Two letters on the Commissariat, by Havilland Le Mesurier

A supportive review of an important work by Havilland Le Mesurier, the letters following on from his System for the Commissariat of 1798, from The Critical Review, Vol. 9, 1807.


Two Letters on the Commissariat; written to the Commissioners of Military Inquiry, by Havilland le Mesurier, Esq. Commissary General to the Army late in Egypt and the Mediterranean. 8vo. Stockdale. 1806.

During several years of attentive and faithful service in the commissariat, Mr. Le Mesurier had discovered a variety of errors and abuses which prevailed in that department. These he had made known during Mr. Pitt's former administration; but no notice was taken of his representations and remonstrances, and no reform whatever was introduced, though immense sums of the public money might have been saved by the adoption of such practicable and salutary regulations as Mr. Le Mesurier proposed. But whatever might be Mr. Pitt's merits as a statesman, he was certainly never forward in promoting an economical expenditure of the public money; nor did he ever show any favour to those who pointed out the abuses of office and the means of their prevention. It is in the Commissariat as in other departments, the accounts of the different agents appear sometimes not to have been passed for years, or never passed at all. Thus vouchers could be easily forged, charges made that never were incurred, or increased greatly beyond the original amount; and we all know that where pecuniary profit is to be obtained, all kinds of impositions will be multiplied in proportion to the prospect of impunity. But the sagacity which Mr. Le Mesurier displayed in the detection of frauds in the office of the commissariat, and the honest industry which he exerted in the prevention, were so far from recommending him to the favour of Mr. Pitt, that they rather operated to his disadvantage.

After experiencing marked neglect and multiplied mortifications, he retired from the service in the year 1798. But when Mr. Addington, who seems to have had the good of his country really at heart, came into office, the patriotic virtues of Mr. Le Mesurier were not forgotten, and he was, in October 1801, appointed commissary general to the forces in Egypt and the Mediterranean. On his arrival in Egypt, Mr. Le Mesurier found that even before the walls of Cairo the troops were furnished with biscuit and salt pork which had come from the victualling stores of Deptford, at the price of about four shillings the ration, when soft bread and fresh meat might with a proper commissariat establishment have been procured at the price of sixpence the ration. When Mr. Pitt had succeeded in subverting Mr. Aldington's administration, Mr. Le Mesurier was no longer an object of favour or of patronage. The office of commissary general had become vacant by the resignation of Sir Brook Watson, who had never been an advocate for any economical reforms in the department over which he had so long presided. Mr. Le Mesurier was both in the army and in the commissariat universally regarded as the most proper person to be his successor. But Mr. Pitt rejected the faithful and patriotic servant of the public, whose industry and vigilance had been the saving of so many thousands, and appointed a stranger from the other side of the Atlantic to fill what at the present crisis is a place of so much importance, and on the proper execution of which the success of military enterprize must so much depend. Mr. Le Mesurier's pamphlet well deserves the attention of the present administration; and we trust that they will profit by the wholesome advice which it contains. They are pledged to the most upright and economical expenditure of the public money; and we think so well of them as to believe that they will not violate their own solemn engagements, nor frustrate the sanguine hopes of every wise and good man in the united kingdom.

See for example The British Critic, Vol. 19 (1803), p. 613, for a review of Le Mesurier's The British Commissary, in two parts. &c. of 1801.