This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
Of necessity the methods of accounting and control do not assume a public character until there is a pretty clearly recognised popular interest in the affairs of the State. At one time the Roman treasury under the control of the Censors and in charge of the Quœstors exhibited the features of public economy. But under the Empire the public treasury and the private treasury of the Caesars gradually merged into a single one, and the methods of accounting became that of private rather than of civic housekeeping.
The middle ages were essentially unpolitical, and in that period no system of public treasuries proper was developed, except in the free cities. As we have already seen, there were no revenues collected in the monarchies for a distinctly public purpose until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and consequently there could be no public accounts or public control over the funds.
The constant struggle between the representatives of the people and the officers of the older absolute governments for the control of thepurse led to the development of distinct methods of accounting and control. The most striking feature of the modern systems in European countries is the establishment of the budget, and of the right of the popular representatives to vote taxes and appropriations. In America the right of the legislatures to control the finances was clearly established at a very early date, and little or no advance has been made beyond the crude methods first developed. Most European countries have advanced more rapidly and perfected far better systems. This higher development of the budget in European constitutional governments is explained by the constant conflict between the branches of the government having interests which are theoretically opposed. The modern budget is an outgrowth of the gradual assumption of power by the legislatures, and the corresponding loss of power by the executives. The latter have had to ask for funds, and the former in granting them have insisted upon knowing what they are to be used for, and upon having assurance that they will not be applied in any other way. In the United States, however, both the federal and the commonwealth legislatures suggest, or initiate, financial legislation as well as grant funds. Both of these functions of initiation and of grant being in the same hands, there is no conflict of interests such as has developed the systems of financial statements and legislative control in Europe. The only care in this country is to see that the funds are not appropriated to private purposes, while in Europe there is the desire to prevent the application of the funds to other public purposes than the ones specified.