« 上一頁繼續 »
part of the United Kingdom a political importance, to which it was neither entitled from the fertility of its soil, nor by the number of its inhabitants.
To the slight historical sketch which has now been given, I cannot help subjoining one observation before proceeding further. What I allude to is the additional motive which the foregoing considerations suggest to us, for a thankful acquiescence in our lot, under all the comparative disadvantages to which we are subject in this northern part of the island. That some of our political institutions are greatly inferior to those which exist among our southern neighbours, it is impossible to dispute. But, on the other hand, it must not be forgotten how much we owe, in several of the most essential articles of Political Economy, to the provident wisdom of our own ancestors. The subjects which have been under review in the course of these lectures, which are now about to conclude,* force on our notice a few of these so strongly, that I shall make no apology for taking this opportunity of recalling them once more to your recollection.
The first then is, That invaluable law, which has been justly called the charter of our agricultural prosperity ; I mean the law which secures the Longest Leases against successors of every kind. This law was introduced into Scotland in the year 1449, under the reign of James II., though it was a great number of years afterwards before a similar measure was adopted in England. Secondly, That General Enclosure Bill which the landed interest of Scotland have enjoyed ever since the year 1695, and which it has been so long the object of an anxious, but ineffectual, wish to establish on the other side of the Tweed. Thirdly, That legal Commutation for Tithes, which was introduced here almost two centuries ago, and which has hitherto, notwithstanding the universal conviction of its essential utility to agricultural improvement, been considered, in the other part of the island, as an experiment difficult in the attempt, and in the last degree, perilous in the execution. Fourthly, Our system of Poor-laws, vesting not only the right of assessment, but the right of enrolling the proper objects of charitable aid, in the very persons by whom that aid is afforded. These laws, I must at the same time add, have been hitherto superseded in by far the greater part of the Kingdom, by a still more effectual provision for the poor, flowing from the voluntary contributions of the people. And lastly, perhaps chiefly, the laws now under consideration, which, by establishing a general plan of Parochial Education, have diffused among the great body of the people, a degree of light and knowledge unexampled in any other country of Europe.
* (It will be recollected that Part II., or Politics Proper, was delivered by Mr. Stewart, in connexion, not with this
Course, but with that of Moral Philosophy.]
I had just remarked, before entering on this short digression, the happy effects which the establishment of our parochial schools had, during the eighteenth century, on the morals and industry of our lower orders; an observation which, if our time permitted, it would be easy for me to illustrate, in a striking manner, by a comparison of the order and tranquillity now everywhere prevalent, with the crimes and anarchy of the preceding age. Not that I would ascribe this change to the parochial schools entirely, for a similar progress is observable in England, arising from causes which are common to both parts of the island, the influence of good government, of commerce, and of manufactures. But that the influence of education has also been great, may be presumed from this circumstance, that although England had obtained the benefits of a regular government at a much earlier period than Scotland, the progress of national improvement was, by no means, so rapid there, or universal. This is particularly striking when we attend to the comparative attainments of the lower orders in the two countries; and it demonstrates, that in the present state of society, the diffusion of knowledge, even when assisted by the art of printing, will not be sufficient to secure the instruction of the lower orders, unless proper arrangements for that purpose are made on the part of Government.
In Professor Hume's Commentary on the Criminal Law of Scotland, it is said, “that on an average of thirty years preceding the year 1797, the executions for all Scotland have not exceeded
deved, in thi. Meir crime
six in a year; while one quarter-sessions for the single town of Manchester, have sent more felons to the plantations than all the Scots Judges do for ordinary in a year.”* “It might appear invidious," says Dr. Currie [of Liverpool,] in his remarks on this very striking assertion, “ to attempt a calculation of the many thousand individuals in Manchester and its vicinity, who can neither read nor write. A majority of those who suffer the punishment of death for their crimes in every part of England are, it is believed, in this miserable state of ignorance.”+ In a printed letter, written by one of the late Sheriffs of London, dated in the month of June 1808, the following very interesting fact is mentioned in regard to the prisoners in Newgate. Out of 152, he says, two-thirds, at least, were unable to read or write. In farther confirmation of the same conclusions, the observation of the late Mr. Henry Fielding deserves our attention, that during the great number of years he presided at Bow Street, only six Scotchmen were brought before him. He used to say, that of the persons committed the greater part were Irish. Mr. Howard, too, long ago, took notice of the comparatively small number of prisoners which he found in Scotland and in Switzerland. I
If we turn our eyes to other parts of Europe, we shall everywhere find bad morals and a spirit of insubordination accompanying general ignorance. In France, about thirty years ago, the accomplishment of reading seems by no means to have been general. In a work published by M. Daubenton, in the year 1782, under the title of Instruction pour les Bergers, there is a passage from which, I think, we may form some idea of the rarity of this acquirement. The work is written in the form of a Catechism ; and the first question is, Whether it is necessary that a shepherd should be able to read ? The answer is :-“ A shepherd who can read possesses a superior facility in acquiring information; but this cannot be considered as indispensably necessary, since he may employ others to read
* [Introduction, p. 1.]
+ [See his Burns's Works, Vol. I. App. i. Note A.]
[See Malthus, On Population, Book IV. chap. xii.; Vol. II. p. 496, edition 1806.]
for him what has been published for his instruction. He will be able, perhaps, to find some person in the same house with him, or at least in the neighbourhood, who can read, and who will be willing to instruct him. The schoolmaster in the village will do it for a trifling gratification; and sometimes a spirit of charity or of patriotism, will induce the curates or surgeons to undertake this good office.” The facility with which the people of that country have been led to the commission of enormities of the most atrocious nature by the shallowest artifices of political intrigue, affords a sufficient answer to those who consider the ignorance of the lowest classes as the surest pledge of their submission to established authority; or if any farther illustration be required of the truth of this principle, it may be found still nearer home. Mr. Edgeworth, in a speech as Chairman of a Committee appointed in the last Session of the Irish Parliament, to inquire into the state of education in that kingdom, notices the difference between the lower orders of Scotland and those of Ireland in this respect, a difference which he ascribes to the superior education of the former. A general conviction of the truths stated by Mr. Edgeworth, seems now to be prevalent among the most enlightened parts of the Irish nation. And an attempt was made, during the two last Sessions of the Irish Parliament, in consequence of the eloquent representations of this able and patriotic gentleman, to apply a remedy to the evil. It gives me much pleasure to learn, that the same important project continues still to be prosecuted under the superintendence of a Board of Education, of which he is an active and distinguished member.
The same happy effects which have been experienced in Scotland, from the instruction of the lower orders, have been felt in particular cantons of Switzerland, and in some parts of the United States of America. In this last country, these effects are likely to be extended still farther, as all its most distinguished writers at present concur in recommending a still more minute and systematical attention to this object, as the most effectual security which their Legislature can provide, for the morals of the people and the stability of their Government. With the advantages, indeed, of general instruction, now common in America, another circumstance by which it is distinguished at present from the European nations, operates strongly in its favour; I mean the facility with which, in consequence of the liberal reward of labour, the lower orders are able to rear families. How much this must contribute to diminish the number of crimes, may be judged of by the results which we witness among ourselves in times of scarcity. In America, such is the effect of instruction, combined with abundance, that Mr. Adams mentions it as the peculiar happiness of his countrymen, that they are quite unable to form an idea of that class of men which in Europe we denominate the mob. If the accounts of some of our travellers may be trusted, the present situation of the American States is not so favourable to the improvement of the opulent and ambitious orders of the people, as to that of the more humble and laborious classes.
I before took notice (supra, pp. 330, 333] of the general inattention to the situation of the lower orders which prevails over the Continent of Europe. A few exceptions do, indeed, occur in some countries; but in the majority of these, the beneficial tendency of instruction has been powerfully counteracted by certain unfortunate circumstances in the political condition of the people. Such, according to Mr. Coxe's account, would appear to be the present situation of Denmark.
“ Besides the Universities of Copenhagen and Kiel, there is an academy at Soroe, and two gymnasia at Odensee and Altona, and a seminary for Laplanders at Berghen in Norway. There are various Latin schools maintained at the expense of the Crown: nineteen in Denmark Proper, four in Norway, eleven in Schleswick, sixteen in Holstein, and two in Iceland. The largest schools have a Rector, or upper master; a Corrector, or lower master; and two or three College scholce, or assistants; the smallest have only a rector. The salaries of the masters vary from £60 to £200 a year.
“Each parish also is provided with two or three schools for the Danish tongue, where children are instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic. These country schoolmasters have in