Page images
PDF
EPUB

Though the mercantile world has its own interest in view, yet governments take good care to profit by the prosperity of trade. The teachers at universities, on the contrary, gain nothing by the success of their lessons. If profit was the object, then indeed would the professors gladly

knowledge. Italy, for instance, is distinguished for its love of the fine arts; England for its successful progress in the mechanical and useful ones, political science and commerce. France cultivates the higher branches of science and natural history. Finally, Germany, profound erudition and abstruse thinking, together with those metaphysical pursuits which tend at once to raise and ennoble the mind of man. In obeying this indication of Providence, it is the interest of all, to let each remain as they are, and to encourage them in advancing on that path which the impulsion of nature has directed. The peculiar genius of Germany has led to a system of public instruction, extremely well understood and combined, and above all to some schools of a higher nature, which have never been exceeded in any age or country. These universities, placed in the centre of Europe, appear destined to become, and are, in fact, institutions to which all the other nations pay tribute, while they participate in the benefits that spring from such establishments. These abodes of learning go to establish a species of moral tie between the different states, forming a point of contact, that cannot fail greatly to promote the general interests of civilization. But in order that they should fulfil their useful and important destination, to secure a continuance of those advantages, no less important than multiplied, which they have hitherto rendered the country, it is necessary to leave their existence entire, together with their physical means, authority, liberty and consideration." Such was the advice given by a Frenchman to a French Government in Germany, and his advice was followed. Shall original and free German governments do less? DEUS OMEN AVERTAT!

[ocr errors]

avail themselves of written rules, as it would greatly diminish their trouble; for instead of puzzling their own brains to devise modes of improving the pupils, they would merely have to adhere to a dull routine, which though it suited the plodding portion of the students, might obstruct the progress of those endowed with genius and talents. Arguing upon this principle, it is only the worst teachers and least enlightened professors, who can advocate the insipid monotony of rules and regulations, in promoting the higher branches of education.

Freedom of hearing, consists in the students being permitted to fix on teachers of their own choice, as well as attend lectures on the same footing; finally, that they shall have the privilege of dividing their time, between lectures, private tuition and recreation. Long experience convinces me, that there is no mischief whatever to be apprehended from this plan. My own has invariably been to begin with discussing the first elemental principles of ethics, and the Philosophical Encyclopedia; thence proceeding to theoretical; and, lastly, to practical philosophy. I have, however, met with several students, and those by no means the least clever, who followed the opposite plan; first hearing the practical, and finishing where I have been in the habit of commencing. Although this mode is certainly in

[ocr errors]

may

opposition to the progressive and analytical plan, it has its advantages, as the first is calculated for some pupils, and the second for others. By this sort of liberty, the student is enabled to select what be best suited to the powers and expansion of his understanding. It must not, however, be for a moment imagined, that the foregoing privilege on the part of students, tends to make the teachers and professors too dependent on their approbation, and are therefore over-indulgent. Its chief effect, hitherto, has been to excite a praiseworthy emulation amongst the students as well as their teachers.

[ocr errors]

These points I am led to regard as the essence of ACADEMIC LIBERTY, all others being accidental and dependent on them, without influencing either the march of science, or advancement of knowledge.

If I am asked whether this liberty may not be abused, I shall reply, most certainly it may, like every other! Must it not therefore be set aside ? Unquestionably not! But surely there ought to be laws, for the purpose of keeping students within bounds, and in the right track? Assuredly; but there are such laws already, and in abundance: each university has its academical laws; this code is laid before every student on his first entrance, and the latter makes a vow to obey its various enactments: but my opponent will reply, if these

H

laws are not kept, of what use are they? Precisely of the same use as all other laws, which are violated by some individuals. But, it will next be asked, are not the provosts in fault, for not causing them to be enforced? Alas! the poor provosts, to whom are daily sent younger and more unripe pupils, who are incapable of guiding themselves amongst more experienced and matured companions; how extremely hard to blame men whose means of executing justice is so limited, while the real error is on the side of government! While the ministers of large kingdoms, and magistrates of cities with overstrained powers, and all other physical means of enforcing the laws, cannot always prevent a breach of them, how can the superintendent of the university do so with his circumscribed means and inadequate powers? A man of talents and address may certainly make a great deal out of comparatively small means; but it is only for the Divinity alone to create, and as yet, he has unfortunately not condescended to divide his power with the provost of a German university!

1

To attribute crimes such as that lately committed at Manheim to all the universities, and to punish them by abolishing academical liberty, is contrary to every principle of law and justice. Those who are guilty, should be punished, to the utmost extent of the laws. Even if we could

4

imagine the improbable," the almost impossible case, of a whole university professors and students, participating in illegal practices, let the university be broken up, and the ringleaders handed over to condign punishment. But in the name of common sense, do not make learning suffer because a few individuals have offended the laws...

[ocr errors]

In those days of political agitation and party distinction, when faction is contending for power on the one hand, and people sighing for their freedom on the other, no wonder that suspicion should fall heavily on the German universities, which have always been justly celebrated for their patriotism and love of rational liberty. But I strenuously recommend our youth, who devote themselves to science and study, not to sully their reputation or impede their progress to the temple of wisdom, by abandoning the path traced out when first consigned to the walls of a university. Let them studiously avoid all associations that have not the promotion of science, and bonds of social intercourse in view; every other being foreign to their business and adverse to their happiness! Uninfluenced by the example of that writer, whose unmerited strictures it has been my humble office to refute, as well as many others of the same class, let the students of Germany judge of men and books with becoming can

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »