« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
thousand advocates of wild agrarianism, with its contempt of both law and religion, and its utter disregard of those sacred bonds which in the married and parental relation afford to society its greatest security; and in that rampant spirit of selfish gratification which seems to be unloosening the very bonds that hold us together as a community. I can trace these fearful evils to no cause so readily as the one I have named; yet, if this state of superficial cultivation is to exist anywhere, it should not be found in the United States ; for nowhere else has there been such ample provision for popular education as with us.
There seems to have been early lodged in the genius of American institutions a decided tendency toward educational establishments. The early pilgrims founded first the church, then the grammar-school, and after that the colleges, most of which still stand as memorial evidences of their convictions of what the country most needed.
The United States Congress has in several instances granted, in its broad acres to the new-born States, noble endowments for public schools and universities; and both State and individual enterprise have been lavish in rearing these nurseries of learning throughout the land. As yet, however, they are only the seed sown; we shall look for the fruit hereafter.
Yet, with all these educational facilities, we know that the country is not being educated in that thorough and high degree requisite to its future well being.
With all our free schools in every northern city, how many parents are there, in each district, who do not send their children thither! How many agencies of a hostile character are busy for their overtbrow, or the curtailment of their beneficent influence! How many are there who prefer that the youth of the day should throng the gutters and secret places of crime, rather than receive the free gift of knowledge as it is offered on every corner !
How many, too, from whom we should expect better things, are willing that this cloud of mental darkness should obscure a whole generation, rather than they should be exposed to a fancied violation of their constitutional rights, by the possible reception of some Biblical precept, or moral sentiment, supposed to be lodged in the reader or arithmetic! Unless their children can receive a one-sided education, either strictly sectarian or entirely exclusive of moral training, they prefer they should remain students of ignorance until they graduate adepts in crime. Rather than confer a corps of scholars on the nation, they would impose on it a regiment of criminals; rather than bless, they prefer to curse the Republic under whose maternal protec
tion both they and their children so happily and so securely dwelt.
1 But if we are correct in asserting that the State has the right of selfprotection, then we have already demonstrated that no such negative right as that claimed can exist.
If the State enjoys the right and is in duty bound to educate her sons for her own preservation, it follows as a matter of course that she also has the right to remove all that interferes or opposes itself to the exercise of that right. If the State is injured by the rearing + of immoral and lawless citizens, she has a right to protect herself against the evil; not alone by prison bars and the hangman's cord, but by striking at the root of the evil, and adopting preventive meas
The only effective way to stop the streams of pollution to close and seal up the fountains whence they flow. The only way to protect children from barbarism and vice is to furnish them the blessings of religious instruction and the elements of knowledge; and this, says Webster, “our country stands pledged, by the faith which it has plighted to all its citizens to do.”
But these opponents of free education object to any compulsory proceedings on the part of the State, alleging that a law of this character, if passed, would be in violation of the liberty of the citizen, who has the right to do as he pleases, to educate his children or not, as he pleases, to worship God or not, as he pleases, and to live free from restraint of any kind, whether civil or moral.
The idea of liberty which this class of men seem to have adopted is not liberty, but license ; for liberty and its enjoyment must, like all else in this world, be subjected to law. Remove the strong protective power of law from around us,
either in nature or in the social state, and destruction is at once unbridled. Our most cherished possessions turn to ashes in our very grasp, and anarchy and bloodshed sit like lurking demons at our doors. He who in this popular government of ours does not recognize his liberty as moderated and subjugated by law, sets loose the stormy passions of men, and opens wide the national council chambers to the first adroit despot who can successfully effect an entrance.
But again; objections are made in this form : You shall not teach our children in the public schools, because, 1st. The course of instruction there pursued influences their religious views, and so violates their constitutional rights; while others, of the same class of objectors, allege, 2d. That the schools are infidel, and unfit for youth. We might, by pointing out the direct antagonism of these objections, rightfully conclude that they destroyed one another, and so leave them, seeking elsewhere than in the objections themselves for the motives
that prompt this opposition to the free school. Most of our State constitutions, like that of the United States, allow every one to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and prohibit any law respecting an establishment of religion, or restricting the free exercise thereof. Some objectors argue, from these provisions, that, as the State cannot compel a man to worship God in any particular way, he may be a Christian or an idolater, as he chooses, and that therefore the entire subject of religion is purposely excluded from the constitutions of the
country. But this view is altogether erroneous. Instead of the Christian religion being ignored by the constitutions of the United States and the several States, it is expressly recognized by them, and by the early organizing state papers of the nation.
It has been repeatedly held by our courts of law to be a part of the common law of the land, announced by Washington in his farewell address as “one of the indispensable supports to political prosperity;" enjoined by Chief Justice Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution, " as the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it as a divine revelation among all the citizens and subjects," and by the celebrated ordinance of 1787 commended, in the following language : “ Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government, and the happiness of mankind, schools, and the means of education, shall forever be encouraged.”
While the constitution impliedly, and other acts of our government openly, recognize the Christian religion as a part of the law of the land, it says nothing about a prohibition of any form of religious or sectarian opinions, but guaranties this right to all. What it preserves is the right of private judgment, and the free choice and exercise of religious opinion.
What it prohibits is simply a church establishment or state religion, which is a very different thing from religion itself—the one being a sectarian form of religious opinion, the other the great cardinal principles of Christianity, as embraced by all sects and denominations who are permitted properly to call themselves religious. It is this prohi. bition of sectarianism and a state religion which has secured to our country its greatest glory, and it is this recognition of Christianity which by its thousand pure and holy influences has wrought out for the nation its unparalleled prosperity.
To those who urge the second objection, that the schools are godless, we say, that an assent to the demands with which you accompany your first objection necessarily produces this very result; and such result would be in fact a concession, or grant, of just what the
constitution forbids; viz., a sectarian establishment, consisting of schools, in which the tenets and dogmas of sect are taught; for Infidels and Deists are as much a sect as Presbyterians, Catholics, or Quakers.
You would then, by urging your objection, practically insist on having the mighty machinery of this government—which recognizes and has ever recognized Christianity-employed, not for the enforcement indirectly of its simple doctrines, but in building up an establishment directly at war with all its heavenly precepts.
You would trample under foot the constitutional rights of the great majority of the people, and establish over their heads a small minority sect of infidels and deists, who would either lead us into anarchy, or, combining their forces with spiritual despotism, turn us back into the darkness and bondage of the mediæval age.
You would surrender us into the guardianship of some form of tyranny, which, like all its predecessors, exists by a negative rather than a positive system of education, which seals up the book of instruction, bars the doors of popular schools, and opens the halls of education only to those who are willing to be made subservient instruments and agents in support of the ruling power. It is no such educational system we wish. We desire neither the barrenness of infidelity, nor the dwarfing of sectarianism, but that sound and harmonious culture, which secures the full development of the youthful mind, both intellectual and moral; which informs the pupil of his own and his country's dependence and connection with the laws and will of his God; which familiarizes him with the teachings of those great commandments, born of the thunders and the trumpet-blasts of Sinai, which contain the elemental seeds of all modern systems of jurisprudence, and which make
and woof of that calm discourse upon the mount, by Him who is the teacher of us all.
This cannot interfere with any form of religious sectarianism or denominational opinion, rightfully so called; for all who are Christians profess to adopt these great cardinal principles and precepts as the rule of their lives, no matter by what name they are known.
In the month of September last, as I sat in front of the miniature railroad depot in the little Swiss village of Weinfelden, in the canton of Thorgaud, waiting for the locomotive to emerge from among the great mountains that engirt the place, I espied not far off a large building, which I at once supposed to be a public school-house. On wandering over to it, my conjectures were found to be correct. The building was nearly one hundred feet long and three stories high, and
No. 8. [Vol. III. No. 1.] 7
on the front of it was enstamped, in large gilt German characters, the following inscription :
“ Liebe Gott und den Nächsten wie dich Selbst."
I entered, and found within four hundred scholars, one hundred of whom were Catholics, and the remainder Protestants. They were instructed in the Primary, Industrial, and Classical departments; and, after school hours, religious instruction was separately imparted to the different scholars of different denominations by teachers of both Protestant and Catholic faith. There was no murinuring or strife among them, notwithstanding that noble declaration of Christian precept was thus publicly emblazoned on the outer wall. As I hurriedly left the quiet spot in which the building stood, I could not but think that our Swiss brethren, perched away up among those silent mountains, had, after all, taken the right view of the relations of the public schools with Christianity, and hoped that ere long a younger republic, far beyond the seas, might learn wisdom of her, and manifest like fearlessness in the declaration of those principles on which their system of popular education is based.
When, then, a free civilization, beckoned forward by Christianity, has advanced so far in the perilous way towards self-government as to rear an edifice like to that polished temple within whose walls this people worships, is it not right, is it not obligatory on each successive generation of worshippers to inform those who follow them on what foundations that temple rests? If it be the spirit and genius of these institutions of ours to advance still higher in the scale of free government, and never to fall back, is it not essential that these foundationstones should ever remain secure and firm ? — that the store-houses of this temple be continually replenished with its needful requisites, and blessed with a multiplication of present and yet new and nobler privileges ? If these questions can only be answered in the affirmative, why should the State hesitate in the discharge of that duty, which already ought to be conceded as imperative ? The State should not only maintain the laws she now has, providing free and open schooldoors to all her youth, but strengthen those laws by steadily elevating the standard of her education, and by positively requiring daily attendance upon the precepts of the teacher.
These laws should be prudently enforced by mild but effective penalties. Already, to a certain extent, we have laws compelling educa