Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

government furnish no security against the encroachments and oppressive acts of the majorily. This, however, is no defect; for no form of government, and no constitution within the power of inan to devise, can provide such security. Our safety is not in constitutions and forms of governmeut, but in the establishment of a right system of general education; in the developement and culture of those moral, as well as inteliectual powers implanted in the nature of man. So far as these powers are seen to exercise a controlling influence over the actions of men and nations, they are to be trusted.

Indeed our safety, as individuals, under God, must lie in those restraints, which virtue and intelligence throw around the great heart of the majority of numbers. The desire to do right must be planted in the deep bosom of the people, and no means of promoting the perception of right neglected. The faculties, the susceptibilities, the emotions, ihe feelings, which make up the great sum of mind, must be cultivated and improved by right instruction. Generally diffused elucation, combining the great powers of intelligence and a pure virtue, is the only safeguard of our public and our private rights; and upon the progress of this alone, depends the future permanence and character of all our republican institutions.

The object of education is to raise up, not to pull down ; to improve the condition of man, to advance the interests of the whole people, while increasing the individual happiness and pros. perity of every member in the commonwealth. If education results in the perfection of government, it also leads to the like perfection in science, in the arts, and in every species of impruvement. It is education that unfolds the hidden inysteries of création, and introduces man to the secret springs, by which he is destined to arrive at the highest degree of physical, intellectual and moral attainment. The improvements she is yet to make, and which she alone can make, in machinery, in the mechanic arts, and in the implements of husbandry, will secure to every nan, with four hour's labor, a competence for himself and his family. The great balance of time, expended as it should be, in moral and mental culture, would introduce us at once to the golden age of man. A less amount of labor than this can never be desired. Such an amount is essential to the beauty and perlection of his physical nature--to the developement, the healthy and vigorous action of his bodily constitution and powers.

The people of the older states, sensible of the urgent necessity of education, are awaking to redoubled efforts in its behalf. Wise men in those states, confident that this is the only way to preserve a preponderating influence in the general government of our common country, have been and are promoting every means to advance the cause of general education, with the avowed purpose

He per

of raising up men of distinguished attainments and ability to guide and direct in their councils. This was the purpose of Jefferson when he founded the University of Virginia. ceived that power was gradually passing the mountains, and that, at no distant period, it was destined to take up its abode in the great valley of the Mississippi ; and instead of bewailing its departure, set himself to devise ways and means to retain and exercise all the influence that high attainments in literature, science and the arts, can give to any people. Governor Everett, in his late address at the commencement of Williams' College, urges education upon the people of Massachusetts for the same reason. "I am strongly convinced,” says he, “that it behooves our ancient commonwealth to look anxiously to this subject, if she wishes to maintain her honorable standing in the union of the states."

Would Michigan obtain a high rank and an honorable distinction in this matchless confederacy of states--would she keep pace with the rapid march of improvement and of mind—would she exert her just share of influence in the grand councils of the nation let her stretch every nerve and ply every means to move forward the glorious work. Let Perseverance be written upon the walls of her capitol, and let this be the watchword of her people, till every child in the state shall become thoroughly educated and fitted to fulfil his duty faithfully, to his country and his God. The object is high, the inducements great, and the rewards above all price.

The progress of our school system has been as rapid as could rationally have been anticipated. Scarcely two years and a half have elapsed since the first movement was made. During this period, the system has been devised, matured and adopted, and is now generally in successful operation. The success of the system will be evident, from an inspection of the three successive reports of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In the fall of eighteen hundred and thirty-six, thirty-nine townships reported fifty-five districts, having two-thousand three hundred and thirtyseven, between the ages of five and sixteen. In the fall of eighteen hundred and thirty-seven, one hundred and nine townships reported three hundred and cighty-two districts, having fifteen thousand four hundred and forty-one, between the ages of five and seventeen. During the past fall

, being that of eighteen hundred and thirty-e'ght, iwo hundred and forty-five townships have reported fifteen hundred and nine districts, with rising thirtyfour thousand, between those ages. An, increasing interest in primary school education is manifesting itself in all parts of the state. This is shewn in the general desire to obtain correct information in regard to all proceedings under the law, and the rapid multiplication of school-houses. It is indicated also, in the liberal provisions made during the past year, for the support of schools. For the crection of houses and support of schools, the districts have voluntarily raised the past year, the sum of $91,717.

The importance of statistical knowledge is becoming every year, more and more apparent. It is only by such information as statistics furnish, that the wants of a community can be ascertained, and its progress in improvement determined. The reform in the discipline of prisons, and in the penitentiary system of the United Staies generally, had its origin in such knowledge. Without the facts which statistics embody, the legislator must grope his way in the darkness of ignorance. Destitute of these facts, and the light which they furnish, if evils exist, he cannot apply the proper remedy. The legislator may, in conformity to the popular sentiment, determine that every child in the stato shall be educated, and provide the means for such education ; but how can he know that his will is obeyed, and the means properly applied, without that full and perfect knowledge of the subject, which the statistics of education alone can furnish.

Our school law provides for a yearly enumeration of all the children and youth of the state between certain ages; and for a full report from all the schools organized under this law. In justice to all concerned, ought not provision to be made for a full report from all private schools ? As the law now stands, an imputation may be thrown upon some townships that least deserve it. For instance, the township of A, according to the enumeration, has five hundred between the ages of five and seventeen, but reports only four hundred as in school ; while the township of B, according to the enumeration, has four hundred between those ages, but reports as actually in school, four hundred and fifty. A wrong inference may be drawn from these facts as reported, and an unjust imputation thrown upon the township of A ; this township having, what does not appear from the reports, one hundred and sixty in private schools. It is therefore respectfully proposed, that the law be so amended as to require of all private schools a report setting forth the number between the ages of five and seventeen; and also the number in attendance under five and over seventeen. These, with the reports now required, would give the whole number at school, throughout the state.

In regard to the collection of taxes of school districts, there is undoubtedly a defect in the law. The fourth provision of section sixteen, chapter three, title eleven, authorizes the assessor “10 collect all taxes assessed upon the property of his district ; * and in the collection of taxes upon lands and tenements, said assessor shall make returns to the treasurer of the county in the same manner as township collectors; and it shall be the duty of the treasurer to sell the lands and tenements for the collection of said school tax in the same manner as is required for the collec

tion of township and county taxes." On referring to the law for the collection of township and county taxes, it appears that the treasurer has no authority, in any case, to sell lands and tenements for the collection of such taxes. It is made his duty to send to the Auditor General, an account of all lands and tene. ments returned to the office of the said county treasurer ; and the Auditor General is empowered to sell the same. It is proposed that the law be so amended, as to authorize the treasurers of the counties, either to sell such lands and tenements as are "returned to them," or to forward the same to the Auditor General for sale.

It is also thought the law in another respect, needs to be amended. Individuals

are now liable to lose their lands, held by certificate of sale, on account of the failure of those with whom they may be associated in the purchase. A and B purchase university or school lands, make the first payment and commence improve.

It may be an original purchase, or a purchase by assignment, and the whole included in one certificate. It may be a joint ownership or otherwise. When the instalment and interest fall due, A is ready to pay, but B has failed. As the law now stands, A must forfeit as well as B, though he is ready and willing to pay, not only his proportion, but fulfil the contract, if the whole title could be transferred to him : but the superintendent is not authorized to make the transfer. It certainly does not seem reasonable and just to oblige A to forfeit on account of the failure of B.

In case of actual forfeiture, it is submitted to the consideration of the legislature, whether it would not be advisable, to empower the Superintendent to transfer the title to such person or persons as may be disposed to fulfil the contract ; and hold such lands, as may still remain on hand, subject to sale at the original bids. This will bring them into market, without the expense and trouble of another public sale. Besides, it would entirely do away with all the inducements which now cxist in certain cases, to forfeit, and protect the departinent from all liability of being defrauded.

Owing to the embarrassment of the country the past year, many purchasers have failed to pay who still wish to retain their lands. Among these there are cases which require consideration; and perhaps the interposition of the legislature. They are purchasers who have made improvements and are able to make payınent of the interest only: But the Superintendent is not authorized to receive and endorse the interest, without the instalment. In cases like these, purchasers have left money in deposite for the payment of interest, on condition the legislature should authorize it to be received and endorsed, or to be returned, should their lands be declared forfeited. It is true indeed that some of these lands are already forfeited in law, but it was deemed within the discretion of this department, whether to declare them forfeited immediately on the first failure.

It is also submitted, as worthy of consideration, whether, after twenty per centum of the principal is paid, it would not be policy to require only the interest, so long as it shall be promptly paid. Though there may be fluctuations in the value of real estate, yet in a country where improvements are being rapidly made, it is not to be apprehended that these lands can so depreciate in value as to render the investment unsafe. In the ordinary course of events, men will not clear and fence their lands, break up and cultivate the same, build houses, dig wells, and make other improvements, and then abandon them; and especially after having paid one fifth of the purchase money. Nothing but a general overflowing desolation will ever induce them to do it.

A plan of the University buildings has been adopted, and preparation is now making for the erection of a part of them. Branches have been organized and are now in actual operation at Detroit, Pontiac, Monroe, Niles and Kalamazoo : others also, have been located. In this connection, the Superintendent would urge anew the importance of making more ample provision for sustaining the branches, independently of the university fund. Without the aid of these, the University itself cannot be expected to prosper: and equally important are they, to the success of the primary schools, being as they are, the sole means of obtaining a full supply of competent teachers. If the salt spring lands should be devoted to the support of the branches, one might in due time be established in each county; and this seems desirable to perfect the system.

The agricultural department yet to be established in one of the branches, is deemed an object of great interest and importance to the state. No education can be regarded as complete without a knowledge of agriculture. Agricultural pursuits and a clear understanding of the principles on which the art of husbandry is based, have an acknowledged tendency to quiet all those various and undue excitements, occasioned by the political action and contests of the day. Most peculiarly adapted also, is agriculture, to give to a people, that individuality of character, which is essential to sustain republican institutions.

It is deemed unnecessary to advert again to the immense value and importance of common school libraries. The question of their utility has been settled by the decision of experience in other states, where liberal appropriations for the purpose have been granted. To accomplish the greatest degree of good, in our state, district libraries must be established ; not only that the useful information contained in well selected books, may be generally conveyed, but that teachers may have the benefit of acquiring the

« ForrigeFortsett »