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skilled workmen. They cannot afford to educate them after taking them into their service; but it is their interest, and they make themselves believe it is their duty to pay rates, and get other citizens to pay rates for educating the whole population of the country. In countries where the rural aristocracy, strong in the affections and fears of the country people, still remains in the same nation with a rich and energetic citizenclass, the latter, jealous of the power of the aristocracy, set about educating the country people, partly from good motives, but partly also with the view of dispelling from their minds their primitive respect for the quasi-feudal landlords. The latter, though they have a latent suspicion that this general education bodes their power no good, can hardly proclaim themselves sufficiently selfish and ungracious to deny their support to the new cause of educating the populace; and thus in the course of the stages which precede those we are at present describing, the education of every person, however humble, becomes in countries thus situated a marked concomitant of the increasing power of the citizens.
If the intercourse between the towns and the country is slight (as in many parts of Italy now), there is no very pressing necessity for the statesman to interfere in educating the country populace. It were, of course, the better if educated, but it will not deteriorate if uneducated. The case is altogether different with regard to the working inhabitants of towns, or the general population of a nation, where the towns are in constant communication and intercourse with the country people. To them— both townspeople and country people---education becomes necessary to prevent or to alleviate a degradation of character. For the great multiplication of the educated and refined classes has a most baneful influence on those below them, unless counteracted by some meliorating influences. Imagine a population of 1000 industrious persons with twenty gentlemen among
them. The 980 think none the worse of themselves, because they do not happen to be gentlemen ; but imagine that 500 out of the 1000 were gentlemen, nay, if you please, imagine only that in a society where the business of life requires constant reading and writing, 500 cannot read and write, and are dependent on the scornful aid of the other half, they soon at this rate become mean-spirited and driven out of heart. They are met at every turn with contumely and hauteur, not a day passes but they have a grating sense of ignorance and inferiority, till at last they carry about with them a feeling of perpetual shame and discontent, that rids them of self-dignity and drives them to revenge.
66 Our soul is filled with the scornful reproof of the wealthy, and with the despitefulness of the proud.”
Education, with its equalising influences, steps in to alleviate this. The 500 labourers receive an education which, in common things, puts them on a level with the rest of the community, and likewise gives them the power of improving their condition still further; and even if they remain in the condition to which they were born, they may solace themselves by thinking that wealth and fortune—things often enjoyed in an inverse proportion to merit—are all that is required to make them equal with the highest. They see their fellows always rising around them, they feel themselves capable of doing so, and that reconciles them to their lot.
Enter a rural village church in England, you will see the peasants in their clean frocks crowding in, on none the worse terms with themselves because a couple of pews are occupied by the well-dressed and educated members of the squire's and parson's family. Enter a parish church in a large town in England, you will see the gentlefolks and the well-to-do tradesmen, and the smart young clerks and milliners in goodly number; but where are the artisans and labourers? They either do not go out to a place of worship at all, for very shame of being seen among such a crowd of well-dressed people in their shabby clothes, and with their uncouth gait; or they go to a dissenting chapel, or a Roman Catholic church in a poor neighbourhood, because they will meet none there but such as are in the same plight with themselves. Enter the cathedral at Antwerp or Milan, you will see the whole population of citizens, rich and poor, thinking nothing of the differences of station, education, or wealth, but all, except the beggars who practise their profession there, humbling themselves, with good grace and polished mien, before their common Creator. Do not set this down to a difference of religion, but to the fact that the citizens of towns in Belgium and Lombardy, as in France, have all some sprinkling of education, some measure of refinement, and that there is no broad and impassable line between those who work with their hands and those who do not.
I will not say that the country peasants, who know only two or three educated families, have no need of education, or could not be made happier by it; but, comparing them with the labouring population of the towns, it is impossible to doubt which has most need of the humanising and equalising tendencies of education. For the fact is, that in the scale of self-respecting individuals, the uneducated townsman is far inferior to the country peasant, and he needs culture to prevent him from yielding to those degrading influences to which he is so peculiarly exposed. Education is the corrective of that excessive subdivision into classes and ranks, which, originally introduced by an aristocratic conquest, and bearable enough so long as the distinction of noble and commoner is the only distinction, becomes intolerable when the population is minutely classified according to a graduated series of employments and habits; for, as each of these new divisions is introduced, it does not so much heighten those above it as lower those below it, and excite in them increased degrees of envy, despair, and self-abandonment. Take the instance of the Norwegians, to exemplify social
equality not produced by education, nor requiring education to maintain it, and seeming to be the natural state of persons who are all similarly employed, and of similar rank, habits, and dispositions, and where the only exalted men are the few venerable senators, commended by a long life passed in honour and usefulness to the suffrages of a people who, fit to be a law unto themselves, demand from their elected senators nothing but counsel and the simplest exercise of executive functions. Take, on the other hand, the instance of France, or of America, to show how education has been brought in as an alleviation against overdivision and a ridiculous excess of classification, and how, in consequence, persons who, to an Englishman, would appear of incongruous stations, habits, and employments, meet together with mutual forbearance, equals on the common level of educated citizenship.
Even our own social improvements, whereon, in this century, we much pride ourselves, are palliatives applied to remove the new evils introduced by the division of labour and the increase of the towns. The agricultural peasant, before he became a mere day labourer, though he did not know how to read or write, had an infinity of knowledge on natural subjects, about the seasons and crops, and mode of culture of the earth, and the habits of animals and birds, which, even if sometimes erroneous, and often obscured by superstition, kept his mind employed and prevented his being a mere machine; but the migratory navvy, who can do nothing but turn up earth ; the factory man, who knows only how to make one portion of a pin, is in a state of gross and hopeless ignorance, and requires to be taught the only kind of knowledge he can learn in cities--paper-knowledge. So it is with our boasted sanitary reforms; our model lodging-houses, our infirmaries, our hospitals, our public nurseries were not wanted when the farm labourers all lived in the farm-house, as they do now in parts of Scotland and Australia, and were taken care of there when ill, or when t ey had substantial huts, which the peasant's wife kept clean, because she loved cleanliness for its own sake. It was only when emigration from the country into the towns took place, and the workmen were huddled together into whatever dens and cellars they could pay for, and the women obliged to quit their homes all day and work in the factory, that this change took place, and our social reforms, which we parade with so much fuss, became necessary. It was not till there swarmed in our streets a population who did not know that wheat grew, that popular education, cheap tracts, mechanics' institutes, and rustic excursions were necessary matters of philanthropic patronage.
When the stage of appropriate despotism by other causes arrives, it thus finds one of two social phenomena. Either all the citizens are cultivated to a high degree of general civilisation, and in consequence equalised, so that on their holidays one can hardly tell the gentleman from the artisan, as in Florence, Milan, Brussels, and, to a great degree, Paris, while the country people around are poor, ignorant, and heavily taxed by the towns; or the whole population is endowed with the usual characteristics of educated citizens, as throughout the greater part of Prussia, and of the United States of America.
No one can regret this extended book and art-learning, except for the opportunity it gives to despotism to implant itself firmly on a country. A sparse, homely population, whose lore is in its ballads and its old-wives’-tales, are the most difficult of all to be acted upon or changed. They have no need of the learning that you proffer them, for the traditions and wise saws of their ancestors suffice for their guidance in a life which differs in no essential particulars from the life of those who went before them. They listen only to the ballads that they like, and you cannot get them to attend to what they do not like. To subdue their minds effectually one must, like Gray's Ruthless King, put all their bards to death. When, on the contrary, you have a cultivated population, in the habit of always sending their