WE are by no means worshippers of the past, and think that in most things the present is infinitely better. In one respect, however, we are obliged to admit that there has been real degeneration, and that is in the style of official communications. Not only was the dignity of public life increased by the care with which State documents were once written, but we believe that a greater national efficiency also was preserved by the maintenance of a sound official style. We should like to see a return to the days when, instead of writing : " Dear old Bean ,—You may have thought your despatch was top-hole,but I thought it was rotten," the Head of the Department would write : "The Secretary of State deems it necessary to inform you that in his opinion the despatch forwarded for the information of this Department cannot be regarded as in any sense worthy of the grave events with which it deals. The Secretary of State therefore desires that you will return a more complete answer to the question put to you, and one more consistent with the dignity of the high office which you have the honour to hold."
Perhaps the greatest master of the high official style was Lord 'Wellesley. Chance has lately put us in possession of a letter written by him to one of his political officials in India which may well serve as a model of the way in which a Minister, granted there was real necessity, should administer " a wigging " to a subordinate. On the merits of the particular controversy we have nothing to say, except that the imperious little Viceroy was a man of extraordinarily domineering temperament, and could never help regarding any opposition to his sovereign will as something akin to treason to the East India Company, the Empire, and, worst of all, himself. But once more the style is the point, not the rights or the wrongs of the Chief's castigation :— MY Dram Sea,—I am commanded by his Excellency Ld. Wellesley to communicate to you the observations which the tenor of your late conduct has suggested to his Excellency's mind in the following terms.
The Govern:: General has observed with considerable concern several instances of your assirmption of unwarrantable authority, of the improper tone of your conduct towards the officers of the subsidiary force, and of your correspondence with Major General Wellesley, and even with the commander in chief on the coast. His Lordship is apprehensive that you mistake the nature of your subordinate situation in many points. You will be hereafter subjected to due regulations on these points. I now merely suggest to you that your general tone of authority is disapproved. But his Lordship has viewed with positive displeasure various and recent symptoms of your disinclination to discharge the duties of your office with promptitude, alacrity, goodwill and a cordial spirit of obedience and co-operation.
His Excellency is particularly displeased as your having presumed upon your own opinion, in direct opposition to his Lordship's instructions, to withhold from — the full communication of the treaty of —, and he positively orders you to communicate the whole treaty in the most public manner and without a moment of delay to the— 's Durban
The reasons which you have alleged to justify your disobedience of his Lordship's orders in this instance are utterly unsatisfactory to him, since he has long desired that every article in the treaty of should be accurately known to every Mahratta in India. You will consider this order to be peremptory ; no excuse will be admitted for any further disobedience of it. The Governor General has received from various quarters undoubted intelligence of your having in your correspondence with officers employed in the execution of his Lordship's order° in the Deccan, endeavoured to propagate apprehensions of the existence of a general confederacy of the Mahratta chiefs against the British power, of your having suggested to those officers alarms utterly groundless of the probable return of Holkar's army to Poona before General Wellesley could reach that city ; of your having circulated reports equally groundless of approaching hostilities with the Mahrattas ; and of your having attempted to represent to the officers employed in the restoration of the Peshwa the difficulty and danger of that enterprize, in terms calculated to discourage the spirit of the army and to disseminate fears and doubts to the prejudice of the public service. The inferences to be drawn from the tenor of such a conduct are so unfavourable to you that the Governor General will not discuss the subject on public record until he shall have received from you such explanations as you can furnish to palliate the impropriety of such a departure from your public duty. Such a correspondence was at least highly indiscreet. It will hereafter be the subject of serious enquiry whether indiscretion has been the extreme limit of your misconduct in this crisis.
The Governor General knows that no confederacy has taken place of the nature described in the dangerous reports which you have circulated. His Lordship also knows that such a confederacy is impracticable. You ought to know the facts on which his Lordship grounds these conclusions, and if you have drawn contrary conclusions from those facts you have reasoned erroneously or ignorantly. But to whatever false conclusions your ignorance or your erroneous judgment may have led you, it was contrary to your duty to endeavour to propagate the result of your ignorance and error. Your positive duty in your present confidential station is to confine the expression of your opinion on all political questions in India to your correspondence with the Government, and that duty is more urgent in proportion to the extent of any variation in the tenor of your private sentiments from the course of policy which you are instructed to pursue by the public authority which is pleased to employ you as a subordinate instrument for the execution of its decisions.
The Governor General expects you not only to afford the fullest explanation of the motives of that conduct on which he now animadverts, but to abstain strictly from any correspondence or language of a similar nature to that which you have so improperly used in this important crisis. His Lordship is resolved not to suffer any Agent disaffected to the system of his Government to remain in employment under it. You will accordingly attend to this seasonable admonition. It is entirely contrary to his Lordship's wishes and to your duty to countenance the fears which some of the Mahratta Agents have endeavoured to instil into the —'s Durbar You have long been in possession of sufficient topics of just argument to enable you to combat with emcees the pretended apprehensions of — and of His Highness. The Governor General is of opinion that you have betrayed a disposition to aggravate the mischiefs intended by the Mahratta Agents instead of maintaining with a firm, clear and manly spirit the just cause entrusted to your management. His Lordship views your conduct with the strongest emotions of indignation. In his Lordship's judgment Public Duty, Private gratitude, the Interests of the British power and those of the — are equally violated by the tenor of your correspondence and Language. Your situation is critical. His Lordship never was more intent on the vindication of the rights and interests of his Government against any supposed abuse of either. He will certainly institute a most rigorous examination into every part of a conduct which appears to him to menace such danger to the public service. You will act prudently in endeavouring to afford the most ample satisfaction with respect to your future proceedings. I remain, My Dear Sir, Yours very sincerely,