Imágenes de páginas

The celebrated tables of M. Guerry lie before us at this moment, furnishing the most remarkable statistical phenomena ever recorded. He uses the classification of crimes alluded to in the preceding pages, namely, crimes against the person and crimes against property. He divides France into five sections, namely, north, south, east, west, and centre; and then, taking one hundred as the number of crimes committed in the country, shows that of crimes against the person, the average amount for six successive years, has been-in the north 25, in the south 24, east 19, west 18, centre 14. And of crimes against property-in the north 42, the south 12, the east 16, west 10, and centre 12. These singular facts prove that there are some definite influences which act like invariable laws in the production of crime in France. Here we have nearly the same results for each division of France, the same result in each kind of crime, and the same result for six successive years. Are those circumstances which make up the chief portion of human history, and which are usually supposed to be fortuitous, the results of uniform laws? Shall the farther study of the principles of history develop a regular system of causes and effects, the presence of universal laws in the accidents of life? The hypothesis need not involve the doctrine of fatality, it may educe from history the Christian doctrine of a providential government of our world, a government which, in analogy with God's physical government, may have its invariable laws. At least the tables of M. Guerry, to which we have referred, as well as others equally curious in his work, show the operation of regular laws in the production of many of the most remarkable classes of those circumstances usually called accidents.

But what is the influence of education on crime in France? The calculations which we have just quoted, place the different regions thus in precedence of crime, viz., north, south, east, west, and centre. Now, excepting the single region of the east, they rank the same in instruction; thus, in the north, there is one male pupil to every sixteen of the whole population; in the south, one to forty-three; the west, one to forty-five; the centre, one to forty-eight; and yet we have seen, that in the north is the greatest average of crime, in the south the next, &c. The centre, which has the least instruction, has also the least crime! In the north, where, according to the military census, there was, in 1829, fifty-five young men in one hundred who could read and write; there were likewise of all accused before the Court of Assize forty-seven who could read in one hundred; while, in the centre, where but twenty-five in one hundred could read and write, there were in one hundred accusations but twenty-three who could read.

The striking result, then, to which the tables of M. Guerry bring us is, that the crimes of the different regions are not lessened, if they are not augmented, by education. This is the case in regard to both classes of crimes. Crimes against the person are most common in Corsica, Alsace, and the provinces of the south-east, where the people are best instructed; and are fewest in Berry, Brittany, &c., where they are least instructed. The same is true, also, of crimes against property; those sections which are best educated are, almost without exception, the most criminal. What shall we say, then? That education cannot be relied upon as a means of human improvement? The

instantaneous convictions of all men oppose the conclusion. But these remarkable facts prove that it is but a secondary means, and is dependent for all its salutary influence upon a higher kind of culture than is usually included in the idea of education. They prove that the distortion of human nature, which is produced by an intellectual, exclusive of a moral education, not only leaves us as destitute of virtuous restraint as before, but actually enervates the moral influences which previously acted upon us. France has tried hard, for some years, to check the progress of crime by education. We have shown that the sum of eight hundred thousand francs, appropriated before the revolution of 1830 for the purpose, has increased, since that event, to eight hundred millions of francs; a rapid advance from thousands to millions; but still the tide of demoralization flows onward, and her wise men are at last beginning to see the impotency of the present system, they now concede the necessity of moral influence. One of them eloquently declares, that "the country perishes for want of a religion; we have tried popery, and it has failed us; we have tried infidelity, and it has deceived us: now let us try the Bible; would that the Bible could be given to every town, every village, and every family!" It is a bold testimony to be made in Paris; but it is as magnanimous as it is bold. Cousin, the philosopher and the peer, has declared, that the system of common instruction cannot be effectual in restraining vice, unless based on religion; and the subject has already begun to interest the government.

We have in the preceding pages first taken a bird's-eye view of the topography of Paris, and, secondly, contemplated at large the moral aspects of its community. In the latter portion of our observations we have illustrated its domestic habits, the causes which have vitiated them, as seen in their modes of life and public amusements; we have observed the result of those domestic habits in the licentiousness of the people, the vast illegitimate population, and the number of suicides; and we have shown the inefficacy of education in affecting the production of crime among them. We have endeavored to sustain our conclusions by ample statistical evidences. Some of these evidences, interspersed through our remarks, are invaluable for the light they afford on important subjects of moral inquiry; and we regret that our limits, and the proper scope of this article, will not admit them to a fuller examination. Waving all dissertation, the naked statistics themselves, which we have laid before the reader, present the moral state of France to his view with features truly revolting. Let him look again at a few of them; they show,

1. That the city of Paris has two hundred places of public amusement; and that the government expends one-third more for its fêtes than for its religion.

2. That there are seventy thousand illegitimate births annually in the nation.

3. That one-sixth of this number occur in the department which includes the metropolis, a department producing but one thirty-second of the population.

4. That through the want of proper treatment one-third of these children die before reaching their third year.

5. That were it not for this extreme mortality, one-third of the population of Paris would be illegitimates,

6. That adultery produces thirty-five in one hundred (more than one-third) of all the crimes against the person, and that these crimes are not the result of jealousy, but are committed by the offender against the offended.

7. That while adultery produces more than one-third of the crimes against the person, rapes amount to one-sixth of the same class of crimes; and seduction and concubinage lead to about one-third also; so that five-sixths of all the crimes against the person arise from licen tiousness!

[Items 8, 9, and 10, in this catalogue, are too revolting to be inserted here. They show a state of depravity which, we hope, may never be witnessed in any other country.]

11. That eighteen hundred suicides occur annually.

12. That the department which includes the city of Paris, and which produces one-sixth of the illegitimate births, produces likewise one-sixth of the suicides.

13. That the crime most common among women is the destruction of their own children, and murder the next!

14. That women commit one-third the parricides, and one-half the crimes by poison.

15. That crimes are most frequent in the sections of the country which are best instructed.

We have been minute in the notation of these facts, because every one is full of striking import. Let the reader ponder over the dark catalogue, and offer to Heaven the fervent supplication that the causes of such demoralization may never desecrate into a terrestrial hell his own fair land.

But are there no reliefs to the dark picture we have given, no lights in contrast with its shades? There are. While the moral state of the nation presents this scene almost of dissolution, there are religious indications, just at this moment developing themselves, which, though they afford not the confidence of realized success, inspire a cheering hope of the future. Yet that hope will be entertained by the friends of Christianity with appropriate caution, when they bear in mind the fickleness of the French character. The indications which we refer to are, indeed, of an extraordinary character, but are yet in their incipient state, and therefore liable to change. We have just spoken of the deep and pervading influence of erroneous moral doctrines in France. We have said that the whole national mind is impregnated with them. The remark is true, and its mournful proof is presented in the preceding pages. But yet there are, and have been for some time, new tendencies of the public mind manifested. Efforts of Christian usefulness, too limited to attract the sympathy of friends, or the hostility of foes, have succeeded in introducing a spiritual leaven, which, thus far, has operated with a success which could not have been anticipated; and collateral circumstances, not a little remarkable and propitious, have been affording new facilities for its extension. The national Protestant Church, it is well known, had universally declined into Socinianism. The spirit of piety was apparently extinct from all its borders; and its own members were not distinguishable from their Catholic neighbors by the morality of their lives. The descendants of martyrs, and hemmed in on every side by superstitious

[ocr errors]

and skeptical foes, we should have supposed that a watchful caution would have guarded their doctrines and lives. But such was not the case. The theology of the German universities corrupted the pulpits, and spread spiritual apathy among the people. They have, however, made the experiment of error, and, like their Swiss and German neighbors, appear disposed to retrace their steps. There are supposed to be at present about forty evangelical pasteurs in the national churcha small number; but we trust the beginning of a farther movement. Besides these, there are missionaries of the English Continental Society, the French Evangelical Society, and the Wesleyan Missionary Society, amounting in all to about forty, making eighty evangelical preachers to a population of thirty-four millions. Other laborers, colporteurs, evangelists, instituteurs, &c., are scattered over the pro vinces, sowing the seed of life in the retired villages, on the mountains, and among the vineyards of the valleys. Remarkable success has already attended some of their exertions, and, in a number of cases, revivals of religion have occurred, which afford no unfavorable comparison with those recorded in the history of the Methodistic reformers of England. It would be a pleasing contrast with the picture of France, which we have portrayed in the preceding pages, to enter here into the details of their success; but this has already been done by an abler pen, in an article copied from a foreign journal into this magazine.** We take the pleasure, however, to certify, from a personal observation on the spot, to the general correctness of the statements in that interesting article.

The French evangelists, though few, have the zeal and laborious energy usually characteristic of the first leaders in great moral movements. Many of them are men "full of faith and the Holy Ghost." We have mingled in their circles of prayer, and sat under their earnest ministries, and taken the sacramental elements from their hands with associations which we have thought might be called up by witnessing the labors of the apostles and "holy army of martyrs," or those of Luther and his noble colleagues.

While these signs of the times have been coming out, like solitary stars, in the moral night of France, others have likewise appeared rising above the horizon of her south-western mountains. The spirit of the Reformation has again broken out in Switzerland. It has come forth from the grave of Calvin; and in Geneva, where, in 1812, not a single evangelical clergyman lifted his voice, a number of churches again stand up for the faith once delivered to the saints. A new theological school has been established, the various societies of Christian benevolence have been organized, and are sending forth from that land of history and poetry their messengers into France. Such men as have already gone forth from them, such men as Felix Neff and Henry Pyt, whose works do follow them, are descending the Jura Alps with the cross in their hands. Some of them are already in Paris, preaching in the very temple in which the St. Simonians but a short time since predicted the speedy overthrow of Christianity. Fourteen places of worship (oratories) are sustained by the Genevan reformers alone in France, and supplied with evangelists, who, like the early "laborers" of Wesley, are workmen indeed, traversing the

* Protestantism in France, in the April No. of the Methodist Magazine for 1836.

country, preaching among the villagers, and compelling them from "the highways and hedges to come in." The evangelical churches of Geneva have likewise sent out twenty-one colporteurs into the provinces of France. The colporteurs are men of good solid sense and deep piety, who carry on their backs large quantities of Bibles, tracts, and other religious books, and travel on foot among the towns and villages, selling them where they can, and distributing them gratuitously where there is no disposition to purchase them. They introduce religion into conversation where they can, and by their "household words" and humble practical appearance, exert an influence over the lower classes which could not be commanded by men of superior character. In about four years they sold about thirty thousand copies of the Scriptures in France, and in the last year distributed twenty thousand tracts. The proximity of Switzerland to France, and the use of the same language, by its western cantons, afford it peculiar facilities for missionary exertion in the country; and the removal of all legal restrictions has opened a wide and effectual door into which the Swiss champions are crowding with the characteristic zeal of the mountaineers of that land of liberty and of the Reformation. French evangelical Christians are disposed to welcome them and co-operate in their plans; and at the anniversary weeks of Paris and Geneva, delegates are sent from the respective countries to reciprocate cordial sentiments. The Wesleyan missionaries are laboriously at work in Paris and in the southern provinces. There are fourteen missionaries now engaged in the labors of the mission. They preach, upon an average, to about four thousand hearers, and have about six hundred members in their societies, and about six hundred children in Sabbath schools. At their last conference, held in Paris, they found that six more laborers were immediately wanted to meet the demands of their appointments. They have thus far succeeded better than any other sect. Their zeal and hard working habits adapt them to the peculiar circumstances of the country; for nothing but the most indefatigable efforts can succeed in a country where the frivolities of an hour may banish from the gay minds of the people the most sober impressions.

The efforts in behalf of evangelical piety in France, which we have mentioned, have already resulted in the formation of those projects of Christian usefulness which are the marks of the genuine work of God. The various societies for extending the work not only among them. selves but in foreign lands, have been organized, and exhibit an example of activity and liberality worthy of the emulation of better lands. The "French Evangelical Society" has operated with remarkable energy. In 1833 it had but six laborers of various kinds; in 1834 they had increased to seventeen; in 1835 to thirty; and the last year to forty-three. The income of the society has risen in the same time from seven thousand five hundred and eighty francs to thirty-seven thousand three hundred and seven francs. The "French and Foreign Bible Society," in three years, published four editions of the Bible, three of which are stereotyped, and seven editions of the New Testament, and distributed the third year alone about seventeen thousand copies of the Scriptures in nine languages. The "Tract Society" circulated the last year about half a million of tracts. "Foreign Missionary Society" have, at this moment, about fourteen


« AnteriorContinuar »