« ÎnapoiContinuă »
ART. II.-The Works of Thomas Chalmers, D. D., and L.L.D., Professor of Theology in the University of Edinburgh, and Corresponding Member of the Royal Institute of France. Glasgow: William Collins. London: Hamilton, Adams & Co. 1835-1842. Twenty-two volumes, 12mo.
It is not to return upon our former track, that we resume the consideration of this great writer's labours; nor shall we treat of any of the subjects which occupied us in reviewing his theological publications. The fact is, the American reprint comprised only seven ofthe twenty-two volumes lying before us; nor is it likely that the American public will demand more, until the completion of the Commentary on the Romans. This however furnishes, of itself, a cogent reason why we should give our readers some account of our author's opinions, in regard to several important subjects, which, though treated in their relation to Great Britain, are in several of their aspects greatly interesting to America.
The three points on which an American will at once seize, in looking over these volumes, are Education, the Church Establishment, and Pauperism.
The first of the topics which awakens our lively interest in these volumes, is that of Popular Education. To this, Dr. Chalmers applies the argument of which he has for many years been the great propounder, in regard to church affairs. Briefly stated, it is this: It is not with the desire of knowledge, as it is with the desire of food. Generally speaking, the more ignorant a man is, the more satisfied he is to remain so. But the more hungry a man is, the less satisfied he is to remain so.' Turned in a hundred different ways, this distinction is the fulcrum of his whole system. The picture which he draws of education in Presbyterian Scotland is pleasing, and serves to explain the long acknowledged, but, to some, unaccountable intellectual superiority of that race.
"The people are not taught gratuitously; for by a small quarterly payment, they are made to share in the expense of the education of their families; but the remaining share is, by the law, devolved upon others. It consists of a salary which enables the schoolmaster to teach upon moderate terms, and of a school and school-house, with a garden, by which education is visibly obtruded upon the notice of every little vicinity. To this extent, the offer of education may be said to have been made; and it is an offer that has been met by the nearly unexcepted consent and co-operation of the Scottish peasantry."-" We now
see that the parochial establishment of schools not only provided, in part, the learning; but, what was of greater importance still, created the appetite for it in the minds of the people. Nor is this an appetite that would go suddenly into extinction, even were the establishment swept away. The people now do what they would not have done a few generations ago. Independently of the establishment, and without any aid from its provisions, but on the strength of their own payments alone, they defray the whole expenses of their children's scholarship. But it is in virtue of a taste which the establishment has created. Its endowments have thus elevated our plebeian classes, and given them this higher mental ambition."
We feel irresistibly impelled to ask attention to certain parts of this seventeenth volume, from that numerous class of persons in America, who cry out loudly against university and college endowments, invested funds for literary purposes, great libraries, ample edifices, and salaried instructers, and who act the part of demagogues by insinuating to the people, ever and anon, that these are monopolies of the aristocratical, that the poor are nowise benefited, and that learning, like trade, had better be left to take care of itself. On this subject, the author's favorite principle is made to bear. When people are at zero, he tells us, in the scale of knowledge, it is not by any native buoyancy of theirs, but by the application of a force from without, that they are elevated one degree in the scale; and when raised thus far, it is still not by any inherent buoyancy, but by an external power, that they are brought and upheld higher in the scale. It is to endowed colleges, that Dr. Chalmers refers us for this external power.
"A people, though universally accomplished by schools in elementary learning, will not lift up themselves by any inherent buoyancy of their own, to the level of that learning which should be taught in colleges. Over the whole country there is not enough of spontaneous demand for the higher mathematics, to guarantee a sufficient maintenance for even so much as one teachThere is an effective demand, we are aware, for as much of the science as is popular and practical, and of which the uses are quite palpable and immediate. A man without the aid of endowments will gain a livelihood, by teaching any thing that is of obvious application either to an art or a calling which is gainful. But, for all that is arduous and sublime in mathematics, for the methods of that higher calculus, the uses of which lie far remote, or are wholly invisible to the general understanding, for those lofty devices and inventions of analysis, by which we may hope to accomplish solutions hitherto impracticable, or to unravel mysteries in nature, which have yet eluded the keenest search of philosophy,—for all these, we contend, there is no such public request as might foster the growth and the production of them to the extent that is at all desirable. The science which germinates these in sufficient abundance, can flourish only under the shade of endowments. Without this artificial encouragement, the philosophy of our land would wax feeble, and dwindle at length into evanescence; and in all the prouder and nobler walks of discovery, we must content ourselves to be outrun in glory by other nations."
"There are," adds he shortly after, "five college classes of natural philosophy in Scotland, and by a statute of apprenticeship in our church, every aspirant to the ministry must pass through one or other of these, ere he can be admitted to his theological studies. We feel quite confident in affirming, that but for this statute, with salaries to professorships, there would not be enough of attendance from the whole land for securing a decent livelihood even to one professor of the science. And this scarcity of pupils would be aggravated, just in proportion to the pure, lofty, and philosophic character of the course. If, for example, it were the transcendental aim of the professor, to accomplish his students for the perusal of La Place's Mécanique Celeste, we doubt if all Scotland together would furnish him with so many as twelve, that would listen to his demonstrations. At this rate, it is obvious, that no class could be formed, just because the proceeds of it could afford no adequate maintenance to a teacher. This arduous and recondite philosophy behoved to disappear, simply by ceasing to be transmitted from one generation to another. The record of it in unknown hieroglyphics, might still be found in our libraries; but it would have no place in the living intellect of our nation."
"When a distinguished professor of this country hazarded the assertion, that there were not twelve British mathematicians who could read La Place's great work with any tolerable facility, we fear, that, alive as the whole nation is to its honour in the field of war, or political rivalship, there are but few indeed of the nation who felt the affront of being left so immeasurably behind in the highest of all intellectual rivalship, both by France and Prussia.-Yet it is refreshing to observe in what quarter of the island it was, where the quickest sensibility was felt for the honour of British mathematics. It was in the academic bowers, the lettered retreats of Cambridge. There, the somewhat precipitate charge of our Northern Collegian met with a resentment in which so few can sympathize; and there also, we rejoice to believe, that it met its best refutation. And if, in that wealthy seat of learning, even twenty individuals could be found to master the difficulties of the French analysis, this in the midst of surrounding degradation and poverty, of itself speaks volumes for endowments."
Our author writes like one at home in his subject, and he ventures the opinion, that but for a statute of apprenticeship, as some are fond of naming it, Dr. Thomas Brown could not have upheld a class of fifty students, even in the metropolis of Scotland. He informs us that Lacroix of Paris taught a class of the higher mathematics, where he was often attended by not more than eight students. Such a class could not be sustained by fees alone. To this we may add, that, a few years ago, de Sacy was lecturing to not more than half a dozen, and Bopp to a number smaller still. It is mortifying to observe the same distaste for the severer studies in our own country, and the consequent disposition to exchange the useful but herculean tasks of real scholarship, for the delusive and acceptable methods of our superficial age; to find even the lectures of some colleges and other schools yielding somewhat every year of their masculine, disciplinary character, and courting the temporary applauses of the crowd. This evil is almost necessarily incident to a system which proposes to draw all the emolument of the teach
er from the fees of his class. It has been hurried on with double rapidity, by the extraordinary impulse given within a year or two to public lectures, de omni scibili, in which, before Lyceums, Institutes, and companies of gentlemen and ladies, the evolution of scientific truth has been made the occasion for the clapping of hands, and all the applausive tokens of the play-house. We speak, we are sure, the sentiment of every professional man of science or letters, when we deprecate this histrionic degradation of public instruction, which is daily subjecting the character of sound teachers to a stigma due only to itinerants and charlatans.
At pulcrum est digito monstrari, et dicier: Hic est.
Ten' cirratorum centum dictata fuisse,
It is no doubt pleasing, both to the teacher and the taught; but whether it is advantageous to sound learning and solid instruction, to college-methods or public taste, is quite another question. Should the rage for popularizing all knowledge extend much further, we shall see one branch of rigid study after another given away, and their places supplied by others more suited to the demands of labour-hating lads and a utilitarian public.
The testimony of Dr. Chalmers is strong and valuable, touching the services derived to national literature from the labours of truly learned professors in colleges. More than half the distinguished authorship of Scotland is professional; and 'till the present generation,' says he, we scarcely remember, with the exception of Hume in philosophy and Thomson in poetry, any of our eminent writers who did not achieve, or at least germinate, all their greatest works while labouring in their vocation of public instructors in one or other of our universities.' And he appeals to the works of Colin Maclaur, Robert Simson, Matthew Stewart of Glasgow, Dr. Black, Professor Robison, the Monros, the Gregories, Cullen, Playfair, Leslie, Hamilton of Aberdeen, Hutcheson, Hill the theologian, Adam Smith, Reid, Miller, Blair, Campbell, John Hunter, Beattie, Dugald Stewart, Tytler, Ferguson, and Brown. With one or two exceptions, the great works of these men were all originally part of their instructions to their classes. That the case is very different, where church-benefices are more lucrative than university-places, is an undoubted fact, stated, in a wellknown passage, by Adam Smith. It is observed,' says he,
by M. de Voltaire, that Father Porrée, a Jesuit, of no great eminence in the republic of letters, was the only professor
they had ever had in France whose works were worth reading. In a country which has produced so many eminent men of letters, it must appear somewhat singular that scarcely one of them should have been a professor in a university. The famous Gassendi was, in the beginning of his life, a professor in the university of Aix. Upon the first dawning of his genius, it was represented to him, that by going into the church he could easily find a much more quiet and comfortable subsistence, as well as a better situation for pursuing his studies; and he immediately followed the advice. The observation of M. de Voltaire may be applied, I believe, not only to France, but to all other Roman Catholic countries. We very rarely find in any of them an eminent man of letters, who is a professor in a university, except, perhaps, in the professions of law and physic; from which the church is not so likely to draw them. After the church of Rome, that of England is by far the richest and best endowed church in Christendom. In England, accordingly, the church is continually draining the universities of all their best and ablest members; and an old college-tutor, who is known and distinguished in Europe, as an eminent man of letters, is as rarely to be found there, as in any Roman Catholic country. In Geneva, on the contrary, in the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, in the Protestant countries of Germany, in Holland, in Scotland, in Sweden, and Denmark, the most eminent men of letters whom those countries have produced, have, not all indeed, but the far greater part of them, been professors in universities.'
Dr. Chalmers goes so far as to defend the lordlier endowments of Oxford and Cambridge, maintaining that their fellowships and bursaries or scholarships have not been thrown away, inasmuch as they have produced those men of might and of high achievement-the Newtons, and the Miltons, and the Drydens, and the Barrows, and the Addisons, and the Butlers, and the Clarkes, and the Stillingfleets, and the Usshers, and the Foxes, and the Pitts, and Johnsons, who within their attic retreats, received their first awakening, which afterwards expanded into the aspirations and the triumphs of loftiest genius. This'-he adds with a glow which many of our readers will appreciate-this is the heraldry of colleges. Their family honour is built on the prowess of sons, not on the greatness of ancestors.'*
* The following catalogue of alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, whose names