This poem was published in the Civil and Military Gazette (CMG) on 31 March 1887, with the signature ‘R.K.’ It was reprinted in the Englishman on 3 April. It is included in Kipling’s Scrapbook 3 of his own press cuttings in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections.
The poet mocks the ingenious accounting of Government, which appears to create a surplus by the stroke of a pen. After the first verse, Sir Auckland Colvin, the Financial Member of the Viceroy’s Council, explains all. In verse 2, he makes Two and Two equal Five, which produces a Surplus. In verse 3, he remakes “the suit financial” to last another year. Verse 4 gives an intentionally incomprehensible explanation of his calculations. In The Conclusion he undertakes kindly not to raise Income-Tax as yet; that can wait till next year. His arguments are well-buttressed with Latin tags, which convey an air of scholarly certitude.
Andrew Rutherford (p. 371) explains that the CMG for 28 March had reported on the annual Budget Statement, quoting a Minute by the Financial Member of Council, Sir Auckland Colvin, and had offered this summary of what he had said:
Expenditure has exceeded income in 1885-86, and is expected to exceed it in 1886-87 and 1887-88. These are the bare results shown by the figures, and they are certainly not promising; but then comes in the beauty of Indian finance in general, and of the Famine Insurance Fund in particular. By a piece of very simple manipulation, described as ‘the transfer to loan of charges otherwise debitable to revenue under the head of Famine Insurance’ the account is balanced, and even a small surplus displayed.
The full and complicated Financial Statement was printed in the CMG on 30 March. This was a time when Anglo-Indian households were finding themselves under financial pressure because of the declining value of the rupee. See “Exchange” and “Personal Responsibilities”.
Notes on the Text
(C–LV–N) Sir Auckland Colvin, the Financial Member of the Viceroy’s Council, in effect the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Government of India.
entre nous between ourselves (French).
wideawake a wide-brimmed hat.
ipso facto by that very fact (Latin).
per se in themselves (Latin).
ex necessitate by necessity (Latin).
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