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
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
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
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:—
. . . We have learned from you the priceless value of the common schools
. You have taught us most especially that the conservation of republican institutions depends on the knowledge and virtue of the people.
You have taught us, by most interesting details and considerations, that the wealth of the country is augmented, and that the arm of its industry is nerved, in proportion to the diffusion of knowledge; so that each humble schoolhouse is to be regarded not only as a nursery of souls, but a mine of riches.
We have learned through you to appreciate those genial modes of instruction by which the pupil is won and not driven into the paths of knowledge; by which he is induced to recognize the sweets of learning, and to pursue it for its own sake.
While we have learned from you to abate somewhat of our confidence in the comparative merits of our own system of public education, we have been
filled with the desire to import from other States and nations whatever of improvement or light they may be able to furnish; in short, to naturalize in our own country the virtues of foreign lands.
As you have given new importance to the subject of education, so you have elevated the position and character of our schoolmasters; vindicating for them the esteem and consideration which are properly due to those into whose hands, as precious hostages for the future, are committed the children of the Commonwealth
By means of your labors you have contributed essentially to the happiness and prosperity of the Commonwealth
, and also to its fame in other States.
Your name helps to make the name of Massachusetts
respectable throughout our own country and in distant lands.
If it be true, as has been said, that he is a benefactor who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, how much more is he a benefactor who infuses new energies into a whole people, doubling in ten thousand souls the capacities for usefulness and happiness!
In the contemplation of the successful results of your labors, you must find springs of encouragement to which little can be added by any words of ours.
Such words would be drowned in the voice of all the good you have done, speaking from the past, and bidding you to be of good cheer for the future.
Let hope elevate and joy brighten your countenance!
But we cannot dissemble from you what you discern so much more clearly than ourselves, that, although much has been done, much more remains to be done.
In the warfare with ignorance there is neither peace nor neutrality.
The enemy is always among us, in extensive encampment, wakeful, hardly so much as sleeping on his arms, ready for the contest.
In this warfare you are our leader.
Our services and sympathies will be always at your command.
We would join with you on all possible occasions and in all possible ways to advance the cause in which you are engaged.
May God continue to you strength for your labors, and may the happiness which you have diffused among your fellow-men be reflected into your own fireside!
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
, 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
took the lead in raising the money, and was chairman of the committee which presented the memorial to the Legislature8
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
, and Northampton
each offered one thousand dollars if itself was selected as the site of the new buildings.
, 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.
, 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
My dear Sumner
,—The new Normal Schoolhouse at Bridgewater
is to be dedicated on Wednesday, the 19th inst. Address by Hon. William G. Bates
The active and leading agency you have had in executing measures which have led to this beneficial result would make your absence on that occasion a matter of great regret.
I know it will console you for your troubles in relation to the subject to be present on the day of jubilee, to gratify so many persons, and to participate in a joy which will be common and comprehensive.
Let me assure you that, however it may seem beforehand, you will not be sorry afterwards for having made some exertion, and even some sacrifice, to be there.
Probably there will be three hundred graduates of the school, who will feel deeply disappointed if you are not present.
Ever and truly yours, &c.
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.
, who had taken for some time an earnest interest in penitentiary questions, held this view, and attacked the proposed report.
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.
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
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
, Samuel A. Eliot
, Horace Mann
, Dr. Walter Channing
, Rev. Louis Dwight
, George T. Bigelow
, and John W. Edmonds
, of New York.
'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
, 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.
my dear Judge
,—In my last letter, I referred to the terms which a Senator18
had made with his friends, before he consented to be chosen.
They were fifty thousand dollars to be subscribed in Boston
, and the same sum in New York, to be settled on his life and that of his wife.
The subscription in Boston
has labored; though, when I last heard of it, the Boston
sum had been subscribed,—except about twelve thousand dollars. This treaty has become very generally known, as it was found necessary to impart its conditions to all the persons to whom the application was made.
The manufacturing companies have subscribed one thousand dollars each.
Of course, the case was submitted to the directors of these companies.
None of the L's subscribed, though the A's have.19
It is understood that the New York portion is to be made up by larger sums.
It is needless to say that the Legislature could have had no suspicions of any such arrangement; and our good Secretary of State20
says that, if he were a member of the House
, he would move for power to send for persons and papers.
You will read Mr. Webster
's ‘Address to the People of the United States
,’ promulgated by the anti-Texas Convention.
It is an able paper, which will lift our public sentiment to a new platform of Anti-slavery.
The debates in the Convention
were most interesting.
I never heard Garrison
He spoke with natural eloquence.
His words descended in a golden shower; but Garrison
's fell in fiery rain.
It seemed doubtful, at one time, if the Abolitionists would not succeed in carrying the Convention
Their proposals were voted down; though a very respectable number of the Convention
were in favor of a dissolution of the Union
, in the event of the annexation of Texas
We have this winter a very good Legislature,—better-toned than usual.
exercises no little influence there.
He is always listened to with great attention.
His frankness and honesty of purpose are sustained by considerable natural eloquence, and by faithful study of the matters he takes in hand.
is already in Washington
Perhaps he will call on you. I know that you can spare time for at least a cheering word to a man of genius.
He has gone with his model of an equestrian statue of Washington
I fear that Persico may obtain this order.
It would be discreditable to Congress, if they neglected their more worthy countryman to lavish this important patronage on a foreigner.
I am so anxious that Senators
should rightly understand
this that I shall be tempted to address you a letter on the subject, which you may read to Mr. Berrien
, Mr. Crittenden
, or any others you may think it not improper to approach in this way. Hillard
has already written to Mr. Bates
; so has Mr. Lawrence
to Mr. Crittenden
. Mr. Dix
, the new Senator
from New York, I am told, is a gentleman of taste in art and letters.
He is a warm friend of Crawford
We hear to-day that the chances are against the present resolutions.
If Mr. Peters
is still in Washington
, remember me to him.
Ever affectionately yours,
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.’
my dear Crawford
,—Have you heard that the students of Harvard College have voted to request you to execute a bust of President Quincy
The President, after a brilliant administration of sixteen years, at the age of seventy-three resigns his important duties.
Early in life he was a distinguished member of Congress.
It was at first proposed, I believe, that the students should ask his acceptance of a piece of plate as a parting token of regard; but this gave place to the idea of a bust by your classical chisel, to be placed in the Library or large hall of the University
I have seen your ‘Mercury’ with delight and pride.
Every body looks on it with the same feelings.
It is, dear Crawford
, most exquisite.
When shall we possess other works of like beauty from your genius?
The plans for the new Athenaeum
are now on exhibition,—fourteen in all. There is no single plan that satisfies me. Perhaps a new plan might be composed by adopting features from all. In one I was pleased with the facade
in another, with the entrance hall and stairway; and in another with the arrangement of the rooms.
When shall you be among us, that we may have the advantage of your knowledge?
I dine en famille
with the Howes to-day.
You have heard of poor Felton
The blow, long expected, has fallen with stunning effect.
To W. C MacREADYEADYeadyeady, London.
my dear MacREADYeady
,—It is now the eleventh hour (literally eleven o'clock); and the long letter I had hoped to write you is still unwritten.
Three days ago, the action Rodney v
was dismissed . . . . Thus closes your experience of American law.
The last scene has closed with Felton
's poor wife.
She died at last suddenly,—unconscious herself that her end was at hand, surrounded by every thing to soothe her, while the sympathy of friends has helped to sustain her husband.
He has been much stunned by the blow, though it was so long expected.
His elastic nature, his social feelings, and his universal heart, I trust, will soon find quiet.
I wish he could visit Europe
,—leaving home July 1; but his duties to his two orphan children may interfere.
God bless you I We rejoice in your success and happiness.
P. S. Hillard
sends his love, and longs to write you, which he will do. He has not thanked you for your portrait.
To his brother George.
dear George,—It is nearly two o'clock at night.
I am sorry to find that I have only these lees of time for you. I wished to write a long letter in thanksgiving for your last interesting budget.
The letter on Cushing
's treaty was well-turned.
Knowing, as I do, something of the secret history of that negotiation, it is less marvellous in my sight than in yours.
Ke-ying is described by those who know him as a remarkable statesman,—more than a match for Pottinger, Cushing
, and Lagrenee.
has made a grammar of the Manchu language, which he proposes to publish,—whether in English or Latin he had not determined.
You know he studied diligently the old Tartar dialect, that he might salute the Emperor
in his court language.
is preparing a book on China
What is thought of Cousin
and his philosophy?
Is the first volume of his edition of Plato
How is Guizot
's name pronounced?
Is the Gui
as in ‘Guido’ in Italian, or as in ‘guillotine’ in French
I detest the war spirit in Thiers
It is but little in advance of the cannibalism of New Zealand
What do you think of phrenology, and of animal magnet.
ism? ‘Eothen’ is a vivid, picturesque book, by a man of genius.
What are you doing?
When do you set your face Westward?
I suppose Wheaton
will be recalled; and I was told yesterday that Irving
would be also, in all probability. . . .
my dear Crawford
,—I suppose you have not yet received the letter from the students.
I believe they postponed it till you are known to be in Boston
They confine their order to the limits of their pockets, and propose a bust only.
I propose a statue
will make an admirable statue in his robes as President
of the College
; and the Library of the College
is a beautiful hall.
He should preside in marble to distant ages in that hall.
Is there any tribute between a bust and a statue,—something above a bust, and below a statue,—that you can devise?
There are some difficulties in our plan, because the students will not join with us; and a bust and a statue together will not be required.
I shall see Judge Story
, and be advised by him. On your return to Boston
, I shall desire your counsel.
Remember me to L——, whose ‘counterfeit presentment,’ Miss
W——, is now in Boston
To his brother George.
, Sunday Morning, June 1, 1845.
dear George,—I am on a committee for determining the plan of our new Athenaeum,—a building which is to contain a library of one hundred thousand volumes, a picture gallery, a sculpture gallery, and a reading-room.
wish you to send me any suggestions that occur to you with regard to such a building.
I am anxious to secure a large, generous, hospitable vestibule, hall, and stairway.
I remember the stairs (by Bernini, I think) which lead to the Vatican on the right of St. Peter
's. Can you send me the measurements of these,—width, height, breadth?
They were stairs of such exquisite proportions that you seemed to be borne aloft on wings.
Pray send me every thing that occurs to you about the Athenaeum.
At the last meeting of our Prison Discipline Society, when the Secretary
had made his annual report abusing the Philadelphia
system, as is his wont, I came forward (in Park-Street Church) and answered him,—moving the reference of the report to a select committee.
Of course, I am on that committee.
We shall make a thorough report on the two systems.
What is your
opinion about the two?
What is the opinion in Europe
Write me every thing you know on the subject.
, with her three boys, has arrived from Hamburg
; and all are nestled under Howe
and A——are there also.
is making a bust of President Quincy
, at the request of the students of Harvard College.
We hope to give him an order for a full-length statue of the President
, to be placed in the College
I have given Dr. Ray
a letter to you. He is the author of a work on ‘The Law of Insanity,’ which has done more for a correct understanding of this subject than all other works.
He has revolutionized the law on the subject.
His work was cited in the trial of McNaughten
He goes abroad, like Dr. Bell
, to observe the Lunatic Asylums
, previous to taking charge of that which is to be built in Rhode Island
has lost his wife,—a woman of rare self-forgetfulness and simplicity of character.
All well but Hillard
, whose exquisite soul frets its feeble body.
,—We have your dear wife and the three boys among us. I am glad to see them, and have already enjoyed two pleasant drives with her,—one in order to find a pleasant home for the summer.
We looked through Brookline
, but that is the retreat of fashion; and a patch of earth there should be covered with gold, in order to pay its rent. . . .
Oscar is a man, almost.
What shall he be?
I hope he will come and see me, that I may talk with him. He has a German look; but Hamilton
particularly is one of Tacitus
The youngest has no nationality.
I can now enter into your feelings as a father.
I know how anxious you must be for their education and happiness, and how their future must fill your soul.
They are continuations of yourself
. Believe, my dear Lieber
, that I take a true interest in their welfare, and long to be of service to them.
But what can I do for any body?
I have finished my labors on ‘Vesey
The edition (in twenty volumes) is all printed; and that millstone has fallen from my neck.
has written you of the bombshell we threw into Dwight
We came forward at the meeting of the Prison
Discipline Society and opposed his report,—vindicating the Philadelphia prison
A committee has been appointed, to whom his report has been referred, with authority to visit the prison at Philadelphia
has been to see me repeatedly, and seems very anxious.
It is the first interference with his absolute sway that has occurred in the history of the Society.
Adien I We shall see much of you this summer.
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?
my dear Mann
,—I have this moment received yours of the 21st.
I am ready to do what you think proper under all the circumstances.
. . . Still, if you think proper, I am ready to take advantage of M——'s offer, and advance the Board the five thousand dollars on condition and with the express understanding that the sums now offered by the towns where the schools are to be placed shall be paid to us, to be applied to indemnify the above advance.
I anticipate some difficulty in this course.
I do not think the Governor
or the people of Northampton
have appreciated our motives in this matter.
When we commenced this movement, we did not contemplate being made responsible for the whole sum; and it does not seem to me just or generous to attempt to crowd this responsibility upon us. I agree with you that something should be done immediately; but I do feel that the first step is the determination of the place of the school.
Then we shall be able naturally to make our collections, and redeem our pledge according to the spirit in which it was given.
But I refer the whole to your better judgment.
You know the facts; and you can determine whether, under the circumstances, such an advance might not be precipitate and entail upon us a responsibility beyond our calculations.
P. S. My oration will not come out Minerva-like; for it will have no armor