Page images

One effect of informing the general mind is a larger and more skilful appropriation of the powers of nature to the uses of life. There is a great amount of physical strength, by misdirection, expended for that which is not bread. A still greater amount is lying wholly unemployed. Diffused intelligence opens to the people promising fields for the useful occupation of it all. It points to those improvements in agriculture by which the existing muscular power may derive greater amounts of valuable products from the fertile bosom of the earth. It suggests the cultivation of fewer acres; teaches how to neutralize the noxious qualities of soils ; to add necessary ingredients; to distribute to each situation what will be produced there in the greatest perfection. Thus popular education enables the people to draw more largely upon nature for the supply of its basket and its store. • The ability which such an education creates and diffuses through the community, to discover her materials and forces, and then employ them in aid of the labors of man, is still more valuable to us. You may see an illustration of the appropriation of nature to facilitate and to perform the necessary operations of life, in all the improvements made, from the wooden bow and stone-pointed arrow; to the equipment of a modern soldier or hunter, from the rusty piece of iron sharpened by rubbing upon a stone, to the polished knife and razor: from the six pound pestle and hollowed stump of a tree for cracking corn to the modern flouring mill, grinding and packing hundreds of barrels of four every twenty-four hours; from the simple wheel of our grandmothers, twisting with slow revolution its single thread, to the cotton factory with invisible velocity, twisting its thirty thousand; from the hollowed log or bark canoe, to the ship of a thousand tons, spreading her wings for the circumnavigation of the globe. All these improvements are but the appropriation of the materials and agencies which nature offers to facilitate and perform our necessary operations. Even the ordinary labors of life are aided to a great extent from this source; mere muscular strength accomplishes but an insignificant part of them. For the purposes of travelling, transporting, and all kinds of manufacturing, nature is made from her exhaustless treasury of forces to supply her mightiest agencies, and drive the vast and complicated machinery almost alone.

The steam engine, perhaps, affords the best illustration of

the important part she has been compelled to perform in carrying forward the affairs of life. This wonder-worker “has arrived to such a state of perfection as to appear a thing almost endowed with intelligence. It regulates with perfect accuracy and uniformity the number of its strokes in a given time; it counts and records them to tell how much work it has done. It regulates the quantity of steam admitted to work, the briskness of the fire, the supply of water to the boiler, and the supply of fuel to the fire; it opens and shuts its valves with absolute precision as to time and manner; it oils its joints, and when any thing goes wrong which it is unable itself to rectify, it warns attendants by ringing a bell. With all these talents and qualities, and when possessing the power of six hundred horses, it is obedient to the hand of a child. It never tires, wants no sleep, is equally active in all climates; it will do work of any kind; it is a water-pumper, a miner, a sailor, a land traveller, a printer, a paper-maker, a cotton spinner, a weaver, a blacksmith and a miller; and many of its powers and uses are yet to be discovered.”

This is a specimen of the facility with which inanimate force may be employed, and of the multiplicity of useful services it may be made to perform.

A reference to France and England will show what advantage a people gains by appropriating to themselves these services.

The man-power of France is to that of England as six millions to seven millions. But the latter, England, by drawing on nature has swelled her aggregate of animate and inanimate force to twenty-eight millions, while France, from the same source has increased hers to no more than eleven millions.

It is to be remembered that the twenty-one millions of effective force derived by the former from the powers of nature, are obtained by means of the more palpable and important of her machinery, and constitutes, in truth, but a small item in the whole sum of her appropriations from this quarter. It is to be remembered, too, that nature will honor her draft if it be a hundred folded.

If it be inquired by what means Great Britain obtains, and any other nation may obtain, such contributions to her power from the external world, without mentioning all, it may be safely stated that for the most efficient and important among

them, is the one already alluded to, the general education of the people. Teachers, as the sources of popular intelligence, produce the state of society in which man presses the elements around hini so largely and successfully into his service. The inventions themselves, which have brought the outer world into this subserviency to the uses of life, have very many of them been made by the well informed operatives. And inventions, however numerous, practicable and perfect, without intelligence generally diffused among the people, can be actually applied to the operations for which they are fitted, only to a very limited extent. Moreover, the demand for the aid of nature, without which her powers would lie unemployed, is created wholly by the education of the mass of the people. The untutored Indian tribes want no plough or cotton-gin; no canal, flouring-mill, or locomotive; they ask for no carpet, glass or woollen factory. .

They would sit down and weep to see these* piles of brick and mortar; these pent up waters, this whirling, whizzing and endless confusion, where once were rock and shade, and sparkling river in its own native channel, the resort and enjoyment equally of the deer and the hunter. So the African and Tartar nations, and the millions of the Chinese Empire, have neither any want of these aids nor any power to use them for their benefit. There is no demand among them, and, therefore, no supply. The result is nearly the same in states of society where a few are enlightened and scientific while the mass of the people are ignorant, as in Spain, South America, and Mexico. if inanimate force is partially used, most of the labors of life are left to be performed by mere muscular power.

School teachers, by diffusing general education and intelligence are the persons who induce and enable the people to turn the keys of nature and make her play so liberally into their hands. Indeed, they arm the hand of enterprise and industry with a power which, at present, has no visible or assignable limits. In this country, presenting peculiar facilities for the purpose, they may throw abroad an educational influence which, not long hence, shall result in multiplying the effective force of our fourteen millions into that of a hundred times fourteen millions.

* Delivered at Lowell, Ms.

But increase of power simply, is not the only or the chief benefit derived to society, from placing the vast resources of nature at the disposal of the people. So far as all the operations of life necessary to be performed at home are concerned, every new application of inanimate force diminishes the number of manufacturers in the country. The more machinery we employ within this limit, the greater number of the people we emancipate from the condition of machines, and permit to enter upon nobler occupations. Beyond the point alluded to, it is true, beyond our necessary home operations, every machine we set up, and every factory we build, withdraws some of our citizens from philanthropic labors, from the healthful and ennobling business of cultivating the soil. Whether it be wise to call our sons and daughters away from this fresh green world; from the quiet cottage and fertile field; from the hills and streams with which they have grown up in dear communion, and then, in confined air and dusty rooms, drill them to follow the biddings of a dumb machine, to push the awl, drive the shuttle, tie parted threads, ply the hammer and sledge, and all this for other nations; this is a grave question. Every labor, however, necessary to be performed by our own citizens, which we shift off from them and lay upon the strong arms of nature, releases from servitude, gives leisure for every good word and work, and ministers thereby to the highest interests of the community.

Here it will be inquired, whether, in relieving man from the personal efforts he has been heretofore compelled to make, we do not offer an opportunity, and admit a lure to idleness and the whole train of evils usually attendant ? Certainly we do. There is imminent danger from this quarter; danger that must be contemplated and provided for. The only security in this exigency is a moral and religious education made to accompany all intellectual culture, passibus æquis.

It is an interesting fact that we cannot approach a human being to improve his condition in any one particular, without being shut up to the necessity of improving bim in many others. This arises from his original constitution, and should be regarded as an indication of the design and will of Heaven, that we take all his faculties and circumstances into the scope of our improvements. And all high-minded teachers, so far from being discouraged from efforts to confer advantages upon the community, because the bestowment creates a new demand upon them for higher benefits, feel on this account, the presence and impulse of stronger motives to duty, and gather new interest in their employment. We have alleged that the grand effect of that popular education which they are to diffuse, is to cast upon athletic nature a great proportion of the sweating labors of life, to facilitate and shorten the rest without limit, and thereby to afford the people leisure for all philanthropic, intellectual, ennobling employments. As contributors to such a result, we allege here that teachers hold a place of very high responsibility. If the literary duty which they perform, begets necessity, as doubtless it does, for another and more important service, the cultivation of the morals and religion of the community, the fact, instead of diminishing, greatly increases that responsibility.

Another happy effect of popular education, serving to develope the responsibility of teachers, is an increased frugality, industry, thrift, competence and comfort in the community. The truth of this statement is one so palpable to readers of history, and observers of men and things around them, one so familiar to most men and so readily admitted, I shall give it but a brief space in this discussion.

The more education an individual has, the higher will his value and respect for himself be likely to rise. In improving his own condition, therefore, he will feel that he is acting for a more important being, for greater interests, and be more strongly impelled to those frugal, industrious, enterprising habits which lead to competence and comfort. Education apprizes a people of advantages beyond and above them, and then discovers to them more successful methods of reaching them. The first information puts them upon new endeavors, the last gives practicability to their enterprises. As knowledge is diffused among a people by means of education, superstitious notions and vain fears are dissipated; many diseases and fatal accidents are prevented; roads, dwellings, modes of travelling are improved, subjects of conversation are furnished, and many fire-sides, as intellectual occupations eschew noise and confusion, are turned into quiet and peace. In these results you discover rich sources of competence and comfort. These, as well as all other valuable effects of education, may be neutralized by the power of depravity ; but popular instruction has a natural tendency to improve society in these respects so strong, that thrift and wealth and happiness have

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »