Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/405

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
387
The Middle Colonies

round-about way, is not much beneficial nor delightful to them; so that they are noted to be more apt to spoil their schoolfellows than improve themselves; because they are imprisoned and enslaved to what they hate and think useless, and have not peculiar management proper for their humour and occasion.

From the harassed Quakers of Penn's colony came a far more radical and forward-looking statement of the social theory of education, as befitted those persecuted for their ideals. It is obvious, however, from later records that little more was actually accomplished in Pennsylvania than in the South. The Frame of Government of 1682, with greater precision than any other colonial document, required that "to the end that the poor as well as rich may be instructed in good and commendable learning which is to be preferred before wealth" all children should be instructed "that they may be able at least to read the Scriptures and write by the time they attain to twelve years of age." Then that there should be neither failure to provide the fundamental practical training nor failure to perceive the social theory underlying it, these makers of society add and that they [all children] be taught some useful trade and skill, that the poor may work to live, and the rich if they become poor may not want." But in order to meet the wishes of a heterogeneous population, Pennsylvania within a generation adopted the policy of giving to each religious sect the control of the education of its own youth. This plan remained in force until near the middle of the nineteenth century. Throughout its history the Dutch colony of New Netherland was little more than the trading outpost of a commercial company. The career of the earliest schoolmaster we learn through the unsavoury record of the police court; those of his successors through the tedious records of the church, examining, licensing, and supervising, and through those more sordid though more human documents, the records of the commercial company, providing, under greater or less protest, the meagre salary.

It was the colonists of New England, particularly those of Massachusetts, who had visions of a new education in a new society and who left us abundant written records of their purposes and achievements. As specific as the Pennsylvania for-