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economical reform

economical reform. Demands for government economy have a long pedigree. Christopher Wyvill's Yorkshire Association was launched in 1779 when taxation was biting as a result of the American War. A programme of retrenchment, with the abolition of sinecures, was bound to have wide appeal and was taken up by the Rockingham opposition, partly to embarrass North's ministry, partly to weaken the influence of the crown. The triumph of the campaign was the carrying in April 1780 of Dunning's motion that the influence of the crown ‘ought to be diminished’. The Rockinghams achieved a modest measure of reform when they came to power in 1782: Crewe's Act disfranchised revenue officers; Clerke's Act declared that government contractors could not serve as MPs; Burke's Civil List Act abolished 47 places tenable with a seat in Parliament. Though the campaign faltered after the end of the American War, economical reform was continued by Pitt, whose maiden speech had been on the subject, largely by administrative action. A further drive by Liverpool after the Napoleonic wars led some to argue that government had been fatally weakened. But the difficulties caused to ministers by persistent pruning of places was compensated, partly by patronage in other forms, partly by better party discipline. ‘Cheap government’ continued to be a most popular programme during the 19th and 20th cents. See also place Acts.

J. A. Cannon

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