Page images

the school-bench to be educated, not like a brute, but like a reasonable, moral, and accountable being. The fact that he is related to another world, and that he is to be involved in all the amazing responsibilities of that relation-responsibilities so infinite and intricate that eternity alone can reveal them—is a matter of personal consciousness. It makes a part of his moral constitution; and, indeed, it furnishes the chief motives and sanctions of his moral conduct from day to day. Hence, it is obvious that, until we can separate the mortal man from the immortal, any system that proposes to educate the former and not the latter, must be essentially and fatally defective.

Religious emotions belong to us in the same sense in which fear, and hope, and love belong to us. The instinctive desire to fly away to the mountain or the forest, constrains the imprisoned bird to try every method of escape-ay, it will even sacrifice its life in fruitless efforts to live, and move, and have its being in the free and buoyant air-and so, by a higher and far stronger principle than instinct, is every man urged to seek for better and holier joys than he finds here. Though this principle may be left uneducated, it cannot be eradicated. If it is not drawn out, under the renewing and sanctifying influences of Him who planted it there, it will be found leading the unhappy man into the dark and dreary caverns of monkish or pagan superstition; perhaps breaking out into some odious or mischievous scheme of radicalism ; or vainly seeking to inflict a death-blow upon itself, by recklessly plunging into universal scepticism.

T'he fires that burn in the bowels of our earth may be pressed down by Alps upon Alps-or the unfathomable ocean may roll its ceaseless tide over them—still they burn and rage in their secret caverns, until they become irrepressible, and then they burst forth in terrible fury, and bury cities and kingdoms beneath their desolation. Such was the fate of one of the fairest lands that the light of the sun visits.

One of the most distinguished historians of France brings the train of secondary causes which led to the revolution within the short period of thirty years preceding that event, and he attributes it to a general change in the moral sentiments and habits of the people at large, including children and youth. “The institutions and relations of society," he says,

" became generally remarkable for a cold egotism, that dried up all the sources of kind feeling. Every one seemed to live for himself, nor was there any common anxiety, to preserve those wise and salutary provisions which ought to connect the present age with those that are to follow it."

We do not hesitate to say, without any fear of contradiction by intelligent men, that the antidote to the same disease among

[ocr errors]

us can be administered only in our common schools. It is there, and there only, that the great body of the children of our country can be met with an efficient training process. Sunday schools can do much-indeed they have already done inconceivable good to society; but they do not, nor can they be expected to exert that steady, permanent, daily control over the habits and dispositions of the child, which the domestic relation so seldom supplies, and for which a good common school is an invaluable substitute. It is here, next to home, that selfish, anti-social, disorganizing, radical, revolutionary spirits must be brought into subjection; and learn that great lesson of doing to others as they would that others should do to them.

We do insist; therefore, not only on the right but on the obligation of every teacher of children in the public schools of this country, to instruct them in the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom; and this is to be done, not evasively or nominally, by using the Bible, or selections from it, as a reading book, but by a wise and skilful application of its holy principles to every purpose of the heart and every action of the life. The great truth that every man shall receive hereafter according to the deeds done in the body—which lies at the very foundation of moral character and social relations-may be unacceptable to a freethinking man, here and there, but we are not, for that cause, bound to withdraw it from our systems of public instruction. A more anti-republican principle than this never was broached. If it prevail, the end of our career, as a free and prosperous nation, is at hand. We do not say this for the mere sound of it. It is a fearful truth.1

1 A late London paper publishes a charge to the grand jury at the Leicester assizes, which is so much to our purpose that we cannot forbear to transcribe it. In looking at the calendar of prisoners, his lordship (the presiding judge) observed-"He noticed only three persons who could not read and write, out of a calendar of twenty persons, and the doctrine which had been lately promulgated was, that give the poor education and you destroy crime. This had not turned out to be the case with the calendar before the court, for he found that most of the desperate robberies were committed by persons who are described in the calendar as reading and writing well. He certainly never would discourage educating the poorer classes of society, but he would boldly affirm, that if the education was not founded on a moral and religious principle, instead of becoming a blessing to the poor, it would, in the end, turn out a curse. To give a sound education to the poor, moral and religious instruction must accompany it-the receiver must be well made to know, not only the moral duties he has to perform, but also the religious ones; and however a number of conscientious men may talk and advocate the one without the other, still, he would maintain, the design and the effect intended by education would be lost, if the principle of connecting with it religious instruction is not adhered to. Education, without religious instruction, could not control the strong passions of the human race, and he had only again to repeat that the various calendars

The spirit of enterprise and adventure, coupled with an extraordinary desire of accumulation and display, is a dangerous foe to public and private virtue. It has been well said, that “ trade and commerce are friendly to liberty, and liberty is friendly to them, but licentiousness is the enemy of both. Neither kingdoms nor commonwealths,-neither public companies nor private persons can long carry on a beneficial, flourishing trade, without the prevalence of sobriety, industry, frugality, modesty, honesty, punctuality, humanity, charity, the love of our country, and the fear of God.” In the absence of these, law and lawful authority are trampled upon; riots and tumults are encouraged; drunkenness and debauchery are promoted ; extravagance, like the daughters of the horse-leech, cries “give, give;" every art of illicit gain is practised; credit is ruined; and liberty itself perishes. If the stones out of the capitol walls at Washington, Harrisburg, or Albany, could cry out, and the beams of the timber in our banks and brokers' offices could answer them, we should hear a commentary on these truths, which would fill the bosom of every honest patriot with indignation and dismay.

There is one bearing of this topic which occurs to us at this moment, the importance and interest of which cannot be exaggerated—we mean the influence of common schools, when placed on a proper basis, to preserve our Union. We can conceive of no means so legitimate, practical, and appropriate to this end, as a general combination, of good men and true, through the land, for the purpose of elevating the standard of public instruction, and securing a proper American education to the mass of our children and youth. For, let it be remembered, that there is no limit to the modes and forms by which, in the process of such an education, the noble and generous principles of a pure patriotism may be illustrated and enforced, and all narrow and sectional prejudices checked and controlled, if not rooted out.

If we should be asked how this co-operation may be secured, and in what form made effective, our reply must, of necessity, be very general and indefinite.

Let us go into any town or district in our country-certainly in the older states—and we shall find one or two men in it, of intelligence, good sense, and sober judgment; and, withal, correct views of what popular instruction should be.

Such men (if they do not feel it already) may be made to feel that no subject of public or private interest is so transcendently important throughout the circuit had plainly convinced him that it would be far better to leave the poorer classes of the community in ignorance, than to educate them without having for the groundwork our blessed revealed religion. Teach men their religious and moral duties in this world, and he had no hesitation in saying, that crime would not in the end appear so monstrous as he had witnessed in this.circuit."

as the right education of our children. Instead of shrinking from the office of a school commissioner, they may be persuaded to enter upon it as the most elevated and responsible station to which their fellow-citizens can call them. When the selection of a teacher becomes necessary, they will examine his qualifications and credentials with the most scrupulous care, keeping in view the momentous public interests, as well as the inconceivable sum of private usefulness and happiness, which are involved in the issue.

They will, moreover, make themselves familiar with the prevalent systems of instruction, and will endeavour to lead the minds of parents, masters, and others, who have the care of children and youth, to more comprehensive views of their duty. This can be done by the circulation of popular tracts and periodicals on the subject, and by personal influence.

Considering the teacher they employ as their agent, they will diligently inspect his labours, and require him to show that he is a workman that needs not to be ashamed. They can, by this course alone, detect the contemptible shifts by which the incompetent and unfaithful would fain conceal their negligences and defects; and it is only by personal examination that they can be assured of the actual advancement of the school, from week to week, and from month to month, in the attainment of useful knowledge. The text-books of the school will be adopted only after

an anxious and laborious investigation of their merits. The recommendations of others, though the alphabet may be too lean to designate all their titles of honour and reverence, will weigh but little, especially when it is considered that those who have not suffered their names to be stereotyped in certificates of approbation, are often driven, by a sort of moral necessity, to rid themselves of an importunate and half-starved author by, at least, “concurring in what” somebody “has said above."

But with such commissioners as we contemplate, not a chapter, or even a paragraph, would be lightly passed over; for even the problem of a common arithmetic may have a moral influence that is not beneath their regard : and when a set of books is once thus adoptéd, changes may well be few and far between.

The discipline of the school, also; the selection and preservation of the school library; the character of the motives employed, and of the principles inculcated; in a single word, the general course of instruction, and its tendency to prepare the pupil for the social, civil, and moral relations of his being, would furnish occasion for their laborious and ceaseless concern. VOL. XX.—NO. 40.


More than all, such commissioners would rigidly inspect the teacher's method of bringing the great truths of Christianity to bear on the minds and hearts of his pupils, so that while, on the one hand, the school should be protected from the evils of bigotry, sectarism, and fanaticism, it shall be secured, on the other, against the equally destructive influence of a heartless, intolerant infidelity. For it should never be forgotten that, in the present blindness and madness of the human heart, infidelity will always compromise with truth on the basis of mutual forbearance. She knows her position too well to refuse a treaty on these terms; and we ought to know ours too well to propose or accept it.

To secure the services of such men, for the purposes just enumerated, we must acquaint them with the exigencies of the times. This is, of itself, a great labour to be undertaken by somebody. Every thing depends upon its being done well, and upon its being done no No matter how the public lands are disposed of, nor even who succeeds General Jackson. If the children and youth of the country are not generally educated within the next ten years, (not to say five,) on a scale and with a completeness far beyond any thing which is now known or contemplated, the disposal of the public domain and the succession to the presidency will not long be matters of popular discussion and action, but rather matters of popular acquiescence and submission.

We verily believe that the great mass of the people of this country are willing to entrust the bureau of public education to the best men that can be found willing to take charge of it. A few discontented, mischievous, and corrupt spirits may be found, in many places, (perhaps in most,) who will make a show of opposition, but by a mild yet decided course of action, prejudices will be conciliated, and the good sense of the community firmly enlisted on the side of liberality and intelligence. Then the schools of the people will become (we may hope) what they once were, and what they should always have been, fountains of knowledge, and virtue, and piety.

Is it not worthy of consideration whether, in the absence of legislative action, a few individuals, of the right spirit, and of sufficient ability, might not be found, who will furnish the necessary capital for a college of teachers, with corporate powers, to be established in a central part of the Union, at a point easy of access from the South and West, the object of which shall be, not to supply the deficiency, but to illustrate, on a small private scale, the only possible plan for supplying it ? Connected with a male and female school, it would afford opportunity to instruct teachers of both sexes in the practical duties of their profession; and of training them, by experiment, to a skilful

« PreviousContinue »