17 MARCH 1855, Page 12


Two answers may be made to the Times and its exposure of the sale of places in the Civil Service, but to make the answer would be to confess something more than the charge. Quoting the Civil Service Gazette, the Times gives four cases in which a douceur is offered for situations under Government : the bribes offered range from 30/. to 10001. ; and the advertisers desire to purchase mes- sengerships or higher posts, with salaries ranging from 80/. to 4001.. or 5001. a year ; in some of the advertisements secrecy is promised, in all of them it is implied. These advertisements are not novelties ; and although they are repeated it does not follow that they are in all cases successful. That they may be so some- times is evident, and it is equally evident that a disclosure is very improbable. How, asks the Times, is the evil to be met ? Such transactions render all parties engaged liable to the criminal law ; but the "little plots" are not likely to be blown upon; so, says the Times, the only remedy we can suggest is a rigid enforcement of the principle acknowledged last session—that to merit alone, proved by examination, shall civil appointments be given. Is not this rather like saying that the only cure for secret vice is public virtue ; and are not the two together, the public enforcement and the private indulgence, neither more nor less than that worst canker of society—hypocrisy ? We can imagine two answers to the complaint, both implying more than a confirmation of the grievance. One is, that there are to be reforms, which, by testing the educational attainments of the candidates, shall supersede the chances of this corruption. But will it do so ? On the contrary, such a reply, admitting the disease, proposes a remedy because it is at hand, rather than be- cause it is applicable ; as Dominic Sampson seizes the first remedy for the fainting julia Mannering. The officials themselves ori- ginate the only plan of administrative reform that is before the country. We admit their earnestness and respect it. We plead guilty to having misconstrued one trait of it. In the blue-book on the subject, all the communications in favour of the Treasury plan are enriched with marginal notes while the telling, the final

arguments against it, by men like notes, Lewis Spearman, Stephen, and others of equal weight, are without those guiding marks ; and we ascribed the difference to the partiality of some editor. That was our mistake. We have been informed on the best authority that the writers themselves supplied the marginal notes ; which thus show a remarkable consentaneity of earnestness on the part of the advocates of the plan. That scholastic exami- nations would attest and detect the business capacity which is wanted in the public departments, we do not believe. The recent disclosures of the Crimea do not show a want of book learning, or even of training in official routine ; but they show a want of that independence, that originality or resource, and that promptness of action, which are developed in real business, but not in academies. The plan preached from the Treasury, then, is more than a con- fession that the official conscience is heavy with self-acknowledged unfitness; it is an admission that the official mind cannot invent a better remedy for the corruption than book learning! For it is corruption, in the closest sense of that word ap- plied to the body politic—a breaking-up of the social organism, such as the Lower Empire and Papal Rome have seen with their declining eyes. The most cogent answer which the purchasers or vendors of place could make to the objections of the Times would be, that the Civil Service is not worse than other services, nor so bad. We do not speak of ordinary inducements or meta- phorical purchase—as the purchase of support for a Minister by a gift of place; but we mean the direct sale of place or function, for private advantage, at public cost. Such transactions are common, from the lowest to the highest. The Parliamentary voter sells his vote, for sums varying from five shillings to five pounds and upwards; the "patron" sells advowsons ; the Government sells commissions in the Army : the only difference is, that the sale of a vote is punishable, that the `sale of offices in the Church is veiled by a certain technical reserve, and that the sale of place in the Army is open and safe —a difference which exactly agrees with the relative wealth of the several classes involved. Why should the sale of places be forbidden ? If a man makes as gallant a soldier though he buys his commission—if a clergyman is equally an angel of grace though he purchases his living—why not a man be as good a Treasury clerk though some lucky gentle- man gets 800/. or 10001. for perceiving; his merits? The defence of Civil Service douceurs from the higher examples of our gallant Army and our reverend Church is complete. That the system can be thoroughly repaired and placed in full working order, without a revolution, Is proved by a sketch of the interior of" dur Government Offices," with a plan of remodelling, which we have seen' and which the public will soon have the op- portunity, of seeing by the instrumentality of Mr. Ridgway. It is there shown that the excessive subdivision of departments and authority destroy, almost punish, individual endeavour at effi- ciency. It is made equally evident, that without breaking up the Departments, the whole Civil Service can be consolidated. The giving of rank and pay "in the Service" would ren- der each man available for any duty on which he might be ordered, in any department for which he might be best fitted. Give the working heads of departments power of reward and punishment, and they will be able to command efficiency,. Check their abuse of that power, by obliging them to make periodical de- tailed reports to their superiors, as in the Army ; let the results—. commendations, promotions, and the graver punishments—be pub- lished; and you have every inducement for efficient service, with- out dismantling a single department or dismissing a single man that does his duty. Reform, then, is possible without disruption.: