“Night School” (March 18, 1811)


In this letter, published by the Virginia Argus on March 18, 1811, Herbert H. Hughes writes to the paper’s publisher Samuel Pleasants Jr. defending Christopher McPherson‘s night school in Richmond as a public good. This comes days after the paper announced its withdrawal of an advertisement for the school, which educated free and enslaved African Americans.




Mr. Pleasants,

I see in your apology for your suppression of Christopher McPherson’s Advertisement announcing publicly that he had established a School for that class of people called “free blacks, &c”—It is said that such an institution should not be tolerated in this City, as being impolitic.—I do not wish to controvert that opinion in the most remote degree, it might appear invidious in me as being the instigator of public convulsion. But I did not suppose that any thing inimical could result from such an institution, to the peace and tranquility of the Commonwealth. What can there be more laudible, than that of teaching the infant ideas how to shoot? (for such their’s must be) and training this people up in the path of virtue? Than exalting their minds above vulgar meannesses?—Strange and novel, sir, that the Sophistry of Rosseau to prove, that a savage life is preferable to a civilized one, (for without Education in some degree they are in a state of bastard civilization) should have such avowed adherents in this our refined day of civilization—for, if the cultivation of the  mind produces happiness to the individual the public must partake in that happiness—I thought that I should have enlisted every philanthropic heart on my side, when I aver that I am executing the mandates of justice, truth and humanity, by being the humble vehicle of conveying a small portion of light and knowledge to this people. ‘Tho’ should the institution be an illegal one, and deemed detrimental to the general welfare of the community, with a verdict from a proper tribunal that it shall be put down, it will be discontinued.

Herbert H. Hughes,

Tutor for the School

Richmond, March 18, 1811.

APA Citation:
Argus, Virginia. “Night School” (March 18, 1811). (2021, March 26). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Argus, Virginia. "“Night School” (March 18, 1811)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (26 Mar. 2021). Web. 29 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, August 18
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