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Hon. JAMES ABERCROMBIE, M. P.
The Plan of the UNIVERSITY of LONDON is now so much matured, that the Council, chosen to superintend its affairs, deem themselves bound to lay an outline of it before the public, in order that the friends of public instruction may have a fuller opportunity of determining how far the Institution deserves the continuance of their support.
The number and names of the Subscribers sufficiently evince the strong conviction of its utility which prevails in the class for whom the Institution is peculiarly destined, and who consult their own interest, as well as that of the public, in contributing towards its establishment.
The City of London is nearly equal in population, and far superior in wealth, to each of the Kingdoms of Denmark, Saxony, Hanover, and Wirtemburgh, every one of which has at least one flourishing University. Supposing the annual rate of increase, in the last five years, to have been the same as in the preceding ten, the present population cannot be less than fourteen hundred thousand souls,* of whom there are
about forty thousand males, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one; the usual period of academical education. Out of this number it appears to be probable from the Parliamentary returns of the Property Tax, in the latter years of its duration, that from four thousand to six thousand are the children of persons who can easily defray the very moderate expense of their attendance on Lectures in London. It may safely be affirmed, that there is no equal number of youths in any other place, of whom so large a portion feel the want of liberal education, are so well qualified for it, could so easily obtain all its advantages at home, and are so little able to go in quest of them elsewhere. No where else is knowledge more an object of desire, either as a source of gratification, a means of improvement, or an instrument of honest and useful ambition. The exclusion of so great a body of intelligent youth, designed for the most important occupations in society, from the higher means of liberal education, is a defect in our institutions, which, if it were not become familiar by its long prevalence, would offend every reasonable mind. In a word, London, which, for intelligence and wealth, as well as numbers, may fairly be deemed the first City in the civilized world, is at once the place which most needs an University, and the only great Capital which has none.
The Plan of the Institution will comprehend Public Lectures, with Examinations by the Professors; Mutual Instruction among the Pupils, and the aid of Tutors in those parts of knowledge which most require to be minutely and repeatedly impressed on the memory. It is intended, that the Professors shall derive their income at first principally, and, as soon as may be, entirely, from the fees paid by their pupils; they will hold their offices during good behaviour. Professors will doubtless be found of eminent ability, and of such established reputation, as to give authority and lustre to their instructions, so that the University will not be wanting in the means of exciting and guiding superior faculties in their ascent to excellence, as well as of speedily and easily imparting the needful measure of knowledge to all diligent students. The number of the Professors, the allotment of particular branches to individuals, and the order in which the Lectures ought to be attended, are matters not yet finally settled, and some of them must partly depend, in the first instance, on the qualifications of candidates; others will permanently be regulated by the demand for different sorts of instruction. Some Professorships may hereafter be consolidated; more are likely in process of time to be subdivided; many entirely new will doubtless be rendered necessary by the progress of discovery, and by the enlarged desire of the community for knowledge. The Course of Instruction will at present consist of Languages, Mathematics, Physics, the Mental and the Moral Sciences, together with the Law of England, History, and Political Economy;--and the various branches of knowledge which are the objects of Medical Education. In the classification of these studies, there is no intention to adhere strictly to a logical order, whether founded upon the subjects to which each relates, or on the faculties principally employed on it. Without entirely losing sight of these considerations, the main guide of the Council is the convenience of teaching, which for the present purpose is more important than a scientific arrangement; even if such an arrangement could be well made without a new nomenclature of the sciences, and a new distribution of their objects. A few preliminary observations will explain the grounds of the first choice of subjects for Lectures, and the reasons for assigning, in some instances, boundaries to the province of each Professor. Some LANGUAGES will probably be studied only by those whose generally, it will be fit to seek for every method of abridging the labour by which the majority are to attain that proficiency to which they must confine themselves. But the structure of human speech is itself one of the worthiest objects of meditation : the comparison of various languages, makes each of them better understood, and illustrates the affinity of nations, while it enlarges and strengthens the understanding; even the minute and seemingly unfruitful study of words is a school of discrimination and precision; and in the arts which employ language as their instrument, the contemplation of the original models, not only serves to form the taste of the youth of genius, but generally conduces to expand and elevate the human faculties.
destination requires such attainments, and in this senartment
The MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES are so justly valued as a discipline of the reasoning faculties, and as an unerring measure of human advancement, that the commendation of them might seem disrespectful to the public judgment, if they did not afford by far the most striking instance of the dependence of the most common and useful arts upon abstruse reasoning. The elementary propositions of Geometry were once merely speculative; but those to whom their subserviency to the speed and safety of voyages, is now familiar, will be slow to disparage any truth for the want of present and palpable usefulness.
It is a matter of considerable difficulty to ascertain the distribution of Physics, a vast science, or rather class of sciences, which consists in the knowledge of the most general facts observed by the senses in the things without us. Some of these appearances are the subject of calculation, and must, in teaching, be blended with the Mathematics ; others are chiefly discovered and proved by experiment; one portion of physical observation relates to the movements of conspicuous masses, while another respects the reciprocal action of the imperceptible particles or agents which we know only by their results; a great part are founded on that uniformity of structure, and those important peculiarities of action, which characterize vegetable and animal life. The subjoined division of professorships in this province, though chiefly adapted to the practieal purpose of instruction, is influenced by some regard to the above considerations.
As the Physical Sciences aim at ascertaining the most general facts observed by sense in the things which are the objects of thought, so the MENTAL SCIENCES seek to determine the most general facts relating to thought or feeling, which are made known to the being who thinks, by his own consciousness. The sub-division of this part of knowledge, would be
desirable on account of its importance and intricacy; but the close connexion of all the facts with each other renders it peculiarly difficult.
A separate Professorship of Logic is proposed, not only because it supplies the rules of argument, and the tests of sophistry, but still more for that mental regimen by which it slowly dispels prejudice and strengthens habits of right judgment.
Perhaps, also, Rhetoric may in time merit a separate Profes sorship, of which one main object would be to undeceive those rigid censurers, and misguided admirers, who consider eloquence as a gaudy pageant; and to imbue the minds of youth with the wholesome assurance that when guided by morality, and subjected to logic, it is the art of rendering truth popular, and virtue delightful; of adding persuasion to conviction; and of engaging the whole man, the feelings as well as the understanding, on the side of true wisdom.
The object common to the MORAL SCIENCES, is the determinati, of the rules which ought to direct the voluntary actions of men; as. they have generally been subdivided into Ethics and Jurisprudence ;
though the important distinction between these sciences has seldom been accurately traced, still less steadily observed. The direct object of Ethics is the knowledge of those habitual dispositions of mind which we approve as moral, or disapprove as immoral, and from which beneficial or mischievous actions ordinarily flow. In an ethical point of view, actions are estimated good in proportion to the excellence of the state of mind from which they arise. The science of Ethics is co-extensive with the whole character and conduct of man; it contemplates the nature of virtues and duties; of those dispositions which are praiseworthy, and of that course of action which is incumbent on a reasonable being, apart from the consideration of the injunctions of law, and the authority of civil government.
The first object of JURISPRUDENCE, (taking that term in an enlarged sense,) is the ascertainment of rights, or of those portions of power over persons or things which should be allotted to each individual for the general welfare. The second is to determine what violations of these rights are so injurious in their effects and consequences to society, as to require prevention by the fear of adequate punishment. It is the science which defines rights and crimes; it pre-supposes the authority of government, and is limited in its direct operation to the outward actions of men as they affect each other. Ethics, though it has a wider scope, contemplates its objects more simply and generally. Jurisprudence, within its more limited sphere, considers its objects in more points of view; prescribes more exact rules, and is therefore compelled to make minute and even subtle distinctions. The confusion of these two branches of Moral Science has contributed to disturb the theory of Ethics, and to corrupt the practice of legislation.
The study of the Law of ENGLAND has for centuries been confined to the Capital, where alone is a constant opportunity of observing its administration in Courts of Justice, and of acquiring skill in peculiar branches under private instructors. These exclusive advantages of London for the Study of the Law will be enhanced by combination with Lectures and Examinations, while systematic instruction in Law, and in general knowledge, will be rendered accessible to those branches of the legal profession who are now shut out from them in common with the majority of the other youth of this Capital.
The maxims which ought to be observed by independent communities towards each other, and of which the fitness is generally acknowledged by civilized states, together with the usages by which they profess to regulate their intercourse, constitute what is metaphorically called the LAW OF NATIONS.
POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, which considers what are the rights and duties of Rulers and Subjects in relation to each other, naturally belongs to the province of Ethics.
In an arrangement which does not affect a rigid method, History and Political Economy may be classed either as parts or appendages of Moral Science. A minute knowledge of History cannot be communicated by Lectures. But the outline of General History, directions to the Student for historical reading, the subsidiary sciences of Geography and Chronology, together with some information respecting Numismatics and Diplomatics, * and the rules of Historical Criticism, will furnish ample scope for one Professor.
* The ascertainment of the age and authenticity of ancient manuscripts, chiefly of public documents, by their written character and other outward marks. The adoption of this technical term from the continental nations seems to be justified by convenience.
The object of the science of POLITICAL ECONOMY is to ascertain the laws which regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth, or the outward things obtained by labour, and needed or desired by man. It is now too justly valued to require any other remark, than that the occasional difficulty of applying its principles, and the differences of opinion to which that difficulty has given rise, form new reasons for the diligent cultivation of a science which is so indispensible to the well being of communities, and of which, as it depends wholly on facts, all the perplexities must be finally removed by accurate observation and precise language.
For the studies which are necessary in all the branches of the PROFESSION of MEDICINE, London possesses peculiar and inestimable advantages. It is in large towns only that Medical Schools can exist. The means of acquiring anatomical knowledge, medical experience, and surgical dexterity, must increase in exact proportion to the greatness of the town, At this moment the great majority of those who are called general practitioners, who take no degree, confine themselves to no single branch of the profession; but in whose hands the whole ordinary practice of England is placed, receive their systematic instruction from Lectures in London, during one or two years, while many of them are attending hospitals. The annual average of such students is about seven hundred. Many of the Lecturers have been, and are men of very eminent ability; and the practitioners thus educated are, generally, most respectable for information and skill. It is no reflexion on either body to affirm, that Medical Education would be improved if the teachers of most distinguished ability who are now scattered over London, were gradually attracted to one Institution, where they would be stimulated to the utmost exertion of their faculties, by closer rivalship, larger emolument, and wider reputation. To what cause but to the present dispersion of eminent teachers can it be ascribed, that the greatest city of the civilized world is not its first School of Medicine?
The young men who are intended for the scientific profession of a CIVIL ENGINEER, which has of late been raised so high by men of genius, and exercised with such signal advantage to the public, have almost as strong reasons as those who are destined for the practice of Medicine, for desiring that a System of Academical Education should be accessible to them where they can be best trained to skill and expertness under masters of the first eminence.
To these examples might be added, the obvious and striking case of COMMERCE which would be of itself suflicient to show the advantage of bringing literary and scientific instruction to the place where diligence and experience in liberal occupations are acquired. By the formation of an University in this metropolis, the useful intercourse of theory with active life will be facilitated ; speculation will be instantly tried and corrected by practice, and the man of business will more readily find principles which will bestow simplicity and order on his experimental knowledge. No where can every part of information, even the most remote and recondite, be obtained so easily as in a city which contains cultivators of all branches of learning, followers of all opinions, and natives of every quarter of the globe.
The Council are rather encouraged than disheartened by the consideration that their undertaking rests on the voluntary contributions of individuals, to which, after a season of public difficulty, they now appeal with firmer assurance. They are satisfied, that experience of its advantages will, in due time, procure for it such legal privileges as may be found convenient for its administration; and they are not