Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

monly be disposed of by the obscure industry of some person who studies the papers relating to them.

The late Mr. Wilberforce may be adduced as an example of pre-eminent popularity obtained without labour or sacrifice, though, let it be admitted, with great merit of other kinds. Mr. Southey once said of him, that if other men had the milk of human kindness he had the cream of it. This, with a winning amenity of manner, peculiar grace and fervour in conversation and an easy eloquence in public speaking, planted him the foremost of his party in the eyes of mankind, and placed his name in the title-page (as it were) of a great cause. But Mr. Zachary Macaulay was the man who rose and took pen in hand at four o'clock in the morning—who was (if I may be allowed to speak in parallels) the Dumont to his Mirabeau.

49

CHAPTER VIII.

CONCERNING INTERVIEWS.

To those who are not practically acquainted with business, it may appear that in the foregoing chapter I have undervalued that species of activity which consists in giving ready audience. Upon certain occasions, no doubt, interviews may have their use, and some contribution, though it will be rather ancillary than essential, may be made by them to the transaction of particular sorts of business. A statesman should make himself personally acquainted with those with whom he has dealings, so often as he has reason to suppose that they are men of any eminent qualifications; especially if he have the faculty of measuring men by the eye and the ear. And this is a faculty which he

E

ought to possess and to cultivate. "Fronti "nulla fides" is a maxim of only partial applicability. To trust the judgment in matters of aspect and demeanor may belong to the folly of fools; but it is not less a part of wisdom in the wise. Statesmen, therefore, who justly attribute to themselves some sagacity of this kind, should be accessible on occasions when it can be turned to account. And some other purposes might be specified, for which interviews are preferable to communication in writing. But these are the exceptions and they are not numerous. In the great majority of affairs oral communication is either prejudicial or nugatory.

For it should be remembered that in every question there are two or more parties interested. A large portion of the questions which come before a minister, arise out of disputes and complaints on which it is his business to adjudicate. His functions in these cases are quasi-judicial.

convey;

His office is for these purposes a Court of Justice, and ought to be a Court of Record. Every step of his procedure, and every ground upon which he rests every step, should appear upon the face of producible documents. The administration of justice in these cases cannot be aided by interlocutory argument with one party present and doors closed; nor will circumstances often permit that all parties should have equal opportunities of access. The public may be also a party interested, and no pleading voice claims to be heard on its behalf. Again, statements are made which must unavoidably, though perhaps insensibly, produce impressions, and to which nevertheless the party making them is not deliberately and responsibly committed. Further, no statesman, be he as discreet as he may, will escape having ascribed to him, as the result of interviews, promises and understandings which it was not his purpose to in a

and yet

short time he will be un

able to recollect what was said with sufficient distinctness to enable him to give a confident contradiction. So much as to the evils and injustice which will often arise from interviews.

Next as to their uselessness. In the rapid succession of topics which chase each other through the mind of a minister of state, especially of one who grants many interviews, words spoken are for the most part as evanescent as those which are written on the running stream, "Delentque pedum vestigia caudâ." But even if he should recollect what has been said for a day or two with sufficient precision to give effect to it in business, that effect must be given by writing; and to think that a minister who gives frequent audiences can himself write, and that at once and without choice of time, on many or even on a few of the questions brought before him in those audiences, is to indulge an expectation which not one minister in fifty will be found able to fulfil. And when

« AnkstesnisTęsti »