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Miss Wright and her coadjutor, Mr. Owen, and to the editors of the Sentinel, all of whom have formally disclaimed connection with the Agrarian party of Skidmore and Ming. The “Free Enquirer" and the “Sentinel,” do indeed stand forward the advocates of the operatives and mechanics, and have done much to form into an organized party, this description of the citizens of New-York.
The party thus formed, it is expected, will be able to count at the ensuing elections in New-York, about eight thousand votes. They propose
To elect legislators out of their own body, instructed to advocate upon all occasions, and to vote for the interests of the mechanics and operatives specifically.
To give away to their own friends and supporters all offices within the gift of the corporation or the people.
To introduce laws creating liens in favour of mechanics.
To attempt the suppression and annihilation, gradually, of all banks, banking systems, and monopolies among the wealthy.
To reduce all salaries : regarding one thousand or fifteen hundred dollars per annum, as an adequate salary, for instance, for the duties of register, now said to produce six or seven thousand.
To introduce (and this is held out as their main object) a system of universal education, on a plan, whereof the following are the leading features.
Every child born in the state, however idle, negligent, extravagant, profligate or criminal his parents may have been or may be, is of right entitled to full maintenance, clothing and education, at the expense of the public until he comes of age, (Free Enquirer, vol. ii. p. 227); inasmuch as the child has committed no offence, although his parents may have been guilty ; inasmuch as the vicious habits induced by neglecting the education and maintenance of the children of the poor, are of far more detriment to society, than any tax that can be imposed to bring them up with good morals and sound knowledge; inasmuch as this is a right, incident to every buman creature born in society-a right as perfect as that of the children of the wealthy; and inasmuch as there is no good reason why wealth should confer exclusive privileges.
That these schools for educating, clothing and feeding, upon terms of perfect equality, every child born in the state, until adult age, shall be supported by a slight tax on every citizen; a tax such as the poor can easily bear; the deficiency to be made up out of the funds of the State Treasury.
That at these schools, the children shall, without exception, be taught agriculture, gardening, and some mechanical trade, as well as the usual course of school learning in its most perfect and extended sense. That they shall be clothed, fed, instructed, and treated alike, upon terms of the most republican equality. “ If we are asked what sort of education is good enough for the common people? we ask, in reply, what sort of education is good enough for the richest and most favoured classes in the land? The answer to the one question is with us the answer to the other.”-Free Enquirer, vol. ii. p. 219.
That no citizen shall be absolutely compelled to send his children to these schools, though he shall be taxed to their support; but, as an inducement, it is insinuated that all public offices and honours will be divided among the citizens who shall have been thus educated in common.
That the teachers shall be elected by the people.
Tbat by this means the succeeding generation will be republicans in feeling, in education, and in every substantial sense of the word, with equal privileges of knowledge of every kind to set out with.
The plan is more fully developed in the fourth essay on public education, in the New-York Sentinel.
“ Is Public Education best conducted in Boarding Schools or Day Schools ?--In examining this very important question, on the decision of which the whole structure of a system of education depends, let us bear in mind, that in America, education ought to be equal and republican ; and further, that it ought to be—not good enough for the common people—but the best which national wisdom can devise.
“If State schools are to be, as now in New-England, common day schools only, we do not perceive how either of these requisitions are to be fulfilled. In republican schools, there must be no temptation to the growth of aristocratical prejudices. The pupils must learn to consider themselves as fellow-citizens, as equals. Respect ought to be paid, and will always be paid to virtue and to talent; but it ought not to be paid to riches, or withheld from poverty. Yet, if the children from these State Schools are to go every evening, the one to his wealthy parent's soft carpeted drawing-room, and the other to its poor father's or widowed mother's comfortless cabin, will they return the next day as friends and equals? He knows little of human nature who thinks they will.
Again, if it is to be left to the parent's taste and pecuniary means to clothe their children as they please and as they can, the one in braided broad cloth and velvet cap, and the other in threadbare homespunwill they meet as friends and equals? Will there be no envy on the one side and disdain on the other? And are envy and disdain proper and virtuous feelings in young republicans? Yet if State Schools be
day schools, only, how can there be uniformity of dress? Must not the poor widow dress her children as she can ?
“But again ; is that education the best, which teaches children the common branches of education during six or seven hours each day, and then leaves them to all the bad habits, which children, suffered to run wild, acquire ? Here in the city, for instance, is that education the best, by which children spend five or six hours out of the twenty-four in the streets, learning rudeness, impertinent manners, vulgar language and vicious habits ? will any advantages in school, compensate for these disadvantages out of it? But let us remember, it is not the question whether this half-training (too often much less than half) is good enough for the common people. It is the question whether it is the best that can be devised.
“For our own parts, we understand education to mean, every thing which influences, directly or indirectly, the child's character. To see his companions smoke segars is a part of his education; to hear oaths is a part of his education; to see and laugh at drunken men in the streets is a part of his education ; to witness vulgar merriment or coarse brawls, is a part of his education. And if any one thinks that an education like this (which is daily obtained in the streets of our city) will be counteracted and neutralized by half a dozen hours daily schooling, we are not of his opinion. We had almost as soon have a child of ours brought up among the Indians, as have him frequent a common day school one half the day, and wander about our streets the other half.
“ But even if none of these reasons existed, how is the poor labourer, or poorer widow to keep her children at a day school, until they have received an education equal to that of their richer neighbours ? Can the labourer or the widow afford to support their children till they are twelve, fourteen, or sixteen years old, while they peruse the page of science, and obtain the acquirements and accomplishments which form the enlightened, well-educated man? Even if no children's tax be levied on them, can they furnish food and decent clothing for their children, during the necessary term? And if they cannot clothe their children as well as their neighbours clothe theirs, will they send them to school to be looked down upon or laughed at? If day schools alone are provided, therefore, would not those very children who most require instruction, be virtually excluded?
“Is not the developement of the social habits, of the dispositions, of the moral feelings, the most important of the teacher's duties. And what opportunity is there of fulfilling that duty, unless the pupils be at all times under his eye and his control ?
“ One other strong objection to day schools remains. If agriculture is to form a part of the instruction of all children, it must be taught in seminaries in the country, where the pupil is boarded and lodged, as well as received during class hours. We conceive that agriculture ought to form a prominent part of the education of every young republican; both because it is the most necessary and useful of all occupations, and thus affords an independence in the worst reverse of fortune; and also, because, if practically taught, in the schools, it will supply a consider
able portion of the expense. The pupils may raise their own vegetables, corn and grain ; and these ought to form three-fourths, at least, of their food.
“We conceive then, that State Schools, to be republican, efficient and acceptable to all, must receive the children, not for six hours a day, but altogether; must feed them, clothe them, lodge them; must direct not their studies only, but their occupations and amusements ; must care for them until their education is completed, and then only abandon them to the world, as useful, intelligent, virtuous citizens.
“We do not consider this question regarding day schools and boarding schools as a non-essential, a matter that may be decided either way, without ruin to the cause. We conceive that on its decision depends, in a manner, every thing. On its decision depends whether the system of education which the people call for, shall be a paltry palliative, or an efficient cure; whether aristocracy shall be perpetuated or destroyed; whether the poor man's child shall be educated or not; whether the next generation shall obtain their just rights or lose them.
“We know that this article will startle some timid spirits, who cannot conceive how the nation will resolve to incur the expense of such a system. And we think it not unlikely, that if the people decide, as we are convinced they will, for such a system at once, its adoption may be somewhat retarded. But it is better-infinitely better that it should be somewhat delayed, than that it should be frittered away, by half measures, into nothing worth having."
“At a numerous meeting of the working-men's party, at Harmony Hall, New-York, in the middle of May, 1830, the following, among other resolutions, was carried by an overwhelming majority.- Courier and Enquirer, May 20, 1830.
“ That we consider any system of education incomplete and unrepublican, which does not embrace equal food, clothing and instruction, from infancy to maturity; and that we consider it to be one of the most important duties of government to provide such education and guardianship for the children of all, without respect of persons or classes.
“That we recommend to our delegation in the Executive Committee, to accede to no half measures on this subject, the very turning-point of our cause; convinced that principle ought to go before temporary expedience; and that whatever the people see to be just and right, and are resolved to carry, those they will carry in spite of the influence of wealth, the intrigues of unprincipled politicians, and the schemes of designing demagogues.” (Meaning moderate men and men of property.)
“ In another resolution, they deprecate “all squeamish policy, and declare that the times require not only good temper, but good courage."
What ulterior proposals are to be built upon these, we know not: and we have no right to assume without proof, or to draw conclusions beyond what reasonable probability will bear us out in deducing
These advocates of the right of education as above set forth, are pleased to designate as aristocrats, unprincipled politicians, and designing demagogues, all those who are of opinion, ourselves included, that these schemes are neither just, nor expedient nor practicable. But opposed as we are to the proposals of the Free Enquirer and Sentinel, we by no means wish to disparage the motives of these theorists, to undervalue their talents, to blame their zeal, or to decry their publications. If they bave truth on their side, they ought to succeed; if they be wrong, their opponents ought to shew that they are so: we acknowledge, without hesitation, the perfect right that every man in society possesses or ought to possess, to advance in his own manner any opinion, however dubious, on any subject, that requires public investigation, in order that it may be fairly and calmly discussed before the public. Throughout the whole range of human inquiry, there is not a position that can be concealed with benefit to the public; nor can truth be fixed on a firm basis without perfect freedom of discussion; nor can she have cause upon any occasion to shun the light ; nor can the public good be promoted by the suppression of opinion on any subject, par-, ticularly on one so interesting as that now before us.
As to the proposals of Messrs. Hodgskin, Thompson, Byllesby, Skidmore and Ming, we think they are too extravagant to need refutation. Those who advocate a forcible, compulsive, and equal division of property, or who would take away all right of bequeathinent, however modified or limited, may be safely left to themselves. Proposals so outrageous, in the present state of society, are not dangerous. They may be advanced, without reasonable apprehension from the number of converts they are likely to gain, excepting among the candidates for the prisons and penitentiaries.
The sole questions that we have now to discuss, are, whether it be just, and whether it be expedient for the public good, that the idle, the extravagant, the drunken, the vicious, the criminal of every grade, shall have the right to bring into the world a family of children, and compel his honest, frugal, hard-working neighbour to support and educate them, till they become of adult age, upon terms of equality, in every particular, with his own children ; that is, whether the progeny of my drunken neighbour have as much right to my property as my own children. We do not wonder that unmarried men and women, like Robert Dale Owen and Frances Wright, or that mechanics, who obstinately and ignorantly crowd together in large cities, till they elbow each other out of employment, should propose this scheme of universal education and maintenance; but the true question is, or we hope it will be, how this scheme for taxing industry to encourage idleness, will be relished by tbe