House of Commons;
SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, If there is any truth in the report now current, that a sum of money, stated to amount to
£2,000, has been paid as compensation under a late Act to a person who had been previously discharged from the service for misconduct; and, if so,
will he state the date and cause of said clerk's dismissal, and the date and amount of payment of the commutation referred to?
Sir, I regret to say it is true that, owing to a very strange mistake in the pension branch of the Admiralty, a person who had been discharged from
the service by the Duke of Somerset in October, 1861, received on the 13th of June, 1870, a sum of £2,233 9s. as the commutation of a supposed
pension, no such pension having ever been granted. The Treasury and Admiralty have instituted a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this
most extraordinary case.
Hansard 28th June 1870
The Admiralty has lost a man with a real genius for swindling. A clerk was dismissed in 1861 by the Duke of Somerset for misconduct without a
pension. Finding that pensions were to be .commuted, this man applied for the commutation of his own. 'The clerks in the Admiralty Pension Office
considered his application, calculated the price, and finally, after making every inquiry but one, sent him £2,233, with which he removed to America.
'The one question they took for granted, as he, knowing official ways, was sure they would, was his right to any pension at all. No clerk had been
appointed to check that detail.
Spectator 2nd July 1870
Some clever person has done the Admiralty out of £2,233 9s. He wrote to say that he would accept that sum in commutation of his pension. With
exquisite courtesy and promptitude the Admiralty acceded to his terms, and sent him the money. He had no pension to sell. The authorities have ordered
an investigation. The bold and lucky gentleman is reported to have gone to America, but there is no doubt that he will send back the money, by return
of post, if it be explained to him that he has no right to keep it. To doubt this would be to distrust human nature, which is a very wrong thing to
Punch 9th July 1870
I assume that “dismissed for misconduct without a pension” really means “dismissed (without a pension) for misconduct”.
These accounts leave some questions unanswered.
Firstly, what was the aftermath in the Admiralty pension department? Did anybody get the sack?
I suspect not. If checking whether a former colleague had been dismissed for misconduct was not on the list of things to do, that would surely have
been a sufficient defence for the ordinary clerks. The list of things to do would have been drawn up by a manager much further up in the hierarchy.
If the mistake had been serious enough to be politically troublesome, then the responsible minister in Parliament would probably have resigned. I
think this was already becoming the convention.
And what happened to the man and his windfall?
None of our sources even give the man’s name. The two magazines are obviously getting most of their information from the answer in the House of
Commons, but they add the extra detail of “going to America”.
I understand that we need to add a couple of noughts on the end of the figure quoted, and something more, to allow for inflation. So the total would
be the equivalent of about a quarter of a million pounds, in today’s money.
Presumably he would have cashed the cheque as quickly as possible, before catching the train to Liverpool. “How would you like the money, sir?”
“In £100 notes, please.” With a couple of smaller notes and a few coins as well (mustn’t forget those nine shillings).
So what did the man do once he arrived in America? What banking dynasty, what railroad dynasty, what political dynasty, was founded on the unintended
generosity of the British Admiralty?
Or did he blow it all on a swamp by the Mississippi marked on the maps as the new township of Eden, or was he mugged in Broadway?
Does anyone in America claim descent from this man?
Who needs to be sued?
edit on 29-8-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)