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THE SCHOOLS OF MODERN GREECE.
BY CORNELIUS C. FELTON,
PRESIDENT OF HARVARD COLLEGE.
It is just thirty years ago this summer, as the President has stated, since, at the first meeting of the American Institute of Instruction, I delivered a lecture on the “ Study of Classical Literature.”
This interval covers nearly the estimated duration of a generation of men. What changes has it witnessed in the condition of the world! What progress in science, arts, literature, education! The direction of affairs has mostly passed from the hands that then controlled them. Those who are now in middle life, were then but just born; those who were then in middle life, are now passing into the sere and yellow leaf. I suppose the President of the association was then an infant in his nurse's arms, giving but few signs of the dignity and ability with which he has conducted the business of this assembly; and a majority of those whom I now address were unborn.
My subject then was Classical Learning. Among the changes that have taken place in this period, the
progress of the country in this department of culture is not the least surprising fact. The methods of study and teaching have been improved. Editions of the classic authors, admirably adapted to inspire the young with a love of ancient Literature, have been prepared by eminent American scholars. The poets, orators, and philosophers of Greece and Rome are better understood, more thoroughly appreciated ; their spirit is more deeply felt; and the taste and elegance that so pre-eminently mark them, stamp themselves more ineffaceably upon the minds of the young.
My subject to-night is connected with that of thirty years ago. It is The Present State of Education in Greece. At the time of our first meeting, what was the condition of that beautiful but unhappy country?
Let me call your attention briefly to a few points in the history of the brilliant race, which is now again challenging the attention of the world. I need not say a word of its ancient achievements in arts and letters and arms. That great race furnished the men who must always be the teachers of the world ; whose influence, instead of lessening, goes on enlarging, as the boundaries of civilization are extended. The states of Greece were subjected to the despotism of the semi-Hellenic despots of Macedon ; then, with Macedonia, they were incorporated into the mighty Empire of Rome ; and when the Roman Empire was divided, they became an appendage of the Byzantine Empire, whose capital, Constantinople, was for many centuries, by way of eminence, the city in which the pride and hopes of the Hellenic race were centered. The Crusades, which precipitated the chivalry of the West upon the fading power of the East, made a romantic interlude in the fortunes of Greece, by the temporary establishment, under Frankish Princes, of Principalities, Dukedoms, and Despotats, which have left their footprints among the classical ruins of the ancient civilization. The Empire of Romania fell before the fury and fanaticism of the Turks, who have menaced Europe for centuries from Northern Asia. In 1453, Constantinople was captured, and St. Sophia, the great cathedral of the Oriental Church, became a mosque for the worship of Islam. Continental Greece and the Islands followed the fortunes of the capital, and in a few years were subjected to the barbarous despotism of the Crescent. They so continued, until the outbreak of the war of Independence in 1821. That desperate struggle lasted eight years. In 1830, the last of the Turkish Invaders had just withdrawn from the country, leaving its towns heaps of ruins ; the fields and farms desolated with fire and sword; the miserable inhabitants dwelling among the mountains, in caverns and holes, feeding on leaves and roots, or starving but for the charities poured upon the wretched land by Christian nations, — by none more abundantly, I am proud to say, than by our own high-hearted people. The great powers — England, France, and Russia — had just decided that an independent kingdom should be established in the small fragment of territory south of Mt. Othrys and the Ambraciot gulf, including less than a million of inhabitants. The crown was first offered by them to Prince Leopold, now the King of Belgium, and he had just resigned it after four months of nominal sovereignty, on a difference between him and the high contracting parties, respecting the northern boundary of the new kingdom. This event led to new diplomatic complications. The assassination of Count Capo D'Istrias, the President of Greece, in 1831, showed the necessity of bringing the question of the government of the country to a conclusion. Prince (tho, the second son of the King of Bavaria, was selected by the great powers. He was born in 1815, and was consequently only seventeen years old when entrusted with the destinies of the nascent kingdom. He was acknowledged in August, 1832, by the National Assembly, then in session at Pronæa, a suburb of Nauplia, and in the following February landed there amidst the acclamations of the people. From 1833 to 1843, he governed the country without a constitution. In the year last mentioned a political revolution took place, which, by the mingled firmness and humanity with which it was conducted, did the highest honor to the Greek people, and secured to them a liberal constitution, with all the great rights and immunities of citizenship. Under that constitution they have since been governed ; their king is a constitutional monarch ; the lower house of their parliament is elective for three years; the upper house, appointed by the king, for life.