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Professor Davies' Works.
Berard's Grammar and
10. French Lunguage,
11. Sword exercise.
This extensive course of instruction is arranged so as to occupy four years. The cadets form four classes ; those who
: are in the first year form the fourth class, those in tậe second the third class, those in the third the second class, and those in the fourth the first class. Distinct divisions of the subjects of study are allotted to each class, so that the graduate, by the fourth year, has conquered the whole of the branches. A system of conduct and merit rolls in every branch, finally combined into a general merit roll, has been devised with the greatest care, by which the relative superiority of one individual over the other, by a fixed standard of average, is ascertained. Thus, by the system, when a cadet has a number on the general conduct roll greater than two hundred of demerit for any one year, he is recommended by the academic board to the war department for discharge. No cadet can enter the army until after he has received a diploma. In general, the whole police and discipline, whether in relation to furlough, clothing, furniture, pay and accounts, conduct, or any of the minutiæ relative to personal, social, or military duties, intercourse, habits, and restraints, are managed by the operation of the most rigid rules. The battalion of cadets is encamped on the plain during the months of July and August; the remaining ten months are devoted to studies in the branches, recitations and examinations in the hall, and practice in the field. The hours of the day are thus occupied, viz.-from dawn of day to sunrise, reveille, roll-call, police, cleaning of arms, &c.; from sunrise to seven a. M., study; from seven to eight a. M., breakfast, guard mounting, recreation, class parade; from eight a. M. to one P. M., recitation, study, lectures and drawing distributed among the classes ; from one to two P. M., dinner and recreation; from two to four P. M., recitation, drawing and study; from four P. M. to sunset, military exercise, dress parade, recreation, roll-call; the next half hour, supper and to quarters ; from thence to half past nine P. M., study; from half past nine to ten P. M., tattoo, extinguishment of lights, and inspection of
rooms; and thus conclude the labours of the day. We have been thus particular in describing the institution in detail for several reasons. Those of our countrymen who have not visited it, do not in general understand its organization, and are therefore either indifferent to its welfare, or are liable to be abused, in their notions on the subject, by political or personal feeling. In either case, injustice is done to the real interests of the country. We also have felt it desirable that these details should be made known, in order that the objections to the institution may be perfectly comprehended. Before we proceed to these, however, we must notice very briefly the documents and pamphlets whose titles precede this article.
On the executive messages, war department reports, and the reports of numerous committees of the representative body, it is unnecessary to dwell further than we have already done, except to remark the fact that they have, almost unanimously, concurred in the constitutionality, expediency and necessity of a national academy. Wherever fault has been pointed out, it has been traced rather to the plan than the principle, till, upon the reorganization of 1817--22, and since, with the exception of the report of the select committee of 1837, about to be noticed, its plan, administration, and results to the country, have elicited the most unqualified approbation and support.
The reports of the boards of visitors, in consequence of the nature of their duties, have been confined to the course of instruction, the improvement of the cadets, police, discipline and fiscal concerns, without considering the subject on a more enlarged scale. In looking over the names of the persons comprising these boards, we have been struck with the number of individuals known in this country as eminent in literature, the arts, and the sciences. In no single board has it happened, but that there were some individuals whose reputation was of such a character as to forbid the idea of their rendering false testimony as to the merits of the establishment. All the boards, (there having been none during the early portion of its existence,) as bodies, have united in praise of its management and the proficiency of its students, with the single exception of the minority of a single member of one of the boards, whose impartiality has been more than once attacked. It also seems that these boards have been composed of individuals of all political parties, and from all sections of the Union; and yet, whatever their previous prejudices or predilections, they have melted away and been converted into the strongest approbation in the crucibles of personal enquiry and conscientious judgment. We have been present at a general examination, preparatory to the graduation of the first class, in presence of the visitors, and it more than once occurred to us, that had the most bitter foe of the school
been there, we should have been enabled to say of him, before its termination, artes honorabit. The examination is public. The text books are in the hands of the visitors, and they are requested, in such manner as scarcely to admit of refusal, to select the subject upon which each cadet shall be examined, and at their option to conduct the examination themselves, so that no possibility of combination between the teachers and the cadets, or imposition as to the attainments of the latter, can exist. We have seen the cadet called on to discuss on the black-board one subject selected at random out of near a hundred in engineering, and another for general verbal explanation; and the same course of examination pursued with all the classes throughout all the branches. The results have been of the most gratifying character to the enquirer, and honourable to the academy; evincing that the minds of the students are trained to habits of thought and to comprehend principles, and that their acquisition of knowledge is not merely by rote.
We venture however to suggest one improvement in the constitution of the board of visitors, and that is, that the secretary of war should appoint at least one third of the members of any given year for the succeeding year. The regulations (art. 15) prescribe their duty to be “the ascertainment of the progress and improvement of the cadets in the several branches," &c. It would seem to follow, that while the respective boards of each year are composed of entirely different members, as at present, no opportunity is afforded to the board, as an unit, to judge by comparison of the progressive improvement of the students. As it is, they can only judge by the general proficiency which is displayed, but of necessity it is not in their power to discriminate the shades of improvement, or realise the amount of information acquired during the year immediately preceding the general examination. As every possible objectionable feature should be removed, it would be well if this subject were recommended to the attention of the proper authorities.
The letter of a “Graduate, late an officer of the United States Army," to an honourable representative, in reply to certain strictures contained in a speech delivered by him in congress, and reported in the newspapers at Washington, in which great disparagement was most liberally bestowed on the academy and its graduates, is a powerful and eloquent production, deserving perusal by all who have an interest in the subject. The honourable member, with a feeling that governs, we trust, but a small portion of our western brethren in the formation of their opinions as to this establishment, took occasion, after the ad captandum fashion, most lustily to belabour all and every thing belonging to its concerns, management, or effects, but
VOL. XXII.-NO. 43
particularly shot his arrow at the graduated pupils of
the school, poisoning the barb with the assertion of their utter incompetency and worthlessness when called into service. The author of the letter thus introduces a well-reasoned and manly refutation of the charges made by the honourable member :
“When one charged with the responsible duties of a legislator forgets the nature of the trust which he holds for the commonwealth, and, instead of consulting the common interest alone, endeavours to procure the enactment of laws of a purely local tendency, which, whilst they momentarily affect one portion of the country favourably, bear at the same time prejudicially upon others, and in the end become a permanent disadvantage to the whole-when one vested with the authority of a statesman narrows down his views to the attainment of some object of petty ambition, instead of following out an evlarged and liberal system of policy, 'giving up to party what was meant for mankind-when one clothed in the invulnerable 'armour of a representative of the people's sovereignty becomes so lost to a proper sense of the dignified attitude in which he has been placed by his constituents, as under cover of the ægis of their majesty to let fly, with an irresistible and unsparing hand, the shafts of personal invective against individuals, or classes of his fellow-citizens, there is a point where neither the exercise of charity, which supposes honest motives in all, nor the forbearance to which even the prejudices of well-meaning ignorance are entitled, nor the respect of silence due to those whose power is thus abused and misdirected, can any longer be classed as virtues: and that point is, when wrong-headedness, the result at first of ignorance, is persevered in through sheer obstinacy, in spite of the weight of testimony of the most respectable and impartial witnesses against the errors and folly of such a course."
The whole letter is an energetic appeal to the good sense and proper feeling of the community; we shall have an opportunity to quote from it again.
The Hon. F. 0. J. Smith's report, as the chairman of the select committee of the house, to which the subject of the academy had been referred, is an attack, totis viribus, on the present organization of the institution, and proposes a substitution of another in its stead. It denies, rather by implication, however, than by distinct assertion, the constitutional power of the general government to maintain this school ; it boldly alleges that legislation and practice have perverted the purposes of the original founders; it seeks to establish that the internal administration is inefficient for the ends of sound military instruction, and that insubordination and incompetence exist; it charges that the “whole concern,” if we may be allowed the use of a significant vulgarism, is an extravagant waste of money upon a privileged class, selected through favouritism, whose members, it further alleges, have rarely rendered any real service to the country, and, in general, who never can compensate the public for the money and time bestowed in their favour by national patronage. We are not disposed to deny the author the credit of having displayed much research, great labour, and consider
able ingenuity in the performance of the task to which he evidently applied himself con amore. But it is unfortunate for the soundness of the views of the report, in regard to the matter in hand, that the author throughout seems imbued with the delenda est Carthago sentiment; and, by seeking to prove too much, weakens the whole structure of his argument. He appears to have sat down as one to whom was allotted the particular side of a question at issue, and has gone on, in spite of the evidence, under a misapprehension caused by a mind too zealously bent upon the object to weigh dispassionately the means by which it is sought to be attained, to make out his case by all the aid of premises without proofs, and conclusions without premises. We are not to be understood as doubting the sincerity of the author. On the contrary, it is very clear that he reasons with perfect self-conviction. That he is utterly mistaken, however, we hope to make appear. But a certain prince of darkness is not half so black as he is painted, as we have been told, and there is scarce any public institution in whose favour so many good and wise men have expended so much labour, but in which there are at least some good points or qualities. Yet the author of the report seems to think “that the blackest black is not black enough," and therefore tilts with his lance against every idea that starts up in defence-in short is, ab initio ad finem, an indiscriminate contemner. This report and its reasoning shall not go without notice; but we pass from it for a moment, remarking, however, that the bill submitted by it proposes that all the laws in force relating to the subject be repealed, that the cadets be disbanded and dismissed, and that the secretary of war, under the direction of the president, shall organize a school of “application and practice” at West Point for the improvement of the officers of the army of the United States, in the several branches of the elementary and theoretic sciences involved in the art of war. To carry this out, it provides that a superintendent, aided by assistant subordinate officers, shall impart this instruction to the officers of the army, who are to repair to the school for a time not exceeding one year in three successive years, and in numbers not exceeding, at any one time, one third of the company officers in service. It further proposes the distinct feature, (which we have heretofore condemned, that the instruction to be imparted to each officer shall have reference to the duties of the corps from which he may have been detailed, or for which he may be destined. The project then goes on to provide, (inasmuch as the proverb, “ few die and none resign, maugre its common use, does not hold out in practice,) that all persons making application for appointment in the army shall previously, as they may, at private schools, have become qualified