Page images
PDF
EPUB

they have no right to dismiss a scholar, except for the strongest reasons ; for example, such a degree of moral depravity as to render an association with other scholars dangerous to the latter, or such violent insubordination as to render the maintenance of discipline and order impracticable.- Per Dix, Superintendent, 1837.

[ocr errors]

VI. DUTIES OF TRUSTEES IN REFERENCE TO THE DISTRICT LIBRARY.

or for

The trustees of each school district are constituted by law the trustees of the library. They are responsible for its preservation and care; and the librarian is subject to their direction, and may at any time be removed by them from office for wilful disobedience of such directions,

any

wilful neglect of duty, or even when they have reason to apprehend the loss of any books, or their injury or destruction by his misconduct. In case of such removal, or of a vacancy occurring from any cause, they are to supply such vacancy by appointment, until the next annual meeting of the district. They are personally liable to their successors for any neglect or omission in relation to the care and superintendence of the library, by which any boks therein are lost or injured, to the full amount of such loss or injury, and their action in reference to its management, may be at any time controlled by the department, on appeal.

By the 4th section of chap. 237, of the Laws of 1838, (No. 179,) the sum of $55,000 from the annual revenue of the U. S. Deposit Fund, was required to be annually distributed "to the support of common schools, in like manner and upon the like conditions as the school moneys now are or shall hereafter be distributed, except that the trustees of the several districts shall appropriate the sum received to the purchase of a district library for the term of three years, (afterwards by ♡ 6 of chap. 177, Laws of 1939, (No. 185,) extended to five years,) and by the act of 1843, indefinitely, with the modifications therein expressed.

Trustees are, by this provision, authorized to make the selection of the books for the library, as the application of the money is to be made by them. The object of the law for procuring district libraries is to diffuse information, not only, or even chiefly, among children or minors, but among adults and those who have finished their common school, education. The books, therefore, should be such as will be useful for circulation among the inhabitants generally. They should not be children's books, or of a juvenile character merely, 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. Works imbued with party politics, and those of a sectarian character, or of hostility to the Christian religion, should on no account be admitted; and if any are accidentally received they should be immediately removed. Still less can any district be permitted to purchase school books, such as spelling books, grammars, or any others of the description used as text books in schools. Such an application of the public money would be an utter violation of the law. If any case of improper selection of books should come before the Superintendent, by appeal from any inhabitant, such selection would be set aside; and if it appeared from the reports, which according to these regulations must be made, that such books had been purchased, the Town Superintendent will be bound to withhold the next year's library money from such district. These penalties and provisions will be rigidly enforced; for upon à faithful administration of the law the usefulness and the continuance of the system will depend. If the public munificence be abused it will unquestionably cease.

The selection of books for the district library, is devolved by law exclusively upon the trustees; and when the importance of this most beneficent and enlightened provision for the intellectual and moral improvement of The inhabitants of the several districts, of both sexes and all conditions, is duly estimated, the trust here confided is one of no ordinary responsibility. In reference to such selections, but two prominent sources of embarrassment have been experienced. The one has arisen from the necessity of excluding from the librarics all works having directly or remotely, a sectarian tendency, and the other, from that of recommending the exclusion of novels, romances and other fictitious creations of the imagination, including a large proportion of the lighter literature of the day. The propriety of a peremptory and uncompromising exclusion of those catch-penny, but revolting publications which cultivate the taste for the marvellous, the tragic, the horrible, and the supernatural—the lives and exploits of pirates, banditti and desperadoès of every description-is too obvious to every reflecting mind, to require the slightest argument. Unless parents desire that their children should pursue the shortest and surest road to ignominy, shame and destruction should become the ready and apt imitators on a circumscribed scale, of the pernicious models which they are permitted and encouraged to study-they will frown indignantly on every attempt to place before their immature minds, works, whose invariable and only tendency is disastrous, both to the intellect and the heart.

The exclusion of works imbued to any perceptible extent with sectarianism, rests upon the great conservative principles which are at the foundation of our free institutions. Its propriety is readily conceded when applied to publications, setting forth, defending, or illustrating the peculiar fenets which distinguish any one of the numerous religious denominations of the day from the others. On this ground no controversy exists as to the line of duty But it has been strongly urged that those“ standard” theological publications which, avoiding all controverted ground, contain general expositions of Christianitywhich assume only those doctrines and principles upon which all “evangelical” denominations of Christians are agreed, are not obnoxious to any reasonable censure, and ought not, upon any just principles, to be excluded from the school district library. There are two answers to this argument, either of which is conclusive. The one is, that the works in question, however exalted may be their merit, and however free from just censure, on the ground of sectarianism, are strictly theological, doctrinal or metaphysical; and therefore no more entitled to a place in the district library than works devoted to the professional elucidation of law, medicine, or any of the other learned professions. Their appropriate place is in the family, church or Sunday school library. The other answer is, that in every portion of our country are to be found conscientious dissenters from the most approved theological tenets of

evan

these commentators on Christianity: individuals who claim the right, either of rejecting Christianity altogether, (as the Jews,) or of so interpreting its fundamental doctrines, as to place them beyond the utmost verge of " gelical” liberality :, and this too, without, in any degree, subjecting themselves to any well-founded imputations upon their moral character as citizens and as men. The state, in the dispensation of its bounty, has no right to trample upon the honest convictions and settled belief of this or of any other class of its citizens against whose demeanor, in the various relations of society, no accusation can be brought: nor can it rightfully sanction the application of any portion of those funds to which they, in common with others, have contributed, to the enforcement of theological tenets to which they cannot conscientiously subscribe. Any work, therefore, which, departing from the inculcation of those great, enduring and cardinal elements of religion and morality which are impressed upon humanity as a part of its birth-right—acknowledged by all upon whom its stamp is affixed, however departed from in practice, and incorporated into the very essence of Christianity as its pre-eminent and distinctive principleshall descend to a controversy respecting the subordinate or collateral details of theology, however ably sustained and numerously sanctioned, has no legitimate claim to a place in the school district library : nor can its admission be countenanced consistently with sound policy or enlightened reason.

The following general principles have been recently laid down in a special report on common school libraries, prepared under the direction of the department by HENRY S. RANDALL, Esq., County Superintendent of common schools of Cortland county, and may be regarded as the settled principles of the department in reference to this class of books:

“1. No works written professedly to uphold or attack any sect or creed in our country, claiming to be a religious one, shall be tolerated in the school libraries.

“2. Standard works on other topics shall not be excluded, because they incidentally and indirectly betray the religious opinions of their authors.

“3. Works avowedly on other topics which abound in

4

direct and unreserved attacks on, or defences of, the character of any religious sect; or those which hold up any religious body to gontempt or execration, by singling out or bringing together only the darker parts of its history or character, shall be excluded from the school libraries.

“Is it said that under the above rules, heresy and error are put on the same footing with true religion—that Protestant and Catholic, orthodox and unorthodox, Universalist, Unitarian, Jew, and even Mormon, derive the same immunity? The fact is conceded; and it is averred that each is equally entitled to it, in a government whose very Constitution avows the principle of a full and indiscriminate religious toleration.

“He who thinks it hard that he shall not be allowed to combat, through the medium of the school libraries, beliefs, the sin and error of which are as clear to him as is the light in Heaven, will bear in mind that the library at least leaves him and his religious beliefs, in as good a condition as it found him. If it will not propagate his tenets, it will leave them unattacked. If he is not allowed to use other men's money to purchase books to assault their religious faiths, he is not estopped from expending his own as he sees fit, in his private, or in his Sunday-school library--nor is he debarred from placing these books in. the hands of all “who are willing to receive them. His power of morally persuading his fellow men is left unimpaired; nor will he, if he has any confidence in the recuperative energies of truth-if he believes his God will ultimately give victory to truth-ask more. In asking, or condescending to accept the support of an earthly govern. ment, he admits the weakness of his cause, the feebleness of his faith. He leans on another arm than that which every page in the Bible declares all-sufficient. In what age of the world has any church entered into meretricious connexion with temporal governments, and escaped unsullied from the contact? Any approximation to such connexion, even in the minutest particular-any exclusive right or immunity given to one religious sect or another in the school library or elsewhere, is not only anti-religious, but anti-republican. As men we have the right to adopt religious creeds, and to attempt to influence others to

« PreviousContinue »