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it. It is the duty of the poorest to “take heed what they hear :" To "beware of false teachers :" To “try the spirits.” There can be no external guarantee. No order, no office, no system, can be the pledge of uni form or sound doctrine. Every man must be fully persuaded in his own mind.
It is a principle which has gained ground of late, that most things are done best by government. We must have observed a gradual encroachment upon private interests and companies which once existed, and in periods of no high liberty, with a strong independence. The East Indian Firm of political commerce, that vast Proconsulate, is drawn into the vortex of the all-encircling State. The Bank of England is gradually obeying the same gyration. The great transit-system of these realms is evidently regarded with this evil eye. These are questions of property with which we do not intermeddle. They are only regarded passingly by us as symptoms of a reigning spirit, of a domineering idea. But centralization is now so strongly justified, that education is placed among its principal duties. The most unconstitutional measure of modern times provoked, on this account, little resentment. There were epochs, and there have been men, that would not have endured the Order in Council which originated the Committee of the Privy Council for Education. We might have as reasonably received, in full insignia of his office, a Minister of Public Instruction: some Ædile to rear our schools, some Censor to inspect our
families. It is to be deplored, that the leaders in the muster-roll of our senatorial philanthropists indulge an opinion whose consequences they can have never examined. They seem to think it at present impracticable,
-even for a long time they admit that it must proceed with great caution,— but still they hail the consummation of public staff and police for national training. Statesmen, lecturers, journalists, appear upon one side. It is espoused as an incontrovertible truth. Lord Denman, that great justicer and magistrate, — whose voice is always on the side of liberty, abashing from his seat in court and council a world's wrong-doing, the murder of the slave's deliverer abroad or the espiery of the letter's confidence at home, -contending for the subject's right against the legislature's prerogative, — throwing open the prison-house where the champion of millions lay, not by legal quibble but by constitutional demand, -has pronounced his sentence:-“It is the bounden duty of the State to provide for the education of the people.” De Tocqueville thus declares his opinion :“The first duty which is at this time imposed upon those who direct our affairs, is to educate the democracy; to warm its faith, if that be possible; to purify its morals; to direct its energies; to substitute a knowledge of business for its inexperience, and acquaintance with its true interests for its blind propensities."* We must, nevertheless, ask, What is there in government which requires this function, and which qualifies
* Democracy in America.
for it? We may then produce reasons to prove that its interference is prejudicial to the cause itself.
To gain a just conception of civil government, we may very properly enquire into the representation of the Holy Scriptures. If it be that Divine vicegerency which many have described, its picture and model will be enshrined there. We read of the King, who should supersede the Theocracy, that when he “sate on the throne of his kingdom he should write him a copy of the law, lest his heart should be lifted up above his brethren." We read that “he who ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of the Lord.” We read that "rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” But none of these quotations place a sceptre in the monarch's hand to sway the conscience, to subject the soul. All that this government respects is the overt act. No intimation is afforded that it is responsible for the opinions of the people. And if it were thus responsible at any former time, it would be unable to exercise its duty in this and other countries, at their present date. The people are now the teachers of their rulers. Opinion works up from the lower to the higher gradations of society. Senates and kings but ceremoniously perform the national will. Scarcely ever does it happen that they are in advance of the public mind. From it, but slowly, they gather their informations and their decisions. What, in our time, maintains the religion of the privileged classes, but the religious manners and principles of the common people ?
The responsibility of teaching a whole country, cannot but be serious; and if it inhere in government, there must be a reasonable proof of its competency. But this it would be very difficult to establish. Are the regions of a court and a legislature impervious to prejudices and errors ? What security can they furnish, that the education, which they would impress, is just and sound? What peculiar apocalypse of truth do they enjoy? What has purged their visual sense of every film ? It was when the National Convention of France actually debated the question of a national education, that Jacob Dupont "freely avowed that he was an atheist !" If each Power be competent, because responsible, all are in one category. But the Scotch and English Schools, schools of one island, establishments of the same State, — inculcate contradictory doctrines. The governmental system differs in almost every land. Which is to be credited, and which to be refused ? If the responsibility be to teach that which is wrong, where fall the consequences of this responsibility? The people suffer now. Little can they know of eternal retribution, who boldly say that they will bear it for the people. The variance, then, of the systems, destroys the equal duty to propagate them, and the universal obligation to receive them.
It is not uncommon to veil this argument in figure.. Thus is it depicted. A father is justified in impressing his religious sentiments on his children. The law of nature and of religion requires this of him. The king
is the father of his people. Therefore he should not leave them without the religion he sincerely believes.Strip off the veil, and the argument may easily be destroyed. The parent is necessarily older than the child; the religious parent, which the case supposes, is wiser and better than the child; and, withal, a natural relationship, which can have no parallel, involves a principle and right of authority which cannot but affect the child. And yet let that child arrive at a period of life to judge for himself, and he ought not to be charged with filial impiety, should he reverse the parental instructions. Apply the figure. Is the king older? How many of his subjects exceed him in age! Is the king wiser? Sometimes, at least, even in this quality, he may be surpassed. An inspired king imagined the opposite case. * Is the king better? Honoured be the pious king, but we are not surprised that so many have “done evil in the sight of the Lord.” Only then is it a figurative style of speech, when the king is called the father of his people : it is not a strict relation, it is not a moral truth. He governs them, and they sustain him : they give him the system of rules by which only he can govern them: and it would be a much more analysed conception, a much stricter form of language, to say that the people are the father of the king, than that the king is the father of the people, -since he governs them by their choice and investiture, and receives from them his political power and existence.
* Eccles. iv. 13.