« AnteriorContinuar »
ART. V.-ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM.
1. Debates in Parliament on Administrative Reform. 2. Report of the Eraminers appointed for e.ramining Candi
dates for the Civil Service. 3. Merlings and Documents of the Administrative Reform
That Change is the law of our being, is a truism which is enforced upon the mind at every instant of our mortal existence. We live, we breathe, we move in an atmosphere of change, and all things round us bear upon their front the signs and indications of transitiveness and instability. The moment in which we conceive a thought it passes from us, and is succeeded by another and another, ere that thought is developed. The act, however brief, that we perform occupies a succession of time in its accomplishment. The sounds that strike the ear are gone almost ere noted, and are followed by others equally fleeting and unenduring. The objects presented to the eye impress the same idea of mutability by their motion, intrinsic or extrinsic, as the motion and changes of position of the observer himself, and the variations of light and darkness, sunshine and cloud.
Events of public, as of private, life arise, pass on, and others come crowding after them, even like the flowing past of waters; and habit makes us see, without surprise, that the occurrence wbich but now was present has, in a twinkling as it were, become a thing of the past, leaving its place occupied by something else, which, in its turn, passes onward quickly and is gone. The minutes, the hours, have their never-ending, never-staying succession,—the days, the weeks, the months, the years, are ever similarly urging, or being urged forward, and fleeing by us in an endless train. Our fellow creatures change around us, and within ourselves we feel and find the same incessant change—that change to which all creation is subject from its birth, and which nothing in creation can for one moment obstruct or arrest in its decreed and perpetual course.
But if it be forbidden and impossible for man to stay this mighty and all pervading principle, he has, however, a power
reserved to bim in regard to it, of which he can make a large and a noble use, if he have but the intelligence and the will. If, instead of dreaming of a foolish and vain resistance, he foresee in time the inevitable approach of change; if in time he prepare and be ready to go with it, and seize with happy quickness upon the means that shall chance to present themselves of guiding and directing it, all shock and jarring may be avoided, and the movement will proceed easily and naturally, so as to give rather the idea of a developement than that of a substitution or a transmutation.
Happy, then, is the man or nation that recognises, and is prepared in due season to adopt and observe this policy. Pe. culiarly happy is England among the nations of Europe, that it is in the very essence and spirit of her constitution to accept and yield to change when the appointed hour has struck, without being liable to either of the errors which have elsewhere proved so disastrousmiliat of violent and frenzied anticipation, or blind and obstinate resistance. It were a needless waste of time to recapitulate the several instances in which this happy spirit has been displayed — instances multiplied within the memory of the existing generation, and several of them fresh in our minds at this moment. Catholic Emancipation, Parliamentary Reforın, Reform of the Municipal Corporations of the three Kingdoms, abolition of the
Test and Corporation Acts, abolition of the Corn Laws, Free Trade, and (despite of lawyers) Legal and Judicial Reforms of no mean magnitude, such have been, within less than thirty years, the important changes effected happily and beneficially, because taken up in their inevitable time and cheerfully accepted. And now again we see a large political change in progress of acceptationa change not by any means “looming in the future, but actually upon us and being proceeded with as we write. We allude to what its professed promoters complacently proclaim to be the terror of patronage lovers and seekers, the much talked of agitation for ameliorating the system of appointments and promotions in the offices and employments of the state.
“The French Revolution has resumed its onward march !" said the Thunderer of the Press in February, 1848, on the startling, yet not altogether unlooked for intelligence, that the glass-palace-royalty of Louis Philippe, with all its sheen and splendor, had broken into fragments and gone down all at once in shivering ruin before the terrible hurricane of popular
“Reform has resumed its onward march"! do the advocates and abettors of the present Administrative Reform Movement cry out as oracularly and as magniloquently: but it yet remains to be seen if the flaws and cracks they so loudly denounce in the existing structure of our Public Administration, be forerunners of an equally wholesale shattering and scattering, or merely matters remediable at the cost of a little energetic effort, and without a total subversion.
To consider the movement in question, its professed objects, its management, progress, and prospects, is the purpose of our paper; and as the directest way to plunge at once in medias res, we shall set out with the text supplied to us by its chief Parliamentary promoters, and go on thence with its brief but not uninteresting history to the present time.
On the 15th of June, then, in the last year, 1855, we find Mr. Layard, M.P. for Aylesbury, bringing forward in the House of Commons a motion in relation to the subject, couched in the following terms, viz.
“That this Hlouse views with deep and increasing concern the state of the nation, and is of opinion that the manner in which merit and efficiency have been sacrificed in public appointments to party and family influences, and to a blind adherence to routine, has given rise to great misfortunes, and threatens to bring discredit on the national character, and involve the country in great disasters.”
Upon this motion an amendment was moved by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton to the following effect :
“ That this House recommends to the earliest attention of Her Majesty's
ministers the necessity of a careful revision of our various official establishinents, with a view to simplify and facilitate the transaction of public business; and by instituting judicious tests of merit, as well as by removing obstructions to its fair promotion and legitimate rewards, to secure to the service of the state the largest available proportion of the energy and intelligence for which the people of this country are distinguished."*
The distinguished traveller and distinguished author, whose motion and amendment we have now set out, have themselves but accepted the inovement and by no means originated it, or had any part in so doing. Twenty years ago and more, the
Hansard, Vol. 138, M.S. 204., pp. 2041, &c. 1855.
concentration of opinion upon the subjectthat concentration which carries everything in these countries upon which it can be got and brought to bear-had begun, and in the dreary course of the years that have since intervened, neither Mr. Layard nor Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton had made any demonstration even of being aware of what was in preparation. When at length the movement had acquired importance enough to engage parliamentary attention, they adroitly seized upon it, ut mos est, with Parliamentary aspirants to distinction, and have sought to make it their own. Credit may be given to them for their services, present and prospective, but they are not to cheat out of their proper fame the earlier advocates and promoters.
Exactly twenty years ago, in the year 1836, Henry Taylor published a work entitled, The Statesman, in which the following remarks occur :
The far greater proportion of the duties which are performed in the office of a Minister are, and must be (!) performed under no effective responsibility, where politics and parties are not affected by the matter in question, and so long as there is no flagrant neglect or glaring injustice which a party can take hold of, the responsibility to Parliament is merely nominal, or falls otherwise only through casualty, caprice, and a misemployment of the time due from Parliament to legislative affairs. Thus the business of the office may be reduced within a very manageable compass, without creating public scandal. By evading decisions wherever they can be evaded; by shifting them on other departments and authorities wherever they can be shifted; by giving decisions upon superficial examinations,-categorically, so as not to expose the superficiality in expounding the reasons ; by deferring questions till, as Lord Bacon says “ they resolve of themselves ; by undertaking nothing for the public good, which the puòlic voice does not call for ; by conciliating loud and energetic individuals at the expense of such public interests as are dumb or do not attract atten. tion ; by sacrificin everywhere what is feeble and obscure to what is influential and cognizable ; by such means and shifts as these, the single functionary granted by the theory may reduce his business within his powers, and perhaps obtain for himself the most valuable of all reputations in this line of life, that of “ a safe man,” and if his business even thus reduced, strains, as it well may, his powers and his industry to the utmost, then (whatever may be the theory), the man may be without reproach --without other reproach at least than that which belongs to men placing themselves in a way to have their understandings abused and debased, their sense of justice corrupted, their public spirit and appreciation of public objects undermined.Puge 153.
It is one business to do what must be done, another to devise what ought to be done. It is in the spirit of the British Gover na
ment, as hitherto existing, to transact only the former business ; and the reform which it requires is to enlarge the spirit so as to include the latter. Of and from amongst those measures which are forced upon him, to choose that which will bring him the most credit with the least trouble, has hitherto been the sole care of a statesman in office ; and, as a statesman's official establishment has been heretofore constituted, it is care enough for any man. Every day, every hour, bas its exigencies, its immediate demands; and he who has hardly time to eat his meals cannot be expected to occupy himself in devising good for mankind. "I am,” says Mr. Landor's statesman, “ a waiter at a tavern where every hour is dinner time, and pick-a. bone upon a silver dish,”-the current compulsory business he gets through as he may ; some is undone, some is ill done ; but, at best, to get it done is an object which he proposes to himself. But as to the inventive and suggestive portions of a statesman's functions, he would think himself an Utopian dreamer if he undertook them ; and such he would be, if he undertook them in any other way than through a re-constitution and reform of his establishment.”Page 159.
This, then, is the great evil and want,—that there is not, within the pale of our Government, any adequately numerous body of able statesmen; some to be more externally active, and answer the demands of the day; others to be somewhat more retired and medi. tative, in order that they may take thought for the morrow. How great the evil of this want is,—it may require peculiar opportunities of observation fully to understand and feel ; but one who, with competent knowledge, should consider well the number and magnitude of those measures which are postponed for years, or totally pretermitted—not for want of practicability, but for want of time and thought; one who should proceed with such knowledge to consider the great means and appliances of wisdom which lie scattered through this intellectual country, squandered upon individual purposes--not for want of applicability to national ones, but for want of being brought together and directed ; one who, surveying these things with a heart capable of a people's joys and sorrows, their happy virtue or miserable guilt on these things dependent, should duly estimate the abundant means unemployed, the exalted ends unaccomplished, could not choose, I think, but say within himself, that there must be something fatally amiss in the very idea of statesmanship on which our system of administration is based; or that there must be some moral apathy at what should be the very centre and seat of life in a country, -that the golden bowl must be broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern.
Yet such is the prevalent insensibility to that which constitutes the real treasure and resources of the country, its serviceable and statesman-like minds; and, so far are men in power from searching the country through for such minds, or men in Parliament from promoting or permitting the search, that I hardly know if that minister has existed in the present generation, who, if such a mind were casually presented to him, would not forego the use of it rather than hazard a debate in the House of Commons upon an additional item in his estimates.