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measures, and feels the highest interest in whatever is connected with the dignity and reputation of that learned body. He is not aware that he has said more than is requisite to enable the reader to frame a just opinion on the subject; but should he in some instances appear to be too diffuse, he must trust for his vindication to the words of Quintilian: “ Non minus autem cavenda erit, quæ nimium corripientes omnia sequitur, obscuritas ; satiusque est aliquid narrationi superesse quam deesse.”
Literary and Scientific Pursuits,
“Quels sages, rassemblés dans ces augustes lieux,
HENRIADE, Chant 7.
In the wide range of human inquiry, if we except those political events, which still astonish us by their unexpected occurrence, there is no topic which has recently more occupied the public mind, than the principles and policy of general education.
With all our acknowledged dereliction of duty, and amidst all the distraction inevitably created by the prolonged evils of warfare, an ardent zeal for the improvement of the mind, and an anxiety to diffuse the advantages of instruction among the lower orders of society, have in this kingdom been carried to such an unexampled extent, as to form one of the characteristic distinctions of the present age. It is no longer an axiom with legislators and statesmen, that ignorance is the best security against the revolutions of empire. It is no longer considered as an indisputable truth, that the business of private life is transacted with more regularity, and that the correctness of private morals is rendered less obnoxious to the tumults of passion, by excluding the great mass of the people from every acquirement which can tend to enlarge the conceptions and to humanize the understanding. Experience certainly affords no authority for believing that he is the most rigorously observant of the principles of justice and honour, whose mind is most devoid of rational ideas; and that he who is farthest removed from intellectual improvement, is best disposed to listen to the claims of gratitude and benevolence. A position less liable to controversy cannot well be imagined than this—that no man forms a worse subject of government, or a less useful member of the commu
nity, because his intellects have been expanded by the beams of truth and knowledge. To what extent, indeed, this cultivation should be carried, and what are the most efficacious means for accomplishing the object in view, so as at once to secure the subordination and to augment the happiness of social life, are points which, we might naturally suppose, would give rise to a diversity of sentiment; but respecting the expedience of affording the opportunity of instruction to the ignorant and depraved of every condition, it is scarcely possible that, in these enlightened times, more than one opinion should prevail.
It is an ancient observation, the truth of which, however generally acknowledged, has not on that account been the less disregarded, that the bulk of mankind, in their anxiety to avoid one extreme, are too apt to rush with heedless impetuosity into the opposite. They who have suffered in every aggravated form the oppressions of monarchical despotism, have, in their eagerness for the attainment of liberty, too often terminated their efforts in democratic anarchy; while, on the other hand, the
same spirit which has actuated the people in demolishing the tyranny of some daring faction, has in many instances led them to submit to a state of degradation and slavery, equally injurious to their domestic happiness, though less destructive perhaps to their political prosperity. Thus it has also happened with too many of the enemies of Popery, who, in their zeal for abolishing every vestige of superstition, placed no restraint upon their rage for reform, till they had fallen into the wildest excesses of heresy and fanaticism. The same truth, it is to be apprehended, may be in some degree exemplified in the subject before us. Enchanted by the prospect held out of universal improvement, and misled by their admiration of the plans which have been recently introduced for the instruction of the young, there are not a few who imagine that they cannot sufficiently testify their ardour for the success of these modern institutions, except by depreciating the value of the ancient. They think it impossible to admit the utility of the new system, without proscribing, in the most unqualified terms, the very primeval principles of the old. After all