John J. (John Joseph) Lalor.

Cyclopædia of political science, political economy, and of the political history of the United States online

. (page 99 of 290)
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have since very generally been affected by fa-
voritism, patronage and influence. (See Civn,
Service Reform, Removals.) — The importance
of making promotions in the civil service in the
public interest has yet received but the slightest
attention from congress or the writers of text
books. An act of 1879 provides that promotions
from the lower to the higher grade of letter carri-
ers shall be made on the basis of " the efBciency
and faithfulness of the candidate during the pre-
ceding year." Beyond this, congress has made no
provision (except in the civil service act passed
Jan. 16, 1883) for promoting the civil servants of
the people by reason of their merits. Congressmen
boldly push their favorites for the higher places
and salaries; and executive officers stand gainst
them and for the public interests and common jus-
tice at the peril of calling down upon themselves
the revenge of all patronage-mongering legisla-
tors. — The regulations of the postoflice department
provide that promotions in the railway mail service
shall be based on "good conduct, faithful service
and efficiency," and this requirement has doubtless
much improved that branch of the postal service.
The civil service rules promulgated by the presi-
dent in 1883, declare that there shall be competi-
tive examinations for promotion, but reserve the
preparation of special rules on the subject for
the future. These meagre provisions, confined
to such narrow limits — in aid of a better sys-
tem for promotion — but make the more con-
spicuous the facts that the legislators and admin-
istrators of other enlightened states have been
more disinterested and sagacious than our own in
dealing with the subject, and their experience,
rich and abundant, is now open and plain before
us. It will certainly require some self-denial on the
part of our congressmen and politicians, as it did
many years ago on the part of British legislators
and noblemen, to enforce a just and wise system
of promotions, which does not allow members, by
pleading, promising and bullying in the depart-
ments, to advance their favorites and henchmen
over the heads of the most meritorious of those
who serve the people. ' " Senators and representa-
tives," said the late President Garfield in a speech
in 1870, "throng the offices and bureaus until the
public business is obstructed and the patience of
officers is worn out; * * they at last give way
and appoint, not because the applicant is fit, but
because we ask it." — For the army and navy of



PROPERTY,



383



the United States a system of promotions has been
estabUshed far more extensively based upon char-
acter, capacity and seniority than any enforced
in the civil administration. Cadets, after passing
successfully the rigid tests of the military acade-
my at West Point, are promoted (by appointment)
to be second lieutenants in the regular army. Any
vacancies left, after exhausting such graduates, are
filled by promoting those shovra to be sufficiently
meritorious from among the non-commissioned
officers of the army; and if there are still vacancies
unfilled, appointments to them may be made
from civil life. But neither the promotion nor
appointment last named can be made until after
detailed reports as to merits and an examination
of the qualifications of the candidates by a board
of five officers. The age of the candidate must
be between twenty and thirty years. No officer
of the corps of engineers, below the grade of field
officer, can be promoted until be shall have been
examined and approved by a board of three en-
gineers, senior to him in rank; and very nearly the
same rule of promotion prevails in the ordnance
■department. ^- Promotions to the rank of captain
fl,re made regimentally on the basis of seniority.
Promotions in established regiments and corps are
also made according to seniority. But seniority
does not prevail in the selection of a brigadier
general or of any officer above that grade. And
when, anywhere in the army, an officer in the line
of promotion is retired, the next officer in rank
must be profcoted to his place, according to the
mles of the service. Promotions from the aimy
to be an ordnance officer are based on examina-
tions. — General officers appoint their own aides de
camp; and here, therefore, is a kind of promotion
hardly otherwise regulated than by the discretion
of the general making it. Vacancies in the places
of commissioned officers are filled by promotion
through a nomination by the president in his dis-
cretion, subject to confirmation by the senate.
Promotions in the navy stand upon principles
■closely analogous to those enforced in the army.
Appointments to active service are made from
the naval cadtets graduated from the academy at
Annapolis. No naval officer can be promoted to
a higher grade, in the active list, until he has been
•examined by a board of naval surgeons and found
physically qualified; and no line officer below the
grade of commodore, and no officer not of the
line, can be promoted on the active list until his
mental, moral and professional fitness to perform
all his duties at sea have been established to the
satisfaction of a board of examining officers of
not less than three senior officers appointed by
the president. In time of peace the condition
of a satisfactory examination applies even to a
commodore seeking promotion to the grade of ad-
miral on the active list. The examining board is
authorized to take testimony under oath, and to
examine the files and records of the navy depart-
ment. These, with other provisions for which we
have not space, seem to require in some particu-
lars a more rigid test of merit for promotion in



the navy than is required in the army. — Our
limits will not allow us to set forth the rigid tests
of promotion enforced in the naval and military
services of the European states. — There can be
no doubt that the higher public respect and social
position enjoyed by officers of the army and navy,
and warranted by their superior qualifications,
and the infrequency of their misconduct, as com-
pared with the civil .servants of the government,
are largely a consequence of such wise and just
conditions of appointment and promotion. Every
advance in the official scale thus made proclaims,
not a triumph of political influence, but a manly
victory won in one of those examinations, in which
the official record and the personal merits of the
candidate are investigated and adjudged. That
the effects of the vicious methods and the selfish
and partisan influences which have so largely pre-
vailed in making promotions in the civil service,
have made themselves felt to a considerable de-
gree in the execution of the army and navy sys-
tems for promotions — causing pernicious excep-
tions and evasions in their enforcement — can
hardly be doubted. To arrest those influences, to
remove political forces and favoritism more com-
pletely, as the means of securing promotions and
privileges in the army and navy, are duties which
congress can not too promptly perform. Every
meritorious officer would welcome such a reform,
and all others would hope for less advantage from
neglecting their duties and studies in order to se-
cure political influence and the interposition of
congressmen and politicians in their favor.

DoBMAH B. Eaton.

PEOPERTT. I. Bight of Property. Political
economy inquires into the principles which pre-
side over the formation and distribution of wealth.
It takes for granted the existence of property,
which is its starting point; it considers it as one
of those primary truths which manifest them-
selves at the origin of society, which are every-
where found impressed with the seal of universal
consent, and are accepted as necessities of the
civil order and of human nature, without even
dreaming of discussing them. — Read the fathers
of economic science : they are almost uniformly
silent on this great question. The chief and oracle
of the physiocrates, Quesnay, who understood
and enlarged upon the social importance of prop-
erty, does not take the trouble to define it, except
in a treatise on natural law. Turgot, the states-
man, philosopher and economist, Turgot, who in
his work on the distribution of wealth, has thrown
brilliant light on the origin, has nothing to say on
the principle, the right or the form of property.
The master of masters, the author of the "Wealth
of Nations," Adam Smith, scarcely makes men-
tion of it, without doubt because he saw in it no
subject for discussion. J. B. Say decides debate
on this subject to be futile, and undeserving the
consideration of the science. "The speculative
philosopher," he says, in the fourteenth chapter
of his book, "may busy himself in finding out



384



PROPERTY.



the real foundations of the right of property; the
jurisconsult may lay down the laws which govern
the transmission of things possessed; political sci-
ence may show what are the surest guarantees
of this right; but so far as political economy is
concerned, it considers property simply as the
strongest incentive to the production of wealth,
and pays little attention to what establishes and
guarantees it." In another place (vol. ii., chap,
iv.) he says : "It is not necessary, in order to
study the nature and progress of social wealth, to
know the origin of property or its legitimateness.
Whether the actual possessor of landed property,
or the person by whom it was transmitted to him,
obtained it by occupation, by violence, or by fraud,
the result, as regards the revenue accruing from
that property, is the same." — At the time when
J. B. Say wrote, the problem which absorbed
and agitated men's minds was the production of
wealth. The European world felt itself poor; it
began to understand the productiveness of labor,
and craved wealth. Credit extended its opera-
tions; commerce spread in spite of war; and man-
ufacturing industry, developing rapidly, presaged
already the marvels which have since marked its
course. Production in its different forms was the
great business of the time. This rising tide car-
ried all with it, population, labor, resources. AU
had a clear road to travel with their goal before
their eyes, nor did they stop to revert to their own
situation or that of others. Property seemed then
a sort of common stock from which all, with a
little effort, might draw in abundance, and which
would reproduce itself unceasingly. No one
dreamed of calling the right to it in question.
The silence of economists is but a translation of
the rational indifference of public opinion on the
subject. — At a later period, population having
increased in all the states of Europe, the value of
land and the rate of wages having generally risen,
personal property, thanks to the progress of com-
merce and industry, equaling or nearly equaling
immovable property, and competition, which af-
fected every kind of work and all investments,
reducing profits as well as the outlets for human
activity, the problem of the distribution of wealth
came to the front. The number of poor persons
seemed to increase with the number of the rich.
It was even believed, for a time, that industrial
civilization tended to increase the inequality which
naturally exists among men. In this transition
period, which still continues, sects were formed
to preach to those discontented with the social
order, we know not what sort of a future, the
first step to which was the abolition or trans-
formation of property Favored political revo-
lutions, those fatal doctrines which at first held
subterranean sway in some sort until they had
hardened the hearts and corrupted the minds of
the people, broke loose in the streets of France;
the arguments used against society served to load
the muskets and point the bayonets of revolt. At
first it was necessary to defend social order by
armed force; and now, whether we be economists.



philosophers or jurisconsults, we all undentand
that our duty is to point out in such a way aa
shall convince the most incredulous, that society,
having force on its side, has also reason and right
in its favor. — It was in the light of events that
the programme of political economy was ex-
tended. A place has now been assigned it in the
discussion of the origin and right to property. It
must base its intervention here on observation of
facts, just as philosophy does, in expounding and
commenting on principles. Socialism, by attack-
ing the foundation of social order, compels all the
sciences to contribute, each its share, to its de-
fense. — II. Opinions of PhUosophera and Juris-
consults on Property. Until our time the question
of property had been abandoned to philosophers
and jurisconsults. The usefulness of their labors
is incontestable; they prepared the ground and
paved the way for political economy. If they
did not always completely observe and demon-
strate the nature of things, they had at least had
glimpses of it. It was Cicero who showed that
the earth became the patrimony of all by labor,
and proved that the person who attacked this
right of appropriation violated the laws of human
society. After him Seneca, although he exag-
gerated, in accordance with the ideas of his time,
the rights of sovereignty, yet recognized that
property was an individual right. Ad rega,
poiestas omnium periinet, ad dngulos proprielm. —
Nevertheless the person would wander from his
road who sought to find in the writings of philos-
ophers or jurisconsults, either a complete theory
of property, or even an exact definition of it.
Grotius, who is in the front rank of doctors of
natural and international law, has given in a few
lines a history of property from which commu-
nism might draw its arguments. According to this
author, after the creation God conferred on the
human race a general right to everything. " This
was done," he says, ' ' that each might take for his
use whatever he wished, and consume what it
was possible for him to consume. * * Matters
remained thus until, from the increase in the
number of men as well as of animals, the laud,
which was formerly divided by nations, began to
be divided among families; and since wells area
supreme necessity in dry countries, and are not
equal to supplying a large number, each appro-
priated what he was able to seize." — Charles
Comte remarks that the publicists of this school,
Wolf, Pufendorf and Burlamaqui, confined them-
selves to paraphrasing the ideas of Grotius. AU
supposed that, in the origin of societies, men, to
satisfy their wants, had only to take what they
found ready at hand, that the earth produced
without labor, and that appropriation was nothing
but occupation or conquest. — Montesquieu did
not understand, any better, the part played by
labor in the formation of individual property.
' ' Just as men, " he says (book xxvi. , of the ' ' Spirit
of the Laws,") "abandoned their natural inde-
pendence to live under political laws, they re-
nounced the natural community of good) to live



PROPERTY.



385



under civil laws. The first laws gave them lib-
erty, the next property." Montesquieu, the only
-publicist since Aristotle who undertook to base
the laws of social order on observation, was never-
theless unable to prove among any people, how-
ever primitive, the existence of that supposed
community of goods which, according to him, has
its origin in nature. The most savage tribes, in
ancient as in modern times, had a very definite idea
of mine and thine. Property and the family have
everywhere served as the foundations of order, and
law has only confirmed, by giving expression to
them, relations already established. — Blackstone
does not go farther than Montesquieu, whose ideas
agree with those of J. J. Rousseau, on the state
of nature. Bentham himself, the writer who,
more than any other, departed from the accepted
ideas of his times, declares that property does not
exist naturally, and that it is a creation of the
law. — There Is some consolation for proprietors
in Bentham's assurance, that property will perish
only with the law. As human society can not
exist without law, and since the end of the law
would be the end of society, property may safely
count on a long lease of life. Besides, Bentham,
following the example of Montesquieu, confound-
ed the idea of property with that of the guarantees
which property receives from civil and political
laws, guarantees fitly represented by taxation. The
best refutation of Bentham's theory is to be found
iH some passages from Charles Comte, which it
may be well to reproduce here. " If nations can
only exist by means of their property, it is im-
possible to admit that there is no natural property
unless it be admitted that it is unnatural for men
to live and to perpetuate themselves." " It is true
that there is no image, no painting, no visible fea-
ture which can represent property in general; but
it can not from this be concluded that property
is not material, but metaphysical, and that it
belongs entirely to the conception of the mind.
There is no visible feature by which a man in
general can be represented, because in nature there
exist only individuals, and what is true of men is
true also of things." "Individuals, families and
peoples subsist by means of their property; they
could not live on metaphysical relations or con-
ceptions of the mind. There is in property some-
thing more real, more substantial, than a basis of
expectation. A false, or at least a very incom-
plete idea is given of it when it is defined as if it
were a lottery ticket, which is also a basis of ex-
pectation." " According to Montesquieu and
Bentham, it is civil laws which give rise to prop-
erty, and it is clear that both mean by civil laws
the decrees of public power which determine the
possessions which each one may enjoy and dis-
pose of. It would, perhaps, be more correct to
say that it is property which gave birth to civil
laws ; for it is hard to see what need a tribe of
savages, among whom no property of any kind
easted, could have of laws or of a government.
The guarantee of property is undoubtedly one of
the most essential elements of which it is com-
144 VOL. m. — 25



posed; it increases the value of property, and as-
sures its duration. A great mistake would be
made, however, were it supposed that this guar-
antee was all there is of property; the civil law
furnishes the guarantee of property, but it is
human industry which gives birth to property.
Public authority is needed only to protect it and
to assure to all the power of enjoying and dispos-
ing of it." "Were it true that property exists or
is created by decrees and by the protection of
public authority, it would follow that the men
who in any country were invested with the power
of legislation, would also be invested with the
power of creating property by their decrees, and
could, without committing injury to the right of
property, despoil some of it to the advantage of
others : they would have no other rules to follow
than their own desires or caprices." — The Scotch
school, from Locke to Reid and Dugald Stewart,
was the first to give a nearly correct definition of
the right of property; as the physiocratic school
was the only one, previous to 1789, that under-
stood its importance, and brought but into relief
the beneficial infiuence it exercised on the econo-
my of society. But at the time of the French rev-
olution these teachings had not yet corrected the
ideas of all; for Mirabeau said to the constituent
assembly that " private property is goods acquired
by virtue of the laws. The law alone constitutes
property, because it is only the political will which
can effect the renunciation of all, and give a
common title, a guarantee to the use of one alone."
Tronchet, one of the jurists who contributed most
to the drawing up of the civil code, shared at that
time this opinion, and declared that "It is only
the establishment of society and oonventional
laws which are the real source of the right of
property. " — There is not much difference between
Mirabeau's statement and that of Robespierre, who
wrote, in his declaration of rights, " Property is
the right that each citizen has to the enjoyment of
that portion of goods guaranteed to hirn, by the law."
And Robespierre is not far removed from Baboeuf ,
who desired that the land should be the common
property of all, that is, that it should belong to
nobody. Mirabeau, who pretends that the legis-
lator confers property, admits, by so doing, that
he can take it away; and Robespierre, who ex-
pressly reserves the state's right in property, and
reduces the proprietor to the position of a mere
usufructuary, by refusing him the power of sell-
ing or disposing of it by will or otherwise, is the
direct and immediate forerunner of communism.
— I know that the convention gave, in the decla-
ration of rights which serves as a preamble to the
constitution of 1793, a very reassuring and very
sound definition of the right of property. Article
sixteen reads: ' ' The right of property is the right
belonging to every citizen, of using and disposing
as he likes, of his goods, his revenues, of the fruit
of his labor and his industry." And article nine-
teen adds a guarantee, which all subsequent French
constitutions reproduced: "No one shall be de-
prived of the least portion of his property without



386



PROPERTY.



his consent, except when public necessity, legally
proven, evidently demands it, and then only on
condition of just compensation previously made."
— But, doubtless, the convention reserved the ap-
plication of those fine maxims, as it did the aboli-
tion of capital punishment, for times of peace.
No government ever committed more flagrant out-
rages on the right of property. Confiscations and
maximum laws, to say nothing of the inflation of
assignats and bankruptcy, marked its savage sway,
and if it made France victorious and terrible
abroad, it ruined and impoverished her at home.
The convention evidently thought, with Saint-
Just, that "The man who has shown himself the
enemy of his country, can not be a proprietor in
it." It treated the nobles and priests as Louis
XIV. had treated Protestant refugees after the
revocation of the edict of Nantes. It adopted,
in the interests of the republican state, the theory
of feudal origin, that the sovereign, the king, had
direct and supreme dominion over the goods of
his subjects. — M. Troplong called attention to
the concordance of the demagogical doctrine of
property with the maxims of despotism: "All
that exists throughout the length and breadth of
our states," said Louis XIV. in his instructions to
the Dauphin, "whatever be its nature, belongs to
us by the same title; you must be fully persuaded
that kings are the absolute lords, and have natur-
ally the full and free disposition of all the goods
possessed both by church people and by laymen,
that they may use it in everything; likewise hus-
bandmen. " Put this absolute sovereignty into the
hands of a socialistic republic, and it will assuredly
lead to the measures demanded in the following
lines by Gracchus Baboeuf : " The land of a state
should assure a subsistence to all the members
of that state. When, in a state, the minority
of its people has succeeded in monopolizing its
landed and industrial wealth, and by that means
holds the majority under its sceptre, and uses the
power it has, to cause that majority to languish
in want, it should be known that such encroach-
ment could only occur through the bad institutions
of the government; therefore what former gov-
ernments neglected to do, at the time, to prevent
that abuse or to stifle it at the beginning, the act-
ual administration should do to re-establish the
equilibrium which should never have been lost,
and the authority of the laws ought to operate a
reform in the direction of the final maxim of the
perfected government under the social contract :
■ Let all have enough, and no one too much.' " — At
last the era of the civil code dawned on France
and on Europe. Then for the first time the
public power laid down and sanctioned the true
principles respecting property. M. Portalis ex-
pressed himself before the legislative assembly
in the following terms : "The principle of the
right of property is in ourselves; it is in no
way the result of human convention or of pos-
itive law. It lies in the very constitution of
our being, and in our different relations to the
objects which surround us. Some philosophers



Online LibraryJohn J. (John Joseph) LalorCyclopædia of political science, political economy, and of the political history of the United States → online text (page 99 of 290)