« ElőzőTovább »
those who frame the examination, and of the examiners, to render it a test of general capability and special acquirements, rather than of literary attainments. But to this subject we shall recur, and here, therefore, it may be enough to state our conviction that examination may be rendered such a test, and if so, the commissioners were justified in proposing it as the best means of providing suitable men for the public service.
But if it be, replies Sir G. C. Lewis, why has it not heen adopted for the purpose by private firms and public companies? or why do you stop with junior clerks, and not apply it to the "superior permanent Civil servants, from the Lord Chief Justice downwards ?" why not to municipal functionaries, &c.? To the former question it will, perhaps, be enough to point to the broad distinction that the merchant or banker has an actual personal and pecuniary interest in the appointment of the right man to the vacant place, which may very well be trusted as sufficient to lead him to search for the most fitting person; and that he has also the power of at any time immediately dismissing a servant who proves inefficient or untrustworthy. The same remark applies, though somewhat less strongly, to the case of public companies; but there, in proportion as the personal interest is less direct, the bane of patronage and favouritism is found to a certain extent to prevail. Wherever private interest is concerned, it may very safely be left to take care of itself; but public establishments require the most perfect machinery which can be brought into play as a substitute for individual vigilance and responsibility. With regard to the second question, which Sir G. C. Lewis tranferred, with an air of unanswerable triumph, from his letter to his speech,-If competitive examination be so efficient a means of securing the best men, why not choose by it your Lord Chief Justice as well as your junior clerks ?-one word may suffice. The examination is proposed as a test for untried men. Or if that be not enough, we may add that the Chief Justice is in fact appointed as the result of an open competition of the most satisfactory kind, in which his professional brethren have done their best to get before him.
One other objection remains, and that we must leave unanswered, not venturing to reply on such a subject to so potent an authority. "Did the Romans," asks the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "Did the Romans, the great masters of government and jurisprudence, who are the authors of almost all that is important in practical politics, ever think of appointing their consuls or prætors, or any of the great officers who administered their affairs at home, and carried their triumphant eagles over the whole of Europe, by competitive examination?" And if not, why should we appoint our junior clerks by any such system?
As we have already stated, the Report was drawn up at the request of Mr. Gladstone, and the Government of which he was a member were prepared to adopt its great principle of admission by an open competition, and entirely to give up patronage in reference to the lower civil appointments. They were, however, unable to introduce their Bill before they were driven from power. But they had cleared the way for the adoption of the principle in the English
Civil Service, by introducing it in their Act to Provide for the Government of India. In that Act they at one stroke abolished the much-prized patronage of the East India Directors by throwing open admission to the rich prizes of the Indian Civil Service to the successful candidates in free competitive examination. Their successors in office were unable, even if they were willing, to escape from or long to delay the consideration of the subject. The public mind had by this time become strongly directed to the condition of our administrative departments, civil as well as military, by the state of affairs in the Crimea, and especially by the disclosures before the Sebastopol Committee. The first palpable result of the popular excitement was the formation of the Administrative Reform Association, the public meetings of which, in the provinces as well as London, not only did much to keep the excitement alive, but forced the consideration of the subject upon the Legislature as well as the Ministry; and administrative reform accordingly divided with the war the attention of the House of Commons as well as of the public. A great concession was made to the public feeling by the promulgation of an Order in Council, dated May 21, 1855, appointing a Central Board of three Examiners (since called Civil Service Commissioners), whose duty it should be to examine "young men proposed to be appointed to any of the junior situations in the civil establishments," with a view to ascertain that they were duly qualified as to age, character, and physical capacity, and that they possessed the requisite knowledge and ability for the proper discharge of their official duties. The candidate who passed this examination satisfactorily, it was further directed, was to "enter on a period of probation, during which his conduct and capacity in the transaction of business shall be subjected to such tests as may be determined by the chief of the department for which he is intended;" and he is only to receive his appointment upon satisfactory proofs of his fitness being furnished to the chief of the department after six months' probation. Power is reserved to appoint, without such preliminary examination, to any situation for which there are no prescribed limits of age, a person of mature age, having acquired special qualifications for the appointment in other pursuits;" but the chief of the department is to cause such appointment "to be formally recorded as having been made on account of special qualifications."
This Order in Council embodies the recommendations of the heads of offices as distinguished from those of the Report. It establishes, indeed, a Central Board of Examiners, a stricter system of probation, and a record of appointments made for special qualifications, as suggested in the Report; but these, the first two at least, were adopted by the heads of offices in their comments. It omits the two cardinal points of the Commissioners' plan, free competition and the separation of intellectual and mechanical labour, and it leaves untouched the subject of promotion.
At any other time this Order in Council would have been accepted as a great concession, and the subject would have been suffered to. rest; but in the then state of public opinion it was regarded with suspicion, and it failed to stop the continued discussion of the subject
even in the House of Commons. We can do no more than allude to the debates on Administrative Reform. Though marked by considerable ability (and unhappily disfigured by many personalities), they did not add much to what had already been published, the Report and its accompanying documents furnishing the weapons both of attack and defence. The House, however, affirmed by a resolution the doctrine that there ought to be provided judicious tests of merit by which to secure to the service of the country the largest proportion of energy and ability, and the necessity of a careful revision of our various official establishments; but the practical application of the resolution it was content to leave to "the earliest attention of Her Majesty's Ministers." Enough has since been done to show that it has not wholly escaped their attention. This has naturally enough been chiefly directed to the War Departments. War and Ordnance Offices have been reorganized; political considerations have been directed to be entirely disregarded in dockyard appointments; and, still more, an open and competitive examination has been established for cadetships in the Royal Artillery. A slight, but significant, advance has also been made in respect to the Civil Service. A letter from the Education Committee of the Privy Council, dated October 11, 1855, has been addressed to the Training School at Wandsworth, announcing that the Lord President has at his disposal several supplemental clerkships in that department, and requesting to know whether among the scholars in that school there is a young man whom the master can "confidently recommend as a candidate." It is added that it is intended to enter in a special list about three times as many candidates who shall have been approved on a minimum examination as there are vacancies. These candidates are to be subjected by the Civil Service Commissioners "to a further examination, which will be competitive; and they who are finally placed by the Commissioners at the head of the list as having done best in that competition, will be at once appointed by the Lord President on probation in the usual manner to fill the vacancies." The probation, it is added, "is real and strict, and extends to all the qualifications of a clerk-moral, mental, and physical."
Beyond the immediate circle of Government some progress has been made. The Report on the subject of appointments to the Indian service, drawn up by Lord Ashburton, Mr. Macaulay, Mr. Lefevre, and the Revs. H. Melville and B. Jowett, recommended that there should be two examinations, a general one which should serve as a test of the candidate possessing a fair share of ability, and of his having received a liberal education; and a second special one at which the successful candidates in the first examinations are to be examined in those special subjects in which they have been allowed a year or two to prepare themselves. Success in this second examination is to confirm them as actual servants of the East India Company. The first examination has been held, and the twenty best candidates have been elected probationers. Complaints have been made of the character of the examination which may or may not be well founded, but on the whole it has given pretty general satisfaction. The programme of the second examination has also
been published, and to it grave objections have been raised-chiefly of the departures from the original scheme-which certainly appear to be reasonable; but to these complaints we attach little importance. The character of the examination is, of course, of the highest consequence; but it can scarcely be expected that for either the Indian or the English Civil Service the right scheme will be hit upon at first. The early examinations must be, to a great extent, experimental and tentative. It will only be after many trials and much observation that the proper mean will be arrived at; but the experiment has so far been successful, and already the result of the first examination for the Indian Civil Service has been felt in nearly every college in the United Kingdom.
The Administrative Reform Association has for the present ceased to hold public meetings, but it has just published a "Second Address of the Committee," and the form of "A Bill for Regulating the Appointment of Clerks in the Civil Service," which it proposes to submit to Parliament next session. The Address records "the progress of the movement," and in doing so claims, as it seems to us, for the Association more credit than is justly its due.
"It is idle to suppose," it says, "that these changes, however incomplete, would have been made at all had there been no organized movement for Administrative Reform." The later changes may have been due to this cause, but it ought not to be concealed that the grand principles of the Report-which as yet the Association have not advanced one step beyond, nor indeed seem as yet to have fully comprehended-were enunciated, and to a certain degree (as in the Indian Civil Service) carried into execution long before the Association was in existence. The main features of the Bill are also borrowed from the Report of Sir S. Northcote and Sir C. Trevelyan, though no notice is taken of the fact in the Address. In this Address the Association announces its "leading principle "-the Italics are those of the Address:
"It has been determined upon, as the leading principle of the Association, that the system of patronage shall be brought to an end; that the representatives of the people shall be placed beyond sus picion of subserviency to government or party, in the hope of preferment on their own account, or of places to secure their hold upon constituents; that the control of the Treasury over members of parliament, by gift of appointments, shall cease; and that a system of appointment and promotion, based upon character, merit, and proved fitness, shall be established throughout every department of the public service.
The "Bill is prepared, as a first practical step in this reform." It proposes to enact that admission to junior clerkships in the Civil Service shall be by open and public competitive examinations, conducted by a board of Examiners similar to that proposed in the Government Report and appointed by the Order in Council. There is to be a "series of competitive examinations . . . And the first class of such series shall be framed with a view to ascertain the general qualifications of candidates: and the other classes of such series shall be framed with a view to ascertain the special qualifica
tions required in clerks in particular departments or divisions of the Civil Service." The successful candidate is to be "appointed on probation for one year, but he may be dismissed during such year for incompetency or improper conduct."
As far as it goes there seems to us nothing objectionable in the Bill, but it falls far short of the suggestions in the Report. It is confined strictly, as will be noticed, to appointments. The proposals for separating intellectual and mechanical labour, and for the rigid adoption of the principle of promotion by merit, absolutely necessary items, as it seems to us, in any scheme which has for its object the increase of the efficiency of the Civil Service, are not referred to. These may, however, be reserved for a second Bill, as promotion based upon merit, at least, forms one of the clauses of "the leading principle" of the Association. In the eyes of some portion of the public, who have taken up the belief that commercial men, railway directors, and "the money-making classes” generally would form the best administrators, the solemn pretences to originality of the Administrative Reform Association will appear the height of deep political philosophy. To those who know whence their suggestions are borrowed, they are simply ludicrous.
Thus then at the present moment stands the question of the reorganization of the permanent Civil Service of the country. It will have been seen that we regard the principles enunciated in the Report as the only sufficient ones yet proposed. The thorough examination which the subject has since undergone at the hands of so many of the most competent men in the kingdom has only served, as it seems to us, to make the leading principle more manifestly the one most adapted to accomplish the end in view. In the subsidiary details it can scarcely but be that some defects should have been pointed out, some improvements suggested. For example, we think it plain that the plan proposed for the Indian Service of having a general and a subsequent special examination is much better than the course marked out by the Commissioners for the English service. So again, we think that the danger of a strictly literary examination is undeniable. But, as we said before, the great principles of the Report remains untouched, and they must form the basis of any practical and satisfactory scheme for raising the Civil Service to a condition of the highest possible efficiency.