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territories were added by conquest or otherwise to the British empire. In Ireland and Wales, their old institutions for education were broken up by the English at the Conquest, and no new system established, and the mass of the people left in ignorance to this day. For the public school system in New England we are not indebted to the English government or institutions, but to the piety and wisdom of our Puritan ancestors.
We are much inclined to doubt whether, in any country where a privileged order of men have in fact the control of the government, any public system for the education of the people ever has been, or is likely to be, carried into practice. In a republic without any privileged class, enlightened men feel a common interest in educating the people so far as to make them good citizens and qualify them for the duties which ordinary men may be called on to perform in such a community. The general diffusion of knowledge is considered one of the best securities for the peace and prosperity of the country. In a monarchy where the sovereign has the entire power, such a system of general education may be formed and carried into execution, as in Prussia and several of the states of Germany. Where the monarchical or the democratic element has the real ascendency, the government may feel an interest in educating the people.
Perhaps the case of Scotland may be thought an exception: but in Scotland the system of general education was established by the Presbyterians in the time of the Solemn League and Covenant, from the influence of popular freedom and religious enthusiasm. It was repealed at the Restoration, but the Scots obtained the reëstablishment of it at the revolution of 1688.
We believe education one of the most essential duties which society owes to its members. But what is a good education, and what will best fit them for the duties they may be called on to discharge, and the place they may probably fill, is a very important question. The governing powers in England have not yet determined that any system is to be adopted, or that any general one is expedient; and looking at the continuance and stability of their present political institutions, it may not be so easy a question as we imagine. For instance, what education is best for an English sailor who may be impressed and compelled to serve many years under the discipline of a British man of war, with little or no chance of promotion; or for the common soldier, who in an army officered by gentlemen NO. VII.
can very rarely rise above the ranks; or for the laboring classes in their present condition ? No education can remedy most of the evils which are felt by the laboring classes. Education cannot give them employment, food, or clothing, and perhaps would only make them discontented with the inevitable hardships of their condition. There is very little reason to suppose that the government have any such object in view as educating the common people at the public expense.
According to M. De Tocqueville an aristocratic government has a great superiority over all others in the ability with which its foreign relations are managed. He adduces the example of the Romans and the English in support of this opinion. An aristocracy, he says, is a steadfast and enlightened man who never dies.
There may be much truth in this, but we think in respect to England, as much of her success is to be ascribed to national character and fortunate situation, as to the wisdom of the aristocracy. England in her foreign relations and in all controversies with other powers has unrivalled advantages. Her insular situation and naval strength give her means of defence and annoyance possessed by no other country. Every other great nation of Europe has seen a foreign army in its territory and in possession of its capital. But since the Norman conquest no attempt to invade England has succeeded, except in case of a cival war or disputed succession to the crown, where a great portion of the people favored the enterprise.
This security has rendered Englishmen in a great degree strangers to the calamities of war except as they appear in the shape of taxes. To their minds war has been associated with the trophies of victory, the display of British power and valor, the firing of the Park and Tower guns, the thanks of both houses of parliament, with honors and rewards to the successful naval or military commanders. The slaughter of the battle field, the sufferings of the wounded, the groans of the dying, the burning of towns, the multitudes driven from their sweet and cheerful homes to perish by cold, hunger, or disease, have in times past made little impression on their imagination. With the English as with all other nations success will for a time render any war popular however unjustifiable. It is not till they begin to feel the losses and burdens of a war that they are sensible of its impolicy or injustice, and wish for peace.
This geographical position so happy for the English, we have thought has sometimes been unfortunate for other nations, as it has enabled and disposed England to inflict on them the calamities of war, without any serious danger of their being brought home to her own island. In the American Revolutionary War it is not probable that so many towns would have been wantonly burnt, and so much private property destroyed, if these evils could have been retaliated upon their authors.
Government is constituted for the good of the whole society and of every member. The English government like all other governments and social systems must be estimated not by any theory or imaginary standard of perfection, but by its effects on the well-being of the people. We must judge of the tree by its fruits. Mr. Fox said his defence of the British constitution was, not that it was perfect or tallied with the theories of this man, or that man, but that it produced substantial happiness to the people, and if this ground were taken away he knew not what defence to make. We suppose this to be the true and only satisfactory ground on which any political institution or form of society can be defended.
Macaulay looks on the favorable side of things, and sees nothing but progress and improvement, though he hears much complaint of decline and ruin. The nation in his view is sound at heart, has nothing of age but its dignity, combined with the vigor of youth. He thinks the nation is going on in a course of improvement, preserving what is good in its institutions, and reforming what is bad in a peaceable constitutional way. This is undoubtedly the true mode of reform.
But the changes in civil society are not confined to acts of parliament, or measures of government. Time, says Bacon, is the greatest of innovators. Time and the course of events have made the English government and social system what they now are, and may be silently working greater changes than any ministry or political agitators.
We look with much interest for the subsequent volumes of the work. So far the author has occupied the same ground with Hume; the second volume closing exactly at the termination of Hume's history. As our author has already devoted two fifths of the first volume and the whole of the second to the four years reign of James II., we presume he intends to pass over many of the following years with more rapid wheels. The task before him is a great and glorious one, and we know of no author of whom there is so much reason to expect its successful accomplishment.
ART. IV. - SHORT REVIEWS AND NOTICES.
1. — Madonna Pia, and Other Poems. By JAMES GREGOR
GRANT. In two volumes. London : Smith, Elder & Co., Cornhill. 1848. pp. x. 320, xiv. 350.
These volumes indicate a strong and genuine tendency to the poetic form, rather than the possession of any very rich or rare vein of the native ore of poetry, on the part of the author. A large part of a life seems to have gone to rhyme here. Whether all the honey was worth hiving, (except as every literary working bee must find a comfort in saving up all whatsoever vouchers of its own existence, to prove that it has been productive in some sense, that it has at least graced the world, if not made very deep marks on it,) is more than we would dare affirm. But there is certainly good poetry, and not a little, stored up with the rest. Every piece is rhythmical, and pleasing, and artistically wrought. Some are bewitchingly beautiful.
Mr. Grant seems to have been early penetrated with a profound reverence for the character of poet; his whole collection has a little of the air of a continued series of attempts at another vindication or “Defence of Poesy.” In the upward pathway of his aspirations, he at last met with a type of the character, which his soul at once accepted as a model, in the poet WORDS WORTH, to whom his volumes are inscribed, while they are filled with traces of his influence. Thus, in his lover's rhapsodies, he is very careful to mention that the object of his adoration is a thing of “flesh and blood,” not destitute of every-day qualities, not a nymph, nor a dryad,
“Nor aught else of superhuman,
But a very, very woman!” And he has been and gathered sonnets among the “ Lakes," sing. ing the praises of “ Winandermere," and " Derwent Water," and “the river Duddon.” Doubtless, the Wordsworthian example and philosophy have been a good, strengthening thing for bim. Temperament had inclined him, we should fancy, quite another way; for there is an undertone of sadness, a habit of the minor mode, and a slight addiction to the Leigh Hunt sentimentality, spontaneously reappearing ever and anon in these poems. His sentiment is always pure, his aspiration brave and constant; yet we cannot call him spiritual ; his inspiration is not of the third heaven;" neither in invention nor in tone does his muse ever transcend the higher strata of very current and approved, though very good and just and liberal thoughts. The inward material is not equal to the ambition or the power of shaping. His dazzling aims and models, therefore, cast him back upon himself; he grows very conscious, and writes sonnets “ On glancing over some of my own poems,” lines “On being asked for my autograph,” &c. It is not an offensive egotism; it is only not the consciousness of genius.
The longest and, as we judge, the best piece in these volumes is “ Madonna Pia." The subject is from Dante's Purgatorio. In four lines, under the lightning flash of his intense imagination, it gleams through the night of ages :
"Ricorditi di me, chi son la Pia:
Disposando m'avea con la sua gemma." Grant time to bring it nearer and fill out the living detail of its beauty and its tragedy, as Leigh Hunt has done with the tale of “Rimini"; and he is hardly less an adept in the rose-color art. He begins thus musically:
“MADONNA PIA! thou whose gentle shade
Made all of brightness else look cold and dim. He then goes on to describe the growing passion and mutual confession of the lovers, the rapture and the foreboding, in a style which shall testify for itself by the production of a stanza or two:
“Madonna Pia told her virgin love
To her young lover with sweet virgin pride,