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oppose them, against the crown; in England, by a union of all the poorer classes against the rich. We believe him to be right as regards France, but wrong as regards England; wrong, however, from not knowing what a foreigner can hardly be expected to know—the decidedly preponderating and (we do not now hesitate to add) decidedly conservative influence of the middle classes.
As many of our most valuable municipal institutions have been included in the late outcry against monopolies, we are happy to be able to adduce Mr. Webster's authority in favour of them:—
"Connected with this division of property, and the consequent participation of the great mass of people in its possession and enjoyments, is the system of representation, which is admirably accommodated to our condition, better understood among us, and more familiarly and extensively practised in the higher and in the lower departments of government, than it has been with any other people. Great facility has been given to this in New England by the early division of the country into townships or small districts, in which all concerns of local police are regulated, and in which representatives to the legislature are elected. Nothing can exceed the utility of those little bodies. They are so many councils, or parliaments, in which common interests are discussed, and useful knowledge acquired and communicated."
Savigny has expressed the same opinion: " It is an error to suppose that the common weal would gain new life by the destruction of all individual relations. Were it possible to generate a peculiar esprit de corps in every class, every town, nay, every village, the common weal would gain new strength from this heightened and multiplied individuality."1
We regard the next subject to which he applies himself as the most important of any, and shall therefore give the whole of what he says upon it:—
"Having detained you so long with these observations, I must yet advert to another most interesting topic, the Free Schools. In this particular, New England may be allowed to claim, I think, a merit of a peculiar character. She early adopted and has constantly maintained the principle, that it is the undoubted right, and the bounden duty of government, to provide for the instruction of
'Of the Vocation of our Age for Legislation, &c.
all youth. That which is elsewhere left to chance, or to charity, we secure by law. For the purpose of public instruction, we hold every man subject to taxation in proportion to his property, and we look not to the question, whether he himself have, or have not, children to be benefited by the education for which he pays. We regard it as a wise and liberal system of police, by which property, and life, and the peace of society are secured. We seek to prevent, in some measure, the extension of the penal code, by inspiring a salutary and conservative principle of virtue and of knowledge in an early age. We hope to excite a feeling of respectability, and a sense of character, by enlarging the capacity, and increasing the sphere of intellectual enjoyment. By general instruction, we seek, as far as possible, to purify the whole moral atmosphere; to keep good sentiments uppermost, and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as well as the censures of the law, and the denunciations of religion, against immorality and crime. We hope for a security beyond the law. and above the law, in the prevalence of enlightened and well-principled moral sentiment. We hope to continue and prolong the time, when, in the villages and farm-houses of New England, there may be undistufbed sleep within unbarred doors. And knowing that our government rests directly on the public will, that we may preserve it, we endeavour to give a safe and proper direction to that public will. We do not indeed, expect all men to be philosophers or statesmen ; but we confidently trust, and our expectation of the duration of our system of government rests on that trust, that by the diffusion of general knowledge and good and virtuous sentiments, the political fabric may be secure, as well against open violence and overthrow, as against the slow but sure undermining of licentiousness.
"We know, that at the present time, an attempt is making in the English Parliament to provide by law for the education of the poor, and that a gentleman of distinguished character (Mr. Brougham), has taken the lead, in presenting a plan to government for carrying that purpose into effect. And yet, although the representatives of the three kingdoms listened to him with astonishment as well as delight, we hear no principles with which we ourselves have not been familiar from youth; we see nothing in the plan but an approach towards that system which has been established in New England for more than a century and a half. It is said that in England not more than one child in fifteen possesses the means of being taught to read and write; in Wales, one in twenty; in France, until lately, when some improvement was made, not more than one in thirty-five. Now, it is hardly too strong to say, that in New England every child possesses such means. It would be difficult to find an instance to the contrary, unless where it should be owing to the negligence of the parent;—and in truth the means are actually used and enjoyed by nearly every one.
"A youth of fifteen, of either sex, who cannot both read and write is very unfrequently to be found. Who can make this comparison, or contemplate this spectacle, without delight and a feeling of just pride? Does any history show property more beneficently applied? Did any government ever subject the property of those who have estates, to a burden, for a purpose more favourable to the poor or more useful to the whole community?
"A conviction of the importance of public instruction was one of the earliest sentiments of our ancestors. No lawgiver of ancient or modern times has expressed more just opinions, or adopted wiser measures, than the early records of the colony of Plymouth show to have prevailed here. Assembled on this very spot, a hundred and fifty-three years ago, the legislature of this colony declared, 'Forasmuch as the maintenance of good literature doth much tend to the advancement of the weal and flourishing state of societies and republics, this court doth therefore order, that in whatever township in this government, consisting of fifty families or upwards, any meet man shall be obtained to teach a grammar school, such township shall allow at least twelve pounds, to be raised by rate, on all the inhabitants."
We cannot refrain from strengthening the influence of the example here set before us by a few sentences from Mrs. Austin's Preface to her Translation of M. Cousin's Report. The following are parts of her triumphant reply to some of the ordinary objections to education:—
"It is not worth while at the present day to discuss whether or not national education be a good. It is possible to imagine a state of society in which the labouring man, submissive and contented under some paternal rule, might dispense with any further light than such as nature, uncorrupted by varied wants and restless competition, might afford him. But if that golden age ever existed, it is manifestly gone, in this country at least, for ever. Here, the press is hotter, the strife keener, the invention more alive, the curiosity more awake, the wants and wishes more stimulated by an atmosphere of luxury, than perhaps in any country since the world began. The men, who, in their several classes, were content to tread step for step in the paths wherein their fathers trod, are gone. Society is no longer a calm current, but a tossing sea. Reverence for tradition, for authority, is gone. In such a state of things, who can deny the absolute necessity for national education?"
"It has been asserted by some persons, with an ignorance which, if it be sincere, is so shameless that it almost deserves to be confounded with dishonesty, that the tendency of the system recommended by M. Cousin is anti-religious. To this, every page of his book is an answer. Indeed, were I to express a fear on this head, it is, that it is far too religious for this country; that the lofty, unworldly tone of feeling, the spirit of veneration, the blending of the love of God and of the Good and the Beautiful with all the practical business and the amusements of life, is what will hardly be understood here, where religion is so much more disjoined both from the toils and from the gaieties of life. To me it appears that there is not a line of these enactments which is not profoundly religious. Nothing, it is true, is enjoined as to forms or creeds; but, as M. Cousin truly says,' the whole fabric rests on the sacred basis of Christian love.' As the most affecting, and, I must say, sublime example of this spirit, I refer my readers—especially the humbler and, as I hope, more numerous class of them,—to the description of the little schools for training poor schoolmasters in such habits and with such feelings as shall fit them to be the useful and contented teachers of the humblest cottagers of the most miserable villages. (See pp. 171, 177.)
"Here is poverty, to which that of many among our working classes is affluence; and it is hopeless, for no idea is held out of advancement or change. Yet if ever poverty appeared on earth, serene, contented, lofty, beneficent, graceful—it is here. Here we see men in the very spring-time of life, so far from being made—as we are told men must be made—restless and envious and discontented by instruction, taking indigence and obscurity to their hearts for life; raised above their poor neighbours in education, only that they may become the servants of all, and may train the lowliest children in a sense of the dignity of man, and the beauty of creation, in the love of God and of virtue.
"I confess myself almost hopeless of the transplantation of such sentiments hither. Religion is made the theme of the fiercest and most implacable contention; mixed up with newspaper squabbles and legal discussions; her bright and holy garments are seized and soiled by every angry and ambitious hand.
"It seems to me, too, that we are guilty of great inconsistency as to the ends and objects of education. How industriously have not its most able and zealous champions been continually instilling into the mind of the people, that education is the way to advancement, that' knowledge is power,' that a man cannot' better himself without some learning! And then we complain, or we fear, that education will set them above their station, disgust them with labour, make them ambitious, envious, dissatisfied! We must reap as we sow: we set before their eyes objects the most tempting to the desires of uncultivated men, we urge them on to the acquirement of knowledge by holding out the hope that knowledge will enable them to grasp these objects:—if their minds are corrupted by the nature of the aim, and imbittered by the failure which must be the lot of the mass, who is to blame?
"If instead of nurturing expectations which cannot be fulfilled, and turning the mind on a track which must lead to a sense of continual disappointment, and thence of wrong, we were to hold out to our humbler friends the appropriate and attainable, nay, unfailing, ends of a good education;—the gentle and kindly sympathies; the sense of self-respect and of the respect of fellow men; the free exercise of the intellectual faculties; the gratification of a curiosity that' grows by what it feeds on' and yet finds food for ever; the power of regulating the habits and the business of life, so as to extract the greatest possible portion of comfort out of small means; the refining and tranquillizing enjoyment of the beautiful in nature and art, and the kindred perception of the beauty and nobility of virtue; the strengthening consciousness of duty fulfilled; and, to crown all, 'the peace which passeth all understanding;'—if we directed their aspirations this way, it is probable that we should not have to