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MORAL TENDENCIES OF KNOWLEDGE.
“ These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain,
These goods He grants who grants the power to gain ;
We were about to write upon this subject, having had our attention strongly drawn to it by an article in the “ Companion to the Almanac,” on the effects of Education upon Crime. While we were chewing the cud of the many sweet, and alas ! the some bitter, fancies which arose upon this most momentous of human subjects-namely, the moral fruits of knowledge, we received the following paper. We chanced to have been in company with the writer at the time when the article in the “Edinburgh Review," on Pestalozzi, which is alluded to in the commencement of these remarks, had just appeared. We had neither of us ever read “ Leonard and Gertrude," and our friend determined to do so at once. “ If you do," we replied, “pray send some notice of it to our Magazine—for at this time a multitude of minds is turned towards education ;-it will be many a long year before that topic will tire."
In accordance with this wish, the paper, which the reader will presently see, reached us a short time back. It is any thing but a review of “ Leonard and Gertrude.” It rather gives a brief notice of Pestalozzi's principles, as exemplified in that book, with our correspondent's own feelings and ideas upon them. At first sight, it will seem in some degree to contravene the principles on Useful Education, which we have from time to time advocated, since this Magazine came into our hands. “ Contravene” is, perhaps, too strong a word—but it certainly attributes to the system we have been in the habit of supporting some faults of omission-which accusation, we think, has arisen, as so many do in metaphysical matters, from scarcely more than a mere difference of verbal interpretation. We trust, when we have given our answer, very little and very slight difference will remain between us and our correspondent. We confess, we are glad to have an opportunity of discussing this question, as we have heard sentiments of nearly the same colour expressed before; and it will be quite clear to our readers that the persons who hold such as those they are about to read, must be exactly calculated to make us desire their thorough cooperation, more than that of any class which is not altogether with us already.
We shall now, without further preface, give the letter on which we have been observing—then our own comments on it-and, lastly, some remarks on the effects which education has even already produced.
I have been reading Pestalozzi's tale of “ Leonard and Gertrude." I am only vaguely acquainted with his system of education ; but the very interesting article in the Edinburgh Review induced me, as you know, to send for this book. His character, drawn by Dr. Mayo, excited my warmest admiration, and I opened my parcel the moment it arrived, and sat down to read. The date of the preface to the first edition is 1781; that to the second, 1803, when he again presents his original ideas unaltered by the fruits of his observations during the course of an active life. His professions are to describe the condition of the people according to what he had learned by his own personal experience, and to have been careful never to set down his own opinions instead of what he had seen, heard, and known the people themselves feel, judge, say, and attempt. The purpose of his work is, “through the medium of a tale, to communicate some important truths to the people in the way most likely to make an impression on their understandings and their feelings ;” and “by pointing out the real situation of the people, and their natural and durable connections with each other, to lay a foundation for their progressive improvement." In the second preface, he says that his book had produced no effect as a representation of the nature of domestic education, but made an impression chiefly as a tale. To me the effect is quite contrary: as a tale it is frequently puerile; indeed, at first, its extreme simplicity makes one doubt the reality of the scenes represented. You feel as though introduced to the good and bad characters that belong to the invention of an amiable but somewhat weak intellect, rather than to descriptions of nature as it exists around us. And truly, Pestalozzi addresses and describes a far more primitive and simple race than those by whom we are surrounded.
This impression, however, wore off as I read on; and I began to look on his characters and the manners he describes as accurate portraits of an interesting people, who, retaining the ignorance of childhood, also retained more of its docility and tenderness of heart, than, in our advanced state, belongs either to our virtues or our vices. Still, as a tale, “ Leonard and Gertrude” cannot much attract attention, while, as a representation of Pestalozzi's ideas upon the nature of domestic education, it may interest deeply, even should its scenes fail to touch the heart. Many of the scenes are entirely inapplicable to any country where the relations of the rich and poor have become more independent; and many of the peculiarities of Swiss manners and customs would render the tale absurd to those who are not acquainted with what the Cantons were thirty years ago.
But the general and broad facts belong to human nature in every situation; and it is this truth to nature in its best feelings, the strong faith in the goodness of the human heart, the strain of fervent and humble piety that runs through the book which constitutes the charm of it. I know not that I ever met a book that breathed so pious a spirit, and was at the same time so perfectly free from every tinge of sectarian narrowness or dogmatism. Some, and I think perhaps even you, might object to the familiarity of the religious instruction here exhibitedfor, alas! the spirit of devotion has become faint amongst us; and I fear the great majority of those who most seek the improvement of the world, however truly they may advocate the love of our neighbour, feel but coldly towards the love of God. The cant and folly of Methodism has much of this lukewarmness to answer for; but there is also a tone of mere worldly calculation in the way in which good is generally taught; an intellectual prudent inculcation of virtue which falls short of the real dignity of the heart of man. Knowledge and Virtue are, I think, considered more inseparable than they really are ; and the great and admirable advances which have, within these few years, been made towards general education and the diffusion of knowledge, has dazzled the best of us; and the intellect has been more exclusively attended to by all (except those who, as narrow religionists, seem to think reason was bestowed merely to be resigned), than should follow from a due consideration of the whole nature of man, and of the circumstances of trial and misery in which, notwithstanding the improvement in his condition that knowledge must occasion, he is still, and I believe ever must be, liable to.
Pestalozzi is far from belonging to what I will venture to call the intellectual class of enthusiasts, although his life was devoted to the purpose of educating the poor. He seems to condemn the unlimited thirst after knowledge that does not immediately relate to our condition, as tending to embarrass the mind to the injury of the moral portion of our being, the excellence of which appears in his views to reflect the image, though faintly, of the Head and Author of all excellence. He thus expresses himself, in his second preface :-" The ruling maxims of the latter half of the past century were almost altogether defieient in the simplicity of strength, and in the strength of simplicity. They aimed at a high stretch of knowledge,—but man, as a whole, remained ignorant, arrogant, and enslaved. Trusting in the extent of his knowledge, he, as it were, lost himself. It was a misfortune to the race of man, during this century, that, by this extension of their knowledge, they were prevented from seeing that they lived without any real strength or stability; and, by this self-deception, they lost all feeling for the truth and greatness of the simple relations of nature and society;": and in the chapter, where the good Squire and enlightened Pastor discourse upon the best means of preventing superstition, and teaching the people, he more explicitly states, that the best method, “ in educating the poor, is to ground their knowledge of the truth upon the pure feelings of innocence and love; to turn their attention chiefly to the surrounding objects which interest them in their individual situations.” “ The education of the poor should be founded upon clear ideas of surrounding objects, and the temperate exercise of the desire and wishes of human nature; because these are undoubtedly the foundation of true human wisdom. To fix the attention strongly on speculative opinions and distant objects, and feebly upon our duties, our actions, and the objects which surround us, is to create disorder in the soul of man. It leads to ignorance about our most important affairs, and to a foolish predilection for information and knowledge which do not concern us. Roughness and hardness of heart are the natural consequences of all pride and presumption ; and the source of the inward poison of superstition and prejudice is clearly derived from this : that, in the education of the people, their attention is not steadily turned to the circumstances and objects around them, which have a strong and near relation to their individual situation, and would lead their hearts to pure and tender feelings of humanity upon all occasions." FEBRUARY, 1829.
Pestalozzi has that strong belief in the natural excellence of unso. phisticated man, which is a necessary ingredient in the character that devotes itself to the purpose of amending the condition of mankind. This is shared by all who advocate the cause of education ; but I am not sure but that it is a great error to suppose that enlightening the understanding will at once purify and exalt the heart. Do not mistake me ;-I fully go along with what Brougham says in his admirable " Preliminary Treatise" to the “ Library of Useful Knowledge,” that " the mere gratification of curiosity, the knowing more to-day than we knew yesterday, the understanding what before seemed obscure and puzzling, the contemplation of general truths, and the comparing together of different things,—is an agreeable occupation; and, besides the present enjoyment, elevates the faculties above low pursuits, purifies and refines the passions, and helps our reason to assuage their violence." Helps our reason !- Yes: when reason has been duly trained to pay paramount attention to the moral sense ; otherwise, I am inclined to think these intellectual pursuits serve, indeed, to refine, but not much to restrain, the passions; and I am not of opinion that, in depriving vice of its grossness, we deprive it of half its evil. The grossness of vice will sometimes deter those who would embrace her when decked in some decency of drapery; but all degrees of decency bespeak a measure, however small, of respect for virtue; and I would not destroy even this negative homage. The most influential promoters of education, and of the diffusion of useful knowledge, no doubt have the cause of Virtue at heart; they combat ignorance as its chief foe; and none can deny but that ignorance is the cause of evil of all descriptions, the fruitful parent of vice and crime of all kinds. To remove ignorance is to break up the soil, to fit it for the produce of the luxuriant crop. It is more; it is also sowing the seed, it is occupying the ground with valuable products, whose possession of the soil hinders the growth of many weeds. But the earth teems, and throws up thistles as well as grass, tares even amongst the wheat; man is still more capable of displaying the greatest variety of principles from what seems one stock. The vices of the savage are not displayed by the most depraved member of the dense population of a manufacturing town; the vices of brutal ignorance are not to be seen amongst intelligent artificers; the progress of civilization (another name for that of knowledge) removes the chief causes of all cruel and atrocious crimes, and gives fair play to the just, sound, and prudential views that lead to the formation of a fair worldly character. But man is not wholly intellectual; and although there certainly are debased propensities and feelings which never can exist where knowledge has been acquired, there is still a plentiful crop of evil that may flourish along with the fruits of science and the flowers of cultivation. This must be acknowledged, when we consider what has been the character of the upper orders while knowledge was confined to the few; it raised them from the most degrading temptations, freed them from the vices of ignorance and brutality ;-but did they display a proportionate improvement in principles ? had they a proportionately stronger attachment to the right, because their lights were stronger? It may be said, sounder views are now more general amongst the most enlightened; that their horizon is extended as knowledge has spread wider amongst the people in general; and that virtue increases now in due and equal degrees with the general progress of science and information. I trust and hope it may be the case. But, as more sure and certain means, I would appeal to the highest principles, to those principles which belong to the heart, and which, though immortal in the soul of man, will languish when not early cultivated, and which I fear the present efforts to spread general information are in some degree likely to neglect. Pestalozzi says,
“ I take no part in the disputes of men about opinions, but I think all will agree that whatever makes us pious, good, true, and brotherly,—whatever cherishes the love of God and of our neighbour, and whatever brings happiness and peace into our houses, should be implanted in the hearts of all for our common good.” And I too would wish to avoid collision with men's opinions, were it possible to inculcate the spiritual nature of all the kind and benevolent affections without doing so. Worldly advantages, and pleasures and profits are now chiefly held out to lure us to the acquirement of knowledge; they are powerful, just, and true motives for exertion. But " there are greater things than these” which lead to higher cultivation without excluding any advantage which belongs to rational and honourable prudence. Do you think I am going to attempt to unite the advantages that may belong to enthusiasm and to worldliness! no—but I wish I could arouse a more powerful pen to advocate the principle I can but faintly point out ; the connection and harmony that may
subsist between the moral and intellectual powers, but the distinct, though simultaneous cultivation each should receive. Sunday Schools and Bible societies take one side,- Mechanics’ Institutes, and cheap books the other. Each I think too exclusive in their views, and between them both I do not think the love of God and of our neighbour inculcated with the efficacy that the heart would respond to, were it touched as such a noble instrument should be.—The principle on which infant schools are founded, appears to me excellent for large towns, where mothers are necessarily often absent from their children, and are ignorant, and often worse than ignorant; but no society can, I think, be equal to the provision of nature where that is duly administered. - Again, to use the words of Pestalozzi, he makes his “address to mothers, and to the hearts which God has given them, to induce them to be to their children what no one else can be to them.” “ Let people say what they will, nature, and God, its Eternal Creator, have left nothing wanting. It is blasphemy to maintain that mothers have no desire to devote themselves to their children. Let people say what they will, I am full of trust in this desire, and full of hope for the consequences which the excitement of it will produce. The greatest corruption which can arise from the errors of man, does not entirely destroy human nature. Its strength is inextinguishable.”
And to mothers would I, also, appeal for the foundation of the character; to them I would appeal for the cultivation of those affections of piety and kindness, which fit us to be “ wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” I would appeal to them for the early cultivation of the principle of conscientiousness, which is too generally rieglected in