Front Page Titles (by Subject) 126.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 30 OCT., 1831, PP. 696-7 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
126.: FRENCH NEWS  EXAMINER, 30 OCT., 1831, PP. 696-7 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
FRENCH NEWS 
For the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 116. The item, headed “London, October 30,” is listed as “Article on France” and enclosed in square brackets in the Somerville College set.
the french ministry has proposed a bill for the establishment in every commune (parish or township) in France, of an elementary school, where instruction will be given, for a small fee, to those who can afford to pay it; and gratuitously to those who cannot.1 Education will thus be brought home to every man’s door. Nor will this education be confined to reading and writing; it will include (we quote from our contemporary, the Globe), “moral and religious instruction, according to the views of the parents; reading, writing, the French language, arithmetic, the legal system of weights and measures; and, according to the extent of local resources, drawing, surveying, and elementary notions of geography and history.”2
In none of the more civilized countries of the world was this great national measure more urgently required. It is computed by those Frenchmen who have most studied the statistics of their own country, that of the adult population of France not more than one-third can read. And we have been assured, that electors, and even members of the great or departmental colleges which existed before the late Revolution—men, therefore, who formed part of the twenty or thirty thousand richest persons in France—were obliged, in giving their votes, to have the name of the candidate for whom they voted written for them by others, being themselves unable to write.
On the details of the proposed Education Bill we shall give our opinion when it comes on for discussion. At present, we give from the English papers part of M. de Montalivet’s speech, to which we shall subjoin some excellent observations of the Globe.
M. de Montalivet passed in review the history of gratuitous elementary education in France, from the first dawn of the system, as originated at Rheims, in 1680, by the philanthropic Delasalle,3 to the present moment. Until after the breaking out of the French revolution, it can barely be said to have existed, but in 1791 the principle was adopted into the Constitution,4 and various laws regulating the mode and scale of retribution of the education of the lower classes, were passed in 1793 and 1794.5 Under the empire but little attention was paid to it, the nation being exclusively occupied by the ideas of military glory, but in 1816 the Lancasterian method was imported into France,6 and so fostered by various ordonnances and regulations of the government,7 that between 1816 and 1822 the number of pupils in the schools was nearly tripled. The impulse thus given to the system was sufficient to enable it to resist the effect of the Ordonnance prompted by the evil genius of the Restoration, which placed all the schools under the exclusive controul of the Bishops,8 and it is the proud office of the Revolution of 1830 to remove all the shackles which impede its progress, and render it fully available for the universal enlightenment of the mass of the population.9 The two great questions which present themselves in regulating the systems he stated to be—1st. Whether the reception of primary education should be voluntary or compulsory; and 2nd. Whether it should be open to free competition. On the first point he remarked, that in Germany all parents are compelled, under severe penalties, to send their children to the communal school,10 on the principle, that as, on the one hand, the government, in its paternal character, was bound to provide all its subjects with the means of education, it had on the other, a right to claim from them the filial duty of availing themselves of it in such a manner as to become useful members of the social body. He, however, stated that, powerful as this argument was, the system of compulsion was too much opposed to the character of the French nation, to admit of his recommending its adoption. He had, therefore, preferred leaving the system to make its way by the force of its intrinsic advantages, and that it would do so, was evident from the fact that since July 1830, three hundred new schools had been opened, and 600,000 volumes distributed. The second point was, he said, virtually decided by the promise of the Charter that education should be free; the most ample scope for competition would therefore be allowed (hear, hear), and every one who possessed the necessary moral and intellectual qualifications would be at liberty to open a school. (Hear, hear.) But in order not to leave education wholly to the fluctuating chances of private speculation, primary schools would be divided into two classes, communal and private, both of which would be subjected to the controul of a committee, in which the Government, the country, and the families of the children, would be alike efficiently represented; while misconduct in the masters of the private schools would be immediately punished by the civil tribunal of the arrondissement, which would be authorized to take cognisance of any complaint made by the committee, and for the rectitude of whose decisions there would be the additional guarantee of a power of appeal to the Cour Royale. The communal schools would afford gratuitous instruction to indigent families. Each master would be chosen by the commune through the mayor, and would have, in addition to his lodging, and whatever monthly sums he might receive from those able to pay for their instruction, a fixed salary, the amount to be fixed every five years by the municipal authority, the minimum of which would be 200 francs, and which would be raised by an addition to the principal of the direct taxes not exceeding five centimes. Provision would be made that such communes as were too poor to pay this salary should be assisted by the department, and that the State should come to the assistance of the department, in case that should not be able to discharge it. Retiring pensions for the masters would be provided from a fund formed by the annual payment by all the masters of one-twentieth part of their salary. The masters of the communal schools would, in case of misconduct, be amenable to, and liable to be suspended by, the committee of primary instruction, from whose decision an appeal would be to the academic council. In order to bring this system into action as fully and speedily as possible, each department would be authorized to establish one Ecole Primaire Normale for the education of young men intended to become masters of primary schools. The hon. member then read the bill, which was ordered to be printed.11
Briefly as we have been enabled, [says the Globe], to give the outline, it is of a nature to call for much attention in a country which piques itself on a passion for the diffusion of knowledge, and which possesses ample funds, too, for the purpose, were they administered wisely and honestly in the furtherance of instruction, congenial with the progress and the spirit of the age, instead of being frittered away by corporate bodies, and nominal trusts, too many of which are anything but trustworthy, and the interest of a great number of whom is directly opposed to the extension of the intended benefit. Allowing for the various difficulties and discrepancies which must necessarily be encountered, in maturing so extensive a scheme, is it possible to conceive the establishment of such a system of national education in France, for any time, without a necessity on the part of Great Britain of following the example? In spite of the satire, the squib, and the sneer of the multifarious cultivators of the department of Littlewit,12 the education of the many is a virtual emancipation from the monopoly and oppression of the few; and hence so much ultra, clerical, and patrician objection, cavil, discountenance, and ridicule. We will not say (for we are not for pressing down a corporation, which is so actively doing that business for itself) who they are who have never voluntarily stepped forward in the honourable path of promoting the instruction of their needy fellow-creatures, however forced in the sequel, by the activity of other people, to crawl after in the rear. Who cannot recollect the affected alarm, and sinister opposition, which the foremost man of the day had to encounter a few years ago, when he attempted to concoct the preliminaries of a plan that would render education general?13 We still hope to witness his master-mind engaged upon some scheme of kindred utility, with the countenance and support of the government, of which he forms a part. Were, indeed, Providence, in its anger to produce a Tory return to power, with this example of France before the national eye, something in the same line must be attempted, at least if the salutary operation of the two countries upon each other remain a substitute for the blind antipathy engendered by ignorance, and fostered by design.14
The forthcoming number of The Foreign Quarterly Review gives some very interesting information, with relation to the exertions made by private individuals in France, for the diffusion of knowledge, by the publication of elementary books of instruction, in the composition of which the French excel, as they do not (like most authors of elementary works in England) write upon the unfortunate presumption, that the reader is already, in some degree, acquainted with the subject.15
We have great satisfaction in perceiving numerous indications that the organs of the public mind in France are approximating to a juster appreciation of the impolicy of the restrictive and prohibitory commercial system. M. Mauguin, a few days ago, made profession of opinions favourable to free trade, and the Ministry at once professed concurrence in them, promising the speedy introduction of a bill, modifying the whole of the present custom regulations and duties.16
[1 ]See especially Titre IV, Art. 14 of Projet de loi sur l’instruction primaire (24 Oct.), Moniteur, 1831, pp. 1946-8. The bill was lost at the end of the session. For a later law, see No. 187, n6.
[2 ]Leading article on French primary education, Globe and Traveller, 27 Oct., 1831, p. 2.
[3 ]Jean Baptiste de Lasalle (1651-1719) founded the institution of the Brothers of the Christian Schools at Rheims in 1679.
[4 ]Constitution française (14 Sept., 1791), Titre 1.
[5 ]Decrees were issued on 26 and 30 Oct., 1793, and 22 Feb. and 16 Nov., 1794; see Moniteur, 1793, pp. 150-1 and 167, and 1794, pp. 632 and 245-6.
[6 ]A system of mass instruction based on the use of monitors, named after its developer Joseph Lancaster (1778-1838), favoured by the Philosophic Radicals, and introduced in France by the private Société pour l’Instruction Elémentaire. The system flourished until Charles X’s government took steps to establish Church control (see No. 43, n10).
[7 ]See, e.g., Bull. 73, No. 495 (29 Feb., 1816).
[8 ]For the ordinance, see No. 43, n10.
[9 ]See the Charter of 1830, Art. 69, Clause 8.
[10 ]By Part II, Title xii, Arts. 43 and 44 (5 Feb., 1794) of Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preussischen Staaten.
[11 ]“French Papers,” Globe and Traveller, 27 Oct., 1831, p. 2, translating in summary Montalivet’s speech of 24 Oct. (in Moniteur, 1831, pp. 1946-7).
[12 ]A character in Bartholomew Fayre (London: Allot, 1631), by Ben Jonson (1573?-1637).
[13 ]See Brougham, Motion on the Education of the Poor (28 June, 1820), PD, n.s., Vol. 2, cols. 49-89.
[14 ]Leading article on French primary education, p. 2.
[15 ]John Ward, “Diffusion of Knowledge in France: Necessity of Public Instruction,” Foreign Quarterly Review, VIII (July 1831), 433-4.
[16 ]For Mauguin’s speech on free trade, and the Ministry’s concurrence (20 Oct.), see Moniteur, 1831, pp. 1910-11. The Projet de loi portant modification au tarif général des douanes was brought in on 17 Dec. (ibid., p. 2426).