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ELEMENTARY PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.
To His Excellency the Governor, and the Honorable the General
Assembly of the State of Ohio :
In March, 1836, just before I embarked for Europe, I received a communication from Governor Lucas, with the great seal of the State, enclosing the following resolves of the General Assembly, to wit :
“ Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, That C. E. Stowe, Professor in one of the Literary Institutions of this State, be requested to collect, during the progress of his contemplated tour in Europe, such facts and information as he may deem useful to the State, in relation to the various systems of public instruction and education, which have been adopted in the several countries through which he may pass, and make report thereof, with such practical observations as he may think proper, to the next General Assembly
“ Resolved, That His Excellency the Governor be requested to transmit a certified copy of the foregoing proceedings to Professor Stowe."
In pursuance of the above resolutions, I communicated the intention of the General Assembly to Hon. A. Stevenson, the American Minister near the British Court, and he very readily furnished me with the credentials necessary for the most satisfactory attainment of the object of my inquiries. I am also happy to remark, that the
communication of Governor Lucas was a ready passport to my free admission to every public institution in Europe to which I applied and that my endeavors were seconded in the most encouraging manner by all the gentlemen connected with the educational establishments in the several countries through whieh I passed ; and the warmest expressions of approbation were elicited of the zeal inanifested by so young a state as Ohio, in the great cause of general education. Particularly in some of the old communities of central Europe, where it happened to be known that I was born in the same year in which Ohio became a sovereign State, it seemed to be matter of amusement as well as gratification, that a man who was just as old as the State in which he lived, had come with official authority to inquire respecting the best mode of education for the growing population of his native land ; and they remarked, that our Governor and Legislators must be very enlightened and highly cultivated men. When in one instance I informed them that our Governor was a plain farmer, and that a majority of our Legislators were of the same occupation, the well known line which a Latin poet applies to husbandmen was applied to us:
“O fortunatos pimium si sua bona norint."
In the progress of my tour I visited England, Scotland, France, , Prussia, and the different States of Germany ; and had opportunity to see the celebrated Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburg, Glasgow, Paris, Berlin, Halle, Leipsic, Heidleberg, and some others; and I was everywhere received with the greatest kindness, and every desirable facility was afforded me for the promotion of my inquiries. But knowing that a solid foundation must be laid before a durable superstructure can be reared, and being aware that, on this principle, the chief attention of our Legislature is, and for the present must be, directed to our common schools, my investigation of the Universities was comparatively brief--and the most of my time was spent in visiting the best district schools I could hear of, and also the high schools intended for the business education of young men, and the institutions for the education of teachers.
Before I proceed to the result of my inquiries on these topics, I
would call the attention of the Legislature to some facts of a more general nature, which strongly impressed themselves upon my mind during the progress of my tour--and which, it seems to me, have a very important bearing upon the successful maintenance, is not the very existence, of free institutions in our country. I allude particularly to the wonderful change which has taken place in the policy of monarchial governments in respect to the education of the people. Formerly it was supposed that despotism could be maintained only by a sovereign with an army devoted to his interests, and dependent only upon himself for subsistence ; an aristocracy which should mon. opolise the wealth and the intellectual culture of the entire nation ; and a mass of people held in entire ignorance of their rights and privileges as men, and condemned to drudge for life for a bare and precarious subsistence the mere dependents and slaves of the higher orders. But what is the aspect which the sovereignties of Europe now present ?-and what is the change which is forcing itself along, even into the despotisms of Asia and Africa ? Ever since the revolution which separated this country from the British Empire, the idea of popular rights has been working its way irresistibly throughout the civilized world : and sovereigns who have had the sagacity to see the unavoidable results, have adapted their measures to the new aspect of the times. A new era in the history of civilization has evidently commenced. A despotic king of the Protestant faith, dreading the evils of an ignorant and unbridled democracy, such as was witnessed in the French revolution, has now for forty years been pursuing a course of instruction for his whole people, more complete, better adapted to develope every faculty of the soul, and to bring into action, every capability of every kind that may exist, even in the poorest cottage of the most obscure corner of his kingdom, than has ever before been imagined. Men of the highest order of intellect and most extensive attainments are encouraged to devote themselves to the business of teaching: the best plans for the furtherance of this object are immediately received and generously rewarded; talent and industry, wherever they exist, are sought out and promoted ; and nothing is left undone that can help forward this great design.
The introduction of this system was preceded by political changes,
which, considered as emanating from the government itself, have scarcely a parallel in the history of nations. When Frederick Wil. liam III. ascended the throne of Prussia in 1797, the condition of the people was in many respects truly deplorable. But immediately upon his accession he set about reforming abuses, and introducing improvements. The odious religious edict was abolished—the administration of justice was thoroughly resormed, and rigid economy introduced into the royal household. The exclusive privileges of the nobles were taken away, and their power so completely broken, that there is now no hereditary aristocracy which can interfere with the sovereign, or oppress the people.
In 1810, the peasantry, who before had no ownership in the soil which they cultivated, and consequently no independence of character, by a royal decree, became freeholders on the following terms, namely: those who held their lands on perpetual lease, by giving up one-third, and those who held them on limited or life leases, by giving up one-half, to the landlord, became the owners in fee simple of the rest. The military is now so modelled that every citizen between the ages of 18 and 21 is in actual service in the standing army, where he is instructed in all that pertains to military life, and then returns to his peaceful occupations. Thus the army is made up entirely of citizens—and every citizen is a soldier; and there is no such thing as a standing army at the entire devotion of the sovereign, and independent of the people.
The prime minister, Hardenberg, in a circular published at the time when these reforms were in progress, declares, that “the new system is based upon the principle, that every subject, personally free, be able to raise himself, and develope his powers freely, without let or hindrance from any other; that the public burdens be borne in common and in just proportions ; that equality before the law, be secured to every subject ; that justice be rigidly and punctually administered ; that merit in whatever rank it may be found, be enabled to rise without obstacle ; that the government be carried on with unity, order, and power ; that, by the education of the people, and the spread of true religion, the general interests, and a national spirit be promoted, as the only secure basis of the national welfare."
Another European king of the Roman Catholic faith, Louis of Ba
varia, who is connected by marriage with the royal house of Prussia, moved by this example, and excited by emulation in behalf both of his church and kingdom, is now zealously pushing forward the same experiment among his own people, and already the Bavarian schools begin to rival the Prussian ; and the University of Berlin finds its only equal in that of Munich. Louis has in one thing gone even beyond bis brother of Prussia, in that he has granted to his people a real constitutional representation in the government, a privilege and a right which the Prussians have labored in vain to extort from Frederick William.
Fven the Autocrat, Nicholas of Russia, (married to a daughter of the Prussian monarch, who inherits much of her father's spirit,) has been induced to commence a similar system throughout his vast dominions; and from the reports to the emperor of M. d'Ouvaroff, the Russian Minister of Public Instruction, it appears, that already from Poland to Siberia, and from the White Sea to the regions beyond the Caucasus, including the provinces so recently wrested from Persia, there are the beginnings of a complete system of common school instruction for the whole people, to be carried into full execution as fast as it is possible to provide the requisite number of qualified teachers.
Thus three sovereigns, representing the three great divisions of Christendom, the Protestant, the Romish, and the Greek, are now zealously engaged in doing what despotic sovereigns bave seldom done before-enlightening and educating their people ; and that too with better plans of instruction, and a more efficient accomplishment in practice than the world has ever before witnessed. Nor is the spirit of education confined to these nations. The kingdom of Wirtemberg, and the grand duchy of Baden, are not behind Prussia or Bavaria. The smaller states of Germany, and even old Austria, are pushing forward in the same career ; France is all awake ; Spain and Italy are beginning to open their eyes; the government of England—which has hitherto neglected the education of the common people more than any other Protestant country of Europe is beginning to bestir itself; and even the Sultan of Turkey, and the Pacha of Egypt, are looking around for well qualified teachers to go among their people. In London and Paris I saw Turks, and