Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/406

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mulation and far more effective was the often quoted statement of the Massachusetts law of 1647:

It being one chief point of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of Scriptures, as in former times, by keeping them in an unknown tongue, so in these latter times, by persuading them from the use of tongues that so at last the true sense and meaning of the original might be clouded by false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers, that learning might not be buried in the graves of our fathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavours, it is therefore ordered. ...

From this law came the establishment of schools in every town, elementary schools only in towns of fifty families, secondary or Latin grammar schools also in towns of over one hundred families. Within the century, through the provision of the law and the experience of a free people, these schools became free. Consequently this statute of 1647 constitutes the Magna Charta of the American public school system. The theory of education expounded may now seem narrow, but it was at least far more concrete, definite, and vitally connected with the life of the times than the worn-out theories used by later generations to justify the same narrow linguistic education.

Specific literary education was supplemented by, or rather was supplemental to, a broader social training provided for by a law enacted five years previously which related to the training of all children "in learning, labour, and other employments which may be profitable to the commonwealth," and provided adequate machinery to see that its provisions were applied to every child. Local records of the towns afford abundant evidence that these laws were carried out with fidelity throughout the seventeenth and most of the eighteenth centuries. Education in handicraft or some form of industry through the apprentice system constituted, indeed, the most important aspect of education throughout the colonial period; and those who are content to form their picture of educational conditions in the colonies from the laws or documents concerning the schools or more particularly the colleges—which affected but the few—overlook the most substantial and far-reaching part of the educational system. Many legislative enactments refer to it,