LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
LORD SALISB1JRY AND THE INDIA CIVIL SERVICE.
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "EPROTITOR.1
shall be obliged if you will permit me to make a few com- ments in your columns on the regulations just issued by the Marquis of Salisbury, in regard to the system of training and selecting candidates for the Civil Service of India.
The new Blue-book on this subject shows conclusively that the disposition of the majority of the authorities consulted is to send our future Indian Civilians to some University for part of their special training. On the equally crucial question of age, Lord Salisbury and the Government have voted with the minority. More than one-half of these authorities are opposed to the lower- ing of the superior limit of age from 21 to 19. By his Lordship's own admission, in his final despatch, dated February 24,1876, the balance of evidence is decidedly against any reduction of age ; and this view is taken by Lord Northbrook, by the Civil-Service Com- missioners, by Professor Jowett, by certain Members of the Council for India, and by other eminent authorities in India. The most striking feature in this closely-reasoned Blue.book is not the pre- ponderance of feeling in favour of the Oxford scheme, but the ex- ceptional excellence of the despatches of quite the junior "Wallahs," who are advocating the maintenance of the present limits of age ; and, I think, the highest justification of the existing system is that the younger members of the Indian Service are called upon to contribute advice and assistance to the Home Government, and can do so in phrases which would become a despatch from any European Embassy.
If this is the outcome of open competition at a mature age, is it advisable to run the risk of instituting a bran-pie of immature schoolboys? For this is what the preliminary investigation would amount to, if the age be fixed at 17 to 19. Swarms of lads would present themselves, as in the Army Entrance Examination, with- out any definite object beyond "getting something to do."
Again, if Oxford life is, in the future, to be an indispensable qualification for Indian life, surely some arrangements can be made to meet the necessity without endangering the present in-
tellectual standard. A boy's "public school" is better than his "Oxford" or "Cambridge," if his residence at the latter is only -to be of a compulsory and transitory character. His last year at echool, say from seventeen to eighteen, is generally worth all the Test, not only to himself, but to the prestige of the school, either intellectually or athletically. Having run through his school course, improving thew and sinew quite as much as anything else, he is ready to do battle with the so-called hardships incident to a `little wholesome "cramming." But once declare that his main chance will expire at the early age of nineteen, and he will get Testless of public school life, anxious at sixteen to be reading with a private tutor, unsettled in everything, and prematurely called -upon to meet the requirements of a severe competitive examination.
Recorded facts go entirely to prove that under the present limit of age the intellectual standard has been maintained, if anything it has, increased lately, and that the health rate is eminently satis- 'factory. By reducing the age to nineteen, we shall be facing pro- apective drawbacks without securing any reversionary benefits, for the gain of an Oxford degree in purely Oxford subjects will not compensate the candidate for inefficiency in the technical _requirements of his self-chosen calling.
That Oxford or Cambridge or any other University should be -chosen as a candidate's place of residence during his probationary period may or may not be salutary to him is an open question ; at all events, two years of special training in any one place ought to be sufficient for the special object he has in view, and no good is likely to accrue to him in after life by inducing him to remain at Oxford three years for the purpose of taking up more tools than he will ever be able to handle skilfully. The best results have 'hitherto been obtained by carefully restricting the studies of pro- bationers to subjects indispensable to their future professional pursuits, and by selecting these probationers from among com- petitors of mature age. Lord Salisbury is in favour of lowering the age for two reasons ; first, because it would be well that un- successful candidates should be free at nineteen to enter on any -other career ; and secondly, that as "the candidates are usually more than five times as many as the vacancies, four-fifths of them must necessarily fail."
On this latter point his Lordship is surely mistaken. The char- -actor of the examination remains from year to year virtually un- changed. Candidates will compete twice, thrice, and though the occasion is rare, even four times, working their way by pro- 43Tessive stages to the selected list. In this way two-fifths ultimately pass. I notice that a writer in a weekly contemporary allows three-fifths as the proportion of successes ; this is incorrect. "The same writer also asserts that candidates will compete as many as five times. This is obviously impossible.
Would it not be advisable to compromise the matter by 'extending the competitive age to twenty, thus consulting the interests both of the present high intellectual standard, and the -future prospects of the youths who fail in the competition? This -would in nowise interfere with the Government proposals respect- ing the fintger training of probationers at the University.—I am,