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Dr. Webster and the Free Academy

page 445 [2 of 3]

"Webster and the New York Free Academy,"
The International Magazine of Literature, Art, and Science (1850-1852); 444-446.

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[continued from page 444]
absolute as that of the camp, the factory, or the counting-room. We are inclined to believe that the usefulness of the Military Academy at West Point, --which has furnished so large a proportion of the best civil engineers, lawyers, physicians, and divines, as well as the soldiers who and who alone have conducted our armies to real glory,-- we are inclined to believe that this justly celebrated school owes all its triumphs to its rigid laws and independence of popular clamor.

Discipline is every thing. Without it a man is but a fair model in wood, which by it is turned to an engine of iron, and by opportunity furnished with water and fire to impel it on a resistless course through the world. And a man must be governed by others before he will govern himself. The silliness about liberty which is sometimes obtruded into discussions of this subject, is fit for very young children and very old women. There is no desirable liberty but in obedience. The cant about it sometimes illustrates only a pitiable feebleness of intellect, but it more frequently discloses some kind or degree of willful licentiousness. The "voluntary system" does very well in the churches. It will not do at all in the colleges. St. Paul is always found even with the wisdom of the age in which he is quoted, and he tells us that a youth "differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of sill, but is under tutors and governors." This is the true philosophy. The "sovereign" people will disregard law, and exalt when it is outraged at the cost of an unpopular party, have not learned what is necessary to freedom: they are not fit for it; they will destroy its fairest fabrics, if the state does not prepare its children by a thorough discipline for their inheritance. The way is by free schools and free colleges, supported by public taxes. Sects and parties may have as many seminaries as they choose, and with rules of study and conduct so easily to be complied with, and administration so lax, that the most contemptible idler or the most independent and self-willed simpleton shall see in them nothing to conflict with his habit or temper; but the graduates of these seminaries will not ascend the pinnacles of fame nor direct the affairs of nations: such affairs will lie left for those who have learned, with their arithmetic, the self-denied, reverence and obedience, which are the conditions of the application of addition and division in the high mathematics.

In a free college (and the New-York Free Academy is, in all respects, more justly to he considered a college than are most of the schools which confer academical "honors"), in a free college, of which the professors are responsible only to a judicious board of directors, examinations for admissions and for advancements will be rigid and impartial, the administration will be vigilant and firm, the reckless who will not and the imbecile who cannot acquire a good education, will be dismissed for more congenial pursuits, the rich and the poor will be upon an equality, and only desert will be honorably distinguished.

The New-York Free Academy is eminently fortunate in its officers. Horace Webster, LL. D., is, in all respects, admirably fitted for his position as its President. He perfectly understands the indispensableness of thorough organization, and absolute and watchful discipline. Dr. Webster is a native of Vermont, and is of that family which, in various departments, has furnished the country some of its most illustrious names. At an early age, he became a student of the Military Academy, and so has himself experience of the advantages of that system which he advocates, and illustrates in his own administration. He graduated with distinction, and it is properly mentioned as an indication of his standing at West Point that, while he was a cadet of the first class, he was selected by the government of the Academy to be temporarily himself an instructor. In 1918 he joined the army, as a lieutenant, and after passing one year with his regiment, of which the late General Taylor was at that time the major, he was elected Assistant Professor of Mathematics in the Military Academy, and returned to fulfil for six years, with constantly increasing reputation, both for scientific abilities and for personal character, the duties of that office, which it scarcely need be said are more difficult at West Point, than any other school in America. Among the distinguished gentlemen who were associated with him in teaching or as students during this period, were General Worth, Colonel Bliss, Colonel Thayer, Colonel Mansfield, And Professors Alexander D. Bache, LL. D., Charles Davies, LL. D., E. C. Ross, LL. D., And John Torrey, LL. D. Resigning his commission, he was in 1925 made Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Geneva College, And he filled this place twenty-three three years, leaving it in 1848, to accept the Presidency of the New York Free Academy. We conceive, that nothing could have invested this school with a higher claim to respect, or challenged for it a larger degree of confidence, than the selection of a man of such experience, capacities, and reputation, to be its chief officer; and for the class of persons likely to come under his instruction, no course of study could be more judicious, no training more admirably adapted, than may be expected from one who has been so long and so successfully engaged in preparing men for the most difficult and important offices. His attainments needed no illustration, and his administrative abilities have been amply vindicated by his government of the Free Academy.

Candidates for admission to the Free Academy must have passed at least one year in the public schools, and they are examined in the common English studies. The standards for admission are not so high as the colleges demand, because the period of instruction is longer. We cannot enter into any particular statement of the courses of study, but it will

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