Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/176

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count for it. As regards the proposition itself, it means simply that the House of Commons knows its own mind, such as it is, and, whatever the worth of that knowledge, better than any single member of it; and as a rule the average member who is in sympathy with it will interpret it better than the member of much higher powers who is above its level. But it is only wiser than its wisest members in the sense in which the field may be said to be wiser than the farmer, or the ocean than the navigator; that is to say, in no intelligible sense at all. Like Nature, if it is to be commanded it must be obeyed, and the necessity of understanding it is, by confusion of thought, taken for its understanding of itself.

The inferior society in which politicians live, inferior in intelligence and cultivation, and the necessity of adapting their own thoughts and aims to those of the ordinary minds and characters they have to influence, brings about the decline and deterioration of men of originally fine endowments. It either prevents these qualities from developing, or stunts them where they have a certain degree of growth. Their "nature is subdued to what it works in, like the dyer's hand." This evil is in part qualified by another. It is chiefly the second-rate order of minds and characters that betake themselves now to politics in England—minds already on the level to which superiority needs to be reduced before it can be effective. For this reason, probably, whenever an occasion demands a hero in politics, he has been seldom found in the walks of professional statesmanship. The national crisis which asks for a deliverer finds him not among those who have been deteriorated and dwarfed by the ordinary work and associations of politics, but in a man who has lived among nobler ideas and associations, and cultivated a larger and more liberal nature. The practice of affairs is, no doubt, a discipline of some value; but nearly everything depends on what the affairs are. To manage the House of Commons, to get bills through committee, to administer a public office, does not seem usually to be good training for very difficult business. When a considerable emergency occurs there is almost invariably a breakdown of the departments. The true discipline of public business is to teach men readiness in action and fertility in resources. Its ordinary effect is to harden them in routine, which suits poorly enough even the common round and the daily task of business, and which is a hinderance, and which may be ruin when necessities, transcending precedents and rules of office, have to be encountered. The fact is, that the training of affairs, invaluable as it is, seldom bears its proper fruit, unless the affairs are a man's own, or when the consequences of failure are sure to come upon him in a rapid and crushing manner. The merchant or capitalist, whose ventures depend upon his personal vigilance; the engineer, who has to deal with overwhelming physical forces; the military commander, who has to contend at once with the not always benevolent neutral-