Paymaster of the Forces

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The Paymaster of the Forces was a position in the British government. The office, which was established 1661 after the Restoration, was responsible for part of the financing of the British Army. The first to hold the office was Sir Stephen Fox. Before his time it had been the custom to appoint Treasurers at War, ad hoc, for campaigns. Within a generation of the Restoration the status of the Paymastership began to change. In 1692 the then Paymaster, the Earl of Ranelagh, was made a member of the Privy Council; and thereafter every Paymaster, or when there were two Paymasters at least one of them joined the council if not already a member. From the accession of Queen Anne the Paymaster tended to change with the government. By the 18th century the office had become a political prize and perhaps potentially the most lucrative that a parliamentary career had to offer. Appointments to the office were therefore often made not upon merit alone, but by merit and political affiliation.[1] It was occasionally a cabinet-level post in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and many future prime ministers served as Paymaster.

The duty of the Paymaster was to act as sole domestic banker of the army. He received, mainly from the Exchequer, the sums voted by Parliament for military expenditure. Other sums were also received, for example from the sale of old stores. He disbursed these sums, by his own hands or by Deputy Paymasters; these payments being made under the authority of sign manual warrants as far as related to the ordinary expenses of the army, and under Treasury warrants in the case of extraordinary expenses (the expenses which were unforeseen and unprovided for by Parliament).

During the whole time in which public money was in his hands, from the day of receipt until the issue of his final discharge, the Quietus of the Pipe Office, his private estate was liable for the money in his hands; and failing the Quietus this liability remained without limit of time, passing on his death to his legal representatives.

The position was abolished in 1836.[1]

Paymasters of the Forces, 1661–1836[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes
References
Bibliography
  • Sutherland, Lucy S.; Binney, J. (1955). "Henry Fox as Paymaster General of the Forces". The English Historical Review (Oxford University Press) 70 (275).