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could stir up any party feeling, and they grew tired of being badgered by the aristocratic Radical of Finsbury, and decided practically to let the question drop. Just before they went out of office, however, the Conservatives again veered round, and it may be worth while quoting the few significant words in which Sir John Simon conveys his opinion on this volteface. I at that time had reason to believe, and at this distance of thirty years I may gratefully express my belief, that the sudden change of resolution was due to a conversation which in the interval my political chief had had with the late Prince Consort; whose highly informed statesman's mind, always bent on objects of public good, had long been interested in the cause of sanitary progress; and whose opinion expressed on such a point as this in question was likely to be conclusive.' At this point, however, Lord Palmerston resumed the reins of office, and Robert Lowe became practically the Minister of Public Health. He very soon showed that he had made up his mind that Mr. Duncombe of Finsbury should no longer control the situation. Nothing can be more amusing than the accounts which Sir John Simon gives of Lowe's early ardour as a sanitary reformer; how he devoured Blue Books as one of Mr. Mudie's subscribers would rush through the latest novel, and straightway proceeded to examine and cross-examine every scientific expert who came in his way. He saw at a glance that the Public Health Act of 1858 was made valueless by the provision attached to it, which meant for the department an annual struggle for existence. On July 19, 1859, he moved the third reading of his Bill to give permanence to the provisions of 1858-and by so doing he passed the measure that really established a permanent Department of Public Heath in this country. Now comes the comedy of our party system! Not only did Lowe find himself opposed by the irreconcileable Duncombe, but the whole of the Tory, party, who in the previous year had brought forward the same measure, now turned round, and by voting with their old
antagonist of Finsbury, all but threw out the measure. Against these combined forces, Lowe just managed to squeeze the Bill through by 101 to 95 votes; and what is more, this triumph, if such it may be called, was the veriest accident. 'For,' writes Sir John Simon, just after the division a member who had taken part in it (a former president of the late Board) told me that when the division bell rang, he, being at the time outside, had carried in with him to the Government lobby six members who would otherwise have been absent and whose votes made the majority for the Bill.'
Surely our fortuitous and happy-go-lucky methods of legislating have never been more strikingly exemplified. The six gentlemen in the lobby, who probably cared very little which way the division went, practically established a new Department of State, and that department the one which Disraeli so amusingly claimed as one of the Tory prerogatives, in happy forgetfulness that he and his party, by their purely factious vote, did their best to strangle it in its birth.
From this period dates the close official relationship and intimate personal friendship between Lord Sherbrooke and Sir John Simon. It would make one almost believe against the theologians that the world is not utterly corrupt to listen to the never-failing tribute of affection and respect which the latter on all occasions pays to his former Chief. There is no mere vulgar flattery in this, for, as Hamlet says, 'Why should the poor be flattered?' And what man can be poorer than a dead Minister of State? If the reader will turn to Sir John Simon's English Sanitary Institutions, he will find the whole subject of the public health discussed in detail and in the most comprehensive spirit. What was the precise nature of Robert Lowe's achievement as Health Minister he now records in these words:—
MR. LOWE AT THE BOARD OF HEALTH
By SIR JOHN SIMON, K.C.B.
'At the period of Lord Sherbrooke's death, and while the newspapers were saying their say about him, I was under such pressure of illness as made me utterly unable to take part in any public discussion. Had not this been the case, I should have sought to appear as a witness in the court where Lord Sherbrooke's merits were being discussed; and I deeply regretted that I could not do so. Whatever else I might have had to submit, I should at least have had special evidence to offer with regard to one particular portion of Lord Sherbrooke's political career; a portion, which so far as I could see, had been curiously forgotten or ignored by the writers who were furnishing obituary memoirs of him. I should have wished to supplement their record by submitting that Lord Sherbrooke, to my knowledge, had at critical times contributed most effectively to develop for this country the branch of political administration which relates to the protection of the Public Health; and that benefits, originally due to his action or influence in that branch of politics, are still constituting important features in the sanitary system of the country.
'As my tribute of gratitude to Lord Sherbrooke's memory in respect of what he did for the interests of sanitary progress could not be among the passing obituary notices which followed immediately on his death, it has ever since been a debt I have wished to pay; and accordingly now, when I am invited to contribute that testimony to the purpose of a less ephemeral record of his life and public services, I shall endeavour to set forth the facts in such detail as I hope may best subserve the biographer's intention.'
It has to be remembered that, throughout some of the
Fuller information as to the circumstances under which the particular services were rendered may for the most part be found under corresponding titles, at the close of chapter xii., and at various parts of chapter xiii., of my printed volume on English Sanitary Institutions.
earlier periods of modern English legislation regarding the Public Health, the function of responsibility to Parliament in that branch of government had been joined by statute to the function of responsibility for Public Education. The Act of 1857, which gave a further year's continuance to the then temporarily existing General Board of Health, had provided that the Vice-President of the Education Committee of the Privy Council should ex-officio be the President of the Board; and the Public Health Act of 1858, which transferred to the Privy Council the medical responsibilities of the Board of Health, had provided that, of the Lords of the Council administering the Act, the Education Vice-President must always be one. In the sorts of Council Office business for which the vice-presidency had been provided (just as in all the other sorts) the Lord President of the Council was of course the supreme authority, and the Vice-President could never be formally regarded as exercising independent command; but during the years now particularly to be spoken of, when Earl Granville and Mr. Lowe were in the respective offices, seemed to have been understood between them that Mr. Lowe should take the initiative in all business where he had vice-presidential duties, and that, subject to Lord Granville's agreement with him in matters of real political question, he should be the acting authority for all such business. In that almost unqualified sense-for I am not aware of Lord Granville's having ever differed from his vice-president-Mr. Lowe, during the years 1859-64, was Minister for the purposes of the Public Health Act of the period, distinctively the Minister who had to plead in the House of Commons for the health-interests of the public; and the forgetfulness which has been shown towards the important work done by him for our sanitary system during those years may no doubt be explained by the fact that in title he was merely Minister for Education.
In accordance with the general rule of our English system
of government, the political administrators of the Public Health Act were in command of a specialist adviser, and it was I who (as Medical Officer of the Privy Council) had the honour of standing in that relation to them. The Medical Officer of the Privy Council was autonomic in his function of reporting; it was his duty to report, as he saw fit, "on any matter concerning the public health, or any matter referred to him for the purpose," and all his reports were to be laid before Parliament; but except in this quasi-judicial freedom of speech, he had no independent function; and, in conformity with the common rule of our public service, departmental action could only be taken or authorised by the Minister who would answer for it to Parliament. My years of service under Mr. Lowe made me grateful to that rule in our system of government; for, as specialist officer, I felt it to be political education for myself, while of course it was security for the public good, that whatever I would initiate should have to explain and justify itself to the keen intelligence and highly educated statesmanship of one who so admirably represented the sense and the intentions of Parliament.
'It was through Mr. Lowe that the Profession of Medicine first came to be permanently recognised in the civil government of the country. Granted, no doubt, that, for four years before his vice-presidency, half promises of recognition had been held out by successive Acts of Parliament which enabled the Central Government to have its Medical Officer year by year; but in 1858, when the last of those Acts had authorised for a year the medical officership of the Privy Council, Parliament had clearly shown itself undecided as to the permanence of the appointment; and in 1859, just before Mr. Lowe's accession to office, there was doubt whether the Government of the day would propose continuance of the office, even on the precarious footing of yearly tenure. this juncture just when the central medical officership, after four years of humiliating suspense, was in imminent danger of