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Role Of The Universities In Politics
by [?]

Mr. Galton, in his work on “Hereditary Genius,” has drawn attention in a striking chapter to the effect which the systematic destruction and expatriation, by the Inquisition or the religious intolerance of the government, of the leading men of the nation–its boldest thinkers, most ardent investigators, most prudent and careful and ingenious workers, in generation after generation–had in bringing about the moral and political decline of the three great Latin countries, France, Spain, and Italy–a decline of which, in the case of the two former at least, we have probably not seen the end. The persons killed or banished amounted only to a few thousands every year, but they were–no matter from what rank they came–the flower of the population: the men whose labor and whose influence enabled the State to keep its place in the march of civilization. The picture is very valuable (particularly just now, when there is so great a disposition to revel in the consciousness of vast numbers), as calling attention to the smallness of the area within which, after all, the sources of national greatness and progress are to be sought. The mind which keeps the mass in motion, which saves and glorifies it, would most probably, if we could lay bare the secret of national life, be found in the possession of a very small proportion of the people, though not in any class in particular– neither among the rich nor the poor, the learned nor simple, capitalists nor laborers; but the abstraction of these few from the sum of national existence, though it would hardly be noticed in the census, would produce a fatal languor, were the nation not constantly receiving fresh blood from other countries.

This element was singled out with considerable accuracy in France and Spain by religious persecution. It would happily be impossible to devise any process of selection one-quarter as efficient in our age or in this country. The one we have been using for the last twenty years, and on which a good deal of popular reliance has been placed, is the accumulation of wealth; and under this “the self-made man”–that is, the man who, starting in life ignorant and poor, has made a large fortune, and got control of a great many railroads and mines and factories–has risen into the front rank of eminence. The events of the last five years, however, have had a damaging effect on his reputation, and he now stands as low as his worst enemies could desire. As he declines, the man of some kind of training naturally rises; and it would be running no great risk to affirm that the popular mind inclines more than it has usually done to the belief that trained men–that is, men who have been prepared for their work by teaching on approved methods–are after all the most valuable possession a country can have, and that a country is well or ill off in proportion as they are numerous or the reverse. One does not need to travel very far from this position to reach the conclusion that there is probably no way in which we could strike so deadly a blow at the happiness and progress of the United States as by sweeping away, by some process of proscription kept up during a few generations, the graduates of the principal colleges. In no other way could we make so great a drain on the reserved force of character, ambition, and mental culture which constitutes so large a portion of the national vitality. They would not be missed at the polls, it is true, and if they were to run a candidate for the Presidency to-morrow their vote would excite great merriment among the politicians; but if they were got rid of regularly for forty or fifty years in the manner we have suggested, and nothing came in from the outside to supply their places, the politicians would somehow find that they themselves had less public money to vote or steal, less national aspiration to trade upon, less national force to direct, less national dignity to maintain or lose, and that, in fact, by some mysterious process, they were getting to be of no more account in the world than their fellows in Guatemala or Costa Rica.