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A historical sketch of the origin and progress of the system from his inception to the present period, accompanied by a brief exposi. tion of its present condition, has been annexed to the work, with the design of rendering it more acceptable as well to our own citi. zens as to those of other portions of the Union, who may feel an interest in tracing the gradual advancement of our legislation on this important subject, and in ascertaining the prominent features of our system, as moulded by the successive improvements consequent upon an experience of nearly forty years.
The importance of an uniform and enlightened administration of a system embracing so great a variety of interests and forming so material an ingredient in the intellectual, moral, and social civilization of the community, has not been one of the least among the considerations which have led to the publication of this work: and if through its means any facilities shall have been afforded for the accomplishment of this desirable result, the time and pains spent in its preparation will not have been regretted. That it is free from imperfections and errors it would be presumptuous to assert; but in commending it to those for whose use it is specially designed, and to the friends of popular education generally, the compiler can accompany it with the assurance that no efforts on his part bave been spared to render it worthy of their attention and regard
ALBANY, May, 1844.
Albany, May 3, 1844. Having examined the following “Digest of the Common School System of the State of New York," I take pleasure in saying that it is a full and correct exposition of that system ; and entitled to the confidence of officers and inhabitants of school districts, Town and County Superintendents of common schools, and others interested in the cause of popular education.
S. YOUNG, Sup't of Common Schools.
4. Qualifications of voters at district meetings, ......
When to be made, and contents of, ................
Regulations concerning................................. ......... 298
ORIGIN, PROGRESS, AND PRESENT CONDITION OF THE COMMON
SCHOOL SYSTEM OF NEW YORK. At the first meeting of the state legislature after the adoption of the Constitution, the governor, GEO. CLINTON, called the attention of that body to the subject of education. The follow ing is an extract from his speech:
“ Neglect of the education of youth is one of the evils consequent upon war. Perhaps there is scarce any thing more worthy your attention than the revival and encouragement of seminaries of learning; and nothing by which we can more satisfactorily express our gratitude to the Supreme Being for his past favors; since piety and virtue are generally the offspring of an enlightened understanding."
In this year, the act incorporating the Regents of the University was passed.
In 1789 an act was passed, requiring the surveyor-general, to set apart two lots in each township, of the public land thereafter to be surveyed, for gospel and school purposes.
The following is an extract from the report of the Regents of the University, for 1793:
“On this occasion we cannot help suggesting to the legislature the numerous advantages which we conceive would accrue to the citizens in general, from the institution of schools in various parts of the state, for the purpose of instructing children in the lower branches of education, such as reading their native language with propriety, and so much of writing and arithme. tic, as to enable them when they come forward into active life, to transact with accuracy and dispatch, the business arising from their daily intercourse with each other. The mode of accomplishing this desirable object, we respectfully submit to the wisdom of the legislature.
“ The attention which the legislature has evinced to promote literature, by the liberal provision heretofore made, encourages with all deference, to suggest the propriety of rendering it permanent by setting apart for that salutary purpose some of the unappropriated lands. The value of these will be enhanced by the increase of population. The state will thus never want the means of promoting useful science; and will thereby secure the rational happiness, and fix the liberty of the people on the most permanent basis—that of knowledge and virtue.”
At the opening of the session of the legislature in 1795, Gov. Clinton thus again alludes to the subject:
" While it is evident that the general establishment and libe. ral endowment of academies are highly to be commended, and are attended with the most beneficial consequences, yet it cannot be denied that they are principally confined to the children of the opulent, and that a great proportion of the community is excluded from their immediate advantages. The establishment of common schools throughout the state, is happily calculated to remedy this inconvenience, and will therefore engage your early and decided consideration.”
On the 9th of April, 1795, the “ Act for the encouragement of schools” was passed, by which £20,000 ($50,000) were annually appropriated for five years, “ for the purpose of encouraging and maintaining schools in the several cities and towns in this state, in which the children of the inhabitants residing in the state, shall be instructed in the English language, or be taught English grammar, arithmetic, mathematics, and such other branches of knowledge as are most useful and necessary to complete a good English education.” This sum was at first apportioned to the several counties according to their representation' in the legislature, and afterwards according to the number of electors for members of assembly; and to the several towns according to the number of taxable inhabitants of each. The boards of supervisors were required to raise by tax upon each town, a sum equal to one-half of that appropriated by the state, to be applied in like manner. While this bill was under discussion in the assembly, a motion to add a proviso, “ that no town after receiving for one year its proportion of the moneys appropriated by the act, shall be entitled in any year thereafter to receive its proportion of the same, unless the freeholders and inhabitants of such town, should, at their next preceding town-meeting, have voted a sum for the use of schools in such town, equal to at least one-half of the proportion of the moneys to which such town shall have been entitled by this act in the preceding year; and in case such sum shall not have been voted to be raised as aforesaid by any town, the supervisors of the county should apportion the moneys to which such town would otherwise have been entitled, among the other towns in such county, which should have voted for such sum” was rejected, by a vote of 30 to 27. The adoption of this proviso, would have left it discretionary with the inhabitants of any town to comply with the requisitions of the act, and thereby entitle itself to receive its proportion of the public money; a measure subsequently resorted to, as will hereafter be seen, but speedily abandoned on experience of its effects.
The prominent features of the act of 1795, were the following: Not less than three, nor more than seven commissioners,