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The rebuilding of old commonwealths, being essays toward the training of the forgotten man in the southern states; online

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it is time for a wiser statesmanship
and a more certain means of grace.


And surely of all people the preacher
and the politician ought, in common
modesty, to be the last to oppose a new
system of education for the develop-
ment of the undeveloped masses.

But now the story brightens. These
old educational systems having failed
here, as they have failed in other
States, the public -spirited, far-sighted
and energetic young men, chief among
them your own President and the
President of the University, who came
into activity ten years or more ago,
began seriously to develop a public
school system, first of course in the
towns. They developed by their own
earnestness the work that had been in
part planned by men like Major Finger.
One town followed another, levying a
local tax to supplement the State tax.
I doubt if such an educational revival
was ever known in any other State,


certainly nothing like it was ever
known before in North Carolina. I am
sure that you who have lived here con-
tinuously for the last ten years do not
know how great the quickening of
civilization has been. The level of
life has been moved further upward in
these ten years than it was moved in
any preceding fifty years. I never
come here but I am astonished at the
changes I hear of. The civilization that
you have to-day is different from the
civilization of my own boyhood by a
greater remove than that civilization
was different from the civilization of
fifty years before.

In my judgment there has been no
other event in North Carolina since the
formation of the American Union
that is comparable in importance to
this new educational progress. The
movement now has such momentum


that nothing can hinder the complete
development of the public school sys-
tem till every child is reached. When
every inhabited township votes a local
tax to supplement the State tax, the
taxes you now levy will seem small
and will be increased. According to
the last published reports of the Com-
missioner of Education, the total sum
spent per year per pupil in the public
schools was still lower in North Caro-
lina than in any State except South
Carolina, It was only $3.40. In
Georgia it was nearly $6. 50, in Virginia
it was nearly $9, in Indiana it was $20,
in Michigan nearly $20, in Wisconsin
$21, in Minnesota nearly $30, in the
new State of North Dakota it was
nearly $33.50 — nearly ten times the
expenditure per pupil that was made
in North Carolina. None of these
States is richer than your own in


possibilities. The ability to maintain
schools is in proportion rather to the
appreciation of education than to the
amount of wealth. We pay for schools
not so much out of our purses as out of
our state of mind. For example, there
is a man in Moore County who had two
children at school at the expense of
somebody else. Although he did not
pay their bills, he took them from
school the other day because, he said,
the charge for tuition was too high.
He is the frankest and most faithful
believer of our old-time economic creed
that I have ever known.

As the movement to establish public
schools ever3nvhere gathers force, men
of wealth will find that they can do
no public service with their money so
sure to bring lasting results as to build
schoolhouses. The history of philan-
thropy shows that no public bene-


faction brings the same sure and per-
manent results as provision for the free
education of the masses. The battle
will be practically won when the whole
State shall stand on this platform:

A public school system generously
supported by public sentiment, and gen-
erously maintained by both State and
local taxation, is the only effective means
to develop the forgotten man, and even
more surely the only means to develop the
forgotten woman.

Even ten years ago, many men in
North Carolina did not stand on this
platform. Now I hear that few oppose
such a programme, and those few you
will soon educate for sheer pity.

Standing in this institution to-day,
it seems incredible that I myself can
recall the opposition both of political
leaders and of ecclesiastical leaders
to free public schools. Nothing else


ever made me so nearly hopeless.
Thank Heaven, that opposition is
passed. Or, if it be not wholly passed,
and if any dupe of an old political fallacy
say that we are too poor to increase
our taxes for education, remember
that the average amount paid now by
every taxpayer is only $2.13; the
average amount paid by each tax-
payer in the poor State of Maine is
$9.23; in Virginia $4.72, in Florida
$5.93; in Iowa it is $15. Too poor to
m.aintain schools? The man who says
it is the perpetuator of poverty. It
is the doctrine that has kept us poor.
It smells of the alms-house and the hovel.
It has driven more men and more wealth
from the State and kept more away
than any other political doctrine ever
cost us — more even than the doctrine
of Secession. Such a man is the victim
of an ancient and harmful falsehood.


If any beggar for a church school
oppose a local tax for schools or a
higher school tax, take him to the
huts of the forgotten women and
children, and in their hopeless presence
remind him that the church system
of education has not touched tens of
thousands of these lives, and ask him
whether he think it wrong that the
Commonwealth should educate them.
If he think it wrong, ask him and ask
the people plainly, whether he be a
worthy preacher of the gospel that
declares one man equal to another in
the sight of God? Is not one man
equal to another also in the sight of
the Commonwealth? In all reason-
ableness, it is impossible to under-
stand how any man can regard it as a
Christian act to stand in the way of
the State's elevating the neglected
masses. Can any church afford to


put itself in such a position ? or, if it do,
has it any right to complain if good
men declare it an unchristian attitude ?
Even if you could respect the religion
of the man who objects to the elevation
of the forgotten masses by public
education, it is hard to respect his
common sense; for does his church not
profit by the greater enlightenment
and prosperity that every educated
community enjoys? This doctrine
smells of poverty — poverty in living,
poverty in thinking, poverty in the
spiritual life.

The most sacred thing in the Com-
monwealth and to the Commonwealth
is the child, whether it be your child
or the child of the dull-faced mother
of the hovel. The child of the dull-
faced mother may, for all you know,
be the most capable child in the State.
At its worst, it is capable of good


citizenship and a useful life, if its in-
telligence be quickened and trained.
Several of the strongest personalities
that were ever born in North Carolina
were men whose very fathers were un-
known. We have all known two such,
who held high places in church and
state. President Eliot said a little
while ago that the ablest man that
he had known in his many years'
connection with Harvard University
was the son of a brick mason. The
child, whether it have poor parents
or rich parents, is the most valuable
undeveloped resource of the State.

But the day is past when worn-out
theories hold us in captivity, and we
owe its passing chiefly to the idea that
this institution stands for. Our whole
life will soon be delivered from the
bondage of ignorance by our hitherto
forgotten women. I am reminded of the


story of the saving of a captured city by
its gentlewomen. In an old translation
of Montaigne it runs thus :

"The Emperor, Conradus, third of that
name, having besieged Guelphe, Duke of
Bavaria, what vile or base satisfaction so-
ever was offered him, would yield to no
other milder onditions, but only to suffer
such gentle women as were with the Duke
in the city (their honours safe) to issue out
the town afoote, with such things as they
could carry about them. They, with un-
relenting courage, advised and resolved
themselves (neglecting all their riches or
jewels to carry their husbands, their chil-
dren and the Duke himselfe, on their
backs. The Emperor, perceiving the
quaintnesse of their device, tooke so great
pleasure in it that he wept for joy, and
forthwith converted the former inex-
orable rage and mortall hatred he bare the
Duke into so milde a relenting and gentle
kindnesse, that thence he entreated both
him and his, with all favour and courtesy."

You that know me will bear witness
that I have not spoken of our fathers,
nor of our political leaders, least of all


of our religious leaders, in a spirit of
ungrateful criticism. I have meant
with all proper respect for them and
for their good qualities and good works
only to show that their systems have
proved failures for our needs. Doubt-
less under the conditions of thier lives
they did the best they could do. But
the conditions of our lives are different ;
and our duty is to accept our own
conditions without illusions, to face
our own problems like men, and when
necessary with all respect for the past
to lift dead men's hands from our

May I go fonvard a step further in
the development of public education
that must in due time follow this
delivery from the bondage of the old
systems? The extension of free pre-
paratory schools in every part of the
State is leading to the establishment


of free high schools, such as already
exist in some towns, as in Greensboro
and in Durham, and in other larger
towns. These will draw to themselves
the intellectual interests of the whole
community and make the public school
system the pride of our people. I
know towns where every enlightening
interest centres in the high school.
Lectures are given there on literature
and on music and on practical subjects
as well, by the most learned men and
women. Parents pursue courses of
study with their children. The whole
life of such towns is lifted to a high in-
tellectual level. In some such towns
private schools exist only to train
those boys and girls who are too dull
or backward to keep pace with the
rest — a sort of asylums for the stupid.
My own sons are to-day preparing to
enter Harvard University at the Cam-


bridge Latin school, where the sons
and daughters of the professors at
Harvard are in the same classes, or
may be, with the sons and daughters
of draymen and hack-drivers. All have
the same privileges and the same op-
portunities; and no pupil can buy even
a book or a pencil; the city supplies
them all. Every man pays for it in
his taxes; and every man profits by it
in the increased value of his property,
in the higher wages he receives, as a
higher and higher degree of skill in all
work is developed, and a higher and
higher level of trained life is reached.
On their way home from school these
pupils may stop at a magnificent public
library and take from it any book they
please free of charge, or spend the
day in the large reading rooms, in-
vestigating any subject they may be
interested in. So may any man or


woman or child in the whole city, free
of charge. The library building was
the gift of a wealthy citizen. The
books are paid for by my taxes and
the taxes of other men there. Every
town in Massachusetts, but about a
dozen small and remote towns, has
such a free library — the direct growth
of a public school system. The States
of New York and Michigan send travel-
ling libraries of new books — collections
of good literature — to any town that
asks for them and has a public library
of its own. After these hundred or
two volumes have remained in one
town the allotted time, they are sent
on to another, and so on indefinitely —
all at the State's expense.

When I have seen these things and
profited by them, and when I know
that men are every day going away
from this old land that they love to


get such advantages for themselves
and for their children, can I listen to
the mendicant whine of any ignorant
political or ecclesiastical leader who says
that my children had better not be
educated at all if they cannot be bred
with his narrow outlook on life ?

Now look a little further yet along
the line of development of the public
school system. Following the high
school may come (and I think ought
to come), a still higher extension of
State education — the wholly free Uni-
versity and Industrial Schools. When
your University was established, the
old political idea of education prevailed,
and a restricted number of boys from
each county w^as admitted free — and
these only. This system discriminates
in favour of a restricted number of
youths and against all the rest. It is
still only a partially free system. There


is always a danger that the boys who
pay, if it be known who they are, will
regard those who do not pay as charity
students. If all alike were free — as all
in my judgment ought to be — no such
danger could arise.

The old aristocratic system had a
leaning towards charity as the ecclesi-
astical system has; and the view of
education as a charity has always been
one of the greatest weaknesses of both
systems. Education pays the State.
The more persons educated the better
education pays the State. But to dole
it out to a restricted number is to
regard it as charity and to turn the State
into an alms-giver. Most of the East-
ern States, where the aristocratic idea
was strongest, have stopped short of
free universities; but many of the
Western States have been wiser.

In the State of Michigan, for instance.


a child of either sex may begin its edu-
cation at a pubHc school and pursue it
through the State University without
charge; and this University has be-
come one of the strongholds of learning
in the Union and one of our great
schools. A similar system has been
adopted in Kansas, in Texas, and in
other States. Any child in any one of
those great Commonwealths may have
free training from infancy to maturity —
free training in one of the most efficient
systems of education ever devised by
man. And this system has been con-
structed and developed almost within
the lifetime of the youngest of us.

The opportunity exists in North
Carolina to establish a similar system
by a single effort and without any con-
siderable increase of expenditure. We
have our State University, most useful
and vigorous under its recent President,


and its present one, and we have our
three larger and older denominational
colleges — Davidson College with its
solidity and old-time dignity, Wake
Forest College, a striking demonstration
of what people of moderate means
may at any time do when they work
with united purpose, and Trinity Col-
lege with its new life made possible by
its generous benefactors. We have all
these and the other State schools and
denominational schools for boys and
for girls. If they could all be united
into one great school, it would at once
become by far the most efficient and
noteworthy institution in the South.
And there is no reason why it should
not become one of the great seats of
learning in the Union. If the doors of
such an institution were thrown open
free to every boy and girl in the State,
and there were free schools to train


them for it, we should no longer talk
of forgotten men and women; and
people from other States would seek
homes here. These counties would be
peopled at last by as useful and as
cultivated a population as any in the
United States.

Nor need the religious influence of
any of the denominational colleges
suffer by such a move when the time
for it comes. Every one might have
its own dormitory and religious super-
vision over pupils of its own sect. A
definite movement of this sort has
already been made where the denomi-
national schools have shown a wish to
become a part of the system of public

But I have wandered too far from
the problems of the immediate present.
Such things as I have spoken of, we
may look for in the future. What may


we not look for in the future? What-
ever I might say in prophecy would
be as inadequate as all that I might
say in congratulation. Great changes
come as silently as the seasons. I am
no more sure of this spring time than I
am of the rejuvenation of our society
and the lifting up of our life. A revo-
lution is in progress, and this institu-
tion is one of the first and best fruits
of it. I declare in truth and soberness,
that this is the most inspiring sight
that I have ever seen in North Carolina,
for before the moral earnestness of
well-trained women social illusions van-
ish and worn-out traditions fall away.

O earnest young Womanhood of the
Commonwealth, we that had forgotten
you now thankfully do you honour.
Many a man with the patriotic spirit
that is our inheritance has striven to
lift dead men's hands from our stagnant


life and has been baffled by a century's
inertia. I speak the gladdest speech of
my life when I say that you have lifted
them. This institution and your pres-
ence is proof that the State has re-
membered the forgotten woman. You
in turn will remember the forgotten
child; and in this remembrance is laid
the foundation of a new social order.
The neglected people will rise and with
them will rise all the people.

The School That Built a Town


[An Address delivered at the Commencement of the
State Normal School at Athens, Ga., December
II, igoi.]

I HEARTILY thank you for your
invitation to come here; for I
think that your school stands
for as useful work as any work done in
the world.

The training of children in the pub-
lic schools gives exercise to the highest
qualities — sympathy, self-sacrifice, the
love of every human creature and the
love of our country. These are the
virtues that make men and women
strong and lovely.

Your work also brings results of the


highest value. The American people
of this generation are a people of great
practical skill ; but the American people
of the next generation, the Georgians
among them if you do your task well,
will be the most efficient people on
the earth.

Your work, too, is free from doubt.
There is work that men must do without
enthusiasm. There is work that brings
only the unrelieved weariness of toil
and a plodding gait. But the direct
value of what you do is free from doubt
in all sound minds ; for you are building
the noblest fabric of society, which is a
world-conquering trained democracy.
Whatever others may be doing, then,
you are working with the central
secret of human progress; and it is an
inspiration to see you.

And now, if I can repay you at all,


it must be by telling you the story of
the school that built a town.

It is the town of Northwood. Its
early history is like the early history
of hundreds of other American towns.
The people who lived there were mer-
chants, lawyers, preachers, doctors;
a rich man or two; a few men that
had workshops and those that worked
for them: carpenters, clerks, labourers,
a few loafers, a few rum sellers — the
same kind of population that you could
find almost anywhere in the Union.
They were people of sturdy stock and
good qualities. Most of them were of
American parentage; but there were
Germans, Irish, Jews and two French-
men — one a dancing master, who taught
fencing also, and the other a teacher of
his language. And life went on there
as life goes on in all such communities.
The people were pretty well-off. When


court was in session many countrymen
came to town, and all the loafers
gathered about the court-house, and
the lawyers gave the hotel an air of
importance as if it were a big hotel in
a big town. The farmers filled the
market place on Saturday and the
stores and the grog-shops drove a
thriving trade. But the savings bank
had many depositors, the churches
were well filled on Sunday, and the
Sunday-schools swarmed with pretty
children; for it was a town of large

And there were schools of course.
One was kept by a good lady who had
studied French and music in her youth
and who held on in her widowhood
to the memories of her triumphs
which still threw a gentle halo over
her. She taught at her home a group
of the best-bred children of the town.


She taught them to speak with a cer-
tain prim correctness, and at the end
of every term she coached them to
stand in their pretty frocks and clean
breeches in a pretty row and to recite
pretty verses and to make a pretty
bow to their mothers. They took
home good reports and their parents
said that they were very fortunate to
have so cultivated a lady to teach
their children.

There was another school kept by
another lady. She was young and
energetic and she put emphasis on
modern methods of education. She
had the real Frenchman to teach
French. She laid great stress on calis-
thenics and she put on gymnasium
clothes herself and led the children in
their exercises. She was a young
woman of great physical vigour, and
naturally the children of strenuous


parents came to her school and they
boasted that she made it her business
to teach, not to confer a social dis-
tinction on her pupils.

Then there was a school for boys
at which they were prepared for busi-
ness or for college, and it was a good
academy of the old sort. Two men
owned and conducted it. One was an
old-fashioned scholar who made the
boys learn the Latin grammar by heart,
and who flogged them when they failed ;
and he was looked upon as men afar off
look upon stem Learning. If you
could have taken the popular con-
ception of the Higher Education, clothed
it in flesh and put a plug hat on it, you
would have had that man. If you
had met him in the street for the first
time, you would have known his calling
and could have guessed his history;
for he had won prizes at the iiniversity


in his classical studies. It was some-
times said that he recited Horace to
himself with his eyes shut while he
pretended to look at the boys play
baseball. His partner was a book-
keeper and a business man who taught
the boys that were taking the com-
mercial course to keep accounts and
to write a plain hand; and he taught
the English branches also. The boys
who attended this school were the
sons of the best-to-do families of the
town, and there were boarding pupils

Then still another school was es-
tablished in Northwood when the town
had grown a little bigger. This was a
seminary for young ladies, and it was
a church-school. A preacher and his
wife were the principals; and, besides
the girls that lived in the town, a good
many came from a distance. The


church had suppHed the money to
build a large house for it, and the
young ladies' seminary was one of
the things that a part of the town was
proudest of. Most of its pupils came
from families that held the faith of
the church that had built it. The
girls of other religious faiths were
sent away to finishing schools which
were under the management of their
own churches.

Nor were the poor forgotten ; for the
people took pride also in providing a
public school. The building was not
large, nor the equipment worth men-
tioning; and two young women were
engaged at very low salaries to conduct
it. They were generally selected be-
cause they needed the salaries ; and the
teachers were changed every year or
two, sometimes because they got tired,
and sometimes because they got mar-


ried, but oftenest because there were
other young women who wanted the
places, and turn about was regarded as
fair play,

No man could say, therefore, that
Northwood was not well supplied with
schools. When a stranger went to the
town, the people boasted to him of
their zeal in education. But the town
grew bigger, and almost every year
there were changes in the schools. One
year the cultivated old lady's school
for children was split into two, not
because of anything that happened
in the school, but because of a church
quarrel in the social set that patronized
it. Another year the dismissal of a

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Online LibraryWalter Hines PageThe rebuilding of old commonwealths, being essays toward the training of the forgotten man in the southern states; → online text (page 2 of 6)