Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

creed or tenets shall be read or taught in any school or institution supported in whole or in part by such revenue or loan of credit, and no such appropriation or loan of credit shall be mado to any religious or antireligious sect, organization, or denomination, or to promote its interests or tenets. This articie shall not be construed to prohibit the reading of the Bible in any school or institution; and it shall not have the effect to imipair rights of property already vested.

Suc. 2. Congress shall have power, by appropriate legislation, to provide for the prevention and punishment of violations of this article.'

II. PRESIDENT WASHINGTON,

The first voice pleading for a national university is heard amid the tumult of the patriot soldiery that flocked to the beleaguer of Boston after Lexington and Concord. Samuel Blodget tells the story in a passage of his Economica,” the great interest of which does not permit either mutilation or abridgment:

As the most minute circumstances are sometimes instructing for their relation to great events, we relate the first we ever heard of a national university: It was in the camp at Cambridge, in October, 1775, when Maj. William Blodget went to the quarters of General Washington to complain of the ruinous state of the colleges from the conduct of the militia quartered therein. The writer of this being in company with his friend and relation, and hearing General Greene join in lamenting the then ruinous state of the eldest seminary of Massachusetts, observed, merely to console the company of friends, that to make amends for these injuries, after our war, he hoped we should erect a noble national university, at which the youth of all the world might be proud to receive instructions. What was thus pleasantly said, Washington immediately replied to, with that inimitably expressive and truly interesting look for which he was sometimes so remarkable: “Young man, you are a prophet, inspired to speak what I am confident will one day be realized.” He then detailed to the company his impressions, that all North Ainerica would one day becomo united; he said that a Colonel Byrd, of Virginia, was the first man who had pointed out the best central seat for the capital city, near to the present spot, or about the falls of the Potomac. General Washington further said that a Mr. Evans had expressed the same opinion with many other gentlemen, who, from a cursory view of a chart of North America, received this natural and truly correct impression. The look of General Washington, the energy of his mind, bis noble and irresistible eloquence, all conspired so far to impress the writer with these subjects, that if ever he should unfortunately become insane it will be from his anxiety for the Federal city and national university.

It is well known that Washington's interest in the site on which the city which bears his name stands dates from the time when he was encamped there with the Virginia troops in 1755. The above extract

IMcPherson's IIandbook of Politics, 1876, p. 241.

* Blodget's Economica, the alternative title of which is A Statesman's Manual for the United States of America, said to be the first work on political economy published in America, was pub. lished in Washington in 1806. The author copyrighted it " for the benefit, in trust, for the freo education fund of the university founded by George Washington in his last years." Two mottoes appear on the title-page: “The legislature ought to make the people happy" (Aristotle on Government), and " Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas." I am indebted to Dr. G. Brown Goode, of the National Museum, for the quotations made above, and also for my information of Blodget. See Dr. Goode's instructive monograph, The Origin of the National Scientific and Educational Institu. tions of the United States, published by the American Historical Association, report for 1889. See also memorial in regard to a national university, by John W. Hoyt, Washington, Government Print. ing Office, 1892, and the Special Report of the Commissioner of Education on the Condition and Improvement of Public Schools in the District of Columbia, Washington, 1871, pp. 145 et seq.

shows very plainly that in his mind a firm union of the States, a national capital, and a national university were intimately associated. These were favorite ideas with which he never parted. It is also interesting to note that this first suggestion of a national university is immediately prompted by the desecration and havoc that war was making in the college buildings at Cambridge. The idea next comes to the surface in a place far better adapted to its consideration than Washington's camp, viz, in the Federal Convention at Philadelphia, as shown above.

In his “Speech delivered to both Houses of Congress," January 8, 1790—which we should now call his first annual message-President Washington recommended certain interesting objects to their attention. After mentioning “uniformity in the currency, weights, and measures," "the advancement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures," and the expediency of giving effectual encouragement, as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home," and of “facilitating the intercourse between the distant parts of our country by a due attention to the post-office and post-roads”—all subjects in which he took a deep interest-he thus treats another subject that lay still nearer his heart:

Nor am I less persuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. In one, in which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community, as in ours, it is proportionably essential. To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways; by convincing those who are intrusted with the public administration that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people, and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority, between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first and avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.

Whether this desirable object will be the best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients, will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature.

Washington was not a strict construction statesman. His subsequent action shows that his mind never encountered any constitutional difficulties on the university question. He no doubt fully concurred in the view held by Mr. Morris; moreover, his practical mind found abundant authority for his favorite educational ideas in the generalwelfare clause.

Beyond a general expression of concurrence in his views respecting the promotion of education and literature made by the House of Rep.

Sparks s, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. XII, p. 9.

resentatives in reply to the President's speech, it does not appear that Congress paid the slightest attention to the subject. Nor do we again hear of it for several years. This fact, apparently surprising in view of Washington's unflagging interest, is explained by a transaction of great national importance.

The permanent seat of the National Government was established on the Potomac by an act of Congress approved June 28, 1790, and the names Columbia and Washington were given, by the commissioners created by the act, to the Federal district and the Federal city, September 7, 1791. The establishment of the capital strengthened Washington's conviction as to the proper seat of a national university. But the Federal district was a forest; ten years was the time allotted to prepare the Federal city for the reception of the Government; and those who have read the contemporary accounts of the condition of Washington in the year 1800 will not be surprised that even Washingtou's ardor was for the time restrained. Blodget reports a conversation with the President, in which he stated his opinion that till there were 4,000 or 5,000 inhabitants in the city of Washington, and until Congress were comfortably accommodated, it might be premature to commence a seminary.

He did not wish to see the work commence until the city was prepared for it.”

A longer, though less important, series of transactions must now be related. Washington was always deeply interested in economical and industrial subjects. His views in regard to public improvements, and particularly in regard to uniting the seaboard with what were then called “the western waters," by means of transportation lines, are well known. In 1785 the legislature of Virginia voted him, as a testimonial for his public services, 50 shares of the stock in the Potomac Company and 100 shares in the James River Company, in both of which enter. prises he had taken great interest. In obedience to the resolution that he had made in 1775 not to accept compensation or reward for public service, he declined to accept the gift; or, rather, he retained it with a view of devoting it to some object of a public nature which should meet the enlightened and patriotic views of the body that had voted the bounty. How much embarrassed he was by the gift is shown by his numerous letters in relation to the subject.? Nor was he able readily to make up his mind in regard to its destination. He wrote Mr. Jefferson as follows, September 26, 1785:

I never for a moment entertained an idea of accepting it. The difficulty with which my mind labored was how to refuse without giving offense. Ultimately I have it in contemplation to apply the profits arising from the tolls to some public use. In this, if I knew how, I would meet the wishes of the assembly; but, if I am not able to come at these, my own inclination leads me to apply them to the establishinent of two charity schools, one on each river, for the education and support of

It will be remembered that in the early history of the Government the two houses were accustomed to make forinal replies to the President's annual address. 2See Sparks, The Writings of George Washington, IX, 83, 108, 116, 133, 142; XI, 3, 19, 22, 172.

ED 93—82

poor children, especially the descendants of those who have fallen in defense of their country.

How early Washington settled this question in his own mind we can not tell. He wrote to Edmund Randolph, December 15, 1794, inclosing an extract from his will, which Dr. Sparks? supposes to have been the same in substance as the provisions relating to the same subject found in the will that Washington executed July 9, 1799, quoted hereafter. He asks Randolph in conjunction with Mr. Madison to mature a plan for disposing of the stock. But whether Dr. Sparks's inference on this point is correct or not, it is certain that, about this time, the shares in the improvement companies, or rather the shares in one of them, in Washington's mind, became a part of the endowment of a national university. January 28, 1795, he addressed this letter to the commissioners of the Federal district.

A plan for the establishment of a university in the Federal city has frequently been the subject of conversation; but in what manner it is proposed to commence this important institution, on how extensive a scale, the means by which it is to be effected, how it is to be supported, or what progress is made in it, are matters altogether unknown to me. It has always been a source of serious reflection and sincere regret with me that the yonth of the United States should be sert to foreign countries for the purpose of education. Although there are doubtless many, under these circumstances, who escape the danger of contracting principles unfavorable to republican government, yet we ought to deprecate the liazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly and too carly prepossessed in favor of other political systems before they are capable of appreciating their own.

For this reason I have greatly wished to see a plan adopted by which the arts, sciences, and belles lettres could be taught in their fullest extent, thereby embracing all the advantages of European tuition, with the means of acquiring the liberal knowledge which is necessary to qualify our citizens for tho exigencies of public as well as private life; and (which with me is a consideration of great magnitude) by assembling tho youth from the different parts of this rising Republic, contributing from their intercourse and interchange of information to the removal of prejudices which might perhaps sometimes arise from local circumstances.

The Federal city, from its centrality and the advantages which in other respects it must have over any other place in the United States, ought to be preferred as a proper site for such a university. And if ir plan can be adopted upon a scalo as extensive as I have described, and the execution of it should commence under favorable auspices in a reasonable time, with a fair prospect of success, I will grant in perpetuity 50 shares in the navigation of the Potomac River towards the endowment of it.

What annuity will arise from these 50 shares when the navigation is in full operation can at this time be only conjectured; and those who are acquainted with it can form as good a judgment as myself.

As the design of this university has assumed no form with which I am acquainted, and as I am equally ignorant who the persons are who have taken or are disposed to take the maturing of the plan upon themselves, I have been at a loss to whom I should make this communication of my intentions. If tho commissioners of the Federal city havo•any particular agency in bringing the matter forward, then the information which I now give to them is in its proper course. If, on the other hand, they have no more to do in it than others who may be desirous of seeing so important a measure carried into etiect, they will be so good as to excuse iny using them as the medium for disclosing these my intentions; because it appears necessary 'Sparks, IX, 133.

Sparks, XI, 3.

1

1

AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL HISTORY.

1299

that the fuuds for the establishment and support of the institution shonll be known to tho promoters of it, and I see no mode.more eligible for announcing my purpose. For these reasons I give you the trouble of this address and the assurance of being," etc.

The next step soon followed. March 16 Washington wrote to Governor Brooke, of Virginia, in regard to the disposition to be made of the shares:

It is with indescribable regret that I have seen the youth of the United States migrating to foreign countries in order to acquire the higher branches of erudition and to obtain a knowledge of the sciences. Although it would be injustice to many to pronounce the certainty of their imbibing maxims not congenial with republicanism, it must, nevertheless, be admitted that a serious danger is encountered by sending abroad amnoug other political systems those who have not well learned the value of their own.

The time is therefore come when a plan of universal education ought to be adopted in the United States. Not only do tho exigencies of public and private life deinand it, but if it should ever be apprehended that prejudice would be entertained in one part of the Union against another, an efficacious remedy will be to assemble the yonth of every part under such circumstances as will, by freedom of intercourse and collision of sentiment, give to their minds the direction of truth, philanthropy, anıl mutual conciliation.

It has been represented that a university corresponding with these ideas is contemplated to be built in the l'ederal city, and that it will receive considerable endowments. This position is so eligible from its centrality, so convenient to Virginia, by whose legislature the shares were granted, and in which part of the Federal (listrict stands, and combines so many other conveniences that I have determined to vest the Potonac shares in that university.

Presuming it to be more agreeable to the general assembly of Virginia that the shares in the James River Company should be reserved for a similar object in some part of that State, I intend to allot them for a seminary to be erected at such placo as they shall deem most proper. I ain disposed to believe that a seminary of learning upon an enlarged plan, but yet not coming up to the full idea of a university, is an institution to be preferred for the position which is to be chosen. The students who wish to pursue the whole rauge of science may pass with advantage from the seminary to the university, and the former by a due relation may be renderea cooperative with the latter.

I can not, however, dissemble my opinion that if all the shares were conferred on a university it would become far more important than when they are divided; and I have been constrained from concentering them in the same place merely by my anxiety to reconcile a particular attention to Virginia with a great good, in which she will abundantly share in common with the rest of the United States.

I must beg the favor of your excellency to lay this letter before that honorable body at their next session, in order that I may appropriate the James River shares to the place which they may prefer.?

The Virginia legislature, responding to the President's views, December 1, 1795, declared it highly disadvantageous for American youth to go to foreign countries to complete their education. It not only ratified the use to which he proposed to devote the stock, but also resolved that “the plan contemplated of erecting a university in the Federal city, where the youth of the several States may be assembled and their

'Sparks, XI, 14.

2 Sparks, XI, 23.

« AnteriorContinuar »