Front Page Titles (by Subject) 256.: SARAH AUSTIN'S TRANSLATION OF COUSIN EXAMINER, 1 JUNE, 1834, PP. 341-2 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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256.: SARAH AUSTIN’S TRANSLATION OF COUSIN EXAMINER, 1 JUNE, 1834, PP. 341-2 - 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).
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SARAH AUSTIN’S TRANSLATION OF COUSIN
Cousin’s original work, Rapport sur l’état de l’instruction publique dans quelques pays de l’Allemagne, et particulièrement en Prusse (1832-33), new ed. (Paris: Levrault, 1833), was the result of his investigations made under a commission from Montalivet. Sarah Austin (1793-1867), wife of John Austin and teacher and friend to Mill, was an indefatigable translator who had in 1832 alone published Sismondi’s A History of the Italian Republics and Pückler-Muskau’s Tour in England, Ireland and France (2 vols.) and Tour in Germany, Holland and England (2 vols.). Mill’s review of her present translation, in the “Literary Examiner,” is headed “Report on the State of Public Instruction in Prussia; addressed to the Count de Montalivet, Peer of France, Minister of Public Instruction and Ecclesiastical Affairs. By M. Victor Cousin, Peer of France, Councillor of State, Professor of Philosophy, Member of the Institute, and of the Royal Council of Public Instruction. Translated by Sarah Austin. [London:] Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange. [1834.]” In Mill’s copy of the Examiner in Somerville College, the item is listed as “Review of Mrs. Austin’s Translation of Cousin’s Report,” with one correction: at 728.20 “cultivation” is corrected to “combination”. The review is not listed in Mill’s bibliography, which, however, lists another review of the same work in the Monthly Repository, n.s. VIII (July 1834), 501-13 (CW, Vol. XXI, pp. 61-74). In that review Mill quotes a passage also quoted here; see 729a-a.
this little volume, and an article in Blackwood’s Magazine for July 1833, on the Prussian Government,1 are signal memorials of that standing miracle, as we might well call it if we judged from English or French experience—a Government of which the pervading principle is the public good. The article in Blackwood shows how, in about twenty years, in the quiet course of peaceful legislation, two great ministers, Stein and Hardenberg, have scoured the country of abuses; and effected not only a complete clearing-out of feudal privileges and obsolete restrictions, but by the degree in which the people are associated in their own government, laid as fair a foundation for the habits and feelings of a free people, as France has purchased by all her terrible convulsions.2 In M. Cousin’s Report, again, we behold the animating spectacle of a government making the civilization, and moral and intellectual culture of every human being among its subjects, one of the direct objects of its own existence; and exhibiting in the pursuit of that object, a combination, probably never seen in any other human government, of wisdom in the choice of means, of patient energy in the employment of them, and of that spirit which the politicians of all other countries despise, that which
The moral to be deduced from the admirable spirit and working of the Prussian Government is manifold; and to evolve it in all its entireness from the facts, as well as to press again and again upon the notice of England such of these as are best calculated to fill her rulers and people with shame at being so far outdone by the government of an absolute king, is an occupation which ought to be neglected by no writer of any pretensions to comprehensive views, or an enlightened public spirit, and shall not by us. We can in no manner so much forward this object as by recommending to attentive perusal this translation of M. Cousin’s Report, by a lady with whose ability as a translator the public are already familiar. All who (we may say it deliberately) having the means of access to this work, do not read it, either in the original or in the translation, are indifferent to the highest interests of their country and of universal improvement.
The remainder of what we have to say, cannot be better said than in the words of the accomplished translator, whose preface has afforded us more pleasure than any composition of equal length which has appeared for years.
aConstituted as the Government of this country is, and accustomed as it is to receive its impulses from without (a state of things approved and consecrated by the national ways of thinking), it would be contrary to reason and to experience to expect it to originate any great changes. This is not recognised, either by governors or governed, as any part of its duty. It is to the public mind, therefore, that those who desire any change must address themselves.a
It is not worth while at the present day to discuss, whether or not national education be a good. It is possible to imagine a state of society in which the labouring man, submissive and contented under some paternal rule, might dispense with any further light than such as nature, uncorrupted by varied wants and restless competition, might afford him. But if that golden age ever existed, it is manifestly gone, in this country at least, for ever. Here, the press is hotter, the strife keener, the invention more alive, the curiosity more awake, the wants and wishes more stimulated by an atmosphere of luxury, than perhaps in any country since the world began. The men who, in their several classes, were content to tread step for step in the paths wherein their fathers trod, are gone. Society is no longer a calm current, but a tossing sea. Reverence for tradition, for authority, is gone. In such a state of things, who can deny the absolute necessity for national education?
Supposing, however, all agreed as to this first point; how many weighty and difficult questions still remain! How many obstacles present themselves to the adoption of that which here stands before us, not in theory and conjecture, but in tried and successful practice! It may be useful to consider a few of these objections.
And, first—As to compulsory education, the idea to which I have alluded above—that the prime excellence of a government is, to let alone—is so deeply and universally prevalent here, that there is little chance of a measure, however beneficent, being popular, which is, unquestionably, an infringement of liberty. Leaving, however, the question, whether exemption from restraint is, of itself, the great desideratum for men,* we may safely affirm, that for the class most deeply interested in the present inquiry, children, no such exemption is, or can be, contemplated or advised. The real point at issue is, whether the constraint shall be a salutary or a pernicious constraint, a constraint by which their whole future lives are sacrificed to the present interests of the persons who have the disposal of them; or a constraint, the object and tendency of which is to secure to them for life the blessings of physical, moral, and intellectual health. “If children,” says the writer of the excellent article in the Foreign Quarterly Review (No. xxiv) “provided their own education, and could be sensible of its importance to their happiness, it would be a want, and might be left to the natural demand and supply; but as it is provided by the parents, and paid for by those who do not profit by its results, it is a duty and is therefore liable to be neglected.”4
The interference which Government has lately exercised on behalf of the children of the manufacturing population has, however, settled the question as one of principle. It is no longer anything but a question of degree; for, if the right of parents over their children can be invaded for the purpose of securing to children an exemption from one class of evils, it can in averting another; and, according to all sound reasoning, it might, if those evils be shown to be of sufficient magnitude to claim interference. It is irrational to expect, that persons who have not had the advantages of education, can form any estimate of the nature and extent of those advantages. Are, then, the rudeness and apathy of the fathers a reason for transmitting them unaltered to the children? Or, to go higher, are the false notions, the useless acquirements, the imperfect instruction, of the ill-educated of the wealthier sort a reason that, because they are satisfied with themselves, an enlightened Government should permit the same waste and destruction of moral and intellectual faculties to go on from generation to generation?
We subscribe perfectly to the justice of this finely thought and expressed defence of the compulsory principle in education; but we require, as a preliminary condition to the adoption of that principle here, what already exists in Prussia, a Government which deserves, and has, the perfect confidence of the people in its good intentions.
Another misconception, which appears to me common in this country, is, that the system of national education delineated by M. Cousin, is some new plan or mode of teaching. I have even seen objections made to it in print, on the score of the tyranny of compelling parents to educate children on this or that “method” approved by government.5 It might seem sufficient to refer such objectors to the book, but unfortunately this process is tedious, and in the meanwhile the reader, who supposes they are acquainted with what they discuss, is misled. Not only (as will be seen in this report) is every parent at full liberty to educate his children either in his own house, or at a private school, or at the schools provided by the state; but these latter schools are not even bound to any particular books, or modes of tuition, “in order,” as the law expresses it, “to impose no shackles on the constant onward course of improvement.” The choice of books is left to the masters and the local committees appointed by government for the immediate superintendence of schools, and consisting chiefly of fathers of families resident in the parish which supports the school. The conferences of schoolmasters, which, though voluntary, are encouraged by the government, are also for the express purpose of comparing their views and their experience, and thus carrying forward the improvement of the schools. Whenever a choice of schools is within the reach of parents, that choice is left perfectly free; and on the grand subject of religious differences, it will be seen that nothing can exceed the anxious care of the government that the most delicate conscience should not be even alarmed, much less oppressed. “Masters and inspectors,” says the law, “must most carefully avoid every kind of constraint or annoyance to the children on account of their particular creed,” &c.
The sentiments expressed in the following passage reach far beyond the subject immediately before us. We joyfully assist in giving them currency:
It has been asserted by some persons, with an ignorance which, if it be sincere, is so shameless, that it almost deserves to be confounded with dishonesty, that the tendency of the system recommended by M. Cousin is anti-religious.6 To this every page of the book is an answer. Indeed, were I to express a fear on this head, it is, that it is far too religious for this country; that the lofty, unworldly tone of feeling, the spirit of veneration, the blending of the love of God, and of the good and the beautiful with all the practical business and the amusements of life, is what will hardly be understood here, where religion is so much more disjoined, both from the toils and from the gaieties of life. To me it appears that there is not a line of these enactments which is not profoundly religious. Nothing, it is true, is enjoined as to forms or creeds; but, as M. Cousin truly says, “the whole fabric rests on the sacred basis of Christian love.”7 As the most affecting, and I must say, sublime example of this spirit, I refer my readers—especially the humbler and, as I hope, more numerous class of them—to the description of the little schools for training poor schoolmasters in such habits and with such feelings as shall fit them to be the useful and contented teachers of the humblest cottagers of the most miserable villages.8
Here is poverty, to which that of many among our working classes is affluence; and it is hopeless, for no idea is held out of advancement or change. Yet, if ever poverty appeared on earth, serene, contented, lofty, beneficent, graceful—it is here. Here we see men in the very spring-time of life, so far from being made—as we are told men must be made—restless and envious and discontented by instruction, taking indigence and obscurity to their hearts for life; raised above their poor neighbours in education, only that they may become the servants of all, and may train the lowliest children in a sense of the dignity of man, and the beauty of creation, in the love of God and of virtue.
I confess myself almost hopeless of the transplantation of such sentiments hither. Religion is made the theme of the fiercest and most implacable contention; mixed up with newspaper squabbles and with legal discussions; her bright and holy garments are seized and soiled by every angry and ambitious hand.
We conclude our extracts with the following recommendation of normal schools, an institution which our ministry is all but pledged to naturalize here, and must not be suffered to rest until the pledge is redeemed:
Time and experience have, it is to be supposed, nearly removed the illusion of “mutual instruction” as a substitute for the instruction communicated by a mature to an immature mind:—as an auxiliary in certain mechanical details, no one disputes its utility. Observation long ago convinced me of the entire truth of the maxim laid down by the Prussian government, and approved by M. Cousin, that “As is the master, so is the school!”9 —A system of education is nothing without an unfailing supply of competent masters. It is the fashion to apply the “free trade” maxims to everything. Reasons enough present themselves why such maxims are wholly inapplicable to this matter. It may, once for all, safely be denied, that the public can be judges of the quality of teachers, as they are of bread or of shoes. To this the hundreds of children in the middle classes, whose whole childhood is consumed in experimental wanderings from school to school, and the thousands and ten thousands of the lower, whose parents know little more than the fact that they pass a certain number of hours daily in a given room, can bear witness. The evil is an irreparable one. Not only is the portion of time consumed in a bad or imperfect school irrevocably gone; bad habits of all kinds are acquired, which no future education can entirely eradicate. The candid and rational among the less educated classes are glad to be aided by the friendly judgment of their more instructed neighbours on this point; and would, I doubt not, readily admit the advantage of having some better security than their own opinion, or rather conjecture, for the competency of the instructors of their children.
In every country where primary instruction has been carried to any height, the necessity of establishments of this kind has been felt.
[1 ]George Moir, “Prussia, or the Progress of Rational Reform,” Blackwood’s Magazine, XXXIV (July 1833), 55-71.
[2 ]Heinrich Friedrich Karl, Baron von Stein (1757-1831), and Prince Karl August von Hardenberg (1750-1822), leading Prussian statesmen, who instigated a wide variety of reforms. Stein, for instance, abolished villeinage and all distinctions in land tenure and occupations (No. 16 [9 Oct., 1807] in Sammlung der für die Königlichen Preussischen Staaten erschienenen Gesetze und Verordnungen von 1806 bis zum 27sten Oktober 1810, pp. 170-2), converted hereditary leaseholders into proprietors (No. 41 [27 July, 1808], ibid., pp. 245-50), and reformed the magistracy in towns and villages (No. 57 [19 Nov., 1808], ibid., pp. 324-60). Hardenberg also reformed the land laws, standardized taxation, and moved towards free trade (No. 2 [27 Oct., 1810], in Gesetz-Sammlung für die Königlichen Preussischen Staaten, 1810, pp. 24-31; No. 3 [28 Oct.], ibid., pp. 33-9; No. 4 [28 Oct.], ibid,, pp. 40-76; No. 482 [26 May, 1818], ibid., 1818, pp. 65-9; and No. 602 [30 May, 1820], ibid., 1820, pp. 72-80), and, in instituting three-year military service, made advancement depend on merit (No. 245 [3 Sept., 1814], ibid., 1814, pp. 79-82).
[3 ]William Wordsworth (1770-1850), “I grieved for Buonaparté” (1801), in Poetical Works, 5 vols. (London: Longman, et al., 1827), Vol. III, p. 130.
[a-a][quoted in review in Monthly Repository of July 1834; see CW, XXI, 64]
[* ]Why men? The logical opposite of children is grown persons. From an imperfection in our language (not found in the French) there is often almost a necessity for using the masculine pronoun where both sexes are equally concerned, but seldom the masculine substantive. The effect upon the mind of this phraseology is bad; it encourages the habit of passing by one-half of the race as not concerned in its highest interests, and we should have been pleased if a woman had avoided sanctioning the practice by her example.
[4 ]“Cousin’s Report on the Prussian System of Education: Necessity and Practicability of a National System of Education,” Foreign Quarterly Review, XII (Oct. 1833), 285; attributed to Austin herself in the Wellesley Index.
[5 ]See No. 126.
[6 ]See Daniel O’Connell, Speech on National Education (30 July, 1833), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 20, cols. 169-70.
[7 ]Cf. Austin’s translation of Cousin, pp. 170, 182, and 288-91.
[8 ]See ibid., pp. 171-82.
[9 ]Ibid., pp. 280-1.