« PreviousContinue »
tion.—While the cupidity of the tax-payer is excited, the pride of men of moderate means is aroused, and their sense of independence revolts at being certified and put upon the record as indigent persons.
"The rate bill system requires every person to pay in proportion to the attendance of his children. How strong then is the inducement of many parents, to wink at absence, and truancy, and how little are they inclined to second by parental authority the efforts of the teacher to enforce punctuality and regularity of attendance. The fact that the number of children attending school less than four months, uniformly exceeds the number attending a longer time, furnishes strong evidence for believing that the rate bill system is the principal cause of the irregular attendance of scholars.
"Letters have been addressed to the Superintendent from various parts of the State, urging him to recommend to the Legislature the free school system, and assuring him that the people are ready to sustain the Legislature."
"It is urged by the opponents of the system that those who have property are taxed to educate their own, as well as the children of the poor; and that those who are blessed with property, but denied children, are also obliged to contribute something for the education of the indigent. Those who have omitted their duty, or are more fortunate than their neighbors in the possession of property have no reason to complain of the trifling burthen which good fortune imposes upon them.
"Are property holders wronged or injured by this system of taxation?
"Property is the creature of law. Its ownership is regulated by law. Even the income of some kinds of property is limited by law. Human beings are property in South Carolina; and the taxes assessed upon them, and paid out of the earnings of their labor, go to the support of free schools, while in this state there can be no property in man.
"Land is property, and in civilized countries it constitutes the bulk of all property; yet it is not property in the absence of law. What idea of property in land has a Camanche Indian, or a Calmuck Tartar? To him the land is as free for his roaming, as the air for his breathing; or the water for his drink. The wild Bedouin will guard as his own, his tent, his camel, his wife; but his laws are the keenness of his scimetar, and the fleetness of his steed.
"The security of property is one of the paramount objects of government; but how shall that security be attained? By the stern restraints and crushing force of military power?
"The experience of the last year, in Europe and America, has proven that there is greater security for persons and property, in the general mtelligence and education of the people, than in an overawing soldiery.
"Europe has been convulsed—cities have been the scenes of fearful and mortal strife—fields have been laid waste by contending armies—governments have been overthrown—revolution has followed revolution—uncertainty and insecurity are stamped upon all things—political changes have been effected only by civil war and commotion.'
"'The people of the United States have effected the choice of a Chief Magistrate, involving a change in the policy of the government. It was accomplished in a day, with the cheerful and peaceful acquiescence of the Union.
"These are the results of the intelligence and moral elevation of the American people.
"There is a moral and intellectual power in the universal education of the people which furnishes more abiding security for persons and property than disciplined armies.
Property must be taxed to support a soldiery. Why should it not then contribute to a system of protection which may preclude the necessity of armies?
"Crime and pauperism are too often the results of ignorance. The detection and punishment of the one and the support of the other, are mainly effected by the imposition of taxes upon property.
u Is it not wise, then, to establish a system of education, universal and complete, which may in a great measure, prevent the commission of cr^agie and avoid the evils of pauperism?"
On the 26th of March, 1849, the legislature passed the "Act establishing Free Schools-throughout the State." Its prominent provisions were the following:
Common schools in the several school districts in this state were declared free to all persons residing in the district over five and under twenty-one years of age. Persons not residents of a district were to be admitted into the schools kept therein with the approbation in writing of the trustees thereof, or a majority of them.
It was made the duty of the several boards of supervisors, at their annual meetings, to cause to be levied and collected from their respective counties, in the same manner as county taxes, a sum equal to the amount of state school moneys apportioned to such counties and to apportion the same among the towns and cities in the same manner as the moneys received from the State are apportioned. They were also to cause to be levied and collected from each of the towns in their respective counties, in the same manner as other town taxes, a sum equal to the amount of state school moneys apportioned to said towns respectively.
The trustees of each school district within thirty, and not less than fifteen days preceding the time for holding the annual district meeting in each year, were directed to prepare an estimate of the amount of money necessary to be raised in the district for the ensuing year, for the payment of the debts and expenses to be incurred by the district for fuel, furniture, school apparatus, repairs, and insurance of school house, contingent expenses, and teachers wages exclusive of the public money and the money required by law to be raised by the counties and towns and the income of local funds, and to cause printed or written notices thereof to be posted for two weeks previous to said meeting, upon the school house door, and in three or more of the most public places in said district. The trustees were directed to present such estimate to such meeting, and the voters present of full age residing in such school district and entitled to hold land in the state, who own or lease real property in such district, subject to taxation for school purposes, or who may have paid any district tax within two years preceding, or who own any personal property liable to be taxed for school purposes in such district, exceeding fifty dollars in value, exclusive of such as is exempt from execution, and no others, were entitled to vote thereon for each item separately, and so much of said estimate as shall be approved by a majority of such voters present, was required to be levied and raised by tax on said district, in the same manner as other district taxes are now by law levied and collected.
Whenever the voters of any district at their annual meeting refuse or neglect to raise by tax a sum of money, which added to the public money, and the money raised by county and towns will support a school in said district for at least four months in a year, keep the school house in proper repair and furnish the necessary fuel, then it was made the duty of said trustees to repair the school house, purchase the necessary fuel, and employ a teacher for four months, and the expense was directed to be levied and collected in the manner above provided.
Free and gratuitous education was to be given to each pupil, in each of the common, public, ward and district schools in the respective cities of this State, now incorporated or hereafter to be incorporated, including the schools of the public school society in the city of New York, according to any law now in force in said cities. And by each city, where such free and gratuitous education is not already established, laws and ordinances were without delay, to be passed, providing for, and securing and sustaining the system in each of their common, public, ward or district schools.
All laws and parts of laws inconsistent with the provisions of the act, other than those relating to free schools in any cities in.this state, were repealed
The electors of the State were to determine by ballot at the annual election to be held in November following, whether this act should or should not become a law.
In case a majority of the votes cast were found to be against such law, the act was to be null and void; otherwise to take effect immediately.
At the annual state election, held on the 6th of November, the whole number of votes cast for the New School Law was 249,872, and the whole number against it 91,951, being a majority in its favor of 157,921. Four counties only, viz: Tompkins, Chenango, Cortland and Otsego, giving majorities against it, amounting in the aggregate, to 1,257, while the aggregate majorities in its favor, cast in the remaining fifty-four counties was 158,181. Mr. Morgan was re-elected Secretary of state and Superintendent of Common Schools. *
The following is a statement of the votes of the several counties, showing the whole number of votes given, and the majorities in each for and against the act:
Allegany,... ,. .
Fulton and Hamilton',.
For the New
8604 3840 2584 4003 5419 4648 2799 3079 2855 5476 1316 2789 7606 8800 2633 1838 2270 2758 2935 3393 5997 8549 1961 3851 3912 7541 4222 21052 2853 8506 7940 4611 4448 2804 5474
120 6327 7258 1779 1378 1137 1504
795 1932 2685 8390
755 2060 1644 5218 3437 19739
972 4595 5938 2928 2160 1470 3124
^Including the votes given for and against the "Free School Law," and for and against the "School Law," the majority against the law in this county was 80.
"War r en
On the 10th of December, 1849, Samuel S. Randall was re-appointed Deputy Superintendent of Common Schools, in the place of Mr. Johnson, appointed Deputy Secretary.
Notwithstanding the almost unanimous vote of the electors of the state in favor of the act of 1849,it was met at the outset of its practical administration by a violent and wide spead hostility. In nearly half the counties of the state, the Board of Supervisors had adjourned their sessions, before the official annunciation of its adoption, and consequently without making provision for the additional county tax required by the second section. The heavy deficiency of funds thus occasioned wasleft to be supplied by a district tax; and the great inequality in the taxable property of the several districts was severely felt, and contributed to a very great extent, to render the practical operation of the new law, burdensome and oppressive. Many of the heaviest tax payers had no direct interest in the schools; and in general wherever they constituted a majority of the legal voters of the district, they refused all appropriations for the support of the school beyond the four months required by law. Petitions for a repeal or modification of the law, were forwarded in great numbers from every section of the state: and a very general disaffection existed towards the new system.
By an act passed on the 30th of March, the sum of $250 was appropriated, annually for three years to the Trustees of such Academies as the Regents of the University, should designate for that purpose, on condition that at least twenty individuals in such Academies should be instructed in the science of common school teaching for at least four months during each of said years.
On the first day of January, 1850, the Superintendent forwarded to the legislature his annual report, by which it appeared that the number of school districts in the state, was 11,191, the number of children between five and sixteen 139,655 and the whole number of children taught during the year 1848,118,309. The recommendation to restore the office of county Superintendent, or to create that of assembly district Superintendent, was renewedly urged uppn the legislature, together with several other important modification? of the existing law.
Several bills were brought forward in each branch of the legislature, in accordance with these recommendations, and with the object of removing the obnoxious features of the new law. Able reports were made by Mr. Beekman of New York, Chairman of the Literature Committee of the senate, and by Mr. Kingsley of Cortland from a select Committee of the assembly, to whom the various petitions for a repeal or modification of the law, were referred. Mr. Burroughs of Orleans, the Chairman of the Committee on colleges, academies and common schools, brought forward a bill, providing for the levying of a general state tax of $800,000 annually, for the support of the schools, in conjunction with the annual revenue of the school fund.
This bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 70 in the affirmative to 30 in the negative; but no action was had on it in the Senate. In that body a bill was introduced by Mr. Mann, of Oneida, referring the question of repeal of the act of 1849, to the decision of the people at the ensuing election, which passed the Senate, and received the assent of the House, after midnight of the last day of the session.
The friends of Free Schools, after the most strenuous and persevering though ineffectual efforts to obtain such amendments or modification of the law as might render its provisions generally acceptable, determined, under these circumstances, to oppose its unconditional repeal. They united, with great unanimity, in the call for a State Convention at Syracuse, which was held on the 10th day of July, the Superintendent of Common Schools, Ml\Morgan, presiding • at which, resolutions were adopted in favor of the principle of Free Schools, and recommending the friends of education generally throughout the State, to oppose the repeal of the existing law with the view of amending and perfecting its details. An animated and vigorous canvass ensued—the opponents of the law insisting npon its unconditional repeal, without regard to the principle involved, and the friends of Free Schools, while conceding to the fullest extent the objections urged against the existing lawr insisting upon its retention on the Statute book, for the sake of that principle, and pledging themselves to unite with its opponents in such amendments and modifications of the law itself, as public opinion should demand, and the best interests of education require. So obnoxious, however, were the main features of the law to the inhabitants of the several districts generally, that an aggregate majority of 46,874 was obtained, at the annual election in the fall of 1850, in forty-two of the fifty-nine counties of the State,in favor of its repeal. In the remaining seventeen counties, including the City and County of New York, the aggregate majority against repeal amounted to 71,912. The whole number of votes cast on this question (exclusive of imperfect and scattering ballots) was 393,654; of which 184,308 were given for, and 209,346 against the.repeal of the law; leaving a majority of. 25,038 against such repeal.
The following Statement of the vote in the several Counties of the State> for and againstthe Repeal of the Free School Law, is derived from the official returns to the Secretary of State's Office: