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[ Education.—Prevention, Reformation, Correction of Crime. ] - Dugald Stewart, Lectures on Political Economy, vol. 1 
Lectures on Political Economy. Now first published. Vol. I. To which is Prefixed, Part Third of the Outlines of Moral Philosophy, edited by Sir William Hamilton (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable, 1855).
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[Education.—Prevention, Reformation, Correction of Crime.]
IV.— The maintenance of the poor is intimately connected with another subject:—The means of encouraging among the body of the people habits of industry, and of a regularity of morals; and of effecting, where it is possible, a reformation in the manners of those who have rendered themselves obnoxious to the laws of their country. The attempts which have been made with this last view by the projects of penitentiary houses and of solitary confinement, do honour to the enlightened benevolence of the present age, and may probably be found susceptible of many improvements for accomplishing, still more effectually, the laudable and important purposes for which they are destined.
With a review of these establishments, the general principles which ought to regulate the punishment of crimes have a very close connexion, and accordingly, they have attracted, in the course of the last century, the attention of some very distinguished writers, and more particularly of the Marquis Beccaria, whose humane and eloquent Treatise on Crimes and Punishments forms one of the most valuable illustrations that has yet appeared, of the connexion between the principles of Ethical Philosophy and the Science of Legislation. In order, however, to apply a radical cure to these evils, it is necessary for government to bestow such a systematical attention on the Education of the people, as may afford the means of instruction even to the lowest classes of the community.
It is justly and beautifully observed by Sir Henry Wotton, that “albeit good laws have always been reputed the nerves and ligaments of human society, yet they are no way comparable in their effects to the rules of good nature. For it is in civil as it is in natural plantations, where young tender trees (though subject to the injuries of the air, and in danger even of their own flexibility) would yet little want any under proppings and shoarings, if at first they were well fastened in the root.” In the present state of society this may be regarded as one of the most effectual objects of legislation; and the happy effects resulting from the establishments (however imperfect) for that purpose, in Scotland and America, give the strongest encouragement to the farther prosecution of the same plan on more liberal principles.
“In a civilized and commercial country, the education of the common people,” as Mr. Smith has well remarked, “requires the attention of the public more than that of people of some rank and fortune. The common people have little time to spare for education. Their parents can scarce afford to maintain them even in infancy. As soon as they are able to work, they must apply to some trade, by which they can earn their subsistence. That trade, too, is generally so simple and uniform, as to give little exercise to the understanding, while, at the same time, their labour is both so constant and so severe, that it leaves them little leisure and less inclination to apply to, or even to think of anything else.”*
“An instructed and intelligent people, besides,” as is farther observed by the same writer, “are always more decent and orderly than an ignorant and stupid one. They are more disposed to examine, and more capable of seeing through the interested complaints of faction and sedition; and they are, upon that account, less apt to be misled into any wanton or unnecessary opposition to the measures of government. In free nations, where the safety of government depends very much upon the favourable judgment which the people may form of its conduct, it must surely be of the highest importance, that they should not be disposed to judge rashly or capriciously concerning it.”†
To the same liberal doctrine a very forcible sanction has been given by a late Bishop of London, (Dr. Porteous,) in the following passage of one of his Charges to the clergy, a passage which is well entitled to particular attention, inasmuch as it states, on this very important and long contested question, the opinion of a most intelligent and candid judge, founded on a calm review of the causes which have produced the revolutionary evils of our own times.
“Ignorance is the mother of superstition, of bigotry, of fanaticism, of disaffection, of cruelty, and of rebellion. These are its legitimate children. It never yet produced any other, and never will, to the end of the world. And we may lay this down as an incontestable truth, that a well-informed and intelligent people, more particularly a people well acquainted with the sacred writings, will always be more orderly, more decent, more humane, more virtuous, more religious, more obedient to their superiors, than a people totally devoid of all instruction and all education.”
I shall only add farther on this subject at present, (and it is an observation which I shall state in the words of Bishop Butler,) that the duty of extending the means of elementary instruction to the lower orders, is now recommended to us by many powerful arguments which did not apply to the state of the world, prior to the invention of printing.
“Till within a century or two, all ranks were, in point of learning, nearly on a level. The art of printing appears to have been providentially reserved till these latter ages, and then providentially brought into use, as what was to be instrumental, for the future, in carrying on the appointed course of things.”
“The alterations which this art has even already made in the face of the world, are not inconsiderable. By means of it, whether immediately or remotely, the methods of carrying on business are, in several respects, improved; “knowledge has been increased,” and some sort of literature is become general. And if this be a blessing, we ought to let the poor in their degree share it with us. If we do not, it is certain, how little soever it may be attended to, that they will be upon a greater advantage, on many accounts, especially in populous places, than they were in the dark ages. And, therefore, to bring up the poor in their former ignorance, now that knowledge is so much more common and wanted, would be not to keep them in the same, but to put them into a lower condition of life than what they were in formerly. Nor,” concludes this excellent author, in the same spirit which dictated the passage just quoted from Mr. Smith, “nor, let people of rank flatter themselves that ignorance will keep their inferiors more dutiful and in greater subjection to them; for surely there must be danger that it will have a contrary effect, under a free government such as ours, and in a dissolute age.”*
To ascertain what are the branches of knowledge best fitted for accomplishing the purposes here described, and to devise the simplest means for their communication, is a more difficult subject of speculation than may at first be imagined. Nor do I apprehend that the field is yet exhausted, notwithstanding the dogmatical assertion of Dr. Johnson, that “education is as well known as it ever can be.”† Admitting even his observation to be just when applied to the instruction of the higher orders, it must be allowed to fail most remarkably in its application to the instruction of the lower, a subject on which very little attention has been hitherto bestowed in modern Europe; and which, in ancient times, was considered as unworthy the notice of a philosopher. The plans of education recommended by some of the most enlightened writers of Greece, had a reference only to those who were called [ἐλεύθεροι,—χαρίεντες (?)]; while the inferior classes were almost entirely overlooked as a part of the social system. In proportion to the progress of society during the last two or three centuries, this order of men have been gradually rising in political importance; but the authors who have hitherto speculated concerning their intellectual improvement, have, in general, (and more especially in our own times,) gone into extremes; some representing it as a duty incumbent on governments to extend gratuitously the means of instruction, (and that on the most liberal plan,) to all descriptions of people; and others recommending to statesmen a policy calculated to check completely, among the great mass of their fellow-citizens, the progress of the human mind.
Besides a provision for the general elementary instruction of the lower orders, some politicians have recommended to government a still more watchful and minute interference in the care of the rising generation, and that, not only in the case of the labouring classes, but of all ranks and descriptions of men. A celebrated English writer, (Dr. John Brown, author of the Estimate,) whose publications at one time attracted a great deal of attention, has laid much stress on this idea, in his Thoughts on Civil Liberty, Licentiousness, and Faction. “It is deeply to be regretted,” he observes in one passage, “that the British system of policy and religion is not upheld in its native power, like that of Sparta, by correspondent and effectual rules of education; that it is in the power of every private man to educate his child, not only without a reverence for these, but in absolute contempt of them; and that at the Revolution in 1688, the education of youth was still left in an imperfect state; this great Revolution having confined itself to the reform of public institutions, without ascending to the great fountain of political security, the private and effectual formation of the public mind.” . . . “The chief and essential remedy of licentiousness and faction, the fundamental means of the lasting and secure establishment of civil liberty, can only be in a general and prescribed improvement of the laws of education, to which all the members of the community should legally submit; and it is for want of a prescribed code of education that the manners and principles, on which alone the State can rest, are ineffectually instilled, are vague, fluctuating, and self-contradictory.”
“Nothing,” he adds, “is more evident, than that some reform on this great point is necessary for the security of public freedom, and that, though it is an incurable defect of our political state, that it has not a correspondent and adequate code of education, inwrought into its first essence: we may yet hope, that in a secondary and inferior degree, something of this kind may yet be inlaid; that though it cannot have that perfect efficacy, as if it had originally been of the piece, yet, if well conducted, it may strengthen the weaker parts, and alleviate defects, if not completely remove them.”
Some remarks to the same purpose occur in the Essays on the Spirit of Legislation, published by the Society of Berne, in Switzerland. “A legislator,” it is justly observed, “occupied like the father of his country, with the happiness of his people, will watch national education, to the end that children may suck in with the milk, the principles and maxims which may contribute to the public good, and the prosperity of individuals.” “Upon this principle,” the author adds, “I do not comprehend how we can abandon the public education to masters that depend not on government, or are little concerned with the State.”
To this plan, however, of Dr. Brown, (at least in its application to the circumstances of our own country,) many strong and insuperable objections might be stated, and accordingly, several very eminent writers have expressed their doubts, whether some of the important ends which he was so anxious to accomplish, would not be secured more effectually, if governments were to interfere still less in regulating the system of education, than they have been commonly disposed to do. Without giving any opinion on this point, I shall content myself with remarking, that these considerations which, in such a country as this, impose on the public as a duty, the task of providing proper instruction for the poor and for the labouring classes, do not apply, with the same force, to the higher orders. It is on the character and habits of these inferior classes, that the stability of every government essentially depends; and it is on their account chiefly that regulations of police are necessary, as their condition exposes them peculiarly to the contagious influence of those vices which disturb the general tranquillity.
The education of the higher orders is, at the same time, in such a state of society as that in which we live, an object of the last consequence; and if it is one of those to which the superintending care of government cannot be extended with advantage in any considerable degree, it becomes doubly incumbent on those who direct their speculations to subjects of public utility, to contribute their efforts towards an improvement of the principles on which it is conducted. The revolution which has taken place in science and philosophy since the time of Lord Bacon, seems obviously to recommend (in a greater degree than has hitherto been effected in most universities) a correspondent change in the plan of academical instruction. This view of education, indeed, (considered in its connexion with intellectual improvement and the advancement of human knowledge,) properly belongs to the Philosophy of the Human Mind; but there are also many views of the same subject, which will be found to be very intimately connected with the most important objects of Political Economy.
In this respect, as well as in many others, the education of females (to whose care the task of early instruction must be, in a great measure, intrusted) will be found not undeserving of attention.
Among the various circumstances, indeed, which discriminate the condition of mankind in modern times, from what it was among ancient nations, nothing is more striking than the rank and consequence of the other sex. I shall not at present inquire into the various causes which have conspired to produce this change. It is of more importance to remark its extensive influence on human character, and on the whole system of European manners. The ancients appear to have attached but little importance to the domestic virtues. They considered man almost always in relation to his fellow-citizens; and as their free States were in general composed of a scanty population, and women altogether overlooked, as parts of the social system, the public duties of the individual were understood to be the only ends of his existence; and to enforce the zealous discharge of these duties, was the sole object of those philosophers who devoted themselves to the study of morals. Plato, in his Republic, proposes as a plan for increasing the happiness of the human race, to destroy conjugal love, and paternal affection, by a community of women and of children; and even those writers who, uninfected by the spirit of paradox or of theory, confined themselves to a faithful delineation of the manners around them, plainly shew, by their silence concerning the other sex, how insignificant the share was which they were then understood to possess in carrying on the business of human life. It is remarked by an ingenious French writer, that the word woman does not occur once in the characters of Theophrastus; and that it may be questioned whether the word happiness is, in any passage of the Greek writers, employed in the modern acceptation. As the extent of modern States and the structure of their governments have now detached the greater number of individuals from political concerns, men have been led to concentrate their pursuits within the circle of their domestic relations, and by doing so, have unquestionably opened to the species sources of enjoyment and improvement of which the philosophers of antiquity were unable to form a conception.
Notwithstanding, however, these circumstances, the education of women has, till very lately, been almost entirely overlooked by systematical writers; and among the few who have treated of it, there has been, in general, a strange disposition to run into extremes. One set of theorists, undervaluing the natural endowments of the other sex, and inattentive to their immense importance in the social system, have adhered even in these times to the confined notions of our forefathers; while others, overlooking the obvious and beautiful destinations of nature, have confounded the provinces and the duties of both sexes together, indulging themselves in visionary and licentious projects, equally subversive of the order of political society, and of the purity and refinement of domestic manners.*
[PRELIMINARY DISTINCTION OF POSITIVE LAWS INTO TWO CLASSES; AND THE RELATION OF THESE TO POLITICAL ECONOMY PROPER,—OR TO PART FIRST.]
The President De Goguet, in his very learned and valuable work On the Origin of Laws, Arts, and Sciences, [1758,] lays much stress, among other fundamental principles, upon a distinction between two different classes or orders of positive laws. The first comprehends those which are, or at least which ought to be, common to all the different kinds of political society. The second, those which are peculiar to a society which has made some progress in Agriculture, in Commerce, and in the more refined arts of life.
To the former of these classes he refers “the laws which sanction the right of property;” “the laws which settle the formalities of marriage;” and “the laws which regulate the punishment of crimes;” to which he adds, “the laws establishing public worship,”—an institution which, in one shape or other, has had a place in all civilized nations. This class of laws (he observes) may be regarded as essential to the very existence of political society, however various may be the forms which the laws may assume in different instances.
Under the second class of positive laws, Goguet arranges “the laws which regulate the common transactions of civil life, and the particular interests of the different members of the community.” Such are the laws concerning inheritances, successions, sales, and contracts;—“Laws,” says Goguet, “which must necessarily vary according to the climate, genius, and particular circumstances of different nations.”
In the course of the following disquisitions, I shall have occasion to illustrate some of the causes which produce a diversity in the municipal institutions of different countries; and at the same time to investigate those general principles which ought to be common to them all. It will afterwards appear, that even in the second class of positive laws, there are certain principles which are never departed from, without injustice and inexpediency: And, indeed, one great object which I have in view in this course, is to ascertain what these principles are. This, I conceive, to be the proper aim of Political Economy, in the extensive sense in which I employ that expression.
With respect to the first class of positive laws, their nature has been so long understood, and their authority so long recognised among all civilized nations, that they do not appear to form a proper object of philosophical discussion: and a very few years ago I should certainly not have thought of referring to them in this place. In the late rage, however, of political innovation, those fundamental principles which it has been the aim of all wise legislators, both ancient and modern, to consecrate in the opinions of their fellow-citizens, have not escaped the indiscriminate fury of some reformers; and, in various philosophical theories an attempt has been made to expose them to general reprobation and ridicule. I hope, therefore, it will not be considered as altogether superfluous, if I employ one or two lectures (before engaging in any particular discussion) in reviewing some subjects of a more general description. I propose at present to confine myself to two of these, the laws relating to the contract of marriage, and the laws sanctioning and regulating the right of property;—institutions, which (together with the established solemnities of public worship) are justly considered by Goguet as the great pillars of the social system. The last of these articles I shall pass over in this course, as being more immediately connected with some of the doctrines of Ethics.*
OF POLITICAL ECONOMY PROPER.
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book V. chap. i.]
[† ] [Ibid.]
[* ] [Sermon preached at Christchurch. London, 1745.]
[† ] [The absurdity of this is shown somewhere in the Dissertation, by Johnson’s own childish superstitions.]
[* ] [With this Chapter terminates Mr. Stewart’s last review and occasional alterations of the context, which were continued so recently as 1823. All hereafter is from the olden Manuscripts, chiefly in 1800; and even what is placed as Chapter Third of this Introduction, stands there only by conjecture.]
[* ] [See Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers, Vol. II. pp. 260-273. Works, Vol. VII.]