STUDENTS AND POLITICS.
Once upon a time the bright thought came into the heads of the assessors in Amherst, that there were plenty of young men in college there who were twenty-one or over, and if they could only get these to pay a poll-tax, it would be so much extra money in the town treasury. The tax-bills were made out accordingly, and sent around to the students. All were surprised, and some, in their surprise, paid the bills. When next the farmers, "in town-meeting assembled," undertook to legislate for the town, they were in their turn surprised to find the hall well supplied with students, fresh from society laurels and eager to display their eloquence, who moved that a sidewalk be laid from the village to College Hill. They made speeches in favor of their project and ended by voting it through. The sidewalk was duly laid, but the students were troubled with tax-bills no more.
It would be considered a ridiculous proposition if any one should urge upon the students here to try to take possession of the caucuses in Cambridge, and swamp the regular politicians of the First Ward, and yet it is not merely possible, but quite likely, that such an attempt would be successful, to say nothing of the benefits sure to accrue to the ward from such action. Wherein lies the difference between an appeal to students and an appeal to the "educated," who are, after all, only students who have graduated from college, and forgotten much if not most of what they have learned there, who cannot act so much as a unit, and who are not so easily accessible as students. Though the latter are less numerous, they should not find themselves entirely neglected, as they are now, on that account. You will very probably say that educated men gain an experience of men and affairs, after leaving college, which gives them this greater consideration, - and who will not agree with you? - but it would be hard, and more, for you to show that this experience differs in any marked degree from that which the comparatively illiterate can and do obtain as well without ever stepping within the portals of a college. It is not yet sufficiently plain to us, furthermore, that nearly all our good political leaders have been scholars, and almost all the bad have not. On the contrary, it has been our impression that so nearly have all the statesmen or would-be statesmen, both good and bad, who have yet attained any note in this country, been well educated, that a self-educated man even has there been looked upon with wonder and admiration, as a sort of curiosity. More than this, all the public men of the worst sort, as well as the best, upon whom our eyes have rested, have been noticeably well-spoken, well-appearing, gentlemanly people, whom it would be impossible not to like as personal acquaintances, just such as we should a priori expect to succeed best in obtaining political following and support.
That those who manage our State and national affairs are not altogether perfect, and that something is lacking in our political life, is evident, and so many a one, desiring to help in amending it, calls upon the class he considers the best, be it scholars, gentlemen, or women, to join in the good work and to "purify our politics." In our own opinion honest men are most to be desired by all who hope for a better administration of public affairs, yet an appeal to the honest men of the country to come forward to the rescue would probably be more futile and certainly more absurd than one to the students; for what man, and especially what politician, is there who will not answer to the name of "honest"? Appeals to classes and to class feeling of any sort are the tools of the demagogue, of which none but he knows thoroughly the use; let him keep them. If editors and publicists are convinced that the country needs honest men, or any similar class, their exertions will be better spent in making that class more numerous in the country at large; they will then be likely to find more of them engaged in some given occupation, as, for instance, in that of running the machinery of organized society.
Students in college learn the value of time and of persevering struggle for a definite and single aim, and hence, whatever may be their occupations after graduation, they usually are wise enough to give them their whole, undivided attention. We shall find comparatively few engaged in politics, and who have been able to give their whole time to that; but we find them as influential as if they were there in greater numbers, and more respected than if it were not observed that men of culture take the lead in other occupations also.