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Practical Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 252 pages of information about Practical Essays.

[Footnote 5:  We may here recall an incident highly characteristic of the late Earl of Carlisle.  Being elected on one occasion to the office of Lord Rector of Marischal College, Aberdeen, he had to deliver an address to the students on the usual topics of diligence and hopefulness in their studious career.  Referring for a model to the addresses of former rectors, he found, in that of his immediate predecessor, Lord Eglinton, the Homeric sentiment above alluded to.  It grated harshly on his mind, and he avowed the fact to the students, he could not reconcile himself to the elevating of one man upon the humiliation of all the rest.  In a strain more befitting a civilized age, he urged upon his hearers the pursuit of excellence as such, without involving as a necessary accompaniment the supplanting or throwing down of other men.  He probably did not sufficiently guard himself against a fallacy of Relativity; for excellence is purely comparative; it subsists upon inferior grades of attainment:  still, there are many modes of it shared in by a great number, and not confined to one or a few.]

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III.

THE CIVIL SERVICE EXAMINATIONS[6]

1.  HISTORICAL SKETCH.

Up to the year 1853, the appointing of Civil Servants lay wholly in the hands of patrons.  In 1853, patronage was severely condemned and competitive examination officially recommended, for the first time, in a Report by Sir Stafford Northcote and Sir Charles Trevelyan; but, while the recommendation was taken up in the following year and immediately acted upon in the Indian Civil Service, it was not till very much later that it was fully adopted in the Home Service.  The history, indeed, of this last is somewhat peculiar.  After the Report already referred to, came an Order of Council, of date May 21, 1855, in which we find it “ordered that all such young men as may be proposed to be appointed to any junior situation in any department of the Civil Service shall, before they are admitted to probation, be examined by or under the Directors of the said Commissioners, and shall receive from them a Certificate of Qualification for such situation”.  This order was rigorously carried out by the Commissioners, and, although its absolute requirement was simply that the nominees should pass a certain examination, it, nevertheless, allowed the heads of departments to institute competition if they cared.  Accordingly, we find that competition—­but limited—­was immediately set on foot in several of the offices, and the result led to the following remark in the Report of 1856:—­

“We do not think it within our province to discuss the expediency of adopting the principle of open competition as contra-distinguished from examination; but we must remark that, both in the competitive examination for clerkships in our own and in other offices, those who have succeeded in attaining the appointments have appeared to us to possess considerably higher attainments than those who have come in upon simple nomination; and, we may add, that we cannot doubt that if it be adopted as a usual course to nominate several candidates to compete for each vacancy, the expectation of this ordeal will act most beneficially on the education and industry of those young persons who are looking forward to public employment.”

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