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men who have laboured hard and lived frugally to acquire property, or whose parents have done so for them and before them.
The first object that strikes us on the general view of this plan of education, is, that it is a direct attack upon all the usual privileges attached to the possession of property : it is a tax upon the possessor of property for the benefit of those who have not acquired, or who have not saved any. It does not, to be sure, prohibit a wealthy man from wearing broad-cloth, or having a pie and a pudding added to his Sunday's dinner, but it prohibits the gratification that parents take in granting slight indulgencies to their children—it prohibits, under threat of political exclusion, a parent from having his son educated according to his own notions of what may be necessary to his future comfort, happiness and success in life; and compels him, under a pain and penalty in reserve, to conform in all things to the patent-education system of these exclusive republicans. It is a positive refusal that any advantage whatever shall be attached to the possession of property, however meritoriously it has been acquired. In the late papers of the “Sentinel,” in relation to the Register's office, it appears that, according to the notion of these men of liberty and equality, one thousand, or at the utmost, fifteen hundred dollars per annum, is as much as any man in the city of New York, ought reasonably to require. It is impossible not to suspect, that these pretensions will be followed up hereafter by a graduation of property and income, to preserve the republic from the aristocracy of wealth, and the surplus taken from the possessors will be consecrated to the good of the republican mechanics. It is well that Miss Wright and Robert D. Owen strenuously recommend, that, for the present, the exertions of the mechanics should be concentrated on this republican system of education. This giant foot of reform once firmly fixed upon the battle-ground, the body will soon follow.
That an ameliorated system of national education, is extremely desirable as a matter of prudent expense and of general benefit, we are as ready to admit as they are ; but that our drunken and thievish neighbour has a right to call upon us to feed, clothe and educate his children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, is a position we should be strongly inclined to controvert. If not demanded as a right, we should consider the proposal on the ground of public expedience, and willingly submit to any reasonable plan that the good of the country requires, and that does not involve a premium for idleness, vice and bastardy; but a right to seize our property for the benefit VOL. VI.NO. 11.
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of his children, is so near akin to a right to seize it for his own benefit, that we should be very apt to prove refractory upon the demand.
If there be one position absolutely necessary to the existence of civilized society, it is, that the right to property belongs exclusively to those who have honestly acquired it by any means allowed by the laws of the land. If it is to be taken from them, as of right, it can only be so by their own consent given for that purpose by themselves or their representatives, and for the common good. If it be taken from them to be disposed of in aid of those who have failed in acquiring any property of their own, it must be because the proposed employment of the portion so taken from the wealthy, is intended to confer a benefit on the rich as well as the poor, in consequence of some community of interest between them. Of this, if the poor, by constituting a political majority, are to be the exclusive judges, the result is too plain to be doubted, that the wealth of the wealthy will, sooner or later, be legislated into the pockets of the needy. Whether any honest, any industrious man, any father of a family would choose to live in a community conducted upon these principles of republicanism, (so called) is to us a matter of great doubt. For our own parts, we should prefer exercising the right to emigrate, as soon as we could collect the fragments of our earnings and our savings, and place them beyond the reach of invasion by these universal philanthropists.
According to this proposed plan of universal education, the national schools will form one vast pauper system, by means of which, the children, not of the poor who have become such by unblameable misfortune, but the children of all those who choose to spend their earnings in dissipation or in drunkenness, or their hours in idleness, are to fare equally well with the children of the most deserving. If this be not a reward conferred on the vices of the vicious, we know not in what other manner to depict this plan. Exonerated from the cares and the charge of a family, what inducement will the idle have to work, or the extravagant to save, or the dissipated to refrain ?
To us, this seems a manifest premium conferred on all the bad habits and qualities of which a parent can be guilty. The proposal extends as well to illegitimate as to legitimate offspring, for it is distinctly laid down by these writers, that as the child has committed no offence, it ought not in any manner to suffer, directly or indirectly, for the offence of its parents ; also, that every child is born into the world with a right to maintenance and education ; a right perfect, equal, indefeasible.
Extract from Mr. John Randolph's speech in the Virginia Convention, November 11, 1829. This very acute and experienced observer is averse to providing gratuitous education for the poor. His mode of stating his objection is characteristically urged in the following passage of his address at that meeting :
“I wish to say a word as to the 'friends of the poor.' Whenever I see a man, especially a rich man, endeavouring to rise and to acquire consequence in society by standing out as the especial champion of the poor, I am always reminded of an old acquaintance of mine, one Signor Manuel Ordonnez, who made a comfortable living and amassed an opulent fortune by administering the funds of the poor. Among the strange notions that have been broached since I have been on the political theatre, there is one which has lately seized the minds of men, that all things must be done for them by the government, and that they are to do nothing for themselves. The government is not only to attend to the great concerns which are its province, but it must step in, and ease individuals of their natural and moral obligations. A more pernicious notion cannot prevail. Look at that ragged fellow starting from the whiskey shop, and see that slattern who has gone there to reclaim him. Where are their children? Running about, ragged, idle, ignorant, fit candidates for the penitentiary. Why is all this so? Ask the man and he will tell you. Oh! the government has undertaken to educate our children for us. It has given us a premium for idleness, and I can now spend in liquor what I should otherwise be obliged to save to pay for their schooling. My neighbour there, who is so hard at work in his field yonder with his son, can't spare that boy to attend, except in the winter months, the school which he is taxed to support for mine. He has to scuffle hard to make both ends meet at the close of the year, to keep the wolf from the door. His children cannot go to this school, yet he has to pay a part of the tax to maintain it. Sir, is it acting like friends of the poor to absolve them from what nature, what God himself has made their first and most sacred duty! For the education of their children is the first and most obvious, as it is the most interesting duty of every parent; and one which the most worthless alone are ever known wholly to neglect.”
By the scheme of these modern philanthropists, the parent is exonerated from this highest duty. The strongest of all incitements to labour, to frugality, to self-denial and deprivation, to moral conduct in the sight of his family, to habits of industry, sobriety and self-command, and to all the decencies and virtues of life, are thus cut off. He has no longer to work and save for his children; he is no longer bound to restrain his propensities, and to form his course of life as the example he would wish to set them. His children are separated and estranged from him; the intercoure between parent and child, under this plan, is necessarily brief and infrequent : his children are now the children of the nation ; he needs care for them no more; .
and the most powerful of all motives to good conduct in the parent, is taken away by these new-fangled moralists.
Of all the ties that bind parent and child together, the long continued, anxious, incessant care of the child taken by the father and mother, from boyhood to manhood, is the strongest. This it is that constitutes the foundation of parental interest and filial obedience and affection. For fifteen long years the child is capable of seeing, and feeling and judging of the extent of his obligation to his parents. He sees their incessant anxiety for his welfare; the self-denials they daily and cheerfully submit to for his good ; the weight of daily, hourly benefit they accumulate upon him; and if he be capable of good feelings, these parental anxieties over his welfare excite him to that filial reverence by which a parent is so richly repaid. But by this harsh, unfeeling Spartan system of national education, all the strong sources of parental and filial affection are destroyed. The child is not the child of his parent; he has no person to look to or to thank for the cold care taken of his boyhood and his youth. The nation is a metaphysical being; it is not the object of personal regard; he has no one to feel grateful to, no one to own obligation to, no one who has cared for him specially, particularly, individually ; no one to whom the kind feelings of an honest heart can be properly directed. To his parents he owes nothing: under the rejected, old-fashioned plan of parental and filial relation, he sees and knows to whom he owes every thing that can make life valuable; under the proposed plan of the “Free Enquirer” and the “Sentinel,” he is the casual offspring of the selfish passions of his parents, whom he need not thank even for his existence.
To us, all this seems manifestly wrong, because it is manifestly unnatural.
All the objections that are urged against the poor laws, seem to lie against the proposed plan of feeding, clothing and educating every child indiscriminately. They will multiply on your hands. The main check to idleness and extravagance in the parent being thus taken away, he is left at full liberty to be as idle and as extravagant as he pleases. His children are no expense to him ; frugality and industry are needless and useless virtues. Of bis children, he may say in the language of the Beggar Bard
Hang sorrow, and fly away care !
of all the incitements to industry, frugality and good conduct, is there one comparable to the contemplation that you are
working and saving for your children, to make them comfortable when you are cold in the grave? Is there a parent who does not feel this motive—a motive paramount ? Is there a man living who would labour, and lay up, and practise self-denial, that his accumulations may be distributed among strangers of whom he knows nothing; for whom be cares nothing? No: there is no such man. Most wise political economists then are these reformers, who, breaking and crushing all the ties that bind the father to the child, and the child to the father, by rendering the one independent of the care of the other, by annihilating the motives and obligations of habitual kindness between them, and making them, as it were, strangers to each other, would destroy the most powerful motive to industry and frugality, that human nature affords ! Surely, surely the cold-hearted proposers of this system of unnatural estrangement, have no families of their own ; or difficult, indeed, will it be to account for proposals so unparental.
The plan, therefore, has the demerit of cutting off the mainsprings and sources of individual exertion and accumulation, and, of course, of national wealth, of destroying the natural intercourse between parent'and child, by which the latter is compelled, habitually, to refer all the benefits of education to the former, who directs, who supplies, who labours to bear the expense of it: it has the demerit of annihilating the strongest of all motives to industry, frugality, self-denial, and good conduct in the parent: it has the demerit of rewarding the idle, the spendthrift, the vicious, by exonerating them from an expensive duty which they would otherwise undertake : it has the demerit of taxing the honest, the industrious, the productive portion of society in aid of the very worst members of it: it has the demerit of increasing the number of these drones of the hive; it has the demerit of taking from the parent the desirable control over the education of his offspring, according to his own notions of what would be right and expedient for his child's good : it has the demerit of introducing an habitual jealousy and hatred among the persons of no property toward those whose exertions have been more successful; as if the enjoyments which wealth procures, and wealth itself were of a hateful and anti-republican, if not a criminal character; the sumptuary regulations in these national schools having this direct and inevitable tendency, when contemplated in connexion with the reasons urged for their adoption. Such notions, inculcated from infancy to adult age among those who are destined, by means of universal suffrage, to rule the community, have an awful squinting toward the ultimate legislation of the wealth