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Report of the Board of Visitors of the United States Military Academy. United States Military Academy, West Point, June 16, 1832.

No apology, it is presumed, is necessary for inviting the attention of the serious part of this community, to the document by which this article is introduced; and to the institution itself, which forms the subject of the document. It is now more than twenty years since the United States' Military Academy at West Point was re-modeled, under a public patronage so extensive, and upon a basis so broad and permanent, as to be regarded thenceforward as the exclusive nursery of national military officers, and the only school to which the country must look for an adequate knowledge of the arts of defense and of war. Since the act of congress, in 1812, in pursuance of which that re-modeling took place, up to the present time, the institution has embraced in its plan of education, two hundred and fifty young men; and it now sends annually into the public service of the nation, or into the civil professions, about forty disciplined graduates, whose vigorous minds have been fostered, and whose religious character has been formed, within the circle of its instructions and its regulations, and under its moral influence. The propriety of carefully inquiring into the tendencies, both mental and moral, of a system of regulations and of instruction, so effective for good or for ill, rises to the grade of a necessary duty, when we consider the indifference, or rather it should be termed the inaction, which the religious public have manifested with respect to the subject: for, whatever has been the cause,—whether its secluded situation, visited little, except in the way of official duty, or of pleasure,--or its military pursuits, --or its connection with the general governmeni,----certain it is, that Vol. VI.



this institution has been committed almost entirely to the regt of popular favor, with less appearance of solicitude respecting -moral results, than is usually manifested by our countrymen specting any subject which has to do with the education of you men. Yet, if the importance of an institution be measured by extent of its endowments, by the ability of its officers, or by amount of youthful talent matured within its precincts, we's not find more than two or three in the land, of greater moment the purposes of general education, than the National Academy West Point.

The relations which tbis institution bears to the welfare of country, arrange themselves under the three great divisions of tary, academic, and moral and religious. The military relation the institution come, to a certain extent, within the scope present inquiry and design ; inasmuch as they entwine themsel with all the other relations, --springing, in common with them, of a scheme of education which is essentially military, in its pose and its execution : so that it is impossible to form a di idea of the institution, either in its academic excellencies or moral dangers, without first understanding how the military gen of the place combines with its discipline, modifies its system of struction, and infuses itself into the personal feelings and principl of the young men who are the subjects of its influence.' Nech without this understanding will it be possible to form an intellige opinioni how far certain admirable results of this system of instra tion, there practised under military auspices, can be transferred i institutions of learning that are strictly civil in their character; no again, to find any assistance in determining the great point,—tha which none bears more weghtily on the welfare of the whole bod of colleges in the United States,

whether a system of disciplinar government can be devised, which shall secure the uninterrupte prevalence of order and pure morality.

The formation of a military academy was recommended to cor gress very early, by General Washington.* The first legislativ p for the purpose was taken in 1802. By the act of that year, ixing the military peace establishment of the United States,” the esident was empowered to organize an engineer corps, to consist ten officers and ten cadets, which corps, when organized, should stationed at West Point, in the state of New York, and should istitute a Military Academy. In the year following, a teacher the French language and a teacher of drawing were added, — d also an artificer and men, for the purpose of making practical periments. In the year 1808, the Academy was enlarged in e scale of numbers, by an act authorising an increase of cadets the army to one hundred and sixty-six, in all; but the actual mbers continued small, and by 1812 had dwindled to a little od. The effects, however, of a military education, imperfect it was, were soon manifest, and the officers educated in the school se rapidly in rank; so that in 1812, the year of the war, it was temed important to place the military science of the country pon a permanent basis, by adding to the departments of instruction ready established, the new ones of Natural Philosophy, Matheiatics and Engineering, and by enlarging the body of cadets to wo hundred and fifty,—its present number. The names of Elliott and Mansfield now appear on the roll of the academic staff; ind the Military Academy henceforth takes rank, as one of the most prominent institutions of the country for general education. Still, however, up to 1816,-17,-18, there was neither a regulated plan of recitation, nor an allotted course and period of studies, nor a fixed standard of attainments; but the academic instructions were devoid of system; and both the appointments to membership in the Academy, and the promotions to the army, were made on principles of favoritism, and in contravention of the enactments of congress, which both prescribed the qualifications for appointment

* “ If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperit it must be known that we are at all times ready for war. it is an inquiry, which cannot be too solemnly pursued, whether the act 'mo effectually to provide for the national defense, by establishing an uniform milio throughout the United States,' has organized them so as to produce their fu effect; ** and whether a material feature is an improvement of it, ought na to be, to afford an opportunity for the study of those branches of the milits art, wbich can scarcely ever be attained by practice alone?” Speech of L President of the United States Congress, Dec. 3, 1793.

“ In proportion as the observance of pacific maxims might exempt a patic from the necessity of practising the rules of military art, ought to be its care i preserving, and transmitting by proper establishments, the knowledge of tha art. Whatever argument may be drawu from particular examples, superficiall

the station of cadet, and enjoined, that promotion and rank should be regulated by individual merit

. In short, the state of things was such as is described in the quotation following :-" In the Military Academy, no previous examination is required for the admission of cadets ; They are not divided into classes ; a course of studies is not prescribed; nor is a final examination which is stamped with the approbation of their preceptors, considered an essential passport to military promotion. The conse


, a thorough examination of the subject will evince, that the art of war is at once comprehensive and complicated; that it demands much previous study; and that the possession of it, in its most improved and perfect state, is always of great moment to the security of a nation. This, therefore, ought to be a serious care of every government'; and for this purpose, an academy, where a regular course of instruction is given, is an obvious expedient which different nations have successfully employed." Speech of the President of the United States to Congress, Dec. 1, 1796

quences are, that young gentlemen ignorant of the first elements of science, are admitted ; that perhaps a majority of cadets do not attend any of the professors; and that selections for the army are sometimes considered in an unfavorable light.”* Two years only after the date of this extract, the defects prominently set forth in it, were effaced from the system of the institution, by the adoption of a fixed course of study,-a regular academic period, and an organization into distinct classes, to the number of four. A sure promotion at the end of the four years' course, having respect to individual merit, has also been the practice, as well as the law, of the academic system since the year 1818; from which epoch in its history, the Military Academy dates the existence of those elements of prosperity, which have raised it to its present efficiency and high reputation.

The design and purpose of the Academy at West Point, are what its name and the foregoing brief history denote them to be purely military. They terminate in the idea of preserving in constant readiness for action, a body of American officers, who shall be accomplished in the knowledge of war, and capable of commanding the largest bodies of men which there can be occasion ever to call into the field. It is not to our purpose now to comment upon the economy and safety of a scheme,-a wise one, certainly if war is, indeed, one of the unavoidable contingencies of national existence, which thus holds in readiness the materiel and the genius of war, at the expense only, as well as the diminished hazards only, of a small standing army. The remark which is appropriate to the object of this article is of another kind ;—that, as war in its evolutions, in the preparation of its munitions, and in the arrangement and construction of its means of defense, is intimately connected with the results of science, in numerous departments, it becomes necessary for the officer to take a wide range of study, in order to be master of the entire principles of his profession. In a military academy, therefore, science, in all its departments, would be made, most naturally, a subject of special interest and attention, as embodying those principles upon which are founded the operations of the field, and the fortification of the coast. This is, in fact, historically speaking, the relation which scientific accomplishments have been conceived to hold to the warlike preparations of the United States; and through this connection, the academic relations of the institution at West Point, have sprung out of its military objects. But it is a confined view of the purpose of education, whether general or specific, which would limit the youthful mind to such pursuits as are directly essential to the particular

Report of the Hon. DeWitt Clinton,-member of the first Board of Visitors in 1815,-10 Brig. Gen. Swift, Inspector of the Military Academy; dated Feb. 1, 1816.


practical result towards which its education is directed. It is kind which must be formed, -disciplined powers of thought and conception, which need to be developed before we have gained the intellect that is fitted to tower over the emergencies which a great cause must, sooner or later, present; and therefore, it is not a lavish expenditure of means, but a wise liberality of views, which has made the system of academic instruction at West Point coextensive, as far as practicable, with that of our bighest colleges. Science, however, holds the pre-eminent place, as it ought to do; and a military object, a military spirit, and a military organization, have the control of the whole scheme, as well as its whole execulion: or, to use the language of official documents, “ The Academy is, therefore, essentially a Military Academy; its organization and discipline are military; and its rules and arrangements form a part of the military institutes of the country.' Again,-“ WhatEver tends directly to secure this instruction, [relating to war, intercommunication, and the arrangement and construction of forts,) in its best forın, is therefore essential to such an institution ; and whatever else is taught here, must be considered subordinate and subservient.”+ Once more, _“Your conviction that a military character should distinguish this seminary from all others in the Union

, and your assurance of co-operation and support, to sustain that character, are most acceptable earnests of a spirit that will make this Academy an honor to the republic.”[

From this general survey of the institution under review,--first, as that which affects extensively the moral and religious interests of the land, --next, as a nursery of military art and knowledge, and, lastly, as a seminary for mental culture,---we turn to its present state and prospects, as set forth in the document at the head of this article, of which document it will be expedient, first, to present an analysis ; postponing, till that is finished, the particular review of the scheme of discipline and instruction which we intend to take, in respect to its academic and moral and religious relations. It is known to every one, that at the principal public examination, in June, a “Board of Visitors," which is annually commissioned by the war department of the general government, to attend at the examination, through its whole course ; and which is eropowered and requested to inspect minutely the whole system of instruction, of discipline and of tactics; and also to look into the whole management of the institution, tutelary, moral, and fiscal; give at large, in a “ Report,” addressed to the Secretary of War,

Report of the Board of Visitors of the Military Academy, 1826. Ibid.

Reply of Brig Gen Swift, to an address from the Academic Staff,-upon bis arrival as superintendent of the United States Military Academy. November 3,1616.

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