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LATIN AND THE CONSTITUTION
ALTHOUGH I have spoken so much of these whimsical occurrences, it must not be concluded that we occupied our time to any great extent with them. In reality we were studying very ambitiously. With all of Master Pierson's peculiarities, there was in him a profound sense of the importance of education. A student himself, he was a constant example to us. What he sought constantly to impress on our minds was that education is the one needful condition to success in life; that the way to acquire it is to study unsparingly; and that all we could learn was really worth the effort it cost us.
In geography his maps and globe were a great help. Enthusiastic lessons were recited from those maps. The text-book at that time was Colton and Fitch's Geography. The class finished it in eight weeks. Although I had studied geography previously, I never really knew much of it, or took much interest in it till that winter. When that term closed there was not a question in the text-book which any one of our class of seven could not answer. Master Joel stated this to Mr. Furness, the visiting member of the school committee, when he visited the school the day before the term closed. Mr. Furness was a little inclined to doubt so broad an assertion and spent twenty minutes in questioning us rapidly at hap-hazard over the book. But no one failed to give a correct answer. At length he closed the book and, turning to the master, exclaimed, "I think you are right. It's really remarkable. You must have worked hard with them."
"Oh, no," said Joel, laughing, "they are the ones who have worked. They've had ambition."
That was quite true; we had an ambition to learn everything in that book; and even now, after forty years, those questions and answers, as also the countries, islands, seas and oceans of those large wall maps, are fast in my memory. The great merit of Master Pierson lay in that he was somehow able to kindle such an ambition to learn, for learning's sake.
Eight weeks of school, with a few evening spelling-matches and an examination to which the parents were invited, passed quickly; yet we felt that we had really grown, mentally, since Christmas; and now the question arose, how we should expend the money which remained over from our effort to raise funds in December.
Theodora argued and I now think she was right that it would be more generous and better to add the money to the general school fund, and have school for all in the district, by just so much longer. This plan was the more advisable, since, although there had been some dissent at first, nearly every pupil in the district was now interested and learning well. Scarcely any one expressed aught save regret that school was so soon to close.
But Addison and Thomas said, "No-sir-ee!"
"They would not help us. They fought it, or at least Tibbetts and his party did. They tried to keep us from hiring Joel. If they could have legally stopped us they would have done so. And now do you think we will agree to share the money that we worked to get with them! No-sir-ee!" That was the way Addison summed up the case.
And Thomas cried, "Right you are! Let them pack up their books now and go home. They did not want school enough to work a day for it. Let them go without it now, I say. We will have a nice little private term, all by ourselves, in our own part of the district."
It is perhaps regrettable, but natural, that the most of our party sided with Addison and Thomas.
Theodora urged the more magnanimous way; Catherine did not express an opinion, but voted with Thomas and Addison.
As for Joel he declared that it was not a question for him to decide; and he declined to advise us. "Settle it," he said, "in the way that seems best to the majority who earned the money."
Addison was not wholly unaffected by Theodora's argument, however; for he was by no means an unusually selfish boy. On the last day of school, at recess in the afternoon, he made a few remarks.
"We have got twenty-eight dollars of money left over from the sixty dollars or more which we earned before the last part of the school began," he said to the others. "Now what we propose, is to have a short private school which Master Pierson has agreed to teach. But of course it is to be for those who helped earn the money. Those who refused to help do anything, cannot expect to share in it. But I will tell you what we will do. There are more of you, out at the Corners and thereabouts, than there are of us, in the upper part of the district. If you will raise twenty-eight dollars among you, to put alongside ours, we will go in together and have five weeks more of school here at the schoolhouse. What say to that?"
Several said that they would like to do so, and I think that some effort was made that evening to raise the required sum by, means of a subscription paper, but nothing came of it.
"Well, Doad, I made them a square offer to go in share and share with them," Addison remarked at the supper table that night, after school was done and we had brought our books home. He then laughingly related what he had proposed to the Corners' boys. But for some reason his tone and manner irritated Theodora.
"Ad, you knew all the time that they wouldn't or couldn't raise the money!" she exclaimed. "I do not think your 'square offer,' as you call it, amounted to anything whatever. It was just a piece of hard selfishness!"
Joel laughed; Addison laughed, too.
"To be honest," said he, "I am just as selfish as that looks. I do not think I would give that old rum-seller, Tibbetts, one dollar of this money of ours to save his life. Perhaps I would if the case came up, but I do not feel this moment as if I would."
"But it isn't Tibbetts wholly," rejoined Theodora. "It is our schoolmates from all that part of the district."
"They all had their chance to do something a month ago. I asked than and even urged them to join in with us and help us," replied Addison. "They were too lazy, or wrong-headed to help us. They had their chance. They refused."
"But they were ill-advised at the time. They thought of course that their parents were in the right," interposed Theodora.
"Let it be a lesson to them for next time, then," rejoined Addison. "They will remember it the better."
The matter rested there.
That evening we canvassed the question where we should have our private school.
"If we try to have it at the schoolhouse," said Addison, "there will be a fuss. Tibbetts will say we shall not use it for private schools; and I think it likely he could make trouble on that ground. We may take it for granted that he will, if he can.
"Gram," he continued, after a glance at Theodora and Ellen, and putting on as innocent an expression as he could summon, "what do you say to letting us have the sitting-room for a schoolroom, a fortnight just for nine or ten of us, you know?"
The old lady did not appear very well pleased with the proposition. "I guess my rag carpet would suffer," said she. "A fine racket you would kick up in there!"
"I will promise to make them behave themselves, Mother," Joel remarked.
"And we will have some good mats at the door to scrub their feet on when they come in," said Ellen.
"Don't talk that fine stuff to me!" exclaimed Gram. "I know very well what would happen. By spring I would have to make another carpet."
"We will sew the rags, Gram," said Ellen and Wealthy.
"Oh, yes, you would sew a dozen balls, no doubt, but when it came to sewing enough for a carpet for that great room some one else would have to take a hand, I guess."
"Well, it is only for two weeks and a half, Gram," Addison reminded her. "I guess we would not do a great deal of damage in that time."
"Gram, we might spread down a lot of mats, those kitchen mats," said Theodora. "Or else some burlap. We could tack down three or four strips of it all along where we sat."
"Yes, yes, Ruth," interposed the Old Squire. "They cannot do much harm in that time. And if they do wear the old house out a little, it is in a good cause."
Gram would not consent at once, however. "I will think about it," she said. But we were well aware the cause was won; she never objected afterwards.
An even more important question came up the same evening and the following day, as to what new studies we should take up. Thomas and Catherine had come, also Ned and his sisters, Georgie and Elsie.
Addison's mind was already made up. "I shall begin Latin, sure," he said. "Joel is a good teacher for it. I never shall have a better chance, and I have always meant to study it."
Theodora was not so certain; Catherine and Thomas, too, were in doubt about Latin.
"Suppose it will ever do a fellow any good?" Thomas queried.
"Oh, yes," replied Joel, confidently. "Of course, it makes a difference what you intend doing later in the way of an education and what pursuits you are going to follow in life. If you are intending to get a college education, you must have Latin, and the sooner you begin the better. It will do you good, anyhow, but most good the higher you aim to rise in life."
"But the trouble with me is," said Thomas, "I don't know yet whether I will get an education, or not. I don't know whether I can or not. Father cannot send me to college. If I go, I shall have to pay my own way, and so will Kate. Father isn't able and he doesn't think any great things of colleges. But I would like to go," Thomas added. "Do you suppose I could go alone?"
"Why, look at me!" cried Joel. "Nobody has sent me. I have been in college, three years and expect to get through all right, and not much in debt. You can do it as easy as I can. Why, a fellow who tried to tire out a circulating decimal, ought not to be discouraged at anything!"
"Oh, I don't know that I am discouraged," replied Thomas, reflectively. "I rather think I could do it if I were to start in for it. But I don't think I know exactly yet whether I want to or not. I cannot seem to think it out. I'm not so sure of it as Ad here is. He appears to know just what he wants to do."
"That was my own experience," said Joel: "I think that most young folks feel uncertain at first. But a good way to get certain is to begin studying and go ahead awhile. It opens before you and you soon begin to feel sure what you want to do."
Those were very encouraging words to me, for like Thomas, I felt wholly uncertain, even doubtful, and experienced also a certain distaste for the hard study I felt sure was in store for me, if I tried to get a good education.
Meantime Catherine and Theodora had been conferring earnestly together on the subject, more from a girl's point of view, I suppose. I think they were confiding and comparing their aspirations one with another; Georgie and Elsie joined in their conversation. As for Ned fie declared that he did not expect to go to college, but he said that he should like to study Latin awhile and go three or four terms at the village Academy; and that was Elsie's plan as well as Georgie's. They meant to acquire education sufficient to teach. At that time, however, Ned had a great desire to become a locomotive engineer and run trains on a railroad. Thomas, on the contrary, declared that he meant to be a civil engineer and build railroads. "I shall get big pay," he exclaimed. "Maybe I shall take contracts and make a fortune out of them. It's done, every year!" he added.
"Good for you, Thomas!" cried Joel, approvingly. "You are just the boy to do it, too. You have got the pluck and the health, if you do not injure it. You are just the fellow to build railroads all over the world. Go ahead and get the outfit to do it, Thomas!"
Under this stimulating praise Thomas straightened up and looked as resolute as a youthful Zouave. Still, he was not a boy to be taken off his feet by mere praise, and fell to deliberating again.
"What do you say to Latin?" Joel at length asked me.
"I don't know," was all the reply I had ready. It seemed to me that I didn't know anything, for certain.
The Old Squire had come into the sitting-room and was giving a quiet ear to our talk, behind his newspaper. I made it in my way to steal over to him and in a lowered tone asked, "Had I better, sir?"
The old gentleman looked at me kindly for some moments. "Do you want to?" he asked.
"I don't know whether I do or not," said I.
The Old Squire smiled. "Joel," said he, "he doesn't know and I don't know, do you know?"
"Yes," cried Joel, who was in one of his enthusiastic moods. "Study it, by all means."
"But Pierson," continued the old gentleman more gravely, "all men cannot be lawyers, doctors and ministers. Some must be farmers and mechanics. What makes you so sure that it will be best for this boy to study the higher branches? He will have his own way to make as it looks now, in the course of a few years more. Will it be worth his while to try to secure what you call a higher education? He is just a decently bright boy, nothing more, and will have to face the world for himself."
"If he is going to make a farmer, or a carpenter, or even a stone mason, I advise him to study Latin, all the same!" exclaimed Joel, bringing his fist down emphatically on the table. "I may be a farmer myself, and I know I can make all the better one for knowing Latin and geometry. I can hold a plough all the better for it. I don't believe in higher education for a few persons, merely; I believe in higher education, the very best that can be given them, for every boy and girl in America. Depend on it, Squire, Latin will never hurt him a bit!"
"Pierson, you are a man of great faith!" exclaimed the old gentleman, smiling. He seemed to ponder awhile, took up his paper again, then turned to me and said, "My son, you asked my advice. If you feel at all like studying Latin, I would do it."
That was good brave advice from a Maine farmer, sixty-five years old, who had never enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education himself. I have often thanked the Old Squire in my heart for it since; I felt that he thought I had better study it; I determined to do so and resolved, too, that I would prove to him that he was not in the wrong about me.
A kind of Latin fever seized upon us all that evening. To many it will seem somewhat absurd, that a dozen boys and girls, only fairly well advanced in their common school studies, should all set themselves to study Latin.
Gram said a little brusquely that she believed that it was all nonsense.
"Oh, no, it isn't, Mother!" cried Joel, cheerily. "You will live to see them profiting by it."
"But I don't want to see these granddaughters of mine all growing up school-marms!" cried the old lady, bluntly. "I want them to grow up into sensible young women, and get married and raise good large healthy families, as girls should. The folks all round here are dying out. No children growing up! One or two little pindling things in a family only! The trouble is now that our girls aren't good for anything. Heads full of ideas about higher education! No health, no motherly feelings in them. If this sort of thing goes on fifty years more, there will be nobody left of us hereabouts. All dead and nobody left in their places. I know that cannot be right, Joel Pierson."
When Gram got started on an argument of that sort, she was quite apt to give utterance to energetic language.
"Well, now, Mother, you are partly right about hat," said Joel. "But your girls look nice and healthy. Mother, dear, where you make your mistake is in supposing that education will injure girls. Education will, on the whole, always make girls and boys better and stronger men and women. If girls have any wrong ideas in their heads, as you say, they did not get there from studies such as I now recommend, but from some other source."
"Maybe they didn't come from Latin, exactly," Gram assented. "But I am not sure of it," she added.
Whether the old lady was right or even partly right, we young folks all agreed with Joel. Little Wealthy was, of course, too young for so hard a branch of study; but Ellen decided that she should join the class. Even Halstead announced jocosely, that if all the others were going in for Latin, he should. "For," said he, "if they all know how to talk it and I don't, they will be making remarks about me which I can't understand." Halse had not yet grasped the idea that Latin is a dead language, not much used for colloquial purposes. Joel did not urge him to take up Latin. He felt doubtful in Halstead's case, I imagine; and again the Old Squire looked up from his paper and appeared perplexed; but he said nothing more. I fancy that he did not like to seem, by objecting in Halstead's case, to single him out as the only one in the family who was unfit.
It was really a difficult case. The old gentleman, too, was pondering other things. There was another study which he felt the importance of, one which he had often mentioned to us during that summer of vexatious political questions. He now saw his chance to urge it more effectively, and again laid down his paper.
"Is Latin chosen?" he asked.
"Yes," we said.
"Unless you object, sir," Theodora added, dutifully. "Then I object," the Old Squire said.
There were blank looks from all of us. Master Pierson seemed disappointed; he also appeared vexed.
"I object for a week," the Old Squire continued, at which all our faces brightened a little.
"First, before you begin on Latin, I want you to take a week for something else," the old gentleman went on. "One week of good hard study. Then I agree to Latin."
But what is it?" Master Pierson asked, not wholly satisfied.
"The Constitution of the United States," replied the Old Squire, his eye kindling.
"Well, sir, that's no bad idea," Joel assented.
"Before you go off on Latin and Greek, I want you to put in a week on the Constitution and the first principles of our government," the Old Squire repeated. "I think you will always be glad you did it. I am sure it will be of use to you all your lives. You will be the better citizens for it, you boys especially. It will help you decide how to vote, when you come to vote, and vote more intelligently."
The Old Squire belonged to the same generation as Daniel Webster, and was a great believer in, the Constitution. He reverenced it, and he thought that every young citizen ought to be thoroughly instructed in it, from the time he is ten years old.
"But will that be of much use to us girls?" Catherine ventured to inquire.
"Yes, indeed," the Old Squire rejoined. "Girls as well as boys. The girls are the future mothers of the nation; and every mother should be able to instil in her children the first great principles of American free government."
The old gentleman waxed earnest. "Pierson," he exclaimed, "I want you to go into this thoroughly one whole week. I will help what I can. Let's begin with Magna Charta, that first great guarantee of Anglo-Saxon rights, that sturdy declaration of English manhood." He felt what he was saying so deeply, that he rose suddenly and took a turn across the wide old sitting-room.
"Pierson," he exclaimed again, "with all this foreign immigration of every nation and every race which is pouring into America, I am sometimes afraid that we are in grave danger of losing our birthright and forgetting the noble stock from which we have sprung. But I don't want these boys, nor these girls, ever to lose sight of it, or ever forget it."
The Old Squire's zeal fired Joel who was, himself, of Anglo-Saxon descent. "You're right, sir, right every time," he exclaimed. "Fetch on the Constitution and Magna Charta behind it. We cannot do better. We will put in a week on it. We will start school here with that."
Among the books in the old mahogany bookcase against the wall of the farmhouse sitting-room, there was An American Family Atlas, containing the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, also the Mecklenburg Declaration (which many hold to be the germ of American liberty) and an epitome of Magna Charta.
The Old Squire also owned a copy of Pomeroy's Constitutional Law, which contains the Constitution, Article by Article. It was also at the back of a former small School History of the United States, and in another small volume, entitled Lives of American Statesmen.
Catherine and Thomas, too, were able to bring from home another School History of the United States, containing the Constitution. We mustered five copies of the great document; and next morning our week's study of it and its prototypes began in earnest.
I have to confess that to me, at that age, this whole week's study was rather abstruse and uninteresting, or would have been but for the fun. that went with it and the zeal of the others. Perhaps almost any average boy, not very keen and not wholly studiously inclined, would have found it as dull as I did. It was unusually hard for me to remember the different Articles and Sections of the Constitution. I did not at all grasp the meaning of some of them; they were merely so many hard words and sentences. Yet in after life I have found those same abstruse sentences coming back to me in a strangely new light, illumined by my older understanding of things, and have frequently blessed my fortunate star that I pored over them till they were thus early and indelibly woven into the plastic web of memory. In good truth, the Old Squire made no mistake when he insisted on that week's work.
We began with Magna Charta the great Charter of civic rights which the English people wrested from their kings, particularly King John, and were compelled to depose one king and cut off the head of another before these pampered, royal egotists could be brought to respect popular rights and yield to constitutional law.
We did not possess a complete copy of Magna Charta. There was a digest of it with quotations in the Family Atlas above mentioned; and two years previously the Old Squire had been induced rather against Gram's wishes to invest in an Encyclopedia Britannica, which contains (Vol. V, pp. 431-432, Vol. VIII, pp. 306-308) an account of Magna Charta, its origin and general purport.
To these sources of information we now had recourse, Addison and Theodora reading them over aloud, the rest listening trying hard to remember. If I recollect aright this was read aloud four times, the first day, for I recall that Catherine read it once, and that Master Pierson read it, remarking particularly the points we had best make notes of, and fix in memory.
Let's get it well fixed," he exclaimed more than once that day. "I mean to do so. This is just what I need myself."
For much of the time, too, the Old Squire sat by, now and then throwing in a word of advice or exhortation, on his own account.
Next day we labored on the Declaration of Independence, Mecklenburg Declaration, and the Articles of Confederation whereby the thirteen Colonies and Plantations were organized as The United States. The Old Squire was at considerable pains to describe to us the very prominent part borne by Thomas Jefferson in framing the Declaration of Independence. He held that Jefferson was second only to Washington among the early American statesmen. He did not wish us to spend any great amount of time on the Articles of Confederation, however, and bade us take care not to confound them in any way with the Constitution, nor mix them up with it.
On the third morning we began the Constitution of the United States. To me at the time, it was hard and dry. I did not comprehend it clearly, nor see the reason or use of it. Master Pierson, perceiving my difficulty, helped me not a little by explaining the tyrannous government of the American Colonies, under the Crown of England, and, in general, the servile condition of mankind before free, self-government by the people began, not only in America but in England. He simplified the matter by telling us how few rights people had in former days, and how unjustly they were sometimes imprisoned or put to death, and how arbitrarily their property was seized by kings, or their favorites.
Addison first read the Preamble of the Constitution, twice, slowly, then the whole of Article I. It seemed to me I could never remember it; and Tom whispered to me that he knew he never could. Ellen sat looking equally helpless; Theodora, too, was knitting her brows; while Halse sat grinning and shuffling his feet.
"You have heard it," Master Pierson said, when Addison had finished. "Sounds formidable. But now let's all take the books and study it an hour, by the clock, and let our eyes help our ears with it."
Books were laid hold of, and I recall that I went over Article I twice in that hour, trying very hard to remember each Section as I read it. Some of the Sections were not easy to understand, and therefore very hard to recollect. "Gummy!" Thomas whispered. "It's just so many long strings of words. How's a fellow going to get all this by heart?" It seemed to me I never could; but in point of fact, I found myself recalling far more of it afterwards than I thought I should. Section VII and Section X gave me most trouble.
"Recess for fifteen minutes!" Master Pierson cried when that hour was up. "Let's run out and snowball. My brain is getting fuzzy!"
It was indeed "fuzzy" work for young brains. We rushed forth and for some time such whoops rose about the old farmhouse and barns, that Gram declared our neighbors must think there was a fire.
The Old Squire stood at the wagon-house door and laughed to see us tear around and hurl light snow in each other's faces.
"Pierson, is that the way you keep school?" he cried.
"Surely," the master cried back, his own hair full of snow. "Brains need fresh air when they are grappling with the Constitution!"
Well blown and freshened, we went back indoors.
"Now let's change back from eyes to ears," Joel said. "Catherine, please read Article I to us once more. Let's sit and hear it again and soak it into our heads. Mine needs a lot of soaking."
Catherine read it again, slowly; and I found that I was now getting hold of it a little better.
We had an intermission of an hour and a half that day, the work was so hard. In the afternoon Article II and Article III were read, studied and re-read, in the same way as Article I. But these were much shorter; they also seemed far easier to me.
Snow had begun to fall; and our afternoon recess was spent up at the west barn, playing a game of "gool" on the long floor. I recollect that Thomas succeeded in "going around," and therefore won the game for his side, by climbing over the "great beams" far up in the roof of the barn.
On the whole that first day's struggle with the Constitution was a rather enjoyable one. I recall, however, that by evening my head felt as if I had worked it strenuously and shaken out several new convolutions of brain.
Next morning we began at eight o'clock, taking up Articles IV, V, VI, and VII in the same way as yesterday's lesson. These latter Articles are so brief, however, that we easily finished them during the forenoon, and in the afternoon proceeded to the Amendments of the Constitution, the first thirteen brief Articles of which had already been adopted by Congress and appended to the original document. Articles XIV and XV had not then been devised, and were not added to the other Amendments until 1868 and 1870.
That evening we had a review of our two days' work. "To-morrow," Master Pierson said, "we must have a grand Quiz."
That was a word we had never heard before. It was a new word which had recently come in vogue at colleges and law schools. Joel, then a student at Bates College, had heard it there, and now explained it to us.
"We will hold a Quiz at eight to-morrow morning," said he. "Catherine may quiz us on Magna Charta, and ask every question she can think of. That will be good practice for the quizzer as well as the quizzed."
The Old Squire came in while this was being talked of. "But there is one thing more," said he, "which I wish you to take up in connection with the Constitution and its Amendments. You will hear a great deal about it in time to come. It will give rise to many difficult, delicate questions in regard to our foreign relations."
"Why, what is it, Gramp?" Ellen exclaimed.
"I wonder whether any of you can guess?" the Old Squire queried, with a twinkle of his eye.
No one spoke at once.
"I rather think I could give a surmise," Joel remarked, at length. "I suppose you refer to the Monroe Doctrine. But I confess I have no very clear idea as to it," he added.
"Few have," replied the Old Squire, smiling. "And yet it is something which is sure to loom up large in the future history of this country. Here it is," he continued, taking up the Atlas. "Here is the original form of it, as given to the people during the administration of President Monroe. It is quoted from his Message to Congress, bearing date of December 2d, 1823. Read it aloud, Pierson. Let's see what we can make of it."
The master read the three long paragraphs.
"Dear me, isn't that a mixture?" cried Catherine, looking perplexed.
"It does sound badly twisted up," Addison said. "Master Pierson, can you put that into plainer English and less words?"
Joel shook his head. "I would much rather hear my seniors speak," he said with a glance at the Old Squire. "Expound it, sir."
"Well, the Monroe Doctrine has had a great many expounders," the latter rejoined. "Politicians and even great statesmen have disagreed as to its proper interpretation. President Monroe was not quite as clear, perhaps, as he might have been. Yet a great principle of our future national policy was set forth by him. I have read that part of his Message, time and again, and what I make of it is this:
That America, both North and South America, is for Americans, and cannot properly be invaded, held, or controlled by nations of the Eastern Hemisphere, whether of Europe or Asia.
"That the United States as the largest, strongest republic of America, should display fraternal sympathy for the smaller, weaker republics of Central and South America and should protect them from aggression and invasion, especially when the invaders seek to conquer them and overthrow free government by the people as when France attempted to conquer Mexico, in 1863, and establish a monarchy there under the Emperor Maximilian, of Austria. In such cases it will always be proper for us to intervene in behalf of the weaker American republic.
"But that such moral aid, or intervention, on the part of the United States should be made only for the protection and maintenance of free institutions and free government by the people, and not in aid of selfish dictators, styling themselves Presidents, when they seek to evade payment of just debts, by relying on our assistance, thereby making us party to dishonesty.
"In all such cases as recently in Venezuela and Guatemala the United States may well stand aside and allow a foreign nation to take reasonable steps to collect what is justly due its citizens, as long as these measures do not subvert free government, nor rob an American republic of territory.
"That, at least, is my idea of it," the Old Squire added modestly. "My view of it is, that the Monroe Doctrine is to protect and foster free government by the people throughout the Western Hemisphere, and also to safeguard the future interests of the United States."
"Much obliged to you, sir," Master Pierson exclaimed. "You have made this much clearer to me than it ever was before; and I believe in the Monroe Doctrine."
It was so bitterly cold the next morning, that Ned and his sisters did not come. Willis, too, was prevented from coming, and Alfred failed to put in an appearance. Eight o'clock, however, saw the rest of us gathered in the sitting-room for the Quiz. "Go ahead, Catherine," Addison exclaimed. "It will not take you long to find out how little I know."
Catherine appeared somewhat embarrassed, at first. "I am not fit to 'quiz,'" she said.
"Oh, go on," cried Joel. "We are all learners here. One is as fit as another."
"Well, then, Addison, what is Magna Charta? What does it mean, and when and where did it originate?"
"It means Great Charter, from the Latin words magna, great, and charta, paper or document," Ad responded, smiling broadly. "It marked the beginning of constitutional government among the English people, and was for England what our Constitution is for the United States. Our Constitution is founded on it. It was granted by King John, in the year 1213, over six hundred and fifty years ago, at a place called Runnymede."
"Was King John willing to grant it? Ellen may answer."
"Not a bit willing. He opposed it and fought against it for two years."
"Who compelled the King to grant it? Master Pierson may answer that," Catherine continued.
"The Barons of England, the Prelates of the church and other representatives of the English people," Joel replied.
As I was sitting near the master, the next question fell to me and found me unprepared. "In what language was Magna Charta written?"
"English," I hazarded.
"Wrong," cried Thomas, Addison and several other voices, in a breath, and Theodora, sitting next beyond me, whispered, "Latin."
"No telling in Quiz!" shouted Joel. "I overheard that. Yes, it was in Latin. In those days nearly all important documents, discourses and books were composed in the Latin language. That is one reason why we need to study it now, because it was the literary language of our forefathers and has come down to us in Law, Theology, Medicine and Science generally."
Halstead, how many Articles did Magna Charta contain?" Catherine asked next.
"Fifty," said he.
"Wrong!" cried everybody in concert. "Sixty-one."
"Theodora, which are the most important?" "The Thirty-ninth and the Fortieth."
Just then the Old Squire came in, looking much interested. "Can any of you repeat those two Articles?" he inquired.
No one, not even Master Pierson, could do so, either in the original Latin, or as quaintly translated in the later English statutes, and they were at length read aloud by Addison:
"Article 39th. No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseized of his freehold, or liberties, or free customs, or be otherwise destroyed, nor will we press upon him, nor seize upon him but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land."
"That is where trial by jury came in," the Old Squire remarked.
"Article 40th." (Addison continued.) "We will sell to no man, we will not deny nor defer to any man, either right or justice."
"What else does Magna Charta provide for, in the way of liberty to the people?" Catherine asked.
Open courts and witnesses for the trial of offenses," Joel mentioned.
"The right to make wills and leave one's property as he chooses," the Old Squire mentioned.
"Protection against illegal seizure of one's goods for debt," Theodora remembered.
"And even the villein and the rustic shall not be deprived of his necessary chattels,'" Thomas quoted. "But I wish somebody would tell me what a 'villein' is," he added. "Is it the same as villain which means a ruffian?"
Master Pierson set him right. "Not exactly that, Thomas," said he. "As then used, the word villein meant a man in servitude, a thrall, or farm-servant. Previously these poor fellows had had no rights which their masters were bound to respect. Magna Charta secured proper legal rights for them, as well as for their betters."
"And that is precisely why it is such a grand document," the Old Squire added very earnestly.
We went on to the Declaration of American Independence and Theodora was called upon to quiz on it; but since, after the grand opening paragraphs, it consists largely of accusations against King George and his ministers, not many questions of interest were asked. The Old Squire wished us chiefly to remember that it was written by Thomas Jefferson at Philadelphia, and amended by suggestions from Benjamin Franklin and others of the fifty-five or fifty-seven original signers; and that when some of those who signed were slow to put their names to a paper so resolute and so unflattering to the British king, Franklin remarked dryly, by way of exhortation, that this was a case where they must all hang together, or they would surely hang separately!
After recess, therefore, we went on to the Constitution, and Addison was appointed Quiz-master for Article I.
"Who can repeat the Preamble?" was his first question.
A far from unanimous or distinct mumble of voices followed. Neither Halstead nor I got in half the words in their proper places.
"Master Pierson, who framed the Constitution?" Addison queried.
"A Convention of fifty-five delegates from the States, which met in Philadelphia, May 14th, 1787."
"Catherine, can you name any of the celebrated men who were in that Convention?"
"Yes; Washington, Madison, Randolph, Franklin, Rufus King, Alexander Hamilton, Pinckney, Rutledge. Washington presided."
Halstead, did they easily agree on the present Constitution?"
"No; they wrangled over it."
"Wrangled is hardly the proper word," the Old Squire remarked. "It was a very difficult task and of course there were many different opinions. There were two plans for a constitution somewhat opposed to each other. The remarkable feature is that the delegates harmonized their views and framed so wise a document."
"Thomas, when was the Constitution adopted by the Convention?"
"In September, 1787. But the different States were slow to ratify it. A year or more passed before all the States accepted it. For six months the country was without any legal government. But great and good old General George Washington had his paw on the throttle, all the same. If anybody had started to make trouble, they would have heard from George."
"Theodora, under the Constitution in whom is the power to make laws vested?"
"Ellen, of what does Congress consist?"
"Two branches, the Senate and the House of Representatives."
Willis, Ned Wilbur and Alfred now came in and took their places.
"Edgar, by whom are the Representatives to Congress elected?" Addison asked.
"By the voters, all the legal voters in each State, just as we vote for Governor."
"Willis, for how long a term?"
"Master Pierson, how many people does a Representative to Congress represent?"
"The number was set at thirty thousand at first. It is much larger now. A new rate is established, after the Census is taken, every ten years, as population increases."
Gram had come to the door to speak with the Old Squire and Addison roguishly cried, "Ruth, how many Senators is each State entitled to have in Congress and how are they elected?"
"Two," said the old lady promptly. "They are appointed for six years by the State Legislature which contrives to appoint about whom it likes, whether the people like them or not. For my part I think the Senators ought to be voted for by the people at the polls, just as the Representatives are and put a stop to so many rich men buying their way into Congress, and making laws to favor their own interests." Joel clapped his hands heartily.
Why, Ruth, you are a revolutionist," the Old Squire cried, smiling. "You would subvert the Constitution."
"Joseph, you seem to think that old Constitution of yours is infallible. But it isn't. Why, Congress has had to be tinkering it and amending it ever since it was adopted. It needs it, too, and will go on needing it as the country grows. You can never make me worship the Constitution as you do. It has too many flaws in it."
"I suspect, Ruth, that one reason why you feel so little reverence for the Constitution, is because it does not ordain that women shall vote," the Old Squire remarked mischievously.
"Indeed it is," cried Gram warmly. "I think it is a shame that an American woman of fairly good education, who is the head of a household and owns property, is not allowed the privilege of helping elect those who make the laws. I don't believe, either, that a man who hasn't these qualifications ought to vote. I don't believe in allowing people of bad character to vote, whether men or women."
Joel applauded still more vigorously. "Right you are, Mother, just right!" he cried. "Those are my sentiments to a dot! Good character is the best qualification for a voter. It is the first requisite to be insisted on. No drunkards, no criminals, no persons of bad morals ought to be allowed at the polls."
"Pierson, I'm afraid you are a rank female suffragist," the Old Squire said roguishly.
"Yes, I am in that way," exclaimed Joel. "That is to say, I think the right to vote should depend on character and morals, not on sex. I do not think that sex should have anything to do with it."
After this very frank tilt at the existing state of things, Gram departed, victorious, to her household affairs, and Addison resumed his quizzing.