"Under Construction. The Genesis of Public Value Systems": the Subprojects

General outline. In order to underscore the comparative aim of this diachronic project, each subproject will approach its specific field of inquiry from the following four angles (for a theoretical-methodological justification, see Hoetjes 1977 and 1982): Public rectitude as defined by moral authorities. These may be gleaned from (by way of example) writings on philosophical ethics and moral theology or handbooks on etiquette, all of which are available in abundance. Public opinion on corruption. Pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals and the modern mass media (radio, television) offer an insight into the nature and formation of public opinion in the various corruption ‘scandals’ to be examined. The application of law in corruption cases. To understand the legal arguments used in judging presumed offenders, close scrutiny of the source material in legal dossiers and records will be necessary. The functioning codes of the ‘shop-floor’. These involve the ‘everyday’ rules by which public administration is (expected to be) conducted. A variety of sources needs to be used for this purpose, varying from informer reports and ‘eyewitness’ accounts to autobiographies, diaries and letters.

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This fourfold approach serves to severely restrict the amount of material each of the three researchers can be expected to process in the course of four years. In each instance, the corruption cases (c) serve as point of departure in determining the selection of source material especially for the sections on public opinion (b) and shop-floor codes (d). Moral authorities (a) depend less on the casuistry, and choosing representative sources in this area will be relatively easy. The crucial issue for each researcher is, therefore, to select a limited number of relevant corruption cases (approach (c) for which adequate archival material is extant.

Even as this project attempts to restrict and systematise its use of sources, the success of subsequent research depends on casting a wider eye on international developments, both in order to observe similar or dissimilar developments elsewhere, or to track the transfer of ideas and practices between the Netherlands and other regions and countries. This wider concern with European developments, asymmetrically focused on the Dutch context as it necessarily is, is largely conducted on the basis of secondary sources. But it is also reflected (for example) in analysing primary resources of foreign origin that had an impact on the Dutch debate.

Subproject 1: ‘The ancien régime in optima forma (1650-1750)’. From the moment the Dutch Republic had consolidated politically symbolised by the signing of the Peace of Münster and the Grand Gathering (Grote Vergadering) of 1651 it started to undergo fundamental changes in the way the problems of legitimacy, accountability and responsibility were perceived. Of particular interest is the period of the stadtholderate of William III, which was riddled by corruption scandals and a number of trials concerning high treason (De Bruin 1991). The sensational trials of the bailiffs Huygens, Van Banchem and Van Zuylen van Nijevelt offer interesting material that will shed light on the understanding of public values in the heyday of the Dutch ancien regime.

Public rectitude as defined by moral authorities. For this period, the following categories of sources are the most pertinent. (1) Commentaries on classical writings such as those of Cicero, who distinguished between gratia (favour), potentia (power) and pecunia (money) as causes of corruption; (2) works on moral theology (practical theology, ‘cases of conscience’) and moral philosophy (ethics), as well as explanations of the Heidelberg Catechism (Sunday 42, on the Eighth Commandment ‘thou shalt not steal’) (Van Eijnatten forthcoming); (3) textbooks on etiquette, including, by way of example, Traiano Boccalini’s Kundschappen van Parnas (1670), which includes a section on ‘pligten voor amptenaars’ (‘the duties of civil servants’); and (4) works on political philosophy and political theory. Issues that are addressed include the question whether corruption in public administration was at all an issue in moral guidebooks and philosophy, and, if so, how writers defined corruption and what in their view the social implications of corruption were. Furthermore, it is precisely during this period that the traditional moral guidebooks known as 'Fürstenspiegel' were supplemented with translations of German 'cameralist' literature.

Public opinion on corruption. Scandals drew widespread attention in the pamphlet literature of the time. Terms such as ‘machinatien’ (machinations), ‘kuiperijeen’ (intrigues) and ‘knoeierijen’ (corruption) abound (e.g. Dekker 1994). Literature on corruption in other countries will help to determine adequate ways by which public opinion may be examined most efficiently (cf. Prest 1991; on public opinion in the Dutch Republic also De Bruin 1991, 373-386).

The application of law in corruption cases. First, the contours of the legal setting in which corruption cases took place is outlined. This requires an examination of the appropriate legal codes at various levels of government, i.e. at local, provincial and ‘federal’ levels. Second, it is necessary to analyse the archival material relating to the judicial examination of presumed perpetrators of corruption crimes, such as the bailiff Huygens. The researcher is expected to select a restricted number of representative cases for detailed scrutiny, preferably those cases that bear a direct relation on the issues raised in public opinion and/or shop-floor codes. Of great help in defining the casuistry is Hartog (1971).

The functioning codes of the ‘shop-floor’. This is probably the most difficult information to access. One way of doing so is to examine so-called 'egodocuments' (especially letters and diaries), a substantial number of which have been included in inventories and some of which have been published (with subject indexes) (Lindeman, Scherf and Dekker 1993). The source material will have to include both civil servants active in their profession and people who for various reasons became involved with such ‘professionals’. In addition, it is worthwhile – in order to contextualise shop-floor routines – to make some study of early modern practices of gift exchange, particularly in relation to the judiciary and the civil bureaucracy. In the Dutch Republic, as elsewhere, an elaborate technical parlance was developed which included such terms as ‘recognitiën’, ‘congratulatiën’, ‘wellekomsten’, ‘correspondentiegelden’, ‘vereringen’, ‘defroyementen’ and ‘gratuïteiten’ (cf. Huiskamp 1995) – most of these terms will be immediately recognisable to non-Dutch readers. This approach serves to illustrate the thin line between tokens of friendship and evidence of corruption, between accepting gifts and being influenced by them, and this in a period when the private and public spheres were to a large extent undifferentiated and the practice of gift exchange widespread.

Subproject 2: ‘The ancien régime in transition (1750-1850)’. This period is marked at its beginning by the so-called ‘pachtersoproer’ (anti-tax riots) in 1748 and at its end by the completion of the Dutch constitution in its recognisably modern form. The stadtholderates of William IV and William V gave rise to the expectation, in 1748 and again in 1766, that society was to be purged of the corrupt political practices of an overweening oligarchic patriciate. A wave of corruption cases occurred nevertheless, and they signalled significant changes in public values: previously standard administrative practice came to be perceived as corrupt. The controversy initiated by Van der Capellen tot den Pol is but one example of a corruption scandal in a period that represents the gradual transformation of the Dutch Republic into a modern nation state. It should be emphasised that this transformation did not happen overnight, and that there is probably much continuity between the administrative systems that sustained the eighteenth-century stadholderates and those which supported the ‘Enlightened’ monarchies of Kings William I and William II. But since far more research on this topic has been completed for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than on the nineteenth, one of the questions will be to determine what kinds of transitions took place in this century (1750-1850).

Public rectitude as defined by moral authorities. Sources that are examined include those mentioned under Subproject 1., in particular writings on moral theology and moral philosophy. Of particular interest, is popular ethics, a genre that includes handbooks on morality written for specific segments of the population (such as the ‘common man’), and which often reflected, or claimed to reflect, an ‘Enlightened’ anthropology and ethics. Many such books were written during the German Volksaufklärung and subsequently translated from German into Dutch; it is therefore relevant to consult literature on moral thought in eighteenth-century Germany.

Public opinion on corruption. Again, there is an abundance of pamphlet literature, including the ‘barge conversations’ in which the Dutch seem to have specialised – a characteristic title is Samenspraak in de Dordsche marktschuit van Rotterdam gehouden tusschen Ernstig en Losbol, den 10. November 1781 over de omkooping van Captein de Bruin [1781]. In addition, two specific sources are especially relevant to this phase of Dutch history, both of which reflect the development of the periodical press and consequently also of contemporary public opinion. The first source are the so-called ‘spectators’, a form of moralistic writing – or writing on morality – that was all but ubiquitous in the second half of the eighteenth century. Critical magazines constitute a second major source. They include monthly or weekly periodicals that appeared during the Patriottentijd (Patriot Period) and which often addressed the issue of corruption. Finally, in concrete instances due attention may be given to news items and commentaries in newspapers, yet another form of periodical publication that underwent rapid development in this period.

The application of law in corruption cases. Here, too, the researcher is expected to select a restricted number of representative cases for detailed examination. An indispensable aid in selecting lawsuits against corrupt officials for this period is Hartog (1971) as well. A central question, of course, is how changing notions of 'good governance' are reflected in lawsuits. For the kind of analysis of lawsuits we envisage, see for instance Wagenaar's article on a fraudulent tax farmer (2003).

The functioning codes of the ‘shop-floor’. As in the first project the functioning codes of the 'shop floor' are by far the most difficult information to access. Sometimes these become clear from lawsuits (again: Wagenaar 2003). Egodocuments of public functionaries also provide insight in such codes. Gabriëls (1990), for instance, makes an excellent use of these in his study of stadtholderly patronage during the second half of the 18th Century.

Subproject 3. ‘The ‘modern’ constitutional state (1850-1950)’. How did value issues develop from the construction of the ‘modern’ Dutch constitutional state until the creation of "Europe" in the 1950s? Here, too, issues of public integrity probably entered a new phase, as administrative centralisation increased, as the constitution of 1848 redefined the prerogatives of local and national political elites, as the public sector grew, and as party politics came to play an important role in public life. The tensions that political parties could generate to concepts of public integrity is evidenced, for example, in the case of former premier Kuyper, who was accused in 1909 of trading knighthoods for financial contributions to the Anti-Revolutionary Party. But if changes involved in the rise of party politics led to the questioning of previously accepted views of public integrity, the development of industry and public utilities, to name two additional examples, had a similar effect. How did values evolve under the influence of changing boundaries between the public and the private sector (cf. also Wertheim 1961; Wertheim 1964; Van der Meer and Raadschelders 2003)?

Public rectitude as defined by moral authorities. Given the enormous growth in ethical literature in the period, the researcher is advised to restrict him- or herself to a number of leading ethical handbooks in the domains of philosophy, theology, law and public administration itself.

Public opinion on corruption. To an even larger extent than under (a), the communications 'explosion' caused by technological change and the rise of mass media is applicable here. In consequence, it may be necessary to be selective in choosing to analyse specific corruption affairs, and public reactions to them. At the same time, the expansion of public opinion and the presumable rise in public expectations in respect to administrative integrity offers new opportunities to measure public assumptions and attitudes toward this matter. Did, for example, a portion of Dutch public opinion come to judge the administration 'north of the Moerdijk' (which metaphorically separated Protestant and Catholic sections of the country) as the standard for public rectitude? How did public discourse about national versus the local, the role of traditional and new elites, and the effect of party politics express expectations and ideals concerning honest public administration? Tied to these debates are the shifting explicit definitions of 'the general interest' ('het algemeen belang') which sometimes associated particular interest with corruption, even as pillarization legitimated other expressions of group interest. Books such as K. Blokhuis, Gasbedrijven, gasdirecteuren en corruptie (1928) may offer ways to approach additional sources, but also public discussion of suspected instances of public corruption, such as those (wrongly) directed at commissioner De Miranda of Amsterdam in 1939, in which anti-Semitism played a motivating part among some of the accusers.

The application of law in corruption cases. This period is characterised, not only by a far more extensive codification of anti-corruption regulations, but also by the appearance of the first extensive commentaries on the relations between law and such practices as bribery. For instance, the first dissertation on the subject appeared in 1867: De leer der omkooping van ambtenaren volgens vroegere en hedendaagsche wetgevingen, by Athanasius M.A. Hanlo. As for the corruption cases themselves, instances include the study by Rudy van Maanen (1997), 'Na ons de zondvloed. Fraude in Leiden' (concerning a municipal secretary), and the Van 't Sant affair, in which a confidant of the queen was accused but cleared of extortion in the 1930s (Den Doolaard 1980). But more research needs to be done in order to select a representative casuistry (Borrie 1993; De Miranda 1997).

The functioning codes of the ‘shop-floor’. An insight into shop-floor codes and practices should be relatively easy to come by, if only because the relatively greater degree of press freedom in this period enabled the publication of such ‘autobiographical’ pamphlets as N. Giesekam’s Mijn strijd tegen bonzendictatuur en corruptie (1939). The process of rationalisation and the standardisation of administrative practice, increasingly codified in printed regulations, may serve as an additional useful source. Finally, oral history (interviews with retired civil servants) will be seriously considered as a supplemental source of information.

Literature cited