I do not overlook the fact that the great majority, numerically speaking, of public employments, can be adequately filled by a very moderate amount of ability and knowledge; and I assume, that a proper distinction is made between these and the others. It would be absurd to subject a tide-waiter, a letter-carrier, or a simple copyist, to the same test as the confidential adviser of a Secretary of State; nor would the former situation be an object to any one capable of competing for the latter. The competition for the inferior posts must be practically limited to acquirements which are attainable by the persons who seek such employments; but it is by no means a consequence that it should be confined to such things as have a direct connexion with their duties. The classes which supply these branches of the Public Service are among those on whom it is most important to inculcate the lesson, that mental cultivation is desirable on its own account, and not solely as a means of livelihood or worldly advancement; that whatever tends to enlarge or elevate their minds, adds to their worth as human beings, and that the Government considers the most valuable human being as the worthiest to be a Public Servant, and is guided by that consideration in its choice, even when it does not require his particular attainments or accomplishments for its own use. A man may not be a much better postman for being able to draw, or being acquainted with natural history; but he who in that rank possesses these acquirements, has given evidence of qualities which it is important for the general cultivation of the mass that the State should take every fair opportunity of stamping with its approbation.
Thomas Babington Macaulay was born on October 25th, 1800, atRothley Temple, Leicestershire, as the son of former AfricanColonial Governor and anti-slavery philanthropist ZacharyMacaulay.
Macaulay was a notably precocious child and something of anactual literary prodigy, he began to write poetry and a worldhistory before he was ten years of age. He was later educated atTrinity College, Cambridge where he became known as a debater, asa brilliant conversationalist, and as a classical scholar.
In 1824 he gained a college prize for an essay on thecharacter of William III. He was also awarded a fellowship atTrinity College. An anti-slavery address he gave in 1824 wasreported upon by the favourably by the Edinburgh Review, one ofthe most notable literary magazines of the period.
His essay on the English poet John Milton was published(August 1825) in the Edinburgh Review and met with considerableacclaim, Macaulay was thereafter one of the best-known and mostpopular contributors to that publication.
Macaulay was called to the bar in 1826, and joined thenorthern circuit. He practiced little, preferring to followliterary pursuits and politics spending many hours watching theproceedings of the house of commons from the public gallery. Ithappened, however, that his family's business met with financialdisaster - Macaulay was even forced to sell a Gold Medal he hadwon at Cambridge - and he was therafter obliged by his newcircumstances to work seriously for his living.
In February 1830 he entered the House of Commons where he satfor the "pocket borough" of Calne that had been made available tohim through the "no strings attached" patronage of LordLandsdowne. Macaulay began to draw notice through the quality ofhis speeches including one delivered in support of thedramatically contentious parliamentary Reform Bill in March 1831that was praised by Sir Robert Peel as containing portions "asbeautiful as anything I have ever heard or read."
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We have equally left out of our consideration the back-woods, and have not thought it necessary to justify democracy from being in any way accessary to “Lynch-law.” We have not forgotten Sir Robert Peel’s Tamworth speech; but (we must say) we think that speech chiefly remarkable as a specimen of what the conservative baronet thought would with his Tamworth auditory, or, we may perhaps add, with his party. There are Tories enough, probably, who are ignorant of the difference between the state of Mississippi and the state of New York; but we much doubt his being one of them. Sir Robert Peel is not so ignorant as to suppose, that government could establish good order and obedience to law, in countries which count nearly as many square miles as inhabitants. He must have read Mr. Crawford’s report; from which he might have learnt that in the back settlements not more than one crime in a hundred either is, or possibly can be, made the subject of legal redress; and each person consequently retains the right of self-defence which belongs to man in a state of nature. Least of all can Sir Robert Peel be sincere in laying the blame upon democracy, of lawless proceedings which are exclusively confined to the south-western states, where all the bad passions arising from slavery, are blended with the vices natural to a country colonized almost exclusively, as M. de Tocqueville says, by adventurers and speculators. Even Lynch-law, which, though it occasionally sanctions its mandates by death, limits them in the first instance to removal from the neighbourhood, is probably a real improvement upon the state of society previously existing, in which every man’s rifle was his own protector and avenger.