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second examination; and the new regulations for the Diplomatic Service drawn up in December last, by Lord Granville, in accordance with the views of their report, contain, perhaps, the most reasonable examination which the present system would allow
Without giving the subjects in detail, which may be found in the Foreign Office List for January, 1873, we may mention that the scheme is calculated to secure that the candidate should have had an ordinary English education, and be further grounded in those subjects which are necessary to his profession-whilst it makes very liberal deductions in favour of those who have already passed University or other public examinations.
The subject of examination is a dry one, and we fear lest we should weary our readers with it; but it is so important at the present time, when its promoters rule supreme, and the system is so powerful in its bearing upon the Diplomatic Service, that we are unable to dismiss the topic too hastily.
Real out-and-out believers in competitive examinations, such as Mr. Grant Duff and Mr. Walrond, whose evidence is before us, appear to be confident that all knowledge and all characters can be accurately tested by cunningly-contrived questions on selected subjects, and that by throwing diplomatic appointments open to general competition the Government would be certain to secure the best available talent in the country for its purpose. More experienced officials, and, as we think, more reasonable men, hold that most of the qualities required in the Diplomatic Service are incapable of being tested either by competitive or pass examinations, and that the only use of an examination for that Service is to exclude the grossly ignorant.
Now the first thing to consider in recruiting for any profession is, not how to carry out an educational theory, but, what sort of men are wanted and how they may be most easily secured. For the Diplomatic Service we require men 'bene ‘nati et bene vestiti ;' rich enough to live in the best society of expensive capitals, endowed with the ordinary education and accomplishments of English gentlemen, and with a knowledge of French, which can hardly yet be included under those heads. From the evidence given before the Committees, we gather that except in that matter of French the examination system has neither altered nor improved the standard of our diplomatists; and from this we conclude that so long as the selection of the unpaid attachés rests with the Secretary of State, the French is the only part of the examination which is really needful. But an attaché enters the Service at twenty
one, and it is when entering upon his profession that the most serious and practical part of his education begins. It is through the discharge of his duties that he fits himself for the higher posts at which he hopes to arrive, and his whole career, under good chiefs, is a prolonged examination. It was probably a recognition of this fact that prompted some very strong protests against the system of “cramming, coupled with the strange suggestion of sudden and unprepared-for examinations on the part of witnesses, from whose experience one might have expected more practical advice.
Cramming, of itself, is not a bad thing. It means getting up the largest possible stock of information on particular subjects in the least possible time for a given purpose, which is a very valuable quality in any official. It is surely of immense use to secretaries and under-secretaries of State for Parliamentary purposes; and it is indispensable to barristers in large practice. It is also the inevitable preparation for all examinations in subjects to be learnt from books. A soldier might be suddenly examined in drill, a sailor in seamanship, or a carpenter in carpentry, without being crammed,' because drill, seamanship, and carpentry are the subjects of their daily duties, and because their knowledge of them is being every day increased and tested; but it is impossible to take an attaché whose life is spent in the ordinary routine of a Chancery and examine him without further notice in History or International Law. Every examination, from the lowest at school to the highest at a University, entails. cramming.' Particular subjects are laid down, special text-books are prescribed, and a day is fixed for the ordeal. The object of every candidate must be to acquire the greatest amount of the knowledge required in the given time. This is effected by cramming, and if the knowledge so acquired be worthless, so must also be the examinations which give rise to the practice.
Strong as may be some of the fancied objections to 'cramming,' and the real objections to both first and second examinations in the Diplomatic Service, no one will deny the expediency and justice of encouraging the study of subjects likely to be practically useful to its members. This principle has been for the first time recognised in the two following clauses of the new Regulations :
“Third secretaries, who may after examination satisfy the Civil Service Commissioners that they possess a competent knowledge of public law, will receive, while serving in that class, an additional allowance of 1001. a year.'
* Any secretary of Embassy or of Legation, second or third secretary, or attaché on probation, who shall be reported by the head of the mission in which he is employed to possess a competent knowledge, colloquial or otherwise, for ordinary purposes of the Russian, Turkish, Persian, Japanese, or Chinese language, while serving in any country where such language is vernacular, shall receive a special allowance of 1001. a year, over and above any other salary or allowance which he may be in receipt of.'
Unfortunately the passages which we have marked in italics go very far to neutralise the offered rewards, and give an advantage to public law over languages for which it would be difficult to assign any satisfactory reason. We do not know what may be considered a competent knowledge of public law, but it is certain that the subject may be studied anywhere and without expense. Two years' reading would probably be more than time enough to prepare for the examination, and an attaché who was sufficiently provident and had sufficient leisure might be ready to qualify himself for the extra allowance immediately on becoming a third secretary; he would then for four years or more, at whatever post he might be employed, receive an extra 1001. a-year, and he would thus gain a reward of, say 4001., for his public law. An attaché in a busy legation might have no time to read up the subject, and being thus obliged to defer his studies would lose perhaps half the prize. The result of such a system must be to encourage young diplomatists to pass the examination at the earliest possible period, or, failing that, to abandon the subject altogether. As the regulation now stands, it is establishing a Queen's prize for two-year olds, weighted by chance. There can be no advantage in hurrying on a knowledge of public law, which would be as practically useless in the lower classes of the Service as it would be useful in the higher.
We must confess to being somewhat sceptical as to the practical value to our diplomatists of a knowledge of public law, and more particularly under the conditions by which it is now proposed to encourage its acquisition. All knowledge is undoubtedly useful for mental training, and special knowledge is especially useful to those who can make use of it, but it requires to be constantly refreshed and increased by practical application and experience. A Minister or chargé d'affaires must, no doubt, be a better man with public law at his fingers' ends than without it; he may also have frequent opportunities of displaying his knowledge with advantage in discussions with Foreign Governments, and his opinion may thereby be treated with greater respect; but upon every question of the slightest importance to which a point of public law is applicable he has to refer for instructions to his own Government, who immediately consult the Law Officers of the Crown. What then will be the practical professional value of his knowledge? If the value of such knowledge be limited in the case of a Minister, what will it be in a third secretary?
Will a third secretary discuss or lay down public law? Will ambassadors consult him upon difficult points ? He may be the drudge of his Chancery, and what can he do with his learning? We do not for one moment wish to imply that it would be of no value to himself, nor to deny that it will be remotely useful to his country; we wish merely to protest against the somewhat undue importance attached to it by some of the witnesses. The new regulation will encourage him to acquire enough law during the first few years of his service wherewith to earn the proffered reward at the earliest opportunity, and he will then spend fifteen or twenty years in forgetting the little he has learnt without a single chance of applying or testing his knowledge.
We believe that the assumed objects of the regulationthe encouragement of the study of public law, and the education of the younger members of the Diplomatic Service--might both be attained in a more effective and unobjectionable manner
by offering a certain fixed sum, in place of an annuity for an , uncertain term. The acquisition of this reward should be
open especially to second secretaries and possibly also to third secretaries; and we think that the establishment of two classes of examination entitling the candidates to prizes of different value would do much to encourage higher knowledge and a longer continuance of study.
If the premium on public law seems likely, from the terms upon which it has been offered, to fail in producing the desired results, the prize for difficult languages appears to be even more unhappily conceived. One hundred pounds a-year is offered for a competent knowledge of Russian, Turkish, Persian, Japanese, and Chinese while serving in any country where such language is vernacular. Another of the regulations tells us that second and third secretaries and attachés will not, as a general rule, be employed for more than two years in the same mission. We shall not be far
in calculating that at least two years' residence in the country of any
of the above-named languages would be necessary for acquiring the requisite knowledge. Also that from 1001. to 2001. would have to be spent in the process. From this it will be perceived that in order to gain anything by learn
ing one of the languages named the diplomatist must be kept at the same post for at least two years beyond the prescribed period, and that he could not earn the same reward as might be gained by the study of public law unless he remained for about eight years in the same legation. Now eight years might be spent at Constantinople or St. Petersburg in health and happiness, and sufficiently within the circle of European politics to ensure a knowledge of passing events and to carry on a general diplomatic education, but eight years in Teheran, Pekin, or Yedo would be a long term of banishment to a young man, and would 'so completely cut him off from the study and habits of his profession that he would probably awake one day to the melancholy conviction that he had merely spent his time in qualifying for the post of an interpreter at 1001. a-year. This would be the case of the successful student. But
suppose that after acquiring the competent knowledge of a language the student should be compelled by ill-health, by personal disagreement with his chief or his colleagues, by urgent private affairs,' or other extraneous causes, to change his post, he would leave it not only unremunerated, but the poorer for his industry, to warn those who might come after him that in their profession knowledge, like virtue, is its own reward.
Here also the same simple expedient of giving a fixed sum as the price for the acquisition of a language would remove the chances of inequality and unfairness in distributing the rewards. It has been adopted in the Indian Civil Service, and appears to be open to but one objection—that it might tempt persons who had a facility for learning languages to acquire several instead of giving to their employers the benefit of their knowledge of one. This possible accumulation of linguistic force does not alarm us.
With the slight alteration which we have suggested in the manner of paying for public law and difficult languages, and with an intimation that persons who had studied those subjects would have a preference in the matter of promotions, we believe that the new regulations would render great benefits to the Service, and would even in course of time remove the block' of which so many witnesses complained to the Committee. As the regulations now stand, their tendency is to aggravate the uncertainties and hardships which beset the diplomatic profession on every side.
To remove the block in the Service was one of the objects to which the Committee of 1870-1 more particularly applied themselves ; and that the question may be thoroughly under