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THE Author of this brief desultory publication, begs to be understood that he has not written for the purpose of acquiring literary popularity, but with the hope of popular utility ;-regarding the quality of the matter itself, rather than the garb in which it is clothed.
He has long cherished a decided confidence that if the community would appropriate as much wealth to the instruction of the rising generation, as is now devoted to the punishment of crimes, the desired object would be attained, and buman misery averted, to a much greater extent,
The plan bere proposed, for the general diffusion of knowledge through the medium of FREE LIBRARIES, has been submitted to the consideration of several of the most eminent statesmen and philanthropists in the United States, and Feceived their unanimous and cordial approbation.
Mental-improvement is relied on as the most effectual antidote to the prevailing temperate and intemperate indulgence in the use of spirituous liquors.
Having sought with intense diligence, to detect the origin of the various calamities, which afflict Society, I feel urged by a sense of fraternal duty, to promulgate the result of my enquiries and experience; and solicit of my fellow citizens, only such share of their approbation and reward as they may find my humble efforts entitled to.
August 6th, 1817.
"Men's general ignorance, oli as the flood,
IZ NOWLEDGE is essentially necessary to the well
Deing kiiū tappings of every ineinber of the humun family, whether male or female, rich or poor.
To ignorance may be traced, the origin of most of the vices, crimes, errors and follies that distract and destros: mankind. It is the motker of inisery :-- mazy labyrinth of perpetual night. Knowledge, on the contrary, is a torch perpetually tlaming, which enables its possessor, lo see clearly and understand every things that surround! him. It affords certain consolation, in all cases of chidia. culty and danger. Besides the intellectual pleasure, derived from the possession of knowledge, which far exceeds that of animal sens
nsuality, the well informed mall, (mechanic, farmer, or of whatever profession) being ac. quainted with the laws of nature with morai and plıysi. cai causes and effects, is capable of providing, generally with certainty, for the prosperity and security of himself and his family.
Confucius, the ancient Chinese Philanthropist, who disseminated virtue and happiness over a vast Empire, and is there venerated as a messenger from God, to this day, says, “Human nature came to us from Heaven pure and perfect; hut in process of time, ignorance, the passions aud evil examples have corrupted it. All consists in restoring it to its primitire beauty; and to be perfect we must ascend to that point from which we have fallen. Obey Heaven and follow the orders of him who goverbs
it. Love your neighbor as yourself.'' Bad as the times are I shall do all I can to recall men to virtue; for in virtue are all things."
While our generous Legislatures are iinitating the policy of European Monarehies, by making liberal appropri. ations for enlightening the fewo, by the endowment of Colleges and Universities, would not the many (who, in this country, supply their legislators with power as well as money) cordially cherish a policy, calculated, at the same time, to diffuse a small portion of the accumulated treas. ures of intellectual light of the present era, amongst them. selves and their own children.*
Joseph Lancaster has discovered a method, which gives incalculable facility to the universal dissemination of the preliminary rudiments of science; and is rapidly gaining general assent in the United States. But the ed. ucation of youth should not cease with the expiration of their attendance on public schools. The chasm between this period and that of their corporeal maturity, contains many stumbling blocks and dangerous snares. The art of reading, without books to read, is to the mind, as is a set of good teeth to the body, without food to masticate; they will alike suffer the evils of disease, decay, and eventual ruin.
The priating press is the main engine, and books are the rapid vehicles for the general distribution of knowl. edge. Yet notwithstanding the prodigious difference between the cost of books within The last 400 years, and the whole anterior space of time, but few comparatively The meet the expense of private libraries. Computing the leasure of every youth to be tro hours dully from the age of ten to twenty one years, independent of the requi. sile time for labor, sleep, eating, recreation, &c. and it is sufficient for reading a library of seven hundred volumea
* The late enthusiastic Champion of the rights of man, Samnel Adams, in a letter to his vener ble friend, John Adams, exerting his utmost eloquence to convince him of the superiority of the representative system of legislation, exclaims---" In order to se. cure the perpetuation of our excellent firm of government to fue ture generations, let Divines and Philosophers, State,men and Patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impress. ing the minds of the people with the importance of eclucating their little Boys and Girls,' &c.
duodecimo, of 300 pages each. This only season for laying the foundation of a virtuous and happy life, to the greatest portion of mankind, is totally lost. It is only ne. cessary to offer koowledge to the voluntary acceptance of youth, in a proper manner, to produce an ardent appetite for it.
Intellectual cultivation is the basis of virlue and bap, piness. As mental improvement advances, vice and crimes recede. That desirable happy era, when the spirit of peace and benevolence shall pervade all the nations which inhabit the earth, when both national and personal slavery shall be annihilated; when nations and individuals shall cease to hunt and destroy each other's lives and property; when the science and implements of human preservation and felicity, shall be substituted for those of slaughter and woe; will commence, precisely at the moment when the rays of useful knowledge and wisdom, shall have been extended to the whole human fam. ity. By useful knowledge, I mean, not only an acquaintance with valuable arts and sciences, but also aa understanding of our rarious moral and religious duties, in relation to our creator, to our neighbor, and to our selves. By wisdom, I mean that kind of sagacity, which influences ils to regulate our passions and conduct, in conformity to the precepts of knowledge, reason and religion. Until an approach towards such a state of things, is effecteil, the names of peace,liberty, and security, on this carth, will differ brit little from an ignis fatuus, either to monarchs or their vassals. At present, violence bears universal and imperial sway; and ignorance is the ma. gic spell which sustains is sceptre. This dense mist which enshrouds nearly the whole human race, can be penetrated and removed, with much greater certainty and facility, by the mild but in viocible rays of intellectue al light, than hy opposing violence with violence, and evil to evil. The countryman in Æsop's Fables, was induced to throw off his cloak, by the gentle but melting rays of the physical sun, after the wind had exerted its fury in vain. What a boundless empire of glory and unalloyed bliss, might the monarchs and governments of the different nations, and all possessors of wealth attain, hy causing their numerous subjects and brethren, perpetually encompassed by the snares of ignorance, vice, and of pression, to be instructed; thereby elevating poor degra
ded afilicted human nature, to that scale of dignity in the Création, which was evidently assigned to it by the supreme parent of the universe. In our country, particularly, instruction ought to be universal. For viriue only can sustain and perpetuate our political organization “ With knowledge and virtue the united eñorts of ignorance and tyranny may be defied.” (Miller, guvernor of North Carolina.) In a government where all inly aspire, to the highest ofices in the state, it is essential that education should be placed within the reach of all.Without intelligence, self government, our dearest privilege cannot be exercised.” (Nicholas, governor of Virgin
“Without knowledge, the blessings of liberty can. noi be fully enjoyed or long preserved." (President Mad. ison.)
General Washington, in his valedictory address to the people of the United States, says, “ Promote then, as ob. jects of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, in proportion as the structure of the government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be evlightened."
But it has been questioned whether our constitution authorises the adoption of measures for the diffusion of knowledge and science. If our constitution does not now authorise measures which are likely to produce the greatest possible benefit to the country, and security to its liberties, it ought without viloy to be so amended that it should.
Let American Legislators, boih national and sectional, perform their duty to their country, and its posterity ; and to mankind, by listening to the 'wise counsels of many conspicuous living sages, and pursue without hesitation the inestimable "parting advice” of George Washington, Benjamin Rush, Samuel Adams, and other de. parted friends and patrons of man; and establish public schools, and judiciously selected free public circulating libraries, in every part of the Republic. And as all men are vitally interested in the aniversal dissemination of koowledge and virtue, let all classes combine their in. Buence and means, in aiding the cause of human bappiNc8.
“ Postpone, Oye Sages all meaner debates-