Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

younger children of the Republic-exercising an unceasing care, in this particular, that should shame some of our Western States to more vigilance in husbanding and augmenting the noble fund confided to their keeping.

“Did I know," remarks Judge Swift in his Digest of the laws of Connecticut, “the name of the legislator, who first conceived and suggested the idea of common schools, I should pay to his memory the highest tribute of reverence and regard." I should feel for him a much higher veneration and respect, than I do for LYCURGUS and SOLON, the celebrated law-givers of Sparta and Athens. I should revere him as the greatest benefactor of the human race; because he has been the author of a provision, which, if it should be adopted in every country, would produce a happier and more important influence on the human character, than any institution which the wisdom of man has devised."

“The system of free schools,” observes BANCROFT, “though still very imperfectly developed, has made such progress since it first dawned in Geneva and in the parishes of Scotland, that we are authorized to claim it of the future as a universal institution." In 1635, five years after the settlement of the town, the first public or common school was established in Boston. “The · schools of Boston," nobly exclaimed Hon. Geo. S. HILLARD, "are the best jewels in her crown. If I were asked by an intelligent stranger to point out to him our most valued possessions, I would show to him—not our railroads, our ware-houses filled with the wealth of all the earth, our ships, our busy wharves and marts, where the car of commerce is ever thundering loud with her ten thousand wheels ;' but I would carry him to one of our public schools, would show him its happy and intelligent children, hushed into reverent silence at their teacher's word, or humming over their tasks with a sound like that of bees in June. I would tell him that here was the foundation on which our material prosperity was reared, that here were the elements from which we constructed the State. Here are the fountains from which flow those streams which make glad our land. The schools of Boston are dear to my heart. Though I can have no personal and immediate interest in them; though no child on earth calls me father ; yet most gladly do I contribute to their support, according to my substance; and when I see a father's eyes filled with pleasant tears as he hears the music of his child's voice linked to some strain of poetry or burst of eloquence, I can sympathise in the feeling in which I cannot share. May the blessing of Heaven rest upon our schools. They are an object worthy of alì efforts and sacrifices. We should leave nothing undone which may tend to make them more excellent and more useful. For this, we should gather into our own

the

stores all the harvests of experience which have been reaped from other soils."

Since the planting of the first free school in Boston, the system has expanded, until it now embraces our whole wide-spread Republic. Four millions of the youth of this country are connected with the various educational institutions in the several States of the Union ; their teachers number more than a hundred thousand, and the annual current expenses are estimated to be about fourteen millions of dollars.

The new States of our Union have been favored as no other country has ever been on the face of the globe. I allude to the grand conception of dedicating the sixteenth section of every township of the public domain to the perpetual benefit and furtherance of common school education; and more recently, upon recommendation of Hon. ROBERT J. WALKER, while Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, the granting of an additional section in each township to the newly organized States and Territories—so that under this new arrangement, California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, New Mexico, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska have received double the proportional amount of other Western and South Western States. “It is, in the language of Hon. CALEB CUSHING, "a noble and beautiful idea of providing wise institutions for the unborn millions of the West; of anticipating their good by a sort of parental providence; and of associating together the social and the territorial development of the people, by incorporating these provisions with the land titles derived from the public domain, and making school reservations and road reservations essential parts of that policy.”

Would that we knew the name of the member of the old Congress, who devised the idea, and caused it to be incorporated into the law of the land, of setting apart every sixteenth section of the public domain for a perpetual educational fund for the masses of the people. I should honor his name and memory more than those of Solon or LYCURGUS ; I should reverence his wisdom and patriotism as I do those of WASHINGTON and FRANKLIN.But history is silent. We only know, that on the 7th May, 1784, Mr. Jefferson, as chairman of a committee for that purpose, introduced into the old Congress an ordinance for ascertaining the mode of locating and disposing of lands in the Western territory, which did not, however, pass; but it contained no provision for reservations for school purposes. Mr. Jefferson then left Congress to represent our country at the Court of France.But on the 4th of March, 1785, another ordinance for disposing of the public lands in the West, was introduced in Congressby whom, the printed Journals do not inform us; that on the 16th of the same month, it was re-committed to a committee consisting of Pierce Long, of New Hampshire, Rufus King, of Massachusetts, David Howell, of Rhode Island, Wm. S. Johnson, of Connecticut, R. R. Livingston, of New York, Charles Stewart, of New Jersey, Joseph Gardner of Pennsylvania, John Henry, of Maryland, William Grayson, of Virginia, Hugh Williamson, of North Carolina, John Bull, of South Carolina, and William Houston, of Georgia. On the 14th of April following, this committee reported the ordinance—by whom reported, no clue is given ; which after being perfected, was passed the 20th of May following and became the foundation of the existing land system of the United States.

By one of its provisions, the 16th section of every township was reserved "for the maintenance of public schools ;"! or, in other words, one section out of every thirty-six composing each township. This same provision was incorporated in the large land sale, in 1786, to the Ohio Company; and, the following year, in Judge Symmes' purchase. The celebrated ordinance of 1787, for the government of the Territory North-West of the river Ohio, and which confirmed the provisions of the land ordinance of 1785, further declared, that, “RELIGION, MORALITY and KNOWLEDGE, being necessary to good government, and the happiness of mankind, SCHOOLS, AND THE MEANS OF EDUCATION, SHALL BE FOREVER ENCOURAGED." From that day to the present, this noble policy has been confirmed and extended, till its blessings now reach even the distant shores of the Pacific, and FIFTY MILLIONS OF ACRES of the public domain have been set apart and consecrated to the high and ennobling purposes of education ; together with five per cent. of the net proceeds of the sales of all public lands in each of the States and Territories in which they are situated. If wisely husbanded, what a munificent fund this is destined eventually to become; and yet, large as it may be, it will, with our rapidly increasing millions of children, prove greatly inadequate to the mighty work it is expected to perform.

It has been well remarked of Louis PHILIPPE, late King of France, one of the most sagacious and austere of sovereigns, that he had caused to be expended forty millions of dollars for the defence of Paris, and had placed his batteries in such positions that their shots might reach every house in the city ; and yet, at the very first movement of the people, he fled from his country with but a five franc piece in his pocket. So in all the mighty West, let the intellectual batteries of the school house be planted on every hill-top, with the special design of throwing educational shot into every dwelling. In this kind of defence, a defence of moral power, consists the welfare of our race, and the permanence of our free institutions; and with such a defence, we shall ever prove invincible. But to accomplish this mighty work successfully, we must exercise a constant and ever-jealous watch-care over our School Fund ; and study earnestly, in the fear of God, and love of our race, how to make that fund susceptible of the greatest good to the greatest number.'

PRIMITIVE CONDITION OF OUR ANCESTORS. There are those among us who seldom or never truly realize the manifold blessings of education, of civil and religious liberty, and of the personal comforts we in this age are permitted to enjoy. They have some vague idea that our lot is somewhat better, perhaps, than that of our forefathers; but in precisely what particular, they cannot tell. Įt may, therefore, be worth the while to revert to the customs of primitive times, and see if we cannot profit by contrasting them with those of our own day.

Our Saxon ancestors once roamed the forests of Europe, subsisting on a precarious supply of the spontaneous productions of nature. Rude huts and mud houses were their common abodes. Then came the oppression of Feudalism. Men with their families, unsafe longer to live in isolated houses, were forced to place themselves under some chief or feudal lord, whose vassals they became, to whom they paid tribute for the use of the soil they rudely cultivated, and whose battles they valiantly fought.

The Normans, or Northmen, from whom our English nobility boast their descent, were literally northern pirates, who in the ninth century infested the coasts of France and England, and from Rollo, their chief, descended William the Conqueror. In Saxon and Norman times, it was a very common occurrence for the children of the English peasantry to be sold in Bristol market, like cattle, for exportation, and many were thus sent to Ireland, and some to Scotland.

The prices of lands, products, and rentals, will afford us something of an idea of the social condition of our English ancestors a few centuries ago. In the Doomsday Book of the eleventh century, we learn that a carucate, or 100 acres of land, was valued at.only 32 pence, and four carucates at ten English shillings, and sometimes at only eight shillings. By the Magna Charta, of 1215, ten pence was fixed as the price per day of a cart with two horses, and one shilling and two pence with three horses. In 1253, wheat sold for at 28. 6d. per quarter of eight bushels; in 1248, the King paid 188. 4d. for 37 sheep, or 6d. each; in 1256, brewers sold 3 gallons of beer for 1d.; in 1272, a laborer got a penny and a half per day, and a harvest man 2d.; and during that century, £20 was the income of an English Knight.

In 1300, wheat and barley brought 3s. 4d., and oats 1s. 8d. per quarter of eight bushels; a cow 6s.; a fat sheep 18.; a hen

a penny and a half; a pair of shoes 4d.; and labor from one and a half to two pennies per day. In 1314, Parliament fixed the price of a fat ox at 168.; a cow 12s.; a fat hog 3s. 4d.; a sheep 1s. 2d.; a couple of chickens 1d.; a goose 2 1-2d.; and eggs half a penny per dozen. Arable land, in Kent county, rented from 3d. to 6d. per acre; pasture at 1d.; and meadow from 4d. to 10d.

In the middle of the 14th century, wine was 4d. per gallon; wool 28. per stone of fourteen pounds; Kendal cloth, from 3s. 4d. to 58. per whole piece; wheat from 4s. to 6s. per quarter of eight bushels. In 1500, oats were 2s. per quarter, and wheat 68.; ale 2d. per gallon; and labor 21-2d. to 31-2d. per day. In the 16th century, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a house in a country town rented for 4s. to 6s. per annum, and the purchase was £5. or £6.; wheat 1s. a bushel; malt and oats 7d.; an ox 26s.; a fat sheep 28. 10d.; claret and red port 3d. a quart; and labor 4d. to 6d. per day. During the civil wars, wheat averaged £3 128. per quarter; at the Revolution it was £1 19s. In the seventeenth century, common laborers received 4d. per day with food, or eight pence without food, and 6d. per day was all that could be earned by the weaver by hard labor at the loom; wheat was then 50s. per quarter; native horses, though serviceable, were held in small esteem, and brought low prices, not more than 50s. each. One half of the common people in the seventeenth century ate animal food only twice a week, while the other half ate none at all, or at most not oftener than once a week. The great majority of the English people lived almost entirely on rye, and oats. At the accession of George III. wheat

was 33s.

per quarter of eight bushels, barley 20s., and oats 158.; and labor 1s. to 1s. 6d. per day.

Towards the close of the twelfth century, the use of glass in windows became common in England, prior to which paper, properly prepared with oil, was generally used as a tolerable medium for the admission of light; and to this day windows are enumerated as among the articles of luxury subject to taxation in England. The first clothing fabrics were manufactured in England in the reign of Edward III, in the 14th century, and called Kendal cloth and Halifax cloth, from the places in which they were made. In 1685, the net annual receipt from the chimney tax in Great Britain was two hundred thousand pounds, or about nine hundred thousand dollars.

barley

PREVAILING IGNORANCE OF PRIMITIVE TIMES. Anterior to the discovery of printing and the revival of learning, the most profound ignorance reigned among the masses. From the sixth to the thirteenth century, many bishops could

« AnteriorContinuar »