Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

1842.]

of the Public Lands for Education.

179

at hand ; educate them. If they refuse to be taxed, educate them ; if they will not receive the school system after it is provided for them, still the remedy is, educate them. Action, action, action was the system of eloquence with the Greek. Education, education, education is the whole of popular government.

But the people are not alone in fault. Cupidity is strong in all men, strongest in ignorant men. It was not to be expected that men would cheerfully part with money till they became sensible of the advantages to be derived from it. The school system was new; they had not seen it tried. In many places the schools were managed badly ; the teachers were incompetent; some had no love for the work; the children did not improve. In other places the school fund bad been used for political purposes. Altogether the people rebelled till they saw that good was accomplished. This was what ought to have been expected, and should have surprised no one. But when the common school system has been long enough in operation to bring out the blessings which it has in store for the people, nothing can induce them to part with it but a higher and more expensive form of education.

There is a fault on the part of the educated classes. They keep themselves too much aloof from ignorant people; the knowledge which they possess will never find its right application till it is distributed, poured upon the heads of the people, given freely. To the mass of mankind the pleasures and advantages of knowledge are the hidden treasures of a sealed book ; they know not where to look for them, how to grasp or retain them. Like the man at the pool of Siloam, they are belpless and must have aid. The love of knowledge must first be infused into their hearts, and then knowledge itself must be brought within their reach. Man's mind is darkness till knowledge enters and drives it out; so the sun disperses the darkness of night simply by shining; all he wants is the hour of rising, and all is done. Man's heart is discord, strife, contention ; the jarring of bad passions on a stupid or accusing conscience ; it never can contain or send forth “ the sweet concord of harmonious sounds," till truth and love enter and take up their abodes; till they turn his baser nature “ into the soul's essence, and all be made immortal.” How little would it cost an educated man in a village or a town, once or twice a week, for an hour or two at

a time, to unlock his stores of knowledge, and without diminishing his treasures distribute them among the people, with the consciousness that he multiplies his existence, and all his enjoyments, by the numbers who listen! Can any man propose to himself a higher object to live for than immortal minds? Compared with this the attainments made by the “ budge doctors of the Stoic fur,” are poor indeed.

Republicanism is a grand machine of government, but wo betide us if we bring the wrong power to bear on the wheel that sets it in motion. The springs of government, touched and controlled by ignorance and vice, the worst form of bad ambition, produce nothing but “confusion worse confounded.” This same machine of government, moved and controlled by virtue, intelligence and wisdom, guiding public movements and reaching the springs of action in the soul of the individual man, is the beau ideal of human government. So instructed the people can govern themselves; all they ask is to be let alone; they can be trusted to take care of themselves, for they can see and know. But a mind uneducated is full fraught with vice ; just in proportion to its greatness is it to be feared.

The time has been when a profession of patriotism laid a heavy demand for toil, suffering, blood, sometimes for life itself. The times are changed. The modern patriotism is a different thing; it is very suspicious, it looks very like lipservice for the ease, enjoyment, indulgence, the honors and emoluments of office. The patriots of other days bled and died for the people ; our modern patriots can scarcely speak to them ; let our great men, our public men, come down among the people to enlighten, to correct, to console, and to bless them with their knowledge, their superior virtue and integrity, and they will be borne in their hearts, yea, “in their heart of hearts." We now want education, not to make men shine in public station, but to adorn private life, to illustrate the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, the inventions of mechanics, the enterprise of commerce; we want philosophy, to alleviate the burdens of the multitude, to make sweat pleasant and toil acceptable. We have at last found that science, after ascending the heavens in majesty to control their movements, may descend with dignity to the farm-yard and the work-shop. Philosophy, weary of airy, useless speculation, has at last consented to improve the hoe, the axe, and the plough. The science of government, no longer to be

1842.)

of the Public Lands for Education.

181

confined in courts and cabinets, has come to dwell with the people.

How shall we entertain these heavenly visiters ? Remember, they have come to teach, not to be taught. They will listen to our complaints, answer our inquiries, reward our investigations, but they will have none of our dictation. Submission is the condition on which they bless mortals. Will our government continue? Some predict its downfall, many fear it, more hope for it. We need not fear when any cry lo here, and lo there; fix your eye on the people; if ever the “ abomination of desolation" lights on our country, it will first be seen perching on the people. How do they appear? Are they ignorant, vicious, discontented, lazy? Then know that the time of our destruction draweth nigh. Is ours a government of law? The laws themselves spring from the opinion of the people, and partake of its character. We have no crown, no throne, no establishment; we are all lords. Virtue is our king, and partaking of her we are sovereign. No one can appropriate her; she is more than sufficient for all. Maxima reverentia debetur puero," was a maxim with the Romans. The dignity of the state ought to be brought to the door of the Sunday and the common school ; virtue, clad in celestial garments, ought here to be unrobed ; every power within man, chastened and educated by sanctitude severe, ought to be applied to the duties of the citizen, the man. We have been minding high things, we must condescend to men of low estate. Would any be great among us ? let us first see if he will consent to be the servant of all. If not, he is not fit for power; power is not safe with him. Do you say that that boy in rags, in filth, in ignorance, is beneath you? May be so; but his hand is strong enough to fire the capitol. A kind look, a word of encouragement from you, will gladden his heart, may make him your friend, and the defender of his country. He is an integral part of the state, and shall he be neglected and the state not guilty ? Man was not made for the prison and the gallows; his destination was higher, and his end ought to be more glorious. If ever the poor-house, the prison and the gallows, are put away from amongst us, they must be exchanged for the common school and the academy. It is better to encourage virtue than to punish crime, to foster infancy than to punish age. “ The ignorant child, left to grow up into the deeper ignorance of manhood, with all its jealousies and narrow-mindedness, and its superstitions, and its penury of enjoyments; poor amid the intellectual and moral richness of this universe, blind in this splendid temple which God has lighted up, and famishing amid the profusions of omnipotence,” no wonder he is wretched and becomes guilty. The beautiful, the good and the true are not for him; he has nor eye, nor ear, nor heart; he perceives not the majesty of truth, nor the loveliness of virtue; pressed with want, he has no appetite for benevolence, and is a stranger to heroic enjoyments; the darkening elucidations of his own mind shed on all the works of God and man, what wonder that he gropes at noon-day. And this man, so in need of all things for which man ought to live, and for which it is glorious to die, is beneath the notice of the rich man, the learned man, and the great man ; then shame on riches, shame on learning, shame on greatness — no, rather, shame on this worthless prostitution of God's great gifts to man.

Now, if the ignorance and wretchedness of the people could be confined to the obscurity in which they labor and suffer — much as their condition would be to be deplored it would be deprived of one half of the evils now most to be dreaded. The misfortune is, that this wretched creature is a public man, a part of the state. His influence is felt at the election; his voice is beard in the legislature, and it sounds to us from the bench of justice. His power is irresistible in making and executing the laws, for his name is legion. When the contest comes, the issue will be not less dreadful than righteous; for then it will be found that the people would have saved the state, if the state had educated the people. Much remains to be done; when the legislatures shall have provided the funds they will have done their duty, but the work will be but commenced. The notions of the people must be corrected; the mass of them think that their children, if educated, must press into the learned professions, as they will then be unfitted for vulgar toil, ihan which we scarcely know a more silly or a more preposterous notion. Professional life offers less than almost any other department. The mass of professional men in this country work hard, live poor, and die poor. Every where there appears to be a rush for the top of the ladder; few think how giddy, airy and worthless are high places, nor wish nor seek the solid wealth and contentment that humble life secures to industry and frugality. A head full of knowledge 1842.] of the Public Lands for Education.

183 not applied to practical life, is a great lumber-room, at best a toy-shop. The greatness and the true glory of our country will appear when the discoveries of science, and the refinements of literature, shall condescend to ornament our farmhouse and our work-shop; in this way, humble, plain life, will become honorable and desirable, universal contentment will follow universal prosperity, and the latter will drive envy and jealousy from the pursuits and abodes of men. Politics will cease to be a trade, and government will come into the hands of the people ; the rulers and the ruled will be one and the same. Think not that we shall then be in want of great men, of learning and eloquence; the mass of the people pervaded “by an intense desire to know good things, and the dearest charity to communicate the knowledge of them to others,” we shall every where find those who can serve and honor their country.

We love our fellow men: we cling to this topic: our heart lingers with fondness around the abodes of ignorance and wretchedness, pained to see a fellow creature boasting of his freedom, not knowing that he is yet but half free; ignorant that the truth must set him free before he can be free indeed. Never has God laid on any generation of men such a responsibility as rests on this. It is painful to think how this responsibility will fare in the halls of the state legislatures at their approaching session. Alas! the people are in bondage! those who have the power, have not the will to unloose their burdens. Not one fourth of the physical energy of this country is developed ; nor will it be developed till a better education is given to the people. Those who bear the burdens of society, bear them " by main strength and stupidness.” Improvements have been made for all who could pay for them; but “the destruction of the poor is their poverty.We are not of those who fear the people, wretched as they are ; of late our fears are turned to another and a higher direction, where vice and depravity are voluntary — where the choice has been made by those who “see the right and still the wrong pursue.”

Almost every age has thus far produced a prodigy of humanity — a genius born in the prodigality of heaven, and sent down on the wings of truth and love to scatter the riches and blessings of heaven through the abodes of wretched men. Is there not now, some where amongst us, some one fired with uncommon ardor, burning with phi

« НазадПродовжити »