Изображения страниц

that he works and seduces. The proof is furnished, in such a man, of what even a little mental power can accomplish, and how it can only be counteracted. Let the crowd be taught. When the eyes of the many open, their Polyphemus will cease to be famous for his cyclopean vision. Let the labourer be shown his true interests, let him see what necessary and contingent causes affect them, and the demagogue will find his arts ineffectual, and the alarmist may convince himself that his forebodings were vain.

The plainest evidence is on record, that crime proceeds in even step with the mental rudeness of a people. That they are harmless in proportion to their ignorance, is an opinion well-nigh abandoned of all. A few of that antiquated prejudice may occasionally creep out among us, and when the sun least shines or sinks beneath a passing cloud, they may unhood their pale visages and mutter their dismal vaticinations. They look their dark farewell, upon a world now rolling in too direct a light. They hate its beams. They predict that the relations of masters and servants cannot survive this flood of knowledge. The only treatises they can endure, are those which teach every man to be “ his own,”—for the subordinate will soon no more be found. We appeal, then, to the ignorance which they regard as the only salvation of States. They would retain and invigorate it. They would safely keep these treasures of darkness. And they can point to its strong-holds. Prisons are the monuments as well as the fortifications. These shelter the virtues which once it was vogue to praise. These garner the most ample fruits of that abject and unreasoning contentment which even bards have been inspired to sing. There is a criterion, however, before which pleasant illusions and brilliant enchantments are compelled to flee. It is more sudden in its potency than Ithuriel's spear. A table of facts and numbers breaks the spell. In that which was prepared by the eminent Dr. Cooke Taylor concerning the state of Crime in Manchester, guided, in part, by the Pamphlet of Mr. Neale on Juvenile Delinquency in that town, and based upon details furnished by Sir Charles Shaw, we find the ratios between offences and ignorance set forth in a most convincing manner. What is the result ? Eleven-twelfths of Crime in that dense population are committed by the uneducated, and principally by those who are utterly so, not knowing how to read. One-twelfth is left, and includes all those offenders who have been educated, whether more liberally or only just at all. In a southern county, Sussex, forty-nine prisoners were arraigned for incendiarism, principally of stacked corn. The crime itself seems only capable of being committed by the most deplorable fatuity. It would forewarn us how sottish must be the ignorance of those who could perpetrate it. More than forty could neither read nor write. Only two could both read and write. The gaol of Taunton, according to the account of its Chaplain, and according


to the announcement of a candidate for the senate on the hustings of the adjoining county, received during two years alone three hundred prisoners, and these ehiefly youths, who knew not any meaning connected with the names of Jesus, save for profane execrations. Of course, these could not read a word.

In the Tables which have been furnished from the Prisons of the Country, we may see the degrees of instruction received by those who have been committed to them. The three last years may be selected. The per cent. of these respective differences is as follows :

1840. 1841. 1842. Unable to read and write ............ 33:32 ... 33:21 ... 32-35 Able to read and write imperfectly . 55:57 ... 56:67 ... 58:32 Able to read and write well .... 8.29 ... 7:40 ... 6.77 Instruction superior to reading and

writing well ........................... 37 ... .45 ... .22 Instruction could not be ascertained 2:45 ... 2:27 ... 2:34

The man, whose mind is stored with knowledge, is acquainted with a source of peculiar pleasures. They lie within himself. They are independent of common accidents. They are indulged without reproach. They invigorate and cheer the spirit. They bring no satiety with them. They raise above the low pursuit and sordid taste. They tend to polish the manners, and refine the habits, of life. We are anxious not to be misunderstood. We do not say that they must be associated with virtue, that they may not be degraded

to vice. But we do affirm, that then their true character is changed. We do not say that they tend to the quest of true religion. We do not confound the Tree of knowledge and the Tree of life. But we do affirm that, things being equal, knowledge will always be more favourable to that end than ignorance. The eccentric genius may lower himself: the man, flattered or excited into a self-esteem of mental power, may never have cast off his base and ruinous propensions. Who can, however, doubt, that the enquiring and instructed peasant is happier in his little cupboard library, than he would be at the vulgar resort of dispute and drunkenness? It is now that he feels the true self-respect. He is not likely to divide himself between purer joys and grosser indulgences. He is not the probable subject of those alternations which have confessedly been witnessed in some of the ranks of science and literature. He feels himself a captive disenthralled. He sees an onward path before him, with ever enlarging and brightening prospects. His is the gladness, his the sweetest triumph the mind can know, of newly-awakened powers. His is the elevation of a higher mental taste. He discriminates, compares, reasons, reflects. “Wisdom is better than strength,” and “weapons of war.” Moral habits are almost necessary to it. With “the lowly,” and “the well-advised,” is “wisdom.” It “dwells with prudence." By it “a house is built.” “He who hath it understandeth his way.” He, indeed, is rich and puissant who finds, in knowledge the most simple, those achievements over space and time and death which Euripides describes : “I have determined the proper antidote to forgetfulness, defying Lethe itself, in the humble art of conjoining what may be, and what may not be, pronounced, vowels and consonants, into words, so that my most distant friends, far off beyond the seas, may have accurate knowledge of every thing which happens here at home; and the dying may unbosom themselves in a few sentences to their children, by bearers unconscious of the message: even the calamities which arise from contention may be thus retrieved, and a scrap of writing prevent the triumph of fraud.”*

The mere justice of educating the poor,-it being supposed that the education of the other classes may confidently be relied on,-is apparent from that equal obedience which is required from all by our laws. Each subject is supposed to know them. But not

* Stobæi Loci Communes, pag. 707. It is an extract from the Palamedes, a lost drama of that tragedian.

« Τα τε Ληθης φαρμακδρθωσας, μονον
Αφωνα, και φωνoυνα συλλαβας τιθεις,
Eğsugov cv@qwtonoo yg appear' adsvar.
Ωστ' ου παροντα πονδιας υπερ πλοκας
Τακει κατοικους παντα επισασθαι καλως,
Παισιν τ' αποθνησκονα γραμμάτων μεζον
Γραψανίας e-πριν, τον λαβονία δ' αδεναι.
“A des serv Titlovosv cv@porois xant,
Asaros diriget, x' 8x eu feuen deyes.”

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »