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The whole group of Illinois College men and their associates—Edward Beecher, Julian M. Sturtevant, Truman M. Post, Theron Baldwin, William Kirby, Samuel Adams, Elisha Jenney, Asa Turner, John F. Brooks, Samuel D. Lockwood, J. M. Ellis, Albert Hale and William Brown-were devoted advocates of the common school. The welfare of the State and the happiness of the people depended not only on the advancement of education, but these men also saw that the cause of higher learning was destined to be founded on a common public school system.
Notices of the work done in the advancement of education by some of these men appeared in the newspapers of that day: “At the commencement in Jacksonville, Aug. 21, 1833, an address on Common Schools, by Rev. Theron Baldwin." “Thursday evening, Nov. 13, 1834, an address in Springfield by Prof. J. B. Turner, Subject: Common Schools." "Lecture on Education by Rev. Mr. Baldwin at Mt. Carmel, Wabash County, August, 1836.” “A lecture by Prof. Sturtevant in Springfield, 1843, in behalf of a State Superintendent. Lecture repeated before the legislature the next night." “The annual commencement of Jacksonville College Sept. 21, 1836. N. B.-A convention of teachers will be held on the afternoon of the preceding day to concert measures for the cause of education in this state."98
Judge Hall, the foremost literary writer of the State up to the time of his removal to Cincinnati, in 1833, advocated public education in his addresses and writings. Theron Baldwin, with other Illinois College men, took up the cause of education in their editorship of the Common School Advocate. John S. Wright of Chicago, built a common school in 1835 in Chicago, at his own expense; edited the Prairie Farmer, a journal devoted to agriculture, mechanic arts, and common schools, and took an active part in the creation of educational laws. Charles E. Hovey, the first editor of the Illinois Teacher, the president of the State Teachers' Association, principal of the public schools of Peoria, and head of the Normal School established in 1857, performed a distinguished service in organizing and uniting the teachers of the State in the cause of free public schools.
* State Supt. Report, 1885-6, p. 128.
Besides the editors just mentioned, the missionary circuit riders and state religious agents seldom failed to lend their influence for the enlightenment of the children of the State. Lemuel Foster, appointed in 1832 as a missionary to Illinois, built an academy in Jacksonville and one in Bloomington where common, as well as academic instruction was given; established Sunday schools in the surrounding country and interviewed his constituents for the purpose of gaining their support for public instruction. John F. Brooks, sent to St. Clair county, opened one of the first teachers' seminaries in Waverley, in 1837, directed the Springfield Academy in 1840, and acted as principal of the public schools in the same city. Other typical religious leaders were Romulus Barnes, Flavel Bascom, Aratus Kent, Peter Cartwright and Hubbel Loomis.
The work of the state superintendents and legislators in securing laws for the organization of free schools should not be overlooked. Mr. Gatewood was named in the last chapter and an extract of his address was given to show what he, as chairman of the Senate Educational Committee, thought were the reasons for developing common schools. S. W. Moulton, to whom the free school bill was entrusted, in the legislature in 1854, spent several years after the passage of the law in writing articles and giving addresses on the justification of taxation for the support of schools, and the manner in which the distribution of revenue for school purposes should take place. N. W. Edwards spent much time in gathering statistics to show the condition of the schools of the State. As superintendent, he visited every county and gave addresses urging the creation of free schools. Moreover, the legislature required that he prepare a bill for the reorganization of the entire school system. A state agent was appointed by the State Teachers' Association to travel over the State in the interest of free schools. His first report indicated the nature of his work:
He visited twenty-one schools and delivered sixteen evening addresses the first month. “At Hennepin, I found a new and beautiful edifice, erected at a cost of seven thousand dollars, for a private school, and labored, not without hope of success, to induce the people to obtain it and establish therein
a graded free school. At Kewanee, it was attempted to show that the true interests of Wethersfield and Kewanee, adjacent districts, would be promoted by purchasing the seminary building located midway between them, and organizing in it a Central High School. The stock-holders proposed to give the six thousand dollars already expended, if the two districts would assume the indebtedness-two thousand dollars. The proposition was well received, and has since been adopted. They will soon rejoice in the possession of a first class High School, free to all whose attainments entitle them to admission."7
Men of national prominence in other states were also influential in the development of the school system of Illinois. The ideas of Jefferson were foremost in the law of 1825. DeWitt Clinton was a leader, in the state of New York, in creating a common school system. But his addresses appeared in the Illinois papers, of which the following is a typical extract: “The great bulwark of a republican government, is the cultivation of education; for the right of suffrage cannot be exercised in a salutary manner without intelligence. Ten years of a child's life, from five to fifteen, may be spent in a common
a school, and ought this immense portion of time to be absorbed in learning what can be acquired in a short period? Perhaps one-fourth of our population is annually instructed in our common schools, and ought the minds and the morals of the rising, and perhaps the destinies of all future generations, to be entrusted to the guardianship of incompetence? The scale of instruction must be elevated; the standard of education ought to be raised. Small and suitable collections of books and maps attached to our common schools, and periodical examinations to test the proficiency of scholars, and the merits of the teachers, are worthy of attention. When it is understood that objects of this description enter into the formation of our characters, control our destinies through life, protect the freedom and advance the glory of our country; and that this is the appropriate soil of liberty and education, that it be our pride, as it is our duty to spare no exertions, and to shrink from no expense, in the promotion of a cause consecrated by religion, and enjoined by patriotism.
Horace Mann's and Henry Barnard's reports dealing with the organization and establishment of a common school system, also were quoted in Illinois publications. Moreover, Mr. Barnard was on the program at two different common school conventions where he discussed the internal features of free schools.'
Any classification of some of the representative leaders is impossible because their interests were so many sided. An Illinois College founder like Baldwin was a missionary, who established Sunday schools, a preacher who advocated the cause of education before the legislature, and the principal of Monticello Seminary wherein some teachers were trained for the common schools. Moreover, he was an editor of one of the literary agencies for the promotion of education in the West.
Literary Agencies. Only a little of the literary material of the period to 1850 has been preserved. In that which has survived, the subject of education continually appears. Many of the newspapers spread information about the schools of the State, inserted addresses from men like Governor Clinton, Horace Mann and Henry Barnard on education, summarized the reports of state superintendents of public instruction in such states as New York and Connecticut, and recommended the adoption of certain principles for the improvement of education in Illinois. As the creators of public opinion, and the means by which the knowledge of school practices was disseminated, many of the newspapers were preeminent.
The ideas attributed to Judge Hall, the first newspaper editor in the State, have come from the volumes of the Illinois Monthly Magazine, published at Vandalia, 1827 to 1830. That publication might well be called the first school journal of the State. Among other articles were those on the need for scientific instruction as opposed to an all-language curriculum; arguments for the creation of a state system of free common education; recommendations for the use of new and better text-books, and surveys of the educational means in existence. This magazine was too far in advance of the literary ability of the people on the frontier; hence it was necessary for the editor to remove to Cincinnati in the early thirties where the publication was continued.
•State Supt. Rep., 1885-6, p. 152.
However, in 1837, appeared the Common School Advocate, a monthly journal, printed at Jacksonville. A group of editors, probably Illinois College teachers, carried on the publication for a year without pay. Even the short existence of the paper, only twelve months, advanced the common school cause. The contents of the Advocate are indicated by the first editorial suggesting topics for contribution.
“Objects of education–different grades of it, and the kind adapted to this age. Teaching made a professionbenefits of it. Best method of teaching geography, arithmetic, grammar, reading, writing, etc. Common schools—their importance, etc. Necessity of well qualified teachers. Teachers' seminaries. Government and discipline of a school. School books. Common school libraries and apparatus. Duties of parents, teachers and trustees. Location and structure of school houses. Systems of education in our own and other countries. Importance of universal education under free governments. Accounts of educational associations and conventions, or of particular schools. Facts respecting the state of education, particularly in Illinois. The system best adapted to our circumstances. Moral and religious education in schools. Connection between ignorance and crime—between intelligence and national prosperity.
But the most influential school journal, until the appearance of the Illinois Teacher, in 1854, was the Prairie Farmer, issued as the Union Agriculturist from 1841 to 1843. The title page, among other things, said it was a journal dedicated to the cause of the common schools in Illinois. Without its record, the story of the struggle for free education in the period from 1841 to 1854, would be almost impossible of reproduction. Such articles as these were discussed in its pages: the need for a normal school; the necessity for trained teachers; the criminal negligence in not providing decent common school buildings; reports of the ex-officio state superintendent of common schools; proceedings of educational conventions, both state and county; arguments against select schools and private academies; the reasons for free schools; the subjects taught in the free schools; reports of the New England and New York common schools; advantages of a State superintendent; gradation as a means of improvement
10 State Supt. Report, 1885-6. p. 133.