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Society, it must be remembered, is not in reality what it is metaphorically described. It is a collection of human minds. These act upon each other. The depression of any is to the benefit of none. All is mutual in elevation or in advance. Select the metaphors themselves. Is it a family ? Does hopeless ignorance in some of its members, in contrast with the privileged information of others, make it more happy? Is it a pyramid ? Ought not the strongest materials to sustain its square, whatever be the substance of its point ?

It is supposed, that the subordinations and relative distinctions of the community must be confounded if the knowledge of the poor should be increased. But this statement implies many gross mistakes. For, in the first instance, is it not of the nature of knowledge in general, and of the particular knowledge which is now instilled, to make men peaceable, inoffensive, and obedient ? “That it is the policy of governments to keep the people in ignorance is a maxim sounding like the subtlety that is in a statesman only by birth or beard, and merits not his place by much thinking. For ignorance is rude, censorious, jealous, obstinate, and proud, these being exactly the ingredients of which disobedience is made.”* Then, secondly, there is implied the charge, that the higher gradations of society are stationary in their knowledge, and are thus easily overtaken. Is it not notorious, that these have been

* Davenant.

most active in all mental improvement ? And, once more, ought any rank of thinking beings to be straitened and repressed, until those who possess the accidents of wealth and dignity, who have the favoured start, feel disposed to quicken their own progress ? Is it not, too, a happy circumstance, that an impulse is given to society, from whatever quarter it may proceed ? May it not be supposed that the richer portions of the people have excited the poorer, as well as that the poorer have stimulated the richer ? “The age is grown so picked, that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe.”* This is the fear, but it is a wholesome and practical fear. Why should not the peasant stride in the ways of knowledge? Why does not the courtier preserve his place in the competition ? It is far more difficult for the one to gain, than for the other to keep, his ground. The equi-distances might be easily maintained. We feel a strong persuasion that they generally are. But were it otherwise, Is the right of the poor to be sacrificed to the caprice of the affluent ? It is a pledge of good and glory to the empire, that knowledge diffuses itself from so many points; but, chief of all, that the heart of those, to whom its access is most difficult, is bent upon it. The producing classes show their resolve : the sense of shame and the desire of safety may be left to stir the rost. Let the ignorant master feel his inferiority to

* Shakspeare. Hamlet.

the educated servant. It is the feeling which such an accidental transposition of the parties ought to produce. It is not only inevitable : it is that which we should desire, for its own sake, to exist. It is difficult to draw an indictment against a whole nation : the mind of a mighty people will little heed what creeping things are outsped in its march, and thrown behind it.

Graver judgments are pronounced. It is foreseen that the growing intelligence of the workers will constrain organic changes in the polity of the empire. The word ought to be defined. New distributions of the same power cannot constitute organic change. Popular suffrage is an element in our constitution. It may be enlarged, just as the peerage has been increased, without any vital revolution. With the effect, in its precise amount of quantity, we have not in this argument the smallest concern. Only let us not be frightened at undefined terms. It is not, then, denied that with the advancement of knowledge there will be an advancement of society. A free government will reflect, of necessity, the opinions and refinements of its people. It is not an unnatural inference, that those classes which are not now deemed sufficiently enlightened to bear a part, and exercise a responsibility, in the management of the state, will, when thus prepared, find their way, and, it is hoped, their welcome, to political immunities. This surely would be not only their proper right, but for the security of the

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commonwealth. It would be the multiplication of its sound, intelligent, and heartsworn, members. But there would be no organic or vital revolution. The strict principle of our Constitution would only be more emphatically declared. It is true, that pecuniary qualification now exists for the enjoyment of certain rights. But it is simply thus assigned, because property is supposed to be a pledge of information. There is no partial right given to any class of society which is not a trust intended to be executed for the whole.

Property was thus, again, considered the index of a moral ability to undertake such trust. We need not blame our ancestors for this appointment: it was not only the best, but we have not found out a better. A poor man may be erudite, but we do not expect it: a rich man may be untaught, but it is to our surprise. Money must always have its influence in securing instruction, and penury in debarring it. But if knowledge and virtue, which humbler circumstances have been thought to discourage and almost to preclude, can establish their existence in those circumstances, or in spite of them, — then, surely, they may claim equal respect, though unclothed with their ordinary ensigns. It is then, also, that the question may arise, which we are not called to settle, whether these attributes, apart from other secular investitures, should, or should not, give a potential voice in the direction of public affairs. It may be fitting, or it may not. How

ever it may be determined, the poor are in a better frame of mind to receive the decision. The alternative must rest upon the unreasonableness of any political change as deducible from their intellectual and moral change. Then, if unreasonable, the more reasonable the parties contemplated in it, the more readily will they see that unreasonableness. But if contrariwise, then the reasonable change must be yielded. Can it be safely or honestly refused, an instant beyond the evidence that it has become desirable and just ?

In the North American Republic, it is well known that a universal suffrage obtains. There are patriots, statesmanly and philosophic, who would not for a moment touch that right. They see its justice, as well as necessity, in their Federal Constitution. But still is it the constant subject of their distrust. They are filled with alarm at its exercise. The ballot-box, the symbol of a mighty liberty, is watched by them with a gnawing suspense. It is not for party that they tremble. Hearts never glowed than theirs with a stronger enthusiasm of love for their land and its franchises. But they know the character of myriads of the voters. They are aware of the brutal ignorance and moral vileness which characterise the crowds which hasten to the poll. The number of voters for General Harrison to the Presidential Chair, was nearly unprecedented, and yet it was thirty thousand less than the ascertained number of freemen who could neither read nor write. Such a description de

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