« AnteriorContinuar »
STATE EDUCATION IN THE NORTH-WEST TERRITORY.
The Ordinance of 1787 was the magna charta of the North-West Territory, wrested from Congress by the people. Though generally attributed to the generosity and wisdom of a central legislative body, the real spirit of its origin must be sought in the desires of the people who proposed to live in that Territory. It was the privilege of self-government, determined by the people, and granted by the supreme legislative body.
The Ordinance was not a cunning device wrought upon the theory of the abstract fitness of things. It arose from practical conditions, , although its significance soon outstripped the most sanguine dreams of its originators. The design of Jefferson for universal freedom became enlarged, and was carried out by those directly interested in the settlement of the territory in question, and their faithful allies. The people demanded provisions for religion, for schools, and for the exclusion of slavery, and they were granted.
The far-reaching influence of the Ordinance was grasped by the mind of Webster, when he expressed his sentiments before Congress in the following words: “At the foundation of the constitution of these new north-western States, lies the celebrated Ordinance of 1787. We are accustomed, sir, to praise the law-givers of antiquity, and we help to perpetuate the fame of Solon and Lycurgus; but I doubt whether one single law, of any law-giver, ancient or modern, has produced effects of more distinct, marked, and lasting character than the Ordinance of 1787. That instrument was drawn by Nathan Dane, then and now a citizen of Massachusetts." It was adopted, as I think I have
1The most recent criticism on the Ordinance of 1787 considers it the product of many minds, and not of an individnal. “No one,” says Mr. Poole, “I think, in the present state of investigation, can be regarded as its author. It came from a committee, and what occurred in two sessions of the committee is not known. The scribe of the committeee was Nathan Dane, and if the manuscript of the final draft could be found, it would probably appear in his handwriting.” (See W. F. Poole, in Papers of American Historical Association, Vol. III.) The credit of framing the principal clauses is sometimes given to Dr. Manasseh Cutler, the director of the Ohio Company. Although he is entitled to much credit, his associates, General Rufus Putnam, Samuel Holden Parsons, as well as the prominent members of Congress, a majority of them southern members, must be considered worthy sharers of the honor. (Poole.) It must be remembered, also, that prior work of Thomas Jefferson had at least determined the plan of action,
understood, without the slightest alteration, and certainly it has hap. pened to few men to be the author of a political measure of more large and enduring consequences.” The importance of the Ordinance appears in the fact that the Federal Government acknowledged its right and duty to look after the educa. tional interests of the people, and that, having placed the means of education within reach of the State governments, it threw all responsi. bility of organization and control of education upon the States. It placed in the care of the State a trust fund for the support of education and held the State responsible for the administration of the same. Started as a policy in reference to a single State, the grants for education extended to all the States admitted thereafter, with the exception of those” whose land policies had been already settled at the time of their admission. Though furnished the means of education, the settlers of “the Ohio.” encountered many of the same difficulties of planting a university in the wilderness that were met by the colonists on the Atlantic seaboard. To force nature, on the one hand, by hard toil to yield her resources, and, on the other hand, to protect their homes from the ravages of the Indians and the jealousy of foreign nations, required nearly their entire attention, and left little time for culture. But the desire for culture and learning was deep-seated and constant. The Ohio country was chiefly settled by persons from the New England and Middle States, who carried with them notions of education entertained by their fathers. Consequently we find an eagerness to found universities and colleges at the earliest opportunity. Two years after Ohio became a State, the Ohio University,was chartered and organized, and five years thereafter the Miami University was located in Butler County. Ten years before the admission of Indiana the University of Vincennes was chartered and organized. Michigan and Wisconsin each chartered a university while they were yet Territories. These universities were necessarily of slow growth, and in this respect they were not unlike other institutions of their own time. The growth of permanent institutions in new countries is always slow. Harvard is great with two hundred and fifty years to grace her venerable life, and Yale University will soon celebrate her one hundred and ninetieth anniversary. If the Johns Hopkins University sprang within a decade to the foremost rank among the institutions of America, it was because the times were ripe for such an institution. More than two centuries of educational development prepared the way and made the support of the university possible. Two principal motives characterize the haste to establish universities in this wilderness: the first was the zeal of the inhabitants for education, and the second the desire on the part of the people to secure to
1 Webster's Works, III, 263.
THE NORTH-WEST TERRITORY. 213
their children the benefits of the Congressional grant. The principle was well illustrated that it takes something more than buildings and books and apparatus, and even professional teachers, to constitute a university. It takes the moral, intellectual, and material support of a community well advanced on the road to prosperity. The management of the Congressional land grant for seminaries was an experiment, and almost a failure. The deplorably poor management of this public trust can not be entirely attributed to haste and inexperience, for Illinois, the last of the group to found a university, perhaps was the most unfortunate in the administration of the trust fund. It is quite remarkable that, while Ohio has been trying to build three institutions endowed by the Federal Government, no less than thirty non-State universities and colleges have maintained a tolerably fair success, while some of these have rivalled in excellence the work of the State institutions. This might be urged as one of the circumstances preventing strong State institutions. If the best life forces of education are devoted to the upbuilding of local and denominational schools, a poorly managed State school-fund has small influence. Let it not be inferred that the writer has a desire to depreciate the work of non-State schools. Nothing can depreciate the work of these institutions. Through local pride and denominational zeal, through private benevolence and hard-grinding self-denial, multitudes of young men and women have been brought into the realm of culture, who otherwise would never have received the light, even with an Oxford or a Harvard in the State. The untiring zeal with which religious organizations have planted colleges and prospective universities in every valley of the West, as well as in every part of the South and East, is a spectacle for our wonder and admiration. Scores of these institutions have succumbed to fate, while many others have had barely a nominal existence. Here, again, the zeal of propagandism and the appeal to local pride have called institutions prematurely into existence. Likewise the shifting tide of emigration and the powerful influences of railroads have left many a town with its embryo college by the wayside. With full recognition of all the merits of the multitude of schools that have been established, there has been a lack of centralization of power, of union of forces for utilizing in common the means of education. Where is there a fully equipped Methodist university, or a fully equipped Presbyterian or Baptist or Congregational university ? Certainly not in America. There is a young State in the far West that contains among other institutions four colleges under the supervision of the Methodist Church. Each one of these colleges is ambitious to become a university. If three of them would be content to be colleges and allow the fourth to become a university, the latter might be a university in fact. But it will not be done, and thus educational forces are scattered. In the North-West Territory, as in other parts of the United States,
schools under the patronage of the State have suffered not a little from the opposition of denominational schools, and this has tended to decentralize. It may be said, on the other hand, that State institutions have failed to recognize in some instances non-State schools or have treated them as rivals rather than as allies in a great cause. It is high time such folly and waste should be stopped by both sides.
The University of Michigan is the best example of the influence of a strong central institution in education. For years the youth from neighboring States have flocked to Ann Arbor as a Mecca of learning. Schools in other States, as well as in Michigan, have prepared students for the university. Taking the lead among the universities of the North-West, the University of Michigan has had a powerful influence in shaping the educational policy of neighboring States, and a reflex influence has been felt in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. In fact, Michigan influence has been felt from Cornell to California University.
How long this influence will last, in view of the coming rivalry of Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana Universities, remains to be seen. If in the past the interference of the State in education has been at times a failure, the manner in which the States of the North-West are now developing their universities leads us to suppose that instances of poor administration are very rare. In the management of the seminary grants Michigan, though not without mistakes, has the best record, and Illinois the poorest of the group of the North-Western States, as the following investigation will show. While it is greatly to be deplored by the friends of education that the interests of the seminary fund were sacrificed in previous years, it is on the other hand highly gratifying to observe the tendency of the Legislatures to make good all losses, and as far as possible redeem the past.
The history of higher education in Ohio is of unusual interest, for the reason that it was the first State to struggle with the Congressional seminary land grant. Without experience and without precedent, the first Legislature began its early work of carrying out the educational policy inaugurated by the action of the Federal Government in the celebrated ordinance of 1787.
It is very remarkable that these first grants of land for seminaries of learning were made through contracts with companies the members of which were warm advocates of the measures, while the whole responsibility of controlling and utilizing the grants devolved upon the State Legislature; that these companies had a semblance of private institutions while the State was yet to be built; and that this reservation of land in the contract was for the benefit of the future State and has become a national policy in the building of every State since that time.
TREATMENT OF THE SEMINARY GRANTS.
The results of education in Ohio are quite remarkable, when it is considered that, while the Legislature has attempted to foster and develop no less than three distinct universities, a multitude of sectarian and private institutions have sprung up, some to perish for want of nourishment, some to continue a miserable existence, and others to rise to a position of usefulness and independence. Out of this sporadic group of institutions, thirty-three colleges and universities yet remain, sufficient to constitute Ohio the banner State in respect to the number of its institutions for liberal culture.
TREATMENT OF THE SEMINARY GRANTS.
The contract between the Ohio Company and the Federal Government embodied, among other things, that lot No. 16 in each township be given perpetually by Congress to the maintenance of schools, and lot No. 29 to the purposes of religion, and that two townships of good land near the center be also given for the support of a literary institution, to be applied to the intended object by the Legislature of the State. In the same year John Cleves Symmes contracted with the Board of the Treasury for a large tract of land in the Territory in which reservations were made for schools and religion. similar to those in the grant to the Ohio Company, and one entire township was reserved for the support of a seminary of learning.
The former of these reservations led to the establishment of the State University of Ohio at Athens, and the latter to the founding of the Miami University. The selections of the first grant mentioned were made in 1795, in Athens and Alexander townships, by the Territorial Legislature. This body chartered in 1802, prior to the admission of Ohio as a State, the American Western University, at Athens, vesting the lands of the said townships in the corporation, and granting the trustees power to lease them for a period not to exceed twenty-one years.
The first Constitution of the State, adopted in 1802, assumes a liberal attitude toward education in general terms, but makes no specific provisions for the disposal of the seminary trust. It declares, nearly in the words of the compact of 1787, that "religion, morality, and knowledge being essentially necessary to the good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of instruction shall be forever encouraged by legislative provision not inconsistent with the rights of conscience." Section twenty-five of the same article enacts that no law shall prevent the poor in different parts of the State from having full and “equal participation in the schools” endowed, "in whole or in part," from revenues arising from the Federal donation, and that “the doors of the said schools, academies, and universities shall be open for
Bancroft, II, 433. 2 These two grants were the only support ever given by Congress for the benefit of religion.
3 Constitution of 1802, Art. VIII, sec. 3.