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ble, whether it be war, commerce, religion, or taste, when it connects itself with the feelings of a people, it hurries them forward precipitately, and they neither will, nor perhaps can, weigh dispassionately any arguments unless such as are calculated to promote the favoured or fashionable-system. I have more than once, for my own amusement, reasoned against the diffusion of knowledge amongst the poor, and I was highly gratified to observe the surprise as well as the absurd remarks which my observations occasioned. I took care, however, like Socrates when disputing about the nature of the Godhead, that I did not reason in the presence of "a MEETING of the Friends of Education," lest I would be stoned for if the Delphian god himself announced that evils might arise from an imperfect education, such as at best can be given to the poor, his oracle would be slighted, or perhaps he would himself be thenceforth excluded from the assemblies of the gods. It happens, however, that I am truly and heartily devoted to the greatest possible diffusion of knowledge, even in Ireland, and not less zealously opposed to the folly or malice of those who would
put this mighty moral engine to work, without guards and checks to control and regulate it; or who would avail themselves of the public feeling in favour of education, for the purpose of engrafting upon it their own wild theories in religion.
The state of education in this country is not certainly gratifying to a man of reflection. The study of science is confined to a few, and the only sciences which are well cultivated amongst us are those connected with the physical world. Positive sciences, which require great labour, patience, and industry, are not suited to the Irish character; and hence, as well as from the small profits or honours annexed to them, they are greatly neglected. Another cause of this neglect is found in the excessive wealth of our University, and of the Established Church, where pride and indolence, the natural growth of riches, occupy the place of labour and study; whilst, on the other hand, a want of time and of means prevent the Catholic Clergy from devoting themselves to literary pur
Politics, political economy, religious innovation, these are the subjects, not sciences, in which Irish genius delights: these studies, if such they can be called, employ the inventive powers of the mind, they recreate the fancy, they supply food to eloquence and to the passions, and supersede, in a good measure, all attention to matter of fact.
Most of our youth above the general condition of the people are acquainted with the preliminaries of knowledge; they acquire just as much of classics and of science as is sufficient to deceive them into the notion that they are educated, and to precipitate them unprepared into the labyrinth of public life. To find in Ireland a good logician, a learned historian, or a deeply read divine, is almost as difficult as to discover a venemous serpent or a monster such as Horace describes. You could meet with apostles and prophets on any of the highways, but amongst them a man of deep research is indeed a rara avis. A mathematician or geologist, a man skilled in plants or minerals, is not a very rare commodity in Ireland; but compared with politicians, and es
sayists, and preachers of the Word, he bears as little proportion as the handful of Greeks did to the myriads of Xerxes. That a little knowledge
dangerous thing, was in no country perhaps more fully proved than in ours. For here a little superficial learning acting upon the passions by means of the press and public meetings, is one of the great causes of the incessant agitation in which the public mind is kept. This action is called discussion, but I assure you, that though I look at the papers and pamphlets with which the country is inundated, I do not always find in them a sound exposition of truth, or an essay which bespeaks in the writer experience of the world, knowledge of past events, or an intellect taught to reason justly.
But to pass from the education of those supposed to be educated, to those who are not; it would be presumptuous in me to state all I think, or even all I know upon this subject, as His Majesty's commissioners are about to report officially upon it, and have obtained all the information which is necessary to enable them to do so fully. may be sufficient to inform you, that the wants
of our poor as to a well regulated system of education, are like their wants of food and clothing: wants which press upon their strongest appetite; wants which they labour to supply by every means in their power, but which, notwithstanding all their exertions, are left unsatisfied. As when, however, the potatoes fail them, they have recourse to weeds and herbs, or, as they substitute fern for a bed, and hay for covering, so when a good school is not within their reach they have recourse to the hedge.
Far be it from me to complain that the poor of Ireland have been thus abandoned; that when the sword ceased to destroy them, and the malice of the Legion Club itself had been exhausted in robbing them, that then their enemies should have laboured to blind their intellect by forbidding education, and sought to efface the image of God from their souls by giving them over to that reprobate sense which a want of religious and moral instruction generates.-I do not complain of these things more than of the perverse and insulting reproaches of ignorance and immorality, with which