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general level of intelligence of the people in the State. However, attention was focused on desirable laws though they were to be enacted in the future, by the indefatigable labor of the State Educational Association. The men of that body, at once and clearly, saw the necessity for trained teachers to conduct the schools. But the people were not to blame for failing to see the value of an entirely new educational doctrine, new, even to the older states, when scarcely any system of common schools was in operation. The low salaries, the inefficient teachers, and the inadequate schools, were partly the product of a frontier civilization, but also the result of the low educational conditions in the states from which they emigrated.
Some Agencies that Aided in the Development and the Estabment of the Common School.
The common school system of Illinois, when the permanent free school law was passed, in 1855, was the product of more than a quarter of a century of development. In considering farther the internal evolution of the system itself, let us examine the means by which the people of the State were taught to accept the principle that the State should educate its children. In general, democracy was just beginning to grow, and becoming conscious of its power. Humanitarian ideals, doing something for the other man's children, were for the first time, a national characteristic. Though the period from 1830 to 1865 was marked by many abuses in educational practice, the mass of the people were learning for the first time the advantages of a universal system of free common schools. Illinois had many agencies which contributed to the growth of that ideal.
Usually, in a frontier community, moral and educational values are first determined, by the championship of individual leaders. More settled life develops group leadership, not separate from, but existing along with prominent leaders, and institutions emerge with their own ends in view. Through the influence of educational leaders, the writings of newspapers and magazines, the work of institutions such as the Sunday schools and public libraries, and educational conventions, the development of the free school was hastened. Our next consideration, therefore, is a study of the part taken by these agencies.
Governors of the State of Illinois, in the period we are considering, from first to last, took the lead in calling the attention of the general assembly to the necessity for, and the needs of the common schools. Governor Bond, the first in
office after the State was admitted into the Union, in 1818, recommended that township trustees lease the school lands, using the rent for educational purposes. Besides, a certain per centum of the sales of all public lands should be reserved for the use of schools, both of which incomes would be sufficiently large to educate the children of the state to the remotest period of time. 1
We have described the activity of Governor Coles relative to the question of slavery and the free school law of 1825. With the many other recommendations to the legislature, Governor Coles spoke of the proper preservation of the public lands in the State as a means for the education of future generations. "But, from the present super-abundance of lands, these will not be productive of much revenue for many years to come; they should, however, be strictly husbanded as a rich source from which to supply future generations with the means of education." (Now followed his suggestions which resulted in the free school law of 1825). "In the meantime, would it not be wise to make legal provision to assist in the support of local schools?", 2
Whether or not Coles or Duncan wrote the law of 1825, both men were champions of the common schools. The latter, in following Coles as chief executive, continued to advise the legislature of the value of common schools, of the necessity for the adoption of some scheme of government support for education, and of the wisdom in preserving the now small fund for future use. "As every country is prosperous and respected in proportion to the virtue and intelligence of its inhabitants, the subject of education will doubtless again form an important part of your deliberations. It becomes us to use every exertion in our power to instruct those who are immediately dependent upon us, and least to those who come after us the rich revenues to be derived from land, canals, and other improvements; to form a permanent fund to carry out any plan you may adopt for the purposes of education. A government like ours carried on by the will of the people, should be careful to use all the means in its power to enlighten the minds of those who are destined to exercise so important a trust. This and every consideration connected
1 Niles Weekly Register, v. 15, p. 192.
Sen. Jr., 1824-5, p. 19.
with the virtue, elevation and happiness of man, and the character and prosperity of our State, and of our common country calls upon you to establish some permanent system of common schools by which an education may be placed within the power, nay, if possible secured to every child in the State.”2
The governors above mentioned exemplified the part taken by the chief executives in support of education. We shall speak in another connection of those who assisted the passage of the free school law of 1855. But no less influential in moulding the common schools of the national period were the preachers, writers, lawyers and the professional classes generally.
Were one to select the man whose efforts were the greatest for the moral and educational uplift of the people, it would be Rev. J. M. Peck. The organization of the Rock Spring Seminary was but one of his many-sided activities. Sunday schools, through which the common children and many of the older people learned to read and write were first developed by this missionary preacher. Peck was found at every important gathering, legislative, agricultural, religious and educational, urging the creation of a system of schools. for the common people. Through him, a public meeting, assembled in the state house at Vandalia to hear an address by Judge Hall on education, became the nucleus of the first state teachers' association. He was acquainted with the best in the New England schools, and knew how to impart that knowledge to others, either in his horseback rides over the State with backwoodsmen, or in legislative halls with governors and political leaders. In him, the common man's children, as well as the children of the elite, had a lifelong friend. The passage of the first permanent free school law in the State was a fitting tribute to him, who had spent more than a quarter of a century for the cause of education in the State of Illinois.
The New England and eastern settlers in Illinois were distinguished by their championship of the cause of free common school education. Jonathan B. Turner, a teacher in Illinois College, spent the prime of his life, 1834-55, for the cause of the education of the common people, although he is
Sen. Jr., 1834-5.
better known for his service in the advocation of and the establishment of the University of Illinois. Conventions were organized, addresses were made, and letters and pamphlets were written by Turner, advocating the establishment of the common school by co-operation, and the unity of the educational forces of the State. A letter to his fiancee showed that he went about the State working for the common school:
"Soon after writing my last, I determined to spend my vacation in looking into the state of common schools in Illinois. I have been absent about seven weeks, have passed through some dozen or fifteen counties and delivered public addresses in all the county seats and principal villages."
"The result is that in all the counties I have visited, and many others to which I have written, they have resolved to call county meetings and elect delegates to the State Convention to be held at Vandalia next December to discuss the subject of common schools, and lay the subject before the people and Legislature. My success has been better than I expected, and I hope great good will result."
Another statement represented some of the things that Turner said in his addresses to the people on the subject of common schools: "While others are still contesting the boundaries of human freedom and adjusting the restraints of human depravity, we would give unlimited scope to the one by exterminating the other from the face of the earth. With these ends in view, it devolves on us to augment the facilities, the resources and the completion of knowledge, until a royal road shall be paved from the threshold of every cabin in the land to the open doors and waiting honors of our most magnificent temples of science. If by council, concert, and cooperation, we concentrate our energies and husband our resources to the utmost, who can over-estimate the final result? But if we fling the experience of the past and the advantages of the present to the winds, and each for himself resolves in his own solitary career of experiment and effort,-beleaguering and jading the public mind, and exhausting the public resources with our own isolated and selfish schemes-what a fearful retribution awaits both of us and those who are to come after us." 995
Life of Jonathan Baldwin Turner, p. 70.