Page images
PDF
EPUB

REPORT. .

To the Legislature of the State of Michigan:

In accordance with the laws of the State, the Superintendent of Public Instruction submits to your Honorable Bodies the following

ANNUAL REPORT. The national circumstances that now surround us lend an unusual and impressive grandeur to all the questions that concern the education of American youth. The conflict now going on in our land is emphatically a war waged by the Present for the Future-- the future both of population and of principle,by the men of to-day for their children, and children's children,-by the nation for the permanency of its history and ideas. Not alone, therefore, by the mustering of loyal hosts, nor in the beating down of hostile arms, is the great final victory to be won; but also by the deeper and wider establishment in the public mind, and especially in the minds of the rising generation, of the eternal principles of justice and equality. Amended constitutions may remove occasions of future strife, and set new safeguards around our national union; but the increased intelligence and virtue of the people are needful to melt into one the antagonistic forces, and to establish a nobler union of sentiments and beliefs. While we swear repentant rebels to a new allegiance to the national authority, we must bind the conscience and the intelligence of the incoming generation to our great national ideas by the ministry of the public schools.

Firmly persuaded as I am of the overwhelming importance of public education to public liberty and safety, as well as to

[ocr errors]

national power and greatness, I cannot forbear to urge afresh upon your attention the impressive words of some of our carlier statesmen utterances now loaded with a weightier and startling significance to us, their successors and descendants. It was a saying of Washington, whose patriotism lent a more than common sagacity to his political wisdom, that "in proportion as public opinion gives force to the structure of government, it is essential that public opinion be enlightened." Said Franklin, "I think, with you, that nothing is of more importance for the publie weal than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue Wise and good men, are, in my opinion, the strength of a State; much more so than riches or arms, which, under the manage ment of ignorance and wickedness, often draw on destruction, instead of providing for the safety of the people."

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization," said Jefferson, "it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information."

"I do not hesitate to affirm," writes Judge Story, "not only that a knowledge of the true principle of government is important and useful to Americans, but that it is absolutely indispensable to carry on the government of their choice, and to transmit it to their posterity."

Says Chancellor Kent, another great jurist, "the mobs, the riots, the burnings, the lynchings, perpetrated by the men of the present day, are perpetrated because of their vicious or defec.tive education when children. We see and feel the havoc and the ravage of their tiger passions, when they are full grown, but it was years ago when they were whelped and suckled." There is a complete history of New York riots and Southern rebellions in these few lines. May we yet find the history of their cure in these other words of Bancroft, our great historian: "Whenever a permanent reform appears to have been instan

taneously effected, it will be found that the happy result was but the sudden plucking of fruit which had slowly ripened. Successful revolutions proceed, like all other formative processes, from inward germs. The institutions of a people are always the reflection of its heart and its intelligence; and in proportion as these are purified and enlightened, must its public life manifest the dominion of universal reason."

"Legislation can find no nobler object of attention,” said Lafayette, the friend of Washington and of liberty, "than to wisely provide for the best education of the hundreds of thousands of children now in our midst and the millions yet to follow; for if we do this faithfully, we may rest our heads quietly upon our dying pillows, with the confident assurance that, in this particular, we have conscientiously done our part for the future moral and intellectual well being of the State, and the permanency of our free institutions."

Webster, the great constitutional statesman of our land, spoke often and emphatically of the necessities of education to the public well being and safety. "I have no conception," said he, "of any manner in which the popular republican institutions under which we live could possibly be preserved, if early education' were not furnished to all by public law, in such forms that all shall gladly avail themselves of it." "We hope for a security beyond the law, and above the law," he adds, on another occasion, "the prevalence of an enlightened and well principled public sentiment." "On the diffusion of education among the people rost the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions. I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess, I do apprehend some danger. Make them intelligent and they will be vigilant; give them the means of detecting the wrong, and they will apply the remedy."

Wm. H. Seward, speaking as Governor to the Legislature of New York, says eloquently, "Postponed, omitted, and forgot

ten, as it often is, amid the excitement of other subjects, and the pressure of other duties, education is nevertheless the chief of our responsibilities. The consequences of the most partial improvement in our system of education will be wider and more enduring than the effects of any danger of public policy, the benefits of any new principle of jurisprudence, or the result of any enterprise we can accomplish."

Bishop Potter, the learned and eloquent advocate of popular education, thus states a great truth; “The people of this great republic have no more a native and inherent ability to exercise wisely the privilege of voting, than they have to predict without instruction, and yet with unfailing precision, the return of a comet, or the occultation of some bright star in the heavens. All these are powers to be unfolded and enlighted by culture, which qualifies a free people for their political duties must be gənerous and comprehensive.” “Wo to the people with demo cratic institutions who shall forget or underrate this important truth.”

The messages of our own Governors abound in utterances equally strong and pointed, as to the ability and importance of public education. Said Gov. Mason, the first governor of this State, in his first message, “Ours is said to be a government founded on intelligence and morality, and no political axiom can be more beautifully true. Public opinion directs the course which our government pursues, and so long as the people are enlightened, that direction will never be misgiven." In his third message, he adds, “Every free government is called on by a principle of self-preservation to afford every facility for the education of the people. The liberty of a people cannot be forced beyond its intelligence."

Gov. Woodbridge, his successor, spoke strongly and earnest ly, “Civil commotions and wars have an end; the evils of mis government are temporary in their nature, and may be corrected; the chastisements of Heaven, even, through the merciful providence of God, are, in this world, of short duration. But who can measure the extent, or sce the end, or es.imate the

[ocr errors]

intensity, of the evils which flow to a people from ignorance and vice? If any political axiom be better established than another, it is this, that no republic can long exist, unless intelligence and virtue predominate among, and characterize the the great body of its people."

Gov. Barry follows in the same strain, and the strong utterances of our later governors, Ransom, Felch, McClelland, Bingham, Wisner and Blair, do but echo the unanimous voice of American statesmen as to the vital connections of public intelligence and political freedom. Of the fuller and more elaborato statements of this same great truth, made by the great schoolmaster statesmen of America, Mann, and Barnard, and Randall, and the eminent chiefs of public instruction in the several States, I have room only for these strong, eloquent and truthful words of that greatest of American educators, Horace Mann: « The truth has been so often asserted that there is no security for a republic but in morality and intelligence, that a repetition of it seems hardly in good taste. But all permanent blessings, being founded on permanent truths, a continued observance of the truth, is the condition of a continued enjoyment of the blessing. I know that we are often admonished that without intelligence and virtue as a chart and a compass, to direct as in our untried political voyage, we shall perish in the first storm; but I venture to add that without these qualities, we shall not wait for a storm--we cannot weather a calm. If the sea is as smooth as glass, we shall founder, for we are in a stone-boat. Unless these qualities pervade the general head, and the general heart, not only will republican institutions vanish from amongst us, but the words prosperity and happiness will become obsolete. And all this may be affirmed not from historical examples merely, but from the very constitution of our nature. We are created and brought into life with a set of innate, organic dispositions or propositions, which a free government rouses and invigorates, and which, if not bridled and tamed by our actua ly seeing the eternal laws of justice as plainhy as we can see the sun in the heavens and by our actually

« PreviousContinue »