AuthorChristopher Rootham
 
Prior to examin ing the current state of federal public ser vice labour and employ-
ment law, it is helpful to quickly rev iew the history and evolution of labour and
employment law that has governed federal public ser vants.
e modern idea of a public servant — a pers on who serves her countr y as op-
posed to a particu lar person — evolved in Great Brita in during the eighteenth a nd
nineteenth centuries. Prior to t hat time, the people we wou ld now consider “civil
servants” did not owe thei r loyalt y to Great Britain, but were instead considered
to be the personal ser vants of the reigning monarch. Ocials in t he seventeenth
century were “stil l his [the monarch’s] servants, a nd not those of the Crown or
the Public.” Even thoug h the monarch was d irectly re sponsible for appointing
his personal ser vants, these ocials were not completely powerless in t heir deal-
ings with the Crown. O cials were appointed by a letter patent. erefore, t he
revocation of their appointments cou ld be — and was — reviewed by the nascent
court structure in place in England in the seventeenth century. Consequently,
they “could choose to bargain with the Crown when the Crown sought to dis-
 G.E. Aylmer,G.E. Aylmer, e King’s Servant s: e Civil Service of Charl es I, rev. ed. (London: Rout-
ledge & K. Paul, ) at .
28           
miss them, knowi ng that they could prevent — or at the very least, delay — their
dismissal t hrough court proceedings.
During the eighteent h century, the concept of the civ il service e volved so
that public ocials became servants of their particular ministers. Ministers ap-
pointed, promoted, and paid their civ il serva nts out of the revenue generated
within that pa rticula r ministr y. Civil servants a lso collected fees from citi zens
who used the part icular services oered by a mini stry, and these fees were use d
to supplement their otherwi se meager salaries.
is obviously unsati sfactory situation began to moder nize in the nineteent h
century. In , the British Pa rliament passed the rst stat ute governing the civil
service. at Act converted “ those employed in the var ious departments from
being servants of t he Ministers in whos e oces they served , to being servants
of the Crown.” e  Act was also the rst ti me that Parliament dic tated the
pay for civil serva nts. Civil ser vants continued to collec t fees and other sources
of income by perfor ming their dutie s, but they also rec eived an annual s alary set
by Parliament.
In , the British government est ablished the Civil Serv ice Commission by
an Order in Council. e  Order in C ouncil gave the Civil Service Comm is-
sion the authority to conduct the entr y examinations for the Br itish Civil Serv ice:
“In eect, the Order t ransferred to the Com missioners the duties of conducti ng
the examinat ions and inquirie s which had been underta ken previously by the
departments, t hereby providi ng an impartial scruti ny of nominee s.
e reforms that occurred i n the s had a number of causes, but two
causes were more important t han others. First, the Britis h government had com-
missioned a report into its civ il service. at Report re commended, among other
things, more rigorous scr utiny of incoming civ il serva nts — not to completely
eliminate patronage, but to ensure t hat patronage was only used to appoint can-
didates who had some basic quali cations for their positions. Second, the British
militar y debacle in the Crimean war triggered a pol itical outcry demanding sig-
nicant improvement in Britis h government administr ation. e maltreatment
of British casua lties led Florence Nightinga le to help create a modern system of
nursing and hospital ca re; the admini strative malfea sance that caused ma ny of
those casua lties in the rst place forced the British government to re-e valuate
who it was appointing as civ il servants.
e Civil Serv ice Commission was st ill no gua rantee of appointment by
merit: appointment stil l remained a politica l gi. However, if a ca ndidate failed
the Civil Ser vice Commission examination, he was not appoi nted to a position.
is was a guar antee that ill iterate candidates would not become civ il service
 Emmeline W. Cohen,Emmeline W. Cohen, e Growth of th e British Civil Servi ce –, d ed. (Hamden,
CT: Archon Books, ) at .
Ibid. at .

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT