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future Constitution, that the Laws of Nature alone shall be permanent, and that every political law may be changed and amended by the National Assembly as often as the good of the Nation may require, as the happiness of a Nation is itself a consequence of that Law of Nature which she constantly proposes to herself, in the variable harmony of her works, the felicity of all Mankind.
But as the Laws of Nature themselves disappear in societies, from the prejudices merely which are instilled into infancy, to such a degree that men come in time to believe what is natural to them is foreign, and what is foreign natural, it is necessary to rest the basis of our future Constitution, on a national education, in order that, should reason fail, it may become agreeable to our posterity at least by the allurement of habit.
WISHES FOR A NATIONAL EDUCATION.
PREVIOUS to the establishment of a school for the citizens at large, there must be formed a school for teachers. It fills me with astonishment to think that the acquisition of every art requires the serving of an apprenticeship, the most difficult of all excepted, the art of forming men. Nor is this all. The occupation of instructing youth is usually the resource of persons who possess no particular talent. The National Assembly ought to pay special attention to so necessary an establishment. They will make choice of men proper
to execute the office of instructors, not from among doctors and caballers, as the custom has been, but among respectable fathers of families who may have themselves educated their own children properly. I do not mean such as have made their young people scholars and wits, but those who have rendered them pious, modest, ingenious, gentle, obliging and happy, that is, who have left them nearly such as Nature had formed them. There will be no occasion, in order to fill those places, either for diplomas of A. M. or D. D. but the production of beautiful and well-disposed children; and as we form a judgment of the work, man by his work, that man should be deemed ca. pable of instructing the families of the State, who has educated his own family wisely and well.
Those instructors ought to enjoy personal Nobility, in consideration of the dignity of their functions. They must be under the immediate inspec. tion of the National Assembly, and have under their superintendance all the masters of sciences, languages, arts and exercises. They must be spread over the principal subdivisions of Paris, and through all the Cities of the Kingdom, to establish National Schools in them; and not even a village schoolmaster should be permitted to teach but by their appointment.
They will apply themselves, first of all; to the reformation of the whole system of our gothic and barbarous education, of the age of Charlemagné. It is unnecessary to say that they will banish from it languor, sadness, tears, corporal chastisements ; that they will train up young ones to love
and not to fear; and make Citizens of them, not Slaves. Being themselves fathers of happy children, Nature must have taught them much more than they could learn from me, a useless bachelor: but as they are Frenchmen, they ought to be no less on their guard against the methods which exalt the soul too high, than against those which degrade it.
They will therefore banish emulation from their schools. Emulation, we are told, is a stimulant; for this reason precisely it ought to be reprobated. Men without art and without artifice, leave strong spiceries to those whose taste is weakened; present not to the children of your Country any aliments but such as are gentle and simple like themselves and
The fever must not be thrown into their blood, in order to make it circulate: permit it to flow in its natural course ; Nature 'has made sufficient provision to this effect at an age of such restlessness and activity. The disquietude of adolescence, the passions of youth, the anxieties of manhood, will one day excite an inflammation but too violent to admit of being cooled by all your efforts.
Emulation is a stimulant of a singular species. We do not serve ourselves of it; but it moves and directs us at pleasure. While we propose to subdue a rival, emulation makes a conquest of us. Like the Man who bridled and mounted the horse at his own request, to avenge him of the stag, once in the saddle on our mind, it forces us to go where we have no occasion, and to run after every one
faster than ourselves. It fills the whole career of life with solicitude, uneasiness and vain
desires, and when old-age has slackened all our movements, it continues to stimulate us by unprofitable regret.
Post equitem sedet atra cura.
Gloomy care mounts behind the horseman. Had I any occasion in infancy to surpass my companions in dripking, in eating, in walking, in order to find pleasure in these? Wherefore should it be necessary for me to learn to outstrip them in my studies, in order to acquire a relish for learning? Have I not acquired the faculty of speaking and of reasoning without emulation ? Are not the functions of the soul as natural and as agreeable as those of the body? If they sadden our children, it is the fault of our mode of education, and not that of science. It is not from want of appetite on their part. Behold what imitators they are of every thing which they see done, and of every thing which they hear said? Do you wish then to attract children to your exercises ? Act as Nature does in recommending hers; draw them with cords of love, and they will run without a spur.
Emulation is the cause of most of the ills of human life. It is the root of ambition ; for emu. lation produces the desire of being the first; and the desire of being the first is the essence of ambition, which ramifies itself, conformably to po-. sitions, from which issue almost all the miseries of society.
Positive ambition generates the love of applause, of personal and exclusive prerogatives for a man's self or for his corps, of immense property in dignities, in
lands and in employments; in a word it produces avarice, that calm ambition of gold, in which all the ambitious finish their course. But avarice alone drags in it's train an infinite number of evils, by depriving multitudes of other citizens of the means of subsistence, and produces, by a necessary re-action, robberies, prostitutions, quackery, superstition.
Negative ambition generates in it's turn jealousy, evil-speaking, calumnies, quarrels, litigation, duels, intolerance. Of all these particular ambitions a national ambition is composed, which manifests itself in a People by the love of conquest, and in their Prince by the love of despotism: from national ambition flow imposts, slavery, tyrannies and war, a sufficient scourge of itself for the human race.
I was long under the conviction that ambition must be natural to man; but now I consider it as a simple result from our education. We are involved so early in the prejudices of so many whose interest is concerned to communicate them to us, that it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish through the rest of life, what is natural to us and whot artificial. In order to form a judgment of the institutions of our societies, we must withdraw to a distance from them; but to form a judgment of the sentiments of our own heart, we must retire into it. As to myself, who have been long driven back into myself by the public manners, and who withdraw myself more and more from the world by my habits, it seems to me that man has no natural selfimpulse either to raise himself above his fellows, or to sink below them, but to live with them as their