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Better will it be that the contest of all parties should exist alone in a generous strife of out-doing each other. There is a scope for all. There is little occasion of self-exultation to any.
When the country is subdued to knowledge and religion, it will be sufficient time to adjust our respective deserts and to grasp our proper honours.
“But rise, let us no more contend, nor blame
Each other, blamed enough elsewhere, but strive
* Milton's Paradise Lost, Book x.
ON THE PARTIES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EDUCATION
OF THE PEOPLE.
It may be felt not a little mortifying, that a question like that which concerns the proper agency in popular education, should, in this period of the world, be open to discussion. It might have been expected, that the men of light and benevolence would have long since agreed. The truth, we should have thought, must, ere now, be ultimately fixed. It surely is capable of easy determination. Can our country be divided in opinion, after its frequent boasts of knowledge and freedom ? Can it hesitate, when it affects a tender guardianship of all its natives, and sets its Penitentiaries in the ends of the earth? Can it speak of it as an unsettled point, standing as it does in a position so distinctly to be observed, arrayed as it is with an influence to be so powerfully felt, displaying, as it imagines, a pattern to be so worthily followed ?
Great principles are not hastily approached. They require long probation and experiment, before they settle down into proof and experience. They are often left in doubt, because they are not wanted in application.
New circumstances arise, which direct men's attention to them. A crisis comes, and they can no longer remain in abeyance. At once they must be exposed and decided. The delay was not lost: the exigence was not precipitate. This is the common history of all important conclusions gained by the public mind. They drag along with scarcely any perceptible progress, through events which seem to have no affinity with them, and through ages which seem to have no care for them,until they are established as under a flash of light, and with a directness of intuition. We are slow in mooting what has hitherto been assumed, and love not to disturb what has almost universally been granted.
Though the science of legislation was cultivated from the earliest ages, how little are its precise functions cleared and established ! Few minds are settled, still fewer coincide. That which the interests of social man might have been expected to establish at once, still wavers in indetermination. Some would constitute it as a Ceremonial, to impose and to awe. Others would render it an Agency, to absorb all the business of life into itself. It is principally viewed by one party as a rule over mind and conscience: mainly is it regarded by a second, as a contrivance to release man from his wants, and from his exertions to supply them. The former hails the Monarch as the Vicegerent of heaven, as the Roman Emperors were the Pontifices Maximi: the latter vociferates, as did the mob of Paris, while they bore Louis the 16th from Versailles to his
capital, Boulanger, Boulanger! gracing his office with a procession of loaves.
The time has arrived when we must needs ask, To whom is the education of the people committed? This question has been adjudicated, in the estimate of many, beyond any righteous reversal : others think that, until now, the evidence was never completely sifted, nor the understandings of men prepared to pronounce upon it. That there is difficulty in it, might be suspected, from the confident tone in which the contending parties speak: neither will allow the possibility of each other's conclusion. But difficulty of this kind has often been overcome, and the clear accents of truth have presently been heard overpowering the controversy.
There is one constitution of responsibility which is original. It must plead precedence to every other. It is a law the most fixed and certain. He who decreed that the species should spring constantly from itself, has ordained the parental authority as primary and invariable. To honour father and mother is the first commandment of the second table, first with promise, first in morality, first in influence. It cannot be abrogated nor superseded nor transferred. It is the root of all duties, and the pledge of all virtues. This is the true school. The parent's knee is the proper place of moral training How beautiful is the sentence which Cicero indites concerning the early tuition of the Gracchi! “Legimus epistolas Corneliæ, matris Gracchorum : apparet filios non tam in gremio educatos, quam
in sermone matris.”* It is, confessedly, a mysterious law, that the offspring should be so greatly affected for the most critical, and not the shortest, season, by the parent. That parent may be unprincipled. His influence may only be pernicious. But in reasoning on original constitutions of nature like this, we must often satisfy ourselves with general principles. Can any other arrangement be conceived, the rule of increase being given, which could provide for the helplessness of infant life and mind? Is any other to be imagined so naturally beautiful and fitting? “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth,” was the ordinance of Paradise and the blessedness of innocence. Sin has perverted our nature, but none of its original determinations and conditions are destroyed. That which could only have been designed for good, is now often perverted for evil. The iniquities of parents are visited upon the children.
The sceptic observes, with ourselves, the same fact: it is a fact which must as greatly hamper his moral system as our own. The influence of the parent is, then, inevitable: if we can deduce the mind of the law-giver from the law, it is the Divine Decree. We may infer, from the benevolence of all those decrees, that, however there is incidental evil, (and need we wonder, when the transmission is of that
* “We ponder the letters of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi : it would seem that those boys were brought up, not so much on the lap as on the sweet-voiced counsels of their mother.”_-Brutus, sive de Claris Oratoribus, 57.