For example, it has been called, in Parliament and elsewhere, a scheme for taking patronage from the Crown and its officers, and giving it to a body of examiners. This objection ignores the whole essence of the plan. As at present conducted, the bestowal of appointments is patronage. But the conferring of certificates of eligibility by the Board of Examiners would not be patronage, but a judicial act. The examiners for honours at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or London, have not the patronage of honours; nor has the Lord Chancellor, when he decrees an estate to one person instead of another, the patronage of the estate. If it be meant that the examiners would not be capable and impartial, the objection is intelligible. But capable and impartial examiners are found for university purposes, and for the purposes of the educational department of the Privy Council; and they will be found for the present purpose, supposing that there is a sincere desire to find them. The idea that an examination test is likely to be merely nominal, is grounded on the experience of a different kind of examination from that proposed. It is derived from examinations without competition. When the only object is to ascertain whether the candidate possesses a certain minimum of acquirement, it is usually thought that this minimum should be placed low enough to give a chance to all; and however low it may be placed, good nature interferes to prevent it from being rigidly enforced against any but absolute dunces, whilst the other candidates are willing to encourage and applaud this relaxation of duty, and even to connive at frauds on the part of the incompetent. The feelings of all concerned are very different, when the question to be resolved is, who among the candidates that present themselves are the qualified. Indulgence to one, is then injustice to others, and wears a very different aspect to the conscience from that, falsely thought more venial, laxity, by which the public alone is damaged. In this case, too, the interests and feelings of the other competitors are enlisted in favour of preventing and detecting fraud. With a honest choice of examiners, a competitive examination is as unlikely to fail, as a mere test is unlikely to succeed.


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