Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/27

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23
Advantages of an Hereditary House.

ing in figures in his youth, if not in his boyhood? Yet we admit among the ranks of our statesmen men like Mr. Chamberlain, who have spent their early manhood in enriching themselves—shall we say at the expense of their fellow-countrymen?—well, at any rate, with the help of their toil, and have only taken to politics at the age of thirty, or perhaps later. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to decide whether a man is a truly sound and wise politician as whether he is an accurate mathematician; but those who have raised this scoff against the Peers are reduced to the following dilemma: If their comparison between the two pursuits is just, then, since a man cannot become a mathematician without severe study in the early part of his life, we must conclude that he cannot become a true statesman without the same training, and we must reject, as unfit to govern us, all persons like Mr. Chamberlain, who cannot show that they have undergone this training. But if the comparison cannot be pressed to this length, then it is clear that politics and mathematics do not stand on the same footing, and the argument that an hereditary body of politicians is as impossible as an hereditary body of mathematicians falls to the ground. The truly reasonable view of the matter is that, although the hereditary principle does not ensure that the heir to a peerage shall be a statesman, yet it gives him special facilities for becoming so.

So far, after all, the parallel between politics and any other branch of knowledge will hold good. The son of a mathematician has special opportunities for becoming himself a mathematician. Sir John Herschel would probably never have been what he was if he had not been the son of Sir William Herschel. Darwin largely owed his attainments as a natural philosopher to his early training under his scientific father; and similar instances might be multiplied without number. But the heir to a peerage has not only peculiar facilities for becoming a politician, he has also special inducements to do so. For he knows that he has a field for the exercise of his political attainments secured to him for life, not dependent upon the caprice of a body of constituents. He can, therefore, devote himself to the study of politics without being all the time discouraged by the uncertainty whether he will ever be able to turn his labours to account. It is well to recollect that we owe to this circumstance many useful members of the House of Commons, no less than of the House of Lords; the instances being not a few in which the future