Page images


blossom as the rose, or raise temples and palaces which will be the wonder of succeeding ages—but, as in poetry we are obliged to come back to nature for all true inspiration, and take it fresh from the unfolding flowers, so in religion, the soul must come back to God, and draw its life direct from him. All science is there beautiful and radiant with the divine presence; but upon this subject few have spoken better than Paine himself:

• It has been the error of schools to teach astronomy and all the other sciences, and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishmenis only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of divine origin. Man cannot make or invent, or contrive principles, he can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author."

In all his ravings against the Bible, Paine clung to the idea that there was something divine in life, and he spent much of his time in endeavouring to establish a church upon Deistical principles; but his efforts were abortive. The scheme of the Theophilanthropists was like a statue, fair to look upon, but without life; hence, when left to be jostled by the world it was crushed to pieces. Genius might rear it up, but nothing but the hand of God could sustain it. It fell with its author to rise no more.

We purposely draw a veil over the remainder of Paine's life. From the time that he commenced writing his · Age of Reason' to the hour of his death, nothing but misfortune seemed to attend him. Consigned to an imprisonment which nearly cost him his life, and from the effects of which he never recovered, he was liberated to find himself shunned by all those who had previously worshipped him. He had severed those golden cords which bound him to millions of trusting hearts, and was alone and deserted in that Europe which but a few years before had echoed with his praise. After great efforts he returned to America, and was received with the same coldness in the country which he had done so much to make. In this terrible isolation he sought refuge in drink, and the last rays of his departing glory were washed out by the intoxicating draught. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed. If genius could have saved any one Paine had not fallen.

Here then is an example on which we may ponder long and with profit. Paine had an intellect of the very highest order, and fame beyond that which falls to the lot of few. It was a fame, too, that to a great extent was well and honourably won—a conquest of mind over the despotism of past ages. We have seen him rise and have seen him fall. It is a matter of little importance to us what he said in his last agonies, whether he regretted the course he had taken or not. It is enough for us to know that he wasted the fruits of a noble life in a most delusive attempt to destroy the word of God. For this he was cast down into infamy and contempt—so that his very name has become a bye-word and reproach. And such hope have they who tread the same path!

• See Address to the Theophilanthropists

Mustrations of the American School System.

Who has not heard of the Common Schools of America ? Who has read a 'Fourth of July' oration, and not been impressed, by the eloquence of the republican orator, with the distinguished blessing enjoyed by the citizens of that great country in being possessed of a free, sound, and intelligent system of education—a system which, we have been often told, offers to every child in the State advantages of learning and cultivation such as can only be procured in other countries at an expense utterly beyond the reach of any but the very richest. To a great extent, this is true. A comparatively good, and in some instances a very superior, classical and scientific education can be procured in certain cities of the United States without a fraction's cost to the scholar or student. Schools, or rather colleges, almost equal to the High School of Edinburgh, are freely opened to whomsoever chooses to go, while for the poorer classes there are common schools,' to which no parent need be ashamed to send his children. Schools there are plenty, teachers without number, machinery almost perfect, appliances innumerable, and—a general failure in education.

We have, ourselves, suspected this for some years. A few visitors to the United States, who have dug a little beneath the surface of society, have seen and pointed it out, and now the Americans themselves appear to be opening their eyes, not to the demerits of their system, but to the utterly inadequate results which it accomplishes.

The first question one naturally asks in making inquiries on the subject is, Does the system succeed in educating the people ? A fair answer to this question would be, Go to our schools, Sir, and walk about our streets, and judge for yourself

. Now, we do not propose to do exactly this, but we propose to take the evidence of three gentlemen, who may be presumed to have the most intimate acquaintance with the subject, and whose evidence would possess the highest weight in the highest circles on both sides of the Atlantic. We premise that we choose these simply and only because they have the very latest information that it would be possible to possess.

Our first witness is the President of the Board of Education of the city and county of New York, whose evidence is contained in the Fifteenth Annual Report of the Board, for the year ending January 1, 1857. We gather from this report that the latest calculation of the population of New York was made up to the end of 1855, when it amounted to 618,652. The actual school attendance of this population there are no means of ascertaining. We only know that the average attendance at the public schools in 1856 was 47,605,* or about one to every fourteen of the population—not a great result, certainly, considering that nearly all the children who go to school at all go to a public school; but as we have no means of knowing how many are educated elsewhere, it would be useless, not to say dishonest, to build any conclusions on such defective data.

* The cost of education in the same year was 192,3771., or 21. 13s. per unit of average attendance at school.

[blocks in formation]

The principal and most important question concerning the state of education we can, however, answer-How many do not go to school ? The New York Board, it appears, have been making especial inquiry on the subject, and it has found that in a portion only of a single ward the number found not to be in attendance at school was almost exactly equal to the number at school in the same ward, being respectivelyEighteenth Ward: at school

2,733 Portion of the Eighteenth Ward: not at school

2,631 The Board say, "The communication suggested that the number of children not attending any school as thus ascertained, should be multiplied by the number of wards, to show the number of such children in this city, which would give an aggregate of nearly 60,000 They are of opinion, however, and no doubt rightly, that this would be an over-estimate, and the number is, therefore, subsequently set down by the City Superintendent of Schools in round numbers as over 50,000. Here is a difficulty for the state educationist! Fine schools, great schools, good books, plenty of teaching, liberal education'-all for nothing! Who would not have it? And the parents of 50,000 children answer, 'We don't want our children to have it, and they shan't.' The New York Board honestly acknowledges this difficulty. It says :

It is a matter of certainty that there is a large number of children now being educated in our streets in habits of idleness and a knowledge of vice, whence they will graduate, enemies to themselves and curses to the community, and enter upon careers of debauchery and crime, until the ends shall have been reached, to which such a course unchecked inevitably leads.'

It has also tried to remove the difficulty:* Earnest attempts have been made to reach this enormous evil by voluntary efforts, through organizations of philanthropic persons of both sexes; and the Board of Education has extended to them all the aid warranted by its own powers, and perhaps these have been stretched to do this, by grants of old books and furniture. Too much praise cannot be accorded to these attempts, whether we consider the object in view, or the energy with which it has been pursued; and yet it is evident that such attempts alone are inadequate to the mastery of the evil.'

And here, in offering the solution, it practically gives up its own power:

Equally certain is it, that it cannot be overcome without the aid of a missionary effort beyond what an official organization could properly exert.'

Beyond what an official organization could properly exert,'-a frank testimony that the solution of the great problem of education in this and other countries must be left to the people themselves, stimulated solely by the voluntary missionary effort of zealous persons.

We now ask the President, and through him the Board, if he still heartily favours the American school system? We have touched his heart, and Young America answers, “To overcome the dangers which threaten us and work out our national salvation, we can have no hope save in universal education.'

We ask further, what are these dangers? and we get the sorrowful answer:

Of all the dangers which threaten the future of our country, none, not even the

fætid tide of official corruption, is so fearful as the gradual decrease in our habits of obedience. This is a result of the “ inalienable right of liberty ” which we enjoy 80 fully; and is shown in the impaired force of parental influence, a greater disregard of the rights and comforts of others, and an increasing tendency to evade or defy the authority of the law.'

It does not occur to the Board to ask —' Is there no connexion between a prematurely forced education and this impaired parental influence ?'

The City Superintendent of Schools—our second witness--we quote merely for corroboration, first, however, presenting the Engligh reader with a true American-drawn picture. What child could be so barbarous, so utterly lost to a sense of pleasure and sublimity, as to refuse to patronize such an institution as this pleasant public school?

• From two and four hundred children in the primary and grammar schools, to eight hundred and a thousand in the primary departments, are each morning assembled quietly and systematically, without noise, confusion, or disorder. Amid the profoundest stillness and attention, a select portion of the Christian Scriptures is read by the principal; the Lord's prayer is then reverently repeated by the children in concert, at the close of which, and at the touch of the teacher's bell, their little voices break out into the beautiful music of their devotional and other songs, and then each class passes to its own room, under the charge of its instructor, to enter upon the various studies of the day. At the end of each hour, they are again assembled for a temporary recess, made delightful by vocal and instrumental music, and alternated with relaxation and exercise in the play-ground; and at the end of the school-day are dismissed with substantially the same formalities as solemnized its opening. Thus pleasantly and happily the hours pass away in an atmosphere of love, kindness, and improvement; and the acquisition of knowledge is accompanied by the formation of habits of order, industry, punctuality, neatness, and mutual atfection and regard.'

The character of the instruction afforded is such as we might expect in all public schools where children are taught by mere perfunctory teachers. The following extract will serve to throw some light on our previous quotation:

• That culture which regards exclusively or primarily the mere attainment of knowledge, to whatsoever extent it may be carried, or to whatsoever degree of advancement it may be enabled to arrive, cannot be otherwise than essentially and fatally defective. And yet it is not to be denied that hitherto the course of instruction in all our systems of popular education, public and private, has far too generally assumed this direction. Hence, while the boundaries of science have been almost indefinitely extended in every direction, and while knowledge has been almost universally diffused throughout every civilized community, no corresponding advancement has been made in public and private morality and virtue.'

This writer demands a compulsory system, in order to bring in the fifty thousand truants.

We have one witness more. The Ven. Archdeacon Sinclair, treasurer of the National Society, lately visited America, with the special view of inquiring into the merits of the common school system.

We take the following from his Report. First, on the character of the education received by the children:

‘Such as were absent,' says a Philadelphia report, .suffered less by their inattention than many of those whose morals have been thus undesignedly injured at the country's expense!'



Another morsel:

'I think,' remarked a teacher, 'I ought to give a little more of moral instruction, for already two of my scholars have been hanged for murder.'

The teachers come next; and we are told that the complaints are constant of the inability of the teacher, his moral habits, and the bad condition of the schools.'

Another and still stronger testimony is from the editor of the Massachussetts Journal of Education,' who declares that not one teacher in ten is fit to have the care of children, and expresses his belief that the State must be shaken to ruins under the present training of American youths!

We have here testimony to three things:1. That the common school system does not entice the children who most need education to school. The probability is, that only those who could well afford to pay take advantage of the gratuitous character of the instruction.

2. That it fails to secure the very first condition of good educationnamely, good teachers.

3. That under this system, the habits of obedience and the morals of the children are rapidly deteriorating.

We may safely prediet, under these circumstances, that this much lauded experiment will very soon be relinquished by those who have any care for the best interests of America. Already many of the most influential of the ministers of religion are setting their faces against it. If the churches should follow, the end will not be distant.

We ought to remark, that for the quotations from Archdeacon Sinclair's book we are indebted to an article in the Patriot' newspaper. The book is now out of print, but if the question of National Education should come before Parliament again, we believe that it is the author's intention to re-write and expand it.

A Christian Common-Place Book.


BROOKLYN, NEW YORK. You have seen a ship out on the bay, sometimes to notice that the finest swinging with the tide, and seeming as heads of lettuce were not in the beds, if it would follow it; and yet it cannot, hut on some southern ridge, where they for down beneath the water it is had chanced to grow. It seemed as anchored. So many a soul sways to- though random seeds always did the wards heaven, but cannot ascend thither, best, from a kind of wild emulation; because it is anchored to some secret but they never grew without the sowing, sin.

and the chance-sown seed was never Our best actions are often those of

wild. which we are unconscious; but this can In this world, it is not what we take up, never be unless we are always yearning but what we give up, that makes us to do good.

rich. In my garden at the West, I used When a man unites with the church,

« PreviousContinue »