Thoughts on Educational Topics and Institutions
by George S. Boutwell
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by GEORGE S. BOUTWELL, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.








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[Lecture before the American Institute of Instruction.]

Words and terms have, to different minds, various significations; and we often find definitions changing in the progress of events. Bailey says learning is "skill in languages or sciences." To this, Walker adds what he calls "literature," and "skill in anything, good or bad." Dr. Webster enlarges the meaning of the word still more, and says, "Learning is the knowledge of principles or facts received by instruction or study; acquired knowledge or ideas in any branch of science or literature; erudition; literature; science; knowledge acquired by experience, experiment, or observation." Milton gives us a rhetorical definition in a negative form, which is of equal value, at least, with any authority yet cited. "And though a linguist," says Milton, "should pride himself to have all the tongues that Babel cleft the world into, yet if he have not studied the solid things in them, as well as the words and lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteemed a learned man, as any yeoman or tradesman competently wise in his mother dialect only."—"Language is but the instrument conveying to us things useful to be known."

This is kindred to the saying of Locke, that "men of much reading are greatly learned, but may be little knowing." We must give to the term learning a broad definition, if we accept Milton's statement that its end "is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright;" for this necessarily implies that we are to study carefully everything relating to the nature of our existence, to the spot and scene of our existence, with its mysterious phenomena, and its comparatively unexplained laws. And we must, moreover, always keep in view the personal relations and duties which the Creator has imposed upon the members of the human race. The knowledge of these relations and duties is one form of learning; the disposition and the ability to observe and practise these relations and duties, is another and a higher form of learning. The first is the learning of the theologian, the schoolman; the latter is the learning of the practical Christian. Both ought to exist; but when they are separated, we place things above signs, facts above forms, life above ideas. Law and justice ought always to be united; but when by error, or fraud, or usurpation, they are separated, we observe the forms of law, but we respect the principles of justice. This is a good illustration of the principles which guide to a true distinction in the forms of learning. Of all the definitions enumerated, we must give to the word learning the broadest signification. It is safe to accept the statement of the great poet, that a man may be acquainted with many languages, and yet not be learned; even as the apostle said he should become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, if he had not charity, though he spoke with the tongues of men and angels. Learning includes, no doubt, a knowledge of the languages, the sciences, and all literature; but it includes also much else; and this much else may be more important than the enumerated branches. The term learned has been limited, usually, by exclusive application to the schoolmen; but it is a matter of doubt, especially in this country, upon the broad definition laid down, whether there is more learning in the schools, or out of them. This remark, if true, is no reflection upon the schools, but much in favor of the world. Those were dark ages when learning was confined to the schools; and, though we can never be too grateful for their existence, and the fidelity with which they preserved the knowledge of other days, that is surely a higher attainment in the life of the race, when the learning of the world exceeds the learning of the cloister, the school, and the college.

In a private conversation, Professor Guyot made a remark which seems to have a public value. "You give to your schools," said he, "credit that is really due to the world. Looking at America with the eye of an European, it appears to me that your world is doing more and your schools are doing less, in the cause of education, than you are inclined to believe." For one, though I ought, as much as any, to stand for the schools, I give a qualified assent to the truth of this observation. There is much learning among us which we cannot trace directly to the schools; but the schools have introduced and fostered a spirit which has given to the world the power to make itself learned. It is much easier to disseminate what is called the spirit of education, than it was to create that spirit, and preserve it when there were few to do it homage. For this we are indebted to the schools. Unobserved in the process of change, but happy in its results, the business of education is not now confined to professional teachers.

The greatest change of all has been wrought by the attention given to female education, so that the mother of this generation is not compelled to rely exclusively upon the school and the paid teacher, public or private, but can herself, as the teacher ordained by nature, aid her children in the preparatory studies of life. This power does not often manifest itself in a regular system of domestic school studies and discipline, but its influence is felt in a higher home preparation, and in the exhibition of better ideas of what a school should be. And we may assume, with all due respect to our maternal ancestry, that this fact is a modern feature, comparatively, in American civilization. Female education has given rise to some excesses of opinion and conduct; but the world is entirely safe, especially the self-styled lords of creation, and may wisely advocate a system of general education without regard to sex, and leave the effect to those laws of nature and revelation which are to all and in all, and cannot permanently be avoided or disobeyed.

The number of educators has strangely increased, and they often appear where they might least be expected. We speak of the revival of education, and think only of the change that has taken place in the last twenty years in the appropriations of money, the style of school-houses, and the fitness of professional teachers for the work in which they are engaged; but these changes, though great, are scarcely more noteworthy than those that have occurred in the management of our shops, mills, and farms. When we write the sign or utter the sound which symbolizes Teacher, what figure, being, or qualities, are brought before us? We should see a person who, in the pursuit of knowledge, is self-moving, and, in the exercise of the influence which knowledge gives, is able to appreciate the qualities of others; and who, moreover, possesses enough of inventive power to devise means by which he can lead pupils, students, or hearers, in the way they ought to go. We naturally look for such persons in the lecture-room, the school, and the pulpit. And we find them there; but they are also to be found in other places. There are thousands of such men in America, engaged in the active pursuits of the day. They are farmers, mechanics, merchants, operatives. They do not often follow text-books, and therefor are none the worse, but much the better teachers. Insensibly they have taken on the spirit of the teacher and the school, and, apparently ignorant of the fact, are, in the quiet pursuits of daily life, leaders of classes following some great thought, or devoted to some practical investigation. And in one respect these teachers are of a higher order than some—not all, nor most—of our professional teachers. They never cease to be students. When a man or woman puts on the garb of the teacher, and throws off the garb of the student, you will soon find that person so dwindled and dwarfed, that neither will hang upon the shoulders. This happens sometimes in the school, but never in the world.

The last twenty-five years have produced two new features in our civilization, that are at once a cause and a product of learning. I speak of the Press, and of Associations for mutual improvement.

The newspaper press of America, having its centre in the city of New York, is more influential than the press of any other country. It may not be conducted with greater ability; though, if compared with the English press, the chief difference unfavorable to America is found in the character of the leading editorial articles. In enterprise, in telegraphic business, maritime, and political news and information, the press of the United States is not behind that of Great Britain.

It must, however, be admitted that a given subject is usually more thoroughly discussed in a single issue from the English press; but it is by no means certain that public questions are, upon the whole, better canvassed in England than in America. Indeed, the opposite is probably true. Our press will follow a subject day after day, with the aid of new thoughts and facts, until it is well understood by the reader. European ideas of journalism cannot be followed blindly by the press of America. The journalist in Europe writes for a select few. His readers are usually persons of leisure, if they have not always culture and taste; and the issue of the morning paper is to them what the appearance of the quarterly, heavy or racy, is to the cultivated American reader.

But the American journalist, whatever his taste may be, cannot afford to address himself to so small an audience. He writes literally for the million; for I take it to be no exaggeration to say that paragraphs and articles are often read by millions of people in America. This fact is an important one, as it furnishes a good test of the standard taste and learning of the people. Our press answers the demand which the people make upon it. The mass of newspaper readers are not, in a scholastic sense, well-educated persons. Newspaper writers do not, therefore, trouble themselves about the colleges with their professors, but they seek rather to gain the attention and secure the support of the great body of the people, who know nothing of colleges except through the newspapers. We have always been permitted to infer the intellectual and moral character of the audiences of Demosthenes, from the orations of Demosthenes; and may we not also infer the character of the American people, from the character of the press that they support? In a single issue may often be found an editorial article upon some question of present interest; a sermon, address, or speech, from a leading mind of the country or the world; letters from various quarters of the globe; extracts from established literary and scientific journals; original essays upon political, literary, scientific, and religious subjects; and items of local or general interest for all classes of readers. This product of the press, in quantity and quality, could not be distributed, week after week, and year after year, among an ignorant class of people. It could be accepted by intelligent, thinking, progressive minds only; and, as a fact necessarily coexisting, we find the newspaper press equally essential to the best-educated persons among us. The newspaper press in America is a century and a half old; but its power does not antedate this century, and its growth has been chiefly within the last twenty-five years. What that growth has been may be easily seen by any one who will compare the daily sheet of the last generation with the daily sheet of this; and the future of the American press may be easily predicted by those who consider the progressive influences among us, of which the newspaper must always be the truest representative.

Within the same brief period of time it has become the fixed custom of the people to associate together for educational objects.

As a consequence, we have the lyceum for all, libraries for all, professional institutes and clubs for merchants, mechanics, and farmers, and, at last, free libraries and lectures for the operatives in the mills. Where these institutions can exist, there must be a high order of general learning; and where these institutions do exist, and are sustained, the learning of the people, whether high or low at any given moment, must be rapidly improved. Yet some of these agencies—lectures and libraries, for example—are not free from serious faults. It may seem rash and indefensible to criticize lectures upon the platform of the lecturer; but, as the audience can inflict whatever penalty they please upon the speaker, he will so far assume responsibility as to say that amusement is not the highest object of a single lecture, and when sought by managers as the desirable object of a whole course, the lecture-room becomes a theatre of dissipation; surely not so bad as other forms of dissipation, but yet so distinctly marked, and so pernicious in its influence, as to be comparatively unworthy of general support. Let it not, however, be inferred that wit, humor, and drollery even, are to be excluded from the lecture-room; but they should always be employed as means by which information is communicated. Between lecturers equal in other respects, one with the salt of humor, native to the soil, should be preferred; but it is a sad reflection upon public taste, when a person whose entire intellectual capital is wit, humor, or buffoonery, is preferred to men of solid learning. But it is a worse view of human nature, when men of real merit and worth depreciate themselves and lower the public taste, by attempting to do what, at best, they can have but ill success in, and what they would despise themselves for, were they to succeed completely. Shakspeare says of a jester:

"This fellow's wise enough to play the fool; And to do that well, craves a kind of wit:

* * * * *

This is a practice As full of labor as a wise man's art: For folly, that he wisely shows, is fit; But wise men, folly-fallen, quite taint their wit."

A kindred mental dissipation follows in the steps of progress, and demands aliment from our public libraries. In the selection of books there is a wide range, from the trashy productions of the fifth-rate novelist, to stately history and exact science. It is, however, to be assumed that libraries will not be established until they are wanted, and that the want will not be pressing until there is a taste for reading somewhat general. Where this taste exists, it is fair to assume that it is in some degree elevated. The direction, however, which the taste of any community is to take, after the establishment of a public library, depends, in a great degree, upon the selection of books for its shelves. Two dangers are to be avoided. The first, and greatest, is the selection of books calculated to degrade the morals or intellect of the reader. This danger is apparent, and to be shunned needs but to be seen. Books, of more or less intrinsic value, are so abundant and cheap, that common men must go out of their way to gather a large collection that shall not contain works of real merit. But the object should be to exclude all worthless and pernicious works, and meet and improve the public taste, by offering it mental food better than that to which it has been accustomed. The other danger is negative, rather than positive; but, as books are comparatively worthless when they are not read, it becomes a matter of great moment to select such as will touch the public mind at a few points, at least. It is indeed possible, and, under the guidance of some persons, it would be natural, to encumber the shelves of a library with good books that might ever remain so, saving only the contributions made to mould and mice.

Now, if you will pardon a little more fault-finding,—which is, I confess, a quality without merit, or, as Byron has it,

"A man must serve his time to every trade Save censure—critics all are ready made,"—

I will hazard the opinion that the practice of establishing libraries in towns for the benefit of a portion of the inhabitants only is likely to prove pernicious in the end. To be sure, reading for some is better than reading for none; but reading for all is better than either. In Massachusetts there is a general law that permits cities and towns to raise money for the support of libraries; yet the legislature, in a few cases, has granted charters to library associations. With due deference, it may very well be suggested, that, where a spirit exists which leads a few individuals to ask for a charter, it would be better to turn this spirit into a public channel, that all might enjoy its benefits. And it will happen, generally, that the establishment of a public library will be less expensive to the friends of the movement, and the advantages will be greater; while there will be an additional satisfaction in the good conferred upon others.

We shall act wisely if we apply to books a maxim of the Greeks: "All things in common amongst friends." Under this maxim Cicero has enumerated, as principles of humanity, not to deny one a little running water, or the lighting his fire by ours, if he has occasion; to give the best counsel we are able to one who is in doubt or distress; which, says he, "are things that do good to the person that receives them, and are no loss or trouble to him that confers them." And he quotes, with approbation, the words of Ennius:

"He that directs the wandering traveller Doth, as it were, light another's torch by his own; Which gives him ne'er the less of light, for that It gave another."

A good book is a guide to the reader, and a well-selected library will be a guide to many. And shall we give a little running water, and turn aside or choke up the streams of knowledge? light the evening torch, and leave the immortal mind unillumined? give free counsel to the ignorant or distressed, when he might easily be qualified to act as his own counsellor? In July 1856, Mr. Everett gave five hundred dollars toward a library for the High School in his native town of Dorchester; and in 1854 Mr. Abbott Lawrence gave an equal sum to his native town for the establishment of a public library. These are not large donations, if we consider only the amount of money given; but it is difficult to suggest any other equal appropriation that would be as beneficial, in a public sense. These donations are noble, because conceived in a spirit of comprehensive liberality. They are examples worthy of imitation; and I venture to affirm, there is not one of our New England towns that has not given to the world a son able to make a similar contribution to the cause of general learning. Is it too much to believe that a public library in a town will double the number of persons having a taste for reading, and consequently double the number of well-educated people? For, though we are not educated by mere reading, it is yet likely to happen that one who has a taste for books will also acquire habits of observation, study, and reflection.

Professional institutes and clubs also serve to increase the sum of general learning. They have thus far avoided the evil which has waited or fastened upon similar associations in Europe,—subserviency to political designs. Every profession or interest of labor has peculiar ideas and special purposes. These ideas and purposes may be wisely promoted by distinct organizations. Who can doubt the utility of associations of merchants, mechanics, and farmers? They furnish opportunities for the exchange of opinions, the exhibition of products, the dissemination of ideas, and the knowledge of improvements, that are thus wisely made the property of all. Knowledge begets knowledge. What is the distinguishing fact between a good school and a poor one? Is it not, that in a good school the prevailing public sentiment is on the side of knowledge and its acquisition? And does not the same fact distinguish a learned community from an ignorant community? If, in a village or city of artisans, each one makes a small annual contribution to the general stock of knowledge, the aggregate progress will be appreciable, and, most likely, considerable. If, on the other hand, each one plods by himself, the sum of professional knowledge cannot be increased, and is likely to be diminished.

The moral of the parable of the ten talents is eminently true in matters of learning. "Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." We cannot conceive of a greater national calamity than an industrial population delving in mental sluggishness at unrelieved and unchanging tasks. The manufacture of pins was commenced in England in 1583, and for two hundred and fifty years she had the exclusive control of the trade; yet all that period passed away without improvement, or change in the process; while in America the business was revolutionized, simplified, and economized one-half, in the period of five years. In 1840 the valuation of Massachusetts was about three hundred millions of dollars; but it is certain that a large portion of this sum should have been set off against the constant impoverishment of the land, commencing with the settlement of the state,—the natural and unavoidable result of an ignorant system of farm labor. The revival of education in America was soon followed by a marked improvement in the leading industries of the people, and especially in the department of agriculture. The principle of association has not yet been as beneficial to the farmers as to the mechanics; but the former are soon to be compensated for the delay. With the exception of the business of discovering small planets, which seem to have been created for the purpose of exciting rivalry among a number of enthusiastic, well-minded, but comparatively secluded gentlemen, agricultural learning has made the most marked progress in the last ten years. But an agricultural population is professionally an inert population; and, therefore, as in the accumulation of John Jacob Astor's fortune, it was more difficult to take the first step than to make all the subsequent movements. Now, however, the principle of association is giving direction and force to the labors of the farmer; and it is easy for any person to draw to himself, in that pursuit, the results of the learning of the world.

Libraries and lectures for the operatives in the manufactories constitute another agency in the cause of general learning. The city of Lawrence, under the lead of well-known public-spirited gentlemen there, has the honor of introducing the system in America. A movement, to which this is kindred, was previously made in England; but that movement had for its object the education of the operatives in the simple elements of learning, and among the females in a knowledge of household duties. An English writer says: "Many employers have already established schools in connection with their manufactories. From many instances before us, we may take that of Mr. Morris, of Manchester, who has risen, himself, from the condition of a factory operative, and who has felt in his own person the disadvantages under which that class of workmen labor. He has introduced many judicious improvements. He has spent about one hundred and fifty pounds in ventilating his mills; and has established a library, coffee-room, class-room, weekly lectures, and a system of industrial training. The latter has been established for females, of whom he employs a great many. This class of girls generally go to the mills without any knowledge of household duties; they are taught in the schools to sew, knit," etc.

But, in the provision made at Lawrence for intellectual culture, it is assumed, very properly, that the operatives are familiar with the branches usually taught in the public schools. This could not be assumed of an English manufacturing population, nor, indeed, of any town population, considered as a whole. Herein America has an advantage over England. Our laborers occupy a higher standpoint intellectually, and in that proportion their labors are more effective and economical. The managers and proprietors at Lawrence were influenced by a desire to improve the condition of the laborers, and had no regard to any pecuniary return to themselves, either immediate or remote. And it would be a sufficient satisfaction to witness the growth of knowledge and morality, thereby elevating society, and rendering its institutions more secure.

These higher results will be accompanied, however, by others of sufficient importance to be considered. When we hire, or, what is, for this inquiry, the same thing, buy that commodity called, labor, what do we expect to get? Is it merely the physical force, the animal life contained in a given quantity of muscle and bone? In ordinary cases we expect these, but in all cases we expect something more. We sometimes buy, and at a very high cost, too, what has, as a product, the least conceivable amount of manual labor in it,—a professional opinion, for example; but we never buy physical strength merely, nor physical strength at all, unless it is directed by some intellectual force. The descending stream has power to drive machinery, and the arm of the idiot has force for some mechanical service, but they equally lack the directing mind. We are not so unwise as to purchase the power of the stream, or the force of the idiot's arm; but we pay for its application in the thing produced, and we often pay more for the skill that has directed the power than for the power itself. The river that now moves the machinery of a factory in which many scores of men and women find their daily labor, and earn their daily bread, was employed a hundred years ago in driving a single set of mill-stones; and thus a man and boy were induced to divide their time lazily between the grist in the hopper and the fish under the dam. The river's power has not changed; but the inventive, creative genius of man has been applied to it, and new and astonishing results are produced. With man himself this change has been even greater. In proportion to the population of the country, we are daily dispensing with manual labor, and yet we are daily increasing the national production. There is more mind directing the machinery propelled by the forces of nature, and more mind directing the machinery of the human body. The result is, that a given product is furnished by less outlay of physical force. Formerly, with the old spinning-wheel and hand-loom, we put a great deal of bone and muscle into a yard of cloth; now we put in very little. We have substituted mind for physical force, and the question is, which is the more economical? Or, in other words, is it of any consequence to the employer whether the laborer is ignorant or intelligent?

Before we discuss this point abstractly, let us notice the conduct of men. Is any one willing to give an ignorant farm laborer as much as he is ready to pay for the services of an intelligent man? And if not, why the distinction? And if an ignorant man is not the best man upon a farm, is he likely to be so in a shop or mill? And if not, we see how the proprietors of factories are interested in elevating the standard of learning, in the mills and outside. But they are not singular in this. All classes of employers are equally concerned in the education of the laborer; for learning not only makes his labor more valuable to himself, but the market price of the product is generally reduced, and the change affects favorably all interests of society. This benefit is one of the first in point of time, and the one, perhaps, most appreciable of all which learning has conferred upon the laborer. As each laborer, with the same expenditure of physical force, produces a greater result, of course the aggregate products of the world are vastly increased, although they represent only the same number of laborers that a less quantity would have represented under an ignorant system.

The division of these products upon any principle conceivable leaves for the laborer a larger quantity than he could have before commanded; for, although the share of the wealthy may be disproportionate, their ability to consume is limited; and, as poverty is the absence or want of things necessary and convenient for the purposes of life, according to the ideas at the time entertained, we see how a laboring population, necessarily poor while ignorance prevails, is elevated to a position of greater social and physical comfort, as mind takes the place of brute force in the industries of the world. Learning, then, is not the result of social comfort, but social comfort is the product of intelligence, and increases or diminishes as intelligence is general or limited. It is not, however, to be taken as granted that each laborer's position corresponds or answers to the sum of his own knowledge. It might happen that an ignorant laborer would enjoy the advantages of a general culture, to which he contributed little or nothing; and it must of necessity also happen that an intelligent laborer, in the midst of an ignorant population, as in Ireland or India, for example, would be compelled to accept, in the main, the condition of those around him. But there is no evidence on the face of society now, or in its history, that an ignorant population, whether a laboring population or not, has ever escaped from a condition of poverty. And the converse of the proposition is undoubtedly true, that an intelligent laboring community will soon become a wealthy community. Learning is sure to produce wealth; wealth is likely to contribute to learning, but it does not necessarily produce it. Hence it follows that learning is the only means by which the poor can escape from their poverty.

In this statement it is assumed that education does not promote vice; and not only is this negative assumption true, but it is safe to assume, further, that education favors virtue, and that any given population will be less vicious when educated than when ignorant. This, I cannot doubt, is a general truth, subject, of course, to some exceptions.

The educational struggle in which the English people are now engaged has made distinct and tangible certain opinions and impressions that are latent in many minds. There has been an attempt to show that vice has increased in proportion to education. This attempt has failed, though there may be found, of course, in all countries, single facts, or classes of facts, that seem to sustain such an opinion.

Now, suppose this case,—and neither this case nor any similar one has ever occurred in real life,—but suppose crime to increase as a people were educated, though there should be no increase of population; would this fact prove that learning made men worse? By no means. Our answer is apparent on the face of the change itself. By education, the business, and pecuniary relations and transactions of a people are almost indefinitely multiplied; and temptations to crime, especially to crimes against property, are multiplied in an equal ratio. Would person or property be better respected in New York or Boston, if the most ignorant population of the world could be substituted for the present inhabitants of those cities? The business nerves of men are frequently shocked by some unexpected defalcation, and short-sighted moralists, who lack faith, exclaim, "All this is because men know so much!" Such certainly forget that for every defaulter in a city there are hundreds of honest men, who receive and render justly unto all, and hold without check the fortunes of others. So Mr. Drummond argued in the British House of Commons against a national system of education, because what he was pleased to call instruction had not saved William Palmer and John Sadlier. But the truth in this matter is not at the bottom of a well; it is upon the surface. Where it is the habit of society generally to be ignorant, you will find it the necessity of that society to be poor; and where ignorance and poverty both abound, the temptations to crime are unquestionably few, but the power to resist temptation is as unquestionably weak. The absence of crime is owing to the absence of temptation, rather than to the presence of virtue. Such a condition of society is as near to real virtue as the mental weakness of the idiot is to true happiness.

Turning again to the discussion in the British Parliament of April, 1856, we are compelled to believe that some English statesmen are, in principle and in their ideas of political economy, where a portion of the English cotton-spinners were a hundred years ago. The cotton-spinners thought the invention of labor-saving machinery would deprive them of bread; and a Mr. Ball gravely argues that schools will so occupy the attention of children, that the farmers' crops will be neglected. I am inclined to give you his own words; and I have no doubt you will be in a measure relieved of the dulness of this essay, when you listen to what was actually cheered, in the British Commons. Speaking of the resolutions in favor of a national system of instruction, Mr. Ball said: "It was important to consider what would be their bearing on the agricultural districts of the country. He had obtained a return from his own farm, and, supposing the principles advocated by the noble lord were adopted, the results would be perfectly fearful. The following was the return he had obtained from his agent: William Chapman, ten years a servant on his (Mr. Ball's) farm; his own wages thirteen shillings, besides a house; he had seven children, who earned nine shillings a week; making together twenty-two shillings a week. Robert Arbor, fifteen years on the farm; wages thirteen shillings a week, and a house; six children, who earned six shillings a week; making together nineteen shillings. John Stevens, thirty-three years a servant on the farm; his own wages fourteen shillings a week; he had brought up ten children, whose average earnings had been twelve shillings weekly, making together twenty-six shillings a week. Robert Carbon, twenty-two years a servant on the farm; wages thirteen shillings a week; having ten children, who earned ten shillings a week; making together twenty-three shillings a week. Thus it appeared that in these four families the fathers earned fifty-three shillings weekly, and the children thirty-seven shillings a week; so that the children earned something more than two-thirds of the amount of the earnings of the fathers. He would ask the house, if the fathers were to be deprived of the earnings of the children, how could they provide bread for them? It was perfectly impossible. They must either increase the parent's wages to the amount of the loss he thus sustained, or they must make it up to him from a rate. Then, again, those who were at all conversant with agriculture knew that if they deprived the farmer of the labor of children, agriculture could not be carried on. There was no machinery by which they could get the weeds out of the land."—London Times.

The light which this statement furnishes is not hid under a bushel. The argument deserves a more logical form, and I proceed gratuitously to give the author the benefit of a scientific arrangement. "If a national system of education is adopted, the children of my tenants will be sent to school; if the children of my tenants are sent to school, my turnips will not be weeded; if my turnips are not weeded, I shall eat fat mutton no more."

After this from a statesman, we need not wonder that a correspondent of Lord John Russell writes, "That a farmer near him has been heard to say, he would not give anything to a day-school; he finds that since Sunday-schools have been established the birds have increased and eat his corn, and because he cannot now procure the services of the boys, whom he used to employ the whole of Sunday, in protecting his fields."—London Times, April 13th, 1856.

Now, I do not go to England for the purpose of making an attack upon her opinions; but, as kindred ideas prevail among us, though to a limited extent only, the folly of them may be seen in persons at a distance, when it would not be realized by ourselves. Moreover, the presentation of these somewhat ridiculous notions brings ridicule upon a whole class of errors; and when errors are so ingrained that men cannot reason in regard to them, ridicule is often the only weapon of successful attack. And it is no compliment to an American audience for the speaker to say that their own minds already suggest the refutation which these errors demand. If the chief end of man, for which boyhood should be a preparation, were to weed turnips or to frighten blackbirds from corn-fields, then surely the objection of Mr. Ball, and the complaint and spirit of resistance offered by Lord John Russell's farmer, would be eminently proper. But Lord John Russell did not himself assent to the view furnished by his correspondent. Mr. Ball's theory evidently is, "Take good care of the turnips, and leave the culture of the boys and girls to chance;" and Lord John Russell's wise farmer unquestionably thinks that cereal peculations of blackbirds are more dangerous than the robberies committed by neglected children, grown to men.

Mr. Clay, chaplain of Preston jail, says: "Thirty-six per cent. come into jail unable to say the Lord's Prayer; and seventy-two per cent. come in such a state of moral debasement that it is in vain to give them instruction, or to teach them their duty, since they cannot understand the meaning of the words used to them." Here we have, as cause and effect, the philosophy of Mr. Ball, and the facts of Mr. Clay. And, further, this philosophy is as bad in principle, when tried by the rules of political economy, as when subjected to moral and Christian tests.

Mr. Ball says there is no machinery by which the farmers can get the weeds out of the land. This may be true; and once there was no machinery by which they could get the seed into the land, or the crops from it. Once there was little or no inventive power among the mechanics, or scientific knowledge, or even spirit of inquiry, among the farmers. How have these changes been wrought? By education, surely, and that moral and religious culture for which secular education is a fit preparation. The contributions of learning to labor, in a pecuniary aspect alone, have far exceeded the contributions of labor to learning.

It is impossible to enumerate the evidences in support of this statement, but single facts will give us some conception of their aggregated value and force.

It was stated by Mr. Flint, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, in his Annual Report for 1855, "That the saving to the country, from the improvements in ploughs alone, within the last twenty-five years, has been estimated at no less than ten millions of dollars a year in the work of teams, and one million in the price of ploughs, while the aggregate of the crops is supposed to have been increased by many millions of bushels." From this fact, as the representative of a great class of facts, we may safely draw two conclusions. First, these improvements are the products of learning, the contribution which learning makes to labor, far exceeding in amount any tax which the cause of learning, in schools or out, imposes upon labor. Secondly, we see that a given amount of adult labor upon a farm, with the help of the improved implements of industry, will accomplish more in 1856, than the same amount of adult labor, with its attendant juvenile force, could have accomplished in 1826. If we were fully to illustrate and sustain the latter inference, we should be required to review the improvements made in other implements of farming, as well as in ploughs. Their positive pecuniary value, when considered in the aggregate, is too vast for general belief; and in England alone it must exceed the anticipated cost of a system of public instruction, say six millions of pounds, or thirty millions of dollars, per year. But learning, as we have defined it, has contributed less to farming than to other departments of labor.

The very existence of manufactures presupposes the existence of learning. There is no branch of manufactures without its appropriate machine; and every machine is the product of mind, enlarged and disciplined by some sort of culture. The steam engine, the spinning-jenny, the loom, the cotton-gin, are notable instances of the advantages derived by manufacturing industry from the prevalence of learning. It was stated by Chief Justice Marshall, about thirty years ago, that Whitney's cotton-gin had saved five hundred millions of dollars to the country; and the saving, upon the same basis, cannot now be less than one thousand millions of dollars,—a sum too great for the human imagination to conceive. When we contemplate these achievements of mind, by which manual labor has been diminished, and every physical force both magnified and economized, how unstatesmanlike is the view which regards a human being as a bundle of muscles and bones merely, with no destiny but ignorance, servitude, and poverty!

Ancient commerce, if we omit to notice the conjecture that the mariner's compass was in possession of the old Phoenician and Indian navigators, reproduced, rather than invented, in modern times, did not rest upon any enlarged scientific knowledge; but, in this era, many of the sciences contribute to the extension and prosperity of trade. After what has been accomplished by science, and especially by physical geography, for commerce and navigation, we have reason to expect a system, based upon scientific knowledge and principles, which shall render the highway of nations secure against the disasters that have often befallen those who go down to the sea in ships. Science gave to the world the steamship, which promised for a time to engross the entire trade upon the ocean; but science again appears, constructs vessels upon better scientific principles, traces out the path of currents in the water and the air, and thus restores the rival powers of wind and steam to an equality of position in the eye of the merchant. Will any one say that all this inures to capital, and leaves the laborer comparatively unrewarded? We are accustomed to use the word prosperity as synonymous with accumulation; and yet, in a true view, a man may be prosperous and accumulate nothing. Suppose we contrast two periods in the life of a nation with each other. Since the commencement of this century, the wages of a common farm laborer in America have increased seventy-five or one hundred per cent., while the articles necessary and convenient for his use have, upon the whole, diminished in price. Admit that there was nothing for accumulation in the first period, and that there is nothing for accumulation now,—is not his condition nevertheless improved? And, if so, has he not participated in the general prosperity?

Indeed, we may all accept the truth, that there is no exclusiveness in the benefits which learning confers; and this leads me to say, next, that there ought to be no exclusiveness in the enjoyment of educational privileges.

In America we agree to this; and yet, confessedly, as a practical result we have not generally attained the end proposed. There are two practical difficulties in the way. First, our aim in a system of public instruction is not high enough; and, secondly, we do not sufficiently realize the importance of educating each individual. Our aim is not high enough; and the result, like every other result, is measured and limited by the purpose we have in view. Our public schools ought to be so good that private schools for instruction in the ordinary branches would disappear. Mr. Everett said, in reply to inquiries made by Mr. Twistleton, "I send my boy to the public school, because I know of none better." It should be the aim of the public to make their schools so good that no citizen, in the education of his children, will pass them by.

It is as great a privilege for the wealthy as for the poor to have an opportunity to send their children to good public schools. It is a maxim in education that the teacher must first comprehend the pupil mentally and morally; and might not many of the errors of individual and public life be avoided, if the citizen, from the first, were to have an accurate idea of the world in which he is to live? The demand of labor upon education, as they are connected with every material interest of society, is, that no one shall be neglected. The mind of a nation is its capital. We are accustomed to speak of money as capital; and sometimes we enlarge the definition, and include machinery, tools, flocks, herds, and lands. But for this moment let us do what we have a right to do,—go behind the definitions of lexicographers and political economists, and say, "capital is the producing force of society, and that force is mind." Without this force, money is nothing; machinery is nothing; flocks, herds, lands, are nothing. But all these are made valuable and efficient by the power of mind. What we call civilization,—passing from an inferior to a superior condition of existence,—is a mental and moral process. If mind is the capital,—the producing force of society,—what shall we say of the person or community that neglects its improvement? Certainly, all that we should say of the miser, and all that was said of the timid servant who buried his talent in the earth. If one mind is neglected, then we fail as a generation, a state, a nation, as members of the human family, to answer the highest purposes of existence. Some possible good is unaccomplished, some desirable labor is unperformed, some means of progress is neglected, some evil seed, it may be, is sown, for which this generation must answer to all the successions of men. But let us not yield to the prejudice, though sanctioned by custom, that learning unfits men for the labors of life. The schools may sometimes do this, but learning never. We cannot, however, conceal from our view the fact that this prejudice is a great obstacle to progress, even in New England; an obstacle which may not be overcome without delay and conflict, in many states of this Union; and especially in Great Britain is it an obstacle in the way of those who demand a system of universal education.

In the House of Commons, Mr. Drummond opposes a national system of education in this wise: "And, pray, what do you propose to rear your youth for? Are you going to train them for statesmen? No. (A laugh.) The honorable gentleman laughs at the notion, and so would I. But you are going to fit them to be—what? Why, cotton-spinners and pin-makers, or, if you like, blacksmiths, mere day laborers. These are the men whom you are to teach foreign languages, mathematics, and the notation of music. (Hear, hear.) Was there ever anything more absurd? It really seems as if God had withdrawn common sense from this house." Now, what does this language of Mr. Drummond mean? Does he not intend to say that it is unwise to educate that class of society from which cotton-spinners, pin-makers, blacksmiths, mere day laborers, are taken? Is it not his opinion that the business of pin-making is to be perpetuated in some families and classes, and the business of statesmanship is to be perpetuated in others? And, if so, does he not believe that the best condition of society is that which presents divisions based upon the factitious distinctions of birth and fortune? Most certainly these questions indicate his opinions, as they indicate the opinions of those who cheered him, and as they also indicate the opinions of a few in this country, who, through ignorance, false education, prejudice, or sympathy with castes and races, fear to educate the laborer, lest he may forsake his calling. With us these fears are infrequent, but they ought not to exist at all. The question in a public sense is not, "From what family or class shall the pin-maker or the statesman be taken?" There is no question at all to be answered. Educate the whole people. Education will develop every variety of talent, taste, and power. These qualities, under the guidance of the necessities of life and the public judgment, will direct each man to his proper place. If the son of a cotton-spinner become a statesman, it is because statesmanship needs him, and he has some power answering to its wants. And if Mr. Drummond's son become a cotton-spinner, it is because that is his right place, and the world will be the better and the richer that Mr. Drummond's son is a cotton-spinner, and that he is a learned man too; but, if Mr. Drummond's son occupy the place of a statesman because he is Mr. Drummond's son, though he be no statesman at all himself, then the world is all the worse for the mistake, and poor compensation is it that Mr. Drummond's son is a learned man in something that he is never called to put in practice.

When it is said that the statesmen, or those engaged in the business of government, shall come from one-tenth of the population, is not the state, according to the doctrine of chances, deprived of nine-tenths of its governing force? And may not the same suggestion be made of every other branch of business?

But I pass now to the last leading thought, and soon to the conclusion of my address. The great contribution of learning to the laborer is its power, under the lead of Christianity, to break down the unnatural distinctions of society, and to render labor of every sort, among all classes, acceptable and honorable. Ignorance is the degradation of labor, and when laborers, as a class, are ignorant, their vocation is necessarily shunned by some; and, being shunned by some, it is likely to be despised by others. Wherever the laboring population is in a condition of positive, or, by a broad distinction, of comparative ignorance, society will always divide itself into two, and oftentimes into three classes. We shall find the dominant class, the servient class, and then, generally, the despised class; the dominant class, comparatively intelligent, possessing the property, administering the government, giving to social life its laws, and enjoying the fruits of labor which they do not perform; the servient class, unwittingly in a state of slavery, whether nominally bond or free, having little besides physical force to promote their own comfort or to contribute to the general prosperity, and furnishing security in their degradation for a final submission to whatever may be required of them; and last, a despised class, too poor to live without labor, and too proud to live by labor, assuming a position not accorded to them, and finally yielding to a social and political ostracism even more degrading, to a sensitive mind, than the servient condition they with so much effort seek to shun.

All this is the fruit of ignorance; all this may be removed by general learning. If all men are learned, the work of the world will be performed by learned men; and why, under such circumstances, should not every vocation that is honest be equally honorable? But if this, in a broad view, seem utopian, can we not agree that learning is the only means by which a poor man can escape from his poverty? And, if it furnish certain means of escape for one man, will it not furnish equally certain means of escape for many? And if so, is not learning a general remedy for the inequalities among men?


[Extract from the Twenty-First Annual Report of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education.]

The public schools, in their relations to the morals of the pupils and to the morality of the community, are attracting a large share of attention. In some sections of the country the system is boldly denounced on account of its immoral tendencies. In states where free schools exist there are persons who doubt their utility; and occasionally partisan or religious leaders appear who deny the existence of any public duty in regard to education, or who assert and maintain the doctrine that free schools are a common danger. As the people of this commonwealth are not followers of these prophets of evil, nor believers in their predictions, there is but slight reason for discussion among us. It is not probable that a large number of the citizens of Massachusetts entertain doubts of the power and value of our institutions of learning, of every grade, to resist evil and promote virtue, through the influence they exert. But, as there is nothing in our free-school system that shrinks from light, or investigation even, I have selected from the annual reports everything which they contain touching the morality of the institution. In so doing, I have had two objects in view. First, to direct attention to the errors and wrongs that exist; and, secondly, to state the opinion, and enforce it as I may be able, that the admitted evils found in the schools are the evils of domestic, social, municipal, and general life, which are sometimes chastened, mitigated, or removed, but never produced, nor even cherished, by our system of public instruction. In the extracts from the school committees' reports there are passages which imply some doubt of the moral value of the system; but it is our duty to bear in mind that these reports were prepared and presented for the praiseworthy purpose of arousing an interest in the removal of the evils that are pointed out. The writers are contemplating the importance of making the schools a better means of moral and intellectual culture; but there is no reason to suppose that in any case a comparison is instituted, even mentally, between the state of society as it appears at present and the condition that would follow the abandonment of our system of public instruction. There are general complaints that the manners of children and youth have changed within thirty or fifty years; that age and station do not command the respect which was formerly manifested, and that some license in morals has followed this license in manners.

The change in manners cannot be denied; but the alleged change in morals is not sustained by a great amount of positive evidence. The customs of former generations were such that children often manifested in their exterior deportment a deference which they did not feel, while at present there may be more real respect for station, and deference for age and virtue, than are exhibited in juvenile life. In this explanation, if it be true, there is matter for serious thought; but I should not deem it wise to encourage a mere outward show of the social virtues, which have no springs of life in the affections.

And, notwithstanding the tone of the reports to which I have called attention, and notwithstanding my firm conviction that many moral defects are found in the schools, I am yet confident that their moral progress is appreciable and considerable.

In the first place, teachers, as a class, have a higher idea of their professional duties, in respect to moral and intellectual culture. Many of them are permanently established in their schools. They are persons of character in society, with positions to maintain, and they are controlled by a strong sense of professional responsibility to parents and to the public. It has been, to some extent, the purpose and result of Teachers' Associations, Teachers' Institutes, and Normal Schools, to create in the body of teachers a better opinion concerning their moral obligations in the work of education. It must also be admitted that the changes in school government have been favorable to learning and virtue. For, while it is not assumed that all schools are, or can be, controlled by moral means only, it is incontrovertible that a government of mild measures is superior to one of force. This superiority is as apparent in morals as in scholarly acquisitions. It is rare that a teacher now boasts of his success over his pupils in physical contests; but such claims were common a quarter of a century ago. The change that has been wrought is chiefly moral, and in its influence we find demonstrative evidence of the moral superiority of the schools of the present over those of any previous period of this century. Before we can comprehend the moral work which the schools have done and are doing, we must perceive and appreciate with some degree of truthfulness the changes that have occurred in general life within a brief period of time. The activity of business, by which fathers have been diverted from the custody and training of their children; the claims of fashion and society, which have led to some neglect of family government on the part of mothers; the aggregation of large, populations in cities and towns, always unfavorable to the physical and moral welfare of children; the comparative neglect of agriculture, and the consequent loss of moral strength in the people, are all facts to be considered when we estimate the power of the public school to resist evil and to promote good. If, in addition to these unfavorable facts and tendencies, our educational system is prejudicial to good morals, we may well inquire for the human agency powerful enough to resist the downward course of New England and American civilization. To be sure, Christianity remains; but it must, to some extent, use human institutions as means of good; and the assertion that the schools are immoral is equivalent to a declaration that our divine religion is practically excluded from them. This declaration is not in any just sense true. The duty of daily devotional exercises is always inculcated upon teachers, and the leading truths and virtues of Christianity are made, as far as possible, the daily guides of teachers and pupils. The tenets of particular sects are not taught; but the great truths of Christianity, which are received by Christians generally, are accepted and taught by a large majority of committees and teachers. It is not claimed that the public schools are religious institutions; but they recognize and inculcate those fundamental truths which are the basis of individual character, and the best support of social, religious, and political life. The statement that the public schools are demoralizing must be true, if true at all, for one of three reasons. Either because all education is demoralizing; or, secondly, because the particular education given in the public schools is so; or, thirdly, because the public-school system is corrupting, and consequently taints all the streams of knowledge that flow through or emanate from it. For, if the public system is unobjectionable as a system, and education is not in itself demoralizing, then, of course, no ground remains for the charge that I am now considering.

I. Is all education demoralizing? An affirmative answer to this question implies so much that no rational man can accept it. It is equivalent to the assertion that barbarism is a better condition than civilization, and that the progress of modern times has proceeded upon a misconception of the true ideal perfection of the human race. As no one can be found who will admit that his happiness has been marred, his powers limited, or his life degraded, by education, so there is no process of logic that can commend to the human understanding the doctrine that bodies of men are either less happy or virtuous for the culture of the intellect. I am not aware of any human experience that conflicts with this view; for individual cases of criminals who have been well educated prove nothing in themselves, but are to be considered as facts in great classes of facts which indicate the principles and conduct of bodies of men who are subject to similar influences. In fact, the statistics to which I have had access tend to show that crime diminishes as intelligence increases. On this point the experience of Great Britain is probably more definite, and, of course, more valuable, than our own. The Aberdeen Feeding Schools were established in 1841, and during the ten years succeeding the commitments to the jails of children under twelve years of age were as follows:[1]

In 1842, 30 In 1847, 27

1843, 63 1848, 19

1844, 41 1849, 16

1845, 49 1850, 22

1846, 28 1851, 8 211 92

In the work of Mr. Hill it is also stated that "the number of children under twelve committed for crime to the Aberdeen prisons, during the last six years, was as follows:

Males. Females. Total.

1849-50, 11 5 16

1850-51, 14 8 22

1851-52, 6 2 8

1852-53, 23 1 24

1853-54, 24 1 25

1854-55, 47 2 49

"It will be observed that in the last three years there has been a great increase of boy crime, contemporaneously with an almost total absence of girl crime, though formerly the amount of the latter was considerable. Now, since this extraordinary difference coincides in point of time with the fact of full girls' schools and half empty boys' schools, the inference can hardly be avoided that the two facts bear the relation of cause and effect, and that, so far from the late increase of youthful crime in Aberdeen any-wise impairing the soundness of the principle on which the schools are based, it is its strongest confirmation. In moral as in physical science, when the objections to a theory are, upon further investigation, explained by the theory itself, they become the best evidence of its truth. Indeed, it is proved, by the experience, not only of Aberdeen, but, as far as I have been able to ascertain, of every town in Scotland in which industrial schools have been established, that the number of children in the schools and the number in the jail are like the two ends of a scale-beam; as the one rises the other falls, and vice versa.

"The following list of imprisonments of children attending the schools of the Bristol Ragged School Union shows considerable progress in the right direction:

1847. 1848. 1849. 1850. 1851. 1852. 1853. 1854. 1855. Imprisoned, 12 19 26 9 1 1 - 1 -

Imprisonments in } 66, averaging 16.5 per year on number of 417 the first four years} children.

In subsequent five } 3, averaging 0.6 per year on number of 728 years, } children. _ Difference, 15.9

16.5 : 15.9 :: 100 : 96.36.

"Thus," says Mr. Thornton, "it appears that the diminution of the average annual number of children attending our schools imprisoned in the latter period of five years, as compared with the annual average of the previous four years, is ninety-six per cent.—a striking fact, which is, I think, a manifest proof of the benefit conferred on them by the religious and secular instruction they receive in our schools, or, at the very least, of the advantages of rescuing them from the temptations of idleness, and from evil companionship and example."

I also copy, from the work already referred to, an extract from a paper on the Reformatory Institutions in and near Bristol, by Mary Carpenter: "In numberless instances children may be seen growing up decently, who owe their only training and instruction to the school. Young persons are noticed in regular work, who, before they attended the Ragged Schools, were vagrants, or even thieves. Not unfrequently a visit is paid at the school by a respectable young man, who proves to have been a wild and troublesome scholar of former times."

Mr. Hill, Recorder of Birmingham, in a charge to the grand jury, made in 1839, speaking of the means of repressing crime, says: "It is to education, in the large and true meaning of the word, that we must all look as the means of striking at the root of the evil. Indeed, of the close connection between ignorance and crime the calendar which I hold in my hand furnishes a striking example. Each prisoner has been examined as to the state of his education, and the result is set down opposite his name. It appears, then, that of forty-three prisoners only one can read and write well. The majority can neither read nor write at all; and the remainder, with the solitary exception which I have noted down, are said to read and write imperfectly; which necessarily implies that they have not the power of using those great elements of knowledge for any practical object. Of forty-three prisoners, forty-two, then, are destitute of instruction."

These authorities are not cited because they refer to schools that answer in character to the public schools of Massachusetts, for the latter are far superior in the quality of their pupils, and in the opportunities given for intellectual and moral education; but these cases and opinions are presented for the purpose of showing what has been done for the improvement of children and the repression of crime under the most unfavorable circumstances that exist in a civilized community. If such benign results have followed the establishment of schools of an inferior character, is it unreasonable to claim that education and the processes of education, however imperfect they may be, are calculated to increase the sum of human progress, virtue, and happiness?

II. Is the particular education given in the public schools unfavorable to the morals of the pupils, and, consequently, to the morality of the community? I have already presented a view of the moral and religious education given in the schools, and it only remains to consider the culture that is in its leading features intellectual. It may be said, speaking generally, that education is a training and development of the faculties, so as to make them harmonize in power, and in their relations to each other. Among other things, the ability to read is acquired in the public schools. In the individual, this is a power for good. It opens to the mind and heart the teachings of the sacred Scriptures; it secures the companionship of the great, the wise, and the good, of every age; and it is a possession that, in all cases, must be the foundation of those scientific acquisitions, intellectual, moral, and natural, which show the beneficence and power of the Creator, and indicate the fact and the law of human responsibility. The natural and general effect of the sciences taught in the schools is an illustration of the last statement. Moreover, the mere presence of a child, though he took no part in the studies of the school, is to him a moral lesson. He feels the force of government, he acquires the habit of obedience, and, in time, he comprehends the reason of the rules that are established. This discipline is essentially moral, and furnishes some basis, though partial and unsatisfactory, for the proper discharge of the duties of life. But it is to be remembered that the power of the school is but in its beginning when the presence of a pupil is recognized. The constancy and punctuality of attendance required by all judicious parents and faithful teachers are important moral lessons, whose influence can never be destroyed. The fixedness of purpose that is required, and is essential in school, remains as though it were a part of the nature of the child and the man. School-life strengthens habits of industry when they exist, and creates them when they do not. It is, indeed, the only means, of universal application, that is competent to train children in habits of industry. Private schools can never furnish this training; for large numbers of children, by the force of circumstances, are deprived of the tuition of such schools. Business life cannot furnish this training; for the habits of the child are usually moulded, if not hardened, before he arrives at an age when he can be constantly employed in any industrial vocation. The public school is no doubt justly chargeable with neglects and omissions; but its power for good, measured by the character of the education now furnished, is certainly very great. It inculcates habits of regularity, punctuality, constancy, and industry, in the pursuits of business; through literature and the sciences in their elements, and, under some circumstances, by an advanced course of study, it leads the pupil towards the fountain of life and wisdom; and, by the moral and religious instruction daily given, some preparation is made for the duties of life and the temptations of the world.

III. Is the public school system, as a system, in itself necessarily corrupting? As preliminary to the answer to be given to this question, it is well to consider what the public-school system is.

1. Every inhabitant is required to contribute to its support.

2. It contemplates the education of every child, regardless of any distinction of society or nature.

3. The system is subject in many respects to the popular will; and ultimately its existence and character are dependent upon the public judgment.

4. In the Massachusetts schools, the daily reading of the Scriptures is required.

The consideration of these topics will conclude my remarks upon the general subject of the moral influence of the American system of public instruction. In New England it is very unusual to hear the right of the state to provide for the support of schools by general taxation called in question; but I am satisfied, from private conversations, and from occasional public statements, that there are leading minds in some sections of the country that are yet unconvinced of the moral soundness of the basis on which a system of public instruction necessarily rests. Taxation is simply an exercise of the right of the whole to take the property of an individual; and this right can be exercised justly in those cases only where the application of the property so taken is, morally speaking, to a public use. The judgment of the public determines the legality of the proceeding; but it is possible that in some cases a public judgment might be secured which could not be supported by a process of moral reasoning. On what moral grounds, then, does the right of taxation for educational objects rest? I answer, first, education diminishes crime. The evidence in support of this statement has already been presented. It is a manifest individual duty to make sacrifices for this object; and, as every crime is an injury, not only to him who is the subject of it, but to every member of society, the prevention of crime becomes a public as well as an individual duty.

The conviction of a criminal is a public duty; and, under all governments of law, it is undertaken at the public charge. Offences are not individual merely; they are against society also, inasmuch as it is the right of society that all its members shall behave themselves well. And, if it is the right of society that its members shall behave themselves well, is it not the duty of society to so provide for their education that each individual part may meet the demand which the whole body asserts? And, further, as a majority of persons cannot individually provide for their own protection, it is the duty of society, or the state, or the government, to furnish the needed protection in the most economical and effective manner possible. The state has no moral right to jeopard property, life, and reputation, when, by a different policy, all these might be secure; nor has the state a moral right to make the security furnished, whether perfect or not, unnecessarily expensive. It is the dictate of reason and the experience of governments that the most effectual method of repressing crime is to diminish the number of criminals; and, though punitive measures may accomplish something, our chief reliance must be upon the education and training of children and youth. The facts drawn from the experience of England and Scotland, which have been quoted, lead to the conclusion that schools diminish the number of criminals, and consequently lessen the amount of crime; but I think it proper to add some extracts from a communication made, in August, 1856, by Mr. Dunne, chief constable of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to the Secretary of the National Reformatory Union.[2]

"I know, from my own personal knowledge and observation, that, since parental responsibility has been enforced in the district, under the direction of the Secretary of State, the number of juvenile criminals in the custody of the police has decreased one-half. I know that many of the parents, who were in the habit of sending their children into the streets for the purposes of stealing, begging, and plunder, have quite discontinued that practice, and several of the children so used, and brought up as thieves and mendicants, are now at some of the free schools of the town; others are at work, and thereby obtain an honest livelihood; and, so far as I can ascertain, they seem to be thoroughly altered, and appear likely to become good and honest members of society. I have, for my own information, conversed with some of the boys so altered, and, during the conversation I had with them, they declared that they derived the greatest happiness and satisfaction from their change in life. I don't at all doubt the truth of these statements, for their evident improvement and individual circumstances fully bear them out; and I believe them to be really serious in all they say, and truly anxious to become honest and respectable. I attribute, in a great measure, this salutary change to the effects arising in many respects from the establishment of reformatory schools; but I have more particularly found that greater advantages have emanated from those institutions since the parents of the children confined in them have been made to pay contributions to their maintenance; for it appears beyond doubt that the effect of the latter has been to induce the parents of other young criminals to withdraw them from the streets, and, instead of using them for the purposes of crime, they seem to take an interest in their welfare. And I know that many of them are now really anxious to get such employment for their children as will enable them to obtain a livelihood; and it is my opinion that the example thus set to older and more desperate criminals, belonging in many instances to the same family as the juvenile thief, has had the effect of reforming them also; for many of them have left off their course of crime, and are now living by honest labor. The result is that serious crime has considerably decreased in this district, so much so that there were only six cases for trial at the assizes, whereas, at the previous assizes, the average number of cases was from twenty-five to thirty, which fact was made the subject of much comment and congratulation by Mr. Justice Willes, the presiding judge."

These remarks relate chiefly to the reformatory schools, but we know that the prevention of crime by education is much easier than its reformation by the same means. Indeed, it is the result of the experience of Massachusetts that the necessity for reform schools has in a large degree arisen from neglect of the public schools. It is stated in the Tenth Annual Report of the Chaplain of the State Reform School that of nineteen hundred and nine boys admitted since the establishment of the institution, thirteen hundred and thirty-four are known to have been truants. It is also quite probable that the number reported as truants is really less than the facts warrant. It may not be out of place to suggest, in this connection, that when a boy sentenced to the Reform School is known to have been guilty of truancy, if the parents were subjected to some additional burdens on that account, the cause of education would be promoted, and the number of criminals in the community would be diminished. From the views and facts presented, as well as from the daily observation and experience of men, I assume that ignorance is the ally of crime, and that education is favorable to virtue. It is also the result of experience and the dictate of reason that general taxation is the only means by which universal education can be secured. All other plans and theories will prove partial in their application. If, then, it is the duty of the state to protect itself against crime, and of course to diminish the number of criminals; if education is the most efficient means for securing these results; if this education must be universal in order to be thoroughly effective; if the state is the only agent or instrumentality of sufficient power to establish schools and furnish education for all; and if general taxation is the only means which the state itself can command, is not every inhabitant justly required and morally bound to contribute to the support of a system of public instruction?

It will not necessarily happen that public schools will furnish to every child and youth the desired amount of education. Professional schools, classical schools, and academies of various grades, will be continued; but there is an amount of intellectual and moral training needed by every child which can be best given in the public school. This training in the public schools ought to be carried much further than it usually is. In the city of Newburyport, as I have been informed, there are no exceptions to the custom of educating all the children of the town in the public schools up to the moment when young men enter college. In large towns and cities there is no excuse for the existence of private schools to do the work now done in such schools as those of Newburyport and other places where equal educational privileges exist.

The chief objection brought against the public school, touching its morality, is derived from the fact that children who are subject to proper moral influences at home are brought in contact with others who are already practised in juvenile vices, if they have not been guilty of petty crimes. I am happy to believe that this statement is not true of many New England communities. The objection was considered in the last Annual Report,—it has been often considered elsewhere; and I do not propose to repeat at length the views which are entertained by the friends of public education.

I have, however, to suggest that while this objection applies with some force to the public school, it applies also to every other school, and that the evil is the least dangerous when the pupil is intrusted to the care of a qualified teacher, who is personally responsible to the public for his conduct, and when the child is also subject to the restraints, and influenced by the daily example and teachings, of the parents.

Moreover, it is to be remembered that the great value of education, in a moral aspect, is the development of the power to resist temptation. This power is not the growth of seclusion; and while neither the teacher nor the parent ought wantonly to expose the child to vicious influences, the school may be even a better preparation for the world from the fact that temptation has there been met, resisted, and overcome. It is also to be remembered that the judgment of parents in a matter so difficult and delicate as a comparison between their own children and other children would not always prove trustworthy nor just; and that a judgment of parties not interested would prove eminently fruitful of dissatisfaction and bitterness.

If all are to be educated, it only remains, then, that they be educated together, subject to the general rule of society, that when a member is dangerous to the safety or peace of his associates, he is to be excluded or restrained. Nor is this necessity of association destitute of moral advantages. If the comparatively good were separated from the relatively vicious, it is not improbable that the latter would soon fall into a state of barbarity. It seems to be the law of the school and of the world that the most rapid progress is made when the weight of public sentiment is on the side of improvement and virtue. It is not necessary for me to remark that such a public sentiment exists in every town and school district of the state; but who would take the responsibility in any of these communities, great or small, of separating the virtuous classes from the dangerous classes? Parents, from the force of their affections, are manifestly incompetent to do this; and those who are not parents are probably equally incompetent. But, if it were honestly accomplished, who would be responsible for the crushing effects of the measure upon those who were thus excluded from the presence and companionship of the comparatively virtuous? These, often the victims of vicious homes, need more than others the influence and example of the good; and it should be among the chief satisfactions of those who are able to train their own children in the ways of virtue, that thereby a healthful influence is exerted upon the less fortunate of their race. There is also in this course a wise selfishness; for, although children may be separated from each other, the circumstances of maturer years will often make the virtuous subject to the influence of the vicious. The safety of society, considered individually or collectively, is not in the virtuous training of any part, however large the proportion, but in the virtuous training of all. I cannot deem it wise policy, whether parental or public, that takes the child from the school on account of the immoral associations that are ordinarily found there, or, on the other hand, that drives the vicious or unfortunate from the presence of those who are comparatively pure. When it is considered that the school is often the only refuge of the unhappy subject of orphanage, or the victim of evil family influences, it seems an unnecessary cruelty to withhold the protection, encouragement, and support, which may be so easily and profitably furnished. It is said that a sparrow pursued by a hawk took refuge in the bosom of a member of the sovereign assembly of Athens, and that the harsh Areopagite threw the trembling bird from him with such violence that it was killed on the spot. The assembly was filled with indignation at the cruelty of the deed; the author of it was arraigned as an alien to that sentiment of mercy so necessary to the administration of justice, and by the unanimous suffrages of his colleagues was degraded from the senatorial dignity which he had so much dishonored.

It does not seem necessary to offer an argument in support of the position that the public school is not unfavorably affected, morally, by the fact that it is subject to the popular judgment. This judgment can be rendered only at stated times, and under the forms and solemnities of law. The history of public schools would probably furnish but few instances of wrong in this respect. The people are usually sensitive in regard to the moral character of teachers; they contribute liberally for the support of the schools, are anxious for their improvement, and there is no safer depositary of a trust that is essential to a nation in which is the hope of freedom and free institutions.

And, last, a school cannot be truly said to be destitute of moral character and influence in which the sacred Scriptures are daily read.

The observance of this requirement is a recognition of the existence of the Supreme Being, of the Bible as containing a record of his will concerning men, and of the common duty of rational creatures to live in obedience to the obligations of morality and religion.

It has been no part of my purpose, in this discussion of the public school as an institution fitted to promote morality, to deny the existence of serious defects, or to screen them from the eyes of men. The public school needs a more thorough discipline, a purer morality, a clearer conception and a more practical recognition of the truths of Christianity. But, viewed as a human institution, it claims the general gratitude for the good it has already accomplished. The public school was established in Massachusetts that "learning might not be buried in the graves of our forefathers, in church and commonwealth;" and, in some measure, at least, the early expectation thus quaintly expressed has been realized. Learning has ever been cherished and honored among us. The means of education have been the possession of all; and the enjoyment of these means, often inadequate and humble, has developed a taste for learning, which has been gratified in higher institutions; and thus continually have the resources of the state been magnified, and its influence in the land has been efficient in all that concerns the welfare of the human race on the American continent.


[1] The Repression of Crime. By M. D. Hill.

[2] The Repression of Crime, pp. 358, 359.


[Address at the Inauguration of WILLIAM E. STARR, Superintendent of the State Reform School at Westborough.]

Neither the invitation of the Trustees nor my own convenience will permit a detailed examination of the topics which the occasion suggests; and it is my purpose to address myself to those who are assembled to participate in the exercises of the day, trusting to familiar and unobserved visits for other and better opportunities for conference with the inmates of the institution.

As the mariner, though cheered by genial winds and canopied by cloudless skies, tests and marks his position and course by repeated observations, so we now desire to note the progress of this humanity-freighted vessel in its voyage over an uncertain sea, yet, as we trust, toward lands of perpetual security and peace. All are voyagers on the sea of life. Some, with the knowledge of ancient days only, grope their way by headlands, or trust themselves occasionally to the guidance of the sun or the stars; while others, with the chart and compass of the Christian era, move confidently on their course, attracted by the Source and Centre of all good. And it is a blessing of this state of existence, though it may sometimes seem to be a curse, that the choice between good and evil yet remains. The wisdom of a right choice is here manifested in the benevolence of this foundation.

The State Reform School for Boys has now enjoyed eight full years of life and progress; and, though we cannot estimate nor measure the good it may have induced, or the evil it may have prevented, yet enough of its history and results is known to justify the course of its patrons, both public and private, and to warrant the ultimate realization of their early cherished hopes. The state is most honored in the honor awarded to its sons; and the name of LYMAN, now and evermore associated with a work of benevolence and reform, will always command the admiration of the citizens of the commonwealth, and stimulate the youth of the school to acquire and practise those virtues which their generous patron cherished in his own life and honored in others. Governor Washburn, in the Dedication Address, said, "We commend this school, with its officers and inmates, to a generous and grateful public, with the trust that the future lives of the young, who may be sent hither for correction and reform, may prove the crowning glory of an enterprise so auspiciously begun." Since these words were uttered, and this hope, the hope of many hearts, was expressed, nearly two thousand boys, charged with various offences,—many of them petty, and others serious or even criminal,—have been admitted to the school; and the chaplain, in his report for the year 1854, says that "the institution will be instrumental in saving a majority of those who come under its fostering care." This opinion, based, no doubt, upon the experience which the chaplain and other officers of the institution had had, is to be taken as possessing a substantial basis of truth; and it at once suggests important reflections.

Massachusetts is relieved of the presence of a thousand criminal, or, at best, viciously disposed persons. A thousand active, capable, industrious, productive, full-grown men have been created; or, rather, a thousand consumers of the wealth of others, enemies of the public order and peace, have been transformed into intelligent supporters of social life, into generous, faithful guardians of public virtue and tranquillity. Nor would the influences of this degraded population, if unreformed, have ceased with its own existence; every succeeding generation must have gathered somewhat of a harvest of crime and woe. A thousand boys, hardened by neglect, educated in vice, and shunned by the virtuous, would, as men, have been efficient missionaries of lawlessness, wrong, and crime. And who shall estimate how much their reform adds, in its results, to the wealth, the intellectual, moral, and religious character, of the state? The criminal class is never a producing class; and the labor of a thousand men here reclaimed, if estimated for the period of twenty years only, is equal to the labor of twenty thousand men for one year, which, at a hundred dollars each, yields two millions of dollars. The pecuniary advantages of this school, as of all schools, we may estimate; but there are better and higher considerations, in the elevated intellectual, moral, and religious life of the state, that are too pure, too ethereal, to be weighed in the balance against the grosser possessions and acquisitions of society. We thus get glimpses of the prophetic wisdom which led Mr. Lyman to say, "I do not look on this school as an experiment; on the contrary, it strikes me that it is an institution which will produce decidedly beneficial results, not only for the present day, but for many years to come. I do not, therefore, think that it should, even now, be treated in any respect in the light of an experiment, to be abandoned if not successful; for, if the school is introduced to public notice on no better footing and with no more preparation than usually attend trial-schemes of most kinds, the probability is that it will fail, considering the peculiar difficulties of the case." Here is a high order of faith in its application to human affairs; but Mr. Lyman saw, also, that the work to be performed must encounter obstacles, and that its progress toward a perfect result would be slow.

These obstacles have been encountered; and yet the progress has been more rapid than the words of our founder imply. But are we not at liberty to forget the trials, crosses, and perplexities, of this movement, as we behold the fruits, already maturing, of the wisdom and Christian benevolence of our honored commonwealth?

We are assembled to review the past, and to gather from it strength and courage for the future; and we may with propriety congratulate all, whether present or absent, who have been charged with the administration of this school, and have contributed their share, however humble, to promote these benign results. And we ought, also, to remember those, whether living or dead, whose faith and labors laid the foundation on which the state has built. Of the dead, I mention Lyman, Lamb, Denny, Woodward, Shaw, and Greenleaf,—all of whom, with money, counsel, or personal service, contributed to the plan, progress, and completion, of the work.

The good that they have done is not interred with their bones; and their example will yet find many imitators, as men more generally and more perfectly realize the importance of faith in childhood and youth, as the element of a true faith in our race. If this enterprise, in the judgment of its founder, was not an experiment ten years ago, it cannot be so regarded now; yet the public will look with anxiety, though with hope, upon every change of the officers of the institution. The trustees having appointed a new superintendent, he now assumes the great responsibility. It may not be second to any in the state; yet a man of energy, who is influenced by a desire to do good, and who will not measure his reward by present emoluments or temporary fame, can bear steadily and firmly the weight put upon him. The superintendent elect has been a teacher elsewhere, and he is to be a teacher here also. His work will not, in all particulars, correspond with the work that he has left; yet the principles of government and education are in substance the same. The head of a school always occupies a position of influence; the characters of the children and youth confided to him are in a great degree subject to his control. Here the teacher is neither aided nor impeded by the usual home influences. This institution is at once a home and a school; and its head has the united power and responsibility of the parent and the teacher. Here are to be combined the social and moral influences of home, the religious influences of the Sunday-school, with the intellectual and moral training of the public school. He who to-day enters upon this work should have both faith and courage. He is to deal with the unfortunate rather than with the exceptional cases of humanity; for all these are children whom the Father of the race, in his providence, has confided to earthly parents to be educated for a temporal and an immortal existence. That these parents, through crime, ignorance, indolence, carelessness, or misfortune, have failed in their work, is no certain evidence that we are to fail in ours. May we not hope to see in this school the kindness, consideration, affection, and forethought, of the parent, without the delusion which sometimes causes the father or mother to treat the vices of the child as virtues, to be encouraged? And may we not expect from the superintendent, to whom, practically, the discipline of the school is confided, one characteristic of good government, not always, it is feared, found in punitive and reformatory institutions? I speak of the attributes of equality, uniformity, and certainty, in the administration of the law. To be sure, a school, a prison, or a state, will suffer when its code is lax; and it will also suffer when its system is oppressive or sanguinary; but these peculiarities in themselves do not so often, in any community, produce dissatisfaction, disorder, and violence, as an unequal, partial, and uncertain administration of the laws. If at times the laws are administered strictly according to the letter, and if at other times they are reluctantly enforced or altogether disregarded; if it can never be known beforehand whether a violation is to be followed by the prescribed penalty—especially if this uncertainty becomes systematic, and a portion are favored, while the remainder are required to answer strictly for all their delinquencies; and if, above all, these favored ones are recognized as sentinels, or spies, or informers in the service of the officers,—then not only will the spirit of insubordination manifest itself, but that spirit may ripen into alienations, feuds, and personal enmities, dangerous to the prosperity of the institution. Here the scales of justice should be evenly balanced, and the boy should learn, from his own daily experience, to measure equal and exact justice unto others. I do not speak of systems of government: they are essential, no doubt; but they are not to be regarded as of the first importance in institutions for punishment or reformation. Establish as wise a system as you can; but never trust to that alone. Administer the system that you have with all the equality, uniformity, and certainty, that you can command. As a general truth, it may be said that the law is respected when these qualities are exhibited in its administration; and, when these qualities are wanting, the spirit of obedience is driven from the hearts and minds of the people.

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