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Conscription of Teachers.

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(caption title) Conscription of Teachers. 12 p.
[S. l.
s. n.
between 1861 and 1865]

Call number 2777 Conf. (Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998

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Page 1

Conscription of Teachers

        If the new Military bill, as reported to Congress from its appropriate committee, should in its present form become a law, it will abolish the entire educational system of the country. Thus a most grievous and permanent injury would be inflicted upon her, from which she would not recover for generations to come. The evils that would follow would descend most heavily upon our children and children's children, and would outlast all the other calamities which this war will entail upon her. This bill, in proposing to exempt professors only, and not the teachers of preparatory and common schools, will frustrate its own object. For in the ruin of the schools is necessarily and unavoidably involved that of the colleges also.

        In proceeding to show these things, I respectfully ask the serious attention of our people, and especially our legislators; as it is a much graver and a far more momentous question than is generally supposed.

        I repeat distinctly, the ruin of the schools, will involve that of the colleges also, permanently and completely. The latter presuppose the former, and are useless without them. Schools are to colleges what feeders are to a reservoir, or what the foundation is to the superstructure. It would be just as wise to erect at different points, and at great expense, capacious reservoirs, guard and maintain them at great cost of men and means, and then cut off from them every feeder or supply pipe. Or it would be no more absurd to erect a grand and colossal superstructure, and then pull away the plainer, but more substantial foundation, expecting the superstructure still to remain. It may also be fearlessly asserted, that, if colleges could exist without

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schools, they would become entirely prostituted, and be converted into a fatal instrument of ruin to youth. Who are benefitted by attendance at college? and what are its peculiar advantages? Only those, and none others, who are prepared by a previous course of study to appreciate the higher branches there taught, and whose ambition, thirst for knowledge and incentive already received, will prompt them to improve the facilities thus afforded them. The peculiar advantages of a collegiate course are such as arise from an uninterrupted and systematic course of study, a learned and experienced professor to elucidate and simplify truth, and to guide the mental enquiries of students,--from the inspiration of consociated effort, and from an opportunity of shutting out all irrelevant subjects, and devoting one's mental energies continuously and exclusively to a definite and specific object. Now these advantages would not only be thrown away upon an untutored and illiterate herd of boys and youth, but would actually be a most serious injury to them. I do not know how a man could more effectually ruin his son, than by sending him, when perhaps of too tender an age to leave parental control and influences, (which he must do, if there be no schools, and if he would give him any education before he is conscribed) and when he could neither spell nor read with facility in his mother tongue, nor could write a decent and legible letter, to such an institution, to become an object of ridicule and a laughing stock, and to have his spirit crushed by the contempt of his professors, and by a painful consciousness of his utter inability to grapple with the insurmountable difficulties, which meet an untaught student at every step. It is the universal experience of all collegiate institutions, that every year a large proportion of students make no progress whatever, and accomplish actually nothing. And worse than this, instead of knowledge, they either acquire or confirm habits of idleness and dissipation, squander their parents' means, and their own more precious time, and return home with empty heads and purses, but with hearts filled with

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depraved desires and appetites, to be a grief and a heaviness to those parents, and a curse to the community. Now why is this? Partly, and doubtless chiefly, because they were hurried off to college much too soon, with no proper preparation, not having acquired the "habit of study", without which they could do nothing at college, which if never acquired before, will never after entering there, and which must be obtained in the preparatory school alone. If, then, this be the case, when there are flourishing schools every where, is it not most logical to infer, that when all these facilities for obtaining these essential prerequisites are cut off, the number of those, who will be thus ruined, would be increased one hundred fold?

        Moreover, if all our colleges were filled to their utmost capacity, would they even then meet the wants of the country generally? Not at all. For there would still be left a large majority of boys and youth unprovided for--the capacities of all the colleges are by no means adequate to the numbers to be educated.

        But colleges would not be sustained. For parents could not, now especially, afford to maintain their boys at such institutions, even if it were wise, prudent, or safe to send them so far from home. Again, the government puts every boy in the service in his 17th year, just when he is prepared, or it is proper to send him to college. And the result would be, just what existing facts prove conclusively, namely, that our colleges would not be (and are not now) sustained, would become useless and extinct. Hence the effect of this bill would be to abolish both schools and colleges, and thus destroy the whole educational system.

        A most grievous and irretrievable wrong would also be perpetrated upon all the youth of our country not yet sixteen. For there being no schools, they, being called to the field at so early an age, would be deprived of all education. Yet we may reasonably hope, that they at least will survive this struggle, and to them must we look mainly as the future hope and dependence of our country.

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        Schools are far more essential to a country than colleges. We might possibly do without the latter, but not the former. The best educational interests are always found to centre in common schools. For it is there, that boys get that incentive, that impetus, that thirst for knowledge, and that start, which will enable them afterwards, if so disposed, to attain by their own almost unaided exertions to higher degrees of knowledge. This is constantly done. How often do we find in the front rank in all professions, many men who were never at college. And, as has been said, only those boys whose ambition and eagerness would enable and induce them (provided they had received the benefits of a good school) to climb to distinction without further aid, would generally be benefitted by a collegiate course. Abundant facts prove, that schools are absolutely indispensable to a country; but, on the other hand, there is no evidence at all, that colleges, without schools, (even if that were possible) would foster or promote education, or at all benefit a nation. I would by no means disparage colleges; but as their friend and advocate, and as one writing in their behalf, I am unwilling to see them cut off from their only source of aliment and support.

        Nor would the army gain numerically anything by the operations of this bill. In our palmiest days, schools and teachers were much too few for the wants of the South. She has always labored under this great disadvantage. The war has made fearful inroads upon these small numbers. And now, I do not hesitate the assertion, that the whole Confederacy would not afford from the teachers a full regiment of efficient soldiers. Will the advantage, then, at all atone for the serious, permanent and irretrievable injury thus inflicted upon the whole country?

        The natural effects of a state of war are greatly to cripple and interrupt education; and yet at no time is it more essential, whether from its present advantages, or its future beneficial results. Crime is more rife--social and moral restraints are broken down--evil of all kinds has greater

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license--the whole community is demoralized more or less--the laws become weak and inoperative--men intensely selfish--the gentler and better feelings are crushed out by the stern and cruel necessities that are upon us--by constant contact with profanity, debauchery, Sabbath-breaking and crime in general, the soft and delicate sensibilities of human nature are blunted--and frequent scenes of ghastly wounds, of mangled forms, of blood and slaughter so ossify, yes even petrify the hearts of both men and women, that the one is in danger of becoming unsexed, and the other of returning to the savage and barbarous state. Now who is to care for the children in such a state of things? The men are in the field, and the women have not only their own, but the accumulated cares of the men upon them. The whole land is in a state of widowhood and orphanage. The tendency of war is downward and intensely evil. Few are the restraints now left to society. Shall we, then, sweep away one of the most important and effective of these few? Shall we, then, take the small handful of men, who have devoted their lives to the care of our children, and offer them also in sacrifice to the insatiate and bloody Mars? Surely the very times most imperatively demand, that the preacher and the teacher should be left unfettered to pursue their beneficial and all important vocations.

        Again, one of our greatest wants now is, and will be after the war, a pure southern literature, especially text books for our schools. Nearly all such books now in progress are in the hands of professional teachers. This bill will also stop this important work. Yet it alone can afford the only sure defence to our children against the poisonous flood of Yankee school books and Yankee literature, replete as it always is with Yankee religion and Yankee political and social dogmas; and it alone will save them from mental vassalage to that nation, whose principles and tenets we hate with a perfect hatred. O Conscript Fathers! Pause and reflect before your country, or at least her principles, perish, not by the foe, who is now thundering at her gates, but by your own patricidal hands!

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        To pass such a bill would simply be to acknowledge and publish to our enemies, that they have thrust us so close to the wall, and reduced us to such a desperate extremity, that we must wholly sacrifice our most vital interest, one, without which, even the principles for which we are contending would be both worthless and ephemeral--that our armies are so small, that for the sake of a handful of men, we must altogether ignore the best interests of posterity, turn loose our children upon the world's common, leave them to the tender mercies of a state of war, trust them to the elegant refinement and pure morality of a street education, and shut our eyes to the consequences. It is not true that any such necessity is, or ever will be upon us. And such a bill is open to the charge of giving "aid and comfort" to our enemies.

        History and the custom of all civilized nations fully sustain the views expressed in this article. Certain classes have always been regarded by both friend and foe as essential to the morals, to the intellectual and spiritual good of society, and have therefore been always considered as noncombatants. Napoleon, perhaps, was the sternest and most remorseless conscriptor the world ever knew. And yet he, even in his most trying hour, never permitted either the priest or the pedagogue to be interrupted, while engaged in their peculiar professions. It is true, that both teachers and preachers have been found in the ranks. But I know of no country, whether our own in the revolution of '76, or of England, or of France, or of any other at any time, which by law abolished all schools, and placed all teachers in the ranks. It is likely true, that some men make use of the profession as a stepping-stone to something else, or who wealthy, become teachers for the sake of an honorable employment; and perhaps there are some, who screen themselves from the calls of their country by hastily becoming teachers. But there are others, who, at no little expense of means, time and labor, were educated expressly for the profession, and who have spent their whole lives in this calling.

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Now I think, it would be wrong to diminish at all the number of teachers. It is very plain, that education now above all other times, ought to be most carefully fostered and cherished. But if it be really true, that our country is brought to so great an extremity, as to demand a still greater sacrifice of her educational interests, then ought Congress to discriminate at least (for the good of the country) in favor of those men who are professionally teachers, and have made it the sole business of their lives. Surely they cannot do less. And if they have at heart the welfare of the country, and desire to carry out the wishes of the people, they will put no impediment or hinderance in the path of education, and in no way contract or cripple its facilities.

        In view of these truths, is it not the madness of folly and a most short-sighted policy, to take away from the rising generation, when they are peculiarly exposed to so much immorality, corruption and vice, the great restraining, corrective and conservative machinery of the land, and to hand down to a degraded, demoralized, and illiterate posterity the precious, but to such, the dangerous and ephemeral inheritance of the principles, which are now costing their fathers so much blood and treasure? What glory, what honor, what prestige will cluster around our country's name in another generation? Or, how long would that generation, which this bill proposes to make savages, be able to maintain, or appreciate the priceless legacy? It would be like the merchantman obtaining the pearl of great price at every sacrifice, and then casting it to the earth, for the dog, the vulture and the jackal to hold their unclean carnival over it.


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        In the exemption bill recently reported from the military committee, there is one clause to which we beg leave to call the attention of Congress. We refer to the wholesale conscription of teachers as a class, and the limitation of the exemptions to the professors of colleges, theological seminaries, &c. Whilst we freely accord to those who may, perchance, become the advocates of the bill in its present form, the full weight of the argument based upon the necessity of filling the ranks of our army, we are yet constrained to believe, that the passage of the bill as reported, would not by any means add to its efficiency to such an extent, as to justify the fatal blow struck at the educational interests of the country.

        We do not expect all at first, to appreciate the full value of a regular system and high standard of education amongst a people; as this requires a careful and unbiased consideration. Nor have we space to discuss the general effect of a system of schools and colleges upon the morals and intelligence of a community, and in the preparation of those who are in future years to become the rulers of our political and social destinies, and to assume the high places of honor and trust. We are aware, that in this country, at the present day, there are those who are willing to sacrifice all deep and patient study of general principles, of law, of social, political, moral and natural science upon the altar of a pseudo, practical sense, utilitarian system of materialism, too shallow for the higher order of mind, and to denounce everything beyond their comprehension, or that requires too much labor and study to accomplish, as mere abstraction and theory. Yet they will, at the same time, pay even an

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undue deference to the great writers of a preceding without reflecting, that such writers are the logical res of a high order of mental training, a training that almo invariably begins with the earlier years, and tends to impar a vigor that can subsequently apply itself to the collation and co-ordination of facts, the induction of general principles, and the acquirement of information subordinated to method, completeness, and availability. But we have neither the space nor the leisure for general discussion. We desire simply to advert to the proposed bill, and to call the special attention of our legislators to the consequences that would follow from its adoption. That a most vital blow would be struck at the interest of education, from which the country would not recover in a long series of years, if ever, is palpable. The bill provides for the exemption of the professors of our colleges, and, in the same clause, proposes to take away all support from them in putting an end to preparatory schools. The respect shown to education is more nominal than real. Independently of this fact, the success of our colleges is even now entirely prevented by the military laws already in existence. A student must assuredly have attained the age of seventeenth even under the most auspicious circumstances, when he is prepared to profit by a college course; but at that age the law demands his services in the army. The present usefulness of our colleges is almost completely destroyed, and it is now in contemplation, not only to render this destruction complete and permanent, but to entirely subvert the whole system of education in the country for many long years even after the restoration of peace. A very little consideration will make this manifest. Colleges cannot of course flourish during the war, and, at its expiration, they will recover only upon one condition, that there shall be the requisite number of teachers in the country to prepare students for entering upon a collegiate course.

        By the present virtual suspension of colleges, no new addition to the corps of teachers can be expected, whilst

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y, who were preparing to enter the profession; and ny, who had already entered it, have long ago volunered and fallen in the service--our college halls were deserted during the first year of the war by the volunteering of the students en masse, the great majority with unfinished educations. Even with our schools, no student can be prepared to enter the profession before being called into the field. Should the present corps of teachers, therefore, be depleted in the military service, there will be few indeed at the expiration of the war to recover our lost position; and the important interest of education, in which society is deeply involved, as well as the success of our colleges, will be put back more than half a century. Teachers are not born as poets, but one corps of teachers is both the logical and chronogical antecedent, so to speak, of another. It should be carefully observed, that, although it is a matter of very great importance to the moral and intellectual development of the minds of our youth, at all times, to keep in training and under discipline, all those between the ages of ten and seventeen, and although society is deeply invrlved in the sacrifice of this interest, even for one generation, it is by no means the only, or chief consideration in the matter under consideration. The question is not wholly as to the suspension of our school system during the war, but for many years after the restoration of peace. Enough teachers must be left to the country to continue their labors with success immediately at the expiration of the war. There can be no source of supply to fill the depleted ranks of the profession, even to inaugurate the movement in the direction of education at that opportune moment, unless a wise legislation shall be content with certain limitations and restrictions in the exemption law, instead of a wholesale conscription. It must be observed also, that the annual increase of population by births, was not affected until the beginning of war, if at all, and that, consequently, unless the war should continue for a much longer period, the demand for teachers remains the same. Moreover, at all times, but

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especially at present it is necessary, that theresufficient number of teachers to supply comm simple centres of education are not available fo body of our youth. Now the proper restrictions posed to secure competent teachers to the country,as far as practicable, apply to capacity, experience, whether the profession had been one chosen for life, &c.

        In connection with this subject, there is another demanding the earnest attention of our legislators. Under the supposed auspices of the times, and the revival of the interests of education in the Southern Teachers Convention, several valuable elementary books, that required very little time for preparation, have been given to the public. Other works of a much higher order are in progress. Congress could do nothing, that would more advance the interests of education, than to give full protection to all authors of text-books, under any restrictions that would not defeat the object. As a text-book may be of incalculable value, and as the very small number of those, having such works in preparation, could not at all affect our military strength, we can conceive of no admissible argument against the exemption of this very small class, subject solely to the limitation, that all such shall follow the profession of teachers, and shall have had their works in progress prior to some date anterior to the passage of the act. The country would thus also secure good teachers. This subject demands the serious attention of Congress, as there is, without any complication of the bill, the prospect of great benefit, without the remotest danger of any detriment to the public interests.

        We suggest, then, in consideration of the facts we have barely more than hinted at, the necessity of examining carefully into the effect of the proposed measures, before any action is taken thereupon. We do not attempt any discussion of the momentous influence exerted by this profession upon the morals and intelligence of a people; but leave the consideration of this subject in all its bearings to the candid judgment of reflecting minds. Few men would be

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ee their own children deprived of all the advan-intellectual and moral training of our schools,grow up in ignorance and vice; but, when thisuniversal, and the very foundations of society are ged by it, the subject assumes a very serious aspect, nd deserves the careful study of statesmen. We are not yet prepared for the partial moral and intellectual barbarism that would result from the destruction of one of the main foundations of good society and good government. The organic constitution of our southern government, when established, will be of a character demanding the most consummate statesmanship: and the empirical folly of an age that would follow the destruction of the pulpit and the whole framework of school and college systems, would render nugatory all our efforts for the establishment of a just and permanent government. It requires no great prescience to see already, that the future of the South, even under the most auspicious circumstances, is full of danger and uncertainty.

        A time of war is one in which the moral and intellectual is ever subordinated to the material and physical. We all feel this, and submit to it, "ex necessitate rei;" but few reflecting minds would be willing to see the same general pernicious influence perpetuated at the restoration of peace. Those who labor at all times in opposition to this tendency of things, in the pulpit and in our schools, exercise a sanitary influence upon society, that cannot be overestimated, and not even appreciated, without a careful examination into the manner in which society is influenced and moulded by the educated mind from above. The necessity of such influences is of paramount importance, whatever be the result of our present struggle. Whatever that result may be, there are certain interests that should never be immolated to such an extent as to degrade us to a moral and intellectual, as well as physical inequality with our enemies, without a certain prospect, that the increased efficiency of our army would amount to something worth balancing in the scales with the deep interests thus involved.