« ZurückWeiter »
" Yonder comes the laboarer. He has borne the burden and heat of
the day : the descending sun has released him from his toil, and he is hastening home to enjoy repose.--Inhabitant of the lowly dwelling, who can be inclifferent to thy comfort!”.
INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS TO THE PUBLISHERS OF THE
CHEAP MAGAZINE. “To better the condition of the poor," has long been the wish of the benevolent, and the study of the good. It is the order of nature--the will of Providence, which cannot err, that some should be high and some low, some rich and some poor ; but we also find some wise and learned, while others are weak and ignorant. Is this liketrise ordained, 'or is it in a great measure the effect of education ? Genius, indeed, is that gift of God which learning cannot confer, which ņo disadvantages of birth or education can wholly obscure : it grows partially in Every soil, though culture alone can render its fruits useful to the possessor or the world; but that share of good sense, those habits of reflection and judgment, which qualify men to be useful in their various stations, and happy in them: VOL. I.
• A .
selves, are chiefly to be acquired by imitation and example, by iibibing sound principles, and just modes of thinking and acting. And in the humbler walks of life, we find this aptitude of gaining knowledge, and those qualities that adorn it, as frequently as among the favourites of fortunè, who, forgetful of the value of their trust, and the responsibility they are under to improve it, too often squander a. way in vice and folly what others, less gifted, would improve with credit and advantage to themselves, and utility to the public.
It was lately my fortune to fall into a mixed company of persons, who differed very widely in regard to the best mode of benefiting the lower ranks of society, and eventually the public; but who, I firmly believe, had the object sincerely at heart. It would carry me too far to enter into a detail of all their arguments on this important subject; but I hope a summary of them will not be unacceptable in your new publication, and that the diversity of sentiment will excite discussion, if my views of the matter should fail to convince.
A divine, who had risen to some distinction, by the most honourable application of his talents, seemed to consider general education, to which, however, he was wholly indebted himself, in a less favourable light than I should
previously liave supposed. · “ Give the poor,” said he, “such an education as will
enable them to know their duty to God and to man, teach them to read their Bible, and to practise its precepts; but I see little use in going any farther, unless where indivi. duals-shew an extraordinary degree of genius, and then it ought to be cultivated to the full.”.
“I do not agree with you, sir," replied a gentleman who sat by the doctor, “ that instruction should be limited to the narrow bounds of reading. I myself am an instance of the advantage of extending it farther. By adding an intimate acquaintance with figures to the art of writing as well as reading, I trust I have been more useful to society than I should otherwise have been ; and have provided for a family in such a manner as would have been wholly impossible without the moderate acquirements which I possess. Genius, perhaps, I had none. In fact, I lay no claim to it; nor is it always perceptible at an early age : but, in my humble opinion, there never can be any danger in give ing a child all the education that circumstances will per. mit, and throwing in his way such incitements as may serve to develope the latent faculties. If he possesses inDate talents, (for I do not believe that we are all originally equal in this respect,) he may in due time become eminent in some way or other; and if, by a superior share of learning, he is barely able to discharge the duties of his station with more satisfaction to himself and others, none of the advantages which have been given him will be quite thrown away."
A pert little man, of some hereditary fortune, who, as is not unusual, had received more of the stable and the kennel education than any other, rejoined—“ It would be pretty work; indeed, if every one were learned. Who would plough and sow the fields ? Who would reap the corn? Who would hedge and ditch? Who would currý horses and hunt dogs, if all were qualified to desert their original station, and aspire to a higher rank in society ?”
“ Hold, sir," observed I, “you confound learning or knowledge, call it which you will, with a necessary disposition to be assuming or useless. I do not admit the premises, and I deny the conclusion. If practical education were generally diffused, and it cannot be too much so,
all would be on an equality in this respect ; and the com: mon branches of knowledge would consequently have no effect in inspiring presumptuous notions and expectations, but would only render men more nseful, more diligent, more moral, and, I will add, more religious. I have known common labourers and artisans, who stole every leisure hour from their necessary vocations, and devoted them to reading, who indeed had the most elevated ideas of the dignity of human nature ; but who, though they wished to increase their own comforts by sobriety and well-doing, never entertained an idea of commanding are mies, or of ruling the state-who kept the even tenor of their way', and who, acquiescing in the dispensations of an All-wise God, knew that the faithful performance of the part allotted to them was all that could be required of them in this life, and that they were sure to rise by their merits in the next. I have heard some such express themselves with rapture on the reversion that awaited them. Even while they contemplated the comparative ease and independence of their more fortunate fekow.creatures, as the rich are commonly considered, I have beard them exclaim, “Well! it is my lot to labour, and I am content. I find health and pleasure in performing my assigned task mall cannot fill the highest stations here, or the machine of life would stand still; but, if I am not deficient in my duty in my proper sphere, as exalted a rank will be my reward, and as bright a diadem of glory will encircle my head, at the great day of final retribution, as can possibly adorn the loftiest monarch that ever ruled on earth.”
“ Such sentiments, and no very limited share of obser. vation,” added I, emphatically, “convince me that ig. norance neither conduces to private happiness nor public good. Let the calendars of crime and misery be examin
ed, ed, and it will generally be found, that they are chiefly filled with those who never knew their duty, and who, in fact, were neglected and illiterate.
The divine nodded assent-probably because he did not wish to extend the argument-for few relinquish their opinions, or give up their prejudices in advanced life, to the reasoning of others. The man of figures, whose general bias was originally in my favour, loudly applauded my sentiments, and paid me the compliment to say, that, “ if his education had been equally liberal, he would have argued as I had done." While the little man, who had associated. chiefly with horses and dogs, confessed that even those animals required to be broke, in order to render them more useful; but he could not see why man, who had the faculty of speech and the use of reason, should want more instruction than what the parson can teach him.
To combat the absurdities of ignorance, is a hopeless and an ungrateful task. I did not attempt it. I merely observed, in the words of the poet, Young,
Less differs man from beast, than man from man... The subject was now changed, and perhaps your readers. will think it was time it should; but I cannot conclude without cordially wishing success to your benevolent plan of disseminating knowledge among the poor, in such a way as is most likely to improve the heart, without materially taxing the pocket. And if my influence were equal to my: zeal in the cause, The Poor Man's MAGAZINE, if properly conducted, which I flatter myself it will be, should: equally find a place in the cottage and in the palace, and be dispersed and read wherever the English language is, known! Nov. 25, 1812.