Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/416

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enthusiasm. While Mayor of New York City he was instrumental in organizing (1805) the Free School Society of which he was president until his death. For thirty-eight years this society was the sole public or quasi-public educational agency for the children of the metropolis, and for ten years longer it continued a potent factor in competition with the growing public school system. As Governor of the state (1817-22 and 1824-28) Clinton continued an ardent advocate of this system through public address and official paper.

The chief literary as well as practical exponent of the system was John Griscom (1774-1852), a New York Quaker. In 1819 he published his observations on a visit to European countries, as A Year in Europe. In this he records his impressions of all types of European educational, philanthropic, and reformatory efforts, thus giving to his countrymen in this direction a great stimulus to endeavour. Of this work Henry Barnard later declared: "No one volume in the first half of the nineteenth century had so wide an influence on our educational, reformatory, and preventive measures, directly and indirectly, as this." Griscorn's Recollections gives an intimate account of his services as teacher, administrator, educational innovator, and public-spirited citizen, covering a period of more than half a century.

The Lancasterian system had run its course before the death of Griscom. Its mechanical scheme of organization made it possible at least to attempt the education of children in large groups. Lancaster claimed that one teacher, by using the older pupils as monitors, could teach one thousand pupils. This ideal was beyond the reach of his followers, though he himself is said to have demonstrated its feasibility. The early New York schoolrooms were built for five hundred pupils. Economically the scheme claimed to educate the child at an expense of one dollar a year. Thus it put within the realm of possibility the education of all the children of a community on the basis of philanthropic and later of public support. To communities not yet accustomed to taxation for police or fire protection, for means of communication, care of streets, or sanitary provisions, experience with the Lancasterian plan was an essential factor in the evolution of schools. But the superficiality of the method and its meagre intellectual results, its repressive disciplinary measures, its false conception of child nature, its low moral