ours ? Do they esteem his search after their favour as almost the highest compliment that could be paid to popular rights? Are they sensible to the circumstance, that the individual who appears before them and says, “ I prefer the pursuit which you can give me— I prefer the honours that you can confer upon me- - I prefer the life that is to be passed in combating for your rights and your rewards, to the pursuits which have made me known throughout Europe, to the honours which would be showered upon me by every learned corporationto the life that in calm and quiet would lead me to an immortal reputation”—Are they even aware that the person who says, or might say all this, is raising to the highest possible pitch the character and the career of a free state ? 'Are they proud and conscious of the fact, that the man who offers to sacrifice his energies to their cause has--at the very moment he does so— the eyes of the learned and the wise directed from every corner of Europe on his labours ?

No, they see nothing of this; they feel nothing of this. Mr. Duncombe's abilities and principles fully justify, in my opinion, the choice of his electors.—I do not speak of Mr. Duncombe then,—but mark! the unknown Tory, the violent and eloquent demagogueevery kind of man is preferred to the man of science --and the person who, perhaps, more than any other without exception in this country, would, if he went to Paris, or even to Berlin, or Petersburg, or Vienna, be courted and honoured by all who themselves received honour and courtship, hardly obtains one-half of the votes of any other description of persons in the popular horough of Finsbury !*

* I know there are some little minds ready at once to say-a man of science is not fitting to be a politician. No view is so narrow, so contrary to truth, to history, and to experience. In the three greatest politicians and generals of past times-Alexander, Julius Cæsar, and Napoléon Bonaparte-their love of letters and their knowledge of science are at least as conspicuous as their other attainments. The greatest orators and politicians that England has ever produced Hampden, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Pulteney, the Pitts, Fox, Sheridan, Windham, Canning, Burke, and, let me add, Lord

I dwell the more upon this, because the most crude conclusions are drawn frequently from what are falsely seen as analogous facts. In the discussion on the reform bill, it was frequently argued that if the people of England had the free choice of their representatives, they would be sure to choose men of science and litera ature, because the people in France did--and this · passed for excellent reasoning! Nay, if any one had Brougham, and Sir Robert Peel, and Lord John Russell, and Sir John Hobhouse-have all been men of letters and of business; sincerely and deeply attached to academical as to political pursuits; and finding time, as all men of active and clear minds do find time, for elevating and enlarging their views, for cultivating and improving their judgment and their fancy, as well as for handling and grappling with state affairs. “ As for matter of policy and government,” says Bacon, “ that learning should rather hurt than enable thereunto, is a thing very improbable; we see it is accounted an error to commit a natural body to empiric physicians, who commonly have a few pleasing receipts, whereupon they are confident and advantageous, but know neither the causes of diseases, nor the complexions of patients, nor peril of accidents, nor the true method of cures; we see it is a like error to rely upon advocates and lawyers, who are only men of practice, and not grounded in their books, who are many times easily surprised when matter falleth out besides their experience, to the prejudice of the causes they handle; so, by like reason, it cannot be but a matter of doubtful consequence, if states be managed by empiric statesmen, not well mingled with men grounded in learning. But contrariwise, it is almost without instance contradictory, that ever any government was disastrous that was in the hands of learned governors. For however it hath been ordinary with politic men to extenuate and disable learned men by the names of pedants, yet in the records of time it appeareth in many particulars, that the government of princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite disadvantage of that kind of state) have nevertheless excelled the government of princes of mature age, even for the reason which they seek to traduce, which is, that by that occasion the state hath been in the hands of pedants. Nay, let a man look into the government of the bishops of Rome, as by name, into the government of Pius Quintus and Sextus Quintus, in our times, who were both, at their entrance, esteemed but as pedantical friars, and he shall find that such popes do greater things, and proceed upon truer principles of state than those who have ascended to the papacy from an education and breeding in affairs of state and courts of princes. Neither can the experience of one man's life furnish examples and precedents for the events of one man's life: for as it happeneth sometimes that the grandchild, or other descendant, resembleth the ancestor more than the son! so many times occurrences of present times may sort better with ancient examples than with those of the latter or immediate times ; and lastly, the wit of one man can no more countervail learning, than one man's means can hold way with a common purse, and so he continues proving the activity of learned men in public affairs.--See Bacon's Advancement of Learning.


[ocr errors]

possessed sufficient information for this, he might have pushed the argument still further, and proved pretty plausibly, that what happened in France would happen in a far greater degree in England. For instance, there rises a member of the House of Commons !

Sir, the honourable gentleman says, that if the people of England had the choice of their representatives, men of science and letters would be excluded from this assembly. Was ever any thing so absurd ? I beg gentlemen not to be drawn away by idle theories and vague declamations. I beg them to pay attention to facts. I beg them to see what happens from the people choosing their representatives in one country, and then draw their conclusions as to what would happen irr another. When we are talking of England, let us look to France. In France, it is undeniable, that men of letters and science are actually hunted out of their retreats, in order to be honoured with popular favours. Who does not remember M. Royer Collard, that learned professor, a man of no violent opinions, being chosen by eight different colleges ? Well, sir, but are we less likely to choose men of letters and science than the people of France ? Let us, I say again, look to facts. In France, there is not more than one person in three who can read and write. But in England and Wales, taken upon an average, we find out of 14,000,000, nearly 7,000,000, that is nearly one in every two, who receive education. Is it not likely, is it not certain, that the most educated people will set the highest value on the acquisitions of knowledge ? (Hear, hear!) Is not this clear, is not this incontrovertible ? (Hear, hear, hear.) Sir, I say, that that which happens in France will happen in a greater degree in England, and that the honourable gentleman is as wrong in his conclusions as he was violent in announcing them.” (Loud cheers.) “ Those were very sensible remarks.”—“Yes, yes, he gave

it him well,” say two old whig gentlemen, on the third of the treasury benches.

Yet never was there such stuff, such miserable twopenny halfpenny twaddle! Never was man more completely Vol. II--.F




wrong than the orator whom we will paint triumphing, if you please, in his success-never was wrong—And why? For the best, and shortest, and simplest, and most incontrovertible of all reasons-because he was wrong; because the people of England, though there are more of them who read and write than there are of the people of France, have not, and will not, and cannot have for long years to come, that love for letters and the arts, that respect for men of science and letters which the French have, and which the French had—when, in caligraphy and orthography, they were many times more ignorant than they are at present.

It is folly to talk of reading and writing being alone sufficient to prevent crime. It is folly to imagine that reading and writing will necessarily open men's minds in an extraordinary degree to the perception of the elegant, and to a sense of the beautiful and the sublime. It will do this to a certain degree; but people do not perceive that there will be other and pre-existent causes which will influence the tastes, and the feelings, and the judgment, which writing and reading are calculated to produce—and that history, and society, and conquest, and even geographical position, all exercise as great an influence upon the knowledge derived from writing and reading, as the mere knowledge of writing and reading exercises upon the mind itself. They do not see this; neither do they see that writing and reading form but a small part of the education of the man who also sees, and hears, and acts. No, nor do they even recognise that the natural perceptions of some men, and of some races of men, are quicker, and keener, and more acute than others—more likely to be acted upon by what pleases the senses than by what excites the mind-more likely to be affected by the beautiful than by the useful-by the showy than by the solid. That there are two countries, in each of which a certain number of the people read and write-proves what? That in these two countries this certain number do write and read-it proves this—it proves nothing

more than this—unless you can show that in every other respect the people in the two countries are alike. If the French have an ardent passion for literature, a vast respect for men of letters, it is from a long series : of facts, from a long train of events, as well as from a peculiar disposition with which these events and these facts naturally coincide. Here is a passion, here is a respect, which an increase of education, a spread of knowledge will tend to increase and spread, because to that education and to that knowledge an impulse has been already given-because the feelings originally existed in a small circle, which are therefore naturally extended, as that small circle extends, into a large


When Louis the XIV. said to Racine, “What man do you think the greatest glory to my reign ?" and Racine answered, “ Molière,” there was no free press, no national education, none of those vast and noisy engines at work by which we produce from the minds of the masses what is called public opinion.

Now, as I said somewhere in the beginning of this book, that in a vain nation, sentiments and habits descend from the higher classes to the lower, as in a voluptuous nation they ascend from the lower to the higher. It was the policy of Richelieu and Louis XIV.

it was the taste of the regent, and the embroidered philosophy of the court of Louis XV., that gave to certain classes that love for the arts and that esteem for their professors which the destruction of privileges, the division of property, all the circumstances which melted the court and the monarchy into the nation, blended with the great mass of the nation also.

It is to kings and to courts that the French people originally owe the predilection which many of you, my countrymen, imagine to be naturally and necessarily the feeling of the multitude—it is from the education of the garden, of the gallery, and the theatre that those tastes have in a great measure been derived, which many of you would attribute wholly to the school. It is, moreover, as the camp succeeded to the court-from war and

« VorigeDoorgaan »