Imágenes de páginas

their national cause. Every one feels that their people must be men ere they presume to be freemen: that education is the first, the surest, the most efficient and radical, as well as the only legitimate revolution. Hence this word-education which has of late given rise to so many wild and vague speculations, on which honest men of all creeds, sects and parties seem equally to place implicit reliance, but to which all of them are apt to give such strange, such widely different interpretations, has made its way and created its wonted ferment even in Italy: and surely there is no country in the world so utterly in want of the redeeming influence of that most powerful social engine, or one in which its application is likely to be attended with more immediate and luminous results. The most fertile field can best reward the toils of the husbandman.

To doubt the influence of education would be to call in question the infinite perfectibility, and, therefore, the divine origin of the human mind. And we do not, for a moment, admit that any honest man will conscientiously oppose or discountenance the efforts of those who ardently and zealously, though sometimes rather too sanguinely and indiscriminately, labour at the propagation of popular instruction,

Education---that most irresistible of moral agents, whose ascendency can be equally extended over all created things, that Orpheus' lyre which dragged stones and trees after its charmed strains, that indefatigable virtue which

" -- bomini docuit parere leones," which gave the English horse so decided a superiority even over the native Arabian breed, cannot lose its redeeming powers when turned to the improvement of that sovereign being, whose mortal part alone is liable to the imperfections and infirmities of this perishable world.

Man is essentially the most docile of beings; he is equal to any station to which he is properly trained; who doubts it? but these universally-acknowledged and long-hackneyed truisms which sound so fair and irrefutable in theory, cannot equally stand the test of practical experiment.

Education has hitherto been considered only in the abstract, as if the whole social order could be made subservient to its Utopian views; as if, according to the ideas of Lycurgus and St. Simon, the political edifice could be based on the fundamental discipline of the school.

But the main object of education should be to fit man for life. It ought to instil into the youth's mind that there is a society already in existence, in which he is to fill a place, in which he will have duties to perform, hardships and storms to endure. It ought

to teach man to know himself, to resign and reconcile him to his lot; to recognize and adore the hand of Providence, even in those social arrangements which might strike him as unjust and arbitrary; to lift him above the petty miseries of life, not only by a firm but by an active belief in another and a better world.

Religion is the foundation of all education, But we know of no establishment, either in Italy or elsewhere, where instruction is based on such holy principles. We know of no school, however humble, in which the hope of worldly preferment is not held up as the reward of diligence and perseverance, in which study is not considered as the great leveller which is to raise the low-born and indigent on a par with the minion of fortune,

Hence the most immediate effect of education has been hitherto only to bring up a restless, anxious generation, tortured by the cravings of inordinate ambition, maddened by rare examples of individual, exceptional success; fretting, wrestling, elbowing each other with a wrathful emulation; most apt, no doubt, to give the whole social order a rapid onward impulse, but no less tending to drive contentment from the face of the civilized world. This state of feverish activity, which allows no man to rest quietly under his father's roof, which causes all human felicity to consist in the ascent of a few steps in that scale which rises as we climb, can, however, be turned to more practical objects and prove less pernicious to the social order in those countries which by their peculiar situation afford a more ample sphere of action. In England and America, for instance, there is less want of elbow-room than in many of the continental countries. America has a continent, England a world to colonize. On the back-ground of civilization there opens before the Briton and American a wide region of swamps and forests, of islands and peninsulas, a refuge for the outcasts of society. As long as Van Diemen's Land has coasts to settle on; as long as the valley of the Mississippi has marshes to drain and woodlands to clear, a rich soil and a blessed climate to rebuild broken fortunes and soothe disappointment, these two countries will proceed with uninterrupted prosperity; as long as they are in possession of such extensive and immediate means of getting rid of all corrupting elements, corruption cannot strike deep roots. Civil and religious passions may ruffle the surface, but the waters are too shallow to be much troubled by storms.

The continental nations, with the exception perhaps of heroic Greece and medieval Italy, have never well understood this system of colonization, on which, however, more than on any constitutional providence, lies the secret source of social security. They never learnt, as the Britons, to carry their country along with them, to bid their homes a lasting farewell without looking back or repining. The Briton is the true cosmopolite. He is, as it has been cleverly observed, proud of his country, as of something that belongs to him, that is part of him, and that follows him from pole to pole. His rights, his inalienable frauchises are his country: and wherever there be liberty, he can feel equally at home. Before the second generation be considers himself as separate from the father-land he sprang from. He forgets it, abjures it, throws off its allegiance and wars against it, whenever its claims interfere with his own interests. At home and abroad the Briton is the reasonable being par excellence. Patriotism with him is never mingled with the alloy of local predilections. The dread of penury is stronger in him thau home-sickness. With him “ Patria est ubicumque est bene.” Disappointed in one branch of industry, he calmly turns to another; crossed by fortune at home, he resignedly migrates to new cliinates. The sun shines elsewhere as well-ay, and somewhat better too, than in dear old England.

But fancy for a moment these islands deprived of their safetyvalve of periodical emigration. Suppose that, out of natural but narrowminded fondness, the thousands of pilgrims that embark every year for the Canadas or New South Wales, should obsti. nately cling to the soil and claim their rights, to drag on their life of abjectness on the step-mother land which gave them birth, and refuses them sustenance--that all the surplus population should be turned loose and hang on society!

Such is, however, the case all over the continent. Southern people especially never well understood, nor can be made to understand, the blessings of emigration. The Spaniards laid waste a whole world and exhausted themselves in a work of destruction. The French are undergoing the severest sacrifices to subdue a colony which they will never be able to turn to any profitable account. But Italy has not even an African colony, wherein to dispose of its hundreds of thousands of adventurers every year. The Italians are too fatally in love with their country to be induced, even by utter distress, to emigrate. They are the least migratory, therefore it must be feared the most stationary race in Europe. Expatriation is for them always exile; and this word is still in that country associated with all the horrors it had under the Roman empire, when the outcast had to choose between the steppes of Scythia and the deserts of Lybia. · Hence, of all civilized countries, Italy is under the most urgent necessity of relying on its own resources. These are indeed ineshaustible; and it is difficult to understand why two-and-twenty millions of people cannot live at their ease in a country where in happier ages a population three times larger has been known to thrive,

Were we even to admit that home-sickness is for an Italian an incurable complaint, that education and opportune provisions could not wean from that fascinating country a few of its spoiled children, that they might make room for their betters," as it is done in happy old England; or were it even to be taken for granted that such a measure would be no more adviseable than it is practicable, what else then should be ioculcated among the first principles of education into the mind of the Italian people, but that theirs is the true land flowing with milk and honey; that it never did, never could, prove ungrateful to the cares bestowed upon it by its cultivators; that penury and distress can only arise from their indolence and unthriftiness; that the apparent barrenness of some of its districts is only owing to neglect or mismanagement, but that their own rich, luxurious, bountiful land, will always be sufficient to them and to all that may spring from them; that theirs is the home-field in which, according to that dying father's golden advice, they are to dig, and dig incessantly, sure that their treasure lies buried therein ?

Education in Italy should, then, have an essentially agricultural tendency.

Now nowhere is that first and noblest of arts, agriculture, held in more utter contempt than in the country of Fabricius and Cincinnatus—those dictator-husbandmen. The non-residence of landed proprietors on their estates, the imperfect state of the roads, the unfrequency and slowness of commercial communications, contribute to keep the Italian peasant in a state of nearly absolute isolation. Like the oaks and elms of his field, he is rooted to the spot where he grew. He is generally honest, and guileless, because he is trained up in what is there called the “ holy fear of God,"— because his parish priest, different from the pampered prelate in town, is bimself too artless and prinitive to have any power and too undesigning or unambitious to have any interest to deceive him. He is sober and frugal, thanks to his poverty, to the enfeebling influence of climate; he is, at least in Lombardy and Tuscany, laborious and diligent, in consequence of the reward that, owing to the liberal system of mezzadria, is sure to attend his work; but he is ignorant beyond all human conception. He is a creature of habit; a ploughing, reaping, thrashing machine, and as such jealous and mistrustful of every mechanical innovation, which, by endeavouring to alleviate, might, he apprehends, supersede the necessity of bis incessant material exertions : he opposes his force of inertia to all personal or technical improvement; he clings with a superstitious pertinacity to the picturesque, perhaps, but clumsy and unwieldy instruments, and to the old fashioned systems of husbandry illustrated by Columella and Virgil. A being, in short, not many degrees above the dumb and tardy brute, the sharer of his toil.

That such a degraded race and their humble employment should be looked upon with no better feeling than commiseration we can easily understand, and we may also readily believe that the humanity of generous souls may have been prompted to raise so large, so useful and important a class from their helpless state of actual serfage and belotism.

But the education of the labourer must be effected by a universal revolution in the ideas of mankind. His bumble calling must be revered and honored; he must be made proud and fond of the share he has in the public welfare ; he must feel that although there may be higher and prouder stations in life, his own is not only far from being despised or abject, but is, on the contrary, the one that is most conducive to health, contentment and innocence, as well as one of paramount, of vital importance. The first object of education, in Italy at least, should be to make every man satisfied with his lot. But with the exception of a few private institutions, such as the agricultural school at Meleto, and the so-called technical schools of Lombardy, the object of all philanthropic establishments directed to improve the moral and intellectual condition of the peasantry and of all the labouring classes, seenis rather to subtract a few individuals from the common share of misery and ignorance of their fellow labourers than to attempt a general reform of the whole cast.

“Study, my son"-says the aged husbandman, who has begun to taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and who judges of things according to the estimate of worldly wisdom. • Work and endure. Yet one year or two of fagging and perseverance and thou wilt fling sickle and spade for ever from thee, thou wilt throw off this coarse jacket from thy shoulders and don a doctor's gown or a clergyman's surplice. Look about thee, my son, who was our curate but a farmer's boy? I saw hins with my own eyes a poor cripple, crawling after his father's pigs. What was our prætor? why, a coachman's lad whom his master through charity sent to a law school at Pisa, and now; thou seest, he keeps coach and coachmen himself, and fares like a lord. Study, my son; thou art a smart and clever lad, as your schoolmaster said when I brought him the fat goose at Christmas. While thy father lives, were it to cost me my last mouthful of bread, thou shalt lack nothing in the world. Perhaps I shall not live to see it, but the thought of having withdrawn thee from the hardships of this wretched life will follow me to my grave and lighten the earth on my bones.” It is thus that the dawn of civilization breaks on the peaceful slave of the soil. It is thus that to the idea of mental emancipation he always associates a vain aspiration after worldly

« AnteriorContinuar »