public schools in the world.
But this is hardly true.
They were public schools, and many of them were free; but the law made their support permissive rather than compulsory, and direct taxation for their support was by no means universal.
In very many cases the town rate, that is, the general tax, was only to supplement other sources of income; and it took many years to make apparent that ‘tuition fees from the rich and free tuition for the poor made class distinctions too pronounced in a new society where in church and state all were equal.’
We must not forget, moreover, that Medford
was small and poor and insignificant, enveloped literally and overshadowed by its larger and more prosperous neighbor, Charlestown
It was scarcely more than Governor Cradock
's farm; and in 1700 its population probably did not exceed two hundred souls.
In 1686 the county rate contained only fourteen names, and the whole number of polls in 1695 was but twenty-six.
While the law passed by the Colonial Court
in 1692 required every town of fifty householders to support a school for reading and writing, it was not till twenty-seven years later that Medford
made any move to establish such a school.
Lying so near Boston
, we may feel certain that if she had had the requisite number of people she would have been obliged to comply with the law, even if reluctant to do so. Its insignificance, furthermore, may be inferred from the fact that although incorporated as a town in 1630 no one of its people seemed to be aware of the fact till about 1680,—fifty years later,—and the first white child born within its borders had become an old man of eighty-three before it had a settled minister, and this in a thorough-going puritan settlement.
Very likely as she drew her preaching from ministers settled in the surrounding towns, and from young men studying in Harvard college, so her brighter and more ambitious boys managed to attend the public schools