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the Federal cromont, with a view or under his ad
distrust of the future, as long as the destinies of the country were hung to his “two hooks," popular edu/ cation, and local self-government.
You will remember that Jefferson once suggested amending the Constitution, so as to authorize the Federal Government to coöperate with the States in educational work. I think it may perhaps be said with truth — though I have not given sufficient detailed research to make me assured of the accuracy of the comparison — that under no single administration of the Federal Government was there ever so much done by the Government, with a view to helping the States establish and maintain education, as under his administration.
The first Republican Congress, with the incoming of Jefferson, introduced a new custom which has had an abiding and permanent educational effect upon the people. Up to that time newspaper reporters were admitted and expelled at the will of the Speaker, and even while present, were not considered privileged to comment upon the proceedings. One Speaker expelled two for reporting speeches. Over in the Senate they could sit in the gallery with the other spectators, if they chose. The Republicans now gave reporters desks on the floor, and ever since then that has been the custom. This has two important effects: first, it acts as a restraint and check upon the Congressmen in both Houses; second, it educates the people in practical governmental science.
On December 10, 1821, Hugh Nelson, a Representative from Virginia, presented a petition signed by Jefferson for the "Rector and Visitors of the University
of Virginia,” praying that “the aid and patronage of Congress may be extended to the cause of science and literature generally throughout the United States by an exemption from duties of all books and other articles generally used in acquiring information.” This duty was fifteen per cent. In the petition, well worth your perusal, occurs this phrase: “To obstruct the acquisition of books from abroad, as an encouragement of the progress of literature at home, is burying the fountain to increase the flow of its waters.”
An adverse report from the Senate Finance Committee calls books “foreign luxuries" — fit subjects, therefore, for taxation, and objects "to singling out this important branch of industry” and “stripping it of all protection” and “leaving it to struggle with powerful competitors.” How familiar these stock phrases of beneficiaries of law-conferred special privileges! Also in the adverse report, foreign books are feared “as a means of foreign influence from which our youths may imbibe sentiments, dangerous to our liberties.”
For three years the movement was laid aside. Then, in 1824, Jared Sparks took it up again in the North American Review, and Jefferson wrote a letter to encourage him in the good and wise work. It was published with effect, and in the Tariff Act of 1824, the taxes on books "printed before 1775" and on all books in foreign languages, except Latin and Greek, were reduced. Printed before 1775! We didn't want any late information! Too dangerous a luxury! Dangerous to the publishers. Thus Congress refused “to wipe this stain from our legislation," as Jefferson
stigmatizes it in his letter to Sparks, “and if possible obliterate it from the mind of man.”
In conclusion: Well warranted, indeed then, were these words of the lovable "friend of man," written in his extreme old age, not long before “the night came, when no man could work," and standing as a prophecy and a promise to be literally fulfilled up to the very day but one before his death:
“A system of general instruction which shall reach every dedescription of our citizens from the highest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so it will be the latest, of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest.” Verily; again the words recur: He was stigmatized as a dreamer, but his dreams came true.”
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