Document Type

Journal Article


Prior to the nineteenth century the more lucrative public offices under the direct control of the Crown as part of the civil list were given as sinecures to favoured individuals. The use of these sinecures, pensions and other valuable appointments provided the Crown with the means by which it could buy influence and, thereby, undermine the constitutional authority and independence of parliament. In the main, civilian officers of the Crown were not accountable to parliament. Financial accountability for spending on the civil list was sporadic, without sufficient enforcement mechanisms and, therefore, a threat to the liberty of all “Englishmen”.The financial and political strains that the American War of Independence placed upon England, combined with the abuse of patronage privileges by the Crown, provoked a movement for economical reform, most often associated with Edmund Burke, which sought the reform of both the civil list and executive accounts as protections for liberty. Crucial to convincing the government of the urgency of reform were reports from the Commissioners for Examining the Public Accounts.