Imágenes de página

wonderful powers of the body and the still more wonderful faculties of the mind be thoroughly disciplined, harmoniously developed and fully matured—in it alone can knowledge, refinement, individual and moral elevation, as well as the arts and sciences, to the cultivation of which men are predestinated by the absolute will of the Creator, as expressed in every lineament of their whole being, obtain-in it alone, therefore, can men accomplish the object of existence, the object for which they are created, preserved, redeemed, and for which all the blessings, both of Providence and the Gospel, are conferred upon them. Without it they might indeed live; but it would be a life more wretched and degrading than that of the Hottentots, Bushmen or Esquimaux; a life like that of the beasts of the field, but not like that of the sons of God. The design of society, accordingly, must be as comprehensive as the necessity in which it originates—as comprehensive as the individual and social, the bodily and mental, the temporal and spiritual wants of the human race. In other words, the design can be nothing less than to establish and maintain an external order of human life that will enable men to realize the end of their being on earth, and at the same time serve directly to promote this end. The design of human existence, of human society and of human government, are all one and the same. Society is that organic order of human life in virtue of which life itself, if all the conditions be present, may accomplish its object. Government is the organ of society, by whose authority and power society is maintained, advanced, and perfected. Or I may say, that human society, organized under some specific form of government, is the medium by which humanity, blessed with civilization and the Gospel, actualizes its own idea or fully unfolds its hidden sense—a result that is effected, whenever society and government are true to the obligations imposed by the nature of their vocation.

An object so comprehensive and far-reaching, as a matter of course, involves the substance of the theories to which we have referred. The security of person and property, by the enact

. ment and execution of a wisely matured system of civil laws, as well as the relief of human suffering and the promotion of general happiness, are all directly interwoven with it. The security of person and property are among the essential requisites to the very existence of society. The prevalence of tranquility and the possibility of promoting one's earthly comfort and happiness, are conditions without which neither society can progress nor government be prosperous. These objects, however, are not final in their nature; but subordinate to another that is higher, greater, and more apposite to the dignity of man, namely, the satisfaction of all his physical, moral and spiritual wants. If a nation, with a good government at its head, is conscious of its real position in the scale of being, and will seek with steady purpose to regulate all the departments of social and political life with direct and exclusive reference to the intellectual and moral elevation of all, then every other object of minor importance, that is consistent with the will of the Creator, will be attained as a matter of necessary consequence.

The question may now be put: In what way may this great and noble design of society be realized? What course must the various classes of community and of government adopt and pursue ? To give a correct reply to this question, it is requisite to take a glance at the general divisions of society and notice their mutual relations.

There are three grand divisions of all well regulated seciety. These give rise to three general classes, in some one of which all the various sub-divisions are directly or indirectly included. They may be styled, first, the productive and nourishing class ; secondly, the governing and defending class; and thirdly, the instructing class. To the first belong farmers, who cultivate the soil, mechanics, who prepare the products of the earth for the use of men generally, and merchants who attend to the business of trade and commerce, and thus provide any given community with all the agricultural and mechanical productions of different countries. To the second belong the soldiery, but more particularly, the legislative, judicial and executive departments of the State. To the third class belong all those who are engaged in training the mind, or imparting religious instruction, or are devoted to the promotion of Arts, Literature, Science and Religion ; in other words, teachers of common or high schools, professors and instructors in colleges and seminaries, poets, philosophers, historians, artists and ministers of the Gospel. Although each class is not equally important, yet cach class is essential to the welfare of society. One can be dispensed with or its interests be allowed to suffer as little as another. They are integral parts of a living organism—the State. When one suffers all must suffer. When one is favored judiciously and prospers, all will receive an impulse. So intimately connected, they must rise together or fall together. As portions of the commonwealth, they are like the different members or the different systems of the human body. A disease of the hand or of the eye, will directly or indirectly affect the health or vigor of the foot or of the ear. A disease of the nervous system, will derange, sympathetically, the natural action of the muscular system. So with the State. If the producing class is oppressed, the sinews of the other classes will soon lose their strength and activity. If the governing class be incompetent or inefficient, or if their just authority be denied or resisted, insecurity and disorder will ensue and the interests of agriculture, commerce, science and morals will retrograde. If the instructing class is not qualified for its work of moulding the mind, promoting sound morals and extending true religion, or if it is not aided properly by the power of government, nor sustained by the sympathy and support of the community at large, the very foundations upon which the whole social fabric rests will begin to totter.

To secure general prosperity, one class must not be indifferent to the others, and labor mainly for its own aggrandizement. But the nature of the case requires, that each should labor faithfully in its appropriate sphere, put forth its energies to further the interests of the others, and all mutually cooperate with a view to advance the highest good of the whole. In this way the great end of organized society will be attained ; the physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual wants of mankind will be satisfied, and, as the effects of sin and ignorance are gradually removed, intelligence and virtue, contentment and happiness must prevail in all the walks of social life.

I might now pass on to illustrate more specifically the reciprocal influence of these several classes upon each other. But this is not a part of my intention. It is my desire, to direct particular attention to the duty which government owes to the cause of general education. The method of argumentation that has been adopted, serves to illustrate the subject in a general way, and affords us principles from which some special considerations can be deduced, in favor of the position, that it ought to be one of the first objects of a good government to provide the means of at least a thorough elementary education to all the children under its authority. This position implies a number of particulars. It means that a high standard of qualification, both intellectual and moral, for teachers of all grades of schools, should be adopted and rigidly adhered to ; that in some constitutional way a sufficient amount of funds should be provided to maintain the school, without intermission, from the beginning to the end of the year, in every ward, borough or township in the State; that all the conveniences, such as good school-houses, philosophical apparatus, and so on, should be furnished; and that a wise educational system, suited to the peculiar condition of all parts of the State, should be established and effectually carried out. Such I conceive to be one of the first duties of civil government. And the Legislatures of several of our States, in adopting and amending their common-school system from time to time, have evinced a wise regard for the best interests of their immense population, as well as a deep sense of their own obligations.

I shall now proceed to adduce some considerations to illustrate and enforce the obligations of Government to the cause of general education.

These obligations of Government are involved in the very nature and design of society. If it be the design of society to maintain an order of human life in which the highest end of humanity—not that of single individuals only, but of the whole human family—may be actualized, it follows, unavoidably, that education, the general elevation of the masses, claims paramount attention. How can any high end be reached, if our higher nature be neglected ? How can mankind be elevated and made capable of enjoying rational happiness, if the noblest attributes of their being be allowed to lie dormant or buried in ignorance? The progress of civilization does not depend upon improvement in the mechanic arts, or upon the flourishing conditions of commerce, or upon new discoveries in the science of chemistry or agriculture. However intimately these departments of social life may be connected with civilization, they do not elevate and bless the world unless education, correct morals and true religion, are generally diffused. Nay more than this; commerce may prosper, agriculture may advance and all the mechanic arts may flourish, yet in the absence of proper intellectual and moral influences, civilization may actually retrograde. Domestic peace, social virtue and happiness, as well as all the nobler enjoyments of civilized life, may be banished from society, whilst its material interests may seem to be advancing.

If society were constituted simply to protect person and property, or to secure general safety in the pursuit of business, we might limit the appropriate work of Government to material interests with some show of propriety; Or if the State originated in a concession of personal rights by individuals, by nature totally independent of each other, there might be some ground to maintain that Government bas nothing to do with intellectual culture or moral elevation. Its rights and duties would be limited by the terms on which the concession had been stipulated. But such mechanical theories are unsound and false. Government is the organ of society. The governing class does not of itself constitute the State, as little as the head by itself constitutes a man. But the three great classes, namely, the producing class, the governing class and the instructing class, all taken together, are equally essential constituents of the State. Government is sometimes called the State, by way of emphasis, because it enacts and executes laws, main

« AnteriorContinuar »