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than in ours. He knew that the elements of common education were far more extensively diffused and more efficiently wielded here than there. He knew, too, that in all the higher departments of knowledge, greater proficiency had been made in the old than in the new world. And if his object had been simply the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men, in its lowest elements or its highest branches, he knew that the field for the one and the facilities for the other were more ample in the old world. What an array of worthy and learned professors might not such a benefaction have gathered in Germany or France, or Great Britain ? And are the channels of knowledge in those countries full ? Does not the work of education yet need all the aid there which wisdom and munificence can give it? Can it be presumed that the testator did not know that any or all the sciences now taught in the institutions of Europe, could be more effectually increased and diffused among men from a proper point in that continent, than from the city of Washington? Europe is the centre to which the accumulations of knowledge converge, and from which they diverge to all parts of the world. To acknowledge this truth is neither undervaluing our present importance in the world, nor yielding the high point of future destiny. If the knowledge which the testator desired to increase and diffuse among men was that knowledge which chiefly centres in Europe, can we suppose that he would not have selected Europe as the centre of his operations? And if he intended any of those branches of science usually taught in schools or colleges, would he have chosen the city of Washington as the seat of his institution. It may be presumed he knew there could not be a more unhappy selection for such a purpose. Without taking into account many objections which will readily occur to an intelligent man of the world, he knew that Washington was a capital merely, without business or population except that which was connected with the Government: he knew that an atmosphere pre-occupied by the storms of party spirit, by the breath of calumny, by a noxious crowd of unscrupulous office hunters, by the pestilential influences of hordes of knaves ever hanging on the skirts of power, would not be wholesome for those young in years and in experience. He could not have designed to expose any portion of the youth of our country to such a hazardous trial. In justice to the intelligence of the testator, there is no escape from these and simi
lar conclusions which press upon us, but by admitting that the knowledge which he intended to diffuse among men was not that in which we are excelled by the learned of Europe. It was another kind, not less important to men, less familiar to the European than to the American mind, and the facilities for the increase and diffusion of which are in Europe immeasurably behind what they are in the United States.
If the testator did not intend to found an institution of learning embracing the highest departments of science, nor one for the diffusion of the simpler elements of education, the inquiry remains, what did he intend to accomplish? He intended, clearly, to do good: to erect an institution which, by the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men, should increase their happiness and improve their social condition. He intended, it must be presumed, to make his liberal benefaction as effective as possible for these purposes. It is apparent that he was not a man whose views or whose charities were circumscribed by his own country or neighborhood. He regarded all men as his neighbours. He has made the United States his trustee, but he designed the good influences of his bequest to be exerted not merely among citizens of that country, but to be extended “among men of all countries. These words are sweeping and significant, and their scope cannot be narrowed without a violation of the spirit of the trust. would faithfully perform the duty devolved upon us of expounding this will, we must transport ourselves for that purpose to the British Islands, that we may contemplate the condition of men from the point of view occupied by the testator. He had immediately round him the population of his own country, and the swarms of the neighboring continent were nearly under his eye. We must pause upon the prospect which lay before and around him. If we would know the good he designed to accomplish, we must look at the evils and the miseries which awakened his sympathies. Of the scene presented to his view, he could not be an unmoved spectator. He beheld one half his fellow subjects in abject poverty, of whom a very large proportion were in a state of hopeless and utter destitution. He beheld them degraded in mind as well as wretched in body. The wailings of misery, the cries of hunger, and the deep murmurings of discontent assailed his ear from all sides. He saw that the regular labour and the regular food
of slavery would be a boon to millions of his countrymen. He saw multitudes on multitudes crowding into the close air of manufactories, or delving far below the surface of the earth in mines, and by their labour swelling the mighty sum of British exports, but scarce securing by that labour the boon of food and raiment—strangers alike as they were to comfort and peace of mind.
All this he beheld in a land whose chart of liberty has been the boast of centuries. In a land whose princes, nobles, gentry, merchants and manufacturers exhibited a wealth to which past and present time can furnish no parallel. In a land whose constitution professed to embrace the interests and well being of all classes; in which the Christian religion was established by law, and its chief ministers paid with a liberality without example; in which the voice and deeds of philanthropy were more astounding than any people ever before exhibited; from which Bibles, containing the great law of charity were sent in every language to every people, and from which the missionaries of the cross went to all nations, proclaiming the glad tidings of that gospel which declares that the faith which is sufficient to remove mountains, without charity, is nothing."
He found that every effort of the humane to better the condition of their suffering brethren was nearly abortive. They were met with arguments against disturbing the harmonies and proportions of the social fabric, and warned not to remove a stone nor column of the public edifice, lest the whole should fall and perish. The objectors admitted that those suffering under this system were greatly the most numerous; but that could not affect the argument, because vested rights and venerable privileges should not lightly be disturbed, and above all, an agrarian spirit was not to be encouraged or aided. Individuals could not be expected to give up what they had honestly acquired in due course of law, and in the existing state of things. There was plainly no remedy for the victims of a popular government and an established religion. So little could be accomplished at home for millions suffering the extremities of human woe, that active philanthropists were by sheer necessity driven from Great Britain for a field of labour. Hence the measures for suppressing the slave trade, the magnificent plans for civilizing heathen nations, the purchase of freedom for a million of West Indian slaves, whose condition was far
superior to that of more than twice that number at home, for whose wretchedness there was no remedy.
Such was the melancholy spectacle which the testator beheld in his own country. It presented questions of grave and deep import in relation to the social condition of men. No one, neither the most humane nor the most wise, had been able to devise a remedy for these evils, securing sufficient confidence to give it the least prospect of being carried into effect. Interests, commercial, manufacturing, agricultural, civil, military, naval, religious and literary, in all their various forms bound up together, presented a gordian knot which no effort of humanity, of skill, of wisdom, of patience, of boldness, or of sagacity could untie. It seemed as if no remedy remained but to cut its complicated folds, and scatter then before the storms and blood of a revolution. He could not but turn in despair from such a scene, convinced that his intended legacy could accomplish no permanent good for his suffering countrymen.
If he bent his eyes to the neighboring continent, the prospect was equally gloomy. The poor of continental Europe have been variously estimated from ten to fifty millions, or from one-twentieth to one-fifth of the population. This different result arises rather from the different basis of the estimates, than from error, or a difference of opinion. Other estimates range from the same reason between these extremes. Villaneuve de Bergamont, who fixes the proportion of one-twentieth, or nearly eleven millions, as the number of the poor of Europe, includes only those who are unable to work, those whom bodily defect, other inability, or the want of work, leave at public charge. Those on the other hand who assume the higher proportion of one-fifth, or nearly fifty millions, include not only those who are thrown on the public to perish or be relieved, but the much greater number in every country who struggle on ticed misery, suffering the ills of constant poverty.
The philanthropist who looks abroad upon the condition of his fellow men with due intelligence, will be smitten with sympathy more deep for those whose hearts are frozen with the daily dread of utter destitution, than for those who have sunk into the hands of the administrators of public charity. The beggar publishes his wants with busy clamor; the public has discovered the wretchedness of the inmates of its hospitals and almshouses; but who can find the abodes of modest want, of patient misery; who can num
ber the poor whose food and raiment and shelter are far, far below the lowest standard of comfort; whose hopes for this world are cut off, and who have had no proper teaching for the world to come; who can tell their anguish who begin to feel their descent from a better condition into the abyss of helpless ruin, degradation and crime? Great Britain and Ireland alone contain not less than twelve millions, who, if their condition be above that of utter poverty, it is one in which they struggle through life, battling with misery and want, wholly dependent on the contingencies of employment, adequate wages and parish relief, asking for labour as a boon, although it scarce netts them an existence.” France contains, it cannot be doubted, six millions whose situation is not better. Holland and Belgium, in a population of six millions, contain three-quarters of a million of these sufferers. The number of the poor in these four countries are best ascertained, and although they most abound there, who that knows much about the population of Europe can doubt that if these four kingdoms contain nineteen millions of suffering poor, the remainder of the continent must include at least thirty millions more.*
A close and impartial survey of the condition of the European people, of which the above is but a faint outline, must leave upon the heart of any benevolent and intelligent observer, impressions of sympathy and grief at once deep and abiding. Our testator could not have returned from such an inquiry, such a far-reaching prospect of human woe and degradation, without feeling humbled and horror-stricken at the exhibition of selfishness, bad government and inhumanity which it implied. We may conceive his exclaiming,- What is all other knowledge and wisdom worth, in comparison with that which would teach how to raise these prostrate millions to a condition of comfort and peace—a condition in which they could gain adequate food and raiment and shelter by their own labour, and in which they would be freed from the ever-gnawing apprehension of famine and destitution? What is the glory of Europe in arts, in arms, in letters, in science, in philosophy, in Christianity, to eighty millions of poor, if none of these can rescue them from their present doom? What avails it to speak of free and despotic governments, of monarchy, aris
See and compare statements and tables in De Gerando Bienfaisence Pub lique, Primiere Partie, Liv. 1. c. 4, and Econ. Polit. Chret. Liv. 2. c. 1.