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3-195 (Text)

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author,male,Deniehy, Daniel Henry,32 addressee
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Newspapers & Broadsides
Deniehy, 1884
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It strikes us that the main value of adopting a system of competitive examinations in the public service will reside, after all, in the purging from the great range of subordinate offices the purely political element which has hitherto controlled them. The trading in politics, which has, since the establishment of responsible government, found us so plentiful a supply of demagogues and stump orators, ashamed to beg, except in the office of a Minister, and afraid to work, would find its occupation gone. The town agitators, who supply to what they themselves choose to baptise "Liberalism" its main activities, would scarcely think the chances of office quite so proximate as to suit them, if those chances lay altogether in an examination as to specific competency for the office sought. It would be a poor speculation that for the sort of people who find nothing better to do in a new country than to work daily the oracle of professional agitation. 
Those gentlemen take very little abstract interest in politics, and have very dim notions of the real merits of any of the questions which surround the advances of legislation or the stability of government. Their real object is to lay under obligations this or that parliamentary magnate, and so to invest claims to be honoured when the magnate's season of power shall have arrived. Fitness in the applicant is, of course, neither understood on one side nor the other at all to enter into the arrangement. 
The necessities of party government, however shocking the fact, forbid it. A Minister may hesitate and feel difficulty, from the fear of exposure from an Opposition for the edification of the country at large, when gross moral delinquencies happen to flow through a case of immense political devotion. But intelligence, training, knowledge of the technics of any office, business habits, or any other intellectual requisite, has never hitherto been for a moment held a preliminary indispensable for appointments made at a Ministerial bureau. We know what the consequences of this kind of thing have been in England. 
The governing class, as the noble and privileged inhabitants of the United Kingdom have been called, have looked upon all public appointments as their prerogative and property. The affair has always been of the quality of blood, and not the quality of brain. It is for all the aristocratic intolerance, ignorance, and incapacity of the realm; and when this is provided for, then the creatures and protégés of those who have received shares according to the measure it has held good to mete. But in America - and it seems very likely, unless something is done at once, that we shall have the same here - the thing is, we cannot say essentially worse, but far more dangerous to the interests of society and government, and to that process of the education of public feeling and public principle which the early working of responsible government, in every profound and permanent national sense, mainly effect. At worst the elegant and well-born imbecilities and nonentities of the mother country are kept out of harm's way, and enabled to live as those finer products of the Creator who have never handled any instrument of coarser character than a fowling-piece or a billiard cue should. There is a good deal of injustice, a good deal of hardship in all this, it must be admitted. But it is only men of talent who feel it; and if they cannot push themselves forward in independent individual circumstances, the Colonies are open for them. Political philosophers, sages not alone of Conservative colours, but philosophical writers on abstract polity far removed from the disturbing sympathies of party or even broadly popular politics, tell you in the abstract the country feels nothing of this. The mischief even Mr. Henry Vincent and his Chartist friends, however justly and naturally indignant at the monstrous wrong, would admit was but negative. In America it is positive, and threatens to be so here. 
The late Government, we think, convinced every true friend of the country how all political principle, all idea of right and wrong, and all attempts to consider party action on grounds of public interest, became vitiated, corrupted, and degraded. Men who had in bygone days supported Mr. Cowper, and those with whom he acted, on grounds of sheer principle, began gradually to catch the infection, and yield to the belief that instead of the real task being only commenced, everything as citizens they ought to have done had been done, and now for a share of the scramble. What every one says must be true, says a proverb of equivocal authority. What every one does, argued these men, can hardly be unworthy of a citizen. We have no desire to point anew to what has been done in filling offices of the most sacred character. Enough for us to discuss the system of appointment on its abstract and general grounds, and with reference to its influence on the higher progress of a country just now taking into her hands the management of her own affairs. Two things Mr. Forster's Government can do to make itself memorable amongst public benefactors, and to secure moral and political advantages, with little splendour or pomp about them, but which go deep down into the groundwork of a pure administration, because they go to the very root of human nature itself. In the first place, by some restrictive enactments, binding on their successors, to purge the social and political element from the magistracy, and make it what it should always have been - a purely judicial body. And, secondly, to help towards the abolition of the traffic in appointments betwixt governments and partisans by establishing strict competitive examinations in the public service. A variety of auspicious circumstances enables the present Administration to do this at a much smaller loss of party support than men who, longer in public life, are more or less, from the exigencies of things, committed to the evil that it is. Whatever time may show to be fatal in Mr. Forster's shortcomings, he has two premier qualities for this task, - the want of which in his predecessor, were he a Richelieu, a Mazarin, a Pombhal, or a Peel, would have disabled him from effecting change in an apparatus of government, - courage and honesty.