Chapter 27: services for education.—prison discipline.—Correspondence.— January to July, 1845.—age, 34.Education, both in colleges and common schools, commanded Sumner's earnest attention at this period. While abroad, he felt keenly the imperfection of his own training as compared with that acquired in European universities; and in a letter besought Judge Story, then a member of the corporation of Harvard University, to attempt what he thought a much-needed reform.1 He urged more exacting terms for admission, and a severe examination for degrees, approving President Quincy's efforts in this direction;2 and conferred in person and by letter with Dr. Francis Wayland,3 of Brown University, who devoted many years to studying and testing plans for the improvement of college education. In the promotion of popular education he took an active interest. He seconded Horace Mann's labors in this cause,4 and supported him in his controversy with the Boston schoolmasters upon points of school discipline. He was one of the group of friends whom Mr. Mann called together for counsel, and in these conferences favored moderation in dealing with opponents.5 He reviewed at length, in the ‘Advertiser,’6 Mr. Mann's report on European systems of education, warmly commending it, with a gentle criticism of an implied depreciation of classical studies which it seemed to contain. With a view of sustaining the cause, he accepted the nomination of a Whig caucus, in Dec. 1844, as one of the two members of the School Committee to which  Ward Four, where he lived, was entitled. In this ward, at this municipal election, the Whigs led the Native Americans by one hundred votes, leaving the Democrats third in the canvass. Although his Whig colleague, A. D. Parker, was chosen, Sumner himself lost his election, being defeated by Rev. H. A. Graves— a Baptist clergyman and one of the Native American candidates —who, living in East Boston, then a part of the ward, succeeded in combining with his party vote the local vote of his neighborhood. It may be mentioned that, among members of the School Committee chosen in other wards at this election, were Sidney Bartlett, Theophilus Parsons, and Dr. Howe. This is the only instance in which Sumner was ever a candidate for the direct votes of the people, except when, in 1852, the town of Marshfield, to his regret, elected him a member of the State Constitutional Convention. Several friends of Mr. Mann met, in the winter of 1844-45, with the view of expressing their sympathy with him in his recent controversy, and their gratitude for his perseverance and devotion in the cause of popular education. At their request, Sumner prepared the draft of a formal letter, which, signed by twenty-four gentlemen, was sent to Mr. Mann. The latter was greatly cheered by this tribute, and replied in a note which showed how deeply he was touched by it. Mrs. Mann, at the same time, wrote a personal note to Sumner, expressing a deep sense of obligation for his ‘most beautiful and touching letter to her husband.’ A part of the letter is as follows:—
A personal testimonial to Mr. Mann was at first contemplated; but as this was found not agreeable to him, a plan was adopted for raising by private subscriptions five thousand dollars, to aid in the erection of new buildings for the Normal Schools at Westfield and Bridgewater, those in use having been condemned as unsuitable.7 The amount was to be paid on condition of an appropriation of an equal amount by the State. Sumner took the lead in raising the money, and was chairman of the committee which presented the memorial to the Legislature8 in favor  of the enterprise. In this generous service he encountered rebuffs and misconceptions of his purposes, which grieved him; but his perseverance was rewarded with success.9 An appropriation of five thousand dollars was voted, on condition that a like sum should be contributed by the petitioners.10 In furtherance of the object, Sumner appeared at different times before the Board of Education.11 He solicited subscriptions, and co-operated with other members of the committee and with Theodore Lyman, who was always ready to aid this or any good cause. The towns of Westfield, Bridgewater, and Northampton each offered one thousand dollars if itself was selected as the site of the new buildings. Sumner, fearing that delay would imperil the enterprise, undertook a pecuniary responsibility beyond his means. Relying upon amounts which had been pledged, he made, July 2, 1845, a formal offer in writing to the Board of Education of the five thousand dollars which were to be raised by the memorialists, giving his personal note for that amount, which another friend of the enterprise discounted. On the 17th, he came before the Board and paid the money.12 The work on the new schoolhouses went forward, and the next year both were opened for use by proper ceremonies,—the one at Bridgewater, Aug. 19, and the other at Westfield, Sept. 19. Sumner, who was unable to attend on either occasion, received, in addition to a cordial invitation from  the principal, Mr. Tillinghast, the following note from Mr. Mann:13
The enterprise, though successful, subjected Sumner afterwards to vexation and pecuniary inconvenience. Failing to receive some of the promised contributions, he found himself, more than a year after the buildings had been completed, without funds to meet his note at maturity, the payment of which was pressed by the gentleman who had discounted it. To Mr. Waterston, whose active interest in raising the required sum had not been imitated by other members of the committee, he wrote, three years afterwards:—
It seems to me rather hard that I should be thus left in the lurch by our committee, and particularly by individuals on it who have never contributed their full quota, and who are themselves rich, too. I have so far neglected my worldly affairs during these latter years, and have been called upon so frequently for contributions, that I am less able than any member of the committee to pay this deficiency out of my own pocket. Nor do I think it just that——,——,——, all of whom were originally responsible with me, and who have not contributed their full share, should let this be cast upon me. I have had the labor and responsibility of carrying the matter through, as far as it has gone, and secured contributions much beyond my portion. It seems to me, therefore, that I may properly devolve upon the members of the committee above named the duty of meeting this deficit. Upon you there is no claim, for you have already supplied more than your share; but I submit the account to you, and ask your advice as to the course to be pursued.What a contrast between those former days and these! Now States and municipalities vote cheerfully, lavishly even, appropriations  for costly school buildings; whereas then a few men like Sumner, gifted with public spirit but not with fortune, could persuade the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which was already in advance of sister States in her zeal for popular education, to grant for two institutions where her teachers were to be taught a sum which would now be deemed hardly sufficient for a country schoolhouse,—only upon condition that the memorialists should bring an equal amount to the treasury! In 1845 he took an active interest in determining the plans for the Boston Athenaeum, which was about to be removed from Pearl Street to a new site,—that on Beacon Street being finally selected. At a meeting of the proprietors in May he moved a committee of ten, who were to select plans to be reported with estimates of expense to the proprietors; and he was appointed to serve on the committee. He was ‘anxious to secure a large, generous, hospitable vestibule, hall, and stairway;’ and wrote to his brother for the details of the best European libraries, and particularly for those of Bernini's stairs, leading to the Vatican on the right of St. Peter's. His brother replied, July 1, recommending the imitation of an Italian palace for the exterior,— the architecture of Vicenza,—and giving as the best models for the interior the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg and the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, and for the stairway a modification of Bernini's, covering less ground in proportion to the height.14 Prison discipline was then a subject which excited great interest, and there was a controversy, which took a personal direction, between the supporters of the Pennsylvania or separate system and those of the Auburn or congregate system. The annual meeting of the Boston Prison Discipline Society was held at Park-Street Church on the morning of May 27, with its President, Rev. Dr. Francis Wayland, in the chair. The society's annual report offered by the Secretary, Louis Dwight, in treating of the rival systems dealt unfairly with the Pennsylvania system, as its friends thought. Dr. Howe, who had taken for some time an earnest interest in penitentiary questions, held this view, and attacked the proposed report. Sumner joined also in the debate; and, without espousing either system, condemned, in a few unstudied remarks, the report as unfair to the supporters of the separate system. He then  moved a select committee, to whom the report should be referred with instructions to inquire whether it should not be modified before publication, and with power to visit Philadelphia and ascertain the character of the system which Mr. Dwight had assailed. Dr. Wayland warmly commended his remarks at the time, and on the evening of the same day wrote him a letter of thanks, which Sumner incorporated in a speech at a later stage of the controversy.15 The committee appointed were Dr. Howe, Sumner, Samuel A. Eliot, Horace Mann, Dr. Walter Channing, Rev. Louis Dwight, George T. Bigelow, and John W. Edmonds, of New York. Sumner's few remarks at the meeting in May are the first he ever made before a popular audience. Up to this time he had delivered no oration or address, nor participated in any public discussion.16 During the years 1840-45, as always, Sumner gave a considerable portion of his time to correspondence. Besides writing to his English and other foreign friends and to his brother George, he wrote to many American friends,--Dr. Lieber, Theodore Sedgwick, Benjamin D. Silliman, John Jay, Jacob Harvey, Samuel Ward, George Gibbs, Charles S. Daveis, George W. Greene, Thomas Crawford, Edward Everett (then Minister to England), Theodore S. Fay, Rufus Choate (while in the Senate),—and to his intimate friends, Cleveland, Longfellow, Hillard, and Howe, when they were travelling. Then as always a friend's handwriting gave him the keenest enjoyment. No day was to him complete, whose morning mail did not bring him a packet of letters; and all who are familiar with his daily life will recall the zest with which he opened and read them. He was always interested in the literary projects of his friends, and answered readily calls for help in obtaining materials,17 revising manuscripts and proofs, and in securing the attention of publishers. He was a good critic, and was never weary in serving authors whose works merited a place in libraries.
To Charlemagne Tower he wrote, March 30, 1845:—
At this moment, our City Government is imbecile,—being the miserable offspring of Native Americanism. It has so little of the confidence of the people that it cannot do much under the new Act;21 and it is probable that no important steps will be taken till a new government is organized. I heard, through a friend in Prussia, that Baron Humboldt had been reading with the King of Prussia a description of the Croton Works. It must be your brother's book. ‘My “Vesey” will be completed in a fortnight,—thus much to be stored in the wallet of the past.’ To Horace Mann he wrote, June 5, 1845:—
Mr. Lyman has this moment parted from me. He has left with me a subscription list for one thousand dollars, to be paid to the Treasurer of the Board of Education; also, a vote of the town of Northampton for another one thousand dollars. If you should place the school at Northampton, and accept these sums as part of our five thousand dollars, there would be one thousand and fifty dollars for us to obtain hereabouts. This can be easily done,—I will not say, as Mr. Brooks said, in five minutes, but by a little exertion. Can you express to me any opinion with regard to the probability of the school being placed at Northampton? When will the Board meet again, and when should we be in condition to close our accounts?