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In many of the larger towns and smaller cities of Great Britain during the last few years, there have been formed clubs whose raison d'etre is organization as mock parliaments.
The various members as they have preferences, are assigned to the great political parties; and represent certain sections, sitting for this or that constituency, and are supposed to keep themselves well up on the special interests of whatever part of the country they represent. The composition of the parliament is intended to be relatively in accord with the national parliament, with such proportion of conservative liberal and radical representation as to fairly reproduce the actual existing parties.
The meetings are held under regular parliamentary customs, and all the details are observed as strictly as practicable, with cabinet members on the floor for questioning, and due notice of future action and the routine order as in parliament. There are many good points in this custom, for a familiarity with modes of procedure is learned in practice, and the training for off-hand speaking is excellent, as every member is put on his mettle, and while likely to be judged unsparingly, if he has ability it is quickly appreciated. Again the reproduction in the petty theatre of the rivalry of the leading parties brings the vital issues at stake in a simplified form before the members, and yet shows the real difficulties of general legislation; while too the individual members have to make a study of the peculiar wants of their constituencies, they gain much valuable information, which cannot but broaden them in their judgment, and make them less narrow in looking at matters from the range alone of their own districts.
The same general lines are followed out as in the national parliament, and the daily doings are closely scanned, and a clear knowledge gained of the drift of politics, so that when elections come the situation is grasped with acuteness and intelligence that finds no equal the world over.
Granting for argument that religion and politics should never be brought up for discussion, it does seem as if at Harvard a university club could be formed that might organize a capital petty congress; with men from so many states there is material at hand to draw representatives "to the manor born" to sit for their own commonwealth, and who could and doubtless would gladly make an intelligent study of their own states, so as to prove valuable members, and the discussions would awaken an interest in the management of our form of government, with a knowledge of details in parliamentary meetings and what is more important, lead to a broader view of the whole length and breadth of the different interests of a country so large as our own.
Under proper management such a club should effect good results, and with a membership drawn from all the branches of the university would doubt less command strong support, and the open meetings be of practical benefit.
It is a thousand pities that Harvard men so eschew politics, for in either party they could and should make their influence felt on the side of justice and honor which lack sadly now-a-days the support of educated men. Now and then a young graduate rises above the superb indifference that is the accepted type of the Harvard man today, and puts his shoulder to the wheel and blocks corrupt legislation as at Albany, or makes a ringing crusade as The "Nation" and is generously rewarded with the praise of all collegians. The worst of it all is so many men who could take an honorable place in politics or in diplomatic circles are content to applaud rather than prove to their almamater an honor as well as ornament.
The whole drift has been to not trying to wash politics because-they were so dirty.
If a petty congress could be formed here stimulating a living interest in our government, and developing the material out of which statesmen are made broadening the opinions of men of many states, and the very men who could if they would, and should if they could, have an influence for the better in politics, it is worth an effort in this year of grace 1883.
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