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these arrangements in connection with the Township plan, would - subserve nearly every facility of the District Library system, with the superior advantages of a largely increased number and greater variety of books, offered, in permanent binding, and attractive style, to gladden the hearts, and improve the moral and mental faculties of all classes of community.
The other objection which I have intimated, is, that by a State system of supplying the books by contract, injustice would be rendered to a worthy class of our own citizens engaged in the business of book-selling. I do not think there can exceed fifty regular book-sellers in the State, who deal in miscellaneous literature, such as District Libraries are in the habit of
purchasing. During the past year, in round numbers, there have been 10,000 volumes purchased and added to the libraries in the State, probably not to exceed one half of which were bought of regularly established book-sellers, the rest having been purchased of peddlers. If, then, for the 5,000 volumes bought of the legitimate trade of the State, we estimate a dollar and a half upon an average for each volume, it would be, upon an average, $150 trade with each merchant, with a profit of from thirty-three to fifty per cent. Ought this trifling advantage to fifty of our worthy merchants, to stand in the way of infinitely greater advantages to all the rest of our fellow citizens ? good, to the greatest number," is a maxim applicable in this case. But we may well doubt, whether, after all, this State system of providing School Libraries, would work any disadvantage to the book-sellers of Wisconsin ; for, in the end, the largely increased library attractions and facilities, would naturally beget a love of reading, and in this way, make many a patron of books and book-sellers, that would never otherwise purchase so much in a whole twelve-month, as the value of a Family Almanac. And I should calculate, too, that not only the booksellers would be benefitted by this certain mode of increasing the lovers of reading, but also the publishers of agricultural, educational, and literary magazines, as well as the publishers of newspapers generally.
TOWNSHIP LIBRARIES—ARE THEY DEMANDED? The people of Wisconsin, we may be very certain, want no feeble system, no half way work. The very best Library plan is none too good for them, if they can but feel a reasonable assurance that a really better system can be provided, and can but see the way clear to meet the expense. That a better system can be devised, the ample experience of the Township plan of our Western sister States of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, as compared with the partial, inefficient and dilapidated district systems of the older States, most conclusively demonstrates. The only remaining question, it seems to me, is, are the people able to bear the expense?
Before answering this question, let us see what other communities have done, and are doing, when high moral and intellectual appeals are made to their patriotism, their generosity, and the love they bear their children. Over a hundred and fifty years ago, Yale College was founded by ten thoughtful and benevolent men, each laying a few volumes on the table, with the declaration, “I give these books for the founding of a college in this colony.” Even the venerable University of Harvard was once supported by the scanty and precarious gifts of the infant colony of Massachusetts, presented in their primitive form—a bushel of wheat, a cord of wood, and a string of Indian wampum.
We can better establish a noble library for every town in Wisconsin, and provide for its permanent growth and replenishment, than our New England fathers, a hundred and fifty or two hundred years ago, could found their infant colleges.
Look at the unparalleled sacrifices of Prussia. "Prussia,” says BANCROFT, " in the hour of its sufferings and its greatest calamities, renovated its existence partly by the establishment of schools.” “Prussia, who furnishes us with a pattern of excellence in the present state of her public schools,” says Prof. STEVENS, of Girard College, in a letter to the Superintendent of Common Schools of Pennsylvania, written from Berlin, “affords us a still more brilliant example in the noble policy by which she sustained them in times of great public distress. Of all the nations of Europe, Prussia was reduced to the greatest extremity by the wars of Napoleon. In 1806, at the battle of Jena, her whole military force was annihilated. Within a week after the main overthrow, every scattered division of the army fell into the hands of the enemy. Napoleon took up
his quarters in Berlin, emptied the arsenal, and stripped the capitol of all the works of art which he thought worthy to be transmitted to Paris. By the treaty of Tilsit, in 1807, the King of Prussia was deprived of one half of his dominions. A French army of 200,000 men were quartered upon the Prussians till the end of the year 1808. Prussia must pay to France the sum of 120,000,000 francs, after her principal sources of income had been appropriated by Napoleon, either to himself or his allies. The system of confiscation went so far that even the revenue from the endowments of schools, of poor-houses, and the fund for widows, was diverted into the Treasury of France. These last were given back in 1811. Foreign loans were made to meet the exorbitant claims of the conqueror. An army must be created, bridges rebuilt, ruined fortifications in every quarter repaired, and so great was the public extremity, that the Prussian ladies, with noble generosity, sent their ornaments and jewels to supply the royal treasury. Rings, crosses, and other ornaments of cast iron were given in return to all those who had made this sacrifice. They bore the inscription, 'Ich gab gold um eisen,' (I gave gold for iron); and such Spartan jewels are much treasured at this day by the possessors and their families. This state of things lasted till after the war of Liberation,' in 1812. But it is the pride of Prussia, that at the time of her greatest humiliation and distress, she never for a moment lost sight of the work she had begun in the improvement of her schools.” Thus, in 1809, the minister at the head of the Section of Instruction, wrote as follows to some teachers who had been sent to the institution of Pestalozzi to learn his method and principles of instruction: “The Section of Public Instruction begs you to believe, and to assure Mr. Pestalozzi, that the cause is the interest of the government, and of his majesty, the King, personally, who are convinced that liberation from extraordinary calamities is fruitless, and only to be effected by a thorough improvement of the people's education." And amid these sufferings and calamities, the educational advancement of Prussia never flagged for a moment; universities were established, and seminaries founded for the education of teachers.
Some twenty years ago, there was at least some talk that Pennsylvania would be compelled to repudiate her State debts, so large had they become, and so difficult even to provide for their interest; when a distinguished citizen of that State proposed to divert the money appropriated for the support of common schools to the payment of interest on these debts. Alluding to which, Prof. STEPHENS, after enumerating the herculean efforts of Prussia in behalf of public education, even amid her severest sufferings, thus eloquently remarks: “Is not this noble policy, on the part of an absolute government, at a time when the nation was struggling, for existence, a severe rebuke upon the narrow and short-sighted expedients of those republican politicians, who can invent no better way to pay a public debt than by converting into money that institution on which the virtue and intelligence of the people, and the special safety of a republican State, mainly depend?”
But, we believe, this unrighteous diversion of the school money was not made. This was indeed creditable to the sturdy integrity of Pennsylvania ; and to this day, the Key Stone State must pay heavier taxes, and with more becoming cheerfulness, than the people of any other State in the Union. Pennsylvania has unfortunately no School Fund. She appropriated last year from her general fund nearly $300,000 for school purposes, the counties raising the balance needed, which amounted to nearly two millions of dollars more, including building expenses, and this too, when direct taxation is necessary to pay all their ordinary State expenses besides, and over two millions of dollars annually in addition to meet the interest on their forty million State debt, incurred for internal improvements, in which the State does not now possess a dime's interest. Yet cheerfully and ungrudgingly do the sturdy sons of Pennsylvania insist on maintaining their excellent school system, at any cost and every sacrifice. The people of Wisconsin could vastly improve their schools, and inaugurate a Township Library system which should annually augment its priceless treasures, and never feel a tithe of the expense, compared with the heroic sacrifices of Prussia and Pennsylvania, to educate their children.
Wherever the Township Library has been introduced, as in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, it has proved exceedingly useful, and consequently very popular. We hear no lisp of their repeal. The State Superintendent of Michigan declares that the Township Libraries of that State “have been productive of incalculable good.” Hon. H. H. BARNEY, wrote in August, 1856, when State Commissioner of Common Schools of Ohio : “During the last four months, I have visited about sixty counties, and have not found one man in fifty that desires a repeal of this library provision of our School Law. I have also found that the demand for the books on the part of the youth, as well as adults, is rapidly increasing, so much so that not the least doubt is entertained, that those libraries will ultimately create a general taste for reading throughout all classes and ages of our people.”
“Good books,” says Hon. HARVEY RICE, of Cleveland, the father of the School Law of Ohio, “are not only good tools, but indispensable in the field of education ; or, to change the figure, they may be regarded as teachers of the highest order, both for the young and the old. In twenty years, if the library tax be continued, the people of Ohio as a mass, I will venture to predict, will become the most intelligent people on the face of the globe ; and that, too, at a cost nobody would feel.”
Hon. CALEB MILLS, late Superintendent of Public Instruction of Indiana, pronounced their Township School Libraries “the crowning excellence ” of the educational system of that State. Nor is it wonderful, when we learn, that one Township reported 1,230 volumes taken out in three and a half months; another 687 in four months ; another 1,242 in nine months ; another 1,050 in six months ; another 700 in nine months ;
another 1,540 in ten months; another 2,127 in eight and a half months ; others during the year, 1,900, 1,920, 2,075, and even 2,226 volumes when not one of these libraries contained more than 330 volumes. In the whole city of Cincinnati there is but a single School Library, which happily “avoids a wasteful multiplication of the same books;' and with little more than 12,000 volumes in the Library, the circulation of books during the past year was 47,866 volumes, or four times the total number in the Library.
As an instance illustrative of the strong feeling of attachment with which the Township Libraries are regarded where they have been established and tested, and how cheerfully the expense is borne by the people, I cite the following from an excellent address by Prof. READ “I will give the substance of a conversation which I had during my recent visit to Indiana, while in the Auditor's office, examining the most beautiful series of books—the Indiana School Library. A farmer from the remotest township of the county came in. After a little, I said to him, Gentry, you are heavily taxed here in Indiana ; I have been running away to Wisconsin where they have no old dead horses in the form of canals to pay for, and no interest to pay on bonds which our sharp-sighted Indiana Commissioners were cheated out of.' 'Well, said he, we are heavily taxed, and this year, with our short crops and hard prices, it is as much as we can do in our neighborhood to pay our taxes.' 'But,' I said to him, 'it will be the policy of this Legislature to diminish taxation.' He said in all mercy he hoped so.' "They will begin upon your extravagant school system. Now, look at these books—what is the use of them ? Do they do a particle of good?' 'Let them,' said he, cut off what else they please
- let them even cut off the whole school tax beside, but the books we must have.' He then told me, that the books had done his neighborhood more good, and had produced a greater change in the habits of families, than any other means of improvement which had ever been brought to bear upon the people.”
The citizens of Wisconsin are not less sensible of these inestimable advantages, nor less ready to make sacrifices to secure them, than are their neighbors in other Western States. People who truly love their children will willingly, nay gladly, make any possible sacrifice for their intellectual and moral culture ; and quite as cheerfully too, will they learn to do it for the common benefit of all the children of the community in which they live.
I think that it may justly be regarded, that this matter of