« PreviousContinue »
was notified the 16th of October. In accordance with this, the government apointed a council of internal affairs,* consisting of three members, who acted alternately as president; Messrs. Van der Palm, De Kruif, and Lemans; and a secretary, Mr. C. J. Wenckebach, still living, who, as adviser to the council, has, to an advanced age, been useful to his country in the department of internal affairs. This council, after the agencies had been annulled, actually began its efforts; and Van der Palın, under a new title and in a somewhat modified relation, prosecuted yet four years his praiseworthy labors in behalf of his country. It was as member of the council of interpal affairs, that he was enabled more fully to develop and execute his plans for the improvement of primary instruction, the introduction of a uniform spelling, and the proper regulation of medical practice; whilst he again showed that he was not embarrassed by the new difficulties to be encountered in his more extended sphere.
In 1805, this new constitution was superseded by that at the head of which was placed Schimmelpenninck, Van der Palm's university friend, and, as statesman, peculiarly the man after his heart. The council of internal affairs was dissolved in consequence of the appointment of a secretary of state for that department.
During his residence at the Hague, he served as a commissioner in the national library, and delivered several discourses; viz., on the national festival, or the withdrawal of the English and Russians from North Holland; first, before the general convention of school inspectors, and second, before the Society for Public Utility.
In 1805, the appearance of his translation and exposition of the prophet Isaiah was greeted with the general approbation of his uni'versity friends, as the sequel of his letter to the literary and ecclesiastical work of his earlier days. Henceforward Van der Palm did not engage in politics further than became him as a good citizen, feeling the deepest interest in the welfare of his country, and as a writer, to excite and maintain a good spirit among his fellow-citizens. As a loyal, quiet, and contented subject and citizen, he lived in the midst of his literary occupations, contributing to the good of his country from the abundant stores of his knowledge, cherishing no wish above or beyond the sphere in which he moved. He died September, 1840.
The new constitution, accepted in the month of October, and proclaimed on the 17th, by its 32d article directed, that, to the government thereby appointed, besides a general secretary, should be added a secretary of state for foreign affairs, and three secretaries of state, as for marine, war on land, and internal affairs; or, at the option of the government, for each of the three last mentioned a council of not more than three members, and a council of finance of three members, with a trensurer-general. The government chose, in place of the three mentioned secretaries of state, a council of three persons for each of the three departments.
SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL LIFE IN RHODE ISLAND.
PRIOR TO 1800.
INTRODOCTION. The earliest schools mentioned in the Town Records of Rhode Island are of the same character as the earlier schools in other English colonies -schools for the better sort,' endowed after the style of the English Grammar, or Free schools, by grant of land from the town, or benefactions of individuals, and the teacher generally a clergyman. Within two years after the settlement of Aquadneck (1638), Rev. Robert Lenthal, who had been settled in Weymouth, Massachusetts, but was admitted one of the freemen of Aquadneck (now Newport), in August, 1640, was in the same month 'called by a vote of the freemen to keep a public school for the learning of youth; and for his encouragement there was granted him and his heirs one hundred acres of land, and four more for a house lot' It was also voted, 'that one hundred acres should be laid forth and appropriated for a school, for encouragement of the person sent to train up their youth in learning; and Mr. Robert Lenthal, while he continues to teach school, is to have the benefit thereof.' Mr. Lenthal did not labor long in his double capacity, as assistant of Rev. Dr. John Clarke in the ministry, and trainer up of youth in learning; for, in the second year after, he had gone to England. The land thus appropriated was ‘laid out' in that portion of the island now incorporated as Middletown, and was exchanged for a tract which, in 1663, was divided into lots, 'to be sold or loaned, the rent to constitute a fund for the schooling and education of poor children. From the language used in subsequent entries in the Town Records, it is evident that the school maintained in part out of this original grant, was a Latin school, or Grammar school, in the old English sense of the term, and that this rent was applied to reduce the expense of poor scholars. The children of the rich were provided for in Rhode Island in private schools, or family teaching, and not a few were sent to England for their education.
Among the young men of Newport, educated abroad, was Henry Collins, born in 1699, who in 1730, formed a literary and philosophical society in Newport, out of which originated the Library Association which, in 1747, was incorporated as the Company of the Redwood Library—one of the oldest public libraries of the country, to which many scholars have acknowledged their obligations for their literary culture, and which still bears the name of its early benefactor,
The colored population of Newport, from the number of wealthy families, and from the commercial business of the place, in which, at that date, the slave trade entered as a profitable element, was exceptionally large; and a special school for negro children existed as early as 1765, in which reading, writing, and sewing was taught.
When Dr. Channing (William Ellery) was a school-boy (1780 to 1792) in Newport, young children of the social position of his father, a leading lawyer of the place, and of his mother's father, a prominent merchant, attended one of the numerous Dame schools. At the age of eight, he was advanced to the boarding and day school of Mr. Rogers. At the age of twelve, he was sent to New London to prepare for college, in the family of his uncle, the Rev. Henry Channing, who was settled there as pastor of the Congregational church. Of the Newport schools of that period, we have a vivid picture in the published Reminiscences of Rev. George G. Channing, (a brother of Dr. W. E. Channing), who was born in Newport May 6, 1789, and is still living (1877) in a green old age, in Milton, Mass.
The first settlement of Providence was made in or about 1636, and the person recognized in history as the leader and founder, speaks of himself, as having, during his visit to England in 1653–4, Taught tro young children, a parliament man's sons, as we teach our children English, by words, phrases, and constant talk,-the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and Dutch,'—and yet the first public action taken by the proprietors was in 1663, by ordering ‘one hundred acres of upland and sis acres of meadow to be laid out and reserved for the maintenance of a school.' The school itself, or schools were not subject to public ordinance, but were of the private or adventure class' for more than one hundred years. In 1685, Mr. Turpin, 'now a schoolmaster of said town,' petitioned the town to have the school land set out for his use and benefit, .so long as he shall maintain the worthy art of learning.' His ability to be useful as town treasurer was improved even so late as 1743, but there is no evidence that his petition was favorably entertained. The first mention of a school-house erected or owned by the town was in 1752; and it was near a quarter of a century later, and after many strenuous efforts, that a system of public schools was established. Ac. cording to the reminiscences of an aged citizen (Samuel Thurber), published by Judge Staples, in his Annals of Providence, schools were but little thought of previous to 1770, (when Dr. Manning removed to Proridence with his Latin school, and the classes of Rhode Island college first opened in Warren in 1764.) 'In my neighborhood there were three small schools, taught by men, with a dozen scholars in each. Their fees were seven shillings and sixpence a quarter. Their books were the Bible, Spelling-book, and Primer. Beside these, there were two or three women's schools. President Manning did great things in the way of enlightening the people,'—as will be seen by his Memoir published in this Journal. And so did Rev. Enos Hitchcock, D.D.
RECOLLECTIONS OF NEWPORT SCHOOLS—1798-1808.
(By Rev. George G. Chenning-. 1789.) Accompany me, if you will, to the primary school where I first commenced “the art of spelling and reading the English language with propriety."
The room occupied by the matron-teacher, Mrs. Sayre, and her daughter ("Miss Betsy," as she was called), situated near the corner of Mary and Clarke streets, was a low, square chamber, on the second floor, having no furniture, no desks, nor chairs, excepting a few for teachers or visitors. The childron, boys and girls (the former dressed the same as girls), were furnished by their parents with seats made of round blocks of wood of various heights. These movable seats, at least thirty in number, would constitute as great a curiosity at this day of school accommodations and luxury, as would the old “ ten-footer" district school-houses, were they set up for public gaze in one of our streets. Mrs. Sayre was a model teacher in her day. It was at the time of reading from Noah Webster's spelling and reading book, when an urchin, alias brat, sometimes softened into varlet, being pinned to the mistress's apron, was hammering or stuttering over a monosyllable, turning red and pale by turns as she jostled the poplar rod at her side, -it was just at that moment, when her eyes were bent on the sewing she was preparing for the girls, and on the garter. knitting for the boys, and she listening to and correcting the poor boy's mistakes,—it was just then that the block gyrations commenced, not exactly as on a pivot, but in sweeps, forming larger or smaller circles according to the whim of the block-mover,-it was just at that moment of astounding commotion, when the old lady, taking notice of the tumult, raised the wand, viz., the poplar pole, and with distinct, nay fearful, articulation, cried out, in regular, syllabic order, “Mirabi-le-dictu,” which Latin word sounded in my right ear very much like “My rabble dick you." Of course, this, to us, meaningless word excited as much open-eyed and open-mouthed admiration as is produced by a grandiloquent orator. * * *
To return to Mrs. Sayre's primary school : I recollect rery well the disagreeable sensations connected with the “dark closet," the prison of the disobedient. It was not resorted to, save in extreme cases. I remember what a fright was caused by one of the boys swallowing a marble (he is stiil alive), which led to a sudden dismission of the school. At the close of the school on Friday afternoons, we were sent to a vacant room below stairs, where we recited the “ Commandments,” repeated the “ Lord's Prayer,” and received commendation or censure according to our good or bad conduct during the week. I remember most gratefully the happy influence of Mrs. Sayre's discipline and instruction. She was firm but gentle in manner and speech, governing by signs rather than by words. My preparation was excellent for the higher school I was soon to enter, especially in reading and spelling. The junior teacher (Miss Betsy) had under her care children of advanced standing. She was an excellent teacher, and was affectionately remembered for her assiduity in behalf of her scholars. During the recess twice a week, Mrs. Sayre taught colored children spelling and reading, gratis. This good lady and her daughter were greatly respected and beloved. The latter married Joseph Rogers, Esq., of Philadelphia.
The first school-house of any note in the town was owned and managed by a gentleman of acknowledged ability for those days. Compared with buildings used for similar purposes now, it was a mere shanty, a "tenfooter.” It was scant in length, breadth, and height, and poorly ventilated. The furniture, viz., the desks and benches, was of the most ordinary stamp. The former, used for the writing exercises, had leaden inkstands in the centre; and their surface was more or less disfigured with rude indentares, so as to render straight or curved strokes with the pen next to impossible; and the latter, the benches without backs, were so tall and shaky as to be very uncomfortable, especially to the shortest boys, whose legs had to be suspended, causing often extreme pain, and consequent disturbance, bringing on them undeserved panishment from the monitors, unless warded off by a bribe, in the shape of a top or a knife, or a handful of marbles. On the rostrum were two or three chairs for distinguished visitors, and a small desk for the master, on which reposed, not often, a punctured ferule, surmounted by an unpleasant-looking cowskin. So ex. ceedingly disagreeable were the daily ministrations of these instruments of instruction, taat every method was adopted for their destruction. But the master was more than a match for our organ of destructiveness. Such was school No. 1 in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
It certainly was not the prototype of the school at Rugby, where Dr. Arnold ruled successfully, without making any of the distinguishing marks which characterized my papilage. As the school grew, assistants were employed. Mr Masy was an excellent teacher of the languages. Mr. Taylor (a most worthy citizen) tanght the lower branches. The tree is known by its fruit; whilst, therefore, it must be granted that the greater number of the scholars were of the genus Booby, there were some of rare brightness of mind, whose intellectual culture did credit to those efficient and faithful teachers.
Our school-room had to be swept and dusted twice or thrice a week, and the classes were obliged to do this in turn. As this was a disagreeable task, those boys who had money (and these were generally of Southern parentage) could easily buy substitutes from among the poorer boys.
During my nonage, the Puritan spirit "still lived." It was an age of force. Punishment was deemed necessary. Exhibitions of authority constituted, day by day, a series of domestic tableaux. The discipline of the school was in accordance with the government of the home. It was arbitrary, with rare exceptions, in the extreme. Children were required to bow or kiss the hand, when entering or leaving either home or school. The school to which I was sent differed in no respect from inferior ones in the matter of corporal punishment. The ferule and cowskin were almost deified. Apologies increased, rather than abated, the swellings of the hand, and the wales upon the back. An appeal to parents was of no more avail than beating the air. This severe discipline was not interfered with by the clergy; for, in their day, they had to run the gauntlet; and as the men, and even the boys, of that age were notoriously addicted to swearing, drinking, gambling, and other vices, it was deemed necessary to subdue