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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. Immediately after the completion of his last annual report, Mr. H. retired to the shades of private life, where he has ever since remained, in the enjoyment, we trust, of all the happiness and tranquillity to which his long and arduous labors in the cause of education richly entitled him. 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 state.
By the Constitution of 1821, the proceeds of all lands thereafter to be sold, belonging 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 inviolably 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 instruction, 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 am persuaded that no considerations short of total inability will ever prevent similar demonstrations. The first duty of a state is to render 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 Declara
tion of Independence, who has devoted the evening of his illus trious 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 col. leges 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 masure 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 benefited, 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 small 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, and 160,000 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 the total number of children of all ages 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 investing the Superintendent with appellate jurisdiction over all controversies arising under the school laws, and decluring 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 ełapsed 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 $80,000. 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 at 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 Merchants’ Bank, growing out of frauds to a large amount which had been practiced on that institutionan 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 being probable, the governor (JOSEPH C. YATES) had recommended, in his annual message at the commencement of the session of 1823, “ the sale of the whole or a part of the public lands appropriated to the school sund, for the purpose of raising a productive capital, yielding an interest sufficient to make good the annual deficiency in the school revenue.”
On the 23d of January, Gulian C. VERPLANCK, of the city of New York, chairman of the committee on colleges, academies and common schools, made a report on this subject in the assembly, adverse to the expediency of throwing the lands of the state appropriated to the school fund into the market, at a forced sale to the highest bidder; and in favor of continuing the existing limitations on those sales, viz., by a minimum price paid by the surveyor-general, after survey and appraisement. The committee remark that the sum which would probably be realized by a forced sale, " would be comparatively inconsiderable, and though these lands are now unproductive, yet on the other hand they are of no charge to the state. Moreover, it is at present impossible to anticipate what increase in their value may hereafter take place from the opening of roads and canals, from the new direction which our internal commerce may take from those causes, as well as from the establishment of manufactories, and the probable discovery of mines. The present advantage seems to the committee to be too small for the sacrifice of those remote, yet not improbable future advantages.”
“In making these additional appropriations to the school fund, it was certainly not the immediate object of the convention to supply the present casual deficiencies of our revenue. They had far larger and grander views. Knowing that in our age and country, where every thing is improving and increasing about us, all wise public institutions should be so framed as to enlarge themselves with the enlargement of population and the advance of mind, it was
their design to establish a fund, having within itself a principle of increase, which would augment in value with the augmenting number of our people, and thus perpetuate and extend to future and distant generations, all the blessings of our noble and extensive system of public instruction.”
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
3. That 331 new school districts had been organized during
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 upward's 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
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: