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ON THE MEANS AND RESOURCES OF THE COUNTRY
TO PROCURE A SOUND EDUCATION FOR THE
THE necessity of education to the intellectual and moral completeness of man, considered in connection with his frequent inability to supply it for himself, dictates, as well as supposes, a duty on the part of other members of the social body. There is not a child playing in our streets, the most neglected and the most prematurely wicked, who does not possess the susceptibility of this mental and religious process. Already he might have been a differently inclined being. Looking at the gang of chained convicts, there is not one of those hardened spirits which this culture might not have reclaimed. Knowledge might have taught them the distinctions of right and wrong, and awakened their conscience to approve what was taught. Kindness might have softened natures, none of which were utterly, and, from the first, unfeeling. Religion might have taken hold of hearts which once trembled with awe and warmed with love. What human abasement had been spared! What fell depravity
had been arrested! What pestilential example had been withheld! What dire misery had been prevented ! Such black disgrace would not have fallen on our country: such portentous evil would not have horrified our land! A duty did somewhere exist : that duty was by some parties neglected.
Nor can it be denied, that this duty has a serious aspect on society. “Qui non recté instituunt atque erudiunt liberos, non solum liberis sed et reipublicæ faciunt injuriam.”* It is, therefore, a social duty. All the present youth must speedily become the main support and life of the commonwealth. They must impress its movements. They must be the political constituency. They must form the mind of another generation of youth. They will soon have passed the great lines of manhood. Many a social duty exists, however, apart from the ruling power. We prejudge not now the determination of the question. We only protest against any wresting of the term. Social and political duties are not necessarily convertible. The political must be social, but the social need not be political.
Eleemosynary instruction does not seem to have been thought of by the ancients. Their religion taught them no principle of charity. Where there was no hospital for bodily disease, no asylum for bereavement and destitution, it was scarcely to be expected
* “They who do not train and instruct aright their children, as greatly injure the State as their offspring.” —Cicero.
that the school should be conceived and supported by the existing benevolence. Thus Plutarch, in his Bringing up of Children, exclaims: “It is my highest wish, that the blessing of education should be extended to all; but if there be any who, from their straitened circumstances, cannot avail themselves of my recommendations, let them blame their hard lot, but not my advice. For the very poor ought to do their utmost to obtain for their children the best education, and if they cannot command this, let them seek the best within their power.”*
We feel that the duty of providing education does not only rest upon the parents : but that, when they are too ignorant to conduct, too occupied to inspect, too poor to compensate, the education of their offspring, the duty of assisting them falls upon others. This duty belongs to that large class of morals, which includes the love of our neighbour. It is written on the second table of the Law.
The illustration is simple. Whenever there is misery, the Christian feels that it is his duty, according to his ability, to afford relief. We look not to the State for the support of our infirmaries and feverhouses and mendicity - societies. They depend upon voluntary contributions. Should it be said that education cannot expect the same sympathy, we answer, that there is no object of more fitting commiseration than the “child left to himself.” Should it be insinuated that it is precaution, rather than sympathy, which induces us to stem infection and pauperism,it might be well replied, that there are no consequences more threatening than those of ignorance. If this be an evil and a mischief, the obligation weighs upon all to abate and overcome it. Policy and self-interest may, also, not be inoperative in the determination of this conduct.
* « Εγω γαρ μαλισα αν βουλoιμην πασι κοινη χρησιμον ειναι την αγωγην. Ει δε τινες ενδεως τους ιδιους πραττοντες, αδυνατησουσι τοις εμοις χρησασθαι παραγγελμασι, την τυχην αιτιασθωσεν, ου τον ταυτα our boursuorta." %. 7.d.-Plut : Ilsga tuidwy Aywyn.
The benefit of education, to every class of mind, has been by some doubted. They have discovered, in the unlettered, the vein of excellent sense. They have found a manly understanding and sagacity: “Rusticus, abnormis sapiens, crassâque Minervâ."* They have known the self-vindication of genius. It has grown up in a wild and rank luxuriance. They doubt whether the hardy mind of the first case would not be enfeebled by discipline: whether the independence and bloom of the second instance would not be compressed by rules and arts. But how often do both furnish occasions and specimens of this very want! The masculine vigour is dogmatic, abrupt, vain, supercilious, overbearing. The intellectual quality, which the sudden and powerful æstus denotes, and which men call genius, becomes wayward, self-willed, indolent, vicious. Neither are directed from without. In the one is a churlish dictatorship : in the other is an eccentric riot. Education would have given to the staid and sober intellect principles, maxims, tastes, impulses, which would have doubled its influence and power for guidance and for good. Education would have trained the soaring instinct of the more vivid and subjective intellect, with all its mysterious affinities and yearnings, teaching its track and balancing its flight. It is an idle prejudice, that it can injure any. It is a cruel misanthropy which would deny that it is a boon of inestimable value for all!
*“ A peasant, who is a philosopher ignorant of the rules, and with a blunt mother-wit.”-Horat : Sat : lib. ii. 2.
“Doctrina sed vim promovet insitam,
Rectique cultus pectora roborant.”*
* “Education awakes the innate power of the mind, and high cultivation confirms it.”—Horat : Carm : lib. iv. 4.
The following illustrative Speech is preserved. It contains the true sublime. It was spoken by the first Civil Engineer in the world, George Stephenson. That man is little to be envied who can read it without admiring tears. The occasion of its delivery, was the Opening of the Newcastle and Darlington Railway, on Tuesday, June 18th, 1844. He and others had travelled from London to the former town (300 miles) that morning. Well might he be called to celebrate such a triumph over resistance and space and time!
“Mr. Chairman and Fellow-townsmen-In rising to return thanks for the kind manner in which my health has been proposed and drunk, I am too sensible of my incompetency to acknowledge the compliment as it deserves. You will, however, forgive me all my imperfections, well knowing that I have no talent for speaking. But as the hon. member has referred to the engineering efforts of my early days, it may not be amiss if I say a few words to you on that sub