English Public Finance from the Revolution of 1688: With Chapters on the Bank of England

By Harvey E. Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
Revenue and Expenditure
(1688-1817)

DURING the centuries which preceded the English Revolution of 1688, the Englishman had held the reins over his autocratic rulers and had finally won a state of comparative political freedom by his control of the purse.

The King's hereditary revenues were passed on from one sovereign to the next, also those of which it was customary for Parliament to make a life grant at the beginning of each reign. However, Parliament retained absolute control over other sources of revenue which it voted from year to year. Thus, by making it necessary for the King to call them together to vote at least a part of the supplies, the Commons were able to control, to some extent at least, the acts of the King.

When William III consented to assume the responsibilities of the throne in 1688 he expected that the usual grants would be made to him. To this Parliament in part demurred. No change was made in respect of the hereditary revenues, but Parliament declined to make the usual life grants. Instead, the revenues usually so granted were made renewable at the end of four years.

Thus was confirmed, or more properly reasserted, the principle of a short grant of some considerable branch of the revenue with a view to keeping the sovereign dependent upon the will of Parliament.

It is not our purpose to consider in detail the various forms of State expenditure, nor do we intend to take up in detail

-136-

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