The Intellectual Movement in the West
ONE of the chief services of education is to show us our position in the line of historical development, to make us aware of what has been done, and to give a true point of departure. The educated man avoids waste of time and strength in repetition of work already done ; he accepts the race experience as a background for his own life, and continues the story of spiritual unfolding from the point where his predecessors left off. There are new points of departure in the history of the race, but there is no new beginning. History opens fresh chapters from time to time ; there has been but one introductory chapter. The race goes on telling the marvelous story of its life, with additions and elaborations, and the introduction of new characters, and the shifting of the narrative to new places; but the modern effect still appears related to the ancient cause, and he who listens attentively is constantly aware of the play of forces as old as man, and of the influence of actors who passed off the stage thousands of years ago. There is never any real break with the past, although there are at times abrupt changes of direction. That past, which survives in vital rather than in formal conditions, constantly reasserts itself ; and the race can no more break away from it than a man can cut himself loose from what he has been. This spiritual continuity of race history makes real progression possible, and contains both the promise and the potency of spiritual evolution.
Some of the men who settled this continent probably felt that they were beginning all things new, although we must beware of reading into their consciousness the somewhat rhetorical interpretations of our later enthusiasm for their courage and political sagacity. As a matter of fact, they concerned themselves very little with abstract statements or general conceptions of their various motives and enterprises ; they were absorbed in the work in hand, which was of a peculiarly pressing character. There was, it is hardly necessary to remind ourselves, no general plan for the settlement of the continent; in fact, there was no thought of a continent. The successive groups of colonists established themselves at points along the coast by the accident of sighting land at those points, or for local reasons, There was not only no concert of action ; there were suspicion, rivalry, and in many cases animosity between the settlements. Differences of race, religion, politics, and standards of life made the settlers distrustful of one another. These differences were brought from Europe, and the early history of the continent is mainly an expansion of European history. The picturesque struggle which dramatically culminated in the fall of Montcalm and Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham was an incident in the long trial of strength between England and France; and the debate which passed from stage to stage, until the war for independence was seen to be the only final solution, was the extension to the colonies of the radical discussion which was to modify the form of the English government. The colonists found a New World awaiting them, but they brought the Old World with them; and the history of America has been a continuation of the story of that older world. So far below the surface are the deeper currents of racial interaction that it is probably no exaggeration to say that the struggle between the Anglo-Saxon and the Spaniard, begun by Drake, was ended by Sampson.
All attempts to break this historical continuity, to sever the present from the past, are not only futile, but would be spiritually disastrous if they could be successfully carried out. To discard the teachings of the past is even more dangerous than to imitate them slavishly ; to set up for ourselves in the difficult business of life, as if we were the first-comers in the field and could frame the laws of trade to suit our convenience, would be to invite a failure which would be not only complete, but ridiculous. The race is greater than any community or individual, and it is the part of wisdom to take it into partnership in all our undertakings. We moderns have our own duties, responsibilities, rights, and work; we have fresh fields to conquer and new tools to work with. But the ancients were our forbears; we are blood of their blood, and bone of their bone. They survive in us in instinct, temperament, and character ; we have entered into the fruit of their labors; they did a large part of the work of life for us in the slow and painful making of that invisible home for the race which we call civilization. We may break with the traditions of the past, but we cannot escape from its vital influence ; we may discard the teachings of our fathers,.but we can never get away from them until we can get away from ourselves. The hope of the world is in this unbroken continuity of human experience and effort.
Men in great masses act from instinct rather than from intelligence ; and the early colonists on this continent, however radical in religious or political conviction, kept in close touch with the spiritual life of the race, even while they endeavored with passionate earnestness to break with some of its traditions. No section of the new country and no group of settlers was long content with the hewing of wood and the drawing of water. There was work of the most rudimentary kind to be done, and it was done in many cases with consuming energy ; but the Atlantic, which then presented such serious obstacles to intercourse, was not broad enough to sever the men in the New World from the men in the Old. The hands of the early colonists were set to pressing tasks ; they were clearing wild land, fighting wild men, building homes and churches and blockhouses ; but their minds were dealing with the old questions, and their spiritual fellowship with the world behind them was never broken. The schools, the universities, the literature, philosophy, and science of Europe had left their impress on many of these pioneers, planters and builders ; and the tradition of culture, the unbroken spiritual life of the race, was not suffered to fall into abeyance. The tools of the mind were brought over with the tools of the hand; there were small collections of books in many well-to-do homes in every colony. The Puritan had his scholarly traditions ; Emmanuel College was one of the formative influences in the making of the new nation. It would be interesting, if it were possible, to trace the rivulets of knowledge which found their way from Cambridge University to this virgin continent, and contributed largely to its fertilization. The continuity of the essential life of men, behind all changes of condition and environment, was never more strikingly shown than in the reappearance in new institutions, on new soil, in a remote quarter of the globe, of the ideals and spirit of schools imbedded in ancient tradition and already venerable with years. There was a wide difference of external aspect between the plain, unadorned buildings in which the earliest American colleges began their work, and those ivy - clad walls and lovely gardens beside the Cam or on the Isis ; but there was no break in the continuity of interest and work which the ripe old university and the crude young college were set to conserve and accomplish. The time-honored course of study, in its transference from the Old to the New World, suffered no serious change. In the homes of the wellto-do colonists, the great textbooks, which many generations had already thumbed and conned and learned by heart, were read with the zest of men whose minds were often forced to postpone their claims until a more convenient season. The older classics found places and times in those homes. Theological works were read with avidity, but the love of literature for its own sake never died out. The seeds of the first important movement in American literature were planted in those early days of hardship and arduous toil.
Harvard College had its modest beginning in 1636, and Yale followed it sixty-four years later ; both institutions not only fostering and aiding the struggling intellectual life of the young communities, but appearing because the time was ripe in the needs and demands of these communities. As soon as the colonies could gain time from the necessities of their physical work, they began building for the spirit as ardently as they had already built for the body.
In New York the Dutch influence was soon blended with the English influence, but, in spite of great commercial opportunities, it was not devoid of intellectual quality. Kings College, which has grown into Columbia University, and become one of the most promising and progressive of the higher schools of the country, was founded in 1754, Nassau Hall, now expanded to the large dimensions of Princeton University, dates back to 1746. The University of Pennsylvania was organized as a university in 1779. Virginia brought from the Old World an intellectual tradition which differed from that which was fostered in New England chiefly in its indifference to theological issues and its leaning toward belles-lettres. In those fine old houses on the James, which registered the high water mark of social development in the New World, were to be found small collections of the best literature in at least four languages. The library of Mr. Byrd, of Westover, contained six hundred and fifty volumes of classics. The best class of Virginians were bred, later, in the school of Addison, Pope, Steele, and Johnson. They were attracted by the elegance of style, the urbanity of manner, the social quality, of the writers of the Queen Anne period and their immediate successors. The New Englander put the emphasis on the intellectual quality of literature, its content of thought; the Virginian, on its form, atmosphere, polish. The New Englander, for instance, would have cared for Lucretius; the Virginian, for Horace. The New Englander would have been drawn to Aristotle by the closeness of his intellectual processes; the Virginian would have drifted to Plato under the attraction of the rich and varied social life in the atmosphere of which the Dialogues are steeped.
Those who have grown up under the influence of New England education and of the New England writers have failed, as a rule, to understand and appreciate the culture which was shared by the best people of Virginia, and the depth and vital power of which are suggested by the fact that of the five chief makers of the nation four were Virginians. That culture found its expression in statesmanship rather than in literature, and it is owing to the inadequate and somewhat sectional idea of culture which once prevailed that its quality and extent were so long overlooked. In any true history of the spiritual life of the nation Virginia must always have its plane beside New England. The two sections were not only the chief factors in the shaping of affairs in the colonies, the direction of the Revolutionary movement, and the organization of the government; they were also original sources of intellectual influences which supplemented each other in a very unusual fashion. If the intellectual quality which Virginia gave to public life in the early days of the government had been sustained at the level which it reached in Madison, Jefferson, and Marshall, we should have furnished an example of the highest intellect dealing with public affairs which society has seen since the days of Pericles.
The University of Virginia was opened for students in 1825. Kings and bishops have often laid the foundations of great schools, but that magnificent service to humanity has rarely come in the way of a statesman. It was Wolsey the ecclesiastic, rather than Wolsey the minister of state, who founded Christ Church. Jefferson was as far as possible removed from the ecclesiastical tradition. He was a man of affairs, with a distinct philosophical bent of mind; a politician by instinct and in method, a statesman in temper and aim. For abstract education he had small sympathy; for culture as a mere refinement of the processes of mind he had no respect. His conception of education had a touch of antique breadth and vitality ; it was, in his view, the occupation of the scholar and the privilege of the gentleman, but it was also the duty of the citizen. Its fruits were not to be ripened in studious seclusion; they were to be borne in the tumult of public affairs. Culture was to find expression in politics no less than in literature and the arts. He defined the purposes of the higher education in this fashion : —
“ (1.) To form the statesmen, legislators, and judges, on whom public prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend. (2.) To expound the principles and structures of government, the laws which regulate the intercourse of nations, those formed municipally for our own government, and a sound spirit of legislation, which, banishing all unnecessary restraint on individual action, shall leave us free to do whatever does not violate the equal rights of another. (3.) To harmonize and promote the interests of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and by well-informed views of political economy to give a free scope to the public industry. (4.) To develop the reasoning faculties of our youth, enlarge their minds, cultivate their murals, and instil into them the principles of virtue and order. (5.) To enlighten them with mathematical and physical sciences, which advance the arts, and administer to the health, the subsistence, and comforts of human life. (6.) And generally, to form them to habits of reflection and correct action, rendering them examples of virtue to others, and of happiness within themselves.”
Here was an ideal of culture essentially different from that which New England shaped with such definiteness, and, later, illustrated with such beauty, and set forth with such persuasiveness, — an ideal which took less account of spiritual relations, and concerned itself more with the harmonizing of existing conditions with high aims and ultimate principles. These two ideals have so far dominated our civilization; neither of them has been realized, but both have been immensely influential. It is impossible to say which has been the more important; the higher interests of the country would have suffered irreparably if either had been lost. When a national ideal finally takes shape on this continent, it will be born of the fusion of these different ideals; which are, in reality, attempts to realize in consciousness the relations of men to two great aspects of experience.
In the endeavor to give reality to Jefferson’s ideal of education, rooted in public interests and duties, as contrasted with education for the advancement of knowledge pure and simple, the University of Virginia instinctively took a long step in advance in assuming greater moral maturity in its students; aiming to train men of affairs in their social relations, it took for granted a certain preliminary moral as well as intellectual preparation. It based its discipline on the sense of honor in its students, and prepared men for self-government by permitting them to govern themselves ; it went a step beyond. in harmony with its ideal, and gave its students wide latitude in the choice of lines of study ; and it took the further and final step, inevitable alike in the working out of its system and in the impulse received from its founder, and planted itself on the basis of absolute religious liberty. Here, then, was a singularly coherent and consistent expression, along educational lines, of the ideal of life which silently formed itself in the mind of the Virginia community : an ideal essentially social, as the ideal of New England was essentially individual; an ideal secular and practical, as the New England ideal was religious and ethical; an ideal which involved the training of communities, as that of New England involved the training of persons. When the spiritual history of the continent is written, five hundred years hence, the University of Virginia will be given a much larger place in the making of the American community than has yet been set aside for her.
The richness of the colonies in types of character, temper, and training is brought out very strikingly as one follows the coast line from Boston to New Orleans. In those early times, New York was already a town of cosmopolitan interests and habits, speaking eighteen languages before the Revolution. Philadelphia was combining a certain quietism of spirit with cliarm of manner and sagacity in dealing with practical affairs. In Charleston there was as distinct a background of religious conviction as in Boston, but it was less radical in its individualism, and it was speedily modified by social and economic conditions. The Huguenots brought into the new country not only religious convictions as deep as those of the Puritan colonists, but also a large infusion of the best blood of France. Many of their children were educated in Europe, and society had the interest and charm of an intimate contact with the Old World.
The community at New Orleans approached life from another side, and produced a type of character with a distinct touch of the Latin passion for intimacy of relationship in meeting the experiences and developing the resources of life. In this semi-tropical city, which has not lost its traditional charm of manner, nor that hospitality which adopts rather than simply includes and entertains, one finds individualism, which is so prominent in New England, entirely absorbed in the social ideal: the ideal which makes the family and the community the units; which continually checks the tendency to self-assertion by insistence upon the superior authority of the family and the community ; which brings individual opinion to the bar of general opinion; and which develops the common life of the community by drawing into it all that is best in personal life. Types are thrown into striking relief by their abnormal illustration in individuals. In New England, where the emphasis of nearly three centuries has been on individuality, the abnormal characters are distinctly anti-social; they take refuge in solitude, in isolation from society, in the extravagant assertion of their opinions, convictions, and purposes. They are the victims of a will which has become tyrannical and irrational. Many of Miss Wilkins’s studies of the New England degenerate convey an impression of the helplessness of men and women in whom the will acts arbitrarily, and is no longer coördinated with the reason. These extreme illustrations of individualism are the inevitable results, upon certain classes of minds, of centuries of emphasis on the sovereignty of the individual conscience. In the South, on the other hand, the abnormal types show an excessive development of the social instinct. They do not hide themselves in solitary houses or live like hermits ; they frequent the taverns, are found at the country stores, and seem to seek rather than shun companionship. The habit of living together is so deepseated that it acts automatically when the mind loses its balance.
This habit of acting together in all the affairs of life bears its fruit in New Orleans in a grace, ease, and freedom of human intercourse which owes something, it must be confessed, to French influence. The social ideal, which dominates every kind of organization and every form of art in France, is modified in the fascinating city, with its reminiscence of Spain in the architecture of the older quarters, its atmosphere of human intimacy in the presence of the Latin temperament, and the commercial energy which has its roots in the American character.
The art of human intercourse, like other arts of the deepest charm, is not distinctively intellectual in its origin and its expression; and its significance as an expression or product of culture has been greatly undervalued in this country. The urbanity, tact, delicate subordination of self to the ease and comfort of others ; the sensitiveness which discerns and shares other moods and minds without formal approach ; that nice harmonizing of divergent tempers, dispositions, and aims which is effected only in a highly civilized society for the purpose of making common stock of individual knowledge, experience, and charm, — these things are understood in New Orleans, and are utilized perhaps with more effect than in any other city in the country. To the ideal of individual development in New England, and to that of community development in Virginia, New Orleans adds an ideal of social development which could not be lost without losing one of those graces of living which are invaluable not only for the pleasure they give, but also for the refinement of spirit which they constantly reveal. This is the distinctive contribution of New Orleans, and the communities it represents, to American civilization.
In so large a country, with such long distances between the centres of industry and intelligence, a certain development of provincialism was inevitable; for lack of contact involves lack of knowledge, aud lack of knowledge is the prolific mother of that form of unabashed and unconscious ignorance which we call provincialism. Before the Revolution, the colonies were distrustful and jealous of one another, because they were in contact at so few points. After the Revolution, the states, into which the original colonies were divided and subdivided, looked askance at one another; and the misconceptions of spirit, aim, and relative strength which grew out of that soil bore fruit in the tragedy of the civil war. This failure to perceive the deeper drift of affairs, to discern the partial character of sectional ideals, and to recognize the necessity of harmonizing the national types did not end with the tremendous shock of two diverse conceptions of the national idea thirty-five years ago. It has continued to show itself in the blindness or indifference of the older communities to the spiritual development of the newer sections of the country; and this latest provincialism is shown in the assumption, not uncommon in some parts of the East, that while material progress has been phenomenal in the Mississippi Valley and the Far West, spiritual progress has not kept pace with it.
The chief difference between the older and the newer sections of the country in the matter of culture is a difference of time ; or, in other words, of opportunity. The history of the country has been so far a history of colonization ; the wave of human restlessness and energy which rolled over the seaboard in the seventeenth century has moved across the continent, and the successive communities which sprung up in its track have reproduced, with certain inevitable modifications, the stages through which the older communities passed. Virginia saw her history repeated in Kentucky, and New England read her story again in Ohio, Iowa, and Kansas ; and for a generation the old East and that West which was its first-born have been able, if they have had insight, to discern the working out of their own destiny in the further West. There have been interruptions, but there has been no break in the historical process; new influences have made their appearance and novel conditions have bred strange types, but at bottom the historical movement has been continuous and consistent. The West has passed stage by stage through the experience of the East. It has had to create the physical conditions of life, but it has never been content with them ; it has no sooner laid the material foundations of the state than it lias proceeded to lay its spiritual foundations. It has not waited to get the rough work done before taking up the higher work.
It has founded colleges with too liberal a hand, and the word " university” has come to mean, in some sections of the West, any school above the primary grade. That the university ideal has been temporarily cheapened by this reckless and misleading use of the word " university ” is beyond question. But, apart from what appears to be the natural tendency of new countries to exaggerate the rank and importance of undertakings still in the rudimentary stages, the instinct which prompted the founding of such a large number of colleges is identical with that which early began the work of organizing the higher education on the seaboard. Many of these colleges have not only rendered an immediate service of the highest importance to the growing communities in which they were placed, hut have maintained a high level of teaching and scholarship. The University of Michigan has long been recognized as one of the centres of higher education in the country, — a university in spirit and standards as well as in name. Rarely has the practical value of generous dealing with the educational question been more significantly illustrated than in the history of Michigan, a state which has gained in public regard and in general reputation through the high standing and widespread fame of its university. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska have shown a similar breadth of view in building up and supporting state universities, which are repaying the community an hundredfold every dollar appropriated to their use. The group of institutions represented by the Western Reserve University at Cleveland, Miami University, Beloit, Kenyon, Marietta, Knox, and Iowa colleges have borne the fruit of personal sacrifice and unselfish love of knowledge. Often limited in income, and working, during their earlier years at least, with very inadequate educational apparatus, they have never lacked the generous service of men and women of noble character and of genuine culture, and they have contributed to the active scholarship of the country some of the most productive and thoroughly trained men in many departments.
The University of Chicago is too receut a foundation, and has been too widely discussed, to need extended comment. It is easy to point out the mistakes in the rapid development of an institution of such magnitude as the new university on the shore of Bake Michigan, and it is quite certain that some of the fruits of the higher culture cannot be plucked until time has ripened them ; but those who attempt to minimize the work of this vigorous institution, because it has not yet completed its first decade, lay themselves open to the charge of a serious lack of true vision. A young university cannot wholly escape the crudity which is the healthful characteristic of youth, because it is the necessary accompaniment of all growth; but it is the very essence of provincialism to be blind to vitality, energy, and power, because the use of these great forces is not ideally mastered at the start. No one who has spent any time in the atmosphere of the University of Chicago ; has taken account of the opportunities it offers; has become aware of its invigorating influence on the colleges of the West, and of the stimulus which it is giving the teachers of the South and West; and has recognized the far-seeing sagacity with which it is steadily organizing educational forces, can question the reality of the intellectual impulse which it expresses on such a great scale, or the important place which it is to occupy in the educational history of the country. It holds a strategical point in the development of the higher civilization, and it is to be one of the leaders in its spiritual unfolding.
That a distinct type of academic life will be developed at the University of Chicago, which will reflect and define the characteristics and aims of the Central West, is highly probable. But it takes time to harmonize temperament and character, and to give them definiteness and firmness of outline ; and time is an element for which the most generously endowed institution must wait with such patience as it can command. That type, when it appears, will present unmistakable differences from the types already formed in New England, the Middle States, and the South. It will, sooner or later, care as much for thoroughness ; for the appreciation of the fundamental quality of genuine scholarship and of the intellectual life is only a matter of time, in a community so energetic, so sensitive to criticism, and so eager to lay hold of the best in life. It will care for thoroughness, but it is likely to care still more for vitality. The peculiar dryness of mind which once infected universities, as certain fevers infect hospitals, has of late years almost disappeared, in the presence of intellectual and social forces which have stimulated into active coöperation or equally energetic antagonism the great .majority of the most cultivated men and women ; but the detachment from affairs, which always endangers the freshness of feeling and the sense of partnership with one’s people and one s age among scholars, is not likely, for a long time to come, to affect the estern universities.
The student and scholar in the West is likely to be not only energetic, but aggressively hopeful and ardently patriotic. He may not always disclose perfect balance of intelligence and feeling ; he may sometimes err on the side of optimistic confidence in the value of what he is doing and what his community is doing. But fortunate is the country in which scholars share those deep and vital impulses which keep races productive and masterful. In their greatest moments, progressive races are likely to have a touch of audacity in their temper and a touch of arrogance in their manners. This was true of the Greeks of the age of Pericles, of the Romans of the time of the Republic, of the Italians of the Renaissance, and of the English of the “ spacious days of great Elizabeth.” A superabundance of life invariably finds escape in a fuller and more assured note of self-confidence ; in an unquestioning faith that life is not only worth living, but worth the most intense living. In answer to the charge of excesses and violence brought against the American colonists, Burke, with characteristic breadth of view, urged that something must be pardoned to the spirit of liberty. It is a fortunate hour when peoples are obliged to concede something to the spirit of life; when vitality is too deep and too vigorous to find adequate expression through critical forms, to conform wholly to accepted opinions, or to wear easily the conventional garb. Too much vitality is far better than too little vitality, and the crudest life is more promising than the most polished death. The note of boastful self-assertion so often sounded in the West is irritating because it misreports the real force of the section, and dreary because it is inflated out of all proportion to the thought or fact behind it. There is something touching in the patience with which Americans in the newer sections of the country will listen to wearisome repetitions of the same boastful platitudes decade after decade. The politician whom Mr. Lincoln once described as throwing back his head, inHating his lungs, and leaving the rest to God is still heard in the West, and sometimes in the East, with an attention which deserves a better reward.
But this inflated note is, after all, the escape of a real force through an inferior personality; there is something genuine and true behind it, and that something is the confidence which is born of the sense of vitality. This sense the students and scholars of the West are certain to share ; and they are likely to gain and to keep ultimate leadership in public life.
It would not be easy to find a more characteristically American community than that which has grown to such large proportions around Oberlin College. In this academic village, which contains, during the college year, a population of not less than fifteen hundred students of both sexes, one finds himself in contact with a life which is shaped exclusively by American conditions and absorbed in American interests. Not long ago, an intelligent student of education in this country said that, in his judgment, a dollar went further in educational purchasing power at Oberlin than at any other college in the land. It is probable that economy of expenditure and lavishness of opportunity and of work are nowhere more fruitfully united. The sturdy, plain. God-fearing, hard-working people, who have the conscience of the country so largely in their keeping, have put behind Oberlin a background of ethical education which is one of the most important endowments of the college. The moral life of the institution is insistent and strenuous ; one cannot breathe its atmosphere without becoming conscious of that moral energy which once found utterance in Dr. Finney’s stirring preaching. but which has found more adequate expression in the closeness of touch between the college and the moral agitations and reforms of the last fifty years. At Oberlin education instinctively shapes itself for immediate ends in the needs of the time and the community, and in the courses of study and in the interests and tastes of the students one finds a keen sense of the utility of studies for practical uses. There is little of that sense of leisure which lingers in the older colleges, and gives the undergraduate the feeling that the four years will never run their course ; there is, in its place, an alert perception of the value of the time of preparation, and a great eagerness to get to work.
This does not prevent genuine enjoyment of student life; on the contrary, no academic life could be more simple and hearty. The kindliness and frank sociability which, in certain ways, make the whole continent one great community find the freest possible expression in the village of young men and women, associating with one another on the most easy and unconventional terms. A foreign observer would probably find himself as much perplexed by social conditions at Oberlin as at any other place in America ; nowhere else would his traditions and experience be more likely to mislead him. The contrast between the English or Continental university and Oberlin is so marked as to be violent to a scholar from beyond the sea ; even to an American it is so broad as to be humorous. But if the scholar brought with him not only traditions, but freshness of feeling and keenness of insight, he would soon discern in the conditions at Oberlin the most convincing evidence of the soundness of American character and the purity of the American home. Such a community would not be possible in the seaboard states, North or South ; but it is the natural growth of social conditions in its own wide neighborhood, and it is one of the most distinctive and interesting places in America to all who wish to understand the spiritual life of the country.
The view from Colorado College is perhaps as striking as that which can be commanded from any college windows. There are those who affirm that the outlook from Robert College, with the ceaseless movement of the commerce of the Bosphorus, is the most enchanting academic prospect in the world ; the charm of the surroundings of Heidelberg has been felt by generations of travelers ; Cambridge and Oxford have a spell that no sensitive mind escapes ; Williams and Amherst hold the imagination of their students loyal to a beauty of hill and shaded street which exerts no small educational influence; Wellesley has a noble setting, and Princeton looks across a charming country. On the campus of Colorado College one recalls these and other college outlooks, of exceptional grandeur or extent or loveliness, and is fain to confess that this young institution holds its own among the most fortunately placed colleges of the world. The absence of depth of foliage and the restfulness of a rich and long cultivated country finds compensation in the brilliancy of a mountain background, notable not only for mass and ruggedness, but also for color. In the stimulating air one shares the general faith that on this lofty plateau, where the continent reaches its highest habitable altitude, there must be bred a race of men and women of keen intelligence and quick imagination, who will render the country higher services than the opening of mines, the reclamation of great stretches of arid territory to the uses of agriculture, and the herding of cattle. The local witticism, that it is impossible to tell the truth about Colorado without lying, is only another way of saying that in any complete account of a country you must include the sky and the air as well as the soil.
Colorado College may be taken as a type of the Far Western college, and as such it gives every lover of sound learning the assurance that the light which has been handed down from generation to generation with such jealous care will not suffer any loss of purity or intensity on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. It is not a rich college, for the wealth of the country is still largely prospective ; but it is well equipped, its endowment is steadily increasing, and the affection and interest of the community are quietly gathering about it. That which gives the college its deepest significance, however, is the spirit of its body of self-denying teachers. Bred in the best traditions of the older communities, they are putting into their work not only trained intelligence, but a devotion which found expression last year, when a large sum of money was urgently needed in order to secure a conditional gift, in a cheerful surrender of a considerable proportion of salaries already taxed to the utmost to meet the most moderate personal expenses. It is this missionary spirit in the hearts of men and women who have obtained thorough special training in their different fields, and who are giving themselves, body and soul, to the work of teaching in the new West, which furnishes ground for the belief that the foundations of the latest commonwealths are as genuinely ethical and spiritual as those which the Puritans laid.
On the Pacific coast, such institutions as the University of California and the younger and more aggressive Leland Stanford University give expression to the spiritual aspiration of communities which are still dealing with material problems in their most pressing forms ; while such noble beginnings of educational foundations as Whitman College attest the persistence of that devout spirit in which so many American colleges have had their inception.
There are too many colleges in certain sections of the West, especially of the Central West; and in many cases these institutions have no claim to the use of the word “ college ; ” but it remains true that the majority of higher institutions of learning in the West belong, byright of honorable descent and of present service, to the academic brotherhood. Their foundations are very much larger than were those of Harvard, Yale. William and Mary, or Princeton at the same age ; they are served by men as thoroughly equipped as were the teachers in the oldest colleges. They are placed in a society more alert and energetic, with vigorous impulses and a determination to know and to possess the best life has to offer; and wherever this vital ambition controls, time and experience will inevitably correct false ideas of the relative values of ends, and advance standards which are too low.
The few and scattered centres and sources of intellectual influence which have been enumerated are representative of a great group of organized endeavors to convey and to advance learning in the newer parts of the continent; the work of these institutions is supplemented by a great volume of personal and private effort to the same end. Those who know the Central West well are persuaded that it has entered what may be called the culture stage of its development ; the stage, that is. which involves a serious attempt to rationalize its life, to measure its spiritual success, to secure an accurate estimate of the value of its material production, to know the best the older communities have thought and spoken, to command the ultimate uses of life and its materials. Those who can recognize a spiritual development in the germ as well as in the complete unfolding are deeply impressed by the eagerness with which great numbers of sincere people are reaching out after the things of the spirit, and are determined to possess them. If there is an immense amount of crudity in this country, there is also an immense force of aspiration working in it and through it. The head of an Oxford college. who happened to be at one of those summer assemblies which have become a feature of life in many parts of the country, confessed that all his traditions as a university man were shocked by some of the methods and a good deal of the teaching which he had been observing : but added that he was filled with reverence for the hunger and thirst for knowledge which had become a passion with a multitude of people whose work is severe and whose leisure is limited : men and women of limited educational opportunities, who were strivingin middle life to gain the outlook on life which was denied them in youth ; hard-worked mothers, who were pathetically endeavoring to keep within spiritual reach of their more fortunate children in college. It is easy to dismiss the movement which finds expression in summer schools and assemblies as shallow in method and superficial in spirit. The methods are. it is true, sometimes inadequate and even cheap, but they are also, in many cases, intelligent and wisely planned; and the spirit behind the movement is quite as deep and genuine and uplifting as that which has from time to time set great educational forces at work in older societies. In the long run, it will be found that these assemblies and schools are the nurseries of the colleges and universities; and that the awkward and sometimes badly directed endeavor of the unprivileged classes intellectually to share the higher resources of civilization with the more fortunate is not only sound and real, but the clear prophecy of the approach of an era of culture in this country, — an extended though often unconscious endeavor to assimilate the culture of the race, and to realize in clear ideals the deepest impulses, instincts, and aspirations of the New World.
One of the significant signs of this movement is the enthusiasm with which Froebel’s educational ideas have been received during the last ten years. The movement to establish kindergartens has become national in its scope ; mothers’ classes have been organized in nearly all the large cities, as well as in smaller communities ; the study of children, as well as their care, is engrossing the attention of many of the most intelligent women. It is a long time since any educational movement has swept so great a number of people into its current, and has inspired so many sincere and cultivated women to active coöperation. The two enthusiastic women who, not long ago, drove through a considerable section of one of the Central Western States, and held out-of-door meetings for the purpose of extending the knowledge of the kindergarten, showed no exceptional devotion to a movement which promises to become the most important feature of contemporary educational history. It is a great mistake to interpret this movement as a new expression of a more intelligent conception of motherhood on the one hand, and of the importance, for educational purposes, of the years between three and six on the other hand; it is deeper and more inclusive. The Froebelian philosophy is something more than a system of education ; it is a spiritual conception and interpretation of life, and it has been eagerly received because it gives rational form and expression to a deep stirring of spiritual instinct in this country. It identifies education with the vital processes of experience ; sets the individual in harmonious order with his kind ; establishes science, art, and history on a basis of revelation ; roots all activity and growth in religion ; and interprets the life of the race in the light of spiritual progression. Such a conception, in the contention of diverse theories of religion, art, and education, has not only commanded the intellectual assent of a host of open-minded men and women, but has touched their imaginations and awakened their enthusiasm. It is as a spiritual even more than as an intellectual movement that the remarkable spread of the kindergarten idea must be interpreted ; it is a significant phase of the movement for culture.
One of its chief sources, on this continent, must be sought in the remarkable group of men and women who gave the schools of St. Louis a new and vigorous impulse more than a quarter of a century ago. It is a notable fact that The Journal of Speculative Philosophy was issued beyond the Mississippi River, and that for years an interest in philosophy was sustained in St. Louis which has been more directly fruitful along educational lines than any other movement of the kind in the history of the country. That interest did not exhaust itself in the study of Kant and Hegel; it carried the larger vision into the interpretation of art, literature, and teaching. Dr. Harris, who is now, as Commissioner of Education, the official representative of the educational system of the country, has made philosophical study constantly fruitful in the application of philosophical ideas to educational questions. Miss Blow has made original and important contributions to the literature of education. Mr. Denton J. Snider has interpreted literature in its greatest creations as revelations of the inner structure of the soul and of the laws of life, in a series of very suggestive commentaries on Homer, Dante, Goethe, and Shakespeare, and has spent many years of enthusiastic work in the classroom and on the platform, expounding what he has called the four literary Bibles of the world. In his tireless zeal, the range of his knowledge, the vitality of his methods, Mr. Snider is a true descendant of the Humanists ; whose wandering life he has also adopted, moving like a true missionary of scholarship through the Central West, and leaving behind him a new ardor for learning in schools and communities.
There are other names associated with the St. Louis movement which deserve an attention that is made impossible by the limits of this article. The influence of this group of scholars and thinkers has made itself felt through a large part of the Central West, and can be traced in the deepening of educational ideas and the freshening of educational methods.
The Literary Schools which have been held under the auspices of the Chicago Kindergarten College, and under the direction of the friends of the kindergarten in St. Louis, have been notable for breadth of view and insight. Concerned chiefly with the study and discussion of the most important works of literature, they have revealed an instinctive tendency to interpret art in terms of human experience, and to arrive at the fundamental unity which gives structure and significance to every manifestation of the human spirit. In the predominance of the interpretative over the purely critical or scholastic spirit, which has characterized the sessions of these schools, some observers have found the evidence of genuine culture, and the promise of a vigorous artistic activity in the future ; and to such observers these schools have seemed to bring to light a real and widespread interest in the spiritual achievements of the race, and a passionate eagerness to share the spiritual experience of the race.
To these observers there come all manner of confirmations of this conviction from all parts of the West: stories of eager young scholars who are making struggles for educational opportunities as heroic as those which have touched the history of the German universities with a noble idealism, of the Scotch universities with a courage akin to the spirit which inspires the Scotch ballads, and have introduced into the life of our own older institutions a strain of the highest moral energy ; the incident of the elaborate carving of the entire interior of a church, in a small community. by the loving skill of a congregation which gave up its leisure hours for many months in order that the art of wood-carving might be mastered sufficiently to be put to use in the service of religion. The product of this zeal may not remind one of the work of the Flemish carvers, but it was out of the depths of such a feeling for beauty that the skill of the Low Countries was born.
One recalls also the countless organizations for the study of history, political economy, literature, art, and philosophy which cover the West with a network of intellectual influences : the wide interest in serious lectures ; the general habit of serious reading, the evidences of which, in remote localities, surprise the uninformed visitor from the East ; the large numbers of students from the West who are pursuing advanced courses of study in this country and in Europe.
It would be impossible to present any inclusive survey of the signs and evidences of the intellectual activity of the Central and Far West, and it would be an impertinence to set these few typical facts in order, if a certain provincialism in some of the older sections of the country did not call for enlightenment. That provincialism has its roots in an ignorance which is easily explained by the great distances which separate commercial and social centres from one another, and constitute a serious obstacle to community of feeling and unity of action in this country. This ignorance is, unfortunately. shared by many cultivated people who ought to be quick to recognize and sympathize with a spiritual movement of the very highest importance. That such a movement is the most significant fact in the contemporary history of the West is the conviction of many who have had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with their own country. The material progress of the section is reported with the utmost detail and in the most flamboyant style : but its real progress, revealed in its intellectual liberation and its realization of its own character and work, is very inadequately presented.
It is probable that no country has ever invested so much spiritual, moral, and monetary capital in education, taking into account the brevity of its history, as the West; it has done far more for its intellectual life than the East did in the same number of years. It is, in fact, repeating the history of the East; for it is eagerly assimilating the experience of the race, expressed in its thought, its art, and its history. This is the impulse behind the passion for knowledge, — the instinctive desire to know what the race knows, and then to coöperate in the race life and work. In the face of declamatory assertions of independence of the past, this instinct steadily asserts itself and has its way. The struggle of the new community to break with the race, and start out for itself, is inspired by a mistaken idea of independence. Real freedom comes from that mastery, through knowledge, of historic; conditions and race character which makes possible a free and intelligent use of experience for the purposes of progress. This is the process through which the West is now passing, and which gives its society a deep and appealing interest. For out of this movement for the clear realization in its own consciousness of its race relationships and inheritance, modified by its own conditions and shaped by its own needs, are to come, at no distant date, its own ideals.
Hamilton Wright Mabie.