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and competent; that the public business of those departments is well conducted; and that their efficiency would not suffer by comparison with that of the army, the navy, or any other service in the state, or with public companies, or large establishments under the management of private individuals.” Mr. H. U. Addington, late Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, considers that the Foreign Office is “ of unsurpassed, if not of unequalled, working power and good conduct;" and says that it is impossible for him to conceive “that a system of Civil Service can be flagrantly and fundamentally bad under which such an office has grown up." Mr. Hawes, DeputySecretary-at-War, “demurs" to the general character of the service which is given in the Report. Mr. Waddington, UnderSecretary of State for the Home Department, is with regret compelled to observe, that “the inefficiency of the Civil Service as at present organized is most enormously exaggerated;" and “ ventures to assert, that the hopeless incompetence described in the Report is rare indeed ; and that competency is the general rule, the exceptions being, not the honourable ones, as stated in the Report, but the dishonourable; and not being numerous, but few.” Sir A. Y. Spearman, late Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, and now holding another post, is equally distinct in the same sense; and the letter of Mr. Arbuthnot, the Auditor of the Civil List, is one long protest against the wholesale condemnation which has been passed.
These cheerful statements are met by others (though less numerous ones) of a contrary tendency. Sir James Stephen says: “ The majority of the members of the colonial department, in my time, possessed only in a low degree, and some of them in a degree almost incredibly low, either the talents or the habits of men of business, or the industry, the zeal, or the knowledge required for the effective performance of their appropriate functions.” Mr. Chadwick says, that he has been assured that, under a particular commission, “out of eighty clerks supplied by the patronage secretary, there were not more than twelve who were worth their salt for the performance of service requiring only a sound common education.” He adds in a note
"A retired officer, writing to me on this subject of lively official interest, says, that a faithful portrait of the parties who have procured appointments in public offices might well be considered a scandalous misrepresentation. Many instances could be given of young men, the sons of respectable parents, who were found unable to read or write, and utterly ignorant of accounts. Two brothers, one almost imbecile. the other much below the average of intellect, long retained appointments, though never equal to higher work than the lowest description of copying. Another young man was found unable, on entering, to number the pages of a volume of official papers beyond ten. It used to be by no means uncommon to have a fine, fashionably dressed young man introduced as the junior clerk; on trial, he turns out fit for nothing. The head of the department knows, from old experience, that a representation of this fact to higher quarters would merely draw down ill-will upon himself; the first official duty with which the young man is charged is, therefore, to take a month's leave of absence that he may endeavour to learn to write."
Mr. Romilly likewise appears to concur generally in the representations of the Report on the same subject; and the following specific statement of Mr. Anderson, principal clerk for financial business at the Treasury, deserves great attention:
" During the early period of my service, the Commissioner at the head of a large department was desirous of introducing improvements in the mode of keeping the accounts of his office, improvements as urgently pressed upon his notice by the defective state of the accounts themselves, as by the increased demands of Parliament for information which his books could imperfectly supply. Having had some experience himself, before he was appointed to oflice, of the system by which commercial men reduce to order the large and varied operations of trade, he determined upon applying the principles of that system to the public accounts of his department; but although he had a large establishment of clerks almost wholly employed in the business of accounts to select from, he could not find one who was sufficiently conversant with the scientific principles of accounts to carry out his plans of improvement. If the system which he proposed to introduce had been one of modern invention or only partially known, such a result might have been accounted for, but it was one which for a long period has been in almost universal practice in this and other countries for all accounts of any magnitude, and which must have been co-existent with commerce itself.
“It must not be supposed that the mischief of admitting ill-qualified persons into departments of account is limited to the inconvenience of a defective plan of account. The security which the system itself ought to provide is supplied by creating departments of check or by other complicated contrivances, which, being further involved by legislation founded upon them, render the public accounts unintelligible to all but the few to whom they become familiar by long practice.”
The Reporters, however, are well aware, that there are other potent causes at work besides the original mental and moral disqualifications of government clerks, which tend to deteriorate the efficiency of the service. They reduce them mainly to three heads: first, the long continuance of mere drudgery imposed on all ; secondly, the system of promotion by seniority, without regard to merit; and, thirdly, the fact, that the highest prizes are given to strangers. We quote their own words :
The character of the young men admitted to the public service depends chiefly upon the discretion with which the heads of departments, and others who are entrusted with the distribution of patronage, exercise that privilege. In those cases in which the patronage of departments belongs to their chief for the time being, the appointments which it commonly falls to his lot to make are either those of junior clerks, to whom no very important duties are in the first instance to be assigned, or of persons who are to fill responsible and highly-paid situations above the rank of the ordinary clerkships. In the first case, as the character and abilities of the new junior clerk will produce but little immediate effect upon the office, the chief of the department is naturally led to regard the selection as a matter of small moment, and will probably bestow the office upon the son or dependant of some one having personal or political claims upon him, or perhaps upon the son of some meritorious public servant, without instituting any very minute inquiry into the merits of the young man himself. It is true that in many offices some kind of examination is prescribed, and that in almost all the person appointed is in the first instance nominated on probation ; but, as will presently be pointed out, neither of these tests are at present very efficacious. The young man thus admitted is commonly employed upon duties of the merest routine. Many of the first years of his service are spent in copying papers, and other work of an almost mechanical character. In two or three years he is as good as he can be at such an employment. The remainder of his official life can only exercise a depressing influence on him, and renders the work of the office distasteful to him. Unlike the pupil in a conveyancer's or special pleader's office, he not only begins with mechanical labour as an introduction to labour of a higher kind, but often also ends with it. In the meantime his salary is gradually advancing till he reaches, by seniority, the top of his class, and on the occurrence of a vacancy in the class above him he is promoted to fill it, as a matter of course, and without any regard to his previous services or his qualifications. Thus, while no pains have been taken in the first instance to secure a good man for the office, nothing has been done after the clerk's appointment to turn his abilities, whatever they may be, to the best account. The result naturally is, that when the chief of the office has to make an appointment of visible and immediate importance to the efficiency of his department, he sometimes has difficulty in finding a clerk capable of filling it, and he is not unfrequently obliged to go out of the office, and to appoint some one of high standing in an open profession, or some one distinguished in other walks of life, over the heads of men who have been for many years in the public service. This is necessarily discouraging to the Civil servants, and tends to strengthen in them the injurious conviction, that their success does not depend upon their own exertions, and that if they work hard, it will not advance them,if they waste their time in idleness, it will not keep them back.”
Mr. Lingen, Secretary to the Committee of Council on Education, in a very able, but somewhat desponding paper, further illustrates the disadvantages of the Civil Service as follows :
“ The Civil Service, however, differs from private employment in two material considerations :
"'). The active head is not the supreme head.
“2. Neither the active head, nor the supreme head, has his own private fortune or ruin so much staked on the result, as to afford a guarantee against his indulging his own passion or caprice in relation to his subordinates; and, therefore, while justice requires that a certain independence be accorded to the corps in regard to the chiefs, it introduces, nevertheless, a fundamental ground of inferiority in the organization of the public, as contrasted with that of private, service." The following is an extract from the evidence of Mr. Romilly:
It might, however, be expected that when once admitted into the Civil Service, the regulations of each office would be such as to elicit exertion. But this is far from being the case. offices a clerk may be there eighteen or twenty years without its being possible for him to advance himself by any effort of his own. It takes that time to get out of those classes, the promotion in which depends upon seniority alone, into those in which a selection for merit is permitted. The most intelligent and hard-working officer, who never neglects his duty, is exactly in the same position as the ignorant and indolent one who just spoils enough of the stores of the Stationery Office to show that he is entitled to it. Such a system has an obvious tendency to corrupt and demoralise the whole body of civil servants; to make them consider a public clerkship as a public pension-a mere sinecure, where little or no work is to be done, but where regular attendance, and a decent outward show in the presence of superiors, is to be maintained.
* And yet instances to the contrary are numerous; and clerks will be found who have no expectation of emerging from their humble sphere of action, and gaining the reward of their exertions, honestly and energetically performing their duties, day after day, and year after year, in silence and obscurity. But this is not in consequence, but in spite of the system.”
A little fact, contributed by Mr. Herman Merivale, UnderSecretary of State for the Colonial Department, may help to account for the deficiencies complained of by Sir James Stephen :
“In the Colonial Office there are now nineteen clerks, and it will scarcely be alleged that their functions in conducting the correspondence with forty-six colonies are of a very light and unimportant character. It would appear, from the best comparison I can make of their present salaries, varying from £100 to £1000, that twenty years' service is the ordinary time required to attain a salary of £400,”
Notwithstanding the contrarieties of opinion which thus seem to prevail among highly-qualified official persons, as to the characters and merits of their subordinates, we think an attentive reader of the papers before us will be able to gather a pretty correct notion of the state of the case. Any lean and hungry Cassius of a reformer may claim pardon if he desires a less comfortable witness than Mr. Waddington to the truth of the proposition, that “whatever is, is right;" while there is a degree of biliousness and pessimism in Sir James Stephen, (who paints large classes in dark colours, and at the same time treats all suggested remedies in the cynical spirit of a desponding official,) that indispose us to follow his guidance implicitly. We infer, that the offices generally are in a so-so condition, passable where they ought to be good, deficient in energy and life, and not free from the imputation of gross abuse of patronage in particular cases; but at the same time far from being nests of sloth and corruption, and redeemed by many bright, and a great many decent examples, from any general character of actual inefficiency or incompetency. “For the object in view,” says Mr. John Wood, “ it is sufficient to state, that the Civil Service is susceptible of considerable improvement. This assumption is not inconsistent with an acknowledgment of the great talent, industry, and acquirements of many of its members.”
We take first the case of the great mass of inferior officials, such as custom-house and excise officers, and mere accounting clerks. We think that the suggestions of the Report have been somewhat prejudiced by the generality of the phrases used in reference to " literary examinations,” and by the scheme proposed by Mr. Jowett for testing the qualifications of inferior officers. We subjoin proposed regulations extracted from Mr. Jowett's letter :
"1. The examination to be carried on by the assistant examiners. " 2. To consist of reading aloud in the presence of one of them :“Of writing from dictation ;
Of geography; * Of writing a letter, or making an abstract;