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Hereditary Genius
in this chapter to discuss the relationships of modern
English Statesmen. It is my earnest desire, throughout this book, to
steer safely between two dangers: on the one hand, of accepting
mere official position or notoriety, as identical with a more
discriminative reputation, and on the other, of an unconscious bias
towards facts most favourable to my argument. In order to guard
against the latter danger, I employ groups of names selected by
others; and, to guard against the former, I adopt selections that
command general confidence. It is especially important in dealing
with statesmen, whose eminence, as such, is largely affected by the
accident of social position, to be cautious in both these respects. It
would not be a judicious plan to take for our select list the names of
privy councillors, or even of Cabinet ministers; for though some of
them are illustriously gifted, and many are eminently so, yet others
belong to a decidedly lower natural grade. For instance, it seemed in
late years to have become a mere incident to the position of a great
territorial duke to have a seat in the Cabinet, as a minister of the
Crown. No doubt some few of the dukes are highly gifted, but it may
be affirmed, with equal assurance, that the abilities of the large
majority are very far indeed from justifying such an appointment. Previous page Top Next page