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and national benefits, to which he, in common with others, pays his support. It is quite time to give up such narrow sets of ideas. The most negative injury,
-any depression in society, -any passing by, -any slight, -any postponement, —for conscience sake, is persecution. The administration of such a law cannot fall equally. The encouragement to education, by any penal disabilities on its neglect, is the civil proscription of those who never enjoyed its means. Men are treated as responsible, who were not free agents. Calamity is condemned for guilt. It is still more unrighteous. It visits the grievance on a mental state as crime. Any direction of law is absurd which cannot be pursued. Where could you stop? You punish the uneducated mind. What other mental habits and conditions will you punish? “Be just,” is the rule of our Constitution. To delay and withhold justice is its violation. But if only a class were entitled to it, would it not be a base desertion, a monstrous abandonment, of that charter which decrees equal protection to the life, property, and liberty, of all ?
On the same ground, a Literate qualification for electoral rights in the commonwealth, must be condemned. The man has not sinned, but his parents. The stimulus comes too late for personal improvement. But while we deem such a proposal as utterly unjust, what a stigma is it, and what ruin may it bring, that the power of voting for the legislature, the true sovereignty, of the land, is often associated with the rudest
ignorance! What country can be safe, whose freedom is thus entrusted to the custody of vulgar stolidity and prejudice! Such brute power can only be expected to exercise itself in the most dangerous extremes. Like the shifting ballast of the storm-tossed vessel, it is sure to be propelled to the wrong side.
A principle is worthless which cannot be carried out. If the principle, involved in our present question, be, that education is the province of government, then are subjects to be regarded indifferently in its application. Having houses and fields, or not having them, -the one rule applies. These are but accidents: they leave the principle what, and where, it was.
If it be, however, intended to make it only concern them who will not perform the duty themselves, the inference is fatal. Then it was not the original duty of government, but one that has lapsed to it. Another inference is as necessary, that when parents will resume it, the duty reverts to them unprejudiced and unimpaired.
It is easy to say that the danger is only problematic, that it is but a possible abuse. All danger should be guarded, all abuse should be counteracted. We ought to be prepared for the worst. Nothing can be right and good, which, of itself, can be made the means of injury and the subject of perversion. The cause is evil which contains these evil seeds and pow
It is easy to say that the suggestion of this possible turn of events is a breach of justice and charity, that it cannot be offered without the imputation of the
most criminal motives. All this may shock the sim: pering flatterers of fashionable opinion : it may stay the course of them who covet the honours of an equivocal candour at the cost of the rewards, unearthly and distant, which await the upright. It is easy to demand of us, What ground have we to suspect the principles of men whose political station is high, and whose social sphere removes them far from every corrupt influence and sinister consideration ? We are not scared by all this loud passion, all this towering indignance, this “Ercles' vein.” The civil constitution, under which we live, teaches us that no man is to be trusted. It exempts none, it protects none, from doubt and jealousy, because of certain character and condition. It endures no instance, no plea, no grade, of irresponsibility. Every man is under bail and recognizance and oath to it. It holds light as air, and cheap as dust, all individual professions. It knows no man's
It takes no man's word. Its genius is that of wholesome -scrutiny and precaution. It will be secured. Talk not, then, to us of casting slur and slight upon public men. We abandon the spirit and the rule of our constitution the moment we give credit to men beyond their measures and their liabilities. With the tendency of what they do, we have as much concern as with the naked deed itself. Gladly we acquit motive when we can: but motive may be detected through the transparence of tendency. Capacity for good is capacity for evil. Vigilant and searching ought to be all our investiga
tions. It is an honest thing to diffide. The withholdment of our confidence is neither ungenerous nor unjust. And are not consequences of incomparably greater value to us than forms of present politeness and courtesy? We allow no occasion, in the sharpest, severity, for rudeness. We hate invective and scurrility. Our "purpose is necessary, and not envious."* But whenever we mark a tendency, we must forecast a result. We cannot find resting-place between. The pause is nothing, seen or unseen, a result is begun. Posse and Esse are to us but one.
And when any great bodies, political or ecclesiastical, have acquired the law to educate the people,-enforced by the sanctions, and subsidised by the resources, of the State, - what can alter the tendency, what can arrest the result? Must not both agree in the kind and limit of that education ? Will any body seek an education which may hazard it? Whatever are its principles, will it not do all to wind them into the public mind ? Can it be otherwise in disposition or in effect ? Change human nature, regenerate it by religion, and our fears are only decreased. Infirmity of judgment, partiality of feeling, will cleave to it still. But in its present too common order of things, such a power, simple or composite, is a frightful thing. It is so minute in its penetration, it is so bold in its assumption, as only to be compared to some fabled Polypus of the Deep, with its vast and innumerable antenne, drawing insatiably
Shakspeare. Julius Cæsar.
into itself alike the drifted sea-weed and the stateliest ship. Consequences do not unfold themselves at once. It is folly to wait for them. Tendencies are consequences. Crush the egg. Uproot the seed. Utter bold denouncement against the principle. Else shall we be miserably deceived. Men are plausible. Concessions are liberal.
None begin tyrants. Exclusiveness is rather shamefaced at the first. But the tyrant grows. Exclusiveness soon becomes the saintly virtue. Agent and plan, may not, indeed, always meditate their own conclusion. They are formed and fashioned by their course. We must, therefore, resolutely stand upon this preparatory ground: Whither do the principles incline, and the circumstances tend ?
Let the State leave the good work of Education alone.
Let it not tamper with it. It is rapidly extending. Fuel has, ere now, stified the fire,--support has riven the arch,--and buttress has thrown down the wall. All popular opinion and information, which is wholesome and enduring, is self-generative. Interference is no longer honourable. It is to claim the glory of an independent Work. When Douglas beheld his rival, Randolph, and a little band, overwhelmed with numbers, he rushed to his aid. But seeing that he had already extricated himself, and beaten back the foe,the generous warrior bade his men to hold and halt. He cried, “They have delivered themselves: let us not lessen their victory by affecting to share it.” Interference is now as ungracious as it is unnecessary.