« PreviousContinue »
Many thought it an unnecessary study, and some in private objected to it because it would take off their attention from arithmetic. But it met with no public opposition.
To some, this recital may seem egotistical. But I have no such feeling. I was so constantly connected with the school movement, that I can not speak of it without speaking of myself. I take no improper pride in the part I acted. If better educated and more influential men had seen fit to take the lead, I should have been contented to follow. But I felt that somebody must do the work, and as others would not, I resolved that I would. I thank a kind Providence that I have been able, in my humble way, to be of service to my fellow men; and I wish to occupy no other place in their memories, or the page of history, than that which truth shall assign me.
For twenty years Mr. Howland, as a member of the school committee, discharged the duties of his office with scrupulous fidelity, and retired only when the demands upon his time as town treasurer, and treasurer of the Savings Institution, suggested the necessity of release from some of his public responsibilities. But though withdrawn from active participation in the management of the schools, he was ever observant of their progress. Standing, as they do, to use his own language, on the solid base of equal rights, and on the enlightened and liberal views of the citizens of Providence,' he found heartfelt satisfaction in every indication of their increasing prosperity. He was frequently addressed from abroad, asking for information in relation to them as their founder, which he promptly furnished. Memorial and Petition of the Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufac
turers in 1799:
That the means of Education which are enjoyed in this State, are very inadequate to a purpose so highly important: That numbers of the rising generation, wliom nature has liberally endowed, are suffered to grow up in ignorance, when a common education would qualify them to act their parts in life with advantage to the public, and reputation to themselves :- That in consequence of there being no legal provision for the establishment of Schools, and for the want of public attention and encouragement, this so essential a part of our social duty is left to the partial patronage of individuals, whose cares can not extend beyond the limits of their own families, while numbers in every part of the State, are deprived of a privilege which it is the common right of every child to enjoy: That when to that respect, which, as individuals we feel ourselves bound to render to the representatives of the people, we add our public declaration of gratitude for the privileges we enjoy as a corporate body, we at the same time solicit this Honorable Assembly to make legal provision for the establishment of Free Schools, sufficient to cducate all the children in the several towns throughout the State. With great confidence, we bring this our earnest solicitation before this Honorable Assembly, from the interest we feel in the public welfare, and from the consideration that our Society is composed of members, not originally of any one particular town, but assembled mostly in our early years from almost every town in the State. That we feel, as individuals, the want of that education which we now ask to be bestowed on those who are to succeed us in life, and which is 80 essential in transacting its common concerns. That we feel a still greater degree of confidence, from the consideration that while we pray this Honorable Assembly to establish Free Schools, we are, at the same time, advocating the cause of the great majority of children through. out the State, and in particular of those who are poor and destitute—the son of the widow and the child of distress. Trusting that our occupations as Mechanics and Manufacturers ought not to prevent us from adding to these reasons an argument which can not fail to operate with those, to whom are committed the guardianship of the public welfare, and that is, that liberty and security, under a Republican form of government, depend on a general diffusion of knowledge among the people.
In confiding this petition and the reasons which have dictated it to the wisdom of the Legislature, we assure ourselves that their decision will be such, as will reflect on this Honorable Assembly the praise and the gratitude, not only of the youth of the present generation, but of thousands, the date of wbose existence is not yet commenced. Instructions of the Town of Providence to their Representatives in 1799:
GENTLEMEN ---Placing in you the fullest confidence, we have selected you to assist in the public councils of the State, not doubting your readiness to promote such measures as may tend to advance the general interest, as combined with the private happiness of the people. It never being our intention to bind our representatives by instructions, in the ordinary business of legislation, we should not have addressed you at this time, but from the deep interest we feel in the question submitted by the General Assembly to their constituents. On the question of Free Schools, gentlemen, all party distinctions are broken down; here there can be no clashing interests. On this subject one section of the State can not be opposed to another. Before this benevolent idea, every partial, nar. row motive of local policy must disappear. As we are confident that the general object of the bill can meet with no opposition, the only question which can arise, will be on some of its particular provisions, as to the best mode of carry. ing its general principle into effect. On this point of the subject, we would recommend to you to support the adoption of the bill in its present form, as any inconvenience which may arise in particular districts, can, at any time, be removed after the law is in operation, when experience can point out to the legislature the expediency of a different arrangement; but this we contide to your discretion, on the positive injunction, that the general system is not affected.
Fully confident of the patriotism of our fellow-citizens throughout the State, that they are actuated by the same anxious solicitude for the public good, we doubt not but their representatives and ours will meet at the next session, bringing with them the rich deposit of the public sentiment, and, by a unanimous voice, establish Free Schools throughout the State; then will that glory, which attaches itself to the purest benevolence, and to the highest acts of public virtue, rest on their heads, and the members of the Rhode Island Legislature, having thus before the close of the eighteenth century, provided for the full en. joyment of a right which forms so essential an article in the great system of social order, will be mentioned with high expressions of gratitude and honor, through the ages and generations which are yet to succeed.
Mr. Howland's interest in the Common schools did not withdraw his attention from the higher educational institutions of the town. He was early noticed by Dr. Manning, the first president of Brown university, whose memoir he wrote for the Rhode Island Literary Repository in January, 1815. In 1835, the Board of Fellows conferred on Mr. Howland the honorary degree of Master of Arts for his services to the cause of learning through a long life. He died on the 5th of November, 1854, at the advanced age of ninety-sevenuniversally respected by the community for whose public institutions he had done more by his personal services, than the wealthiest could do by large pecuniary contributions. His latest public utterance was the following toast on the 4th of July, 1854 :
Rhode Island and her Schools-may she ever guard the integrity of her rights, and may her schools raise up patriots for her defense to the latest generations.
JONATHAN EDWARDS, Tutor in Yale College, President of Nassau Hall, and author of an Enquiry into the Freedom of the Will, was born in the East Parish of Windsor, now East Windsor, Conn., October 5, 1703—the fifth child of Rev. Timothy and Esther Stoddard Edwards.
His education, which was entirely domestic until he entered Yale College in September 1716, was marked by two peculiarities—the habit of close observation of the phenomena of nature, and of studying with pen in hand, not for the purpose of copying off the thoughts of others, but in the language of his biographer, Dr. Sereno Edwards Dwight, "for the purpose of writing down and preserving the thoughts suggested to his own mind, from the course of study which he was pursuing. This practioe he commenced in several branches of study very early; and he steadily pursued it in all his studies through life. His pen appears to have been, in a sense, always in his hand. From this practice, steadily persevered in, ho derived the very great advantages of thinking continually during each period of study; of thinking accurately; of thinking connectedly; of thinking habitually at all times; of banishing from his mind every subject which was not worthy of continued and systematic thought; of pursuing each given subject of thought as far as he was able, at the happy moment when it opened spontaneously on his mind; of pursuing every such subject afterwards, in regular sequence, starting anew from the point where he had previously left off, when again it opened upon him, in some new and interesting light; of preserving his best thoughts, his best associations, his best images, and then arranging them under their proper heads, ready for subsequent use; of regularly strengthening the faculty of thinking and reasoning, by constant and powerful exercise; and, above all, of gradually molding himself into a thinking being—a being, who, instead of regarding thinking and reasoning as labor, could find no high enjoyment but in intense, systematic, and certain thought. In this view of the subject, when we remember how few students comparatively, from the want of this mental discipline, think at all; how few of those who think at all, think habitually; how few of those who think habitually, think to purpose; and how few of those, who think to purpose, attain to the fulness of the measure of the stature, to which, as thinking beings, they might have attained; it will not, I think, be doubted, that the practice in question was the principal means of the ultimate development of his mental superiority.' This precious habit of reducing his observations and reflections to paper, is evidenced by a playful letter written before he was eleven years old, on the immateriality of the soul, and a formal dissertation, addressed, one year later and before le entered college, to a correspondent of his father, on the habits of the forest spider—a production which would be remarkable now in a youth of more years regularly trained in natural history.
At college he stood first in his class, giving special attention in his second year, though not yet fourteen years of age, to Locke on the Human Understanding, from which, he writes, 'he derived higher pleasure than the miser from some newly discovered treasure.' In his third year he writes to his father to get him Alstead's Geometry and Garendus' Astronomy, with which I would entreat you to get a pair of dividers, or mathematician's compasses, and a scale, which are absolutely necessary in order to learning mathematics; and also the Art of Thinking, which I am persuaded would be no less profitable than the other necessary to me.' With such studies and habits of study at this age, he justifies in himself the remark of Alexander Hamilton, recorded by Judge Benson in his copy of the Freedom of the Will, * Nothing ever came from the human mind more in proof that man was a reasoning animal. It is unrelaxed logical statement throughout, from the first page to the last.' But Edwards was much higher than a reasoning animal. His was an humble and devout Christian soul, ag evidenced in his meditations while residing in New York preaching to a congregation of Presbyterians, in 1722,— The soul of a true Christian appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the Spring of the year; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun's glory; rejoicing, as it were, in calm rapture, diffusing around a sweet fragrancy; standing peacefully and lovingly, in the midst of other flowers round about; all in like manner opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun.'
From 1723 to 1726 he was tutor at Yale College; and in 1727 he was associated with his grandfather, Dr. Stoddard, as colleague of the church at Northampton, whom he succeeded as pastor in 1729. During his ministry at Northampton, he wrote bis ‘Treatise on Religious Affections,' ann 'Narrative of Surprising Conversions,' and Qualifications for Communion.' The latter was the immediate cause of a controversy which led to his most unrighteous dismissal in 1750, and in the year following, to his settlement over the church and congregation at Stockbridge, as well as missionary to the Indians in that vicinity. It was in Stockbridge, in 1754, he composed, in four months and a half, in the midst of his duties as pastor, missionary, and teacher, his Essay on the Freedom of the Will,' which for logical acuteness and subtlety, according to Dugald Stewart, “places its author second to no metaphysician bred in the universities of Europe,' and for a century was regarded as the most original contribution made by America to the vast treasure-house of English literature. “Having produced him,' says Hazlitt, 'the Americans need not despair of their metaphysicians. We do not scruple to say that he is one of the acutest, most powerful, and of all reasoners the most conscientious and sincere. His clcarness and candor are alike admirable.'
In 1757 Edwards was elected to the presidency of Nassau Hall, the College of New Jersey at Princeton, and in January, 1758, was installed in that office; but before he had opportunity to demonstate his solid and accurate learning, and vast and acute genius, he died in the fifty-fifth year of his age, a victim of some precautionary course to escape the small-pox then prevailing in the vicinity.
President Edwards' letter to the Trustees of Princeton College illustrates his habits of study, and the vastness of his literary plans.
My method of study, from my first beginning the work of the ministry, has been very much by writing; applying myself, in this way, to improve every important hint; pursuing the clue to my utmost, when anything, in reading, meditation, or conversation, has been suggested to my mind that seemed to promise light in any weighty point; thus penning what appeared to me my best thoughts, on innumerablo subjects, for my own benefit. The longer I prosecuted my studies in this method, the more habitual it became, and the more pleasant and profitable I found it. The farther I travelled in this way, the more and wider the field opened, which has occasioned my laying out many things in my mind to do in this manner, if God should spare my life, which my heart hath been much upon; particularly many things against most of the prevailing errors of the present day, which I cannot with any patience see maintained (to the utter subverting of the Gospel of Christ) with so high a hand, and so long continued a triumph, with so little control, when it appears so evident to me that there is truly no foundation for any of this glorying and insult. I have already published something on one of the main points in dispute between the Arminians and the Calvinists, and have it in view, God willing (as I have already signified to the public), in like manner to consider all the other controverted points, and have done much towards a preparation for its
His plan contemplated a series of essays similar to his 'Freedom of the Will,' a history of the Work of Redemption,' a body of divinity in an entire new method being thrown into the form of history, and a still larger work on the 'Harmony of the Old and New Testaments,' in three parts. His view of his activity as chief officer of the college was:
If I should see light to determine me to accept the place offered me, I should be willing to take upon me the work of a president, so far as it consists in the general inspection of the whole society; and to be subservient to the school, as to their order and methods of study and instruction, assisting myself in the immediate instruction in the arts and sciences (as discretion should direct, and occasion serve, and the state of things require), especially of the senior class; and, added to all, should be willing to do the whole work of a professor of divinity in public and private lectures, proposing questions to be answered, and some to be discussed in writing and free conversation, in meetings of graduates and others, appointed, in proper seasons, for these ends.