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TO THE DELEGATES OF THIS STATE IN CONGRESS.
You have herewith transmitted you, copies of a Resolve of the General Court, accompanied by a letter to the President of Congress, and a Circular Letter to the States, upon business of the greatest importance to this, as well as every State in the Union, as you will readily perceive by a perusal of them.
You are, therefore, directed to take the earliest opportunity of laying them before Congress, and making every exertion in your power to carry the object of them into effect, and to give notice to the Governor as early as possible of the success of such application.
Resolved, That his Excellency the Governor be, and he is hereby requested, in behalf of the Legislature, to sign the foregoing letter to the President of Congress, the Supreme Executive of the several States, and to the Delegates of this Commonwealth in Congress, and to forward them accordingly.
FREE SCHOOLS AND FREE GOVERNMENTS
A LECTURE DELIVERED BEFORE THE BOSTON LYCEUM,
DECEMBER 20, 1838.
I HAVE chosen no new topic for the subject of this evening's lecture; nor can I promise you any display of that rare faculty, which commands for an old subject new attention and commends it to fresh embraces, by exhibiting it in unworn robes and surrounding it with unwonted illustrations. It is my purpose to deal with old truths in the old way, and I must trust to the intrinsic importance and universal interest of those truths to secure for them a willing and patient attention.
It cannot fail to have been remarked by every intelligent observer of passing events, that the subject of Popular Education has attracted, within a few years past, a much larger share of both public and private attention than it formerly enjoyed. Evidences of an increased private attention to it may be seen in the various Conventions, Associations, and Institutes which are meeting daily upon the subject in all parts of the country. Proofs of an enlarged public regard for it may be found in the recent establishment, by the Legislatures of many of the States, of School Funds and Boards of School Commissioners. While the still more recent appropriation in our own Commonwealth of a considerable sum of money, in connection with the noble donation of Mr. Edmund Dwight, to institute the experiment of what are called Normal Schools, may be hailed as a cheering assurance that private munificence and public liberality are not, upon this subject as upon some others, seeking opposite or even separate ends, nor have any tendency to counteract or discourage each other, but are ready and resolved to coöperate together in promoting this great cause.
But it is not only in the United States that a new regard for popular education has been recently manifested. In England, in France, and in many other parts of Europe, and most of all in those parts where least of all we should have expected it and last of all looked for it, the education of the people has become a matter of the most prominent public and private concern. In Prussia, in Austria, and even in Russia, a Free Popular School System has been silently springing up, which for completeness and efficiency seems to have had no precedent in time past, and certainly has no parallel at the present day; - a system, says Professor Stowe of Ohio,“ more complete and better adapted to develop every faculty of the soul, and to bring into action every capability of every kind that may exist even in the poorest cottage of the most obscure corner of those kingdoms than has ever before been imagined.”
Professor Stowe, you may remember, was employed by the Legislature of Ohio to procure information upon this subject during his recent travels in Europe, and his report, containing an interesting account of the Prussian School System, both as it exists at home and as already extended to the other countries which I have named, was reprinted, by the Legislature of our own Commonwealth at their last session, for the information of the school teachers and the instruction of the schools of Massachusetts.
Among the many striking occurrences of these wonder-teeming times, hardly any one seems calculated to make a stronger impression upon a reflecting New England mind than this. there has been any thing upon which New Englanders have been accustomed to think that they might pardonably pride themselves, it has been their Free School System. While others have been boasting of the fertility of their soils and the salubrity of their climates, we have been content to be jested about our rocks and ice, our east winds and consumptions, while we could point to institutions of popular education which were admitted to be models for the world. And year after year, as our sons and daughters have swarmed out from the old New England hive and sought better soils and brighter skies in the distant West, we have commended these cherished institutions
to them with our parting tears, and counted it among our most precious consolations under the bereavement, that by them and in them New England principles would be planted and perpetuated thousands of miles over the mountains. How harshly, then, does it strike upon our eyes and ears and hearts, to see other institutions now sought out as examples, to have other schools made the subject of praises so long awarded to ours, and to feel that New England will soon be called on to acknowledge and admire, in the intellectual fields and gardens of our country, strange leaves and fruits not her own,' - novas frondes et non sua poma. Above all, how stern and stoical a philosophy does it require, not only to acquiesce in the justice of all this, not merely to give the assent of silence to the sentence which supersedes us in our most cherished field of competition, but even to unite, as we have done, in transferring the very diadem of our beauty and our pride to other heads!
But this view of the circumstance to which I have alluded, comprises but a small portion of its impressive character. Had the Free School System of New England been obliged to relinquish its claims upon the admiration and imitation of the world in favor of similar institutions upon our own American soil, – had some thrifty scion of our own raising outshot the parent stock, and were it now standing by its side to cast upon it no greater disparagement than that of being “ the lovely mother of a lovelier daughter," — our vanity might have been healed by the very blow which wounded it, and we should have been compensated for the immediate honors we had lost, by the derivative and reflected glory we had acquired. But far different has been our fate. Robbed of our own richest and proudest distinction, we are compelled to see it claimed and enjoyed by those, whom we have been accustomed to regard with feelings only oscillating between pity and contempt, and with whose intellectual, moral, or political condition we should have scorned to claim, or even to admit, any connection or sympathy. The ignorance and degradation of Prussian hirelings, and Austrian bondsmen, and Russian serfs, have so long been the theme of our wholesale declamations, and have constituted so completely the sum and substance of all our associations with those regions of the earth respectively, that as little should we have expected any good thing out of either of them, as an ancient Jew did out of Nazareth. Yet, from these very mountains of darkness and valleys of the shadow of death, a light has sprung up, of whose rays we are now glad to borrow.
What would our Pilgrim Fathers have thought of it; what would the Puritan schoolmasters have said to it; what would the founders and patrons of our schools and colleges, whether of the Pilgrim or the Patriot age -- the Harvards, the Mathers, the Cheevers, and the Lovells - have said, had it been foretold to them, that no sooner had the trans-Alleghany region of this continent begun to be cleared and settled, and before even the first generation of its emigrant population had passed away, it should be found turning its eyes to find models for institutions of education, not to the old, time-honored Free Schools of New England, which were the scene of their labors and the subject of their prayers ; not even to the older and hardly less honored academies and colleges of old England, the common mother of us all; — but to institutions for public instruction established by the most arbitrary and despotic Governments, and among the most benighted and enslaved peoples of Europe, and should be seen actually sending an embassy across the ocean to obtain the most accurate and detailed information as to their system and discipline? Would they not almost as soon have believed, that the destined dwellers on the banks of the Beautiful River, (as the native American well designated the Ohio,) would have one day imported in the egg a cargo of Hessian flies to feed and fatten on their ripening wheatfields; or that they would have panted themselves to exchange their tempered and genial climate for “the thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice,” which constitute so large a part of the empire of the Czar!
But there is still another view of the facts to which I have referred, which suggests reflections of a far higher and more important character than either of those which have yet been presented, and which relates not so much to our pride as New Englanders, as to our prosperity and welfare as freemen. We have been accustomed to regard a free school system as the