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Peter Gowan

The Origins of the Administrative Elite

A quarter of a century ago, Perry Anderson wrote a path-breaking article
challenging the framework that historians had established for explaining,
among other things, political change in 19th-century Britain.1 His analyses
at that time, along with the work of Tom Nairn, have received reinforcement
from subsequent research and offer a more plausible account than the earlier
paradigm of an almost effortless rise to power of the new bourgeoisie and
graceful withdrawal of the aristocracy and gentry.2 Yet studies of the evolving
machinery of the state, confined within the bloodless discipline of ‘administrative history’, have remained firmly within the old imagery of ‘bourgeois
revolution’.3 There was, indeed, a fierce debate among administrative historians in the 1960s and 1970s about what had actually changed in 19thcentury government, but the protagonists shared a common false perspective
on the decisive issues. Above all, we will argue, they failed to grasp the nature
and importance of the Northcote–Trevelyan manifesto for reorganizing the
central institutions of the state and the subsequent, successful campaign to
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implement that manifesto. Before we examine in detail the Northcote–
Trevelyan Report, however, we should review the two traditions of
thought on British administrative development in order to establish the
terms of the argument.

1. Administrative Historiography
Tories versus Fabians

Jennifer Hart caused a stir in Past and Present in the 1960s with a vitriolic
attack on what she called the Tory school of administrative history,4 in
which she included Oliver MacDonagh, Kitson Clark, W.L. Burn,
David Roberts and others. She accused them—accurately—of belittling
the role of men and ideas; of attributing change to the Christian
conscience of public opinion in areas where it considered conditions
intolerable, and of holding that change was not, on the whole, premeditated or planned but was the result of ‘the historical process’ or ‘blind
forces’. In reality, Hart maintained, 19th-century administrative change
had been in large measure the result of conscious planning by the
Benthamites. Henry Parris strengthened her case by showing how Dicey
had led historians astray with his claim that the Benthamites were
champions of laissez-faire against government growth,5 while S.E. Finer
demonstrated the extraordinarily vigorous efforts of the Benthamites to
spread their ideas in governing circles between 1820 and 1850 and their
remarkable success in this enterprise.6
What Jennifer Hart did not spell out—but what surely gave the
debate its acrimonious tone—was the fact that she was speaking for an
alternative political tradition, which might be called the Fabian school
of administrative studies and historiography. The basic tenets of classical
Fabianism are, of course, that the state can and should engage in positive
social engineering and that this requires conscious planning on the part
of an intellectual elite dedicated to the common good. Translated into
historiography, these assumptions have produced a strong defence of
the role of the Benthamites in 19th-century reform. There is, after all,
a close family resemblance between Benthamism and Fabianism both
in their substantive political theories and in their methods of work and
the roles they sought to play. Beatrice Webb named Bentham ‘Sidney’s
intellectual god-father’,7 and Graham Wallas acknowledged his own
1 ‘Origins of the Present Crisis’, New Left Review 23, January–February 1964. D.C. Moore’s study of
the 1832 Reform Act, ‘The Other Face of Reform’, Victorian Studies, September 1961 pointed up the
inadequacy of the old framework for understanding 19th-century political development. See also P.
Anderson, ‘The Figures of Descent’, NLR 161, for a substantive reassessment.
2 The most important of recent works, Geoffrey Ingham’s Capitalism Divided? The City and Industry in
British Social Development, London 1984, provides the first serious framework for understanding the
historical relationship between the British state’s peculiar system of administrative power and the
dominant sectors of British capital.
3
The first serious challenge in this field is Hans Eberhard Mueller’s Bureaucracy, Education and Monopoly:
Civil Service Reforms in Prussia and England (University of California Press, 1984).
4
J. Hart, ‘19th Century Social Reform: A Tory Interpretation of History’, Past and Present, No. 31.
5
‘The 19th Century Revolution in Government: A Reappraisal Reappraised’, Historical Journal No. III,
1960.
6
Published in G. Sutherland, ed., Studies in the Growth of 19th Century Government, London 1972.
7
Our Partnership, London 1926, p. 210.

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enormous debt by employing an essentially Benthamite conception of
rights and attempting to ground political theory on an adequate grasp
of human nature and psychology.8 The early Fabians’ enthusiasm for
quantitative social science techniques serving a dynamic elite of professional administrators makes them direct descendants of the Social
Science Association founded by, among others, Chadwick and KayShuttleworth in the mid-1850s, after they had been driven out of
government jobs to make room for the new breed of reformers.
The Fabian school has built its interpretation of 19th-century administrative history around Wallas’s distinction between the Negative and the
Positive State. As he put it: ‘During the last hundred years, in all
civilized communities of the world the functions of government have
changed from being mainly negative into being mainly positive, that is
to say, Governments have come to be engaged not merely in preventing
wrong things from being done, but in bringing it about that right
things shall be done.’9 Wallas and later Fabians constantly repeated
that this positive state required a government of experts—a carefully
recruited, highly trained, elite corps of professional civil servants. Wallas
himself even defined the ‘master-art of government’ to be the ‘use of
intellectual initiative for the creation of such administrative machinery
as shall produce in its turn further intellectual initiative’.10 This standpoint has formed the basis for a large body of Fabian literature,
providing the core normative ideas in H.R.G. Greaves’s important
book, The Civil Service in the Changing State, in the Fabian tracts of 1946
and June 1964, in Thomas Balogh’s famous essay, ‘The Apotheosis of
the Dilettante’, and indeed in the Fulton Report and in the CrowtherHunt and Kelner critique of the civil service in 1977.11
Thus, while the Tory historians generally deplore the ‘excessive’ growth
of the ‘collectivist state’ as a bureaucratic encroachment upon
‘liberty’, the Fabians applaud it. While the Tories dismiss the idea that
changes in the 19th-century state could have been carefully planned,
the Fabians insist that the Benthamites did indeed plan a good deal.
While the Tories make the Christian conscience of ‘public opinion’ the
source of reform, the Fabians identify a definite group of conscious,
theoretically aware bourgeois reformers. These contrasts indicate, however, the degree to which both schools agree on a central significant
trajectory, from the Negative, laissez-faire or individualist state, to the
collectivist, bureaucratic Welfare state. They both also agree that crucial
changes in the governmental–administrative system had to do not with
social or class conflict but with the tackling of new circumstances
or old problems, and that the whole process was part of a wider
‘modernization’, along with the rise of the middle classes, the growing
complexity of society and state, the spread of democracy and technological transformations.
8

See T.H. Qualter, Graham Wallas and the Great Society, London 1980, pp. 99, 162.
G. Wallas, ‘Government’, Public Administration No.6/1, 1928, p. 3.
10 Quoted in Qualter, op. cit., p. 132.
11 The Civil Servants, London 1977. Balogh’s essay is in H. Thomas, ed., Crisis in the Civil Service,
London 1968.
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some of these authors do show signs of uneasiness. ‘middle-class’. 1853–55’. to Parris and Annan—that Northcote–Trevelyan was part of the general rise of the bourgeoisie’s influence on government. of a purer public ethic. Representative Bureaucracy. January 1949. Constitutional Bureaucracy. technological change and so forth. ‘The English Intellectual Aristocracy’. we would have to go back before the First World War to the conservative American administrative historian. For MacDonagh it was designed to cheapen and improve the efficiency of government. London 1969. ‘against the ancien régime’. E. 17. 13 Especially Greaves. Columbia University. and its aristocratic ethic of good housekeeping passed over to the middle classes and civil servants. op.15 12 D. ‘Sir Charles Trevelyan and Civil Service Reform. Parris.14 Nevertheless. but also Finer who feels obliged to offer us a rather tortuous ‘paradox’ to the effect that the reform was produced not only in the spirit of middle-class democracy but also because the aristocracy felt so secure. at least acknowledge the class background: ‘government had become too complicated and technical to be handled by the ruling class and their dependents’. Essays in Social History. 244. True. ‘efficiency-oriented’. the increasing complexity of administration. 15 Robert Moses. 14 E. The very article by MacDonagh that sparked the controversy with Jennifer Hart over the nature of the ‘19th-century revolution in Government’ had devoted as much space to Northcote–Trevelyan as to Benthamism. MacDonagh adds a third point: that the report was ‘impregnated with the radical ethics of self-help and competition’ and that the reform betrayed ‘a total absence’ of either bureaucratic or collectivist intention.13 and Hughes. H. Kingsley.12 The list of adjectives could be extended almost endlessly—‘democratic’. Greaves and Finer. Plumb. author of some of the most important detailed research on the work surrounding and leading up to the Report. to find a radically different interpretation. ‘anti-aristocratic’ and so on. English Historical Review. and his material in Public Administration XXXII. Yet Hart’s savage response passed over MacDonagh’s interpretation of Northcote– Trevelyan in silence—not surprisingly since her own views turned out to be almost textually identical. For MacDonagh the report was first of all aimed at ‘the further loosening of the aristocratic hold on government’ and at eradicating political corruption. Cohen. Annan does. Greaves. linked to the steady progress of democratization. through Balogh. This shared view merges with a wide consensus among administrative historians—from Kingsley and Cohen. The British Civil Service. p. Hart does not bridle at this. Ohio 1944. ‘technocratic’. in J.The Tory–Fabian Consensus All these shared assumptions have produced a remarkable consensus over the Northcote–Trevelyan Report on the reorganization of the central institutions of government in the 1850s. 1780–1939 (1941). ed. ‘radical’. The Civil Service of Great Britain. 7 . H. however. Finer. Hart correspondingly claims that Trevelyan’s chief concern was greater efficiency. cit. on Gladstone’s part.H.. Robert Moses. She makes no attempt to assimilate Northcote–Trevelyan to her Benthamite Great Tradition. p. and treats the report very much in the Tory style as the product of individual personalities’ immediate concerns—a ‘blind’ step in the march towards the modern state. Hughes. until Hans Mueller’s recent work to which we shall return. eschews broad historical generalizations about its place and significance in 19th-century development. The Growth of the British Civil Service. Hart correspondingly stresses the aim. 1954. 1914.

Laski. Wallas before the First World War hailed Northcote–Trevelyan as ‘the one great political invention in 19th-century England’. cit. namely to play down the importance of the Northcote–Trevelyan reform process altogether. p. gives sustained attention to the Report only in a polemical final chapter entitled ‘Our Present Discontents’ on the Fulton report. With Northcote–Trevelyan thus disposed of. Laski’s later hostility to the higher civil service can. for example.19 And Hart’s article on the origins of the report. He sought to resolve his dilemma by declaring in a famous passage that the 19th-century state never really existed. be attributed to his evolution from Fabianism to Marxism. He is able to achieve all this by treating administrative history as largely the history of procedure. Democracy in Crisis. along with the anonymous authors of the influential Fabian tract and the majority of the Fulton Commission: Northcote–Trevelyan had been transformed from Fabian hero to Fabian villain—the prime obstacle to the technocratic positive state. London 1933. 18 H. p.No less striking than this unity of explanation are the dramatic change in the political attitude of the Fabian school towards the Northcote– Trevelyan manifesto and the tendency of orthodox historians in the post-Fulton period to play down its importance in shaping the 20thcentury British state.18 From the right. 17 8 . These Fabian attempts first to squeeze the Crown of Positivism onto Northcote–Trevelyan then to replace it with the dunce’s cap of Negativism might have suggested that a paradigm constructed only out of negative laissez-faire and positive collectivism simply does not fit at all. 221 and 276). Chester. and some of the main contributions have provided the meat for two recent collections on the 16 Human Nature in Politics. New York 1983. he was plagued by doubts as to the positive value of Northcote–Trevelyan and inclined to view it as more in tune with the Negative rather than the Positive phase of state development. interventionist state. Parris’s important work. But by the 1960s Greaves’s doubts had become hostile certainties for Balogh. 19 N. of course. 249. Chester also manages to dismiss Bentham’s influence on administration as being insignificant (pp. Parris. just after the Second World War.16 while in the 1930s Harold Laski echoed his opinion that ‘the reformed Civil Service was largely responsible for the development of the positive state’. The controversy has been the subject of painstaking survey. we are now urged to concentrate on the ‘real’ debate about who or what was responsible for the rise of the modern collectivist. vi. Sir Norman Chester’s recent history manages almost entirely to ignore Northcote–Trevelyan. See H. Constitutional Bureaucracy. the epitome of negativism. Oxford 1981. it has stimulated a major collection of further research in the field. 1780 to 1870. as we have seen. Yet administrative historiography after the Fulton Report has tended to take a different course.17 Yet by the time Greaves was exploring the subject. since before the Negative state had been constructed the modern active state had begun to emerge. 99. equally treats it as the product of the particular concerns of individual personalities unconnected to great forces shaping a modern state: only the Benthamites are permitted the capacities for grandiose historical planning of political–administrative structures. op. since no one disputed that Northcote–Trevelyan was of fundamental importance in the construction of the modern state. The English Administrative System.

G.. The Government was compelled to drop its plan to legislate the Report’s main proposals and was itself forced from office shortly afterwards. June 1970. ed.) is by far the best. pp. cit.) is superb on the discussions within the government.. op. 1840–1878.20 The general problematic has also been buttressed by Greenleaf’s volumes on the British political tradition. Gooch..R. British Government in the 19th Century. Sutherland. ‘Recent Trends in Administrative History’. Victorian Studies. This led Trevelyan to propose the abolition of the East Indian Company’s training college at Haileybury—a proposal championed in the Commons by Robert Lowe. but serious work does not seem to have started until October 1853. the junior minister for India—and Jowett subsequently became closely involved in the reform discussions. formed in December 1852 of Whigs and Peelites (plus one ex-Radical. is the best general source on political events in the government and also contains extensive coverage of Gladstone’s correspondence with Graham and Russell on the Report. Valerie Cromwell. but the Chancellor demanded one major change: the total abolition of Parliamentary patronage in Civil Service appointments. The Report was commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 39. London 1925. The Victorian Revolution. Lord Palmerston’s icy letter on the proletarian threat and Russell’s refusal to face up to it should not be missed! 9 . pp. ed. 114–39. Moore. on an enquiry into that body. London 1972. 246–57. through a Treasury minute of April 1853.. Vol.cit. Stansky. pp. 22 Gladstone’s very important letter of 3 December 1853 was first published by Hart in Sutherland. In the intervening months Treasury chief Trevelyan was working with Ralph Lingen.P. pp. who had wanted to keep seven-eighths of such patronage intact in the hands of the Treasury. p. 21 Her actual remark was: ‘Every schoolchild is now taught as an article of dogmatic faith that “the Whig interpretation of history” is false. The Northcote–Trevelyan Report The Northcote–Trevelyan Report was produced under the Aberdeen government. Sutherland. Revolution or Evolution. VII 2. Hughes’s 1949 article (op.22 The Report’s titular authors. The Later Correspondence of Lord John Russell. ‘Interpretations of 19th Century Administration: an Analysis’.21 II. Also indispensable is J. What Northcote and Trevelyan considered to be the final draft of the Report reached Gladstone at the end of November. except from Oxbridge and public school leaders and a scattering of individuals.cit. 408–11. Russell’s preoccupations and difficulties can be appreciated by reading G. Victorian Studies. 20 See Valerie Cromwell. 2..23 There was a generally very hostile public reaction. Molesworth).. 74–77. Mueller (op.Victorian state.B. agreed to this structural change and the final draft was then subjected to intensive discussions within the Government until it won a Cabinet majority in February and was published. Gonacher’s The Aberdeen Coalition. March 1966. ed. pp. but Greaves is also useful. G. head of the Education Department. every student is now taught as an article of dogmatic faith that the choice must be made only between the Tory and the Fabian interpretation of 19th-century history. Gladstone. 23 J. On public reactions to the Report. 2 contains useful background as well as the full texts of the first exchange of letters between Graham and Gladstone. In July the reformers’ attention switched to the Indian Civil Service as a result of intervention from Benjamin Jowett of Balliol. Thus. to adapt the sarcastic remark with which Hart opened the controversy. The Historical Journal. 245–55. Is the Tory interpretation any better?’ Loc. London 1977. ‘The Abolition of Patronage in the Indian Civil Service and the Closure of Haileybury College’. 1964. (Parker’s Life and Letters of Sir James Graham Vol..cit. ed. Studies in the Growth of 19th Century Government. ed. Cambridge 1968.

Yet the 24 The full text of the Report can be read in the 1954 issue of Public Administration. London 1969. the changes proposed in the Report as implemented in the 1870 Order in Council and in earlier and later reforms came about not through the impact of the Report itself. Was the Report Important? The only historian to mount a serious argument that the Northcote– Trevelyan report was unimportant has been Parris. another key change was closely related in Trevelyan’s mind: namely. (2) Within each grade promotion would be by merit and not simply by seniority. 25 Henry Roseveare’s The Treasury. I have used the term ‘programme-committed’ in the sense in which it has often been applied to officials in US federal bureaux. 159. thus allowing immediate entry from those universities without any further course of study. competitive exams run by a central Civil Service Commission. these proposals represent the decisive organizing principles of the top management corps within the modern British state. is good on this. 27 Members of the new breed like Lingen were also zealots. thus unifying the service into a cohesive corps. Taken together.27 Parris thus plays down not only the continuity between the 1854 report and subsequent changes but also the element of conscious political struggle to implement the changes outlined in the Northcote–Trevelyan manifesto. As he points out. This view of events cannot be accepted. the conversion of the Treasury into the ‘superintending’ department in Whitehall. (3) The staff would be recruited for life at a young age and constitute a distinct profession. (4) Appointment by patronage would be replaced across the board by open. this new breed was replacing an earlier generation of top officials such as Kay Shuttleworth and Chadwick—people he characterizes as ‘zealots’ but whom I would prefer to call programme-committed officials—from the age of Benthamite reform in the 1830s and 1840s.25 In fact the implementation of the Report’s proposals and of Treasury control were in large measure interdependent.The Northcote–Trevelyan Report’s key proposals are fairly clear cut and easily summarized: (1) Departmental staffs were to be divided into two grades: a superior one engaged in intellectual work and an inferior. 26 Op.26 In his view.24 Although not directly mentioned in the Report. but through more or less natural pressure from the new breed of administrators entering the higher civil service from the late 1840s onwards. Treasury Control of the Civil Service. though the exams were not exclusively geared to ‘liberal’ subjects. See also Maurice Wright’s more detailed study. The formula that encapsulates his argument is on p. 1854–74. 1954 devoted to its centenary and is also reproduced in the Fulton Report. (6) Higher-grade civil servants would be open to promotion across departments. but not about particular departmental programmes. involved in mechanical work. cit. or the work of the reformers directly associated with it. It is true that neither Northcote nor Trevelyan was involved in the 1870 Order in Council. 10 . (5) The exams for the superior grade would embrace the ‘liberal education’ curricula of Oxford and Cambridge. London 1969.

There is no full-length study of Lingen. op. 32 See R.A. cit. Social Postion and Role’. Jowett and Lowe—all very close friends28—had been involved and so above all had Gladstone. pp. But Milner was a direct product of Jowett’s Kindergarten. pp. A further indication of Gladstone’s drive to implement the Report was the fact that amidst all the pressures of office in 1870. the most famous enemy of democracy in the country. 29 See Martin. Greenaway. 30 Loc. But there was nothing automatic and organic about the implementation of those ideas: they were consciously fought for and pushed through by Gladstone and other veterans of the Aberdeen government.30 Furthermore.. The Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett (two volumes. The most detailed account of the decision to introduce the 1870 Order in Council is in Maurice Wright. to have been the Order in Council in line with the 1854 Report.. in Sutherland. Toronto 1976.Report had been by no means only their work. op. op. When he became Prime Minister soon after the passing of the Second Reform Act he made what many regarded as a very strange choice as his Chancellor: Robert Lowe. wanted the Mastership of Balliol and Gladstone obliged by giving the encumbent a deanery. provides a valuable portrait of the work and outlook of Kay Shuttleworth. he asked Lowe to contact his friend Benjamin Jowett to find out if there was anything Gladstone could do for him. cit. ‘Educational Policy and Social Control in Early Victorian England’. Chapman and J. but they were friends by the 1850s and became very close. and Jowett was acting as Milner’s mentor and confidant long after he had left the University. Johnson’s article. but Richard Johnson’s fascinating article. of course. Robert Lowe. of course. the Ridley Commission of 1886–88. Faber (pp. 31 Faber. ed. on Lowe’s appointment. Prime Minister at the time of the 1870 Order. Letters of Benjamin Jowett (London 1899). London 1980. the intellectual leader of the Adullamite Cave. 360–65) devotes a whole section of a chapter to the relationship between the two men. cit. gives a vivid account of this incident. Jowett. the full programme of Northcote–Trevelyan had not been fully implemented: yet the consolidation of a fused corps d’elite binding together all the instruments of administrative power—through Milner’s changes at the end of the First World War—can be seen as having a direct link with an original reform group. London 1897) and Faber. London 1893. Lingen. See also the additional volume by Abbott and Campbell. established the Playfair Commission in 1874 to ensure that the reform programme was pushed through the administrative machine. Past and Present 59. He rightly contradicts the impression in many earlier accounts that Gladstone was lukewarm—the truth was the reverse. Chapter 4.29 The choice has usually been linked with Gladstone’s view of finance. ‘Administrators in Education before 1870: Patronage. clearing Jowett’s way. 110–39. But see also J. But Gladstone himself considered Lowe’s outstanding contribution. All these works demonstrate the closeness of Jowett’s relations with both Lingen and Lowe.32 This is not to deny Parris’s point that the top civil servants of 1870 were often much more amenable than those of 1854 to the ideas of Northcote–Trevelyan. The Dynamics of Administrative Reform.. cit.31 Even by the end of the Gladstone period. 349ff. provides the basis for the material on Lingen here. It may seem fanciful to suggest a link between a document of 1854 and changes in 1919. Benjamin Jowett: A Portrait with Background. pp. The basic work on Lowe is Martin’s twovolume The Life and Letters of Lord Sherbrooke. and followed up with the second Royal Commission on the Civil Service. cit.R. the man who had commissioned the Report and pulled a reluctant Northcote into working for him on administrative reform. 28 Throughout this article I have used the two main sources on Jowett’s life: Abbott and Campbell. 11 . entitling his elevation to the Lords. Gladstone moved Ralph Lingen into the Treasury as its permanent head in 1869.. Winter. It is not entirely clear when Lowe’s friendship with Jowett was first cemented. Gladstone was. op. 104–5 for Milner’s little-known involvement.

Nor can we distance this new breed from the aims and outlook of those who produced the report. Francis Sandford and F. Jowett wrote to him likening Kay to ‘the two barbarians. in fact.35 Lingen ended the tradition of programme-commitment. One was Lingen himself. a very special breed: Jowett protégés. cit. 1. For decades afterwards the department was controlled by his ex-pupils. The only place in the administration where this new breed was strong in the early 1850s was. Johnson. p. like Kay-Shuttleworth. 34 12 . cit. in fact. Two of the three exemplars of the new breed that he mentions were.The New Breed Parris’s perceptive identification of a transition from one breed of officials to another in the late 1840s and the 1850s is of great importance in explaining the transformation of the administrative elite. Jowett was actively involved in securing the entry of the following Balliol men: Matthew Arnold. KayShuttleworth’s drive to expand the Department’s budget in order to build a national system of working-class education was replaced by Lingen’s stress on control and retrenchment and above all by his lack of any drive whatever to fight legislative battles for a stronger commitment to education or wider powers for the department. but had distinctive ideas and were extremely hostile to the programmecommited reformers of the earlier Benthamite era. the first of an extraordinary line of senior civil servants to benefit from Jowett’s tuition. I suppose to get as far as he can out of reach of Education. and they were ready to discuss— and to discuss well—any subject under the sun except education.. A breakthrough in the education field had to wait until Lingen had left 33 See R.’36 Lingen himself was an incorrigible writer of Greek verse and his deputy wrote in 1857: ‘Lingen will go on leave this week—he meditates a journey to Rome. op. 128.34 Lingen shared this contempt. While Lingen was still Kay’s subordinate. Under his regime. swinging from ‘attacking Shuttleworth in very vigorous English’ to keeping quiet on Jowett’s advice. Frederick Temple. ‘they were scholars. in so many ways similar to the outlook reported to reign among civil servants in American government bureaus today. 135.T. The full text and background is contained in Abbott and Campbell. poets. Johnson’s article in Sutherland. They were not just a social type. where everyone was a Jowett product. Vol. 37 Ibid.33 Between the time that Lingen joined the department in 1846 and the end of 1849. Palgrave. 35 R. and the other was Farrer. natural generational change that he implies. to be sure of taking over the department when Kay-Shuttleworth was removed. in the Education Department.’37 The change was one not simply of style and culture but of policy. as Kekewich (another of the Balliol Department leaders) remembered. Yet this transition does not seem to have been quite the simple. op. philosophers and musicians etc. the Education Department’s office staff formed ‘exactly the same sort of society that is to be found in any college Common Room’.. p. Hengist and Horsa’. 36 Ibid.

is to make very large claims for the brief. 39 13 . 321. a dialectical process: a few of the new breed like Lingen inside and Jowett outside participated in producing the Reform manifesto of 1854. Indeed. he declared in February 1853 that Chadwick ‘had never shown any feeling about the public money except to get as much as he could of it’ and that this alone ‘disqualified him from office’—implying that additional grounds could be found for sacking Chadwick if necessary. But their mission pointed in a very different direction from either Benthamite bureaucratic doctrine or a fixation with laissez-faire economics. 40 See ‘The English Intellectual Aristocracy’. op. political and social imagination fully worthy of Wallas’s accolade. English Historical Review LXXV (1960). quoted in Conacher. The band of new men in the Education Department were a very isolated group within the civil service of the early 1850s. ‘Sir Charles Trevelyan at the Treasury’. for its spirit and orientation were utterly alien to the blue-prints and aims of Bentham and James Mill.40 There was. political and class problems and problems of institutional development. a remarkably creative work of administrative. by 1853 he was no friend of Benthamite types like Chadwick. But they had a potential ally in Trevelyan. Though himself. it created the tightly integrated managerial 38 Russell to Gladstone.the department at the end of the 1860s to drive for Treasury control and for the implementation of Northcote–Trevelyan. in other words.39 Kay-Shuttleworth was thrown out of Education very shabbily in 1849 and Chadwick’s enemies drove him out with relish in 1854. 20 January 1854. twentypage Report that appeared in 1854 and to posit a great programmatic consistency on the part of the central actors for decades thereafter. however. the Treasury’s administrative driving force. we would offer Lord Annan’s brilliant account of how the Report was hailed as a ‘Bill of Rights’ by his ‘intellectual aristocrats’ who gained their ‘Glorious Revolution’ in 1870–71. Yet we shall argue that Northcote–Trevelyan was precisely such an astonishing planning achievement. Hart. op. for at that very moment they were in the midst of destroying a bastion of Benthamism—the training system of the Indian Civil Service—a very important event to which we shall return later. cit. None of this meant that Lingen and the rest of the new breed were indolent or conceived of themselves as gentlemen dilettantes: on the contrary. cit. It was planning. Quoted in J. Against Parris’s downgrading of the reform effort of 1853–54 and his supposed alternative of a natural evolution to a new breed of recruits. p. as Russell pointed out. that cannot be assimilated to Hart’s Fabian tradition. despite any easy Common Room airs. This drew more of the new breed towards a civil service career and towards an administrative structure on the lines of the Report. The Northcote–Trevelyan breed shed no tears. thus creating more favourable soil for Gladstone to plough from 1870 onwards.38 in so many ways similar to the buccaneering civil servants of the earlier period. they were just as much zealots. To trace back in this way the reorganization of central state institutions for over fifty years. Such claims for synoptic planning have no place in Tory historical philosophy. It contained an integrated set of principles offering a highly specific solution to a wide range of administrative..

Hart. cit. Expenditures.41 and Hart has shown that he was grappling with the idea of a general reform of the civil service at least since the mid-1840s. Roseveare. J. London 1973. Their conception concerned what type of central state mechanism should be constructed in Britain—the kind of really big issue that is simply ignored in a ‘political’ historiography that sees only party leaders. Trevelyan’s Volte-Face over Haileybury Hughes. MacDonagh’s supposed paradox of a laissez-faire reform unintentionally aiding collectivism is a puzzle of his own making. loc. The Treasury. more recently. ‘The Genesis of the Northcote–Trevelyan Report’. by Parris’s correction. but then assimilated Northcote–Trevelyanism to an undifferentiated Benthamite period stretching from 1830 right through the century into ‘collectivism’.. a particular socio-political coalition of forces in Britain. This was because the programme embodied an alternative. 42 See Trevelyan’s evidence to the Select Committee on Misc. 1853–55’. in Sutherland. 1660–1870. was a caste principle equally central in the Report. 63–81. 43 Roseveare demonstrates Trevelyan’s pioneering role in this area. ed. In this period Trevelyan was also striving for that great complement to Northcote–Trevelyan—Treasury Control43—which was linked in his mind with the idea that senior civil servants would be 41 Hughes. Dicey was aware of the importance of the government reforms starting between 1848 and 1854. pp. not across grades. matching the requirements of. and in an administrative historiography that sees only procedure and ‘implementation’. Hart and others have rightly stressed that Trevelyan played a central role in the formation of the Report’s ideas. We will now try to dissect this alternative in the minds of the 1853–54 reformers. while wanting this to be applied only within. pp. Trevelyan can thus be credited with the idea of creating a distinct managerial elite within the British state..Benthamite’ laissez-faire policy could have been. The Northcote–Trevelyan conception was inimical to neither laissez-faire nor ‘collectivism’ and it offered little that was new in terms of administrative routines. 201–204. 14 . party rhetoric and policy. We will argue that the Northcote–Trevelyan programme was far more destructive of Benthamism than any mere ‘anti. op. See his The Treasury.42 His advocacy of promotion by merit more than seniority. but in his crusade against ‘collectivism’ he assimilated both Benthamism and the Northcote–Trevelyan programme to individualist laissez-faire. cit. The Foundations of Control. and helping to create. ‘Sir Charles Trevelyan and Civil Service Reform.elite of the British state. Parris rightly broke the identification between laissez-faire and Benthamism. The radical switch in direction away from Benthamism represented by Northcote–Trevelyan was obscured first by Dicey and then. This also led him to deny a break in overall direction at the start of the 1850s.. quoted at length in H. 28 March and 4 April 1848. As early as 1848 Trevelyan was arguing for the division of the administrative staff into a superior and an inferior grade. positive conception: one not restricted to issues of frankly middling policy importance that often have as much to do with party rhetoric as with substance.

75. if nominated for the home service. I should have a task before me compared to which my previous work at Oxford could only be regarded as child’s play. He wanted the Treasury to recruit not straight from the outside but from the most suitable material within other departments.44 Hart argues that all these ideas of Trevelyan’s were inspired exclusively or overwhelmingly by his desire to improve the ability of recruits into. from Memorials of Old Haileybury. p. 45 Quoted by Moses. What Hart overlooks is the revolution in Trevelyan’s thinking as a result of his conversation with Jowett on the 21st or 22nd of July 1853. Hart very pertinently refers to his experience in India and his admiration for the Indian Civil Service. and as Hart points out. that the spur for the reform proposals was the shock of the 1848 Revolution. he thought the Indian service far more efficient than the home service. She dismisses Trevelyan’s own later testimony to the Playfair Commission and to Eaton. Haileybury College had been founded by the directors of the East India Company in 1806. The college soon became an intellectual power-house as the directors spared no pains to attract the highest quality of teachers. and efficiency of. By Statute of 1813 all higher civil servants of the Company had to have spent four terms at Haileybury as a condition of employment. Trevelyan moved heaven and earth in 1853 to destroy Haileybury. But what she does not explain is why. as the unreliable memories of an old man. . The students were therefore taught politics (‘general 44 These were the ideas to be implemented by Warren Fisher in the inter-war years under Milner’s impulse. We must look more closely at both Haileybury and Trevelyan. but if it had ever been paramount it was no longer his only motive by the time he came to write the Report. Trevelyan was himself a product of Haileybury. to train higher Indian civil servants. Hart mentions a further Trevelyan encomium for the ICS of March 1850. . radically different from that of Oxbridge. the civil service. subsequently a professor at Oxford.. op. The Sanskrit scholar Monier-Williams. 51. before he started drafting the Report. as did Sir James Stephen and Sir James MacIntosh. . following his conversation with Jowett. efficiency was undoubtedly a concern for Trevelyan. Malthus taught (and wrote his famous book) there. an American researcher.’45 Haileybury’s educational orientation. would almost always have gained a place. . I soon discovered that if I wished to rise above the level of the average student. forming a closely integrated corps d’élite. 15 . p. In arguing for Trevelyan’s preoccupation with efficiency. A Trevelyan memo of August 1849 praised Haileybury for weeding out unsuitable people who.promoted across departments. cit. was to be had either at the Universities or elsewhere . the East India Company’s training college. ensuring that it would be the apex and directing force within the career structure. was geared to training administrators in knowledge relevant to their work. Now. wrote that the mental training there was of such a high standard that ‘nothing at all equal to it .

Wood’s Education Dispatch of 1854 finally carried the day for the brothers-in-law against the ghost of Mill. a British Ecole Polytechnique. feeding on inputs from the educational environment. For Macaulay and Trevelyan a consciously anti-Benthamite element was almost certainly present: that is. Moore’s illuminating article. they were anxious to settle scores with James Mill over the fundamentals of British strategy in India—the relation between race.’ For this and other material on the Benthamite influence on India see Eric Stokes. ably assisted by Robert Lowe in the Commons. He was a good deal of a Benthamite.J. 47 See R.. and I came away from Haileybury with a very sound belief in the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Bentham had gained his friend and supporter Sir James MacIntosh the key post of Professor of ‘General Polity and Law’ and brought Malthus in as well. a case of what organization theorists would call closed-system thinking. Trevelyan’s ideas about a caste division and Treasury control had a static and rather administrative character. and forms an important theme in his book. Thus Trevelyan abandoned his earlier notion of recruit46 Sir George Campbell. he was succeeded by William Empson.46 The story of the extremely skilful and energetic manoeuvrings to destroy Haileybury. this extension of the continental model was the work of Bentham and James Mill—Bentham had every reason for his quip that he would be running India from his grave. another fervent Benthamite. op. Trevelyan went so far as to present large chunks of his 1838 pamphlet to the select committee of enquiry preparing the India Act in 1852. unconnected to the environment of the administrative apparatus. loc. cit.48 But the issues at stake for Trevelyan went far beyond Indian administrative training.) Of course. who was at Haileybury in the 1840s. Jowett of Balliol had an obvious motive: to open the ICS fully to Oxbridge graduates. was a mechanism for producing civil servants on the lines of French or German bureaucracy. cit. 48 This very important struggle between Trevelyan and Macaulay on one side and James Mill on the other is told in Stokes. so to speak. 16 . Taken on their own.polity’).47 But their aims have not been fully explored. London 1959. and any notion that his scope was restricted to a Victorian equivalent of Raynorite efficiencyfanaticism is utterly misleading. has been well described elsewhere. law and political economy as well as Indian languages and classical subjects. The whole affair was in the forefront of the brothers-in-laws’ minds in 1852–53. class and state building—on which Trevelyan and Mill had been at odds since the 1830s. Here. Jowett showed him how to turn his ideas on the British reform into. There is also strong circumstantial evidence that his July 1853 conversation with Jowett (no doubt carefully stage-managed by Jowett and Lingen) struck dynamite in Trevelyan’s imagination. in short. an ‘open system’. but good first principles. recorded in his memoirs that Empson taught ‘not the law of English lawyers. (The British Ecole des Mines et Chaussées was the college at Addiscombe for Indian Army engineers and technicians. his brother-in-law Macaulay and Jowett. The English Utilitarians and India. since he and Mill had taken care to make Haileybury their training college. reacting back on the educational system and becoming self-reproducing. Trevelyan had shown himself to have a remarkable historical–imaginative grasp of fundamental programmatic issues to do with state construction when he was in India in the 1830s. When MacIntosh moved on in 1824. by Trevelyan.

the Administrative Reform Association was extremely hostile to any expansion of employment in the Civil Service. There were two Victorian middle classes. Indeed. Trevelyan pulled Jowett into the centre of the discussions of British civil service reform. The Haileybury model. 1855–57’. and her ‘The Administrative Reform Association. passing the evenings in Westbourne Terrace and—who knows?—perhaps spending his afternoons chatting to his old friend from student days at Balliol. education and class structure of India in an intregrated plan for state-building must surely have been obvious to him. ‘The Janus Face of Mid-19th Century Radicalism: The Administrative Reform Association. the Bar or the army. Class Pressure and Administration Many writers. well-educated but allegedly short of jobs. Victorian Studies. not to speak of his nameless book-keeper. The analytic error is to lump together two quite separate social groups into a single. most notably the American Kingsley. Class. The sons and daughters of the gentry had long mingled with the aristocracy. Pressure from Without. used to argue that the Northcote–Trevelyan Report was a response to pressures from the rising middle classes.. in P. Stafford Northcote. Their younger sons could plan on entering the Church. Here was the decisive break with the Benthamite conception of constructing an administrative elite that had been gaining ground within the state in the 1830s and 1840s. not to speak of the Victorian gentry. 1855–57’. along with the aristocracy. and one of them was the gentry. This would seem crude even to the most vulgar of Marxists. From July 1853 Jowett was spending most of his time in London: staying the night at the Lingens’. now had to be scrapped because it entailed building an administrative elite out of material separated from the social–educational elite institutions of Oxbridge. They were by no means always well-off—hence the places for poor scholars at the top public schools and Oxbridge. but the oldest should have some form of ‘private 49 See Olive Anderson. plenty of jobs for this proverbially rising middle class. London 1974. 1965. Hart convincingly demonstrates at some length that this thesis is false: there were. ed. more or less undifferentiated category: she makes Annan’s ‘intellectual aristocracy’ of Trevelyans. The parallels between such a scheme and his own cherished plan of 1838 for linking together the administration. but even he would not have confused Macaulay’s rank with that of a Kay-Shuttleworth. in fact. whose political expressions such as the Financial and later the Administrative Reform Associations were not at all in tune with the sort of ideas Kingsley suggests. Macaulays and suchlike.49 But in the course of proving this point Hart adds an analytical error and draws an erroneous conclusion. Vol. From that July conversation onwards.ing people in the midst of other careers into the Civil Service in favour of taking young people straight from Oxbridge via suitably geared exams. of whom someone like Northcote was a typical instance. hitherto highly valued by Trevelyan on efficiency grounds. 17 . Lord Melbourne may have been irritated by Macaulay’s cocksure attempt to appoint himself the ideologist of the Whig counsinhood. Hollis. 8. members of the same class as the old boys of the mechanics institutes.

discriminates against ‘our public schools and universities’.’ Patronage. for producing. spelling out the real. An American historian has recently remarked with some irritation: ‘Whether or not present-day historians accept a class description of English society. 19th century English pedagogues did.. flattering the ethic of the self-made urban bourgeoisie. loc. aristocracy was not a repressive principle. whose ideas will be examined in more detail below.) brilliantly illuminates this key distinction in Victorian society. loc. as I believe. She simply ignores the irrefutable evidence. Hart’s erroneous conclusion is that because the urban middle classes were not exerting pressure. says Trevelyan.) The obsessiveness with which Victorian officials and politicians discussed issues in class terms is matched only by the obsessiveness with which modern Tory and Fabian historians seek to evade explanations of behaviour and events in these terms! 52 The text in question consisted of detailed comments by Trevelyan on a paper sent to him by a Captain O’Brien. that the reformers were profoundly concerned with class issues. 1. He lined up Delane at the Times to produce a demagogic attack on the aristocracy in support of the Report. Vol. might have leaked out!52 Not only were the reformers under no pressure from the rising urban middle classes to open up the civil service: they believed and hoped that the reform would weaken the capacity of this group to penetrate the upper reaches of the service. cit. one leading scholar explains that his youthful idealism ‘had two great foci: the Church and the Aristocracy . cit. 1949. 1830–1860’.50 Hart demonstrates beyond doubt that the latter were not clamouring for jobs in the civil service.51 Earlier historians like Kinglsey can. elsewhere. 53 Briggs quotes from Trevelyan’s ‘Thoughts on Patronage’. while ‘the tendency’ of the reform ‘will. Victorian Studies. aristocratic class orientation of the reform. cohesion and mutual 50 Hans Mueller (op.’ The material is reproduced by Hughes.’ The comments attack O’Brien for imagining that recruitment through ‘open competition’ would draw in fewer gentlemen: ‘the real case will. be exactly the reverse. and even sought to mobilize support for it from the mechanics institutes. technocratic.’ (H.. ‘The Social Origins and Post-Graduate Careers of a Cambridge Intellectual Elite. a different world from the urban business classes. he had a moment of panic over the possibility that a text of his within government. published in full in Hughes.income’. of course. since the authors deliberately wrote it in a style geared to appeal to that group: meritocratic. some of which she herself has been responsible. This gentry class inhabited. preferably. These comments explained how many lower-class people were at the time rising within the civil service: ‘At present a mixed multitude is sent up. Becker. p. The notion that Trevelyan or Gladstone. owing to the operation of political and personal patronage. But what about the plight of the gentry? She does not allow herself to perceive such a distinction. thereby strengthening the hold of the landed classes on administrative power. 28 No. had any other inclination directly contradicts all the evidence. 97.53 Northcote’s supposed wish to overthrow what MacDonagh repeatedly calls the ‘ancien régime’ is simply preposterous. 69–70. Trevelyan was acutely aware of this public relations aspect of the Report. At the same time. Asa Briggs long ago demonstrated Trevelyan’s aristocratic orientation. a large proportion of whom. For William. class had nothing whatever to do with the Northcote–Trevelyan report.W. or tried desperately to inhabit. I am confident. . As for Gladstone. are of an inferior rank in society. be forgiven for imagining that the report was a manifesto of the rising middle classes. 51 18 . let alone Northcote. be decidedly aristocratic. some land. pp. autumn 1986. cit. in fact. but one of unity. .

53–54. 55 19 . gave such a coalition its principled character: namely. all wanted to consolidate aristocratic power by integrating the middle class in a subordinate role. 206–15. . urging instead the mobilization of popular support for the patriotic flag through a noisy campaign for liberalism abroad. London 1959. The Peelites and the Party System. Stewart. Gladstone. the third protagonist in the debate. in the face of the pressures against it from below summed up in the banner of democracy. for heavier taxation on the landed interest. McDowell. pp. 56 On Disraeli’s manoeuvrings with Bright around the time of his budget see R.B. opposed and deplored Palmerston’s line.support .’ Victorian Studies. not least because of the threat it posed to state finance. The Politics of Protection. No party leader wished to replace the landed power with urban middle class ascendancy. Conacher.55 It was also true that there was general agreement among party leaders that this struggle involved winning the rising middle classes away from any class coalition with the radical democrats among the workers. Cambridge 1971. Whig and Peelite leaders in the 1850s. his respect for the aristocractic principle was never to leave him . Disraeli (trying to intrigue with Bright at this time—something Glad54 S. and his diary shows him to have been troubled. backed by classical political economy. Palmerston violently opposed this. . in his view. 1846–1852. adding that task was to resist ‘the inroads of democracy’. Quoted in R. particularly given Russell’s commitment to franchise reform. . being on the extreme Tory wing of the Peelites at this time and remaining more inclined towards them than towards the Liberals right through the 1850s. see the Diaries for 18 December 1852. the Derbyite spokesperson in the Quarterly Review. Checkland.’54 There is. A major reason for the instability of the Aberdeen coalition was the fact that the main champions of all three sat in the Cabinet.56 This pillar was the fifty-year bipartisan policy of ‘equal taxation’. pp. 12.B. . Defence of the ‘aristocratic principle’ in the mid-19th century precisely meant defence of the given class state. British Conservatism 1832–1914. The disagreements in the early 1850s were over the three strategic formulae for achieving this end. as to whether there was a principled basis for such a coalition of Whigs and Peelites. of course. The diary also reveals what. plus education for the working class. Russell advocated franchise reform to bring in the middle classes. Important material is also contained in J. This was the over-riding issue on the political agenda for all the Tory. Croker. London 1972. Disraeli’s utterly irresponsible readiness to seek trivial party advantage by placing in jeopardy a central pillar of aristocratic ascendancy. Vol. p. ‘The Making of Mr Gladstone. not a shred of truth in the suggestion of earlier historians that the Northcote–Trevelyan reformers supported democracy.G. directed against the demands of the middle classes. see the diaries for 26 March 1852. His only policy difference with the Derbyites was over Free Trade. on the eve of the formation of the Aberdeen government. pp. But he was no less hostile to franchise reform. 1968–69. his attitude to aristocracy was similar to that of his father: he deferred not to individuals but to an institution. defined the basic problem of the age as ‘whether the legislative power is to rest with the landed and those connected with it or with the manufacturing interests of the country’. For Gladstone’s analysis of the political situation and for his stance on the formation of the coalition. For his analysis of the trends amongst the Peelites and of his own position. 176–79. 408.

cit. strongly believed that the abolition of Parlimentary patronage would strengthen the ‘ancien régime’ and undermine potential challenges from the rising middle classes. For he felt that issues of principle were at stake. these were often within 57 Northcote. 58 Gladstone to Graham. The letter is reproduced in full in Hughes. 320. 20 . cases had to be justifiable on strictly party political grounds. 14 January. the image of old aristocratic corruption remained powerful in the popular imagination and Trevelyan knew how to exploit it. This.. 1949. have changed that. for a good treatment of this whole subject. for the purpose of strengthening party support. unlike MacDonagh. Gladstone had already discovered that patronage was no longer a matter of dole for friends and relatives. Edmund Burke. of which Graham was the leading supporter amongst the Peelites in the coalition. in his defence of that regime against George III’s political stirrings. thought Gladstone. 2 pp. explaining that the very large boroughs were too big to be bought and the pocket boroughs were too small to need buying. cit. in the service of party politics. op. Patronage and Gladstone: Myth and Reality Those like MacDonagh who argue that the Northcote–Trevelyan reformers and their supporters were ‘an amalgam of Peelism and middleclass radicalism’ opposing the ‘ancien régime’ point above all to their hostility to parliamentary patronage. Vol. so central that in a private remark about the document to Graham he described them as ‘my contribution to the picnic of Parliamentary reform’. See Hughes’s 1954 article.stone would not have dreamt of doing) had proposed making the landed interest pay more than the manufacturers in terms of tax rates. patronage as aristocratic dole had largely been replaced by Parliamentary patronage. this did not disturb him in the least. in Sutherland.58 But Gladstone. op. op. But after 1832. loc. 60 See his letter to Times editor Delane. according to his own later testimony.60 (Northcote’s proposal to centralize patronage powers in the Prime Minister’s hands would.57 Although he recognized that amendments along such lines would cause a sensation and might mean the Report would not be accepted by Parliament. no doubt. 6 February 1854. 209–10.. Trevelyan explained in a confidential document that this patronage was mainly available to MPs from middlesized urban boroughs. pp. was indeed a central concern of Gladstone’s. not government supporters. cit. He was here counterposing his plan to change party politics by abolishing patronage to franchise reform. reproduced in full in Parker. And it was often in the power of opposition MPs. The Aberdeen Coalition. would unleash a ‘conflict between the classes’ and the overriding duty of moderate opinion in all parties was to unite in fierce opposition to this treacherous policy. cit. 84–86. Back in 1843 as a member of Peel’s government. quoted in Conacher. p.. 3 January 1854. as we have seen. ed. along with Graham’s very interesting reply. had originally wanted to concentrate all patronage in the hands of the Prime Minister.59 The work of destroying the patronage system that MacDonagh and others seem to have in mind had been largely carried out by that greatest of defenders of the ancien régime. But in entering the coalition he insisted that the absence of agreement on any measure of franchise reform should be explicitly registered. See Hart. True enough.) As for top administrative posts in departments. but strictly political coinage: he had tried to get a job for a friend of a friend on humanitarian grounds and was told by the Patronage Secretary at the Treasury that this was not allowed: to be eligible. 59 Gladstone’s second letter to Graham. This.

by buying up Armstrong after firing his predecessor as head of the Civil Service—an unprecedented coup—had gained a party-political grip on the nomenklatura system with formidable consequences in terms of her capacity to wield power: for instance. free trade and a domestic laissez-faire economic policy. strict controls 61 For an excellent theoretical. Government of Strangers.the jurisdiction of the minister concerned if the post fell vacant. Vol. 7. her appointment of Donaldson to the key judicial post of Master of the Rolls. None of this is intended to suggest that Gladstone’s plan to shift the power of patronage from the parliamentary–party arena to the administrative arena was of little moment. interestingly. her use of the Manpower Services Commission. that with the consolidation of the Northcote–Trevelyan regime. plenty of evils in the world to combat. 1977. another element was an appeal to the demands of the urban bourgeoisie for low taxation. 62 See Hugh Heclo. yet there is no solid reason for viewing Russell’s stance as inherently less ‘modern’ than Gladstone’s. of course. so that the question remains why he chose to turn this issue into a crusade. Ethical motives are not sufficient: the campaign was also linked with Gladstone’s entire strategic formula for consolidating the midVictorian oligarchic state by winning acceptance of it from the new middle classes. redistributing the real power that patronage entails from Parliament to the administrative system. As to the dangers of political corruption from the Russell system. 4. convince himself that the parliamentary patronage system was evil and corrupt. ‘Party and Patronage: Germany. Part of this strategy involved. Lingen and Farrer were among the first to be honoured. 63 Thatcher. say. Politics and Society. to name just a few examples. Very appropriately. and Italy’. comparative treatment of this whole subject see Martin Shefter. Parris shows. for Gladstone. Lord John Russell’s strong opposition in Cabinet to Gladstone’s proposals seem to have been viewed as a typical reaction from the Whig aristocracy.63 Gladstone undoubtedly did. 21 . In truth it would be absurd to suggest that the British nomenklatura lists of the great and the good for handling. Gladstone agreed that it no longer acted as a means of changing party allegiances: it merely strengthened party ties.61 Russell favoured dispensing patronage through the party system. American Federal judges are appointed in this manner—with a check for competence. BBC governorships are remotely more ‘modern’ than the American methods of appointing Supreme Court justices or the members of regulatory agencies. Chapter 4. He shows how the penetration of the Northcote–Trevelyan process in the 1870s and 1880s created a crisis in the functioning of the Tory party as it grappled with problems of adjustment. top civil servants began to be the recipients of patronage by being made Lords. her appointment of the Bishop of London opening a split in the Church. as Hart argues. One has only to think of the vast quango sector operating in the late twentieth century to see its extreme importance for the evolution of the British state. But there were. No. of course. England. her packing of the BBC Board of Governors. The truth is that no government in the 19th or 20th century has ‘got rid’ of patronage: they have simply dispensed it in different ways. beloved of popular imagination. And if Heclo’s account is to be believed many permanent civil servants are appointed to US bureaus through the patronage rights of senators and congressmen62—exactly the British system for lower civil service posts in the early 1850s. but they were under pretty strict controls for competence by the 1850s and were far from being open to Lord Norfolk’s proverbial bastards.

mediated through the top public schools and Oxbridge. of course. Quite the contrary. But Mueller’s own explanation of the Report in terms of class pressure from the aristocratic–gentry world. showing in particular the immensely strong aristocratic–gentry control over Oxbridge and the way the reform was constructed to roll back the urban middle classes from their earlier inroads into administrative power. Jowett was himself a rather isolated figure within Oxbridge as a whole and his role was very far from being a shop-steward for a half-mobilized class or set of educational institutions. Jowett. He also demonstrates the aristocratic thrust of the Northcote– Trevelyan manifesto. If the notion of outside pressure could be encapsulated in the person of Benjamin Jowett along with a small circle of his friends and cothinkers. for the moment within the ‘state’). provided we restrict our time-frame to the three or four-year period leading up to 1854. But Gladstone was not seeking to gain middle-class entry into that elite. Mueller’s thesis could be largely accepted. remains vulnerable. and the replacement of parliamentary patronage by examination entry into a new civil service elite was designed to achieve exactly this meritocratic appeal. but had not. see Skocpol et.64 64 For a lively exploration of the value of the conception of state autonomy for historical studies. State Autonomy or Aristocratic–Cum–Oxbridge Pressure? Mueller’s recent comparative study of bureaucratic reform in Prussia and England is by far the most important and convincing study of the Northcote–Trevelyan reform to have yet appeared. Bringing the State Back In. But once we suspend formal barriers and make Jowett an honorary ‘insider’—which indeed he was—the thesis collapses. He brilliantly illuminates the interwoven class and institutional structures of the midVictorian state and destroys many of the myths concerning a supposed triumph of the urban middle classes within the dominant institutions at this time. Trevelyan and Gladstone must be given credit as relatively autonomous and creative actors: we have a seemingly classic case of the autonomy of the state in policy-making (including Jowett. Active pressure from these institutions did not precede the Report. and through what he calls an ‘inter-institutional clique’. a further aim was to demonstrate that the governing class deserved its control over the state on the grounds of superior capacities. 22 . Furthermore. The Report energized its constituency. Cambridge 1985. As Annan pointed out. At this time he was tirelessly working to ensure this would not occur by reorganizing the institutions of oligarchy. the Report struck a deep chord that was ready to be struck. not vice-versa. so to speak. He does not prove his case for ‘outside’ class pressure and his image of a ‘clique’ is too narrow and one-sided. We shall return shortly to Gladstone’s pivotal role in the Northcote–Trevelyan reform process.. For there is no evidence of a great beating on the doors of Whitehall by Oxbridge graduates before the Northcote– Trevelyan Report.al.on spending and efficient government. struck itself. but was articulated by and mobilized through it. But first we should examine Hans Eberhard Mueller’s thesis on the forces that produced the Report.

cit. His experience at Balliol in the late 1840s of getting students and friends into the Education Department. in Victorian Studies. This did not happen in Britain and one of the reasons was Northcote–Trevelyan. that Robert Lowe was responsible for the idea of scrapping Haileybury. See also T. wider crisis. This was partly because of the stifling grip exercised on the ancient universities by a Church that was itself under threat from the new spirit.P. inertia and a bunker mentality were a real possibility and if this had occurred. the bar or a commission in the army gave them exciting occupational horizons. Stanley. The Transformation of Intellectual Life in Victorian England. Vol. for example.65 The old aristocratic–gentry professions were also losing some of their glitter: Oxbridge graduates no longer necessarily felt that a choice between the prospect of a parish. which was responsible for Gladstone’s 65 One of the most useful sources on this is M. No. increasingly agnostic. Gladstone was almost certainly unaware that it was Jowett. along with the latter’s life-long friend A. extremist fantasies. But the so-called clique evidently did not include Gladstone himself: he thought. London 1982.. What Mueller misses is a transformation which had occurred in Gladstone’s political thinking even before the Aberdeen coalition. loc. The new middle classes. London. Furthermore. Oxbridge’s ‘liberal education’ and the traditional career opportunities for the younger sons of the landed classes were assuring neither fulfilment nor secure hegemony. The Church Embattled. ‘Victorian Universities and the National Intelligentsia’. Becker’s article. political consequences for the oligarchic state would have followed.What is true is that in mid-century. and J. within the educated urban middle classes. increasingly involved in education.W. Jowett was acutely aware of the pressure on the old institutional order. But is Mueller right to express the work of Jowett. Experience on the continent was to furnish plenty of examples of displaced aristocracies and gentries drifting off into an embittered world of root-and-branch reaction.P.C. is also very useful. II. But it was this intellectual transformation. Heyck. 23 .2. there was mounting pressure on Oxbridge and on the gentry and aristocracy from the rising urban middle classes. in the spring of 1852. were moving into public administration and local government and building their own prosperous new professions.A. indicated a solution to the simmering. 1959. anti-semitic politics and all the rest. who had provoked the revolution in his strategic ideas. Jowett’s aims and motives were much more wide-ranging than those evoked by the notion of a clique spirit. Oxbridge was increasingly unable to meet the spreading educational challenge initiated by the Benthamites through University College. Crowther. These hostile social pressures upon the old institutions would not automatically have produced an effective comeback: stagnation. Gladstone and others as that of an inter-institutional clique? Institutional interests and motives were obviously present in Jowett’s case—strengthening the position of Oxbridge—and in Trevelyan’s drive for Treasury power and for a more powerful administrative elite. which discusses the social views of Jowett and his circle. Roach. Trevelyan.

In place of the reactionary violence of the Lord Liverpool era. and on the other. The ideas in the Report were in general far in advance of the thinking within the social groups the Report was designed to serve. p. this state–society relationship is reversed. Parris. Coleridge’s disciples not only created havoc in the Benthamite Debating 66 67 As quoted and summarized in H. But in a longer historical perspective. Oxford 1979. On one side it attacked all natural rights ideologies such as those prevalent among democratic revolutionaries. so carefully nurtured son from all but succumbing to the Idea of the Church and the Aristocracy while his father was. For in the 1830s. John Mill was bowled over by Coleridge. Its autonomy was relative—restricted would be a better word—and its authors were themselves products of wider and deeper determinations within 19thcentury society. James Mill may have been the despot of India and may have been. as one historian put it. so to speak. expressive class pressures. With the collapse of the Liverpool-era’s coalition in 1829 and the passing of the Reform Act in 1832 Benthamism’s hour had come. Benthamism was under devastating attack in the intellectual world. Thomas in his The Philosophical Radicals. examining the conditions of its rise and decline as a dynamic current of political—i. ‘Reappraisal Reappraised’. it offered another. law and public policy. as Dicey so rightly said. habitual limits of ‘administrative’ and ‘political’ history into the realms of intellectual and church history. To grasp this dimension we must travel far from the narrow. the creative.determination to have the Northcote–Trevelyan manifesto as the basis for his drive over subsequent decades to reorganize the state. 178. cit. For the Report was also in turn the product of changes and tensions in social relations in the earlier part of the century. III. And we must return to Benthamism. and the industrial revolution on the other. The phrase belongs to W. Dynamic Conservatism and the Old Order We have argued against Mueller that Northcote–Trevelyan is a classic example of the relative autonomy of the political from direct. loc. Benthamism became popular within sections of the propertied classes. reformist. mediated through great movements in the field of ideas. It offered a method of responding to the class pressures of the period of Chartism and middle-class radicalism that lasted through till the end of the 1840s. on the one hand. state-building—thought. Within a restricted policy time-frame. answer to Jacobinism.e.. out on business. it argued for rationalizing bourgeois reforms of the state.66 against the background of the French Revolution. 24 . attacking the Church and the aristocracy ‘like a vengeful Jehovah of Sodom and Gomorrah’. But at the very moment of its seeming triumph in political and administrative reform. imaginative achievement of the reformers was a remarkable example of state leaders reshaping social relationships and relations between state and society.67 But he could not prevent his own.

of course.71 We have not the space here adequately to evoke the suppleness. the world of money: he was no more anti-capitalist than Burke had been before him. 72 David Calleo. They were to create a sensation in 1860 with the publication of Essays and Reviews. ibid. In 1837 John Mill summed up the view of many when he declared that there was more food for thought in Coleridge than in any other writer. plus a denunciation by both houses and the Synod. Two priests were the organizers of Essays and Reviews. he argued. The Improvement of Mankind. transforming the life of the universities. a fairly tight-knit circle. 25 . At Cambridge the Apostles. the Church.72 In a nutshell. White. mainly composed of priests at or around Oxbridge.7° They were not a narrow sect of fanatics like Bentham’s immediate disciples: Coleridge himself would have deplored such an idea. 71 We lack the space to explore the enormously important role and influence of Jowett on the formation of the British mandarinate. as well as Raymond Williams’s classic Culture and Society. he was a staunch defender of the dominance of aristocratic order and the landed interest. Coleridge believed that to maintain its power the aristocracy must engage in thoroughgoing internal reform. Coleridge and the Idea of the Modern State. the Social and Political Thought of John Stuart Mill (Toronto). But he was bitterly opposed to the spirit of capitalism being allowed to become the dominant ethic in national life: there must. cit. Cambridge before Darwin (Ohio 1979). obscurantist. the intellectual world.. 69 See M.69 as did a galaxy of young Oxford intellectuals. reactionary Tractarianism of Newman’s followers. Garland. a fanatical Coleridgean— that was what his work was all about.M. Brilioth. The most lucid account of Coleridge’s conception of the Church and of Church policy is in Y. which brought repression in the Church courts down against two of the essayists. But it should be noted that although Jowett was a Coleridgean in Church policy and in many of his political attitudes. 167–205. was not an enemy of commerce. industry.M.000 clerics. The Anglican Revival. the state. The name of one was Wilson. Coleridge was the enemy of democracy. the Coleridgeans were the Broad Church movement. along with R. Cambridge 1978. succumbed to Coleridgean thought. Nor did they all necessarily endorse or grasp all Coleridge’s philosophical notions. which included commerce.T. The Political Thought of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Selection. pp. the Reverend Benjamin Jowett. London 1961. But their social and political vision and their conception of the proper social role of the Church derived essentially from him. of the other. Thomas Arnold of Rugby was also. shortly after their creation. ed. and Peter Allen. provides a vivid account of this struggle and of its impact on Mill junior. op. unlike the Benthamites. at the same time.. toughness and scope of Coleridge’s political theory. and a petition got up by the Archbishop of Canterbury and signed by no fewer than 12. is the best introduction. There was more to Jowett than the brilliant clique operator and wire-puller.68 they captured the minds of some of the brightest of the younger generation at Oxford and Cambridge and within the Church. But see also J. 70 See Crowther. Robson. Within the Church. Coleridge. The Cambridge Apostles: The Early Years.Society. London 1925. indeed the first serious Hegelian in Britain. London 1938. he was a Hegelian in philosophy. be an equilibrium between the forces of permanence—embodied above all in the landed interest—and the forces of movement and dynamism. Chapter 3 as well as Chapter 6 on Arnold and Newman. Yale University Press 1966. Thomas. But in contrast with the sterile. but was 68 W.

There had to be. remotely live up to their calling. cit. The actual aristocracy. destructive spirit of commerce could be checked and reversed only by drawing on three resources: deference to the aristocracy and its code. ‘A more short-sighted. with their fear and loathing of the new forces and ideas of the urban world. The ascendancy of the corrosive. cultivation and improvement of the people. tasks to be undertaken by forming a cadre of dedicated. 26 . This task could not be accomplished through rigid defence of given institutional divisions and forms but required a dynamic equilibrium between the forces of change and the forces of permanence. Using these resources when necessary. in his view. thrown onto the defensive during the dangerous 1830s and 1840s of working-class chartism and middle-class radicalism. it could intervene to right the balance. not merely for their inclination in favour of representative democracy but for their brutal and destructive attitude towards the factory workers as well as their narrow and mean theoretical assumptions. The most important of these powers were the private wealth of the aristocracy and its power and authority within the state. he wrote. the hour of Coleridgean conservatism had come. or clerisy as he called it. With the collapse of Chartism and the arrival of the great mid-Victorian economic boom.73 Coleridge considered that the success of Benthamism derived from the spiritual bankruptcy of the actually existing institutions of the aristocratic order. Recourse to the violence of repression would be largely unnecessary within a state led by a clerisy actively securing popular consent. especially the Whigs. the propertied classes must devote a part of their wealth to the enlightenment. had made use of Benthamite thinkers. and the return of a passionate and respectful devotion to authentic philosophical and religious learning. church and centres of learning in the early 19th century did not. the revival of genuine religious commitment. But Benthamism was in no sense an adequate justificatory ideology for the aristocratic state. The leaders of the oligarchic state. Coleridge saw it as the role of the Church and the universities to produce and train this cadre. cultured intellectuals imbued with a profound sense of duty who would go forth into every corner of the nation to cement the classes into a genuine national community. so to speak. programmes and officials in an effort to stem the tide of urban discontent. selfish and blundering Body of statesmen never existed than the present country Party’. To achieve this consent. op. At the same time. But his contempt for the Benthamites was equally savage.profoundly committed to the idea of the state as a community of individuals and classes bound together by consent. But for this to be achieved there had to be a thorough shake-up in these institutions. No serious study of the influence 73 From Calleo. Coleridge had nothing but contempt for the reactionary gentry at the base of the Liverpool coalition. a cultural revolution within the ruling class for it to re-establish its leadership or hegemony and re-unite the nation. the state would have to build within itself ‘potential powers’ to enable it to resist disruptive pressures from below.

76 The Diaries. He implies that the commitment to individualism in Gladstone’s early book gave it an eclectic character and contained the utilitarian seed of Gladstone’s evolution to Liberalism. p. Matthew notes that Gladstone’s major political book. after his debacle over the Maynooth grant. like others before him. . finding time for this labour even at the height of the Reform Act upheavals. thanks to the work of Matthew. Cambridge 1978.77 Matthew.’ The standard view of Gladstone’s evolution is that in the mid 1840s. freed from corroding want and care.’ He didn’t admit it because he didn’t believe it. cit. op.75 Gladstone’s Second Strategic Synthesis Despite the mountain of Gladstone scholarship. 5 November 1832. accused him of being influenced by utilitarianism because of this individualist strain in his thought. Gladstone ‘never admitted that his theoretical conception as expressed in The State in its Relations with the Church was wrong. concentrates on the literary— cultural rather than the political. XXVIII.. The Idea of the Clerisy in the 19th Century. 77 See Calleo. Yet as Matthew notes. 75 The Diaries. noted in his diary: ‘German grammar—if I do not attempt to secure an idea of German now. reviewing Gladstone’s book when it came out.74 One starting point for such research might be to trace those between 1820 and 1840 who were struggling to master their German grammars—the sure sign of a true Coleridgean among a classically educated intellectual class.’ Yet perhaps young William Gladstone gained inspiration to persevere from the Thomas Arnold sermon his father had read to him the night before. sufficiently supported . it is only now that. Gladstone explains that the clerisy is ‘inherent in every well-constituted body politic’ and that it is a ‘class .of Coleridge in 19th-century politics has yet been published. Hallam. 2. One such earnest young scholar. But the crucial point which Matthew brings out is that this set of ideas ‘led naturally to his later enthusiasm for the administrative grade of the civil service. on this misunderstanding. . he had abandoned the basic ideas contained in Church and State and drifted for some years of hiatus until he embraced Liberalism. . Vol. The Tractarian Keble. the extent to which Gladstone was a Coleridgean is being grasped. he appears puzzled by Gladstone’s failure to repudiate his earlier theoretical-political stance. was his dearest friend at Eton and later—and the Diary shows him voraciously reading Coleridge and the works of some of his disciples. Yet to detect an anti-Coleridgean element in the stress on individualism is to misinterpret Coleridge as some sort of organicist political theorist. 27 . In his illuminating introduction to the second volume of the Diaries. sees Gladstone’s transition after Maynooth in terms of a rejection of political role for the Church and its replacement as the central pillar of his 74 Ben Knights. . The State in its Relations with the Church. Indeed. Yet Matthew himself does not seem to us to have conclusively explained Gladstone’s evolution. ‘largely follows’ Coleridge and is ‘very much concerned with the ethics of the clerisy’. or at least before the Gorham judgement of 1851.’76 Gladstone had been on very intimate terms with Coleridgeans among the Cambridge Apostles—one of them. I know not when I may have the opportunity.

and it is often assumed that he shared their views on Church policy right up to the end. from early on right through his life. and we may note from Gladstone’s diary that he was again deep into Coleridge in his reading during the year. institutionalized universal church and saw Rome as its embodiment: he wanted a unified and pluralistic national church and considered the concept of the universal church to be a purely spiritual one. Yet Gladstone’s despair was purely one of personal loss: he was not in the slightest attracted by their vision of the place and role of the church. and it was this Gladstonian strategy that was collapsing after Maynooth and received its death-blow in the Gorham judgement in 1851. Gladstone held to a Coleridgean broad church conception from the 1830s through the 1850s and beyond. very much in tune with the religious orientation of the Oxford Movement before Newman’s adhesion to Rome.political thought by free trade. This seems to entail a misunderstanding both of the nature of Gladstone’s political ideas on the Church and of the place of free trade in his thought. Coleridge’s own most important statements of his religious views had not been published. Gladstone’s extreme Toryism in the period up to Maynooth may have overlapped with that of the Tractarians but its premisses were in reality quite different: he interpreted the Coleridgean conception of the clerisy to imply that the task of the Church hierarchy was to be the clerisy that would unite the national community. extreme. To be high church in religious belief and practice but broad church in policy may seem contradictory to historians. embracing all the various national churches and sects including the Eastern as well as Rome. Gladstone stood for the exact opposite—he would have welcomed a reconciliation with the dissenting churches. there is a small step to the later Liberalism. From free trade. 28 . Gladstone’s very close relationship with both Manning and Hope up until their conversion to Catholicism is a further cause of confusion: Gladstone’s despair over their defection in 1851 is. after all. but no such tension would have been evident to Gladstone himself when his ideas were forming in the 1830s. High Church Anglicanism. In short. By then Gladstone had been forced to accept that the hieratic church could not 78 They were not published until 1840. They wanted an earthly. when Gladstone became a Coleridgean in policy. then.78 Newman himself and many of his followers saw a close harmony between Oxford and Coleridge. well known. But Gladstone’s policy orientation does not seem to have been Tractarian at all: he was a Coleridgean in policy both on internal church matters and on the social role of the Church. at least from the time when he published his own book on the subject. His own religious beliefs were. For at that time. He thus understood his own role in politics as being to champion the cause and interests of that hierarchy. They had wanted a church in which their High Church doctrines and rituals were imposed as orthodoxy and from which the puritans were purged. To grasp Gladstone’s relationship to the Church we must distinguish his own religious orientation from his stance on Church policy. despite the objections to such suggestions from Coleridge’s daughter.

op. Free trade was. we suggest.79 But Gladstone’s rejection of the Church hierarchy as the national clerisy did not in the least require him to abandon the idea of the clerisy. struck him like a thunderbolt. Stanley and Benjamin Jowett. he was plunged into thoughts of leaving politics altogether. Gladstone had voted against a commission being set up on the reform of Oxford. Jowett. Faber. had been looked upon with some suspicion by the Broad Church reformers at the University. on reading this report. at first. is especially good on the whole story. was astonished—in fact irritated—by the way Gladstone threw himself into the campaign. Gladstone’s own identification of the two had perhaps derived from his extreme High Church commitment. when the Report of the Oxford Royal Commission on Reform of the University. about gaining any support from Gladstone for university reform. but it would have been strange if his later disillusionment should have led him to break with his Coleridgean outlook. As the full realization of this truth gripped him in 1851. who had been sceptical. as a straightforward political schemer cunningly wearing a mask of sanctimonious humbug.be expected to act as the clerisy to bind the nation together. Here were the elements of the force that could restore the authority of the aristocratic–oligarchic state and reunify the national community under its leadership. But they had just written most of a book together when interrupted by the establishment of a Royal Commission on their topic. State and Tractarianism. of course. As recently as April 1850. Gladstone: Church. an important policy for Gladstone but it was not the calling for which he was dedicating his life in the service of the nation. Gladstone. Commerce would be encouraged through free trade and sound finance. Oxford 1982.80 Because of his earlier stance in defence of the Church hierarchy. Yet now. was the seed of Gladstone’s new strategic purpose: the clerisy could be constructed through the reformed universities. such an idea simply fails to come anywhere near matching Gladstone’s character and outlook: it places him the way his enemies placed him.P. But Butler almost totally misses Gladstone’s Coleridgean derivation of his ideas on the role of the Church and Church policy and shows no awareness of the fact that Gladstone’s arguments against Manning and Hope were straight out of Coleridge. which Coleridge had never based on the priestly element in the Church. Jowett’s handling of the Commission’s work was another tour de force of infiltration and manipulation. Gladstone found his new calling in May 1852.. written by A. After all. there would be a new balance between the classes and a new harmony that would stem the threatening democratic tide. As for the suggestion that ‘free trade’ could have filled the vacuum left by the priesthood. a new breed of civil servants and figures like himself in public life. Its impact on him can be judged from his own comment upon it: ‘one of the ablest productions submitted in his recollection to Parliament. one of the two MPs for Oxford. Coleridge had been nothing if not scathing about the capacities of the existing priesthood to play an authentically national spiritual role.’ Here. he became an ardent reformer. cit. 29 . wrenching the 79 The best account of the events involving Gladstone and the Church is Perry Butler. 80 Formally Jowett was not the author: Stanley was.

The Report for him was no small package of administrative proposals but a manifesto for a long compaign. circulating his own plan to the Cabinet. he nevertheless decided to press ahead. The strategic nature of his thinking also explains why. which was in fact a manifesto for classics. practical aim of the report. Economic liberalism and laissez-faire could readily coexist with a profoundly conservative hostility to democracy and a commitment to the ‘aristocractic principle’ that did not at all exclude the striving for government by consent. Gladstone then commissioned the report from Trevelyan and made sure that its contents were in harmony with his fundamental strategic ideas. but the author did not: this was a manifesto for the kind of education he believed his new embodiment of the Idea of the clerisy required. such as the open. the Tory–Fabian consensus has also tended to obscure and fragment the central. the abolition of Haileybury and the Northcote–Trevelyan report. and its ancient institutions. It was anti-democratic in principle in that it considered the clerisy elite to be the bearer of a superior political wisdom overriding any mere popular majority. the aristocracy. Political historians may treat Gladstone’s books lightly. He graciously made Jowett’s available as well. Gladstone set to work on the second book of his career: his work on Homer. The Coleridgean structure of Gladstone’s political thought and his commitment to the idea of a clerisy bring into sharp focus the elements of continuity between his earlier adherence to the Tory camp and his later liberalism. Gladstone was quite explicit in linking together the issues of Oxford Reform. The Coleridgean conception of the clerisy was not simply one of a religious–moral leadership of the nation. With this ideological background. A Safety-Net for the Leap in the Dark In failing adequately to explain the origins of the Northcote–Trevelyan report. Gladstone was the Victorian political leader who was able to negotiate the perilous transition to the twentieth-century British state. this wisdom was not the cleverness of rootless intellectuals good at passing exams: it was the attribute of highly cultured and devout intellectuals rooted in the landed interest. who in turn was amongst the reactionary clerics with their grip on the University and fiercely reactionary against reform. although he was well aware that the inclusion of the principle that Parliamentary patronage must be abolished might very likely mean the defeat of the Report in the Commons. for a Liberal Education. Wilberforce. competitive exam 81 Gladstone was a close friend of the High Church Bishop of Oxford. Once out of office. but his more confrontational approach won and Jowett was furious. persuading a reluctant Northcote (who considered the Aberdeen government. At the same time. with people like Lord John Russell and schemes for franchise reform. It has split these aims into particular partial proposals.entire project out of Jowett’s own hands. By 1854 Gladstone was sweeping aside Jowett’s own delicate manoeuvres of reform.81 But it was in this context that Gladstone gained the idea of a project for sweeping reform of the civil service. concluding that there was a dangerously wild streak in Gladstone that boded ill for the future! 30 . as too radical for his high Tory tastes) to come and work for him on administrative reform.

methodical men of business. See the quotation in Morstein Marx. op. . Chadwick made a judgement whose truth it took seventy years of experience for his Fabian spiritual progeny to catch up with. and .85 (This rule is still in force today. both under Gladstone’s inspiration. Chicago 1957. A cogent reason did. 85 See Gordon Reid. of 82 The Economist said of the Report’s proposals that ‘they have all the air of having been borrowed out and dried from Berlin and Pekin’. Why invite an athlete into a theatre where no combat and no applause and no reward awaits him?’ Chapman and Greenaway. The Politics of Financial Control. 83 Sir James Stephens’s full remark was: ‘You stand in need. would recruit ‘the gentleman who . arrive when it became clear to party leaders in the mid 1860s that the doors of the Parliamentary oligarchy would have to be opened and a larger portion of the ‘multitude’ would have to be given a vote. pp. (would exclude) those who accomplished the feat . double objective that was obvious to informed contemporaries: namely. . Sir James Stephens summed up the Report in the famous phrase that it was seeking to establish a group of ‘statesmen in disguise’. upperclass men devoted to matters of policy and political management. The first was an historic amendment to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.) The second was. 55.82 The great majority of senior civil servants were extremely hostile—and furious with Trevelyan’s attempt at demagogic news management and populist mobilization through portraying many civil servants as the offspring of Old Corruption. . 31 . p. But it has largely ignored the fact that these served a unified. even the propertyless.83 For his part. London 1966. Two key changes were accomplished at this time. and when the report appeared it was widely greeted with a great deal of surprise. . the abolition of parliamentary patronage. In the House of Lords it was denounced as a Chinese import and subjected to humiliation by laughter. 40–41 for a detailed account of this. The Administrative State. Here at last was justification for shifting power from the Parliamentary to the executive branch of the state. . the creation of a new. There was nothing ‘natural’ or necessarily ‘modern’ about the creation of such a policy-making mandarinate.. wrote articles in the Reviews to show the impracticability of steam navigation across the Atlantic. They thus finally faced the appalling prospect that had haunted the propertied classes throughout the century: that the formidable powers which had been concentrated in Parliament would be within the reach of other social classes.procedure for recruitment. op. banning Parliament from approving any motion for increased public spending unless the motion came from the Crown. cit. not of statesmen in disguise. in Lord Derby’s phrase. however. taking ‘a leap in the dark’. Chapter 5. 84 Quoted in Mueller. unified elite of Oxbridge-trained. but of intelligent. he said. steady. cit. The plan. By passing the Second Reform Act of 1867 they were.’84 The Report failed to gain the crucial political support in Parliament because the leaders of the Parliamentary oligarchy could find no cogent reason why they should surrender their near-untrammelled power or share it with such an administrative elite. and a simultaneous shift in the structure of political power within the state. or the application of the merit-promotion principle within (though not across) grades. even shock and amazement. .

’ If the younger son of a ‘county family’ could be drawn into ‘trade’ a mighty blow would have been struck at the very roots of the upper-class ethic. he complained. in rather coy fashion.A.course. openly recommended the kind of ‘freemasonry’ that developed between old boys of the great public schools and Oxbridge. the 1870 Order in Council. Many could no longer afford to send their sons to Oxbridge and thus gain eligibility to enter the Civil Service. on Treasury initiative. organized labour movement. and more importantly with the rise of a mass. London 1984. Leadership in the British Civil Service. 58–66. And this is indeed what happened. . In explaining his thinking in securing the Order. 50.’ The full story is told. spelt them out for an internal conference on the Colonial service. during the Second World War. The ingenious argument was that the exam system favoured lower-class boys who worked so hard that they were exhausted by the time they had gained entry to the service!87 86 This material on the Colonial Office can be found in Robert Henssler. it said that with the increasing ‘democratization of Universities’ the exam tended to attract the wrong sort of candidate: ‘In the interests of a brilliant academic career. as carried out by Warren Fisher. ever indiscreet.86 The American scholar Moses had predicated with a chuckle before the First World War that if the right class was not being recruited through the system of written exams then the exam system would be dropped. A memorandum by Furze. . Chapman. pp. This time. Increasing tax burdens and the flow of wealth away from the land in the 1920s had hit the gentry hard. Lowe. 87 The actual decision on this was proposed by the report on ‘The Home Civil Service After the War’ by the Crookshank Committee (PRO/CSC5/386). much else had been sacrificed . Furze’s 1929 memorandum was warmly approved by Warren Fisher. Syracuse 1963. in R. ensured a fully integrated administrative elite with a centralized directorate in the Treasury. The Making of the British Colonial Service. success in the examination was all too often the peak of an effort which had tried and even exhausted the candidate. and in the Colonial service recuitment proceeded without the encumbrance of written examinations. It was this essentially political structure of power within the core executive of the British state which allowed the leaders of the British ruling class to look upon the rise of the Labour Party as a Parliamentary force with relative equanimity. After noting that between 1925 and 1939. 87 per cent of successful candidates for the administrative grade came from Oxbridge. Yesterday’s Rulers. 32 . The next great leap in the dark was to occur after the First World War with the further enlargement of the franchise. ‘business firms are far more alive than they used to be to the value of the type of man we seek to attract. But problems arose in the inter-war years. the head of recruitment in the Colonial Office. 34–6. the machinery of Treasury Control was firmly in place and Milner’s changes. Worst of all. To appreciate the scale of the outlet that Northcote–Trevelyan provided for public-school and Oxbridge-educated sons of the gentry. we can note the fact that the Colonial administration alone was recruiting on average 411 administrative personnel per annum between 1919 and 1925 and that the overwhelming majority of these were from Oxbridge— normally well over eighty per cent.

understood as a dynamic. Oxbridge elites.Conclusion Among historians of 19th-century politics it is now widely accepted that there was an aristocratic recuperation after the turmoil of chartism and the anti-Corn Law agitation of the 1840s. This was a formidable solution which managed to bemuse a couple of generations of Fabian writers and historians. But it was by no means the only current in such circles: strong repressive and counter-revolutionary impulses were also present. As the construction of an institution like the BBC shows. the Northcote–Trevelyan programme provided a new and powerful instrumental rationale for the dominance of ‘liberal education’ and therefore of Oxbridge and the top public schools. reforming current for shoring up the aristocratic–oligarchic state and social order against the threat from democracy and the working class. have combined in a reductionist exclusion of the central historical issues of class power and state power. and structured the evolution of the Victorian and post-Victorian state. and a parallel ‘administrative’ approach to the evolution of the state bureaucracy. as a purely administrative-efficiency reform based on objective tests and meritocratic criteria. Attempts to analyse changes in the state purely in terms of its socioeconomic role—laissez-faire versus collectivism—obscure the issue that obsessed the Victorian ruling class. this method would retain its vigour into the twentieth century. So successful was the Northcote–Trevelyan formula for legitimating as technocracy a closed zone of political deliberation and ‘will formation’ 33 . Coleridgean conservatism was spread widely if diffusely within the intelligentsia and ruling class. the Broad Church movement. These now had the role of supplying a suitably educated elite not only in the social realm but in the state itself. expressed in such disparate influences as the Arnolds (father and son). The Report gave a concrete answer to the haunting issue of how to defend the propertied classes in the face of ever-growing pressure for democracy. was the decisive moulding influence on the central institutions of the state right through into the twentieth century. was to find a way of consolidating the landed interest within the state while presenting this political reorganization in the colours of the urban middle classes. at a time when the aristocracy–gentry and their educational institutions feared their demise within the parliamentary apparatus. and even to a degree the thought of John Stuart Mill (as well as Christian socialists like Maurice). At a wider level. and there remained the potential for a rupturing confrontation between landed interests and the urban middle classes. rather than the preceding Benthamite era. not least in the Church itself. The indispensable category for analysing the Northcote–Trevelyan programme is Coleridgean conservatism. A narrow political historiography of parliamentarism and parties. Gladstone’s great achievement. The central thesis of this article is that one of the most important fruits of that recuperation was the Northcote–Trevelyan programme: it. The debate around the Northcote– Trevelyan project was above all concerned with the problem of remoulding state institutions as effective deliberative and protective instruments of class dominance in state and society.

The unprecedented sacking of the head of the Civil Service. Lord Armstrong. Perhaps only a strong showing for Labour and the Alliance parties in the next election will. represented by the Fulton enquiry. in the winter crisis of 1973– 74. 34 . From that moment a current within the Conservative Party has been working to make Northcote–Trevelyan redundant by removing Labour as a major force on the politcal scene. denounced the mandarinate for failing to be what it was never intended to be—a technocratic elite. the use of Sir Robert Armstrong to destroy the inner coherence of the Whitehall elite so that its prerogatives can be used for Thatcherite purposes—all these are symptoms of profound crisis. the shifting of power from the Treasury to the Cabinet Secretariat. Here it was put to the test in its own privileged field of political management of the state and it failed miserably: no more damning indictment of a century-long culture of cool ascendancy could be found than the nervous breakdown of the head of the Civil Service. But the real Waterloo of the Northcote–Trevelyan system arrived in the debacle of the Heath administration. Americanizing the party system and state bureaucracy and breaking up the mandarinate. ironically. rescue the greatest political invention of the Victorian era from collapse.within the core executive that it risked being hoist with its own petard in the 1960s when the external technocrats of the Wilson era.