The Map of Life, Conduct, and Character

By William Edward Hartpole Lecky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X

IT is obvious from the considerations that have been adduced in the last chapter that the moral limitations and conditions under which an ordinary member of Parliament is compelled to work are far from ideal. An upright man will try conscientiously, under these conditions, to do his best for the cause of honesty and for the benefit of his country, but he cannot essentially alter them, and they present many temptations and tend in many ways to blur the outlines separating good from evil. He will find himself practically pledged to support his party in measures which he has never seen and in policies that are not yet developed; to vote in some cases contrary to his genuine belief and in many cases without real knowledge; to act throughout his political career on many motives other than a reasoned conviction of the substantial merits of the question at issue.

I have dwelt on the difficult questions which arise when the wishes of his constituents are at variance with his own genuine opinions. Another and a wider question is how far he is bound to make what he considers the interests of the nation his guiding light, and how far he should subordinate what he believes to be their interests to their prejudices and wishes. One of the first lessons that every active politician has to learn is that he is a trustee bound to act for men whose opin

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