university-bred functionaries--has reared this class of unemployables, and impedes the progress of manufacturing and commercial industry by offering to the youth the prospect of a living in government employment, or in an occupation fenced in by a monopoly against all competition with those who have taken an examen, as it is called, and obtained a licence or degree in it. The system will always keep the German character what it is incapable of self-government, independent action, or free institutions, learned but servile, visionary, enthusiastic about trifles, and weak.'-p. 38.

It is to us, we confess, a marvellous fact, that some of our most strenuous advocates for free-trade in corn, sugar, and other products, are most clamorous for a national system of education, which would practically shut out, if it did not actually prohibit, the competition for which they contend. We say with Mr. Laing that, Free-trade in education is of more importance to society than free-trade in corn or cotton goods.' We yield to none in deprecating the evils of popular ignorance, or in readiness to adopt every practicable method to diminish them; but we have yet to learn the wisdom of abandoping a system which has already done so much, in deference to another, the European results of which are, to say the least, most questionable. If the lowest possible view be taken of education-if, instead of being regarded as a training of the whole man, a healthful invigoration of the intellect and the heart,—it be deemed a mere matter of book-learning—the faculty to read and write; then we admit that government may do much, and that the sooner its efforts are put forth the better. But if this be education, what is it worth? A tithe of the money and attention bestowed on it would in such case far exceed its value. Mr. Laing's testimony on this point should be well considered. It is founded on observation of the results flowing from the German and French systems. He says:

· The conclusion to be drawn is, that national education—that is, the attempt of a government to enforce or diffuse education more rapidly, or more widely, than the wants and natural progress of society require, and will provide for spontaneously—is worse than useless. It is not in schools, but in the circle of actual affairs in which the individual lives and moves freely, that his intellectual powers are formed, and this formation of the intellectual powers is real education. Freedom of social action, freedom to teach and to be taught, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, embrace all that a government can do, or ought to do, for the promotion of education. With these a nation will educate itself according to its requirements, and according to its natural advance in material well-being. Intellectual progress can only follow material progress. If the former ontstrip the latter, either in the case of individuals or of nations; if a man is studying useful knowledge in the encyclopædia, while his week's income is still unearned; or if a nation is cultivating its taste at the opera, or in

the picture gallery, while its fields are neglected, and its work-shops deserted, the results are not so happy that a wise government should go out of its way to legislate for promoting the premature advance of intellectual culture. They will go hand-in-hand if left to themselves. The social, political, moral, and religious state of Germany and France, now, after half-acentury almost of national education by government machinery, is not so very encouraging that our legislature should hasten to adopt any similar system, or our social philosophers to recommend it.'-p. 117.

Mr. Laing further protests against the separation of religious and secular education, as proposed in the two Manchester schemes. “Secular and religious instruction,' he says, ' are naturally inseparable, and must either go on together, under the same instructor, and at the same hours, or the religious instruction must be made a secondary branch of national education, and will either be dropped altogether, or given very imperfectly, if disunited from that moral and physical knowledge, which is the illustration of religion.'

As the general result of his observations, he contends that our people are educating themselves, and that, so far as we are concerned, the voluntary principle is, and always will be, superior to any principle of state establishment or encouragement: He is not, however, opposed to government aid in all cases. To the Prussian system, marked at once by monopoly and compulsion, he is a determined opponent; but his objection does not lie against the application of national funds to educational purposes, in the circumstances of the Danish people, and within the limits observed by them.

Here,' he says, 'school education is the only education the mind can receive ; and here it has been eminently beneficial. The state has wisely avoided the tyrannical step of the German governments, of making school attendance compulsory, and the dangerous step of placing all education in the hands of a licensed corporate body of teachers. It is quite free to any one who pleases to open a school ; and to parents to send their children to school or not, as they please. If the young people are sufficiently instructed to receive confirmation from the clergyman, or to stand an examination for admission as students at the university, where or how they acquired their instruction is not asked. Government has provided schools, and highly qualified and well-paid teachers, but invests them with no monopoly of teaching, no powers as a corporate body, and keeps them distinct from, and unconnected with the professional body in the university. Owing to these differences, the educational system in Denmark has worked much more beneficially for the people, and safely for the government, than the system of Prussia or France.'--p. 336.

We shall not stop to inquire how far the favorable judgment implied in this passage is correct. That the Danish system is

incomparably superior to the German we freely admit. On this point we agree with our author, and facts place the matter beyond reasonable doubt. Did space, however, permit, we should venture to suggest that the beneficial results of the former might have been insured, not, indeed, so rapidly, but with less admixture of evil, from the voluntary system, the efficiency of which, in our own case, Mr. Laing so earnestly contends for. But there are other topics requiring notice, and we must therefore turn from this tempting field.

By the act of the Danish Diet of 1660, the government of Denmark was rendered absolute, and such it continues to the present day. This settlement was effected by the joint efforts of the sovereign and the people, in antagonism to the clergy, and great nobility. It united, in fact, the king and people, relieving the latter from manifold oppressions to which they were previously liable. Every act of

Every act of government since for the benefit of the people has been received as emanating from the king himself, and has kept alive a spirit of loyalty not to be found in the present age in any other continental kingdom.' The secluded position of Denmark, the little intercourse it holds with other nations, and its slight dependence on their products, have greatly contributed to this result. It has a style both of manners and of thinking peculiarly its own, exhibiting with much of the culture of modern civilization the habits and ideas of the middle ages. Many of our readers will probably be surprised at the intelligence and general information possessed by the people. Mr. Laing tells us that he made the acquaintance of many of the Danish officers, whom he found to "be highly educated, gentlemanly men, superior in tastes and acquirements to the majority of our officers.'

The population of Denmark increases very slowly. It is altogether agricultural, and the great majority of the estates are in the hands of small proprietors. The number of estates in Denmark Proper belonging to the nobility and gentry, and having manorial rights attached to them, does not exceed 800, while there are 63,700 of smaller dimensions in the hands of peasant proprietors. There are also about 10,000 copyholders, who hold land on leases, transferable by sale or inheritance, and about 56,300 others who hold on life-rent, or long leases, without the right of alienation. The means of subsistence happily exceed the wants of the community, and so far, therefore, as our author's testimony is concerned, it is directly opposed to the theory which maintains that'population increases more rapidly than subsistence where the land of a country is held by small working proprietors. There is consequently an absence of

[ocr errors]

extreme poverty, and Mr. Laing goes so far as to affirm that

this little country of Denmark is the most favourable in Europe to the comfort and well-being of the working man.' In England the agriculturists clamor for protection, but in Denmark the trading and manufacturing classes do Such is the selfishness which universally pervades our nature. The circumstances of man may vary, but self is the idol before which he bows at all times, and amongst all people. The principle of protection, though not applied to agriculture, has wide and stringent operation in Denmark.

* Every trade is carried on by members of a corporate body, consisting of the master workmen of that trade. They can admit or reject claimants to the privilege of carrying on their branch of industry in their town or locality. They limit the number of masters entitled to exercise their trade in it, the number of apprentices and journeymen each master may employ, and the time these must serve in each stage of their business. They examine and certify their proficiency, and control the conditions and wages on which they are engaged. The corporation system exists in more vigour in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, than in any other countries.'—p. 301.

The capital of Denmark does not belong to the ancient cities of Europe. It was but a fishing-village in the latter part of the twelfth century, and did not constitute the royal residence and capital until long afterwards. The city has been subjected to numerous fires and bombardments, and though not beautiful or picturesque from without, “is now one of the handsomest of modern cities.' Mr. Laing institutes an extended comparison between the capitals of Denmark and Scotland, and though a native of the latter country, his verdict is given in favor of Copenhagen.

Both cities,' he remarks, are capitals, or chief seats of civil administration, courts of law, and various departments of public business, for populations of about equal amount, Scotland and Denmark having each about a million and a half of people, and the expenditure of income by professional men, lawyers, and those connected with the public business of the country, and by private gentlemen of no business who have retired with moderate fortunes, gives the chief means of subsistence to the greater part of the inhabitants of both; each city, also, is the centre of education, fashion, conveniences, and luxuries, from which country towns and populations are supplied, and is a kind of entrepôt, rather than a manufacturing city. A literary tone predominates in a society so composed, although the individuals composing it may not be literary men. They are men of exercised minds, and thus Copenhagen and Edinburgh resemble each other in the numbers, composition, means of subsistence, and general character of the social body in each. It is remarkable enough that in the capital of the most absolute monarchy in Europe, according to its ground principle, the influences of education and of public opinion on government, are more efficient than in any of the most liberally constituted monarchies on the Continent; and, in

private society, the man of talent in literature or the fine arts stands on a footing of greater equality with, or rather of greater superiority over, the mere nobleman, functionary, or man of wealth, than in any other city. Holberg, Thorwaldsen, Ohlenschläger, and of living witnesses, Oersted, H. Č. Andersen, Frederika Bremer, could bear testimony to this peculiar trait of civilization and intellectual culture in the Danish capital; and in this also its social state is similar to that of Edinburgh. The literary corps in Copenhagen appears to be as numerous and as active as that of the Scottish capital. Its members produce on an average of years about seventeen periodical works, and about twenty-one weekly and daily newspapers, and these are supported principally by town readers, for every little country place has its own newspaper. Edinburgh scarcely supports a daily paper, and, but for the country circulation, the weekly or twice a week Edinburgh newspapers could scarcely subsist. The periodical crops in the fields of literature vary considerably, no doubt, from year to year in amount of value; but the literary men of Copenhagen publish at least as many works, and of as high pretensions, in the course of a year, as appear from the Edinburgh press.'—p. 340.

There are six hundred circulating libraries in Denmark, and our most popular works are speedily translated for the amusement or instruction of their subscribers. "Sir Walter Scott's novels,' says our author, are as common, and as well understood in Denmark, in their Danish dress, as in England. The works of Dickens, Thackery, Bulwer, James, are translated as fast as they appear, are read, admired, or talked of, as much, or, indeed, more, I think, than in England—at least I have been asked by ladies what we thought in England of novels of Bulwer, and James, of the merits or names of which I was living in the most innocent and contented ignorance.'

Some of the facts mentioned by Mr. Laing startle us, and may well serve to check our national vanity. Aalborg, for instance, the most northerly town in Jutland, with a population of 6000 only, has a classical school for the higher branches of education, together with an institute and six burgher schools for the lower branches. It has also a public library of 12,000 volumes, a circulating library of 2000, several private collections and museums, a dramatic association, and two club-houses for balls and concerts. Wyborg, the most ancient town in Jutland, with a population of 3000, has its newspaper three times a week, its classical school, its burgher school, its public library, circulating library, and its dramatic association.' Randers, again, distant from Wyborg about twenty-five English miles, has' for its 6000 inhabitants, a classical school, several burgher schools, one of which has above 300 children taught by the mutual-instruction method, a book society, a musical society, a circulating library, a printing press, a newspaper published three times a week, a clubhouse, and a dramatic society.'

« ForrigeFortsett »