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subjected to any examination. The act of 1812, provides that "each candidate previously to his appointment, shall be well versed in reading, writing, and arithmetic,” and by regulations of the department, the knowledge of arithmetic is restricted to only a portion of that science. There were special reasons at the start for thus limiting the amount of knowledge, when the minimum age of admission was fixed at fourteen years, and the Academy was properly a juvenile military school, like all cadet schools in Europe at that time. At that date, science entered far less than now into the art of war, as applied to the means and modes of attack as well as of defense. Besides, the opportunities of even elementary instruction were then far less widely or equally distributed through all the States than now, when the general government has set apart over sixty million acres of the best land in aid of primary schools in all the new States, and nearly every State legislature has subjected the entire property of their several communities to taxation for the support of public instruction. Now that the requirement as to age has been advanced from the fourteenth to the sixteenth year, and by the voluntary action of parties having the nomination, or seeking the appointment, to the eighteenth year, we see no reason why the school attainments corresponding to, and compatible with that age, should not be also required. The least that should be demanded of any candidate is that amount of general culture and attainments, which constitutes a good English education, and which it is now the aim of the public schools, and their boast, to give without partiality, to all, poor and rich alike, if the advantages they proffer are properly improved. And we see no injustice in fixing the standard of general attainments and culture as high as that now reached by cadets in good standing at the close of their first year in this Academy, including even an elementary knowledge of one modern language. If the French, or Spanish, or German language is to be mastered by American officers for the sake of the military science and literature which it embodies, or its uses in conversation, or official duty, called for by the exigences of our foreign relations, both in peace and war, its acquisition should be begun as early in life as possible, while the organs of speech are flexible, and the grammatical and etymological difficulties of a new language are more readily surmounted. Judging from the results of the examinations we have witnessed here, and what we know of the attainments made by students in colleges elsewhere, very few persons, who begin the study of modern languages, late in their school life, in the pressure of other studies, ever attain the mastery of even one, 80 as to be able to use it as an instrument of written or spoken communication, or make its treasures of science and literature a familiar possession.
Whatever may be thought of the disciplinary and practical value of earlier and longer attention to one or more modern languages, to those, whose minds will otherwise be almost exclusively subjected to the peculiar training of the mathematics, there can be no doubt that young men who have reached the age of eighteen, and desire to profit by the special studies of a purely military school, should exhibit. in their language, habits, and attainments that intellectual, moral, and esthetical culture, which the public or private schools of any State can, and should give to any youth of average ability of that age.
4. Low as the requirements for admission now are, from a defective and vicious mode, as we believe, of selecting candidates, and making appointments to the Cadet Corps, the number of candidates nominated and provisionally appointed, who present themselves at West Point and shrink from any examination, or who fail to pass even the entrance examination which is confined to reading a few passages of familiar English prose or verse, and writing a few sentences from dictation, and performing on the blackboard a few operations of the most elementary character in arithmetic,-or being admitted, are not able to gain or keep a respectable standing for one year, although the studies of the first year belong to a general, and not a military education,—or by a “special providence," manage just to escape dismission from incompetency, and graduate,—is disgracefully large. The country abounds in youth, competent to master and profit by the course of instruction here provided, and ambitious of enjoying these privileges of education, and opportunities of distinction; and a selection by lot from the juvenile population of any state, could not result in so few prizes, and such a dreary waste of blanks as have been realized from the appointments made, in the necessary absence of all personal knowledge of the candidates by the appointing power, on the recommendation, or nomination of one or more persons in each Congressional District, in no way responsible for the incompetency of the individuals named.
From official tables prepared from the records of the Academy,* it appears that the proportion of all who graduate, to all appointed in successive periods of ten years, is as follows: For Ten Years, from 1802 to 1811, ..... 0.606
« 1812 to 1821, ..... 0.289 16 16 " 1822 to 1831, ..... 0.377
46 1832 to 1841, ..... 0.472 “ 1842 to 1851, ..... 0.510 u 1852 to 1861, ..... 0.523
* See Boynton's " History of Military Academy at West Point," p. 293.
From official returns furnished by the Superintendent, a portion of which are hereto appended, (B. C.) it appears that out of 4626 who have been admitted to the Corps of Cadets, (including two hundred now members,) only 2020 were able to graduate, and of those who failed, (2398, excluding those who remain,) more than three-fifths broke down in the first year in studies which in almost every military and scientific school in Europe are required for admission. Out of the whole number regularly nominated, recomnended, and provisionally appointed from 1841 to 1863, more than twenty per cent. failed to pass the examination, as to health and constitution, or the slight examination in reading, writing, and ciphering. And this proportion would be increased by the number who withdrew in advance from the consciousness of their unfitness for a position to which ambitious and influential friends had promoted them. Out of the whole number admitted from 1851 to 1862, more than one-third failed during their first year. The proportion of graduates to the whole number admitted is 46 per cent. and of those who failed to graduate, 54 per cent.
The Visitors are unanimously of opinion that in a matter of such vital importance as the right organization and command of the armies of the United States, on which the honor and safety of the whole country depend, the original appointment to the Cadet Corps which is the first step in promotion to such command, as well as to all the special duties which attach to the engineer service, should not be made in any case except on the principle of finding the best youth for the place— having the health, character, vigor of body, maturity and'aptitude of mind, and preparatory knowledge, to profit by the opportunities of the special military training provided by the government for this corps, and a decided taste and expressed desire for a military career. And to this end, the law and regulations should provide for the rigorous exclusion in advance of all who can not present testimonials from the teachers under whose instruction they have been for the two years next previous, that in their opinion they possess the qualifications above specified, and who do not make a written declaration of their desire to enter the Corps for the purpose of qualifying themselves to labor in the military service of the government, to which they will bear true allegiance against all enemies foreign and domestic, and over all state and local authority, government and constitution whatever. To select the best out of any number who may present their testimonials and written declarations, public examination should be held of all applicants at such times and places as the law should prescribe, by such persons and under such regulations as the Department shall be authorized to appoint; and the results of such examination of each person examined, and in each subject specified by law, should be returned to the Department, in which return the applicants should be arranged in the order of merit. From this merit roll, revised from year to year, all appointments to the Cadet Corps should be made, and in the order of merit as assigned by the examiners.
This principle of appointment and promotion by merit which we advocate, is in full and successful operation in the classification and advancement of cadets in the Academy itself, and the country will be satisfied if the same principle can be as fairly and rigorously enforced on all who aspire to enter, as well as on all promotions in the service after leaving the institution. The principle itself, of selection by merit, either in the mode of public examination, or of careful and searching inquiry by competent and impartial educators, designated for this purpose by the parties to whom custom and not law had assigned the grave responsibility of nominating candidates, has been voluntarily applied in several Congressional Districts. Not a cadet known to have been thus selected and appointed, has ever broken down from want of vigor of body or mind, or failed to reach and maintain an honorable position on the merit roll of the Academy; and to this careful selection by those who felt the responsibility of the privilege accorded to them, is the country indebted for its most eminent and useful officers.
To the objection that selection by public competitive examination, will involve expense, we reply, that any expense which will do away with the prejudices against the Academy, which the present system of patronage has done so much directly and indirectly to evoke and foster, and which will, at the same time, exclude incompetent, and secure the services of vigorous, talented, well trained officers, for every arm of the service, will be well incurred. But, in our opinion, there will be no more expense in selecting and educating a given number of cadets on this plan, than on the present. The two thousand cadets who were appointed by patronage and failed to graduate, cost the government, directly and indirectly each year, a much larger sum than it would have taken to have excluded them in advance from the institution by competitive examination, and fiHing their places by better men; and their exclusion by substituting better material, would have been an incalculable gain to the Academy, facilitating its discipline, increasing the value of its instruction, and giving to the army a larger number of competent officers.
The objection, that the mode of making all appointments by open competitive examination, will deprive the President, and members of Congress of the opportunity of appointing the sons of meritorious officers, or poor, and it may be, orphan boys of genius—is more plausible than real. That such appointments have been made, to the manifest advantage of the country, is certain. But we know not a single instance of such marked success, on the part of a cadet thus appointed, as to attract investigation, where the same youth would not have secured the appointment in open compeSition. But if he had failed, and the place had been filled by one better qualified, the country would have been no loser, and he would have suffered no injustice or neglect. We fear, from an abuse of this amiable motive of rewarding meritorious parents, and assisting the poor, that in some instances, weak, ignorant, and incompetent persons are appointed, as though this Academy were a public charity school, or home for orphans; and not a special school for military instruction and training, for which the great object, in any mode of appointment, is to select those who will profit most by its advantages, and do the country the greatest service after being thus educated at its expense.
To the objections that, in these examinations, “the most forward boys will have the best chance, and such boys seldom make the best men," and that no amount of book knowledge can give assurance of the great military genius, “which must be born and not made,” we reply, that these objections apply just as forcibly to any plan of nomination, and to every system of instruction. But we believe that those examinations can be and will be so conducted as to distinguish what is precocious from what is the healthy development of the faculties, what is solid from what is showy in attainments, what is vigor, grasp and aptitude of mind from what is mere memory and quickness, in competing candidates. All of these candidates must bring the testimonials of their former teachers, as to their character, ability and attainments, must have reached the age of eighteen years, and will be called upon to exhibit orally as well as in writing their knowledge and opinions on subjects which require
judgment, reflection, presence of mind and decision. If a young man of eighteen and upward shows that he has done well what he had undertaken to do thus far in life, that he has prescrved a sound constitution in vigorous health, has mastered the studies appropriate to his age, is honest, diligent, thoughtful, teachable, courageous, courteous, and ambitious of excellence generally, then the country has every assurance which can be given that on this basis of char acter, talents, attainments, and application, a solid fabric of military