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EDUCATION ESSENTIAL FOR ALL CLASSES.
further than some think prudent or proper;
and last, though not least, Infant Education. Education, it is ad- . mitted by all, is requisite for those whom the bounty of Providence has placed in the higher stations of society; it is requisite for them, in many instances, to enable thein to discharge the duties of those posts of honour and authority which their rank entitles and demands thern lo fill; it is requisite as a mcans of employing pleasantly and profitably that time, which an exemption from the penalty of earning their bread by the swcat of their brow, leaves at their disposal; and education is likewise requisite, as conferring upon them that dignified superiority in the eyes of their inferiors, which alone can claim respect and obedience But these rcasons cannot be urged in behalf of the education of those destined to fill stations of servitude, whose lives are to be passed in laborious-occupa tion; and many have imagined, therefore, that education is useless, or worse than useless, to the working classes; that it has a tendency to make them discontented with their condition, and neglectful of its duties. These are certainly weighty charges against education, and deserve the sc rious consideration of every reflecting man, before he lends his aid to its promotion; nor will we deny that, at first sight, these objections appear plausible. It does not sccin improbable that various conditions of mind should be requisite to the varied condition and stations of society. I will even confess myself to have been al first startled by that very specious term, over-education. It arose in the path of my duty and labours with a very formidable appcarance. 1 proceeded to examine it more closely by the light of truth and rcąson, aided by experience, and the phantom opponent vanished into thin air. It should not be forgotten, that the very same apprehensions have been raised, and the same cry set up, at every former step of knowledge.
When the art of Printing was first introduced into this
country, a period which may be regarded as the appearance of the intellectual sun above the horizon, to illuminate the world which had before enjoyed but a dim and twilight perception of its glory,-when, I say, this inestimable art was introduced, a cry was raised that it was a species of Necromancy, invented by the evil one, for a purpose which it could not ultimately fail to answer, --the total subversion of all order and good government. These fears, however, have not been realized; yet it cannot be denied that the press has been made too frequently the instrument for diffusing notions which have such a tendency. What then? Are we to regard the press as an evil? Surely not; for it has disseminated that knowledge which not only neutralizes all the pernicious doctrines, to the spread of which bad men have made it subservient, but it cherishes and promotes those principles of virtue and order which are alike favourable to individual and social happiness.
I have dwelt thus long on the fears entertained from the diffusion of knowledge through the medium of the art of printing, and the very different effects which, in spite of its occasional perversion, have resulted to the working classes, because there is something peculiarly analogous in the apprehensions of many as to the effects of education, and those which experience has already demonstrated as likely to result from its progress, rightly applied, even amongst little children. What evil has not in former days been prophesied would accrue to society from even putting the Scriptures into the hands of the laity in the mother tongue, and especially the lower orders ? What dreadful consequences have there not been anticipated from such proceedings? It has been stated that it would lead to infidelity, rebellion, and bloodshed. I would not add another syllable in refutation of, or comment on, such a sentiment, nor will I bring forward instances for consideration of parallel cases, but at once
proceed to the subject now specifically engaging our altention, namely, the propriety of educating and training the children of the poor from the carliest possible period This may be demonstrated, first, as productive of the im. provement and happiness of ils immediate objects; and, secondly, in rendering them more disposed in after ycars, and better fitted, lo discharge the duties of their respective stations, and, therefore, as being likely to incrcase the comforts and happiness of their superiors. It is a notion as derogatory to the justice of God, as it is unjust and unphilosophical, lo suppose that He ever crcated faculties in the mind of any human being, which lle never intended should be cultivated, or that happiness or intellectual plcasures are to be consined to any particular rank or condition of life That mutual dependence on each other, which is the basis on which the beautiful fabric of socialorder is rcared, was not laid at the expense of the happi. ness of those who were to occupy the lower stations of the building There is a more equal distribution of the rcal blessings of life than many suppose ; I say of the real blessings of life; for there are many things esteemed to be blessings which are in reality quite the reverse
The poor man is not excluded from the enjoyment of those delights which the wonders and beauties of physical nature afford; nor is he deprived of those inexhaustible sources of plcasure which the assections of the heart originale As a husband, he enjoys the love and kind- . ness of the partner of his toil, the more welcome as his feclings are humanized, and as crowning the labours of the day. As a father, he feels all those kindly emotions which are known only to the bosom of the parent;
66 For him the housewife stirs the ev'ning fire;
The lisping children clainber on his knec.” As a servant, he not is less happy in the possession of his employer's approbation, than that employer in the pos. session of a saithful and intelligent servant. Born in a
highly distinguished and highly favoured land, he may, and ought, to participate in the glory of his country, as proudly in his cottage, as a noble in his hall. As a Chris. tian, he kneels as thankfully and as acceptably before the altar of his God, as though a star were at his breast, or a coronet on his head. But why, it may be asked, am I drawing this picture? It is rather, some will say, what a poor man ought to be, or might be, than what he is. I admit the truth of this; it is the picture of a man whom education has taught to enjoy the blessings of his own station, without envying that of his wealthier neighbour; it is the description of a condition to which a rightly-directed education has a tendency to bring the whole of the labouring classes. But hitherto we have been treating children too frequently as parrots; they have been taught good things by rote; much head-knowledge has been given, but the heart and affections have been entirely neglected. Who are the most discontented with their situations ? Those who see in them the least to enjoy. Who are the murmurers against all law and order? The intellectual cottager by his fire-side? No;--the ignorant pot-house politician, who deserts his own fire-side, his home, and his children, to grumble and find fault with all around him; and who thinks that the happiness of his wealthier neighbours con. sists in the grandeur they display, the ease which they enjoy, and who, therefore, repining at his own humble lot, bends his neck unwillingly to the yoke of industry. Who are the most discontented with their stations ?--the most neglectful of their duty ? The police reports inform us, that they are the most ignorant and most vicious, who know no enjoyments but such as brutalize themselves and impoverish their families. These are the characters who are discontented with their lot and neglectful of their duty; and, alas! who too frequently put the country to an expense to enforce them to obey the laws, or ultimately to transport them out of it. And yet the educated, and com
paratively intellectual, poor man, he does not scc so much to pine at in his fate; he feels that it offers many and higher enjoyments; he does not behold so much lo envy in the wcalthier condition of his neighbour; he perceives that mutual dependence is the result of the disserent grades existing in society, and that society itself could no more exist in a state of order without these grades, than the human body could exist and perform its functions without its subordinate members; and, therefore, he chccrfully acquiesces in what he believes to be the all-wise dispensation of Providence and the will of God. An improved taste, that can feel plcasure in the hour of relaxation, without sccking for it in drunkenness or debauchery; an expanded hcart that will feel interested and cager lo promote the welfare of others; a contented mind, a godly and righteous life. these are the beneficial effects of which a proper cultiva tion of the young faculties is productive, individually, lo the poor.
We now take a view of its effects in regard to society at large Ridiculous as the supposition is, there are not wanting persons who seem to imagine, that if the progress of knowledge be universally encouraged, it will eventually prove fatal to the useful arts; that we shall at last to have to wander barefoot and houseless, whilst our bricklayers are engaged, perhaps, in chemical analization, and our shoc makers busy writing odes and sonnets; whilst our ladies'-maids, house-maids, and other description of female servants, will be so fully occupied in reading the same, as lo neglect the duties which they were engaged to perform. I would fain spcak comfortably and soothingly to those who have such hypochondriacal apprehensions, and shew them the folly of such notions A Burns, a Bloomfield, a Gifford, a Carey, may, as splendid rarities, sometimes arise amongst the sons of labour, discovering talents no less lo the honour of their country than their class : but there really no reason to fear that such characters will ever be