Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

counsels and precepts, and no real interest of society can remain unbenefited : order will find, in the operation of this system, its best security,-property, its safest bulwark,--and law, its truest reverence !

They who think of Revelation as only deserving a superficial perusal, will except to our statements. They can only wonder that we should place it as a theme worthy of continuous interest and research. But we know that it is “exceeding broad.” Its “ secrets of wisdom are double to that which is.” We see in it immortal fruit. Here lies, we believe, the corner-stone of all those principles, the rudiment of all those discoveries, which shall beautify our eternal existence. The “sayings of this Book” are not forgotten in heaven. It is there that they are set in their brightest light, and that they are unfolded in their largest development, and that they are transcribed in their purest record. The child who is taught to read, and to understand its simpler portions now, carries in his hand the words of eternal life. He who has entered upon the true examination of it, cannot fail to perceive how its essential truths may enduringly engage the human mind, nor to acquire the taste which rejects any lower theme. It is the beginning of wisdom ;” but distant worlds shall be its ever-climbing steps, and eternal ages its ever-glorious „waymarks.

Every other species of popular education will fail to promote the great ends of social improvement but that which has its basis in Scripture, and its principle in benevolence. You have to gain the confidence of the poor, as well as to instruct them. The chains of Xerxes might as easily bind the rush of the Hellespont, as you can shackle the popular opinion and feeling. Go and win the nation's heart. Go with the Sacred Volume in your hand, with the tranquil atmosphere of the sacred day around you, your lips breathing prayer and distilling knowledge, leading your young catechumens into the Christian Temple,—and long arrears of vengeance shall be cancelled, and a thousand wrongs shall at once be redressed. Only can you thus mould your people. They are tractable to light and love. Such a people are worthy to be respected, to be venerated : never need they to be feared. This is the palladium of our national existence, the raying out of our national glory, the building up of our national strength. “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.”*

* How little this system was understood, how unduly it was estimated, at first, may be seen in Winter Evenings or Lucubrations, by Vicesimus Knox, vol. i. 48, “On the Beneficial Effects of Sunday Schools.” The Article is intended to be laudatory,– but it is “ faint praise.”

CHAPTER VII.

ON FOREIGN SYSTEMS AND MEANS OF EDUCATION.

If any thing could bring to light the deep ignorance of France, — the reputed nation of intellectual vivacity and refinement, it was her Revolution. Instead of being the result of the strong expansion of mind, it failed from the want of it. Knowledge would have preserved all its blessings and prevented all its calamities. Never had a people a juster ground of quarrel, even to the last appeal: liberty has not ceased to mourn its bitter discomfiture by the betrayal of their folly. They threw away the noblest chance ever given to a nation of striking down tyranny throughout the world. What must have been the mental debasement of a people where the poissarde and the chiffonnier were often the principal leaders, and the lowest fauxbourg sent forth their daily report of the national destinies! It is in vain to blame the illuminati. Great as was their guilt, this was not their doing, nor any result of their influence.* There were, however, statesmen and publicists who saw the cause of failure, -men of benevolence and virtue, who abhorred the hideous crimes which stained that great event, crimes that have for ever robbed it of all authority as an example, and that for half a century have served for a plea to strengthen the most iron despotisms. These patriots saw that education had alone been wanting to have given freedom, - rational, constitutional, legalised, -to mankind. Early as 1794, the Convention passed a decree for the establishment of normal schools, the first use, we believe, of the word in this connection.* The schoolmaster was therefore to be created. Napoleon in 1802 established the ECOLES PRIMAIRES. Education could not prosper where the conscription counted out the rising race : the youth of that empire was drafted for the carnage of far distant battle fields. The reinstatement of the ancient dynasty was unfavourable to schools which were strictly secular; and more religious seminaries well nigh absorbed them. Notwithstanding, the Minister of Public Instruction took them under his care and direction : and they still received a support

* See Mounier, with the remarks of Lord Jeffrey on it in the first Number of the Edinburgh Review; as also those of Lord Brougham in the 3rd vol, of his Political Sketches.

* “La Convention s'etait imposée la mission de regénérer la France ; elle procéda par la destruction de ce qui existait, avec l’ intention de tout reconstruire sur des bases plus solides et plus larges. . . . Mais si grande que fut sa puissance, elle s' en exagera quelquefois l' entendue, et l'expérience nous a appris (leçon retentissante et profonde) que s' il suffit d'un décret ou d'une loi pour abattre et desorganizer, il faut d'autres moyens pour reedifier.”_ Ecoles Royales de France. Par Alexandre de Saillet, p. 316.

from the national revenue. But superstition was in this affair too confident, and the second Revolution opened with a prospect, bright and auspicious, for national education. With the principle of such government interference, we are not now called to deal : facts alone concern us. The present Monarch

-in exile himself a teacher of youth—put himself at the head of the instructors of his people; and in the memorable law of June 26, 1833, he demands the presentation of a triennial report, to himself personally, of all these Elementary Schools. In the return offered by M. Villemain, we find the following particulars. Thirty-three thousand and ninety communes, out of the whole number of thirty-seven thousand two hundred and ninety-five, have now these primary schools. The children admitted to them amount to 3,000,000. During the past five years, £1,200,000. have been spent in building or purchasing school rooms. There are also many classes for adults. These include 68,500 persons, who repair to them in the evenings, after daily labour, crowding from the champ and the atelier, — and during the hours of the Sabbath. There are 555 Infant schools, beautifully called Salles D’Asyle, — which receive a total of 51,000 scholars. Each commune must, for itself, or in conjunction with others, form one of these primary schools. The admission is gratuitous in all these communal establishments, where poverty cannot afford the ordinary terms, which are very low. Each citizen

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »