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stituencies without inhabitants was to transfer their power to constituencies with inhabitants. Just so, the way to stop the complaint that artizans have no members is to give them members,—to create a body of representatives, chosen by artizans, believing, as Mr. Carlyle would say, “that artizanism is the one thing needful.”

176

No. VI.

ON CHANGES OF MINISTRY.

THERE is one error as to the English Constitution which crops-up periodically. Circumstances which often, though irregularly, occur naturally suggest that error, and as surely as they happen it revives. The relation of Parliament, and especially of the House of Commons, to the Executive Government is the specific peculiarity of our constitution, and an event which frequently happens much puzzles some people as to it.

That event is a change of ministry. All our administrators go out together. The whole executive government changes--at least, all the heads of it change in a body, and at every such change some speculators are sure to exclaim that such a habit is foolish. They say, No doubt Mr. Gladstone and Lord Russell may have been wrong about Reform ; no doubt Mr. Gladstone may have been cross in the House of Commons; but why should either or both of these events change all the heads of all our practical departments ? What could be more absurd than what happened in 1858 ? Lord Palmerston was for once in his life over-buoyant; he gave rude answers to stupid inquiries ; he brought into the Cabinet a nobleman concerned in an ugly trial about a woman; he, or his Foreign Secretary, did not answer a French despatch by a despatch, but told our ambassador to reply orally. And because of these trifles, or at any rate, these isolated unadministrative mistakes, all our administration had fresh heads. The Poor Law Board had a new chief, the Home Department a new chief, the Public Works a new chief. Surely this was absurd.” Now, is this objection good or bad ? Speaking generally, is it wise so to change all our rulers ?

The practice produces three great evils. First, it brings in on a sudden new persons and untried persons to preside over our policy. A little while ago Lord Cranborne* had no more idea that he would now be Indian Secretary than that he would be a bill broker. He had never given any attention to Indian affairs; he can get them up, because he is an able educated man who can get up anything. But they are not “part and parcel” of his mind; not his subjects of familiar reflection, nor things of which he thinks by predilection, of which he cannot help thinking. But because Lord Russell and Mr. Gladstone did not please the House of Commons about Reform, there he is. A perfectly inexperienced man, so far as Indian affairs go, rules all our Indian empire. And if all our heads of offices change together, so very frequently it must be. If twenty offices are vacant at once, there are almost never twenty tried, competent, clever men ready to take them. The difficulty of making up a government is very much

* Now Lord Salisbury, who, when this was written was Indian Secretary. -Note to second edition.

like the difficulty of putting together a Chinese puzzle : the spaces do not suit what you have to put into them. And the difficulty of matching a ministry is more tian that of fitting a puzzle, because the ministers to be put in can object, though the bits of a puzzle cannot. One objector can throw out the combination. In 1847 Lord Grey would not join Lord John Russell's projected government if Lord Palmerston was to be Foreign Secretary ; Lord Palmerston would be Foreign Secretary, and so the government was not formed. The cases in which a single refusal prevents a government are rare, and there must be many concurrent circumstances to make it effectual. But the cases in which refusals impair or spoil a government are very common. It almost never happens that the ministry-maker can put into his offices exactly whom he would like; a number of placemen are always too proud, too eager, or too obstinate to go just where they should.

Again, this system not only makes new ministers ignorant, but keeps present ministers indifferent. A man cannot feel the same interest that he might in his work if he knows that by events over which he has no control, -by errors in which he had no share,—by metamorphoses of opinion which belong to a different sequence of phenomena, he may have to leave that work in the middle, and may very likely never return to it. The new man put into a fresh office ought to have the best motive to learn his task thoroughly, but, in fact, in England, he has not at all the best motive. The last wave of party and politics brought him there, the next may take him away. Young and eager men take, even at this disadvantage, a

keen interest in office work, but most men, especially old men, hardly do so. Many a battered minister may be seen to think much more of the vicissitudes which make him and unmake him, than of any office matter.

Lastly, a sudden change of ministers may easily cause a mischievous change of policy. In many matters of business, perhaps in most, a continuity of mediocrity is better than a hotch-potch of excellences. For example, now that progress in the scientific arts is revolutionising the instruments of war, rapid changes in our head-preparers for land and sea war are most costly and most hurtful. A single competent selector of new inventions would probably in the course of years, after some experience, arrive at something tolerable ; it is in the nature of steady, regular, experimenting ability to diminish, if not vanquish, such difficulties. But a quick succession of chiefs has no similar facility. They do not learn from each others' experience ;—you might as well expect the new head boy at a public school to learn from the experience of the last head boy. The most valuable result of many years is a nicely-balanced mind instinctively heedful of various errors; but such a mind is the incommunicable gift of individual experience, and an outgoing minister can no more leave it to his successor than an elder brother can pass it on to a younger. Thus a desultory and incalculable policy may follow from a rapid change of ministers.

These are formidable arguments, but four things may, I think, be said in reply to, or mitigation of them. A little examination will show that this change of ministers

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