Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 34



It is nowadays universally admitted that the diffusion of enlightenment is the first condition of page 23 progress. Labour is productive in proportion to the intelligence with which it is carried on. Civilised man derives his wealth from the application of science, under all its forms, to production. The miserable destitution of the savage is the result of his ignorance. Thus, economic progress will be in proportion to the application of scientific discoveries to industry.

The general spread of education is also indispensable to the exercise of constitutional liberty. In lands where power is conferred by election, electors must needs be sufficiently enlightened to choose their representatives well, or the country will be ill-governed, will fall from bad to worse, and will march to its ruin. In a despotic State, education is useful, but it is not indispensable. In a great State which is free, or which desires to be free, education is of absolute necessity, under penalty of decadence from inertia or disorder. In short, education is the basis of national liberty and prosperity. Now, up to the present moment, Protestant States alone have contrived to secure instruction to all. Vainly do Catholic States declare education to be obligatory, as in Italy, or spend large sums for the same object, as in Belgium; they do not succeed in dispelling ignorance.

With regard to elementary instruction, Protestant States are incomparably more advanced than Catholic. England alone is no more than on a level with the page 24 latter, probably because the Anglican Church, of all the reformed forms of worship, has most in common with the Church of Rome. All the Protestant countries, such as Saxony, Denmark, Sweden and Prussia, lead the van, having few, if any, illiterate children; the Catholic countries fall far behind, having a third part of the population ignorant, as in France and Belgium, or three-fourths, as in Spain, Italy, or Portugal.

What a difference in Switzerland, with respect to this point, between the Catholic and Protestant Cantons! The purely Latin Cantons of Neuchâtel, Vaud, and Geneva are on a line with the Germanic Cantons of Zurich and Berne, and are greatly superior to those of Tessin, the Valais, or Lucerne.* The cause of the contrast is evident, and has been often pointed out. The Reformed religion rests on a book: the Bible; the Protestant, therefore, must know how to read. Accordingly Luther's first and last words were:—"Teach the children; that is the duty of parents and magistrates: it is one of God's commandments." Catholic worship, on the contrary, rests upon Sacraments, and certain practices, such as con-

* For the facts, see my book, 'L'Instruction du peuple.'

During the war of 1870, it was ascertained that the Protestant soldiers were much better instructed than the Catholic. In the ambulances and hospitals, the former, as they began to recover from their wounds, asked for books; the latter, for a game of cards.

page 25 fession, masses, sermons, which do not necessarily involve reading. It is therefore unnecessary to know how to read; indeed it is dangerous, for it inevitably shakes the principle of passive obedience on which the whole Catholic edifice rests;—reading is the road that leads to heresy. The manifest consequence is, that the Catholic priest will be hostile to education, or will at all events never make such efforts to extend it as the Protestant minister will do. The organization of popular education dates from the Reformation. Education being highly favourable to the practice of political liberty and the production of wealth, and Protestantism favouring the diffusion of education, we have here an evident cause of the superiority of Protestant States.*

* M. de Candolles demonstrates by facts the superiority of the scientific production of Protestant nations over that of Catholic States, in his remarkable book, 'Histoire des sciences et des savants depuis deux siècles.'