Page images



HORACE MANN, LL. D., PRESIDENT. My Young FRIENDS :-My interest in your welfare, not only as present students, but as future men and women, prompts me to solicit your candid attention to the following suggestions. They pertain to a subject upon which teachers and pupils ought always to be in unison, but where they usually are at variance.

In colleges and schools, a sentiment very generally prevails that students ought, as far as possible, to withhold all knowledge respecting the misconduct of their fellow students from faculty and teachers. In many, if not in most cases, this sentiment is enacted into what is called a Code of Hoor. The requisitions of this code, in some places, are merely negative, demanding that a student shall take care to be absent when any wrong is to be committed, or silent when called upon as a witness for its exposure. Sometimes it goes further, and demands evasion, misrepresentation, or even falsehood, in order to screen a fellow-conspirator or a fellow-student from the consequences of his misconduct. Under this doctrine, any one who exposes a violator of college laws, or even an offender against the laws of morality and religion, so that he may be checked in his vicious or criminal career, is stigmatized as an “informer," is treated with contempt and ridicule, and not unfrequently, is visited with some form of wild and savage vengeance.

It is impossible not to see that when such a sentiment becomes the “common law” of a literary institution, offenders will be freed from all salutary fear of detection and punishment. Where witnesses will not testify, or will testify falsely, the culprit, of course, escapes. This security from exposure becomes a premium on transgression. The police of virtuous sentiment and allegiance to order, being blinded and muzzled, nothing remains to prevent lawlessness from running riot. Thus the “Code of Honor,' becomes at once a shield for all dishonorable practices.

Now, in the outset, I desire to allow to this feeling, as we usually find it, all that it can possibly claim under any semblance of justice or generosity. When, as doubtless it sometimes happens, one student reports the omissions or commissions of another to the College Faculty, from motives of private ill-will or malice; or, when one com

No. 8-[Vol. III, No. 1.1-5.

petitor in the race for college bonors, convinced that he will be outstripped by his rival, unless he can fasten upon that rival some weight of suspicion or odium, and therefore seeks to disparage his character instead of surpassing his scholarship; or, when any mere tattling is done for any mean or low purpose whatever ;-in all such cases, every one must acknowledge that the conduct is reprehensible and the motive dishonoring. No student can gain any advantage with any honorable teacher by such a course. Here, as in all other cases, we stand

upon the axiomatic truth, that the moral quality of an action is determined by the motive that prompts it.

But suppose, on the other hand, that the opportunities of the diligent for study are destroyed by the disorderly, or that public or private property is wantonly sacrificed or destroyed by the maliciously mischievous ; suppose that indignities and insults are heaped upon officers, upon fellow-students, or upon neighboring citizens; suppose the laws of the land or the higher law of God is broken ;-in these cases, and in cases kindred to these, may a diligent and exemplary student, after finding that he cannot arrest the delinquent by his own friendly counsel or remonstrance, go to the Faculty, give them information respecting the case, and cause the offender to be brought to an account; or, if called before the Faculty as a witness, may he testify fully and frankly to all he knows? Or, in other words, when a young man, sent to college for the highest of all earthly purposes,that of preparing himself for usefulness and honor,—is wasting time, health and character, in wanton mischief, in dissipation or in profligacy, is it dishonorable in a fellow-student to give information to the proper authorities, and thus set a new instrumentality in motion, with a fair chance of redeeming the offender from ruin? This is the question. Let us examine it.

A college is a community. Like other communities, it has its objects, which are among the noblest; it has its laws indispensable for accomplishing those objects, and these laws, as usually framed, are salutary and impartial. The laws are for the benefit of the community, to be governed by them; and without the laws and without a general observance of them, this community, like any other, would accomplish its ends imperfectly—perhaps come to ruin.

Now, in any civil community, what class is it which arrays itself in opposition to wise and salutary laws? Of course, it never is the honest, the virtuous, the exemplary. They regard good laws as friends and protectors. But horse-thieves, counterfeiters, defrauders of the custom-house or post-office,-these, in their several departments, league together, and form conspiracies to commit crimes beforehand and to protect each other from punishment afterward. But honest



farmers, faithful mechanics, upright merchants, the high-toned professional man,-these have no occasion for plots and perjuries; for they have no offenses to hide and no punishments to fear. The first aspect of the case, then, seems to show the paternity of this false sentiment among

students. It was borrowed from rogues and knaves and peculators and scoundrels generally, and not from men of honor, rectitude and purity.

When incendiaries, or burglars, or the meaner gangs of pickpockets are abroad, is not he by whose vigilance and skill the perpetrators can be arrested and their depredations stopped, considered a public benefactor? And if we had been the victim of arson, housebreaking, or pocket-picking, what should we think of a witness who, on being summoned into court, should refuse to give the testimony that would convict the offender ? Could we think anything better of such a dumb witness than that he was an accomplice and sympathized with the villany? To meet such cases, all our courts are invested with power to deal with such contumacious witnesses in a summary manner. Refusing to testify, they are adjudged guilty of one of the grossest offenses a man can commit, and they are forthwith imprisoned, even without trial by jury. And no community could subsist for a month if everybody, at his own pleasure, could refuse to give evidence in court. It is equally certain that no college could subsist, as a place for the growth of morality, and not for its extirpation, if its students should act, or were allowed to act, on the principle of giving or withholding testimony at their own option. The same principle, therefore, which justifies courts in cutting off recusant witnesses from society, would seem to justify a College Faculty in cutting off recusant students from a college.

Courts, also, are armed with power to punish perjury, and the law justly regards this offense as one of the greatest that can be committed. Following close after the offense of perjury in the courts, is the offense of prevarication or falsehood in shielding a fellow-student or accomplice from the consequences of his misconduct. For, as the moral growth keeps pace with the natural, there is infinite danger that the youth who tells falsehoods will grow into the man who commits perjuries.

So a student who means to conceal the offense of a fellow-student or to divert investigation from the right track, though he may not tell an absolute lie, yet is in a lying state of mind, than which many a sudden, unpremeditated lie, struck out by the force of a vehement temptation, is far less injurious to character. A lying state of mind in youth has its natural termination in the falsehoods and perjuries of manhood.

When students enter college, they not only continue their civil relations as men, to the officers of the college, but they come under

[ocr errors]



new and special obligations to them. Teachers take on much of the parental relation toward students, and students much of the filial relation toward teachers. A student, then, is bound to assist and defend a teacher as a parent, and a teacher is bound to assist and defend a student as a child.

Now, suppose a student should see an incendiary, with torch in hand, ready to set fire to the dwelling in which I and my family are lying in unconscious slumber, ought he not, as a man, to say nothing of his duty as a student, to give an alarm that we may arouse and escape ? I think I might put this question to anybody but the incendiary himself, and expect an affirmative answer. But if vices and crimes should become the regular programme, the practical order of exercises in a college, as they would to a great extent do, if the vicious and profligate could secure impunity, through the falsehoods or the voluntary dumbness of fellow-students; then, surely, all that is most valuable and precious in a college would be destroyed in the most deplorable way; and, for one, I would a hundred times rather have an incendiary set fire to my house, while I was asleep, than to bear the shame of the downfall of an institution under my charge, through the misconduct of its attendants. And in the eyes of all right-minded men, it is a far lighter offense to destroy a mere physical dwelling of wood or stone than to destroy that moral fabric, which is implied by the very name of an Educational Institution.

The student who would inform me, if he saw a cut-purse purloining the money from my pocket, is bound by reasons still more cogent, to inform me, if he sees any culprit or felon destroying that capital, that stock in trade, wbich consists in the fair name or reputation of the College over which I preside.

And what is the true relation which the protecting student holds to the protected offender. Is it that of a real friend, or that of the worst enemy? An offender, tempted onward by the hope of impunity, is almost certain to repeat his offense. If repeated, it becomes habitual, and will be repeated not only with aggravation in character, but with rapidity of iteration; unless, indeed, it be abandoned for other offenses of a higher type. A college life filled with the meanness of clandestine arts; first spotted, and then made black all over with omissions and commissions, spent in shameful escapes from duty, and in enterprises of positive wrong not less shameful, is not likely to culminate in a replenished, dignified, and honorable manhood. Look for such wayward students, after twenty years, and you would not go to the bigh places of society to find them, but to the gaming house or prison, or some place of infamous resort; or, if reformation has intervened, and an honorable life falsifies the auguries of a dishonor


able youth, no where will you hear the voice of repentance and sorrow, more sad, or more sincere, than from the lips of the moral wanderer himself. Now let me ask, what kind of a friend is he to another, who, when he sees him just entering on the high road to de struction, instead of summoning natural or official guardians to save him, refuses to give the alarm, and thus clears away all the obstacles, and supplies all the facilities for his speedy passage to ruin ?

If one student sees another just stepping into deceitful waters, where he will probably be drowned; or, proceeding along a pathway, which has a pit-fall in its track, or a precipice at its end, is it not the impulse of friendship to shout his danger in his ear? Or, if I am nearer than he, or can for any reason more probably rescue the imperilled from his danger, ought he not to shout to me? But a student entering the outer verge of the whirlpool of temptation, whose narrowing circle and accelerating current will soon engulf him in the vortex of sin, is in direr peril than any danger of drowning, of pitfall, or of precipice; because the spiritual life is more precious than the bodily. It is a small thing to die, but a great one to be depraved. If a student will allow me to coöperate with him to save a fellow student from death; why not from calamities which are worse than death? He who saves one's character is a greater benefactor than he who saves his life. Who then is the true friend, he who supplies the immunity which a bad student desires, or the saving warning, or coercion which he needs ?

But young men are afraid of being ridiculed, if they espouse the side of progress, and good order as one of the essentials to progress. But which is the greater evil, the ridicule of the wicked, or the condemnation of the wise ?

“Ask you why Wharton broke thro' every rule ?


'Twas all for fear that knaves would call him fool."

But the student says, suppose I had been the wrong doer, and my character and fortunes were in the hands of a fellow student, I should not like to have him make report, or give evidence against me, and I must do as I would be done by. How short-sighted and one-sided is this view! Suppose you had been made, or were about to be made the innocent victim of wrong-doing, would you not then wish to have the past injustice redressed, or the future injustice averted ? Toward whom, then, should your golden rule be practised, -toward the offender, or toward the party offended? Where a wrong is done, every body is injured,—the immediate object of the wrong, directly ; every body else, indirectly,--for every wrong invades the rights and the sense of safety which every individual, community, or body politic, has a right to enjoy. Therefore, doing as we would be done by,

« PreviousContinue »