Schooling And Culture Flourish

Already lines of cleavage were discernible between the settled regions of the Atlantic seaboard and the inland regions. Men from the back country made their voices heard in political debate, combatting the inertia of custom and convention. A powerful force deterring authorities in the older communities from obstructing progress and change was the fact that anyone in an established colony could easily find a new home on the frontier. Thus, time after time, dominant tidewater figures were obliged, by the threat of a mass exodus to the frontier, to liberalize political policies, land-grant requirements, and religious practices. Complacency could have small place in the vigorous society generated by an expanding country. The movement into the foothills was of tremendous import for the future 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. A few vears later, the Collegiate School of Connecticut (later to become Yale College) was chartered. But even more noteworthy was the growth of a school system maintained by governmental authority. In 1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony, followed shortly by all the other 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 northern settlements were impossible. Some planters joined with their nearest neighbors and hired tutors for their children; other children were sent to England for schooling.

In the middle colonies, the situation varied. Too busy with mater1al progress to pay much attention to educational matters, New York lagged far behind. Schools were poor, and only sporadic efforts were made by the royal government to provide public facilities. The College of New Jersey at Princeton, King's College (now Columbia University) in New York City, and Queen's College (now Rutgers) in New Brunswick, New Jersey, were not established until the middle of the 18th century.

One of the most enterprising of the colonies educationally was Pennsylvania. The first school there, begun in 1683, taught reading, writing, and 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 operates in Philadelphia as the William Penn Charter School. The school was free to the poor, but parents who could were required to pay tuition.

In Philadelphia, numerous private schools with no religious affiliation taught languages, mathematics, and natural science, and there were night schools for adults. Women were not entirely overlooked, for private teachers instructed the daughters of prosperous Philadelphians in French, music, dancing, painting, singing, grammar, and sometimes even bookkeeping.

The intellectual and cultural development of Pennsylvania reflected, in large measure, the vigorous personalities of two men: James Logan and Benjamin Franklin. Logan was secretary of the colony, and it was in his fine library that young Franklin found the latest scientific works. In 1745, Logan erected a building for his collection and bequeathed both building and books to the city. Franklin contributed even more to the intellectual activity of Philadelphia. He formed a club known as the Junto, which was the embryo of the American Philosophical Society. His endeavors led, too, to the founding of a public academy that later developed into the University of Pennsylvania. He was also a prime mover in the establishment of a subscription library-which he called "the mother of all North American subscription libraries."

In the south, volumes of history, Greek and Latin classics, science, and law were widely exchanged from plantation to plantation. Charleston, South Carolina, already a center for music, painting, and the theater, set up a provincial library before 1700. In New England, the first immigrants had brought their own little libraries and continued to import books from London. And as early as the 1680s, Boston booksellers were doing a thriving business in works of classical literature, history, politics, philosophy, science, theology, and belles-lettres. The desire for learning did not stop at the borders of established communities. On the frontier, the hardy Scotch-Irish, though living in primitive cabins, were firm devotees of scholarship, and they made great efforts to attract learned ministers to their settlements.

Literary production in the colonies was largely confined to New England. Here attention was concentrated on religious subjects. Sermons were the most common products of the press. A famous "hell and brimstone" minister, the Reverend Cotton Mather, authored some 400 works, and his masterpiece, Magnalia Christi Americana, was so prodigious that it had to be printed in London. In this folio, the pageant of New England's history is displayed by the region's most prolific writer. But the most popular single work was the Reverend Michael Wigglesworth's long poem, The Day of Doom, which described the Last Judgment in terrifying terms.