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the end in view. In order to promote so laudable an object, the Legislature of 1803, by an act passed on the 6th of April. directed the Comptroller to invest in good real estate, all such sums of money as had been, or should thereafter be received from the proceeds of each lottery, for the term of two years.
In 1802, the Governor (Geo. CLINTON,) again called the attention of the Legislature to the subject of Common Schools. He observes, “The system of Common Schools having been discontinued, and the advantage to morals, religion, liberty and good government, arising from the general diffusion of knowledge being universally admitted, permit me to recommend this subject to your deliberate attention. The failure of one experiment for the attainment of an important object, ought not to dişcourage other attempts." No legislative action however, in reference to the subject, was had during the session of that year.
* In 1803, Gov. Clinton renewed his recommendation in the following energetic terms: “The establishment of common schools has, at different times, engag. ed the attention of the Legislature; but although its importance is generally acknowledged, a diversity of sentiment respecting the best means, has hitherto prevented the accomplishment of the object. The diffusion of knowledge is so essential to the promotion of virtue and the preservation of liberty, as to render arguments unnecessary to excite you to a perseverance in this laudable pursuit
. Permit me only to observe, that education, by correcting the morals and improving the manners, tends to prevent those evils in society which are beyond the sphere of legislation."
On the 21st of February of that year, Mr. Peck, of Otsego, from the joint committee of both houses on this portion of the governor's speech, reported a bill authorizing the several towns to organize their schools, and to raise money to support the same. No definite action, however, took place upon it during the session of that year.
In 1804, the governor again called the attention of the legislature to the subject. On the 3d of March, in that year, Mr. Peck, from the committee on that portion of the speech, again made a favorable report, accompanied by a bill, which, however, shared the fate of its predecessor.
At the extra session of the legislature, in November, 1804, Gov. LEWIS
"I cannot conclude, gentlemen, withoxe following language: which my worthy and highly respected predecessor in office had much at heart, and frequently, I believe, presented to your view the encouragement of literature. In a government, resting on public opinion, and deriving its chief support from the affections of the people, religion and morality cannot be too sedulously inculcated. To them, science is an handmaid ; ignorance, the
worst of enemies. Literary information should then be placed within the reach of every description of citizens, and poverty should not be permitted to obstruct the path to the fane of knowledge. Common schools, under the guidance of respectable teachers, should be established in every village, and the indigent be educated at the public expense. The higher seminaries also, should receive every patronage and support within the means of enlightened legislators. Learning would thus flourish, and vice be more effectually restrained than by volumes of penal
On the 4th of February, 1805, Gov. Lewis transmitted a special message to the legislature in reference to this subject, in which he recommended the application of all the state lands for the benefit of colleges and schools; the whole fund and entire management of the system to be confided to the Regents of the University, under such regulations as the legislature might prescribe; the Regents to have the power of appointing three trustees for each district; who should be authorized to locate the sites for school houses, and to eréct such houses wherever necessary, employ teachers, apply the funds of the district, and levy taxes on the inhabitants, for such further sums as might be required for the support of the school and the education of indigent children. None of these suggestions, however, with the exception of the first, seem to have met with any favor at the hands of the legislature.
On the 2d of April, the legislature passed an act providing that the nett proceeds of 500,000 acres of the vacant and unappropriated lands of the people of this state, which should be first thereafter sold by the surveyor-general, should be appropriated as a permanent fund for the support of common schools; the avails to be safely invested until the interest should amount to $50,000; when an annual distribution of that amount should be made to the several school districts. This act laid the foundation of the present fund for the support of common schools.
By the act to incorporate the Merchants’ Bank in the city of New-York, passed the same year, the state reserved the right to subscribe for three thousand shares of the capital stock of that institution, which, together with the accruing interest and dividends, were appropriated as a fund for the support of common schools, to be applied in such manner as the legislature should from time to time direct.
By acts passed March 13, 1807, and April 8, 1808, the comptroller was authorized to invest such moneys, together with the funds arising from the proceeds of the lotteries authorized by the act of 1803 in the purchase of additional stock of the Merchants' Bank, and to loan the residue of the fund.
No determinate action on the part of the legislature, in reference to the establishment of a system of common schools, was had during the years, 1806–7–8–9 or 10. At the opening of the session in the latter year, Gov. TOMPKINS thus alludes to the subject.
“ I cannot omit this occasion of inviting your attention to the means of instruction for the rising generation. To enable them to perceive and duly to estimate their rights, to inculcate correct principles and habits of morality and religion, and to render them useful citizens, a competent provision for their education is all-essential
. The fund appropriated for common schools already produces an income of about $26,000 annually, and is daily becoming more productive. It rests with the legislature to determine whether the resources of the state will justify a further augmentation of that appropriation, as well as to adopt such plan for its application and distribution, as shall appear best calculated to promote the important object for which it was originally designed.”
On the 28th of February, of that year, the comptroller, in obedience to a resolution of the legislature, calling upon him for information as to the condition of the school fund, reported that the amount of receipts into the treasury up to that period, of moneys belonging to the fund, was. $151,115.69, of which $29,100 had been invested in the capital stock of the Merchants' Bank, $114,600 loaned in pursuance of law, and the residue remained in the treasury.
In 1811, Gov. Tompkins again called the attention of the legislature to this subject; and a law was passed, authorizing the appointment by the governor, of five commissioners, to report a system for the organization and establishment of common schools. The commissioners appointed
under this act were Jedediah Peck, John Murray, Jr., Samuel Russell, Roger Skinner, and Samuel Macomb. On the 14th of February, 1812, they submitted a report, accompanied by the draft of a bill, comprising substantially the
main features of our common school system, as it existed up to the year 1838. In the bill, as it originally passed, the electors of each town were authorized to determine at their annual town meeting, whether they would accept their shares of the money apportioned by the state, and direct the raising of an equal amount on their taxable property. So embarrassing, however, was the practical operation of this feature of the system, that on the recommendation of the superintendent, Gideon Hawley, Esq., it was stricken out; and each county required to raise by tax an amount equal to that apportioned by the state. The following are extracts from the report of the commissioners:
Perhaps there never will be presented to the legislature a subject of more importance than the establishment of common schools
. Education, as the means of improving the moral and intellectual faculties, is, under all circumstances, a subject of the most imposing consideration. To rescue man from that state of degradation to which he is doomed, unless redeemed by education; to unfold his physical, intellectual, and moral powers; and to fit him for those high destinies which his Creator has prepared for him, cannot fail to excite the most ardent sensibility of the philosopher and philanthropist. A comparison of the savage that roams through the forest, with the enlightened inhabitant of a civilized country, would be a brief but impressive representation of the momentous importance of education.
“ It were an easy task for the commissioners to show, that in proportion as every country has been enlightened by education, so has been its prosperity. Where the heads and hearts of men are generally cultivated and improved, virtue and wisdom must reign, and vice and ignorance must cease to prevail
. Virtue andqwisdom are the parents of private and public félicity: vice and ignorance, of private and public misery.
“If education be the cause of the advancement of other nations, it must beapparent to the most superficial observer of our peculiar political institutions, that it is essential, not to our prosperity only, but to the very existence of our government. Whatever may be the effect of education on a despotic or monarchical government, it is not absolutely indispensable to the existence of either. In a despotic government, the people have no agency whatever, either in the fore mation or in the execution of the laws. They are the mere slaves of arbitrary authority, holding their lives and property at the pleasure of uncontrolled caprice. As the will of the ruler is the supreme law; fear, slavish fear, on the part of the governed, is the principle of despotism. It will be perceived readily, that ignorance on the part of the people can present no barrier to the administration of such a government; and much less can it endanger its existence. În a monarchical government, the operation of fixed laws is intended to supersede the necessity of intelligence in the people. But in a government like ours, where the people is the sovereign power; where the will of the people is the law of the land; which will is openly and directly expressed ; and where every act. of the government may justly be called the act of the people ; it is absolutely essential that that people be enlightened. They must possess both intelligence and virtue : intelligence to perceive what is right, and virtue to do what is right. Our republic, therefore, may justly be said to be founded on the intelligence and virtue of the people. For this reason, it is with much propriety that the enlightened Montesquieu has said, 'in a republic the whole force of education is required!
“The commissioners think it necessary to represent in a stronger point of view, the importance and absolute necessity of education, as connected either with the cause of religion and morality, or with the prosperity and existence of our political institutions. As the people must receive the advantages of education, the inquiry naturally arises, how this end is to be attained. The expedient devised by the legislature, is the establisment of common schools; which being spread throughout the state and aided by its bounty, will bring improvement within the reach and power of the humblest citizen. This appears to be the best plan that can be devised to disseminate religion, morality, and learning throughout a whole country. All other methods, heretofore adopted, are partial in their operation and circumscribed in their effects. Academies and universities, understood in contradistinction to common schools, cannot be considered as operating impartially and indiscriminately, as regards the country at large. The advantages of the first are confined to the particular districts in which they are established; and the second, from causes apparent to every one, are devoted almost exclusively to the rich. In a free government, where political equality is established, and where the road to preferment is open to all, there is a natural stimulus to education ; and accordingly we find it generally resorted to, unless some great local impediments interfere. In populous cities, and the parts of the contry thickly settled, schools are generally established by individual exertion. In these cases, the means of education are facilitated, as the expenses of schools are divided among a great many. It is in the remote and thinly populated parts of the state, where the inhabitants are scattered over a large extent, that education stands greatly in need of encouragement. The people here, living far from each other, makes it difficult so to establishi schools, as to render them convenient. or accessible to all
. Every family, therefore, must either educate its own chil. dren, or the children must forego the advantages of education.
“These inconveniences can be remedied best by the establishment of common schools, under the direction and patronage of the state. In these schools should be taught, at least, those branches of education which are indispensably
every person in his intercourse with the world, and to the performance of his duty as a useful citizen. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and the principles of morality, are essential to every person, however humble his situation in life. Without the first, it is impossible to receive those lessons of morality, which are inculcated in the writings of the learned and pious; nor is it possible to become acquainted with our political constitutions and laws; nor to decide those great political questions, which ultimately are referred to the intelligence of the people. Writing and arithmetic are indispensable in the management of one's private affairs, and to facilitate one's commerce with the world. Morality and religion are the foundation of all that is truly great and good, and are consequently of primary importance. A person provided with these acquisitions, is enabled to pass through the world respectably and successfully. If, however, it be his intention to become acquainted with the higher branches of science, the academies and universities established in different parts of the state are open to him. In this manner, education in all its stages is offered to the citizens generally
" In devising a plan for the organization and establishment of common schools, the commissioners have proceeded with great care and deliberation. To frame a system which must directly affect every citizen in the state, and so to regulate it, as that it shall obviate individual and local discontent, and yet be generally beneficial, is a task, at once perplexing and arduous. To avoid the imputation of local partiality, and to devise a plan, operating with equal mildness and advantage, has been the object of the commissioners. To effect this end, they have consulted the experience, of others, and resorted to every probable source of intelligence. From neighboring states, where common school systems are established by law, they have derived much important information. This information is doubly valuable, as it is the result of long and actual experience. The commissioners by closely examining the rise and progress of those systems, have been able to obviate many imperfections otherwise inseparable from the novelty of the establishment, and to discover the means by which they have gradually risen to their present condition.
“ The outlines of the plan suggested by the Commissioners are briefly these : that the several towns in the State be divided into school districts, by three commissioners, elected by the citizens qualified to vote for town officers : that three trustees be elected in each district, to whom shall be confided the care and superintendence of the school to be established therein : that the interest of the school fund be divided among the different counties and towns, according to their respective population, as ascertained by the successive census of the United States : that the proportions received by the respective towns be subdivided among the districts into which such towns shall be divided, according to the number of children in each, between the ages of five and fifteen years : that each town raise by tax annually, as much money as it shall have received from the school fund: that the gross amount of moneys received from the State and raised by the towns, be appropriated exclusively to the payment of the wages
of the teachers : and that the whole system be placed under the superintendence of an officer appointed by the Council of Appointment.
“Let us suppose that the school fund were arrived at that point where by law it is to be divided. There will then be $50,000 of the public money to be distributed among the schools ; and, as by the contemplated plan a sum is to be raised annually by tax, equal to the interest of the school fund, the gross amount of moneys which the schools will receive will be $100,000. There are in this State forty-five counties, comprising, exclusively of the cities, four hundred and forty-nine towns. It will be very evident, therefore, that the proportion of each town must be necessarily small. Aș, however, the school districts are authorized to raise by tax a sum sufficient to purchase a lot, on which the school
house is to be built, to build the school house and keep the same in repair, and as the school moneys are devoted exclusively to the payment of the teachers
' wages, the sum, however small, which each district will be entitled to, will be from these considerations so much the more efficacious. It will, however, be evident to the Legislature, that the funds appropriated from the State for the support of the common school system, will, alone, be very inadequate. And the commissioners are of opinion that the fund, in any stage of it, even when the residue of the unsold lands shall be converted into money, bearing an interest, never will be, alone, adequate to the maintenance of common schools ; as the increase of the population will probably be in as great if not a greater ratio than that of the fund. But it is hardly to be imagined that the Legislature intended that the State should support the whole expense of so great an establishment. The object of the Legislature, as understood by the commissioners, was to rouse the public attention to the important subject of education, and by adopting a system of common schools, in the expense of which the State would largely participate, to bring instruction within the reach and means of the humblest citizen. "And the commissioners have kept in view the furtherance of this object of the Legislature; for by requiring each district to raise by tax a sum sufficient to build and repair a school house, and by allotting the school moneys solely to the payment of the teachers' wages, they have in a measure supplied two of the most important sources of expense. Thus every inducement will be held out to the instruction of youth.”
“ The Legislature will perceive in the system contained in the bills submitted to their consideration, that the commissioners are deeply impressed with the importance of admitting, under the contemplated plan, such teachers only as are duly qualified. The respectability of every school must necessarily depend on the character of the master. To entitle a teacher to assume the control of a school, he should be endowed with the requisite literary qualifications, not only, but with an unimpeachable character. He should also be a man of patient and mild temperament. A preceptor,' says Rousseau, is invested with the rights, and takes upon himself the obligations of both father and mother. And Quintillion tells us, that to the requisite literary and moral endowments, he must add the benevolent disposition of a parent.
“When we consider the tender age at which children are sent to school; the length of the time they pass under the direction af the teachers; when we consider that their little minds are to be diverted from their natural propensities to the artificial acquisition of knowledge; that they are to be prepared for the reception of great moral and religious truths to be inspired with a love of virtue and a detestation of vice; we shall forcibly perceive the absolute necessity of suitable qualifications on the part of the master. As an impediment to bad men getting into the schools, as teachers, it is made the duty of the town inspectors strictly to inquire into the moral and literary qualifications of those who may be candidates for the place of teacher. And it is hoped that this precaution, aided by that desire' which generally prevails, of employing good men only, will render it unnecessary to resort to any other measure.
"The commissioners, at the same time that they feel impressed with the importance of employing teachers of the character above described, cannot refrain from expressing their solicitude, as to the introduction of proper books into the contemplated schools. This is a subject so intimately connected with a good education, that it merits the serious consideration of all who are concerned in the establishment and management of schools. Much good is to be derived from a judicious selection of books, calculated to enlighten the understanding, not only, but to improve the heart. And as it is of incalculable consequence to guard the young and tender mind from receiving fallacious impressions, the commissioners cannot omit mentioning this subject as a part of the weighty trụst reposed in them. Connected with the introduction of suitable books, the commissioners take the liberty of suggesting that some observations and advice touching the reading of the BIBLE in the schools might be salutary. In order to render the sacred volume productive of the greatest advantage, it