Our Civil Service.
To the Civil Service Commissioners,
E read always with increasing delight of Xenophon and his 10,000 brave Greeks. But who can read, with any sort of pleasure, of New Zealand's 10,853 officials? After rising from the perusal of the Report of the Civil Service Commissioners, I felt that Job's wish had been, in my case, realised. My enemies have written a book, the naked facts of which substantiate all my charges-whether published at home or abroad—against New Zealand. Comment, on my part, is superfluous. To justify myself against the unmerited obloquy and aspersions of this Colony, I need only publish, in extenso, the "Civil Service Commissioners' Report."
On the 20th of February, 1864, now more than 16 years ago, I published the first number of the Saturday Review. Ever since that day, the main burden of my themes has been the maladministration of government in New Zealand. Mismanagement, incompetency, corruption, and venality formed the warp and woof of all my letters, whether published in or out of the Colony. But the warnings of Cassandra were not heeded; and now, behold the lamentable results! See what our loans and extravagant expenditure have brought us to!
The Government deserves, at least, the thanks of the community for having instituted this Commission. Now that we approximately know the facts of the case—for, unfortunately, the report is only partial, and not exhaustive—it is the bounden duty of Parliament to re-organise the Civil Service on well- page 2 defined principles of efficiency, economy, and retrenchment. To do so, requires "an iron hand in a velvet glove." One directing mind must preside over this Herculean labour of purging the Augean stables of our Civil Service.
Confusion, disaster, and bankruptcy are the legitimate consequents of divided authority, multiplicity of counsels, nepotism, and corruption. As the report says, "nothing is to be expected from the present directors." To them I would address the words of Cromwell to the English Parliament, "Begone, and make room for honester men." In the case of New Zealand the old adage has been amply verified, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."
All the departments are in an inglorious state of confusion, incompetency, recklessness, and extravagance. Hansard should be abolished. The printing office—with its 137 hands—is a monstrous solecism. The travelling allowances for officials should be done away with, or at least, it should be greatly curtailed. The pension list ought to be knocked on the head at once. When the Athenian orator was asked what was the first requisite qualification for an orator, he replied, action; for the second and third qualifications his reply was the same.
To the question, What is the grand remedy for all this complicated evil, our three-fold answer is—retrenchment—retrenchment—retrenchment. According to the report of the Commissioners, "nearly one-eighth of the adult males in the Colony are in the direct employment of the Government." Out of the mouths of its own servants, will I condemn the Government of New Zealand. "It is only by very uncommon exertion and heroic sacrifices that the small number of taxpayers can hope honestly to meet their engagements and bear the expensive burdens which the last ten years of reckless borrowing and spending have brought upon them."
Do the people really and truly realise the dreadful position of this Colony? Let them reflect upon the following quotation from the Commissioners' report :—"The number of adult males in the Colony is only 136,915. From these we have to deduct 659 who are in prison, 694 in lunatic asylums, 10,636 sick and infirm, 3423 above 60 years of age, and 10,853 employed by Government—leaving only 119,648, or less than 120,000 persons to bear all the burdens of the Colony. When, in addition to page 3 all the ordinary expenses of their government, it is borne in mind that this small number of producers will have in future to send annually to our foreign creditors no less than £1,535,000, or £12 15s 10d each—being nearly 5s per head per week, it becomes only too evident that economy will in future be severely forced on the Government of this Colony, and that we are in no position to be liberal, either with the number or the salaries of our civil servants."
This is well said, and, I hope, it will be well carried out to the letter. The policy of retrenchment is the only salvation of New Zealand. We have had enough and to spare of political gabbling and profane babbling in this city and Colony. What we want now is stern action in the direction of retrenchment. After reading this very remarkable report, will anyone dare to say again that I exaggerated the political mal-administration systematically carried on here for the past ten years?
When Alexander was prosecuting his Asiatic campaign, he was told by one of his officers that a traitor from the Camp of Darius was ready to assassinate his great enemy, the magnanimous reply of Alexander was—"Put a rope round his neck and bring him to me." If any man, after this, shall be heard slandering me, upon the strength of my revelations regarding New Zealand, I hope every magnanimous man will put a rope around his neck and bring him before me.
Gentlemen, before taking leave of you and your report—which is a terrific eye-opener—allow me to say, that after all it is only a scratching of the surface of the official body-politic. Had you gone deeper, you would have discovered the complete rottenness of the official carcase. As it is, however, your report may, perhaps, astonish yourselves; but it did not by any means take mo by surprise, for I had been familiar with it all for the past sixteen years. Indeed, ever since the arrival of the political Cagliostro from Victoria in 1861, 1 ceased not—to use an apostolic phrase—to warn New Zealand, night and day, with tears, of the sure outcome of her infatuated career. The crimes of communities must be punished fully here; for corporations have no souls to be damned hereafter. As they sow, so shall they reap. The hands of sinners do frame the snares wherewith page 4 themselves shall eventually be caught. This Colony is now beginning to realise all this.
"See the gloomy, gathering cloud,
Hanging o'er a sinful land;
Sure the Lord proclaims aloud,
Times of trouble are at hand."
The people followed Vogel, and allowed him to thrust me into prison. They pampered him and his myrmidons, and persecuted me. Behold the awful consequences! I speak not of individual persecutors. The crimes of individuals, if not fully expiated here, shall meet their just meed at the Final Assizes.
Let me, however, remark, that the day when the Otago Government broke faith with me, in the matter of the Rectorship of the High School, shall be considered as the darkest day in the history of New Zealand. The day when Vogel cast me into prison, shall be remembered as the blackest day in the calendar. For a time, indeed, the wicked shall flourish as the green bay tree; but, as in the case of this quack-ridden land, Nemesis will finally clutch them in her voracious grasp and merciless jaws.
As I have often told the colonists, so I again repeat: "Woe betide the land where ignorance, venality, and vulgarity reign.
"When knaves and beggars reign in state,
And worth and merit are laid low;
Leave thou such country to its fate,
For it is near its overthrow."
With many thanks for your able—albeit partial—report,
I remain, Gentlemen,
Yours very respectfully,
J. G. S. Grant.Melville Street, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand,
June 22, 1880.