Governmental Patronage Of Knowledge -- By: James Davie Butler

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 034:133 (Jan 1877)
Article: Governmental Patronage Of Knowledge
Author: James Davie Butler


Governmental Patronage Of Knowledge

Prof. James Davie Butler

The phrase “Knowledge is power” may be no older than Bacon; some say it is not so old; but the feeling it indicates runs back of all chronology and round the world. It is implied in the very name man, which means thinker, and which is as old as the pre-historic Aryan cradle.

In no portion of any community has the appreciation of knowledge in some form been more conspicuous than in the ruling class. According to Carlyle the first sovereign was called “king,” being regarded, as by way of eminence, the kenning man, because he who kens, can. The feeling that knowledge is power we see in the African potentate when he saw the first plow turning up its furrow, exclaiming in royal rapture, “This will save me five wives.” We see it in Peter the Great throwing his arms round the statue of Richelieu, and crying out, “Why were we not contemporaries? Then I would have given thee half my kingdom for teaching me to make the most of the other half.” We see it in

Turks for ages baffled by Greek fire; and in savage chiefs always and everywhere seeking fire-arms, regardless of expense. We see it in Philip of Macedon writing that he thanked the gods less for his son Alexander than for Aristotle as his teacher.

Believing that governmental patronage of knowledge deserves more attention than, so far as I know, that theme has received, I propose, as the subject of the present Article, Some of the Modes in which Governments have Patronized Knowledge or Contributed to its Increase. Let us render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. I am well aware that public patronage is often more selfish than private gifts are. Frequently it has cost nothing to those public functionaries who have been its almoners, so that satirists would compare them to Dr. Reineke Fuchs prescribing for the sick lion a plaster torn off from the back of the bear. Still the application may have been as salutary as if the fox had made his medicament by the sacrifice of his own skin. So the dollars of the self-seeking may prove as beneficent as those of the benevolent, wherever money is the sinews of science.

Governments have been forced to patronize knowledge for their own interest, and that both in war and peace.

War under great captains has always been a science, and it has both called into its service the best knowledge of its time, and it has done its utmost to improve that knowledge. Mark the endeavors persisted in through all ages to render fortifications, navies, arms, and every warlike munition more scientific. Remember among the ancients the walls of Babylon, of the Ro...

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