Page:The Public Records and The Constitution.djvu/37

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
33
AND THE CONSTITUTION

such as these are effected, but they do not thereby undo the history of the past.

Office of the Paymaster-General.The office of the Paymaster-General is also constituted by statute, but also has a history extending back to a time before it assumed its present form. It absorbed the older offices of the Paymaster-General of the Forces, of the Treasurer of the Navy, of the Treasurer of the Ordnance, and others. It is even now practically a branch of the Treasury.


Office of Works and Public Buildings: Commissions of Woods and Forests.The office of Works and Public Buildings, like that of the Commissioners of Woods, Forests, and Land Revenues, owes its existence in its present form to a statute; but the two had a concurrent history before the time of statutes, and beginning with the very earliest accounts of the land revenues of the Crown. When in the first reigns after the Conquest the Sheriffs rendered their accounts, they made deductions for works and buildings, which appear on the Great Roll, and so we find the amounts due for revenues and the amounts paid for works in juxtaposition.

There soon, however, appear other accountants for land revenues, and according to an early statute of uncertain date, which was at one time assigned to the fifty-first year of the reign of Henry III, three surveyors were to be appointed to survey and value the King's wardships and escheats, to look after and improve the rents of the King's demesnes, and to be answerable for the issues at the Exchequer. It also appears that Sheriffs, Constables, and others had been in the habit of obtaining outrageous allowances for the King's works. It was therefore provided that all the viewers or overseers of the King's works were to be competent persons selected by the surveyors on oath.

Somewhere about the time of this statute we also find the accounts of Clerks of Works, of whom, later on, the poet Chaucer was one. Their functions were possibly identical with those of the viewers or overseers