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own reflections in four eloquent discourses.

Mirabeau's discourses, published after his death through
the good offices of his friend Cabanis, had the following
titles : 1. Draft of a Laiv for the Organization of the Teach-
ing Body; 2. Public and Military Festivals; 3. Organiza-
tion of a National Lycee; 4. The Education of the Heir
Presumjjtive of the Crown.

415. The Dangers of Ignorance. — With what brilliancy
the illustrious orator made appear the advantages and the
necessity of instruction !

"Those who desire that the peasant may not know how
to read or write, have doubtless made a patrimony of his

1 See the Dictionnaire de Pedagogic, Article France.


ignorance, and their motives are not difficult to appreciate ;
but they do not know that when they have made a wild beast
of a man, they expose themselves to the momentary danger
of seeing him transformed into a savage beast. Without in-
telligence there is no morality. But on whom, then, is it
important to bestow intelligence, if it is not upon the rich?
Is not the safeguard of their enjoyments the morality of the
people? Through the influence of the laws, through that of
a wise administration, through the efforts to which each one
should be inspired by the hope of ameliorating the condition
of his fellows, exert yourselves, public and private citizens,
to diffuse in all quarters the noble fruits of knowledge.
Believe that in dissipating one single error, in propagating
one single wholesome truth, you will do something for the
happiness of the human race ; and whoever you are, do not
have the least doubt that it is only by this means that you
can assure your own happiness."

But through some inexplicable spirit of timidity, Mirabeau
did not draw from these principles the consequences that
they permit. He does not admit that the State can impose
the obligation to attend school.

"Society," he says, "has not the right to prescribe in-
struction as a duty. . . . Public authority has not the right,
with respect to the members of the social body, to go beyond
the limits of watchfulness against injustice and of protection
against violence. ..." " Society," he adds, " can exact of
each one only the sacrifices necessary for the maintenance
of the liberty and the safet}" of all."

Mirabeau forgets that the obligation to send children to
school is exactly one of those necessary sacrifices which the
State has the right to impose on parents.

Hostile to obligation, Mirabeau feels no greater partisan-
ship for gratuity : —


"Gratuitous education," he said, "is paid for by every-
body, while its fruits are immediately gathered by only a
small number of individuals."

416. Liberty of Teaching. — Like so many other gener-
ous spirits, Mirabeau cherished the dream of the most com-
plete liberty of teaching. 1

" Your single purpose," he said to the members, " is to give
to man the use of all his faculties, to make him enjoy all his

1 What is meant by " liberty of teaching " will be better understood from
the following quotations from the Dictionnaire de Pe'dagogie, Premiere
Partie, p. 1575 et scq. : —

" Liberty of teaching, in a country which has proclaimed obligatory in-
struction, is the equal right of all to give that instruction, or the prohibition
of every monopoly which would put that instruction into the hands either
of privileged individuals, or of corporations, or even of the State, to the
exclusion of every other teaching body."

" Under the old regime, the education of the masses was committed to
the hands of the Church ; the colleges, directed by a body of men who were
all ecclesiastics, gave 'a vain pretence of an education, where the memory
alone was exercised, and where the reason was insulted in the forms of
reasoning.' "

"The purpose of the men of the Revolution was, then, above all else, to
emancipate science, and to guarantee the right of free inquiry; and while
rescuing instruction from the tyranny of the Church, to assure to citizens
in general the opportunity to acquire the knowledge that is essential to
man. On the one hand, they would take precautions against the abuse
of power by a government which had always shown itself hostile to free
thought . . . ; on the other, in opposition to the old doctrine which con-
demned the people to ignorance, they proclaimed the duty of the State to
create a system of public instruction, common to all citizens."

" It is at this point of view that we must place ourselves in order to gain
a correct notion of the plans that were submitted to the Constituent Con-
vention and the Legislative Assembly. What Talleyrand and Condorcet
desired was, first, to organize, under the form of a public service, a system
of national education in which all mighl participate; and in the second
place, to take precautions against the Church ami the royal authority, and
so prevent despotic power from attempting to prevent the development of
new truths and tin' teaching of theories which it judged contrary to its
policy and interests. For them, liberty of teaching is the demand of phil-
osophic liberty against ecclesiastical and secular authority." (P.)


rights, to develop the corporate life out of all the individual
lives freely developed, and the will of the whole out of all
personal wills."

417. Distribution of Studies. — In Mirabeau's plan,
public and national instruction depends, not on the executive
power, but on " the magistrates who truly represent the peo-
ple, that is to say, who are elected and often renewed by the
people," — in other terms, the officers of departments or dis-
tricts. Establishments for instruction ought not to form a
consolidated body.

Let us observe, finally, that by the side of the primary
schools Mirabeau established a college of literature for each
department, and at Paris, a single National Lycee, "■designed
to secure to a select number of French youth the means of
finishing their education." In this he established a chair of
method, which, he said, ought to be the basis of instruction.

In conclusion, the work of Mirabeau is but a very imper-
fect sketch, and a sort of graduated transition between the
old and the new regime.

We do not yet find in it the grand ideas which are to
impassion men, and it is the Hajyort of Talleyrand which
constitutes the real introduction to the educational work of
the Revolution.

418. The Constituent Assembly and Talleyrand. —
The constitution of Sept. 4, 1791, announced the following
provision : —

"There shall be created and organized a system of public
instruction, common to all citizens, and gratuitous with re-
spect to those branches of instruction which are indispensable
for all men."

It was to put in force the decree of the Constitution that
Talleyrand drew up his Eapjwrt and presented it to the


Assembly at the sessions of September 10 and 11. The
entire bill contained not less than 208 articles. Having
reached the term of its troubled existence, the Assembly did
not find the time to discuss it, and, while regretting " not
having established the bases of the regeneration of educa-
tion," it referred the examination of Talleyrand's work to
the Legislative Assemblv.

The Legislative Assembly showed but little anxiety to
accept the legacy of its predecessor. Another report, that
of Condorcet, was prepared, so that the bill of Talleyrand
never had the honor of a parliamentary discussion.

419. Talleyrand (1758-1838). — The ex-bishop of
Autun, having become a revolutionist of 1789, before being
the chamberlain of Napoleon I. and the minister of Louis
XVIII. , scarcely deserves by his character the esteem of
history ; he too often gave a striking example of political
versatility. But at least, by his supple and acute intelli-
gence, and by the abundance of his ideas, he has always
risen to the height of the various tasks that he has under-
taken, and his Rapport is a remarkable work.

420. General Principles. — As Montesquieu has said,
" the laws of education ought to be relative to the principles
of government." It is by this truth that Talleyrand is
inspired in the long considerations that serve as a preamble
to his bill.

What was to be done in the presence of a constitution
which, limiting the powers of the king, called the entire peo-
ple to participate in political life? That constitution would
have remained sterile, would have been but a dead letter, if
a suitable education had not come to vivify it by causing it
to pass, so to speak, into the blood of the nation. In what
did the new regime consist? You have separated, said


Talleyrand to the members, } T ou have separated the will of
the whole, or the power of making the laws, from the execu-
tive power, which you have reserved to the king. But that
general will must be upright, and, in order to be upright, it
must be enlightened and instructed. After having given
power to the people, you ought to teach them wisdom. Of
what use would it be to enfranchise brutal and unconscious
forces, to turn them over to their own keeping? Instruction
is the necessary counterpoise of liberty. The law, which is
henceforth the work of the people, ought not to be at the
mercy of the tumultuous opinions of an ignorant multitude.

421. Education as related to Liberty and Equality.
— Talleyrand is pleased with his thought, and, considering
in turn the two fundamental ideas of the Revolution, the
idea of equality and the idea of liberty, he shows, not with-
out some length of analysis, that instruction is necessary, on
the one hand, to create free individuals, by giving to tbem a
conscience and a reason, and on the other, to draw men
together by diminishing the inequality of intelligences.

422. Rules for Public Instruction. — Instruction is
due to all. There must be schools in the villages as in the
cities. Instruction ought to be given by all ; there ought to
be no privilege in instruction. Finally, instruction ought to
extend to all subjects ; everything shall be taught which can
be taught : —

"In a well organized society, though no one can attain to
universal knowledge, it should nevertheless be possible to
learn everything.


423. Political Education. — At the basis of every
educational system there is always a dominant and essential
thought. In the Middle Age — and the Middle Age is con-
tinued in the schools of the Jesuits — it is the idea of salva-


tion, it is the preparation of the soul for the future life. In
the seventeenth century it is the conception of a perfect
justness of spirit joined to uprightness of heart ; such
was the ideal of the solitaries of Port Royal. In 1792 poli-
tics became the almost exclusive preoccupation of the
educators of youth. Everything else — religion, accuracy
of judgment, nobility of heart — is relegated to the second
place : man is nothing more than a political animal, brought
into the world to know, to love, and to obey the constitution.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man became, in the sys-
tem of Talleyrand, the catechism of childhood. It is neces-
sary that the future citizen learn to know, to love, to obey,
and finally to perfect the constitution. We cannot help
thinking that Talleyrand himself showed a marvellous apti-
tude for loving and obeying the constitution. Unfortunately
this has not always been the case !

424. Universal Morality. — One of the most beautiful
pages of Talleyrand's work is certainly that in which he
recommends the teaching of universal morality, and claims
the autonomy of natural laws, distinct from all positive

"We must learn to infuse ourselves with morality, which
is the first need of all constitutions. . . . Morality must be
taught as a real science, whose principles will be demon-
strated to the reason of all men, and to that of all ages. It
is only in this way that it will resist all trials. It has long
been a matter of lamentation to see men of all nations and
of all religions make it depend exclusively on that multitude
of opinions which divide them. From this have resulted
great evils ; for abandoning morality to uncertainty, and
often to absurdity, it has necessarily been compromised ; it
has been made versatile and unsettled. It is time to estab-
lish it upon its own bases, and to show men that if baneful


divisions separate them, they at least have in morality a
common meeting place where they all ought to take refuge
and unite for protection. It is necessary, then, to detach it
in some sort from everything else, in order to reunite it at
once to that which merits our approval and our homage.
. . . This change is simple and injures nothing ; above all,
it is possihle. How is it possible not to see, in fact, that
abstraction being made of every system and of every opinion,
and by considering in men only their relations with other
men, they can be taught what is good and just, made to love
it, and made to find happiness in virtuous actions and
wretchedness in those which are not so ? "

425. Four Grades of Instruction. — The organization
of instruction, in Talleyrand's bill, was "to be combined
with that of the government," and to be modeled after the
division of administrative functions. The Rapport estab-
lished four grades of instruction. There was a school for
each canton, corresponding to each primary assembly. Then
came intermediate or secondary instruction, intended, if not
for all, at least for the greater number, and given in the
principal town of the district, or arronclissement. In the third
place, special schools, scattered over the territory of the
kingdom, in the principal towns of the departments, prepare
young men for the different professions. Finally, the select
intelligences find at Paris, in the National Institute, all that
constitutes the higher instruction.

The great novelty of this system was the creation of can-
tonal schools, open to peasants and to workmen, to those
whom, up to this time, improvidence or the purpose of the
great sent off to their plows or to their planes.

426. Gratuity of Primary Instruction. — Talleyrand did
not desire compulsory education any more than Mirabeau ;


but, in accordance with the constitution of 1791, he demands
the gratuity of primary instruction. Society is under obli-
gations to give elementary instruction, but not intermediate
and secondary instruction, and still less, special and higher
instruction. Gratuitous for the lowest grade, and in case
of that elementary knowledge which constitutes for every
civilized man a real moral necessity, instruction ought not
to be free to young men who aspire to a liberal profession,
because they have leisure, and who have leisure because they
have wealth. However, Talleyrand admits exceptions in the
case of talent. By the creation of national scholarships,
the doors of all the schools will be opened to select intelli-
gences whom the lowness of their condition would condemn
to remain obscure and unappreciated, did not society lend to
them a helping hand.

427. Programme of Primary Instruction. — Primary
instruction should comprise the principles of the national
language, the elementary rules of calculation and mensura-
tion ; the elements of religion, the principles of morals, the
principles of the constitution ; finally, the development of
the physical, intellectual, and moral powers.

428. Means of Instruction. — We shall not insist on the
details of the organization of the different parts of that
which Talleyrand himself called his " immense machine."
Let us notice only the last part of his work, where he dis-
cusses a certain number of general questions under this
arbitrary and unjustifiable title: Des moyens ^instruction.
The professors, carefully chosen, shall be elected by the
king. Talleyrand does not determine that they shall be
irremovable, but he requires that their situation shall be
surrounded by all possible guarantees. Prizes, and rewards
of every kind, shall encourage the teachers of youth to re-


double their zeal and to find new methods. Talleyrand
counts on dramatic representations and on national holidays
to hasten the progress of instruction. Finally, let it be
added that he entrusts the supreme direction of public in-
struction to sis commissioners, chosen by the king and
obliged to make an annual report.

429. The Education of Women. — Talleyrand, in his
proposal, has not wholly forgotten women, and what he has
said of them is just and sensible. He discusses the question
of their political rights, and, in accord with tradition and
good sense, he concludes that the happiness of women, their
own interests, their nature and their proper destination,
ought to forbid them from entering the political arena.
What is particularly fit for them is a domestic education,
which, received in the family, prepares them for living there.
Like Mirabeau, he wishes woman to remain a woman. Her
function, said the great orator, is to perpetuate the species,
to watch with solicitude over the perilous periods of early
youth, and " to enchain to her feet all the energies of the
husband by the irresistible power of her weakness." With-
out being as gallant in his expressions, Talleyrand's thought
,is the same. He thought it necessary, however, in order to
respond to certain proprieties, that the State should estab-
lish institutions of public education destined to replace the

This desire sets right whatever was unreasonable in this
passage of his proposed law : —

" Girls shall not be admitted to the primary schools after
the age of eight. After that age the National Assembly
advises parents to entrust the education of their daughters
only to themselves, and reminds them that this is their first


430. The Legislative Assembly and Condorcet. — Of
all the educational undertakings of the Revolution, the most
remarkable is that of Condorcet. His Rapport presented to
the Legislative Assembly, in behalf of the committee on
public instruction, April 20 and 21, 1792, reprinted in 1793
by order of the Convention, did not directly have the honor
of a public discussion ; but it contained principles and solu-
tions which are found in the deliberations and legislative
acts of his successors. It remained, during the whole dura-
tion of the Convention, the widely accessible source whence
the legislators of that time, like Romme, Bouquier, and Lak-
anal, drew their inspiration.

431. Condorcet (1743-1794). — Condorcet was admira-
bly qualified for the task which the Legislative Assembly
imposed on him, in charging him with the organization of
public instruction. During the first years of the Revolution
he had employed his leisure (he was not a member of the
Constituent Assembly) in writing five Memoir es on instruc-
tion, which appeared in a periodical called the Biblioth&que
de Vhomme jmblic. The Rapport which he submitted to the
Assembly was a sort of resume' of his long reflections. Con-
dorcet brought to this work, not the indiscreet imagination
of an improvised educator, but the authority of a competent
thinker, who, if he had no personal experience in teaching,
had at least reflected much on these topics and was con-
scious of all their difficulties. Besides, he devoted himself
to his work with the ardor of an enthusiastic nature, and
with the serious convictions of a mind that had carried
farther than any one else the religion of progress and zeal
for the public good.

432. General Considerations upon Instruction. — All
the Revolutionists have sung the praises of instruction, of


which they were the passionate admirers. Condorcet is its
reflective partisan. He did not love it more than the others,
but he comprehended it better, and better stated why it
should be loved. He first takes up the ideas of Talleyrand,
and shows that without instruction, liberty and equality
would be chimeras : —

"A free constitution which should not be correspondent
to the universal instruction of citizens, would come to destruc-
tion after a few conflicts, and would degenerate into one of
those forms of government which cannot preserve the peace
among an ignorant and corrupt people."

Anarchy or despotism, such is the future of peoples who
have become free before having been enlightened.

As to equalit} 7 , without falling into the chimeras of an in-
struction which should be the same for all, and which should
reduce all men to the same level, Condorcet desires to realize
it so far as it is possible. He desires that the poorest and
the humblest shall be sufficiently instructed to belong to him-
self, and not to be at the mercy of the first charlatan who
comes along, and also to be able to fulfill his civil duties, to
be an elector, a juror, etc.

433. Instruction and Morality. — The instrument of
liberty and equality, instruction, in the opinion of Condorcet,
is, in addition, the real source of public morality and of
human progress. If it were not correspondent to the
advances in knowledge, a free and impartial constitution
would be hostile rather than favorable to good morals.

" Instruction alone can give the assurance that the princi-
ple of justice which the equality of rights ordains, shall not be
in contradiction with this other principle, which prescribes
that only those rights shall be accorded to men which they
can exercise without danger to society."


But it is moral reasons still more than political motives
that make instruction the condition of virtue. Condorcet
has shrewdly seen that the vices of the people come chiefly
from their intellectual impotency.

" These vices come," he says, " from the need of escaping
from ennui in moments of leisure, and in escaping from it
through sensations and not through ideas."

These are notable words which should never be lost sight
of by the teachers and moralists of the people.

To cause gross natures to pass from the life of the senses
to the intellectual life ; to make study agreeable to the end
that the higher pleasures of the spirit may struggle success-
fully against the appetites for material pleasures ; to put
the book in the place of the wine bottle ; to substitute the
library for the saloon ; in a word, to replace sensation by idea,
— such is the fundamental problem of popular education.

434. Instruction and Progress. — Condorcet was a
fanatic on the subject of progress. Up to the last moment
of his life he dreamed of progress, its conditions, and its
laws. Now the most potent means of hastening progress is
to instruct men ; and here is the final reason why instruction
is so dear to him.

These are grand words : —

"If the indefinite improvement of our species is, as I be-
lieve, a general law of nature, man ought no longer to regard
himself as a being limited to a transitory and isolated exis-
tence, destined to vanish after an alternative of happiness or
of misery for himself, and of good and evil for those whom
chance has placed near him ; but he becomes an active part
of the grand whole, and a fellow-laborer in a work that is
eternal. In an existence of a moment, and upon a point in
space, he can, by his works, compass all places, relate him-


self to all the centuries, and continue to act long centuries
after his memory has disappeared from the earth." And
further on : "For a long time I have considered these views
as dreams which were to be realized only in an indefinite
future, and for a world where I should not exist. A happy
event has suddenly opened an immense career to the hopes
of the human race ; a single instant has put a century of dis-
tance between the man of to-day and him of to-morrow."

435. The Liberality of Condorcet. — Wrongly credited
with a despotic and absolute habit of mind, Condorcet is, on
the contrary, full of scruples and penetrated with respect as
regards the liberty of individual opinions. In fact, he care-
fully distinguishes instruction from education. Instruction
has to do with positive and certain knowledge, the truths of
fact and of calculation ; education, with political and religious
beliefs. Now, if the State is the natural dispenser of instruc-
tion, it ought, on the contrary, in the matter of education, to
forbear, and to declare itself incompetent. In other words,

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 30 of 48)