It is difficult to remain composed when one considers the dirge of President Butler of Columbia sung over the degeneracy of modern education and statesmanship since the superior Victorian age. It is certainly true that there have never been more educated "down and outers" than at present. But it seems somewhat doubtful that these sad specimens are due wholly to modern degeneracy, as Dr. Butler seems to infer.
On the contrary in fact, those educated derelicts, which encumber the modern world, are just another of those burdensome heritages which an impeccable Victorian Age has dumped upon that modern world. In particular one may cite the scholars of Germany, whom the President of Columbia mentions as being among the most spectacular of educational failures, as true exemplars of Victorian ideals.
Modern statesmen, too, who compare so unfavorably with those magnificent of a former day, Disraeli and Gladstone, are, for the most part, incapacitated by the Victorianism of their training for the efficient management of the modern world. The crop of discord, war, hate, and international rivalry which the ill-timed pacifism of Gladstone and the brilliant but wholly unmoral opportunism of Disraeli sowed has come to fruition, but the great Victorians failed to leave a generation capable of dealing with this dread harvest. Instead, they left a group of statesmen trained to govern a Victorian World, men stable financially, economically, and politically, but wholly incapable of doing anything more active than to look on with helpless bewilderment when the world all at once became unstable and kaleidoscopic in its complexion.
It seems quite possible, however, that Mr. Butler really has a higher opinion of these degenerate moderns than most of his remarks would indicate. At the end of his address he speaks of "having faith in youth", which sounds somewhat more friendly to the much maligned "younger generation." As for the great Victorians whom he praises so highly, it is foolish either to malign them promiscuously or to laud them to the skies. Since they were adjusted to a very different type of society, they would perhaps have been even less successful than the moderns in dealing with the problems of a complex and unstable world. The modern world may, given time, develop a set of men as great in their own way as were the eminent Victorians.