Page images

to invade what is equally the right of Protestant or Catholic by raising a hurrah and bringing together an audience to applaud every sentiment of religious narrowness will never prevail with the Massachusetts legislature or with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Words which, in their scathing contempt, must have sounded sadly to the poor ignorant bigots who probably looked on themselves as rather estimable people than otherwise. Two only of the other speakers for the bill call for any notice. One is Rev. Mr. Leyden, once a Catholic, now an “evangelist " and follower of the worthy Mr. Fulton, who retailed stale falsehoods against the Church. The other, the venerable Dr. Cyrus A. Bartol, is worthy of mention as one of the few on the side who can be spoken of with respect. His remarks, however, cannot have brought great comfort to his friends. He professed himself alarmed at the want of religion and manners in the young. “I think,” he said, “there is tremendous power in the accusation that our schools are Godless."

At the last meeting, the Catholic position on education was stated by the Rev. Thomas Magennis, of Jamaica Plain, and Mr. Donnelly made the closing speech. This gentleman was practically the Catholic leader during the hearings, and by his skill and energy contributed largely to the result. The auctioneer closed for the bill, declaring that he was opposed to the Catholic Church, " that great political commercial machine," assuming control.

The meetings at last were over, and two points were evident to all. First, that the majority of the committee had willingly or unwillingly been made the tools of the “Know-Nothing” clique for an attack on Catholic education ; secondly, that the intelligence of the community, as shown at the hearings, was against the bill. These facts and others, that have been mentioned in the preceding pages, were stated in a pamphlet, the title of which is at the head of this article. This was sent to all the members of the legislature shortly after the close of the hearings. The compilers were so

. unkind to the friends of the bill as to print in parallel columns the names of the chief speakers for and against it.

The Committee on Education was in no hurry to report. It is understood that at the outset the majority favored the bill. Indeed, several members of the committee that had framed the bill were on the committee to which it was referred, and they can hardly have found the hearings pleasant. They were not the men, however, to reject it entirely, nor were they so infatuated as to imagine it could pass, although they were cheered by a petition from Mr. Fulton's partisans to the number of one hundred and forty, to report it as it stood. At length, after several weeks' delay, they reported a bill, the gist of which was that children of from fourteen to fifteen who could not read and write should be sent to the public school, and that private schools having children between certain ages should furnish a register, no penalty, however, being imposed for failure to do so. This melancholy apology for the measure, heralded with such a flourish of trumpets, went first to the Senate, where it was speedily killed. In view of this result, it is amusing to note the mock modesty of the peroration which concludes the report of the majority of the committee that presented the original bill. “In conclusion, the committee ventures to express the hope that the result of its labors may receive such favorable consideration at the hands of the General Court that its appointment may in some measure be justified, and that the Commonwealth may receive some sufficient return for the expense incurred.” Sweet hope, but vain!

There is little doubt that the present anti-Catholic movement is partly for political effect. It is not likely, however, to be a useful party weapon, for Democrats can rival Republicans in pledging themselves to defend the public schools with as much relevancy as Mrs. Micawber reiterated that she never would desert Mr. Micawber. It is well for us that it is so, for the Catholic cause could only suffer in the long run from any political alliance. The movement is the work of a few men, and is the more contemptible that it is conducted apparently with the express purpose of deceiving the ignorant and of embittering bigots. The past winter has taught two important lessons. We Catholics must not allow our contempt for such agitation to induce us to stand aside and offer no opposition. If we had not fought the now defunct bill from the beginning, but had assumed that its own weakness would be fatal to it before the legislature, instead of winning a decisive victory, instead of showing publicly how puny were its friends and how strong its opponents, we should have fought an unplanned battle, and very possibly have met with defeat.

The second and most encouraging lesson is, that the facts once fairly presented, justice is far stronger than anti-Catholic bigotry in Massachusetts.


To say that the Concord School of Philosophy is a New Eng

land echo of Hegel is a criticisin that does not in the least invalidate its teachings in the opinion of its disciples. Hegel to them is a master of infinite meaning, to be indefinitely interpreted and reverently followed. To allege that its tenets are pantheistic is to attack it at a point where victory would be fruitless. Its exponents admit the force of the argument, and dispassionately ask : “What of it? If pantheism be the logical outcome, let us accept it.” To push them to the practical conclusions of pantheism in the ethical world but serves to drive them to the intangible stronghold of the phenomenal world. Things of time are only illusions, cloud-shapes, without permanence, and the right and wrong of the human act, although of temporal moment, are in the end indifferently merged in the Eternal.

The adherents of Concord do not stand on the same ground with ourselves. They have assumed a position which we in vain assail with the ordinary weapons of logic. This for two reasons; first, because they have accepted as a premise a principle altogether at variance with reason, and secondly, because they have failed to precise the true nature of the rational faculty itself. The principle of contradiction, as an instance, has no force as against them, because what the finite reason perceives to be contradictory is seen by Concord to be absolute unity in its ultimate resolution in the Infinite. It is simply the imperfection of two finites that holds them in opposition. Lift their limitations, and we have a perfect reconciliation. Again, the human reason is a finite manifestation of the infinite reason, or more accurately, is the infinite reason welling up into consciousness in this world of time and space.

So much currente calamo. To come down to a particular consideration of the Concord School, we may take, as a fair and as nearly complete an exposition of its doctrine as we have been able to find, a pamphlet entitled, “ Philosophy in Outline,” by Professor William T. Harris, the now acknowledged leader of the school. As the title-page explains, this brochure is "a brief exposition of the method of philosophy and its results in obtaining a view of Nature, Man, and God." This is the only effort we have yet seen to put the teachings of Concord into systematic shape, and from it we may, perhaps, gather what is the actual thought of the school touching these grave problems.

Professor Harris, or let us say the Concord School, to avoid all personalities, begins with the consideration of the nature of time

and space. Time and space, we are told, are presuppositions of experience. Space is first treated.

"In all experience we deal with sensible objects and their changes. The universal condition of the existence of sensible objects is space. Each object is limited or finite, but the universal condition of the existence of objects is self-limited or infinite. An object of the senses possesses extension and limits, and consequently has an environment. We find ourselves necessitated to think an environment in order to think the object as a limited object.

"Here we have, first, the object, and secondly, the environment, as mutually limiting and excluding, and as correlatives. But the ground or condition of both is space; space makes both possible.” (Page 4, $ 4.)

Space, we are told in the above quotation, is a presupposition to experience, and the method of arriving at this conclusion is placed before us.

To think any sensible object is to think it as limited; to think it as limited is to think it over against another sensible object which limits it. Therefore, to think any sensible object is to think it with an environment or in space. Admitting the force of this, where is there room for the conclusion that space presupposes the object? What is here meant by presupposes? Is it that there is an actual space pre-existing as a receptacle in which the object will find a place, or does it mean that the intellect already possesses the idea of space before it thinks any particular object as occupying it? From the context we infer the latter is the meaning, for in the next paragraph we are informed that “ space is a necessary idea." Accepting this meaning, what validity has it?

We are at once thrown upon Kant's a priori ideas of space and time, which Concord has naturally enough received as an inheritance from its German ancestry. To confute Kant is not now our purpose. To condemn Concord because it has adopted Kant's notions of time and space would be as futile as putting a fish in the sea to drown it. It is sufficient to say a few critical words upon the position assumed, no matter whence drawn, for we shall carefully refrain from coupling the Concord School with the name of any philosopher or philosophy.

Concord tells us that each sensible object is limited or finite. This we admit. We are also told that each sensible object has an environment, or something other than itself around it, which, in its turn, is limited by every other surrounding sensible object. This also may be conceded. “Here we have,” says Concord, "first, the object, and secondly, the environment, as mutually limiting and excluding, and as correlatives. But the ground or condition of both the object and its environment is space. Space makes both possible.” Space, then, is neither object nor environ

ment; it is a tertiuin quid. But what is this ter tium quid? The answer is given in the next paragraph:

“Space is a necessary idea. We may think this particular object or not-it may exist or it may not. So, too, this particular environment may exist or not, although some environment is necessary. But space must exist, whether this particular object or environment exists or not. Here we have three steps towards absolute necessity: (1) The object, which is not necessary, but may or may not exist-may exist now, but ceases after an interval ; (2) the environment, which must exist in some form if the object exists

a hypothetical necessity; (3) the logical condition of the object, and its environment, which must, as space, exist whether the object exists or not.”

From this we glean the following: Whether we think this or that object, which is particular and contingent, if we think any object at all, we must a fortiori think some environment; we have, therefore, a contingent and hypothetically necessary environment. But Concord, with a metaphysical agility which cannot be explained except as the inexplicable, bounds at once into an absolute necessity, and calls it a logical condition," which must, as space, exist whether the object exists or not." A little closer view may give us a little clearer insight into this wonderful process. Given an object and environment, every other object is the environment of each particular object. Every object, therefore, is

, environment in spatial relation to all other objects. For instance, the chair in which one is sitting, is an environment to the body, and the body in turn is environment to the chair. What, then, is space? We are assured by Concord that it is neither object nor environment. As every particular object in the universe may or may not exist, environment, which is made up of innumerable particular objects, may or may not exist. Therefore, environment is contingent-not necessary. But we have been told that some environment is necessary. Space is either made up of the sum total of object and environment, or it is a third something which is neither. If it be the first, it cannot be infinite, for each object and each environment is particular and contingent, and hence not necessary. Therefore, the sum-total which they consti

, tute is not necessary.

If it be a tertium quid, what may this be? Let us once more listen to Concord's own words:

Again, note the fact that the object ceases where the environment begins. But space does not cease with the object nor with the environment; it is continued or affirmed by each. The space in which the object exists is continued by the space in which its environment exists. Space is infinite."

Space is infinite, because every block of space is limited by another block, which makes it self-limited, that is to say, not limited

« PreviousContinue »