« AnteriorContinuar »
reverence the Puritans for their honesty, in refusing to submit to the exactions of the new oppression, - for their dislike of any coquetry between Protestantism and Popery, for their opposition to the mingling of temporal with spiritual interests, and to the coöperation of the church in the sins and corruptions of the state. Their stern and sturdy adherence to what they deemed the requisitions of conscience and the will of God will never cease to act as an inspiration to all who raise, in after times, the banner of revolt against accredited tyranny and established falsehood. Through the reign of Elizabeth, of James the First, of Charles the First, of Charles the Second, constantly pelted as they were with satire, and exposed to the most brutal wrongs and contumelies — with literature, fashion, taste, power, all arrayed against them,- they ever preserve those titles to respect, which cling to virtue and religion. Compared with the greedy politicians, the time-serving priests, the effeminate and dissolute courtiers, the venal writers, who honored them with their hatred or their ridicule, they loom up in almost colossal proportions, and frown rebuke on the corruptions of their age. We are not blind to their errors; we do not sympathize with their theology; we could wish that much of their enthusiasm had received a better direction, and that much of their piety had been accompanied by more kindliness of spirit ; but when we consider the trials they underwent, the school of persecution in which they were trained, the character of the abuses which they assailed, the meanness and baseness of too many of their adversaries, and the inestimable services they rendered to the world, their faults and errors seem to dwindle before the light of their faith, their virtue, and their heroic self-devotion.
The Puritans there is a charm in that word which will never be lost on a New England ear. It is closely associated with all that is great in New England history. It is hallowed by a thousand memories of obstacles overthrown, of dangers nobly braved, of sufferings unshrinkingly borne, in the service of freedom and religion. It kindles at once the pride of ancestry, and inspires the deepest feelings of national veneration. It points to examples of valor in all its modes of manifestation, — in the hall of debate, on the field of battle, before the tribunal of power, at the martyr's stake. It is a name which will never die out of New England hearts. Wherever virtue resists temptation, wherever men meet death for religion's sake, wherever the gilded baseness of the world stands abashed before conscientious principle, there will be the spirit of the Puritans. They have left deep and broad marks of their influence on human society. Their children, in all times, will rise up and call them blessed. thousand witnesses of their courage, their industry, their sagacity, their invincible perseverance in well-doing, their love of free institutions, their respect for justice, their hatred of wrong, are all around us, and bear grateful evidence daily to their memory
. We cannot forget them, even if we had sufficient baseness to wish it. Every spot of New England earth has a story to tell of them; every cherished institution of New England society bears the print of their minds. The strongest element of New England character has been transmitted with their blood. So intense is our sense of affiliation with their nature, that we speak of them universally as our “ fathers.” And though their fame everywhere else were weighed down with calumny and hatred, though the principles for which they contended, and the noble deeds they performed, should become the scoff of sycophants and oppressors, and be blackened by the smooth falsehoods of the selfish and the cold, there never will be wanting hearts in New England to kindle at their virtues, nor tongues and pens to vindicate their name.
Art. IX. - 1. Remarks on the Seventh Annual Report
of the Hon. Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetls Board of Education. Boston: Little & Brown.
1844. 8vo. 2. Observations on a Pamphlet entitled “ Remarks on the
Seventh Annual Report,” &c. [By George B. EM
ERSON.] Boston : Little & Brown. 8vo. pp. 16. 3. Reply to the “ Remarks” of Thirty-one Boston School
masters on the Seventh Annual Report, &c. By HorACE Mann, Secretary of the Board. Boston: Fowle & Capen. 8vo. pp. 176.
No inhabitant of Boston or its immediate vicinity needs to be informed of the causes and nature of the unhappy contro
versy to which these pamphlets relate. For our readers at a distance, it may be well to say, that it has grown out of the generous and highly successful efforts of Mr. Mann and a small band of active coadjutors to improve the condition of the common schools throughout the State.
For nearly eight years, he has devoted himself to the task with remarkable ability, industry, and zeal ; and his exertions have been signally rewarded by results which, if not commensurate with his ardent hopes, have far surpassed all the expectations that any judicious observer could have formed at the outset, after a full view of the difficulties of the case. There is not a town nor a school district in Massachusetts, where his influence has not been felt; there is not one which has not largely profited by the spirit which he has excited, and by the improvements which he has introduced. New school-houses have been erected, and old ones much improved ; appropriations of money to the purposes of education have greatly increased ; seminaries for teachers have been established; improved systems of instruction and discipline have been introduced ; the number of scholars is multiplied, and they are far more regular in their attendance at school ; and finally, an interest in the subject has been awakened, which promises still more brilliant and useful results.
Mr. Mann has not done all this ; but he has had so large a share in it, that his name is identified with the work. Others have seconded his efforts, but he has borne the burden and the heat of the day. The liberality of a few persons — we may almost say, the munificence of one man has supplied the pecuniary means for the enterprise. The members of the Board of Education bave labored diligently for the cause, and others have zealously coöperated with them, giving what portion of their time and toil could be spared from other employments. But the Secretary of the Board has devoted to the task all his time, and all the talents with which God has gifted him. By travelling about and lecturing in the towns and villages, by tendering advice wherever it was needed, by constantly pressing the subject on the attention of the legislature and the other authorities of the State, and by writing letters, essays, circulars, and reports, he has stimulated the slothful, encouraged the timid, strengthened the weak, instructed the ignorant, and infused a
portion of his own kindling enthusiasm into the mind of every man whom he could reach by his writings or his voice. Through him the profession of the teacher has risen in dignity and importance, and the interests of the common district schools have become attractive enough to draw off the attention of men for a while from the prospect of a change in the tariff or the election of a president.
We state these things strongly, perhaps, but not more strongly than is warranted by the facts, and proved by a cloud of witnesses. We state them as they would appear to an intelligent foreigner, to whom they were all communicated at once, and for the first time. What would such a stranger think, if he was further informed, that the instructers of the public grammar-schools in the capital of the State persons who had witnessed all the efforts of Mr. Mann and their results, who had profited by his suggestions, whose prosession he had exalted, and whose hands had been strengthened in their work by the zeal which he had kindled — had recently published a long and elaborately written pamphlet, in which they not only questioned his opinions and arguments, but assailed his character and motives, denied the good which he had accomplished, and depreciated the utility of the enterprise in which he was engaged? We need not answer this question ; the feelings as well as the judgment of every reader will furnish a sufficient reply. But the publication of the pamphlet in question is such a strange phenomenon, that it is worth wbile to look a little closer into its history and the causes which produced it.
In May, 1843, Mr. Mann embarked for Europe, in order to recruit, by travelling, his broken health, and io study the systems of public instruction in foreign countries. He remained abroad about six months, and, as might be expected from the ardor of his temperament and his devotion to the cause of education, he gave nearly the whole of this time to the examination of the school systems, and of the institutions of instruction and beneficence, in the countries that he visited. On his return, he published the results of his observations in his “ Seventh Annual Report,” 10 wbich we have already twice invited the attention of our readers. Ir was a striking and valuable production, written with great freshness and energy of style, abounding with curious facts and lively descriptions, and, above all, animated throughout by the life-giving earnestness and enthusiasm of the writer. li had faults, certainly. Many of the inductions were hasty ; some descriptions were overwrought; strong feeling was sometimes more visible than sound judgment; and novelties were too frequently caught up and recommended as improvements. The language was often unguarded, and a spirited account of some striking feature in a European establishment, which Mr. Mann intended merely to describe, without either approving or condemning it, was not unfrequently construed into an earnest expression of judgment in its favor. We have already expressed our dissent from some of the opinions avowed in the Report ; and one of them, in particular, respecting the proper mode of teaching the deaf and dumb, we recently combated most strenuously, believing it to be unsound in theory, and likely to be very injurious if reduced to practice. But this was done, we trust, with no lack of courtesy and deference towards him,* and with what appeared to be an abundant array of facts and arguments in support of our position. Yet we shall hardly be counted in the ranks among Mr. Mann's uncompromising and vehement admirers.
The teachers of the Boston grammar-schools had never regarded with much favor the proceedings of the Board of Education and its Secretary. Their schools, supported by the liberal and intelligent population of a great city, did not need the sweeping and energetic measures of reform, which it was necessary to carry into the small and indolent districts in the country. We speak now of their condition in 1838, when the Board commenced its labors. They were, in the main, excellent institutions. The people of Boston were proud of them, — not as being all that was desirable, but as far superior to those which existed in the other great cities of the Union. Improvements in them were possible, and were made from time to time, though slowly, and with the caution that is always proper in conducting experiments upon large establishments, where great interests are at stake, and the harm done by unsuccessful trials is considerable. The system pursued in them thus naturally tended to become mechanical, and the instructers inclined to conservatism, and
* Mr. Mann, we are surprised and sorry to perceive, from a note to the seventy-first page of his “ Reply," thinks differently ; but we are quite willing to leave the point to the judgment of our readers.