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and since the revival of learning in these latter days, the western world has abounded with schools and: universities; of which, without incurring the charge of self-adulation, we may truly say, none have exceeded those in our own country.
In a public education, the means and instruments necessary for the acquisition of learning are possess-> ed in a more full and complete manner. The master can give his time and his thoughts wholly to the work. Constant and long experience confers a degree of skill not otherwise to be attained. A spirit of emulation is excited in the scholar, who goes on with more sprightliness and alacrity in the company of his school-fellows, forgetting those that are behind, and pressing forward to those who are before, with the determination of a Cæsar, that nothing is yet done while any thing remains to be done. A regular succession of business at stated times inures him to live by rule, and forbids him to be idle; while the discipline by which it is enforced, renders him healthy and hardy in mind and body. By being put so soon to manage and bustle for himself, he is prepared for the world into which he must enter, and in which he must pass his days: the various tempers and disposi tions of his numerous companions bring him acquaint ed with those of mankind, among whom he is to pass them and he forms connexions, which by banishing selfishness, by exchanging offices of friendship by mutual assistance and communication of studies, as well as in many other ways, contribute towards his passing them with pleasure and emolument. If all who are engaged in the superintendence of our pub
lic seminaries could only bestow equal attention on the learning and morals of those under their care, so that they might go forth (and such, you will all bear me witness, have lately gone forth from hence) good MEN as well as good SCHOLARS, the dispute between the patrons of public and private education would be, perhaps, in great measure, at an
Respecting the method of school instruction at present in use amongst us, it is one which has been long tried, and found successful; witness those great and shining characters, formed under its auspices, which adorn our annals; nor have its adversaries yet been able to propose another, liable, upon the whole, to fewer objections.
The observations made by an excellent writer on the plan proposed by the great Milton, are too valuable not to be recited to you upon the present occasion:The of Milton, as it seems, purpose was to "teach something more solid than the common liter"ature of schools, by reading those authors that "treat of physical subjects, such as the Georgic " and astronomical treatises of the ancients. But "the truth is, that the knowledge of external nature "and of the sciences which that knowledge requires "or includes, is not the great or the frequent business of the human mind. Whether we provide "for action or conversation, whether we wish to be "useful or pleasing, the first requisite is the religious " and moral knowledge of right and wrong: the next "is an acquaintance with the history of mankind,
"and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and justice are vir"tues of all times, and of all places; we are per"petually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual na"ture is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary and at leisure. Physical knowledge "is of such rare emergence, that one man may know "another half his life, without being able to estimate "his skill in hydrostatics or astronomy; but his "moral and prudential character immediately appears. Those authors therefore are to be read at "schools, that supply most axioms of prudence, most principles of moral truth, and most materials "for conversation: and these purposes are best an"swered by poets, orators, and historians "."
Some have thought that, as we are now furnished with translations of the ancient classical authors, we may spare ourselves the trouble of learning their languages. Were the question only concerning matters of fact, it might be deemed perhaps of little importance to consider by what means we come at the knowledge of them, so that we do but obtain the truth; though, by the way, whether in particular instances we have obtained it, can often only be known (as was observed before in the case of the Scriptures) by consulting the originals. But there is much more in the matter. The writers of Greece and Rome are our masters in style and composition;
• Dr. Johnson in his Life of Milton, p. 142.
with relation to which, the spirit of every piece will evaporate in the transfusion. Next in value to knowledge, is the mode of communicating it with ease and propriety. They who have studied the best writers of antiquity with this view, will always themselves be the best writers in any other language. When these shall cease to be regarded as our models, elegant simplicity and manly energy will give place to a false glare of affectation and refinement: loose and licentious tenets will be tricked out in the meretricious garb of false eloquence. A vitiated taste in writing, like that which preceded the decline and downfall of the Roman empire, will precede our own. Tacitus and Seneca will be imitated, rather than Cæsar and Cicero; epithet, point, and antithesis will prevail; and we shall prepare for slavery, by "babbling a dialect of France."
Nothing could tend more to accelerate a catastrophe of this kind than the adoption of that system of foppery and immorality recommended by a late noble author, enamoured, almost to distraction, of the language and manners of our neighbours upon the continent. Learning and religion would then no longer make a part in the education of our youth. One would be banished under the notion of pedantry, the other excluded by the name of superstition. Travel and a knowledge of the world, it seems, may supply the place of both. To know the world, is doubtless expedient; in some circumstances necessary. But a man should know many other things before he enters upon that study, or he will do well not to enter upon it at all. Let him lay in a stock, and
that no moderate one, of useful learning and sound principles, ere he set out upon his travels; or he will be little the better for having seen the world, though the world may be somewhat the merrier for having seen him. If he go out an ignoramus, he will come home a profligate, with the atheist ingrafted upon the blockhead. the blockhead. As to the business of the graces-before the gloss can be given, a substance must be prepared to receive it; and solid bodies. take the brightest polish.
From what has been said, you will perhaps be induced to think that, in times like these, and in a matter of such importance, projects of innovation are dangerous things. We know what we are to lose; let us be well informed what we are to gain; lest we should be led to exchange an old system with some defects, for a new one with many more; defects which are of little consequence, for defects which are of very great consequence indeed to the general state of learning, and the constitution of our country. Reformation was the word in the last century; and one was at length effected which swept away schools and universities, with the government civil and ecclesiastical. The revenues allotted to the support of cathedrals and these their appendages, were seized, with a view to augment the smaller livings. But mark the event-When the estates were sold, the presbyterian ministers, who had taken possession of the livings, and expected the augmentation, were told, to their utter astonishment, that the money was wanted to support public credit. It was wanted, and it was applied accord