with the shame and disgrace which must accompany it, but if, unfortunately, any such should exist, let them be produced; the sooner we wash from our hands the spots which contaminate them, the more consistently with the honour of the country, and the justice and dignity of this house, shall we act. We must acknowledge, that a gross injustice has been done: let us not then add oppression to injustice, and stifle the cries of the victim with an aggravation of his injuries, and an insult on his feelings.— Sir; I do most solemnly adjure the house to reflect seriously before they come to a decision upon this affair. This is no common debate; it is, thank God, no party question; it is one in which our dearest interests are involved; it is one in which ministers, as the guardians of the public faith, no less than of the public purse, are concerned; and let them beware of impressing this notion on the public, that the word of a minister is less sacred, less to be depended on, less safe, than the contract of the most abject individual.—I beseech gentlemen to consider that it is not only in this house, but out of it, that our conduct to this individual is the subject of discussion and judgment. All are aware of the equity of these Claims. The services of Mr. Palmer are daily and hourly experienced by all ranks and descriptions of people, and I feel satisfied that there is not an individual in the country who would not chearfully subscribe his mite to the discharge of so just a debt.—But sir, I have no fears for the issue of this motion. I feel confident, that the vote of this night will rescue the nation from an ignominious breach of faith, and evince to our constituents, that though justice should be banished and driven from the breasts of ministers, here she will ever find a sacred and hallowed refuge. If ministers know not or neglect their duty, if they violate the principles of justice towards the meanest individual, here they will be compelled to retrace their footsteps; for within these walls, it is not, I am sure, assuming too much to declare, that merit can never want friends, or the claims of justice and integrity successful advocates.
The Solicitor General
(Sir Thomas Plomer) briefly observed, that it was his fixed opinion, that Mr. Palmer could establish no legal claim whatever to any part of the remuneration proposed; but that at all 251 events, however wide a construction the liberality of the house might please to give the Agreement of percentage, it was absolutely impossible for any man professing the least knowledge of the laws of his country, to maintain, that the salary of 1,500l. was to be considered due to him since the year 1793; as from that period to the present moment, Mr. Palmer had remained totally unemployed, and had not discharged any one of the official services for which that salary was originally given.
§ Mr. William Smith
informed the house, that he had been fully acquainted with every particular relative to this business, at the time when the bargain was originally entered into between Mr. Palmer and the minister; and that he could assert from his own positive knowledge, that Mr. Palmer at that time considered himself to be forming an Agreement, which should stand independently upon its own merits, and not be liable to avoidance, upon any personal quarrel or misunderstanding between the parties. And he could also state, that from many communications had with Mr. Pitt, about the same period, he had every reason to believe the minister considered the bargain exactly in the same point of view.
§ Mr. Peter Moore
said it was impossible Mr. Palmer could ever have intended to resign the positive Claim he had under the original Agreement, when he accepted of the appointment, and that it was a duty incumbent upon the country to prevent one of its greatest benefactors from reproaching them, not only with ingratitude but with dishonesty.
§ Dr. Laurence
referred to the Evidence already before the house, for a thorough conviction that the bargain had been regularly and positively made; and thought it would be exceedingly disgraceful to refuse a small compensation for a very large benefit already derived and permanently possessed.—The Question now being called for,
§ Major Palmer
again rose, to state that he had considered it a duty to the Committee in the first instance to frame his motion upon their Report, but, in consequence of the difference of opinion expressed by an hon. member of it (Mr. Croker,) he should beg leave, for the sake of meeting their unanimity, and as far as he could that of the house, to withdraw his motion including the 1,500l. a year, and to substitute the Amendment for the percentage only.
A division then took place on the amend- 252 ed motion, viz "Resolved: That it is the "opinion of this Committee, That Mr. "Palmer is entitled to his percentage on "the net increased Revenue of the Post "Office beyond the sum of 240,000l., to "be paid him from the 5th day of April "1793, and during his life, according to "the provisions of the appointment of "1789, deducting the sum of 3,000l. a year "received subsequent to the 5th day of "April 1793."
|For the Resolution.||137|
|Majority for the Resolution.||—66|
§ The house then resumed, and the Report was ordered to be taken into consideration on Monday the 10th.