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There are many men who fulfil these conditions, and their hands are full. Some of course are overworked.* And no one is heard to deny that they are the best men and deserve their success. Were an illustration wanting, I could point to an instance of to-day. The profession in England is as conservative as any institution there—as anxious as any other that the good things of life should be parcelled among its own people. One of our bar went there from here. Whatever else might be said of him, he certainly deserved the reputation in our profession which he as certainly possessed. Every one knows how easily the gates were opened to him, and any one could suggest the reasons why his reception should have been kind. But that alone would not account for the stranger being fed by bread that was sufficiently wanted by their own mouths. Their own attorneys took to him briefs which otherwise they would have taken to their countrymen. He came to the front because he deserved to— because in his profession he was thoroughly equipped. Beside what is here remembered of him in the Senate and at the bar, beside what has come from his pen as a model treatise of modern times and the reports of his arguments, men there—judges, barristers and attorneys—all will tell you how and why it was that he took and kept the lead; he had emphatically a legal mind, was completely educated, and combined a keenness of perception, a mastery of principle and a power of demonstration which were denied to others. The lists are still open to such as he, when they shall appear.
If this be so as to the older men in the profession, it is not the less true of those who are even very young men. Of these, we see some who, with clear and fast-working brains, gluttons of work, knowing no particular difference between day and night nor whether they work ten hours or twenty, having measured their capacity and resolved to win, are either gathering a clientele of their own, or, better still, have attracted the attention of their elders, and are getting work from that best of all clients, the profession itself. Such men are always in demand. These are they, who, if they choose, may sooner or later enter the large law firms, and then their future depends on themselves.
But although college education may not in these times of itself assure professional success, yet there is a wide gulf between this position and that of the iconoclasts of to-day who contend that such education is not of much practical value. It is well to know how far they carry their views, and as to the profession of which I am now speaking, a late issue of a prominent law journal puts it thus plainly:—
"While on the subject of legal education, we desire to enter a protest against the system pursued in the old colleges. We do not stand alone in the conviction that Havard and Yale, and their imitators, great as is the good which they have done, stand in the attitude of perpetrating a crime against the rising generation. This crime consists- in the keeping up of a system which requires a young man, in order to have the reputation of being well educated, to load his memory with a vast amount of useless knowledge. In this category of useless knowledge, we especially desire to put Greek and the higher mathematics. Useless knowledge, instead of being a help in the battle of life, is a handicap to the intellect. The really successful men, the great brain-workers, know that the art of succeeding consists largely in the art of forgetting. The remembering of useless knowledge is, therefore, the expending of the force of the brain upon useless things. The talk about requiring a young man to study Greek or mathematics for mental discipline—which talk is still kept up by some college professors—is not a delusion merely; it is an abomination. It signally demonstrates the unfitness of those persons for the office of educating the young."
Other authorities tell us that "a general course of study," as they call it, should be pursued till the age of sixteen, at which ripe period of one's life they think that all one's work should be turned toward preparation for his future calling.
It is easy to receive such suggestions with the complacency of the cultivated men of Corinth to whom Paul said:—"Ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise." But this new departure, in promising a short cut to an end, possesses a natural element of popularity. A telling argument against an extension of the elective system was that a student would be enabled to choose a "soft course," pleasant at the time, but bringing to most of its votaries lasting regret in after-life. But the seductive doctrine that a college education is largely useless because it teaches useless things which after-life is taken up in forgetting, fails to grasp the chief object of study. For many purposes, it is, of itself, a matter of no consequence that the three angles of a triangle equal two right angles, or that the battle of Salamis was fought B. C. 480, and he whose knowledge consists largely in piling together such propositions or facts cannot be called educated. Any one may get through his classics using a crib instead of his grammar and dictionary, he may perhaps even get through with credit, he may cram for his examinations and be glib at functions and quaternions, but what he thus learns will take no hold upon him, and like money easily got, it easily goes. It is the mental discipline acquired in the course of certain studies which produces «what is known as the trained mind—which toughens the mental fibre, which develops concentration of thought into intellectual habit, and enables a man in after-life to do his work, of whatever kind, more easily, more thoroughly, and with less mental strain and friction. This can hardly be overstated. Of course there are men who go to the front without it, but the extent to which they themselves prize this higher education, is made known to the world by the colleges throughout our country which some of these very men have founded and endowed. There are those of us to whom it would be a disgrace not to have acquitted ourselves fairly in life. With every advantage of education, of position, of at least an even start in the race, it but needs that we should learn what we can do, and still better what we cannot do, to win at least something of what the world calls success. But a more interesting lesson is taught by the early days of many of those who bear the proud title of self-made men; whose hours, after keeping the store or teaching the school is over, are given to self-teaching—who, with the conviction that "knowledge is power," to this end deny themselves the pleasures and even the necessaries of life. It may be that the mental discipline which such as these undergo tends to self-knowledge. It is the best knowledge that can come to us, and it is, of all other knowledge, that which is the least sought after. Few attain such knowledge very early in life—many never attain it at all—and though it may be that taking thought will not add one cubit to the stature, it will at least enable one to know whether he be tall or short. Self-knowledge may not give brains where God has denied them, but it will at least teach us whether they have been given or denied.
But self-knowledge, like other knowledge, comes to us better and more quickly by being skilfully taught, than when we teach it to ourselves. One may become a fine chess . player and yet never have looked at a "book opening," but he will have wasted much time and labour in teaching himself what he could easily have learned from the work of others who had gone before him.
A cobbler may not go beyond his last, and I hardly venture to speak with any confidence in this regard