THE new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, opened the first of what was destined to be a long series of budgets by a speech which, as on subsequent occasions, was singularly excellent in form. He described the year which had just closed as "financially speaking a most remarkable year, the revenue having been greater than in any previous twelve months and, in spite of an expenditure which had been larger than any since the great war, the surplus being one of the largest ever known." All the indications--the credit of the country, as shewn by the rate at which Treasury bills had been floated, the price of Consols, the sum applied to the reduction of debt, the deposits in the Savings Bank, the value of the exports and imports, railway earnings, the return of the Bankers' Clearing-House, the production of gold and the consuming power of the working classes--told the same tale of prosperity.
In this year of records the Exchequer receipts had reached £101,974,000, or £7,290,000 in excess of the previous year, and £5,812,000 in excess of Sir William Harcourt's estimate. The expenditure had, however, been swollen by great supplementary estimates,