Page images
PDF
EPUB

it was never displayed by him in any public assembly, it was possessed in an eminent degree by Robert Burns. This kind of eloquence study cannot give, and it may be doubted whether any degree of culture can much improve. It acts with spontaneous energy and volcanic force. "A man might as well attempt to prepare himself in the schools to write the tragedy of Hamlet, or to fight the battle of Austerlitz, as to utter one of those splendid and terrible passages which have been the wonder and admiration of mankind. From this fact has arisen the impression that eloquence comes by chance, and this impression has done, and is doing, a good deal of mischief. The meetings of our various philanthropic societies

, the weekly services of our pulpits, our State and National Legislatures, the caucuses and conventions of our political parties, afford ample evidence that our countrymen have been very generally endowed with the capacity of speaking well, and that they are responsible for a very general neglect of the talent with which they have been thus intrusted. They do not want compass and melody of voice, but they need instruction and practice in the elementary principles of elocution. They have plenty of what, in phrenological jargon, is called the bump of language, but they would profit by a more thorough acquaintance with the meaning of words and the structure of sentences. They have in abundance what goes by the name of spontaneity, but they have not the force and steadiness which come from careful observation, patient reflection, and the study of good books. It is in these respects that we think our professional men might derive improvement from a careful study of the means by which Lord Mansfield secured his ascendency as a public speaker.

The same remark will apply with perhaps equal force to his other eminent qualities,-to his wise moderation–his willing allegiance to the law of “not too much”—the general repose and dignity of his character. In this country the tendency in all classes is to early development and crude performance. It is seen in the rapid growth and frequent failure of business men; in the noisy and rapid discussions of the press and the public assembly ; in the wonderful discoveries in morals, politics, religion, education, and social improvement, which appear and disappear with the rapidity of the seasons, but unhappily without their beautiful order and beneficent results. These things may be incident to our condition as a young and rapidly growing people, and they may, or they may not, work their own cure. We do not now propose to enter upon that discussion. All will admit that they are not in themselves desirable, and it can certainly do

no harm to those who may aspire to distinction and usefulness in public or professional life, to ponder the career of a man who lingered awhile by the fountains of ancient wisdom before he attempted to enlighten the world with his own,who studied Demosthenes and Cicero, before attempting to emulate their immortal works,—who understood the propriety of governing himself before attempting to reform the State, who served his day and generation and made his name historical, without so far as we know having proposed or defended any new theory of society; in one word, of a man who became what he was by the slow, quiet, and beautiful process of growth, and not by the startling exhibitions of the circus. If such an example were generally followed, the comfort, quiet, and improvement of the community would be greatly promoted. Much of the evil so rife in these times has its origin in a want of thorough culture in what are commonly called educated men. Ultraism, in whatever form, whether radical or conservative,-and it is about equally common and equally pernicious in each of these forms,-is commonly the indication of a poorly-furnished head and an ill-disciplined character.

We cannot close these hasty remarks without again calling the attention of the legal profession, and of all those who take an interest (as who does not ?) in the wise and pure administration of justice, to a work, which, besides containing a fund of anecdote and much valuable historical information, will, if carefully studied, throw important light upon many questions which now interest, and are yet to interest still more, the people of this country. The attention of the country has recently been called to the tenure of the judicial office, and by the action of some of the States it has been rendered entirely dependent upon the popular will.

Without entering upon any of the vexed questions suggested by this subject, we may safely say that by whatever tenure the judiciary hold office, no department of the government is of greater importance; and whoever may appoint or dismiss judges, that community will suffer where the legal profession is destitute of materials out of which good judges can be made. There are certain causes operating against a high standard of attainment and character at the bar of this country. Let them see to it that these causes are successfully resisted, and that they have ever in their ranks men who may be fitly called upon by the appointing power, whether that power be the people or the legislature, to fill the places which have been occupied in England by Hale, by Holt, and by Mansfield, and in this country, by Marshall, by Kent, and by Story.

ART. VII.-PRESIDENT WAYLAND'S REPORT.

Report of the Corporation of Brown University on Changes in

the System of Collegiate Education. Read March 28th, 1850. George H. Whitney. Pp. 76.

We have read this Report with no ordinary pleasure, and have studied its principles with a constantly increasing interest. Whoever proposes essential changes in our present plan of collegiate education, should be familiarly acquainted with the subject. For education in the broad and generous meaning of the term has already grown into a dignified science, having elementary principles and general laws of its own, which

must pervade and regulate every wisely organized institution, whether intended for popular or collegiate instruction or professional learning. A thorough knowledge of these principles, and of their application in training the student aright, does not come into the minds of men without patient study and experience, any more than a knowledge of the general laws of the other sciences and of their applications will come unsought.

We are aware that this is not the popular view. On certain great subjects, such as Civil Government, Education, and Religion, almost every one fancies he has quite correct notions, although he may never have spent as much time in studying either of them as he did in learning the multiplication table. Indeed it is not an uncommon spectacle to witness men discussing these vast themes, which they have never really studied at all, with manifest confidence in their opinions, when these same men will express, with very modest caution, their opinions of the nature or of the application of almost any law in Natural Philosophy or Chemistry, which they once studied carefully and saw illustrated by experiment.

Impressed with this view of the public sentiment in regard to education, we presume that some who read this Report will condemn certain features of it without an examination, simply because they are new, that is, unlike the constitution and course of things" in the college at which they were

educated, or with which they happen to be most acquainted; while others will run into the opposite extreme, and commend whatever is new simply because it is new, and be ready to join a crusade against all the colleges which do not see the importance of making essential changes in their present systems of instruction.

Between these two parties, the ultra-conservative on the one hand and the ultra-progressive on the other, there is a large class of sensible, thinking men, who will give this proposed scheme of collegiate education an unbiased examination; and if their understandings become convinced that the changes proposed are desirable and practicable, they will be eager to see them carried into effect, and if it is their duty to aid in doing this, they will be ready to lend such assistance as the case may demand. We shall be much disappointed if a very favorable impression is not made on this class of minds by the Report ; for it is marked by strong, practical common sense, brought to bear upon long experience and a thorough acquaintance with the subject. As early as 1842, President Wayland wrote a small volume entitled " Thoughts on the present Collegiate System in the United States," and the Report evinces that his subsequent reading and reflections on the subject have matured his views, which are here presented under the following heads :

The System of University Education in Great Britain.
The progress and present state of University Education in this country.
The present condition of this University.

The measures which the Committee recommend for the purpose of enlarging the usefulness of the Institution.

The subject of Collegiate Degrees.

We propose to make copious extracts from the Report, in order to present the general outline of its argument and the whole of the proposed plan for the re-organization of the University, in the author's own language, reserving to ourselves the humble office of commenting on such passages and principles as seem to deserve a passing notice.

In connection with the first topic, a graphic sketch is given of the original design and general character of the English Universities, which must be interesting to most of our read

ers:

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were, as it is well known, established mainly, if not exclusively, for the benefit of the clergy. They were ecclesiastical and monastic institutions. The course of study which

they prescribed, was designed for the education of priests, who formed, in fact, the only educated class in the middle ages; and who probably intended, by means of an exclusive education, to render perpetual the influence over the masses which they had so successfully usurped.

Such being the nature of an English university, it may well be supposed that its organization is adapted to answer its end. As at present constituted, however, Oxford and Cambridge are not universities, in the sense in which this word is used on the continent of Europe. They are a collection of colleges, all teaching the same branches of study, while the University, as it formerly existed, teaches nothing, or until lately, nothing that was required of the candidate for a degree.

Our ancestors, of course, would never have thought of establishing, in the infancy of our country, a congeries of colleges such as form the University of Oxford or Cambridge. They took a single college for their model. Let us then briefly consider the nature of a single college in one of these splendid establishments.

Each college forms a distinct society, of which one object, at least, was the education of youth, over whom it exercised a vigilant and universal superintendence. Hence all the arrangements of the college were made to conform to this idea. The whole society was intended to form but one family; master, fellows, tutors, and students, all sitting at the same table. A college building is always a quadrangle, open in the centre and admitting of but one entrance. The gate is closed at a certain hour, after which no one can either enter or go out. Within this quadrangle every officer and student resides; and, of course, the intercourse between them must be frequent, and the means of supervision as perfect as the nature of the case could require. If a system of this kind were to be adopted, we do not perceive in what manner the present organization of a college in an English University could be improved.

Such is the model from which all our colleges in this country are copied. We adopted the unchangeable period of four years, and confined the course of education almost exclusively to Greek, Latin, and Mathematics; adding, perhaps, a little more theology and natural philosophy.

In tracing the progress of collegiate education in the United States, the Report presents the following course of studies in the Colonial colleges, which continued without essential modifications until the Revolution, and in fact till the beginning of the present century :

The time allotted to a collegiate course was as in England fixed to four years. The studies pursued were Latin, Greek, Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Locke on the Understanding, while some attention was generally given to theology and the Hebrew language. These latter studies were the inore important, inasmuch as a large portion of the students were designed for the ministry, and theological schools had not yet been established. The number of studies was limited, and the same time was allowed to the pursuit of them as in the English Universities.

Dr. Wayland speaks in terms of high praise of the character of the education given in these early colleges :

At these colleges were educated some of the profoundest theologians that any age has produced. They nurtured the men who, as jurists and states

« PreviousContinue »