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inspire the greatest terror, have not indeed been entirely
extirpated, but have at least been forced to withdraw from
the systematic pursuit of their lawless courses. A burglary,
a robbery on the highway, a murder, still occasionally occurs ;
but those bands of marauders, who used to make our streets
and roads constantly unsafe at certain hours, are broken up
and no longer exist. The law, which was formerly kept in
check by those ruffians, is now master and keeps them in
check. The substitution of tJiis state of things is an im-
mense gain. It is a step forward in civilization. The
practical benefit of the change, — that which we feel every
day and every hour, — is not to be told. We move about

* Couipanion to the Newspaper for 1833, p. 65, 81.



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INTRODUCTORY LECTURE. 17

every where without dread or danger. No man, generally
speaking, dreams of the chance of being either murdered,
or knocked down, or robbed, of being exposed to injury
either in person or property, while passing along the public
street or the king's highway. The robberies, and assaults,
and murders, that are still sometimes perpetrated, take place
out of sight, in remote and lonely situations."

Not long after the discussion of the subject of educa-
tion in the House of Commons, the same question came up
in the House of Lords, in connexion with the subject of
Prison Discipline, (June 29, 1834.) Lord Wharnchffe, in
stating the £BLCt that instruction did not of itself diminish
crime, was careful, with a practical good sense and candid
consideration, the reverse of the shallow dogmatism of Mr
Cobbett, to confine himself to the kind and degree of edu-
cation hitherto introduced into England : — in which view
of the subject Lord Melbourne and Lord Brougham concur-
red, while they maintained the general utiUty of united
moral and intellectual education.''^

In France, also, the topic has undergone discussion, in
books and in deliberative assemblies , and the statesmen of
that country have arrived at the true solution of the ques-
tion. MM. Dupin and Lucas have shown that in France,
as in England, the higher crimes, those accompanied by
tmitality and violence, and proceeding from the revengeful
and licentious passions, are lessened as we become more
civilized and enlightened ; whilst petty crimes against pro-
perty will increase relatively, and it may be absolutely, as
the extremes of wealth and poverty, and the accumulation of
capital, become prominent features of society .f In making
provision for moral and religious training, as a part of the
new system of universal national education, which the
French have lately adopted, they have shown their per*

* See extracts at the end of the Discourse,
f Encyclopedia Americana, Crime,



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18 MR CUSHING'S

ception of the evil to be remedied, the deficiency to be
supplied, in order to render Instruction an effective agent
of moral and social elevation. On the other hand, the
French Commissioners, MM. de Beaumont and de Tocque-
ville, in their work on the Penitentiary System of the
United States, fall into the common error of treating'
instruction as merely the acquisition of certain rudiments
of learning ; and thence draw injurious inferences as to the
utility of Education ; which are very conclusively refuted
by the American translator, Dr Lieber.*

So much for the argument founded on the relative state
of crime and of Instruction in Europe. As for the case of
New York, that may be shortly dismissed. In a community
or country, where all the inhabitants are taught to read and
write, it must needs be that the criminals also possess those
qualifications. The fact, that they do so, proves, as in the
other case, simply that Instruction has not absolutely put an
end to the commission of crime ; that, unaided, or as at
present conducted, it is insufiicient for the prevention of all
crime. Besides, a very considerable portion of our criminal
population is composed of hardened men self-exiled from
other countries ; by whom the most daring and systematic
acts of robbery or burglary have usually been committed.
And those among them, who could not read, are probably
for the most part the ofi*-scouring of the jails, and the refuse
of the alms-houses of Europe.

These considerations, it may be, are didactic, dry, unin-
teresting ; but there is no alternative, in discussing this part
of the case, between being very plain or very superficial ;
since it is a point of statistical explanation, unsusceptible of
rhetorical ornament. Assuming the view thus presented to
be just, let us now regard its appUcation to the United
States.

The superiority of the people of the United States, at

*" Penitentiary System in the United States, pp. 63, 247, and Int. p. zzv.



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INTRODUCTORY LECTURE. 19

least of its free population, to Europeans in general, in three
things,— liberality of political institutions, general diffusion
of knowledge, and moral cultivation^ — we will, as we
safely may, take with us in the outset.

Look first at our political institutions. We continually
speak of them in general terms ; and the name, the aspira-
tion of Liberty issues habitually and spontaneously from
our lips ; and free government, a government of the peo-
ple and for the people, is ever present to our thoughts ; and
we ought all to appreciate the unrivalled blessings of our
happy lot in the possession of repubhcan institutions, which,
however ill they be sometimes administered, or whatever
imperfections there be in some of their parts, are yet in
themselves such as no other land enjoys. But we do not
understand, we cannot estimate, the extent of the evils in
government and legislation, which paralyze the industry of
so many fertile regions of Europe.

Take an illustration of this in the case of a country so
fortune-favored even as England, where the discussions,
connected with, and consequent upon, parliamentary reform,
have yet forced upon our attention so many corruptions in
her political system : — the oppression of the corn-laws and
tithe-system in England, — the iniquity of the disabilities
so long imposed upon Catholics, — the double tax for the
support of two religions in Ireland, — the unbearable mis-
ery of the manufacturing and agricultural poor in both
islands, — the universal sacrifice of the laboring classes to
the privileges and perquii^ites o( the nobles, the gentry, the
<^l^fgy> t^d the ofiice-holders. Still, how far is England
above Spain, Germany, Russia, if not above France, in the
liberality of her political institutions ! But why look deep
or seek far in quest of illustrations of this point, when one,
the best of all, lies before us on the very surface of society.
In parts of Europe, it is penal to possess arms, without a
license, because the governors cannot trust them indiscrimiuf^



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20 MR CU8H1NG*S

ately in the hands of the governed ; here it is penal not to pos-
sess them ; and the contrast affords most cogent proof of the
state of social freedom relatively in Europe and America.

O fortunatos luinKiiny sua si bona norint !

Happy, thrice happy should we be, did we never wan-
' tonly dash from our lips the cup of happiness and pros-
perity !

Look, secondly, at the intellectual condition of the peo-
ple of the United States, or at least of New England.
Here, every body acquires the elements of knowledge at
our common schools; lecture-rooms and lyceums abound
on all hands ; elementary publications for the purposes of
instruction in the rudiments of learning are accessible to
the whole world; and all the higher branches of informa-
tion, religious teaching, moral wisdom, literary cultivation,
are within the reach of the humblest individual in the land.
Let me illustrate this position, also, by plain intelligible fact,
instead of leaving it upon the trust of naked assertion.

There exist, in all countries, national usages, established
modes of doing the most ordinary of things, which are
pregnant with inference touching the points on which
they bear. Here, the great abundance and extreme cheap-
ness of newspapers are sufficiently evident ; and without
pausing to reflect on the subject, we could scarce do justice
to the value and amount of intelligence, which the diurnal
press affords, penetrating as it does through all the relations
of life. Spread forth before you that familiar sheet. As the
eye gUdes over its crowded columns, it takes in at a glance
what volumes of fact gathered from the very ends of the
earth, and multiplied in how many forms of communication^
by the richest and grandest of human inventions ! In it,
are single lines, a name even, which, speechless to the gen-
eral eye, yet pours a tide of gladness, or deadens the very
life's blood, in the bosom of many a fellow creature. The



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INTRODUCTORY LECTURE. 21

solitary wife sits by her domestic hearth; ^« the infant
prattler climbs on her knee, how thinks she of him, the
cynosure of her heart's affections, far away along the great
deep, tempest-tossed it may be upon its foaming surface, or
perchance sunk " lower than plummet can reach,'' beneath
its devouring waves ; — and what rapture will not a simple
word, meaningless to all beside, impart to her eager gaze !
And how many hopes lie buried forever in the brief record
of deaths, which that sheet contains; what a world of
emotions and sufierings will not the ima^ation enter, if it
folbw up the scenes of sorrow, coupled with each of those
unregarded names ! Half a dozen lines chronicle the re-
sult of a battle fought in the mountains of Biscay or
Navarre, or by the lemon-groves and vine-covered hills of
Santarem. Call up the scene to your eyes ; think of those
about to meet in m<»tal conflict before you ; the ilash and
pomp of advancing squadrons ; the deep earth sending up
the tramp of their hosts, and the roar of their camMHl to
the sky ; and the hfeless thousands of brave hearts and gal-
lant spirits that lie low upon that stricken field ; reflect on
crowns there to be lost and won, and the happiness or
misery of millions of men hanging on the fearful issue of
victory: — and then how changed is the interest em-
bodied in a single cold half-read paragraph* I suggest
these obvious considerations,^ merely as indicating the
real, but unestimated,N importance of those daily gazettes,
which here every body reads, every body buys, every body
has in his £unily as among the common conveniences
of life. But how is it with this great source of intelligence
elsewhere ? In England, the great poUtical newspapers are
an expensive luxury, whidi people in general read only
in news-rooms and coffee4iouses, or hire by the hour, as is
the established custom in London. That is, there are indi-
viduals; part of whose daily trade and business it is, to let
newspapers by the hour, just as books are hired from a cir-
culating library.



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22 MR CUSHING'S

Again. Here, in New England, every man can read and
write. At least, the exceptions to this are so few, that if
in the course of business you encounter a person who can-
not read and write, you may safely presume that he is not
a native of the country. Whereas, in Europe, the conunon
accomplishment of writing is but sparingly possessed by
the laboring classes, so much so, that, as in the East, the
business of writmg for hire is a stated occupation of indi-
viduals in the cities and large towns, in many parts of the
Continent ; and little cabinets or offices are seen, where the
public writer receives his customers : — So much inferior is
the school condition of the general mass in Europe.

Look, in the third place, at the better moral and religious
condition of the people of New England ; — at their more
correct observance of the ordinances of religion ; at their
free-handedness in the support of public worship, which
although, in the existing state of the law, it is chiefly spon*
taneous, far exceeds that of other countries in aggregate
amount of benefaction ; at our peaceful and tranquil Sab-
baths, which, elsewhere the world over, if we only except
a part of Great Britain, are consigned to idleness, riot, vice,
and violence ; — look at all, in short, of pure, and peculiar,
and admirable, and exalted, which distinguishes the moral
aspect of New England. I say New England, because
there, pre-eminently, is the fact apparent, and because in
Virginia, Carolina, and elsewhere at the South, the exis-
tence of negro-servitude is a deadly blight upon the social
and economical condition of the country, weighing down
its prosperity, corrupting the morals of its people of every
class and color, and condenming it to long endurance of
public evils, which are the more melancholy to observe on
account of the extreme difficulty of discovering how or when
the source of them shall cease to exist. Nor do I allege the
mere fact of prosperity as such, — the physical well-being
of our population, in all that relates to the influence of



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INTRODUCTORY LECTURE. 23

clothing, shelter, food, and other necessaries of life, or the
animal health and strength ; for this flows in some degree
from the cheapness and abundance of lands, the conse-
quent high price of labor, and the general profitableness
of industry, in all parts of America as compared with
Europe.

But the political, intellectual and moral condition of the
United States, which I have thus dwelt upon, — so peculiar
in itself, so strongly contrasted with that of other great and
powerful nations, — whence then, does it spring? What
is that potent principle, manifest in the character, conduct^
and history of our fathers, and so efficacious in moulding
the destinies of their sons, out of old materials building up
this novel and original people in the New World ? Undeni*
ably, it is the pecuUar circumstances of our extraction and
colonial origin, the ancestry we possess, and above all the sys^
tematic combination of moral and intellectual instruction in
their schools and colleges, which serves to account for much
that is excellent in our national manners — for the high tone
of moral and religious feeUng, and the general activity and
industry of condition, and the wide diffusion of intelligence,
which characterize the people of New England. Our
fathers were not armed adventurers, stimulated by the
lust of gold or ambition of conquest ; but men of deep*
seated moral purposes, flying from persecution at home, to
found in the wilderness of the New Worid a state after
their own hearts ; bigoted, doubtless, like all men of high*
souled and single-minded enthusiasm of resolve ; but withal
well-informed beyond the ordinary rate of their country-
men of the same class, and honorably distinguished for a
correctness of moral deportment, a devotedness to the
duties of [religion, and a self-relying thrifliness of temper,
which have made the appellation of Puritans, originally
applied in scorn and derision, to become at length a name
of pride and glory. Such, it is matter of obvious remark



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24 MB CUSHINGS

and familiar conviction, are the distinctive traits, which
have descended to the inhabitants of the Eastern States.
Have we sufficiently reflected how far causes, truly similar,
although apparently different, have stamped a general con-
formity of character upon the people and institutions of the
whole United States ?

True it is, that the Puritans, the commonwealth's men
and religious independents of the times of Hampden, Pym,
Vane, and Cromwell, are the marked and predominant sect,
among the primitive people of the British Colonies. True
it is, that in the public schools founded among us, in the
houses of religious worship built, in the great struggles of
liberty conducted through years of suffering and bloodshed
to a successful issue, and in the constitutional governments
established, theirs was the consistent spirit of enlightened
and indomitable independence, which gave life and soul to
the efforts of the United Colonies. True it is, also, that
the enterprising sons of New England have sown themselves
as it were broadcast over the whole Continent, transporting
the blessings of common schools, of universal religious
instruction, and of industrious activity, along the bright track
of their advance into the farthest West. But they stood
not alone, oh no, they stood not alone, by the sacred altar
of freedom, when they pledged their Uves, their fortunes,
and their honor, in their country's cause. Protestants,
driven into exile by the intolerance of their Catholic breth-
ren in France, had come to find themselves a refuge and a
home in New York or Carolina ; Catholics, forced abroad in
Uke manner by the intolerance of their Protestant brethren
of Britain, had planted themselves in Maryland : — testify-
ing, by the community of their suffering and the diversity
of its cause, that the parts of oppressor and oppressed be-
long to no peculiar form of religious faith, to no soUtary
stream of national blood. ■ Nay, differing still from each of
these great denominations of men, were the Quakers, who



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INTRODUCTORY LECTURE. 25

peopled the banks of the Delaware, and gave their own
character of puritanism in religion and morals to the. legis-
lation and social habits of that section of the Union. And
so many thousands of wronged and persecuted Irish, and
of sufferers for opinion's sake of the various nations of
Europe, as from year to year they seek an asylum on our
shores^ — all these illustrate the workings of the great prin-
ciple, which governed the settlement of the country, and
which, qualified and mellowed by time, but by no means
deprived of its native force, still pervades the social organi*
zation of the United States.

That great principle, the only true secret of useful
popular education, is the simultaneous moral and intellect-
ual institution of the people. This is the key-stone of our
social arch ; this, the fundamental doctrine of our political
faith : — to make the cultivation of the mind go along hand
in hand with the cultivation of the moral affections ; whilst
enlarging the understanding, to purify the heart; doing
violence to no man's conscientious religious belief, and at
the same time, in the systems of education and public in-
struction of whatever kind, to enforce the great moral
truths, which belong alike to all the creeds of Christendom :
such is the great hereditary social duty devolved on the
descendants of the Puritans. In these principles were most
of the Colonies settled ; in obedience to them, were our
common schools, our colleges, and our parishes established ;
in conformity therewith were the political constitutions of
the country framed ; in and by those principles only, under
the benediction of God, and through the united intelligence
and purity of the people, can our liberties be sustained ; in
the admonition of such principles are the native children of
the soil nurtured and bred ; and to the equal enjoyment of
the blessings they ensure, do we welcome the adopted
dtizen, provided he tal^es care to bring with him the same
pure and noble moral purposes which our fathers brought,
4



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26 MR CUSHING'S

when, like them, he clauns a refuge in America fipom op*
pression and injustice in Europe.

Of mere intellectual instruction, however, there are certain
general effects, which it is impossible to deny. Such is its
tendency to diffuse in society the spirit of freedom, although
not seldom degenerating into Ucentiousness ; and to aug-
ment the comforts of life through inventions or discoveries
in useful art : — that is, in accelerating the general march of
civilization. In addition to these general effects of mere in-
tellectual instruction upon the social condition of mankind, in
civilizing it, refining and elevating it, and augmenting the
comforts and conveniences of hfe, it clearly has a moral effect
in civilizing, refining and elevating the individual character.
Or, as Addison phrases it. Education, " when it works upon
a noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and per-
fection.'' It gives men the faculty at least of judging
between right and wrong, if it do not give them the disposi^
tion to use it. He who is intellectually well-informed, can-
not but say. Video meliora proboque ; although he do add,
deteriora sequor. All the fine-spun sophistry of Rousseau
in objection to this, had been refuted, eighteen hundred
years before it was written, in TuUy's beautiful Oration for
Archias. The Genevan maintained that the pursuit of
knowledge corrupted the manlier virtues of courage, pat-
riotism, disinterestedness. Not so, said the Roman. It
were, indeed, too much to affirm that those great men, the
lights of their time, whose virtues are held up to us for im-^
itation in the records of the past, were uniformly learned
in all the teaching of books. Confess we, that many there
have been of excellent spirit and virtue, and who without
education, by a sort of divine institution of nature herself,
have risen to moral dignity through their own inborn
resources. Nay, be it admitted that nature more frequently
achieves glory and virtue without learning, than learning:
without nature. But, at the same time, when, to a distin-



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INTRODUCTORY LECTURE. 27

gukhed and illustrious nature a due proporticoi and con-
formation of teaching is adjoined, then there is used to
result a singular and surpassing perfection of greatness ; as
is the case of one divinely endowed of our fathers* titoe, Pi;b-
lius Africanus.*' And the expressions which thus literally,
with scarce a change in the place of a word, I transcribe
from the pages* of Cicero, are commended to our approba-
tion by every argument of common sense and of universal
experience.

But Instruction, inteUectual Instruction, is not of itself
sufficient to assure the moral purity of society ; and to com-
pass this, we need to develope and follow out the principle
of conjoined moral and intellectual education descended to
us from the Puritans. Late events have shown us that, with
all our intelligence, our morality, our sense of and respect
for the force of religion, we slumber in false security. On
the surface, the aspect of society is bright and smiling ; the
loveliest flowers and the richest fruits of refined life are
ours ; the fabric of our greatness lifts its proud battlements
to the skies, and pushes down its foundations deep into the
everlasting hills ; but the firqs of disorder and corruption
are smouldering beneath our feet, and may burst forth upon
us at an hour in the earthquake voice of destruction. So
far as writing, teaching, acting, may avail, there devolves
upon us the duty of counteracting and conjuring down the
troubled spirit of disorganization ; of drying up the sources
€^ evil and opening new fountains of good ; of seeking
to infuse into society not only liberal knowledge, but also
sound moral and religious principles. There is, in the
heart even of our purest cities, a crusade preaching against
the very existence of social order, a war waged on all we
most value in our national institutions, of religious, moral,
social and political. The crisis calls loudly on the for^

* Ciceron. Orat. pro Arcfaia, c. 7.



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28 MR CUSHtNCS

bearance and virtuous feeling of every member of societj ;
but there be classes of individuals, having pre-eminent
capacity of usefulness. They are,

In the first place, all men of moderate means, who are
looking to acquire a competency in life by their skill or
appUcation to business. These have particular cause to
reprobate a disorganized state of society ; because such
men, with their families cannot fail to be among the first
victims of any great social convulsion. At such crises,
the very rich may transfer their wealth to foreign funds, or
during the early stages of change employ it in profitable
usury at home ; the very poor have nothing to lose ; but all
intermediate classes are crushed and swallowed up in the
vortex of national calamity. Doubtless the apostles of
the new political faith hold up an equal distribution
of property as the lure of their school. If it were to
be so, it would be to purchase a small temporary good at
the price of a great permanent evil. But such a distribution
would never take place. Suppose a social revolution to
be impending in this country. What would be the practi*


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Online LibraryAmerican Institute of InstructionAnnual meeting of the American Institute of Instruction → online text (page 4 of 22)