Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

South. Rejoice at every foot of ground gained, and never be discouraged at contumely or failures. The whites need much real effort in their behalf. I scarcely ever found a white child that could read, in passing through Georgia and South Carolina.

The union of the different benevolent agencies is really a move in the right direction. It will harmonize and encourage the efforts of those whose hearts are longing for a successful fulfilment of the promise of this wonderful revolution.

Work and schools go hand in hand. When free labor is well regulated and properly settled, as will soon be the case with a large influx of loyal immigration and a purchase or rental of land by freedmen, more or less extended, schools and churches will spring into existence, and thrive. More than two hundred thousand people, old and young, in the insurrectionary States, have learned to read during the last three years. The soldiers of regiments and the schools established all over those States attest the energy put forth. With the government, the loyal Christians, and the negroes on the one side, working night and day and blessed of God, what will be the efforts of a few blind guides on the other but to demonstrate with increasing emphasis the wickedness and folly of shutting out the light of truth? It is for the interest of theSouth to coöperate with us, and God grant her sons and daughters the wisdom to do so, before he afflicts them further. Very truly yours,

0. O. HOWARD, Major-General.

THE QUESTION OF THE DAY.

The question was then announced: “What Duties does the return of Peace bring to the Friends of Education, particularly in reference to the Freedmen of our Country ?”

Rev. Mr. Stricby, Secretary of the American Missionary Association of New York, spoke of facts which had come to his knowledge in his official capacity. He said, that, since the invention of letters, there never were so many people so eager for knowledge as the freedmen are to-day. This eagerness is not wonderful when we look at the circumstances, they hav

ing been kept so long in ignorance, and having seen that their oppressors, though few in number, were able to keep them in bondage, mainly in consequence of the knowledge which they possessed, and not in consequence of their physical power. It has been a traditional desire with them to acquire knowledge so as to write a "pass,” and to know how to read the Bible.

Mr. Stricby gave an account of the enthusiasm with which the opportunity to go to school was hailed by the negroes at Wilmington, N. C. The success in learning on the part of many has had no parallel ; and the full blacks, according to the monthly reports of the teachers, learn quite as fast as the white children at the North. Almost all of the two hundred and fifty teachers who have been among the colored people are importunate to go back again, showing that there is, notwithstanding the privations connected with the service, something attractive about it. Several cases of the acquisition of ability to read under peculiarly trying circumstances, before the war, were mentioned. One female, who had begun to learn to read by asking visitors to the house of her master to tell her the names of persons printed upon trunks as they came there, did finally succeed in learning to read; and being suspected of having the ability to do so by her master, he one day asked her to bring him the first volume of Mrs. Hannah More's works. Being thrown off her guard, she went and procured the book, and her knowledge being thus proved she was whipped for having it. To one of the teachers she said, “ How can I be thankful enough that my child can learn to read and not be whipped for it!”

Mr. Stricby urged a speedy effort to send teachers to the freedmen. Those who are needed now, however, are young men, and not females. He recommended that young men who are looking forward to a professional life, men of intellect and capacity, capable of leading and instructing mind, should volunteer to go down there for a short campaign, expecting that self-denial and self-devotion will be required.

The field has increased greatly within a year, and includes now the poor whites as well as the freedmen. The speaker closed by relating an anecdote, indicating that in the race for knowledge the blacks would prove at least equal to the whites of the South, especially if the right to vote depended on an ability to read.

Rev. Lyman Abbott, of New-York City, the General Secretary of the American Union Commission, then spoke as follows:

In the colonial days, the English government addressed a series of questions to the American colonies respecting their condition and prospects. In answer to one of these, the Governor of Connecticut replied that one-fourth of her income was expended in the maintenance of public schools. The Governor of Virginia responded, “ I thank God there are no free schools, no printing presses, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years.” Such was the historical beginning of a divergent growth, the fruits of which are to be seen by a comparison of the condition of the free and slave States.

In the former, the education of the masses is provided for by the State. The people to whom is intrusted the difficult task of administering public affairs are rightly educated at the public expense. Poverty and ignorance are no longer inseparable companions. To every soul hungering for knowledge, the State, obedient to the Divine commission, repeats the Divine invitation, “ Whosoever will, let him come.” Nor does it longer content itself with teaching only the rudiments. It has added instruction in science, art, and the classics. It prepares the student for the business of life, or for further

verse.

attainment in college courses.

No schools are better than our public schools. No students are better fitted for college than those who have received their preparations in the high schools at the expense of the State. Nor shall we be content until education becomes the common privilege of all the people, the universal inheritance of American children, as free as God's sunlight, as universal as God's air, the light in which the soul has its growth, the atmosphere in which it lives and moves and has its being.

While such has been the progress of education in the free States, in the other half of the country it has been the re

Under the baneful influence of slavery, the power has passed from the hands of the people to the hands of the ruling caste. A democracy in form, half the States of our Union have been aristocratic in fact. Three hundred and fifty thousand slaveocrats have ruled with a rod of iron not only four millions slaves, but also as many whites. They have monopolized political power. They bave controlled the offices. They have possessed themselves of all the wealth. They have also enjoyed the sweets of public honors, influence, and position. A caste as rigorous as those of Hindostan has been established. A gulf almost as broad as that between white and black has separated the wealthier slaveholder from his poor dependants.

Public schools are essentially democratic. They are no respecter of persons. They ignore all distinctions of caste. They place the children of the poor and of the rich at the same form. They afford to each the same advantages. They open to the masses the same roads to knowledge, preferment, and power, which are given to the few. Aristocracy rigorously excludes such a system from its domains. For aristocracy thrives only upon the ignorance and the poverty of the many. The Southern oligarchy has certainly not been more

favorable to such a system than have its sisters in other parts of the world. It has forbidden the children of its laboring population to learn at all. It has sent to the penitentiary those who undertake to teach them. King John puts out the eyes of Arthur that he may retain his post and power.

This despot, more cruel than any king, puts out the eyes of four million subjects lest they know too much to be slaves. But it is not only an insurrection of its slaves which the oligarchy has feared. It is not alone the slaves whom the war has liberated. Debow, writing long before the war, says, (I quote from memory the sentiment, not the exact language,) “ It is the uprising of the masses which th South has chiefly to fear.” The slave-holders were always numerically in a minority, even in the slave-holding States. Only the ignorance of the common people gave the aristocracy their power. Only by perpetuating that ignorance could that power be perpetuated. Nor was their unselfish devotion to humanity such that they were inclined to relinquish the monopoly of education which enthroned them, or give the masses, whose uprising they feared, more educational advantages which would undoubtedly produce that uprising. Accordingly, where they held sway, no adequate systems of public schools were ever inaugurated, or ever could be while that sway continued.

It is true that in the Southern States some free schools were established for the poor by public or private charity. In Virginia a literary fund was provided. Schools for the children of indigent parents were established. pointed under the law selected the children of such as were too poor to pay for the education of their children, as fit subjects for this public charity. In Georgia a similar fund was provided, and though no schools were established by the State, any teacher might make oath to the number of children unable to pay tuition who attended his school, and an allow

Officers ap

« ForrigeFortsett »