« 上一頁繼續 »
be rejected. Every year's delay to their claims increases the dissensions of their country, and must increase also the military force by which the inhabitants are kept in subjection. And how can such a force be spared in the present situation of Britain ?-Let us fully impress on our minds the duty which Almighty Providence has called upon us to discharge to ourselves, to the world, and to posterity, before we render our exertions fruitless by making enemies in our own country. “ Freedom, driven from every “ spot on the continent, has sought an asylum “ in a country which she always chose for her or favourite abode : but she is pursued even here, " and threatened with destruction. The inun“ dation of lawless power, after covering the “ whole earth, threatens to follow us here; and “ we are most exactly, most critically placed “ in the only aperture where it can be success“ fully repelled; in the Thermopylæ of the uni“ verse. As far as the interests of freedom are “ concerned, the most important by far of sub“ lunary interests, we stand in the capacity of “ the federal representatives of the human race; “ for in us it is to determine (under God) in of what condition the latest posterity shall be o born ; their fortunes are entrusted to our 6 hands; and on our conduct, at this moment, “ depends the colour and complexion of their
“ destiny. If Liberty, after being extinguished “ on the continent, is suffered to expire here, « whence is it ever 'to emerge in the midst of " that thick night that will invest it? It re“ mains with us, then, to determine, whether “ that freedom, at whose voice the kingdoms “: of Europe awoke from the sleep of ages, to “ run a career of virtuous emulation in every “ thing great and good; the freedom which “ dispelled the mists of superstition, and in« vited the nations to behold their God; whose “ magic touch kindled the rays of genius, the
enthusiasm of poetry, and the flame of elo" quence; the freedom which poured into our “ lap opulence and arts, and embellished life 66 with innumerable institutions and improve. " ments, till it became a theatre of wonders ; “ it is for us to decide whether this freedom " shall yet survive, or be covered with a funeral “ pall, and wrapt in eternal gloom." *
* Hall's Sermon on the present Crisis
ON THE MEANS WHICH SHOULD BE EM
PLOYED FOR THE INSTRUCTION OF THE
SECTION I. General Remarks on the Advantages of Na
. . tional Education.
I SHALL not here repeat the remarks by which it was endeavoured to prove the inefficiency of those means which have occasionally been used to enlighten the old Irish, and the absurdity of attempting to improve their minds by addressing them in a language which they do not understand. Taking this truth for granted, which, indeed, nothing but the grossest prejudice and misconception could ever controvert, I proceed to inquire into the measures which should be adopted for extending to the whole population of Ireland, all the blessings of moral and religious improvement. The most obvious means for accomplishing this end are education and preaching.
1. Education. The importance of this means of national improvement is much less under: stood than is generally imagined,* and seems no where to be so universally acknowledged as in Scotland. Here, indeed, its utility has for a long time been fully demonstrated : it has produced in the mass of the people, industry, virtue, and happiness, and has conferred on them that proud pre-eminence of intellectual 'endowment : by which they are distinguished above all the nations of the globe. We never expect, therefore, from a native of this country to hear any arguments advanced against the manifest advantage of a general system of education,-a system adapted to enlighten and instruct the very lowest orders of the people. It is from men who have never witnessed the happy effects which a plan of elementary tuition produces; or, who are so selfish as to grudge their fellow creatures that augmentation of domestic happiness which knowledge imparts, or, so corrupt and tyrannical as to dread the progressive improvement of society, and the ameliorating influence of increased illumination ; it is from such persons only that it is possible for us, ever to hear arguments of this descrip
* See note F.
+ This was written before the formation of the national institution in England.
tion. There may, indeed, be a few in every country whose understandings are so obtuse as not to perceive the force of the strongest eyidence, and who obstinately retain all the prejudices of the last century in spite of every attempt to remove them. To such characters I do not address myself. But to those who oppose the education of the poor merely because they are ignorant of its advantage, and who really have every wish to promote the general happiness of mankind, I offer the following remarks, common place enough, no doubt, but nevertheless of very great im. portance.
In the first place, it is evident that the dif. fusion of knowledge among the inferior orders of the community, by means of a national system of education, must necessarily advance the interests of morality. Ignorance, indolence, penury, and vice, are not more closely allied, than intelligence, industry, purity of manners, and a watchful attention to all the duties of life. It is possible, no doubt, to communicate a species of knowledge, or rather to put it in the power of every individual to acquire it for himself, without improving to any great extent the morals of the people. But the system of education which I recommend, embraces the pure morality which