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it to perish through its own weight and rottenness.* Situ ated as the people of this country are, they cannot too vigilantly guard against the approach of that era of dark and fatal degeneracy, when, according to the ironical definitions of Fielding, patriot comes to mean a candidate for place; worth, power, rank, and wealth; wisdom, the art of getting all three.
I am well aware, that these evils and dangers are counterpoised by signal advantages, both in our institutions, and in our position. But with all these, we shall still need the utmost aid of moral and religious culture. We need that, in the absence of positive laws, the people shall be able to restrain and direct themselves; and that, when laws are established, they shall be objects of profound respect and submission. We need that our youth should be taught, in their earliest years, to entertain the deepest horror of fraud and falsehood, and to resolve that, through life, their faith, when once plighted, whether in private or public contracts, whether in affairs of a personal or political nature, shall be sacred
* A great poet points out the fatal defect of this species of civilization.
Tyre, by the margin of the sounding waves,
And the arts died by which they had been raised.
Call Archimedes from his buried tomb
Upon the plain of vanished Syracuse,
and irrevocable. We need to build up a force of character, and a strength of principle, which will enable men to breast themselves against the corrupt influences of fashion, party, and prevailing immorality; and to lift their protest, when necessary, with meekness, but yet without fear, against the encroachments of an unhallowed public opinion. We need, too, a training which shall inspire the young with deep reverence for parents and for old age, with proper deference towards the judgment of the wise and good of all ages, and with that graceful diffidence in their own sagacity and power, which will lead them, without surrendering their own independence, to have due respect for the recorded wisdom and experience of the past.*
* By reverence I mean "that earnestness in contemplating things, which strives to know their real character and connexion, and the absence of arrogant forwardness and self-sufficiency, which considers everything silly, useless, or unmeaning, because not agreeing with its own views, or not showing its character at once to the superficial observer; or not conforming to custom. We have seen that it is the high prerogative of man to acknowledge superiors and inferiors, to have laws, and to obey them; but, since individual interest, as well as the pleasure or allurement of resistance and opposition, is in itself frequently very strong, as selfishness is but too apt to grow up like a rank weed, we ought to imbue the young early with true loyalty, that is, a sincere desire to act as members of a society, according to rules not arbitrarily prescribed by themselves, and with a submission of individual will and desire to that of society. They ought to learn that it is a privilege of men to obey laws, and a delight to obey good ones. That these habits, early and deeply inculcated, may lead to submissiveness and want of independence, is only to be feared when education is imperfect or liberty at a low ebb. The greater the liberty enjoyed by a society, the more essential are these habits, especially in modern times, when various new and powerful agents of intercommunication and diffusion of knowledge have produced a movability and thirst for inquiry, which cannot leave in us any sincere fear on the ground of dull tameness in the adult wherever liberty is at all established. The ancients knew the value of these habits, and all their wise men
We also need to join with the spirit of enterprise, which is carrying forward all our people to an improved condition, a spirit of contentment with a life of labour, together with a just appreciation of its advantages and duties, and a cheerful acquiescence in the allotments of Providence.* And, finally, we need to cultivate, in the young, a settled detestation of all those incitements and indulgences, which are multiplied by a vulgar civilization, and which inflame their lower propensities, while they arm them against the holiest influences of truth and virtue-such as the intoxicating cup and the gaming-table. And, while employing means for this purpose, "let us, with caution," to borrow again the words of the great and wise, “indulge the supposition, that
insisted upon them. Nations which lose the precious habit of obeying, that is, self-determined obedience to the laws, because laws, lose invariably, likewise, the precious art of ruling. Greece, Rome, and Spain, for the last centuries, as well as the worst times of the feudal ages, are examples."-See Lieber on Political Ethics.
* Idleness, as a political evil, reached its "classical age" in the worst periods of Grecian democracy and in Rome. In the former, attendance at the popular assembly came to be paid for, as in the worst times of the French Revolution. During the decline of Rome, the idling wretches sank so low, that, too cowardly to march against the conquering tribes, they nevertheless were delighted at seeing the agony of the dying gladiator. When Treves was devastated by German predatory tribes, the first thing which the inhabitants, de prived of house and property, asked for, was, Circensian games.LIEBER'S Political Ethics, vol. ii., p. 243.
+ The contrast between the energy of barbarians, and the imbecility of a people rendered sensual and sordid by a vicious civilization, is forcibly exhibited, in the following passage from the late work of Dumas on Democracy. "He (Genseric) arrived before Carthage; and while his troops were mounting the ramparts, the people were descending to the circus. Without was the tumult of arms, and within, the resounding echoes of the games: at the foot of the walls were the shrieks and curses of those who slipped in gore and fell in the melée; on the steps of the Amphitheatre were the songs of musicians and the sounds of accompanying flutes."
morality can be maintained without religion.
may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
2. We need an intellectual culture, which will impart more knowledge and wisdom. Where laws are but emanations of public opinion, it is supremely important that that public opinion should be enlightened; and it can hardly become so, unless men acquire, in youth, a love for reading, and habits of patient thought. In proportion, as the people are called to act, through legislation and by voluntary association, on a greater number of important questions, in the same proportion is it necessary that their range of information be extended, and their judgments more thoroughly developed. Tempted as Americans are by bright promises in the future, and living, too, in the midst of intense activity and excitement, they need, more than any other nation, habits of careful and deliberate inquiry. They need, moreover, that enlightened estimate of the difficulties inherent in many subjects, which they can obtain only by candid study, and which would tend to make them at once more tolerant towards those who think differently, and less clamorous, in public affairs, after one exclusive line of policy. In theory, we are supposed to think each one for himself, and to carry, to the ballot-box, the unbiased result of our own convictions, and preferences. Is it not most desirable, that the education of the whole people should become so improved, that this theory can be reduced to practice, and that demagogues and all the leaders of faction shall see, in the growing intelligence of the people, warning signs of the decline of their own power and consequence?
Without enumerating, here, the various branches of study, which are called for by the state of the times, and of our * Washington's Farewell Address.
own country, I may remark, that more thorough instruction in the first principles of politics is all-important. We all read enough about political affairs; but fundamental instruction in the elements of the science of government-in those great truths which guided our fathers through times of trial, and which can alone give strength, and enduring glory to our institutions and our freedom-this is greatly needed. Much time, which is now given to other studies, might be profitably devoted to the history and structure of our government, and to those noble examples of public virtue and achievements, which shine as lights along the tract of the past. In holding up such examples, however, one caution ought to be observed. The noblest specimens of our fallen nature are marred by imperfection. Instead, then, of teaching our children to admire great men in the gross, we should rather teach them to discriminate between their acts of wisdom and their errors, as well as between their virtues and their vices. Otherwise the power of judgment is gradually obscured; distinctions the most sacred and important are confounded; and men are taught first to tolerate, and at length to admire and imitate, what they ought most anxiously to shun. In one of the numbers of the Spectator, the writer judiciously suggests, "whether, instead of a theme or copy of verses, which are the usual exercises, as they are called in the school phrase, it would not be more proper that a boy should be tasked once or twice a week to write
* To illustrate the disproportioned attention paid, even in elementary schools, to mathematics as compared with moral science, I may mention the following fact, with which I met recently on visiting the teachers' department in one of our largest and best-conducted academies. Out of seventy-five young persons in this department who were preparing to teach district and other elementary schools, but five were studying history of any kind; none were studying the history of the United States; while thirty-four were studying Algebra, and almost all, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Surveying.