The soul of the truly benevolent man does not seem to reside much in his own body. Its life, to a great extent, is a mere reflex of the lives of others. It migrates into their bodies, and identifying its existence with their existence, finds its own happiness in increasing and prolonging their pleasures, in extinguishing or solacing their pains.
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Some languages are musical in themselves, so that it is pleasant to hear any one read or converse in them, even though we do not understand a word that we hear.... Others are full of growling, snarling, hissing sounds, as though wild beasts and serpents had first taught the people to speak.
In our country and in our times no man is worthy the honored name of statesman who does not include the highest practicable education of the people in all his plans of administration. He may have eloquence, he may have a knowledge of all history, diplomacy, jurisprudence; and by these he might claim, in other countries, the elevated rank of a statesman: but unless he speaks, plans, labors, at all times and in all places, for the culture and edification of the whole people, he is not, he cannot be, an American statesman.
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In such a world as ours the idle man is not so much a biped as a bivalve; and the wealth which breeds idleness, of which the English peerage is an example, and of which we are beginning to abound in specimens in this country, is only a sort of human oyster bed, where heirs and heiresses are planted, to spend a contemptible life of slothfulness in growing plump and succulent for the grave-worms' banquet.
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Without undervaluing any other human agency, it may be safely affirmed that the Common School, improved and energized, as it can easily be, may become the most effective and benignant of all the forces of civilization. Two reasons sustain this position. In the first place, there is a universality in its operation, which can be affirmed of no other institution whatever... And, in the second place, the materials upon which it operates are so pliant and ductile as to be susceptible of assuming a greater variety of forms than any other earthly work of the Creator.
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If ever there was a cause, if ever there can be a cause, worthy to be upheld by all of toil or sacrifice that the human heart can endure, it is the cause of Education. It has intrinsic and indestructible merits. It holds the welfare of mankind in its embrace, as the protecting arms of a mother hold her infant to her bosom. The very ignorance and selfishness which obstructs its path are the strongest arguments for its promotion, for it furnishes the only adequate means for their removal.
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So multifarious are the different classes of truths, and so multitudinous the truths in each class, that it may be undoubtingly affirmed that no man has yet lived who could so much as name all the different classes and subdivisions of truths, and far less anyone who was acquainted with all the truths belonging to any one class. What wonderful extent, what amazing variety, what collective magnificence! And if such be the number of truths pertaining to this tiny ball of earth, how must it be in the incomprehensible immensity!
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Forts, arsenals, garrisons, armies, navies, are means of security and defence, which were invented in half-civilized times and in feudal or despotic countries; but schoolhouses are the republican line of fortifications, and if they are dismantled and dilapidated, ignorance and vice will pour in their legions through every breach.
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It is well when the wise and the learned discover new truths; but how much better to diffuse the truths already discovered amongst the multitudes. Every addition to true knowledge is an addition to human power; and while a philosopher is discovering one new truth, millions of truths may be propagated amongst the people.... The whole land must be watered with the streams of knowledge.
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