« VorigeDoorgaan »
1835, and 1836, which it would, bowever, be superfluous to insert.
But if this be the state of primary education in the Continental states, what, we are entitled to ask, ought to be its condition in England ? Our political atmosphere has been comparatively serene; our social institutions have not suffered the shock of any disastrous revolution ; our country has not been ravaged, as has been the fate of every Continental state, by any armies. The great territorial possessions of our aristocracy, are but so many stores of wealth and power, by which the civilization of the people might be promoted. In every English proprietor's domain there ought to be, as in many there are, Schoolhouses with well trained masters, competent and zealous to rear the population in obedience to the laws, in submission to their superiors, and to fit them to strengthen the institutions of their country by their domestic virtues, their sobriety, their industry, and forethought, by the steadiness of purpose with which they pursue their daily labour, by the enterprise with which they recover from calamity, and by the strength of heart with which they are prepared to grapple with the enemies of their country. How striking is the contrast which the estates of the landed proprietors of almost all other European countries bear in all that relates to material wealth, to the domains of our English aristocracy! On the-Continent you are met on every side by the proofs of meagre or exhausted re
In England we have no excuse; we have proofs of how much can be effected and at how little cost by the well directed energy of individuals, and we have in our eye examples among our peerage which cannot but be imitated as soon as they are generally known and appreciated.
Our great commercial cities and manufacturing towns contain middle classes whose wealth, enterprise, and intelligence have no successful rivals in Europe ; they have made this country the mart of the whole earth ; they have covered the seas with their ships, exploring every inlet, estuary or river which affords them a chance of successful trade. They have
be colonized almost every accessible region, and from all these
sources, as well as from the nightly and daily toil of our work-
form of hardy and continued exertion on the sea and on the bet toks shore, wealth has been derived, which has supported England
in unexampled struggles ; yet between the merchants and ma-
countrymen, can no longer be neglected, if we are not preIn een
pared to substitute a military tyranny or anarchy for the moral
subjection which has hitherto been the only safeguard of de England. At this hour military force alone retains in sub
jection great masses of the operative population, beneath whose
In one other respect England stands in the strongest contrast
constant progression in our social institutions ; in no small degree to our insular situation, which makes the sea at once the guardian of our liberties and the source of our wealth. But any further delay in the adoption of energetic measures for the elementary education of her working classes is fraught, both with intestine and foreign danger-no one can stay the physical influences of wealth --some knowledge the people will acquire by the mere intercourse of society-many appetites are stimulated by a mere physical advancement. With increasing wants comes an increase of discontent, among a people who have only knowledge enough to make them eager for additional enjoyments, and have never yet been sufficiently educated to frame rational wishes and to pursue them by rational means. The mere physical influences of civilization will not, we fear, make them more moral or religious, better subjects of the state, or better Christians, unless to these be superadded the benefits of an education calculated to develop the entire moral and intellectual capacity of the whole population.
A great change has taken place in the moral and intellectual state of the working classes during the last half century. Formerly, they considered their poverty and sufferings as inevitable, as far as they thought about their origin at all; now, rightly or wrongly, they attribute their sufferings to political causes; they think that by a change in political institutions their condition can be enormously ameliorated. The great Chartist petition recently presented by Mr. Attwood, affords ample evidence of the prevalence of the restless desire for or ganic changes, and for violent political measures, which pervades the manufacturing districts, and which is every day increasing. This agitation is no recent matter; it has assumed various other forms in the last thirty years, in all of which the manufaeturing population have shown how readily masses of ignorance, discontent, and suffering, may be misled. At no period within our memory, have the manufacturing districts been free from some form of agitation for unattainable objects referable to these
At one period, Luddism prevailed ; at another, ma
chine-breaking ; at successive periods the Trades' Unions have endeavoured in strikes, by hired bands of ruffians, and by assassination, to sustain the rate of wages above that determined by the natural laws of trade; panics have been excited among the working classes, and severe runs upon the savings' banks effected from time to time. At one time they have been taught to believe that they could obtain the same wages if an eight hours bill were passed, as if the law permitted them to labour
twelve hours in the day; and mills were actually worked on 23,399 this principle for some weeks, to rivet the conviction in the
minds of the working class. The agitation becomes constantly more systematic and better organized, because there is a greater demand for it among the masses, and it is more profitable to the leaders. It is vain to hope that this spirit will subside spontaneously, or that it can be suppressed by coercion. Chartism, an armed political monster, has at length sprung from the soil on which the struggle for the forcible repression of these evils has occurred. It is as certain as any thing future is certain, that the anarchical spirit of the Chartist association will, if left to the operation of the causes now in activity, become every year more formidable. The Chartists think that it is in the power of Government to raise the rate of wages by interfering between the employer and the workman; they
imagine that this can be accomplished by a maximum of prices m; and minimum of wages, or some similar contrivance; and a
considerable portion of them believe that the burden of taxation and of all “fixed charges,” (to use Mr. Attwood's expression,) ought to be reduced by issuing inconvertible paper, and thus depreciating the currency. They are confident that a Parliament, chosen by universal suffrage, would be so completely under the dominion of the working classes, as to carry these measures into effect; and therefore they petition for universal soffrage, treating all truly remedial measures as unworthy of their notice, or as obstacles to the attainment of the only objects really important. Now the sole effectual means of preventing the tremendous evils with which the anarchical spirit
of the manufacturing population threatens the country, is by giving the working people a good secular education, to enable them to understand the true causes which determine their physical condition, and regulate the distribution of wealth among the several classes of society. Sufficient intelligence and information to appreciate these causes might be diffused by an education which could easily be brought within the reach of the entire population, though it would necessarily comprehend more than the mere rudiments of instrumental knowledge.
We are far from being alarmists ; we write neither under the influence of undue fear, nor with a wish to inspire undue fear into others. The opinions which we have expressed are founded on a careful observation of the proceedings and speeches of the Chartists, and of their predecessors in agitation in the manufacturing districts for many years, as reported in their newspapers; and have been as deliberately formed as they are deliberately expressed. We confess that we cannot contemplate with unconcern the vast physical force which is now moved by men so ignorant and so unprincipled as the Chartist leaders; and without expecting such internal convulsions as may deserve the name of civil war, we think it highly probable that persons and property will, in certain parts of the country, be so exposed to violence, as materially to affect the prosperity of our manufactures and commerce; to shake the mutual confidence of mer. cantile men, and to diminish the stability of our political and social institutions. That the country will ultimately recover from these internal convulsions we think, judging from its past history, highly probable ; but the recovery will be effected by the painful process of teaching the working classes, by actual experience, that the violent measures which they desire do not tend to improve their condition.
It is astonishing to us, that the party calling themselves Conservative, should not lead the van in promoting the diffusion of that knowledge among the working classes, which tends beyond any thing else to promote the security of property and the maintenance of public order. To restore the working classes