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5,763 common schools, organized according to law, and that in 5,118 of these schools, from which only particular district returns had been received, there had been taught during the year, in the various branches of elementary education, 271,877 children. The number of children between the ages of five and fifteen years, residing in the districts from which returns had been received, was 302,703, making the number of children taught equal to nine-tenths of the whole number between the ages of five and fifteen.
On the 21st of February, 1821, Mr. Hawley transmitted to the Legislature his eighth and last annual report as Superintendent; from which it appeared that in 545 towns from which returns had been received, there were 6,323 school districts organized according to law, from 5,489 of which particular district reports had been made, showing that of 317,633 children between the ages of five and fifteen years, residing in those districts, 304,549 had been under instruction durmg portions of the year in the common schools. "The proportion," observes the Superintendent, "which, from the present returns, the number of children taught bears to the number between the ages of five and fifteen years is much greater than at any former period. In about one half of the towns in the state, the number taught exceeds the number between the ages of five and fifteen years; and taking the whole state together, the number taught is more than nineteen-twentieths of the number between these ages.
"The average length of time for which schools have been kept for the last year, has also increased in about the same ratio as the number of children taught. There is now, therefore, reason to believe that the number of children in the state who do not attend any school, and who are not otherwise in the way of receiving a common education, is very small. The public bounty is sufficient to defray the expense of most schools for about three months in the year; and where that is expended in different parts of the year, so as not to defray the whole expense of the school for anyparticular part, it is understood that in most districts poor children have been permitted to attend the district school free of expense, under that provision in the school act which empowers districts to exonerate those children from the payment of teachers' wages. The readiness with which such permission has been generally granted, wherever it has been deserved, is very creditable to the public spirit and liberality of the inhabitants of school districts, and it is considered proper on this occasion, to bring the fact to the notice of the legislature. From these circumstances, in connection with the friendly disposition every where manifested in the cause of education, it is considered warrantable to infer, that of the rising generation m this state, very few individuals will arrive to maturity without the enjoyment and protection of a common education."
To no individual in the state, are the friends of common school education more deeply indebted for the impetus given to the cause of elementary instruction in its infancy, than to Gideon Hawley. At a period when every thing depended upon organization; upon supervision; upon practical acquaintance^with the most minute details; and upon a patient, persevering, laborious process of exposition, Mr. Hawley united in himself all the requisites for the efficient discharge of the high functions devolved upon him by the legislature. From a state of anarchy and confusion, and complete disorganization, within a period of less than eight years, arose a beautiful and stately fabric, based upon the most impregnable foundations, sustained by an enlightened public sentiment, fortified by the best and most enduring affections of the people, and cherished as the safeguard of the state —the true palladium of its greatness and prosperity. Within this brief period the number of school districts had more than doubled, and the proportion of children annually participating in the blessing of elementary instruction, increased from four-fifths to twenty-four twenty-fifths of the whole number residing in the state of a suitable age to attend the public schools. When we take into view the disadvantages under which every new and tintried system must, of necessity, labor, before it can be commended to general adoption, and consider the immense variety of interests which were, to a greater or less extent, affected by the stringent provisions of the act of 1812, and its subsequent amendments, we cannot fail of being surprised at the magnitude of the results which developed themselves under the administration of Mr. Hawley. The foundations of a permanent and noble system of popular education were strongly and securely laid by him, and we are now witnessing the magnificent superstructure, which, in the progress of a quarter of a century, has been gradually upbuilt on these foundations. "welcome Esleeck, of the city of Albany, was named as his successor in office, but the legislature saw fit to abolish the office as a separate department of the government, and to devolve its duties upon the secretary of
Administration of John Van Ness Yates, Secretary of State and Superintendent ex officio of common Schools, 1821 to 1826.
By the Constitution of 1821, the proceeds of all lands thereafter to be sold, belongmg to the state, with the exception of such as might be reserved for public use or ceded to the United States, together with the existing school fund, were declared to constitute "a perpetual fund, the interest of which shall be invioably appropriated and applied to the support of common schools throughout this state."
In his speech at the opening of the legislature, at its session of 1822, the governor (De Witt Clinton) refers to the condition of the system of public latruction, in the following terms:
"The excellent direction which has been given to the public bounty, in appropriations for common schools, academies and colleges, is very perceptible in the multiplication of our seminaries of education, in the increase of the number of students, and in the acquisition of able and skilful teachers. The Lancasterian or monitorial system is making its way in the community, by the force of its transcendant merits. Our common schools have flourished beyond all former example." * * ■ * * "■ *■ * * "I am happy to have it in my power to say that this state has always evinced a liberal spirit in the promotion of education; and I ampei'suaded that no considerations short of total inability will ever prevent similar demonstrations. The--first, duty of a state is to .fender its' citizens virtuous, by intellectual instruction and moral discipline, by enlightening their minds, purifying their hearts, and teaching them their rights and their obligations. Those solid and enduring honors which arise from the cultivation of science, and the acquisition and diffusion of knowledge, will outlive the renown of the statesman and the glory of the warrior; and if any stimulus were wanting in a case so worthy of all our attention and patronage, we may find it in the example before our eyes of the author of the Declaration of Independence, who has devoted the evening of his illustrious life to the establishment of an university in his native state."
In connection with this subject the governor also transmitted the proceedings of the legislatures of the several states, relative to the appropriation of a portion of the national domain to the purposes of education; by which it appeared that in eleven of the new states and territories, the general government had appropriated one thirty-sixth part of the public land for common schools, and one fifth part of that thirty-sixth part for colleges and academies; and while it was admitted that this disposition was in all respects proper and laudable, it was contended that the other members of the confederacy were entitled to a correspondent benefit out of the same common fund. "This claim," observes his Excellency, "appears to be sustained by the most conclusive reasoning; and it is believed to be impossible for congress to resist an application so just and beneficial. If, however, this measure were calculated to embarrass the financial arrangements of the national government, to make a serious inroad on the national domain, or to disparage the interests of the states which have already been benefitted, I should be entirely unwilling to press it. Whatever ratio of distribution may be adopted, the quantum of population, or the extent of territory of each state, the deduction from the landed estate of the empire, would be so stiaall 'as scarcely to.be felt. In either case it would not exceed ten millions out of five hundred millions of acres owned by the United States. It is our duty to co-operate in obtaining justice for our sister states as well as for ourselves. If we were willing to waive the benefit which might be derived from the success of this application, it would furnish no just ground of hostility to the claim in general; and indeed in such case it would entirely correspond with the dictates of magnanimity, to advocate it with all our might and influence. This state, on the basis of appropriation originally adopted, would be entitled to 800,000 acres for our common schools, land 160,600 for our colleges and academies; which, with proper management, and in connection with existing funds, would answer all the requisitions of education."
By the annual report of the acting Superintendent of Common Schools (john Van Ness. Yates, Esq., Secretary of State) it appears that the total number of school districts in the state was 6,865, from 5,882 of which reports in accordance with law had been received; that the total number of children between the ages of five and sixteen years residing in the several districts, was 380,000; and thestotal number of children of allages taught in the common schools during the year reported, was 342,479; and that the average number of months during which the schools were kept open in the several districts was eight. Several amendments in the details of the system were suggested, most of which were adopted by the legislature; including, for the first time, the provision investmg the Superintendent with appellate jurisdiction over all controversies arismg under the school laws, and declaring his decision thereon final. In pursuance of a provision contained in this act, the act of 1819, with all the subsequent amendments, was republished by the Superintendent, accompanied by an exposition of its various provisions, and an abstract of the decisions which had been pronounced, during the period which had elapsed since the adoption of the appellate system.
On the 3d of February, 1823, Mr. Yates transmitted to the legislature his second annual report as Superintendent of Common Schools; from which it appeared that returns had been received during the preceding year from all the counties in the State, fifty-two in number, comprising 649 towns and wards; that the whole number of school districts in the state exceeded 8,000; from 6,255 of which, only, reports in accordance with law had been received, in which the number of children between the ages of five and fifteen was about 357,000; that for the term of eight months during the year reported, 351,173 children were receiving a common school education in the several districts from which reports had been received— being 18,194 more than were educated the preceding year. The Superintendent adds: "Even in Connecticut, which possesses a larger school fund than we do, and where the school system was established and in successful operation long before it was here introduced, the number of children educated in common schools is far less in proportion to its population than it is in this state." He complains of the "want of uniformity in the course of studies pursued, and the books and treatises now used in common schools. A great diversity of opinion has long existed and still continues to exist as to the proper books to be introduced into these schools; and teachers and parents are not unfrequently at a loss to select among the great variety of treatises on education recommended by their authors, the most suitable and best adapted for the use of the student. Whether this evil could be remedied by directing some judicious and appropriate work to be prepared in the nature of a ' Common School Instructor,' and to be recommended to the public under the immediate sanction and approbation of the legislature, is respectfully submitted."
The annual appropriation from the funds of the state, at this period, for the benefit of common schools, was fixed by the act of 1819, at 180,000.— These,funds, consisted of the loan of 1792, then amounting to $500,000; of that of 1808, amounting to $449,000; of stock in the Merchant's Bank of the city of New York, the par value of which amounted to $180,000, and on which annual dividends of nine per cent, were regularly made; of one half the quit-rents, estimated at $100,000; and the fees of the supreme court, then producing an annual income of about $7,000. The revenues arising from these several sources were estimated at $80,000 per annum, a^t least. But in consequence of a reduction of the fees of the supreme court, and a diversion of those fees from the school fund—together with a commutation for quit-rents, and a temporary suspension of dividends by the Merchant's Bank, growing out of frauds to a large amount which had been practised on that institution—an annual deficiency, varying from $13,000 to $7,000, had occurred during the preceding four years, which the legislature, considering the faith of the State pledged to keep up the appropriation directed by the act of 1819, had supplied by special grants from the general funds. A continuance of this deficiency bemg probable, the governor (joseph C. Yates) had recommended, in his annual message at the commencement of the session of 18.23, "the, sale of the whole or a part of the public lands appropriated to the school fund, for the purpose of raising a productive capital, yielding an interest sufficient to make good the annual deficiency in the school revenue."
On the 7th of January, 1824, the acting Superintendent, Mr. Yates, transmitted his third annual report to the legislature, from which the following results were shown:
1. That all the counties, fifty-four in number, and all the towns and wards, being 684 in number, had, with the exception of twenty-seven towns presented their reports for the preceding year.
2. That there were in the state 7,382 school districts, from 6,705 of which reports had been received in accordance with law:
3. That 331 new school districts had been organized during the year.
4. That upwards of 377,000 children had been instructed in the districts from which reports had been received, for an average period of eight months during the preceding year; and 23,500 more were estimated to have been under instruction during the same period in the non-reporting districts, making a grand total of upwards of 400,500 children thus under instruction in all the common schools of the state, exceeding by nearly 26,000 the number under instruction during the preceding year:
5. That the whole number of children between the ages of five and fifteen years, residing in the several districts from which reports were received, was about 373,000:
6. That the sum of $182,802.25 of public money had been expended during the year reported, in the payment of the wages of duly qualified teachers;' and it was estimated by the Superintendent that in addition to this amount more than $850,000, from the private funds of individuals, were appropriated in like manner during the same period; making a grand total of upwards of One Million of dollars. "These facts," observes the Superintendent, "require no comment. They demonstrate the signal success which has attended the exertions made from time to time by the legislature to disseminate useful knowledge among every class of the community; and it must also be gratifying to perceive that our sister states, animated with a like zeal for ameliorating the condition of society, are introducing and supporting among them institutions similar to our own." Among other recommendations and suggestions, the Superintendent recommends the establishment of schools in cities and villages exclusively for the benefit of colored children. He also suggests the consolidation and revision of the several acts relating to common schools, and concludes as follows:
"The funds provided and secured by the Constitution for the support of common schools have become only in part productive, as will be seen from the operations of the treasury department for the past year. By far the largest portion of those funds is still inactive, and must continue so, until ad? yantageous sales can be made of nearly a million of acres of land, appropriated to the use of common schools. It is not extravagant to predict that when that period shall arrive, the anticipations of the patriot and philanthropist with regard to the still more extensive operation of our school system, and its favorable effects upon the condition of society, will be fully realized. Indeed, what has education not already effected! It has given man dominion, not only over the elements, but it has enlarged his capacity and faculties beyond the sphere in which he moves. It has shown him that intellectual wealth is national wealth, and that it lies at the foundation of all that is useful in the arts; that its influence extends to the narrower path of private virtue and daily duty; and that while it strengthens the tie between parent and child, husband and wife, citizen and citizen, it secures from the rude and withering hand of oppression, and from the iron grasp of despotism, those valuable institutions of government, which it is no less the pride than it is the duty of freemen to maintain pure and inviolate. Common schools, supported by law and open alike to the poor and to the rich, (as they emphatically are in this State,) together with the higher seminaries of learning, are those monuments which render the glory of a nation imperishable; and while this state is engaged in the great works of canals and other internal improvements, she shows the boundless extent of her resources and the energies of her character, by supporting at the same time, upon a basis equally broad and enduring, a plan of education unequalled in its operations and effect, by that of any other country in the civilized world."
On the 12th of January, 1825, Mr. Yates transmitted to the legislature his fourth annual report, from which it appeared that the number of children taught, for an average period of nine months, in the common schools during the preceding year, was 402,940; being nearly 26,000 more than the number taught in 1823. The number of school districts was 7,642 from 6,936 of which reports had been received. The aggregate amount of public money received and expended in the payment of teacher's wages in the reporting districts, during the year, was $182,741.61.
In August of the preceding year, the Superintendent had issued a circular recommending school celebrations in the several towns of the state, from which the following are extracts: "The object in view is extremely important, for it is addressed as well to the affections of the parent as the feelings and interests of the citizen. The happiness of society and the freedom of our country mainly depend upon the general diffusion of knowledge, and it is our duty to devise the best means for attaining and securing that very desirable end. In a few years, the children that now sit upon our knees, or play around the room, will fill our places and become the future legislators, magistrates and judges of our country, while we are silently descending to the tomb. How consoling then the reflection will be, that those objects of our affection are about to realize our fondest hopes and do honor to our memories? Even now, when we hear recounted the sage deliberations of the statesman, or the gallant achievements of the warrior, or the brilliant and still more useful attainments of the scholar, or the sacred and impressive eloquence of the divine, or the profound arguments of the lawyer, or the useful inventions and experiments of the philosopher, farmer and mechanic, do not our bosoms burn with admiration, and do not the eyes and hearts of each of us exclaim, 'Would that he were my son?'
:" If then, these are the delightful emotions excited in us from the mere relation of the grand effects which knowledge and virtue produce, can we refuse yielding our best exertions to realize them in the persons of our children? The means, under Providence, are fully within our power, and painful will be our reflections, if we neglect them.
"The plan suggested for the improvement of our common schools, by instituting celebrations, promises, I am convinced, far more beneficial and important consequences than any other hitherto devised. The experiment is neither doubtful nor difficult; and its benefits are certain, and their extent beyond calculation. Indeed when, we see the flourishing condition of