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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793,

Not less liable to dispute which was


system of ignorance and violence seems to have persecuted with peculiar hostility all the ancient establishments for education; and the same plan of suppressing daily what they have neither leisure nor abilities to supply, which I remarked to you two years ago, has directed the Convention ever since. It is true, the interval has produced much dissertation, and engendered many projects; but those who were so unanimous in rejecting, were extremely discordant in adopting, and their own disputes and indecision might have convinced them of their presumption in condemning what they now found it so difficult to excel. Some decided in favour of public schools, after the example of Sparta-- this was objected to by others, because, said they, if you have public schools you must have edifices, and governors, and professors, who will, to a certainty, be aristocrats, or become so; and, in short, this will only be a revival of the colleges of the old government--A third party proposed private seminaries, or that people might be at liberty to educate their children in the way they thought best; but this, it was declared, would have a still greater tendency to aristocracy; for the rich, being better able to pay than the poor, would engross all the learning to themselves. The Jacobins were of opinion, that there should be no schools, either public or private, but that the children should merely be taken to hear the debates of the Clubs, where they would acquire all the knowledge necessary for
republicans; and a few spirits of a yet sublimer cast were adverse both to schools or clubs, and recommended, that the rising generation should "study the great book of Nature alone." It is, however, at length concluded, that there shall be a certain number of public establishments, and that people shall even be allowed to have their children instructed at home, under the inspection of the constituted authorities, who are to prevent the instillation of aristocratic principles.*

* We may judge of the competency of many of these people to be official censors of education by the following specimens from a report of Gregoire's. Since the rage for destruction has a little subsided, circular letters have been sent to the administrators of the departments, districts, &c. enquiring what antiquities, or other objects of curiosity, remain in their neighbourhood.--"From one, (says Gregoire,) we are informed, that they are possessed of nothing in this way except four vases, which, as they have been told, are of porphyry. From a second we learn, that, not having either forge or manufactory in the neighbourhood, no monument of the arts is to be found there: and a third announces, that the completion of its library cataloges has been retarded, because the person employed at them ne fait pas la diplomatique!"--("does not understand the science of diplomacy.")

The difficulty as to the mode in which children were to be taught being got over, another remained, not less liable to dispute--which was, the choice of what they were to learn. Almost every member had a favourite article---music, physic, prophylactics, geography, geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, natural history, and botany, were all pronounced to be requisites in an eleemosynary system of education, specified to be chiefly intended for the country people; but as this debate regarded only the primary schools for children in their earliest years, and as one man for a stipend of twelve hundred livres a year, was to do it all, a compromise became necessary, and it has been agreed for the present, that infants of six years shall be taught only reading, writing, gymnastics, geometry, geography, natural philosophy, and history of all free nations, and that of all the tyrants, the rights of man, and the patriotic songs. --Yet, after these years of consideration, and days of debate, the Assembly has done no more than a parish-clerk, or an old woman with a primer, and "a twig whilom of small regard to see," would do better without its interference.

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