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Robert E. Lee

Joseph G. Totten

U.S. Mil. Academy West Point

28 Augt. 1854

General.

The Academic Board was convened this morning, the earliest day it could be assembled since the reception of your letter of the 19th, to consider the suggestion of the Honble. Secy. of War in reference to their programme for a five years course.

The Board fully concur with the Secy. in his views of the mutual dependence of certain branches of the English Course & in the advantage of keeping up this connection. But they are also aware of the practical difficulties in its successful prosecution from the unprepared state in the first elements of the language, of a large number of the young men who are yearly admitted into the Academy, under the necessary present low standard of qualifications. It was to supply this great deficiency that caused the Board to place the commencement of the English studies in the first year’s course; in the belief that in the prosecution of the subsequent studies, having required some correct knowledge of the English language, the progress of the Cadets would be much advanced; & as the course is extended through the entire five years, the philosophy of the language could be more readily & beneficially taught in the last two years, either by oral lectures by the Professor as at other Colleges; or by some proper text book, that may be procured. The Cadets will by this time have finished the study of the other languages taught at the Academy (French & Spanish), have acquired some knowledge of correct writing & speaking, the Geography & History of their own country, & its relation to others; & be better prepared to understand & acquire the higher branches of the course.

The Board are confirmed in their view from their past experiences & they think a very decided advantage has already been gained both in the faculty of acquiring & in correctly expressing their ideas to the Cadets, since commencing with the English course as at present studied. For these reasons they are unanimously inclined to place the English branches as arranged in the proposed programme & to submit for the future approval of the Secy. such text books & such modifications & exclusion of the Course, as a trial of the plan may suggest.

All the papers accompanying your letter of the 19th are returned.

I am very respectfully Your obedt. Servt.Signed/ R. E. Lee Br. Col:
Supt: Mil: Acady

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, p. 131. Addressed “Genl: Jos: G. Totten Chief Engineer Washington City D.C.”