« PreviousContinue »
interval between the cradle and manhood, and of forcing men as we do mushrooms. Indeed, the infatuation for Lancaster's system is an additional proof of the resistless power of fashion. Had this universal favourite been left to his own exertions, and had the result produced a generation of men superior to the past ones, experience, the only test of theory, would have sanctioned his means, and their adoption would have been approved by reason itself.
I have now neither the time, nor the wish, to discuss a system that has nothing to recommend it; not even novelty or originality. It was known in times of old, it has been for ages past practised by the most barbarous nations, indeed (and I have personal experience for the ground of my assertion) there is not a teacher who has not, more or less, put it in practice, as the most natural and easy means of diminishing his own labour. All that can be said in its favour, (for I question whether society can ever be benefited by it) is that it tends to increase the number of parrots to annoy us by their noisy chatter. Very probably this sort of culture may bring forth a few evanescent and gaudy flowers, but it will never produce a crop of nu. tritious fruits. Upon the whole, whatever may be the general way of thinking, sanctioned by fashion, and although the example of Scotland be brought forward in support of it, I dare assert that the glimmering light produced by so limited an instruction as that commonly acquired in our lower schools, is more likely to lead astray than the most profound obscurity of absolute ignorance. Out of the former arise conceit and its concomitant obstinacy, both enemies to sound reason; whilst, conscious of its dangers, the latter is not only grateful for, but even courts, the guiding hand of knowledge. I hear, without being appalled, the loud hue and cry that will be raised against me by a numerous tribe of fanatic politicians, modern philosophers, and tender-hearted philanthropists. I scorn the anger of the first, and pity the delusion of the others : but the great book of universal experience, if read with an unbiassed mind, will demonstrate the truth of my asser
tion more forcibly than any argument, founded on theory, can ever controvert it.
But it will be asked by many well-meaning men, and to them alone I am willing and ready to listen ; Do you then wish to withdraw entirely the benefits of instruction from the poorer class of mankind ? I answer, although I deny the possibility of any advantage resulting from an instruction so curtailed, so contracted, so partial as that conveyed in our public schools in general, but more esperially in those of an inferior order; although I am perfectly satisfied with the evils resulting from such stunted trees of knowledge, yet I am far from denying the great, the immense benefits that would accrue to society at large from a rational process of education, adapted to every ones probable situation in life, and to the bent and the extent of every ones genius, faculties, or inclinations. The reason why we naturally do not understand each other is, as I have already remarked, because the words instruction and education are so generally blended together, that they are become in a manner synonymous, which is far from being the case.
I wish for the universal means of education, with no other limits than the moral and physical faculties of its objects; but I deprecate in toto ihe present system of cramming food, palatable or not, into the throats of all, without considering that the same kind of medicine which would be beneficial and even necessary for one constitution, would be lost on another, and death to a third. Far, therefore, from wishing to deprive any part of mankind of the benefit of education, the intent of these sheets was to have pointed out the inefficacy, the danger, and the irrationality, not to say the barbarity, of the present mode of conducting it; and I had the presumption to hope that the ideas I intended to bring forward in this desultory manner, might appear worthy the notice of some enlightened and sincere well-wisher to his fellow creatures, who, taking them up, would have attired them in a more dignified garb. With the purest intentions, with a heart glowing with the most ardent wish of being useful to society, but at the same time no less conscious of the difficulties
I had to encounter than of the deficiency of the means I could command, I stepped lioldly forwards, and would have undauntedly attacked the three monsters that has so long preyed on the best faculties of man. wayward fate puts at once a stop to my intended career, and I am compelled to conclude abruptly, and in their present imperfect state, these favourite lucubrations, the result of almost half a century of observation, reflection, study, and experience, in many countries, and in different stations of life. Called to my native shore ; attracted beyond the Atlantic by the resistless magnet of brotherly affection; impelled by the powerful motive of the future welfare of a rising family, an intervening trackless sea, and a distance of more than three thousand miles, will soon prevent my further communicating with the respectable conductors of the Enquirer. I leave them and their readers to decide whether, and how far, this interruption of my labours is likely to affect the interest of ihe one, or the entertainment of the others. Before I take my final leave, however, I shall use a last effort to impari to my readers a portion of those feelings, which arise spontaneously in my bosom when I conder the condition of children in this part of the world, which calls itself the most civilized. But, still yielding to that impetus animi, vulgarly called dagary, by which I have hitherto been led, I shall beg leave to take, as usual, a rather circuitous road, and, transporting at once them and myself over the Atlantic, take in their company a short, but impressive, survey of what passes in the West Indies.
O thou reverend divine! thou who hast so valiantly fought the battle of thy sable brethren, let thy undaunted spirit breathe in me a portion of that fire which has immortalized thy name! And thou, my old respectable friend! whose indefatigable exertions have founded, on the sandy shores of burning Africa, a colony of human creatures redeemed from bondage ; inspire me with that enthusiastic zeal, that has made thee overcome the united etforts of inveterate prejudice and of deep-rooted avarice. For following both your footsteps, I am going to open again that book, not the famous red one, that has caused so much mischief.
amongst our neighbours across the channel; but book to which the epithet black can be applied, only for want of a more forcible expression. Its blackness, however, is not that of jet, not that of ebony, not that even of the colour of the wool which adorns the head of your protegées, but may be compared to the hue of those acheronic waves, which have basfled the descriptive powers of the bards of old ; or, perhaps, to that horrible dye, which death and time have stamped on the Egyptian mummies. That book, which records the load of miseries inflicted on animated beings by the most malignant, by the basest of passions. In a word, that collection of evidences concerning the Slave Trade received by a committee of the House of Commons. I do not intend, however, to follow the miserable negro from his native cot to the market, where he becomes the property of the best bidder. This would lead me too far from my subject; but I beg the benevolent reader, who certainly will thank me for not exposing again to his view those scenes of woe and wretchedness, to follow with me the new comer to the theatre of his future labours. Behold him then conveyed to his new master's plantation, there confined in a large shed, already crowded with numbers of his unhappy country. men, and given up, like them, to the caprice of a taskmaster; who, we must suppose, has purged away the milk of human nature, if there ever were any in his breast. There he begins his miserable career, by breathing an air infected by the exhalations of a heated crowd. There he must satisfy the cravings of hunger with a scanty and ill-tasted food. There he rests his weary limbs on a wretched pallet, from which he rises only to extort from his mother-earth, by the sweat of his brow, not his own subsistence, not the means of affording comforts to a beloved family, for which the smiles of affection and the caresses of innocence amply repay, but to satisfy the insatiable avarice, and to sup. ply the wanton luxury, of a stranger-of a stranger, did I say !-no! of a master. A master! a galling word! which at once retraces the most horrible idea, that of slavery.
Behold further, with what an horrid grin that fellow
slave, whose sable hue, not confined to the skin, pervades the innermost recess of his heart, brandishes his formidable scourge, the sight of which strikes terror into the very soul of the most hardened of the gang. Look at yon miserable being, emaciated by hunger, enervated by sorrow, and overcome by the fatigues of labour and by the heat of an equinoctial atmosphere. Panting for breath, he suspends his exertions--for a single moment! but even that moment of rest, commanded imperiously by nature itself, is a robbery, and as such draws on his naked shoulders the vengeance of that brute in human shape, who has abandoned altogether nature and her feelings. Shall I go on with this picture of wretchedness? Or is this short one sufficient to extort the sympathetic tear? Let us drop the curtain ; and by the same magic powers of the wand that wafted us over the sea, suddenly return to that blessed land where the groans of slavery are never heard, and where there cannot, or at least there ought not to be found such a thing as a scourge-armed task. master : to that fortunate island, where liberty enthroned in all its glory protects, or ought to protect, equally with her beneficent hand the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, against the abuse of wanton power. Suffer me, however, to take for my compagnon de voyage the faithful Domingo, who, during my short stay in those remote regions which we have just visited together, attached himself to me with the most sincere affection, in return for which, he begged to be removed from the painful sight of his suffering brethren, and to become a sharer in the blessings of a land of liberty.
Suppose us now safely landed, after having escaped the dangers of the turbulent elements, and the pestilential breath of that yellow monster whose fury wages a more destructive war against our undaunted sailors and heroic soldiers than the myriads of the Corsican. Domingo's impatience to see, and perhaps to be seen, for vanity equally finds its way in every breast, made inaction painful to hini, and no sooner had he refreshed himself with a night's sleep than he sallied forth to feast hiš curiosity. On his return from his ramble about the town, I was much surprised to perceive in his counte