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In his written words, found at the close of what he thought to be his last report to the School Committee of Boston, are expressed the great principles of action by which he was moved throughout his educational life :
“For upward of thirty years, — all but four in this city, — I have occupied, without the intermission of a day, various positions of service in connection with the public schools. Here my professional career has been run. It was the career of my choice, and my highest ambition. My heart has been in it. It has afforded me the desired opportunity for making my humble contribution to the general welfare. I am thankful for it. I shall never cease to be grateful to all who have co-operated with me in my efforts to make the Boston public schools the best in the world; and I will venture to say that I ask no ill thing for the cause, when on parting from such place, I pray that whomsoever you shall choose to succeed me, he may resemble me in the uprightness of his inten. tions, and surpass me in the degree of his abilities."
LETTER OF HON. MELLEN CHAMBERLAIN.
I have a vague recollection of the late John D. Philbrick when he was preparing for college at Pembroke Academy, but my intimacy with him began when I entered Dartmouth College, in 1840, where he preceded me by two years.
I succeeded him as teacher of a district school at Dan vers, and soon found in my pupils indications that they had been under the instruction of a strong mind, but otherwise I had no particular knowledge of his distinctive life-work. He was in one line of business and I in an
other, but I always watched his career and rejoiced in his
I knew him best as a man, and I think I knew him well.
At one time he thought of entering the legal profession, and made some progress in his reading. Had he finally given himself to the law he would, I have no doubt, attained to great eminence in it. He always impressed me as a man of extraordinary grasp and vigor of understanding, equable in its manifestations, and depending but little upon external conditions. His results were reached less by intuition than by labor, but he had great power for labor, and honestly applied it to the work in hand. I should be much surprised to learn that he ever neglected a known duty, or was satisfied with merely its perfunctory performance. He seemed to keep before his eyes in all his work the highest attainment.
His moral qualities were no less marked. He had ambition for honorable distinction, but none other would have given him the slightest satisfaction, for his mind was thoroughly honest. He was a firm friend, — no one was more so, - and his judgments of others were generally correct; or, if there was any tendency to err, it was on the right side. He had the power of inspiring others to excel themselves, and, by so doing, he acquired many faithful coadjutors in his great work.
Of my own personal relations to Mr. Philbrick I do not trust myself to speak. When he died the cause of education lost one of its most able and devoted friends, and there are thousands who mourn his loss.
LETTER OF WM. A. MOWRY, Ph.D.
John D. Philbrick may well be called the apostle of public school education. When he was a young man he devoted himself to the cause of education. He deter. mined to make it his life-work, and he adhered to that resolution to the end of an active and an honorable career. For forty years he was closely identified with the interests of popular education ; and during most of that long period he held responsible positions in Boston. As teacher in grammar, high, and normal schools he was ever studying and applying the highest principles of pedagogy and psychology. As superintendent, whether of city or state schools, he was always foremost in the discussion of fundamental principles which should govern in reference to the organization, courses of study, methods of teaching, and all that pertained to the work of the schools. Now that he has gone to rest, and the leading men who have been most intimately acquainted with his work reflect upon his chief qualities and characteristics, they will agree that above all men he was familiar with all that belonged to the province of educational affairs.
He was thoroughly acquainted with the schools of Boston. He knew every detail of their organization, their condition, their history, and their prospects. He was equally at home in regard to the schools of the world. The peculiarities of education in France, in Great Britain, in Germany, Austria, or St. Petersburg, were as clear to his mind as the alphabet or the multiplication table. He was no less familiar with the whole history and pur
pose of education in the past. Upon all these subjects his mind was a storehouse of wisdom, filled to overflowing, and the door standing wide open to all who desired to avail themselves of his accumulated knowledge. Prob. ably there is no man in the world, now living, who possesses so full, so valuable, so minute, and so exact a knowledge of all educational history and principles, experiments and practices, as John D. Philbrick carried to the grave with him.
Another characteristic of Dr. Philbrick was his absolute devotion to truth. He was always and everywhere, and under all circumstances, true to his convictions. He was the soul of honor and uprightness. He was a true friend, never failing in time of need. This is a great thing to say of a man in this age of the world. The number of lamentable failures to come up to this standard in these times is so great that the life of a true man, a firm friend, always reliable and to be relied upon, is a marked life. All this was Mr. Philbrick. Now that he is silent in death, no man will dare to say, “He betrayed me,” or “He failed me in the day of need.” Beside he was especially the warm, personal friend to the young teacher. The time would fail to tell the instances that come to the mind where he has proved himself a true friend to some young man who needed a word of encouragement, appre. ciation, or caution. He was also always honorable as an opponent. Never would he take any undue advantage, or resort to any questionable methods to accomplish his ends. Bold, aggressive, manly, he was at the same time simple, ingenuous, honest, and straightforward.
His reputation was deservedly world-wide. His name was a household word among educational men, not only in New England, the South, the great Northwest, and on the Pacific slope, but also in England, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, China, and Japan. The present high reputation of the schools of Boston, the world over, de. pends, probably, more upon what John D. Philbrick has done for them and written and said about them than upon any other cause.
He had a remarkable judgment of men. Rarely did he err in his estimate of men or measures.
He was always a wise counselor. Above all he was a devout
With no cant, no show, no pretension, he was a sincere, humble, devout worshiper of God. The fundamental sentiment of his life is voiced in that beautiful hymn attributed to Addison, which he learned in his boyhood, which was ever sweet to his ear, and which was so impressively sung at the close of his funeral services :
“The spacious firmament on high,