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"To give us bits of kindness, lest we faint,
Moreover, if a man be advanced largely at once, there will not only be little room left for his further promotion, but that little room will seem less when measured upon the scale to which his ambition will now expand itself; for he who has once advanced by a stride will not be content to advance afterwards by steps. Public servants, therefore, like race-horses, should be well fed with reward, but not to fatness.
* Green's Tu quoque.'
CONCERNING PRECIS-WRITERS, AND PROCESSES OF
THE office of precis-writer sometimes is borne upon the establishment of a minister, sometimes is not.
It may be said of a precis, as Lord Bacon said of an index, that it is "useful chiefly to "the maker thereof." A precis, properly so called, is an abridgement and nothing else; and he who has to act upon a long series of documents will hardly be able to master their contents without making an abridgement of them for himself. But it is only a smatterer in business who will think it of much assistance to him to have such an abridgement made for him by another.
There may be made, indeed, a species of
abridgement which may be loosely called a preçis, but which is, in fact, a great deal more than that. An abridgement which shall retain every thing that is relevant, and reject what is not; which shall arrange the facts and elements of a case in their proper sequence, throwing them out in prominent relief or reducing them with a light touch, according to the proportions of their significance, and thereby leading necessarily to the conclusions which a just judgment would suggest, such an abridgement is indeed useful, for it transacts the business from beginning to end; but he who makes it must have the hand of a master, and should be called a statesman and not a precis-writer. Call him what you will, the man who estimates the relevancy and significancy of the respective facts of a case does in reality form a judgment upon it; and the statement which conveys the facts in the spirit of that judgment, conveys the judgment itself.
He who has the statement of a question after this manner will, generally speaking, have the decision of it; for the superior functionary will seldom (unless moved by jealousy or presumption) consider himself competent to take the decision out of the hands of the man who has made an elaborate and judicious investigation into the facts.
The process should be much the same whether a man's task be to prepare himself for coming to a decision on a case, or to prepare another. In either case he should write out the whole of the facts and inferences on which he is to found his conclusions; and he will find it most convenient to begin with a naked narrative of facts and dates, resolutely reserving all inferences and comments till the narrative statement shall be completed. This is important to him, not for the sake of clearness only in viewing and conveying the case, but also to guard against warps of his judgment, arising from a premature ex
ercise of it. It is indeed impossible but that the judgment should be exercised as the statement of fact is proceeded with. But what a man writes, he fixes to a certain degree, and will not see occasion to unfix so readily as he ought, when the further facts open upon him. Moreover, in cases of quarrel and dispute, which are the great majority of cases submitted for decision to a civil functionary, to elucidate the matter in the precedent stages of it by your own knowledge of what occurred in the subsequent, is not to convey that clear idea of the rise and progress of the case and of the merits of the parties, which would result from keeping the reader, as you advance, in the same state of information in which the parties concerned were at the several stages of their proceedings. The merits of the parties generally depend much upon their state of information when they acted, and to obscure the view of this state of information is to confuse the question of their merits.