Зображення сторінки

This vice of regulating all things exists to a greater extent in Sweden than in perhaps any other continental state. In England every thing may be lawfully done which the law does not forbid :in Sweden, the fundamental rule of action, Mr. Laing tells us, is directly the contrary; nothing being lawful but what the law permits. Thus the government must perpetually make itself felt by the people; though it may not act itself, it lies like an incubus on the actions of the people; until at length, like labour to an idler, action of any kind becomes irksome, and government is looked to for the accomplishment of ends which should always be left to the people themselves. To prevent a people from looking to the government in cases where they should look to themselves, is always a matter of difficulty, even in this country, where self-reliance is really practised to a very considerable extent. Governments which like to be called “ paternal,” and kings who delight in being designated “ fathers of their people,” as all despotic kings do, give encouragement to this pernicious state of the public mind. Demands are occasionally made by those who are suffering from insufficient remuneration, or from excessive toil, for legislative relief, in the shape of what they call a "fair day's wages for a fair day's work;" a phrase which assumes a most equitable guise, but which involves an intermeddling on the part of government which could not but be productive of pernicious results, inasmuch as the real meaning of the phrase is,—let a low maximum of time be fixed, beyond which no man shall labour; and let there be a high minimum of payment, below which wages shall not be permitted to fall. In what manner have these demands been usually met? By shuffling and evasion, and not by fairly and openly attempting to reason down the fallacy. The governing class in our own country may yet have to repent the neglect of popular instruction. The industrious classes in the towns and cities are certainly advancing in intelligence and moral improvement most rapidly; but they are organizing even more rapidly. At the same time, discontent is becoming very prevalent among them, the more especially as they cannot help attributing to the vices, or at all events to the neglect of the government, evils of which the government is wholly guiltless. What is the proper remedy for this? evidently public instruction. Even a common education, such as Sweden, in common with many other of the continental nations, provides, would, if engrafted on the habit of self-reliance which prevails among us, lead ultimately to the complete uprooting of those erroneous impressions which make men ask of government what they should accomplish for themselves. We do not say that governments should print books, or send forth lecturers; because, they would most likely be bad books and worse lecturers; and, even if good, the people would suspect them; but not only should all restraints on the diffusion of knowledge be removed, but a system of universal education, including some kind of normal institution, under the fostering care, though kept independent of the immediate control, of government, should be established,—the normal college or school to serve as a perennial source of competent teachers. The union of such an education as might thus be provided, with our wholesome habit of self-reliance, would produce a more elevated social state than any country can at present boast of.

Education is certainly carefully attended to in Sweden, and that too by the people themselves. On this subject we must apologize for giving rather a long extract.

It might be expected that education is in a low state in these remote, poor settlements*, in which the few people can barely subsist their families, and cannot possibly keep a schoolmaster, nor support their children at a distant school. It is, however, to the honour of the common people of Sweden, that they alone, of all European nations, have outstripped the schoolmaster, and are so generally masters themselves of reading, and even writing, that parents in the lowest circumstances have no more occasion for a schoolmaster to teach their children these elementary branches of education, and also the church catechism, than they have for a baker to make their bread, or a sempstress to mend their clothes. Of the whole population, including even Laplanders, it is reckoned that the proportion of grown persons in Sweden unable to read is less than 1 in 1000. This general diffusion of elementary education among the people is ascribed to the zeal of Gustavus Vasa and his immediate successors. John III., in 1574, ordered that the nobleman who had no knowledge of book learning should forfeit his nobility. Charles XI., in 1684, required the clergy to have every Swedish subject taught to read; and he made it a law, that no marriage should be

* Degerfors.

celebrated unless the parties had previously taken the Lord's Supper, and that none should be admitted to the communion-table who could not read, and was not instructed in religion. This law has spread family education. Parish schools are only found where there happen to have been lands or rents bequeathed in old times for the endowment; and these, in some parishes, are fixed, in others ambulatory.

In this province (Wexio-lan), in 40,000 people only one person was found unable to read.

· Yet, with all their poverty,' (says Petrus Laesladius, speaking of his parents,) ' and all their striving for the most pressing necessaries of • life, our parents never forgot or put off the teaching us to read. Before 'we could well speak our father taught us our prayers; and these were, • the first thing in the morning, and the last at night. Our mother spared • no pains to teach us to read in a book; and at five years of age I could 'read any Swedish book; and at six could give reasonable answers to questions on the head points of Christianity. This, too,” continues Mr. Laing, was the house life of the poorest of the poor among new settlers; for fish-the making glue from the rein-deer's horns they could gather—and a little dairy produce—were all the means of subsistence which the parents of Petrus Laesladius had.”—Pages 186—188.

At one of the very first places Mr. Laing stopped at after crossing the Norwegian frontier, namely, Carlsbad, a neat little town of 2500 inhabitants, evidence of book learning met

his eye.

“ I found,” says Mr. Laing, “ two booksellers' shops and a music-seller's in the town, but not a butcher's. Here, as in Norway, I presume every family has butcher's meat killed and salted in autumn. With us, in such small conntry towns, the enjoyment of the fine arts is not so generally diffused as that of eating fresh meat; and the proportions of supply for mind and body would be exactly the reverse—three butchers' shops at the least for one book or music-shop.”- Page 29. Sweden affords remarkable evidence that mere

(6 bookknowledge," even when combined with a law to force people to partake of the Lord's Supper before they are permitted to marry, is insufficient, when opposed to the pernicious example of an ignorant, degraded and thoroughly worthless aristocracy, to prevent a very low state of morality.

“ It is a singular and embarrassing fact,” says Mr. Laing, “ that the Swedish nation, isolated from the mass of the European people, and almost entirely agricultural or pastoral, having, in about 3,000,000 of individuals, only 14,925 employed in manufactories, and these not congregated in one or two places, but scattered among 2037 factories; having no great standing army or navy; no extended commerce ; no efflux of strangers; no considerable city but one; and having schools and universities in a fair proportion, and

a powerful and complete church establishment, undisturbed in its labours by sect or schism; is, notwithstanding, in a more demoralized state than any nation in Europe—more demoralized even than any equal portion of the dense manufacturing population of Great Britain. This is a very curious fact in moral statistics. It is so directly opposed to all received opinions and long-established theories of the superior moral condition, greater innocence, purity of manners, and exemption from vice or crime, of the pastoral and agricultural state of society, compared to the commercial and manufacturing, that if it rested merely upon the traveller's own impressions, observations, or experiences, it would not be entitled to any credit. The traveller in a foreign country swims on the surface of society; in contact, perhaps, with its worthless scum, as well as with its cream; and is not justified in drawing sweeping conclusions upon the moral character and condition of a whole people from what he may meet with in his own little circle of observation. I would not venture to state this fact (meaning the comparatively low state of morality in Sweden) upon any grounds less conclusive than the following.

" According to the official returns published in the Swedish State Gazette in March, 1837, the number of persons prosecuted for criminal offences before all the Swedish courts, in the year 1835, was 26,275; of whom 21,262 were convicted, 4915 acquitted, and 98 remained under examination. In 1835 the total population of Sweden was 2,983,144 individuals. In this year, therefore, 1 person of every 114 of the whole nation had been accused ; and 1 in every 140 persons convicted of some criminal offence. By the same official returns, it appears, that in the five years from 1830 to 1834 inclusive, 1 person in every 49 of the inhabitants of the towns, and 1 in 176 of the rural population, had, on an average, been punished each year for criminal offences. In 1836, the number of persons tried for criminal offences in all the courts of the kingdom, was 26,925; of whom 22,292 were condemned, 3688 acquitted, and 945 under trial or committal. The criminal lists of this year are stated to be unusually light, yet they give a result of one person in every 1124 of the whole population accused, and one in every 134 convicted of some criminal offence; and taking the population of the towns and the rural population separately, one person in every 46 individuals of the former, and one in every 174 individuals of the latter, have been convicted within the year 1836 for criminal offences. There is no rebellion in the land, nor resistance to obnoxious laws, as in Ireland to the tithe laws; nor are artificial offences created to any great extent by iniquitous legislation, as with us by the game laws and excise laws. These are all offences involving moral delinquency greater than the simple breach of a regulation or conventional law of the state.”Pages 108–110.

Mr. Laing then goes into a detailed statement, similar to the above, of the state of crime in other countries; but for facility of comparison, we have chosen to throw his facts into the tabular form, by which they are brought at one glance under the reader's eye.

Statement of the proportion which the number of persons

accused or committed for trial, and convicted of criminal offences, bears to the whole population in the countries designated :

[blocks in formation]

Speaking not of proportions, but of the absolute numbers, Mr. Laing says,

“ Thus in the nearly 14,000,000 of the population of England and Wales, there were 7278 fewer committals, and 8462 fewer convictions, in the year 1831, than in the scarcely 3,000,000 of the Swedish nation in the year 1836, stated to be a year considerably more free from crime than any of the five preceding it.”—Page 111.

So much for the state of crime. Turn we now to the state of morals in one essential particular. The proportion which the illegitimate births bear to the legitimate, indicates that the moral condition of the Swedes is miserably low. In Stockholm, statistical returns establish that, of the children born, more than one-third, or 1 in 27, are illegitimate. “In no Christian community,” says Mr. Laing, “ is there a state of female morals approaching to this.” What, indeed, should we think, if, out of every seven persons we passed in our streets, three were illegitimate? In London, however, the proportion is only 1 in 38; in Paris it is said to be 1 in 5; and in all France, 1 in 74.

Mr. Laing then gives many striking instances of a low state of moral feeling among the town population of Sweden, and thus proceeds:

The main cause I conceive to be a radical defect in the construction

* This included many conventional offences; the really criminal offences were only 1 in 1402; a smaller proportion of crime than in England, in nearly the proportion of 2 to 3.

« НазадПродовжити »