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The great activity which is displayed in all the movements of the American people, is calculated to produce the grandest results, and whatever direction it pursues, must exercise a powerful influence upon their condition and destiny. Objects of popular affection are fondly cherished, and their accomplishment is prosecuted with the most ardent assiduity, and undeviating constancy. Education has always been held by them in the highest estimation, and the time, it is to be hoped, is not far distant, when it will be pursued with similar ardor and results, displayed in those magnificent improvements which shed so much honor upon the genius, patriotism, and enterprise of the country.
Popular feeling, when once thoroughly embarked in the prosecution of it, will exhibit a loftiness of tone, and a splendor of success, unequalled in other parts of the earth. Every effort should be made to hasten the arrival of the time, when the institutions for the diffusion of knowledge shall occupy their appropriate ascendancy in the minds and affections of the people. Before this can occur, education must be more generally and closely adapted to their wants and condition.
The literary world has been agitated by a controversy whether the collegiate system in vogue is correct as if there were any branch of learning which, in its appropriate sphere, does not deserve cultivation, or as if the same course of instruction should be arbitrarily applied to all classes of society. An inflexible standard is assumed, and men are required to conform to it, however uncongenial to their condition. Thousands who cannot reach it, are thus neglected, and the great mass of the people are, from their necessary avocations and mode of life, deprived of the benefits derived from the acquisition of the elements of practical knowledge, which would be eagerly acquired if properly taught, and would furnish the most desirable aid in the various pursuits by which a subsistence is obtained.
Little of the intelligence that pervades the country is acquired in schools. Men pick up their information in travelling, from newspapers, and by political controversies. How grand would be the result, if to these opportunities, and the incessant stimulus of an active and vigorous state of society, could be added early and general instruction in the arts and sciences !
The standard of intelligence varies in different communities. A comparison between our own and other countries is sufficient to teach us the practicability of elevating the intelligence and the morals of a whole nation, so as to quicken the movements of life, increase the industry, and promote the happiness of society.
A contracted system of education possesses numerous evils. It is apt to create a class of superficial scholars, who, by their vanity and arrogance, bring learning into disrepute. It encourages a most erroneous impression among parents, that the expense of education is thrown away, unless their children embark in one of the learned professions, thereby creating a sort of monopoly of knowledge, and depriving a large part of society of the advantages to be derived from it. We want a higher grade of education for mechanics, merchants, and farmers, to whom knowledge should be considered as essential as to the members of the learned professions. It is a lamentable fact, that a large portion,
even of our men of wealth, are without the cultivation essential to the proper enjoyment of their property. Numerous examples abound of the neglect of education by the very persons whose opportunities are the most extensive, and from whom the country has the right to expect the highest grade of excellence. It is to be hoped that the time will speedily arrive when education will be conducted on a more extensive scale, and that the higher branches of it will be viewed by the people with the same regard that is bestowed on primary schools.
Every new institution increases the number of scholars, by extending the facilities of education, and opening a closer and more extensive intercourse with the community : as the points of contact with the people are increased, a love of knowledge is more widely diffused, and the impulses to exertion acquire additional energy. Education, instead of being confined to the few, dispenses its blessings over a larger surface, and takes a firmer hold on the habits and feelings of society.
The system of collegiate education which now prevails, is mainly adapted to the improvement of youth destined for professional avocations, or for such as possess the wealth which exempts them from other than literary labors. The diffusion of knowledge on a more extensive scale, and in a greater variety of forms, would promote the safety and prosperity of the country, and widen the sphere of individual usefulness and enjoyment. There is scarcely a mediumn between what is considered as a complete course of education, and the scanty provision so parsimoniously made for primary instruction. Yet it is apparent that one system cannot be suitable to all classes of society.
In acquiring the learving useful to professional men, mechanics, agriculturalists, and merchants, are apt to neglect the knowledge connected with the pursuits by which their subsistence must be obtained. Mercantile schools, in our large cities, would be productive of vast benefit. A race of men would spring up under their fostering care, who would do honor to the nation. A shop-keeper, a captain of a merchantman, a clerk, or a broker, would not be the worse for having devoted a portion of his boyhood to the acquisition of practical knowledge, illustrating or adorning his respective occupation. A foundation would thus be laid for subsequent improvement. Men embarked in commercial pursuits, whether on the ocean or on the land, would feel the invigorating influence of scientific attaininents, within the compass of their occupations, which would refresh the fatigue of labor, and guide the course of industry.
The influence upon society, by the establishment of institutions peculiarly adapted to the improvement of agriculturalists, cannot be surpassed by any other scheme for its advancement. Agricultural schools, where the acquisition of science would be increased, and rendered more valuable by practical illustrations of its nature and uses, would be the means of fostering a race of hardy, industrious, and enlightened citizens, whose rural pursuits and extensive knowledge would render them the bulwarks of their country, and the successful patrons of virtue and intelligence.
There is no portion of the community which has more seriously suffered for the want of a good system of education, than the agricultural. With an occupation preeminently adapted to be the companion of science, enjoying the calm seclusion of rural life, exempt from the vexations and iurmoil which beset men engaged in other avocations, the
farmer requires the invigorating power of mental exercise, and needs some congenial pursuit to expand and replenish his intellect. Corporeally employed, his mind has abundant leisure, and cannot fail to degenerate, and be injured by listlessness, and the want of healthful excitement. The beauties of creation which surround him are often not understood, because science has never developed their mysteries, nor taught him to enjoy their charms. The heavens, glowing with the brilliancy of other worlds, afford him neither delight nor instruction ; the soil which he cultivates, abounds with intellectual treasures, hidden from him by the veil of ignorance, which early neglect has deprived him of the power of removing; the plants which so luxuriantly flourish around him, furnish a volume for study, full of pleasure and usefulness, but education has never taught him to comprehend the instruction they convey: the book of nature is, in fact, to him a dead letter, or but darkly understood, while he drags along an existence, unprofitable and pleasureless, when compared to the enjoyments he mighi possess, and the usefulness which would distinguish his career, if knowledge had early been his companion, and had shed its benign influence over his path.
An economical and well-organized system would extend to the labor. ing classes opportunities of acquiring education. Farms, appropriated to the purposes of instruction, would not only afford the means of a practical application of the principles of science, but would lessen the expense. Horticultural schools, in the neighborhood of large cities, would be invaluable acquisitions, not only by increasing the numbers and skill of those engaged in a most useful and delightful employment, but by the models of gardens, and the opportunities for experiments they would furnish. The whole community would speedily feel the benefit of them. Destitute children might be collected, and by a cheap course of education, placed in a condition of comparative independence. The instruction of a few months may give to the character of a youth a permanent impression, and fix his destiny for life. By giving variety to the character of schools, the wants of all can be supplied ; and society thus confers on its offspring a parental blessing, and receives in return the support and gratification of filial excellence and affection.
Our larger institutions should receive the most efficient encouragement. The country cannot exist without them. Their numbers should be increased, and the sphere of their usefulness extended. An university, at the seat of government, was one of the earliest and most fondly-cherished projects of the founders of our political institutions. With a sagacity which false reasoning could not delude, and a patriotism which raised them above the influence of prejudice and selfishness, they properly appreciated the advantages of rendering the federal capital a seat of learning, and the centre of literary as well as of political intelligence. The benefits which would result from it, cannot be exaggerated. The peculiar condition of the seat of government increases its importance. In a commercial and manufacturing point of view, Washington must ever occupy an inferior station. Its locality, and the rivalry of other cities, will prevent it from becoming a place of extensive business, and its prosperity must be derived from the population attracted to it by its political and literary advantages. Literary society is of much greater importance than the splendor of wealth, or the bustle of business. A more extensive opportunity would be furnished
to the representatives of the people for the acquisition of knowledge, as well as for refined and intellectual recreation.
A seminary of learning must necessarily improve the condition of a community, encourage studies calculated to enlarge the mind and en. noble the feelings, and diffuse, within the sphere of its influence, a relish for useful knowledge, and antidotes to selfishness and mere sensual pleasures. All the officers of government would feel its power. With stimulants to exertion, arising from models of excellence at all times before them, the most subordinate stations would be filled by men of cultivated minds. The operations of government would thus be aided by the indirect influence of social intercourse and good examples.
Men are always affected by the condition of the society into which they daily come in contact. The social atmosphere they breathe, may be a pestilence to corrupt and destroy them, or a pure and bracing air, to infuse moral and intellectual vigor. A seat of government should be the resort of learned men. Nothing more powerfully assists in the accomplishment of this object, than the establishment of universities on the most extensive scale, which become centres of attraction, alluring some by the opportunities afforded of educating children; others by the means of pursuing literary research, the literary society it creates, and the reputation they confer on the places of their locality. As there is nothing exclusive in the plan of a national university, it is not liable to any objection arising from a diversity of tastes, or a partiality which may exist in the minds of some for other institutions. The march of improvement is rapid. Each year adds to our re
The movement in behalf of education has had a prosperous commencement. In a few years we shall be as amazed at its progress, as we now are at other productions of American genius and enterprise, the existence of which the human imagination, a quarter of a century ago, could not have conjectared.
8PRING: (AN EXTRACT.)
The sun is on the waters, and the air
J. G. PERCIVAL, -41
THE VISION OF DEATH.
The moon was high in the autumn sky,
The stars waned cold and dim,
Peals his eternal hymn;.
Far over the river's brim.
An impulse I might not defy,
Constrained my footsteps there,
With fixed and steady glare ;
Loomed in the midnight air.
Then out it spake: 'My name is Death!'
Thick grew my blood, and chill
And held my pulses still;
Compelled ine to its will.
Dig me a grave! a grave! a grave!'
The gloomy monster said,
And bury me my dead.'
And rusted mattock, were laid.
With trembling hand the tool I spanned,
'Twas wet with blood, and cold, And from its slimy handle hung
The gray and ropy mould;
But could not loose my hold.
Now cautiously turn up the sod,
God's image once it bore,
To lite He will restore,
The shape which first they wore.'
Deeply my spade the soft earth pierced,
It touched the festering dead;
As leaves in autumn shed;
And screamed, above my head.
O then I sought to rest my brow,
The spade I held, its prop:
My servants never stop !
Now, wheresoe'er I turned my eyes,
'Twas horrible to see How the grave made bare her secret work,
And disclosed her depths to me; While the ground beneath me heaved and rolled
Like to the billowy sea.
The spectre skinned his yellow teeth
Ye like not this, I trow: