« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
and therefore cannot resist prejudice. They are more privileged, and therefore cannot understand opinion. But we ask,—little afraid of contradiction,—Where is there such strange delusion, touching the state of the people, as in cabinets and senates? Where are such egregious blunders spoken, in regard to the religion of different denominations, as in parliament? Does our government lead? Is it not, almost invariably, the last to perceive any political question, the last to allow any moral appeal? Did it, of itself, as going before the times,—strike the fetters from conscience, reform the representation, abolish slavery, revise the criminal code? Does it precede the national mind in repealing the taxes upon knowledge? We scarcely blame this tardiness of governments: we can account for it: perhaps it is inevitable. They were never, in the nature of things, intended to be pioneers. But we do reprehend their fawning parasites. It is better for governments to follow a people, than for a people to follow governments. Their leadership we deprecate and disown.
It is, therefore, in vain to affirm, that government is the most competent to teach. The largest systems of instruction in the land are now independent of it. Dare it direct or advise the studies of the Universities? Has it not been made to feel the independence of the trustees of foundation schools? The competency of a government to teach, ought rather to be called its tendency and temptation to enslave. Let it prepare
all the lessons, appoint all the masters, commission all the inspectors, of one great scholastic institute, and it marshals at pleasure the nation's mind and the country's conscience. The people are hound hand and foot: the iron eats into their soul.
No doubt can exist, that the general notion that every State should establish some religion, has lent great strength to the dogma, that it should provide some education. It is not our assigned task to uphold or contest that notion. But we must not be compelled to suspend upon what is undebated, upon an impounded question, upon an exempt case, any proposition, as though its affirmation were proved. Nor do we regard the propositions as equipollent. Most different religions have, in some countries, been established at the same time, and yet were wholly regulated among themselves, without any State control. So every educational system might be established, and yet without government superintendence. The probability is, however, that any executive power, in its religious and educational establishments, will expect to dispense some patronage, to acquire some influence, and to receive some report. We can scarcely think that it will ask no political return :. the least which it may be supposed to demand, is a general inquisition into the schools that it sustains. This is a just demand. But it is, also, an infant tyranny.
The question is now made one of means. It is pronounced to be an absurd idea, that private benefactions can reach the malady. The ignorance of our country is represented to be its darkest reproach. With what truth the charge is brought against us, we must leave the previous statements to settle. But of this we axe confident, that were that charge of ignorance just, better would it be to retain our ignorance, than to lose our liberty! Knowledge is acquired at too dear a rate, if slavery be its price! We see a better future in the one predicament than in the other. Liberty will presently destroy ignorance, but slavery will still sooner extinguish knowledge.
"T is Liberty alone that gives the flower
Thee I account still happy, and the chief
I could endure
We are really encouraged, by certain opinions from high places, verdicts almost new, certainly those which, until now, we have not heard. The Premier
* Cowper. Task, book r.
of Great Britain said, so recently as the 19th of July, 1844, "As to the institution of libraries in the towns of this country, he thought the obligation of the rich in each district to provide such establishments was so strong, that the public purse ought not to be laid under contribution for this object." This is exactly our principle: it yet lags a little: but it is travelling in the right direction. It is our very argument: it needs but a more consistent expansion and application.
The question of ability is really not the question of principle. If it be asserted, that the funds of private benevolence are insufficient to educate the nation, the difficulty does not exclusively embarrass this matter. Christians, and Christian Churches, see that many great effects are to be secured. They possess not the means. They look to the God whose are the gold and the silver. They cannot invoke any unholy alliance. In him is their help. But if the principle shifted with the means of carrying it out, we should soon find a hopeless check. We would Christianise the country with a system of purely evangelic means! We cannot do it, or, at least, it is said that we cannot. Are we to court worldly measures and resources? Are we to abandon the design to worldly men? In all such cases we are to do what we can. "For if there be, first, a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." If particular districts be marked as those which can neither originate nor sustain schools, the argument is larger than the instance supposed. The member of the Establishment may most consistently use it. But how is it "fitted" in a Dissenter's "lips?" Would he say that, in places which could not maintain their own temples and services, government should uphold them? Is not the appointment and sustentation of instruction in religion an establishment, as far as it goes, of that religion? The supposed inability of any men, distributively or collectively considered, to do any thing to its utmost success, can be no reason for not doing to the utmost of their capacity: and reason cannot be offered, by that partial failure, for the interposition of the very aid which, in all the most cognate relations and their most notable failures, is sternly refused.
Our country indisputably contains a hundred-fold of the wealth that would be required. There is one aspect in which such redundance stands forth with disgusting contrast to this appropriation of it. We pronounce no judgment, whether it be necessary or not, but we can only mourn to see the land covered with an army and a police. Every where force and defence are made to appear. Law and government grasp a rod of iron. The cannon, the sabre, the bayonet, the staff, wait for action. Prisons fill our landscapes and overhang our towns. How frightful must the morals of the people be to need this ever-present defiance and array! What enlightened and benevolent citizen does not desire that this expenditure could