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THE NECESSITY OF EDUCATION IN A REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT.
GENTLEMEN OF THE CONVENTION:
THE Common arguments in favor of Education have been so often repeated, that, in rising to address you on this subject, I feel like appealing to your own judgment and good sense to bear testimony to its worth, rather than attempting to make your convictions firmer, or your feelings stronger, by any attestations of mine.
I hardly need to say, that by the word Education, I mean much more than an ability to read, write, and keep common accounts. I comprehend, under this noble word, such a training of the body as shall build it up with robustness and vigor,-at once protecting it from disease, and enabling it to act, formatively, upon the crude substances of nature, to turn a wilderness into cultivated fields, forests into ships, or quarries and clay-pits into villages and cities. I mean, also, to include such a cultivation of the intellect as shall enable it to discover those permanent and mighty laws which pervade all parts of the created universe, whether material or spiritual. This is necessary, because, if we act in obedience to these laws, all the resistless forces of Nature become our auxiliaries and cheer us on to certain prosperity and triumph; but, if we act in contravention or defiance of these laws, then Nature resists, thwarts, baffles us; and, in the end, it is just as certain that she will overwhelm us with ruin, as it is that God is stronge
than man. And, finally, by the term Education, I mean such a culture of our moral affections and religious susceptibilities, as, in the course of Nature and Providence, shall lead to a subjection or conformity of all our appetites, propensities and sentiments to the will of Heaven.
My friends, is it not manifest to us all, that no individual, unless he has some acquaintance with the lower forms of education, can superintend even the coarsest and most common interests of life, without daily error and daily shame? The general utility of knowledge, also, and the higher and more enduring satisfactions of the intellect, resulting from the discovery and contemplation of those truths with which the material and the spiritual universe are alike filled, impart to this subject a true dignity and a sublime elevation. But, in its office of attempering feelings which otherwise would blast or consume us;-in its authority to say to the clamorous propensities of our nature, "Peace, be still!"-in its auxiliary power to fit us for the endearments of domestic, for the duties of social, and for the sanctity of immortal life;-in its two-fold office of enhancing the enjoyment which each one of us may feel in the virtue and happiness of all others, and of increasing the virtue and happiness of all others, to make a larger fund for common enjoyment ;in these high and sacred prerogatives, the cause of education lays claim to our mind and heart and strength, as one of the most efficient instruments prepared by the Creator for the welfare of His creatures and the honor of Himself.
Take any individual you please, separate him from the crowd of men, and look at him, apart and alone,-like some Robinson Crusoe in a far-off island of the ocean, without any human being around him, with no prospect of leaving any human being behind him, and, even in such a
solitude, how authoritative over his actions, how decisive of his contemplations and of his condition, are the instructions he received and the habits he formed in early life! But now behold him as one of the tumultuous throng of men; observe the wide influences which he exerts upon others, in the marts of business, in the resorts of pleasure, in the high places of official trust,-and reflect how many of all these influences, whether beneficent or malign, depend upon the education he has received, and you will have another gauge or standard whereby to estimate the importance of our theme. Look at him again, not as a being, coming, we know not whence, alighting for a brief residence upon this earth, and then making his exit through the door of the tomb, to be seen and heard of no more, and leaving no more impression upon society of his ways or works, than the sea-bird leaves upon the surface of the deep, when she stoops from the upper air, dips her breast for a moment in the wave, and then rises again to a viewless height; but look at him in his relations to posterity, as the father of a family, as a member of a generation which sows those seeds of virtue or vice, that, centuries hence, shall bear fruit or poison;-look at him as a citizen in a free government, throwing his influence and his vote into one or the other of the scales where peace and war, glory and infamy are weighed ;-look at him in these relations, and consider how a virtuous or a vicious education tends to fit or to unfit him for them all, and you will catch one more glimpse of the importance of the subject now presented to your consideration. But if we ascend to a still higher point of vision, and,— forgetting the earthly, personal career, and the wide sphere of social influences, and those acts of life which survive life,-fasten our eyes upon effects which education may throw forward into immor
tal destinies, it is then that we are awed, amazed, overpowered, by the thought, that we have been created and placed in a system, where the soul's eternal flight may be made higher or lower by those who plume its tender wings and direct its early course. Such is the magnitude, the transcendence of this subject. In a philosophical view, beginning at what point we will, and following the most rigid connection and dependence of cause and effect, of antecedent and consequence, we shall find that education is intimately related to every good, and to every evil, which, as mortal, or as immortal beings, we can desire or dread.
Were a being of an understanding mind and a benevolent heart, to see, for the first time, a peaceful babe reposing in its cradle, or on its mother's breast, and were he to be told, that that infant had been so constituted that every joint and organ in its whole frame might become the rendezvous of diseases and racking pains; that such was its internal structure, that every nerve and fibre beneath its skin might be made to throb with a peculiar torture; that, in the endless catalogue of human disasters, maladies, adversities or shame, there was scarcely one to which it would not be exposed; that, in the whole criminal law of society, and in the more comprehensive and self-executing law of God, there was not a crime which its heart might not at some time will, and its hand perpetrate; that, in the ghastly host of tragic passions,-Fear, Envy, Jealousy, Hate, Remorse, Despair,there was not one which might not lacerate its soul, and bring down upon it an appropriate catastrophe; were the benevolent spectator whom I have supposed, to see this environment of ills underlying, surrounding, overhanging their feeble and unconscious victim, and, as it were, watching to dart forth and seize it, might he not be excused for wishing the newly-created spirit well back again into non-entity?