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adopt them; but as Americans, as legislators or officials dispensing privileges or immunities among American citi. zens, we have no right to know one religion from another. The persecuted and wandering Israelite comes here, and he finds no bar in our naturalization laws. The members of the Roman, Greek, or English church equally become citizens. Those adopting every hue of religious faith every phase of heresy, take their place equally under the banner of the Republic and no ecclesiastical power can snatch even the least of these' from under its glorious folds. Not an hour of confinement, not the amercement of a farthing, not the deprivation of a right or liberty weighing in the estimation of a hair' can any such power impose on any American citizen, without his own full and entire acquiescence.” .
With reference to the admission of novels, romances, and other works of the imagination, usually comprehended under the term “ light reading," the proper course to be adopted cannot be better illustrated than by the following extracts from a recent report of the majority of a commit. tee appointed by the Board of Commissioners of cominon schools of the city of Utica, to examine the books in the school district library of the city, and to report, among other things, as to the character and tendency of any objectionable works they might discover therein.
“The importance of applying the funds provided by the state, with rigid regard to their appropriate object, is so weighty—and the temptations to misapply then, in consequence of a present prevailing fondness for light and equivocal literature, are so strong, that your commit. tee deem it proper to enter somewhat into an examination of the principles which should govern those to whom is entrusted the responsible duty of making selections for school district libraries.
“A library for instruction is a very different thing from a library for amusement. The circulating library of a place of public resort for invalids or persons in pursuit of ease and pleasure, is essentially of a trifling character: the library of a college, or eminent public institution, is composed of graver and more elevated productions. While the book shelves of a light young man are filled with fri. volous and amusing works, those of a student display the treasures of standard literature. School district libraries should not fall below the dignity of usefulness; in proportion as they do, they fail of fulálling the true design of their institution.
“A consideration of the object of instituting these libraries will enable us to judge pretty correctly of the general character of the books which should compose them; it is obviously, the information and improvement of the body of the people who can read, without reference to parties, sects, classes, callings, or professions. The primary object of their institution,' says the Superintendo ent who recommended it, was to disseminate works suited to the intellectual improvement of the great body of the people, rather than to throw into school districts for the use of young persons, works of a merely juvenile character.' It was, in the language of a succeeding Superintendent, “to diffuse information—not only, or even chiefly, among children or minors—but among adults and those who have finished their common school education.' It was, in short, to provide a supplemental source of instruction to those on whom the common school has exhausted its more limited means.
" Improvement and information, then, form the main object of these libraries. It is only thus that they become the proper subjects of public munificence. Entertainment, simply as entertainment, is not to be regarded in making selections for the school district library. It is no part of our public policy to provide amusements for the people. In this particular we have improved not only on antiquity, but on many modern governments, by substituting, in the place of vain and wasteful public shows and frivolities, those more substantial and elevating subjects of public bounty, which consist in permanent and wise institutions, designed to fit our citizens for the proper discharge of their duties as members of a great community, whose duration and prosperity depend upon the knowledge and virtue of the people.
“We first teach the children of the republic to read, and to appreciate instruction. We lead them to thirst for information, and then seek to open the fountains which may satisfy that thirst. The common school is the first step in their advancement, the school district library is partially designed to be the second. It supplies information of a more varied and extensive sort-and if that information comes clothed in allurements of a virtuous, or entertainment of an innocent character, it is the more welcome on that account. These are mere incidents, however—when they appear alone, they want that sub. stantial recommendation which is necessary to secure their introduction into the school district library. Books designed for amusement simply—to while away a vacant hour, and be forgotten like ephemera-are evidently no worthy occupants of the shelves of such a library. There is enough which is instructive and substantial to exhaust the public liberality, without squandering the well-meant beneficence of the state in transient and trivial publications, which amuse to-day and to-morrow are rubbish. "The books, therefore,' says one of the Superintendents before quoted, should be such as will be useful among the inhabitants generally. They should not be children's books, or of a juvenile character, or light and frivolous tales and romances ; but works conveying solid information, which will excite a thirst for knowledge, and also gratify it, as far as such a library can.'”
The following remarks from the last annual report of the Superintendent of common schools, will exhibit more fully the view taken of this branch of the subject by the department:
5 There is reason to apprehend that the officers charged with the duty of selecting books for these libraries have too generally failed to appreciate the importance of a suitable provision for the intellectual and moral wants of the children of the district. Much misapprehension has existed on this subject, in consequence of the general prohibition, contained in the instructions heretofore communicated from this department, against the introduction into the school libraries of books of a merely juvenile character. The true principles upon which the selections for these institutions should be made, may be clearly inferred, as well from the original design of the appropriation, as from the contemporaneous exposition of the Superintendent, under whose immediate auspices it was first carried into effect. The distribution of the fund provided for this purpose, was directed by the act under which it. was supplied, to be made in like manner and upon the like condition as the school moneys are now or shall hereafter be distributed, except that the trustees of the several dis. tricts shall appropriate the sum received to the purchase of a district library. The amount of library money, therefore, under this provision, to which each district became entitled, was in proportion to the number of children between the ages of five and sixteen, residing therein, compared with the aggregate number in all the districts, and not in proportion to the adult population merely, or the whole population combined. The primary object of the institution of district libraries, was declared in the circular of Gen. Dix accompanying the publication of the act of 1838, to be 'to disseminate works suited to the intellectual improvement of the great body of the people, rather than to throw into school districts for the use of the young, books of a merely juvenile character; and that by collecting a large amount of useful information, where it will be easily accessible, the influence of these establishments can hardly fail to be in the highest degree salutary to those who have finished their common school education, as well as to those who have not. The object in view will probably be best answered by having books suitable for all ages above ten or twelve years, though the proportion for those of mature age ought to be by far the greatest.' When it is considered that the foundations of education are laid during the period of youth, and that the taste for reading and study is, with rare exceptions, formed and matured at this period, if at all, the importance of furnishing an adequate supply of books, adapted to the comprehension of the immature but expanding intellect-suited to its various stages of mental growth, and calculated to lead it onward by a gradual and agreeable transition, from one field of intel. lectual and moral culture to another, cannot fail to be appreciated. And even if the intellectual wants of many of the inhabitants of the districts, of more mature age, are duly considered, it admits of little doubt that a due proportion of works of a more familiar and elementary character than are the mass of those generally selected, would have a tendency not only to promote, but often to create that taste for mental pursuits which leads by a
rapid and sure progression to a more extended acquaintance with the broad domains of knowledge. Those whose circumstances and pursuits in life, have hitherto precluded any systematic investigation of literary subjects, and who, if they possessed the desire, were debarred the means of intellectual improvement now brought within their reach, çan scarcely be expected to pass at once to that high appreciation of useful knowledge, which the perusal of elaborate treatises on any of the numerous branches of science or metaphysics requires; and the fact brought to view by the annual reports of the County Superintend. ents, that by far the greater proportion of the inhabitants of the several districts neglect to avail themselves of the privileges of the library, indicates too general a failure, to supply these institutions with the requisite proportion of elementary books.
“In the selection of books for the district libraries, suitable provision should be made for every gradation of intellectual advancement; from that of the child, whose insatiable curiosity eagerly prompts to a more intimate acquaintance with the world of matter and of mind, to that of the most finished scholar, who is prepared to augment his stock of knowledge by every means which may be brought within his reach. The prevalence of an enlightened appreciation of the requirements of our people in this respect, has already secured the application of The highest grade of mental and moral excellence to the elementary departments of literature ; and works adapted to the comprehension of the most immature intellect, and at the same time capable of conveying the most valuable information to more advanced minds, have been provided—wholly free, on the one hand, from that puerility which is fit only for the nursery, and on the other, from those generalizations and assumptions which are adapted only to advanced stages of mental progress. A more liberal infusion of this class of publications, sanctioned by the approbation of the most experienced friends of education, into our district libraries, would, it is confidenily believed, remove many of those obstacles to their general utility, which otherwise are liable to be perpetuated from generation to generation.”
It is the duty of the trustees to provide a plain and suf