If there had been a people's College, to which the new emancipated apprentice could have gone, and where, earning his subsistence by the exercise of his trade, he could have spent half of each day for the next two years of his life in the systematic study of Language, History and Science, under the guidance of men able to guide him aright, under the influence of women capable of attracting his regard, and worthy of it—it had been well.
But there was not then, and there is not now, an institution that meets the want and the need of such as he.
At any moment there are ten thousand young men and women in this country, strong, intelligent, and poor, who are about to go forth into the world ignorant, who would gladly go forth instructed, if they could get knowledge, and earn it as
they get it, by the labor of their hands.
They are the sons and daughters of our farmers and mechanics.
They are the very elite
among the young people of the nation.
There is talent, of all kinds and all degrees, among them—talent, that is the nation's richest possession—talent, that could bless and glorify the nation.
Should there not be—can
there not be, somewhere in this broad land, a University-town— where all trades could be carried on, all arts practiced, all knowledge accessible, to which those who have a desire to become excellent in their calling, and those who have an aptitude for art, and those who have fallen in love with knowledge, could accomplish the wish of their hearts without losing their independence, Without becoming paupers, or prisoners, or debtors?
Surely such a University for the People is not an impossibility.
To found such an institution, or assemblage of institutions—to find out the conditions upon which it could exist and prosper—were not an easy task.
A Committee could not do it, nor a “Board,” nor a Legislature.
It is an enterprise for one man—a man of boundless disinterestedness, of immense administrative and constructive talent, fertile in expedients, courageous, persevering, physically strong, and morally great—a man born for his work, and devoted to it “with a quiet, deep enthusiasm” . Give such a man the indispensable land, and twenty-five years, and the People's College
would be a dream no more, but a triumphant and imitable
reality; and the founder thereof would have done a deed compared with which, either