Изображения страниц


dreds." “But to the intent the prescribed number of the citizens should neither decrease, nor above measure increase; it is ordained that no family, which in every city be six thousand in the whole, besides them of the country, shall at once have fewer children of the age of fourteen years or thereabouts, than ten, or more than sixteen. This measure or number is easily observed and kept, by putting them, that in fuller families be above the number, into families of smaller in

But if chance be, that in the whole city the supply increase above the just number, therewith they fill up

the lack of other cities." All these arrangements put youth at the disposal of the State. Bondmen are, likewise, introduced for the more humble duties of the community.

Bacon has chosen the same imaginative vehicle for his reflections. In his New Atlantis he opens his conception of a true commonwealth. Here all is wise : 'the riches of Solomon's house." Here all is pure: it is “the Virgin of the world.” He, alone, of this class of theorists, requires not the parent to forego his right in his offspring. His exquisite descriptions of the Feast of the Family, the honours of the Tirsau, the favours conferred upon the Son of the Vine, the retinue of the thirty descendants, the approach of the herald, --- the entrances, retirements, and returns of him who is the pater-familias, - the kingly gift, -the shouts of the people of Bensalem, -- are wrought as with one design, to do reverence to the marriage insti

tute, and to proclaim the true glory of parents in their children.

We must not omit, that Infidelity ranges itself upon the side of parental irresponsibility. It is at every expense of feeling that we transcribe the language which it has uttered. “The present system of marriage is perfectly absurd, and the greatest piece of tyranny towards the females that could possibly be invented. Every contract of that kind ought only to be continued so long as it is agreeable to each of the parties, and each ought to be at liberty to put an end to it whenever he, or she, pleases. Marriage and separate families create selfishness; no one has any right to say that this is my child, or these are my children ; they should all be brought up in one general establishment, and then their habits and ideas would be similar, and they would then live together in harmony and concord.”* Similar doctrines have been penned.

Surely it is very obvious to every person, on the perusal of these opinions, that, if they contain any truth, they do not present all the truth; and that they have lost a very large portion of the ground which once they occupied, without any disputing them. As abstractions they would now be boldly denied. could be brooked which would tear these earliest, holiest, ties of nature asunder. The infancy and youth

No power

* Robert Owen's Speech at Manchester, in the Exchange Rooms, during his first public visit to that town.

+ His Book of the New Moral World.


of our children can only be placed under one control. But the wisest and freest government ought to see that this claim does not degenerate into bondage. The services of a child, at a reasonably appointed age, should become his own. The State may


yet a more delicate function to discharge. In this country there is a tribunal which has sometimes interposed between the reckless and vicious parent and the injured child. The equity of that proceeding is not arraigned. Yet it is to be doubted whether it be carried on in the supposition that the State is the foster-parent, “in loco parentis,” or in simple protection of the helpless. It is obvious, too, that this appeal can only be of rare

Where some dignity and patrimony are at stake, our Chancery makes the heir its ward, and undertakes his education. It snatches him from the contagion of foul example in the licentious household. But is this not rather in its province of guardianship over all estate, than in the hypothesis of a parentage which of right it can assume? Over the child of the poor man,--though drunkard, debauchee, spendthrift,

- it does not cast its shield. The precedent, therefore, scarcely establishes a principle, and even if there be the principle, it can only admit of the most partial operation.

The world has always been best administered when the opinions and feelings of mankind have been most respected. These opinions and feelings, when true to nature, will flow in one direction. Parent and progeny

are hard to part.

Rob not the monster of its young. The case must be extreme in which this violence can be endured among civilised men. If this alienation be the mark of progress and the augury of optimism in society, we might prefer the barbarous horde and the ruder æra !

But the commonwealth has a vital interest in the education of its subjects. Ignorance defeats its highest ends. There is supposed a general acquaintance with its laws and institutions. It holds all alike accountable. It punishes with equal rigour, save in a case of discretionary punishments. Should it not undertake that all, beneath its authority, be properly informed ?

Now in all these investigations, there is a primordial test. Does government exist separately from the people, they being born for it? Can it rightfully pursue ends to which the people do not agree? Can it be bound to undertakings which the people in its erection did not entrust to it? We need not be told that few original compacts of this kind can be found : that governors and subjects are seldom called to such amicable consultation. Still we must ask, Do these governments exist of any right but by the national will ? Can they have any duty to perform but as the instrument of that will? The people may be foolish or wicked in shaping that government, in fixing its principles, in vesting its powers, – but itself can only be the organ of their voice, the sword of their avengement. They may be right or wrong in giving up to it the education

of their children. This is the matter of their own covenant with it. But it can have no claim to enforce that education, except as they shall thus make such claim over to its defence and care.

It is, surely, too late to speak of governments as independent and imprescriptible. The powers that be are of God, inasmuch as it was his will to make man a social being, and society can only exist by legal administration. We owe an account to Him for our social, as well as individual, conduct. But whatsoever is right in the one capacity, is so in the other. There can be no public conscience different from private conscience. It can be no more proper to resist public than private aggression, whatsoever be the proper species of that resistance. How can it be the prerogative of a government to educate the people? Has the eternal King commanded and authorised it? Where are his anointed lieutenants? If government be only an affair of arrangement, then education may, or may not, be included in that arrangement: if it be of heaven, we must demand its revealed muniments and provisions.

The only justifiable, or supposeably proper, occasion for taking this business out of the hand of the parent, ---of resuming his responsibility by any government, ---is, that he will not attend to it, that he suffers his children to grow up in ignorance, that they thus become injurious and dishonouring to the State. This is a case which may be supposed. Many cannot see why that ultimate power of states, to throw themselves

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »