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INTRODUCTION.

"Were the benefits of civilization to be partial, not universal, it would be only a bitter mockery and cruel injustice."-DUCHATEL.

A LATE writer (Lamartine) has spoken of the cross and the press as the instruments of the two greatest movements ever made in behalf of human civilization. To these may be added two other agents of mighty power: the steamengine and the common school. The moral nature of man can be permanently raised and transformed by nothing short of the benignant influence of Christianity. His intellectual powers can be duly developed and wisely applied only under the guidance of knowledge; and of knowledge the press is now the grand expositor and representative. To promote his physical well-being, we need industry; and of that industry which subdues the earth, vanquishes time and space, and makes all things tributary to man's convenience, the steam-engine is unquestionably the most proper symbol.

It is worthy of remark, that as each of these great powers is necessary to the improvement of mankind, so each of them becomes more efficient in proportion as it co-operates with the rest. Christianity needs the press, the press needs the steam-engine; and these, in their turn, are safe and beneficent agents only when they who wield them are animated and controlled by Christian principle. It is still more to our purpose, however, to observe, that no one of them can exert its appropriate influence, or dispense its proper benefits without the aid of the school. Minds, for instance, besotted by ignorance and unaccustomed to thought,

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can hardly be reached by the more lofty and spiritual appeals which are sent forth from the cross of Christ. The press must speak in vain to those who cannot read, or who, to the mechanical art of interpreting its mysterious symbols, have never added habits of inquiry, or a desire for knowl edge. And even industry, although it always brings some blessings to those whom it employs, can still do comparatively little for men who alienate their higher natures when they labour, or who waste its fruits in sensual indulgence, or in mental vacancy. It is only in proportion as minds are awakened by early education, that they can share in the fruits of an improved civilization. To shut them out from the school, is to deny them access to a large proportion of the best and noblest influences, which are supplied by Christianity, and by science and the arts.

But if the school is an essential agent of civilization, it is the Common School, that forms the appropriate agent of modern and democratic civilization-of that civilization which aims at the greatest good of the greatest number. As this end is peculiar to the social movements of modern times, so is the instrument which it employs. Schools have always been found in the train of civilization, as the only means by which her blessings could be preserved and perpetuated; but the idea of schools which should secure to every human being, by improving his mind, a substantial share in the triumphs of Learning, Liberty, and Religion, this, it is believed, was an idea unknown to the wisest of ancient sages and states. They wrote and speculated much about education; but it was an education denied to more than four fifths of the people, who, being barbarians, were born, according to Aristotle, to be slaves, and who, as slaves, were denied all spiritual as well as civil rights. It was an education, too, by which the citizen was to be moulded for the exclusive service of the commonwealth, rather than one

INTRODUCTION.

"Were the benefits of civilization to be partial, not universal, it would be only a bitter mockery and cruel injustice."-DUCHATEL.

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A LATE writer (Lamartine) has spoken of the cross and press as the instruments of the two greatest movements ever made in behalf of human civilization. To these may be added two other agents of mighty power: the steamengine and the common school. The moral nature of man can be permanently raised and transformed by nothing short of the benignant influence of Christianity. His intellectual powers can be duly developed and wisely applied only under the guidance of knowledge; and of knowledge the press is now the grand expositor and representative. To promote his physical well-being, we need industry; and of that industry which subdues the earth, vanquishes time and space, and makes all things tributary to man's convenience, the steam-engine is unquestionably the most proper symbol.

It is worthy of remark, that as each of these great powers is necessary to the improvement of mankind, so each of them becomes more efficient in proportion as it co-operates with the rest. Christianity needs the press, the press needs the steam-engine; and these, in their turn, are safe and beneficent agents only when they who wield them are animated and controlled by Christian principle. It is still more to our purpose, however, to observe, that no one of them can exert its appropriate influence, or dispense its proper benefits without the aid of the school. Minds, for instance, besotted by ignorance and unaccustomed to thought,

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truth, more enlightened and comprehensive than those which had been adopted in Europe at the era of the Reformation. In the latter, religious culture seems to have been almost the only object; in the former, it was also an object to make enlightened citizens capable of self-government, and trained to habits of regular industry.

Not satisfied, however, with these provisions for domestic education, the inhabitants soon proceeded to lay the foundation of that Common School system which has been so long the pride and strength of New-England. As early as 1647, only twenty-seven years after the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth, it was enacted in Massachusetts, in order that "learning," to use the language of the statute, "might not be buried in the graves of their forefathers both in church and commonwealth-that (the Lord assisting their endeavours) in every township containing fifty householders or more, one should forthwith be appointed to teach such children as should resort to him to read and write; and that, in any township containing one hundred householders, they should set up a grammar-school to fit youth for the University." This law, planting elementary schools at the door of every family, was the first, it is presumed, adopted by any Christian state,* and may claim to be the parent of much

* It is somewhat humiliating to reflect, that the earliest law on record, providing for the universal diffusion of school education, was the work of a people whom we are pleased to style barbarians (the Chinese), and was in existence two thousand years ago. According to a late writer (Davis), it required that every town and village, down even to a few families, should have a Common School. He also states that one of their works, of a date anterior to the Christian era, speaks of the "ancient system of instruction." It is proper, how ever, to add, that it does not seem to have been the object of the Chinese, as of the New-England system, to favour a free and full development of man's nature. The studies are confined by authority to one unvarying routine; science, properly so called, is excluded; the spirit of spontaneous inquiry is repressed, and the whole aim

of the legislation on the subject of Popular Instruction which has distinguished the last half century.

To maintain and perpetuate religious knowledge among the people was evidently the chief object with the framers of these early school-laws, both in the Old World and in the New. With some notion of the importance, as well to the state as to the individual, of a comprehensive and generous culture, which should awaken and train all the powers of the soul, it is still clear that they failed to recognise all its value in these respects. In Europe it is now admitted that the elementary education given in obedience to these regulations contributed but little to raise the character of the

is to make an orderly and industrious servant of the state as now constituted. To use the language of another, "the whole channel of thought and feeling for each generation is scooped out by that which preceded it, and the stream always fills, but rarely overflows its embankments." It is also questionable whether the Chinese schools succeed in making the whole population capable, as is sometimes said, of reading. According to some missionaries, many of the inhabitants are unable to read at all, and others do it mechanically, and without any perception of the meaning of the author.

* The system of parochial schools in Scotland is sometimes appealed to, as the earliest example of a legal provision for universal education. The law, however, establishing these schools, was not passed till 1696, nearly 50 years after the enactment of the one in Massachusetts; and the preamble of that law clearly shows that the previous efforts of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, and of the civil government in behalf of Education, had failed to make it general. This preamble states that "Our Sovereign Lord, considering how prejudicial the want of schools in many places had been, and how beneficial the establishing and settling thereof will be to this church and kingdom, therefore his majesty, with advice and consent," &c., and then the act proceeds to order that a school be established and a schoolmaster appointed in every parish, and that the landlords be obliged to build a schoolhouse and a dwelling-house for the use of the master, and that they pay him a certain salary, exclusive of the fees of the scholars.

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