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Popular Education - For the use of Parents and Teachers, and for Young Persons of Both Sexes
by Ira Mayhew
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In view of the great number of idiots in the commonwealth, the commissioners say, "it appeared to us certain that the existence of so many idiots in every generation must be the consequence of some violation of the natural laws; that where there was so much suffering there must have been sin. We resolved, therefore, to seek for the sources of the evil, as well as to gauge the depth and extent of the misery."

Some of the causes of idiocy are set forth in the report, two of which are as follows: first, the low condition of the physical organization of one or both parents, induced often by intemperance; second, the intermarriage of relatives.

The report states that out of 420 cases of congenital idiocy which were examined, some information was gained respecting the condition of the progenitors of 359. Now in all these cases, save only four, it was found that one or the other, or both, of the immediate progenitors of the unfortunate sufferer had in some way widely departed from the normal condition of health, and violated the natural laws. That is to say, one or the other, or both of them, had been very unhealthy or scrofulous; or hereditarily predisposed to affections of the brain, causing occasional insanity; or had intermarried with blood relatives; or had been intemperate; or had been guilty of sensual excesses which impair the constitution.[50]

[50] The subject of hereditary transmission of diseased tendency is of vast importance, but it is a difficult one to treat, because a squeamish delicacy makes people avoid it; but if ever the race is to be relieved of a tithe of the bodily ills which flesh is now heir to, it must be by a clear understanding of, and a willing obedience to, the law which makes the parents the blessing or the curse of the children; the givers of strength, and vigor, and beauty, or the dispensers of debility, and disease, and deformity. It is by the lever of enlightened parental love, more than by any other power, that mankind is to be raised to the highest attainable point of bodily perfection.—DR. S. G. HOWE.

INTEMPERANCE AND IDIOCY.—Out of the three hundred and fifty-nine idiots, the condition of whose progenitors was ascertained, ninety-nine were the children of drunkards. But this does not tell the whole story by any means. By drunkard is meant a person who is a notorious and habitual sot. Many persons who are habitually intemperate do not get this name even now; much less would they have done so twenty-five or thirty years ago. By a pretty careful inquiry, with an especial view of ascertaining the number of idiots of the lowest class whose parents were known to be temperate persons, it is found that not one quarter can be so considered.

From the pretty uniform action of a physiological law, which is now becoming well understood, it appears that idiots, fools, and simpletons, either in the first or second generation, are common among the progeny of intemperate persons, and may be considered as an effect of the habitual use of alcohol, even in moderate quantities. If, moreover, one considers how many children of intemperate parents there are who, without being idiots, are deficient in bodily and mental energy, and predisposed by their very organization to have cravings for alcoholic stimulants, it will be seen what an immense burden the drinkers of one generation throw upon the succeeding one.

IDIOCY AND THE MARRIAGE OF RELATIVES.—Out of the three hundred and fifty-nine cases of congenital idiocy already referred to, in which the parentage was ascertained, "seventeen were known to be the children of parents nearly related by blood; but, as many of these cases were adults, it was impossible to ascertain, in some cases, whether their parents, who were dead, were related or not before marriage. From some collateral evidence, we conclude that at least three more cases should be added to the seventeen. This would show that more than one twentieth of the idiots examined are offspring of the marriage of relations. Now, as marriages between near relations are by no means in the ratio of one to twenty, nor even, perhaps, as one to a thousand to the marriages between persons not related, it follows that the proportion of idiotic progeny is vastly greater in the former than in the latter case. Then it should be considered that idiocy is only one form in which Nature manifests that she has been offended by such intermarriages. It is probable that blindness, deafness, imbecility, and other infirmities, are more likely to be the lot of the children of parents related by blood than of others. The probability, therefore, of unhealthy or infirm issue from such marriages becomes fearfully great, and the existence of the law against them is made out as clearly as though it were written on tables of stone.

"The statistics of the seventeen families, the heads of which, being blood relatives, intermarried, tells a fearful tale. Most of the parents were intemperate or scrofulous; some were both the one and the other; of course, there were other causes to increase chances of infirm offspring besides that of the intermarriage. There were born unto them ninety-five children, of whom forty-four were idiotic, twelve others were scrofulous and puny, one was deaf, and one was a dwarf! In some cases, all the children were either idiotic, or very scrofulous and puny. In one family of eight children, five were idiotic."

CONDITION OF IDIOTS.—From what has been said of the character of parents to whom are born the greatest proportion of this most wretched and helpless class of persons, their condition and treatment might be inferred. To rear healthy children properly, a knowledge of the principles of physiology and mental science is essentially necessary. This knowledge is still more important in the treatment of idiots. Dr. Howe is of the opinion that it requires a rarer and higher kind of talent to teach an idiot than a youth of superior talent. When the time comes that schools for idiots are established all over the country, he thinks "it will be found more difficult to get good teachers for them than to get good professors for our colleges."

After excepting five or six alms-houses in which the idiots are treated both kindly and wisely, the commissioners say, "the general condition of those at the public charge is most deplorable. They are filthy, gluttonous, lazy, and given up to abominations of various kinds. They not only do not improve, but they sink deeper and deeper into bodily depravity and mental degradation. Bad, however, as is the condition of the idiots who are at public charge, and gross as is the ignorance of those who take the charge of them about their real wants and capabilities, we are constrained to say that the condition of those in private houses is, generally speaking, still worse, and the ignorance of the relatives and friends who support them is still more profound."

This is not to be wondered at when we consider that idiots are generally born of a very poor stock—of persons who are subject to some disorders of the brain, or who are themselves scrofulous and puny to the last degree. Such persons are, generally, very feeble in intellect, poor in purse, and intemperate in habits. A great many of them are hardly able to take care of themselves. They are unfit to teach or train common children; how much less to take the charge of idiots, whose education is the most difficult of all!

The commissioners ascertained, mainly by personal observation, the condition of three hundred and fifty-five idiotic persons who are not town or state paupers. Of these there may be, at the most, five who are treated very judiciously; who are taught by wise and discreet persons, and whose faculties and capabilities are developed to their fullest extent; but the remaining three hundred and fifty are generally "in a most deplorable condition as it respects their bodily, mental, and moral treatment."[51]

[51] One would hardly be credited if he should put down half the instances of gross ignorance manifested by parents in this enlightened community [the State of Massachusetts] in the treatment of idiotic children. Sometimes they find that the children seem to comprehend what they hear, but soon forget it; hence they conclude that the brain is soft, and can not retain impressions, and then they cover the head with cold poultices of oak-bark in order to tan or harden the fibers. Others, finding that it is exceedingly difficult to make any impression upon the mind, conclude that the brain is too hard, and they torture the poor child with hot and softening poultices of bread and milk; or they plaster tar over the whole skull, and keep it on for a long time. These are innocent applications compared with some, which doubtless render weak-minded children perfectly idiotic.—DR. S. G. HOWE.

What a striking illustration have we here of the necessity of diffusing correct physiological information more widely among the masses than has yet been done even in enlightened Massachusetts!

The commissioners come to the unquestionable conclusion in their report that "nothing can afford a stronger argument in favor of an institution for the proper training and teaching of idiots, and the dissemination of information upon the subject, than the striking difference manifested in the condition of the few children who are properly cared for and judiciously treated, and those who are neglected or abused. There are cases in our community of youths who are idiotic from birth, but who, under proper care and training, have become cleanly in person, quiet in deportment, industrious in habits, and who would almost pass in society for persons of common intelligence; and yet their natural capacity was no greater than that of others, who, from ignorance or neglect of their parents, have become filthy, gluttonous, lazy, vicious, depraved, and are rapidly sinking into driveling idiocy. This fact alone should be enough to encourage the state to take measures at once for the establishment of a school or institution for teaching or training idiots, if it were but a matter of experiment."

Massachusetts is the only state in the Union that as yet has attempted to do any thing for the education and training of this hitherto neglected class of persons. The result of the first year's experiment has been most gratifying and encouraging. Of the whole number received, there was not one who was in a situation where any great improvement in his condition was probable, or hardly possible; they were growing worse in habits, and more confirmed in their idiocy. But the process of deterioration in the pupils has been entirely stopped, and that of improvement has commenced; and though a year is a very short time in the instruction of such persons, yet its effects are manifest in all of them. They have improved in personal appearance and habits, in general health, in vigor, and in activity of body. Some of them can control their appetites in a considerable degree; they sit at the table with their teachers, and feed themselves decently. Almost all of them have improved in the understanding and the use of speech. Some of them have made considerable progress in the knowledge of language; they can select words printed on slips of paper, and a few can read simple sentences. But, what is most important, THEY HAVE MADE A START FORWARD.

"There is ground for confidence that the reasonable hopes of the friends of the experiment will be satisfied. All that they promised has been accomplished, so far as was possible in the period of a year. It has been demonstrated that idiots are CAPABLE OF IMPROVEMENT, and that they can be raised from a state of low degradation to a HIGHER CONDITION. How far they can be elevated, and to what extent they may be educated, can only be shown by the experience of the future. The result of the past year's trial, however, gives confidence that each succeeding year will show even more progress than any preceding one."

EDUCATION AND INSANITY.—It is well established that a defective and faulty education through the period of infancy and childhood is one of the most prolific causes of insanity. Such an education, or rather miseducation, causes a predisposition in many, and excites one where it already exists, which ultimately renders the animal propensities of our nature uncontrollable. Appetites indulged and perverted, passions unrestrained, propensities rendered vigorous by indulgence, and subjected to no salutary restraint, bring persons into a condition in which both moral and physical causes easily operate to produce insanity, if they do not produce it themselves.

We must look to well-directed systems of popular education, having for their object physical improvement, no less than mental and moral culture, to relieve us from many of the evils which "flesh is heir to," and nothing can so effectually secure us from this most formidable disease (as well as from others not less appalling) as that system of instruction which teaches us how to preserve the normal condition of the body and the mind; to fortify the one against the catalogue of physical causes which every where assail us, and to elevate the other above the influence of the trials and disappointments of life, so that the host of moral causes which affect the brain, through the medium of the mind, shall be inoperative and harmless.

Those first principles of physical education which teach us how to avoid disease are all-important to all liable to insanity from hereditary predisposition. The physical health must be attended to, and the training of the faculties of the mind be such as to counteract the over-active propensities of our nature—correcting the bias of the mind to wrong currents and to too great activity by bringing into action the antagonizing powers, and thus giving a sound body and a well-balanced mind. Neglect of this early training entails evils upon the young which are felt in all after life.

These positions are stated and amplified in the able reports of Dr. S. B. Woodward, superintendent of the State Lunatic Asylum, Worcester, Mass., to which the reader is referred. They are also corroborated by persons who have had the care of the insane in other institutions. In the eighteenth annual report of the physician and superintendent of the Connecticut Retreat for the Insane, Dr. Brigham says, "a knowledge of the nature of the disease would frequently lead to its prevention. Insanity, in most cases, arises from undue excitement and labor of the brain; for even if a predisposition to it is inherited, an exciting cause is essential to its development. Hence every thing likely to cause great excitement of the brain, especially in early life, should be avoided.

"The records of cases at this institution and my own observation justify me in saying that the neglect of moral discipline, the too great indulgence of the passions and emotions in early life, together with the excessive and premature exercise of the mental powers, are among the most frequent causes that predispose to insanity. But these causes are in no other way operative in producing insanity than by unduly exciting the brain. By neglect of moral discipline, a character is formed subject to violent passions, and to extreme emotions and anxiety from the unavoidable evils and disappointments of life, and thus the brain, by being often and violently agitated, becomes diseased; and by too early exercising and prematurely developing the mental powers, this organ is rendered more susceptible and liable to disease.

"I am confident there is too much mental labor imposed upon youth at our schools and colleges. There have been several admissions of young ladies at this institution direct from boarding-schools, and of young men from college, where they had studied excessively. Should such intense exertion of the mind in youth not lead to insanity or immediate disease, it predisposes to dyspepsy, hysteria, hypochondriasis, and affections allied to insanity, and which are often its precursors. Should that portion of the community who now act most wisely in obtaining a knowledge of the functions of the digestive organs, and in carefully guarding them from undue excitation, be equally regardful of the brain, they would do a very great service to society, and, in my opinion, do much toward arresting the alarming increase of insanity, and all disorders of the nervous system."[52]

[52] In the education of many, very many, I fear, the same mistake is made as in the case of Lord Dudley, thus described in a late number of the London Quarterly Review: "The irritable susceptibility of the brain was stimulated at the expense of bodily power and health. His foolish tutors took a pride in his precocious progress, which they ought to have kept back. They watered the forced plant with the blood of life; they encouraged the violation of Nature's laws, which are not to be broken in vain; they infringed the condition of conjoint moral and physical existence; they imprisoned him in a vicious circle, where the overworked brain injured the stomach, which reacted to the injury of the brain. They watched the slightest deviation from the rules of logic, and neglected those of dietetics, to which the former are a farce. They thought of no exercises but Latin; they gave him a Gradus instead of a cricket-bat, until his mind became too keen for its mortal coil, and the foundation was laid for ill health, derangement of stomach, moral pusillanimity, irresolution, lowness of spirits, and all the Protean miseries of nervous disorders, by which his after life was haunted, and which are sadly depicted in almost every letter before us."

EDUCATION INCREASES HUMAN HAPPINESS.

What is a man If his chief good and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more. Sure He that made us with such large discourse, Looking before and after, gave us not That capability and godlike reason To rust in us unused.—SHAKSPEARE.

All the happiness of man is derived from discovering, applying, or obeying the laws of his Creator; and all his misery is the result of ignorance or disobedience.—DR. WAYLAND.

If the doctrines taught and the sentiments inculcated in the preceding chapters of this work, but more especially in the preceding sections of this chapter, are true; if it is established that education dissipates the evils of ignorance; that it increases the productiveness of labor; that it diminishes pauperism and crime—if all this is true, it may seem a work of supererogation to attempt the establishment of the proposition that education increases human happiness. I admit this seeming impropriety; for that the proposition is true may be legitimately inferred from what has gone before. But I wish to amplify and extend this thought, and to show that education has, if possible, still higher claims upon our attention than have yet been presented; that it not only has the power of removing physical and moral evils, and of multiplying and augmenting personal and social enjoyments, but that, when rightly understood, it constitutes our chief good; that to it, and to it only, we may safely look for man's highest and enduring joys, and for the permanent elevation of the race.

MAN IN IGNORANCE.—That we may be the better prepared to appreciate the advantages of education, and its usefulness as a means of increasing human happiness, let us consider the state and the enjoyments of the man whose mind is shrouded in ignorance. He grows up to manhood like a vegetable, or like one of the lower animals that are fed and nourished for the slaughter. He exerts his physical powers because such exertion is necessary for his subsistence. Were it otherwise, we should most frequently find him dozing over the fire with a gaze as dull and stupid as his ox, regardless of every thing but the gratification of his appetites. He has, perhaps, been taught the art of reading, but has never applied it to the acquisition of knowledge. His views are chiefly confined to the objects immediately around him, and to the daily avocations in which he is employed. His knowledge of society is circumscribed within the limits of his neighborhood, and his views of the world are confined within the range of the country in which he resides, or of the blue hills which skirt his horizon.

Of the aspect of the globe in other countries, of the various tribes with which these are peopled, of the seas and rivers, continents and islands, which diversify the landscape of the earth, of the numerous orders of animated beings which people the ocean, the atmosphere, and the land, of the revolutions of nations, and the events which have taken place in the history of the world, he has almost as little conception as have the animals which range the forest.

In regard to the boundless regions that lie beyond him in the firmament, and the bodies that roll there in magnificent grandeur, he has the most confused and inaccurate ideas; indeed, he seldom troubles himself with inquiries in relation to such subjects. Whether the stars are great or small, whether they are near us or at a distance, and whether they move or stand still, are to him matters of trivial importance. If the sun gives him light by day and the moon by night, and the clouds distil their watery treasures upon his parched fields, he is contented, and leaves all such inquiries and investigations to those who have leisure and inclination to engage in them. He views the canopy of heaven as merely a ceiling to our earthly habitation, and the starry orbs as only so many luminous tapers to diversify its aspect, and to afford a glimmering light to the benighted traveler.

Such a person has no idea of the manner in which the understanding may be enlightened and expanded by education; he has no relish for intellectual pursuits, and no conception of the pleasures they afford; and he sets no value on knowledge but in so far as it may increase his riches and his sensual gratifications. He has no desire for making improvements in his trade or domestic arrangements, and gives no countenance to those useful inventions and public improvements which are devised by others. He sets himself against every innovation, whether religious, political, mechanical, or agricultural, and is determined to abide by the "good old customs" of his forefathers, even though they compel him to carry his grist to mill in one end of a bag, with a stone in the other to balance it. Were it dependent upon him, the moral world would stand still, as the material world was supposed to in former times; all useful inventions would cease; existing evils would never be remedied; ignorance and superstition would universally prevail; the human mind would be arrested in its progress to perfection, and man would never arrive at the true dignity of his intellectual nature.

It is evident that such an individual—and the world contains thousands and millions of such characters—can never have his mind elevated to those sublime objects and contemplations which enrapture the man of science, nor feel those pure and exquisite pleasures which cultivated minds so frequently experience; nor can he form those lofty and expansive conceptions of the Deity which the grandeur and magnificence of his works are calculated to inspire. He is left as a prey to all those foolish notions and vain alarms which are engendered by ignorance and superstition; and he swallows, without the least hesitation, all the absurdities and childish tales respecting witches, hobgoblins, specters, and apparitions, which have been handed down to him by his forefathers.

While the ignorant man thus gorges his mind with fooleries and absurdities, he spurns at the discoveries of science as impositions on the credulity of mankind, and contrary to reason and common sense. That the sun is a million of times larger than the earth; that light flies from his body at the rate of a hundred thousand miles in the hundredth part of a second; and that the earth is whirling round its axis from day to day with a velocity of a thousand miles every hour, are regarded by him as notions far more improbable and extravagant than the story of the "Wonderful Lamp," and all the other tales of the "Arabian Night's Entertainments." In his hours of leisure from his daily avocations, his thoughts either run wild among the most groveling objects, or sink into sensuality and inanity; and solitude and retirement present no charms to his vacant mind.

While human beings are thus immersed in ignorance, destitute of rational ideas and of a solid substratum of thought, they can never experience those pleasures and enjoyments which flow from the exercise of the understanding, and which correspond to the dignity of a rational and immortal nature.

AN ENLIGHTENED MIND.—On the other hand, the man whose mind is irradiated with the light of substantial science has views, and feelings, and exquisite enjoyments to which the former is an entire stranger. In consequence of the numerous and multifarious ideas he has acquired, he is introduced, as it were, into a new world, where he is entertained with scenes, objects, and movements, of which the mind enveloped in ignorance can form no conception. He can trace back the stream of time to its commencement, and, gliding along its downward course, can survey the most memorable events which have happened in every part of its progress, from the primeval ages to the present day; the rise of empires, the fall of kings, the revolutions of nations, the battles of warriors, and the important events which have followed in their train; the progress of civilization, and of the arts and sciences; the judgments which have been inflicted on wicked nations, the dawnings of Divine mercy toward our fallen race, the manifestation of the Son of God in our nature, the physical changes and revolutions which have taken place in the constitution of our globe; in short, the whole of the leading events in the chain of divine dispensation, from the beginning of the world to the period in which we live.

With his mental eye the enlightened man can survey the terraqueous globe in all its variety of aspects; he can contemplate the continents, islands, and oceans which surround its exterior; the numerous rivers by which it is indented; the lofty ranges of mountains which diversify its surface; its winding caverns; its forests, lakes, and sandy deserts; its whirlpools, boiling springs, and glaciers; its sulphurous mountains, bituminous lakes, and the states and empires into which it is distributed; the tides and currents of the ocean; the icebergs of the polar regions, and the verdant scenes of the torrid zone.

Sitting at his fireside during the blasts of winter, the enlightened man can survey the numerous tribes of mankind scattered over the various climates of the earth, and entertain himself with views of their manners, customs, religion, laws, trade, manufactures, marriage ceremonies, civil and ecclesiastical governments, arts, sciences, cities, towns, and villages, and the animals peculiar to every region. In his rural walks he can not only appreciate the beneficence of Nature, and the beauties and harmonies of the vegetable kingdom in their exterior aspect, but he can also penetrate into the hidden processes which are going on in the roots, trunks, and leaves of plants and flowers, and contemplate the numerous vessels through which the sap is flowing from their roots through the trunks and branches; the millions of pores through which their odoriferous effluvia exhale; their fine and delicate texture; their microscopical beauties; their orders, genera, and species, and their uses in the economy of nature.

Even when shrouded in darkness and in solitude, where other minds could find no enjoyment, the man of knowledge can entertain himself with the most sublime contemplations. He can trace the huge earth we inhabit flying through the depths of space, carrying along with it its vast population, at the rate of sixty thousand miles every hour, and, by the inclination of its axis, bringing about the alternate succession of summer and winter, of seed-time and harvest. By the aid of his telescope he can transport himself toward the moon, and survey the circular plains, the deep caverns, the conical hills, the lofty peaks, and the rugged and romantic mountain scenery which diversify the surface of this orb of night.

By the help of the same instrument he can range through the planetary system, wing his way through the regions of space along with the swiftest orbs, and trace many of the physical aspects and revolutions which have a relation to distant worlds. He can transport himself to the planet Saturn, and behold a stupendous ring six hundred thousand miles in circumference, revolving in majestic grandeur every ten hours around a globe nine hundred times larger than the earth, while seven moons larger than ours, along with an innumerable host of stars, display their radiance to adorn the firmament of that magnificent world. He can wing his flight through the still more distant regions of the universe, leaving the sun and all his planets behind him, till they appear like a scarcely discernible speck in creation, and contemplate thousands and millions of stars and starry systems beyond the range of the unassisted eye, and wander among the suns and worlds dispersed throughout the boundless dimensions of space.

In his imagination he can fill up those blanks which astronomy has never directly explored, and conceive thousands of systems and ten thousands of worlds beyond all that is visible by the optic tube, stretching out to infinity on every hand, peopled with intelligences of various orders, and all under the superintendence and government of the "King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible," whose power is omnipotent, and the limit of his dominions past finding out.

It is evident that a mind capable of such excursions and contemplations as I have now supposed must experience enjoyments infinitely superior to those of the individual whose soul is enveloped in intellectual darkness. If substantial happiness is chiefly situated in the mind; if it depends on the multiplicity of objects which lie within the range of its contemplation; if it is augmented by the view of scenes of beauty and sublimity, and displays of infinite intelligence and power; if it is connected with tranquillity of mind, which generally accompanies intellectual pursuits, and the subjugation of the pleasures of sense to the dictates of reason, the enlightened mind must enjoy gratifications as far superior to those of the ignorant as man is superior in station and capacity to the worms of the dust.

In order to illustrate this topic a little further, I shall select a few facts and deductions in relation to science, which demonstrate the interesting nature and delightful tendency of scientific pursuits.

There are several recorded instances of the powerful effect which the study of astronomy has produced upon the human mind. Dr. Rittenhouse, of Pennsylvania, after he had calculated the transit of Venus, which was to happen June 3d, 1769, was appointed, at Philadelphia, with others, to repair to the township of Norriston, and there to observe this planet until its passage over the sun's disc should verify the correctness of his calculations. This occurrence had never been witnessed but twice before by an inhabitant of our earth, and was never to be again seen by any person then living. A phenomenon so rare, and so important in its bearings upon astronomical science, was, indeed, well calculated to agitate the soul of one so alive as he was to the great truths of nature. The day arrived, and there was no cloud on the horizon. The observers, in silence and trembling anxiety, awaited for the predicted moment of observation to arrive. It came, and in the instant of contact, an emotion of joy so powerful was excited in the bosom of Dr. Rittenhouse that he fainted.

Sir Isaac Newton, after he had advanced so far in his mathematical proof of one of his great astronomical doctrines as to see that the result was to be triumphant, was so affected in view of the momentous truth he was about to demonstrate that he was unable to proceed, and begged one of his companions in study to relieve him, and carry out the calculation. These are striking illustrations, and the effect is perhaps heightened from their connection with a most sublime science, all of whose conclusions stand in open contradiction with those of superficial and vulgar observation.

But the discovery and contemplation of truths in philosophy, chemistry, and the mathematics have, in numerous instances, awakened kindred emotions. The enlightened man sees in every thing he beholds upon the surface of the earth, whether animal or vegetable, and in the very elements themselves, no less than when contemplating the wonders of astronomy, instances innumerable illustrative of the wisdom and beneficence of the Architect, all of which has a direct tendency to increase his happiness. In the invisible atmosphere which surrounds him, where other minds discern nothing but an immense blank, he beholds an assemblage of wonders, and a striking scene of divine wisdom and omnipotence. He views this invisible agent not only as a material, but as a compound substance, composed of two opposite principles, the one the source of flame and animal life, and the other destructive to both. He perceives the atmosphere as the agent under the Almighty which produces the germination and growth of plants, and all the beauties of the vegetable creation; which preserves water in a liquid state, supports fire and flame, and produces animal heat; which sustains the clouds, and gives buoyancy to the feathered tribes; which is the cause of winds, the vehicle of smells, the medium of sounds, the source of all the pleasures we derive from the harmonies of music, the cause of the universal light and splendor which is diffused around us, and of the advantages we derive from the morning and evening twilight. He contemplates it as the prime mover in a variety of machines, as impelling ships across the ocean, raising balloons to the region of the clouds, blowing our furnaces, raising water from the deepest pits, extinguishing fires, and performing a thousand other beneficent agencies, without which our globe would cease to be habitable. No one can doubt that all these views and contemplations have a direct tendency to enlarge the capacity of the mind, to stimulate its faculties, and to produce rational enjoyment.

But there is another view of this subject which is perhaps still more impressive. The atmosphere, it has been stated, is a compound substance. A knowledge of its elementary principles, which chemistry teaches, introduces its possessor to a new world of happiness. The adaptation of air to respiration, and the influence of a change in the nature or proportion of its elements upon health and longevity, have already been considered.[53] We have seen that carbonic acid, the vitiating product of respiration, although immediately fatal to animals, constitutes the very life of vegetation; that in the growth of plants the vitiated air is purified and fitted again for the sustenance of animal life; and that, by a beneficent provision of the Creator, animals and vegetables are thus perpetually interchanging kindly offices. It will suffice for our present purpose simply to remind the reader that the atmosphere is composed of the two gases, oxygen and nitrogen, united in the ratio of one to four by volume. Oxygen is a supporter of combustion, nitrogen is not. Increase the proportion of oxygen in the air, and the same substances burn with increased brilliancy; but diminish the proportion gradually, and they will burn more and more dimly until they become extinct. Iron and steel, as well as wood and the ordinary combustibles, will burn with great brilliancy in pure oxygen.

[53] See Chapter IV., especially from the 89th page to the 105th.

Water, I may add, is composed of the two gases, oxygen and hydrogen. The former, as we have seen, is a supporter of combustion, and the latter is one of the most combustible substances known. These two gases are nearly two thousand times more voluminous than their equivalent of water, and, when ignited, they combine with explosive energy. If, then, the Creator were to decompose the atmosphere that surrounds the earth to the height of forty-five miles, and the water that rests upon its surface, either or both of them, the oxygen, being specifically heavier than the nitrogen or hydrogen, would settle immediately upon the earth, and, coming in contact with fires here and there, its whole surface would, in an instant of time, be enveloped in one general conflagration, and "the day of the Lord," spoken of in the Scriptures, "in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the things therein shall be burned up," would be speedily ushered in. He who understands the first principles of chemical science can not fail to perceive how readily (and in perfect accordance with laws well understood) such a general conflagration would take place were the great Architect simply to resolve these two elements—air and water—into their constituent parts. How full of meaning to such a one are the words of the Psalmist, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.

One more illustration must suffice. All fluids, except water, contract in volume as they become colder to the point of congelation. But the point of greatest density in water is about eight degrees above freezing. As the temperature of ALL fluids increases above this point, their volume increases. As the temperature of all fluids, with the single exception of WATER, decreases, the volume decreases down to the freezing point. Water increases in density as it becomes colder until it reaches the temperature of forty degrees—eight degrees above the freezing point—when it begins to expand. This only exception to the general law of fluids is of greater importance in the economy of nature than most persons are conscious of. As the cold season advances in the temperate and frigid zones, the water in our lakes and rivers is reduced to the temperature of forty degrees; but at this point, by a beneficent provision of an All-wise Providence, the upper substratum becomes specifically lighter, and is converted into a covering of ice, which, resting upon the water beneath, protects it from freezing. Moreover, when water is converted into ice, one hundred and forty degrees of heat are given out, a part of which, entering into the water below, retards the further formation of ice.[54]

[54] I may here add, that exactly the reverse is true in the melting of snow and ice. It requires as much heat to convert these solids into fluids, without at all increasing their temperature, as it does to raise the temperature of water from the freezing point, one hundred and forty degrees, or from thirty-two to one hundred and seventy-two degrees, as indicated by the thermometer. This principle is of vast importance to the world, and particularly to the inhabitants of cold countries, where the ground is covered with snow and ice a part or the whole of the year. The transition from the cold of winter to the heat of summer, in some of the northern climates, takes place within a few days. In these climates, also, there are vast accumulations of snow and ice, which, but for this principle, would be converted into water as soon as the temperature of the atmosphere becomes above thirty-two degrees, which would produce a flood sufficient to inundate and destroy the whole country. But the uniform action of this law renders the melting of snow gradual, and no such accident ensues.

A similar law is observed in the conversion of water into vapor, which is of great use in enabling us to cool apartments by sprinkling floors or hanging up moistened cloths. The heat of even a whole city is in like manner greatly moderated by frequently sprinkling the streets. It is on this account that gentle showers in hot weather are so cooling and refreshing.

If water, like other fluids, continued to increase in density to the freezing point, the cold air of winter would rob the water of our lakes and rivers of its heat, until the whole was reduced to the temperature of thirty-two degrees; when, but for the circumstance to which we have just alluded, it would be immediately converted into a solid mass of ice from top to bottom, causing instant death to every animal living in it. The lower strata of such a mass of ice would never again become liquefied.

This is a striking proof of the beneficence and design of the Creator in forming water with such an exception to the ordinary laws of nature, and a knowledge of it can hardly fail to exert a most salutary, elevating, and ennobling influence on the mind of its possessor. The field of human happiness, then, with the virtuous, seems to enlarge in proportion as a knowledge of the works and laws of the beneficent Creator is extended. There is little ground for doubt as to what is GOD'S WILL in relation to the universal education of the family of man, when he has connected with the exercise of mind in the study of his works superior enjoyments and heavenly aspirations.

The various propositions stated and elucidated in this chapter, we think, are as fully established as any moral truths need be, and, we doubt not, they commend themselves to the judgment and conscience of all who have carefully perused the preceding pages, if, indeed, they had not been duly considered and adopted before. If, then, a system of universal education, judiciously administered, would dissipate the evils of ignorance, which are legion; if it would greatly increase the productiveness of labor; if it would diminish—not to say exterminate—pauperism and crime; if it would prevent the great majority of fatal accidents that are constantly occurring in every community; if it would save the lives of a hundred thousand children in the United States every year, and as many more puny survivors from dragging out a miserable existence in consequence of being the offspring of ignorant or vicious parents; if it would prevent so much of idiocy, and would humanize those who are born idiots only, but have hitherto been permitted, nay, doomed to die BRUTES; if it would prevent so much insanity, and would save to society and their family and friends, "clothed and in their right mind," multitudes of every generation who now dwell in mental darkness and gloom; if it would increase the sum total of human happiness in proportion to its excellence, and the number of persons who are brought under its benign influence and uplifting power; if it would do all this—and that this is its legitimate tendency there can be no doubt—it would seem that no enlightened community could be found in any country, and especially that there can be no state in this Union, that would not at once resolve upon maintaining a system of universal education by opening the doors of improved free schools to all her sons and daughters, and, if need be, employing agents, vigilant and active, "to go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in." If this is not done, thousands and tens of thousands of every generation will continue to lead cheerless lives, and will go down to their graves like the brute that perisheth, without knowing that He who gave to man life has also, in his goodness, which knows no bounds, provided that in the proper exercise of his faculties man shall find an inexhaustible source of happiness.[55]

[55] In the annual report of the Trustees of the New England Institution for the Education of the Blind for the year 1834, this beautiful passage occurs: "The expression of one of the pupils, 'that she had never known, before she began to learn, that it was a happiness to be alive,' may be applied to many."



CHAPTER IX.

POLITICAL NECESSITY OF NATIONAL EDUCATION.

In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.—WASHINGTON.

I do not hesitate to affirm not only that a knowledge of the true principles of government is important and useful to Americans, but that it is absolutely indispensable to carry on the government of their choice, and to transmit it to their posterity.—JUDGE STORY.

Every succeeding section of the last chapter went to show more and more clearly that, in proportion as the benign influences of a correct education are diffused among and enjoyed by the members of any community, will existing evils of every kind be diminished, and blessings be increased in number and degree. The subject of popular education, then, claims, and should receive, the sympathy and active support of every philanthropist and Christian, without regard to country or clime. We come now to consider a topic in which every patriot, and especially every true American, as such, must feel a lively interest.

Every citizen of our wide-spread country should be fully persuaded that the education of the people is the only permanent basis of national prosperity not only, but of national SAFETY. This, in theory, is now conceded, and the importance of education is very generally admitted among men, especially in our own country. It is evident, however, that the conviction of its importance is not so deeply inwrought into the mind of society as it ought to be, for it does not manifest itself with all the power of earnest feeling in behalf of education which the subject, in view of its acknowledged weightiness, justly demands.

The objects and advantages of education heretofore considered apply equally to men of every nation and clime, under whatever form of government they may chance to dwell. It is otherwise in regard to the political necessity of popular education. Here a particular training is required to fit men for the government under which they are to live. In despotic governments, the object of popular education is to make good subjects, while upon us devolves the higher responsibility of so educating the people that they may become not only good subjects, but good SOVEREIGNS—all power originating in and returning to the sovereign people.

Only seventy-four years ago, our fathers of the ever-memorable Revolution pledged "fortune, life, and sacred honor" to establish the independence of these United States. Under the fostering care of republican institutions, the tide of population rolled rapidly inland, crossing the Alleganies, sweeping over the vast Valley of the Mississippi, nor resting in its onward course until it settled on the waters of the Columbia and the shores of the Pacific. Previous to the Revolutionary war, the English settlements were confined to the Atlantic coast; now the tide of immigration seems to be to the shores of the Pacific, where states are multiplying and cities springing up as by magic. In a little more than half a century, the states of the Union have increased in number from thirteen to thirty, and in population in a ratio hitherto unprecedented, from three millions to twenty-five millions of souls.

We stand in the same relation to posterity that our ancestors do to us. Each generation has duties of its own to perform; and our duties, though widely different from those of our forefathers, are not less important in their character or less binding in their obligations. It was their duty to found or establish our institutions, and nobly did they perform it. It is our especial and appropriate duty to perfect and perpetuate the institutions we have received at their hands. The boon they would bequeath to the latest posterity can never reach and bless them except through our instrumentality. Upon each present generation rest the duty and the obligation of educating and qualifying for usefulness that which immediately succeeds, upon which, in turn, will devolve a like responsibility. Each succeeding generation will, in the main, be what the preceding has made it. From this responsible agency there is, there can be, no escape.

Trusts, responsibilities, and interests, vaster in amount and more sacred in character than have ever, in the providence of God, been committed to any people, are now intrusted to us. The great experiment of the capacity of man for self-government is being tried anew—an experiment which, wherever it has been tried, has failed, through an incapacity in the people to enjoy liberty without abusing it. We are, I doubt not, now educating the very generation during whose lifetime this great question will be decided. The present generation will, to a great extent, be responsible for the result, whatever it may be. We are, therefore, called upon, as American citizens and Christian philanthropists, to do all that in us lies to secure to this experiment a successful issue; to make this the leading nation of the earth, and a model worthy of imitation by all others. Never before this has a nation been planted with so hopeful an opportunity for becoming the universal benefactor of the race.

If for the next fifty years the population of these American States shall continue to increase as during the last fifty, we shall exceed a hundred millions; and in a century, allowing the same ratio of increase, the population will equal that of the Old World. Here, then, is a continent to be filled with innumerable millions of human beings, who may be happy through our wisdom, but who must be miserable through our folly. We may disregard such considerations, but we can not escape the tremendous responsibilities rolling in upon us in view of the relations we sustain to the past and the future. We delight to honor, in words, those heroes and martyrs from whom we have received the rich boon of civil and religious liberty. Let us then, in deeds, imitate the examples we profess to admire, and contribute our full quota, as individuals and as a generation, toward perfecting and perpetuating the institutions we have received, that they may be enjoyed by those countless millions who are to succeed us in this broad empire.

"In this exigency," to adopt the language of an enlightened practical educator and eminent statesman, "we need far more of wisdom and rectitude than we possess. Preparations for our present condition have been so long neglected, that we now have a double duty to perform. We have not only to propitiate to our aid a host of good spirits, but we have to exorcise a host of evil ones. Every aspect of our affairs, public and private, demonstrates that we need, for their successful management, a vast accession to the common stock of intelligence and virtue. But intelligence and virtue are the product of cultivation and training. They do not spring up spontaneously. We need, therefore, unexampled alacrity and energy in the application of all those influences and means which promise the surest and readiest returns of wisdom and probity, both public and private.

"When the Declaration of Independence was carried into effect, and the Constitution of the United States was adopted, the civil and political relations of the generation then living, and of all succeeding ones, were changed. Men were no longer the same men, but were clothed with new rights and responsibilities. Up to that period, so far as government was concerned, they might have been ignorant; indeed, it has generally been held that where a man's only duty is obedience, it is better that he should be ignorant; for why should a beast of burden be endowed with the sensibilities of a man! Up to that period, so far as government was concerned, a man might have been unprincipled and flagitious. He had no access to the statute-book to alter or repeal its provisions, so as to screen his own violations of the moral law from punishment, or to legalize the impoverishment and ruin of his fellow-beings. But with the new institutions, there came new relations, and an immense accession of powers. New trusts of inappreciable value were devolved upon the old agents and upon their successors, irrevocably.

"With the change in the organic structure of our government, there should have been corresponding changes in all public measures and institutions. For every dollar given by the wealthy or by the state to colleges to cultivate the higher branches of knowledge, a hundred should have been given for primary education. For every acre of land bestowed upon an academy, a province should have been granted to common schools. Select schools for select children should have been discarded, and universal education should have joined hands with universal suffrage."[56]

[56] From "an Oration delivered before the Authorities of the City of Boston, July 4th, 1842, by Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education."

In the simplest form of civil government, there must exist a legislative, a judicial, and an executive department. But no expression of the national will in a system of laws can be sufficiently definite to supersede the necessity of a perpetual succession of Legislatures to supply defects, and to meet emergencies as they arise. However well-informed men may be, and however pure the motives by which they are actuated, all experience hath shown that subjects will come up for consideration that will strike different minds in a variety of forms. This, in a popular government, gives rise to opposing parties. Every man, then, in casting his vote for members of the Legislature, needs to understand what important questions will be likely to come before that branch of the government for settlement, to have examined them in their various bearings, and to have deliberately made up his opinion in relation to the interests involved, in order to vote understandingly; otherwise he will be as likely to oppose as to promote, not only the welfare of the state, but his own most cherished interests.

The same remark that has been made in relation to the legislative department will apply to both the judicial and executive, and to the general government as well as to the several state governments. When the appointed day arrives for deciding the various questions of state and national policy which divide men into opposing parties, there can be no delay. These various and conflicting questions must be decided, whether much or little preparation has been made, or none at all. And, what is most extraordinary, each voter helps to decide every question which agitates the community as much by not voting as by voting. If the question is so vast or so complicated that any one has not time to examine and make up his mind in relation to it, or if any one is too conscientious to act from conjecture in cases of magnitude, and therefore stays from the polls, another, who has no scruples about acting ignorantly, or from caprice, or malevolence, votes, and, in the absence of the former, decides the question against the right.

However simple our government may be in theory, it has proved, in practice, the most complex government on earth. More questions for legislative interposition, and for judicial exposition and construction, have already arisen under it, ten to one, than have arisen during the same length of time under any other form of government in Christendom. We are a Union of thirty states; a great nation composed of thirty separate nations; and even beyond these, the confederacy is responsible for the fate of vast territories, with their increasing population, and of numerous Indian tribes. Among the component states, there is the greatest variety of customs, institutions, and religions. Then we have the deeper inbred differences of language and ancestry among us, our population being made up of the lineage of all nations. Our industrial pursuits, also, are various; and, with a great natural diversity of soil and climate, they must always continue to be so. Moreover, across the very center of our territory a line is drawn, on one side of which all labor is voluntary, while on the opposite side a system of involuntary servitude prevails.

If, then, general intelligence and popular virtue are necessary for the successful administration of even the simplest forms of government, and if these qualities are required in a higher and still higher degree in proportion to the complexity of a government, then are both intelligence and virtue necessary in this government to an extent indefinitely beyond what has ever been required in any other. And especially is this true when we consider that our government is representative as it regards the people, and federative as it regards the states; and that, in this respect, it has no precedent on the file of nations. We hence require a double portion of general intelligence and practical wisdom. But men are not born in the possession of these requisites to self-government, neither are they necessarily developed in the growth from infancy to manhood. They are the product of cultivation and training, and can be secured only through good schools opened to and enjoyed by all our youth. The stability of this government requires that universal education should precede universal suffrage.

Under a free government, the intelligence of the people, coupled with their virtue, will be found to be a sure index to a nation's prosperity, and to the individual and social well-being of all who enjoy its protection. God is a being of infinite wisdom and goodness, and no part of his government can be successfully administered except upon the principles of knowledge and virtue. The success that attends a nation of freemen will depend upon the extent to which these are cultivated, and the universality of their dissemination in the body politic. While the cultivation of these will increase the safety of the government, their neglect will hasten its downfall.

Judge Story, in a lecture upon the importance of the science of government as a branch of popular education, has well remarked, that "it is not to rulers and statesman alone that the science of government is important and useful. It is equally indispensable for every American citizen, to enable him to exercise his own rights, to protect his own interests, and to secure the public liberties and the just operations of public authority. A republic, by the very constitution of its government, requires, on the part of the people, more vigilance and constant exertion than any other form of government. The American Republic, above all others, demands from every citizen unceasing vigilance and exertion, since we have deliberately dispensed with every guard against danger or ruin except the intelligence and virtue of the people themselves. It is founded on the basis that the people have wisdom enough to frame their own system of government, and public spirit enough to preserve it; that they can not be cheated out of their liberties, and they will not submit to have them taken from them by force. We have silently assumed the fundamental truth that, as it never can be the interest of the majority of the people to prostrate their own political equality and happiness, so they never can be seduced by flattery or corruption, by the intrigues of faction or the arts of ambition, to adopt any measures which shall subvert them. If this confidence in ourselves is justified—and who among Americans does not feel a pride in endeavoring to maintain it?—let us never forget that it can be justified only by a watchfulness and zeal in proportion to our confidence. Let us never forget that we must prove ourselves wiser, better, and purer than any other nation ever has yet been, if we are to count upon success. Every other republic has fallen by the discords and treachery of its own citizens. It has been said by one of our own departed statesmen, himself a devout admirer of popular government, that power is perpetually stealing from the many to the few."

The institutions of a republic are endangered by the ignorance of the masses on the one hand, and by intelligent, but unprincipled and vicious aspirants to office and places of emolument on the other. Where these two classes coexist to any considerable extent, the safety of the republic is jeoparded; for they have a strong sympathy with each other, and it is the constant policy of the latter to increase the number of the former. They arouse their passions and stimulate their appetites, and then lead them in a way they know not. A barrel of whisky, or even of hard cider, with a "hurrah!" will control ten to one more of this class of voters than will the soundest arguments of enlightened and honorable statesmen. And yet one of these votes thus procured, when deposited in the ballot-box, counts the same as the vote of a Washington or a Franklin!

There is one remedy, and but one, for this alarming state of things, which prevails to a less or greater extent in almost every community. That remedy is simple. It consists in the establishment of schools for the education of the whole people. These schools, however, should be of a more perfect character than the majority of those which have hitherto existed. In them the principles of morality should be copiously intermingled with the principles of science. Cases of conscience should alternate with lessons in the rudiments. The rule requiring us to do to others as we would that they should do unto us, should be made as familiar as the multiplication table, and our youth should become as familiar with the practical application of the one as of the other. The lives of great and good men should be held up for admiration and example, and especially the life and character of Jesus Christ, as the sublimest pattern of benevolence, of purity, and of self-sacrifice ever exhibited to mortals. In every course of studies, all the practical and preceptive parts of the Gospel should be sacredly inculcated, and all dogmatical theology and sectarianism sacredly excluded. In no school should the Bible be opened to reveal the sword of the polemic, but to unloose the dove of peace.

In connection with the preceding, and in addition to the branches now commonly taught in our schools, the study of politics, which has been beautifully defined as the art of making a people happy, should be generally introduced. "I am not aware," says an eminent jurist,[57] "that there are any solid objections which can be urged against introducing the science of government into our common schools as a branch of popular education. If it should be said that it will have a tendency to introduce party creeds and party dogmas into our schools, the true answer is, that the principles of government should be there taught, and not the creeds or dogmas of any party. The principles of the Constitution under which we live; the principles upon which republics generally are founded, by which they are sustained, and through which they must be saved; the principles of public policy, by which national prosperity is secured, and national ruin averted—these certainly are not party creeds or party dogmas, but are fit to be taught at all times and on all occasions, if any thing which belongs to human life and our own condition is fit to be taught. If we wait until we can guard ourselves against every possible chance of abuse before we introduce any system of instruction, we shall wait until the current of time has flowed into the ocean of eternity. There is nothing which ever has been or ever can be taught without some chance of abuse; nay, without some absolute abuse. Even religion itself, our truest and our only lasting hope and consolation, has not escaped the common infirmity of our nature. If it never had been taught until it could be taught with the purity, simplicity, and energy of the apostolic age, we ourselves, instead of being blessed with the bright and balmy influences of Christianity, should now have been groping our way in the darkness of heathenism, or left to perish in the cold and cheerless labyrinths of skepticism."

[57] Joseph Story, before the American Institute of Instruction.

Lord Brougham, one of the most powerful advocates of popular education in our day, has made the following remarks, which can not be more fitly addressed to any people than to the citizens of the American States. "A sound system of government," says this transatlantic writer, "requires the people to read and inform themselves upon political subjects; else they are the prey of every quack, every impostor, and every agitator who may practice his trade in the country. If they do not read; if they do not learn; if they do not digest by discussion and reflection what they have read and learned; if they do not qualify themselves to form opinions for themselves, other men will form opinions for them, not according to the truth and the interests of the people, but according to their own individual and selfish interest, which may, and most probably will, be contrary to that of the people at large."

Two very important inquiries here naturally suggest themselves to us: they are, first, whether there is at present in this country a degree of intelligence sufficient for the wise administration of its affairs; and secondly, whether existing provisions for the education of our country's youth are adequate to the wants of a great and free people, who are endeavoring to demonstrate to the world that great problem of nations—the capability of man for self-government. We judge of the literary attainments of the citizens of a state or of a nation, as a whole, by comparing all the individual members thereof with a given standard, and of their arrangements for educating the rising generation by the character of their schools, and the proportion of the population that receive instruction in them. Let us test the existing standard of education in various states of this Union in both of these respects.

DEGREE OF POPULAR INTELLIGENCE.—According to the census of 1840,[58] the total population of the United States was, in round numbers, seventeen millions. Of this number, five hundred and fifty thousand were whites over twenty years of age, who could not read and write. The proportion varies in different states, from one in five hundred and eighty-nine in Connecticut, to one in eleven in North Carolina.

[58] The census for 1850 is now being taken. Whether its results will tell more favorably upon the general interests of education in the United States than those of the last census, remains to be seen. Some of the states during the last ten years have done nobly; others have evidently retrograded. We have also a tide of foreign immigration pouring in upon us hitherto unprecedented, averaging a thousand a day for the past year, all of whom need to be Americanized.

If we exclude, in the estimate, all colored persons, and whites under twenty years of age, the proportion will stand thus: in the United States, one to every twelve is unable to read and write. The proportion varies in the different states, from one in two hundred and ninety-four in Connecticut, which stands the highest, to one in three in North Carolina, which stands the lowest. In Tennessee the proportion is one in four. In Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas, each, one in five. In Delaware and Alabama, each, one in six. In Indiana, one in seven. In Illinois and Wisconsin, each, one in eight.

On the brighter end of the scale, next to Connecticut, in which the proportion is one in two hundred and ninety-four, is New Hampshire, in which the proportion is one in one hundred and fifty-nine. In Massachusetts it is one in ninety. In Maine, one in seventy-two. In Vermont, one in sixty-three. Next in order comes Michigan, in which the proportion is one in thirty-nine.[59]

[59] According to the last census, there were twenty states below Michigan, and only five above her. But even this estimate, favorable as it is in the scale of states, does not allow Michigan an opportunity to appear in her true light, for it is well known that a great proportion of the illiterate population of this state is confined to a few counties. In Mackinaw and Chippewa counties there is one white person over twenty years of age to every five of the entire population that is unable to read and write. In Ottawa, one in fourteen; in Cass, one in twenty-two; in Wayne and Saginaw, each, one in thirty-six. On the other hand, there were eight organized counties in the state in which, according to the census referred to, there was not a single white inhabitant over twenty years of age that was unable to read and write. It is an interesting fact, at least to persons residing in the Northwest, that in Ohio also (on the Western Reserve) there were seven such counties, making fifteen in these two states, while in all New England there were but two—Franklin in Massachusetts, and Essex in Vermont.

But these statements in relation to the number of persons in the United States who are unable to read and write, although they give the fearful aggregate of five hundred and fifty thousand over twenty years of age who are destitute of these qualifications, it is believed, fail to discover much of gross ignorance that is cherished in various portions of the country; for there is no state in the Union, nor any section of a single state, where men do not wish to be accounted able to read and write. The deputy marshals who took the census received their compensation by the head, and not by the day, for the work done. They therefore traveled from house to house, making the shortest practicable stay at each. More was required of them than could be thoroughly and accurately performed in the time allowed. Their informants were subjected to no test. In the absence of the heads of families, whose information would have been more reliable, the bare word of persons over sixteen years of age was accredited. It is, moreover, well known, that no inconsiderable number of persons gave false information when inquired of by the deputies. From these and other reasons, it is believed that numerous and important errors exist in the census; and this opinion is corroborated by a mass of unquestionable testimony, of which I will introduce a specimen.

The annual message of Governor Campbell, of Virginia, to the Legislature of that state, the year immediately preceding that in which the census was taken, clearly shows that the capacity to read and write in persons over twenty years of age was greatly over-estimated in that state. Governor Campbell, after stating that the importance of an efficient system of education, embracing in its comprehensive and benevolent design the whole people, can not be too frequently recurred to, goes on to remark as follows:

"The statements furnished by the clerks of five city and borough courts, and ninety-three of the county courts, in reply to the inquiries addressed to them, ascertain that, of all those who applied for marriage licenses, a large number were unable to write their names. The years selected for this inquiry were those of 1817, 1827, and 1837. The statements show that the applicants for marriage licenses for 1817 amounted to 4682, of whom 1127 were unable to write; 5048 in 1827, of whom the number unable to write was 1166; and in 1837 the applicants were 4614, and of these the number of 1047 were unable to write their names. From which it appears there still exists a deplorable extent of ignorance, and that, in truth, it is hardly less than it was twenty years ago, when the school fund was created. The statements, it will be remembered, are partial, not embracing quite all the counties, and are, moreover, confined to one sex. The education of females, it is to be feared, is in a condition of much greater neglect.

"There are now in the state two hundred thousand children between the ages of five and fifteen. Forty thousand of them are reported to be poor children, and of them only one half to be attending schools. It may be safely assumed that, of those possessing property adequate to the expenses of a plain education, a large number are growing up in ignorance, for want of schools within convenient distances. Of those at school, many derive little or no instruction, owing to the incapacity of the teachers, as well as to their culpable negligence and inattention. Thus the number likely to remain uneducated, and to grow up without just perceptions of their duties, religious, social, and political, is really of appalling magnitude, and such as to appeal with affecting earnestness to a parental Legislature."

If there shall appear any want of agreement between these statements and the returns made by the deputy marshals, no one need be in doubt in relation to which has the strongest claims for credence. These statements were communicated by the governor of a proud state to the Legislature in his annual message. Unlike the statistics collected by the marshals, each case was subjected to an infallible test; for no man who could make a scrawl in the similitude of his name would submit to the mortification of making his mark, and leaving it on record in a written application for a marriage license. The requisition was made upon the officers of the courts, and the evidence, which was of a documentary or judicial character, is the highest known to the law. The result was, that almost one fourth of all the men applying for marriage licenses—more than thirty-three hundred in three years—were unable to write their names! And Governor Campbell clearly intimates an opinion that "the education of females is in a condition of much greater neglect!"

In round numbers, the free white population of Virginia over twenty years of age is three hundred and thirty thousand. One fourth of this number is eighty-two and a half thousand, which, according to the evidence presented by Governor Campbell, is the lowest possible limit at which the minimum of adults unable to read and write can be stated. But the census number is less than fifty-nine thousand, making a difference of nearly twenty-four thousand, or more than forty per cent.

There are several states of about the same rank as Virginia in the educational scale. Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina sink even below her. The last-named state, with a free white population over twenty years of age of less than 210,000, has the appalling number, even according to the census, of 56,609 who are unable to read and write. In other words, forty-two hundred more than one fourth of the whole free population over twenty years of age are, in the educational scale, absolutely below zero.

Now if to the five hundred and fifty thousand free white population in the United States over the age of twenty years who are unable to read and write, as shown by the census, we add forty per cent. for its under-estimates, as facts require us to do in the case of Virginia, it would increase the total to seven hundred and seventy thousand. Suppose one fourth of these only are voters—that is, deduct one half for females, and allow that one half of the male moiety is made up of persons either between twenty and twenty-one years of age, or of those who are unnaturalized, which is a most liberal allowance when we consider where the great mass of ignorance belongs, and that the number of ignorant immigrants is much less at the South than at the North—and we have 192,500 voters in the United States who are unable to read and write.

Now, at the presidential election for the same year that the census was taken, when, to use the graphic language of another, "every voter not absolutely in his winding sheet was carried to the polls, when the harvest field was so thoroughly swept that neither stubble nor tares were left for the gleaner," the majority for the successful candidate was 146,081, more than 46,000 less than the estimated number of legal voters at that time in the United States unable to read and write. At this election a larger majority of the electoral votes was given for the successful candidate than was ever given to any other President of the United States, with the exception of Mr. Monroe in 1820, against whom there was but one vote. General Harrison's popular majority, also, was undoubtedly the largest by which any President of the United States has ever been elected, with the exception above mentioned of Mr. Monroe, and perhaps that of General Washington at his second election. And yet this majority, large as it was, was more than 46,000 less than the estimated number of our legal voters who, in the educational scale, are absolutely below zero.

And then it should be borne in mind that hundreds of thousands who are barely able to read and write may never have acquired "a knowledge of the true principles of government," which, in the language of Judge Story, at the head of this chapter, "is not only important and useful to Americans, but is absolutely indispensable to carry on the government of their choice, and to transmit it to posterity." It should also be borne in mind that popular virtue is not less essential to the stability of a free government than is general intelligence. Nay, more; if the liberties of this republic are more endangered by any one class of people than by all others, that class consists of intelligent but unprincipled political aspirants. The connection between ignorance and vice has already been referred to, and is well known among intelligent men; but by none so well, it may be, as by the unprincipled aspirant, who, by pandering to the vicious appetites of the ignorant and the vile, and then by base flattery pronouncing them "highly intelligent, enlightened, and civilized," take advantage of their very want of qualification "to manufacture political capital." These are they to whom Lord Brougham refers when he says, "other men will form opinions for them, not according to truth and the interests of the people, but according to their own individual and selfish interest, which may, and most probably will, be contrary to that of the people at large." We can not, then, avoid coming to the unwelcome and dread conclusion that there is not at present in this country a sufficient degree of intelligence and virtue for the wise, or even the safe administration of its affairs. It remains to consider whether existing provisions for the education of our country's youth are adequate to the wants of the American people.

EXISTING PROVISIONS FOR EDUCATION.—Of the seventeen millions of persons in the United States, according to the last census, 3,726,080—one in five of the entire population—were free white children between the ages of five and fifteen years. This is the lowest estimate I have ever known made of the ages between which children should regularly attend school. The ages usually stated between which children generally should attend school at least ten months during the year, are from four to sixteen, or from four to eighteen years, and sometimes from four to twenty or twenty-one years.

But what is the actual attendance upon the primary and common schools of the country? It is only 1,845,244, or, to vary the expression and give it more definiteness, the total number of children in attendance upon all our schools, any part of the year, is twenty thousand less than one half of the free-born white children in the United States between the ages of five and fifteen years! And then it should be borne in mind that the same general motives which would lead to an under-statement in regard to the number of persons unable to read and write, would lead to an over-statement in regard to the number of those attending school. The educational statistics of some of the states, made out by competent and faithful school officers, show that the whole number of scholars that attended school any part of the time during the school year 1840-41—the year the census was taken—was several thousand less than the number according to the census.[60]

[60] In Massachusetts, according to a statement made by the Secretary of the Board of Education, the whole number of scholars who were in all the public schools any part of the school year 1840-41 was but 155,041, and the average attendance was, in the winter, 116,398, and in the summer, 96,802; while the number given in the census is 158,351, which is greater by 3310 than the entire number that attended school any part of the year, according to the returns, and 55,751 more than the average attendance for half of the year.

If we were to embrace in the estimate the whole number of students in attendance at the universities, colleges, academies, and seminaries of learning of every grade, it would not materially vary the result, for all these taken together are less than one tenth part of the number in attendance upon the common schools. That the number of children attending schools of any grade is less than might be inferred from the foregoing statements, will be apparent when we consider the following facts.

In the United States, taken together as a whole, only one person in ten of the population attends any school whatever any part of the year. Now it is well known that a large number of children under five years of age attend school in many parts of the country, and a much greater number that are over fifteen years of age. I have already said that the entire number of children in attendance upon all our schools is twenty thousand less than one half of the entire number of free-born white children in the United States between the ages of five and fifteen years. This leaves two millions of children uninstructed. We shall have a more just view of the scantiness of our provisions for adequate national education if to this number, appalling as it is, we add the total number of those attending under five and over fifteen in various portions of the country.

Again: no one supposes that in any part of the Union adequate provisions are made for the education of the rising generation, even in a single state. But in the New England states, and in New York and Michigan, one fourth part of the entire population attend school some part of the year. This is twice and a half the general average throughout the Union, and more than five times the average attendance in the majority of the remaining states.

In round numbers, the proportion of the entire population that attend school in the different states of the Union is, according to the census, in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, each, one in three. In Michigan,[61] Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, the proportion is one in four. In Rhode Island, it is one in five. In Ohio and New Jersey, each, one in six. In Pennsylvania, one in eight. In no other state is the proportion more than one in ten, while in ten states it is less than one in twenty-five.

[61] In determining the proportion for this state, the census for 1845 and the school returns for that year were the data used. In the other states I have been obliged to use the census returns of 1840.

In fixing this proportion, the nearest whole number has been used. In no state is the proportion in attendance upon the schools as high as one in three. Michigan heads the states in which the proportion is one in four. In this state the proportion is somewhat greater than one in four; it is, however, nearer this than one in three. In the other states the proportion is less than one in four. The states are all arranged according to the size of the fraction, there being less difference in the attendance in Vermont and Michigan than in the latter state and New York.

At the time the last census was taken, Michigan had recently been admitted into the Union, and the state government being but just organized, the school system had only gone partially into operation. According to the census of 1840, the proportion in attendance upon the schools of this state was only one in seven. During the interval from 1840 to 1845, at which time the census of this state was again taken, the population had increased from two hundred and twelve thousand to upward of three hundred thousand, showing an increase of about fifty per cent.; the number of primary schools had increased from less than ten thousand to more than twenty thousand, making an increase of more than one hundred per cent.; and the attendance upon these schools had advanced from thirty thousand to seventy-six thousand, giving the very remarkable increase of one hundred and fifty per cent. in five years, when, as already stated, the proportion in attendance upon the common schools was more than one in four of the entire population. And during the next two years the number of children in attendance upon the schools increased from seventy-six thousand to one hundred and eight thousand, showing an advance of more than forty per cent. from 1845 to 1847.

It is gratifying to know that this important interest, which underlies all others, is receiving increased attention in various portions of the United States. Among the most striking illustrations that I have noticed of these indications of national improvement, I will instance two.[62] The following interesting items of fact are gleaned from an address by the superintendent before the public schools of New Orleans, February 22d, 1850—a most befitting day for a school celebration. These statistics strike us more forcibly when we consider that they relate to the metropolis of the South, and to the capital of a state in which, according to the last census, only one person in one hundred received instruction in the primary and common schools of the state. The public schools of the second municipality of New Orleans were established in 1842, comprising at that time less than three hundred pupils. Now the constant attendance is upward of three thousand—ten times what it was eight years ago. But even this increase, large as it may seem, is not sufficient to constitute the proportion in attendance upon the schools of the state even one in fifty of the entire population.

[62] My information is derived from the "Southern Journal of Education" for May, 1850—a monthly for the promotion of popular intelligence, published from Knoxville, Tenn.—Samuel A. Jewett, Editor and Publisher. This journal is ably conducted, and has now reached its third volume. This certainly is a very encouraging omen, especially when we consider that it has so long survived in a state where, according to the last census, only one in thirty-three of the entire population attended school. May it long continue to do good service in this important cause.

Kentucky furnishes the other indication of improvement which I propose to notice. In this state, according to the last census, only one in thirty-three of the entire population attended the common schools during any part of the year. The number of children at the present time in that commonwealth, as reported by the second auditor, between the ages of five and sixteen, leaving out the colored children, is one hundred and ninety-three thousand. The number provided with schools, as reported in 1847, was twenty-one thousand; in 1848, thirty-three thousand; and in 1849, eighty-seven thousand; showing a clear advance in two years of sixty-six thousand.[63] But, with all this improvement, one hundred and five thousand children do not derive any personal benefit from the public school system. In other words, eighteen thousand more children in this state are still growing up without instruction than as yet attend the schools. And the utter inadequacy of the common school privileges of even these will be apparent when it is understood that in the great majority of the districts more than nine tenths of the schools are taught but three months during the year.

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