Is not our college training responsible for some of this melancholy negativeness of life? However it happens, the truth is that too few young men come out of our great universities with the greater part of the boldness of youth left in them. Somehow or other those fine, and, if you will, absurd enthusiasms which nobody but young men and geniuses are blessed with, have been educated out of the graduate. How many seniors in our historic American universities would not have sneered John Bunyan out of existence, or have told the young and unripe Bonaparte how presumptuous he was to think of fighting the trained generals of Europe?
“Yes,” says a certain type of young man, “all the great things have been done. Nothing is left for me but the commonplaces.” This is not true.
The great things have not all been done; scarcely have they been commenced. “There is more before us than there is behind us,” said my old forest “guide,” wise with the wisdom of the woods and their thoughtful silences. And the purpose of this paper is to point out the infinite number of practical possibilities immediately at hand; to awaken each young man who reads these words to some one of the million voices which from all the fields of human endeavor is calling him; and so, by showing him things to do, make him a doer of things, if he will.
Let us take the law—that entrancing subject which exercises such an empire over the minds of most young men. Our own constitutional law is only a part of that universal body of jurisprudence with which all real lawyers must deal. Very well; we have only begun the discussion and settlement of our great constitutional questions. Marshall and Hamilton, it is true, when they formulated the doctrine of implied powers, seemed to unlock the door of all constitutional difficulties, leaving nothing for future lawyers and jurists to do but to find their way through the channels and passages thus opened.
But it was only one great field to which they laid down the bars. Others equally large—yes, larger—lie beyond it. It is generally admitted now by all thorough students of the Constitution that there is such a thing as constitutional progress—constitutional development. The Constitution does and will grow as the American people grow.
Half a dozen questions are now in the public mind that measure, in importance, up to the level of Marshall’s elementary decisions. Beyond these is still the application of institutional law to the interpretation of the Constitution. There is no book so much needed in the present, or that will be so much needed in the future, as a great work on our institutional law—such a work as the world sees once in a century.
Consider this one phase of jurisprudence for only a moment, young man, just to see what a world of thought it opens to the mind. Institutional law is older, deeper, and even more vital than constitutional law. Our Constitution is one of the concrete manifestations of our institutions; our statutes are another; the decisions of our courts are another; our habits, methods, and customs as a people and a race are still another.