( Originally Published 1879 )
MANUFACTURERS find intelligent educated mechanics more profitable to employ, even at higher wages, than those who are uneducated. We have never met any one who had much experience in employing large numbers of men who did not hold this opinion, and, as a general rule, those manufacturers are most successful who are most careful to secure intelligent and skillful workmen.
It requires extensive observation to enable one even partially to appreciate the wonderful extent to which all the faculties are developed by mental cultivation. The nervous system grows more vigorous and active, the touch is more sensitive, and there is greater mobility in the hand.
We once knew a weaving room filled with girls above the average in character and intelligence, and there was one girl among them who had been highly educated. Though length of arms and strength of muscle are advantages in weaving, and though this girl was short and small, she always wove the greatest number of pieces in the room, and consequently drew the largest pay at the end of every month. We might fill many pages with similar cases which have come under our own observation, but there is no occasion. It has long since been settled by the general observation of manufacturers, that intelligent workmen will do more and better work than ignorant ones.
But the excess in the amount of work performed is not the most important respect in which an intelligent workman is superior to a stupid one. He is far more likely to be faithful to the interests of his employer, to save from waste and to turn to profit every thing that comes to his hand. There is also the exalted satisfaction of being surrounded by thinking, active and inquiring minds, instead of by ignorance.
Such are some of the advantages to the " Captains of Industry," which result from the employment of intelligent workmen; not in one article, nor any number of articles, could these advantages be fully set forth. And if it is impossible to state the advantages to' the employer, how vain must be the effort to describe those which result to the workman himself!
The increase of wages is the least and lowest of the rich rewards of mental culture. The whole being is enlarged and exalted; the scope of view is widened; the objects of interest are increased; the subjects of thought are multiplied; life is more filled with emotion; and the man is raised in the scale of creation.
To intelligent English travelers, nothing in the United States has excited such wonder and admiration as Lowell, Nashua, Manchester, Lawrence, and the other manufacturing towns of New England. That factory-girls should play on the piano, and sustain a creditable magazine by their own contributions; that their residences should be clean, commodious, and elegant; that factory-men should be intelligent gentlemen, well-read in literature, and totally unacquainted with beer and its inspirations, have been, for many years, the crowning marvels of America to all travelers of right feeling and good judgment.
Daniel Webster says : "Knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the large term of education. The feelings are to be disciplined, the passions are to be restrained; true and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is to be in-stilled, and pure morality inculcated under all circumstances. All this is comprised in education."
Too many have imbibed the idea that to obtain a sufficient education to enable a man to appear advantageously upon the theatre, especially of public life; his boyhood and youth must be spent within the walls of some classical seminary of learning, that he may commence his career under the high floating banner of a collegiate diploma—with them, the first round in the ladder of fame.
That a refined classical education is desirable, and one of the accomplishments of a man, I admit—that it is indispensably necessary, and always makes a man more useful, I deny. He who has been incarcerated, from his childhood, up to his majority, within the limited circumference of his school and boarding room, although he may have mastered all the classics, is destitute of that knowledge of men and things, indispensably necessary to prepare him for action, either in private or public life. Classic lore and polite literature are very different from that vast amount of common intelligence, fit for every day use, that he must have, to render his intercourse with society pleasing to himself, or agreeable to others. He is liable to imposition at every turn he makes. He may have a large fund of fine sense, but if he lacks common sense, he is like a ship without a rudder. Let boys and girls be taught, first and last, all that is necessary to prepare them for the common duties of life—if the classics and polite literature can be worked between the coarser branches, they will be much safer—as silk goods are, enclosed in canvas, or a bale. I wish not to undervalue high seminaries of learning—but rather to stimulate those to persevere in the acquirement of science, who are deprived of the advantage of their dazzling lights. Franklin, Sherman, and others, emerged from the work shop, and illuminated the world as brightly, as the most pro-found scholar from a college. In this enlightened age, and in our free country, all who will, may drink, deeply, at the pure _fountain of science. Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune. By a proper improvement of time, the apprentice of the mechanic may lay in a stock of useful knowledge, that will enable him, when he arrives at manhood, to take a respectable stand by the side of those who have grown up in the full blaze of a collegiate education-and with a better prospect of success at the start, because he is much better stocked with common information, without which a man is a poor helpless animal.
Education of every kind has two values—value as knowledge and value as discipline. Besides its use for guidance in conduct; the acquisition of each order of facts has also its use as mental exercise; and its effects as a preparative for complete living have to be considered under both these heads.
Education cannot be acquired without pains and application. It is troublesome and deep digging for pure water, but when once you come to the springs, they rise up and meet you. Every grain helps fill the bushel, so does the improvement of every moment increase knowledge.
Says Swedenborg: " It is of no advantage to man to know much, unless he lives according to what he knows, for knowledge has no other end than goodness; and he who is made good is in possession of a far richer treasure than he whose knowledge is the most extensive, and yet is destitute of goodness; for, what the latter is seeking by his great acquirements, the former already possesses."
One of the most agreeable consequences of knowledge is the respect and importance which it communicates to old age. Men rise in character often as they increase in years; they are venerable from what they have acquired and pleasing from what they can impart. Knowledge is the treasure, but judgment the treasurer of a wise man. Superficial knowledge, pleasure dearly purchased, and subsistence at the will of another, are the disgrace of mankind.
The chief properties of wisdom are to be mindful of things past, careful for things present, and provident for things to come.
He that thinks himself the happiest man is really so; but he that thinks himself the wisest is generally the greatest fool.
A wise man, says Seneca, is provided for occurrences of any kind : the good he manages, the bad he vanquishes; in prosperity he betrays no presumption, and in adversity he feels no despondency.
By gaining a good education you shall have your reward in the rich stores of knowledge you have thus collected, and which shall ever be at your command. More valuable than earthly treasure—while fleets may sink, and storehouses consume, and banks may totter, and riches flee, the intellectual investments you have thus made will be permanent and enduring, unfailing as the constant flow of Niagara or Amazon—a bank whose dividends are perpetual, whose wealth is undiminished however frequent the drafts upon it, which, though moth may impair, yet thieves cannot break through nor steal.
Nor will you be able to fill these storehouses to their full. Pour into a glass a stream of water, and' at last it fills to the brim and will not hold another drop. But you may pour into your mind, through a whole lifetime, streams of knowledge from every conceivable quarter, and not only shall it never be full, but it will constantly thirst for more, and welcome each fresh supply with a greater joy.
Nay, more, to all around you may impart of these gladdèning streams which have so fertilized your own mind, and yet, like the candle from which a thousand other candles may be lit without diminishing its flame, your supply shall not be impaired. On the contrary, your knowledge, as you add to it, will itself attract still more as it widens your realm of thought; and thus will you realize in your own life the parable of the ten talents, for "to him that hath shall be given."
The beginning of wisdom is to fear God, but the end of it is to love him. The highest learning is to be wise; and the greatest wisdom is to be good. The wise man looks forward into futurity, and considers what will be his condition millions of ages hence, as well as what it is at present.