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expelled almost with one voice from the Presidential chair. So deep and pervading was the dissatisfaction of the people, with these wasteful expenditures of the public treasure, that each successive Administration has made reform and retrenchment the watch words of party. And yet, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding have gone forth to the battle with "economy emblazoned upon our standard, the immense revenues pouring into our coffers from indemnities, public lands, and the customs, have exercised a counteracting influence, and our march in extravagance has been almost pari passu with our augmented income. In 1836 the expenditures had reached the almost incredible sum of 40,000,00 dols. Thus showing the tendency of our government to spend according to its means, and the visionary absurdity of the restraint imposed by the terms economical expenditure.
Pour the wealth of the Indies into our Treasury, and my word for it, the political doctors whom chance or fortune may have placed at the head of our affairs, will soon discover some happy depletive remedy for this oppressive plethora. National roads, fortifications, exploring expeditions, and the almost endless et ceteras, which are the natural fruit of ample means, become by a “log rolling" combination of the members of Congress, necessary and proper in their estimation, and professedly consistent with a judicious economy.
Hence if the amendment of the gentleman. (General Bayly) should prevail, reason and experience teaching us that the expenses of the Government will keep pace with its income and the terms of the Compromise, according to the construction of the gentleman, actually exhibiting a surplus, we cannot by possibility have the distribution which he recommends in the first part of the resolution, except in the way I have argued. The resolutions coupled with the gentleman's amendment is either a stimulant to evil, or it is a reality. It will
either drive us into fraudulent contributions for raising the duties, that we may have a surplus to distribute, or, according to the gentleman's own shewing, it will be utterly inoperative and ineffectual for any object we may have connected with the public lands. In both of which aspects I am utterly opposed to it.
I forbear, Mr. Speaker, launching into a more extended field of discussion, for the reason assigned when I first rose. Already I have extended my remarks further then I contemplated, and I hope the House will find an apology for it in the magnitude and importance of the subject, and the novelty of the positions assumed by the gentleman who preceded me.
For some years previously to 1849 the question of popular education and Free schools had excited much interest in Virginia. One of the most earnest friends of a general system of education was Colonel Peyton, who made his views known in conversation, by communications to the newspapers and speeches at public meetings in Roanoke, and at a State Convention in Richmond. He left the important affairs of his Coal mining and river improvement projects in Boone county, at an inclement season and travelled nearly 400 miles over the wretched roads of Virginia, in a ricketty stage coach, in order to attend this Convention, in which the writer was also a delegate from the county of Augusta. Such was the deep and enthusiastic interest he took in this vital subject. His private affairs were but as dust in the balance, when they were in conflict with those he owed to society.
From a lively recollection of his conversations and speeches at this period, the author is able to give the following brief synopsis of his views on this interesting question.
He maintained that popular ignorance was one of the greatest curses that could afflict a people, and was altogether inconsistent with the theory and practice of Republican Government.
Quoting the language of Hosea, “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” he asserted that the ignorance which prevailed among the ancient Jewish people was the principal cause of their unhappiness, betraying them into crimes, and consequent miseries. It was this ignorance, this fatal lack of knowledge, which caused them to reject Jesus Christ and led to their destruction. He then considered the mental darkness which prevailed among the ancient heathen nations, and traced to it all their wretchedness. In their depravity they departed from the original ways of Providence, and set up false deities to be worshipped. All true morality and religion were destroyed amongst them, and the mass of mankind sank into darkness and woe. In his opinion, the only way to preserve the moral world was by a diffusion of true knowledge, by which men would be able to see what was wrong. From a consideration of the malignant effects of ignorance among the people of the ancient world, Jews and Gentiles, he passed in review the ignorance prevailing in subsequent ages, and finally came down to what was called the Augustan period of English literature, when Addison, Pope, Swift and other writers flourished, as well as philosophers, statesmen and heroes. Even at this period he said the mass of
English people were steeped in ignorance, and were considered by the educated as mere mental barbarians. An author never thought of his works being read by the debased multitude; they were composed for the educated few, who were recognised as a select community; and it was one of the most remarkable features of the times, that the cultivated part of the British nation regarded the mental and moral condition of the rest with the strangest indifference. To such an extent did ignorance prevail among the lower orders in England, that it might almost be called heathen at the time when Whitfield and Wesley began to excite the attention of the multitude to that subject. He then passed in review its effects upon the character of the English nation, and said that the gratification of their senses was then their chief good. It led to a disposition to cruelty, which was displayed and confirmed by their practices, such as prize fighting, cruelty to horses and the brutal way of slaughtering animals. And what was true of them would prove true of other people—fallen nature is the same everywhere. Education had done much, since the period to which he referred, to enlighten and educate the British people, and he trusted that Americans would not be insensible to their example. He said it was dishonourable to a country that the people should be allowed to remain in this condition, a monstrous thing in a Republic which was supposed to be governed by the people—they, at least, ought to be able to see that it was necessary to educate their children, unto whom they proposed in time