« PreviousContinue »
There is the Parliament, sir, invested, knowingly, definitely, positively invested by the fathers of confederation in the constitution with the jurisdiction to maintain these rights and to restore them if they are taken away. This Parliament is appealed to. It is watched by Canada, it is watched by the world. On grounds of courage, on grounds of justice, on grounds of good faith, make you answer to those who appeal, make you answer to Canada, which is watching you, and to the world, which will judge of your actions. History, sir, is making itself in these eventful days. Shall the chapter be a record of nobleness and adequacy, or a record of weakness and inefficiency? Shall we stamp ourselves as petty and provincial, or shall we be recorded to future ages as magnanimous and imperial? Let us plant our feet in the firm paths of constitutional compact and agreement of good faith, and of honest, fair dealing. Let us take and pass on that gleaming touch of prudent compromise under whose kindly light the fathers of confederation marched safely through in times far more troublous and far less advanced than ours into an era of harmony and continued peace.
Let us do justice to a weak and patient minority, and thus settle forever the question of the sufficiency of the guarantees of confederation. Let us follow with cheerful emulation the shining example of our great mother country, whose foundations were laid on the solid granite of good faith, and whose world-wide and wondrous superstructure has been joined together with the cement of a strong and generous toleration. .
Let us prove ourselves now, in the thirtieth year of our existence as in the stress of our natal days, a people fit for Empire, and worthy to rank among the best and greatest of nations.
RTHUR JAMES BALFOUR, a noted English statesman and author,
was born in Scotland, July 25, 1848, and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He entered Parliament in 1874 as member for Hertford, which he represented till 1885, since which time he has sat for East Manchester. He was private secretary to his uncle, Lord Salisbury, 1878-80, and for a short period acted with a few Conservatives led by Lord Randolph Churchill, and known as the “ Fourth Party.” He was Privy Councillor in 1885, Secretary for Scotland, 1886-87, and Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1887-91, his Irish policy being nct altogether to the liking of some of the Conservatives. He was First Lord of the Treasury, 1891-92, and again in 1895. He became Conservative leader of the House in 1891 and in the following year delivered many speeches against the Home Rule Bill. Balfour was Lord Rector of St. Andrew's University in 1880, and of Glasgow University in 1890. His writings comprise “ A Defence of Philosophic Doubt" (1879); Essays and Addresses (1893); “ The Foundations of Belief," a book which has attracted general attention (1895).
THE PLEASURES OF READING
DELIVERED AT ST. ANDREW'S UNIVERSITY, DECEMBER 10, 1887
RULY it is a subject for astonishment that, instead of
expanding to the utmost the employment of this
pleasure-giving faculty, so many persons should set themselves to work to limit its exercise by all kinds of arbitrary regulations.
Some persons, for example, tell us that the acquisition of knowledge is all very well, but that it must be useful knowledge,-meaning usually thereby that it must enable a man to get on in a profession, pass an examination, shine in conversation, or obtain a reputation for learning. But even if they mean something higher than this—even if they mean that knowledge, to be worth anything, must subserve ulti
mately, if not immediately, the material or spiritual interests of mankind,--the doctrine is one which should be energetically repudiated.
I admit, of course, at once, that discoveries the most apparently remote from human concerns have often proved themselves of the utmost commercial or manufacturing value. But they require no such justification for their existence, nor were they striven for with any such object.
Navigation is not the final cause of astronomy, nor telegraphy of electro-dynamics, nor dye-works of chemistry. And if it be true that the desire of knowledge for the sake of knowledge was the animating motives of the great men who first wrested her secrets from nature, why should it not also be enough for us, to whom it is not given to discover, but only to learn as best we may what has been discovered by others ?
Another maxim, more plausible but equally pernicious, is that superficial knowledge is worse than no knowledge at all. That "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is a saying which has now got currency as a proverb stamped in the mint of Pope's versification,—of Pope who, with the most imperfect knowledge of Greek, translated Homer; with the most imperfect knowledge of the Elizabethan drama, edited Shakespeare; and with the most imperfect knowledge of philosophy, wrote the “ Essay on Man.”
But what is this “ little knowledge ” which is supposed to be so dangerous ? What is it“ little " in relation to ? If in relation to what there is to know, then all human knowledge is little. If in relation to what actually is known by somebody, then we must condemn as “ dangerous” the knowledge which Archimedes possessed of mechanics, or Copernicus of astronomy; for a shilling primer and a few
weeks' study will enable any student to outstrip in mere information some of the greatest teachers of the past.
No doubt that little knowledge which thinks itself to be great many possibly be a dangerous, as it certainly is a most ridiculous, thing. We have all suffered under that eminently absurd individual who, on the strength of one or two volumes, imperfectly apprehended by himself and long discredited in the estimation of every one else, is prepared to supply you on the shortest notice with a dogmatic solution of every problem suggested by this “unintelligible world; or the political variety of the same pernicious genus whose statecraft consists in the ready application to the most complex question of national interest of some high-sounding commonplace which has done weary duty on a thousand platforms, and which even in its palmiest days was never fit for anything better than a peroration.
But in our dislike of the individual do not let us mistake the diagnosis of his disease. He suffers not from ignorance, but from stupidity. “Give him learning, and you make him, not wise, but only more pretentious in his folly.
I say, then, that so far from a little knowledge being undesirable a little knowledge is all that on most subjects any of us can hope to attain, and that as a source, not of worldly profit, but of personal pleasure, it may be of incalculable value to its possessor.
But it will naturally be asked, “How are we to select from among the infinite number of things which may be known those which it is best worth while for us to know?” We are constantly being told to concern ourselves with learning what is important, and not to waste our energies upon what is insignificant.
But what are the marks by which we shall recognize the
important, and how is it to be distinguished from the insignificant? A precise and complete answer to this question which shall be true for all men cannot be given. I am considering knowledge, recollect, as it ministers to enjoyment, and from this point of view each unit of information is obviously of importance in proportion as it increases the general sum of enjoyment which we obtain from knowledge. This, of course, makes it impossible to lay down precise rules which shall be an equally sure guide to all sorts and conditions of men; for in this, as in other matters, tastes must differ, and against real difference of taste there is no appea
There is, however, one caution which it may be worth your while to keep in view,-Do not be persuaded into applying any general proposition on this subject with a foolish impartiality to every kind of knowledge. There are those who tell you that it is the broad generalities and the far-reaching principles which govern the world, which are alone worthy of your attention.
A fact which is not an illustration of a law, in the opinion of these persons, appears to lose all its value. Incidents which do not fit into some great generalization, events which are merely picturesque, details which are merely curiousthey dismiss as unworthy the interest of a reasoning being.
Now, even in science, this doctrine in its extreme form does not hold good. The most scientific of men have taken profound interest in the investigation of facts from the determination of which they do not anticipate any material addition to our knowledge of the laws which regulate the universe. In these matters I need hardly say that I speak wholly without authority. But I have always been under the impression that an investigation which has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds; which has stirred on three occasions