Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

fences and fields, and to exhibit luxuriance and health in one's trees, flowers, shrubs, and plants. Of all the objects on a man's estate, the human beings are still the most remarkable. Misery, sordidness, disorder, among them, are still a greater blemish, a greater deformity, a greater blank in the list of elegancies, than any other that can be pointed out. When intemperate pleasures, avarice, or the need of dissipation, in landed proprietors, absorb all their attention; and exclude all regard even of elegance, or any thing else than the money which can be extracted from an estate; then, indeed, disregard of the rational creatures who belong to it is in course.

One point of that conduct existing circumstances lead us particularly to remark, and particularly to call upon the public to observe and to recollect. Howard was not contented with care for the mere bodily welfare of the

poor ;
he made

provision for the health and strengh of their minds. He loved an instructed poor. He was not one of those who prefer an ignorant poor. He loved industry in the poor, if ever man did ; but he did not sce that ignorance is necessary to industry. Even writing and arithmetic were not excluded from bis plans of education for the poor.

But that to wbich on the present occasion existing circumstances lead us particularly to wish to direct the attention of the public, is the plan of Iloward respecting the religious instruction of the children educated in his schools.

There are persons who pretend that it is of no use to teach the children of the poor to read and write, unless they are peremptorily taught at the same time the religion of the Church of England. There are persons, who, though they allow, that the Lancasterian plans for the education of the poor are, to the greatest degree, better calculated for diffusing those acquirements among the people, than any other plans tbat have ever been invented, say and maintain that yet they ought to be discouraged; and all the education which they are calculated to desseminate foregone, because Mr. Lancaster, being a dissenter, and expressly abstaining from proselytism, confining himself in matters of religion to the making his pupils read the Bible, and opening bis doors to all denominations of christians, leaves the children to be trained in that particular form of christianity to which the parents of each of them are attached.

We hope it will be remarked, that Howard was not of this way of thinking. Unless any persons should take upon themselves to say, that no religion is christianity, saying and ex

cepting the sole religion of the Church of England, no one, we should suppose, would veuture to express a doubt that Mr. lloward was most sincerely and zealously a chrisiian. Some, indeed of the writers against the Lancasterian education have gone nearly as far in reality, though not quite so far in words, is to say, that all pretensions to christianity are spurious, save those of the Church of England. But, as we think shame will prevent any such proposition from being maintained in express terms, we shall not scruple to consider Mr. Iloward as an excellent christian. Now what did the christianity of this excellent christian teach him? that it was wrong to teach reading and writing except in conjunction with those peculiar forms and tenets of religion, to which he himself adhered ? Far from it indeed! It taught him that it was right to teach reading and writing separate from the particular forms and dogmas of particular classes of christians. The children who attended his schools attended public worship, not in the way which be preferred for himself: “they attended,” says Dr. Aiken, “ in the way which their parents approved. This was true liberality. This was genuine catholicism. If any one sees not that ihis is the way to diffuse the influence of Truth, and to eradicate that of error, it does appear to our minds that the darkness enveloping the head or the heart of such a person must be very gross.-Dr, Aiken says,

Having now given such a view of the temper and manners of this excellent person, in his private situation, as may serve to introduce bim to the reader's acquaintance at the time of his assuming a public character, I shall, without further delay, proceed to trace him through those years of bis life, the employment of which alone has rendered him an object of the curiosity and admiration of his countrymen.

“ In the year 1773 Mr. Howard was nominated High Sheriff of the county of Bedford. An obstacle, however, lay in the way of his accepting that office, concerning which I shall take the liberty of making a few remarks.

“When a principled dissenter, whose condit on in life permits him to aspire to the honour of serving his country in some post of magistracy, retlects on bis situation, he finds that he must make his election of one of the three following determinations. He must either comply with a religious rite of another churchi, merely on account of its being made the condition of receiving the office; or take upon himself the office without such compliance, under all the hazard that attends it; or he must quietly sit down under that vacation from public charges which the state, in its wisdom, has imposed upon him, satisfied with promoting the wel. fare of individuals by modes not interdicted to him. It would be great presumption in me to decide which of these determinations is most conformable to duty. In fact, there is only a choice of difficulties ; and the decision between them must be left to every man's own feelings, wh ch, if his intentions be good and honest, will scarcely lead him wrong. But it was perfectly suitable to Mr. Howard's character to make option of the office with the hazard: for as, on the one hand, no consideration on earth could have induced him to violate his religious principles; so, on the other, his active disposition, and zeal for the public good, strongly impelled him to assume a station in which those qualities

[ocr errors]

might have free scope for exertion; and as to personal hazard, that was never an obstacle in his way. There may be casuists who will condemn this choice, and regard it as a serious offence against the laws of his country, to have taken upon him an office without complying with its preliminary conditions. But, I conceive, the sincere philanthropist will rather make a different reflection, and feel a shock in thinking, that, had Mr, Iloward been influenced by these apprehensions which would have operated upon most men, he would have been excluded from that situation, which gave occasion to all those services which he ren. dered to humanity in his own country, and throughout Europe. ***

This is a very important passage. If ever any thing was calculated to excite attention, it is a circumstance like this. When Mr. Howard entered upon the office, which was the proximate cause of the great services rendered by him to the interests of humanity, the question with him was-whether he should abstain from an ollice in which he might perform the highest services to his country,-or whether he should violate a law of his country-a law by which, being a dissen, ter, he was forbidden to fill any such office, or execute its duties. llad this law in the case of Mr. IIoward had its natural effect, viz. in deterring him from the acceptance of the office, and from the thought of the duties to which it called him, how much would bis country-how much would the world have lost! Is there any where so little of the sense of shame existing, as to permit it to be pretended that there was danger to his country in employing Mi, Iloward in any office in bis country to which his acquirements rendered him competent? If not in employing him, was there danger in employing men like him; men of his class; men, though difo fering from the Church of England in religious sentiments, as well acquainted with the interests of their country, and as firmly and faithfully disposed to promote them, as the most orthodox and zealous votary which the Church of England can contain:

To those, however, to whom the interests of society are dear, what a heart-rending spectacle it is, to see a good man obliged to trainple upon ibat which is the safc-guard of soci.

“ The penalties to which Mr. Howard in this instance exposed himself are de clared in the following clause of the Test Act, which cannot too often be placed before the eyes of Britons. Every person that shall neglect or refuse to take " the sacrament as aforesaid, and yet, after such neglect or refusal, shall exe,

cute any of the said offices or employments, and being thereupon lawfully

convicted, shall be disabled to sue or use any action, bill, plaint, or informa. " lion, in course of law, or to prosecute any suit in any court of equity, or to be

guardian of uny child, or executor or administrator of any person, or capable

of any legacy or deed of gift, or to bear any office; and skall forfeit the sum of " five hundred pounds, to be recovered by him or them that shall sue for the

same."

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

ety, the authority of the laws, in order to be enabled to serve his country! Obliged to do, what example is calculated to do, towards tearing asunder the bands by which society is held together, that he may be allowed to apply his powers in the most beneficial way to promote the good of his country or of mankind !

Instead of the rewards which Howard so amply merited, we sce the cruel punishments to which the law consigned him: punislıments going far to deprive him of the protection of law; and, where his country was concerned, his country which he sought to serve, to deprive bim of all the bencfiis which society is calculated to yield.

With regard, however, to the atrocity of applying punishment where reward is due; of applying cruel punishment wbere good only has been done, and to the end that good may not be done; the plea that is set up is—that the punishments are not inflicted. This is as much as to say, the laws are not executed; in other words, they are broken.- There are two species of that, always unhappy and deplorable event, the breach or violation of law. The one is, where indivi. duals, disregarding its authority, and braving its penalties, commit acts in disobedience of it. The other species, and by far the most malignant and pernicious, is, when the law is not executed; when its predictions are not fulfilled ; by the negligence, or sinister intention of those on whom the execution of it depends.

It is not one example only, but two of that most mischiev. ous spectacle, the contempt of the authority of law; contempt not on the part of ordinary violators, but on the part of men the objects of any degree of admiration and respect, and even on the part of the guardians and ministers of the law ;- it is these most baneful of all examples both at once which are set by every instance in which with impunity a dissenter dare's to serve his country in any of the stations comprehended in tbe Test Act.

And do men, after this, complain of the weakness of law? A weakness which the highest authorities in the state exert themselves in this manner so effectually to produce! Under the teaching which arises from such examples as these ; examples, by which lawlessness, immorality in its worst shape, infidelity to engagements, and all their kindred evils, are disseminated in the land; is it any thing less than impossible that a delicate sense of legal obligation should continue to prevail?

Such is one part of the mischief which consists in having laws which are not executed ; laws which in the great mass of instances are both broken and disregarded; and which, in only here and there a rare instance, are executed for some particular end. It is however occasionally pretended, that the existence of such laws; of laws which always may be executed, but seldom or never are, hangs salutary terrors over the heads of intended wrong doers, and so is beneficial to the state. In the first place, this argument is not applicable to the present case, without a supposition, which the holders of it dare not avow; a supposition which is as impudent and profligate as it is unjust. It is evident that it is an argument not applicable to the present case, unless it be in the first place supposed that the dissenters are more prone to have bad intentions than churchmen ; which is not only notoriously untrue, but is what churchmen dare not look society in the face and even pretend to believe. Not only is this the case, but, moreover, the very principle on which the argument is founded is one of the most erroneous, and at the same time, one of the most mischievous, that was ever brought in play for the support of a bad cause. This is so admirably pointed out by a writer of the first authority in matters of legislation, that we are sure we shall do good by transcribing what he has said. It is somewhat long, but as it is from a Tract, which, though printed, has never been sold or published, we shall lay before our readers a most instructive develope ment, which few, if any, of them, can otherwise bave an opportunity of seeing. Speaking of the natural effects of sleeping laws, laws not intended for execution, laws which are babitually broken and the penalties not applied, but of which at any time the penalties may be applied, Mr. Bentham, in his · Draught of a New Plan for a Judicial Establishment,' says,

“ Of the condition of him whose curse it is to live under such laws, what is to be said ?-It is neither more nor less than slavery. Such it is in the very strictest language, and according to the exactest definition. Law, the only power that gives security to others, is the very thing that takes it away from him.

" His destiny is to live his life long with a halter about his neck : and his safety depends upon his never meeting with that man, whom wantonness or malice can have induced to pull at it.

* Chap. vii, Sect, 6.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »