Page images

of free government may be defeated, and the people become their own oppressors.

A fundamental principle of our government is equality. At the ballot-box, the constitution recognizes no distinction or preference. It secures to all classes of our citizens—the humblest and the most exalted—the poor and the rich—an equal measure of political power. Hence all should be equally capable of exercising this power with wisdom and effect.

The study of political science should be commenced early. Children should grow up in the knowledge of our republican institutions. The provisions of our state and national constitutions should be to them as familiar as the spelling-book; yet thousands of our young men reach their majority, who have never given these constitutions so much as a single reading; and who assume the high prerogatives of freemen without knowing what the vast responsibilities of a freeman are! Can our liberties be safe in such hands? Can parents reconcile it with an enlightened sense of justice to their country to turn their sons upon the community thus unprepared to discharge their political duties?

If ever the great body of the people are to be qualified for the business of self-government, our common schools must be relied on as the principal means. In these institutions, probably nine-tenths of our citizens receive all their education. A science, therefore, the knowledge of which is so essential to our political prosperity, should be taught in every common school.

Influenced by these considerations, the author prepared his " Introduction to the Science of Government." The favor with which that work was received, afforded gratifying evidence that the importance of this science began to be appreciated. The object of the work was declared to be," to supply a deficiency in the course of education.” The belief was entertained and expressed, that it would be found well adapted to the condition of our common schools; and that the several subjects of which it treats were made "intelligible to those who were of suitable age and capacity to be benefited by the study of this science."

It has, however, been ascertained by experience, that youth are capable of comprehending the principles of civil government at a much earlier age than that to which that work is adapted. Besides, being intended for general circulation, it treats only of general principles which are common to all the states, and of “the constitutional and civil jurisprudence of the

United States.” But as the people are governed chiefly by state institutions and laws, it was deemed important that an elementary treatise of this kind embrace the details of the gove ernment, and the principal laws of the state, by whose citizens the work is to be studied.

A new work was therefore written, adapted not only to younger minds, but to the government of the state of New York. The measure of popular favor which that work has received-having already passed through fifteen editions-affords reasonable assurance of its universal introduction into the common schools of the state.

The appreciation of the author's labors in this department of education in his own state, has encouraged him to extend his labors to other states. In the hope that the people of Vermont will regard with equal favor this effort to diffuse among those upon whom its government will soon devolve, a knowledge of this most useful science, this work has been prepared. It contains a familiar illustration of the principles of civil government as applied to the governments of the sta:es, with a par ticular description of the government of the state of Vermont; and an abstract of the laws defining the rights and prescribing the duties of citizens in the civil and domestic relations. It contains also a general view of the government of the United States, with a brief exposition of the principal provisions of the constitution.

The author has endeavored so to simplify his language as to meet the capacities of children and youth ; and many subjects he has explained by practical illustrations. To some, these illustrations may appear superfluous, as their omission, it may be supposed, might be supplied by the teachers. But it was considered that the study of political science is new, not only to scholars in general, but to many teachers: hence it was deemed inexpedient to omit what is regarded as necessary for the former, and what, it was apprehended, too many of the latter would fail to supply. Those who have been engaged in the instruction of youth, are aware that writers, in endeavoring to accommodate themselves to juvenile minds, seldom aim too low. A material defect of many valuable works is, that their authors have not descended to the comprehension of those for whose benefit their works are designed.

This work is not intended to be used merely as a class-book for youth. It may be read with no less interest and profit by the mass of adult citizens, and will be found highly convenient


and useful in almost every family library as a book of refer

The study of the work by females also is recommended. Their position in society, and the part they take in the training of youth, in the family and in the school, give them a powerful influence in forming the character and settling the destiny of the nation. Moved by that patriotic feeling which a thorough knowledge of our republican institutions naturally inspires, they would more effectively aid in promoting the diffusion of this knowledge, so essential to the health and vigor of the body politic, and to the security of public liberty.

That this work is the best that could be written, the writer does not presume; that it contains some slight inaccuracies, is probable. If it shall be found to contain any material errors, they will be corrected. In the hope that it will in some good degree answer the purpose of its compilation, it is respectfully presented to the public.

Warsaw, N. Y., October, 1848.


The occupation of an instructer of youth is a most honorable and responsible one. The persons who are in a few years to become our legislators, judges, and governors, are now in the process of training in our public schools. This consideration should impress teachers with a deep sense of the magnitude of their trust, since the future welfare of the nation depends essentially upon the ability and fidelity with which this trust shall be discharged.

From this work, if it shall meet a favorable reception, not a few of our future statesmen will receive their first lessons in the science of civil government. The successful study of the work, however, will depend much upon the manner in which it shall be used by teachers, and the interest which they shall feel in the subject. A teacher who desires to be in the highest degree useful in his profession, will cheerfully undertake the instruction of a class in civil government: and he may make the exercise interesting and profitable both to himself and his pupils.

It is not sufficient that the scholar be required to answer the questions appended to the chapters. The utility of printed questions in class-books, is doubted by many of the best teachers and other persons of sound judgment. A few, however, have been annexed to each chapter, for the assistance of the more inexperienced teachers. It will generally be found necessary for the teacher to add questions of his own, which he may do at pleasure. Pupils should be encouraged to give answers in their own words. Some questions are inserted which

refer especially to the government of this state; the answers to which will generally be found either in the Supplementary Notes, or in the Constitution. And occasionally

question has been added, to which the book furnishes no answer.

Although pains have been taken to render the several subjects plain and intelligible to young minds, some of them will need farther explanation from teachers. This, however, will be to the intelligent teacher an agreeable and profitable exercise, rather than a task; while it can not fail to impart to the study an interest which the scholar never finds in mere formal recitations.

Some of the chapters will be found too long for a single lesson. Such portions only should be assigned to the class as may be learned well. Each lesson, provided it can be made intelligible, should be understood by the pupil before he is permitted to proceed to another. He will take little interest in a study, and consequently make little real proficiency, when he is allowed to pass from lesson to lesson without an understanding of the subjects they contain. Hence, if teachers should assign to their classes lessons of moderate length, and should devote a few moments at each recitation to a practical improvement of the lesson by appropriate remarks and illustrations, the study would be attended by the most beneficial results.

For the purpose of reference, the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Vermont, have been given entire. These are also to be regularly studied by the scholars especially by the more advanced classes, after they shall have become somewhat familiar with other portions of the work.

« PreviousContinue »