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FrRevol_651-700.indd 27 3/16/12 1:16 PM CHAPTER V OfKnowledge, Religion, and Morals Among the English. What constitutes the knowledge of a nation are sound political ideas spread among all classes and a general instruction in sciences and literature . In the first respect, the English have no rivals in Europe; in the second , I know nothing that can be compared to them, except the Germans ofthe North. Still the English would have an advantage which can belong only to their institutions, which is that the first class of society devotes itself as much to study as the second. Mr. Fox wrote learned dissertations on Greek during his hours of leisure from parliamentary debates; Mr. Windham has left several interesting treatises on mathematics and literature . The English have at all times honored learning: Henry VIII, who trampled everything underfoot, yet respected men of letters when they did not come in opposition to his disorderly passions. The great Elizabeth was well versed in the ancient languages and even spoke Latinwith facility. That foppery of ignorance with which we had reason to reproach the French nobility was never introduced among the princes or nobility of England. One would think that the former were persuaded that the divine right by which they hold their privileges entirely exempted them from the study of human science. Such a manner of thinking could not exist in England and would only appear ridiculous. Nothing factitious cansucceed in a country where everything is subjected to publicity. The great English nobility would be as much ashamed of not having had a distinguished classical education as men of the second rank in France were, heretofore, of not going to court; and these differences are not connected, as some pretend, with French frivolity. The most persevering scholars, the deepest thinkers, have belonged to that nation, which is capable of everything FrRevol_651-700.indd 28 3/16/12 1:16 PM PART VI when it chooses; but its political institutions were so defective that they perverted its natural good qualities. In England, on the contrary, the institutions favor every kind ofintellectual progress. The juries, the administrations of counties and towns, the elections, the newspapers give the whole nation a greatshare ofinterest in public affairs. The consequence is that it is better informed; and that, at a venture, it would be better to converse with an English farmer on political questions than with the greater number ofmen on the Continent, even the most enlightened. That admirable good sense which is founded on justice and security exists nowhere but in England or in the country that resembles it, America. Reflection must remain a stranger to men who have no rights; since as soon as they perceive the truth, they must be first unhappy, and soon after filled with the spirit ofrevolt. It must be admitted also that in a country where the armed force has almost always been naval, and commerce the principal occupation, there must necessarily be more knowledge than where the national defense is confided to the troops of the line; and where industry is almost entirely directed to the cultivation of the ground. Commerce, placing men in relation with the interests of the world, extends the ideas, exercises the judgment, and, from the multiplicity and diversity of transactions, makes the necessity of justice continually to be felt. In countries where the only pursuit is agriculture, the mass of the population may be composed ofserfs attached to the soil and devoid of all information. But what could be done with tradesmen who are enslaved and ignorant? A maritime and commercial country is, therefore , necessarily more enlightened than any other; yet there remainsmuch to be done to give the English people a sufficient education. A considerable portion of the lowest class can as yet neither read nor write; and it is doubtless to remedy this evil that the new methods ofBell and Lancaster1 are so warmly encouraged, because they are calculated to bring education within the reach of the indigent. The lower orders are perhaps better informed in Switzerland, in Sweden, and in some parts of the north ofGermany ; but in none of these countries is found that vigor ofliberty which r. Andrew Bell (1753-97) and Joseph Lancaster (1778-18J8) founded the mutual education system involving the best students in the teaching process. FrRevol_651-700.indd 29 3/16/12 1:16 PM cHAPTER v. Knowledge, Religion, andMorals ofEnglish will preserve England, it is to be hoped, from the reaction...


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