accordant this with that noble resolve of New England
, to establish a college, “to the end that good learning may not be buried in the graves of our fathers” ! It is cheering to read in the early records of Medford
, when a special town-meeting was called for this only purpose,--viz., “to see if the town will have a school kept for three months,” --to find every voter in favor of it, and, at the end of this vote, appending these immortal words,--“and this School shall be free.”
Here we have, in short compass, the different beginnings and opposite policies of two settlements: the one anathematizing free schools and printing-presses
; the other doing all it can for free inquiry, universal culture, and progressive truth.
The natural result of one system is to overrun a state with slavery, darken it with ignorance, pinch it with poverty, and curse it with irreligion; the natural result of the other is to fill a state with freemen, to enlighten it with knowledge, to expand it with wealth, and to bless with Christianity.
We should never cease to thank God that our ancestors, though surrounded by savage foes and doomed to poverty and self-denial, laid deep the foundations of that system of common schools which is now the nursery of intelligence, the basis of virtue, the pledge of freedom, and the hope of the world.
The course of instruction was narrow and partial.
Each hungry child got a crust; but no one had a full meal.
The New England
Primer was the first book, the Spelling-book the second, and the Psalter the last.
Arithmetic and writing found special attention; grammar and geography were thought less needful.
The school was opened and closed with reading the Scriptures and the offerings of prayer.
The hours were from nine to twelve o'clock, and from one to four.
Thursday and Saturday afternoons were vacations.
For the next fifty years, the inhabitants of Medford
supported their schools at as cheap a rate as they could, because their means were not abundant.
The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.
The Rev. Mr. Porter
acted as private teacher, and doubtless rendered great help to the cause of education.
says, “Hardly a child of nine or ten years old, throughout the whole country, but can read and write, and say his catechism.”