Page images

clare the wishes of the people for a more effective system of instruction. The plan and its provisions they left with perfect confidence to the wisdom of the Legislature. The course which the convention pursued is even more becoming for us. The rather, as the matter is at this very moment in the course of legislative action. And after all, fellow citizens, the question, "What the law is?" is by no means so important as the question, "What is public sentiment?" If the people are but right the Legislature never will be greatly wrong. Or if they should, the remetly is easy, and the cure infallible.

Omitting all considerations, then, of what has been or of what may be legislative enactments on the subject, we address you as the Sovereign People, and we say that "it is your duty and your highest interest to provide and to maintain, within the reach of every child, the means of such an education as will qualify him to discharge the duties of a citizen of the Republic; and will enable him, by subsequent exertion, in the free exercise of the unconquerable will, to attain the highest eminence in knowledge and in power which God may place within his reach. We utterly repudiate as unworthy, not of freemen only, but of men, the narrow notion that there is to be an education for the poor, as such. Has God provided for the poor a coarser earth, a thinner air, a paler sky? Does not the glorious sun pour down his golden flood as cheerily upon the poor man's hovel as upon the rich man's palace? Have not the cotter's children as keen a sense of all the freshness, verdure, fragrance, melody, and beauty of luxuriant nature as the pale sons of kings? Or is it on the mind that God has stamped the imprint of a baser birth so that the poor man's child knows with an inborn certainty that his lot is to crawl, not climb? It is not so. God has not done it. Man can not do it. Mind is immortal. Mind is imperial. It bears no mark of high or low, of rich or poor. of time or place, of rank or circumstance. It requires but light. It is heaven-born, and it aspires to heaven. Weakness does not enfeeble it. Poverty can not repress it. Diffi culties do but stimulate its vigor. And the poor tallow chandler's son that sits up all the night to read the book which an apprentice lends him lest the master's eye should miss it in the morning, shall stand and treat with kings, shall add new provinces to the domain of science, shall bind the lightning with a hemper cord and bring it harmless from the skies.* The Common School is common, not as inferior, not as the school for poor men's children, but as the

See Franklin's Life.

It heeds no bound It asks but freedom.

light and air are common.


It ought to be the best school because it is the first school; and in all good works the beginning is oneWho does not know the value to a community of a plentiful supply of the pure element of water? And infinitely more than this is the instruction of the common School; for it is the fountain at which the mind drinks, and is refreshed and strengthened for its career of usefulness and glory.

You urge

Fellow citizens, it is the wise ordinance of God that man shall work for what he values. In all the dealings of your ordinary life, you act upon the principle. You plow your fields. your spindles. You ply your fisheries. You tend your shops. With sweat of brow, or sweat of brain, each precious thing that man possesses must be gained and kept. At no less price can liberty and its attendant blessings be enjoyed. "That which makes a good constitution," said wise and prudent William Penn,* "must also keep it, men of wisdom and virtue: qualities which, because they descend not with inheritance, must be carefully propagated by a virtuous education of youth." Ask not, then, when we enjoin on you the duty of providing for the public instruction, where the cost shall come from? Were your house beset with robbers would you stop to ask the cost of its defense? If an invading army were to land to-morrow on our shores must we stop to count the cost before we march to meet and to repel them? The Common Schools are in the place to us of arms, and troops, and fleets. They are our nurseries of men. They are indeed "the cheap defense of nations."

[blocks in formation]

Fellow citizens, it is for you to say what shall be the present character, what shall be the future destiny of New Jersey. We

• Preface to the Frame of Government, 1682. t

Sir William Jones, in imitation of Alcæus.

have indeed a goodly heritage. But it has been long and shamefully neglected. We have undervalued our privileges. We have overlooked our duties. We have been content to be a pendent merely, when we ought to be an independent State. There is now, thank God, the sound as of a trumpet in the land that stirs the old heroic blood. We feel the remnant sparks of the forgotten fire which warmed our fathers' hearts. The spirit of the elder day is breathing on us with its quickening and invigorating power. Let us accept the omen. Let us obey the noble impulse. Let us arise to duty and to glory. Men of New Jersey, it is you that are to rise. You are the State. You create and you control the Legislature. You enact and you sustain the laws. Yours are the means. Yours is the influence. Yours is the work. State. Go on as you have now begun.

You make, you are the

The system of Common

Schools which shall be adopted by the present legislature, take into your own hands. If it is not what it should be, see that the next legislature make it such. Act together. Act with system. Act like men. The organization for the purpose is complete. The General Committee, the Committees of correspondence for the counties, the Committees of the townships-there is not an inch of ground that is not reached, there is not a citizen of New Jersey whose heart may not be roused by this electric chain. Lay to your hands, then, and employ it well. The work is great, and great must be the effort, and great the confidence. You must trust your

selves. You must trust your fellow citizens. You must trust the legislature. A system of public instruction is a great and arduous enterprise. You must repose such confidence in those who are to frame it as shall enable them to do it well. When it is framed you will do wisely to commit its oversight, subject to legislative supervision, to a judicious Board,* selected carefully from your most tried and faithful men, with wisdom to direct and with devotion to exert its powers. Above all, give the direction of the engine, with a large and liberal discretion, to a skillful engineer. And when it is made, and manned, and set in operation, you must still support it, you must watch over it, you must be yourselves a part of it. The School Fund is not equal to the work. And if it were, it would not be so well for you. Tax yourselves for the support of

* It is said that there are prejudices against a Board of Education, and a Superintendent. We ean hardly think that they are general. If so, our appeal is to the good, sterling, common sense of the people of New Jersey. Is there a turnpike road, or a steamboat, or a bank, or a cotton factory, whose affairs are not intrusted to a Board of Managers? Is there a mill in all the State without a miller, or a locomotive in the land without an engineer? Is the education of the people less important than all these? Or is the system of public education to be the only case of u machine that goes alone?

Common Schools and you will never be in danger of taxation from a foreign power-you will need less taxation for the support of pauperism, and the punishment of crime. Look to your school-houses. See that they are convenient of access, that they are comfortable, that they are neat and tasteful. Look to the teachers. See that they are taught themselves, and apt to teach; men that fear God, and love their country. See that they are well accommodated, well treated, well remunerated. Respect them and they will respect themselves, and your children will respect them. Look to the scholars. Have them much in your eye, and always in your heart. Remember you are to grow old among them. Remember to die, and leave your country in their hands.

you are

"Good Common Schools," says Governor Everett, of Massachusetts, "are the basis of every wise system of popular education." This is precisely what they are, the basis of a system; but the basis only. Let us now lay their broad foundations deep and strongfoundations that will stand themselves and bear the noble structure which our children and our children's children, as we trust, will rear upon them. We are the citizens of a small State. We can not, by our votes, control the electoral college. We can not, by our political influence, aspire to be the empire State of the confederacy. But there is a nobler empire, whose dominion does not come by numbers or by physical power. We may aspire, if we are just to ourselves and to our opportunities, to wield the suffrages of mind. The men of Athens were but few, their territory small, their soil indifferent. Yet did Athenian arms prevail against the myriads of the East; and to Athenian letters and Athenian arts admiring nations still award the palm. In the same noble lists let us engage; and make the mastery of intellect the prize of our ambition. Let us devote ourselves and consecrate the State to the great work of education. Let us lay hold in earnest of the remarkable advantages which we possess in this respect, in our accessible position, our temperate climate, our freedom from absorbing interests, the moderate habits, and the simple manners of our people. Let us sustain our present seats of learning; and let kindred institutions in every varied form be multiplied about us. Let us collect the children of the land and on their minds make the mark which shall go down to latest generations. Let other States excel in commerce, or in agriculture, or in manufacturies. But let the staple of our State be mind; the products of our soil, with God to bless the culture, knowledge, and patriotism, and virtue; our highest object and our noblest aim to be the State of Common Schools, Academies, and Colleges, the educating State, the nursery of freemen.

That which makes a good Constitution must keep it, viz: men of wisdom and virtue: qualities that, because they descend not with worldly inheritance, must be carefully propagated by a virtuous education of youth, for which spare no cost, for by such parsimony, all that is saved is lost. WILLIAM PENN. Instructions to Council.

Promote, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

GEORGE WASHINGTON. Farewell Address.

The wisdom and generosity of the Legislature in making liberal appropriations in money for the benefit of schools, academies and colleges, is an equal honor to them and their constituents, a proof of their veneration for letters and science, and a portent of great and lasting good to North and South America, and to the world. Great is truth-great is libertygreat is humanity—and they must and will prevail.

JOHN ADAMS. Inaugural.

I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resources most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue, and advancing the happiness of man. And I do hope, in the present spirit of extending to the great mass of mankind the blessings of instruction, I see a prospect of great advancement in the happiness of the human race, and this may proceed to an indefinite, although not an infinite degree. A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens, from the richest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so it shall be the latest of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest. Give it to us, in any shape, and receive for the inestimable boon the thanks of the young, and the blessings of the old, who are past all other services but prayers for the prosperity of their country, and blessings to those who promote it. THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Learned institutions ought to be the favorite objects with every free people; they throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty. They multiply the educated individuals, from among whom the people may elect a due portion of their public agents of every description, more especially of those who are to frame the laws: by the perspicuity, the consistency, and the stability, as well as by the justice and equal spirit of which, the great social purposes are to be answered.


Moral, political, and intellectual improvement, are duties assigned by the author of our existence to social, no less than to individual man. For the fulfillment of these duties, governments are invested with power, and to the attainment of these ends, the exercise of this power is a duty sacred and indispensable. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »