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the human mind whose progress to the final development appointed for it is inevitable.
One of the remarks which has been made will probably be disputed at the outset. It will perhaps be asserted that the people of this country are still in a condition of great ignorance; and this assertion will be supported by a reference to the various statistical returns connected with the subject; that, in short, as regards them, the experiment of a national education has yet to be tried. To a certain extent, we readily admit this. The amount of ignorance which yet exists amongst the lower classes is very great, and much to be deplored, yet it is not so great as to constitute a national condition—it is the exception, and not the rule. In every town and village throughout the country some provision has been made to meet the exigency. The Church has especially aroused herself to this work, and the best energies of many of her servants have been exclusively devoted to the instruction of the poor; whilst the various Dissenting bodies have established schools in connection with their chapels, and have undoubtedly endeavoured to impart a certain amount of knowledge to the children of their followers. To say that there have been no corresponding effects, would be opposed both to the probabilities of the case and to the fact ; for, however it may be true that the agricultural poor are yet in much ignorance, it is equally true that the amount of ignorance is not so great as it was, and that in the manufacturing districts, with the exception perhaps of the colliers and miners, there are very few who have not had the means of instruction within their reach, and have not availed themselves of them.
But it is necessary to understand what are meant by the terms s education” and “ignorance;" for with many who reason upon this subject they have very different significations. The meaning which we attach to these words will appear in the course of these remarks. It is our intention not to enter into all the definitions which exist, but to confine ourselves to the one which finds most favour with the philosophic Liberals of the day. Some of the advocates of a national education argue from principles of pure political expediency; they take account only of the mind, and not of the spirit--they deal with men in the mass as so much machinery; one system is to be employed with all; the same amount of information administered, without the slightest provision for, and calculation of, the various differences of mental power and capacity which exist in the constitutions of men, or with the firm assurance, that if such differences do exist they are not owing to anything inherent in man himself, but to the want of aptitude and skill in the system to which he has been
subjected, and the teacher under whom he has been placed. By "education,” they understand such an amount of information as shall render men generally intelligent; one sure result of which they presume will be, an enlightened understanding of the several relations which bind society together, and a consequent right estimation of the duties, both social and political, which devolve upon every man in his place. By “ignorance," they understand the want of this knowledge, the absence of which must of necessity be manifested in the continual transgression of the laws which society has imposed upon itself for its well-being, both social and politic. In the systems which they contemplate, religious instruction is considered not to be necessary. Even if it be permitted as an auxiliary, it is by no means to be required as an integral part, because, whatever may be its influence on individuals, it is held that the tendency of its doctrines is to render men egotistical, and that its spirit is of too selfish a character to adapt itself to the many wants and conflicting interests of society at large. Some, who thus define " education” and “ignorance," have, in common with all thinking persons of the present day, a perception of the broken and disorganized condition of ranks, classes, and institutions amongst men, and seek earnestly for a system sufficiently catholic to embrace all within its sphere--sufficiently efficacious to reconstitute the broken elements of society into a state of peace and wellbeing. The education which they propose will, they think, effect this; and they exclude religious instruction, because in it they can only see, whilst admitting it to have an individual influence, a germ which is sure to be evolved in multiform varieties of fresh division. We need scarcely say, that although we deplore the condition of things as they are, and acknowledge that, as religious instruction is administered, divisions must continue, we are entirely opposed to any system of education from which it must be excluded; and deny the assertion, that religion-and by that we mean the Christian religion—is not sufficiently large and catholic, in its purpose, spirit, and tendency, to embrace every possible condition and necessity of mankind, or that division is the proper consequence of a right understanding of its principles and precepts.
By those who understand the word “ignorance” as we have explained it, and who assume that ignorance and crime go together, reference is often made to the criminal returns, to prove the great amount of one by the prevalence of the other. This test seems to us, in many respects, inconclusive. The fact itself is disputed; it is said that these returns do not bear out the conclusions that are drawn from them; that crime has not decreased in the same ratio in which education has been ex
tended. There are, moreover, causes totally distinct from the existence of ignorance in the criminal, to which, unhappily, most of the crimes which are now committed may be traced; and it is a fact too little considered, that whilst many criminals are altogether ignorant, many also are not,* and that the most revolting of the capital crimes which have of late disgraced the annals
of civilization, both in this and the sister country, have been committed by individuals of more than ordinary acquirements and some standing in society. Crime is not the result of an ignorance of the law of man, but of the law of God. There are few, who are unacquainted with the laws of the land in which they live, who do not know, for instance, that murder and theft, offences against the person or property—are transgressions of the law, and as such are punishable. It is not from ignorance in this respect; it is not from the restrictive fear of the penalties which society imposes that crimes are commonly committed.
With one large class of criminals the hope of escape is greater than the fear of detection; and with another there are incentives to crime of too powerful a nature to be opposed by the weak barriers of educational restraint, or even the terrors of a violated and avenging law. The philosophic systems of education which are proposed will meet neither case. they take it for granted that crime results from an ignorance of human laws, which is not the fact; and having excluded religious instruction, they have no provision to meet that ignorance of the law of God which really does exist, and which is, with the greater portion of criminals, the cause of transgression. In the other, something is wanted which shall take away or weaken the incentives to crime--something which shall give bread to the hungry, work to him who is willing to work, and a fair return to the workman for his labour-something which shall ameliorate the condition of destitution, which drives so large a portion of our suffering countrymen into the prisoner's dock and felon's cell. The systems of education which the political economists of the present day too commonly put forward as the panacea of all moral evil are, in this respect, it is almost needless to say, utterly inefficacious and powerless. Like most of the systems emanating from a body of men, who, in the exposition of their truly unphilosophical and ephemeral theories, or the gratification of their selfish views, have led the labouring classes of this land from one degree of political delusion and actual misery to another, till the cup of their suffering is well nigh full, they suppose a power of comprehension and a placidity of reflection on the part of the poor which can only exist in situations of comfort and contentment—they provide for an amount of intellectual capacity which does not exist—they display an ignorance of the actual condition of the lower orders -they never contemplate the varieties of disposition and character, the deep things hidden in the hearts and spirits of the meanest, which will continually arise to stultify the plans of him who, having no higher opinion of man than that he is a machine, attempts to deal with him as such. however fair they may seem in the vision of the dreamer, become, in the present day, a bitter mockery, when applied to the reality-the reality of starving men, with those whom they love, failing day by day for want of necessary sustenance, asking for work that they may honestly maintain themselves and their families, and, unable to procure it, submitted, in this condition, to the operation or judgment of theories concocted amidst the comfortable appliances of some well-appointed library, which either take no account whatever of their misery, or suppose it a trifling evil, which ought to be fully met and compensated by the amount of intellectual entertainment which it is proposed to provide. The utmost that can be done by any educational system, in the extremity of the present times, is to give the suffering poor some principles which shall be sufficiently powerful to enable them, when a condition of privation is inevitable, to bear that privation with as much patience as is possible. Religious instruction will do this, and nothing else---a right knowledge of God and his law—the implantation of the faith, which shall, in the experience of his mercy and goodness, minister comfort and strength in situations where earthly comfort has no voice and fleshly strength no power. We know that mere instruction will not give faith-that this must be of God's grace; but we know
In the one,
* In proof of these observations, we would refer to the criminal tables lately laid before Parliament. These returns contain also a table of the ratio in which crime has increased or decreased for the last eight years. They record for the seven years previous to 1843 (we quote from the prefatory remarks) most uninterrupted increase of commitments, and an aggregate increase of above fifty per cent." There was in the year 1843, as compared with 1842, a decrease, but this was "in offences against property committed without violence;" wbilst “in the offences against the person there was an increase of fourteen to one per cent. on the whole class, every one of the most atrocious offences showing a considerable increase.” The degrees of instruction of the criminals are also calculated in the same tables for the same period. “They exhibit great uniformity, and prove the gradual spread of instruction amongst the lowest class of the community, by the steady decrease in the proportion of criminals unable to read or write;" but it must be remembered, that whilst they prove a great decrease in
he amount of uneducated criminals, they prove a great increase on the whole sum of criminals, and therefore of criminals who have received some education. The proportion last year of those who could read and write imperfectly, to those utterly ignorant, was as fourteen to nine ; that of criminals possessing a superior education was about one in nine,
also that religious instruction is, with his blessing, a means to faith, and that the one cannot be looked for in the systems of education which exclude the other. Such systems, where they have been partially tried, have failed—they will fail again and again, to whatever extent they are carried ; as all plans for the moral welfare of man have failed, and must fail, which do not take into their calculation the spirit of man, and provide for its many wondrous developments and pressing exigencies. It will be answered, that any dealing with the spirit of man passes the province of the political economist and the statesman. This we are aware of, but it is part of the science of statesmanship to know what is not, as well as what is, within the power of the statesman; and if he cannot of himself accomplish, by the secular machinery of which he moves the springs, the right direction of men's spirits, it is his duty to use the aid of those whom God has set and appointed for that purpose. He has the means of coercion and restraint; he has the law at his command; he can, to a certain extent, preserve order in society; he can prevent, in ordinary times, the aggressive attacks of licentiousness and misrule : but when he endeavours, by any system purely philosophical or political, to instil principles into the minds of the masses which shall be sufficiently powerful to regulate their moral conduct, he passes, utterly passes, the bounds of his office, and attempts a work for which God has given him no authority, no capacity, no strength whatever. To the Church, and the Church alone, belongs the province of the spiritual ; and if the statesman would educate the poor, forasmuch as there is no true education of man without the right informing regulation of his spirit as well as of his mind, he must, when he has provided all that belongs to his office to furnish, associate the ministers of the Church with himself in the work, and leave to them the instruction of the people in that fear of God which truly is the beginning of all wisdom, and without which knowledge, no matter what may be its extent, is a curse to its possessor and a bane to all around him.
It is very remarkable how utterly that which is spiritual in the constitution of man seems to be overlooked or forgotten. Almost all the political theorists of the present day pass it by as a thing of nought, existing only in the conceptions of priestly dreamers, or as forming merely a legitimate subject for a curious investigation into the nature of superstition—a subject of intellectual speculation, having no result in action which can be important to society. It is the last thing which they who would treat of man as he is, or who have to deal with the masses of mankind, think it necessary to consider; and yet there