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NOW the Chess Club is fairly formed, the societies which exist among us would appear at first sight to offer opportunities for the cultivation of any imaginable taste. The athlete has admirable facilities for developing ad infinitum his rowing, batting, or kicking powers; the linguist can revel in the Cercle Francais and the Der Verein; the Natural History Society promotes the interest of science; while the S. Paul's and the Christian Brethren offer spiritual comfort to gentlemen of a serious turn. Social, literary, and artistic organizations are not wanting; but there is a lack, - for there is no body of any sort at Harvard which takes an active interest in politics, or in the current history of the day.
To say that no such interest is felt would be bold and probably false; to say that none is shown is not too much.
This state of things is to be regretted. In America every citizen is to a certain extent a governor; at all events, he plays or can play a more important part in the government here than in any other country. Every man as he comes of age is summoned to appear upon the scene, and it is of the highest importance that he should be prepared to do so. Comparatively few can enjoy the advantages of a university education, but fewer still fail to realize what those advantages are. Most of those who have never had, or who have neglected, the opportunity of liberally educating themselves are ready to lend a respectful ear to a respectable graduate of a respectable college. A degree is a sort of certificate of social, or at all events of mental, superiority, whose validity is generally allowed until it has been publicly disproved. It may be safely said of any large body of students, that they are destined to be influential members of the communities of which they shall form a part.
In no department of life can this influence be more usefully exerted than in politics. Firm and decisive moves of the educated classes are almost invariably successful, while indifference or carelessness on their part is sure to lead to carelessness or something far worse in their subordinates, if I may employ the term. Every "man" - to use the word in its college sense - ought to realize this fact in his thoughtful moments, if he has any, as every man does. Few, however, trouble themselves about the matter, and most graduate with perhaps an excellent knowledge of Sanskrit roots, of the Calculus, or of the most intricate genealogies in mediaeval history, with possibly a blind faith in the omnipotent power of the ballot and in the immortality of the republic, but with very misty notions of the political and social aspect of affairs in their own country and in their own time. Or, if they have opinions on the subject, they are apt to be the astonishingly dogmatic and utterly impracticable evolutions of their own unaided and unpractised intellects. The natural consequence is, that, as a rule, they either avoid all connection with public affairs, or, after finding that their pet theories do not work, they retire in disgust, - for, after all, even graduates are only human, - and the government is far too often suffered to fall into utterly unworthy hands.
Habitual discussion of political questions before entering active life would go far to prevent this, and would be admirable schooling for men who have a real sense of their duty as citizens. On the one hand, it would awaken their interest in such matters, and stimulate them to examine the aspect of affairs much more carefully than they now do; on the other, the exchange of widely differing ideas would tend to reduce their surprising theories to a comparatively practical form. And now, when clubs are being formed for almost every purpose, why can we not have one for the discussion of political and social matters? A word combat between witty and intelligent men would certainly be amusing; and the habit of a weekly or a fortnightly glance at the political world might enable the students of to-day to make, when they fairly enter that sphere, a more practically useful, if not a more striking, display of their patriotic enthusiasm than have their immediate predecessors.
T. L.THE Index to accompany Vols. III. and IV. of the Magenta will be ready at the time of publication of the last number of the present volume.
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