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Valuable as are many of the plans benevolence has devised for the melioration of the human condition, no one is comparable in importance to that which proposes the education of the whole people. This goes to the foundation of individual and social well-being. The various experiments of philanthropy, if they have done no other good, have evolved this truth, fraught with the greatest social reforms,-that the prevention of poverty and suffering, vice and crime, is both more merciful and more practicable, than the correction or relief of those evils. To the prevention of wretchedness and crime, therefore, the friends of humanity are coming to direct their chief exertions. Education the education of the whole being, physical, intellectual and moral—is now claimed as the inalienable right—the birth-right of every individual, of either sex and of every class. .
But the people generally do not appreciate justly the importance of our common schools, by which this plan of universal instruction is to be carried into effect. If they did, would the appropriations for the support of these schools be so meagre? the number of them be so inadequate? the buildings provided for their accommodation, be so mean? the persons entrusted with the charge of them so often incompetent? No. Did the people generally understand and feel how important it is, that every member in the community should be thoroughly well educated, not for his own sake merely, but for the good of the body politic; and did they fully apprehend their dependence for instruction upon the common schools, these schools would be well appointed, and abundantly provided for.
Let then, the friends of these institutions take pains to make the people see, that, the deficiencies and errors in their education, more than to any other cause, may be traced their depressed social condition. If the education of all were what it ought to be, there could not subsist such inequalities as there now are in their condition. Then, only those who abandoned themselves to vice, could become extremely poor; and the number of such would of course be small. Then, none could become exorbitantly rich; for many would be able to compete for the golden prize, if the prize of gold should then be thought worth competing for. Were all well educated, physically, mentally and morally, every man might have his own vine and fig-tree,--he might have a competency of this world's goods, and would be wise enough to desire no more.
Nor would official distinction be then, as now, an object of eager ambition. If the people generally were well educated, there would be many more, in every community, qualified to fill any office. Mere station therefore would not confer honor, for it would not then imply superiority. It would consequently cease to be eagerly sought after; and those, on whom it should be conferred, would derive 'honor, not from the occupancy of any office, (even the highest), but from their fidelity to the duties of the place they occupy, though it be the lowest. Men would rather shrink from, than press into, stations, for which many about thern would be obviously as well qualified as themselves,—and of their fidelity in which, these peers would be their ever present judges. The public would, in that case, be much better served, and much less agitated by the conflicts of political parties, which now owe their asperity, in the main, to the rivalry of the few, who are deemed worthy of official distinction.
Still further, let the friends of our system of public instruction show the people, that the mistakes they are continually making, the miseries they endure, their infirmities of body, their mental disquietude and moral imbecility, are easily traceable to their erroneous or defective education. They know not what manner of beings they are, and therefore are they living at variance with themselves, and with one another.
When one perceives how much those bave gained, whose powers and affections have been unfolded, in bar
mony with each other, and in accordance with their being -those who have sound minds in sound bodies? _how all things in creation and art, and all events in providence become tributary to their gratification; what high command they may possess over the physical world, and over the masses of their fellow beings too,—but better still, what integrity of soul, what self-government, what moral energy they evince, it fills his heart with sorrow and shame, that so many of the children of men should go through life, all unconscious of their capacities, or only using them to evil ends. There is no spectacle so sad, so humiliating, as the large numbers of men and women, who live and die content in ignorance, and moral imbecility.
How-by what agent or instrumentality, is this ignorance to be dispelled,—this moral culture to be generally bestowed? How, but by schools--schools provided in sufficient numbers to accommodate all; and committed to the charge of persons, competent to give the instruction and moral discipline that are needed? I mean not to say, that these institutions can ever do all that needs to be done for the children of men. No contrivances of ours can adequately supply the place of the divinely appointed agents, for the culture of the young mind and heart. Home is the school fathers and mothers are ordained of God to be the teachers of children. And never, until men and women are brought to realize that such is the vocation of parents,—and that it is cruelty and sin for any to incur the obligations of parents, who are not qualified to discharge them, never until then will the complete education of the rising generation be fully provided for. But until then, which may still be a dis
tant day, schools for children will be the most important of all our social institutions, for they are (however inadequate) the only conceivable substitute for what cannot now be had for children generally, the care of wise, pious and skilful parents.
I have said schools are the most important of all our social institutions. Who would suspect this, from the procedure of the people in their primary meetings, or from the doings of the Legislatures of the States, and the Congress of the Union? Banks, rail roads and tariffs, the rival projects of the political parties, and the pecuniary schemes of private individuals, occupy a hundred fold more of the time and attention of those who enact, and those who administer the laws, than these institutions, whose object is to form the character of the rising generation, in whose character are vested the hopes, the future well-being, the salvation of our country. Is it not matter for surprise, for alarm, that ephemeral concerns should have so much more of the regards of the people and the rulers, than they bestow upon this one, which is enduring and momentous in all its consequences—the education of their children? Whether we realize it or not, the hope of our commonwealth and of our country is vested in the rising generation. What shall be the character of this town, this state, this republic, twenty years hence, will be determined, more than by any thing else, by the intellectual and moral culture of those who are now children. Oh! if our schools were what they ought to be, I should feel but little apprehension about the projects of designing individuals, or the machinations of the political parties. If it were proposed in Great Britain to establish a