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“If education be the cause of the advancement of other nations, it must be apparent to the most superficial observer of our peculiar political institutions, that it is essential, not to our prosperity only, but to the very existence of our government. Whatever may be the effect of education on a despotic or monarchical government, it is not absolutely indispensable to the existence of either. In a despotic government, the people have no agency whatever, either in the formation or in the execution of the laws. They are the mere slaves of arbitrary authority, holding their lives and property at the pleasure of uncontrolled caprice. As the will of the ruler is the supreme law; fear, slavish fear, on the part of the governed, is the principle of despotism. It will be perceived readily, that ignorance on the part of the people can present no barrier to the administration of such a government; and much less can it endanger its existence. In a monarchical government, the operation of fixed laws is intended to supersede the necessity of intelligence in the people. But in a government like ours, where the people is the sovereign power; where the will of the people is the law of the land; which will is openly and directly expressed; and where every act of the government may justly be called the act of the people; it is absolutely essential that that people be enlightened. They must possess both intelligence and virtue: intelligence to perceive what is right, and virtue to do what is right. Our republic, therefore, may justly be said to be founded on the intelligence and virtue of the people. For this reason, it is with much propriety that the enlightened Montesquieu has said, “in a republic the whole force of education is required.'
“ The commissioners think it unnecessary to represent in a stronger point of view, the importance and absolute necessity of education, as connected either with the cause of religion and morality, or with the prosperity and existence of our political institutions. As the people must receive the advantages of edu cation, the inquiry naturally arises, how this end is to be attained. The expedient devised by the legislature, is the establishment of common schools; which being spread throughout the state and aided by its bounty, will bring improvement within the reach and power of the humblest citizen. This appears to be the best plan that can be devised to disseminate religion, morality, and learning throughout a whole country. All other methods, heretofore adopted, are partial in their operation and circumscribed in their effects. Academies and universities, understood in contradistinction to common schools, cannot be considered as operating impartially and indiscriminately, as regards the country at large. The advantages of the first are confined to the particular districts in which they are established; and the second, from causes apparent to every one, are devoted almost exclusively to the rich. In a free government, where political equality is established, and where the road to preterment is open to all, there is a natural stimulus to education; and accordingly we find it generally resorted to, unless some great local impediments interfere. In populous cities, and the parts of the country thickly settled, schools are generally established by individual exertion. In these cases, the nieans of education are facilitated, as the expenses of schools are divided among a great many. It is in the remote and thinly populated parts of the state, where the inhabitants are scattered over a large extent, that education stands greatly in need of encouragement. The people here, living far from each other, makes it difficult so to establish schools, as to render them convenient or accessible to all. Every family, therefore, must either educate its own children, or the children must forego the advantages of education.
“ These inconveniences can be remedied best by the establishment of common schools, under the direction and patronage of the state. In these schools should be taught, at least, those branches of education which are indispensably necessary to every person in his intercourse with the world, and to the persormance of his duty as a useful citizen. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and the principles of morality, are essential to every person, however humble his situation in life. Without the first, it is impossible to receive those lessons of morality, which are inculcated in the writings of the learned and pious; nor is it possible to become acquainted with our political constitutions and laws; nor to decide those great political questions, which ultimately are referred to the intelligence of the people. Writing and arithmetic are indispensable in the management of one's private affairs, and to facilitate one's commerce with the world. Morality and religion are the foundation of all that is truly great and good, and are consequently of primary importance. A person provided with these acquisitions, is enabled to pass through the world respectably and successfully. If, however, it be his intention to become acquainted with the higher branches of science, the academies and universities established in different parts of the state are open to him. In this manner, education in all its stages is offered to the citizens generally.
“In devising a plan for the organization and establishment of common schools, the commissioners have proceeded with great care and deliberation. To frame a system which must directly affect every citizen in the state, and so to regulate it, as that it shall obviate individual and local discontent, and yet be generally beneficial, is a task, at once perplexing and arduous. To avoid the imputation of local partiality, and to devise a plan, operating with equal mildness and advantage, has been the object of the commissioners. To effect this end, they have consulted the experience, of others, and resorted to every probable source of intelligence. From neighboring states, where common school systems are established by law, they have derived much important information. This information is doubly valuable, as it is the result of long and actual experience. The commissioners by closely examining the rise and progress of those systems, have been able to obviate many imperfections, otherwise inseparable from the novelty of the establishment, and to discover the means by which they have gradually risen to their present condition.
“ The outlines of the plan suggested by the commissioners are briefly these: that the several towns in the state be divided into school districts, by three commissioners, elected by the citizens qualified to vote for town officers: that three trustees be elected in each district, to whom shall be confided the care and superintendence of the school to be established therein: that the interest of the school fund be divided among the different counties and towns, according to their respective population, as ascertained by the successive census of the United States: that the proportions received by the respective towns be subdivided among the districts into which such towns shall be divided, according to the number of children in each, between the ages of five and fifteen years: that each town raise by tax annually as much money as it shall have received from the school fund: that the gross amount of moneys received from the state and raised by the towns, be appropriated exclusively to the payment of the wages of the teachers: and that the wbole system be placed under the superintendence of an officer apnointed by the Council of Appointment.”
“Let us suppose that the school fund were arrived at that point where by law it is to be divided. There will then be $50,000 of public money to be distributed among the schools; and as by the contemplated plan a sum is to be raised annually ty tax, equal to the interest of the school fund, the gross amount of moneys which the schools will receive will be $100,000. There are in this state forty-five counties, comprising, exclu. sively of the cities, four hundred and forty-nine towns. It will be very evident, therefore, that the proportion of each town must be necessarily small. As, however, the school districts are authorized to raise by tax a sum sufficient to purchase a lot, on which the school house is to be built, to build the school house and keep the same in repair, and as the school moneys are devoted exclusively to the payment of teachers' wages, the sum, howcver small, which each district will be entitled to, will be from these considerations so much the more efficacious. It will, however, be evident to the legislature, that the funds appropriated from the state for the support of the common school system, will, alone, be very inadequate. And the commission
ers are of opinion that the fund, in any stage of it, even when the residue of the unsold lands shall be converted into money, bearing an interest, never will be, alone, adequate to the maintenance of common schools; as the increase of the population will probably be in as great if not a greater ratio than that of the fund. But it is hardly to be imagined that the legislature intended that the state should support the whole expense of so great an establishment. The object of the legislature, as understood by the commissioners, was to rouse the public attention to the important subject of eclucation, and by adopting a system of common schools, in the expense of which the state would largely participate, to bring instruction within the reach and means of the humblest citizen. And the commissioners have kept in view the furtherance of this object of the legisla ture; for by requiring each district to raise by tax a sum sufficient to build and repair a school house, and by allotting the school moneys solely to the payment of the teacher's wages, they have in a measure supplied two of the most important sources of expense. Thus every inducement will be held out to the instruction of youth.”
“ The legislature will perceive in the system contained in the bills submitted to their consideration, that the commissioners are deeply impressed with the importance of admitting, under the contemplated plan, such teachers only as are duly qualified. The respectability of every school must necessarily depend on the character of the master. To entitle a teacher to assume the control of a school, he should be endowed with the requisite literary qualifications, not only, but with an unimpeachable character. He should also be a man of patient and mild temperament. 'A preceptor,' says Rousseau, ‘is invested with the rights, and takes upon himself the obligations of both father anil mother.' And Quintillian tells us, that to the requisite literary and moral endowments, he must add the benevolent disposition of a parent.""
“ When we consider the tender age at which children are sent to school; the length of the time they pass under the direction of the teachers; when we consider that their little minds are to be diverted from their natural propensities to the artificial acquisition of knowledge; that they are to be prepared for the reception of great moral and religious truths to be inspired with a love of virtue and a detestation of vice; we shall forcibly perceive the absolute necessity of suitable qualifications on the part of the master. As an impediment to bad men getting into the schools, as teachers, it is made the duty of the town inspectors strictly to inquire into the moral and literary qualifications of those who may be candidates for the place of teacher. And it is hoped that this precaution, aided by that desire which generally prevails, of employing good men only, will render it unnecessary to resort to any other measure.
“ The commissioners, at the same time that they feel impressed with the importance of employing teachers of the character above described, cannot refrain from expressing their solicitude, as to the introduction of proper books into the contemplated schools. This is a subject so intimately connected with a good education, that it merits the serious consideration of a'l who are concerned in the establishment and management of schools. Much good is to be derived from a judicious selec. tion of books, calculated to enlighten the understanding, not only, but to improve the heart. And as it is of incalculable consequence to guard the young and tender mind from receiving fallacious impressions, the commissioners cannot omit mentioning this subject as a part of the weighty trust reposed in them. Connected with the introduction of suitable books, the commissioners take the liberty of suggesting that some observations and advice touching the reading of the Bible in the schools might be salutary. In order to render the sacred volume productive of the greatest advantage, it should be held in a very different light from that of a common school book. It should be regarded as a book intended for literary improvement, not merely, but as inculcating great and indispensable moral truths also. With these impressions, the commissioners are induced to recommend the practice introduced into the NewYork Free School, of having select chapters read at the opening of the school in the morning, and the like at the close in the afternoon. This is deemed the best mode of preserving the religious regard which is due to the sacred writings.”
“ The commissioners cannot conclude this report without expressing once more their deep sense of the momentous subject committed to them. If we regard it as connected with the cause of religion and morality merely, its aspect is awfully solemn. But the other view of it already alluded to, is sufficient to excite the keenest solicitude in the legislative body. It is a subject, let it be repeated, intimately connected with the per-manent prosperity of our political institutions. The American empire is founded on the virtue and intelligence of the people. But it were irrational to conceive that any form of government can long exist without virtue in the people. Where the largest portion of a nation is vicious, the government must cease to exist as it loses its functions. The laws cannot be executed where every man has a personal interest in screening and protecting the profligate and abandoned. When these are unrestrained by the wholesɔme coercion of authority, they give way to every species of excess and crime. One enormity brings on another,