Billeder på siden

On the occasion to which we refer, a number of good compositions were read. One could not help thinking that some of them augured well for the future career of their authors. There was, as a matter of course, considerable variety in several respects; enough at any rate to remind one of Cowper's lines

"Variety 's the spice of life

Which gives it all its flavor."

It was

One of the compositions engaged our particular attention. among the best in the number, so far as its style and general merits were concerned. Its author treated of the hardships and sufferings, the trials and privations, which the original settlers of our country underwent. He tried to show, too, that there is a debt of gratitude due on our part to them for sacrifices of which we are now reaping the rich fruits. "Honor to whom honor is due." But read the following sentence, taken memoriter from this composition: "Such were the obstacles, such the labors, our English forefathers met and mastered." Our English forefathers, forsooth! We could not avoid looking around in the school-room to see what applicability this assertion had in the present case; for, as before intimated, we were not in the Eastern States, nor in the extreme Southern, but within the limits of that vast domain which may properly be called the heart of the country, and which is mainly inhabited by the descendants of settlers who never saw Albion's shore. There was not a single individual in the whole number, who, for aught we could tell, had one drop of English blood coursing in his veins. As well might you have sought for Italian blood in the hale youths within the walls of a district school in the valleys of Vermont. The boy-for such he was yet -who had written the composition, was in this respect as well off as were his companions. His name was German, and so was his parentage. His father's family, though among those who, generations ago, "met and mastered the obstacles and labors" which their grateful descendant rehearsed, still spoke their mother tongue (the German) with fluency. His grandfather, on the mother's side, closed his useful life in the village of which we speak, after having preached in the German language for more than a score and a half of years the Gospel of Peace.

Some of the reflections naturally elicited by the sentence we have quoted, shall be stated here for the consideration of the reader. I. The most pleasing and happy remembrances of life are those which date back to the time when we were yet little boys and little girls; when, unconscious of the wide world, with its ups and downs, we enjoyed a miniature world at our father's home, amid parents' tender smiles and brothers' or sisters' affectionate favors. Then were instilled the principles which have since mostly governed our actions. The lessons learned on a mother's lap are never forgotten.

VOL. VI.-22

Seeds there implanted afterward germinate and bring forth abundant fruit. Traditions, such as every family has, are at home handed down from one generation to another. These traditions, embracing interesting reminiscences of our ancestors, their deeds, incidents of their lives, fortunes and misfortunes, all told and retold with that peculiar pathos which belongs to the language of those who speak of that in which they are themselves concerned, we learn when young, we delight to tell when grown, and love to the end of life. Their influence upon ourselves is great; society owes its loveliest features to them, and the nation's existence is absolutely dependent upon them.

At school and after leaving the parental roof, we come under influences and receive a kind of training to which we were not previously accustomed. Companions, teachers, books, the various relations of life, exercise an educational influence and make divers. impressions upon us. No harm lies of necessity in all this; the process is needed, and may be productive of much good. The general influences of the school and those of life may differ and do differ from those we have learned to cherish at home. There is, however, a sanctuary within every family, the precincts of which may not be entered with unhallowed feet. From it issue streams in antagonism to which no outside current has a right to place itself. Humanity, as realized in us, derives from it deep significance. Sety, education, books, opposing or falsifying its best breathings, violent and unrighteous, every way fraught with untold evils.

II. We have spoken of general truths. Their particular applicability now aims attention. Take the instance of national descent as being directly to our pupose. The German, the Englishman, the Frenchman differ widely. So the citizens of every distinct nation. Difference here is not owing alone to language or climate, education or habits of life. They have their influence, but the root lies deeper. Remove these, and the difference, though perhaps lessened, still remains. The look of the eye, the form and features of the person, the soul of his actions, mark unmistakably the nation from which he is descended. You have been trimming the branches and changing the soil, while the tree itself remains the same. This is a general fact. A demonstration of its correctness has been furnished on the grandest scale in our own country. We are all living witnesses of it; and it becomes us as men and women, desirous of acting wisely, to bear it well in mind.

Americans are not indigenous-sprung as by chance out of the earth-but it is their glory to have a lineage that grounds itself deep in the history of various nations of the Old World. This being the case, the difference of their ancestral descent should be honestly acknowledged without prejudice to one or another, whenever occasion calls for it. Right and duty demand it. Surely, also, the

children of parents, who came alike to this country from common objects, bore common burdens, shared common labors, in common fought their battles and established their liberties, have no cause for envying one another's ancestral birthright.

III. Has the plain and righteous policy of doing justice to all, in the respect spoken of, been carried out through the various important relations of society, government and education in our country? Let facts witness. In order to be brief and direct to our purpose, we shall only refer to the Germans, who have made this country their home since its original settlement. Their descendants now number millions.

So large and respectable a portion of our population, one would reasonably expect, occupied a corresponding position in the literature of the nation. If the Germano-Americans themselves be not ambitious to trumpet abroad their own praise and standing, it might be presumed their Anglo-American brethren would not have failed duly to notice them in their hay-stacks of orations, references and labored works, nominally descriptive or in eulogy of the whole or sections of our country. Those who are acquainted with the facts will, upon a moment's reflection, perceive how the matter stands.

Amusing, indeed, is the pretended nationality of the majority of our school-books. A thoroughly mixed nation like ourselves, demands proper regard to this fact in its educational works. Do these, however, meet this demand?

Take almost any of our "Histories of the United States' intended for youths, and see how justice is meted out there. They claim to be national, they ask to be introduced into our schools all over the land, and in many States have been legislated into the hands of our children; yet we protest that, as regards important points, they are sectional, and by no means entitled to such universal acceptation. Who that is not of English origin has justice done to his ancestry, to his religious opinions, to his habits of life and modes of thought, as contra-distinguished from his English brethren? With how much fairness is the internal history of Pennsylvania, for example, generally represented as compared with that of Massachusetts? So, to the end of the chapter.

Over and over again have we seen children recite that which boldly suppressed facts of dearest interest to them, while in place thereof some empty husks were substituted. Spend pages in talking of mineral and agricultural wealth, and then thrust into the background the living souls who own and turn it to account. Our "Readers" are loaded with extracts, orations, etc., eulogizing the "pilgrim fathers," to the exclusion of much, comparatively equally important, and more sensible matter. Was this great nation descended from a ship-load of settlers, landed in 1620 on Plymouth Rock?

The child that has been faithfully trained in the family, heard its simple recollections, learned the general traditions of the country with which its own ancestors had some worthy connection, will find, on growing up, that the most popular system of education ignores such feelings and associations in two-thirds of the population. Here lies the radical evil. There may be palliating reasons for its happening to be so, but it is an evil still. So long as it remains, a canker-worm gnaws at the heart of our educational system; a withering influence weakens our national energies.

One word more for the present. We have given some reasons impliedly why so many of us stand in danger of sacrificing our birthright, and with it a rich inheritance of associations and principles for which nothing else can make us amends. Many more instances might be referred to, but let these suffice. Our complaint is not particular, but general. The evil calls not for a change to this or that: it demands a re-construction of a misformed public sentiment and educational apparatus.

We have plead for justice. Let it be administered to all. Many of us have had German forefathers. Many, I say-yea, many. Let the child and the youth learn the truth in the case-learn not to be ashamed of his ancestry but highly to esteem it. It is time to bestir ourselves, to vindicate our rights and establish our honor in the literature and education of our country. No folding of hands, no sitting at ease will accomplish the desirable end. Better service none can render to his country and to the memory of those who gave him birth, than to cherish and perpetuate, with living freshness, the best lessons, connections, associations and traditions amid which we have been reared.



THIS world is all a fleeting show,
For man's illusion given:
The smiles of joy, the tears of wo,
Deceitful shine, deceitful flow-

There's nothing true but Heaven!

And false the light on glory's plume,
As fading hues of even;

And love and hope, and beauty's bloom,
Are blossoms gather'd for the tomb-
There's nothing bright but Heaven!

Poor wanderers of a stormy day,

From wave to wave were driven,
And Fancy's flash and Reason's ray,
Serve but to light the troubled way-
There's nothing calm but Heaven!


IN the year 1802, a father overheard his son say, "There is no business I should like better, than to pass my life in preaching the gospel to the heathen." The father thanked God if this were indeed the spirit of his boy, for he took it as an indication that he had found that gospel precious to his own soul. And this proved to be the case. His name was Samuel J. Mills, and he lived in Torringford, Connecticut, where his father was minister.

A few years after, Samuel entered Williams College, and was diligently studying in order to prepare for the ministry. There he found a few pious students, and they formed a little prayer-meeting. Williams College is situated among the green hills of western Massachusetts, and surrounded by very picturesque and beautiful scenery. During the hot weather, this little prayer-meeting was often held in a neighboring grove between the College and the Hoosac river, and the old forest trees echoed the words of prayer and praise.

One very hot afternoon they went to the grove, expecting to hold their meeting there; but a dark cloud was rising in the west: it soon began to thunder and lighten, and they went under a haystack for refuge from the coming storm. The subject of conversation under the stack, before and during the shower, was the heathen darkness of Asia. Mills said the gospel should be sent there, and, "We can do it, if we will," he cried, with a large heart full of faith. The idea was new and grand.

"But missionaries sent to Asia would be murdered," answered one. "Christian armies must conquer the country before the gospel can be carried to Turks and Arabs."

"God would have his gospel spread throughout the world, and if Christians will be up and doing, the work will be done," cried those upon whom the glorious work began to flash with the clearness and warmth of sunlight. "Come," said Mills, "let us pray over it under this hay-stack, while the dark clouds are going and the clear sky is coming." Fervent prayers were offered, and foreign missions was the subject.

These little meetings were continued, and the duty of preaching the gospel to the heathen, was the constant subject of prayer, conversation, and discussion among the members. Their souls were stirred in thinking how large a portion of the world was destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of lost men; and his last command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," came with a divine power to their conscience, quickening them to action.

But what could a few college students hope to do? The subject was new to ministers and new to the churches. "Carrying the

« ForrigeFortsæt »