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Again, the Home Department in England struggles with difficulties of which abroad they have long got rid. We love independent “ local authorities,” little centres of outlying authority. When the metropolitan executive most wishes to act, it cannot act effectually because these lesser bodies hesitate, deliberate, or even disobey. But local independence has no necessary connection with Parliamentary government. The degree of local freedom desirable in a country varies according to many circumstances, and a Parliamentary government may consist with any degree of it. We certainly ought not to debit Parliamentary government as a general and applicable polity with the particular vices of the guardians of the poor in England, though it is so debited every day.
Again, as our administration has in England this peculiar difficulty, so on the other hand foreign competing administrations have a peculiar 'advantage. Abroad a man under Government is a superior being: he is higher than the rest of the world; he is envied by almost all of it. This gives the Government the easy pick of the élite of the nation. All clever people are eager to be under Government, and are hardly to be satisfied elsewhere. But in England there is no such superiority, and the English have no such feeling. We do not respect a stamp-office clerk, or an exciseman's assistant. A pursy grocer considers he is much above either. Our Government cannot buy for minor clerks the best ability of the nation in the cheap currency of pure honour, and no government is rich enough to buy very much of it in money.
Our mercantile opportunities allure away the most ambitious minds. The foreign bureau. are filled with a selection from the ablest men of the nation, but only a very few of the best men approach the English offices.
But these are neither the only nor even the principal reasons why our public administration is not so good as, according to principle and to the unimpeded effects of Parliamentary government, it should be. There are two great causes at work, which in their consequences run out into many details, but which in their fundamental nature may be briefly described. The first of these causes is our ignorance. No polity can get out of a nation more than there is in the nation. A free government is essentially a government by persuasion; and as are the people to be persuaded, and as are the persuaders, so will that government be. On many parts of our administration the effect of our extreme ignorance is at once plain. The foreign policy of England has for many years been, according to the judgment now in vogue, inconsequent, fruitless, casual; aiming at no distinct pre-imagined end, based on no steadily pre-conceived principle. I have not room to discuss with how much or how little abatement this decisive censure should be accepted. However, I entirely concede that our recent foreign policy has been open to very grave and serious blame. But would it not have been a miracle if the English people, directing their own policy, and being what they are, had directed a good policy ? Are they not above all nations divided from the rest of the world, insular both in situation and in mind, both for
good and for evil ? Are they not out of the current of common European causes and affairs ? Are they not a race contemptuous of others ? Are they not a race with no special education or culture as to the modern world, and too often despising such culture ? Who could expect such a people to comprehend the new and strange events of foreign places ? So far from wondering that the English Parliament has been inefficient in foreign policy, I think it is wonderful, and another sign of the rude, vague imagination that is at the bottom of our people, that we have done so well as we have.
Again, the very conception of the English Constitution, as distinguished from a purely Parliamentary constitution is, that it contains "dignified” parts-parts, that is, retained, not for intrinsic use, but from their imaginative attraction upon an uncultured and rude population. All such elements tend to diminish simple efficiency. They are like the additional and solely-ornamental wheels introduced into the clocks of the Middle Ages, which tell the then age of the moon or the supreme constellation ;-which make little men or birds come out and in theatrically. All such ornamental work is a source of friction and error; it prevents the time being marked accurately ; each new wheel is a new source of imperfection. So if authority is given to a person, not on account of his working fitness, but on account of his imaginative efficiency, he will commonly impair good administration. He may do something better than good work of detail, but will spoil good work of detail. The English aristocracy is often of this sort.
It has an
influence over the people of vast value still, and of infinite value forinerly. But no man would select the cadets of an aristocratic house as desirable administrators. They have peculiar disadvantages in the acquisition of business knowledge, business training, and business habits, and they have no peculiar advantages.
Our middle class, too, is very unfit to give us the administrators we ought to have. I cannot now discuss whether all that is said against our education is well grounded; it is called by an excellent judge “pretentious, insufficient, and unsound.” But I will say that it does not fit men to be men of business as it ought to fit them. Till lately the very simple attainments and habits necessary for a banker's clerk had a scarcityvalue. The sort of education which fits a man for the higher posts of practical life is still very rare; there is not even a good agreement as to what it is.
Our public officers cannot be as good as the corresponding officers of some foreign nations till our business education is as good as theirs.*
But strong as is our ignorance in deteriorating our administration, another cause is stronger still. There are but two foreign administrations probably better than ours, and both these have had something which we have not had. Theirs in both cases were arranged by a man of genius, after careful forethought, and upon a special design. Napoleon built upon a clear stage which the French Revolution bequeathed him. The originality once ascribed to his edifice was indeed untrue; Tecqueville and Lavergne have shown that he did but run up a conspicuous structure in imitation of a latent one before concealed by the mediæval complexities of the old régime. But what we are concerned with now is, not Napoleon's originality, but his work. He undoubtedly settled the administration of France upon an effective, consistent, and enduring system; the succeeding governments have but worked the mechanism they inherited from him. Frederick the Great did the same in the new monarchy of Prussia. Both the French system and the Prussian are new machines, made in civilised times to do their appropriate work.
* I am happy to state that this evil is much diminishing. The im. provement of school education of the middle class in the last twenty-five years is marvellous.
The English offices have never, since they were made, been arranged with any reference to one another; or rather they were never made, but grew as each could. The sort of free trade which prevailed in public institutions in the English middle ages is very curious. Our three courts of law—the Queen's Bench, the Common Pleas, and the Exchequer—for the sake of the fees extended an originally contracted sphere into the entire sphere of litigation. Boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem, went the old saying; or, in English, “It is the mark of a good judge to augment the fees of his Court,” his own income, and the income of his subordinates. The central administration, the Treasury, never asked any account of the moneys the courts thus received; so long as it was not asked to pay anything, it was satisfied. Only last year one of the many remnants of this system cropped up, to