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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the National Conference of Colored Men of the United States, Held in the State Capitol at Nashville Tennessee, May 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1879.
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reverence of unnumbered ages, was devoted to agriculture, even to passion, and one of his proudest distinctions was that of a good farmer. The gallant Putnam, when he heard of the battle of Lexington, was plowing in his field; he left his plow in the furrow and hastened on to strike a blow for the liberties of his country.
Agriculture, therefore, is not to be considered as an insignificant and unworthy calling. It is an art of necessity, the only durable source and foundation of power and plenty; the most respectable, the most honest, the most useful, and the most beneficial secular profession in the world. Since agriculture and its utility are of such vast importance to the progress and well-being of countries and nations, it cannot fail to be peculiarly favorable to freedom and independence. No art or calling is better adapted to inspire the human family with a love for freedom and a longing for independence. No nation has ever enjoyed these blessings in the total neglect of agriculture. It is inseparably interwoven and linked with the progress of society, the happiness, comfort and freedom of man.
History sustains the fact that whenever a nation becomes slack in its attention to the concerns of agriculture, it must be no small degree attributable to the want of a proper regard and estimate for freedom and independence.
As the command of Heaven was expedient to make and induce man to labor and cultivate the earth for his happiness and comfort, so should the efforts of the philosophic and enlightened of our race be directed toward impressing upon them the necessity of paying due attention to this most important of all human arts, and to labor, the great basis of human sustenance.
Of all the agencies that serve to further advancement and produce happiness and refinement, education stands first and foremost. Its power and efficacy in the attainment of these has been forcibly exemplified during all ages, and it is an undoubted fact that it will continue to wield this commanding power and influence in shaping the affairs and destinies of nations for all coming ages.
Liberty has always been dependent upon intelligence. Freedom, duly balanced, properly regulated, and happily enjoyed, has no other foundation for a perpetual existence, except in the intelligence of the people. The world's history informs us that political, religious, and social melioration must result from this source. Inform the minds of the people and they will have discernment to discover and know their real and best interests; when they are ignorant they are liable to be deceived by every "wind and doctrine," become the victims of misguided fidelity, and the property of unprincipled demagogues. Education enables them to think and reflect, judge and determine for themselves. Knowledge is power; let it depart, and liberty will become an exile.
" Without knowledge," said the immortal Sumner, "there can be no progress. Vice and barbarism are the inseparable companions of ignorance, for to do what is right we must first understand what is right."
Education, therefore, is designed to lessen the evils and augment the blessings of human life. To live well and to do well in whatever station assigned us on the stage of life, is the great business interest and duty of man, and to the attainment of these ends the efforts of instruction should be mainly directed. It is intimately connected with happiness of man in whatever sphere he moves--religious, social; and political. If a desire to be and remain ignorant be predominant, he may indeed do without it, as no one ought to be compelled to become respectable and happy; but he cannot answer the end of his being without some share of
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