13 MAY 1848, Page 13


CERTAIN ingenious and philosophical politicians wish to reduce the management of sanatory affairs to the condition of being "everybody's business": They call any attempt to make it the business of an efficient and competent authority" centralization " ; the said centralization being the bête noire of your true John Bull, as something Frenchified and Oriental. John deems centraliza- tion had in itself; and although he is content to enjoy its fruits, he would abolish the thing wherever he could. On " constitu- tional " and theoretical grounds, he would decidedly object to the centralized arrangement of the Solar system : be would like the Earth to set up "on her own hook "; would apply the sound prin- ciple of Laisser-faire to the views and intentions of Saturn or Neptune; and would protest against lunar intervention in the rise and fall of the tide at London Bridge—within the local authority of Lord Mayor and City Corporation.

If we did not go in fear of shocking our stout friend, we should make bold to tell him that centralization is in itself not bad, but good ; that it is an essential in every process of governing ; that it is the correlative and complement of localization. Localized go- .vernment cannot exist without centralized government. The at- tempt to establish it is anarchy. It was witnessed on a grand scale when the Roman empire was broken up—when a common language was lost among the comminuted debris, and when, vil- lage isolated from village, the functions of what ought to have been "self-government " were reduced to self-defence. By a pro- cess of military conquest, larger tracts of country were brought duties of political economy toy. rds aseenorksy t4 -sit kesesr-rta spective rights and merits : but they cannot do without each other.

Our readers will bear in mind two fundamental facts which are not to be omitted from any theory of political organization. One is, that no nation can be governed by itself as a whole till all men are equal in faculties,—a date we should decline to fix even by approximation. Astuteness will always overrule stu- pidity, strength overrule weakness, to the degree in which the active powers of the race exceed its inertia. On the other hand, dulness will always be a drag upon wisdom, inertness upon ac- tivity. The result will be, that the nation will be governed by the sum of those positive ideas and faculties for action which we have formerly, in the aggregate, termed "the dominant power " of the state. In a very low condition of humanity, the ideas being few and contracted, the dominant power will be small, feeble, and precarious ; it will have no extended or vigorous action, and such government as exists will be left to a highly localized form ; as we see in the Negro regions of Africa. There is no formidable amount of centralization there' but a good deal of local "independence," also a good deal of individual slavery, a singularly bad state of sanatory affairs, and other incidents of feeble administrative powers. The powers being so feeble, the scale of possibility is low. The inhabitant of the banks of the Niger has no Somerset House tyranny to deplore; yet somehow he can neither secure" a fair day's wages for a fair clay's work," nor breathe a good air, nor enjoy the free use of his limbs, half so well as if he had a little centralization to protect and develop his faculties.

The other, fact is, that" the dominant power" will always grow with the development of the faculties of those who coin pose the nation, so that the government will be most powerful in the most highly civilized and enlightened nation ; although it does not follow that its power will be proportionately felt in the form of "restriction." Quite the reverse : compare the public administration of any countries, from the beginning of history, and you will see that the growth of real power is accompanied by an immense development of the powers of all citizens to pro- mote their own comfort and interests.

What is often condemned as " centralized " power, is " in- dividualized " power,—a very different thing. Power is highly individualized in despotical countries—as in Russia ; but its centralization is very imperfect, and the power which is central- ized is feeble. Russia, with all its natural resources and faculties, is not by many degrees so much held " in hand" by its Govern- ment as England is : although the one indivividual who is Em- peror is free to indulge personal caprices which our constitutional Monarch cannot, yet the whole Government of Russia is utterly incapable of many things that are matters of course with us. The faculties and resources of the English are more highly developed; by various means of intercourse they are more brought together, and all the governing influences of the country: are more com- pletely "centralized." Thus, the power and influence of all England are available for the protection and assistance of every part ; which is so little the case in Russia that every part is at the mercy of one individual. The power of the English Govern- ment is too gigantic for the grasp of any individual. Perhaps the happy working of "our glorious constitution" has been less owing to the political compromise which it involves than to it combining in a singular degree popular sanction and cooperation with centralized power.

We have distinguished between the power and the machinery by which it is applied. Those who object to centralization of power often mean no more than to say that an inappropriate machinery is employed. That machinery is the best which pos- sesses the largest amount of real power for its object. Where the motives to activity are very widely and equably diffused, a highly localized machinery will be the best for giving the direct- eat effects to those motives. Where the motives belong rather to the asgregated sense of the community, a highly centralized machinery is the best. The same distinction applies to different parts of the same process : general objects and principles are settled at the centre, details are worked in each part of the circle : Parliament determines the principles of the poor-assessment; the parish assesses the rates according to the local knowledge re- specting individual property ; and so on. In rude communities the authority is of necessity more cen- trical; and likewise in matters respecting which the general knowledge is rude the authority is necessarily centrical, the full motive power residing in the comparatively few. Such is the case of sanatory reform ; although the general purpose obtains general sanction, and would obtain general cooperation, the spe- cific knowledge, and the cogency of motive which results from specific knowledge, are confined to few. Chemistry is daily ma- king discoveries that attest the infancy of the science ; electrical chemistry has but been opened to the gaze of that astonishment which is "the effect of novelty upon ignorance " ; and it is an idea which obtains among the most accomplished and philo- sophical students, that we are on the eve of great cardinal dis- coveries. In pursuits guided by sciences so new, the motive and directing authority must be centrical, in order to give the direct- eat effect to the purpose and bring to bear upon it the greatest efficiency : the machinery must be one of a centralized form. It does not follow that the details might not be administered under a localized machinery. The general purpose, however, is medialtlt—none so bad as that really fatal error under which we now labour, the total want of auy- efficient system to guard the public health by means within the public control.