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IMPERIAL CIVIL SERVICE
A SUGGESTION FROM AUSTRALIA
SOME few months ago Lord Tennyson delivered before the University of Adelaide an address, in the course of which he advised well-educated young Australians to look to the Indian Civil Service as a career, and suggested that the English Government should be asked to afford facilities to assist them. Considerable attention was drawn to the speech throughout Australasia, and especially in University circles. As a consequence, a petition has gone home from the governing bodies and the professors of Australasian Universities, asking that opportunity might be offered to candidates in Australasia to compete for appointments in the Higher Imperial Service, including the Civil Service of India. At present, of course, such candidates can compete at the examinations held in London, but first they must at their own. charges visit England. A young man must feel very confident of himself and of his own intellectual powers if he lifts his anchor in Australia or New Zealand to trust himself upon such an uncertain sea. He must also have at command a supply of ready money, which our ablest young men not infrequently lack.
Commissions in the army and cadetships in the navy have long been offered to Australasian candidates, and no one can doubt that the boys who have taken them have rendered a good account of themselves. But in the present case the request is of a somewhat different nature. It is not asked that a limited number of appointments in the Indian Civil Service or in the Higher Home Service be set apart for the use of Australasian candidates. For that the petitioners do not hold that they have any right to ask. They readily allow that such a concession would break down the sacred principle of perfectly open competition, which has long been the glory of the Indian Civil Service and is now of the offices in England that range themselves in line with it in the matter of competition. Let the appointments go to the ablest, but let there be facilities for those at a distance to prove whether they fall among the ablest.
The method is that of simultaneous examination in England and at certain selected places in the colonies. The only change in connection with the examination would be that the examiners would be
required to set their papers a little earlier, perhaps five weeks. The papers of questions would then be sent out under seal to responsible persons in the colonies, where they would be answered under precisely similar conditions to those in London. Answers would be returned, likewise under seal, and would reach the examiners in England probably before they had quite finished the task of examining the answers written in London.
Candidates from Australasia ask very little-only the opportunity of serving our common Empire. The request must commend itself to those who govern, unless the difficulty be represented as too great. Difficulties, especially unreal difficulties, vanish when looked fairly in the face.
The principle of local examinations is so thoroughly understood in England that it would seem quite superfluous to dwell upon its methods, were it not for the fact that the Civil Service Commissioners, who are likely to urge a non possumus to this request, have not been in the habit of conducting them. They may urge that it is impossible, when it is not even difficult. At Oxford and at Cambridge local examinations are thoroughly well known. At the University of Melbourne, year by year, certain examinations are held at distant centres, and no difficulty has ever occurred. Papers travel from Melbourne to Perth in Western Australia, have travelled as far north as Rockhampton on the tropic of Capricorn, and almost every year go as far as Brisbane; nor does calamity or difficulty arise. The London University used to hold examinations in these colonies for its degrees, until such time as it was thought the Australian Universities were strong enough, and no difficulty arose. The University of New Zealand appoints all its examiners in England, and in connection with their examination there has once happened the only real difficulty-viz. shipwreck. But shipwrecks are rare. It may be asked what would be done in case the answers, on the way to England, were lost in a ship that suffered total wreck. The papers can only then be treated as non-existent. Calamity has befallen the candidate, but he cannot be said to have won a place among the candidates who succeeded. If the Civil Service Commissioners really wish, the thing can be done. We desire to make such an appeal to public opinion that the Commissioners will be forced to do what is merely an act of justice. Equal chance for all the sons of the Empire is what is asked —nothing more, but certainly nothing less; not appointments, but the chance to compete for appointments on level terms.
In Australian University circles there has of late been not a little discussion about this proposal, and one objection raised was that there seemed an absence of reciprocity. We were asking from the Imperial Government something, and giving naught. Did we propose, it was asked, to send the papers for Australian Civil Service examinations home to London for candidates to work there? This
argument fell before a fuller statement of the case. The request is not for the chance to compete in the appointments of the ordinary Home Civil Service. In the local Civil Service of Great Britain there is no desire to share. Every day it is becoming more and more necessary for public men to discriminate clearly between what is Imperial and what is local. Therein lies the cardinal position of what is known as Imperial Federation. Suppose, for a moment, that such federation, on any lines, were established, a division of the provinces of government must ensue. There would be one marked line of cleavage between that which concerns the whole and that which concerns the parts of the Empire. The following departments of State would go with the Imperial Government: the Foreign Office, the India Office, the control of Army and Navy, the Colonial Office-for there would still be colonies, even if great parts of the Empire, now called colonies, were honoured with a share of the central government. But there would remain Home Affairs, Administration of Justice, Education, Excise, and all the machinery of modern life growing daily more complicated. Thinkers in the colonies hold that men born in Canada, Australasia, and South Africa should have no unnecessary difficulty thrown in the way of their desire to serve the Empire. Given the brains, granted that they can prove their greater fitness, then mere distance ought not to be permitted to stand in the way.
Another objection heard was, 'You ask a vain thing: no one passes unless coached for this particular examination: we have not and we do not want the order of crammers established amongst us.' Is it a vain thing? Is it true that without crammers there is no hope of passing? A study of recent Civil Service reports seems rather to lead to the conclusion that the small but well-armed tribe of examiners' is driving the crammers from their strongholds—at all events as far as higher examinations are concerned. If Australasia cannot prepare, if after a few years it is found that there are no successful candidates, a privilege which would be useless could easily be withdrawn. If the Australasian Universities cannot educate candidates up to the necessary standard, it would be well that the fact should be known. We have no desire to live in a fool's paradise. We fancy that we can so educate them, and we ask that we be granted this great assize.
The Empire has been good enough to summon to its work in army and navy the sons of the Empire living afar off. All know that in so doing it has acted wisely, and that the reach of this action is very wide. But why not in the case of civil employ also? Have the colonists right arms, and not brains? Can they fight, and not think? Would it not be good if at the Colonial Office there were 'Indoor Statesmen' (we thank Sir Arthur Helps for the name), who knew intimately about the feelings in the great colonies, whose parents and kinsfolk live in Sydney or in Melbourne? Why should
not young Canadians or New Zealanders hold places in the Foreign Office, the War Office, the Admiralty, if they can win them? Of course the days are gone by when a new Secretary for the Colonies could reply to his Prime Minister urging him to take office, I will go upstairs, and get shown these places in a map;' 'Is Cape Breton an island?' But even now we sometimes have a feeling half-way between amusement and irritation at Melbourne, New South Wales, South Australia,' on a Colonial Office envelope.
The request is not for a multiplicity of examinations such as would lead to confusion.
Some few years ago the famous and difficult examination for the Indian Civil Service was utilised for sundry of the other departments. According to the Report of Her Majesty's Civil Service Commissioners, there is now 'an examination held conjointly for Class I. clerkships in the Home Civil Service, for the Indian Civil Service, and for Eastern Cadetships.' It is to that examination, and to that alone, that admission is asked by means of transmitted papers. It would be easy to mark off such of the Class I. clerkships as are not of an Imperial character.
Most strongly of all is it desired that an avenue may be opened for the young Australasian, often a man of brains and of ready resource, into the noblest service in the world-the Civil Service of India. Here, though I have spoken hitherto rather as a mouthpiece, a personal note may perhaps be permitted me. My father, my grandfathers, uncles, and cousins almost beyond count in the days of John Company,' were members of that Service. Having had opportunities to know how excellent the Service is, how it brings out the good in a man and develops a strong and selfreliant character, I cannot but plead that a chance may be granted to the young Australians, whose worth I know, to enter that splendid Service. If a man has any power of governing in him, India is the field to bring it out. Here, in the Australian democracy, other powers are needed for public life. Here, if the man wants to distinguish himself in politics or government, there is but one path— the persuasion of a constituency. This art of persuasion may be entirely lacking, and yet the man may be just such a one as could render excellent service to our dear country in a post in India or in any of the outlying points of the Empire. There is something in the blood. The boys of whom I am thinking are sons or grandsons of those who came out to Australia as pioneers.
With respect to the Indian Service a special difficulty arisesthe educated Baboo. It will be urged that if examinations are held in Australia, they must be held in India also. This is another form of the difficulty urged ad nauseam against Imperial Federation by that learned historian, the late Mr. E. A. Freeman. The historian of the Norman Conquest used to say, 'But how about the
elector for Masulipatam?' Difficulties disappear, again I say, when they are faced. If it is not desired that the natives of India should be admitted to the Service, it would be better to say so than merely to hold the examination in London, in hope that the natives of India will not be able to raise the money to pay for a ticket thither. All must admire the motive of those who threw open the competition to the educated natives of India; but the trouble that arose-not in India only, but in England-over the 'Ilbert Bill' of some years ago proves that it is not desired that any large numbers of the natives should hold the reins of government. It would have been better, in my judgment, to have preserved the old distinction between the covenanted and the uncovenanted service, though the names were awkward and unsuitable. The answer to Freeman is that it is proposed to keep the rule of India in the hands of men of the British race; but we in Australia and those in New Zealand claim to be Britannis Britanniores. If this be not understood, all talk about the Empire is naught. Seeley laid down the doctrine -now the accepted doctrine-of the Expansion of England—or shall we say of Britain? We do not cease to be English or, British because we have come overseas. We who live in Sydney or in Melbourne feel that, as far as the Empire as, a whole is concerned, we are just like the inhabitants of Middlesex or Yorkshire. The dwellers in New Zealand feel it if anything more strongly, for, if there be measures of zeal, the recent patriotism was perhaps strongest of all at the very Antipodes.
One of the earliest advocates of the system of open competition for the Indian Civil Service was Lord Macaulay. Many years ago he prophesied that the connection between India and the Australasian Colonies would grow closer. In his famous minute on the question whether the higher education of India should be conveyed in English or in the vernacular languages of India, Macaulay advocated that the vehicle of instruction should be English. After praise of the noble literature in the English tongue, praise so strong that Matthew Arnold counted it vainglorious, Macaulay said:
English is likely to become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities which are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australasia; communities which are every day becoming more important, and more closely connected with our Indian Empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature, or at the peculiar situation of this country, we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects.
This was written sixty-five years ago; and if the arguments were valid then, much more are they now. They were written fifteen years before the discovery of gold, and when the population of Australia, compared with its number at the present day, was a small