State, Church, and School in France: IV. Moral Education as an Ideal of the French Republic

David Saville Muzzey
1911 The School Review  
The Third Republic has passed its fortieth year. No other government has lasted so long in France since the revolutionists of I792 overthrew the Bourbon monarchy. Republic, Consulate, Empire, Bourbon Restoration, Orleans Monarchy, Second Republic, Second Empire, Third Republic followed in rapid succession with revolutions and coups d'etat in the eighty years between the storming of the Tuileries and the overthrow of Napoleon III at Sedan: eight changes of government in as many decades. With the
more » ... y decades. With the Third Republic the ship of state by no means came into clear water. It has had the Boulanger conspiracy, the Dreyfus affair, the Separation strife to weather. But nevertheless each succeeding year brings a sense of stability to the present regime. France is more completely pledged to a republican form of government today than ever before in her history. Even the court of Rome has acknowledged the hopelessness of the return to a monarchical regime by sounding the call for the rally of the priesthood to the support of the Republic (I89I). One of the first requisites for the appreciation of any of the institutions of the Third Republic is the realization of the fact that the founders of this republic, Thiers, Gambetta, Ferry, and the rest, did not think that they were creating any new thing, but were simply restoring to vigor the grand principles of the men of I789-those principles which had been travestied by the Jacobins, cynically crushed by Napoleon the Great, and treacherously betrayed by "Napoleon the Little." The founders of the Third Republic always had before their eyes the immortal Declaration of the Rights of Man. They saw in the 383 This content downloaded from on November 27, 2016 06:15:33 AM All use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions ( THE SCHOOL REVIEW legislation of the Constituent Assembly for the abolition of feudalism, the unification of judicial procedure, the nationalization of ecclesiastical lands, the education of a democratic generation of youth, the pledges and guaranties of a lasting state. They aimed to restore these pledges in so far as they had been violated by the stormy succession of despotisms that had filled the nineteenth century. It is only as we envisage the educational work of these founders of the Third Republic as a part of this great work of restoration, as one feature in the program of the return of the nation to rationality and solidarity, that we appreciate its full significance. Lay moral education is not so much a program of the French Republic as it is an ideal of the French Republic. In this closing article on education in France, therefore, I wish to emphasize some of the principles of the French Revolution which have determined and guided the program of instruction under the Third Republic; have enlisted the school as an ally of the Republic, and bound it very closely to the state; and have given education in France that extremely centralized character which appears to us sometimes as despotic, but to Frenchmen always as integrating. The basic principle of the Revolution was the adequacy of man, the sufficiency of reason as a guide for the individual life and the construction of a public policy. Perhaps, in appropriating for the first time in all seriousness Aristotle's dictum that man is a reasoning animal, the men of the Revolution went to foolish extremes. In their enthusiasm for the newly discovered emancipation of reason and their reaction against the centurylong oppression of privilege, they endowed every man forthwith with the capacities of the best. You had but to assure a laborer of his dignity and he was a legislator; only to read the Declaration of the Rights of Man to a drayman and he became a statesman. The fault of the Jacobins was rather one of emphasis and application than one of principle-and we must read back through their excesses to the inspiring doctrine which they travestied-the doctrine of the latent capacity of every man for infinite moral development. Humanity progresses, 384
doi:10.1086/435764 fatcat:pxehwsejzvfknfeb4o34bcymti