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to establish National Education, sprung from the general disgust and dread of a revived Popery.
When we are told what a government ought to do,—and when particular duties are imposed upon it, it is only necessary for us to assert what in all cases must be its principles. It must be impartially just, it must be strongly protective, it must be intelligently free. It should favour no class at the expense of another. It should act in equality towards each and all. It should not, even "to do a great right, do a little wrong."* Whatever are the particular duties, they must be subsequent to these principles, and should fall within their influence. In the one, there can be no mistake,—they are fixed;—in the other, mistake is easy,—they are speculative and arbitrary.
In every country, the education which is forcible may not appear equally a wrong; nor is it in the same degree, an inconsistency with a right-minded government. There being but one system of faith, there is no apparent wrong or inconsistency in its invariable inculcation. It may be the will of the present people. There is not the sense of force in the collection of the tax, or in the surrender of the children. But all this favouring circumstance does not make the principle right. It but wards off an actual inconvenience and collision. Another generation may think otherwise. It is of our country, however, that we restrict ourselves to speak.
* Shakspeare. Merchant of Venice.
In England may be numbered, upon the safest calculation, as many separatists from the Established Church, as adherents. These are subjects as loyal, as important, as worthy of righteous maintenance, as their conforming fellow-countrymen. They deserve, they demand, to be treated alike with the rest. It is, therefore, obvious, that a government which is just, equal, protective, free, must find that any national education will, perhaps, of necessity, bear partially and wrongfully upon such a people. Make it secular, the religionist complains. Give it any religious peculiarity, and the different religious communities protest. There are those who object to any interference, let the case be what it may. Others feel it to be an outrage upon conscience, to assist in the promulgation of sentiments which their hearts condemn. There are not a few patriots, who see, in any uniform system, the destruction of our national character and the enslavement of our dear-bought liberty. There are not a few economists who see, in any bias of education towards some more than to others, an unjust distribution of a revenue, contributed, without distinction, by all.
The reason, then, is against the supposition, that it is the duty of government to educate the people, inasmuch as the attempt involves, at least, in almost every instance, an injustice; that greatest flagrancy which any can commit, that greatest evil which any can avoid. But every principle is worse than dubious which cannot be carried out. The principle is this. Government has so deep an interest in the education of the people, that it must direct it. How far shall it bo extended? Government has the deepest interest in its electoral community and hereditary aristocracy. Should it not enforce, then, the education of this important class? If good for any, would it not be good for all? Where must the process stop? The argument proves too much. The restriction, at what point soever it is raised, can only be capricious. What right can exist to force the poor child from his parentage and home, which does not apply to the fondling of the rich and the heir of the noble?
The basis of much specious theory on this attributed duty of States, has been the admixture of public and private obligations. The amiable citizen has beheld ignorance around him. He has attempted to instruct the poor. In this all was voluntary. Parent and child were under no constraint. He has only taken from his own proper store. He reasons, that the many ought to do what the individual does. He is right when he speaks of the many as of so many individuals. They may voluntarily combine, or voluntarily act alone. But his inference is most violent,—that which individuals are bound to do, government is likewise bound to do. If it be true, that each person, in an associated capacity, must act in that capacity, exactly as he would when insulated, then he cannot join any civil company or incorporation. For he must now work out simply their intentions, whether mercantile or scientific. He must not alienate their funds to religion,—either to maintain his own, or to oppose that of others. He feels, at once, that what would be his persona], is not his relative, duty. He has deprived himself of all power, choice, liberty.—It is sometimes asked, and in a triumphant tone, Is it not the office of government to do all the good it can? We answer, that it must attempt no good in contravention of its true purposes, or by illegitimate means. But this question is intended to reduce the opponent to dilemma. Government should do all possible good: the enforcement of universal education is a good: therefore, government should enforce universal education. The major premiss assumes a questionable proposition, a perfect fallacy, as to the kind and limit of good: it must do evil, that good may come. The minor premiss is as gratuitous, for whether this enforcement of universal education be, or be not, a good, is the moot matter in debate. The conclusion is nugatory, for it depends upon nothing. The whole, indeed, is vicious, for it begs the question,—it asserts that government education is a good,—the point in dispute,—the point under denial.
"Certainly, the great multiplication of virtues upon human nature, resteth upon societies well ordained and disciplined; for commonwealths and good governments do nourish virtue grown, but do not much mend the seeds: but the misery is, that the most effectual means are now applied to the ends least to be desired!'*
If the duty of the individual and the government be coextensive, the Christian will often spurn in his philanthropy the frontier of his country, and seek the moral illumination of the world. He is a dehtor to the wise and to the unwise. He feels it to be his duty to consecrate his property and his influence for the mental and spiritual benefit of mankind. Must the State imitate his example? Is it to exercise intervention with foreign countries for these purposes? Is it to drain its coffers for them? It is the duty of the Christian, as far as he can, to Christianise the whole species. Does it follow that the State ought to attempt the same?
The asserted claim of any government to educate the people, may not, at first, appear to involve any serious evil. But no pretension can contain so distinct a principle and means of tyranny. It is grasping the whole intellect of a country. It says, in impious rivalry of-the Father of spirits, "All souls are mine." Its right being so far acknowledged, it knows no definable limit. What shall be taught, lies in its behest. A just consequence of its prerogative is the censorship of the press. All literature it must regulate. Every expansion of opinion it must liberate. It stereotypes the public mind. These are not impro