17 FEBRUARY 1855, Page 11


very object of their systems by exaggeration. The very able gentlemen who have laid before Par- liament a plan for the reorganization of the Civil Service are no exceptions to the general rule. They overdo. They propose that which would be a great advantage to the civil servants, but they advance it as if it could effect everything wanted. The result is, not only that we perceive how fallacious is the promise, but we suspect that those who profess to do everything with limited means must misapply their means. The man who tells us that he can feed, clothe, and lodge your family with a Latin grammar, not only provokes a doubt as to his powers for fulfilling the specific contract, but suggests suspicion whether he really knows what can be done with the volume itself. Great enthusiasm in advancing a peculiar project, especially if it lie in its nature somewhat exclusive and refined, betrays the advocate into a course of exposition neces- sarily partial ; and here again the very ground on which he seeks to secure your confidence repels it. The thick octavo blue-book which is to win our acceptance for the reorganization of the civil service thrusts itself before us as evidence that the authors of the system almost prevent themselves from presenting the ease fairly. The very act of whisking open the edges of the 475 pages with your thumb exposes the partisan character which runs through the volume. As the margin in each page flashes past, you see it bare or crowded with marginal notes: where the notes are, the careful editor has been pointing to a statement pregnant with rea- sons in favour of his proposal; where the margin is bare, he passes over texts not less pregnant, but not favourable to him ; and the reader will understand how striking is this distinction when we observe that the communications of Canon Moseley, Sir James Ste- phen, Mr. Waddington, Mr. Rowland Hill, Mr. Herman Merivale, with the exception of mere numerals in the margin of the last, present this difference; although four of these men are distin- guished for their grasp of literary and educational subjects as well as their acquaintance with the public departments. • To a certain extent they all agree : they may be said to allow that a higher standard of education for the public servants on ad- mission would be desirable. The ingenious device, says Mr. Row- land Hill, of a competing literary examination to be so conducted as to test the intelligence as well as the mere attainments of the candidates, and to be preceded by "careful previous inquiry into their age, health, and moral fitness," would be an improvement on the present order of things ; "though it might produce other evils of serious magnitude in its place." "It would plaoe admission and exclusion on an unsound basis," says Mr. Mill; and if a man who is bred in the conduct of one of the improved schools of the present day, and is distinguished as a practical reformer of a great public department, does not understand both sides of that question, from whom are we to expect a complete knowledge P We look to Mr. Hill with the more confidence, became neither he nor any one of his family has shown a disposition to be bound either by routine or by prejudice.

Sir James Stephen classifies the clerks in the Colonial Office; and, speaking of the higher grade, he affirms that "no man of real mental power, to whom the truth is known beforehand, will sub- ject himself to an arduous examination in order to win a post so ill paid, so obscure, and so subordinate."

"Of the six clerks in the Colonial Office in my time whom I should select as the most able of the whole body, three quitted it altogether after a suffi- cient though comparatively short experience of it ; two (by an otherwise unexampled good fortune) were able, by serving in Canada, to obtain dis- tinction, and consequent advancement to a higher rank in the eublic service at home ; and one has found in his literary reputation a more than ample atonement for the obscurity of his official life and labours."

Yet the test proposed by the new plan is one of "literary merit." The candour, as well as the intellectual capacity of Sir James for being a judge of such a question, is attested by the allu- sions which he makes to the mischievous effects of nepotism, and by his admission that he "sustains some personal responsibility on that account." This admission is accompanied by a statement that presents Sir James Stephen in a very highlight.

" My own son, and afterwards my own nephew, were both admitted there as clerks at my request; but I must add, in my own defence, that I with- ' drew my son on finding, after a probation of a few months, that be was not qualified for such a position. My nephew was a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a man of learning and ability ; but, becoming dissatisfied with his employment and his prospects, he, after no long trial, withdrew himself."

Mr. John Stuart Mill, amongst other objections, thinks it "a very questionable principle" to exclude youths otherwise qualified by requiring a medical examination ; and as the members of the public service are not to be prize-fighters, not to be subjected to physical hardships of any sort, we cannot understand the necessity of treating them like recruits for the army. Mr. Cornewall Lewis "doubts not the facility, but the expe. dieney, of applying the principle of competitive examination to the selection of candidates for public offices." Their admission, he al- lows, might be reduced to the simplicity and certainty of an arith- metical problem ; but what then ? What are the first qualities for a public servant P—The first quality is trustworthiness. The clerks of the superior offices have been distinguished by an honour- able secrecy and discreet reserve, depending on " qualities which cannot be made the subject of examination by a central board, or be expressed by marks upon a paper of written answers." This honourable conduct results in fact from a sense of the strictly in- dividual and personal tenure of such offices; and it would be greatly impaired if the successful passing of an examination should confer a species of right on the tenure of office. Should we not have such public servants "appealing to the journals," "stating their whole case," and standing upon their diploma? Mr. Corns- wall Lewis also touches upon a profound truth when he observes, that "a studious life is incompatible with what is called a life of pleasure ; but it is not true that such an amount of study as might enable a clever young man to succeed in such an examination as that now proposed, necessarily, or even presumptively, involves the possession of qualities which render a person discreet and trustworthy." Mr. Lewis might have added, with innumerable examples to attest the remark, that " a life of pleasure" in youth does not disprove the existence of qualities extremely suitable to a life of active business in later years, or to the able conduct of the public service. If it were so, Heaven help our public men !

Mr. Herman Merivale considers that the only measure calcu- lated to attract to the public services first-rate men is so to fix and graduate the emoluments of office as to give the service of the Crown a preference over other professions. In abatement of this remark, we may observe that the certainty of a publics emolu- ment virtually enhances the relative value of the salary. It is quite true, however, that if literary or mathematical attainments do not disqualify for the public service, they might occasion disaf- fection, by constituting " claims " that might be slighted ; while in many cases, as Mr. Merivale says, they would not indicate the qualities really necessary. "I do not think," says Mr. Wadding-. ton, -Under-Secretary of the Home Department—[no marginal notes to the contribution of this strong opponent of the plan !]— " that a competing examination will necessarily produce the best man for the particular duties to be discharged." And Dr. Lyon Playfair—as high an authority as could be found—thinks that Government, instead of charging itself with the education of offi- cials as at Dresden or Carlsruhe, may safely leave the higher special requirements of a department to the usual operation of de- mand and supply.

"In proof of this, no sooner was the fact announced that Government had under consideration the question of testing the intellectual fitness of its ser- vants, than King's College added to itself a Department of Civil Service and Commerce' ; and I understand that in this already about twenty stu- dents have enrolled themselves."

But the crushing critic of the plan is the Canon Moseley; who fears that "one type of education will come to be represented in the administration of public affairs, the idiosyncrasy of one class of minds will pass upon it, and (to use an engineering phrase) it will, eventually, be shunted upon the rail of one class of thinkers." We have already mentioned the illustration—his recalling six Englishmen of European reputation who have distinguished them- selves by special studies, who ought not to be excluded from the public service, but who from the nature of their education would have been excluded by the proposed plan. The project, then, it appears, would not select the men most required, would deter those who are most desirable, and would absolutely exclude the very highest class of candidates.

One of the critics suggests a plan for attaining the diversity of special requirements, which is partly the object of the proposal— namely, a small but special premium, over and above the salary, upon the possession of each additional acquirement. This would operate as an incentive without working as an exclusion.

The objections, it will be perceived, are of a kind which seem to be fatal to the project as a whole. It may be gathered as. the sum of the conviction entertained by those who are not partisans

of the plan, that while an examination for a minimum standard of

qualifications would be desirable, a competitive examination will not have the effect of testing qualities desirable for the service—

would have the effect of introducing into the service men un-

suitable, and would certainly keep out men peculiarly fitted, while it would probably impart to the service, as a whole, more of

a literary than a business or active character. is the same conclusion at which we arrived last week by a shortercut ; we have now stated some of the grounds and some of the highest au- thorities by which that conclusion is supported. It appears to us that the plan can never advance beyond the blue-book stage.