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ever it may be determined, the poor are in a better frame of mind to receive the decision. The alternative must rest upon the unreasonableness of any political change as deducible from their intellectual and moral change. Then, if unreasonable, the more reasonable the parties contemplated in it, the more readily will they see that unreasonableness. But if contrariwise, then the reasonable change must be yielded. Can it be safely or honestly refused, an instant beyond the evidence that it has become desirable and just ?
In the North American Republic, it is well known that a universal suffrage obtains. There are patriots, statesmanly and philosophic, who would not for a moment touch that right. They see its justice, as well as necessity, in their Federal Constitution. But still is it the constant subject of their distrust. They are filled with alarm at its exercise. The ballot-box, the symbol of a mighty liberty, is watched by them with a gnawing suspense.
It is not for party that they tremble. Hearts never glowed than theirs with a stronger enthusiasm of love for their land and its franchises. But they know the character of myriads of the voters. They are aware of the brutal ignorance and moral vileness which characterise the crowds which hasten to the poll. The number of voters for General Harrison to the Presidential Chair, was nearly unprecedented, and yet it was thirty thousand less than the ascertained number of freemen who could neither read nor write. Such a description do
these virtuous remonstrants furnish, that our blood runs cold, or mounts indignant, as we read. We employ not any argument, which might be thus suggested, against the widest extension of popular claims; but we do seize the principle, that knowledge and virtue are the only guides of liberty, and the only guarantees of right. This we surely learn, and this we most confidently proclaim, that an enlightened and religious people cannot be too free!
It is little else than a degradation to reply to those objections which speak of man as happier in ignorance than as taught. We are reminded of past times. There was then no enquiry, no complaint. Contented ignorance was the excellent quality which ruled the mass. The eulogium, such as it is, may not be strictly deserved. We have received sufficient inheritance of proof, that this period of contented ignorance was invariably backward of the times in which it was extolled. It was never the theme of present honour. It was a golden age, but always past. If such opinions be worthy of momentary attention, we demand, What must be their estimate of man who entertain them ? His happiness is placed in the quietude of sensual existence. He is forbidden to do more than obey the grosser appetites of his nature. He is walled up in his lot. Were he prone and not erect, save as to the profit of his toil, it would not be deplored. Is he happy as man? Is it not, in the forgetfulness and abandonment of manhood, that he
is happy? Such animal happiness has always one alloy, man wants some other : and it is exposed to interruptions and chances, from which the happiness of mere animals, when creatures of value and domestication, is jealously preserved. Of men so imbruted, we might speak as Tacitus did of the ancient Germans, and not without his biting sarcasm : “Securi adversus homines, securi adversus deos, rem difficilimam assecuti sunt, ut illis ne voto quidem opus sit.” *
Until man is educated, he is not perfect man: and there can be no doubt that many feel a dread of his proper development. They consider that he is armed with new powers, when only his proper powers are elicited. The reasoning is as false as if you so argued of the organ preserved, or the limb saved, in bodily cure. Should they object, that the proper powers of man would be better restrained, because so capable of mischief, -- the analogous objection cannot be resisted, that the organ and the limb were injudiciously restored, because they may be spared for some evil work. The mind of man, undisciplined, is no more capable of its fitting use, than is the dismembered trunk to perform the operations of the body. Yet is the comparison imperfect. For the truncated frame of man is without power of locomotion or external action. But the uninformed mind retains its
“ Fearless of men, and not foreboding the anger of the gods, they have reached this most difficult point, that they know not a remaining wish." De Moribus Germaniæ.
power for evil.
Ignorance is the ever-ready subject of perversion and turbulence.
The well-known case of proceedings among workmen, respecting the rise of wages or the abridgment of hours, has been often quoted against the extension of knowledge to them. It is said that these, and other interruptions, of the commercial system, are attributable to some one or two superior minds. These utter the inflammatory harangue. These diffuse the wide discontent. Such a leader is dreaded by the employer, and is the instigator of inconceivable confusion and misery Now no statement can more perfectly carry its own antidote. That brawler, assuming that the quarrel is unjust, hides his own better knowledge, and practises upon the ignorance of others. He knows well, that masters have almost as little command over wages as their servants.
He knows well, that wages have but small connection with the prices of food, and that often the one may stand just as high as the other shall sink low. He knows well, that the abundance of labour must deteriorate its market worth, as well as the excess of all supply. If he be thus enlightened, he must conceal his knowledge. His listeners must be led into other notions, or he is at once gainsaid. Here, then, is the most unaccountable distortion of all truth and intelligence hastily admitted, credulously cheered, by the crowd. What gives him his influence ? Not so much his own mental capacity, as the ignorance of those whom he deceives.
that he works and seduces. The proof is furnished, in such a man, of what even a little mental power can accomplish, and how it can only be counteracted. Let the crowd be taught. When the eyes of the many open, their Polyphemus will cease to be famous for his cyclopean vision. Let the labourer be shown his true interests, let him see what necessary
and contingent causes affect them, and the demagogue will find his arts ineffectual, and the alarmist may convince himself that his forebodings were vain.
The plainest evidence is on record, that crime proceeds in even step with the mental rudeness of a people. That they are harmless in proportion to their ignorance, is an opinion well-nigh abandoned of all. A few of that antiquated prejudice may occasionally creep out among us, and when the sun least shines or sinks beneath a passing cloud, they may unhood their pale visages and mutter their dismal vaticinations. They look their dark farewell, upon a world now rolling in too direct a light. They hate its beams. They predict that the relations of masters and servants cannot survive this flood of knowledge. The only treatises they can endure, are those which teach every man to be “his own,”—for the subordinate will soon no more be found. We appeal, then, to the ignorance which they regard as the only salvation of States. They would retain and invigorate it. They would safely keep these treasures of darkness. And they can point to its strong-holds. Prisons are the monuments