How they were schooledAlready discernible were lines of cleavage between the old and the new, the east and west, the settled regions of the Atlantic seaboard and the inland frontier. These differences at times were great and dramatic. Nevertheless, each region strongly influenced the other, for despite physical separation, there was a constant interplay of forces. As pioneers moved westward, they carried forward something of the older civilization and established in fresh soil traditions which were a part of their common heritage. Many western pilgrims returned to tell their stories and excite the imaginations of the stay-at-homes. Men from the western country made their voices heard in political debate, combating the inertia of custom and convention. Even more important was the fact that anyone in an established colony could easily find a new home on the frontier. This was a powerful factor in preventing authorities in the older communities from successfully obstructing progress and change. Thus, ominant tidewater figures were forced, time after time, to liberalize political policies, land-grant requirements, and religious practices, on popular demand, which was always supported by a direct or implied threat of a mass exodus to the frontier. Complacency could have small quarter in the vigorous society which an expanding country generated. The movement into the foothills was a movement of tremendous import for the future history of the whole of America.
Of equal significance for the future were the foundations of American education and culture established in the colonial period. Harvard College was founded in 1636 in Massachusetts. Near the end of the century, the College of William and Mary was established in Virginia, and a few years later, Connecticut legislation provided for the establishment of Yale University. But the most noteworthy feature of America's educational history was the growth of a public-school system. To New England goes much of the credit for this contribution. There the settlers acted together as a single public body, bringing to bear upon the school the concentrated resources of the community and, in 1647, Massachusetts Bay legislation-followed shortly by all the New England colonies except Rhode Island-provided for compulsory elementary education.
In the south, the farms and plantations were so widely separated that community schools like those in the more compact settlements were impossible. Planters sometimes joined with their nearest neighbors and hired tutors to teach all the children within reach. Often, children were sent to England for schooling. In the more thickly settled areas, a few neighborhood schools provided instruction but, in general, the individual planter was obliged to assume the cost and responsibility of hiring tutors. In poorer families, the parents themselves undertook to give their children the rudiments of learning.
In the middle colonies, the educational situation was varied. Too busy with material progress to pay much attention to cultural matters, New York lagged far behind both New England and the other middle colonies. Schools were poor, and well-to-do citizens were obliged to hire tutors for their children. For a large proportion of the children there was no adequate public-school system at all. Only spasmodic efforts were made by the royal government to provide public facilities, and not until the mid-eighteenth century were the College of New Jersey at Princeton, King's College (now Columbia University), and Queen's College (Rutgers) established.
One of the most enterprising of the colonies in the educational sphere was Pennsylvania. The first school, begun in 1683, taught reading, writing, and the keeping of accounts. Thereafter, in some fashion, every Quaker community provided for the elementary teaching of its children. More advanced training-in classical languages, history, literature-was offered at the Friends Public School, which still exists in Philadelphia as the William Penn Charter School. The school was free to the poor, but parents who could were required to pay tuition for their children. In Philadelphia, numerous private schools with no religious affiliation taught languages, mathematics, and natural science, and there were night schools for adults. Nor was the education of women entirely overlooked, for private teachers instructed the daughters of prosperous Philadelphians in French, music, dancing, painting, singing, grammar, and sometimes even bookkeeping.
The advanced intellectual and cultural development of Pennsylvania reflected, in large measure, the vigorous personalities of two men. One of these was James Logan, secretary of the colony, at whose fine library young Benjamin Franklin found the latest scientific works. In 1745, Logan erected a building for his collection and bequeathed it and his books to the city. There is no doubt, however, that Franklin himself contributed more than any other single citizen to the stimulation of intellectual activity in Philadelphia. He was, instrumental in creating institutions which made a permanent cultural contribution, not only to Philadelphia, but to all the colonies. He formed, for example, a club known as the Junto, which was the embryo of the American Philosophical Society. As a result of his endeavors, a public academy was founded which developed later into the University of Pennsylvania. His efforts in behalf of learning resulted also in an effective subscription library which he called "the mother of all the North American subscription libraries."
The desire for learning did not stop at the borders of established communities. For, on the frontiers, the hardy Scotch-Irish, though living in primitive cabins, refused to fall into the slough of ignorance. Convinced devotees of scholarship, they made great efforts to attract learned ministers to their settlements and believed implicitly that laymen likewise should cultivate all their mental talents.