Although the people of West Cumberland may not have experienced any occasion
to express their disapproval of that doubtful piece of legislature through
which an ignorant an unfitted man may claim and hold the position of Justice
of the Peace, it is tolerably well understood that they share in the general
opinion of the country as to its uselessness and worthlessness. On the face
of it, the placing of a man in a postion of honour and responsibility, on
the mere grounds of his selection as chairman of a District Council, the
principle is a bad one, inasmuch as it gives a majority, no matter how
small, the chance of raising a temporary favourite to a dignified post,
althought he may not possess a single qualification for the proper discharge
of its duties, and his very selection may be made with the open intention of
insulting or annoying a class who have an interest at stake in the
maintenance of law and order. It is useless now to discuss this question,
but in order to prevent the possibility of establishing a precedent by which
men, who have temporarily acted as magistrates through the freak or accident
of election, may continue to hold the office permanently, it is most
desirable that the various Lord Lieutenants should use the utmost
watchfulness and care in the study of applications of the kind. At a recent
meeting of the Cleator Moor Urban District Council, it was decided that an
application be made to Lord MUNCASTER to perpetuate the honour claimed by Mr
DIXON  during the time he acted as chairman of that authority, and which he
naturally lost when he ceased to act in that capacity. Doubtless he has
discharged his duties as chairman of the Council and a magistrate with the
greatest ability and credit, but it is a question whether it would be wise
to create a precedent on such a slender basis. In cases where exceptional
duties and responsibilities have been met and ably discharged during many
years of office, the actions of such useful members of society may well
demand recognition in this form, but in this particular instance the
granting of the application to make Mr DIXON a magistrate for life on the
mere grounds of his holding for a few brief months an honourable, though
accidental position, and discharging its duties satisfactorily, would be a
decided mistake, and the establishment of a precedent that is capable of
doing considerably more harm than good.