The Rationale of Reward

Book II

Rewards Applied to Offices

Chapter II


Before we enter upon this subject in detail, it may be necessary to remark, that the proper application of the following rules will depend upon the nature of the service required, and its various local circumstances. It is only by observing the peculiar character assumed by abuse in each office, that appropriate remedies for each particular evil can be provided. Since it is impossible to make a complete catalogue of all errors, and to anticipate every species of abuse, the rules laid down may not constitute a perfect system. They may, however, serve as a warning against errors and abuses which have by experience been found to exist, and also against some which may be imagined likely to exist. It is useful to erect beacons upon rocks whose existence has been made known by the shipwrecks they have caused. Among the rules about to be given, some may appear so self-evident as almost to seem superfluous: but if it can be shown that errors have arisen from the neglect of them in practice, such rules, though not entitled to be considered as discoveries, must at least be regarded as necessary warning; they may teach nothing new, but they may serve to recall principles which it is desirable should be constantly and clearly remembered.

Rule I. Emoluments ought in such manner to be attached to offices, as to produce the most intimate connexion between the duty and the interest of the person employed.

This rule may be applied in insuring assiduous attendance on the part of the persons employed. In different offices, different services are required; but the greater number of offices have this one circumstance in common: that their duties may be performed, it is necessary that the individual holding the office should be at a certain time in a certain place. Hence, of all duties, assiduous attendance is the first, the most simple, and the most universal. In many cases, to insure the performance of this duty, is to insure the performance of every other duty. When the clerk is at his desk, the judge upon the bench, the professor in his school,---if there be nothing particularly irksome in their duty, and they can do nothing else, rather than remain idle, it is probable they will perform their duty. In these cases, the service required being of the continual kind, and in point of quality not susceptible of an indefinite degree of perfection---the pay being required not for certain services, but for such services as may come to be performed within a certain space of time,---it may without impropriety be given in the form of a salary. But even here, the policy of making reward keep pace with service should be pursued as closely as possible; and for this purpose, the long continued mass of service should be broken down into as many separate services as possible---the service of a year into the service of days. In the highest offices, an individual, if paid by his time, should, like the day-labourer, and for the same reason, be paid rather by the day than by the year. In this way he is kept to his duty with more than the effect, and at the same time without any of the odium, of punishment.

In the station of a judge, it is not common to exact attendance by the force of punishment---at least not by the force of punishment to be applied in each instance of failure. But if it were, the infliction of that punishment for trivial transgressions---that is, for one or a few instances of non-performance---would be thought harsh and rigorous, nor would anybody care for the odium of standing forth to enforce it. Excuses would be lightly made, and readily accepted. Punishment in such cases being to the last degree uncertain, would be in a great measure ineffectual. It might prevent continual, but it would never prevent occasional, or even frequent, delinquency. But what cannot be effected by punishment alone, may be effected by punishment and reward together. When the officer is paid separately for each day's attendance, each particle of service has its reward: there is for each particle of service an inducement to perform it. There will be no wanton excuses, when inconvenience adheres inseparably to delinquency without the parade of punishment.

The members of the French Academy, and the Academy of Science, notwithstanding all their dignity, are paid their salaries by the day, and not by the year. And who are the individuals, how low or how high soever, who cannot, and who ought not, to be paid in this manner? If pride have a legitimate scruple, it is that which refuses to receive the reward for labour which it has not performed; whilst, as to the objection which might arise from the minute apportionment of the salary, it is easily removed by counters given from day to day, and converted into money at fixed periods.

In the act of parliament for establishing penitentiary houses, among other good regulations, this method of insuring assiduity of attendance has been adopted. The three superintendents receive, as the whole of their emoluments, each a share of the sum of five guineas, which is directed to be distributed each day of their attendance equally among those who are present.

A more ancient example of this policy may be found in the incorporated society in London for the assurance of lives. The directors of this establishment receive their trifling emoluments in this manner; and thus applied, these emoluments suffice. This plan has also been adopted in the case of commissioners of bankrupts, and by different associations.

These examples ought not to be lost; and yet, from not having been referred to general principles, they have not possessed the influence they ought to have. How often have regulations been heaped upon regulations without success! How many useless decrees were made in France to insure the residence of the bishops and beneficed clergy!

In England, we have not in this respect been more successful; that is to say, more skillful. Laws have been enacted against the non-residence of the clergy---laws badly contrived, and consequently useless. Punishment bas been denounced, and a fine imposed, which being invariable in amount, has sometimes been greater and sometimes less than the advantage to be derived from the offence. For want of a public prosecutor in this, as in so many other cases, it has been necessary to rely upon such casual informers as may be allured by a portion of the fine. The love of gain has seldom proved a motive sufficiently strong to induce an endeavour to obtain this reward; whose value, not to mention the expenses of pursuit, is destroyed by infamy. Till this motive be reinforced by personal animosity, which bursts the bonds of infamy, these laws are powerless.

Such cases, which may occur once or twice in the course of ten years throughout the whole kingdom, are neither sufficiently frequent, nor well known, to operate as examples. The offence remains undiminished: the useless punishment constitutes only an additional evil; whilst such laws and such methods, powerless among friends, serve only to bring enemies into contact. Whenever it is desirable that a clergyman should live in the midst of his parishioners---that is to say, when they are amicable---the law is a dead letter: its power is exerted only when they are irreconcilable enemies; that is, in the only cases wherein its utility is problematical, and it were to be wished that its execution would admit of an exception. His return into his parish is a triumph for his enemies, and a humiliation for himself.

Had the salaries paid to the professors in the universities been interwoven with their services, it might have been the custom for some of these pretended labourers to have laboured for their hire; and to be a professor, might have meant something more than having a title, a salary, and nothing to teach.

A salary paid day by day has an advantage beyond that of insuring assiduity of attendance;---it even renders a service agreeable, which with an annual salary will be regarded as purely burthensome. When reward, instead of being bestowed in a lump, follows each successive portion of labour, the idea of labour becomes associated with pleasure instead of pain. In England, husbandmen, like other labourers, are paid in hard money by the week, and their labour is cheerfully and well performed. in some parts of the continent, husbandmen are still paid as they were formerly in England, by houses and pieces of land given once for all; and the labour is said to be performed with all the slovenliness and reluctance of slavery.

Rule II. Emoluments ought in such manner to be attached to office, as to produce the greatest possible degree of excellence in the service rendered.

Thus far the subject has only been considered as applicable to insuring attendance in cases where assiduity of attendance appears to suffice for insuring the performance of all other duties. There follow some cases, in which it appears possible to apply the same principle either in the prevention of abuse, or in insuring an extraordinary degree of perfection in the employment of the powers which belong to certain stations.

Instead of appointing a fixed salary, invariably of the same amount as the emolument of the superintendent or superintendents of a prison, a poor-house, an asylum for orphans, or any kind of hospital whose inhabitants depend upon the care of one or a small number of individuals, whatever may be the difference in the degree of attention displayed, or the degree of perfection with which the service is performed,---it would be well to make the emolument of such persons in some measure depend upon the care with which their duties have been performed, as evidenced by their success. In a penitentiary, or other prison, that the prisoners might be insured from all negligence or ill-treatment, tending directly or indirectly to shorten their lives, make a calculation of the average number of deaths among the prisoners in the particular prison, compared with the number of persons confined there. Allow the superintendent each year a certain sum for each per. son of this number, upon condition, that for every prisoner who dies, an equal sum is to be withheld from the amount of his emoluments. It is clear, that having a net profit upon the lives of all whom be preserves, there is scarcely any necessity for any other precaution against ill-treatment, or negligence tending to shorten life.

In the naval service, the laws of England allow a certain sum for each vessel taken or destroyed, and so much for every individual captured. Why is not this method of encouragement extended to the military service?

Is the commander of an army employed in defending a province,---allow him a pension which shall be diminished in proportion to the territory he loses. Is the governor of an important place besieged,---allow him so much for every day that he continues the defence. Is the conquest of a province desirable,---promise to the general employed, besides the honours he shall receive, a sum of money which shall increase in proportion to the territory he acquires, besides giving him a pension, as above, for preserving it when acquired.

To the principal duty of taking and destroying those who are opposed to him, might be added the subordinate duty of preserving the living machines whose exertions are necessary for its accomplishment. The method proposed for the preservation of prisoners,---why should it not be employed for the preservation of soldiers? It must be acknowledged, that no reward exclusively attached to this subordinate duty could, in the mind of a prudent commander, add anything to the weight of those arguments which arise out of the principal object. A soldier when he is ill, is worth less than nothing: a recruit may not arrive at the moment---may not arrive at all, and when he has arrived, he is not like a veteran. If therefore, it be proper to strengthen motives thus palpable, by a separate and particular reward, it ought at least to be kept in a subordination sufficiently marked with respect to the principal object.

Thus much as to a time of war. In time of peace, the propriety of this method is much less doubtful. It is then that the attention of a general should be more particularly directed to the preservation of his soldiers. Make him the insurer of their lives, and he will become the rival of Esculapius in medical science, and of Howard in philanthropy. He will no longer be indifferent, whether they encamp upon a hill or in a morass. His vigilance will be exercised upon the quality of his supplies and the arrangement of his hospitals; his discipline will be rendered perfect against those vices of armies, which are sometimes no less destructive than the sword of the enemy.[2]

The same system might be extended to ships of war, in which negligence is so fatal, and in which general rules are so easily enforced. The admiral, or captain, would thus have an immediate interest in the preservation of each sailor. The admirable example of Captain Cook, Who circumnavigated the world, and traversed so many different climates and unknown seas, without the loss of a single sailor, would no longer be unfruitful. His instructions respecting diet, change of air, and cleanliness, would not be neglected. The British navy, it is true, is much Improved in these respects: but who can tell how much greater perfection might be attained, if to the already existing motives were added the influence of a constantly acting interest, which, without injuring any virtue, might supply the place of all, if they were wanting?

In the application of these suggestions, there may be difficulties: are they insurmountable? It is for those who have had experience to reply.

In the treaty made by the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel, relative to the troops which the British government hired of him to serve in America, one stipulation was, that for every man not returned to his country, he should receive thirty pounds. I know not whether such a stipulation were customary or not: but whether it were or not, nothing could be more happily imagined, either for the fiscal interest of the sovereign lender, or the interest of the individuals lent. The spirit of party found in this stipulation a theme for declamation, as if its only effect were to give to the prince an interest in the slaughter of his subjects; whilst, if anything could counterbalance the mischievous effects of the treaty, it was this pecuniary condition. It gave to these strangers a security against the negligence or indifference of the borrowers, on account of which they might more willingly have been exposed to danger than native subjects. The price attached to their loss would act as an insurance that care should be taken to preserve them.

It has been said, that in some countries the emoluments of the commanders of regiments increase in proportion to the number of non-effectives; that is to say, that they receive always the same amount for the pay of their corps, though they have not always the same number of men to pay. Such an arrangement is precisely the opposite of what is recommended above. The number of noneffectives increasing by death or desertion, the commander gains in money what he loses in men. Every penny which he is thus permitted to acquire is a reward offered, if not for murder, at least for negligence.{Note}

[RR, Book II, Chapter I] [RR, Book II, Chapter III]