Sidebilder
PDF
[ocr errors]

den revolution in the general order of things, or an unavoidable train of reverses. There is scarcely one of the great modern wars of which the conclusion does not exhibit a wide variance between the points adjusted and those originally adduced as the motives of the contest. England, France, Spain, Austria, nave all, in turn, after being the aggressors, sought peace, nearly in the guise of suppliants, and to obtain it, gladly consented to wave the pretensions of their manifestos; this, too, without derogating from their authority and credit. The estimation of a people is not impaired by an accidental miscarriage; but depends upon the real extent and productiveness of their resources; the tried spirit and prudence of their counsels. Circumstances are to regulate governments, and in making peace when peace is necessary, they are to consider not what they have, abstractedly, a right to demand, but what they are able to obtain. The merits of a treaty are to be tested by the relative situation of the parties at the time it is made; by the evils which it may avert, as much as by the advantages it may secure. Judging from the debates and measures of the present Congress respecting the regular force and military academies, I must fear that one of the most striking lessons of the war has been lost on that body;—a lesson taught by our revolutionary contest, and confirmed by universal experience. To be powerful and secure, we should have a good military organization of the regular kind; a well-trained standing army, officers technically educated, fortifications scientifically constructed; our political constitution and our treasury can bear them. Circumstanced as we are, we could have nothing to fear for our liberties from quadruple the force now retained, and in the event of war for which common sense bids us be always prepared, the adoption of a liberal plan of the sort would be discovered to be a real economy. The formation of good officers—that is to say, men. regularly educated in the sciences and the dispositions appropriate to the military art,--is a leading feature of this system. For this purpose the military academies providently recommended by the executive, are indispensable. If rightly constituted, they would yield a rich harvest of capacity not only for the military, but for every other branch of the public service; and of intellectual light for the refinement and illustration of the national character. The number proposed cannot, certainly, be deemed too considerable, when the question is dispassionately examined. We are sadly wanting in officers of the stamp to be produced by the military academies. We could not do better, in a country which professes to depend mainly upon its militia for the protection of its liberties both from foreign and domestic aggression, than to distribute throughout the nation, men of sound military education and martial spirit, who might effectually train, lead, and animate their fellow-citizens, and make perfect our assurance of defence. We Vol. I. c

should, therefore, in fact aim at a surplus of such men beyond the exigencies of the regular force. We should, indeed, so small is the number of well constituted seminaries of liberal learning among us, improve eagerly every opportunity of multiplying them in any shape; accept every chance of increasing our slender stock of scientific intellect. It has been roundly stated in Congress that those of the pupils of the military academies who might not enter into the army, would lose their academical acquirements or find them an impediment to success, in the business of civil life; in short, that their studies would be useless or detrimental to themselves and of no emolument to the state. I feel ashamed of this suggestion in the mouth of a member of the “great council of the nation,” and I can best answer it with respect to the pupils themselves, by recalling an observation of the celebrated Dutch pensioner De Wit, who when asked towards the end of his eminent political career, what had gone with the mathematics upon which he had bestowed so much time and labour in his youth, answered, that they had passed from his memory into his judgment. We have, perhaps, beyond all other countries, room for an application profitable both to the individual and the state, of the branches of knowledge which should be taught in military academies: We want besides military engineers, engineers of mines, of canals, of roads and bridges, geodaetical, hydrographical engineers, &c. &c. If even there was no scope for such application, the possessor could be at no loss, in this country, for an honourable pursuit which would yield him a decent subsistence, and he must always be, in any profession, a public good. His education would have any tendency other than that of impairing the eiasticity and independence of mind, natural to an American. The Polytechnick school of Paris is the proper model with certain qualifications for the institutions in question. In a late report to Louis XVIII. concerning the origin and constitution of this school, the regents, savans and politicians of the first order,hold a language which it is well worth our while to note. “Of “the pupils of the school”—say they—“who have engaged “in the several branches of public service, a part have furnished “professors not only to the school itself, but to various establish“ments for instruction; several of them have contributed to the “ progress of French industry, by applying the fruits of a com“prehensive education to the exercise of arts and manufactures; “many occupy high stations in the public administration. We “may say, with confidence that the Polytechnick school has very “effectually served the sciences by the profound enquiries to “which most of the professors and the most distinguished pupils “have devoted themselves. They have enriched the academical “Transactions with important memoirs: The journal of the school “itself forms one of these Transactions, and has an honourable “place in the libraries of the learned. Many of the members of “the school have won by their labours, occasionally even by their “discoveries, the honour of being admitted into the most cele“brated societies of Europe. The whole number of the pupils “sent forth may not be employed in the several branches of the “public service. But, it is easy to perceive, and we have already - “experienced, the advantage of the annual dispersion throughout “ the various professions of society, of a number of individuals “ of solid and extensive education, whose attainments are still “useful to the state, although the possessors may be engaged in “the private walks of industry. “It is not in France merely that these advantageous results are “appreciated. Foreign nations and governments have testified “ their esteem for the establishment, and adopted it as a model “for similar ones undertaken by themselves.” Sovereigns and governments alone can raise up institutions for education of the amplitude and mechanism required to give energy and efficacy to all the human faculties. Without such institutions we cannot, in the United States, expect to display that perfection of individual and social being, which the Furopean nations have nearly attained, and which we are, in other respects, beyond the rest of the world, privileged to reach. It is to the national government that we must look for the means of becoming the rivals of Europe in the pursuits which give most honour and happiness to our species. The state-governments have not the ability, and are not likely to have the inclination, to create those means. We are a great commercial and are to be a great military people, only through the Federal system; we can become a literary and philosophical people by the same agency alone. All these qualifications are necessary to constitute national greatness upon the scale which suits our unrivalled opportunities. We must be Greece, Rome, and Carthage at once, or, what is more, modern Italy, France and England in the same frame. - We have no universities or colleges in the proper sense. All our institutions of the name are imperfect or mutilated. General Washington, though not himself learned, knew how to value a university in the European meaning, and foresaw that this grand desideratum was to be supplied only by the comprehensive wisdom of Congress, and the opulence of the federal treasury. The particular motives of irresistible force which he has alleged for its creation under these auspices were, I doubt not, subordinate with him and merely subsidiary to his general views of its absolute indispensableness. The measure has been presented to Congress in some of its true aspects by the President, and recommended to the same body in the report of its committee on the subject, with much ingenuity and eloquence. The competency of the treasury to the undertaking, as well as to other domestic improvements, seems to be universally admitted.

And who can hesitate to acknowledge that this is the most important and pressing of all such improvements? It is this upon which the rest must depend for their proper execution; to which we must look for the spirit which will desire and urge, the knowledge which will devise and guide future improvements ad infinitum. The expansive, positive utility of the abstract sciences,—so admirably shewn in the Address of Cuvier to the French Institute, which I have purposely inserted in the present volume—may apart, escape common observers; but all must be sensible of the paramount value and efficiency, no less than grandeur and beauty of those sciences as exhibited in a military academy both in the theory and application, and in a university still further, in the association with polite literature and the fine arts.

“National glory,” says an illustrious English orator,” “is the “most valuable possession of a people: the smallest portion of it “is worth a whole Archipelago of sugar islands.” There may be triteness, but there is not the less truth, in the remark, that the brightest and most durable national glory is that which results from a pre-eminence in science and literature. The triumphs of a people, in this field, are fully worth those of its arms: its works of genius and learning yield as rich a harvest of reputation, as its military conquests. Greece shines as brilliantly through Homer and Plutarch as through the heroes whom they have immortalized: England through Newton more than through Marlborough. Academies and laboratories are, in fact, ultimately as lucrative, as they are productive of renown, to a nation.

The sovereigns, and wealthy individuals of Europe are at this moment performing acts of the most splendid munificence in favour of literature and science; the emulation of liberality and patriotism, in erecting and endowing institutions for education on the broadest scale, was never more active in that quarter; and the conviction seems to be universal that pride and patriotism could not be more beneficially exerted. Hungary, Transylvania, Servia, Siberia, all are eager in the culture of the sciences and letters, and in the formation of permanent magazines of knowledge. It is time for our federal government which possesses the political attributes, to be invested with the graces, of sovereignty—those I mean, which result from the patronage of objects distinct from the material. We have, in our national capacity, done almost nothing for the cause of science; the military academy at West Point— such as it is—is the only trophy of Congress and the federal trea

* Mr. Wyndham. There is a collection of his speeches in three volumes, which cannot be too highly valued. So much sound sense, wit, eloquence, pure English, are rarely to be found in the same compass. His speeches on military organization, and the debates of the British Parliament generally on this subject, deserve the attention of our legislators previous to the adoption of a militia-classification, or a scheme of recruitment.

[graphic]

sury—in the sense in which all civilized, christian sovereignties seem of late to set no bounds to their ambition. Is th federal government dispensed from entering the lists of beneficence and honour by an all-efficient eagerness in the people and the state authorities to win for themselves the palm; to pay, themselves, the tribute due to their own greater prosperity, and the glory of the American name? The very reverse.—The proneness of all is towards monied institutions, and the grosser pursuits:—the state-authorities think only of banks, or if they turn their attention to the matter of education, their views are confined to what the transactions of common life or the professions as a means of livelihood, may exact. With respect to individuals, there is, perhaps, not one of the very many opulent persons spread throughout these States, who can be cited as a patron of letters. The current of taste, feeling, habit, desire, sets in another direction. In every institution of the kind under consideration, you furnish an alterative. The federal government must take the lead in administering the remedy, or the disease will grow inveterate. Indeed, as the federal government almost monopolizes the emoluments of taxation, it alone can be supposed to possess the means sufficient for a large Foundation. Neither the states nor individuals can be expected to furnish ample endowments. The lights necessary for the proper organization of a learned corporation are, if not within or immediately about the federal government, more especially at its command. A well-constituted national university, perfect as it easily might be in its general frame and details, would induce the desired improvement in the structure of the academical institutions which we already enjoy, and prove the fruitful mother of many others of better arrangement. Under the auspices and supervision, and in the immediate vicinity, of the federal government, a great literary foundation would best fulfil its vocation and flourish in its proper estate. All the members of it, professors and pupils, would be under excitements and restraints which, obviously, could not, elsewhere, be

found. Emulation would have springs peculiar to the situation, .

and of the utmost power. All deficiencies might and would be supplied, and degeneracies prevented. On the other hand, the government, particularly the legislative branch, may, without disparagement, be expected to improve in the new atmosphere which would be created for its leisure hours. The neighbourhood of a body of learned professors, of a numerous society habitually employed in scientific and classical enquiries, of an active system of encyclopedical instruction, must prove an advantage which would soon be distinguishable in the tone and temper of our political legislation. There could be no difficulty in concentrating much of the best learning and genius now employed or dormant elsewhere throughout the United States, and, as Europe is cir

« ForrigeFortsett »