Изображения страниц

of the “profanum vulgus,"* and Cicero of the “ turba et colluvione ;'t we should remember, however, that in the one instance it is as “Musarum sacerdos," I and that in the other it is with high aspirations “ ad illud divinum animorum concilium cætumque.” § But when they, who themselves were but recently raised in property above the industrious classes, speak disdainfully of them, who wear the marks of their origin in their ignorance, derision and disgust may well contend together in our breast. They, in troth, must gravely declare their fears for the safety of society, should education spread! They confidently foresee that soon the poor will be “above working,” and “get the upper hand !” Why ought any man to work, in their sense of the term, who does not please? Why do they not work? The sauciness of bloated wealth, the giddiness of sudden elevation, are, of all impertinences, the most difficult to bear. “There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes, and their eyelids are lifted up.” They may lull their fears about “the upper hand.” In their sense of the word, that ascendancy is safe. Knowledge has no tendency, no power, to usurp it. But by the combination of other elements around that ascendancy, it may become less and less dignified and enviable. It may, and the time cannot

[ocr errors]

* “ The profane crowd.”_Carm : lib. iii. 1.
+ “The rabble and offscouring.”—De Senectute.

I “ Priest of the Muses.”
§ " The godlike concert and assemblage of minds.”

be distant, cease to draw forth the idol-honour which now is paid to it. It will in vain look around for that influence which it now commands. Mammon will be left alone in its temple: the image may be unspoiled, but only a scornful silence and solitude shall surround it, -its priests will have refused to offer and its votaries to adore. Nor can we doubt that there are other kinds of worship which are fated to be much reduced. Even now we feel that the true imperial names, the names which rule the world, are not those of sceptred monarchs or laureled heroes. These will, it may be for long time, command for themselves monuments and statues. But the men of intellectual originality and power, are the real potentates and conquerors. Theirs is no vulgar, fleeting, sway. They need not the honours of shrine and sculpture. Or, if these be awarded them, - if they lie inurned among the cloistered dust of kings and warriors, how does the mind feel at once the proper distinctions between the spoilers and instructors, the scourgers and benefactors, of our race !

That the tuition of the labouring orders must produce its effect upon the whole structure of society, is not denied. That inconveniences may arise from it; cannot be fairly contested. Any suddenness of movement, however, need not be feared; it is impossible. But the question occurs, Is society rightly based, and would not this pressure upon it, which can be only intellectual and moral, be advantageous ?

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

ot no

* 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 rest. 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

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »