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JOHN HUGHES, ESQ., M.A.
ORIEL COLLEGE, OXFORD,
ONE OF HIS MAJESTY'S JUSTICES OF THE PEACE IN THE
THE SYSTEMS OF EDUCATION
By the REV. JOHN PHILIPS POTTER, M. A.
Omnino, qui reipublicas praefuturi sunt duo Platonis praecepta teneant: unum ut utilitatem civium sic tueantur, ut, quaecungue agunt, ad eam referant, obliti commodorum suorum : alterum, ut totum corpus reipublicae curent: ne dum partem aliquam tuentur, reliquas deserant: ut enim tutela, sic procuratio reipublicae ad utilitatem eorum, qui commissi sunt, non adeorum, quibus commissa est, gerenda est: qui auteu parti civium consulunt, partem negligunt, rem perniciosissimam in civitatem inducunt, seditionem atque discordiam; ex quo evenit, ut alii populares, alii studiosi optimi cujusque videantur, pauci universorum.—Cicero de Officiis, lib. i. sect. 25.
SECOND EDITION, witH ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONs. LONDON :– 1828.
My DEAR Hughes,
There are few to whom I could with greater propriety address an argument in proof of the superiority of a classical education, as a discipline for the mind, because few have derived greater advantages than yourself from studying the style and matter of the great writers of antiquity—few have minds richer in “the spoils of time” —few have more philosophical views of philology, greater acuteness in logical investigation, or more skill in detecting the arts of the rhetorician—still fewer have brought the precision and system, which this discipline is pre-eminently calculated to cultivate, to bear with more effect on the business of life. Nor is the propriety less evident of addressing a defence of religious and moral principles, (I unite these, because I am sure they are so identified in the minds of the people as to be perfectly inseparable, and that to undermine the former is to destroy the latter—at least is to insure an interregnum of crime for which history has no parallel,) to one who as an individual, the master of a family, a country gentleman and a magistrate, affords an example of religious conduct equally remote from the errors of the ascetic, the fanatic, and the formalist; and who is not more respected as a firm and temperate enforcer of the laws, and as a refuge to those whose crimes have arisen from distress, than as setting an example of the force of religious principle in its best practical consequences —in good will to man and a zealous promotion of his interests. Pardon me, if I so far transgress from my subject as to remind some of my readers, that it is to the claims of a duty scarcely inferior in importance to that of the senator, that we are principally indebted for the deep interest in the welfare of the lower orders which actuates the most respectable of our country gentlemen, and for that consequent respect towards the higher orders which prevails among our agricultural population, and which, as you well know, it is in the power of each country magistrate to increase, at least within the range of his influence, in a degree almost unbounded. Even in the mercantile districts I have seen that effected by an unpaid magistracy, which it would have been utterly impossible for a functionary paid by the public to have accomplished. You have often heard me mention, that in the course of the popular disturbances in the neighborhood of Manchester, my deceased grandfather strong in the authority of high character and undaunted resolution, but in person feeble and in the decline of life, rode fearlessly into the very midst of a riotous mob, and took their standard from the hand of its bearer without being either resisted or assaulted. That this boldness would not have been borne from one to whom the character of a hireling could possibly have been affixed, was proved by the fact of his colleague, who had been in the pay of government as an officer of dragoons, being with little ceremony attacked, Asvaroq werpwpart, for a much less aggravated offence against the majesty of the populace. What I have said will little avail those, whose conduct has given occasion for a senseless clamor against the magistracy of the country. If there have been a few instances of magistrates who, from gross ignorance, culpable neglect, unjustifiable prejudice, or, worst of all, for their own base interests, have corrupted the greatest of blessings, let universal indignation and contempt set its brand on the individuals; but let not the body suffer in the public opinion. There have been cowards and traitors even in the British army and navy, but who, therefore, questions British courage or British honor Or if there be a defect in the present means of insuring a sufficiency of legal knowlege to the magistrate, let our Universities supply the remedy, but let us not listen with any other feeling than suspicion and contempt to those who speak of a hired magistracy. But though the propriety of your being addressed on such subjects is abundantly evident, it by no means follows that I am the fit person to address you. Indeed, had any of the great champions of classical learning come forward to repel the attack, of which I am about to expose the feebleness and petulance, I should have been well pleased to be a witness instead of an inflictor of such chastisement. But as the heroes of the fight have declined this service, doubtless considering it unworthy of their names and prowess, it may be permitted to one little practised in the polemic art to essay the adventure, especially (to quit the language of metaphor) as the subject has been forced on my attention in the course of collecting materials for an elementary work on philology, to have written or to read which I must acknowlege to be a waste of time, if I cannot disprove the assertions which I shall now proceed to examine.
They will be found in an article on “ The present System of Education," in the seventh number of the Westminster Review. If they are a fair specimen of the contents of that work, we may infer, however it abounds in the inflammable and acid principles of radicalism, that the compound is as weak and harmless as the union of the hydrogen and oxygen of the chemist.
After a proemium, in which the reviewer sets forth his mission « to teach the great mass of the public the vast effort of doubting the wisdom of their ancestors, for this we were ordained," he commences his labors by contrasting the progress that has been made in arts and inventions, as “the cotton-engine, the steam-engine, and the three-decker will testify," wherein, he proceeds, “ we have despised our ancestors and proved their wisdom folly, and as (ws, Oti or orov? philology teaches us to be correct in such winged trifles,) we have despised them, we have risen and florished," with « our neglect of that fundamental engine, education, the very machine of all machines with which we must work out these results. We have,” he repeats, “wanted courage to disclaim the worn-out machinery of our ancestors, [really it would be wonderful if the fundamental engines of our ancestors had not been worn out, considering the wear and tear they must have hadat Eton and Westminster, where the very machine of all machines is far from being neglected,') and to invent and apply for ourselves to mind, as we have long done to matter, new powers, new combinations, and new proceedings.” P. 148.
If this had been a declamation against flogging, we should have given the right hand of fellowship to the reviewer; for we are so far radicals that we hate the system of giving a dull boy a hundred or more whippings in a half year; and think that if it be not, as the reviewer justly observes, “pernicious, it is useless—at least it is purposeless. If it be but purposeless, it has still the evil result of occupying valuable time, of consuming valuable means (for we do not object to a few effectual floggings in terrorem) to no end."
P. 149. 1: We beg the reader's pardon for having been a little too fa-cetious; and must now assure him that the above objections are not directed against the system of flogging, but against our whole system of education. “We maintain,” says the reviewer, “with all our vigor of argument, and example and anger, the system which cultivates the rough desert of man's mind, as it was cultivated when man was a tyrant or a slave, when he was ignorant of arts and sciences, comfortless, powerless, and debased; which makes monks when there are no longer convents." P. 150,
Now, what are these « new powers, new combinations, and new machinery," which the reviewer would recommend us to adopt ? Can we, however far we propose to advance, commence our scientific studies more prudently than by making ourselves masters of arithmetic, Euclid, and algebra, which is the course of discipline every good school actually teaches, and every school pretends to teach? Surely the system need not be altered, whatever the execution of it in individual instances may require! The reviewer does not believe the scientific digestion of the present age to be so much improved, that our children will intellectually swallow a Steam-engine or a cotton-engine at one gulp, without some preyious acquaintance with definitions, postulates, axioms, problems, theorems, corollaries, &c. Can he then believe, that we may enter on the study of moral philosophy by bolting a treatise of political economy without any previous discipline ? If he admit the necessity of such discipline, can he, after a diligent examination, assert that the grammar of Cobbett, the logic of Bentham, and the rhetoric of we know not who, are better engines for teaching these most important preliminary sciences, than the grammars of Scheller and Matthiæ, and the logic and rhetoric of Aristotle? Does he consider the moral and political observations of Thucydides and Aristotle, Tacitus and Cicero, only fitted « to make monks, when there are no longer convents"-" to prepare men for marching under the influence of insanity and a red rag to war against Palestine and pestilence ?” (p. 149.)-or « that such studies are as purposeless as if the man who is to live by rope-dancing were to labor for instruction at the anvil,” &c. ? P. 153. · We also " have been so far TUTT«ed into a sort of stupid inexplicable respect for antiquity,” (p. 161.) that we look with the same admiration on the literary works of the Greeks and Romans, as we do on their works of art. We are so bigoted as to consider Herodotus and Livy the inspirers of a manly patriotism in defence of home and native land--as supplying us with valuable knowlege of forms of government, which, though long passed away, may well deserve our attention, and the records of them become foundations on which much similar information may be raised—as suggesting many a glowing thought and many a beautiful association to those who can think and feel. We have imagined Thucydides and Tacitus to instructus in the miseries of popular anarchy on the one hand, and of despotism on the other; and to furnish us with a series of well-authenticated facts and deep political reflections, not surpassed in importance even by the writings of those who have most benefited from the study of those great historians. Of the orators and poets of Greece, it is almost as absurd to speak in praise, as it would be to assert that the Apollo Belvidere or the Venus de Medicis are fine statues, and the Parthenon and Erec
theion handsome buildings. Respecting the works of Aristotle, which are ever the butt of their sharpest arrows, it may be safely asserted, that if from the treatises on logic, rhetoric, poetry, and morals, which have been written since the times of the Stagyrite, were subtracted every thing which is better taught or implied in his writings than in those of his followers, the remainder might be summed up in a very few figures. Nor can there be a more instructive or more gratifying exercise, than that of dispersing over the vast framework of Aristotle, (that skeleton of a literary giant 1) whatever additions have been made by modern, and whatever illustrations may be derived from ancient writers."—But great men have, forsooth, set the example of speaking with contempt of the philosophy of Aristotle I Will then the philosophers of the present day take as their motto, “addicti jurare in verba magistri,” even though that master be Bacon or Locke? Will they not inquire whether these great men derived their opinions of Aristotle from a careful perusal of his writings, or from translators, imitators, and commentators Would they be content that the merits of Shakspeare be thus estimated 2 Is it not notorious, that those who are loudest in censuring the philosophy of the Stagyrite have never read his writings 2 Is it not evident from the way in which they speak of his works, that they are even ignorant that these may be divided into moral and physical treatises; and that, granting the latter to be superseded by the works of later writers, (a fact which no admirer of Aristotle's philosophy dreams of disputing, few indeed could dispute without - s
' ' And let it be remembered, that similar additions and illustrations may be introduced by inferior scholars into the pages of Cicero de Officits, de Oratore and de Finibus. Writers against a classical education forget that the reading of Aristotle and Cicero, and the non-reading of Butler, Adam Sinith, Paley, &c. &c. are not terms simply convertible. *