Essays: English and American. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
On the Elevation of the Laboring Classes: Lecture II
William Ellery Channing
IN my last lecture I invited your attention to a subject of great interest,the elevation of the laboring portion of the community. I proposed to consider, first, in what this elevation consists; secondly the objections which may be made to its practicableness; thirdly, the circumstances which now favor it, and gives us hope that it will be more and more accomplished. In considering the first head, I began with stating in what the elevation of the laboring class does not consist, and then proceeded to show positively what it is, what it does consist in. I want time to retrace the ground over which we then travelled. I must trust to your memories. I was obliged by my narrow limits to confine myself chiefly to the consideration of the intellectual elevation which the laborer is to propose; though, in treating this topic, I showed the moral, religious, social improvements which enter into his true dignity. I observed that the laborer was to be a student, a thinker, an intellectual man, as well as a laborer; and suggested the qualifications of this truth which are required by this peculiar employment, by his daily engagement in manual toil. I now come to consider the objections which spring up in many minds, when such views of the laborers destiny are given. This is our second head.
First, it will be objected, that the laboring multitude cannot command a variety of books, or spend much time in reading; and how then can they gain the force of thought, and the great ideas, which were treated of in the former lecture? This objection grows out of the prevalent disposition to confound intellectual improvement with book-learning. Some seem to think that there is a kind of magic in a printed page, that types give a higher knowledge that can be gained from other sources. Reading is considered as the royal road to intellectual eminence. This prejudice I have virtually set aside in my previous remarks; but it has taken so strong a hold of many as to need some consideration. I shall not attempt to repel the objection by decrying books. Truly good books are more than mines to those who can understand them. They are the breathings of the great souls of past times. Genius is not embalmed in them, as is sometimes said, but lives in them perpetually. But we need not many books to answer the great ends of reading. A few are better than many, and a little time given to a faithful study of the few will be enough to quicken thought and enrich the mind. The greatest men have not been book-men. Washington, it has often been said, was no great reader. The learning commonly gathered from books is of less worth than the truths we gain from experience and reflection. Indeed, most of the knowledge from reading, in these days, being acquired with little mental action, and seldom or never reflected on and turned to use, is very much a vain show. Events stirring the mind to earnest thought and vigorous application of its resources, do vastly more to elevate the mind than most of our studies at the present time. Few of the books read among us deserve to be read. Most of them have no principle of life, as is proved by the fact that they die the year of their birth. They do not come from thinkers, and how can they awaken thought? A great proportion of the reading of this city is useless, I had almost said pernicious. I should be sorry to see our laborers exchanging their toils for the reading of many of our young ladies and young gentlemen, who look on the intellect as given them for amusement; who read, as they visit, for amusement, who discuss no great truths and put forth no energy of thought on the topics which fly through their minds. With this insensibility to the dignity of the intellect, and this frittering away of the mind on superficial reading, I see not with what face they can claim superiority to the laboring mass, who certainly understand one thing thoroughly, that is, their own business, and who are doing something useful for themselves and their fellow-creatures. The great use of books is to rouse us to thought; to turn us to questions which great men have been working on for ages; to furnish us with materials for the exercise of judgment, imagination, and moral feeling; to breathe into us a moral life from higher spirits than our own; and this benefit of books may be enjoyed by those who have not much time for retired study.
It must not be forgotten, by those who despair of the laboring classes because they cannot live in libraries, that the highest sources of truth, light, and elevation of mind, are not libraries, but our inward and outward experience. Human life, with its joys and sorrows, its burdens and alleviations, its crimes and virtues, its deep wants, its solemn changes, and its retributions, always pressing on us; what a library is this! and who may not study it? Every human being is a volume worthy to be studied. The books which circulate most freely through the community are those which give us pictures of human life. How much more improving is the original, did we know how to read it? The laborer has this page always open before him; and, still more, the laborer is every day writing a volume more full of instruction than all human productions,I mean his own life. No work of the most exalted genius can teach us so much as the revelation of human nature in the secrets of our own souls, in the workings of our own passions, in the operations of our own intelligence, in the retributions which follow our own good and evil deeds, in the dissatisfaction with the present, in the spontaneous thoughts and aspirations which form part of every mans biography. The study of our own history from childhood, of all the stages of our development, of the good and bad influences which have beset us, of our mutations of feeling and purpose, and of the great current which is setting us towards future happiness or woe,this is a study to make us nobly wise; and who of us has not access to this fountain of eternal truth? May not the laborer study and understand the pages which he is writing in his own breast?
In these remarks, I have aimed to remove the false notion into which the laborers themselves fall, that they can do little towards acquiring force and fullness of thought, because in want of books. I shall next turn to prejudices more confined to other classes. A very common one is, that the many are not to be called to think, study, improve their minds, because a privileged few are intended by God to do their thinking for them. Providence, it is said, raises up superior minds, whose office it is to discover truth for the rest of the race. Thinking and manual toil are not meant to go together. The division of labor is a great law of nature. One man is to serve society by his head, another by his hands. Let each class keep to its proper work. These doctrines I protest against. I deny to any individual or class this monopoly of thought. Who among men can show Gods commission to think for his brethren, to shape passively the intellect of the mass, to stamp his own image on them as if they were wax? As well might a few claim a monopoly of light and air, of seeing and breathing, as of thought. Is not the intellect as universal a gift as the organs of sight and respiration? Is not truth as freely spread abroad as the atmosphere or the suns rays? Can we imagine that Gods highest gifts of intelligence, imagination, and moral power were bestowed to provide only for animals wants? to be denied the natural means of growth, which is action? to be starved by drudgery? Were the mass of men made to be monsters? to grow only in a few organs and faculties, and to pine away and shrivel in others? or were they made to put forth all the powers of men, especially the best and most distinguishing? No man, not the lowest, is all hands, all bones and muscles. The mind is more essential to human nature, and more enduring, than the limbs; and was this made to lie dead? Is not thought the right and duty of all? Is not truth alike precious to all? Is not truth the natural aliment of the mind, as plainly as the wholesome grain is of the body? Is not the mind adapted to thought, as plainly as the eye to light, the ear to sound? Who dares to withhold it from its natural action, its natural element and joy? Undoubtedly some men are more gifted than others, and are marked out for more studious lives. But the work of such men is not to do others thinking for them, but to help them to think more vigorously and effectually. Great minds are to make others great. Their superiority is to be used, not to break the multitude to intellectual vassalage, not to establish over them a spiritual tyranny, but to rouse them from lethargy, and to aid them to judge for themselves. The light and life which spring up in one soul are to be spread far and wide. Of all treasons against humanity, there is no one worse than his who employs great intellectual force to keep down the intellect of his less favored brother.
It is sometimes urged by those who consider the multitude as not intended to think, that at best they can learn but little, and that this is likely to harm rather than to do them good. A little learning, we are told, is a dangerous thing. Shallow draughts of knowledge are worse than ignorance. The mass of the people, it is said, can go to the bottom of nothing; and the result of stimulating them to thought will be the formation of a dangerous set of half-thinkers. To this argument I reply, first, that it has the inconvenience of proving too much; for, if valid, it shows that none of any class ought to think. For who, I would ask, can go to the bottom of anything? Whose learning is not little? Whose draughts of knowledge are not shallow? Who of us has fathomed the depths of a single product of nature or a single event in history? Who of us is not baffled by the mysteries in a grain of sand? How contracted the range of the widest intellect! But is our knowledge, because so little, of no worth? Are we to despise the lessons which are taught us in this nook of creation, in this narrow round of human experience, because an infinite universe stretches around us, which we have no means of exploring, and in which the earth, and sun, and planets dwindle to a point? We should remember that the known, however little it may be, is in harmony with the boundless unknown, and a step towards it. We should remember, too, that the gravest truths may be gathered from a very narrow compass of information. God is revealed in his smallest work as truly as in his greatest. The principles of human nature may be studied better in a family than in the history of the world. The finite is a manifestation of the infinite. The great ideas, of which I have formerly spoken, are within the reach of every man who thirsts for truth, and seeks it with singleness of mind. I will only add, that the laboring class are not now condemned to draughts of knowledge so shallow as to merit scorn. Many of them know more of the outward world than all the philosophers of antiquity; and Christianity has opened to them mysteries of the spiritual world which kings and prophets were not privileged to understand. And are they, then, to be doomed to spiritual inaction, as incapable of useful thought?
It is sometimes said, that the multitude may think on the common business of life, but not on higher subjects, and especially on religion. This, it is said, must be received on authority; on this, men in general can form no judgment of their own. But this is the last subject on which the individual should be willing to surrender himself to others dictation. In nothing has he so strong an interest. In nothing is it so important that his mind and heart should be alive and engaged. In nothing has he readier means of judging for himself. In nothing, as history shows, is he more likely to be led astray by such as assume the office of thinking for him. Religion is a subject open to all minds. Its great truths have their foundation in the soul itself, and their proofs surround us on all sides. God has not shut up the evidence of his being in a few books, written in a foreign language, and locked up in the libraries of colleges and philosophers; but has written his name on the heavens and on the earth, and even on the minutest animal and plant; and his word, taught by Jesus Christ, was not given to scribes and lawyers, but taught to the poor, to the mass of men, on mountains, in streets, and on the sea shore. Let me not be told that the multitude do actually receive religion on authority, or on the word of others. I reply, that a faith so received seems to me of little worth. The precious, the living, the effectual part of a poor mans faith, is that of which he sees the reasonableness and excellence; that which approves itself to his intelligence, his conscience; his heart; that which answers to deep wants in his own soul, and of which he has the witness in his own inward and outward experience. All other parts of his belief, those which he takes on blind trust, and in which he sees no marks of truth and divinity, do him little or no good. Too often they do him harm, by perplexing his simple reason, by substituting the fictions and artificial systems of theologians for the plain precepts of love, and justice, and humility, and filial trust in God. As long as it was supposed that religion is to benefit the world by laying restraints, awakening fears, and acting as a part of the system of police, so long it was natural to rely on authority and tradition as the means of its propagation; so long it was desirable to stifle thought and inquiry on the subject. But now that we have learned that the true office of religion is to awaken pure and lofty sentiments, and to unite man to God by rational homage and enlightened love, there is something monstrous in placing religion beyond the thought and the study of the mass of the human race.
I proceed to another prejudice. It is objected, that the distinction of ranks is essential to social order, and that this will be swept away by calling forth energy of thought in all men. This objection, indeed, though exceedingly insisted on in Europe, has nearly died out here; but still enough of it lingers among us to deserve consideration. I reply, then, that it is a libel on social order to suppose that it requires for its support the reduction of the multitude of human beings to ignorance and servility; and that it is a libel on the Creator to suppose that he requires, as the foundation of communities, the systematic depression of the majority of his intelligent offspring. The supposition is too grossly unreasonable, too monstrous, to require labored refutation. I see no need of ranks, either for social order or for any other purpose. A great variety of pursuits and conditions is indeed to be desired. Men ought to follow their genius, and to put forth their powers in every useful and lawful way. I do not ask for a monotonous world. We are far too monotonous now. The vassalage of fashion, which is a part of rank, prevents continually the free expansion of mens powers. Let us have the greatest diversity of occupations. But this does not imply that there is a need of splitting society into castes or ranks, or that a certain number should arrogate superiority, and stand apart from the rest of men as a separate race. Men may work in different departments of life, and yet recognize their brotherly relation, and honor one another, and hold friendly communion with one another. Undoubtedly, men will prefer as friends and common associates those with whom they sympathize most. But this is not to form a rank or caste. For example, the intelligent seek out the intelligent; the pious, those who reverence God. But suppose the intellectual and the religious to cut themselves off by some broad, visible distinction from the rest of society, to form a clan of their own, to refuse admission into their houses to people of inferior knowledge and virtue, and to diminish as far as possible the occasions of intercourse with them; would not society rise up, as one man, against this arrogant exclusiveness? And if intelligence and piety may not be the foundations of a caste, on what ground shall they, who have no distinction but wealth, superior costume, richer equipages, finer houses, draw lines around themselves and constitute themselves a higher class? That some should be richer than others is natural and is necessary, and could only be prevented by gross violations of right. Leave men to the free use of their powers, and some will accumulate more than their neighbors. But to be prosperous is not to be superior; and should form no barrier between men. Wealth ought not to secure to the prosperous the slightest consideration. The only distinctions which should be recognized are those of the soul, of strong principle, of incorruptible integrity, of usefulness, of cultivated intellect, of fidelity in seeking for truth. A man in proportion as he has these claims, should be honored and welcomed everywhere. I see not why such a man, however coarsely if neatly dressed, should not be a respected guest in the most splendid mansions, and at the most brilliant meetings. A man is worth infinitely more than the saloons, and the costumes, and the show of the universe. He was made to tread all these beneath his feet. What an insult to humanity is the present deference to dress and upholstery, as if silk-worms, and looms, and scissors, and needles could produce something nobler than a man! Every good man should protest against a caste founded on outward prosperity, because it exalts the outward above the inward, the material above the spiritual; because it springs from and cherishes a contemptible pride in superficial and transitory distinctions; because it alienates man from his brother, breaks the tie of common humanity, and breeds jealousy, scorn, and mutual ill-will. Can this be needed to social order?
It is true, that in countries where the mass of the people are ignorant and servile, the existence of a higher and a worshipped rank tends to keep them from outrage. It infuses a sentiment of awe, which prevents more or less the need of force and punishment. But it is worthy of remark that the means of keeping order in one state of society may become the chief excitement of discontent and disorder in another, and this is peculiarly true of aristocracy or high rank. In rude ages, this keeps the people down; but when the people by degrees have risen to some consciousness of their rights and essential equality with the rest of the race, the awe of rank naturally subsides, and passes into suspicion, jealousy, and sense of injury, and a disposition to resist. The very institution which one restrained, now provokes. Through this process the Old World is now passing. The strange illusion, that a man, because he wears a garter or a riband, or was born to a title, belongs to another race, is fading away; and society must pass through a series of revolutions, silent or bloody, until a more natural order takes place of distinctions which grew originally out of force. Thus aristocracy, instead of giving order to society, now convulses it. So impossible is it for arbitrary human ordinations permanently to degrade human nature or subvert the principles of justice and freedom.
I am aware that it will be said, that the want of refinement of manners and taste in the lower classes will necessarily keep them an inferior caste, even though all political inequalities be removed. I acknowledge this defect of manners in the multitude, and grant that it is an obstacle to intercourse with the more improved, though often exaggerated. But this is a barrier which must and will yield to the means of culture spread through our community. The evil is not necessarily associated with any condition of human life. An intelligent traveller1 tells us, that in Norway, a country wanting many of our advantages, good manners and politeness are spread through all conditions; and that the rough way of talking to and living with each other, characteristic of the lower classes of society in England, is not found there. Not many centuries ago, the intercourse of the highest orders in Europe was sullied by indelicacy and fierceness; but time has worn out these stains, and the same cause is now removing what is repulsive among those who toil with their hands. I cannot believe that coarse manners, boisterous conversation, slovenly negligence, filthy customs, surliness, indecency, are to descend by necessity from generation to generation in any portion of the community. I do not see why neatness, courtesy, delicacy, ease, and deference to others feelings, may not be made the habits of the laboring multitude. A change is certainly going on among them in respect to manners. Let us hope that it will be a change for the better; that they will not adopt false notions of refinement; that they will escape the servile imitation of what is hollow and insincere, and the substitution of outward shows for genuine natural courtesy. Unhappily they have but imperfect models on which to form themselves. It is not one class alone which needs reform in manners. We all need a new social intercourse, which shall breathe genuine refinement; which shall unite the two great elements of politeness, self-respect, and a delicate regard to the rights and feelings of others; which shall be free without rudeness, and earnest without positiveness; which shall be graceful, yet warmhearted; and in which communication shall be frank, unlabored, overflowing, through the absence of all assumption and pretence, and through the consciousness of being safe from heartless ridicule. This grand reform, which I trust is to come, will bring with it a happiness little known in social life; and whence shall it come? The wise and disinterested of all conditions must contribute to it; and I see not why the laboring classes may not take part in the work. Indeed, when I consider the greater simplicity of their lives and their greater openness to the spirit of Christianity, I am not sure but that the golden age of manners is to begin among those who are now despaired of for their want of refinement.
In these remarks, I have given the name of prejudices to the old opinions respecting rank, and respecting the need of keeping the people from much thought. But allow these opinions to have a foundation in truth; suppose high fences of rank to be necessary to refinement of manners; suppose that the happiest of all ages were the feudal, when aristocracy was in its flower and glory, when the noble, superior to the laws, committed more murders in one year than the multitude in twenty. Suppose it best for the laborer to live and die in thoughtless ignorance. Allow all this, and that we have reason to look with envy on the past; one thing is plain, the past is gone, the feudal castle is dismantled, the distance between classes greatly reduced. Unfortunate as it may be, the people have begun to think, to ask reasons for what they do and suffer and believe, and to call the past to account. Old spells are broken, old reliances gone. Men can no longer be kept down by pageantry, state-robes, forms, and shows. Allowing it to be best that society should rest on the depression of the multitude, the multitude will no longer be quiet when they are trodden under foot, but ask impatiently for a reason why they too may not have a share in social blessings. Such is the state of things, and we must make the best of what we cannot prevent. Right or wrong, the people will think; and is it not important that they should think justly? that they should be inspired with the love of truth, and instructed how to seek it? that they should be established by wise culture in the great principles on which religion and society rest, and be protected from scepticism and wild speculation by intercourse with enlightened and virtuous men? It is plain that in the actual state of the world, nothing can avail us but a real improvement of the mass of the people. No stable foundation can be laid for us but in mens minds. Alarming as the truth is, it should be told, that outward institutions cannot now secure us. Mightier powers than institutions have come into play among us,the judgment, the opinions, the feelings of the many; and all hopes of stability which do not rest on the progress of the many, must perish.
But a more serious objection than any yet considered, to the intellectual elevation of the laboring class, remains to be stated. It is said, that the laborer can gain subsistence for himself and his family only by a degree of labor which forbids the use of means of improvement. His necessary toils leave no time or strength for thought. Political economy, by showing that population outstrips the means of improvement, passes an irrepealable sentence of ignorance and degradation on the laborer. He can live but for one end, which is to keep himself alive. He cannot give time and strength to intellectual, social, and moral culture, without starving his family, and impoverishing the community. Nature has laid this heavy law on the mass of the people, and it is idle to set up our theories and dreams of improvement against nature.
This objection applies with great force to Europe, and is not without weight here. But it does not discourage me. I reply, first, to this objection, that it generally comes from a suspicious source. It comes generally from men who abound, and are at ease; who think more of property than of any other human interest; who have little concern for the mass of their fellow creatures; who are willing that others should bear all the burdens of life, and that any social order should continue which secures to themselves personal comfort or gratification. The selfish epicure and the thriving man of business easily discover a natural necessity for that state of things which accumulates on themselves all the blessings, and on their neighbor all the evils, of life. But no man can judge what is good or necessary for the multitude but he who feels for them, and whose equity and benevolence are shocked by the thought that all advantages are to be monopolized by one set of men, and all disadvantages by another. I wait for the judgment of profound thinkers and earnest philanthropists on this point,a judgment formed after patient study of political economy, and human nature and human history; nor even on such authority shall I readily despair of the multitude of my race.
In the next place, the objection under consideration is very much a repetition of the old doctrine, that what has been must be; that the future is always to repeat the past, and society to tread for ever the beaten path. But can any thing be plainer than that the present condition of the world is peculiar, unprecedented? that new powers and new principles are at work? that the application of science to art is accomplishing a stupendous revolution? that the condition of the laborer is in many places greatly improved, and his intellectual aids increased? that abuses, once thought essential to society, and which seemed entwined with all its fibres, have been removed? Do the mass of men stand where they did a few centuries ago? And do not new circumstances, if they make us fearful, at the same time keep us from despair? The future, be it what it may, will not resemble the past. The present has new elements, which must work out new weal or woe. We have no right, then, on the ground of the immutableness of human affairs, to quench, as far as we have power, the hope of social progress.
Another consideration, in reply to the objection that the necessary toils of life exclude improvement, may be drawn not only from general history, but from the experience of this country in particular. The working classes here have risen and are still rising intellectually, and yet there are no signs of starvation, nor are we becoming the poorest people on earth. By far the most interesting view of this country is the condition of the working multitude. Nothing among us deserves the attention of the traveller so much as the force of thought and character, and the self-respect awakened by our history and institutions in the mass of the people. Our prosperous classes are much like the same classes abroad, though, as we hope, of purer morals; but the great working multitude leave far behind them the laborers of other countries. No man of observation and benevolence can converse with them without being struck and delighted with the signs they give of strong and sound intellect and manly principle. And who is authorized to set bounds to this progress? In improvement the first steps are the hardest. The difficulty it to wake up mens souls, not to continue their action. Every accession of light and strength is a help to new acquisitions.
Another consideration, in reply to the objection, is, that as yet no community has seriously set itself to the work of improving all its members, so that what is possible remains to be ascertained. No experiment has been made to determine how far liberal provision can be made at once for the body and mind of the laborer. The highest social art is yet in its infancy. Great minds have nowhere solemnly, earnestly undertaken to resolve the problem, how the multitude of men may be elevated. The trial is to come. Still more, the multitude have nowhere comprehended distinctly the true idea of progress, and resolved deliberately and solemnly to reduce it to reality. This great thought, however, is gradually opening on them, and it is destined to work wonders. From themselves their salvation must chiefly come. Little can be done for them by others, till a spring is touched in their own breasts; and this being done, they cannot fail. The people, as history shows us, can accomplish miracles under the power of a great idea. How much have they often done and suffered in critical moments for country, for religion! The great idea of their own elevation is only beginning to unfold itself within them, and its energy is not to be foretold. A lofty conception of this kind, were it once distinctly seized, would be a new life breathed into them. Under this impulse they would create time and strength for their high calling, and would not only regenerate themselves, but the community.
Again, I am not discouraged by the objection, that the laborer, if encouraged to give time and strength to the elevation of his mind, will starve himself and impoverish the country, when I consider the energy and efficiency of mind. The highest force in the universe is mind. This created the heavens and earth. This has changed the wilderness into fruitfulness, and linked distant countries in a beneficent ministry to one anothers wants. It is not to brute force, to physical strength, so much as to art, to skill, to intellectual and moral energy, that men owe their mastery over the world. It is mind which has conquered matter. To fear, then, that by calling forth a peoples mind, we shall impoverish and starve them, is to be frightened at a shadow. I believe, that with the growth of intellectual and moral power in the community, its productive power will increase, that industry will become more efficient, that a wiser economy will accumulate wealth, that unimagined resources of art and nature will be discovered. I believe that the means of living will grow easier, in proportion as a people shall become enlightened, self-respecting, resolute, and just. Bodily or material forces can be measured, but not the forces of the soul; nor can the results of increased mental energy be foretold. Such a community will tread down obstacles now deemed invincible, and turn them into helps. The inward moulds the outward. The power of a people lies in its mind; and this mind, if fortified and enlarged, will bring external things into harmony with itself. It will create a new world around it, corresponding to itself. If, however, I err in this belief; if, by securing time and means for improvement to the multitude, industry and capital should become less productive, I still say, Sacrifice the wealth, and not the mind of a people. Nor do I believe that the physical good of a community would in this way be impaired. The diminution of a countrys wealth, occasioned by general attention to intellectual and moral culture, would be followed by very different effects from those which would attend an equal diminution brought about by sloth, intemperance, and ignorance. There would indeed be less production in such a country, but the character and spirit of the people would effect a much more equal distribution of what would be produced; and the happiness of a community depends vastly more on the distribution than on the amount of its wealth. In thus speaking of the future, I do not claim any special prophetical gift. As a general rule, no man is able to foretell distinctly the ultimate, permanent results of any great social change. But as to the case before us, we ought not to doubt. It is a part of religion to believe that by nothing can a country so effectually gain happiness and lasting prosperity as by the elevation of all classes of its citizens. To question this seems an approach to crime.
I am aware that, in reply to all that has been said in favor of the possibility of uniting self-improvement with labor, discouraging facts may be brought forward from our daily experience. It may be said that in this country, under advantages unknown in other lands, there is a considerable number on whom the burden of toil presses very heavily, who can scarcely live with all their efforts, and who are cut off by their hard condition from the means of intellectual culture; and if this take place now, what are we to expect hereafter in a more crowded population? I acknowledge that we have a number of depressed laborers, whose state is exceedingly unpropitious to the education of the mind; but this argument will lose much of its power when we inquire into the causes of this evil. We shall then see that it comes, not from outward necessity, not from the irresistible obstacles abroad, but chiefly from the fault or ignorance of the sufferers themselves; so that the elevation of the mind and character of the laborer tends directly to reduce, if not remove, the evil. Of consequence, this elevation finds support in what is urged against it. In confirmation of these views, allow me just to hint at the causes of that depression of many laborers which is said to show that labor and self-improvement cannot go on together.
First, how much of this depression is to be traced to intemperance? What a great amount of time, and strength, and money, might multitudes gain for self-improvement, by a strict sobriety! That cheap remedy, pure water, would cure the chief evils in very many families of the ignorant and poor. Were the sums which are still lavished on ardent spirits appropriated wisely to the elevation of the people, what a new world we should live in! Intemperance not only wastes the earnings, but the health and the minds of men. How many, were they to exchange what they call moderate drinking for water, would be surprised to learn that they had been living under a cloud, in half-stupefaction, and would become conscious of an intellectual energy of which they had not before dreamed! Their labors would exhaust them less; and less labor would be needed for their support; and thus their inability to cultivate their high nature would in a great measure be removed. The working class, above all men, have an interest in the cause of temperance, and they ought to look on the individual who lives by scattering the means and excitements of drunkenness not only as the general enemy of his race, but as their own worst foe.
In the next place, how much of the depression of laborers may be traced to the want of a strict economy! The prosperity of this country has produced a wastefulness that has extended to the laboring multitude. A man, here, turns with scorn from fare that in many countries would be termed luxurious. It is, indeed, important that the standard of living in all classes should be high; that is, it should include the comforts of life, the means of neatness and order in our dwellings, and such supplies of our wants as are fitted to secure vigorous health. But how many waste their earnings on indulgences which may be spared, and thus have no resource for a dark day, and are always trembling on the brink of pauperism! Needless expenses keep many too poor for self-improvement. And here let me say, that expensive habits among the more prosperous laborers often interfere with the mental culture of themselves and their families. How many among them sacrifice improvement to appetite! How many sacrifice it to the love of show, to the desire of outstripping others, and to habits of expense which grow out of this insatiable passion! In a country so thriving and luxurious as ours, the laborer is in danger of contracting artificial wants and diseased tastes; and to gratify these he gives himself wholly to accumulation, and sells his mind for gain. Our unparalleled prosperity has not been an unmixed good. It has inflamed cupidity, has diseased the imagination with dreams of boundless success, and plunged a vast multitude into excessive toils, feverish competitions, and exhausting cares. A laborer, having secured a neat home and a wholesome table, should ask nothing more for the senses; but should consecrate his leisure, and what may be spared of his earnings, to the culture of himself and his family, to the best books, to the best teaching, to pleasant and profitable intercourse, to sympathy and the offices of humanity, and to the enjoyment of the beautiful in nature and art. Unhappily, the laborer, if prosperous, is anxious to ape the rich man, instead of trying to rise above him, as he often may, by noble acquisitions. The young in particular, the apprentice and the female domestic, catch a taste for fashion, and on this altar sacrifice too often their uprightness, and almost always the spirit of improvement, dooming themselves to ignorance, if not to vice, for a vain show. Is this evil without remedy? Is human nature always to be sacrificed to outward decoration? Is the outward always to triumph over the inward man? Is nobleness of sentiment never to spring up among us? May not a reform in this particular begin in the laboring class, since it seems so desperate among the more prosperous? Cannot the laborer, whose condition calls him so loudly to simplicity of taste and habits, take his stand against that love of dress which dissipates and corrupts so many minds among the opulent? Cannot the laboring class refuse to measure men by outward success, and pour utter scorn on all pretensions founded on outward show or condition? Sure I am, that, were they to study plainness of dress and simplicity of living, for the purpose of their own true elevation, they would surpass in intellect, in taste, in honorable qualities, and in present enjoyment, that great proportion of the prosperous who are softened into indulgence or enslaved to empty show. By such self-denial, how might the burden of labor be lightened, and time and strength redeemed for improvement!
Another cause of the depressed condition of not a few laborers, as I believe, is their ignorance on the subject of health. Health is the working mans fortune, and he ought to watch over it more than the capitalist over his largest investments. Health lightens the efforts of body and mind. It enables a man to crowd much work into a narrow compass. Without it, little can be earned, and that little by slow, exhausting toil. For these reasons I cannot but look on it as a good omen that the press is circulating among us cheap works, in which much useful knowledge is given of the structure, and functions, and laws of the human body. It is in no small measure through our own imprudence that disease and debility are incurred, and one remedy is to be found in knowledge. Once let the mass of the people be instructed in their own frames; let them understand clearly that disease is not an accident, but has fixed causes, many of which they can avert, and a great amount of suffering, want, and consequent intellectual depression will be removed.I hope I shall not be thought to digress too far, when I add, that were the mass of the community more enlightened on these points, they would apply their knowledge, not only to their private habits, but to the government of the city, and would insist on municipal regulations favoring general health. This they owe to themselves. They ought to require a system of measures for effectually cleansing the city; for supplying it with pure water, either at public expense or by a private corporation; and for prohibiting the erection or the letting of such buildings as must generate disease. What a sad thought is it, that in this metropolis, the blessings which God pours forth profusely on bird and beast, the blessings of air, and light, and water, should, in the case of many families, be so stinted or so mixed with impurities, as to injure instead of invigorating the frame! With what face can the great cities of Europe and America boast of their civilization, when within their limits thousands and ten thousands perish for want of Gods freest, most lavish gifts! Can we expect improvement among people who are cut off from natures common bounties, and want those cheering influences of the elements which even savages enjoy? In this city, how much health, how many lives are sacrificed to the practice of letting cellars and rooms which cannot be ventilated, which want the benefits of light, free air, and pure water, and the means of removing filth! We forbid by law the selling of putrid meat in the market. Why do we not forbid the renting of rooms in which putrid, damp and noisome vapors are working as sure destruction as the worst food? Did people understand that they are as truly poisoned in such dens as by tainted meat and decaying vegetables, would they not appoint commissioners for houses as truly as commissioners for markets? Ought not the renting of untenantable rooms, and the crowding of such numbers into a single room as must breed disease, and may infect a neighborhood, be as much forbidden as the importation of a pestilence? I have enlarged on this point, because I am persuaded that the morals, manners, decencies, self-respect, and intellectual improvement, as well as the health and physical comforts of a people, depend on no outward circumstances more than on the quality of the houses in which they live. The remedy of the grievance now stated lies with the people themselves. The laboring people must require that the health of the city shall be a leading object of the municipal administration, and in so doing they will protect at once the body and the mind.
I will mention one more cause of the depressed condition of many laborers, and that is, sloth, the sin which doth most easily beset us. How many are there who, working languidly and reluctantly, bring little to pass, spread the work of one hour over many, shrink from difficulties which ought to excite them, keep themselves poor, and thus doom their families to ignorance as well as to want!
In these remarks I have endeavored to show that the great obstacles to the improvement of the laboring classes are in themselves, and many therefore be overcome. They want nothing but the will. Outward difficulty will shrink and vanish before them, just as far as they are bent on progress, just as far as the great idea of their own elevation shall take possession of their minds. I know that many will smile at the suggestion, that the laborer may be brought to practise thrift and self-denial, for the purpose of becoming a nobler being. But such sceptics, having never experienced the power of a grand thought or generous purpose, are no judges of others. They may be assured, however, that enthusiasm is not wholly a dream, and that it is not wholly unnatural for individuals or bodies to get the idea of something higher and more inspiring than their past attainments.
III. Having now treated of the elevation of the laborer, and examined the objections to it, I proceed, in the last place, to consider some of the circumstances of the times which encourage hopes of the progress of the mass of the people. My limits oblige me to confine myself to very few.And, first, it is an encouraging circumstance, that the respect for labor is increasing, or rather that the old prejudices against manual toil, as degrading a man or putting him in a lower sphere, are wearing away; and the cause of this change is full of promise; for it is to be found in the progress of intelligence, Christianity, and freedom, all of which cry aloud against the old barriers created between the different classes, and challenge especial sympathy and regard for those who bear the heaviest burdens, and create most of the comforts of social life. The contempt of labor of which I have spoken is a relic of the old aristocratic prejudices which formerly proscribed trade as unworthy of a gentleman, and must die out with other prejudices of the same low origin. And the results must be happy. It is hard for a class of men to respect themselves who are denied respect by all around them. A vocation looked on as degrading will have a tendency to degrade those who follow it. Away, then, with the idea of something low in manual labor. There is something shocking to a religious man in the thought that the employment which God has ordained for the vast majority of the human race should be unworthy of any man, even to the highest. If, indeed, there were an employment which could not be dispensed with, and which yet tended to degrade such as might be devoted to it, I should say that it ought to be shared by the whole race, and thus neutralized by extreme division, instead of being laid, as the sole vocation, on one man or a few. Let no human being be broken in spirit or trodden under foot for the outward prosperity of the State. So far is manual labor from meriting contempt or slight, that it will probably be found, when united with true means of spiritual culture, to foster a sounder judgment, a keener observation, a more creative imagination, and a purer taste, than any other vocation. Man thinks of the few, God of the many; and the many will be found at length to have within their reach the most effectual means of progress.
Another encouraging circumstance of the times is the creation of a popular literature, which puts within the reach of the laboring class the means of knowledge in whatever branch they wish to cultivate. Amidst the worthless volumes which are every day sent from the press for mere amusement, there are books of great value in all departments, published for the benefit of the mass of readers. Mines of inestimable truth are thus open to all who are resolved to think and learn. Literature is now adapting itself to all wants; and I have little doubt that a new form of it will soon appear for the special benefit of the laboring classes. This will have for its object, to show the progress of the various useful arts, and to preserve the memory of their founders, and of men who have laid the world under obligation by great inventions. Every trade has distinguished names in its history. Some trades can number, among those who have followed them, philosophers, poets, men of true genius. I would suggest to the members of this Association whether a course of lectures, intended to illustrate the history of the more important trades, and of the great blessings they have conferred on society, and of the eminent individuals who have practised them, might not do much to instruct, and, at the same time, to elevate them. Such a course would carry them far into the past, would open to them much interesting information, and at the same time introduce them to men whom they may well make their models. I would go farther. I should be pleased to see the members of an important trade setting apart an anniversary for the commemoration of those who have shed lustre on it by their virtues, their discoveries, their genius. It is time that honor should be awarded on higher principles than have governed the judgment of past ages. Surely the inventor of the press, the discoverer of the compass, the men who have applied the power of steam to machinery, have brought the human race more largely into their debt than the bloody race of conquerors, and even than many beneficent princes. Antiquity exalted into divinities the first cultivators of wheat and the useful plants, and the first forgers of metals; and we, in these maturer ages of the world, have still greater names to boast in the records of useful art. Let their memory be preserved to kindle a generous emulation in those who have entered into their labors.
Another circumstance, encouraging the hope of progress in the laboring class, is to be found in the juster views they are beginning to adopt in regard to the education of their children. On this foundation, indeed, our hope for all classes must chiefly rest. All are to rise chiefly by the care bestowed on the young. Not that I would say, as is sometimes rashly said, that none but the young can improve. I give up no age as desperate. Men who have lived thirty, or fifty years, are not to feel as if the door was shut upon them. Every man who thirsts to become something better has in that desire a pledge that his labor will not be in vain. None are too old to learn. The world, from our first to our last hour, is our school, and the whole of life has but one great purpose,education. Still, the child, uncorrupted, unhardened, is the most hopeful subject; and vastly more, I believe, is hereafter to be done for children, than ever before, by the gradual spread of a simple truth, almost too simple, one would think, to need exposition, yet up to this day wilfully neglected, namely, that education is a sham, a cheat, unless carried on by able, accomplished teachers. The dignity of the vocation of a teacher is beginning to be understood; the idea is dawning on us that no office can compare in solemnity and importance with that of training the child; that skill to form the young to energy, truth, and virtue, is worth more than the knowledge of all other arts and sciences; and that; of consequence, the encouragement of excellent teachers is the first duty which a community owes to itself. I say the truth is dawning, and it must make its way. The instruction of the children of all classes, especially of the laboring class, has as yet been too generally committed to unprepared, unskillful hands, and of course the school is in general little more than a name. The whole worth of a school lies in the teacher. You may accumulate the most expensive apparatus for instruction; but without an intellectual, gifted teacher, it is little better than rubbish; and such a teacher, without apparatus, may effect the happiest results. Our university boasts, and with justice, of its library, cabinets, and philosophical instruments; but these are lifeless, profitless, except as made effectual by the men who use them. A few eminent men, skilled to understand, reach, and quicken the minds of the pupils, are worth all these helps. And I say this, because it is commonly thought that the children of the laboring class cannot be advanced, in consequence of the inability of parents to furnish a variety of books and other apparatus. But in education, various books and implements are not the great requisites, but a high order of teachers. In truth, a few books do better than many. The object of education is not so much to give a certain amount of knowledge, as to awaken the faculties, and give the pupil the use of his own mind; and one book, taught by a man who knows how to accomplish these ends, is worth more than libraries as usually read. It is not necessary that much should be taught in youth, but that a little should be taught philosophically, profoundly, livingly. For example, it is not necessary that the pupil be carried over the history of the world from the deluge to the present day. Let him be helped to read a single history wisely, to apply the principles of historical evidence to its statements, to trace the causes and effects of events, to penetrate into the motives of actions, to observe the workings of human nature in what is done and suffered, to judge impartially of action and character, to sympathize with what is noble, to detect the spirit of an age in different forms from our own, to seize the great truths which are wrapped up in details, and to discern a moral Providence, a retribution, amidst all corruptions and changes; let him learn to read a single history thus, and he has learned to read all histories; he is prepared to study, as he may have time in future life, the whole course of human events; he is better educated by this one book than he would be by all the histories in all languages as commonly taught. The education of the laborers children need never stop for want of books and apparatus. More of them would do good, but enough may be easily obtained. What we want is, a race of teachers acquainted with the philosophy of the mind, gifted men and women, who shall respect human nature in the child, and strive to touch and gently bring out his best powers and sympathies; and who shall devote themselves to this as the great end of life. This good, I trust, is to come, but it comes slowly. The establishment of normal schools shows that the want of it begins to be felt. This good requires that education shall be recognized by the community as its highest interest and duty. It requires that the instructors of youth shall take precedence of the money-getting classes, and that the woman of fashion shall fall behind the female teacher. It requires that parents shall sacrifice show and pleasure to the acquisition of the best possible helps and guides for their children. Not that a great pecuniary compensation is to create good teachers; these must be formed by individual impulse, by a genuine interest in education; but good impulse must be seconded by outward circumstances; and the means of education will always bear a proportion to the respect in which the office of teacher is held in the community.
Happily, in this country, the true idea of education, of its nature and supreme importance, is silently working and gains ground. Those of us who look back on half a century, see a real, great improvement in schools and in the standard of instruction. What should encourage this movement in this country is, that nothing is wanting here to the intellectual elevation of the laboring class but that a spring should be given to the child, and that the art of thinking justly and strongly should be formed in early life; for, this preparation being made, the circumstances of future life will almost of themselves carry on the work of improvement. It is one of the inestimable benefits of free institutions, that they are constant stimulants to the intellect; that they furnish, in rapid succession, quickening subjects of thought and discussion. A whole people at the same moment are moved to reflect, reason, judge, and act on matters of deep and universal concern; and where the capacity of thought has received wise culture, the intellect, unconsciously, by an almost irresistible sympathy, is kept perpetually alive. The mind, like the body, depends on the climate it lives in, on the air it breathes; and the air of freedom is bracing, exhilarating, expanding, to a degree not dreamed of under a despotism. This stimulus of liberty, however, avails little, except where the mind has learned to think for the acquisition of truth. The unthinking and passionate are hurried by it into ruinous excess.
The last ground of hope for the elevation of the laborer, and the chief and the most sustaining, is the clearer development of the principles of Christianity. The future influences of this religion are not to be judged from the past. Up to this time it has been made a political engine, and in other ways perverted. But its true spirit, the spirit of brotherhood and freedom, is beginning to be understood, and this will undo the work which opposite principles have been carrying on for ages. Christianity is the only effectual remedy for the fearful evils of modern civilization,a system which teaches its members to grasp at everything, and to rise above everybody, as the great aims of life. Of such a civilization the natural fruits are, contempt of others rights, fraud, oppression, a gambling spirit in trade, reckless adventure, and commercial convulsions, all tending to impoverish the laborer and to render every condition insecure. Relief is to come, and can only come, from the new application of Christian principles, of universal justice and universal love, to social institutions, to commerce, to business, to active life. This application has begun, and the laborer, above all men, is to feel its happy and exalting influences.
Such are some of the circumstances which inspire hopes of the elevation of the laboring classes. To these might be added other strong grounds of encouragement, to be found in the principles of human nature, in the perfections and providence of God, and in the prophetic intimations of his word. But these I pass over. From all I derive strong hopes for the mass of men. I do not, cannot see, why manual toil and self-improvement may not go on in friendly union. I do not see why the laborer may not attain to refined habits and manners as truly as other men. I do not see why conversation under his humble roof may not be cheered by wit and exalted by intelligence. I do not see why, amidst his toils, he may not cast his eye around him on Gods glorious creation, and be strengthened and refreshed by the sight. I do not see why the great ideas which exalt humanitythose of the Infinite Father, of perfection, of our nearness to God, and of the purpose of our beingmay not grow bright and strong in the laborers mind. Society, I trust, is tending towards a condition in which it will look back with astonishment at the present neglect or perversion of human powers. In the development of a more enlarged philanthropy, in the diffusion of the Christian spirit of brotherhood, in the recognition of the equal rights of every human being, we have the dawn and promise of a better age, when no man will be deprived of the means of elevation but by his own fault; when the evil doctrine, worthy of the archfiend, that social order demands the depression of the mass of men, will be rejected with horror and scorn; when the great object of the community will be to accumulate means and influences for awakening and expanding the best powers of all classes; when far less will be expended on the body and far more on the mind; when men of uncommon gifts for the instruction of their race will be sent forth to carry light and strength into every sphere of human life; when spacious libraries, collections of the fine arts, cabinets of natural history, and all the institutions by which the people may be refined and ennobled, will be formed and thrown open to all; and when the toils of life, by a wise intermixture of these higher influences, will be made the instruments of human elevation.
Such are my hopes of the intellectual, moral, religious, social elevation of the laboring class. I should not, however, be true to myself, did I not add that I have fears as well as hopes. Time is not left me to enlarge on this point; but without a reference to it I should not give you the whole truth. I would not disguise from myself or others the true character of the world we live in. Human imperfection throws an uncertainty over the future. Society, like the natural world, holds in its bosom fearful elements. Who can hope that the storms which have howled over past ages have spent all their force? It is possible that the laboring classes, by their recklessness, their passionateness, their jealousies of the more prosperous, and their subserviency to parties and political leaders, may turn all their bright prospects into darkness, may blight the hopes which philanthropy now cherishes of a happier and holier social state. It is also possible, in this mysterious state of things, that evil may come to them from causes which are thought to promise them nothing but good. The present anxiety and universal desire is to make the country rich, and it is taken for granted that its growing wealth is necessarily to benefit all conditions. But is this consequence sure? May not a country be rich, and yet great numbers of the people be woefully depressed? In England, the richest nation under heaven, how sad, how degraded the state of the agricultural and manufacturing classes! It is thought that the institutions of this country give an assurance that growing wealth will here equally benefit and carry forward all portions of the community. I hope so; but I am not sure. At the present time a momentous change is taking place in our condition. The improvement in steam navigation has half annihilated the space between Europe and America, and by the progress of invention the two continents are to be more and more placed side by side. We hail this triumph of the arts with exultation. We look forward to the approaching spring, when this metropolis is to be linked with England by a line of steamboats, as a proud era in our history. That a great temporary excitement will be given to industry, and that our wealth and numbers will increase, admits no dispute; but this is a small matter. The great question is, Will the mass of the people be permanently advanced in the comforts of life, and, still more, in intelligence and character, in the culture of their highest powers and affections? It is not enough to grow, if our growth is to resemble that of other populous places. Better continue as we are, better even decline, than tread in the steps of any great city, whether of past or present times. I doubt not that, under Gods providence, the approximation of Europe and America is ultimately to be a blessing to both; but without our vigilance, the nearer effects may be more or less disastrous. It cannot be doubted that for a time many among us, especially in the prosperous classes, will be more and more infected from abroad, will sympathize more with the institutions, and catch more the spirit and manners, of the Old World. As a people we want moral independence. We bow to the great of other countries, and we shall become for a time more and more servile in our imitation. But this, though bad, may not be the worst result. I would ask, What is to be the effect of bringing the laboring classes of Europe twice as near us as they now are? Is there no danger of a competition that is to depress the laboring classes here? Can the workman here stand his ground against the half-famished, ignorant workmen of Europe, who will toil for any wages, and who never think of redeeming an hour for personal improvement? Is there no danger that, with increasing intercourse with Europe, we shall import the striking, fearful contrasts which there divide one people into separate nations? Sooner than that our laboring class should become a European populace, a good man would almost wish that perpetual hurricanes, driving every ship from the ocean, should sever wholly the two hemispheres from each other. Heaven preserve us from the anticipated benefits of nearer connection with Europe, if with these must come the degradation which we see or read of among the squalid poor of her great cities, among the overworked operatives of her manufacturers, among her ignorant and half-brutalized peasants. Any thing, every thing should be done to save us from the social evils which deform the Old World, and to build up here an intelligent, right-minded, self-respecting population. If this end should require us to change our present modes of life, to narrow our foreign connections, to desist from the race of commercial and manufacturing competition with Europe; if it should require that our great cities should cease to grow, and that a large portion of our trading population should return to labor, these requisitions ought to be obeyed. One thing is plain, that our present civilization contains strong tendencies to the intellectual and moral depression of a large portion of the community; and this influence ought to be thought of, studied, watched, withstood, with a stern solemn purpose of withholding no sacrifice by which it may be counteracted.
Perhaps the fears now expressed may be groundless. I do not ask you to adopt them. My end will be gained if I can lead you to study, habitually and zealously, the influence of changes and measures on the character and condition of the laboring class. There is no subject on which your thoughts should turn more frequently than on this. Many of you busy yourselves with other questions, such as the probable result of the next election of President, or the prospects of this or that party. But these are insignificant, compared with the great question, Whether the laboring classes here are destined to the ignorance and depression of the lower ranks of Europe, or whether they can secure to themselves the means of intellectual and moral progress. You are cheated, you are false to yourselves, when you suffer politicians to absorb you in their selfish purposes, and to draw you away from this great question. Give the first place in your thoughts to this. Carry it away with you from the present lecture; discuss it together; study it when alone; let your best heads work on it; resolve that nothing shall be wanting on your part to secure the means of intellectual and moral well-being to yourselves, and to those who may come after you.
In these lectures, I have expressed a strong interest in the laboring portion of the community; but I have no partiality to them considered merely as laborers. My mind is attracted to them because they constitute the majority of the human race. My great interest is in human nature, and in the working classes as its most numerous representatives. To those who look on this nature with contempt or utter distrust, such language may seem a mere form, or may be construed as a sign of the predominance of imagination and feeling over the judgment. No matter. The pity of these sceptics I can return. Their wonder at my credulity cannot surpass the sorrowful astonishment with which I look on their indifference to the fortunes of their race. In spite of all their doubts and scoffs, human nature is still most dear to me. When I behold it manifested in its perfect proportions in Jesus Christ, I cannot but revere it as the true temple of the Divinity. When I see it as revealed in the great and good of all times, I bless God for those multiplied and growing proofs of its high destiny. When I see it bruised, beaten down, stifled by ignorance and vice, by oppression, injustice, and grinding toil, I weep for it, and feel that every man should be ready to suffer for its redemption. I do and I must hope for its progress. But in saying this, I am not blind to its immediate dangers. I am not sure that dark clouds and desolating storms are not even now gathering over the world. When we look back on the mysterious history of the human race, we see that Providence has made use of fearful revolutions as the means of sweeping away the abuses of ages, and of bringing forward mankind to their present improvement. Whether such revolutions may not be in store for our own times, I know not. The present civilization of the Christian world presents much to awaken doubt and apprehension. It stands in direct hostility to the great ideas of Christianity. It is selfish, mercenary, sensual. Such a civilization cannot, must not, endure for ever. How it is to be supplanted, I know not. I hope, however, that it is not doomed, like the old Roman civilization, to be quenched in blood. I trust that the works of ages are not to be laid low by violence, rapine, and the all-devouring sword. I trust that the existing social state contains in its bosom something better than it has yet unfolded. I trust that a brighter future is to come, not from the desolation, but from gradual, meliorating changes of the present. Among the changes to which I look for the salvation of the modern world, one of the chief is the intellectual and moral elevation of the laboring class. The impulses which are to reform and quicken society are probably to come, not from its more conspicuous, but from its obscurer divisions; and among these I see with joy new wants, principles, and aspirations beginning to unfold themselves. Let what is already won give us courage. Let faith in a parental Providence give us courage; and if we are to be disappointed in the present, let us never doubt that the great interests of human nature are still secure under the eye and care of an Almighty Friend.
Note for the third head.Under the third head of the lectures, in which some of the encouraging circumstances of the times are stated, I might have spoken of the singular advantages and means of progress enjoyed by the laborer in this metropolis. It is believed that there cannot be found another city in the world in which the laboring classes are as much improved, possess as many helps, enjoy as much consideration, exert as much influence, as in this place. Had I pursued this subject, I should have done what I often wished to do; I should have spoken of the obligations of our city to my excellent friend, James Savage, Esq., to whose unwearied efforts we are chiefly indebted for two inestimable institutions, the Provident Institution for Savings and the Primary Schools; the former giving to the laborer the means of sustaining himself in times of pressure, and the latter placing almost at his door the means of instruction for his children from the earliest age. The union of the Primary Schools with the Grammar Schools and the High Schools in this place, constitutes a system of public education unparalleled, it is believed, in any country. I would not be easy to name an individual to whom our city is under greater obligations than to Mr. Savage. In the enterprises which I have named, he was joined and greatly assisted by the late Elisha Ticknor, Esq., whose name ought also to be associated with the Provident Institution and the Primary Schools. The subject of these lectures brings to my mind the plan of an institution which was laid before me by Mr. Ticknor, for teaching at once agriculture and the mechanic arts. He believed that a boy might be made a thorough farmer, both in theory and practice, and might at the same time learn a trade, and that by being skilled in both vocations he would be more useful, and would multiply his chances of comfortable subsistence. I was interested by the plan, and Mr. Ticknors practical wisdom led me to believe that it might be accomplished.