Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

appropriated to educational purposes, were reasonably and well managed, we believe that we shall be within the mark, if we lay down that a free income, of from .#400,000. to £450,000., is at present partly, and should be entirely, devoted in England and Wales to the support of school education.” It is a munificent endowment: it is a mighty feoffment: what a work would it have wrought had it been faithfully and assiduously administered ! But the Church neglected the population: other guides arose and obtained a powerful influence over it: and society has long since been so divided into religious sections, that few will entertain the hope that the old ecclesiastical ascendancy can be recovered. If any imaginary right be retained by it, its power has passed from it. There are millions who will not submit to its instructions. It can impart no truly national education. Special reasons may be found against the docent authority and right of any Established Church. Perfectly just as may be its position, scripturally pure as may be its doctrine, it does not follow that, therefore, its province is in the education of the youthful race. Its close and dependent connection with the State, must always create a tendency to take its part. This tendency becomes a temptation to lean to the side of power. Popular liberty is not likely to be its cherished vision, or warmest inculcation. There is no wrongful suspicion in this view. Whatever is a certain tendency becomes a law. But history justifies our jealousy. Ecclesiastical corporations must have proper, if not selfish, interests. Can such corporations be expected to foster enquiry into their grounds of existence? May we divine that they will champion the progress of freedom and general knowledge? Will they be intent especially on the advancement of the people? They may have a useful place in a country, and yet be most disqualified for this particular service. Besides, an Established Church is a living community. Its standards and symbols may be irreproachable, but itself has prejudices and other party passions. If it teach, it must teach what its functionaries think and feel. It may be brought under the influence of most noxious errors. Its ministers and interpreters for the time, may wrest and strain language, otherwise understood, to support them. Such errors may grow into fashion and become ascendant. Are these to be taught? A great portion of the actual clergy may favour them. Is the church to promulgate this corrupt doctrine? What security has the nation that only Christian verity shall be imparted for the guidance of its youth? Formularies and articles cannot be stamped upon the mind in their strictest and purposed meaning. There comes, between the one and the other, individual and varying opinion. It cannot be doubted, that if this imagined duty were now committed to the English Hierarchy, many of its ministers would train the young to the most doting and abject superstitions. No small part of the opposition against the recent attempt to establish a National Education, sprung from the general disgust and dread of a revived Popery, although denominated Protestantism.

When we are told what a government ought to do, -and when particular duties are imposed upon it, it is only necessary for us to assert what in all cases must be its principles. It must be impartially just, it must be strongly protective, it must be intelligently free. It should favour no class at the expense of another. It should act in equality towards each and all. It should not, even “to do a great right, do a little wrong.” Whatever are the particular duties, they must be subsequent to these principles, and should fall within their influence. In the one, there can be no mistake, -they are fixed;—in the other, mistake is easy, —they are speculative and arbitrary.

In every country, the education which is forcible may not appear equally a wrong; nor is it in the same degree, an inconsistency with a right-minded government. There being but one system of faith, there is no apparent wrong or inconsistency in its invariable inculcation. It may be the will of the present people. . There is not the sense of force in the collection of the tax, or in the surrender of the children. But all this favouring circumstance does not make the principle right. It but wards off an actual inconvenience and collision. Another generation may think otherwise. It is of our country, however, that we restrict ourselves to speak.

* Shakspeare. Merchant of Venice.

In England may be numbered, upon the safest calculation, as many separatists from the Established Church, as adherents. These are subjects as loyal, as important, as worthy of righteous maintenance, as their conforming fellow-countrymen. They deserve, they demand, to be treated alike with the rest. It is, therefore, obvious, that a government which is just, equal, protective, free, must find that any national education will, perhaps, of necessity, bear partially and wrongfully upon such a people. Make it secular, the religionist complains. Give it any religious peculiarity, and the different religious communities protest. There are those who object to any interference, let the case be what it may. Others feel it to be an outrage upon conscience, to assist in the promulgation of sentiments which their hearts condemn. There are not a few patriots, who see, in any uniform system, the destruction of our national character and the enslavement of our dear-bought liberty. There are not a few oeconomists who see, in any bias of education towards some more than to others, an unjust distribution of a revenue, contributed, without distinction, by all.

The reason, then, is against the supposition, that it is the duty of government to educate the people, inasmuch as the attempt involves, at least, in almost every instance, an injustice; that greatest flagrancy which any can commit, that greatest evil which any can avoid. But every principle is worse than dubious which cannot be carried out. The principle is this. Government has so deep an interest in the education of the people, that it must direct it. How far shall it be extended ? Government has the deepest interest in its electoral community and hereditary aristocracy. Should it not enforce, then, the education of this important class? If good for any, would it not be good for all? Where must the process stop? The argument proves too much. The restriction, at what point soever it is raised, can only be capricious. What right can exist to force the poor child from his parentage and home, which does not apply to the fondling of the rich and the heir of the noble 2 The basis of much specious theory on this attributed duty of States, has been the admixture of public and private obligations. The amiable citizen has beheld ignorance around him. He has attempted to instruct the poor. In this all was voluntary. Parent and child were under no constraint. He has only taken from his own proper store. He reasons, that the many ought to do what the individual does. He is right when he speaks of the many as of so many individuals. They may voluntarily combine, or voluntarily act alone. But his inference is most violent, —that which individuals are bound to do, government is likewise bound to do. If it be true, that each person, in an associated capacity, must act in that capacity, exactly as he would when insulated, then he cannot join any civil company or incorporation. For he must now work out simply their intentions, whether mercantile or scientific. He

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »