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Education in early New England arose from philanthropic and char. itable rather than from political motives. The idea of strengthening government was subordinate to the ideas of an enlightened church

ociety and an educated ministry. In advancing this proposition it must be remembered that the influence of religion on government was very great. This influence is observed in the laws and customs which modified the entire civic polity. Economic and political measures were never lost sight of in the founding of the colonies, but they were always blended with religious interests. Nearly all of the early schools were the direct product of religious impulse, but the government felt it no less a duty on this account to foster and assist them. The people were keenly conscious of their duty to aid education in every conceivable way, not only as individuals, but through their representatives in the General Court. The self-sacrifices of individuals and the ready responses of legislative bodies to the calls of higher education will ever remain to arrest the attention of the thoughtful in succeeding generations.

The attitude of the “State" in early times toward colleges was quite notable. While it did not assume any especial control of the institutions, and gave them at all times an independent existence, yet in a general sense it felt responsible for their establishment and maintenance. The founders of the New England Colleges entertained no such idea of a State institution for the specific support of the civil authority, independent of religious control, as was embodied in the plans of Thomas Jefferson for a school system in Virginia. Though the New England movement was religions, philanthropic, and charitable, rather than political, yet the general ends sought after were the same. Through an educated ministry, an intelligent body of worshipers, and by means of the cultured individual, the entire commuity was to receive lasting benefit. Much stress was also laid upon the education of the poor, while the untutored Indian was not omitted in the provisions for higher education.

The zeal of the people for education was manifested alike through the self-denial of individuals and the action of their representatives in the General Court. It would have been nothing remarkable for a few people about Harvard to have supported their own local institution for the sake of the welfare of their children and the prosperity of their own community. But when we consider that the outlying provinces of Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut sent to Harvard their contributions, raised by private subscription and by town taxes, then we see how great was the interest in education for its own sake.

It is worthy of note, also, that the first school established by the people in New England was a college. They aimed at the higher education first, believing that it would strengthen and support secondary education. Two objects seem to be superior to all others in the founding, of Harvard as well as Yale, (1) an educated ministry, and (2) the preparation of teachers for grammar schools. The full force of the modern school system was by no means grasped at that early day. The idea of the college as the first institution in a new country still survives. It has been the foremost school in the States of the West and South, and with it has been carried the fundamental truth of the necessity of higher education for the support of primary and secondary schools. The order of development of the modern school system has been through the college to the grammar schools, to the primary schools, and finally to the kindergarten.

The institution of town schools, supported by local taxation, was a universal practice in New England. There were different phases of this system in different provinces, but all maintaining the same general characteristics. Sometimes the local taxes were administered through the general legislative body, at others through local boards. The system of grammar schools is the prototype of the modern high schools, supported in most instances by local revenues.

The amounts granted for the support and encouragement of higher education were small, compared to the sums now granted in other parts of the United States for the same purpose. However, they were given when needed, usually at the request of the colleges, and the amounts given were of far greater value then than the same amounts would be to-day. In many instances they should be considered liberal dona. tions.

The States of New England are not as liberal to-day in proportion as the colonies were in respect to higher education. But there is not now so much need as then. Many changes have taken place. Theological schools have sprung up; colleges have developed into universities. While it still remains true that colleges are necessary for the support of the ministry, it no longer follows that it is the chief aim of all the educational institutions of New England to supply an educated minis: try. The State has sought its own work in other channels, and the theological seminary is no longer the object of its support. Private endowments are building magnificent institutions of learning. Education is universal and special: universal in representing all classes, and special in its application to the different pursuits in life.

The New England college supplied the most pressing need of the times; nevertheless, it was nothing more than a training school for young men, a boarding school without schools or professorships. It was exceedingly narrow in its object and work. But those were narrow times, though life was intense. I speak of this because New Eng. land has been struggling against the old regime, her mediæval inheritance, in attempting to enlarge and diversify the means of education.

At first all the settlements centered their efforts on a single institution. Subsequently, when thickly settled communities sprang up elsewhere, other colleges were founded for the convenience of the people or for especial religious purposes.

One thing was favorable to New England education, that is, the quick and certain execution of the law. Whatever was ordered by the legis. lative bodies was sure of execution. In more sparsely settled portions of the land, under weaker governments, this is not always the case.


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Massachusetts was the pioneer State in the establishment and maintenance of a system of public instruction by legislative enactment. Here the first action was taken by the representatives of the people for the support of general education; here the first tax was levied for the support of common schools; here the first State aid was granted for higher education; and it is to Massachusetts that the origin of the system of land grants is to be referred—a system adopted by the National Government and by so many States as to be considered wellnigh continental. The influence of this State upon the schcol laws, and educational systems and methods of other States has been very pronounced. The other New England States, especially, have as far as possible imitated her example, and followed closely in the wake of her progress, while the influence of the New England system on the Middle, Southern, and Western States has ever been recognized.


Sixteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, and only six years after the first settlement at Boston, the energetic citizens of the new colony began to provide for higher education. The General Court of the colony of Massachusetts, which met in Boston on the 8th of September, 1636, “ agreed to give four hundred pounds towards a school or college, whereof two hundred pounds to be paid the next year and two hundred pounds when the work is finished, and the next court to appoint when and what building.” 1

This seems a very small beginning for the foundation of a college,


1 Mass. Colonial Court Records, I, 183.

especially when we consider the enormous funds now expended for public education and the magnificent endowments of private institutions. But at that time there were less than four thousand people in the colony, and the per-capita tax must have been half a dollar, a rate which at the present day would yield in the State of Massachusetts the enormous sum of over one million dollars. It must also be considered in estimating the value of donations and grants to education at this early period that “These sums in reality represent values ten or even fifty fold greater than the same amounts would to-day.”

But the Legislature, or General Court as it was called, did not stop here, but granted in 1640 the ferry between Boston and Charlestown for the support of the college, and ordered an annual rate of one hundred pounds for the same purpose. A committee was appointed by the court to proceed with the erection of buildings, and Mr. Eaton was appointed to take charge of the institution and superintend the erection of the first building. The court also granted five hundred acres of land to Mr. Eaton for his support, provided that he would devote his life to the college work. Subsequently Mr. Eaton was accused of tyrannizing over his students; he was tried, and dismissed, and his successor was appointed.


“ Thus," says Prof. C. K. Adams, 4 " we find the Legislature exercising supreme authority in six different acts : (1) In making a special grant for a college ; (2) in laying an annual tax for its support; (3) in determining where the college should be located; (4) in appointing a committee for the erection of buildings; (5) in appointing an officer to the general charge of the institution and providing for his support at the expense of the State, and finally (6) in putting the officer so appointed on trial, removing him, and appointing his successor.” But this was not a State institution in the fullest sense, according to the modern usage of the term, for private benevolence was constantly solicited and as constantly given for its support.

While the State controlled it and assisted it constantly in its days of feebleness, the permanent endowments came largely from private sources. The first private gift was made by John Harvard, after whom the college was named (1639), who in 1638 gave his library and half of his estate. There is a discrepancy in the statement of authors concerning the amount of the donation. It is generally stated to be eight hundred pounds. According to the records the amount was £779 178. 2d., from which only £395 3s. were realized. The sacrifices of individ

George Gary Bush : Harvard the first American university, 116.
2 Court Records, 1, 304.
3 Ibid., II, 231.
4 New Eug., XXXVII, 71.
5 Quincy: History of Ilarvard University, I, 460-62.

uals constantly went hand in hand with the generosity and patronage of the State, and upon this basis the first schools of Massachusetts were built. Individuals who could not give even a small subscription in ready money contributed to the support of the college by farm produce or by bousehold articles and books. Among other donations are mentioned a great silver salt; " "a silver beer-bowl;” “one fruit-dish, one silver sugar spoon, and one silver-tipped jug;” “a silver tankard;" "a pewter flagon;" “ corn and meat;" “thirty ewe sheep and their lambs;" "- lumber;" “horses," etc.

These small beginnings rapidly increased in amount until private donations far exceeded in amount the aid of the State. But the function of the State that seems ever since to have been exercised in the United States is that of fostering and protecting education and encouraging and stimulating private benevolence in this direction. The Legislature took tbe initiative in founding the college, gave by right in perpetui the Boston Ferry for its support, and came to its timely assistance whenever there was need, at the same time encouraging and protecting to the fullest extent private benevolence toward the institution.

In 1640 an act of the Legislature established a board of overseers of Harvard College, and made provision for control and management as follows:

“It is, therefore, ordered by this Court, and the authority thereof, that the Governor and Deputy Governor for the time being and all the magistrates of this jurisdiction together with the teaching elders of the six next adjoining towns; viz: Cambridge, Watertown, Charlestown, Boston, Roxbury, and Dorchester, and the president of the said college for the time being shall from time to time have full power to make and establish all such orders, statutes, and constitutions as they shall see necessary for the institution, guiding, and furthering of the said college and the several members thereof from time to time, in piety, morality, and learning; and also to dispose, order, and manage to the use and behoof of the said college and the members thereof, all gifts, legacies, bequeaths, revenues, lands, and donations as either have been, are, or shall be conferred, bestowed, or any ways shall fall or come to the said college."

During the first six years, before the creation of the board of overseers, the General Court controlled the college by direct enactments; afterward its internal working was given over to the control of the over

It was not until 16503 that a charter was granted and the govern. ing body assumed corporate form. But the corporate body was subordinate to the overseers appointed by the Legislature. The appendix to the charter in 1657 gave the corporation independent action. “Provided, always, that the corporation shall be responsible unto, and those



3 Ibid., III, 195.

Report of the Board of Education, XL, 49. 2 Court Records, I.

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