« PreviousContinue »
now make their "confessions?" Why do they now, casting off their disguises, denounce a contest which they evoked, and a war which they themselves declared? We need hardly say it is from no excess of honesty. These men are wily calculators,though they sometimes outwit themselves. It is because they now begin to feel the dilemma in which their frustrated policy has placed us. They have steered the ship aground, and now run off at the sight of the breakers. They staked all upon preserving peace with Russia. It was their very sycophancy to that Power that tempted it to commence its aggressions. It was their tenderness towards Russia that made them spoil a campaign, and that kept off from us allies. It was the favourable terms they offered her that at length occasioned their ejection from office. And now their policy notably a failurepeace impossible, but the wasted past unredeemable, they see the perils in which their two years of folly and duplicity have involved the empire, and lift up their deceitful voices to protest against the continuance of a war for which they are responsible, and which threatens to be calamitous. The rumour of dissensions in the Cabinet as to whether or not the Na tionalities should be appealed to, shows the increasing embarrassment of our rulers-the now-felt dilemma which the Premier has inherited from his two years' acquiescence in the policy of the Peelites. When the danger culminates, then let the nation remember with whom it originated, When we reap the whirlwind, let them remember who raised the storm. Let them remember who sowed the
seeds, who tended and watered them, until the grain of strife grew up into a tree that may yet cover the face of Europe as with the deadly shade of the Upas. The present cry of the Peelites is but a sham,-their confessions are but a cloak to fresh dishonesty. They recoil from the demon which they have raised-from the danger which they have created. That is all. They know that the nation cannot go back-that the war in its present stage must proceed. Their whole proceedings are just a cunning precaution against the eventualities of the future. They fear lest a time will come when the country, roused by fresh instances of the fatal character of their policy, will break out against them as the authors of the war, and the spoilers of its success; and they now wish to obtain ground for saying hereafter— "Ah, but then we warned you against the war afterwards, and would have stopped it had you let us." Yes; but stopped it how? By humbling England's honour, as they have already lowered her reputation. By alienat ing and mortally offending France, without whose alliance we are now helpless on the Continent. By alienating and sacrificing Turkey; and, in fine, by handing over Europe to the spear of the Cossack, and the thraldom of Russian absolutism. These are now the professed objects of the Peelites. Away with them! Never more let them touch helm or sail of the State. They have brought England to the edge of the reefs, and they have shaken the good ship to its keel. Let us have no more such pilots. A good name is now degraded,―and Peelism is Russianism.
ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM-THE CIVIL SERVICE.
THOUGH War is in itself a great and grievous calamity, it by no means follows as a necessary consequence that its effects may not be, in various ways, beneficial to the nation which has been compelled in a just cause to draw the sword. Forty years of unbroken peace, and of general commercial prosperity, had led many amongst us to entertain the delusive idea that warfare had become a mere phantom of the past, and that its recurrence could not take place in the face of advancing civilization, and the rapidly increasing intercommunion of the nations, which the appliances of art and science have so prodigiously accelerat ed. It was proclaimed as a doctrine, at home and abroad, that mankind were created for no higher functions than to buy and sell-to produce and to barter-and it was gravely and seriously asserted that war, upon a great scale, was impossible in Europe, because no nation would submit to the necessary interruption of its markets. Even now there are in the House of Commons and elsewhere, men who do not hesitate to avow their adherence to the principle of that doctrine-men who are not ashamed to admit that they set less value upon the honour and character of their country, than upon the results of the annual commercial balance-sheet. By such men the caponisms of Mr. Gladstone and his confederates are received with exceeding joy; and they confidently expect, and do not hesitate to avow their belief, that the British people will very soon be clamorous for peace -not because the objects of the war have been attained, but because they will be disgusted with the pecuniary cost, and restive under the interruption of their commerce.
A very short period has gone by since the Peace Society began a formidable crusade against armaments; and had the members of it been allowed to take their own way, we should have been found, at the outbreak of the Russian war, without an army, a navy, or anything approaching to the adequate means oyen for national defence. Nor was
the long continuauce of peace favourable, in so far as the internal arrangements of government were concerned. We find, almost invariably, that it is in time of war, trouble, or danger, that intellect, ability, and public virtue are exhibited in their most remarkable phase. With us in Britain, especially of late years, statesmanship has almost ceased to exist. Under the rule of the Whigs it has come to this, that party supremacy-not the public good-is the main object of ambition; and, in order to secure that supremacy, there has been such an abuse of patronage, and such a departure from rectitude, honour, and duty, as may well give colour to the assertion that the public affairs of Great Britain are worse administered than those of any other country in the world.
Let us ask our Liberal friends, who are old enough to recollect the period when the Reform Bill was passed, whether that measure was not hailed by the great majority of the people as a guarantee for wise, efficient, and economical government for the future-and let us ask them also whether their anticipations have been fulfilled? We put these questions not by way of taunt at what really was a reasonable expectation, but simply for the purpose of urging upon the clear-sighted and intelligent people of this country the necessity of weighing and considering the subject well before committing themselves to the views of rash or designing agitators.
We have heard a great deal lately about the evil effects of class-government; and the undoubted and notorious tendency of the Whigs to monopolize, for one or two favoured families, the whole of the leading offices of the State, has been expanded into a general charge against the whole aristocracy of Britain. It has been said that the right men are not selected for the right places-that talent which might have been most valuable to the country in a crisis like the present, has been overlooked, while mediocrity and dulness have been promot
ed-that the interests of the public, in the great majority of cases, have been sacrificed to nepotism and connection --and that there is an utter lack of that energy, alacrity, and power which the heads of every government ought to communicate to their subordinates. All this, if granted-though it will be stoutly denied by some-is not a charge against the aristocracy, using that word either in its most extended or in its most restricted sense, nor does it convey any reflection upon the constitutional doctrine and practice that the Crown is entitled to the selection of its own advisers. It is simply the repetition of a cry which has been raised from time to time during the last twenty-five years, and always directed against the Whigs, whose consistency, if not unimpeachable in other respects, has been at least amply shown in their adherence to the principle of a strict ruling oligarchy. The Whig Cabinet of which Lord Grey was the head, and which was formed on 21st Nov. 1830, consisted of fifteen members, thirteen of whom were peers or sons of peers, one a baronet, and only one a commoner. The like exclusiveness has been exhibited by that party ever since, and is not at the present moment more glaringly or offensively marked than it has been before; and the means of checking such an abuse of power, if the invariable Whig arrangements can be branded as such, have been all that while within the reach of the House of Commons. It will hardly, we think, be maintained that the majority of that House represents the aristocratic classes, and yet it is by the votes of that majority claiming to be liberal, that the Whigs have been maintained in office. If, therefore, Lord John Russell or Lord Palmerston have been or are to blame for too exclusive arrangements in the constitution of their Cabinets, let the charge be preferred against them, not against the aristocracy. And let those who make such a charge, whether they are members of Parliament, or merely liberal electors, recollect that it is in consequence of their support that the Whigs have been enabled, for nearly a quarter of a century, to rule this country by means of an oligarchy, never conspicuous either for personal
attainments or for administrative ability.
So much for the outcry regarding the constitution of the Ministry. We certainly do not think that at present we have a good or efficient Ministry, and we have stated fully our grounds for entertaining that opinion in the last number of the Magazine. We throw aside all ordinary political considerations, even those relating to finance and home legislation; and we now again warn the people of this country, who are so hot upon the scent of administrative reform, that they are neglecting their own duty as much as the Ministry are neglecting theirs, by not insisting, as the first and indispensable requisite at the present most serious time, that the militia throughout the United Kingdom shall be thoroughly raised, organised, and rendered effective as an immediate means of reinforcement to the small but most gallant army which we have sent to the Crimea, and which at present constitutes nearly the whole of the disciplined force of Britain. God forbid that we should predict disaster; but, after all that we have seen, and all the experience we have had of this contest, it appears to us that we must, in common prudence, prepare ourselves to meet losses of a very severe nature; and we maintain that no adequate steps have yet been taken on the part of Government for enabling us to supply such losses, or to maintain possession of the field on which we have gained a footing at so great yet glorious a cost. We say, that as regards the development of the military spirit of the country, and the raising of men among ourselves to fight our battles and to maintain our national renown, the present Ministry, with Lord Palmerston at their head, have shown themselves sluggards and imbeciles; and we cannot shut our eyes, though many well-meaning politicians seem to have drawn a shade over theirs, to the immediate danger which threatens us from the want of adequate exertion, and from the necessary conse quences of ministerial apathy and confusion.
We ought perhaps to apologise for this last discursive paragraph, which is rather away from the matter under
discussion; but we feel so strongly the exigencies of the times-and are so entirely convinced that the present Ministry have been neglecting, under the pretence of reforming the Ordnance departments, and suchlike secondary matters, the grand point of raising an effective reserve and reinforcement for the regular army-that we not only think ourselves justified in repeating our views, but would feel entitled to introduce them in an article bearing less directly than the present does upon the question of the public service. Let us now return to the point more immediately claiming our attention.
Our main objections to the Palmerston Ministry, whether well founded or not, which is, after all, but matter of opinion, have not reference to its exclusiveness. The dominant majority of the electoral body of Great Britain has been contented to put up with that, and to sanction it, for the best part of five-and-twenty years; and for what they have done and acquiesced in, the aristocracy surely are not responsible. Of all men living, Lord John Russell is most obnoxious to the charge of having narrowed the sphere of government into the small circle of Whig families; and yet that same Lord John Russell has been for a long time the chosen member of the city of London, and the representative in Parliament of the very men who are now exclaiming against exclusive government! If these gentlemen will put up and support the Whigs upon every important occasion-if they think it right to select as their representative the individual who is the very incarnation of Whig oligarchy and exclusiveness-is not it an extraordinary instance of assurance to find them coming forward at public meetings to denounce the system of which their member has been, beyond all question, the leading advocate and instigator? We entirely agree with them in opinion that the invariable Whig method of constructing ministries is bad in practice, and injurious to the interests of the country; but we do not agree with them, that the means of remedying that evil are to be found in popular agitation. Dissect the House of Commons as you will, and poll man by man of it, it is not an
aristocratic assemblage. It represents, in its great preponderance, the middle classes-precisely those which the administrative reformers also claim to represent-and by the votes of that House every ministry must stand or fall. Well, then, the Whigs may say, if your Liberal House supports an oligarchical Ministry, where is your ground of complaint? You first demand a representation on a basis broad enough to insure the supremacy of the middle classes, and you get it. You take part with the Whigs-make them by your votes and support the actual rulers of the country-and then, not suddenly, but after five-andtwenty years' experience, you choose to raise a clamour that they are too exclusive in their ministerial arrangements, and that, in fact, they have jobbed the whole of the public service.
Now we are bound to say that in this the Whigs have the best of the argument as against the administrative reformers, who, if they mean anything, are aiming at some organic change in the principle which regulates the formation of all ministries. We heartily agree in the view expressed by Sir E. B. Lytton: "To judge by the language out of doors, it is not meant to clear away the obstacles that beset the career of a clerk in a public office. No, it is meant to make the Queen's Government make the Ministers of the nation, independent of the influences of party,-in other words, of the opinions of Parliament. Why, sir, if it is meant that the Crown is to appoint to the higher offices, free from the influences of party, from the opinions of Parlia ment, the Crown would become as absolute as it was in the time of the Tudors; and if these agitators against Parliament say, 'Oh no, we do not mean that; we mean that the people are to dictate to the Crown, according to their ideas of merit, who are to be the Ministers of State, through other channels than parliamentary parties-through patriotic associations, and audiences accustomed plausu gaudere theatri,'-I tell them that they root out the durable institutions of liberty for the deadly and worthless ephemeral offspring of Jacobin clubs. But if they say, 'Oh no-we mean neither one nor the other,'
what do they mean-they who are attacking Parliament-except to bring Parliament into contempt, and to trust the choice of a substitute to the lottery of revolutions?" Undoubtedly the arrangements of a ministry may be most objectionable, and the conduct of the affairs of the State may be placed in incompetent hands. But for that exigency there is a constitutional remedy provided. The same power which, in the earlier part of this very year, expelled Lord Aberdeen from office, may be exerted to expel Lord Palmerston; and if from the language held by the administrative reformers we could form the conclusion that their efforts were simply directed towards the displacement of a ministry in which they reposed no confidence, no one, even though he disapproved of their object, could on principle challenge their proceedings as dangerous to the constitution of the country.
that was ever hazarded.
We have thought it necessary to make these preliminary observations, because there is at present a great deal of confusion in the public mind with regard to the various topics which have been dwelt upon by the administrative reformers. We must say that we cannot give these gentle- Then as to the lesser appointments, men, or at least all of them, credit without descending as yet to the great for entire honesty of purpose in their bulk of the civil service. There are, very sweeping and wholesale attacks. besides Ministers, various officers who They denounce not only patronage, are attached to the Ministry, and who but also by implication the preroga- relinquish office along with them. tive of the Crown. Let it be granted Such are the Junior Lords, and Jointthat Lord Palmerston, who accepted Secretaries of the Treasury; the from her Majesty the task of forming First Under-Secretaries in the Home, an Administration, has not performed Foreign, and Colonial Offices; the it with discretion, or constructed it on Clerk of the Ordnance; the President a sufficiently wide basis-that may be and First Secretary of the Poor-law an excellent justification of a Parlia- Board; and a very few other such mentary vote of censure or want of offices, which in fact constitute the confidence against Lord Palmerston whole amount of the shifting political and his colleagues; but it affords no prizes. The whole removable numreason for altering the whole frame- ber, including Ministers, does not work of the Government. It is un- amount to fifty; and we must confess questionably the right of the Crown that we see no reason for insisting to nominate the whole number of its that any change whatever should be Ministers, of which the Cabinet is only made in the method of conferring a section. It is from and after this these appointments. It is not only point that patronage properly com- right, but highly advisable and useful, mences. To deny a Prime Minister that each Minister of State should who has undertaken the duty of con- have a political subordinate on whom structing not a Cabinet but a Ministry, he can depend, to act along with him the right of selecting his colleagues, in his department. Were it otheris about the most insane proposition wise, Government could not go on;