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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

The Hereditary Revenues

page 145

The Hereditary Revenues.

The ancient Hereditary Revenue? of the Crown are derived from the following sources :—
  • Hereditary Excise
  • Hereditary Post Office Duties
  • First Fruits and Tenths of the Clergy
  • Fines for Writs of Covenant and Entry
  • Post Fines
  • Duchy of Cornwall
  • Land Rents and Fines of Leases
  • Rents and Quit Rents in the Colonies
  • Revenue of Wine Licenses
  • Process and Composition Monies in Exchequer
  • Seizures of Contraband and Illicit Goods
  • The 4½ per cent. Duties
  • Receipts from Hanaper
  • Criminal Fines and Forfeitures
  • Droits of the Crown and Admiralty
  • Casual Revenues

The Crown Land Rents, &c., have been elsewhere alluded to. We shall here glance briefly over some of the remaining items on the list.

Hereditary Post Office Duties.

Charles II. vested the Postal Revenue in perpetuity upon his brother James, Duke of York, and his heirs male, but when this brother became James II. Parliament fortunately altered the terms of the grant, vesting it in the King and his heirs male.

William of Orange gave Schomberg (his Dutch favourite) a perpetual pension of £4,000 a year on postal revenue for his heirs male, and in 1702 it was discovered on the death of this corrupt monarch that similar concessions to the tune of £54,400 yearly had been charged upon the Post Office.

In 1710, a sum of £36,400 per annum, together with a third of all overplus postal revenue beyond £111,462, was reserved by Act for the public disposal.

In 1784 and 1787, farther reservations were made by Parliament, bringing up the total to £154,508 per annum, which sum was ordered to be carried yearly to the Consolidated Fund.

First Fruits and Tenths.

For an explanation of these imposts see pages 151-2 of this Almanack, under head of "The State Church."

Wine Licenses.

James I. created for himself a monopoly tax by licensing Inns and Alehouses. This was annulled for illegality and reimposed by a proper Act of Parliament a few years later. In 1663, Charles II. conferred this hereditary revenue upon his brother, and, eight years afterwards, Parliament bought it back from that grasping individual for—a perpetual pension of £24,000 a year on the hereditary excise. In 1757, George II. transferred the licensing monopoly to the Revenue Department, receiving as an equivalent the annual grant of £7,003 for himself and his heirs and successors.

Seizures of Contraband and Illicit Goods.

Of old a moiety only of the value of these became forfeit to the king, the other moiety accruing to whatever person or persons seized the articles; but frequent changes have left the Crown—at one time two-thirds, at another but one-tenth of the value. From the "king's net share" certain deductions were always payable for various charges of management, maintenance of cruisers, &c., and incidental expenses, so that in 1784 an account of this branch of revenue ran as follows:—
Gross produce of Seizures £204,458
Less Costs of Sale and Condemnation £24,135
Less Net Share of the Officers 74,584
"The King's net Share" £105,739
Less Charges of Management 69,659
Left with Collectors and Solicitor 10,118
Amount paid to Exchequer £25,962

In 1790, 1814, and 1823 modifications alike of the Royal Right and of the Customs Law reduced this Revenue to the vanishing point, so far as it was an appanage of the Crown; and it has now for 60 years been embodied only in the ordinary Customs accounts.

Four and a Half per Cent. Duty.

This was a grant in perpetuity by the Assembly of the Island of Barbadoes, made in 1663, and levied upon all exported produce of the island. It was to be applied to defray the charges of Government in Barbadoes, but down to this day it has been and is grossly perverted, being applied as a pension fund for clergymen and the heirs of favourites of dead sovereigns. £1,620 was last year so bestowed, though it is 46 years since the duties themselves were abolished. But if we go back to the five years ending 1830 we find that from an average gross produce of £45,000 brought in by this duty yearly there had to be paid £27,500 in Court Pensions.

The Hanaper Office.

Here revenue accrues from fees payable on the issue of appointments to certain offices, and on grants and other patents passing under the Great Seal. Its proceeds were chargeable with the maintenance of certain legal and judicial offices. In 1833 the office was abolished, its functions transferred to the Clerk of the Crown, and all fees made payable to the Consolidated Fund.

Casual Revenue.

This included treasure-trove, waif, wreck, chattels of felons, outlaws, persons executed, &c., &c., and up to the time of its surrender to Parliament, on William IV.'s accession, in 1830, had realized £100,000 to £300,000 yearly.

Droits of Crown.

Blackstone enumerates amongst these the rights to Royal Fish (i.e. whales and sturgeons); the right to unclaimed shipwreck, (not including jetsam and flotsam); the Royalty of Mines—which, having its origin in the coinage prerogative, is only applicable to mines of silver and gold. Waifs and Strays (i.e. goods stolen and abandoned, or animals wandering unclaimed); Deodands, or whatever chattel immediately occasions the death of any reasonable creature, to be applied to pious uses—Deo dandum—and Escheats of lands on failures of heirs. There may also be recounted Forfeitures for Treason.

Droits of Admiralty.

These revenues being principally derived from the seizure of enemies' shipping which, through stress or accident, might be driven into British or Colonial Ports, it is needless to say have disappeared from public ken. But in what are called the "Good old days" our Sovereigns profited largely through these droits whenever the nation went to war. For instance, take the Parliamentary Return of 1818, showing 25 years' proceeds under George III., and amounting in total to £8,494,719 12s. 7d. This and much more of Casual Crown Revenue was applied without any control of Parliament, to defray the debts of Sovereigns, or page 146 further the political aims of their ministers, until 1830, when William IV. surrendered the whole of the Crown Revenues for his Civil List. Perhaps it would be a suitable termination to those remarks on Miscellaneous Hereditary Revenue if we give a copy of the following :—

Account of the Total Produce of all Funds at the disposal of the Crown, and deemed not to be under the control of Parliament—from the accession of George III. to the year 1820:—
Droits of Admiralty and Crown (1780-1820) £9,562,614
Four and Half per Cent. Duties 2,116,484
Surplus of Gibraltar Revenues 124,257
Scotch of Gibraltar Revenues 207,700
Escheats in Illegitimacy and otherwise 214,648
Escheats of Alien Enemies' Property 108,778
Sale of Lands in French West Indies 106,300
Revenues of other Colonies while captured 158,816
Colonial Quit Rents and other Casualties 104,865

Duchy of Cornwall.

This valuable estate vests in the Sovereign only until the birth of a son, who is Duke of Cornwall only while Prince of Wales.

Duchy of Lancaster.

This branch of Crown Revenue derives originally from Henry IV. Like other Landed Property of the Crown it is now under the control of Parliament, but unlike others the net revenue pertains still to the Sovereign. The Lands are situate in 22 different counties. To show the increment of value we may simply compare £12,000, the annual net yield to Her Majesty from 1838-45, with £43,000, the yearly average from 1877 to 1882.

Other Items.

The remaining items of Miscellaneous Income do not require explanation.