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Of debating societies those should be chosen for the pupil from which political topics are excluded; for if he were to take a part in political debates, he would be betrayed into a premature adoption and declaration of political sentiments; than which nothing will be more injurious to his character and fortunes in after
OF THE AGE AT WHICH OFFICIAL AND PARLIAMENTARY LIFE SHOULD COMMENCE.
WHEN the student shall have attained to four and twenty years of age, more or less, the sooner he is in office the better; for it is there only that some essential processes of his education can be set on foot, and it is in youth only that they can be favourably effected. An early exercise of authority is, in the case of most men, necessary to give a capacity for taking decisions. It may be thought, perhaps, that whether he be a member of the government, or in active opposition to the government, he is still acquiring experience and practice in affairs. But a long experience of the latter kind, by habituating a man, not to taking decisions, but
to taking objections,—to finding difficulties, and
to be fatal to his effective
not resources, is apt ness as a statesman in the exercise of power. Men thus practised and otherwise unpractised, become timid from foreseeing all that can be urged against any measure they might adopt, and not feeling fertile in expedients. There may be a converse disadvantage in men entering upon office without having been practised in opposition; but prudence is much more easily learnt than decisiveness: the former may be taught at any age, the latter only to the young.
Also the drudgery of an office should be encountered early, whilst the energy of youth is at its height, and can be driven through anything by the spur of novelty. Nor let any man suppose that he can come to be an adept in statesmanship, without having been at some period of his life a thorough-going drudge. Drudgery is not less necessary to teach pa
tience and give a power over details to the statesman himself, than to enable him to understand the powers and measure the patience of those who are drudges in his service. And as "trifles make the sum of human things," so details make the substance of public affairs.
Further, at his first entrance into office he will have much to learn from those below him, and the younger he is the less he will feel the incongruities of receiving instruction from those whom it is his office to direct.
With respect to Parliament, it was a remark of the late Mr. Wilberforce, that men seldom succeeded in the House of Commons who had not entered it before thirty years of age. In order to apprehend the humours of so mixed a body, and to be in some sort of harmony with it, the quick impressibility of youth is required, and its powers of ready adaptation. It is by partly yielding to such humours that a statesman partly also governs them; and he who has
not been trained to the requisite pliancy will hardly possess himself of the plastic faculty which is its counterpart. If a man have the property of thus conforming himself without having been trained to it in youth, it will generally be found to be in him rather an infirmity than a power; for when a man has it by nature, and not by a guiding force put upon nature, it will be commonly accompanied by some want of constancy of mind an tenacity of purpose.