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The history of commerce, of the invention of arts, rise of manufacture, progress of trade, change of its seats, with the reasons and causes, may also be made entertaining to youth, and will be useful to all. And this, with the accounts of the prodigious force and effect of engines and machines used in war will naturally introduce a desire to be instructed in mechanics, and to be informed of the principles of that art by which weak men perform such wonders, labor is saved, and manufactures expedited.
The idea of what is true merit should also be often presented to youth, explained and impressed on their minds, as consisting in an inclination, joined with an ability, to serve mankind, one's country, friends, and family; which ability is, with the blessing of God, to be acquired or greatly increased by true learning; and should, indeed, be the great aim and end of all learning.
That this plan of Franklin's was far ahead of its time is evidenced by the opposition which it aroused. In his second paper on the Academy in 1789 he tells us that “the Latinists were combined to decry the English school as useless. It was without example, they said, as indeed they still say, that a school for teaching the vulgar tongue, and the sciences in that tongue, was ever joined with a college.” As a result of this “unaccountable prejudice in favor of ancient customs,” Franklin concludes that “wishing as much good to the Latinists as their system can honestly procure for them, we now demand a separation ” in order “to execute the plan they have so long defeated, and afford the public the means of a complete English Education.”
The subsequent sections of this little book indicate how completely Franklin's own development and his writings portray the kind of education required to satisfy the national intuitions and instincts. He may justly be regarded as the prophet of American education and deserves a leading place among American educators. The wonder is that a century and a half elapsed after his lucid exposition of the subject before the country at large could rid itself of its ancient traditions and give unquestioned moral support and social sanction to his sane and sensible precepts and conclusions.
THE APPRENTICE DAYS.
Public responsibility for industrial education was first publicly recognized in the poor laws of the Elizabethan age. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth about half the population of England were vagabonds. After repeated attempts to suppress vagabondage by force had failed, Parliament, in 1553, authorized the overseers of the poor to call for voluntary contributions from the rich for the purpose of placing the children of the poor in apprenticeships where they might learn a trade and thus become self-supporting. Evidently, the charitable contributions of the rich were not adequate to the requirements, for the legislation was gradually made more compelling until, in 1601, it was voted to raise the required funds by compulsory assessments of all ratable persons.
This idea of taxation for the purpose of training poor children so that they might become economically productive is expressed in several of the earliest education acts in the various colonies. Even before turning their attention to schools, the General Court of Massachusetts (1640) directed the magistrates to further the growing of flax and to consider “what course may be taken for teaching the boys and girls in all townes the spinning of yarn.” In 1642, the same court, impressed by “the great neglect of many parents and masters in training up their children in learning and labor, and other employments which may be profitable to the commonwealth,” ordered and decreed that in every town “the chosen men appointed for managing the prudential affairs of the same shall have the power to take account from time to time of all parents and masters, and of their children, concerning their calling and employment of their children, especially of their ability to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of this country; and they shall have power to put forth as apprentices the children of such as they shall (find) not to be able and fit to employ and bring them up. They are to take care of such as are set to keep cattle be set to some other employment withal, as spinning upon the rock, knitting, weaving tape, etc. They are also to provide that a sufficient quantity of materials, as hemp, flax, etc., may be raised in their several townes, and tools and implements provided for working out the same.”
The act of 1647 completes the legal foundation of the public schools of Massachusetts.
It being one chiefe project of that ould deluder Satan to keepe men from the knowledge of the Scriptures [and] that learning may not be buried in the grave of our fathers in the church and commonwealth . . . it is therefore ordered, that every towneship in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of 50 householder, shall then forthwith appoint one within their towne to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and reade, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in general by way of supply, as the major part of those that order the prudentials of the towne shall appoint; . . . and it is further ordered, that where any towne shall increase to the number of 100 families or householder, they shall set up a grammer schoole, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so farr as they may be fited for the university.
The case of Massachusetts is typical of the general attitude throughout the colonies. In Virginia and Pennsylvania this same conviction that public education should include training for a gainful occupation finds expression in the early legislation. Thus in Virginia the act of 1660 says:
To avoid sloth and idleness . . . as also for the relief of parents whose poverty extends not to giving (their children) breeding . . . the justices
of the peace should . . . bind out children to tradesmen or husbandmen to be brought up in some good and lawful calling.
In Pennsylvania, 1683, the provincial assembly provided–
that all persons in this province and territories thereof having children, and all guardians and trustees of orphans, shall cause such to be instructed in reading and writing so that they may be able to read the Scriptures and to write by the time they attain to 12 years of age, and that they be taught some useful trade or skill. While this legislation was designed primarily to better the condition of the poor that they might not be a burden on the community, it helped to foster that sense of social distinction which has caused many to ignore the educational value of the practical arts and to overrate the educational value of the humanities. The real dignity, value, and educational importance of the practical arts were clearly seen by the prophets of America. William Penn, in 1693, Wrote: - * The World . . . ought to be the Subject of the Education of our Youth, who, at Twenty, when they should be fit for Business, know little or nothing of it. We are in Pain to make them Scholars but not Men' To talk, rather than to know, which is true Canting; . . . to know Grammar and Rhetorick, and a strange Tongue or two, that it is ten to one may never be useful to them; Leaving their natural Genius to Mechanical and Physical, or natural IKnowledge uncultivated and neglected; which would be of exceeding Use and Pleasure to them through the whole course of their life. From these facts it appears that in the minds of the founders of the public schools the expenditure of public funds for education was
justified not because it produced a “general diffusion of wisdom, knowledge, and virtue among the people,” but because it was intended to secure four concrete ends of great value to the “Church and the Commonwealth.” These were, for the church, that every one must (1) learn to read the Scriptures and the catechism; and (2) have the free opportunity of entering the ministry through the grammar school and the college; for the Commonwealth, that every citizen should learn, (3) the capital laws of the colony; and (4) some gainful occupation. At the time that this legislation was enacted the only occupations open to graduates of the college were those of minister, teacher, and gentleman. The great majority of the people, including physicians and lawyers, learned their trades by the apprenticeship system. Therefore the responsibility for their education was divided between the schoolmaster and the master of apprentices. The schoolmaster was “to teach all such children as may resort to him to write and reade;” and be “able to instruct youth so farr as they may be fited for the university.” The master of apprentices was to train them “in some honest lawful calling, labour or imployment, either in husbandry or some other trade profitable for themselves and the Commonwealth.” This division of the functions of education between the schoolmasters and the masters of apprentices was inevitable under the social and industrial conditions which prevailed in the colonies. In time, however, schools came to be regarded as constituting the whole educational system, and the fact that the training of everyone to some “gainful occupation ” is one of the important justifications of taxation for public education was forgotten. The records of the Court of Massachusetts show that great difficulty was experienced in enforcing the legislation with regard to grammar schools. Though the fine for noncompliance was increased from £5 in 1647 to £40 per year in 1718, many towns preferred to pay the fine rather than maintain such a school. In the meantime, industry continued to flourish. The American weavers of woolen cloth had become by 1690 such successful rivals of the British weavers that Parliament in 1699 passed the woolen act which forbade the colonists from transporting woolen goods from one place to another for the purpose of sale. In 1718 a great stir was created in the town [Boston] by the arrival of a number of Irish spinners and weavers, bringing the implements of their craft. Directly the spinning craze took possession of the town and the women, young and old, high and low, rich and poor, flocked into the spinning school which was set up on the common in the open air. Prizes were offered for the best
work and the enthusiasts went about proudly clothed in the homespun products of their own hands.
The first tannery was erected at Lynn in 1629 and in 1640 the General Court of Massachusetts appointed leather searchers in every town to see to it that “such hides and skins as by casualty or slaughter come to hand” were sent to the tannery. By 1650 Massachusetts was manufacturing shoes for the other colonies.
A smelting furnace was built at Lynn in 1643 by John Winthrop. Here important improvements in the manufacture of scythes and sawmill machinery were made. The General Court of Massachusetts granted Winthrop 3,000 acres to encourage his enterprise. In Connecticut all persons engaged in iron works were exempted from taxation. In 1719 the Maryland Assembly offered 100 acres of land to any citizen who would set up iron furnaces and forges in the Province. These industries developed so well that in 1750 Parliament ordered that “no mill or other engine for slitting or rolling of iron, no plating forge to work with a tilthammer and no furnace for making steel” should be erected “in any of His Majesty's Colonies in America.”
These efforts on the part of Parliament to exterminate American industries in the interests of British manufacturers deterred but they could not check the growing interest of the colonists in useful arts. A special town meeting was held in Boston at the town house September 28, 1720, at which it was voted “that the Town will proceed to the choyce of a committee to consider about promoting of a Spinning School or schools for the instruction of the children of this town in Spinning.” This committee recommended the erection of a suitable house and the employment of a weaver “having a wife that can instruct children in spinning flax, to take care of the school.” This project was revived in 1751 when there was organized in Boston a Society for Encouraging Industry and the Employment of the Poor. Its avowed purpose was to foster the growing of flax and the manufacture of linen to be used for export to pay for imports of woolen goods. In 1755 the General Court of Massachusetts ordered— that a tax be levied on every Coach, Chariot, Chalse, Calash, and Chair within the Province to be paid by the owner thereof annually, except the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the President of Harvard College and the settled ministers throughout the Province, and that the money so raised should be applied to
the purchasing a suitable house, within the town of Boston, for carrying on the business of spinning, weaving, and other parts of linen manufacture.
Fifteen hundred pounds were raised by this means and a manufactory house was built on Long Acre Street (now Tremont Street) where linens were produced and instruction given in spinning and weaving.