Page images

discretiou is clearly left—as, for instance, the case in which the expenditure is the largest, i.e., the police force—every one with any knowledge of the subject is aware how difficult it was, so long as the establishment of the rural police was left optional, to constitute the force at all, and how difficult it was afterwards, when the establishment of the force was made compulsory by statute, to raise it up to lie requisite strength. One policeman to every thousand inhabitants was the kind of scale laid down by Sir George Grey; but the annual reports of the inspectors of police show how difficult it was in most, how impossible in many, cases to reach this standard. It has often been stated that the increase of the Treasury subvention has largely increased the cost of the police to the ratepayers. A fairer way of stating the case would be, that it has done away with much of the resistance by local authorities to come up to the proper scale. No doubt, in some cases, pressure has been put upon the Home Office since the increase of the Treasury subvention to sanction considerable increase of expenditure; but in the vast majority of such cases the increase has originated, not in the local authority itself, but has sprung from, and is owing to, the strong pressure brought to bear on the local authority by the ratepayers themselves who have claimed the right to further protection at the hands of the police. Such pressure, however, has already been brought under effectual control through the action of the Home Office in the time of Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson, by insisting on a regular annual estimate being presented for the whole of the ensuing year to the Home Office, by the October Quarter Sessions, so that any proposition for increased expenditure might be fully investigated before the Civil Service Estimates were prepared for presentation to Parliament.

There is now happily no difficulty about procuring a regular and public audit of the county treasurer's accounts, and the only question remaining is, how best to meet the demand that taxation and representation should go together, and at the same time to improve the administration of county affairs, and to secure the continued services of the best of those who have hitherto devoted so much time and attention to the subject. The Committee of 1868 came to the conclusion that a system of financial control would be satisfactory to the ratepayers under which the boards of guardians in counties should elect representatives who should be admitted to take part in, and vote at, all meetings of magistrates held for the consideration of questions of county expenditure. There are however, no doubt, many objections to such propositions. It would involve the principle of double election, which has not been found to work well in other cases where it has been tried; and there is much force in the opinion recently expressed by Mr. Goschen, in his speech at Ripon, "that the county government should be built tip in a manner which should steer clear altogether of poor-law administration/' The late Government prepared two different schemes for the consideration of Parliament. By their Bill of 1878 the Court of Quarter Sessions, when transacting administrative business and constituted as a county board, was to consist of two justices of the county, to be chosen by the Quarter Sessions, due regard being had to the petty sessional divisions of the county, and, as far as practicable, to the representations of such divisions by justices resident or actually acting therein, and two elective members to be elected for each petty sessional division by the elective guardians of the rural parishes situated in such petty sessional divisions, and provision was also made for the representation of certain boroughs on the board. By the Bill of 1879, the Quarter Sessions were to combine the parishes within the county into wards, for the election of so many members of the County Board as would secure two-thirds of the number of members of the County Board allotted to such county by the schedule to the Bill to be. elected members, and such members were to be elected by the elective guardians of the several parishes in the ward. The remaining third of the board was to be appointed by the Quarter Sessions out of members of their own body. Of these three plans, probably the principle contained in the Bill of 1878 has found most favour, although, of course, there exists great difference of opinion as to the question of double election—that is, of the election by the elective guardians instead of by direct election of the ratepayers, and also as to the proportion of the members to be chosen by Quarter Sessions and the members to be elected. In any such scheme, however, effect would be given to the principle of taxation and representation going together, and the county would have the advantage of the continuance of the services of many of its most able and experienced men, many of whom would not care to go through the turmoil of a popular election, but who would gladly continue those services which they have hitherto so cheerfully rendered. Such a mixed board is by no means without precedent, and has been found to work well in practice, as is amply proved by the management of the great estate of the river Weaver, in Cheshire, for the benefit of the county; by the example of boards of guardians, of cattle plague committees, and of highway boards.

It is of course impossible to foreshadow what the view of the Government may be upon this question. If they propose a measure which will provide for the fair representation of ratepayers on the governing body with the object of improving its efficiency and of satisfying all reasonable demands, they may feel assured that it will receive the most careful and impartial consideration. From what has fallen, however, from several members of the present Cabinet in the course of the recess, it would seem that the Government are not likely to be content, with any such plain practical proposals, but are bent upon a much more ambitious and sensational scheme, and that tbey would make the supposed existing abuse the excuse, not for amending, but for destroying, what exists, and building up some other body on radically different principles, not having chiefly in view the best practical administrative results, but the carrying out of some new-fangled theory of local parliaments. Even Mr. Goschen seems to have been fascinated by some such proposal. "I trust," he says, "that the Government will act with courage and determination. I believe that they will have a much greater chance of passing a strong and a broad Bill than they would a small Bill which would not appeal to the imagination of the people. I wish the effect to be political as well as administrative." Plain practical folk, however, may possibly think that the real question is much more one of pockets than of politics, and that the end in view should be much more one of securing the best and most economical administration rather than of creating or of satisfying a lively imagination. Even Cabinet Ministers who have spoken do not seem very enthusiastic or hopeful as to the result of such a measure. Lord Derby, in his speech at Manchester, expresses himself plainly enough that the chief trouble, in his view, would be to give to this new body enough to do. And Lord Hartington, in his speech to his constituents in North-East' Lancashire, was not more encouraging or precise.

"Tins question of county boards," lie said, " may be a subject which does not appear pressing or immediate, or of very great importance or interest, and I acknowledge that at first sight these county boards, however they may be elected or composed, will not have any great amount of exciting or important work intrusted to them. . . . But I think hereafter, if not immediately, we must intrust many of the powers which are now, and not without some incon-* venience, exercised by the central bodies in London to them; and I believe that once we have established these county boards, we shall find every day new duties, new powers, and new responsibilities intrusted to them to exercise."

This is certainly all vague enough and crude enough. If the full scheme has really been thought out, it should have heen fully and clearly explained; if it has not been so thought out, it should not, for the present at all events, be attempted. It would surely be a more statesmanlike way of proceeding first to find out and define as clearly as may be what duties will have to be performed before constituting the new body to perform them; otherwise, you may perchance find after all that the new machinery is ill adapted for the proper performance of its functions. I agree with Mr. Goschen that it is always well to stimulate throughout the country a large interest in local self-government, but this already largely exists. The more populous parts of the country are full of local boards, and the ratepayers take the keenest interest in their proceedings, and are very jealous of any interference from without. And even where such local boards do not exist, the same remark applies equally to the proceedings of boards of guardians, highway boards, school boards, burial boards, &c. &c. If I understand one part of Lord Hartingtoii's remarks aright, I should be inclined to agree with him that the functions of the Local Government Board and of the Central Authorities have in some instances been pressed too far, and that more license and liberty of action may fairly be left to the several local authorities, especially in smaller matters. If that be so, by all means let these functions be brought within proper limits and be more strictly defined. There is also much to be said in favour of simplifying areas and against multiplication of boards, but the area of a county is too large for the actual administration of such matters as those with which these several local boards have had to deal, and it is much to be feared that, though many of the best men of business engaged in active commercial life and of the best tenant farmers are ready and willing to give their time and attention to managing their own local affairs in their own locality, and though many would no doubt be willing to make further sacrifices, and would attend the Quarter Sessions for the administration of county affairs, still comparatively few would be able or willing to give attendance at the county town for any lengthened sittings, such as would be necessary were these county boards to be charged with such duties as are vaguely shadowed forth as the functions of a local parliament; and in such case one of the great objects of local government would be defeated, and matters would fall into the hands of inferior, though it may be ambitious, men.

We wait with much anxiety for the production of the Government measure. It would seem from Her Majesty's gracious speech that we may probably have to wait for some time before it appears. There is at all events one advantage in this. It will give the Government full time for further consideration before they commit themselves finally to a measure which might involve multiplication of offices and officers, multiplication of elections, increase of expenditure, loss of the services of many very valuable public servants,—to a measure by means of which, so far as careful and wise administration is concerned, they might very easily lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.

Richard Assheton Cross.



AT11ULY comprehensive religion should teach not only a spirit of heart to cultivate, but a set of principles to act on in the world; and as life is concerned with actions quite as much as it is with feelings, public life is just as much the sphere of rational religion as our personal life. So, the churches, if they only knew it, have quite as much to do with the social duty of statesmen and the political habits of the people, as they have with purity of heart and spiritual earnestness. There will be no complete religion until religious men have just as keen an interest in the progress of the commonwealth as they now profess in the welfare of the soul. And there will be no high and stable policy until politics, together with morals and science, are recognized to be the sphere of the only religious earnestness that is worth having—true unselfishness of heart.

Thus it is that the religion of Humanity is a thoroughly political religion, or rather public life is an essential part of its aim; not, as with the Romans, to the exclusion of creed and devoutness of spirit, hut quite as truly as either of these. Whilst the Romans knew no religion except such as concerned their social life, and whilst Christianity in its decay looks at all things in the light of the personal soul, the religion of Humanity avoids the narrowness of both, and seeks to regenerate social life on the basis of a scientific education, and of high purpose, not only in the heart within, but in the social body without us.

Positivism is no mere historical scheme, a movement for the bare commemoration of the worthies of the Past. The calendar which gathers up so vast an array of our great fathers, who are the true *Tbe following discourse was given at Newton Hall on Sunday, Feb. 4, 1883.

« EelmineJätka »