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FOUR mounds of earth lie side by side
Can love from out our lives be lost,
TOPICS OF THE TIME.
Steps in the Right Direction.
IN an article published a year ago, or more, upon the importance of political education, we said:
"There is no good reason why Yale and Harvard, or any other college, for that matter, should not have a department of politics, which should give a solid three years' course of study. There is no reason why a man should not go before a high examining board at Washington, from such a school as this, and win his certificate of fitness for public office. There are a thousand good reasons why such a man should receive the suffrages of the people for any office which they wish to fill."
Well, that which we presented as a desideratum is already furnished by two important institutions, viz., by Columbia College and by the University of Michigan. The former, more than a year ago, furnished such a course of study, in a "School of Political Science," and the latter now announces the establishment of such a school. We heartily congratulate these institutions on their far-sighted enterprise, intimately related, as it is, to political reform and the future statesmanship of the country. It has not come too soon, and it has come in good time. Through the operations of the political machine, the qualifications of our legislators and diplomats were probably never lower than at the present time. Let us imagine what Congress would be, with every member a graduate of the three years' course of political education which Columbia gives and the University of Michigan proposes. Suppose every member had systematically studied international law, political economy, the history of diplomacy, constitutional and administrative law, political and constitutional history, social science, political ethics, sanitary science, finance and statistics, or, in other words, had gone through the curriculum of one of these schools of political science. The supposition presents to the mind such a Congress as this country never possessed during its entire history. Our Congresses and legislatures are made up very largely of men who know little of any of these subjects men without political education, and even without political intelligence, further than they have acquired it in their current newspaper reading. Our public agents abroad, mainly put in office by the machine, have been, in almost numberless instances, a disgrace to the country, knowing literally nothing of good society, nothing of the languages of the governments to which they have been accredited, nothing of diplomatic history, and nothing whatever of the forms and details of diplomatic business. The crudities of legislation and the blunders in finance and in all matters of political economy are notorious in the history of our law-making bodies. We have had a world of bad legislation, and that legislation has fitly measured the legislative ignorance.
Now, scattered up and down the land, there are a great many young men with political ambitions.
Many of these are in the legal profession, or are studying, or are about to begin the study of, the law. Others are tradesmen, but men who have a desire to mingle in politics, and in the management of the government of cities, or states, or the nation. There are others still-young men of fortune-who do not care to enter upon business, but who have a taste for politics. What better can any one of these young men do than to enter this new department of Columbia and the University of Michigan, and thoroughly prepare himself for political life? Such a preparation would be not only a preparation for political life: it would be a preparation for citizenship. It would make every graduate an important and influential man in whatever community he might find himself placed. These institutions announce that all students who are graduated by their schools of Political Science will be admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
We say that these schools have not come too soon, and that they have come in good time. A good many things have happened lately, that give special significance to this movement in the interest of political education. The power of the party machine has received a most damaging blow in the defeat of Mr. Conkling at Albany. He, more than any other man in America, represented the political machine. In his hands it had become the instrument for cheating the people of their power, for introducing partisans into place, for making all office the reward of party service, for shaping executive appointments, and for controlling the action of the Senate of the United States. Mr. Conkling undertook to control the President, and failed; undertook to control the United States Senate, and failed; undertook to control the State legislature, and failed; and with him fell the power of the machine in New York State. The fall of Conkling is practically the fall of the stronghold of the power of the machine. It is safe to say that no United States Senator will ever resign again because he cannot control an executive appointment. There is, at least, no question that the cause of civil service reform has received a great impetus in the fall of Conkling's power. What the state has gained-what the country has gained-in the cause of political morality and reform, is worth all it has cost. We are thankful that everything happened as it did. The result compensates for all losses and all expenses.
Then again, if we may believe the reports, the present administration has been thoroughly converted to civil service reform. It has been worn out and disgusted by the applications for office, and has had a new insight into the evils of the old system. There is no question that men in high places and low are stirred in this matter as they have never been stirred before. Mr. Dawes writes a letter to the people of Massachusetts, assuring them of the readiness of all their representatives in Congress to agree to recommend no more candidates for office
until the executive asks their advice, provided the influential people of the State will stop asking them to do so. Mr. Dawes's logic is not good. If there were any other way provided for introducing men to office, this one would not be resorted to. Let legislation of the right sort be had, and that would end all the trouble of Mr. Dawes and his associates with petitions for influence in getting office. Mr. Dawes's letter indicates what is passing in men's minds. So we greet the movement at New York and Ann Arbor as a good step taken at the right time, and we shall be much surprised if it be not attended with signal success.
IF the foreign visitor at Brussels should omit a journey to the Wiertz Gallery of paintings, he would miss the greatest curiosity of that interesting city. It is a collection of pictures by a local artist, whose work was so eccentric and characteristic that the city has given it a permanent home, and classed it among its notabilities. These paintings do not lack skill in their treatment: on the contrary, some of them are rare pieces of work in their way. But their way is so eccentric that no sane painter would desire the reputation of painting them. Their subjects are oddly chosen. Great pains have been taken to represent things not worth representing, and tricks of handling are resorted to which are considered beneath the dignity of a good, self-respecting artist. Nobody imitates this remarkable work, and most people regard it as the product of a badly balanced imagination, all of which goes to show that, in art, there are certain recognized canons of taste and rules of treatment to which the general and normal artist-mind is loyal-canons which are either ignored or contemned by the work in the Wiertz Gallery.
Wagner, the musician, has, by sheer force of talent and will, compelled the world to give him audience, yet, from the learned in musical matters he has met a strong and persistent protest at every step of his progress. His theories have been at war with the prevalent theories of musical art, and he is likely to leave behind him, not a school to propagate his theories and his style, but only his own work, some of which will doubtless live, but most of which will be regarded simply as the product of fruitless industry and misdirected power. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Handel, Mendelssohn, and the better masters of opera will be continuous in their influence and control, and Wagner will subside into the uninfluential reputation of an eccentric. In the course of centuries, certain ideas of music become established-certain principles, rules, powers, and limitations. Where a composer ignores or endeavors to supplant these, he is at once regarded with suspicion and met with opposition. Orthodoxy in art is as conservative as orthodoxy in religion and politics.
We have had a great deal of talk, first and last, concerning an American order of architecture, but VOL. XXII.-74.
the order does not appear, and, if it should do So, it would be met by a burst of ridicule from one end of the land to the other. Why? Simply because all men who have systematically learned architecture know that, in classical and mediæval times, every strong and graceful form possible in building was embodied in an order, and that all future architecture must draw upon these orders for any new combination. We have a good many attempts at originality, but not a pillar, nor an arch, nor an architrave, nor a capital, nor a frieze, can appear, that a skilled architect will not at once refer to its origin in one of the recognized orders. So, when men get outside of these orders or undertake an incongruous mixture of them, their work is recognized as eccentric, and eccentricity is ugliness.
So much as illustrations of what we desire to say about eccentricity in English literature. There are canons of taste in literature, as it concerns structure and style, and when men step outside of these they offend. We do not mean by this that there is somewhere in English literature a model which all writers are to copy-that there is no room for individuality of expression; but that there are limitations, within which there is plenty of room to work, but still limitations, outside of which no one can go without convicting himself of eccentricity and bad taste. So those who have called for an American literature, supposing that, somehow, it must have a characteristic and original form in order to be American, have called for that which can never be. The Englishman and the American, using the same language, are bound by the same laws of sound taste, and one can transgress them no more than the other. Mr. Stedman, in one of his recent articles in this magazine on "Poetry in America," quotes and approves the statement of Mr. Richard Grant White that it is the spirit, not the letter, which must characterize poetry as distinctively American. Both these men are right. There can be no distinctively American English that is not bad English. That which must characterize American literary art must belong, not to forms, but to vitalities. It is the life in the forms that must characterize them as American, if anything shall do that.
England has given us a notable instance of a man who undertook to escape from the idiomatic bondage of the English tongue. He was a Germanized Englishman, and nothing but his transcendent talent saved him from the reputation of a mountebank. If any man less than Carlyle had written in his turgid, involved, and bombastic style, he would have met nothing but ridicule. His imitators and followers have met nothing else, but these are few and far between, and Carlyle's works, or many of them, will stand in all the future as warnings rather than as examples, so far as their style is concerned. He stepped outside of the limitations of good taste. He trampled upon the idiomatic usages of his mother-tongue. He was a lawless, elephantine blunderer, whose example would do much damage if it could or should be followed. This is the kind of thing Americans would achieve if they should adopt the theory that an American literature is to be