IT was on the 2nd May, 1895, that Sir William Harcourt rose to make his last financial statement. The House to which he addressed himself is said to have been the thinnest on record for such an occasion, a state of affairs which was perhaps explained by the growing conviction that the present Parliament could not long survive.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer indeed himself announced, in the course of the debate, that this would probably be the last time on which from a responsible position he would be able to use words of warning against the ever-increasing national expenditure. The defeat of the Government actually took place in the following month, and closed too soon the official career of a statesman who had shewn himself a commanding figure in the fiscal history of this period.
Without any preamble the Chancellor of the Exchequer opened his statement by giving the Committee an account of the expenditure and revenue of the past year. The former had amounted to £93,918,000 and the latter to £94,684,000, leaving a realized surplus of £766,000, as compared with the estimated surplus of £291,000. This surplus, which was, in orthodox fashion, appropriated to the liquidation of the permanent debt under the old sinking fund, more than exceeded the debt created within the year for the barracks and telephones, and the revenue