An Essay on the Evils of Popular Ignorance
John Foster

Part 3 out of 5

be sometimes seen to do in the corner of the field where he is at work?

But perhaps it will be said, that the minds of the uncultivated order are
not generally in this state of utter inanity during their common
employments; but are often awake and busy enough in recollections,
fancies, projects, and the tempers appropriate; and that they abundantly
show this when they stop sometimes in their work to talk, or talk as they
are proceeding in it. So much the stronger, we answer, the argument for
supplying them with useful knowledge; for it were better their mental
being _were_ sunk in lethargy, than busy among the reported, recollected,
or imagined transactions, the wishes, and the schemings, which will be the
most likely to occupy the minds of persons abandoned to ignorance,
vulgarity, and therefore probably to low vice.

We may add to the representation, the manner in which they spend the part
of their time not demanded for the regular, or the occasional, exercise of
their industry. It is not to be denied that many of them have too much
truth in their pleading that, with the exception of Sunday, they have
little remission of their toils till they are so weary that the remainder
of the time is needed for complete repose. This is particularly the case
of the females, especially those who have the chief cares and the actual
work of a family. Nevertheless, it is within our constant observation that
a considerable proportion of the men, a large one of the younger men, in
the less heavily oppressed divisions of our population, do in fact
include, for substance, their manual employments within such limits of
time, as often to leave several hours in the day to be spent nearly as
they please. And in what manner, for the most part, is this precious time
expended by those of no mental cultivation? It is true, again, that in
many departments of labor, a diligent exertion during even this limited
space of the day, occasions such a degree of lassitude and heaviness as to
render it almost inevitable, especially in certain seasons of the year, to
surrender some moments of the spare time, beyond what is necessary for the
humble repast, to a kind of listless subsidence of all the powers of both
body and mind. But after all these allowances fully conceded, a great
number in the class under consideration have in some days several hours,
and in the whole six days of the week, on an average of the year, very
many hours, to be given, as they choose, to useful purposes or to waste;
and again we ask, where the mind itself has been left waste how _is_ that
time mostly expended?

If the persons are of a phlegmatic temperament, we shall often see them
just simply annihilating those portions of time. They will for an hour,
or for hours together, if not disturbed by some cause from without, sit
on a bench, or lie down on a bank or hillock, or lean on a wall, or fill
the fire-side chair; yielded up to utter vacancy and torpor, not asleep
perhaps, but more lost to mental existence than if they were; since the
dreams, that would probably visit their slumbers, would be a more lively
train of ideas than any they have awake. Of a piece with this is the
habit, among many of this order of people, of giving formally to sleep as
much as one-third part, sometimes considerably more, of the twenty-four
hours. Certainly there are innumerable cases in which infirmity, care,
fatigue, and the comfortlessness and penury of the humble dwelling,
effectually plead for a large allowance of this balm of oblivion. But
very many surrender themselves to this excess from destitution of
anything to keep their minds awake, especially in the evenings of the
winter. What a contrast is here suggested to the imagination of those who
have read Dr. Henderson's, and other recent descriptions, of the habits
of the people of Iceland!

These, however, are their most harmless modes of wasting the time. For,
while we might think of the many hours merged by them in apathy and
needless sleep, with a wish that those hours could be recovered to the
account of their existence, we might well wish that the hours could be
struck out of it which they may sometimes give, instead, to conversation;
in parties where ignorance, coarse vulgarity, and profaneness, are to
support the dialogue, on topics the most to their taste; always including,
as the most welcome to that taste, the depravities and scandals of the
neighborhood; while all the reproach and ridicule, expended with good-will
on those depravities, have the strange result of making the censors the
less disinclined themselves to practise them, and only a little better
instructed how to do it with impunity. In many instances there is the
additional mischief, that these assemblings for corrupt communication find
their resort at the public-house, where intemperance and ribaldry may
season each other, if the pecuniary means for the former ingredient can be
afforded, even at the cost of distress at home.--But without including
depravity of this degree, the worthlessness of the communications of a
number of grossly ignorant associates is easy to be imagined; besides that
most of us have been made judges of their quality by numberless occasions
of unavoidably hearing samples of them.

In the finer seasons of the year, much of these leisure spaces of time can
be expended out of doors; and we have still only to refer to every one's
own observation of the account to which they are turned, in the lives of
beings whose lot allows but so contracted a portion of time to be, at the
best, applied directly to the highest purposes of life.--Here the hater of
all such schemes of improvement, as would threaten to turn the lower order
into what that hater may probably call Methodists, (a term we venture to
interpret for him as meaning thoughtful beings and Christians,) comes in
with a ready cant of humanity and commiseration. And why, he says, with an
affected indignation of philanthropy, why should not the poor creatures
enjoy a little fresh air and cheerful sunshine, and have a chance of
keeping their health, confined as many of them are, for the greatest part
of the time, in narrow, squalid rooms, unwholesome workshops, and every
sort of disagreeable places and employments? Very true, we answer; and why
should not numbers of them be collected in groups by the road-side, in
readiness to find in whatever passes there occasions for gross jocularity;
practising some impertinence, or uttering some jeering scurrility, at the
expense of persons going by; shouting with laughter at the success of the
annoyance, or to _make_ it successful; and all this blended with language
of profaneness and imprecation, as the very life of the hilarity? Or why
should not the boldest spirits among them form a little conventicle for
cursing, blaspheming, and blackguard obstreperousness in the street, about
the entrance of one of the haunts of intoxication; where they are
perfectly safe from that worse mischief of a gloomy fanaticism, with which
they might have been smitten if seduced to frequent the meeting-house
twenty paces off? Or why should not the children, growing into the stage
called youth, be turned loose through the lanes, roads, and fields, to
form a brawling, impudent rabble, trained by their association to every
low vice, and ambitiously emulating, in voice, visage, and manners, the
ruffians and drabs of maturer growth? Or why should not the young men and
women collect in clusters, or range about or beyond the neighborhood in
bands, for revel, frolic, and all kinds of coarse mirth; to come back late
at night to quarrel with their wretched elders, who perhaps envy them
their capacity for such wild gaieties and strollings, while rating them
for their disorderly habits? We say where can be the harm of all this?
What reasonable and benevolent man would think of making any objection to
it? Reasonable and benevolent,--for these have been among the qualities
boasted for the occasion by the opposers of any materially improved
education of the people; while in such opposition they virtually avowed
their willing tolerance of all that is here described.

We have allowed most fully the plea of how little time, _comparatively_,
could be afforded to the concern of mental improvement by the lower
classes from their indispensable employments; and also that of the
consequent fatigue, causing a temporary incapacity of effort in any other
way. But this latter plea cannot be admitted without great abatement in
the case of our neglected _young_ people of the working classes; for when
we advert to their actual habits, we see that, nevertheless, time,
strength, and wakefulness, and spring and spirit for exertion, _are_ found
for a vast deal of busy diversion, much of it blended with such folly as
tends to vice.

If such is the manner in which the spare time of the week-days goes to
waste and worse, the Sunday is welcomed as giving scope for the same
things on a larger scale. It is very striking to consider, that several
millions, we may safely assert, of our English people, arrived at what
should be years of discretion, are almost completely destitute of any
manner of conscience respecting this seventh part of time; not merely as
to any required consecration of it to religion, but as to its being under
any claim or of any worth at all, otherwise than for amusement. It is
actually regarded by them as a section of time far less under obligation
than any other. They take it as so absolutely at their free disposal, by a
right so exclusively vested in their taste and will, that a demand made
even in behalf of their own most important interests, is contemptuously
repelled as a sanctimonious impertinence. If the idea occurs at all (with
multitudes it never does) of claims which they have heard that God should
make on the hours, it is dismissed with the thought that it really cannot
signify to him how creatures, condemned by his appointment to toil all the
rest of the week, may wish to spend this one day, on which the secular
taskmaster manumits them, and He, the spiritual one, might surely do as
much. An immense number pay no attention whatever to any sort of religious
worship; and many of those that do give an hour or two to such an
observance, do so, some of them as merely a diversification of amusement,
and the others by way of taking a license of exemption from any further
accountableness for the manner in which they may spend the day. It is the
natural consequence of all this, that there is more folly, if not more
crime, committed on this than on all the other six days together.

Thus man, at least _ignorant_ man, is unfit to be trusted with anything
under heaven; since a remarkable appointment for raising the general tenor
of moral existence, has with these persons the effect of sinking it. There
is interposed, at frequent regular intervals throughout the series of
their days, a richer vein, as it were, of time. The improvement of this,
in a manner by no means strained to the austerity of exercise prescribed
in the Puritan rules, might diffuse a worth and a grace over all the time
between, and assist them against the tendency there may be in its
necessary habits and employments, to depress the intelligent nature into
meanness or debasement. The space which they are passing over is marked,
at near intervals, with broad lines of a benignant light, which might
spread an appearance of mild lustre over the whole extent as contemplated
in retrospect; but how many, in looking back when near the end of their
progress, have to perceive its general shade rendered darker by the very
spaces where that light had been shed from heaven.

The Sundays of those who do not improve them to a good purpose, will
infallibly be perverted to a bad one. But it were still a melancholy
account if we could regard them as merely standing for nothing, as a blank
in the life of this class of the people. It is a deeply unhappy spectacle
and reflection, to see a man of perhaps more than seventy, sunk in the
grossness and apathy of an almost total ignorance of all the most
momentous subjects, and then to consider, that, since he came to an age of
some natural capacity for the exercise of his mind, there have been more
than three thousand Sundays. In their long succession they were _his
time_. That is to say, he had the property in them which every man has in
duration; they were present to him, he had them, he spent them. Perhaps
some compassionate friend may have been pleading in his behalf,--Alas!
what opportunity, what time, has the poor mortal ever had? His lot has
been to labor hard through the week throughout almost his whole life. Yes,
we answer, but he has had three thousand Sundays; what would not even the
most moderate improvement of so vast a sum of hours have done for him? But
the ill-fated man, (perhaps rejoins the commiserating pleader,) grew up
from his childhood in utter ignorance of any use he ought to make of time
which his necessary employment would allow him to waste. There, we reply,
you strike the mark. Sundays are of no value, nor Bibles, nor the enlarged
knowledge of the age, nor heaven nor earth, to beings brought up in
estrangement from all right discipline. And therefore we are pleading for
the schemes and institutions which will not _let_ human beings be thus
brought up.

In so pleading, we happily can appeal to one fact in evidence that the
intellectual and religious culture, in the introductory stages of life,
tends to secure that the persons so trained shall be, when they are come
to maturity, marked off from the neglected barbarous mass, by at least an
external respect, but accompanied, we trust, in many of them, by a still
better sentiment, to the means for keeping truth and duty constantly in
their view. Observe the numbers now attending, with a becoming deportment,
public worship and instruction, as compared with what the proportion is
remembered or recorded to have been half a century since, or any time
previous to the great exertions of benevolence to save the children of the
inferior classes from preserving the whole mental likeness of their

It can be testified also, by persons whose observation has been the
longest in the habit of following children and youth from the instruction
of the school institutions into mature life, that, in a gratifying number
of instances, they have been seen permanently retaining too much love of
improvement, and too much of the habit of a useful employment of their
minds, to sink, in their ordinary daily occupations, into that wretched
inanity we were representing; or to consume the free intervals of time in
the listlessness, or worthless gabble, or vain sports, of which their
neighbors furnished plenty of example and temptation.

* * * * *

These representations have partly included, what we may yet specify
distinctly as one of the unhappy effects of gross ignorance--_a degraded
state of domestic society_.

Whatever is of nature to render individuals uninteresting or offensive to
one another, has a specially bad effect among them as members of a family;
because there is in that form of community itself a peculiar tendency to
fall below the level of dignified and complacent social life.--A number of
persons cannot be placed in a state of social communication, without
having a certain sense of claiming from one another a conduct meant and
adapted to please. It is expected that a succession of efforts should be
made for this purpose, with a willingness of each individual to forego, in
little things, his own inclination or convenience. This is all very well
when the society is _voluntary_, and the parties can separate when the
cost is felt to be greater than the pleasure. Under this advantage of
being able soon to separate, even a company of strangers casually
assembled will often recognize the claim and conform to the law; with a
certain indistinct sentiment partaking of reciprocal gratitude for the
disposition which is so accommodating. But the members of the domestic
community also have each this same feeling which demands a mutual effort
and self-denial to please, while the condition of their association is
adverse to their _yielding_ what they thus respectively claim. Theirs,
when once it is formed, is not exactly a voluntary companionship, and it
is one of undefinable continuance. The claim therefore seems as if it were
to be of a prolongation interminable, while the grateful feeling for the
concession is the less for the more compulsory bond of the association.
And to be thus required, in a community which must not be dissolved, and
in a series that reaches away beyond calculation, to exercise a
self-restraint on their wills and humors in order to please one another,
goes so hard against the great principle of human feeling--namely, each
one's preference of pleasing himself--that there is an habitual impulse of
reaction against the claim. This shows itself in their deportment, which
has the appearance of a practical expression of so many individuals that
they _will_ maintain each his own freedom. Hence the absence, very
commonly, in domestic society, of the attentiveness, the tone of civility,
the promptitude of compliance, the habit of little accommodations,
voluntary and supernumerary, which are so observable in the intercourse of
friends, acquaintance, and often, as we have said, even of strangers.

And then consider, in so close a kind of community, what near and intimate
witnesses they are of all one another's faults, weaknesses, tempers,
perversities; of whatever is offensive in manner, or unseemly in habit; of
all the irksome, humiliating, or sometimes ludicrous circumstances and
situations. And also, in this close association, the bad moods, the
strifes, and resentments, are pressed into immediate, lasting, corrosive
contact with whatever should be the most vital to social happiness. If
there be, into the account, the wants, anxieties, and vexations of severe
poverty, they will generally aggravate all that is destructive to domestic
complacency and decorum.

Now add gross ignorance to all this, and see what the picture will be. How
many families have been seen where the parents were only the older and
stronger animals than their children, whom they could teach nothing but
the methods and tasks of labor. They naturally could not be the mere
companions, for alternate play and quarrel, of their children, and were
disqualified by mental rudeness to be their respected guardians. There
were about them these young and rising forms, containing the
inextinguishable principle, which was capable of entering on an endless
progression of wisdom, goodness, and happiness! needing numberless
suggestions, explanations, admonitions, brief reasonings, and a training
to attend to the lessons of written instruction. But nothing of all this
from the parent. Their case was as hopeless for receiving these
necessaries of mental life, as the condition, for physical nutriment, of
infants attempting to draw it, (we have heard of so affecting and mournful
a fact,) from the breast of a dead parent. These unhappy heads of families
possessed no resources for engaging youthful attention by mingled
instruction and amusements; no descriptions of the most wonderful objects,
or narratives of the most memorable events, to set, for superior
attraction, against the idle stories of the neighborhood; no assemblage of
admirable examples, from the sacred or other records of human character,
to give a beautiful real form to virtue and religion, and promote an
aversion to base companionship.

Requirement and prohibition must be a part of the domestic economy
habitually in operation of course; and in such families you will have
seen the government exercised, or attempted to be exercised, in the
roughest, barest shape of will and menace, with no aptitude or means of
imparting to injunction and censure, a convincing and persuasive quality.
Not that the seniors should allow their government to be placed on such a
ground that, in everything they enforce or forbid, they may be liable to
have their reasons demanded by the children, as an understood condition
of their compliance. Far from it; they will sometimes have to require a
prescribed conduct for reasons not intelligible, or which it may not be
discreet to explain, to those who are to obey. But their authority
becomes odious, and as a moral force worse than inefficient, when the
natural shrewdness of the children can descry that they really _have_ no
reasons better than an obstinate or capricious will; and infallibly makes
the inference, that there is no obligation to submit, but that necessity
which dependence imposes. But this must often be the unfortunate
condition of such families.

Now imagine a week, month, or year, of the intercourse in such a domestic
society, the course of talk, the mutual manners, and the progress of mind
and character; where there is a sense of drudgery approaching to that of
slavery, in the unremitting necessity of labor; where there is none of the
interest of imparting knowledge or receiving it, or of reciprocating
knowledge that has been imparted and received; where there is not an acre,
if we might express it so, of intellectual space around them, clear of the
thick, universal fog of ignorance; where, especially, the luminaries of
the spiritual heaven, the attributes of the Almighty, the grand phenomenon
of redeeming mediation, the solemn realities of a future state and another
world, are totally obscured in that shade; where the conscience and the
discriminations of duty are dull and indistinct, from the youngest to the
oldest; where there is no genuine respect on the one side, nor affection
unmixed with vulgar petulance and harshness, expressed perhaps in language
of imprecation, on the other; where a mutual coarseness of manners and
words has the effect, without their being aware of it as a cause, of
debasing their worth in one another's esteem, all round; and where,
notwithstanding all, they absolutely must pass a great deal of time
together, to converse, to display their dispositions toward one another,
and exemplify the poverty of the mere primary relations of life, as
divested of the accessories which give them dignity, endearment, and
conduciveness to the highest advantage of existence.

Home has but little to please the young members of such a family, and a
great deal to make them eager to escape out of the house; which is also a
welcome riddance to the elder persons, when it is not in neglect or
refusal to perform allotted tasks. So little is the feeling of a peaceful
cordiality created among them by their seeing one another all within the
habitation, that, not unfrequently, the passer-by may learn the fact of
their collective number being there, from the sound of a low strife of
mingled voices, some of them betraying youth replying in anger or contempt
to maturity or age. It is wretched to see how early this liberty is boldly
taken. As the children perceive nothing in the _minds_ of their parents
that should awe them into deference, the most important difference left
between them is that of physical strength. The children, if of hardy
disposition, to which they are perhaps trained in battles with their
juvenile rivals, soon show a certain degree of daring against their
superior strength. And as the difference lessens, and by the time it has
nearly ceased, what is so natural as that they should assume equality, in
manners and in following their own will? But equality assumed where there
should be subordination, inevitably involves contempt toward the party in
defiance of whom it is asserted.

The relative condition of such parents as they sink in old age, is most
deplorable. And all that has preceded, leads by a natural course to that
consequence which we have sometimes beheld, with feelings emphatically
gloomy,--the almost perfect indifference with which the descendants, and a
few other relations, of a poor old man of this class, could consign him to
the grave. A human being was gone out of the world, a being they had been
with or near all their lives, some of them sustained in their childhood by
his labors, and yet perhaps not one heart, at any moment, felt the
sentiment--I have lost----. They never could regard him with respect, and
their miserable education had not taught them humanity enough to regard
him in his declining days as an object of pity. Some decency of attention
was perhaps shown him, or perhaps hardly that, in his last hours. His
being now a dead, instead of a living man, was a burden taken off; and the
insensibility and levity, somewhat disturbed and repressed at the sight of
his expiring struggle, and of his being lowered into the grave, recovered
by the day after his interment, if not on the very same evening, their
accustomed tone, never more to be interrupted by the effect of any
remembrance of him. Such a closing scene one day to be repeated is
foreshown to us, when we look at an ignorant and thoughtless father
surrounded by his untaught children. In the silence of thought we thus
accost him,--The event which will take you finally from among them,
perhaps after forty or fifty years of intercourse with them, will leave no
more impression on their affections, than the cutting down of a decayed
old tree in the neighborhood of your habitation.

There are instances, of rare occurrence, when such a man becomes, late in
life, far too late for his family to have the benefit of the change, a
subject of the only influence which could awake him to earnest
thoughtfulness and the full sensibility of conscience. When the sun thus
breaks out toward the close of his gloomy day, and when, in the energy of
his new life, he puts forth the best efforts of his untaught spirit for a
little divine knowledge, to be a lamp to him in entering ere long the
shades of death, with what bitter regrets he looks back to the period when
a number of human beings, some perhaps still with him, some now scattered
from him, and here and there pursuing their separate courses in careless
ignorance, were growing up under his roof, within his charge, but in utter
estrangement from all discipline adapted to ensure a happier sequel. His
distressing reflection is often representing to him what they might now
have been if they had grown up under such discipline. And gladly would he
lay down his life to redeem for them but some inferior share of what the
season for imparting to them is gone forever.

Another thing is to be added, to this representation of the evils
attendant on an uncultivated state of the people, namely--that _this
mental rudeness puts them decidedly out of beneficial communication with
the superior and cultivated classes_.

We are assuming (with permission) that a national community should be
constituted for the good of all its parts, not to be obtained by them as
detached, independent portions, but adjusted and compacted into one social
body; an economy in which all the parts shall feel they have the benefit
of an amicable combination; in other words, that they are the better for
one another. But it can be no such constitution when the most palpable
relations between the two main divisions of society consist of such direct
opposites as refinement and barbarism, dignity and gross debasement,
intelligence and ignorance; which are the distinctions asserted by the
higher classes as putting a vast distance between them and the lower. If
so little of the correct understanding, the information, the liberalized
feeling, and the propriety of deportment, which we are to ascribe to the
higher and cultivated portion, goes downward into the lower, it should
seem impossible but there must be more of repulsion than of amicable
disposition and communication between them. We may suspect, perhaps, that
those more privileged classes are not generally desirous that the interval
were much less wide, provided that without cultivation of the lower orders
the nuisance of their annoying and formidable temper could be abated. But
however that may be, it is exceedingly desirable, for the good of both,
that the upper and inferior orders _should_ be on terms of communication
and mutual good-will, and therefore that there should be a diminution of
that rudeness of mind and habits which must contribute to keep them
alienated and hostile.

If it were asked what communication, at all of a nature to be described
by epithets of social and friendly import, we can be supposing by
possibility to subsist between classes so different and distant, we may
exemplify it by such an instance as we have now and then the pleasure of
seeing. Each reader also, of any moderate compass of observation, may
probably recollect an example, in the case of some man in humble station,
but who has had (for his condition) a good education; having been well
instructed in his youth in the elements of useful knowledge; having had
good principles diligently inculcated upon him; having subsequently
instructed himself, to the best of his very confined means and
opportunity, through a habit of reading; and being in his manners
unaffectedly observant of all the decorums of a respectable human being.
It has been seen, that such a man has not found in some of his superiors
in station and attainment any disposition to shun him; and has not felt
in himself or his situation any reason why he should seek to shun them.
He would occasionally fall into conversation with the wealthy and
accomplished proprietor, or the professional man of learning, in the
neighborhood. His intelligent manner of attending to what they said, his
perfect understanding of the language naturally used by cultivated
persons, the considerateness and pertinence of his replies, and the
modest deference, combined with an honest freedom in making his
observations on the matters brought in question, pleased those persons of
superior rank, and induced various friendly and useful attentions, on
their part to him and his family. He and his family thus experienced a
direct benefit of superior sense, civility, and good principle, in a
humble condition; and were put under a new responsibility to preserve a
character for those distinctions.--Now think of the incalculable
advantage to society, if anything approaching to this were the general
state of social relation between the lower and the higher orders.

On the contrary, there is no medium of complacent communication between
the classes of higher condition and endowment, and an ignorant, coarse
populace. Except on occasion of giving orders or magisterial rebukes, the
gentleman will never think of such a thing as converse with the clowns in
his vicinity. They, on their part, are desirous to avoid him; excepting
when any of them may have a purpose to gain, by arresting his attention,
with an ungainly cringe; or when some of those who have no sort of
present dependence on him, are disposed to cross his way with a look and
strut of rudeness, to show how little they care for him. The servility,
and the impudence, almost equally repress in him all friendly disposition
toward a voluntary intercourse with the class. There is thus as complete
a dissociation between the two orders, as mutual dislike, added to every
imaginable dissimilarity, can create. And this broad ungracious
separation intercepts all modifying influence that might otherwise have
passed, from the intelligence and refinement of the one, upon the
barbarism of the other.

But there is in human nature a pertinacious disposition to work
disadvantages, in one way or other, into privileges. The people, in being
thus consigned to a low and alien ground, in relation to the cultivated
part of society, are put in possession, as it were, of a territory of
their own; where they can give their disposition freer play, and act out
their characters in their own manner; exempt equally from the voluntary
and the involuntary influence of the cultivated superiors; that is to say,
neither insensibly modified by the attraction of what is the most laudable
in them as a pattern, nor swayed through policy to a studied accommodation
to their understood opinion and will. This is a great emancipation enjoyed
by the inferiors. And however injurious it may be, it is one of which they
will not fail to take the full license. For in all things and situations,
it is one of the first objects with human beings, to verify experimentally
the presumed extent of their liberty and privilege. In this dissociation,
the people are rid of the many salutary restraints and incitements which
they would have been made to feel, if on terms of friendly recognition
with the respectable part of the community; they have neither honor nor
disgrace, from that quarter, to take into their account; and this
contributes to extinguish all sense and care of respectability of
character,--a care to which there will be no motive in any consideration
of what they may, as among themselves, think of one another; for, with the
low estimate which they mutually and justly entertain, there is a
conventional feeling among them that, for the ease and privilege of them
all, they are systematically to set aside all high notions and nice
responsibilities of character and conduct. There is a sort of recognized
mutual _right_ to be no better than they are. And an individual among them
affecting a high conscientious principle would be apt to incur ridicule,
as a man foolishly divesting himself of a privilege;--unless, indeed, he
let them understand that hypocrisy was his way of maintaining that
privilege, and turning it to account.

The people are thus, by their ignorance, and what inseparably attends it,
far removed and estranged from the more cultivated part of their
fellow-countrymen; and consequently from every beneficial influence under
which a state of friendly contiguity, if we may so express it, would have
placed them. Let us now see what, in this abandonment to themselves, are
their growing dispositions toward the superior orders and the existing
arrangements of the community; dispositions which are promoted by causes
more definite than this estrangement considered merely as the negation of
benevolent intercourse, but to which it mightily contributes.

Times may have been when the great mass, while placed in such decided
separation from the upper orders, combined such a quietude with their
ignorance, that they had little other than submissive feelings toward
these superiors, whose property, almost, for all service and
obsequiousness, they were accustomed to consider themselves; when no
question would occur to them why there should be so vast a difference of
condition between beings of the same race; when no other proof was
required of the right appointment of their lot, however humble it might
be, than their being, and their forefathers having been, actually in it;
and when they did not presume, hardly in thought, to make any inferences
from the fact of the immense disproportion of numbers and consequent
physical strength between them and their superiors. [Footnote: Here,
however, it should be observed that in the former age, when there was far
less of jealous invidious feeling between the upper and lower classes than
has latterly intervened, there was a more amicable manner of
intercommunication. The settled and perfectly recognized state of
subordination precluded on the one side, all apprehension of encroachment,
and on the other the disposition to it.] But the times of this perfect,
unquestioning, unmurmuring succumbency under the actual allotment have
passed away; except in such regions as the Russian empire, where they have
yet long to continue. In other states of Europe, but especially in our
own, the ignorance of the people has nowhere prevented them from acquiring
a sense of their strength and importance; with a certain ill-conceived,
but stimulant notion, of some change which they think ought to take place
in their condition. How, indeed, should it have been possible for them to
remain unaware of this strength and importance, while the whole civilized
world was shaken with a practical and tremendous controversy between the
two grand opposed orders of society, concerning their respective rights;
or that they should not have taken a strong, and from the rudeness of
their mental condition, a fierce interest, in the principle and progress
of the strife? And how should they have failed to know that, during this
controversy, innumerable persons raised from the lower rank by talent and
spirit, had left no place on earth except in courts (and hardly even
there) for the dotage of fancying some innate difference between the
classes distinguished in the artificial order of society?

The effect of all this is gone deep into the minds of great numbers who
are not excited, in consequence, to any worthy exertion for raising
themselves, individually, from their degraded condition, by the earnest
application and improvement of their means and faculties. The feeling of
many of them seems to be, that they must and will sullenly abide by the
ill-starred fate of their order, till some great comprehensive alteration
in their favor shall absolve them from that bond of hostile sentiment, in
which they make common cause against the superior classes; and shall
create a state of things in which it shall be worth while for the
individual to make an effort to raise himself. We can at best, (they seem
to say,) barely maintain, with the utmost difficulty, a miserable life;
and you talk to us of cultivation, of discipline, of moral respectability,
of efforts to come out from our degraded rank! No, we shall even stay
where we are; till it is seen how the question is to be settled between
the people of our sort, and those who will have it that they are of a far
worthier kind. There may then, perhaps, be some chance for such as we; and
if not, the less we are disturbed about improvement, knowledge, and all
those things, the better, while we are bearing the heavy load a few years,
to die like those before us.

We said they are banded in a hostile sentiment. It is true, that among
such a degraded populace there is very little kindness, or care for one
another's interests. They all know too well what they all are not, to feel
mutual esteem or benevolence.

But it is infinitely easier for any set of human beings to maintain a
community of feeling in hostility to something else, than in benevolence
toward another; for here no sacrifice is required of anyone's
self-interest. And it is certain, that the subordinate portions of society
have come to regard the occupants of the tracts of fertility and sunshine,
the possessors of opulence, splendor, and luxury, with a deep, settled,
systematic aversion; with a disposition to contemplate in any other light
than that of a calamity an extensive downfall of the favorites of fortune,
when a brooding imagination figures such a thing as possible; and with but
very slight monitions from conscience of the iniquity of the most
tumultuary accomplishment of such a catastrophe. In a word, so far from
considering their own welfare as identified with the stability of the
existing social order, they consider it as something that would spring
from the ruin of that order. The greater number of them have lost that
veneration by habit, partaking of the nature of a superstition, which had
been protracted downward, though progressively attenuated with the lapse
of time, from the feudal ages into the last century. They have quite lost,
too, in this disastrous age, that sense of competence and possible
well-being, which might have harmonized their feelings with a social
economy that would have allowed them the enjoyment of such a state, even
as the purchase of great industry and care. Whatever the actual economy
may have of wisdom in its institutions, and of splendor, and fulness of
all good things, in some parts of its apportionment, they feel that what
is allotted to most of _them_ in its arrangements is pressing hardship,
unremitting poverty, growing still more hopeless with the progress of
time, and of what they hear trumpeted as national glory, nay, even
"national prosperity and happiness unrivalled." This bitter experience,
which inevitably becomes associated in their thoughts with that frame of
society under which they suffer it, will naturally have a far stronger
effect on their opinion of that system than all that had ever rendered
them acquiescent or reverential toward it. That it brings no relief, or
promise of relief, is a circumstance preponderating in the estimate,
against all that can be said of its ancient establishment, its theoretical
excellences, or the blessings in which it may be pretended to have once
abounded, or still to abound. What were become of the most essential laws
of human feeling, if such experience _could_ leave those who are
undergoing its discipline still faithfully attached to the social order on
the strength of its consecration by time, and of the former settled
opinions in its favor,--however tenacious the impressions so wrought into
habit are admitted to be? And the minds of the people thus thrown loose
from their former ties, are not arrested and recovered by any
substitutional ones formed while those were decaying. They are not
retained in a temper of patient endurance and adherence, by the bond of
principles which a sedulous and deep instruction alone could have enforced
on them. The growth of sound judgment under such instruction, might have
made them capable of understanding how a proportion of the evil may have
been inevitable, from uncontrollable causes; of perceiving that it could
not fail to be aggravated by a disregard of prudence in the proceedings in
early life among their own class, and that so far it were unjust to impute
it to their superiors or to the order of society; of admitting that
national calamities are visitations of divine judgment, of which they were
to reflect whether they had not deserved a heavy share; of feeling it to
be therefore no impertinent or fanatical admonition that should exhort
them to repentance and reformation, as an expedient for the amendment of
even their temporal condition; and of clearly comprehending that, at all
events, rancor, violence, and disorder, cannot be the way to alleviate any
of the evils, but to aggravate them all. But, we repeat it, there are
millions in this land, and if we include the neighboring island
politically united to it, very many millions, who have received no
instruction adequate, in the smallest degree, to counteract the natural
effect of the distresses of their condition; or to create a class of moral
restraints and mitigations in prevention of a total hostility of feeling
against the established order, after the ancient attachments to it have
been worn down by the innovations of opinion, and the pressure of
continued distress.

Thus uninstructed to apprehend the considerations adapted to impose a
moral restraint, thus unmodified by principles of mitigation, there is a
large proportion of human strength and feeling not in vital combination
with the social system, but aloof from it, looking at it with "gloomy and
malign regard;" in a state progressive towards a fitness to be impelled
against it with a dreadful shock, in the event of any great convulsion,
that should set loose the legion of daring, desperate, and powerful
spirits, to fire and lead the masses to its demolition. There have not
been wanting examples to show with what fearful effect this hostility may
come into action, in the crisis of the fate of a nation's ancient system;
where this alienated portion of its own people, rushing in, have revenged
upon it the neglect of their tuition; that neglect which had abandoned
them to so utter a "lack of knowledge," that they really understood no
better than to expect their own solid advantage in general havoc and
disorder. But how bereft of sense the _State_ too must be, that would thus
_let_ a multitude of its people grow up in a condition of mind to believe,
that the sovereign expedient for their welfare is to be found in
spoliation and destruction! It might easily have comprehended what it was
reasonable to expect from the matured dispositions and strength of such of
its children as it abandoned to be nursed by the wolf.

While this principle of ruin was working on by a steady and natural
process, this supposed infatuated State was, it is extremely possible,
directing its chief care to maintain the splendor of a court, or to extort
the means for prosecuting some object of vain and wicked ambition, some
project of conquest and military glory. And probably nothing could have
appeared to many of its privileged persons more idle and ridiculous, or to
others of them more offensive and ill-intentioned, than a remonstrance
founded on a warning of such a consequence. The despisers would have been
incomparably the greater number; and, "Go (they would have said) with your
mock-tragical fortune-telling, to whoever can believe, too, that one day
or other the quadrupeds of our stalls and meadows may be suddenly
inspirited by some supernatural possession to turn their strength on us in
a mass, or those of our kennels to imitate the dogs of Actaeon."

Section IV.

There may be persons ready to make a question here, whether it be so
certain that giving the people of the lower order more knowledge, and
sharpening their faculties, will really tend to the preservation of good
order. Would not such improvement elate them, to a most extravagant
estimate of their own worth and importance; and therefore result in
insufferable arrogance, both in the individuals and the class? Would they
not, on the strength of it, be continually assuming to sit in judgment on
the proceedings and claims of their betters, even in the most lofty
stations; and demanding their own pretended rights, with a troublesome and
turbulent pertinacity? Would they not, since their improvement cannot,
from their condition in life, be large and deep, be in just such a half
taught state, as would make them exactly fit to be wrought upon by all
sorts of crafty schemers, fierce declaimers, empirics, and innovators? Is
it not, in short, too probable that, since an increase of mental power is
available to bad uses as well as good, the results would greatly
preponderate on the side of evil?

It would be curious to observe how objections so plausible, so decisive in
the esteem of those who admire them, would sound if expressed in other
terms. Let them be put in the form of such sentences and propositions as
the following:--Though understanding is to be men's guide to right
conduct, the less of it they possess the more safe are we against their
going wrong. The duty of a human being has many branches; there are
connected with all of them various general and special considerations, to
induce and regulate the performance; it must be well for these to be
defined with all possible clearness; and it is also well for the great
majority of men to be utterly incapable of apprehending them with any such
definiteness. It is desirable that the rule, or set of rules, by which the
demeanor of the lower orders toward those above them is to be directed,
should appear to them _reasonable_ as well as distinctly defined; but let
us take the greatest care that their reason shall be in no state of
fitness to perceive this rectitude of the rules. It would be a noble thing
to have a competent understanding of all that belongs to human interest
and duty; and therefore the next best thing is to be retained very nearly
in ignorance of all. It would be a vast advantage to proceed a hundred
degrees on the scale of knowledge; but the advantage is nowhere in the
progress; each of the degrees is in itself worth nothing; nay, less than
nothing; for unless a man could attain all, he had better stop at two or
one, than advance to four, six, or ten. Truths support one another; by the
conjunction of several each is kept the clearer in the understanding, the
more efficient for its proper use, and the more adequate to resist the
pressure of the surrounding ignorance and delusion; therefore let there be
the greatest caution that we do not give to three truths in a man's
understanding the aid of a fourth, or four the aid of a fifth; let the
garrison be so diminutive that its successful resistance to the siege must
be a miracle.----The reader will be in little danger of excess in shaping
into as many forms of absurdity as he pleases a notion which goes to the
depreciation of the desire and use of truth, of all that has been
venerated as wisdom, of the divine revelation of knowledge, and of our
rational nature itself.

If it _be_ a rational nature that the lower ranks possess as well as the
superior, one should have imagined it must be in the highest degree
important that they, as well as their superiors, should habitually make
their duty and conduct _a matter of thought_, of intelligent
consideration, instead of going through it mechanically, or with little
more than a brute accommodation of what they do to a customary and imposed
manner of doing it; but this thoughtful way of acting will never prevail
among them, while they are unexercised in that thinking which (generally
speaking) men will never acquire but in the exercise of gaining knowledge.
It were, again, better, one would think, that they should be capable of
seeing some reason and use in gradations and unequal distributions in the
community, than be left to regard it as all a matter of capricious or
iniquitous fortune, to their allotment under which there is no reason for
submission but a bare necessity. The improvement of understanding by which
we are wishing to raise them in this humble allotment, without carrying
them from the ground where it is placed, will explain to them the best
compensations of their condition, will show them it is no essential
degradation, and point them to the true respectability which may be
obtained in it. And even if they _should_ be a little too much elated with
the supposed attainments, (while the flattering possession is yet new, and
far from general in their class,) what taste would it be in their
superiors not to deem this itself a far better thing than the contented,
or more probably insolent and malignant, grossness of a stupid
vulgarity?--as some little excess of self-complacency in appearing in a
handsome dress is accounted much less disgusting than a careless
self-exposure in filth and rags.

As to their being rendered liable by more knowledge to be caught by
declaimers, projectors, and agitators, we may confidently ask, whether it
be the natural effect of more knowledge and understanding to be less
suspicious of cajoling professions, less discerning of what is practicable
and impracticable, and more credulous to extravagant doctrines, and wild
theories and schemes. Is it the well-instructed and intelligent poor man
that believes the demagogue who may assert or insinuate that, if things
were ordered right, all men might live in the greatest plenty? Or if we
advert to those of the lower order whom a diminutive freehold or other
qualification may entitle to vote for a member of parliament, is it the
well-instructed and intelligent man among them that is duped by the
candidate's professions of kind solicitude for him and his family,
accompanied with smiling equivocal hints that it may be of more advantage
than he is aware for a man who has sons to provide for, to have a friend
who has access and interest in a certain high quarter? Nor is it among the
best instructed and most thinking part of the subordinate class, that we
shall find persons capable of believing that a community might, if those
who govern it so pleased, be rich and prosperous by other means than a
general industry in ordinary employments.

If, again, it is apprehended that a great increase of intelligence among
the people would destroy their deference and respectful deportment toward
their superiors, the ground of this apprehension should be honestly
assigned. If the claim to this respect be definable, and capable of being
enforced upon good reasons, it is obvious that improved sense in the
people will better appreciate them. Especially, if the claim is to owe any
part of its validity to higher mental qualifications in the claimants, it
will so far be incomparably better understood, and if it _be_ valid, far
more respected than it is now. By having a measure of knowledge, and of
the power and practice of thinking, the people would be enabled to form
some notion of what it must be, and what it is worth, to have a great deal
more of these endowments. They would observe and understand the
indications of this ampler possession in the minds of those above them,
and so would be aware of the great disparity between themselves and those
superiors. And since they would value _themselves_ on their comparatively
small share of these mental advantages, (for this is the very point of the
objection against their attaining them,) they would be compelled to
estimate by the same scale the persons dignified by so far surpassing a
share of this admired wealth. Whereas an ignorant populace can understand
nothing at all about the matter; they have no guess at the great
disparity, nor impression of its importance; so that with them the
cultivated superiors quite lose the weight of this grand difference, and
can obtain none of the respect which they may deserve on account of it.
The objection against enlightening the lower classes appears so remarkably
absurd as viewed in this direction, that it might tempt us to suspect a
motive not avowed. It is just the sort of caveat to be uttered by persons
aware that themselves, or many of their class, might happen to betray to
the sharpened inspection of a more intelligent people, that a higher
ground in the allotments of fortune is no certain pledge for a superior
rank of mind. It _were_ strange, very strange indeed, if persons combining
with superior station a great mental superiority, should be content, while
claiming the deference of the subordinate part of the community around
them, that this high distinction should go for nothing in that claim, and
that the required respect should be paid only in reverence of the number
of their acres, the size of their houses, the elegance of their equipage
and domestic arrangements, and perhaps some official capacity, in which
many a notorious blockhead has strutted and blustered.

We think such considerations as the above, opposed to the objection that
any very material cultivation of the minds of the common people would
destroy their industry in ordinary employments, their contentment with
their station, and their respectful demeanor to their superiors; and would
render them arrogant, disorderly, factious, liable to be caught by wild
notions, misled by declaimers and impostors, and, in short, all the worse
for being able to understand their duty and interest the better, ought to
go far toward convicting that objection of great folly,--not to apply
terms of stronger imputation.

But we need not have dwelt so long on such arguments, since fortunately
there is matter of fact in answer to the objection. To the extent of the
yet very limited experiment, it is proved that giving the people more
knowledge and more sense does not tend to disorder and insubordination;
does not excite them to impatience and extravagant claims; does not spoil
them for the ordinary business of life, the tasks of duty and necessity;
does not make them the dupes of knaves; nor teach them the most profitable
use of their improved faculties is to turn knaves themselves. Employers
can testify, from all sides, that there is a striking general difference
between those bred up in ignorance and rude vulgarity, and those who have
been trained through the well-ordered schools for the humble classes,
especially when the habits at home have been subsidiary; a difference
exceedingly in favor of the latter, who are found not only more apt at
understanding and executing, but more decorous, more respectful, more
attentive to orders, more ready to see and acknowledge the propriety of
good regulations, and more disposed to a practical acquiescence in them;
far less inclined to ebriety and low company; and more to be depended on
in point of honesty. In almost any part of the country, where the
experiment has been zealously prosecuted for a moderate number of years, a
long resident observer can discern a modification in the character of the
neighborhood; a mitigation of the former brutality of manners, a less
frequency of brawls and quarrels, and less tendency to draw together into
rude riotous assemblages. There is especially a marked difference on the
Sabbath, on which great numbers attend public worship, whose forefathers
used on that day to congregate for boisterous sport on the common, or even
within the inclosure vainly consecrated round the church; [Footnote: We
know a church where, within, the remembrance of an immediate ancestor, it
was not unusual, or thought anything amiss, for the foot-ball to be struck
up within the "consecrated ground" at the close of the afternoon service
of the Sunday.] and who would themselves in all probability have followed
the same course, but for the tuition which has led them into a better. In
not a few instances, the children have carried from the schools
inestimable benefits home to their unhappy families; winning even their
depraved, thoughtless parents into consideration and concern about their
most important interests,--a precious repayment of all the long toils and
cares, endured to support them through the period of childhood, and an
example of that rare class of phenomena, in which (as in the instance of
the Grecian Daughter) a superlative beauty arises from an inversion of the
order of nature.

Even the frightful statements of the increase, in recent years, of active
juvenile depravity, especially in the metropolis, include a gratifying
testimony in favor of education--at least did so some years since. The
result of special inquiries, of extensive compass, into the wretched
history of juvenile reprobates, has fortified the promoters of schools
with evidence that it was not from _these_ seminaries that such noxious
creatures were to go out, to exemplify that the improvement of
intelligence may be but the greater aptitude for fraud and mischief. No,
it was found to have been in very different places of resort, that these
wretches had been, almost from their infancy, accomplished for crime; and
that their training had not taken or needed any assistance from an
exercise on literary rudiments, from Bibles, catechisms, or religious and
moral poetry, or from an attendance on public worship. Indeed, as if
Providence had designed that the substantial utility should be accompanied
with a special circumstance to confound the cavillers, the children and
youth of the schools were found to have been more generally preserved from
falling into the class of premature delinquents, than a moral calculator,
keeping in sight the quality of human nature and the immediate pressure of
so much temptation, would have ventured to anticipate, upon the moderate
estimate of the efficacy of instruction.

Experience equally falsifies the notion that knowledge, imparted to the
lower orders, beyond what is necessary to the handling of their tools,
tends to factious turbulence; to an impatience (from the instigation of
certain wild theories,) under law and regular government in society. The
maintainers of which notion should also affirm, that the people of
Scotland have been to this day about the most disaffected, tumultuary,
revolutionary rabble in Europe; and that the Cornish miners, now so
worthily distinguished at once by exercised intellect and religion, are
incessantly on the point of insurrection, against their employers or the
state. And we shall be just as ready to believe them, if they also assert,
that, in those popular irregularities which have too often disturbed, in
particular places, the peace of our country, the clamorous bands or
crowds, collected for purposes of intimidation or demolition, have
consisted chiefly of the better instructed part of the poorer
inhabitants;--yes, or that this class furnished one in twenty or fifty of
the numbers forming such lawless bands; even though many of these more
instructed of the people might be suffering, with their families, the
extremity of want, the craving of hunger, which, no less than
"oppression," may "make a wise man mad." Many of these, in their desolate
abodes, with tears of parents and children mingled together, have been
committing themselves to their Father in heaven, at the time that the
ruder part of the population have been carrying alarm, and sometimes
mischief, through the district, and so confirming the faith, we may
suppose, of sundry magnates of the neighborhood, who had vehemently
asserted, a few years before, the pernicious tendency of educating the
people. [Footnote: What proportion were found to have been educated, in
the very lowest sense of the term, of the burners of ricks and barns in
the south-eastern counties, a few years since? What proportion of the
ferocious, fanatical, and sanguinary rout who, the other day, near the
centre of the metropolitan see of Canterbury, were brought into action by
the madman Thom, _alias_ Sir W. Courtenay; stout, well-fed, proud
Englishmen--Englishmen "the glory of all lands," who were capable of
believing that madman a divine personage, Christ himself, invulnerable,
till the fact happened otherwise, and then were confident he would come to
life again? When will the Government adopt some effectual means to avert
from the nation the infamy of having such a populace in any part of the
country, and especially _such_ a part of it?]

It would be less than what is due to suffering humanity, to leave this
topic without observing, that if a numerous division of the community
should be sinking under severe, protracted, unmitigated distress,
distress on which there appears to them no dawn of hope from ordinary
causes, it is not to be held a disparagement to the value of education,
if some of those who have enjoyed a measure of that advantage, in common
with a greater number who have not, should become feverishly agitated
with imaginations of great sudden changes in the social system; and be
led to entertain suggestions of irregular violent expedients for the
removal of insupportable evils. It must, in all reason, be acknowledged
the last lesson which education could be expected to teach with practical
effect, that one part of the community should be willing to resign
themselves to a premature mortality, that the others may live in
sufficiency and tranquillity. Such heroic devotement might not be
difficult in the sublime elation of Thermopylae; but it is a very
different matter in a melancholy cottage, and in the midst of famishing
children. [Footnote: This was almost the desperate condition of
numberless families in this country at a period of which they, or the
survivors of them, retain in memory an indelible record; and we think it
right to retain _here_ also that record. While thankful for all
subsequent amendment, we say again, Look at Ireland.]

After thus referring to matter of fact, for contradiction of the notion,
that the mental cultivation of the lower classes might render them less
subject to the rules of good order, we have to say, in further reply, that
we are not heard insisting on the advantages of increased knowledge and
mental invigoration among the people, _unconnected with the inculcation of

Undoubtedly, the zealous friends of popular education account knowledge
valuable absolutely, as being the apprehension of things as they are; a
prevention of delusion; and so far a fitness for right volitions. But
they consider religion, (besides being itself the primary and infinitely
the most important part of knowledge,) as a principle indispensable for
securing the full benefit of all the rest. It is desired, and endeavored,
that the understandings of these opening minds may be taken possession of
by just and solemn ideas of their relation to the Eternal Almighty Being;
that they may be taught to apprehend it as an awful reality, that they
are perpetually under his inspection; and as a certainty, that they must
at length appear before him in judgment, and find, in another life, the
consequences of what they are in spirit and conduct here. It is to be
impressed on them, that his will is the supreme law; that his
declarations are the most momentous truth known on earth; and his favor
and condemnation the greatest good and evil. Under an ascendency of this
divine wisdom it is, that their discipline in any other knowledge is
designed to be conducted; so that nothing in the mode of their
instruction may have a tendency contrary to it, and everything be taught
in a manner recognizing the relation with it, as far as shall consist
with a natural, unforced way of keeping this relation in view. Thus it is
sought to be secured that, as the pupil's mind grows stronger and
multiplies its resources, and he therefore has necessarily more power and
means for what is wrong, there may be luminously presented to him, as if
celestial eyes visibly beamed upon him, the most solemn ideas that can
enforce what is right.

* * * * *

Such is the discipline meditated, for preparing the subordinate classes to
pursue their individual welfare, and act their part as members of the
community.--They are to be trained in early life to diligent employment of
their faculties, tending to strengthen them, regulate them, and give their
possessors the power of effectually using them. They are to be exercised
to form clear, correct notions, instead of crude, vague, delusive ones.
The subjects of these ideas will be, a very considerable number of the
most important facts and principles; which are to be presented to their
understandings with a patient repetition of efforts to fix them there as
knowledge that cannot be forgotten. By this measure of actual acquirement,
and by the habit formed in so acquiring, they will be qualified for making
further attainment in future time, if disposed to improve their
opportunities. During this progress, and in connection with many of its
exercises, their duty is to be inculcated on them in the various forms in
which they will have to make a choice between right and wrong, in their
conduct toward society. There will be reiteration of lessons on justice,
prudence, inoffensiveness, love of peace, estrangement from the counsels
and leagues of vain and bad men; hatred of disorder and violence, a sense
of the necessity of authoritative public institutions to prevent these
evils, and respect for them while honestly administered to this end. All
this is to be taught, in many instances directly, in others by reference
for confirmation, from the Holy Scriptures, from which authority will also
be impressed, all the while, the principles of religion. And religion,
while its grand concern is with the state of the soul towards God and
eternal interests, yet takes every principle and rule of morals under its
peremptory sanction; making the primary obligation and responsibility be
towards God, of everything that is a duty with respect to men. So that,
with the subjects of this education, the sense of _propriety_ shall be
_conscience_; the consideration of how they ought to be regulated in their
conduct as a part of the community, shall be the recollection that their
Master in heaven dictates the laws of that conduct, and will judicially
hold them amenable for every part of it.

And is not a discipline thus addressed to the purpose of fixing religious
principles in ascendency, as far as that difficult object is within the
power of discipline, and of infusing a salutary tincture of them into
whatever else is taught, the right way to bring up citizens faithful to
all that deserves fidelity in the social compact?

But perhaps far less of sacred knowledge than all this pleading admits and
assumes to be indispensable to them, will answer the end. For it is but a
slender quantity of it that is, in effect, proposed to be imparted to them
by those who would give them very little other knowledge. They will talk
of giving the people an education specifically religious; a training to
conduct them on through a close avenue, looking straight before them to
descry distant spiritual objects, while shut out from all the scene right
and left, by fences that tell them there is nothing that concerns them
there. There may be rich and beautiful fields of knowledge, but they are
not to be trampled by vulgar feet.

Now, may we presume that by knowledge, or information, is meant a clear
understanding of a subject? If so, it is but little religious information
that _can_ be imparted while that of a more general nature is withheld.
The case is so, partly because, in order to a clear conception of the
principal things in the doctrine of religion, the mind wants facts,
principles, associations of ideas, and modes of applying its thoughts,
which are to be acquired from the consideration of various other subjects;
and partly because, even though it did _not_, and though it _were_
practicable to understand religious truths clearly without the subsidiary
ideas, and the disciplined mental habit acquired in attention to other
subjects, _it is flatly contrary to the radical disposition of human
nature_ that youthful spirits should yield themselves to a bare
exclusively religious discipline. It were supposing a reversal of the
natural taste and tendency, to expect them to apply their attention so
patiently, so willingly, so long, and with such interest, to this one
subject, as to be brought to an intelligent apprehension through the
almost sole exercise of thinking on this. By thinking on this!--which is
the subject on which they are by their very nature the least of all
inclined to think; the subject on which it is the most difficult as well
as the most important point in education to induce them to think; the
subject which, while it is essential to give it the ascendency in the
instruction of both the lower classes and all others, it requires so much
care and address to present in an attractive light; and which it is so
desirable to combine with other subjects naturally more engaging, in order
to bring it oftener by such associations into the thoughts, in that
secondary manner, which causes somewhat less of recoil.

It is curious to see what some persons can believe, or affect to believe,
when reduced to a dilemma. On the one hand, they cannot endure the idea of
any considerable raising of the common people by mental improvement, in
the general sense: that were ruin to social order. But then on the other,
if it must not be plainly denied, that the said common people are of the
very same rational nature as the most elevated divisions of the race; and
that their essential worth must be in this spiritual thinking being, which
worth is lost to them, if that being is sunk and degraded in gross
ignorance, it follows that some kind of cultivation is required. Well
then; we must give them some religious knowledge, unaccompanied by such
other knowledge as would much more attractively invite them to exercise
their minds, and _it will be practicable and easy enough_ to engage their
habitual attention to that very subject, almost exclusively, to which the
natural taste of the species is peculiarly averse.

In exposing the absurdity of any scheme of education for the inferior
classes, which should propose to make them intelligent about religion
while intelligent about nothing else except their ordinary employments, we
do not forget the instances now and then met with of pious poor men who,
while very uncultivated in the general sense, evince a remarkable
clearness of conception on religious topics, and in the application of
these topics to their duties as men and citizens. But "remarkable" we
involuntarily call these phenomena, whenever adverting to them. We
naturally use some expression importing a degree of wonder at such a fact.
We think it a striking illustration of the power of _religion itself_, and
not of the power of religious instruction. The extreme force with which
the vital spirit has seized and actuated his faculties, has in a measure
remedied the incapacity he had otherwise been under of forming clear ideas
of the subject. Even, however, while acknowledging and admiring this
effect of a special influence from heaven, we still find ourselves
involuntarily surmising, in such an instance, that the man must also have
been superior in natural capacity to the generality of ignorant persons;
so much out of the common course of things we account it for a man who
knows so few things to know this one thing so well. We account it so from
the settled conviction received through experience, that it is very
unlikely a man ignorant of almost all other things _should_ well
understand _one_ subject, of a nature quite foreign to that of his
ordinary occupations.

It is superfluous to observe, that such instances of a very considerable
comprehension of religious truth, obtained in spite of what naturally
makes so much against its being attainable, cannot affect the calculation
when we are devising schemes which can only work according to natural laws
and with ordinary powers. They who devise and apply them will rejoice at
these evidences that there is an Agent who can open men's minds to the
light of religion independently and in the absence of other intellectual
advantages. But the question being how to bring the people, by the
ordinary means of education, to a competent knowledge of religious truth,
we have to consider what way of attempting to impart that knowledge may be
the best fitted, at once to obviate the natural indisposition to the
subject, and to provide that when it does obtain a place in their
understanding, it shall not be a meagre, diminutive, insulated occupant
there, but in its proper dimensions and relations. And if, in attentively
studying this, there be any who come to ascertain, that the right
expedient is a bare inculcation of religious instruction, disconnected, on
system, from the illustrative aid of other knowledge, divested of the
modification and attraction of associated ideas derived from subjects less
uncongenial with the natural feelings,--they really may take the
satisfaction of having ascertained one thing more, namely, that human
nature has become at last so mightily changed, that it may be left to work
itself right very soon, as to the affair of religion, with little further
trouble of theirs.

* * * * *

The special view in which we were pleading, on behalf of popular
education, that religious instruction would form a material part of it,
was, that this essential ingredient would be a security against its being
injurious to the good order and subordination in society. It is the more
necessary to be particular on this, as some of those who have professed
to lay much stress on the _religious_ instruction of the people have
seemed to have little further notion of the necessity or use of religion
to the lower classes, than as merely a preserver of good order. In this
character it has been insisted on by persons who avowed their aversion to
every idea of an education in a more enlarged sense. We have heard it so
insisted on, no such long while past, by members of the most learned
institutions, at the same moment that they expressed more than a doubt of
the prudence of enabling the common people to read, literally to _read_,
the Bible. But assuredly the good order of a populace left in the stupid
general ignorance to which some of these good friends of theirs would
have doomed them, cannot be preserved by any such feeble infusion of
religious knowledge as these same good friends would instil into their
mental grossness. As long as they are in this condition, there must be
some far stronger power acting on them to preserve that good order. And
if there actually _has_ been such a power, hitherto competent to preserve
it, with only such an impotent scantling of religious knowledge in the
majority of the mass, and competent still to preserve it, a great deal of
hypocritical canting might have been spared, on the part of those whose
chief or only argument for teaching the people religion is the
maintenance of that good order.

But all this while we are forgetting to inquire how much is to be
understood as included in that good order, that deference and
subordination, which the possession of more mind and knowledge by the
people might disturb or destroy. May not the notion of it, as entertained
by some persons, be rather an image of the polity of an age long past, or
of that which remains unaltered as if it were a part of eternal nature in
the dominions of the East, than a model for the conformation of society
here in the present times? Is it required, that there should be a
sentiment of obsequiousness in the people, affecting them in a manner like
the instinct by which a lower order of animals is in awe of a higher, by
which the common tribe of beasts would cower at the sight of lions? Or, is
the deference expected to be paid, not on any understanding of reciprocal
advantage, but absolutely and unconditionally, as to a claim founded in
abstract or divine right? Is it to be held a criminal presumption in the
people, to think of examining their relations to the community any further
than the obligation of being industrious in the employments to which it
assigns them, and dutiful to its higher orders? Are they to entertain no
question respecting the right adjustment of their condition in the
arrangements of the great social body? Are they forbidden ever to admit a
single doubt of its being quite a matter of course, that everything which
could be done for the interests of their class, consistently with the
welfare of the whole, _is_ done; or, therefore, to pretend to any such
right as that of examining, representing, complaining, remonstrating, or
an ultimate recourse, perhaps, in a severe necessity, to stronger

A subordination founded in such principles, and required to such a degree,
it is true enough that the communication of knowledge is not the way to
perpetuate. For the first use which men will infallibly make of an
enlargement of their faculties and ideas, will be, to take a larger view
of their interests; and they may happen, as soon as they do so, to think
they discover that it was quite time; and the longer they do so, to retain
still less and less of implicit faith that those interests will be done
justice to, without their own vigilance and intervention. An educated
people must be very slow indeed in the application of what they learn, if
they do not soon grow out of all belief in the _necessary_ wisdom and
rectitude of any order of human creatures whatever. They will see how
unreasonable it were to expect, that any sort of men will fail in fidelity
to the great natural principle, of making their own advantage the first
object; and therefore they will not be apt to listen, with the gravity
which in other times and regions may have been shown in listening, to
injunctions of gratitude for the willingness evinced by the higher orders
to take on them the trouble of watching and guarding the people's welfare,
by keeping them in due submission.

But neither will it necessarily be in the spirit of hostility, in the
worst sense of the word, that a more instructed people will thus show a
diminished credulity of reverence toward the predominant ranks in the
social economy; and will keep in habitual exercise upon them a somewhat
suspicious observation, and a judicial estimate; with an honest freedom in
sometimes avowing disapprobation, and strongly asserting any right which
is believed to be endangered or withheld. This will only be expressing
that, since all classes naturally consult by preference their own
interests, it is plainly unfit, that one portion of the community should
be trusted with an unlimited discretion in ordering what affects the
welfare of the others; and that, in all prudence, the people must refuse
an entire affiance, and unconditional, unexamining acquiescence; "except
the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh," would come to harmonize, and
then administer, interests which are so placed unappeasably at strife;--at
strife; for, what is so often asserted of those interests being in reality
the same, is true only on that comprehensive theory which neither party is
prompt to understand, or willing to make sacrifices of a more immediate
self-interest to realize; and it is evidently impossible for either, even
if believing it true, to concede to the other the exclusive adjustment of
the practical mode of identification.

But only let the utmost that is possible be done, to train the people,
from their early years, to a sound use of their reason, under a discipline
for imparting a valuable portion of knowledge, and assiduously inculcating
the principles of social duty and of religion; and then something may be
said, to good purpose, to their understanding and conscience, while they
are maintaining the competition of claims with their superiors. They will
then be capable of seeing put in a fair balance, many things which
headlong ignorance would have taken all one way. They will be able to
appreciate many explanations, alleged causes of delay, statements of
difficulty between opposing reasons, which would be thrown away on an
ignorant populace. And it would be an inducement to their making a real
exertion of the understanding, that they thus found themselves so formally
put upon their responsibility for its exercise; that they were summoned to
a rational discussion, instead of being addressed in the style of Pharaoh
to the Israelites. The strife of interests would thus come to be carried
on with less fierceness and malice, in the spirit and manner, on the part
of the people. And the ground itself of the contention, the substance of
the matters in contest, would be gradually diminished, by the concessions
of the higher classes to the claims of the lower; for there is no
affecting to dissemble, that a great mental and moral improvement of the
people would necessitate, though there were not a single movement of rude
force in the case, important concessions to them, on the part of the
superior orders. A people advanced to such a state, would make its moral
power felt in a thousand ways, and every moment. This general augmentation
of sense and right principle would send forth, against all arrangements
and inveterate or more modern usages, of the nature of invidious
exclusion, arbitrary repression, and the debasement of great public
interests into a detestable private traffic, an energy, which could no
more be resisted than the power of the sun, when he advances in the spring
to annihilate the relics and vestiges of the winter. This plastic
influence would modify the institutions of the national community, to a
state better adapted to secure all the popular rights; and to convey the
genuine, collective opinion, to bear directly on the counsel and
transaction of national concerns. That opinion would be so unequivocally
manifested, as to leave no pretence for a doubtful interpretation of its
signs; and with such authority as to preclude any question whether to set
it at defiance.

That such effects _would_ be inseparable from a great general advancement
of the people in knowledge and corrected character, must be freely
acknowledged to its disapproves. And is it _because_ these would be the
consequences, that they disapprove it? Then let them say, what it is that
_they_ would expect from an opposite system. _What_ is it, that they could
seriously promise themselves, from the conservative virtue of all the
ignorance, that can henceforward be retained among the people of this part
of the world? It is true, the remaining ignorance is so great that they
cannot well overrate its _general_ amount; but how can they fail to
perceive the importance of those _particulars_ in which its dominion has
been broken up? There is indeed a hemisphere of "gross darkness over the
people;" it may be possible to withhold from it long the illumination of
the sun; but in the mean time it has been rent by portentous lights and
flashes, which have excited a thought and agitation not to be stilled by
the continuance of the gloom. There have come in on the popular mind some
ideas, which the wisest of those who dread or hate their effect there,
look around in vain for the means of expelling. And these glimpses of
partial intelligence, these lights of dubious and possibly destructive
direction amidst the night, will continue to prompt and lead that mind,
with a hazard which can sease only with the opening upon it of the true
daylight of knowledge. That knowledge should have been antecedent to the
falling of these inflammatory ideal among the people; and if they have
come before the proper time, that is to say, before the people were
prepared to judge rationally of their rights, and to apprehend clearly the
duties inseparable from them as a condition of their enjoyment, the
calamitous consequences to the higher classes, as seen in the recent
history of Europe, may be regarded as a righteous judgment of heaven upon
them, for having suffered it to be _possible_ for these new ideas of
liberty and rights to come to the people in a state so unprepared. What
were all their commanding authorities of government, their splendid
ecclesiastical establishments, their great personal wealth and
influence,--all their lofty powers and distinctions which even their
basest sycophants, sacerdotal or poetical, told them, as one topic of
adulation, that they were not entrusted with for their own sole
gratification,--what were all these for, if the great body of the
communities over which they presided were to be retained in a state in
which they could not be touched by a few bold speculations in favor of
popular rights, without exploding as with infernal fire? How appropriate a
retribution of Sovereign Justice, that those who were wickedly the cause
should be the victims of the effect.

Where such a consequence has not followed, but where, nevertheless, these
notions of popular rights have come into the minds of the people very much
in precedence and disproportion to the general cultivation of their
intelligence and moral sense, it is most important that all diligence
should be given to bring up these neglected improvements to stand in rank
with those too forward speculations.

Whether this shall be done or not, these notions and feelings are not
things come into life without an instinct of what they have to do. The
disapproves of schemes for throwing the greatest practicable measure of
sound corrective knowledge into the minds of the multitude, may take
instruction or may decline it from seeing that, both in this country and
other states of Europe, there has gone forth among the mass of the people
a spirit of revolt from the obligation, which would retain their reverence
to institutions on the strength simply of their being established or being
ancient; a spirit that reacts, with deep and settled antipathy, against
some of the arrangements and claims of the order into which the national
community has been disposed by institutions and the course of events; a
spirit which regards some of the appointments and requirements of that
order, as little better than adaptations of the system to the will and
gratification of the more fortunate divisions of the species. And it has
shown itself in a very different character from that of a mere pining
despondency, or the impotent resentment excited sometimes in timidity
itself by severe grievance, but quelled by alarm at its own rashness. The
element and the temperament of its nature, and the force of its action,
have been displayed in the tremendous concussions attending its conflict
with the power arrayed in behalf of the old order of things to crush it.
And _is_ this spirit crushed? Is it subdued? Is it in the least degree
reduced?--reduced, we mean, in its internal power, as a combination of the
most absolute opinion with the impulse of some of the strongest passions.

Is it, we repeat, repressed? There may have been persons who could not,
"good easy men," conceive a possibility of its surviving the fiery storm
of the whole resources of the world converted into the materials of war,
to be poured on it, and followed by the mightiest leagues and the most
systematic legislation, all aimed at its destruction; surviving to come
forth with unabated vigor at the opportune junctures in the future
progress of events; like some great serpent, coming out again to glare on
the sight, with his appalling glance and length of volume, after a volley
of missiles had sent him to his retreat. The old approved expedients
against unreasonable discontents, and refractory tempers, and local
movements of hostility excited by some worthless competitor for power, had
been combined and applied on the grand scale; and henceforward all was to
be still. It was not given to these spell-bound understandings to
apprehend that the spirit to be repressed might be of a nature impassive
to these expedients, possibly to be confirmed by their application.
Repressed! What is it that is manifesting itself in the most remarkable
events in the old, and what has been called the new world, at the present
time? And what are the measures of several of the great state authorities
of Europe, whether adopted in deliberate policy, or in a fitful mood
between rashness and dismay; what are, especially, the meetings,
conferences, and military preparations, of the mightiest despots of the
globe, assembled at this very hour against a small and unoffending nation,
[Footnote: The meeting of imperial and royal personages at Troppau and
Laybach, for the detestable purpose of crushing the newly acquired liberty
of the kingdom of Naples.--January, 1821.]--what are these but a
confession or proclamation, that the spirit which the most enormous
exertions had been made to overwhelm, has preserved its life and energy;
like those warring immortal powers whom Milton describes as having
mountains thrown on them in vain? The progress of time renders it but more
evident, that the principle in action is something far different from a
superficial transient irritation; that it has gone the whole depth of the
mind; has possessed itself of the very judgment and conscience of an
innumerable legion, augmented by a continual and endless accession. No
doubt is permitted to remain of the direction which has been taken by the
current of the popular feeling,--to be recovered to its ancient obsequious
course when some great river which has farced a new channel shall resume
that which it has abandoned. For when once the great mass, of the lower
and immensely larger division of the community, shall have become filled
with an absolute, and almost unanimous conviction, that they, the grand
physical agency of that community; that they, the operators, the
producers, the preparers, of almost all it most essentially wants; that
they, the part, therefore, of the social assemblage so obviously the most
essential to its existence, and on which all the rest must depend; that
they have their condition in the great social arrangement so disposed as
not to acknowledge this their importance, as not to secure an adequate
reward of these their services;--we say, when this shall have become the
pervading intense conviction of the millions of Europe, we put it as a
question to any rational thinker, whether and how this state of feeling
can be reversed or neutralized, if the economy which has provoked it shall
yield to no modification. But it _is_ no question, he will confess. Then
will he pretend not to foresee any material change in an order of things
obnoxious to so vast a combination of wills and agents? This may indeed be
seriously avowed by some, who are so walled up in old prejudice and
presumption that they really have no look out; who, because a thing has
been long established, mistake its artificial substruction of crumbling
materials for the natural rock; and it will be pretended by others, who
think the bravado of asserting the impossibility of the overthrow may be a
good policy for deterring the attempt. There has not been one of the great
alterations effected by the popular spirit within the last half-century,
that was not preceded by professions of contemptuous incredulity, on the
part of the applauders of things as they were, toward those who calculated
on the effects of that spirit. There were occasionally betrayed, under
these shows of confidence and contempt, some signs of horror at the
undeniable excitement and progress of popular feeling; but the scorn of
all serious and monitory predictions of its ultimate result was at all
events to be kept up,--in whatever proportions a time-serving interest and
an honest fatuity might share in dictating this elated and contemptuous
style. Should the latter of these ingredients at present predominate in
the temper which throws off the fume of this high style, it will not leave
much faculty in the defiers of all revolution, for explaining what it is
they have to trust to as security against such consequences as we should
anticipate from the progress of disapprobation and aversion in the people;
unless indeed the security mainly relied on is just that plain, simple
expedient--force, for all nations on earth--downright force. It is plainly
this that is meant, when persons disinclined to speak out give us a
circumlocution of delicate phrases, "the conservative energies of the
public institutions," "the majesty of the law," perhaps, and others of
similar cast;--which fine phrases suggest to one's imagination the
ornamented fashion of the handle and sheath of the scimitar, which is not
the less keen, nor the less ready to be drawn, for all this finery that
hides and garnishes so menacing a symbol of power.

The economy of states _shall_ not be modified in favor of the great body
of those who constitute them.--And are, then, the higher and privileged
portions of the national communities to have, henceforward, just this one
grand object of their existence, this chief employment for their
knowledge, means, and power, namely, to keep down the lower orders of
their fellow-citizens by stress of coercion? Are they resolved and
prepared for a rancorous, interminable hostility in prosecution of such a
benign purpose; with a continual exhaustion upon it of the resources which
might be applied to diminish that wretchedness of the people, which is the
grand inflamer of those principles that have caused an earthquake under
the foundations of the old social systems? But, "interminable" is no
proper epithet to be applied to such a course. This policy of a bare
uncompromising rigor, exerted to keep the people just where they are, in
preference to adjustments formed on a calculation of a material change,
and adapted to prepare them for it--how long could it be successful--not
to ask what would be the value or the glory of that success? With the
light of recent history to aid the prognostication, by what superstitious
mode of estimating the self-preserving, and self-avenging competence of
any artificial form of social order, can we believe in its power to throw
back the general opinions, determinations, and efforts, of the mass of
mankind in endless recoil on themselves? That must be a very firm
structure, must be of gigantic mass or most excellent basis and
conformation, against which the ocean shall unremittingly wear and foam in
vain. And it does not appear what there can be of such impregnable
consistence in any particular construction of the social economy which is,
by the supposition, resolved to be maintained in sovereign immutability,
in permanent frustration of the persevering, ever-growing aim and impulse
of the great majority, pressing on to achieve important innovations in
their favor; innovations in those systems of institution and usage, under
which they will never cease to think they have had far less happiness, or
means of happiness, than they ought to have had. We cannot see how this
impulse can be so repelled or diverted that it shall not prevail at
length, to the effect of either bearing down, or wearing away, a portion
of the order of things which the ascendant classes in every part of Europe
would have fondly wished to maintain in perpetuity, without one particle
of surrender.

But though they cannot preserve its entireness, the manner in which it
shall yield to modification is in a great measure at their command. And
here is the important point on which all these observations are meant to
bear. If a movement has really begun in the general popular mind of the
nations, and if the principle of it is growing and insuppressible, so that
it must in one manner or another ultimately prevail, what will the state
be of any national community where it shall be an unenlightened,
half-barbarous people that so prevails?--a people no better informed,
perhaps, than to believe that all the hardship and distress endured by
themselves and their forefathers were wrongs, which they suffered from the
higher orders; than to ascribe to bad government, and the rapacity and
selfishness of the rich, the very evils caused by inclement seasons; and
than to assume it as beyond question, that the whole accumulation of their
resentments, brought out into action at last, is only justice demanding
and inflicting a retribution.

In such an event, what would not the superior orders be glad to give and
forego, in compromise with principles, tempers, and demands, which they
will know they should never have had to encounter, to the end of time, if,
instead of spending their vast advantages on merely their own state and
indulgence, they had applied them in a mode of operation and influence
tending to improve, in every way, the situation and character of the
people? It is true, that such a wild triumph of overpowering violence
would necessarily be short. A blind, turbulent monster of popular power
never can for a long time maintain the domination of a political
community. It would rage and riot itself out of breath and strength,
succumb under some strong coercion of its own creating, and lie subject
and stupified, till its spirit should be recovered and incensed for new
commotion. But this impossibility of a very prolonged reign of confusion,
would be little consolation for the classes against whose privileged
condition the first tremendous eruption should have driven. It would not
much cheer a man who should see his abode carried away, and his fields and
plantations devastated, to tell him that the agent of this ruin was only a
transient mountain torrent. A short prevalence of the overturning force
would have sufficed for the subversion of the proudest, longest
established state of privilege; and most improbable would it be, that
those who lost it in the tumult, would find the new authority, of whatever
shape or name it were, that would arise as that tumult subsided, either
able or disposed to restore it. They might perhaps, (on a favorable
supposition,) survive in personal safety, but in humiliated fortunes, to
ruminate on their manner of occupying their former elevated situation, and
of employing its ample means of power, a due share of which, exerted for
the improvement of the general condition, both intellectual and civil,
with an accompanying liberal yet gradual concession of privileges to the
people, would have prevented the catastrophe.

Let us urge, then, that a zealous endeavor to render it absolutely
impossible that, in any change whatever, the destinies of a nation should
fall under the power of an ignorant infuriated multitude, may take place
of the presumption that there _is_ no great change to be ever effected by
the progressive and conscious importance of the people; a presumption than
which nothing can appear more like infatuation, when we look at the recent
scenes and present temperament of the moral world. Lay hold on the myriads
of juvenile spirits, before they have time to grow up through ignorance
into a reckless hostility to social order; train them to sense and good
morals: inculcate the principles of religion, simply and solemnly _as_
religion, as a thing directly of divine dictation, and not as if its
authority were chiefly in virtue of human institutions; let the higher
orders generally make it evident to the multitude that they are desirous
to raise them in value, and promote their happiness; and then _whatever_
the demands of the people as a body, thus improving in understanding and
the sense of justice, shall come to be, and _whatever_ modification their
preponderance may ultimately enforce on the great social arrangements, it
will be infallibly certain that there never _can_ be a love of disorder,
an insolent anarchy, a prevailing spirit of revenge and devastation. Such
a conduct of the ascendant ranks would, in this nation at least, secure
that, as long as the world lasts, there never would be any formidable
commotion, or violent sudden changes. All those modifications of the
national economy to which an improving people would aspire and would
deserve to obtain, would be gradually accomplished, in a manner by which
no party would be wronged, and all would be the happier.

[Footnote: The considerations in the latter part of this section (so
plainly on the surface of the subject that they would occur to any
thoughtful and observant man) have been verified in part by the course of
events in our country, since the time they were written. At that, time the
superior, and till then irresistibly and invariably predominant, portion
of the community, felt themselves in perfect security against any
comprehensive and radical change within the ensuing twelve or fourteen
years. There might indeed be one or two subordinate matters in the
established national system in which they might deem it not unlikely that
the advocates and laborers for innovation would be successful; but such an
amount of innovation did not come within the view of even a feverish
dream. Any man who should have predicted, especially, the recent greatest
achievement against the inveterate system, [Footnote: The Reform Bill.]
would have been laughed at as an incorrigible visionary; so proudly
confident were they that the structure would be kept compact and
impregnable in all its essential parts, by the cement of ancient
institution, national veneration, opulence, and the inherence of actual
power, possessed from generation to generation.

In the next place, they were obstinately resolute against all material
concessions. When at intervals the complaints, claims, and remonstrances
of the people sought to be heard, they treated them as unreasonable,
absurd, factious; and asserted that none of the good sense and right
feeling of the nation went that way. They declared that the existing order
of things was on the whole so superlatively excellent that, if there were,
perhaps, any trifling defects, it were far better to let them alone than
to presume to touch with an innovating hand the integrity of so noble a
system, the admiration and envy of all the world. As it was, it had
"worked well" for our happiness and glory; and who could say, if a
tampering of alteration were once suffered to begin, where it might end?
Order the people to be quiet; let their factious demands and seditious
movements be promptly and firmly repressed by authority; and they would
sink into insignificance and silence. To think of such a thing as
condescending to conciliate by moderate concessions would be weakness, and
might eventually bring a hazard which otherwise could have no existence.

And now for the consequence: the popular spirit, thus set at naught in
present account and in calculation for the future, was discouraged from
active outward manifestation, by the invetorate, perfectly organized, and,
for the present, resistless domination. But under the pressure of
wide-spread and unabating grievance, which quickened and envenomed every
sentiment previously entertained regarding the rights and wrongs of the
people, it was gradually acquiring, throughout the country, a more
determinate sense of being absolved from all submissive respect toward the
ascendant party, a more entire conviction of its right to vindicate its
claims in any manner that should become practicable, and a hostility, but
the more deep and intense for its being kept under by despondency of
present success, against those who were rejecting and contemptuously
defying those claims. It wanted, then, only some occurrence that should
present a possibility and a hope of success to burst out in sudden ardor.
It was thus in collective power and readiness for action, when several
events of prodigious excitement came close together; and then, like a
stream in one of the Swiss valleys, dammed up by a mound of earth or ice
fallen across, to a lake deepening without noise, till its vast weight
breaks away the obstruction with a tremendous tumult, the popular will
bore down the aristocratic embankment, consolidated through so many years
or ages. The overpowered party found the consequence of their obstinate
and _entire_ resistance; and had to reflect with unmixed mortification how
much less than they had lost, and without mitigating by the loss the
hostile feeling of those who had taken it from them, would have been
received with gratitude if yielded in the way of gradual voluntary
concession. Happily the change was not left to be accomplished by physical
force, as all such changes must be in purely despotic states; but the
people fully believe that they chiefly owe the forced surrender to the
alarm which their demonstrations excited lest they should bring the
question ere long to that arbitrament.

But in the last place, there is a deplorable circumstance, attending this
sudden rising of the popular spirit into power, and which throws a strong
light on the criminal infatuation of a State that suffers the commonalty
of its citizens to remain grossly uncultivated and uncivilized--perhaps
even fancies it sees in that ignorance a main security for its own
stability. The fact is, that the people have acquired their power and
privileges, before they are (speaking as to many of them) qualified for a
wise and useful exercise of them. A large proportion of those who are now
brought into what may be called political existence have grown up so
destitute of all means and habits for a right use of their minds, that
their notions, wishes, expectations, and determinations, respecting public
interests, will exemplify anything rather than a competent judgment. And
the proportion so raised is but perhaps a minor part of the multitude in
which the popular spirit is embodied and vehemently excited. Great numbers
on a lower level, and having no formal political capacity to act in, are
nevertheless pervaded by a spirit which will bring the rude impulse of
mass and combination into the movement of the popular will.

If alarmed at such a view, will not they who have so long held the
sovereign control over the national economy feel the bitterest regret
that it had not been given them to obviate the possible dangers of such a
crisis and such a change, or rather to prevent such a crisis and a change
so abrupt, by exertions in every way, and on the widest scale, to rescue
the people from their ignorance and barbarism, instead of trusting to it
for an uncontested undisturbed continuance of their own domination? But
they scorned the idea, if it ever occurred, that the many-headed,
many-handed "monster," (so named in the dialect of some of them,) after
lying prone, and inert, and submissive, from time immemorial, should at
last become instinct with spirit, and rise up roaring in defiance of
their power.

It is now for them to consider whether, by maintaining a temper and
attitude of sullen, vindictive, pugnacious alienation from the people,
they shall wilfully aggravate whatever injurious consequences may be
threatened by so sudden a revolution; or endeavor to intercept them by
giving their best assistance to every plan and expedient for rescuing the
lower orders from the curse and calamity of ignorance and debasement.
Other remedial measures, besides that of education, are imperiously
demanded by the miserable and formidable condition of the populace, but no
other, nor all others together, can avail without it.

* * * * *

Since the date of the above note, the spirit and policy of the ascendant
class have been just that which a philanthropist would have deprecated,
and a cynic predicted.

Their moral chagrin at the acquisition by the people of a new political
rank, an event by which they, (the ascendant class,) had for a while
appeared amazed and stunned, has soon recovered to a prodigious activity
of device and exertion to nullify that rightful acquisition. For this
purpose have been brought into play, on the widest scale, that of the
whole kingdom, all the means and resources of wealth, station, and power;
with the utmost recklessness of equity, honor, and even humanity; deluding
the ignorant, corrupting the venal, and intimidating and punishing the
conscientious: insomuch that the nominally conceded right or privilege is
practically reduced to an inconsiderable proportion of its pre-estimated
worth; while aristocratic tyranny has rendered it to many of the most
deserving to possess it no better than an inflicted grievance. One
important measure for the improvement of the condition of the lower orders
has been effected, because the anti-popular party saw it advantageous also
to their own interests. But for the general course of their policy, we
have witnessed a systematic determination to frustrate measures framed in
recognition of the rights and wants of the people. As to their education,
it continues abandoned to the efforts and totally inadequate means of
private individuals and societies; except a comparative trifle from the
State, not so much for the whole nation for the whole year as the cost of
some useless, gaudy, barbaric pageant of one day.--It is evident the
predominant portion of the higher classes trouble themselves very little
about the mental condition of the populace. It is even understood that a
chief obstacle in the way of any comprehensive legislation on the subject
is found or apprehended in the repugnance of those classes to any liberal
scheme: any scheme that, aiming simply at the general good, should boldly
set aside invidious restrictions and a jealous, parsimonious limitation; a
scheme that should not work in subjection to the mean self-interest of
this party or that, but for the one grand purpose of raising millions from
degradation into rational existence.]

Section V.

The most serious form of the evil caused by a want of mental improvement,
is that which is exposed to us in its consequences with respect to the
most important concern of all, Religion. This has been briefly adverted to
in a former part of these descriptive observations. But the subject seems
to merit a more amplified illustration, and may be of sufficient interest
to excuse some appearance of repetition. The special view in which we wish
to place it, is that of _the inaptitude of uncultivated minds for
receiving religious instruction._--But first, a slight estimate may be
attempted of the actual state of religious notions among our uneducated

_Some_ notion of such a concern, something different in their
consciousness from the absolute negation of the idea, something that
faintly responds to the terms which would be used by a person conversing
with them, in the way of questioning them on the subject, may be presumed
to exist in the minds of all who are advanced a considerable way into
youth, or come to mature age, in a country where all are familiar with
several of the principal terms of theology, and have the monitory
spectacle of edifices for religious use, on spots appointed also for the
interment of the dead. If this sort of measured caution in the assumption
seem bordering on the ridiculous, we would recommend those who would smile
at it to make some little experiments. Let them insinuate themselves into
the company of some of the innumerable rustics who have grown up destitute
of everything worth calling education; or of the equally ill-fated beings
in the alleys, precincts, and lower employments of towns. With due
management to avoid the abruptness and judicial formality, which, would
preclude a communicative disposition, they might take occasion to
introduce remarks tending, without the express form of questions in the
first instance, to draw out the thoughts of some of these persons
respecting God, Jesus Christ, the human soul, the invisible world. And the
answers would often put them to a stand to conceive, under what suspension
of the laws of rational existence the utterers could have been passing so
many years in the world. These answers might dispel, as by a sudden shock,
the easy and contented assurance, if so unknowing a notion had been
entertained, that almost all the people _must_, in one way or another,
have become decently apprized of a few first principles of religion; that
this _could_ not have failed to be the case in what was expressly
constituted a great Christian community, with an obligation upon it, that
none of its members should be left destitute of the most essential
requisite to their well-being. This agreeable assurance would vanish, like
a dream interrupted, at the spectacle thus presented, of persons only not
quite as devoid of those first principles, after living eighteen, thirty,
forty, or twice forty years, under the superintendence of that community,
as if they had been the aboriginal rovers of the American forests, or
natives of unvisited coral-built spots in the ocean. If these examiners
were to prosecute the investigation widely, and with an effect on their
sentiments correspondent to the enlarging disclosure of facts, they could
find themselves fallen into a very altered estimate of this our Christian
tract of the earth. A fancied sunshine, spread over it before, would have
faded away. From appearing to them, according to an accustomed notion,
peculiarly auspicious, as if almost by some virtue of its climate, to the
growth of religious intelligence in the minds of the people, it might come
to be regarded as favorable to the development of _all things rather than
that_. Plants and trees, the diversity of animal forms and powers, the
human frame, the features enlarging or enlarged to manhood in the younger
persons looked at by the supposed examiner while answering his questions,
with their passions also, and prevailing dispositions,--see how all things
can unfold themselves in our territory, and grow and enlarge to their
completeness,--except the ideas of the human soul relating to the
Almighty, and to the grand purpose of its own existence!

The supposed answers would in many instances betray, that any thought of
God at all was of very rare occurrence, the idea having never become
strongly associated with anything beheld in the whole creation. We should
think it probable, as we have said before, that with many, while in
health, weeks or months often pass away without this idea being once so
presented as to fix the mind in attention to it for one moment of time. If
they could be set to any such task as that of retracing, at the end of the
days or the weeks, the course of their thoughts, to recollect what
particulars in the series had struck the most forcibly and stayed the
longest, it may be suspected that _this_ idea, thus impressively
apprehended, would be as rare a recollection as that of having seen a
splendid meteor. Yet during that space of time, their thoughts, such as
they were, shall have run through thousands of changes; and even the name
of God may have been pronounced by them a multitude of times, in
jocularity or imprecation. Thus there is a broad easy way to atheism
through thoughtless ignorance, as well as a narrow and difficult one
through subtle speculation.

But that idea of God which has, by some means, found its way into their
understandings, to abide there so nearly in silence and oblivion,--what is
it, when some direct call does really evoke it? It is generally a gross
approximation of the conception of the Infinite Being to the likeness of
man. If what they have heard of his being a Spirit, has indeed some little
effect in prevention of the total debasement of the idea, it prevents it
rather by confusion than by magnificence. It may somewhat restrain and
baffle the tendency of the imagination to a direct degrading definition;
but it does so by a dissolution of the idea as into an attenuated cloud.
And ever and anon, this cloudy diffusion is again drawing in, and shaping
itself toward an image, vast perhaps, and spectral, portentous across the
firmament, but in some near analogy to the human mode of personality.

The divine attribute which is apprehended by them with most of an
impression of reality, is a certain vastness of power. But, through the
grossness of their intellectual atmosphere, this appears to them in the
character of something prodigiously huge, rather than sublimely
glorious.--As considered in his quality of moral judicial Governor, God is
regarded by some of them as more disposed, than there is any reasonable
cause, to be displeased with what is done in this world. But the far
greater number have no prevailing sentiment that he takes any very
vigilant account or concern. [Footnote: Some have no very distinct
impression the one way or the other. Not very long since, a friend of the
writer, in one of the midland counties, fell into talk, on a Sunday, with
a man who had been in some very plain violation of the consecrated
character of the day. He seriously animadverted on this, adding, Don't you
think God will be displeased at and punish such conduct? or words to that
effect. The man, after a moment's consideration, answered, with unaffected
cool simplicity, exactly thus: "That's according as how a takes it."

Numerous anecdotes of the same cast have been more recently heard; and
among them that of a conversation with a thoughtless man, of worthless
character, not in the lowest condition in society, and then consciously
near death. The religious visitor represented to him the serious and
alarming situation of a man on the point of going from a sinful life into
the presence of God as a Judge. The man, with a sort of general
acknowledgment that it was so, yet hoped that God would not be severe with
him. But the visitor anxiously pressed upon him the consideration that God
is a just Being, and judges by a holy law: to which at last the answer
was, with little emotion, "Then God and I must fight it out as well as we
can." The phrase, in his use of it, did not mean anything of the nature of
a hostile contest, but simply the _settling of an affair_, which he
thought might be done without any great danger or trouble.] And even those
who entertain the more ungracious apprehension, have it not in sufficient
force to make them, once in whole months, deliberately think it worth
while to care what he may disapprove.]

The notions that should answer to the doctrine of a Providence, are a
confusion of some crude idea of a divine superintendence, with stronger
fancies and impressions of luck and chance; a confusion of them not
unaptly exemplified in a grave and well-meaning sentiment heard from a man
in a temporal condition to be envied by many of his neighbors, "Providence
must take its chance." And these are still further, and most uncouthly,
confounded by the admixture of the ancient heathen notion of fate, reduced
from its philosophy to its dregs. In many instances, however, this last
obtains such a predominance, as to lessen the confusion, and withal to
preclude, in a great measure, the sense of accountableness. In neither of
these rude states of the understanding, (that which confounds Providence
and chance, and that which sinks in dull acquiescence to something
obscurely imagined like fate,) is there any serious admission, at least
during the enjoyment of health, of the duty or advantage of prayer.

The supposed examiner may endeavor to possess himself of the notions
concerning the Redeemer of the world. They would be found, in numerous
instances, amounting literally to no more than, that Jesus Christ was a
worthy kind of person, (the word has actually been "gentleman," in more
than one instance that we have heard from unquestionable testimony,) who
once, somewhere, (these national Christians had never in their lives,
thought of inquiring when or where,) did a great deal of good, and was
very ill used by bad people. The people now, they think, bad as they may
be, would not do so in the like case. Some of these persons may
occasionally have been at church; and are just aware that his name often
recurs in its services; they never considered why; but they have a vague
impression of its repetition having some kind of virtue, perhaps rather in
the nature of a spell.--The names of the four evangelists are by some held
literally and technically available for such a use.

A few steps withdrawn from this thickest of the mental fog, there are many
who are not entirely uninformed of something having been usually affirmed,
by religious formularies and teachers, of Jesus Christ's being more than a
man, and of his having done some thing of great importance toward
preventing our being punished for our sins. This combination of a majestic
superiority to the human nature, with a subsistence yet confessedly human,
just passes their minds like a shape formed of a shadow, as one of the
unaccountable things that may be as it is said, for what they know, but
which they need not trouble themselves to think about. As to the great
things said to be done by him, to save men from being punished, they see
indeed no necessity for such an expedient, but if it is so, very right,
and so much the better; for between that circumstance in our favor, and
God's being too good, after all that is said of his holiness and wrath, to
be severe on such poor creatures, we must have a good chance of coming off
safely at last. But multitudes of the miserably poor, however wicked, have
a settled assurance of this coming off well at last, independently of
anything effected for men by the Mediator: they shall be exempted, they
believe, from any future suffering in consideration of their having
suffered so much here. There is nothing, in the scanty creed of great
numbers, more firmly held than this.

It is true, they believe that the most atrociously wicked must go to a
state of punishment after death. They consider murderers, especially, as
under this doom. But the offences so adjudged, according to any settled
estimate they have of the demerit of bad actions, are comprised in a very
short catalogue. At least it is short if we could take it exclusively of
the additions made to it by the resentments of individuals. For each one
is apt to make his own particular addition to it, of some offence which he
would never have accounted so heinous, but that it has happened to be
committed against _him_. We can recollect the exultation of sincere faith,
seen mingling with the anger, of an offended man, while _predicting_, as
well as imprecating, this retribution of some injury he had suffered; a
real injury, indeed, yet of a kind which he would have held in small
account had he only seen it done to another person.--As to the nature of
that future punishment, the ideas of these neglected minds go scarcely at
all beyond the images of corporal anguish, conveyed by the well-known
metaphors. They have no impressive idea of the pain of remorse, and
scarcely the faintest conception of an infelicity inflicted by the
conscious loss of the Divine favor.

It is most striking to observe how almost wholly negative are their
conceptions of that future happiness which must be _something_--but
what?--as the necessary alternative of the evil they so easily assure
themselves of escaping. The abstracted, contemplative, and elevated ideas
of the celestial happiness are far above their apprehension; and indeed,
though they were not, would be little attractive. And the more ordinary
modes of representing it in religious discourse, (if they should ever have
heard enough of such discourse to be acquainted with them,) are too
uncongenial with their notions of pleasure to have a welcome, or abiding
place, in their imagination or affections. Thus the soul, as to this great
subject, is vacant and cold. And here the reflection again returns, what
an inexpressible poverty of the mind there is, when the people have no
longer a mythology, and yet have not obtained in its place any knowledge
of the true religion. The martial vagrants of Scandinavia glowed with the
vivid anticipations of Valhalla; the savages of the western continent had
their animating visions of the "land of souls;" the modern Christian
barbarians of England, who also expect to live after death, do not know
what they mean by the! phrase of "going to heaven."

Most of this class of persons think very little in any way whatever of the
invisible spiritual economy. And some of them would be pleased with a
still more complete exemption from such thought. For there are among them
those who are liable to be occasionally affected with certain ghostly
recognitions of something out of the common world. But it is remarkable
how little these may contribute to enforce the salutary impressions of
religion. For instance, a man subject to the terror of apparitions shall
not therefore be in the smallest degree the less profane, except just at
the time that this terror is upon him. A number of persons, not one of
whom durst walk, alone, at midnight, round a lonely church, encompassed
with graves, to which has perhaps lately been added that of a notoriously
wicked man, will nevertheless, on a fine Sunday morning, form a row of
rude idlers, standing in the road to this very church, to vent their jokes
on the persons going thither to attend the offices of religion, and on the
performers of those offices.

Such, as regarding religion, is the state out of which it is desired to
redeem a multitude of the people of this land. Or rather, we should say,
it is sought to save a multitude from being consigned to it. For consider,
in the next place, (what we wished especially to point at, in this most
important article in the enumeration of the evils of ignorance,) consider
what a fatal inaptitude for receiving the truths of religion is created by
the neglect of training minds to the exercise of their faculties, and the
possession of the elements of knowledge.

How inevitably it must be so, from the nature of the case!--There is a
sublime economy of invisible realities. There is the Supreme Existence, an
infinite and eternal Spirit. There are spiritual existences, that have
kindled into brightness and power, from nothing, at his creating will,
There is an universal government, omnipotent, all-wise, and righteous, of
that Supreme Being over the creation. There is the immense tribe of human
spirits, in a most peculiar and alarming predicament, held under eternal
obligation of conformity to a law proceeding from the holiness of that
Being, but perverted to a state of disconformity to it, and opposition to
him. Next, there is a signal anomaly of moral government, the constitution
of a new state of relation between the Supreme Governor and this alienated
race, through a Mediator, who makes an atonement for human iniquity, and
stands representative before Almighty Justice, for those who in grateful
accordance to the mysterious appointment consign themselves to this
charge. There are the several doctrines declaratory of this new
constitution through all its parts. There is the view of religion in its
operative character, or the doctrine of the application of its truths and
precepts by a divine agency to transform the mind and rectify the life.
And this solemn array of all the sublimest reality, and most important
intelligence, is extending infinitely away beyond the sensible horizon of
our present state to an invisible world, to which the spirits of men
proceed at death for judgment and retribution, and with the prospect of
living forever.

Look at this scene of faith, so distinct, and stretching to such
remoteness, from the field of ordinary things; of a subsistence which it
is for intellect alone to apprehend; presenting objects with which
intellect alone can hold converse. Look at this scene; and then consider,
what manner of beings you are calling upon to enter into it by
contemplation. Beings who have never learned to think at all. Beings who
have hardly ever once, in their whole lives, made a real effort to direct
and concentrate the action of their faculties on anything abstracted from
the objects palpable to the senses; whose entire attention has been
engrossed, from their infancy, with the common business, the low
amusements and gratifications, the idle talk, the local occurrences, which
formed the whole compass of the occupation, and practically acknowledged
interests, of their progenitors. Beings who have never been made in the
least familiar with even the matters of fact, those especially of the
scripture history, by which religious truths have been expressed and
illustrated in the substantial form of events, and personal characters.
Beings who, in natural consequence of this unexercised and unfurnished
condition of their understandings, will combine the utmost aversion to any
effort of purely intellectual labor, with the especial dislike which it is
in the human disposition to feel toward this class of subjects. What kind
of ideas should you imagine to be raised in their minds, by all the words
you might employ, to place within their intellectual vision some portion
of this spiritual order of things,--even should you be able, which you
often would not, to engage any effort of attention to the subject?--And
yet we have heard this disqualification for receiving religious knowledge,
in consequence of the want of early mental culture, made very light of by
men whose pretensions to judgment had no less a foundation than an
academical course and a consecrated profession. They would maintain, with
every appearance of thinking so, that a very little, that the barest
trifle, of regulated exercise of the mind in youth, would be enough for
the common people as a preparation for gaining as much knowledge of
religion as they could ever want; that any such thing as a practice of
reading, (a practice of hazardous tendency.) would be needless for the
purpose, since they might gain a competence of that knowledge by
attendance on the public ministration in the church. And there must have
been a very recent acquiescence in a new fashion of opinion, if numbers of
the same class of men would not, in honestly avowing their thoughts, say
something not far different at this hour.

But the pretended facility of gaining a competence of religious knowledge
by such persons on such terms, can only mean, that the smallest
conceivable portion of it may suffice. For we may appeal to those pious
and benevolent persons who have made the most numerous trials, for
testimony to the inaptitude of uneducated people to receive that kind of
instruction. You have visited, perhaps, some numerous family, or Sunday
assemblage of several related families; to which you had access without
awkward intrusion, in consequence of the acquaintance arising from near
neighborhood, or of little services you had rendered, or of the
circumstance of any of their younger children coming to your charity
schools. It was to you soon made sensible what a sterile, blighted spot
of rational nature you were in, by indications unequivocal to your
perception, though, it may be, not easily reducible to exact description.
And those indications were perhaps almost equally apparent in the young
persons, in those advanced to the middle of life, and in those who were
evidently destined not long to remain in it, the patriarch, perhaps, and
the eldest matron, of the kindred company. You attempted by degrees, with
all managements of art, as if you had been seeking to gain a favor for
yourselves, to train into the talk some topic bearing toward religion;
and which could be followed up into a more explicit reference to that
great subject, without the abruptness which causes instant silence and
recoil. We will suppose that the gloom of such a moral scene was not


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