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a committee was chosen “ to receive all such sums of money as have and shall be given toward the building and maintaining of a grammar school and schoolmaster, and to disburse and dispose such sums as are given to provide a schoolhouse and schoolmaster's house," etc. They were also to receive such sums of money, parcels of land, rents, or annunities as are or shall be given toward the maintenance of a schoolmaster, and to regulate all matters pertaining to the master and the scholars. In the following years grants of land were made either by private citizens or by the town at a general town meeting, with the stipulation that the income from it should be devoted to the support of the school. The towns we have thus named were among the first in the Massachusetts colony to establish prosperous “free schools.” Many others were also active in the establishment of schools, and are therefore deserving of equal recognition for their services in the cause of education during the seventeenth century.'
An important fact connected with the history of the school at Dorchester was the appointment of a special school committee, whose members were charged with the entire oversight of the school. This committee, consisting of three men, who were termed “Wardens or overseers of the schoole," was established at the “March meeting in 1645, and is believed to have been the first school committee appointed by any municipality in this country.” The article required that they should be residents of Dorchester and hold their office for life, though the town reserved the right to displace any one of them for “weighty reasons."
“ Here was the beginning of the public management of schools by the municipality, and here is the essential beginning of the American public school system,” which “is unquestionably the most distinctively American institution which this country has produced.” “Here the example was set, which is to-day followed by all America, of the local citizens, qualified by law to vote in local affairs, selecting men to have the control and ordering of all matters pertaining to the local public schools. We have now all over this country a system of public schools, established and controlled by law and under the management of school committees or directors of the local towns or cities, city school boards, or county school boards, or officers of equivalent power, whatever their local appellation may be." At the outset our system of schools had a gradual growth, and it is yet but a few years since this great system became absolutely free. To this we have added in Massachusetts “a compulsory law to oblige all the children to attend either these or other schools."
“ Till the free text-book law went into effect, in 1895, there had always been something for the parent to pay. At first there was a 'rate bill;' then the teacher boarded round;' the wood was sometimes contributed by the parents sending the children, and in proportion to the number of children sent. Even after these customs were abolished, and all these things were paid for out of the public money, it still remained that the books were furnished only at the expense of the parent. Now, however, the schools of the Old Bay State are absolutely free, and she was the first of all the States to make them so.
At the time of creating the school “wardens" the inhabitants of Dorchester at their March meeting established "rules and orders concerning the school.” These were for the guidance of the wardens, and among them may be found the following, which would not wholly meet with public favor to-day:
In August, 1640, Newport, R. I., voted that 100 acres should be laid forth and appropriated” for the establishment of a "public school.” As appears from subsequent entries in the town records this was a “ Latin school" grammar school,” in the English sense of the term.
2 The following facts and excerpts are taken from Dr. Mowry's address at the Dorchester celebration, June 22, 1889.
“Qy. That from the begining of the first moneth vntill the end of the 71h, hee [the master) shall eury day beginn to teach at seaven of the Clock in the morning and dismisse his schollers at fyue in the afternoon. And fo' the other fyue months, that is, from the beginne of the 8th month vntill the end of the 19th month he shall eu'y day beginn at 8 of the clock in the morning, & (end) at 4 in the afternoon.
“3ly. Eu'y day in the yeere the vsuall tyme of dismissing at noone shalbe at 11, and to beginn agayne at one, except that
“ 4ly. Euły second day in the weeke he shall call his schollers togeither betweene 12 & one of the Clock to examin them what they haue learned on the saboath day p'eding, at weh tyme also he shall take notice of any misdemeanor or outrage that any of his Schollers shall haue Committed on the saboath, to the end that at some convenient tyme due Admonition and Correction may bee administered by him according as the nature and qualitie of the offence shall require, at weh sayd examination any of the Elders or other Inhabitants that please may bee present, to behold his religious care herein, and to giue there Countenance and approbation of the same.”
The fifth article very emphatically hints at that democratic principle which tolerated no caste, or class, or social distinction which should abridge the legal and political rights of any. It provided that the schoolmaster should receive “equally and impartially such as shall be presented and committed to him for that end, whether theer parents bee poore or rich, not refusing any who have right or interest in the schoole.”
The sixth is also an article of interest to us at this day:
“Such as shall be Committed to him he shall diligently instruct, as they shalbe able to learne, both in humane learning and good litterature, & likewyse in poynt of good manners and dutifull behauviour towards all, specially there supiors as they shall haue occasion to bee in there presence, whither by meeting them in the streete or otherwyse."
Among the “rules and orders” then put in operation is one requiring the wardens “from tyme to tyme to see that the schoole house be kept in good and sufficient repaire," and if necessary to "repayre to the 7 men of the towne for the tyme being, who shall have power to tax the towne with such some or sommes as shall be requested for the repayering of the schoole house as aforesayed."
Another provision was “that every year at or before the end of the 9th month there bee brought to the schoole house 12 sufficient cart or wayne loads of wood for fewell *
the cost and charge of which sayd wood to bee borne by the schollers for the tyme being who shalbe taxed for the purpose at the discretion of the sayd wardens."
The placing of the public school in the hands of three prominent citizens was certainly a wise provision, and proved in the years to come a most helpful aid to the development of our free-school system. It had in mind simply the proper nurturing of their own children, but it resulted in laying the foundations “on which future ages should build a temple at once large and grand and beautiful, for here was established the principle of representation." Horace Mann says: “As an inno vation upon all preexisting policy and usages, the establishment of free schools was the boldest ever promulgated since the commencement of the Christian era. As a theory it could have been refuted and silenced by a more formidable array of arguments and experience than was ever marshaled against any other opinion of human origin. But time has ratified its soundness. Two centuries now proclaim it to be as wise as it was courageous, as beneficent as it was disinterested. It was one of those grand mental and moral experiments whose effect can not be determined in a single generation. But now, according to the manner in which human life is computed, we are the sixth generation from its founders; and have we not reason to be grateful, both to God and man, for its numberless blessings?
The sincerity of our gratitude must be tested by our efforts to perpetuate and improve what they established. The gratitude of lips only is an unholy offering.'
The three following propositions described the broad and everenduring foundation on which the common-school system of Massachusetts reposes:
The successive generations of men, taken collectively, constitute one great Commonwealth,
The property of this Commonwealth is pledged for the education of all its youth up to such a point as will save them from poverty and vice, and prepare them for the adequate performance of their social and civil duties.
The successive holders of this property are trustees, bound to the faithful execution of their trust by the most sacred obligations; because embezzlement and pillage from children and descendants are as criminal as the same offenses when perpetrated against contemporaries.
Recognizing these eternal principles of national ethics, the constitution of Massachusetts—the fundamental law of the State-after declaring (among other things), in the preamble to the first section of the fifth chapter, that "the encouragement of arts and sciences and all good literature tends to the honor of God, the advantage of the Christian religion, and the great benefit of this and the other United States of America," proceeds in the second section of the same chapter to set forth the duties of all future legislatures and magistrates, in the following noble and impressive language:
“Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates, in all future periods of this Commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the University of Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections and generous sentiments among the people."?
EDUCATION IN PLYMOUTH COLONY, As the first settlers in New England, the people of Plymouth deserve special mention, though their struggles in reclaiming the wilderness, their sufferings from the Indians, their losses by disease and other causes prevented them for many years from making any public provision for the education of their children. In the records of Plymouth colony the first notice with reference to schools occurs under "court proceedings" of the year 1663, as follows: “It is proposed by the court unto the several townships in this jurisdiction, as a thing that they ought to take into their serious consideration, that some course may be taken, that in every town there may be a schoolmaster set up to train up children to reading and writing.”3 It would be fair, then, to assume that previous to this date there were no public schools in the colony, though as many as twelve towns had already been incorporated. A generation and more had, therefore, grown up without the advantages of public schools, though instruction was evidently given at home, in private schools, and by the parish minister. In 1607 it was enacted that in every
1 Tenth report of the secretary of the Massachusetts board of education.
4 Public opinion throughout New England "generally assigned to the ministry of religion” the duty of preparing young men for college.
town of fifty families £12 be raised by tax for the support of grammar schools. But this act, as well as that of 1663, seems to have been disregarded, for no definite action was taken to establish schools until public support was promised to them. Accordingly, in 1670, the “ general court of his majesty, holden at New Plymouth, did freely give and grant” such profits as might annually accrue to the colony from fishing at Cape Cod, etc., “to be improved for and toward a free school in some town of this jurisdiction for the training up of youth in literature for the good and benefit of posterity.” In addition to this grant by the general court, the town of Plymouth, in 1672, voted to give the profits that might arise from the improvement of a certain tract of land toward the maintenance of a school. About this time a schoolhouse was built by subscription, several of the citizens of Plymouth, “out of their good affection,” giving "of their own estate" for this purpose. In 1671, the building having been finished, the first public teacher of Plymouth, “Mr. John Morton," opened the school. His duties were stated to be: To teach the children and youth to read the Bible, to write, and to cast accounts. But it would seem that the school was not permanently maintained, for Mr. Josiah Cotton, who was born there in 1679 and gan to teach the Plymouth school in 1698, says, “I do not recollect that I ever went to any town school.”
The giving of public lands in perpetuity, the income of which should be devoted to the schools, was inaugurated at the very beginning of the free schools of Plymouth, and resulted most favorably for the cause of education. In 1705 sundry inhabitants bound themselves to pay £20 annually for seven years, with the understanding that all children that did not belong to the subscribers of the fund should pay a certain rate per week, and that the rate of those living more than a mile away should be only half that required of those living nearer. Thus it will be seen that in Plymouth colony, as in the Massachusetts, care was taken that the benefits of education should be enjoyed by all.? Barry, in his History of Massachusetts, says that “instances of neglect were exceedingly rare. Poverty prevented many from giving their children the highest advantages, but comparatively few could be found whose instruction had been wholly overlooked. A preparation for the duties of practical life was sought by the most; the ambition of some soared higher."3
EDUCATION IN CONNECTICUT.' The colonies of Connecticut and New Haven zealously emulated those of Massachusetts and Plymouth in their liberal policy in the establishment of free schools. So deep was the interest taken that, even before there was any legislative action, the ministers and magistrates were found pleading for an allowance out of the common treasury for the support of public schools, and entreating parents of all classes to send their children to them. Foremost among these early promoters of learning were the Rev. Mr. Davenport and Governor Eaton, both of the New Haven colony, whose plan contemplated: First, common town schools where all their sons might "learn to read and write and cast up accounts and make some entrance into the Latin tongue;" second, a common or colony school with a schoolmaster qualified to teach Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, “so far as shall be necessary" to prepare the youth for college; third, a town or county library; fourth, a college for the colony “for the education of the youth in good literature to fit them for public service in church and commonwealth." The effect of such an enlightened policy was most fortunate, laying, as it did thus early, the founda
1 History of Free Schools in Plymouth Colony, Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Vol. XIV, p. 80-1.
tion for the great prosperity which has since followed. Besides adopting largely the school laws of Massachusetts, it was thought best “that grammar schoolmasters should be approved by the selectmen of the town and the minister of the same or a neighboring town.”
The first school in the New Haven colony of which we have any record was opened in New Haven in 1639, and here Ezekiel Cheever, at the age of 25, began his long career as a teacher. It was not at first a free school, for the general court held at New Haven in the early part of 1611 “ordered that a free school be set up in this town.” For its maintenance the pastor and magistrates were to consider “what yearly allowance is meet to be given to it out of the common stock of the town,” and also what rules should be observed “in and about the same." The early records of New Haven are full of entries referring to moneys appropriated to teachers and to reports of committees on the subject of schools. These committees always included among their number the governor, minister, and magistratessor deputies. In 1642, seven years after the first house was built, a school was established in Hartford, in the Connecticut colony, and an appropriation of £30 was settled upon it. The master was to receive a salary of £16 a year, and those parents or guardians who were willing to send their children to school and could bear the expense should pay “i 20 shillings the year;" others should have their children instructed “at the town's charge."
In general in both colonies the mode of supporting the schools was made partly a charge on the general funds or property of the town and partly a rate bill or tuition, paid by the parents or guardians of the children attending school, “paying alike to the head.” But this did not apply to the poor, who were sent free of charge. The tax for this purpose was levied in every town with the annual State tax and payable proportionately only to those towns which should establish schools according to law. Trumbull says that for the permanent support of the schools "large tracts of land were given and appropriated by the legislature."9
The public school was one of the earliest subjects of municipal legislation, as much, for example, as the roads and bridges, the support of public worship, and protection against the Indians, these four being the principal objects of care and attention. The code of 1650, the first that was drawn up by the Connecticut colony, provided for the “family instruction of children and the maintenance of schools by towns," and was the same as that of Massachusetts. It remained on the statute books, with only slight inodifications, for more than a century and a half. The school system embraced every family and town, all classes of children and youth, and all the then recognized grades of schools. In this way the State laid the basis “not only for universal education, but for a practical and social equality which has never been surpassed in the history of any other community.''3
Governor Eaton in 1655 drew up a code of laws for the government of the New Haven colony, then numbering six plantations, in which he laid special stress upon the duty of parents and masters to educate their children and apprentices, and imposed fines in case of neglect. He also ordered, as in the Connecticut code of 1650, that as a last resort children and apprentices should be placed with others “who shall better educate and govern them,” both for their own and the public good.
i Trumbull's History of Connecticut, Vol. I, p. 303.
2 At a later date (in 1795, but not incorporated into the State constitution until 1818) the legislature of Connecticut established a permanent irreducible fund, the income of which shall be applied to the support of common or public schools. This fund was obtained by the sale of lands in New Connecticut, or the so-called Western Reserve in the northeastern part of Ohio, and the income from it, as stated in the North American Review for April, 1893, amounted in 1822 to more than $60,000. This was apportioned among the school districts according to the number of pupils in each. See Letters on the Free Schools of New England, pp. 20, 21, by J. G. Carter.
3 National Department of Education, September and October, 1867, in Education in the United States.