History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES

=Religion and Local Schools.=—­One of the first cares of each Protestant denomination was the education of the children in the faith.  In this work the Bible became the center of interest.  The English version was indeed the one book of the people.  Farmers, shopkeepers, and artisans, whose life had once been bounded by the daily routine of labor, found in the Scriptures not only an inspiration to religious conduct, but also a book of romance, travel, and history.  “Legend and annal,” says John Richard Green, “war-song and psalm, state-roll and biography, the mighty voices of prophets, the parables of Evangelists, stories of mission journeys, of perils by sea and among the heathen, philosophic arguments, apocalyptic visions, all were flung broadcast over minds unoccupied for the most part by any rival learning....  As a mere literary monument, the English version of the Bible remains the noblest example of the English tongue.”  It was the King James version just from the press that the Pilgrims brought across the sea with them.

For the authority of the Established Church was substituted the authority of the Scriptures.  The Puritans devised a catechism based upon their interpretation of the Bible, and, very soon after their arrival in America, they ordered all parents and masters of servants to be diligent in seeing that their children and wards were taught to read religious works and give answers to the religious questions.  Massachusetts was scarcely twenty years old before education of this character was declared to be compulsory, and provision was made for public schools where those not taught at home could receive instruction in reading and writing.

[Illustration:  A PAGE FROM A FAMOUS SCHOOLBOOK

     A In ADAM’S Fall
       We sinned all.

     B Heaven to find,
       The Bible Mind.

     C Christ crucify’d
       For sinners dy’d.

     D The Deluge drown’d
       The Earth around.

     E ELIJAH hid
       by Ravens fed.

     F The judgment made
       FELIX afraid.]

Outside of New England the idea of compulsory education was not regarded with the same favor; but the whole land was nevertheless dotted with little schools kept by “dames, itinerant teachers, or local parsons.”  Whether we turn to the life of Franklin in the North or Washington in the South, we read of tiny schoolhouses, where boys, and sometimes girls, were taught to read and write.  Where there were no schools, fathers and mothers of the better kind gave their children the rudiments of learning.  Though illiteracy was widespread, there is evidence to show that the diffusion of knowledge among the masses was making steady progress all through the eighteenth century.

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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