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tunities, in the course of an official career, for the exercise of a high degree of shrewdness, judgment, and mechanical skill. It should be borne in mind by the young officer, that if he limits his ambition to the acquiring merely of that which concerns the accurate performance of routine surveying, his hopes of advancement must be bounded by an equally narrow limit.
For the situation of Collector's Clerk, or for promotion to the rank of Examiner, it is indispensable that the applicant be well versed in the rudiments of bookkeeping by double entry. Usually a printed memorandum of a few simple, diversified transactions, such as are recorded in a merchant's waste-book, is placed before the officer. From this he is required to make out a journal and ledger, to close the separate accounts, and to show the final balance. He is also liable to be questioned as to his knowledge of the theory of double entry; in what con: sists the advantages of the system, &c.
Another essential qualification demanded of officers who seek to become supervisors, is the ability to write a good business letter-the statement of an offence for instance-free from errors of spelling, grammatically composed, simply and concisely worded, and bearing immediately and exclusively on the subject in hand. It is true that nothing short of a gross violation of the rules of grammar, and particularly of orthography, will cause the rejection of a candidate, on literary grounds, at this examination. It would be unreasonable to expect from men who have had no practice in the drawing up of reports, that brevity and clearness of expression, that terse yet comprehensive statement of fact and opinion, which characterise the best specimens of official correspondence. But, unless a supervisor pay a scrupulous regard to the manner as well as the substance of his communications with the Board, employing plain and appropriate language, omitting irrelevant details, and striving to ensure an easy apprehension of his meaning, he runs the risk of being considered unfit for preferment, or even for the work of a responsible district. *
In addition to the proofs of his attainments in arithmetic, book-keeping and composition, a division officer before passing as an examiner, must give satisfactory evidence of his familiarity with the tenor of the various excise laws, and the nature of the operations conducted by traders.
He is asked, perhaps, to recite summarily the leading provisions of the malt acts in force ; to describe the process of malting or distilling; and to indicate the course he should pursue under certain supposed circumstances of suspected or discovered fraud. These tests are applied for the purpose of judging, whether in the event of his being entrusted with the charge of a district, it is likely he would act with legality and discrimination, and take a right view of difficult and unusual cases : or bring discredit on his office, and endanger the revenue, through ignorance, or the misuse of authority. It is his interest, therefore, to study both the letter and the spirit of the regulations by which the duties are secured, to observe narrowly the mode of manufacture of exciseable articles ; and by reading, reflection, and storing up the results of his experience, to prepare himself at all points to meet the numerous questions that arise out of the incidents and emergencies of his peculiar business. It should be borne in mind that simple intelligence, however acute, goes but a short way to supply the want of an adequate professional training
Seo the “Handbook for Officers of Excise," chap. I. for some observations and hints on the subject of official correspondence.
In selecting a supervisor for the important station of surveying general examiner, the decision of the Board is chiefly influenced by the range of his general acquirements, his power of concise and grammatical expression, and the degree of skill he may exhibit in treating a topic directly or indirectly related to the management of the service.
On most occasions, the candidate is required to state the reasons which appear to him to have prompted certain enactments, to offer his opinion as to the policy of removing or continuing the restrictions on certain branches of trade ;
and to suggest any alteration that occurs to him as advisable, in some part of the present system of survey or accounts.
A supervisor who shows an entire incapacity to deal in a thoughtful and rational manner with these subjects, or other collateral subjects that may be proposed as bearing on the administration of the revenue, is justly esteemed unfit for the position to which he aspires, notwithstanding his proved fidelity and efficiency in the execution of the ordinary duties of a district.
When the failure of a candidate results not so much from a radical deficiency in the elements of a common education, as from causes which a further experience and the earnest desire of self-improvement will probably remove, the commissioners seldom refuse either an officer or a supervisor the privilege of a second and even a third examination.
Patronage of any kind is no longer permitted to secure the advancement of an unworthy or illiterate person in the ranks of the excise. The only road to promotion now lies through the claims of individual merit, unsupported by any recommendation, but that of a superior in office.
IN ITS RELATION TO THE DUTIES AND ATTAINMENTS OF OFFICERS
Computation in General, as applied to excise accounts.- Vulgar and Decimal Fractions.
- Reduction.- Proportion. — Practice. — Interest. — Percentages. — Averages.Evolution.- Questions for exercise.
1. COMPUTATION IN GENERAL.-Computations in the Excise, are, for the most part, made and recorded decimally, being in that respect distinguished from the usage of mercantile accounts. Sums of money are, of course, represented by the excise under the customary denominations of pounds, shillings, and pence; but fractional quantities of goods and other expressions of value are, with very few exceptions, stated and worked out in decimal divisions of the unit, (tenths or at the furthest, centesimals). This system has been adopted, no doubt, because of its greater convenience and simplicity, and also because it admits of a degree of exactness sufficient for revenue purposes, while it prevents an unfair charge upon traders by too close an estimation of duties levied by measure or weight. All classes of surveying officers, therefore, need to be especially well versed in the properties and management of decimals, although the rules which they have to apply on practical occasions seldom extend beyond the mere processes of addition, subtraction, &c. A good knowledge of general arithmetic, exclusive of its purely commercial portions, is, however, quite as essential an attainment on the part of officers, and cannot be slighted by them without certain injury to their efficiency and their hopes of promotion. One of the first tasks that should be engaged in, is that of acquiring the utmost possible expertness in the art of ready reckoning, both mentally and on paper. To be “ quick and sure at figures,to be able to compute at all times with despatch and accuracy, is a qualification of much more importance as regards the interests of the revenue, than any display of skill or acuteness in the treatment of intricate problems. An aptitude of the latter kind is only of rare and exceptional utility in affairs of business, the requisite calculations being almost wholly of a set or stated character, and the mode of performing them being direct and obvious ; while the art of simple computing is called into exercise in every species of accounts, and forms an indispensable element of every industrial occupation.
The ability to compute well, it should be observed, is not necessarily associated in the same person with an equal power of applying rules or of reasoning or numerical data. The solution of a very common-place question in discount, percentage, or some other branch of proportion often perplexes those, who if the right process were once suggested to them, would go through the necessary work and obtain the proper result with the greatest ease and expedition. It is also true that many proficients in the theory of arithmetic, and even the higher mathematics, show themselves to be but unwilling and indifferent computers. Their logical faculties are so well trained, or their clearness of head and skill in the application of rules are so great, that they at once seize on the connection which exists between the different parts of a problem, and perceive the steps that should be taken to arrive at the solution-yet from want of practice, want of aptitude, or from an inherent distaste for the kind of mental exertion which it demands, they avoid as much as possible, the detail of actual operation, and engage in it only with pain, difficulty, and a hesitating slowness that leads to continual error. Mere practice, however assiduously carried out will not always make an expert computer although it never fails to confer some degree of facility and certainty in the management of figures. A little courage and self-reliance, natural or acquired, avail more in this respect than any amount of careful and patient repetition. To quote the words of an authority on the subject.* « The young calculator should proceed as boldly as if he were infallible—for he may depend on it, that it is not inaccuracy which is to be avoided by caution, but accuracy which is to be obtained by habit. It is necessary to insist particularly on acquiring the habit of rapid computation by attempts at rapidity. Quickness of operation will never come of itself by practising with deliberate caution. All very correct computers have been rather rapid workers." In short, the art of easy and successful computation canno be thoroughly acquired until a habit is formed of executing the work mechanically, that is, by implicit reliance on the memory without any consciousness of the separate steps taken in the process.
Addition. In adding long columns of figures, it is peculiarly advisable, if we wish to combine despatch and correctness, to entrust the task unreservedly to the mechanical action of the memory.
That which at the first glance or thought suggests itself to any person, however little used to reckoning, as the sum of two or more numbers, is almost always the true sum. But to stop short at any point in the process of continuous addition, for the purpose of verifying a partial result by a second or third trial with close and solicitous attention, is a practice that tends rather to produce falsity and confusion, than to ensure final correctness, from the injurious effect of the doubt which is permitted to enter the mind. It should serve as a strong encouragement to all slow and timid computers to reflect, that whenever they have trusted themselves to add a little more rapidly than usual, they have found on repeating the calculation that they have made but comparatively few mistakes. This fact should induce them to place great confidence in the general accuracy of their first attempts, and to defer the proving of results until the whole operation is concluded.
The form of words, repeated either mentally or aloud, with which many persons through the force of early habit, accompany the act of computing, is neither necessary nor useful as an aid to perception, and only wastes time that might be better employed. No good computer permits himself to name anything more than the successive results which he obtains, as his eye runs along a column of figures ; thus, « 10, 12, 21, 28, 33, &c.” He knows that his object is to add with all possible brevity of method, and as a single glance is sufficient to combine the elements of each step of an addition, he gives expression to the results alone,
See article “Computation,” in the supplement to the Penny Cyclopædia.
and adopts the same plan with equal advantage in other processes of computation.
In the carrying of figures from column to column, emphasis should be placed on the figure to be carried, and not on the figure to be set down—- sixty-seven,” not “ sixty-seven.” The liability to forget the number of tens to be carried, is greatly diminished, by accenting it strongly in the mind, while the units with which the memory has no further concern, are committed to paper.
It is useful for each person to adhere to an invariable order in the first trial of additions : to commence always from the bottom or from the top, but not to add sometimes upwards and sometimes downwards. Unless a uniform method be observed, the computer, when he comes to verify his first result by reversing the process, may be uncertain whether he is not going through it in the same order as before, and thus detracting considerably from the value of the check. Perhaps as a general rule, it will be found most safe and convenient, to add the rows alternately upwards and downwards, and on the second trial, to begin in the opposite direction. This plan prevents one from getting so readily into the wrong column, a mistake very difficult to avoid in the addition of entries made at different times when the figures are not regularly placed under one another, and there are no ruled lines to guide the eye.* It is advisable also, in performing long additions to mark the results at first in pencil, not recording them in ink until the work has been properly revised. The practice of noting with pencil in a small hand, below the sum of each column, the figures carried to the next column, facilitates the proving of an operation, and saves the trouble of repeating the whole process in case of interruption, or for the purpose of correcting an error in the sum of a particular row of figures. When the sum of a column of figures extends beyond a hundred, most computers will find it of advantage to assist their recollection of the right number of hu reds to be carried, by some device, such as a mark on a piece of paper, or counting with the fingers. It is occasionally of service to divide a long or irregularly placed addition into two or more parts, and to form the total of the whole by taking the sums of these parts separately, and then adding the sums together.
Subtraction. As the process of subtraction can only be extended to two numbers at a time, and as the carriages being always of one figure, are easily remembered, it is needless to dwell at any length on the mode of conducting the operation, or of checking the results when obtained. The computer should accustom himself to subtract with equal facility, whether the less number happens to be placed over or under the greater. Mere position of the figures should give him no difficulty, although he may not often encounter an instance in which the usual order is inverted.
The better to attain to this expertness, which will prove of especial service to him in the balancing of accounts, let him perform the act of subtraction, as if he were adding to the smaller number so much as would make it equal to the greater, rather then taking one number from the other. It may appear absurd to draw a distinction between the two methods, but although they are identical in effect, they are really conceived in a different manner.
* In all such books as distillery or warehouse ledgers, in which the entries are generally made by different persons from time to time, with some haste rendered necessary by the exigencies of business, it is of great advantage to rule the columns for gallons with pencil or red ink lines, lengthwise, so as to keep the figures in their proper order below one another.