Front Page Titles (by Subject) 218.: THE REVIEW OF THE SESSION CONTINUED EXAMINER, 6 OCT., 1833, PP. 625-6 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
218.: THE REVIEW OF THE SESSION CONTINUED EXAMINER, 6 OCT., 1833, PP. 625-6 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE REVIEW OF THE SESSION CONTINUED
For the entry in Mill’s bibliography and the context of this third leading article on Le Marchant’s The Reform Ministry, see Nos. 216 and 217. In the Somerville College set of the Examiner, the article is listed as title and enclosed in square brackets.
a few observations, which the length of our last article compelled us to defer, are still required to bring to a close the subject of retrenchment; after which we shall proceed to another department of the doings of the Ministry.
One of the most important of the measures of economy which still remain to be adopted, is an entire change in the constitution of the public offices. Without such a change, the retrenchments for which Ministry after Ministry have taken such unbounded credit, will cost to the public much more money than they will save. Any fool can carry on the public business cheaply and ill; but such cheap work is the dearest of all in the end. Unlimited pecuniary means may be squandered; but of a limited income every farthing must be turned to the best account. So long as the number of employés could be made as great as the head of the department felt an inclination to make it, the multitude of inefficient hands was a source of useless expense, but they were like so many sinecures, the most plain-dealing and cheapest of all jobs; if they did no good, they prevented none; it was but so many people of “connexion,” quartered upon the public instead of being kept by their “connexions,” or earning an honest livelihood: the incapables consumed their salaries, and capable officers were, or might have been, entertained in addition, to do the work. But when the public will has enforced a reduction of the numerical strength of an establishment to something not, perhaps, greatly exceeding the number which would barely suffice if every man were fit for his situation; from that time every inefficient man who is employed, deprives the public of the services of an efficient one. Has due regard been had to this principle in the reductions of the civil establishments? Is it not a fact, that young men of family continue to be engaged to do mere clerk’s work, but not at clerk’s salaries, and that the money lavished upon them leaves so little for the wages of real services, that the most valuable public officers are, not perhaps underpaid, but so few in number and so overworked, that it is by no means easy, when vacancies occur, to find fitting successors? If this be not so, let it be denied; but if, as we firmly believe, it is so, let it be remedied. There is no economy comparable to that of employing able men. It is the accumulation of useless expenses which weighs down a country; never the magnitude of the useful.
Above all, let the places of trust and power beyond the seas, where the control of the superintending authority is weak, and the surveillance of English public opinion is null—where the wisdom, honesty, and firmness of the delegated functionary are all in all—let those appointments, which are now, whether by Whig or Tory, given to aristocratic or official connexion exclusively, be given solely to merit; and, more scrupulously than even any other appointments, to merit of the highest grade, no matter in what rank of life. An incapable in high place is a more costly abuse than a hundred sinecures. Such a one, governor of a colony, receives a salary of 5000l.; but his caprices and his blunders, his self-conceit and his negligence, his want of foresight, and of capacity to avail himself of opportunities, and make the best use of his instruments, cost the nation forty or fifty thousand. The pamphleteer says nothing for his patrons on this point. We believe that they have followed the good old rule, of appointing, with a very moderate degree of regard for personal qualifications, their political friends.
Of retrenchment, and taking off taxes, no more at present. But there are taxes, which are not called taxes, because not paid to the tax-gatherer, but which are a subject for retrenchment, compared wherewith all that can possibly be cut off from the expenses of government is hardly worth notice; taxes the very existence of which is a crying enormity, and of which the repeal would afford a relief nearly equal to the entire interest of the national debt. Foremost among these is the odious Bread Tax. If, as appears to be the opinion of the best authorities, wheat is kept, by the operation of the Corn Laws, about 10s. a quarter above its natural price; and if, as is commonly assumed, the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, amounting to twenty millions, consume, one with another, one quarter of wheat in the year; here is a tax of ten millions in the article of wheat alone; to which when we add all other agricultural produce, every other retrenchment sinks into insignificance, and the word appears little better than a mockery when applied to anything except getting rid of this intolerable burthen. There is in this kind of retrenchment a further pre-eminence. Retrench by cutting down establishments, and all the gain to the public is loss to the functionaries who are discharged. Retrench by removing restrictions from commerce and industry, and, by restoring capital to its natural channels, an increase of production is created, which is a gain to the public beyond and in addition to what individuals lose.
The Ministry, as a Ministry, profess themselves friends of free trade. And here let us give “honour due” to one of their number, who has entitled himself to a kind of praise, which can be given to no other among them. Lord Palmerston, a short time before the prorogation of Parliament, signalized himself by the only speech of principle which has been made by any Minister during the Session; a speech which compromised nothing, and went to the very vitals of the subject.1 Lord Palmerston exposed the fallacies of protecting duties and of reciprocity with the hand of one who really understood the question, and without one vestige of Whig seesaw or reservation. But as he speaks, so will his colleagues act? Some minor monopolies and restrictions they have abolished or mitigated, and will, doubtless, relieve us from others. But from the giant monopoly, compared with which the heaviest of all our taxes is scarcely a burthen, it is not they who will deliver us. They have put off the subject for one year, by moving the previous question. Put it off much longer they cannot; certainly not beyond the first deficient harvest; and the day when they must face this great question will probably be the last of their administration. They are not unanimous. Some of them are reputed enemies of the Bread Tax; (Lord Ripon might have been deemed so, until he ate up his free-trade principles, on Lord Fitzwilliam’s motion;)2 others (and the Premier is of the number) are said to be among its most obstinate and bigoted partisans. This is enough. A Minister who supports the Bread Tax, is essentially neither a Reformer, nor an economical Minister: not the last, because he seeks to rivet on our necks the heaviest and most unprofitable burthen which the nation bears; not the first, because, whether he is aware of it or not, the interest of the landlords is paramount in his regard to the interest of all the rest of the community. The distinction between such a statesman and a Tory lies wholly in non-essentials; that between him and a Reformer is fundamental.
The topic of Law Reform occupies a very prominent station in the Ministerial pamphlet.3 On this subject more praise is really due to the Ministry, or rather to the Chancellor, than can be given to any other of their measures, except the Reform Bill. Though the substantial value of what has yet been accomplished, is immensely overrated by their panegyrist, the very fact of taking so much credit for law reform deserves praise; and the more, because what can be said of none of their other reforms, is true of this—that it was not forced upon them by the public. Lord Brougham is not in this case a mere passive instrument, for executing, and executing imperfectly, the peremptory mandates of popular opinion. The public are as yet but moderately interested in the subject; sufficiently to reward, yet not sufficiently to compel, the exertions of the Chancellor. And the degree of excitement which does exist respecting it, is mainly of his own creating. It is to those, indeed, who prepared the way, by laying the foundation of the philosophy of law, and dissecting piecemeal the absurdities of English practice; it is to those who fought the up-hill fight, who originated Law Reform, and carried it forward through every species of neglect, discouragement, and insult, to the point at which even a man like Henry Brougham could add to his reputation by adopting it, and making the cause his own; it is to them, no doubt, that the gratitude of mankind is chiefly due—not to him who came at the eleventh hour; yet neither to him should praise be given with a reluctant or sparing hand. He was the first public man who identified himself with the cause; the first who popularized the idea, that the law needed reform as a whole. Mr. Peel’s reforms had done much to discountenance the notion which strangely prevailed, of the absolute perfection of the law even in its form and details;4 and a notion was spreading that there was still considerable room for minute improvements. But everything which has been done, or attempted, in the way of reviewing the main body of the law—all idea, among the public at large, of its being susceptible, as a whole, of any considerable amelioration,—takes its date unquestionably from Mr. Brougham’s celebrated speech:5 nor, at the time when that speech was made, could any person of less weight than Mr. Brougham have pronounced so bold and sweeping a condemnation of the English law (greatly as even that condemnation fell short of its deserts) with much probability of being favourably listened to. The first fruits of the speech were the appointment of two Commissions, composed of lawyers of the first eminence, whose inquiries and recommendations have done more to bring Law Reform into vogue, and to liberalize the general feeling of the profession, than could have been hoped for in so short a time.6 Piecemeal reforms have multiplied in an accelerating ratio ever since. Some considerable changes, proposed by these Commissions, have been carried through Parliament in the Session which has just closed; together with others emanating directly from the Chancellor himself.7 And (a praise which the Ministers have seldom deserved) more has been attempted, than could be effected at the first trial, and more has been proclaimed desirable than has been attempted. Lord Brougham’s views of Law Reform, if not always as enlightened, are now at length as extensive, as the most philosophic reformer could desire. He has caused codification to be recommended in a King’s speech:8 he has appointed a Commission for making (though on a small scale, and beginning at the wrong end) an actual commencement of it;9 and he has committed himself irrevocably to the principle of Local Courts.10 These things, if accomplished, are the greater part of all which is to be desired. Codify the law, common and statute together, and establish Local Courts with unlimited jurisdiction, and all that will remain to complete a systematic reform of the law, is to simplify the procedure, and establish good courts of appeal.
Lord Brougham’s Law Reforms will be the leading subject of our next Paper.
[1 ]Speech on the Prussian Tariff (15 Aug., 1833), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 20, col. 700, by Henry John Temple (1784-1865), Lord Palmerston, who had become Foreign Secretary in 1830.
[2 ]On 30 Apr., 1833, Charles William Wentworth Fitzwilliam (1786-1857), an early advocate of Corn Law repeal though a landowner, who had just entered the Lords from the Commons, presented six resolutions on trade in grain (ibid., Vol. 17, cols. 752-5). He was opposed on 14 May by Robinson, Earl of Ripon, Speech on the Corn Laws (ibid., cols. 1179-89).
[3 ]Le Marchant, pp. 56-73.
[4 ]As Home Secretary, Peel was responsible for many reforms, especially in the criminal law: e.g., 7 & 8 George IV, cc. 27-31 (1827), and 9 George IV, c. 31 (1828).
[5 ]Brougham, Speech on the State of the Courts of Common Law (7 Feb., 1828), PD, n.s., Vol. 18, cols. 127-247.
[6 ]The Commission on the Courts of Common Law was appointed in May 1828; that on the Law of Real Property in June 1828. For the Committee members and their First Reports, see PP, 1829, IX, 1-117, and X, 1-82.
[7 ]For Mill’s further comments, see No. 219.
[8 ]Speech from the Throne (4 Feb., 1830), PD, n.s., Vol. 22, col. 3.
[9 ]The Commission on Criminal Law was appointed on 23 July, 1833; for its First Report, see PP, 1834, XXVI, 117-77.
[10 ]Brougham, Speech on Local Judicatures (28 Mar., 1833), PD, 34d ser., Vol. 16, cols. 1190-6.