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Pensions For Governors
by [?]

I do not remember ever to have read more pompons nonsense than was talked a few days ago in Parliament on the subject of pensions for retired colonial governors.

On all ordinary occasions the strongest case a man can have with the British public is to be an ill-used man–that is to say, if you be a man of mark, or note, or station. To be ill-used, as one poor, friendless, and ignoble, is no more than the complement of your condition. It is in the fitness of things that pauperism, which we English have declared to be illegal, should neither be fondled nor caressed. To be ill-used profitably there must be something pictorial in your case; it must have its reliefs of light as well as shade. There must be little touches, a bright “has been,” sunny spots of a happy past Without the force of these contrasts, there is no possibility of establishing the grand grievance which is embodied in ill-usage.

Now, Mr B. C. who brought on this motion was a sorry artist, and the whole sum and substance of his case was, that as we secured the services of eminent and able men, we ought to pay them “properly.” Why, in that one word “properly” lay the whole question. What constitutes proper payment? Every career in life carries with it some circumstance either of advantage or the reverse, which either compensates for the loss of a material benefit, or is requited by some addition of a tangible profit. The educated man who accepts three hundred a-year in the Church is not recompensed, or considered to be recompensed, by this miserable pittance. It is in the respect, the influence, the power, and the reverence that attach to his calling he is rewarded. Place a layman in the parish beside him with that income, and mark the difference of their stations! The same of the soldier. Why or how does seven-and-sixpence diurnally represent one the equal of the best in any society of the land? Simply by a conventional treaty, by which we admit that a man, at the loss of so much hard cash, may enjoy a station which bears no imaginable proportion to his means.

On the other hand, there are large communities who, addressing themselves to acquire wealth and riches, care very little for the adventitious advantages of social state. As it is told of Theodore Hook, at a Lord Mayor’s feast, that he laid down his knife and fork at the fifth course, and declared “he would take the rest out in money;” so there are scores of people who “go in” for the actual and the real. They have no sympathy with those who “take out” their social status partly in condition partly in cash, as is the case with the curate and the captain.

Almost every man, at his outset in life, makes some computation of how much his career can pay him in money, how much in the advantages of rank and station. The bailiff on the estate makes very often a far better income than the village doctor; but do you believe that AEsculapius would change places with him for all that? Is not the unbought deference to his opinion, the respect to his acquirements, the obedience to his counsel, something in the contract he makes with the world? Does he not recognise, every day of his life, that he is not measured by the dimensions of the small house he resides in, or the humble qualities of the hack he rides, but that he has an acceptance in society totally removed from every question of his fortune?

In the great lottery we call life, the prizes differ in many things besides degree. If the man of high ambition determine to strain every nerve to attain a station of eminence and power, it may be that his intellectual equal, fonder of ease, more disposed to tranquillity, will settle down with a career that at the very best will only remove him a step above poverty; and shall we dare to say that either is wrong? My brother the Lord Chancellor is a great man, no doubt. The mace is a splendid club, and the woolsack a most luxurious sofa; but as I walk my village rounds of a summer’s morning, inhaling perfume of earth and plant, following with my eye the ever-mounting lark, have I not a lighter heart, a freer step, a less wearied head? Have I not risen refreshed from sleep? not nightmared by the cutting sarcasms of some noble earl on my fresh-gilt coronet, some slighting allusion to my “newness in that place”? Depend upon it, the grand law of compensation which we recognise throughout universal nature extends to the artificial conditions of daily life, and regulates the action and adjusts the inequalities of our social state.