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January 5, 1836.
Message from the Governor.
TO THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY.
Fellow-CITIZENS; You are entrusted with the legislative authority of the people of this State, at an auspicious period in their affairs. Whatever is essential to the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, is placed within their reach by the free principles of their government. In the dealings of a kind Providence with them, they are permitted at this time to enjoy, in a liberal measure, the blessings which contribute to individual comfort and public prosperity. To our admirable form of government, to the wisdom of past legislation, and especially to the favorable regards of the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, ought we, in humble gratitude to Him, to ascribe our happy condition.
Until within a few days, wherever we directed our view throughout this flourishing commonwealth, we saw only gratifying evidences of unexampled prosperity; but we have now to lament that a portion of our constituents have been recently visited by a severe calamity. A conflagration, unprecedented in the history of this continent, and rarely exceeded in the past ages of the world, has consumed many millions of property, and laid in ruins an extensive district of our commercial metropolis. Destructive as this calamity has been to the fortunes of individuals, and extensive as its influence may be upon the general prosperity of the State, let us not yield to the desponding belief that we shall not soon recover from its effects. Though the sufferers have lost their property,
(Assem. No. 2.)
they have not fosť every thing. Their enterprising spirit and irrepressible energies still remain; their business relations are suspended, but not dissolved; their character as honorable merchants, and their capacity for business, fortunately are possessions beyond the reach of the devouring element. With these possessions, aided by the advantages which it is reasonable to expect will be liberally offered to them, they will soon resume their wonted pursuits under favorable auspices, and in a short time, it is believed, repair their losses.
Notwithstanding the disaster which has befallen this portion of your constituents, you enter on your legislative duties when the general condition of the State is unusually prosperous; but these duties are not, in my opinion, thereby rendered less responsible or less difficult to be performed. A high state of prosperity is not generally less fruitful than a season of adversity, in developments which deserve the attention of the Legislature. Many defects in existing laws and institutions are then disclosed, which it requires the profoundest wisdom to correct. Such a conjuncture as the present seems to be a peculiarly appropriate time for reviewing the course of past legislation, and making needful reforms; for looking forward, and preparing our systems for the future exigencies of the State. Relieved, as you are, from the labour of guarding against external dangers, or repressing civil commotions, your minds are left free to mark the progress, and consider the tendency of our present establishments; to check the operation of evil principles before they have produced their bitter fruits, and to give a right direction and efficient action to principles of an opposite character.
It is to be feared that the constitutional provisions relative to our judiciary system, will not permit it to be so expanded as to meet the public wants. The vast increase of business in our higher courts has demonstrated their inadequacy, under their present organization, to discharge the onerous duties devolved on them; and something must therefore be done for the public relief. If this relief cannot be obtained by the modification of the existing courts, or an enlargement of the system on the present basis, then your attention should be directed towards procuring an amendment of the Constitution. The importance of providing for a speedy administration of the laws, and the urgent demands for a system every way competent to this object, will, I trust, ensure some
decided action on this subject at the present session of the Legislature.
In a government like ours, which emanates from the people, where the entire administration in all its various branches is conducted for their benefit and subject to their constant supervision and control, and where the safety and the perpetuity of all its political institutions depend upon their virtue and intelligence, no other subject can be equal in importance to that of public instruction, and none should so earnestly engage the attention of the Legislature. Ignorance, with all the moral evils of which it is the prolific source, brings with it also numerous political evils, dangerous to the welfare of the State. It should be the anxious care of the Legislature to eradicate these evils by removing the causes of them. This can be done effectually only by diffusing instruction generally among the people. Although much remains here to be done in this respect, the past efforts of legislation upon the subject merit high commendation. Much has been already accomplished for the cause of popular education. A large fund has been dedicated to this object, and our common school system is established on right principles. But this is one of those subjects for which all cannot be done that is required, without a powerful co-operation on the part of the people in their individual capacity. The viding of funds for education, is an indispensable means for attaining the end; but it is not education. The wisest system that can be devised cannot be executed without human agency. The difficulty in the case arises, I fear, from the fact that the benefits of general education can only be fully appreciated by those who are educated themselves. Those parents who are so unfortunate as not to be properly educated, and those whose condition requires them to employ their time and their efforts to gain the means of subsistance, do not, in many instances, sufficiently value the importance of education: Yet it is for their children, in common with all others, that the common school system is designed; and until its blessings are made to reach them, it will not be what it ought to be. If parents generally were sensible of the inestimable advantages they were procuring for their children by educating them, I am sure the efforts and contributions which are required to give full efficiency to our present system, would not be withheld. If I have rightly apprehended the indications of public opinion on this subject, a more auspicious season is approaching.
At this time, a much larger number of individuals than heretofore, are exerting their energies and contributing their means to impress the public mind with the importance of making our system of popular instruction effective in diffusing its benefits to all the children in the State. I anticipate much good from the prevalence of the sentiment that the efforts of individuals must co-operate with the public authorities to ensure success to any system of general education.
The Press, that powerful engine in moving and controlling public opinion, is at this time, and much more so than formerly, directed to this subject, and it will undoubtedly have a salutary influence in advancing the cause of popular instruction.
The difficulty of supplying the district schools with competent teachers, has presented the greatest obstacle to the complete success of our system. A beginning has been made with a view to the removal of this obstacle. A separate department for the instruction of common school teachers has been established in one of the principal academies in each of the eight senate districts of the State, and public funds have been appropriated towards the support of these departments. That this measure cannot be otherwise than highly beneficial to the common schools, may be confidently anticipated.
The law of the last session of the Legislatore authorizing the inhabitants of each school district to impose a very light tax upon themselves for the purpose of providing a district library, is a measure well calculated to aid the cause of public instruction. I have not the means of knowing to what extent the districts have acted under it, but I sincerely hope that they are generally disposed to avail themselves of its wholesome provisions, and to commence establishments from which it is reasonable to expect beneficial results. Although this matter is left at the option of the several districts, yet the usefulness of such libraries is sufficiently obvious to induce a belief that the law will have nearly the same effect as if it had been made obligatory on them to use the powers it confers.
Reports have been received for the year 1834, by the Superintendent of Common Schools, from all the towns and wards in the State. The number of school districts therein is ten thousand one