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over their present condition as their present condition is superior to that of the sayage.
In the condition of the poorer class especially, it is possible to effect a most beneficial change,
The capital evil under which they suffer, the great source of every other, is ignorance. It is melancholy to reflect on the profoundness of that ignorance. Those only whom philanthropy or piety has induced to mix with them, in order to ascertain their state, and to improve it, have any adequate conception of its extent. These benevolent persons know, and these alone really know, that, to unexercised minds the whole creation, and all its wonders and beauties are a blank; that of these unhappy people it is literally true, that they have eyes, but they see not, and understanding but they perceive not: that the most magnificent appearances in nature produce on them no impres. sion; that events the most momentous, affecting for ages the destiny of their whole race, excites in them no emotion ; that subjects the most important, involving their own highest happiness for life, and for immortality, create in them no interest ; that the vacuity of their minds is all but absolute; that this absence of any thing that
; approximates to an intellectual conception, regards alike the most common circumstances out of the routine of their ordinary occupations, and
the truths which it concerns them most to know. Yet there is abundant evidence that the minds of those in the lowest station might be awakened, their noblest faculties developed, and their highest improvement secured. They might be taught the value of the mind itself, and the importance of exercising and improving it. They might be taught the usefulness of knowledge, by being made to observe some of its most striking and advantageous applications to the purposes of life. They might be made acquainted with some of the more simple laws of nature, and with the true explanation of many of the phenomena depending upon them. That they should ever be able to understand the mysteries of science, or to comprehend her more profound investigations, it were vain to hope ; but from the ease with which very young and unexpanded minds understand the rudiments of science, sufficiently to comprehend the principles on which many of the phenomena of nature depend, that excite our daily attention, and, when those principles are understood, our daily wonder and admiration, it is obviously possible to convey to the lowest of the people much of this knowledge, and thus to enable them to look on the world as an interpreted and intel. ligible volume," instead of a total blank, and to understand the true order and beauty of nature, instead of acquiescing in the most contemptible accounts of phenomena which cannot altogether
and at all times escape their notice. With the principle of many of the arts, and especially of
, those which are connected with their own calling, they might be made intimately acquainted, and experience has shown that their information might be extended, without disadvantage, to some knowledge of geography, of the solar system, of the history of their own country, and of the ancient world. With the fundamental principles of government, and the fundamental duties of governors and of the governed ; with the essen; tial principles of political economy, with those especially, by a regard to which it is indispensable to their independence and comfort that they should regulate their own conduct, they might be made fully acquainted. With the
doctrines and duties of religion ; with the attributes, dispensations, and government of the Supreme Being ; with the true object and end of the present life; with the evidence that there is a future state of reward and punishment, of immortality and ever-increasing happiness to the virtuous, and of just retribution to the vicious ; with the prins
; cipal historical facts which establish the truth of Christianity, and the manner in which the simplicity, the sublimity, and the purity of its prea çepts prove its divine origin, with its undisputed doctrines, with its controverted doctrines, with the chief arguments employed to establish and to disprove each: with its holy precepts, and with the awful responsibility, which so much light and such inestimable advantages attach to every reasonable creature,- with all this, every individual in the lowest class of society might be made perfectly familiar. Is it possible to doubt that so much instruction might be communicated ? Say that the distribution of labor shall remain for ever the same as it is at present, and the time devoted to it the same, (which cannot be,) still let it be considered what might be done in the years of childhood, during the period of youth, in the hours of the Sunday, and how much persons instructed to a certain extent may be fairly sup
a posed capable of improving themselves in those hours of leisure which come to all. There is no reason to doubt that all which is here anticipated might be accomplished, even by individual exertion : but if the efforts of individuals were to receive that aid which they ought to receive; if that national energy which has been devoted to the purposes of a criminal ambition were directed to the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the people--what might not be effected?
“ If a contemplative and religious man, looking back through one or two centuries, were enabled to take, with an adequate comprehension of intellect, the sum and value of so much of the astonishing course of the national exertions of this
country, as the Supreme Judge has put to the criminal account of pride and ambition ; and if he could then place in contrast to the transactions on which that mighty amount has been expended, a sober estimate of what so much exerted vigor might have accomplished for the intellectual and moral exaltation of the people, it could not be without an emotion of horror that he would say, Who is to be accountable, who has been accountable for this difference " *
There cannot be in the Christian world any such thing as a nation habitually absolved from the duty of raising its people from ignorance in consideration of a necessity of expending its vigor in foreign enterprise. The concern of redeeming the people from a degraded condition is a duty at all events and to an entire certainty ; a duty, imperative and absolute; but whether rulers and the ascendant classes will co-operate or not, individuals must persevere. And, at least for ages to come, it is to individual exertion we must look for every thing that is effectual in the promotion of this great work.
And let the promoters of education never forget, that in every school they establish, they oblige a multitude of youthful spirits to direct
* Foster's Evils of Popular Ignorance.